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Home > Nights in Rodanthe(18)

Nights in Rodanthe(18)
Author: Nicholas Sparks

Eight

After helping her with the dishes, Paul nodded toward the back door.

“Would you like to join me for a stroll on the beach?” he asked. “It looks like a nice night.”

“Isn’t it getting cold?”

“I’m sure it is, but I have the feeling it’ll be the last chance we get for a couple of days.”

Adrienne glanced out the window. She should stay and finish cleaning up the rest of the kitchen, but that could wait, right?

“Sure,” she agreed, “just let me get a jacket.”

Adrienne’s room was located off the kitchen, in a room that Jean had added on a dozen years ago. It was larger than the other rooms in the house and had a bathroom that had been designed around a large Jacuzzi bathtub. Jean took baths regularly, and whenever Adrienne had called her when her spirits were low, it was always the remedy that Jean recommended to make herself feel better. “What you need is a long, hot, relaxing bath,” she’d say, oblivious to the fact that there were three kids in the house who monopolized the bathrooms and that Adrienne’s schedule didn’t allow for much free time.

From the closet, Adrienne retrieved her jacket, then grabbed her scarf. Wrapping it around her neck, she glanced at the clock and was amazed at how quickly the hours had seemed to pass. By the time she’d returned to the kitchen, Paul was waiting for her with his coat on.

“You ready?” he asked.

She folded up the collar on her jacket. “Let’s go. But I have to warn you, I’m not a real big fan of cold weather. My southern blood’s a little thin.”

“We won’t be out long. I promise.”

He smiled as they stepped outside, and Adrienne flipped the light switch that illuminated the steps. Walking side by side, they headed over the low dune, toward the compact sand near the water’s edge.

There was an exotic beauty to the evening; the air was crisp and fresh, and the flavor of salt hung in the mist. On the horizon, lightning was flickering in steady rhythm, making the clouds blink. As she glanced in that direction, she noticed that Paul was watching the sky as well. His eyes, she thought, seemed to register everything.

“Have you ever seen that before? Lightning like that?” he asked.

“Not in the winter. In the summer, it happens every now and then.”

“It’s from the fronts coming together. I saw it start up when we were having dinner, and it makes me think this storm is going to be bigger than they’re predicting.”

“I hope you’re wrong.”

“I might be.”

“But you doubt it.”

He shrugged. “Let’s just say had I known it was coming, I would have tried to reschedule.”

“Why?”

“I’m not a big fan of storms anymore. Do you remember Hurricane Hazel? In 1954?”

“Sure, but I was kind of young then. I was more excited than scared when we lost power at the house. And Rocky Mount wasn’t hit that hard, or at least our neighborhood wasn’t.”

“You’re lucky. I was twenty-one at the time and I was at Duke. When we heard it was coming, a few of the guys on the cross-country team thought it would be a good bonding experience if we went down to Wrightsville Beach to have a hurricane party. I didn’t want to go, but since I was the captain, they sort of guilted me into it.”

“Isn’t that where it came ashore?”

“Not exactly, but it was close enough. By the time we got there, most of the people had evacuated the island, but we were young and stupid and made our way over anyway. At first, it was kind of fun. We kept taking turns trying to lean into the wind and keep our balance, thinking the whole thing was great and wondering why everyone had been making such a big deal about it. After a few hours, though, the wind was too strong for games and the rain was coming down in sheets, so we decided to head back to Durham. But we couldn’t get off the island. They’d closed the bridges once the wind topped fifty miles an hour, and we were stuck. And the storm kept getting worse. By two A.M., it was like a war zone. Trees were toppling over, roofs were tearing off, and everywhere you looked, something that could kill us was flying past the windows of the car. And it was louder than you could imagine. Rain was just pounding the car and that was when the storm surge hit. It was high tide and a full moon to boot, and the biggest waves I’d ever seen were coming in, one right after the next. Luckily, we were far enough from the beach, but we watched four homes wash away that night. And then, when we didn’t think it could get any worse, power lines started snapping. We watched the transformers explode one right after the next, and one of the lines landed near the car. It whipped in the wind the rest of the night. It was so close we could see the sparks, and there were times when it nearly hit the car. Other than praying, I don’t think any of us said a single word to each other the rest of the night. It was the dumbest thing I ever did.”

Adrienne hadn’t taken her eyes from him as he spoke.

“You’re lucky you lived.”

“I know.”

On the beach, the violence of the waves had caused foam to form that looked like soap bubbles in a child’s bath.

“I’ve never told that story before,” Paul finally added. “To anyone, I mean.”

“Why not?”

“Because it wasn’t… me, somehow. I’d never done anything risky like that before, and I never did anything like it afterward. It’s almost like it happened to someone else. You’d have to know me to understand. I was the kind of guy who wouldn’t go out on Friday nights so that I wouldn’t fall behind in my studies.”

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