Rhoda Spofford sends Victoria and Richard a Christmas card each year and has done so for nineteen years. The photographs include her husband and teenage children. Richards think it is a gesture of kindness and keeps all the cards, but Victoria believes she might do it out of spite.
When Victoria and Richard first meet two decades previous, Richard is engaged to Rhoda Spofford. Richard thinks she is a beautiful Christian woman and shows her picture to Victoria. Richard is a blonde, white, blue-eyed doctor from Nebraska who comes to Sanjay Hospital in India to replace Dr. Singh. Dr. Singh was in love with Victoria, and she had him transferred to limit harm for the both of them. The new doctor Richard is loved by everyone in the community. He is a wonderful Christian man who cares for all of his patients and is always kind, working as a minister in well-pressed clothes and without a single complaint. He and Victoria talk while watching the sunset at Marble Garden, and Victoria begins to lash out at Richard occasionally out of what she realizes is sexual frustration.
Richard, too, experiences sexual frustration and begins sleeping with Victoria each Sunday after church service. The two live in rooms across the hall from each other and for Richard, at least at first, the act is natural and necessary. The charade continues as the town goes into a terrible drought. Water has to be rationed and animals die from lack of water. After weeks of no rainfall, one day when Richard and Victoria are together at the market, it begins to downpour. Victoria and the other people in the market begin to dance, and she begs Richard to join her. Richard laments that Victoria makes him miserable, and this comment brings Victoria joy.