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Home > Nights in Rodanthe(2)

Nights in Rodanthe(2)
Author: Nicholas Sparks

They were wrong.

Brent had been gone for eight months now, the victim of a virulent strain of testicular cancer. Adrienne had watched Amanda sink into a deep depression, and yesterday afternoon, when she dropped off the grandchildren after spending some time with them, she found the drapes at their house drawn, the porch light still on, and Amanda sitting in the living room in her bathrobe with the same vacant expression she’d worn on the day of the funeral.

It was then, while standing in Amanda’s living room, that Adrienne knew it was time to tell her daughter about the past.

Fourteen years. That’s how long it had been.

In all those years, Adrienne had told only one person about what had happened, but her father had died with the secret, unable to tell anyone even if he’d wanted to.

Her mother had passed away when Adrienne was thirty-five, and though they’d had a good relationship, she’d always been closest to her father. He was, she still thought, one of two men who’d ever really understood her, and she missed him now that he was gone. His life had been typical of so many of his generation. Having learned a trade instead of going to college, he’d spent forty years in a furniture manufacturing plant working for an hourly wage that increased by pennies each January. He wore fedoras even during the warm summer months, carried his lunch in a box with squeaky hinges, and left the house promptly at six forty-five every morning to walk the mile and a half to work.

In the evenings after dinner, he wore a cardigan sweater and long-sleeved shirts. His wrinkled pants lent a disheveled air to his appearance that grew more pronounced as the years wore on, especially after the passing of his wife. He liked to sit in the easy chair with the yellow lamp glowing beside him, reading genre westerns and books about World War II. In the final years before his strokes, his old-fashioned spectacles, bushy eyebrows, and deeply lined face made him look more like a retired college professor than the blue-collar worker he had been.

There was a peacefulness about her father that she’d always yearned to emulate. He would have made a good priest or minister, she’d often thought, and people who met him for the first time usually walked away with the impression that he was at peace with himself and the world. He was a gifted listener; with his chin resting in his hand, he never let his gaze stray from people’s faces as they spoke, his expression mirroring empathy and patience, humor and sadness. Adrienne wished that he were around for Amanda right now; he, too, had lost a spouse, and she thought Amanda would listen to him, if only because he knew how hard it really was.

A month ago, when Adrienne had gently tried to talk to Amanda about what she was going through, Amanda had stood up from the table with an angry shake of her head.

“This isn’t like you and Dad,” she’d said. “You two couldn’t work out your problems, so you divorced. But I loved Brent. I’ll always love Brent, and I lost him. You don’t know what it’s like to live through something like that.”

Adrienne had said nothing, but when Amanda left the room, Adrienne had lowered her head and whispered a single word.

Rodanthe.

While Adrienne sympathized with her daughter, she was concerned about Amanda’s children. Max was six, Greg was four, and in the past eight months, Adrienne had noticed distinct changes in their personalities. Both had become unusually withdrawn and quiet. Neither had played soccer in the fall, and though Max was doing well in kindergarten, he cried every morning before he had to go. Greg had started to wet the bed again and would fly into tantrums at the slightest provocation. Some of these changes stemmed from the loss of their father, Adrienne knew, but they also reflected the person that Amanda had become since last spring.

Because of the insurance, Amanda didn’t have to work. Nonetheless, for the first couple of months after Brent had died, Adrienne spent nearly every day at their house, keeping the bills in order and preparing meals for the children, while Amanda slept and wept in her room. She held her daughter whenever Amanda needed it, listened when Amanda wanted to talk, and forced her daughter to spend at least an hour or two outside each day, in the belief that fresh air would remind her daughter that she could begin anew.

Adrienne had thought her daughter was getting better. By early summer, Amanda had begun to smile again, infrequently at first, then a little more often. She ventured out into the town a few times, took the kids roller-skating, and Adrienne gradually began pulling back from the duties she was shouldering. It was important, she knew, for Amanda to resume responsibility for her own life again. Comfort could be found in the steady routines of life, Adrienne had learned; she hoped that by decreasing her presence in her daughter’s life, Amanda would be forced to realize that, too.

But in August, on the day that would have been her seventh wedding anniversary, Amanda opened the closet door in the master bedroom, saw dust collecting on the shoulders of Brent’s suits, and suddenly stopped improving. She didn’t exactly regress—there were still moments when she seemed her old self—but for the most part, she seemed to be frozen somewhere in between. She was neither depressed nor happy, neither excited nor languid, neither interested nor bored by anything around her. To Adrienne, it seemed as if Amanda had become convinced that moving forward would somehow tarnish her memories of Brent, and she’d made the decision not to allow that to happen.

But it wasn’t fair to the children. They needed her guidance and her love, they needed her attention. They needed her to tell them that everything was going to be all right. They’d already lost one parent, and that was hard enough. But lately, it seemed to Adrienne that they’d lost their mother as well.

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