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The Wife of the Thin Man

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Sometimes after Nick drops off to sleep, Nora lies awake and watches him. With his guard down, Nick looks both softer and oddly sharper. The façade of half-pickled cynicism and lazy opportunism fades away, and reveals a man whose life has been harder than he lets on. It's a sign he's come to trust her, sleeping so deeply with her in the room, and she understands the value of it.

Nora isn't sure she'd have married Nick if she'd seen this side of him before the wedding. Her younger self had been more careless; the girl she was then might not have appreciated Nick for what he was. It's an ironic thought she makes a point of keeping to herself: Nick Charles has been a good influence on her.

She wonders what her life would be like today if she'd married somebody like David Graham when she was younger. Sweet, earnest, slightly stuffy David, who'd lost his head over her brittle cousin Selma, who in turn had fallen for a good-looking, two-timing drunk. When she pictures the endless rounds of visits and luncheons and shopping and gossip she shudders.

It might have driven her crazy. It would certainly have turned her mean. She's always been what her Aunt Katherine called "fast", in a tone implying what she really meant was "tramp" but was too well-bred to say so. Aunt Katherine disapproves of Nora because she likes to go to parties, and ride in open cars, and drink martinis in shady nightclubs with men who have no intention of proposing to her. Even worse, Nora's father left her his money with no restrictions, so she doesn't need to kowtow to the old battle- axe like everyone else in the family. Nora spends her money any way she pleases, and if that pleasure includes buying a husband who isn't on the social register, well, Aunt Katherine can just lump it.

It doesn't hurt that Nick encourages her in every single thing Aunt Katherine disapproves of.

She's pretty sure Nick doesn't love her—the only thing she's sure he loves is scotch—but he likes her money, and he finds her attractive and amusing, so she assumes he'll stick around until either her money or her looks run out. In his own way, he's a great guy: Nick's got a code, though it's fairly flexible at the edges, and she's serenely certain he won't let her hurt herself, or let anyone else hurt her either. Underneath the booze and the tom-foolery, he's smart and tough, and he's got enough experience to recognize most people are really only one step out of the gutter. He might be a fortune-hunter but he isn't a cad.

Nora watches her husband sleep, and is fully aware she's luckier than she deserves. Her alternatives to Nick would be men like David—or like Selma's Robert—and she shudders again. She prefers calculating dissipation to boredom or humiliation.

"I do love you, Nicky," she whispers, and settles down to sleep.