Home > The Notebook (The Notebook #1)(4)

The Notebook (The Notebook #1)(4)
Nicholas Sparks

She soaked a while longer in the bath before finally getting out and towelling off. She went to the closet and looked for a dress, finally choosing a long yellow one that dipped slightly in the front, the kind that was common in the South. She slipped it on and looked in the mirror, turning from side to side. It fitted her well, but she eventually decided against it and put it back on the hanger. Instead she found a more casual, less revealing dress and put that on. Light blue with a touch of lace, it buttoned up at the front, and though it didn’t look quite as nice as the first one, it conveyed an image she thought would be more appropriate.

She wore little make-up, just a touch of eye shadow and mascara to accent her eyes. Perfume next, not too much. She found a pair of small hooped earrings, put those on, then slipped on the tan, low-heeled sandals she had been wearing earlier. She brushed her blonde hair, pinned it up and looked in the mirror. No, it was too much, she thought, and she let it back down. Better.

When she was finished she stepped back and evaluated herself. She looked good: not too dressy, not too casual. She didn’t want to overdo it. After all, she didn’t know what to expect. It had been a long time-probably too long-and many different things could have happened, even things she didn’t want to consider.

She looked down and saw her hands were shaking, and she laughed to herself. It was strange; she wasn’t normally this nervous.

She found her handbag and car keys, then picked up the room key. She turned it over in her hand a couple of times, thinking – You’ve come this far, don’t give up now. She nearly left then, but instead sat on the bed again. She checked her watch. Almost six o’clock. She knew she had to leave in a few minutes-she didn’t want to arrive after dark-but she needed a little more time.

“Damn,” she whispered. “What am I doing here? I shouldn’t be here. There’s no reason for it.” But once she said it she knew it wasn’t true. If nothing else, she would have her answer.

She opened her handbag and thumbed through it until she came to a folded-up piece of newspaper. After taking it out slowly, almost reverently, she unfolded it and stared at it for a while. “This is why,” she finally said to herself, “this is what it’s all about.”

NOAH GOT UP at five and kayaked for an hour up Brices Creek, as he usually did. When he finished he changed into his work clothes, warmed some bread rolls from the day before, grabbed a couple of apples and washed his breakfast down with two cups of coffee.

He worked on the fencing again, repairing the posts. It was an Indian summer, the temperature over eighty degrees, and by lunchtime he was hot and tired and glad of the break.

He ate at the creek because the mullets were jumping. He liked to watch them jump three or four limes and glide through the air before vanishing into the brackish water. For some reason he had always been pleased by the fact that their instinct hadn’t changed for thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of years.

Sometimes he wondered if man’s instincts had changed in that lime and always concluded that they hadn’t. At least in the basic, most primal ways. As far as he could tell, man had always been aggressive, always striving to dominate, trying to control the world and everything in it. The war in Europe and Japan proved that.

He stopped working a little after three and walked to a small shed that sat near his dock. He went in, found his fishing pole, a couple of lures and some live crickets he kept on hand, then walked out to the dock, baited his hook and cast his line.

Fishing always made him reflect on his life, and he did so now. After his mother died he could remember spending his days in a dozen different homes. For one reason or another, he stuttered badly as a child and was teased for it. He began to speak less and less, and by the age of five he wouldn’t speak at all. When he started classes, his teachers thought he was retarded and recommended that he be pulled out of school.

Instead, his father took matters into his own hands. He kept him in school and afterwards made him come to the timber yard where he worked, to haul and stack wood. “It’s good that we spend some time together,” he would say as they worked side-by-side, “just like my daddy and I did.”

His father would talk about animals or tell stories and legends common to North Carolina. Within a few months Noah was speaking again, though not well, and his father decided to teach him to read with books of poetry. “Learn to read this aloud and you’ll be able to say anything you want to.” His father had been right again, and by the following year Noah had lost his stutter. But he continued to go to the timber yard every day simply because his father was there, and in the evenings he would read the works of Whitman and Tennyson aloud as his father rocked beside him. He had been reading poetry ever since.

When he got a little older he spent most of his weekends and vacations alone. He explored the Croatan forest in his first canoe, following Brices Creek for twenty miles until he could go no further, then hiked the remaining miles to the coast. Camping and exploring became his passion, and he spent hours in the forest, whistling quietly and playing his guitar for beavers and geese and wild blue herons. Poets knew that isolation in nature, far from people and things man-made, was good for the soul, and he’d always identified with poets.

Although he was quiet, years of heavy lifting at the timber yard helped him excel in sports, and his athletic success led to popularity. He enjoyed the football and track meets, and, though most of his teammates spent their free time together as well, he rarely joined them. He had a few girlfriends in school but none had ever made an impression on him. Except for one. And she came after graduation.

Allie. His Allie.

He remembered talking to Fin about Allie after they left the festival that first night, and Fin had laughed. Then he’d made two predictions: first that they would fall in love, and second that it wouldn’t work out.

There was a slight tug at his line and Noah hoped for a large-mouth bass, but the tugging eventually stopped and, after reeling his line in and checking the bait, he cast again.

Fin ended up being right on both counts. Most of the summer she had to make excuses to her parents whenever they wanted to see each other. It wasn’t that they didn’t like him-it was that he was from a different class, too poor, and they would never approve if their daughter became serious with someone like him. “I don’t care what my parents think, I love you and always will,” she would say. “We’ll find a way to be together.”

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