besogne: i want to say this to clear up any confusion. Son Gui is the name of a person; the name is Korean, but that is rather irrelevant to the story at hand.

I knock softly on the door before entering.

The apartment is dim, the sky through the windows grey and overcast. Hearing nothing, I sweep my eyes carefully over the room, searching for the familiar figure. Walking softly to the couch, I kneel down in front of the sleeping form stretched prone across its length, hands resting on abdomen. She doesn't open her eyes, and doesn't see me on my heels in front of her. I struggle to keep my breath soft and light, offsetting the deep rhythmic breathing of the woman on the couch. Without touching her, I lean forward and study the sleeping face.

Her sharp features dulled somewhat in repose, she seems almost peaceful. I gently trace her jaw with my finger, hesitant to wake her. Laying my hand over hers on her midsection, I watch the slow rise and fall of her chest and think fleetingly about what could have been.

Her voice startles me as she murmurs my name. "Son Gui."

...

I look over at Valerie as I set the parking brake. She keeps her eyes forward but reaches over to press my hand in hers. Then we're out of the car and walking towards the elevator. She punches the up button, and I nervously stuff my hands in my pockets before I think better of it and take her hand gently in mine. Moving so that my back is to the elevator I face her and look searchingly into dark eyes.

"You all right?" My voice sounds more gravelly than I'm used to. I reach up and tuck an errant strand of hair behind her ear. I remember once commenting to a friend about how people in a relationship touch each other casually. It's the brush of hand against shoulder as we pass each other. The way she rubs her knuckles over my back, sitting on the bus. Before Valerie I would see other people, their touches making me think I was invisible somehow. Such an intimate conversation we hold out in the open, for anyone to see.

Valerie nods and the elevator doors open. We step inside, keeping our fingers intertwined as the doors close behind us.

"D'you hear about that wreck out on Ross Island Bridge?" The man's voice pierces the deep silence in my chest and I look up. Valerie is watching her shoes and I squeeze her hand faintly as I reply.

"No, is it bad?" I put a concerned look on my face and try to focus on what he is saying.

"Yeah, I guess so. Semi jack-knifed across three lanes. East-bound'll be backed up for hours; fifteen cars involved, plus the truck."

I wince at a tragedy that is not mine. "Fire?"

"Sure as day, I hear it was a real mess. Probably still is." The elevator doors open on the eleventh floor and we step out, turning left down the hallway.

As we sit down in plastic chairs after signing in, Valerie turns to me. "Son Gui, am I doing the right thing?" Her voice pleads with me but I lift my shoulders in an expression of uncertainty. I rub the outside of her thigh gently with the heel of my hand, after a while she takes it into her own hands, gripping tightly.

"You're the only one who can decide what's right and wrong, Val. It's your body." She knows what I will say before I say it, this conversation not new to us. "I'm supporting whatever decision you make." I know what decision she has made; that's why we are sitting here today.

She leans her head back and breaths deeply, in and out. "I know."