Claire lay prone across the foot of my bed, her feet pedalling the air.
“That’s such a lovely ring,” she said, lifting my hand. “Can I try it on again?”
Her fingers were larger than mine, but she squirmed the ring on and held it out to watch the diamond sparkle.
“It was Ronan’s granny’s engagement ring,” I said. “His grandpa sold his motorbike to buy it.” But she wasn’t listening. There was no “ah, that’s so romantic” from her. Instead she waved her hand around, never taking her eyes off the sparkles. Finally she put her finger in her mouth to moisten it and slid the ring off. I wiped it on my duvet before I put it back on.
“Ernest will never get married,” she said, as she took a drag from the cigarette she had helped herself to. She never bought her own. Never smoked unless she was with me, so didn’t see why she should. Didn’t care that I carefully rationed myself so that one box lasted me the whole week. “All my friends will be engaged or married, and I’ll be the one left on the shelf.”
“Maybe he’s just waiting until he’s sure,” I said.
“If I was pregnant we’d have to get married.” She blew out smoke through pursed lips. She never inhaled. Just sucked gulps of smoke into puffed out cheeks and blew out. “Have one, Marian,” she said, and pushed the box towards me.
“But you’re not pregnant,” I said, and slid the box under my pillow. “Are you?”
“No, but he doesn’t know that.” She held her cigarette over my skull ashtray and tapped it so hard the filter broke off. “I could have a ‘miscarriage’ after we’re married.”
“You wouldn’t,” I said.
They were married in the Magistrate’s Court. Only family was invited and there was no honeymoon.
Afterwards she showed me photographs. Ernest in a dark suit and large, silver necktie. His face gaunt and sallow; his ears jutting from the side of his head. Claire in a loose, salmon-coloured dress. Her hand resting across her stomach, her diamond ring sparkling in the sunshine.