When he undid the last button of her blouse, her ID fell between her breasts. He cupped it in his hands, palms brushing her skin, and drew it to him. He studied her chest, the grainy picture, her face, and then the picture again.
"Audrey Vaughn," he said aloud. He looked up at her. "Hello Audrey."
One corner of her mouth turned up in a smile. She snatched his hand away so swiftly he could hear the rasp of the plastic as it slipped through his fingers. In one efficient motion, she pulled his shirt over his head. "Hello Jack," she said. She already knew his name, but this was the first time she had used it.
He laughed, rather nervously, and she joined him. He had never heard her laugh before. It was a strangely soft and breathy sound compared to her throaty voice.
He was suddenly acutely aware that she was familiar with his body, and he had never seen hers. He knew what he must look like to her. He was so thin, thinner even than before, reduced to essentials. His puckered scars and protruding ribs with their blue shadows were so primitive, so animal. But she already knew all that. He took off her glasses and reached for the cord around her neck. When his hands slipped, he felt something cold and metallic between his fingertips. He was unsurprised. He had almost expected her to be made of metal. When his thoughts caught up with his perceptions, he noticed the silver crucifix.
"So you're religious?"
She shook her head. "An atheist," she said. "But I like the thought behind it." She laid her hands across his around the 14-karat martyr. He kissed the familiar bitten fingernails one at a time.
"I love you," he said.
She extricated her hands and regarded him sadly. He watched the cross swing back and forth like a pendulum a few times before disappearing between her breasts.
"I was afraid of that."
Without looking at him, she slipped out of her skirt and walked across the room. She was still wearing her shoes. It seemed oddly appropriate—the perfectly rhythmic clacking of her high-heeled pumps on the linoleum floor preceded her down the hall every morning. She walked with her weight on her heels, so the sound was unrepressed, unapologetic. That was how he always knew she was coming. He paused, staring at her shoes halfway across the floor. The air was disturbed by an abrupt motion and he looked up. She was gesturing for him to follow. He left his pants in a ball behind him.
She sat on the exam table and crossed her legs at the ankle. The paper crackled. He sat beside her. The paper crackled again. They turned to each other. The crackling rose and fell like an angry current licking sand. A full, impish smile suddenly lit her bloodshot eyes, and she tore the sheet away from beneath him with a decisive rip.
Her head fell back, tendons tearing at the skin of her neck, and the ID necklace he had failed to untangle from her hair clattered to the floor. When he came down upon her, he momentarily found himself eye to eye with the savior.