Every so often a love story so captures our hearts that it becomes more than a story-it becomes an experience to remember forever. The Notebook is such a book. It is a celebration of how passion can ...(more)
"You're not crazy," he said gently. He reached for her hand, and she let him hold it as they stood next to one another. He went on:
"Even though I don't know why, I can see this is hard for you. Why don't we go for a walk?"
"Like we used to?"
"Why not? I think we both could use one."
She hesitated and looked to his front door. "Do you need to tell anyone?"
He shook his head.
"No, there's no one to tell. It's just me and Clem." Even though she'd asked, she had suspected there wouldn't be anyone else, and inside she didn't know how to feel about that. But it did make what she wanted to say a little harder. It would have been easier if there was someone else.
They started toward the river and turned on a path near the bank. She let go of his hand, surprising him, and walked on with just enough distance between them so that they couldn't accidentally touch.
He looked at her. She was pretty still, with thick hair and soft eyes, and she moved so gracefully that it almost seemed as though she were gliding. He'd seen beautiful women before, though, women who caught his eye, but to his mind they usually lacked the traits he found most desirable. Traits like intelligence, confidence, strength of spirit, passion, traits that inspired others to greatness, traits he aspired to himself.
Allie had those traits, he knew, and as they walked now, he sensed them once again lingering beneath the surface. "A living poem" had always been the words that came to mind when he tried to describe her to others.
"How long have you been back here?" she asked as the path gave way to a small grass hill.
"Since last December. I worked up north for a while, then spent the last three years in Europe."
She looked to him with questions in her eyes. "The war?"
He nodded and she went on.
"I thought you might be there. I'm glad you made it out okay."
"Me too," he said.
"Are you glad to be back home?"
"Yeah. My roots are here. This is where I'm supposed to be." He paused. "But what about you?" He asked the question softly, suspecting the worst.
It was a long moment before she answered.
He looked down when she said it, suddenly feeling just a bit weaker. So that was it. That's what she needed to tell him.
"Congratulations," he finally said, wondering how convincing he sounded. "When's the big day?"
"Three weeks from Saturday. Lon wanted a November wedding."
"Lon Hammond Jr. My fianc?."
He nodded, not surprised. The Hammonds were one of the most powerful and influential families in the state. Cotton money. Unlike that of his own father, the death of Lon Hammond Sr. had made the front page of the newspaper. "I've heard of them. His father built quite a business. Did Lon take over for him?"
She shook her head. "No, he's a lawyer. He has his own practice downtown."
"With his name, he must be busy."
"He is. He works a lot."
He thought he heard something in her tone, and the next question came automatically.
"Does he treat you well?"
She didn't answer right away, as if she were considering the question for the first time. Then:
"Yes. He's a good man, Noah. You would like him."
Her voice was distant when she answered, or at least he thought it was. Noah wondered if it was just his mind playing tricks on him.
"How's your daddy doing?" she asked.
Noah took a couple of steps before answering. "He passed on earlier this year, right after I got back."
"I'm sorry," she said softly, knowing how much he had meant to Noah.
He nodded, and the two walked in silence for a moment.
They reached the top of the hill and stopped. The oak tree was in the distance, with the sun glowing orange behind it. Allie could feel his eyes on her as she stared in that direction.
"A lot of memories there, Allie."
She smiled. "I know. I saw it when I came in. Do you remember the day we spent there?"
"Yes," he answered, volunteering no more.
"Do you ever think about it?"
"Sometimes," he said. "Usually when I'm working out this way. It sits on my property now."
"You bought it?"
"I just couldn't bear to see it turned into kitchen cabinets."
She laughed under her breath, feeling strangely pleased about that. "Do you still read poetry?"
He nodded. "Yeah. I never stopped. I guess it's in my blood."
"Do you know, you're the only poet I've ever met."
"I'm no poet. I read, but I can't write a verse. I've tried."
"You're still a poet, Noah Taylor Calhoun." Her voice softened. "I still think about it a lot. It was the first time anyone ever read poetry to me before. In fact, it's the only time."
Her comment made both of them drift back and remember as they slowly circled back to the house, following a new path that passed near the dock. As the sun dropped a little lower and the sky turned orange, he asked:
"So, how long are you staying?"
"I don't know. Not long. Maybe until tomorrow or the next day."
"Is your fianc? here on business?"
She shook her head. "No, he's still in Raleigh." Noah raised his eyebrows. "Does he know you're here?"
She shook her head again and answered slowly. "No. I told him I was looking for antiques. He wouldn't understand my coming here."
Noah was a little surprised by her answer. It was one thing to come and visit, but it was an entirely different matter to hide the truth from her fianc?.
"You didn't have to come here to tell me you were engaged. You could have written me instead, or even called."
"I know. But for some reason, I had to do it in person."
She hesitated. "I don't know . . . ," she said, trailing off, and the way she said it made him believe her. The gravel crunched beneath their feet as they walked in silence for a few steps. Then he asked:
"Allie, do you love him?"
She answered automatically. "Yes, I love him." The words hurt. But again, he thought he heard something in her tone, as if she were saying it to convince herself. He stopped and gently took her shoulders in his hands, making her face him. The fading sunlight reflected in her eyes as he spoke.
"If you're happy, Allie, and you love him, I won't try to stop you from going back to him. But if there's a part of you that isn't sure, then don't do it. This isn't the kind of thing you go into halfway."
Her answer came almost too quickly.
"I'm making the right decision, Noah."
He stared for a second, wondering if he believed her. Then he nodded and the two began to walk again. After a moment he said: "I'm not making this easy for you, am I?"
She smiled a little. "It's okay. I really can't blame you."
"I'm sorry anyway."
"Don't be. There's no reason to be sorry. I'm the one who should be apologizing. Maybe I should have written."
He shook his head. "To be honest, I'm still glad you came. Despite everything. It's good to see you again."
"Thank you, Noah."
"Do you think it would be possible to start over?"
She looked at him curiously.
"You were the best friend I ever had, Allie. I'd still like to be friends, even if you are engaged, and even if it is just for a couple of days. How about we just kind of get to know each other again?"
She thought about it, thought about staying or leaving, and decided that since he knew about her engagement, it would probably be all right. Or at least not wrong. She smiled slightly and nodded.
"I'd like that."
"Good. How about dinner? I know a place that serves the best crab in town."
"Sounds great. Where?"
"My house. I've had the traps out all week, and I saw that I had some good ones caged a couple days ago. Do you mind?"
"No, that sounds fine."