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The Notebook

The Notebook

The Notebook/10

Hammond has never made a similar request before, and I assume the matter is very important to him."

He paused for effect, then looked to some papers on his desk. "I'll agree to adjourn until Monday. Nine o'clock sharp."

"Thank you, Your Honor," Lon said.

Two minutes later he was leaving the courthouse. He walked to the car he had parked directly across the street, got in, and began the drive to New Bern, his hands shaking.





An Unexpected Visitor


Noah made breakfast for Allie while she slept in the living room. Bacon, biscuits, and coffee, nothing spectacular. He set the tray beside her as she woke up, and as soon as they had finished eating, they made love again. It was relentless, a powerful confirmation of what they had shared the day before. Allie arched her back and cried out fiercely in the final tidal wave of sensations, then wrapped her arms around him as they breathed in unison, exhausted.

They showered together, and afterward Allie put on her dress, which had dried overnight. She spent the morning with Noah. Together they fed Clem and checked the windows to make sure no damage had been done in the storm. Two pine trees had blown over, though neither had caused much damage, and a few shingles had blown off the shed, but other than that, the property had escaped pretty much unscathed.

He held her hand most of the morning and the two talked easily, but sometimes he would stop speaking and just stare at her. When he did, she felt as though she should say something, but nothing meaningful ever came into her head. Lost in thought, she usually just kissed him.

A little before noon, Noah and Allie went in to prepare lunch. Both of them were starving again because they hadn't eaten much the day before. Using what he had on hand, they fried some chicken and baked another batch of biscuits, and the two of them ate on the porch, serenaded by a mockingbird.

While they were inside doing the dishes, they heard a knock at the door. Noah left Allie in the kitchen.

Knock again.

"I'm coming," Noah said.

Knock, knock. Louder.

He approached the door.

Knock, knock.

"I'm coming," he said again as he opened the door. "Oh, my God."

He stared for a moment at a beautiful woman in her early fifties, a woman he would have recognized anywhere.

Noah couldn't speak.

"Hello, Noah," she finally said. Noah said nothing.

"May I come in?" she asked, her voice steady, revealing nothing.

He stammered out a reply as she walked past him, stopping just before the stairs.

"Who is it?" Allie shouted from the kitchen, and the woman turned at the sound of her voice.

"It's your mother," Noah finally answered, and immediately after he said it, he heard the sound of breaking glass.

"I knew you would be here," Anne Nelson said to her daughter as the three of them sat around the coffee table in the living room.

"How could you be so sure?"

"You're my daughter. One day when you have kids of your own, you'll know the answer." She smiled, but her manner was stiff, and Noah imagined how difficult this must be for her. "I saw the article, too, and I saw your reaction. I also saw how tense you've been during the last couple of weeks, and when you said you were going shopping near the coast, I knew exactly what you meant."

"What about Daddy?"

Anne Nelson shook her head. "No, I didn't tell your father or anyone else about it. Nor did I tell anyone where I was going today."

The table was silent for a moment as they wondered what was coming next, but Anne remained quiet.

"Why did you come?" Allie finally asked.

Her mother raised an eyebrow. "I thought I would be the one to ask that question."

Allie paled.

"I came because I had to," her mother said, "which I'm sure is the same reason you came. Am I right?"

Allie nodded.

Anne turned to Noah. "These last couple of days must have been full of surprises."

"Yes," he answered simply, and she smiled at him. "I know you don't think so, but I always liked you, Noah. I just didn't think you were right for my daughter. Can you understand that?"

He shook his head as he answered, his tone serious. "No, not really. It wasn't fair to me, and it wasn't fair to Allie. Otherwise she wouldn't be here."

She watched him as he answered, but she said nothing. Allie, sensing an argument, cut in:

"What do you mean when you say you had to come? Don't you trust me?"

Anne turned back to her daughter. "This has nothing to do with trust. This has to do with Lon. He called the house last night to talk to me about Noah, and he's on his way here right now. He seemed very upset. I thought you'd want to know."

Allie inhaled sharply. "He's on his way?"

"As we speak. He arranged to have the trial postponed until next week. If he's not in New Bern yet, he's close."

"What did you say to him?"

"Not much. But he knew. He had it all figured out. He remembered my telling him about Noah a long time ago."

Allie swallowed hard. "Did you tell him I was here?"

"No. And I won't. That's between you and him. But knowing him, I'm sure he'll find you here if you stay. All it takes is a couple of phone calls to the right people. After all, I was able to find you."

Allie, though obviously worried, smiled at her mother. "Thank you," she said, and her mother reached for her hand.

"I know we've had our differences, Allie, and that we haven't seen eye to eye on everything. I'm not perfect, but I did the best I could with raising you. I'm your mother and I always will be. That means I'll always love you."

Allie was silent for a moment, then: "What should I do?"

"I don't know, Allie. That's up to you. But I would think about it. Think about what you really want."

Allie turned away, her eyes reddening. A moment later a tear drifted down her cheek.

"I don't know. . . " She trailed off, and her mother squeezed her hand. Anne looked at Noah, who had been sitting with his head down, listening carefully. As if on cue, he returned her gaze, nodded, and left the room.

