Home > A Walk To Remember(9)

A Walk To Remember(9)
Nicholas Sparks

“Yes, sir, that’s why I came early.”

“C’mon in.”

In church Hegbert was a fairly snappy dresser, but right now he looked like a farmer, dressed in overalls and a T-shirt. He motioned for me to sit on the wooden chair he’d brought in from the kitchen. “I’m sorry it took a little while to open the door. I was working on tomorrow’s sermon,” he said.

I sat down.

“That’s okay, sir.” I don’t know why, but you just had to call him “sir.” He sort of projected that image.

“All right, then, so tell me about yourself.”

I thought it was a fairly ridiculous question, with him having such a long history with my family and all. He was also the one who had baptized me, by the way, and he’d seen me in church every Sunday since I’d been a baby.

“Well, sir,” I began, not really knowing what to say, “I’m the student body president. I don’t know whether Jamie mentioned that to you.”

He nodded. “She did. Go on.”

“And . . . well, I hope to go to the University of North Carolina next fall. I’ve already received the application.”

He nodded again. “Anything else?”

I had to admit, I was running out of things after that. Part of me wanted to pick up the pencil off the end table and start balancing it, giving him the whole thirty seconds’ worth, but he wasn’t the kind of guy who would appreciate it.

“I guess not, sir.”

“Do you mind if I ask you a question?”

“No, sir.”

He sort of stared at me for a long time, as if thinking about it.

“Why did you ask my daughter to the dance?” he finally said.

I was surprised, and I know that my expression showed it.

“I don’t know what you mean, sir.”

“You’re not planning to do anything to . . . embarrass her, are you?”

“No, sir,” I said quickly, shocked by the accusation. “Not at all. I needed someone to go with, and I asked her. It’s as simple as that.”

“You don’t have any pranks planned?”

“No, sir. I wouldn’t do that to her. . . .”

This went on for a few more minutes—his grilling me about my true intentions, I mean—but luckily Jamie stepped out of the back room, and her father and I both turned our heads at the same moment. Hegbert finally stopped talking, and I breathed a sigh of relief. She’d put on a nice blue skirt and a white blouse I’d never seen before. Fortunately she’d left her sweater in the closet. It wasn’t too bad, I had to admit, though I knew she’d still be underdressed compared with others at the dance. As always, her hair was pulled up in a bun. Personally I think it would have looked better if she’d kept it down, but that was the last thing I wanted to say. Jamie looked like . . . well, Jamie looked exactly like she usually did, but at least she wasn’t planning on bringing her Bible. That would have just been too much to live down.

“You’re not giving Landon a hard time, are you?” she said cheerfully to her father.

“We were just visiting,” I said quickly before he had a chance to respond. For some reason I didn’t think he’d told Jamie about the kind of person he thought I was, and I didn’t think that now would be a good time.

“Well, we should probably go,” she said after a moment. I think she sensed the tension in the room. She walked over to her father and kissed him on the cheek. “Don’t stay up too late working on the sermon, okay?”

“I won’t,” he said softly. Even with me in the room, I could tell he really loved her and wasn’t afraid to show it. It was how he felt about me that was the problem.

We said good-bye, and on our way to the car I handed Jamie her corsage and told her I’d show her how to put it on once we got in the car. I opened her door for her and walked around the other side, then got in as well. In that short period of time, Jamie had already pinned on the flower.

“I’m not exactly a dimwit, you know. I do know how to pin on a corsage.”

I started the car and headed toward the high school, with the conversation I’d just had with Hegbert running through my mind.

“My father doesn’t like you very much,” she said, as if knowing what I was thinking.

I nodded without saying anything.

“He thinks you’re irresponsible.”

I nodded again.

“He doesn’t like your father much, either.”

I nodded once more.

“Or your family.”

I get the picture.

“But do you know what I think?” she asked suddenly.

“Not really.” By then I was pretty depressed.

“I think that all this was in the Lord’s plan somehow. What do you think the message is?”

Here we go, I thought to myself.

I doubt if the evening could have been much worse, if you want to know the truth. Most of my friends kept their distance, and Jamie didn’t have many friends to begin with, so we spent most of our time alone. Even worse, it turned out that my presence wasn’t even required anymore. They’d changed the rule owing to the fact that Carey couldn’t get a date, and that left me feeling pretty miserable about the whole thing as soon as I found out about it. But because of what her father had said to me, I couldn’t exactly take her home early, now, could I? And more than that, she was really having a good time; even I could see that. She loved the decorations I’d helped put up, she loved the music, she loved everything about the dance. She kept telling me how wonderful everything was, and she asked me whether I might help her decorate the church someday, for one of their socials. I sort of mumbled that she should call me, and even though I said it without a trace of energy, Jamie thanked me for being so considerate. To be honest, I was depressed for at least the first hour, though she didn’t seem to notice.

Jamie had to be home by eleven o’clock, an hour before the dance ended, which made it somewhat easier for me to handle. Once the music started we hit the floor, and it turned out that she was a pretty good dancer, considering it was her first time and all. She followed my lead pretty well through about a dozen songs, and after that we headed to the tables and had what resembled an ordinary conversation. Sure, she threw in words like “faith” and “joy” and even “salvation,” and she talked about helping the orphans and scooping critters off the highway, but she was just so damn happy, it was hard to stay down for long.

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