Home > Nights in Rodanthe(20)

Nights in Rodanthe(20)
Author: Nicholas Sparks

When they reached the house, they stepped inside the kitchen and slipped off their jackets. Adrienne hung hers on the coatrack beside the door along with her scarf; Paul hung his beside it.

Adrienne brought her hands together and blew through them, seeing Paul look toward the clock, then around the kitchen, as if wondering whether he should call it a night.

“How about something warm to drink?” she offered quickly. “I can brew a fresh pot of decaf.”

“Do you have any tea?” he asked.

“I think I saw some earlier. Let me check.”

She crossed the kitchen, opened the cupboard near the sink, then moved assorted goods to the side, liking the fact that they’d have a bit more time together. A box of Earl Grey was on the second shelf, and when she turned around to show it to him, Paul nodded with a smile. She moved around him to get the kettle, then added water, conscious of how close they were standing to each other. When it whistled, she poured two cups and they went to the sitting room.

They took their places in the rockers again, though the room had changed now that the sun had dropped. If possible, it seemed quieter, more intimate in the darkness.

As they drank their tea, they talked for another hour about this and that, the easy conversation of casual friends. In time, though, as the evening was winding down, Adrienne found herself confiding in him about her father and the fears she had for the future.

Paul had heard similar scenarios before; as a doctor, he encountered such stories regularly. But until that moment, they’d been just that: stories. His parents were gone, and Martha’s parents were alive and well and living in Florida; but he could tell by Adrienne’s expression that her dilemma was something he was glad he wouldn’t have to face.

“Is there something I can do?” he offered. “I know a lot of specialists who could review his chart and see if there’s a way to help him.”

“Thank you for the offer, but no, I’ve done all that. The last stroke really set him back. Even if there was something that might help a little, I don’t think there’s any chance that he could function without round-the-clock care.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know. I’m hoping Jack will change his mind about coming up with additional financial support for my dad, and he might. He and my father were pretty close for a while. But if not, I guess I’ll look for a full-time position so I can pay for it.”

“Can’t the state do anything?”

As soon as he said the words, he knew what her answer would be.

“He might be eligible for assistance, but the good places have long waiting lists, and most of them are a couple of hours away, so I wouldn’t be able to see him regularly. And the not-so-good places? I couldn’t do that to him.”

She paused, her thoughts flashing between the past and present. “When he retired,” she finally said, “they had a small party at the plant for him, and I remember thinking that he was going to miss going in every day. He’d started working there when he was fifteen, and in all the years he spent with them, he took only two sick days. I figured it out once—if you added up all the hours he spent working there, it would be fifteen years of his life, but when I asked him about it, he said he wasn’t going to miss it at all. That he had big plans now that he was finished.”

Adrienne’s expression softened. “What he meant was that he was planning to do the things he wanted instead of the things he had to do. Spending time with me, with the grandkids, with his books, or with friends. He deserved a few easy years after all he’d been through, and then…” She trailed off before meeting Paul’s eyes. “You would like him if you met him. Even now.”

“I’m sure I would. But would he like me?”

Adrienne smiled. “My dad likes everyone. Before his strokes, there was nothing more enjoyable to him than listening to people talk and learning what they were all about. He was endlessly patient, and because of that, people always opened up to him. Even strangers. They would tell him things they wouldn’t tell anyone else because they knew he could be trusted.” She hesitated. “You want to know what I remember most, though?”

Paul raised his eyebrows slightly.

“It was something he used to say to me, ever since I was a little girl. No matter how good or bad I’d done in anything, no matter if I was happy or sad, my dad would always give me a hug and tell me, ‘I’m proud of you.’ ”

She was quiet for a moment. “I don’t know what it is about those words, but they always moved me. I must have heard them a million times, but every time he said them, they left me with the feeling that he’d love me no matter what. It’s funny, too, because as I got older, I used to joke with him about it. But even then, when I was getting ready to leave, he’d say it anyway, and I’d still get all mushy inside.”

Paul smiled. “He sounds like a remarkable man.”

“He is,” she said, and sat up straighter in her chair. “And because of that, I’ll work it out so he won’t have to leave. It’s the best place in the world for him. It’s close to home, and not only is the care exceptional, but they treat him like a person there, not just a patient. He deserves a place like that, and it’s the least I can do.”

“He’s lucky he has you as a daughter to watch out for him.”

“I’m lucky, too.” As she stared toward the wall, her eyes seemed to lose their focus. Then she shook her head, suddenly realizing what she’d been saying. “But listen to me going on and on. I’m sorry.”

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