Home > A Walk To Remember(11)

A Walk To Remember(11)
Nicholas Sparks

I could practically hear Carey laughing a squeaky, maniacal laugh somewhere in the distance.

We ended up sneaking out the back door of the gym, keeping Angela stable by walking on either side of her. She kept asking where Lew was, but Jamie told her not to worry. She had a real soothing way of talking to Angela, though Angela was so far gone, I doubt if she even knew who was speaking. We loaded Angela into the backseat of my car, where she passed out almost immediately, although not before she’d vomited once more on the floor of the car. The smell was so awful that we had to roll down the windows to keep from gagging, and the drive to Angela’s house seemed extra long. Her mother answered the door, took one look at her daughter, and brought her inside without so much as a word of thanks. I think she was embarrassed, and we really didn’t have much to say to her anyway. The situation pretty much spoke for itself.

By the time we dropped her off it was ten forty-five, and we drove straight back to Jamie’s. I was really worried when we got there because of the way she looked and smelled, and I said a silent prayer hoping that Hegbert wasn’t awake. I didn’t want to have to explain this to him. Oh, he’d probably listen to Jamie if she was the one who told him about it, but I had the sinking feeling that he’d find a way to blame me anyway.

So I walked her to the door, and we stood outside under the porchlight. Jamie crossed her arms and smiled a little, looking just as if she’d come in from an evening stroll where she’d contemplated the beauty of the world.

“Please don’t tell your father about this,” I said.

“I won’t,” she said. She kept on smiling when she finally turned my way. “I had a good time tonight. Thank you for taking me to the dance.”

Here she was, covered in puke, actually thanking me for the evening. Jamie Sullivan could really drive a guy crazy sometimes.

Chapter 4

In the two weeks following the homecoming dance, my life pretty much returned to normal. My father was back in Washington, D.C., which made things a lot more fun around my house, primarily because I could sneak out the window again and head to the graveyard for my late night forays. I don’t know what it was about the graveyard that attracted us so. Maybe it had something to do with the tombstones themselves, because as far as tombstones went, they were actually fairly comfortable to sit on.

We usually sat in a small plot where the Preston family had been buried about a hundred years ago. There were eight tombstones there, all arranged in a circle, making it easy to pass the boiled peanuts back and forth between us. One time my friends and I decided to learn what we could about the Preston family, and we went to the library to find out if anything had been written about them. I mean, if you’re going to sit on someone’s tombstone, you might as well know something about them, right?

It turns out that there wasn’t much about the family in the historical records, though we did find out one interesting tidbit of information. Henry Preston, the father, was a one-armed lumberjack, believe it or not. Supposedly he could cut down a tree as fast as any two-armed man. Now the vision of a one-armed lumberjack is pretty vivid right off the bat, so we talked about him a lot. We used to wonder what else he could do with only one arm, and we’d spend long hours discussing how fast he could pitch a baseball or whether or not he’d be able to swim across the Intracoastal Waterway. Our conversations weren’t exactly highbrow, I admit, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.

Well, Eric and me were out there one Saturday night with a couple of other friends, eating boiled peanuts and talking about Henry Preston, when Eric asked me how my “date” went with Jamie Sullivan. He and I hadn’t seen much of each other since the homecoming dance because the football season was already in the playoffs and Eric had been out of town the past few weekends with the team.

“It was okay,” I said, shrugging, doing my best to play it cool.

Eric playfully elbowed me in the ribs, and I grunted. He outweighed me by at least thirty pounds.

“Did you kiss her good-night?”

“No.”

He took a long drink from his can of Budweiser as I answered. I don’t know how he did it, but Eric never had trouble buying beer, which was strange, being that everyone in town knew how old he was.

He wiped his lips with the back of his hand, tossing me a sidelong glance.

“I would have thought that after she helped you clean the bathroom, you would have at least kissed her good night.”

“Well, I didn’t.”

“Did you even try?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“She’s not that kind of girl,” I said, and even though we all knew it was true, it still sounded like I was defending her.

Eric latched on to that like a leech.

“I think you like her,” he said.

“You’re full of crap,” I answered, and he slapped my back, hard enough to force the breath right out of me. Hanging out with Eric usually meant that I’d have a few bruises the following day.

“Yeah, I might be full of crap,” he said, winking at me, “but you’re the one who’s smitten with Jamie Sullivan.”

I knew we were treading on dangerous ground.

“I was just using her to impress Margaret,” I said. “And with all the love notes she’s been sending me lately, I reckon it must have worked.”

Eric laughed aloud, slapping me on the back again.

“You and Margaret—now that’s funny. . . .”

I knew I’d just dodged a major bullet, and I breathed a sigh of relief as the conversation spun off in a new direction. I joined in now and then, but I wasn’t really listening to what they were saying. Instead I kept hearing this little voice inside me that made me wonder about what Eric had said.

The thing was, Jamie was probably the best date I could have had that night, especially considering how the evening turned out. Not many dates—heck, not many people, period—would have done what she did. At the same time, her being a good date didn’t mean I liked her. I hadn’t talked to her at all since the dance, except when I saw her in drama class, and even then it was only a few words here and there. If I liked her at all, I told myself, I would have wanted to talk to her. If I liked her, I would have offered to walk her home. If I liked her, I would have wanted to bring her to Cecil’s Diner for a basket of hushpuppies and some RC cola. But I didn’t want to do any of those things. I really didn’t. In my mind, I’d already served my penance.

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