Philip begins by speaking to her about Nathalie Sarraute. He claims to know a member of her family who is distantly related to him by marriage.
At the time, she does not believe him.
A line, she thinks.
She hears the phone ring downstairs. As a precaution, she has turned it off in the bedroom - why, she wonders? So as not to wake him? She reaches for the receiver but the phone abruptly stops midring. Just as well. She will wait until morning. In the morning she will make telephone calls, she will write e-mails, make arrangements; the death certificate, the funeral home, the church service - whatever needs to be done. Tonight - tonight, she wants nothing.
She wants to be alone.
Alone with Philip.
* * *
She is not religious. She does not believe in an afterlife, in the transmigration of souls, in reincarnation, in any of it.
But he does.
I don't believe in reincarnation and that other stuff and I don't go to church but I do believe in a God, he tells her.
Where were they then?
Walking hand in hand along the quays at night, they stop a moment to look across at Nôtre-Dame.
Mathematicians, I thought, weren't supposed to believe in God, she says.
Mathematicians don't necessarily rule out the idea of God, Philip answers. And, for some, the idea of God may be more abstract than the conventional God of Christianity.
At her feet, the river runs black and fast, and she shivers a little inside her leather bomber jacket.
Like Pascal, Philip continues, I believe it is safer to believe that God exists than to believe He does not exist. Heads God exists and I win and go to heaven, Philip motions with his arm as if tossing a coin up in the air, tails God does not exist and I lose nothing.
It's a bet, she says, frowning. Your belief is based on the wrong reasons and not on genuine faith.
Not at all, Philip answers, my belief is based on the fact that reason is useless for determining whether there is a God.
Otherwise, the bet would be off.
Then, leaning down, he kisses her.
* * *
His eyes shut, Philip lies on his back. His head rests on the pillow and she has pulled the red-and-white diamond- patterned quilt up to cover him. He could be sleeping. The room is tidy and familiar, dominated by the carved mahogany four-poster. Opposite it, two chairs, her beige cashmere sweater hanging on the back of one; in between the chairs stands a maple bureau whose top is covered with a row of family photos in silver frames - Louise as a baby, Louise, age nine or ten, as the Black Swan in her school production of Swan Lake, Louise holding her dog, Mix, Louise dressed in a cap and gown, Louise and Philip sailing, Louise, Philip, and Nina horseback riding at a dude ranch in Montana, Louise and Nina skiing in Utah. Also on top of the bureau is a lacquer box where she keeps some of her jewelry. Her valuable jewelry - a diamond pin in the shape of a flower, a three-strand pearl necklace, a ruby signet ring - is inside the combination safe in the hall closet. Closing her eyes, she tries to remember the combination: three turns to the left to 17, two turns to the right to 4, and one turn to the left to 11 or is it the other way around? In any case she can never get the safe open; Philip has to. And, next to the lacquer jewelry box, the blue-and-green clay bowl Louise made for them in third grade in which, each evening, Philip places his loose change. The closet doors are shut and only the bathroom door is ajar.
When is a door not a door? When it is a... Stop.
Perhaps she should put on her nightgown and lie down next to him and in the morning, when he wakes up he will reach for her the way he does. He will hike up her nightgown. Take it off, he will say. He likes to make love in the morning. Sleepy, she takes longer to respond.
Excerpted from I Married You for Happiness by Lily Tuck. Copyright © 2011 by Lily Tuck. Excerpted by permission of Atlantic Monthly Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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