PAGE THREE

“There, in the dry safety of his modest and simple loft, he learned her name was Dahlia, a twenty-three-year-old traveling fortune-teller from the south of Brazil—or so she said. He was a trusting man and had no reason to doubt her story . . . or her intentions. He told her to stay as long as she liked, and he would take care of her until she could find work and support herself.

“The weeks passed, and he spent every spare moment in her company. She was quiet and subdued, a woman of few words, and he found her enchanting. During his long days at work, she searched for a suitable job—a task hard to accomplish with no identification or mode of transportation.

“She took to cooking for him after he told her he hadn’t used the oven since he moved in. She repaired loose buttons on his shirts and suits. And at night, she would stand by the window and sing, and her voice would lull him into a most deep and satisfying sleep. She had the voice of an angel, so pure and beautiful it broke his heart to think there would be a time when he wouldn’t hear the sound of it.

“After mere months, he asked her to share the rest of her life with him, though at this point, they hadn’t so much as touched lips, and he was still sleeping on the couch.

“She was thrilled and threw her arms around him in delight, declaring her love for him as he declared his love back to her.

“They married, and they were wildly happy—during the day. She continued to sing him to sleep at night, like she always had. And in the morning, he would awaken to her beside him, radiant and full of light, gazing down at him as if he were the most precious of things. He had never slept so peacefully in his life, nor had he ever been that happy. He wondered how he had come to be so lucky as to have someone like her, a woman so beautiful and talented and sweeter than anything. Someone he loved, who loved him in return.

“Soon, she was with child. He had never given much thought to marriage or having children before. Yet now, uncontainable excitement filled his soul. Together they searched for the perfect new home for their growing family, somewhere quiet, somewhere deeper in the mountains.

“However, that new home was not to be. On the day before the move, the woman went into labor. She locked the door to their bedroom, barricading herself inside. All he could do was beat against the wood and plead for her to let him in as her screams of agony filled the flat.