—Do you think it’d be possible to hear someone’s heartbeat, she said, through their spine?
She was staring at the ridges on the back of neck and the way his skin moved over it.
—I don’t know. It just is.
Seeing her pout, he sighed.
—You can’t hear through bone. It’s bone. It’s like wood.
—People aren’t wood.
—I know that. Did I say that? I didn’t say that.
—You just said--
—I know what I said. I didn’t say that.
—When you go see your mother…
—I’ll tell her we’re married.
—Don’t tell her that.
—She doesn’t need another reason to hate me.
She shrugged again.
—The train will be here soon. Are you sure you don’t want to come?
—I’ve got another business meeting tomorrow.
—I’ll tell her you said hello.
—She’ll like it better if she thinks we’re married. Now that things have changed, she’ll want us to be married.
—Can’t you just tell her we got a house together? That we’re living together? That should make her happy.
—But we didn’t get a house together. People aren’t wood. Haven’t I said that? People aren’t wood.
—What does that have to do with anything? I know that. I know. I just thought it would make her feel better.
—Why can’t I just tell her we’re married?
—Because. I’ve been married before, and I don’t want to again.
—She doesn’t have to know that we’re not actually married. She just has to think so. I just need a ring.
—I said no. Tell her there’s a house. But there’s no ring.
—I don’t need a house.
—But you need a ring?
—I don’t need it. I just thought it would help. The situation.
—You know. With my mother.
—There is no ring.
She was silent. Then she leaned forward.
—Are you sure you can’t come?
—I told you, I have a meeting.
She looked at her watch.
—I’ve got to go. I’ll call you when I get there.
—I might be in a meeting.
—I’ll leave a message.
He put his arms around her. She put her face against his shoulder, and her hand on his back. Through the tweed of his jacket, she thought she could feel his heart.
She thought of them.