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Home > Nights in Rodanthe(9)

Nights in Rodanthe(9)
Author: Nicholas Sparks

For a long time, she’d considered herself lucky. She’d met Jack as a student; he was in his first year of law school. They were considered a perfect couple back then—he was tall and thin, with curly black hair; she was a blue-eyed brunette a few sizes smaller than she was now. Their wedding photo had been prominently displayed in the living room of their home, right above the fireplace. They had their first child when she was twenty-eight and had two more in the next three years. She, like so many other women, had trouble losing all the weight she’d gained, but she worked at it, and though she never approached what she had once been, compared to most of the women her age with children, she thought she was doing okay.

And she was happy. She loved to cook, she kept the house clean, they went to church as a family, and she did her best to maintain an active social life for her and Jack. When the kids started going to school, she volunteered to help in their classes, attended PTA meetings, worked in their Sunday school, and was the first to volunteer when rides were needed for field trips. She sat through hours of piano recitals, school plays, baseball and football games, she taught each of the children to swim, and she laughed aloud at the expressions on their faces the first time they walked through the gates of Disney World. On her fortieth birthday, Jack had thrown a surprise party for her at the country club, and nearly two hundred people showed up. It was an evening filled with laughter and high spirits, but later, after they got home, she noticed that Jack didn’t watch her as she undressed before getting into bed. Instead, he turned out the lights, and though she knew he couldn’t fall asleep that quickly, he pretended he had.

Looking back, she knew it should have tipped her off that all was not as it seemed, but with three children and a husband who left the child rearing up to her, she was too busy to ponder it. Besides, she neither expected nor believed that the passion between them would never go through down periods. She’d been married long enough to know better. She assumed it would return as it always had, and she wasn’t worried about it. But it didn’t. By forty-one, she’d become concerned about their relationship and had started perusing the self-help section of the bookstore, looking for titles that might advise her on how to improve their marriage, and she sometimes found herself looking forward to the future when things might slow down. She imagined what it would be like to be a grandmother or what she and Jack might do when they had the time to enjoy each other’s company as a couple again. Maybe then, she thought, things would go back to what they had once been.

It was around that time that she saw Jack having lunch with Linda Gaston. Linda, she knew, worked with Jack’s firm at their branch office in Greensboro. Though she specialized in estate law while Jack worked in general litigation, Adrienne knew their cases sometimes overlapped and required a collaboration, so it didn’t surprise her to see them dining with each other. Adrienne even smiled at them through the window. Though Linda wasn’t a close friend, she’d been a guest in their home numerous times; they’d always gotten along well, despite the fact that Linda was ten years younger and single. It was only when she went inside the restaurant that she noticed the tender way they were looking at each other. And she knew with certainty they were holding hands under the table.

For a long moment, Adrienne stood frozen in place, but instead of confronting them, she turned around and headed out before they had a chance to see her.

In denial, she cooked Jack’s favorite meal that night and mentioned nothing about what she’d seen. She pretended it hadn’t happened, and in time, she was able to convince herself that she’d been mistaken about what was going on between them. Maybe Linda was going through a hard time and he was comforting her. Jack was like that. Or maybe, she thought, it was a fleeting fantasy that neither of them had acted on, a romance of the mind and nothing else.

But it wasn’t. Their marriage began spiraling downward, and within a few months, Jack asked for a divorce. He was in love with Linda, he said. He hadn’t meant for it to happen, and he hoped she would understand. She didn’t and said so, but when she was forty-two, Jack moved out.

Now, over three years later, Jack had moved on, but Adrienne found it impossible to do. Though they had joint custody, it was joint in name only. Jack lived in Greensboro, and the three-hour drive was just long enough to keep the kids with her most of the time. Mostly she was thankful for that, but the pressures of raising them on her own tested her limits daily. At night, she often collapsed in bed but found it impossible to sleep because she couldn’t stop the questions that rolled through her mind. And though she never told anyone, she sometimes imagined what she would say if Jack showed up at the door and asked her to take him back, knowing that deep down, she would probably say yes.

She hated herself for that, but what could she do?

She didn’t want this life; she’d neither asked for it nor expected it. Nor, she thought, did she deserve it. She’d played by the book, she’d followed the rules. For eighteen years, she’d been faithful. She’d overlooked those times when he drank too much, she brought him coffee when he had to work late, and she never said a word when he went golfing on the weekends instead of spending time with the kids.

Was it just the sex he was after? Sure, Linda was both younger and prettier, but was it really that important to him that he’d throw away everything else in his life? Didn’t the kids mean anything? Didn’t she? Didn’t the eighteen years together? And anyway, it wasn’t as if she’d lost interest—in the last couple of years whenever they’d made love, she’d been the one to initiate it. If the urge was so strong, why hadn’t he done something about it?

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