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Home > Nights in Rodanthe(15)

Nights in Rodanthe(15)
Author: Nicholas Sparks

She smiled. “It’s only part-time. I have three kids, so I do the mom thing, too.”

“How old are they?”

“Eighteen, seventeen, and fifteen.”

“Do they keep you busy?”

“No, not really. As long as I’m up by five and don’t go to bed until midnight, it’s not too bad.”

He chuckled under his breath, and Adrienne felt herself beginning to relax. “How about you? Do you have children?”

“Just one. A son.” For a moment his eyes dropped, but he came back to her again. “He’s a doctor in Ecuador.”

“He lives there?”

“For the time being. He’s volunteering his services for a couple of years at a clinic near Esmeraldas.”

“You must be proud of him.”

“I am.” He paused. “But to be honest, he must have gotten that from my wife. Or rather, my ex-wife. It was more her doing than mine.”

Adrienne smiled. “That’s nice to hear.”

“What?”

“That you still appreciate her good qualities. Even though you’re divorced, I mean. I don’t hear a lot of people saying those things after they split up. Usually, when people talk about their exes, all they bring up are the things that went wrong or the bad things the other person did.”

Paul wondered if she was speaking from personal experience, guessing that she was.

“Tell me about your kids, Adrienne. What do they like to do?”

Adrienne took another sip of her coffee, thinking how odd it was to hear him saying her name.

“My kids? Oh, well, let’s see… Matt was the starting quarterback on the football team, and now he’s playing guard on the basketball team. Amanda loves drama, and she just won the lead to play Maria in West Side Story. And Dan… well, right now, Dan is playing basketball, too, but next year, he thinks he might go out for wrestling instead. The coach has been begging him to try out since he saw him at sports camp last summer.”

Paul raised his eyebrows. “Impressive.”

“What can I say? It was all their mother’s doing,” she quipped.

“Why does that not surprise me?”

She smiled. “Of course, those are just their good parts. Had I told you about their mood swings or their attitudes, or let you see their messy rooms, you’d probably think I was doing a terrible job raising them.”

Paul smiled. “I doubt it. What I’d think is that you were raising teenagers.”

“In other words, you’re telling me that your son, the conscientious doctor, went through all this, too, so I shouldn’t lose hope?”

“I’m sure he did.”

“You don’t know for sure, though?”

“Not really.” He paused. “I wasn’t around as much as I should have been. There was a time in my life when I used to work too much.”

She could tell it was a difficult admission for him, and she wondered why he’d said it. Before she could dwell on it, the phone rang and they both turned at the sound.

“Excuse me,” she said, rising from her seat. “I have to get that.”

Paul watched her walk away, noticing again how attractive she was. In spite of the direction his medical practice had taken in later years, he’d always remained less interested in appearance than those things a person couldn’t see: kindness and integrity, humor and sensibility. Adrienne, he was sure, had all those traits, but he got the feeling that they’d been unappreciated for a long time, maybe even by her.

He could tell that she had been nervous when she first sat down, and he found that oddly endearing. Too often, especially in his line of work, people seemed intent on trying to impress, making sure they said the right things, showcasing those things they did well. Others rambled on, as if they viewed conversation as a one-way street, and nothing was more boring than a blowhard. None of those traits seemed to apply to Adrienne.

And, he had to admit, it was nice to talk to someone who didn’t know him. During the past few months, he’d alternated between spending time alone or fending off questions as to whether or not he was feeling okay. More than once, colleagues had recommended the name of a good therapist and confided that the person had helped them. Paul had grown tired of explaining that he knew what he was doing and that he was sure of his decision. And he was even more tired of the looks of concern they offered in response.

But there was something about Adrienne that made him feel she would understand what he was going through. He couldn’t explain why he felt that way or why it mattered. But either way, he was sure of it.

Seven

A few minutes later, Paul put his empty cup on the tray, then carried the tray to the kitchen.

Adrienne was still on the phone when he got there, her back toward him. She was leaning against the counter, one leg crossed over the other, twirling a strand of hair between her fingers. From her tone, he could tell she was finishing up, and he set the tray on the counter.

“Yes, I got your note… uh-huh… yes, he’s already checked in….”

There was a long pause as she listened, and when she spoke again, Paul heard her voice drop. “It’s been on the news all day…. From what I hear, it’s supposed to be big…. Oh, okay… under the house?… Yeah, I suppose I can do that… I mean, how hard can it be, right?… You’re welcome…. Enjoy the wedding…. Good-bye.”

Paul was putting his cup in the sink when she turned around.

“You didn’t have to bring that in,” she said.

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