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edhi wanted to see more of Ho Springs, so Cora decided to take him to the festival. Like most residents of the town, she hated the jamboree, which drew denizens from the hills and the surrounding towns, invited mayhem along with its pleasanter pursuits. But she knew Medhi would be amused by the American-ness of it all. And now that the crisis with Juliette was past, she wanted to get out of the house and do something fun.

Indeed, there were throngs of people everywhere they went, ringing every musical act, queuing up for every fairway ride, clamoring for hotdogs and cotton candy and especially beer.

Medhi bought himself a towering cone of cotton candy, blue and high as Marge Simpson’s hair, and then walked along grinning at it, tickled by the way it looked.

“Aren’t you going to eat it?” Cora asked him.

He made a face and shook his head. “Never.”

“Can I have a bite?”

“You’ll get fat.”

“Do you think I’m fat?”

With his free hand, he hugged her to him. “I think you’re delicious.”

Despite his reassurances, that was enough to set off the old paranoia, the too-familiar alarm bells. After she hit 40, as her body accommodated the inevitable ripples and sags, was when Medhi’s eye started to wander. More than his eye. The younger women, the thinner women: They were everywhere, all the time.

“I wish I could believe that,” she muttered.

He stopped walking, handed the cotton candy to a stunned teenager who happened to be passing, and took her in his arms. “You’re the love of my life,” he said. “You know that.”

She’d been so sure she wanted to leave him. But it had been so much harder than she’d anticipated, moving here, being a parent to Juliette on her own, being alone. She wanted to believe they could be together again, the way she always wanted it to be, the way it had been, for a little while, anyway. Yet she couldn’t help but note the caginess of his statement.

“The other women,” she said. “I couldn’t take that.”

“You’re the only woman for me.” He lifted her hair, kissed the side of her neck.

She thought she might melt right into him, but a woman covered with tattoos bumped into her, jarring her, making her open her eyes. She caught sight of George then, who at the same moment looked up from where he’d been examining a horse’s leg. Their eyes locked. She smiled, raised a hand to wave, Medhi — though he was wrapped fully around her — seeming to vanish.

She knew her line was supposed to be: You’re the only one for me too, Medhi. But did she mean that? Was he really? Had he ever really been right for her? Or had she been the one who was wrong, wrong to leave when she should have tried harder to make their marriage work?

“I want you back,” he said, close to her ear. “Come back to Paris with me, Cora.”

Read Cora’s side of the story.

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