Ivan undid the last wrap of bandage wrapped around his shoulder and winced as he lowered himself into the wooden tub half filled with water.
The dimly lit room, illuminated only by the moonlight seeping through the windows at opposite sides, and the feel of warm water soothing his old and new battle scars, was just the way he liked to spend the rest of the night, brooding on the past and the present.
Not for once had he ever imagined that he would abandon his position as the heir to his father’s estate at the age of twenty-one. But then, he had fallen in love with a girl whose values rested on being with a man who didn’t have the world handed to him on a platter of gold.
So, drunk in love and in desire to please his betrothed, he left everything behind and joined the Bulgarian army with the promise to come back home as soon as he had proved himself, to marry her and take over the estate as the rightful owner.
But here he was, ten years and eight scars later, in an unpopular brothel buried in the outskirts of Mumbai, after they were dismissed to go home to meet with their families.
Although, she dumped him and got married to the heir of a glass merchant, he didn’t quit the army. Each victory and each defeat, reminded him that, like life, love too was a battle. The wounds were a representation of betrayal and the scars, healing.
The sound of feet walking softly on the worn out carpeted floor interrupted his deep thoughts. He closed his eyes in content as warm hands stroked his neck and slid upwards to manage his scalp. It trailed down his ears to his shoulders to finger the burgundy threaded mark shaped like the letter ‘L’.
He flinched at the touch; he was still sour. But the giver was compassionate. She sensed his pain and pressed her warm lips to it while her hands crawled towards his taut muscle, to bring it to rest.
The nightly ritual was almost complete. In that position, they would lay for hours. She would trail her hands over his betrayal reminders, and he would explain how he got them. In return, she would kiss it and ask the gods for quick recovery.
To him, nothing was more intimate than that. He didn’t need a woman’s love anymore. The comfort her gentle hands gave was enough to last him a lifetime and another life.
Every night, in her crooked English she asked and every night he answered, as if his entire existence depended on it.