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Home > Nights in Rodanthe(21)

Nights in Rodanthe(21)
Author: Nicholas Sparks

“No reason to be sorry. I’m glad you did.”

With a smile, she leaned forward slightly. “What do you miss the most about being married?”

“I take it we’re changing the subject.”

“I figured it was your turn to share.”

“It’s the least I could do?”

She shrugged. “Something along those lines. Now that I’ve spilled my guts, it’s your turn.”

Paul gave a mock sigh and gazed up at the ceiling. “Okay, what I miss.” He brought his hands together. “I guess it’s knowing that someone is waiting for me when I get home from work. Usually, I wouldn’t be home until late, and sometimes Martha would already be in bed. But the knowledge that she was there seemed natural and reassuring, like the way things should be. How about you?”

Adrienne set her teacup on the table between them.

“The usual things. Someone to talk to, to share meals with, those quick morning kisses before either of us had brushed our teeth. But to be honest, with the kids, I’m more worried about what they’re missing than what I am right now. I miss having Jack around, for their sake. I think little kids need a mom more than they need a dad, but as teenagers, they need their dads. Especially girls. I don’t want my daughter thinking that men are jerks who walk out on their family, but how am I going to teach her that if her own father did it?”

“I don’t know.”

Adrienne shook her head. “Do men think about those things?”

“The good ones do. Like in everything else.”

“How long were you married?”

“Thirty years. You?”

“Eighteen.”

“Between the two of us, you’d think we’d have figured it out, huh?”

“What? The key to happily ever after? I don’t think there is one anymore.”

“No, I guess you’re right.”

From the hallway, they heard the grandfather clock beginning to chime. When it stopped, Paul rubbed the back of his neck, trying to work out the soreness from the drive. “I think I’m ready to turn in. Early day tomorrow.”

“I know,” she agreed, “I was just thinking the same thing.”

But they didn’t get up right away. Instead, they sat together for a few more minutes with the same silence they’d shared on the beach. Occasionally, he glanced toward her, but he would turn away before she caught him.

With a sigh, Adrienne got up from her chair and pointed toward his cup. “I can bring that into the kitchen. I’m going that way.”

He smiled as he handed it over. “I had a good time tonight.”

“So did I.”

A moment later, Adrienne watched as Paul headed up the stairs before she turned away and began closing up the Inn.

In her room, she slipped out of her clothes and opened her suitcase, looking for a pair of pajamas. As she did, she caught the reflection of herself in the mirror. Not too bad, but let’s be honest here—she looked her age. Paul, she thought, had been sweet when he’d said she’d needed nothing done.

It had been a long time since someone had made her feel attractive.

She put on a pair of pajamas and crawled into bed. Jean had a stack of magazines on the stand, and she browsed the articles for a few minutes before turning out the light. In the darkness, she couldn’t stop thinking about the evening she’d just spent. The conversations replayed endlessly in her mind; she could see the way the corners of his mouth formed into a crooked smile whenever she’d said something he found humorous. For an hour, she tossed and turned, unable to sleep, growing frustrated, and completely unaware of the fact that in the room upstairs, Paul Flanner was doing exactly the same thing.

Nine

Despite closing the shutters and drapes to keep out the morning light, Paul woke with Friday’s dawn, and he spent ten minutes stretching the ache from his body.

Swinging open the shutters, he took in the morning. There was a deep haze over the water, and the skies were gunmetal gray. Cumulous clouds raced along, rolling parallel with the shore. The storm, he thought, would be here before nightfall, more likely by midafternoon.

He sat on the edge of the bed as he slipped into his running gear, then added a windbreaker over the top. From the drawer, he removed an extra pair of socks and slipped them on his hands. Then, after padding down the stairs, he looked around. Adrienne wasn’t up, and he felt a short stab of disappointment at not seeing her, then suddenly wondered why it mattered. He unlocked the door, and a minute later he was trudging along, letting his body warm up before he moved into a steadier pace.

From her bedroom, Adrienne heard him descend the creaking steps. Sitting up, she pushed off the covers and slipped her feet into a pair of slippers, wishing she’d at least had some coffee ready for Paul when he awoke. She wasn’t sure he would have wanted any before his run, but she could at least have made the offer.

Outside, Paul’s muscles and joints were beginning to loosen and he quickened his stride. It wasn’t anywhere near the pace he’d run in his twenties or thirties, but it was steady and refreshing.

Running had never been simply exercise for him. He’d reached the point where running wasn’t difficult at all; it seemed to take no more energy to jog five miles than it did to read the paper. Instead, he viewed it as a form of meditation, one of the few times he could be alone.

It was a wonderful morning to run. Though it had rained during the night and he could see drops on the windshields of cars, the shower must have passed through the area quickly, because most of the roads had already dried. Tendrils of mist lingered in the dawn and moved in ghostly procession from one small home to the next. He would have liked to run on the beach since he didn’t often have that opportunity, but he’d decided to use his run to find the home of Robert Torrelson instead. He ran along the highway, passing through downtown, then turned at the first corner, his eyes taking in the scene.

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