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The Notebook

The Notebook

The Notebook/18

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stared out over the pond. Fallen leaves resembled a kaleidoscope as they floated on the water. The glassy surface mirrored the cloudless sky.

"I've come to ask you something," I finally said.

"Yes?" As he spoke, Noah tore off another piece of bread and tossed it into the water. The swan bobbed its beak toward it and straightened its neck to swallow.

"It's about Jane," I added.

"Jane," he murmured softly. "How is she?"

"Good," I nodded, shifing awkwardly. "She'll be coming by later, I suppose." This was true. For the past few years, we've visited Noah frequently, sometimes together, sometimes alone. I wondered if they spoke of me in my absence.

"And the kids?"

"They're doing well, too. Anna's writing features now, and Joseph finally found a new apartment. It's in Queens, I think, but right near the subway. Leslie's going camping in the mountains with friends this weekend. She told us she aced her midterms."

He nodded, his eyes never leaving the swan. "You're very lucky, Wilson," he said. "I hope you realize how fortunate you are that they've become such wonderful adults."

"I do," I said.

We fell into silence and I glanced at him. Up close, the lines in his face formed crevices, and I could see the veins pulsing below the thinning skin of his hands. Behind us, the grounds were empty, the chilly air keeping people inside.

"I forgot our anniversary," I said.

"Oh?"

"Twenty-nine years," I added.

"Mmm."

Behind us, I could hear dried leaves rattling in the breeze.

"I'm worried about us," I finally admitted.

Noah glanced at me. At first, I thought he would ask me why I was worried, but instead, Noah squinted, trying to read my face. Then, turning away, he tossed another piece of bread to the swan. When he spoke, his voice was soft and low, an aging baritone tempered by a southern accent.

"Do you remember when Allie got sick? When I used to read to her?"

"Yes," I answered, feeling the memory pull at me. He used to read to her from a notebook that he'd written before they moved to Creekside. The notebook held the story of how he and Allie had fallen in love, and sometimes after he read it aloud to her, Allie would become momentarily lucid, despite the ravages of Alzheimer's. The lucidity never lasted long--and as the disease progressed further, it ceased completely--but when it happened, Allie's improvement was dramatic enough for specialists to travel from Chapel Hill to Creekside in the hopes of understanding it. That reading to Allie sometimes worked, there was no doubt. Why it worked, however, was something the specialists were never able to figure out.

"Do you know why I did that?" he asked.

I brought my hands to my lap. "I believe so," I answered. "It helped Allie. And because she made you promise you would."

"Yes," he said, "that's true." He paused and I could hear him wheezing slightly as he breathed. "But that wasn't the only reason why I did it. I also did it for me. A lot of folks didn't understand that . . ."

Though he trailed off, I knew he wasn't finished and I said nothing. In the silence, the swan stopped circling and moved closer. Except for a black spot the size of a dime on its chest, the swan was the color of ivory. It seemed to hover in place when Noah began speaking again.

"Do you know what I most remember about the good days?" he asked.

I knew he was referring to those rare days when Allie recognized him. "No," I answered.

"Falling in love," he said. "That's what I remember. On her good days, it was like we were just starting out all over again."

He glanced at me with a gentle smile. "That's what I mean when I say that I did it for me. Every time I read to her, it was like I was courting her, because sometimes, just sometimes, she would fall in love with me again, just like she had a long time ago. And that's the most wonderful feeling in the world. How many people are ever given that chance? To have someone you love fall in love with you over and over?"

Noah didn't seem to expect an answer, and I didn't offer one.

Instead, we spent the next hour discussing the children and his health. We did not speak of Jane or Allie again. After I left, however, I thought about our visit. Despite the doctors' worries, Noah seemed as sharp as ever. He had not only known that I would be coming to see him, I realized, but anticipated the reason for my visit. And in typical southern fashion, he'd given me the answer to my problem, without my ever having had to ask him directly.

It was then, I remember thinking, that I knew what I had to do.







Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook
(Series: The Notebook # 1)

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