Home > A Walk To Remember(5)

A Walk To Remember(5)
Nicholas Sparks

Despite all these other strikes, though, the one thing that really drove me crazy about her was the fact that she was always so damn cheerful, no matter what was happening around her. I swear, that girl never said a bad thing about anything or anyone, even to those of us who weren’t that nice to her. She would hum to herself as she walked down the street, she would wave to strangers driving by in their cars. Sometimes ladies would come running out of their house if they saw her walking by, offering her pumpkin bread if they’d been baking all day or lemonade if the sun was high in the sky. It seemed as if every adult in town adored her. “She’s such a nice young lady,” they’d say whenever Jamie’s name came up. “The world would be a better place if there were more people like her.”

But my friends and I didn’t quite see it that way. In our minds, one Jamie Sullivan was plenty.

I was thinking about all this while Jamie stood in front of us on the first day of drama class, and I admit that I wasn’t much interested in seeing her. But strangely, when Jamie turned to face us, I kind of got a shock, like I was sitting on a loose wire or something. She wore a plaid skirt with a white blouse under the same brown cardigan sweater I’d seen a million times, but there were two new bumps on her chest that the sweater couldn’t hide that I swore hadn’t been there just three months earlier. She’d never worn makeup and she still didn’t, but she had a tan, probably from Bible school, and for the first time she looked—well, almost pretty. Of course, I dismissed that thought right away, but as she looked around the room, she stopped and smiled right at me, obviously glad to see that I was in the class. It wasn’t until later that I would learn the reason why.

Chapter 2

After high school I planned to go to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My father wanted me to go to Harvard or Princeton like some of the sons of other congressmen did, but with my grades it wasn’t possible. Not that I was a bad student. I just didn’t focus on my studies, and my grades weren’t exactly up to snuff for the Ivy Leagues. By my senior year it was pretty much touch and go whether I’d even get accepted at UNC, and this was my father’s alma mater, a place where he could pull some strings. During one of his few weekends home, my father came up with the plan to put me over the top. I’d just finished my first week of school and we were sitting down for dinner. He was home for three days on account of Labor Day weekend.

“I think you should run for student body president,” he said. “You’ll be graduating in June, and I think it would look good on your record. Your mother thinks so, too, by the way.”

My mother nodded as she chewed a mouthful of peas. She didn’t speak much when my father had the floor, though she winked at me. Sometimes I think my mother liked to see me squirm, even though she was sweet.

“I don’t think I’d have a chance at winning,” I said. Though I was probably the richest kid in school, I was by no means the most popular. That honor belonged to Eric Hunter, my best friend. He could throw a baseball at almost ninety miles an hour, and he’d led the football team to back-to-back state titles as the star quarterback. He was a stud. Even his name sounded cool.

“Of course you can win,” my father said quickly. “We Carters always win.”

That’s another one of the reasons I didn’t like spending time with my father. During those few times he was home, I think he wanted to mold me into a miniature version of himself. Since I’d grown up pretty much without him, I’d come to resent having him around. This was the first conversation we’d had in weeks. He rarely talked to me on the phone.

“But what if I don’t want to?”

My father put down his fork, a bite of his pork chop still on the tines. He looked at me crossly, giving me the once-over. He was wearing a suit even though it was over eighty degrees in the house, and it made him even more intimidating. My father always wore a suit, by the way.

“I think,” he said slowly, “that it would be a good idea.”

I knew that when he talked that way the issue was settled. That’s the way it was in my family. My father’s word was law. But the fact was, even after I agreed, I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to waste my afternoons meeting with teachers after school—after school!—every week for the rest of the year, dreaming up themes for school dances or trying to decide what colors the streamers should be. That’s really all the class presidents did, at least back when I was in high school. It wasn’t like students had the power to actually decide anything meaningful.

But then again, I knew my father had a point. If I wanted to go to UNC, I had to do something. I didn’t play football or basketball, I didn’t play an instrument, I wasn’t in the chess club or the bowling club or anything else. I didn’t excel in the classroom—hell, I didn’t excel at much of anything. Growing despondent, I started listing the things I actually could do, but to be honest, there really wasn’t that much. I could tie eight different types of sailing knots, I could walk barefoot across hot asphalt farther than anyone I knew, I could balance a pencil vertically on my finger for thirty seconds . . . but I didn’t think that any of those things would really stand out on a college application. So there I was, lying in bed all night long, slowly coming to the sinking realization that I was a loser. Thanks, Dad.

The next morning I went to the principal’s office and added my name to the list of candidates. There were two other people running—John Foreman and Maggie Brown. Now, John didn’t stand a chance, I knew that right off. He was the kind of guy who’d pick lint off your clothes while he talked to you. But he was a good student. He sat in the front row and raised his hand every time the teacher asked a question. If he was called to give the answer, he would almost always give the right one, and he’d turn his head from side to side with a smug look on his face, as if proving how superior his intellect was when compared with those of the other peons in the room. Eric and I used to shoot spitballs at him when the teacher’s back was turned.

Maggie Brown was another matter. She was a good student as well. She’d served on the student council for the first three years and had been the junior class president the year before. The only real strike against her was the fact that she wasn’t very attractive, and she’d put on twenty pounds that summer. I knew that not a single guy would vote for her.

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