Home > The Notebook (The Notebook #1)(3)

The Notebook (The Notebook #1)(3)
Nicholas Sparks

Later in the summer he brought her to this house, looked past the decay, and told her that one day he was going to own it and fix it up. They spent hours together talking about their dreams-his of seeing the world, hers of being an artist-and on a humid night in August. They both lost their virginity. When she left three weeks later, she took a piece of him and the rest of summer with her. He watched her leave town on an early rainy morning, watched through eyes that hadn’t slept the night before, then went home and packed a hag. He spent the next week alone on Harkers Island.

Noah checked his watch. Eight twelve. He got up and walked to the front of the house and looked up the road. Gus wasn’t in sight, and Noah figured he wouldn’t be coming. He went back to his rocker and sat again.

He remembered talking to Gus about her. The first time he mentioned her. Gus started to shake his head and laugh. “So that’s the ghost you been running from.” When asked what he meant. Gus said. “You know, the ghost, the memory. I been watchin’ you workin’ day and night, slavin’ so hard you barely have time to catch your breath. People do that for three reasons. Either they crazy, or stupid, or tryin’ to forget. And with you, I knew you was tryin’ to forget. I just didn’t know what.”

Gus was right, of course. New Bern was haunted now. Haunted by the ghost of her memory. He saw her in Fort Totten Park, their place, every time he walked by. When he sat on the porch at night with his guitar, he saw her beside him, listening as he played the music of his childhood. Everywhere he looked, he saw things that brought her back to life.

Noah shook his head, and when her image began to fade he returned to Whitman. He read for an hour, looking up every now and then to see raccoons and possums scurrying near the creek. At nine thirty he closed the book, went upstairs to the bedroom and wrote in his journal. Forty minutes later he was sleeping. Clem wandered up the stairs, sniffed him as he slept, and then paced in circles before finally curling up at the foot of his bed.

EARLIER THAT evening and a hundred miles away, she sat alone on the porch swing of her parents’ home, one leg tucked beneath her, wondering if she’d made the right decision. She’d struggled with it for days-and had struggled some more this evening-but in the end she knew she would never forgive herself if she let the opportunity slip away.

Lon didn’t know the real reason she left the following morning. The week before, she’d hinted to him that she might want to visit some antique shops near the coast. “It’s just a couple of days,” she said, “and besides, I need a break from planning the wedding.” She felt bad about the lie, but knew there was no way she could tell him the truth. Her leaving had nothing to do with him, and it wouldn’t he fair of her to ask him to understand.

It was an easy drive from Raleigh, slightly more than two hours, and she arrived a little before eleven. She checked into a small inn downtown, went to her room and unpacked her suitcase, hanging her dresses in the closet and putting everything else in the drawers. She had a quick lunch, asked the waitress for directions to the nearest antique stores, then spent the next few hours shopping. By four thirty she was back in her room.

She sat on the edge of the bed, picked up the phone and called Lon. He couldn’t speak long, but before they hung up she gave him the phone number where she was staying and promised to call the following day. Good, she thought while hanging up the phone. Routine conversation, nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing to make him suspicious.

She’d known him almost four years now, it was 1942 when they met, the world at war and America one year in. Everyone was doing their part and she was volunteering at the hospital downtown. The first waves of wounded young soldiers were coming home, and she spent her days with broken men and shattered bodies. When Lon, with his easy charm, introduced himself at a party, she saw in him exactly what she needed: someone with confidence about the future and a sense of humour that drove all her fears away.

He was handsome, intelligent and driven, a successful lawyer eight years older than she, and he pursued his job with passion, not only winning cases but also making a name for himself. She understood his vigorous pursuit of success, for her father and most of the men she met in her social circle were the same way. Like them, he’d been raised that way, and, in the caste system of the South, family name and accomplishments were often the most important consideration in marriage. In some cases they were the only consideration.

Though she had quietly rebelled against this idea since childhood and had dated a few men best described as reckless, she found herself drawn to Lon’s easy ways and had gradually come to love him. Despite the long hours he worked, he was good to her. He was a gentleman, mature and responsible, and during those terrible periods of the war when she needed someone to hold her, he never once turned her away. She felt secure with him and knew he loved her as well and that was why she had accepted his proposal.

Thinking these things made her feel guilty about being here, and she knew she should pack her things and leave before she changed her mind. She picked up her handbag, hesitated and almost made it to the door. But coincidence had pushed her here, and she put the bag down, again realizing that if she quit now she would always wonder what would have happened. She couldn’t live with that

She went to the bathroom and started a bath. After checking the temperature she walked to the chest of drawers in the bedroom, taking off her gold earrings as she crossed the room. She found her sponge bag, opened it and pulled out a razor and a bar of soap, then undressed in front of the chest of drawers. She looked at herself in the mirror. Her body was firm and well proportioned, breasts softly rounded, stomach flat, legs slim. She’d inherited her mother’s high cheekbones, smooth skin and blonde hair, but her best feature was her own. She had “eyes like ocean waves”, as Lon liked to say.

Taking the razor and soap, she went to the bathroom again, turned off the tap, set a towel where she could reach it and stepped gingerly into the bath.

She liked the way a bath relaxed her, and she slipped lower in the water. The day had been long and her back was tense, but she was pleased she had finished shopping so quickly. She had to go hack to Raleigh with something tangible, and the things she had picked out would work fine. She made a mental note to find the names of some other stores in the Beaufort area, then suddenly doubted she would need to. Lon wasn’t the type to check up on her.

She reached for the soap, lathered up and began to shave her legs. As she did, she thought about her parents and what they would think of her behaviour. No doubt they would disapprove, especially her mother. Her mother had never really accepted what had happened the summer they’d spent here and wouldn’t accept it now; no matter what reason she gave.

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