When he was gone, Anne whispered, "Do you love him?"

"Yes, I do," Allie answered softly, "very much." "Do you love Lon?"

"Yes, I do. I love him, too. Dearly, but in a different way. He doesn't make me feel the way Noah does."

"No one will ever do that," her mother said, and she released Allie's hand.

"I can't make this decision for you, Allie, this one's all yours. I want you to know, though, that I love you. And I always will. I know that doesn't help but it's all I can do."

She reached in her pocketbook and removed a bundle of letters held together with string, the envelopes old and slightly yellowed.

"These are the letters that Noah wrote you. I never threw them away, and they haven't been opened. I know I shouldn't have kept them from you, and I'm sorry for that. But I was just trying to protect you. I didn't realize . . ."

Allie took them and ran her hand over them, shocked.

"I should go, Allie. You've got some decisions to make, and you don't have much time. Do you want me to stay in town?"

Allie shook her head. "No, this is up to me." Anne nodded and watched her daughter for a moment, wondering. Finally she stood, went around the table, leaned over, and kissed her daughter on the cheek. She could see the question in her daughter's eyes as Allie stood from the table and embraced her.

"What are you going to do?" her mother asked, pulling back. There was a long pause.

"I don't know," Allie finally answered. They stood together for another minute, just holding each other.

"Thanks for coming," Allie said. "I love you."

"I love you, too."

On her way out the door, Allie thought that she heard her mother whisper, "Follow your heart," but she couldn't be sure.





Crossroads


Noah opened the door for Anne Nelson as she went out.

"Good-bye, Noah," she said quietly. He nodded without speaking. There wasn't anything else to say; they both knew that. She turned from him and left, closing the door behind her. Noah watched her walk to her car, get in, and drive away without looking back. She was a strong woman, he thought to himself, and he knew where Allie got it from.

Noah peeked in the living room, saw Allie sitting with her head down, then went to the back porch, knowing that she needed to be alone. He sat quietly in his rocker and watched the water drifting by as the minutes passed.

After what seemed like an eternity he heard the back door open. He didn't turn to look at her just then--for some reason he couldn't--and he listened as she sat in the chair beside him.

"I'm sorry," Allie said. "I had no idea this would happen."

Noah shook his head. "Don't be sorry. We both knew it was coming in some form or another."

"It's still hard."

"I know." He finally turned to her, reaching for her hand. "Is there anything I can do to make it easier?"

She shook her head. "No. Not really. I have to do this alone. Besides, I'm not sure what I'm going to say to him yet." She looked down and her voice became softer and a little more distant, as if she were talking to herself. "I guess it depends on him and how much he knows. If my mother was right, he may have suspicions, but he doesn't know anything for sure."

Noah felt a tightness in his stomach. When he finally spoke his voice was steady, but she could hear the pain in it.

"You're not going to tell him about us, are you?" "I don't know. I really don't. While I was in the living room, I kept asking myself what I really wanted in my life." She squeezed his hand. "And do you know what the answer was? The answer was that I wanted two things. First, I want you. I want us. I love you and I always have."

She took a deep breath before going on.

"But I also want a happy ending without hurting anyone. And I know that if I stayed, people would be hurt. Especially Lon. I wasn't lying when I told you that I love him. He doesn't make me feel the same way you do, but I care for him, and this wouldn't be fair to him. But staying here would also hurt my family and friends. I would be betraying everyone I know.

...I don't know if I can do that."

"You can't live your life for other people. You've got to do what's right for you, even if it hurts some people you love."

"I know," she said, "but no matter what I choose I have to live with it. Forever. I have to be able to go forward and not look back anymore. Can you understand that?"

He shook his head and tried to keep his voice steady. "Not really. Not if it means losing you. I can't do that again."

She didn't say anything but lowered her head. Noah went on:

"Could you really leave me without looking back?"

She bit her lip as she answered. Her voice was beginning to crack. "I don't know. Probably not."

"Would that be fair to Lon?"

She didn't answer right away. Instead she stood, wiped her face, and walked to the edge of the porch where she leaned against the post. She crossed her arms and watched the water before answering quietly.

"No."

"It doesn't have to be like this, Allie," he said. "We're adults now, we have the choice we didn't have before. We're meant to be together. We always have been."

He walked to her side and put his hand on her shoulder. "I don't want to live the rest of my life thinking about you and dreaming of what might have been. Stay with me, Allie."

Tears began to fill her eyes. "I don't know if I can," she finally whispered.

"You can. Allie . . . I can't live my life happily knowing you're with someone else. That would kill a part of me. What we have is rare. It's too beautiful to just throw it away."

She didn't respond. After a moment he gently turned her toward him, took her hands, and stared at her, willing her to look at him. Allie finally faced him with moist eyes. After a long silence, Noah brushed the tears from her cheeks with his fingers, a look of tenderness on his face. His voice caught as he saw what her eyes were telling him.

"You're not going to stay, are you?" He smiled weakly. "You want to, but you can't."

"Oh, Noah," she said as the tears began again, "please try to understand. ..."

