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Freya's room at the hotel looked down on the greens, where grass was now emerging in patches from under the melting snow. Several men with clubs were already poking around the tees at the end of the driving range.

Freya had allowed Trager to shower and shave in her room rather than washing from a bucket of hot water provided by the chowkidar at his bungalow. For his trip to the city he had selected a dry turtleneck and jeans, saving his one collared shirt for meeting the clients. He sat watching the storm break up over the mountains, Freya�s rucksack next to his on the floor. The red nylon was sun-bleached and frayed, decorated on the straps with bouquets of baggage stubs. Her name was scrawled on the top flap in felt marker. The bag had the dingy efficiency of any other climber�s pack, something that Trager found reassuring.

He was not thinking of Freya's mountaineering experience at that moment. Nudging up to him in his bungalow, grasping his hand--it was a crude seduction, and unnecessary. Trager had already decided that salvaging his trip was reason enough to take Freya�s clients; even to go to Delhi. But now that he had agreed, he wondered if the seduction would continue.

Two months before, Trager had been genuinely surprised to find his duffels and rucksack lying in the snow outside a Cascade condominium. Usually his relationships lasted an entire ski season. This woman had begun talking in November about moving back to Seattle together in the spring, and Trager should have expected trouble. He was lonelier than he expected afterwards, but once out in the cold, he made no effort to go back.

2 Delhi

Springtime in Kashmir ©Talbot Bielefeldt 2020.

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