Sûrah XC
THE CITY
"Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Ascent is!"

90
SAN FRANCISCO

ZAHRA

Stop!

She drives a fist between her legs to bar him access, shield the scar that seems to sear instead of warmly blush as it did when first he reached, appeased defenses predisposed to block the most polite incursion on a dead zone; Zahra's mons and crooked cleft have long been numb—if not desensitized past reclaiming from the outrage staged by Ahmed then anesthetized when revamped for self-annihilation.

FRANCHONE

But that was then, and this is now.

As if intuiting Zahra's trauma, strangely privy to the rationale that triggered her alarm, Franchone unties the knot of tension that afflicts her tight-clenched fingers; like a poultice he applies his patient, reassuring palm until her fist relents its clutch, becomes an insubstantial barrier to his 'passive' importuning (both persistent and benign), disarming qualms with inhibitions, wooing yes, discouraging no, allowing Zahra to relax—secure—protected from assault either by baneful reminiscence or compunction.