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Home > Nights in Rodanthe(22)

Nights in Rodanthe(22)
Author: Nicholas Sparks

In his estimation, Rodanthe was exactly what it appeared to be: an old fishing village riding the water’s edge, a place where modern life had been slow in coming. Every home was made of wood, and though some were in better repair than others, with small, well-tended yards and a thin patch of dirt where bulbs would blossom in the spring, he could see evidence of the harshness of coastal life everywhere he looked. Even homes that were no more than a dozen years old were decaying. Fences and mailboxes had small holes eaten away by the weather, paint had peeled, tin roofs were streaked with long, wide rows of rust. Scattered in the front yards were various items of everyday life in this part of the world: skiffs and broken boat engines, fishing nets used as decoration, ropes and chains used to keep strangers at bay.

Some homes were no more than shacks, and the walls seemed precariously balanced, as if the next strong wind might topple them over. In some cases, the front porches were sagging and had been propped up by an assortment of utilitarian items to keep them from giving way completely: concrete blocks or stacked bricks; two-by-fours that protruded from below like short chopsticks.

But there was activity here, even in the dawn, even in those homes that looked abandoned. As he ran, he saw smoke billowing from chimneys and watched men and women covering windows with plywood. The sound of hammering had begun to fill the air.

He turned at the next block, checked the street sign, and ran on. A few minutes later, he turned onto the street where Robert Torrelson lived. Robert Torrelson, he knew, lived at number thirty-four.

He passed number eighteen, then twenty, and raised his eyes, looking ahead. A couple of the neighbors stopped their work and watched him as he jogged by, their eyes wary. A moment later, he reached Robert Torrelson’s home, trying not to be obvious as he glanced toward it.

It was a home like most of the others along the street: not exactly well tended, but not a shack, either. Rather, it was somewhere in between—a sort of stalemate between man and nature in their battle over the house. At least half a century old, the house was single storied with a tin roof; without gutters to divert runoff, the rain of a thousand storms had streaked the white paint with gray. On the porch were two weathered rockers angled toward each other. Around the windows, he could see a lone strand of Christmas lights.

Toward the back of the property was a small outbuilding with the front doors propped open. Inside were two workbenches, covered with nets and fishing rods, chests and tools. Two large grappling hooks were leaning against the wall, and he could see a yellow rain slicker hanging on a peg, just inside. From the shadows behind it, a man emerged, carrying a bucket.

The figure caught Paul off guard, and he turned away before the man could see him staring. It was too early to pay him a visit, nor did he want to do this in running clothes. Instead, he raised his chin against the breeze, turned at the next corner, and tried to find his earlier pace.

It wasn’t easy. The image of the man stayed with him, making him feel sluggish, each step more difficult than the last. Despite the cold, by the time he finished, there was a thin sheen of sweat on his face.

He walked the last fifty yards to the Inn, letting his legs cool down. From the road, he could see that the light in the kitchen had been turned on.

Knowing what it meant, he smiled.

While Paul was out, Adrienne’s children had phoned and she’d spent a few minutes talking to each of them, glad they were having a good time with their father. A little while later, at the top of the hour, she called the nursing home.

Though her father couldn’t answer the phone, she’d made arrangements to have Gail, one of the nurses, answer for him, and she’d picked up on the second ring.

“Right on time,” Gail said. “I was just telling your father that you’d be calling any minute.”

“How’s he doing today?”

“He’s a little tired, but other than that, he’s fine. Hold on while I put the phone by his ear, okay?”

A moment later, when she heard her father’s raspy breaths, Adrienne closed her eyes.

“Hi, Daddy,” she started, and for several minutes she visited with him, just as she would have had she been there with him. She told him about the Inn and the beach, the storm clouds and the lightning, and though she didn’t mention Paul, she wondered if her father could hear the same tremor in her voice that she could as she danced around his name.

Paul made his way up the steps, and inside, the aroma of bacon filled the air, as if welcoming him home. A moment later, Adrienne pushed through the swinging doors.

She was wearing jeans and a light blue sweater that accented the color of her eyes. In the morning light, they were almost turquoise, reminding him of crystal skies in spring.

“You were up early,” she said, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear.

To Paul, the gesture seemed oddly sensual, and he wiped at the sweat on his brow. “Yeah, I wanted to get my run out of the way before the rest of the day starts.”

“Did it go okay?”

“I’ve felt better, but at least it’s done.” He shifted from one foot to the other. “It smells great in here, by the way.”

“I started breakfast while you were out.” She motioned over her shoulder. “Do you want to eat now or wait a little?”

“I’d like to shower first, if that’s okay.”

“It’s fine. I was thinking of making grits, which take twenty minutes anyway. How do you want your eggs?”

“Scrambled?”

“I think I can manage that.” She paused, liking the frankness of his stare and letting it continue for a moment longer. “Let me get the bacon before it burns,” she finally said. “See you in a few?”

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