A cold December wind was blowing, and Theresa Osborne crossed her arms as she stared out over the water. Earlier, when she'd arrived, there had been a few people walking along the shore, but they'd taken note of the clouds and were long since gone. Now she found herself alone on the beach, and she took in her surroundings. The ocean, reflecting the color of the sky, looked like liquid iron, and waves rolled up steadily on the shore. Heavy clouds were descending slowly, and the fog was beginning to thicken, making the horizon invisible. In another place, in another time, she would have felt the majesty of the beauty around her, but as she stood on the beach, she realized that she didn't feel anything at all. In a way, she felt as if she weren't really here, as if the whole thing was nothing but a dream.
She'd driven here this morning, though she scarcely remembered the trip at all. When she'd made the decision to come, she'd planned to stay overnight. She'd made the arrangements and had even looked forward to a quiet night away from Boston, but watching the ocean swirl and churn made her realize that she didn't want to stay. She would drive home as soon as she was finished, no matter how late it was.
When she was finally ready, Theresa slowly started to walk toward the water. Beneath her arm she carried a bag that she had carefully packed that morning, making sure that she hadn't forgotten anything. She hadn't told anyone what she carried with her, nor had she told them what she'd intended to do today. Instead she'd said that she was going Christmas shopping. It was the perfect excuse, and though she was sure that they would have understood had she told them the truth, this trip was something she didn't want to share with anyone. It had started with her alone, and that was the same way she wanted it to end.
Theresa sighed and checked her watch. Soon it would be high tide, and it was then that she would finally be ready. After finding a spot on a small dune that looked comfortable, she sat in the sand and opened her bag. Searching through it, she found the envelope she wanted. Taking a deep breath, she slowly lifted the seal.
In it were three letters, carefully folded, letters that she'd read more times than she could count. Holding them in front of her, she sat on the sand and stared at them.
In the bag were other items as well, though she wasn't ready to look at those yet. Instead she continued to focus on the letters. He'd used a fountain pen when he'd written them, and there were smudges in various places where the pen had leaked. The stationery, with its picture of a sailing ship in the upper right hand corner, was beginning to discolor 'in places, fading slowly with the passage of time. She knew there would come a day when the words would be impossible to read, but hopefully, after today, she wouldn't feel the need to look at them so often.
When she finished, she slipped them back into the envelope as carefully as she'd removed them. Then, after putting the envelope back into the bag, she looked at the beach again. From where she was sitting, she could see the place where it had all started.
She'd been jogging at daybreak, she remembered, and she could picture that summer morning dearly. It was the beginning of a beautiful day. As she took in the world around her, she listened to the high-pitched squawking of terns and the gentle lapping of the waves as they rolled up on the sand. Even though she was on vacation, she had risen early enough to run so that she didn't have to watch where she was going. In a few hours the beach would be packed with tourists lying on their towels in the hot New England sun, soaking up the rays. Cape Cod was always crowded at that time of year, but most vacationers tended to sleep a little later, and she enjoyed the sensation of jogging on the hard, smooth sand left from the outgoing tide. Unlike the sidewalks back home, the sand seemed to give just enough, and she knew her knees wouldn't ache as they sometimes did after running on cemented pathways.
Copyright © Nicolas Sparks. Reproduced with the permission of the publisher Warner Books. All rights reserved.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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