She admitted that she also missed the physical intimacy that came from loving and trusting and holding someone else. She hadn't been with a man since she and David divorced. There had been opportunities, of course finding someone to sleep with was never difficult for an attractive woman - but that simply wasn't her style. She hadn't been raised that way and didn't intend to change now. Sex was too important, too special, to be shared with just anyone. In fact, she had slept with only two men in her life - David, of course, and Chris, the first real boyfriend she'd ever had. She didn't want to add to the list simply for the sake of a few minutes of pleasure.
So now, vacationing at- Cape Cod, alone in the world and without a man anywhere in the foreseeable future, she wanted to do some things this week just for herself Read some books, put her feet up, and have a glass of wine without the TV flickering in the background. Write some letters to friends she hadn't heard from in a while. Sleep late, eat too much, and jog in the mornings, before everyone got there to spoil it. She wanted to experience freedom again, if only for a short time.
She also wanted to shop this week. Not at J C Penney or Sears or places that advertised Nike shoes and Chicago Bulls T-shirts, but at little trinket stores that Kevin found boring. She wanted to try on some new dresses and buy a couple that flattered her figure, just to make her feel she was still alive and vibrant. Maybe she would even get her hair done. She hadn't had a new style in years, and she was tired of looking the same every day. And if a nice guy happened to ask her out this week, maybe she'd go, just to have an excuse to wear the new things she bought.
With a somewhat renewed sense of optimism, she looked to see if the man with the rolled-up jeans was still there, but he had gone as quietly as he had come. And she was ready to go as well. Her legs had stiffened in the cool water, and sitting down to put on her shoes was a little more difficult than she expected. Since she didn't have a towel, she hesitated for a moment before putting on her socks, then decided she didn't have to. She was on vacation at the beach. No need for shoes or socks.
She carried them with her as she started toward the house. She walked close to the water's edge and saw a large rock half buried in the sand, a few inches from a spot where the early morning tide had reached its highest point. Strange, she thought to herself, it seemed out of place here.
As she approached, she noticed something different about the way it looked. It was smooth and long, for one thing, and as she drew nearer she realized it wasn't a rock at all. It was a bottle, probably discarded by a careless tourist or one of the local teens who liked to come here at night. She looked over her shoulder and saw a garbage can chained to the lifeguard tower and decided to do her good deed for the day. When she reached it, however, she was surprised to see that it was corked. She picked it up, holding it into better light, and saw a note inside wrapped with yarn, standing on its end.
For a second she felt her heart quicken as another memory came back to her. When she was eight years old and vacationing in Florida with her parents, she and another girl had once sent a letter via the sea, but she'd never received a reply. The letter was simple, a child's letter, but when she returned home, she remembered racing to the mailbox for weeks afterward, hoping that someone had found it and sent a letter to her from where the bottle washed up. When nothing ever came, disappointment set in, the memory fading gradually until it became nothing at all. But now it all came back to her. Who had been with her that day? A girl about her age . . . Tracy? ... no ... Stacey? ... yes, Stacey! Stacey was her name! She had blond hair ... she staying with her grandparents for the summer ... and ... ... and the memory stopped there, with nothing else coming n matter how hard she tried.
Copyright © Nicolas Sparks. Reproduced with the permission of the publisher Warner Books. All rights reserved.
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From NYT bestselling author Ann Leary
The captivating story of an unconventional New England family.
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