He shook his head to stop her.

"I know what you're trying to say--I can see it in your eyes. But I don't want to understand it, Allie. I don't want it to end this way. I don't want it to end at all. But if you leave, we both know we'll never see each other again."

She leaned into him and began to cry harder as Noah fought back his own tears.

He wrapped his arms around her.

"Allie, I can't force you to stay with me. But no matter what happens in my life, I'll never forget these last couple of days with you. I've been dreaming about this for years."

He kissed her gently, and they embraced as they had when she first got out of her car two days ago. Finally Allie let him go and wiped her tears.

"I have to get my things, Noah."

He didn't go inside with her. Instead he sat down in the rocker, spent. He watched her go into the house and listened as the sound of her movements faded into nothing. She emerged from the house minutes later with everything she'd brought and walked toward him with her head down. She handed him the drawing she had done yesterday morning. As he took it, he noticed that she hadn't stopped crying.

"Here, Noah. I made this for you."

Noah took the drawing and unrolled it slowly, careful not to tear it.

There were dual images, one overlapping the other. The image in the foreground, which occupied most of the page, was a picture of how he looked now, not fourteen years ago. Noah noticed that she had penciled in every detail of his face, including the scar. It was almost as if she'd copied it from a recent photograph.

The second image was that of the front of the house. The detail there was also incredible, as if she had sketched it while sitting beneath the oak tree.

"It's beautiful, Allie. Thank you." He attempted a smile. "I told you that you were an artist." She nodded, her face cast downward, her lips pressed together. It was time for her to go.

They walked to her car slowly, without speaking. When they reached it, Noah embraced her again until he could feel the tears welling up in his own eyes. He kissed her lips and both cheeks, then with his finger softly brushed the places he'd kissed.

"I love you, Allie."

"I love you, too."

Noah opened her car door, and they kissed one more time. Then she slid behind the wheel, never taking her eyes from him. She put the packet of letters and the pocketbook next to her on the seat and fumbled for the keys, then turned the ignition. It started easily, and the engine began to turn over impatiently. It was almost time.

Noah pushed her door closed with both hands, and Allie rolled down the window. She could see the muscles in his arms, the easy smile, the tanned face. She reached out her hand and Noah took it for just a moment, moving his fingers softly against her skin.

"Stay with me," Noah mouthed without sound, and this for some reason hurt more than Allie would have expected. The tears began to fall hard now, but she couldn't speak. Finally, reluctantly, she looked away and pulled her hand from his. She put the car in gear and eased the pedal down just a bit. If she didn't leave now, she never would. Noah backed up just a bit as the car started to roll away.

He fell into an almost trancelike state as he felt the reality of the situation. He watched the car roll slowly forward; he heard the gravel crunching under the wheels. Slowly the car began to turn from him, toward the road that would take her back to town. Leaving--she was leaving!--and Noah felt dizzy at the sight.

Edging forward . . . past him now . . .

She waved one last time without smiling before she began to accelerate, and he waved back weakly. "Don't go!" he wanted to shout as the car moved farther away. But he didn't say anything, and a minute later the car was gone and the only remaining signs of her were the tracks that her car had left behind.

He stood there without moving for a long time. As quickly as she had come, she was gone. Forever this time. Forever.

He closed his eyes then and watched her leave once more, her car moving steadily away from him, taking his heart with her.

But, like her mother, he realized sadly, she never looked back.





A Letter fromYesterday


Driving with tears in her eyes was difficult, but she went on anyway, hoping that instinct would take her back to the inn. She kept the window rolled down, thinking the fresh air might help clear her mind, but it didn't seem to help. Nothing would help.

She was tired, and she wondered if she would have the energy she needed to talk to Lon. And what was she going to say? She still had no idea but hoped that something would come to her when the time came.

It would have to.

By the time she reached the drawbridge that led to Front Street, she had herself a little more under control. Not completely, but well enough, she thought, to talk to Lon. At least she hoped so.

Traffic was light, and she had time to watch strangers going about their business as she drove through New Bern. At a gas station, a mechanic was looking under the hood of a new automobile while a man, presumably its owner, stood beside him. Two women were pushing baby carriages just outside Hoffman-Lane, chatting between themselves while they window-shopped. In front of Hearns Jewelers, a well-dressed man walked briskly, carrying a briefcase.

She made another turn and saw a young man unloading groceries from a truck that blocked part of the street. Something about the way he held himself, or the way he moved, reminded her of Noah harvesting crabs at the end of the dock.

She saw the inn just up the street while she was stopped at a red light. She took a deep breath when the light turned green and drove slowly until she reached the parking lot that the inn shared with a couple of other businesses. She turned in and saw Lon's car sitting in the first spot. Although the one next to it was open, she passed it and picked a spot a little farther from the entrance.

She turned the key, and the engine stopped promptly. Next she reached into the glove compartment for a mirror and brush, finding both sitting on top of a map of North Carolina. Looking at herself, she saw her eyes were still red and puffy. Like yesterday after the rain, as she examined her reflection she was sorry she didn't have any makeup, though she doubted it would help much now