Home > A Walk To Remember(7)

A Walk To Remember(7)
Nicholas Sparks

“Got a date yet?” Eric asked me in between classes. He knew very well that I didn’t, but even though he was my best friend, he liked to stick it to me once in a while.

“Not yet,” I said, “but I’m working on it.”

Down the hall, Carey Denison was reaching into his locker. I swear he shot me a beady glare when he thought I wasn’t looking.

That’s the kind of day it was.

The minutes ticked by slowly during my final class. The way I figured it—if Carey and I got out at the same time, I’d be able to get to her house first, what with those gawky legs and all. I started to psych myself up, and when the bell rang, I took off from school running at a full clip. I was flying for about a hundred yards or so, and then I started to get kind of tired, and then a cramp set in. Pretty soon all I could do was walk, but that cramp really started to get to me, and I had to bend over and hold my side while I kept moving. As I made my way down the streets of Beaufort, I looked like a wheezing version of the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Behind me I thought I heard Carey’s high-pitched laughter. I turned around, digging my fingers into my gut to stifle the pain, but I couldn’t see him. Maybe he was cutting through someone’s backyard! He was a sneaky bastard, that guy. You couldn’t trust him even for a minute.

I started to stumble along even faster, and pretty soon I reached Jamie’s street. By then I was sweating all over—my shirt was soaked right through—and I was still wheezing something fierce. Well, I reached her front door, took a second to catch my breath, and finally knocked. Despite my fevered rush to her house, my pessimistic side assumed that Carey would be the one who opened the door for me. I imagined him smiling at me with a victorious look in his eye, one that essentially meant “Sorry, partner, you’re too late.”

But it wasn’t Carey who answered, it was Jamie, and for the first time in my life I saw what she’d look like if she were an ordinary person. She was wearing jeans and a red blouse, and though her hair was still pulled up into a bun, she looked more casual than she usually did. I realized she could actually be cute if she gave herself the opportunity.

“Landon,” she said as she held open the door, “this is a surprise!” Jamie was always glad to see everyone, including me, though I think my appearance startled her. “You look like you’ve been exercising,” she said.

“Not really,” I lied, wiping my brow. Luckily the cramp was fading fast.

“You’ve sweat clean through your shirt.”

“Oh, that?” I looked at my shirt. “That’s nothing. I just sweat a lot sometimes.”

“Maybe you should have it checked by a doctor.”

“I’ll be okay, I’m sure.”

“I’ll say a prayer for you anyway,” she offered as she smiled. Jamie was always praying for someone. I might as well join the club.

“Thanks,” I said.

She looked down and sort of shuffled her feet for a moment. “Well, I’d invite you in, but my father isn’t home, and he doesn’t allow boys in the house while he’s not around.”

“Oh,” I said dejectedly, “that’s okay. We can talk out here, I guess.” If I’d had my way, I would have done this inside.

“Would you like some lemonade while we sit?” she asked. “I just made some.”

“I’d love some,” I said.

“I’ll be right back.” She walked back into the house, but she left the door open and I took a quick glance around. The house, I noticed, was small but tidy, with a piano against one wall and a sofa against the other. A small fan sat oscillating in the corner. On the coffee table there were books with names like Listening to Jesus and Faith Is the Answer. Her Bible was there, too, and it was opened to the chapter on Luke.

A moment later Jamie returned with the lemonade, and we took a seat in two chairs near the corner of the porch. I knew she and her father sat there in the evenings because I passed by their house now and then. As soon as we were seated, I saw Mrs. Hastings, her neighbor across the street, wave to us. Jamie waved back while I sort of scooted my chair so that Mrs. Hastings couldn’t see my face. Even though I was going to ask Jamie to the dance, I didn’t want anyone—even Mrs. Hastings—to see me there on the off chance that she’d already accepted Carey’s offer. It was one thing to actually go with Jamie, it was another thing to be rejected by her in favor of a guy like Carey.

“What are you doing?” Jamie asked me. “You’re moving your chair into the sun.”

“I like the sun,” I said. She was right, though. Almost immediately I could feel the rays burning through my shirt and making me sweat again.

“If that’s what you want,” she said, smiling. “So, what did you want to talk to me about?”

Jamie reached up and started to adjust her hair. By my reckoning, it hadn’t moved at all. I took a deep breath, trying to gather myself, but I couldn’t force myself to come out with it just yet.

“So,” I said instead, “you were at the orphanage today?”

Jamie looked at me curiously. “No. My father and I were at the doctor’s office.”

“Is he okay?”

She smiled. “Healthy as can be.”

I nodded and glanced across the street. Mrs. Hastings had gone back inside, and I couldn’t see anyone else in the vicinity. The coast was finally clear, but I still wasn’t ready.

“Sure is a beautiful day,” I said, stalling.

“Yes, it is.”

“Warm, too.”

“That’s because you’re in the sun.”

I looked around, feeling the pressure building. “Why, I’ll bet there’s not a single cloud in the whole sky.”

This time Jamie didn’t respond, and we sat in silence for a few moments.

“Landon,” she finally said, “you didn’t come here to talk about the weather, did you?”

“Not really.”

“Then why are you here?”

The moment of truth had arrived, and I cleared my throat.

“Well . . . I wanted to know if you were going to the homecoming dance.”

“Oh,” she said. Her tone made it seem as if she were unaware that such a thing existed. I fidgeted in my seat and waited for her answer.

“I really hadn’t planned on going,” she finally said.

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