Love or Money

From the beginning, Ralph’s children had believed Christine was just after his money. Ignore them, Ralph had instructed her time and again in the first months of their marriage. He suggested Christine burn off her anger. He recommended sit-ups. Crunches, he told her, strengthened the body’s core—core as in foundation, center, and essence, he explained. Core, she understood, as in control.

Ralph had been right, as always, but Christine hadn’t listened until he got sick. At the end of the week he turned yellow, Christine began doing sit-ups everywhere: in his basement home-laboratory-cum-art-studio, with its floor of ancient speckled linoleum; upstairs, with their four-pound terrier on her abdomen, riding her sliding shirt like a surfboard; and on the stubbled gray carpet of the ICU waiting room with her legs hooked over the seat of a slick vinyl chair that unfolded into a bed. Christine crunched forward, on the diagonal, sideways, lifting and bending until it was possible to palpate a six-pack beneath the taut skin of her as yet infertile abdomen.

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