The Notebook

Page 28

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She inhales slightly at the sight. Her eyes are wide. "Did you do this?"
I nod and she walks into the room.
"It looks beautiful."
I offer my arm in escort and lead her to the window. She doesn't release it when we get there. Her touch is nice, and we stand close together on this crystal springtime evening. The window is open slightly and I feel a breeze as it fans my cheek. The moon has risen and we watch for a long time as the evening sky unfolds.
"I've never seen anything so beautiful, I'm sure of it," she says.
"I haven't, either," I say, but I am looking at her. She knows what I mean and I see her smile.
A moment later she whispers: "I think I know who Allie went with at the end of the story."
"She went with Noah."
"You're sure?"
I smile and nod. "Yes, she did," I say softly, and she smiles back, her face radiant.
She sits and I sit opposite her. She offers her hand across the table and I take it in mine, and I feel her thumb begin to move as it did so many years ago. I stare at her for a long time, living and reliving the moments of my life, remembering it all and making it real. I feel my throat begin to tighten and once again I realize how much I love her.
My voice is shaky when I finally speak.
"You're so beautiful," I say. I can see in her eyes that she knows how I feel about her and what I really mean by my words.
She does not respond. Instead she lowers her eyes and I wonder what she's thinking. She gives me no clues and I gently squeeze her hand. I wait. I know her heart and I know I'm almost there.
And then a miracle that proves me right. As Glenn Miller plays softly in a candlelit room, I watch as she gradually gives in to the feelings inside her. I see a warm smile begin to form on her lips, the kind that makes it all worth while, and I watch as she raises her hazy eyes to mine. She pulls my hand towards her. "You're wonderful…" she says softly, and at that moment she falls in love with me, too; this I know, for I have seen the signs a thousand times.
She says nothing else right away, she doesn't have to, and she gives me a look from another lifetime that makes me whole again. I smile back, with as much passion as I can muster, and we stare at each other with the feelings inside us rolling like ocean waves. I look about the room, then back at Allie, and the way she's looking at me makes me warm. And suddenly I feel young again. I'm no longer cold or aching, or hunched over or almost blind with cataracts. I'm strong and proud and the luckiest man alive, and I keep on feeling that way for a long time.
By the time the candles have burned down a third, I am ready to break the silence. I say, "I love you deeply and I hope you know that."
"Of course I do," she says. "I've always loved you, Noah."
Noah, I hear again. The word echoes in my head. Noah… Noah. She knows, I think to myself, she knows who I am…
She knows… Such a tiny thing, this knowledge, but for me it is a gift from God, and I feel our lifetime together, holding her, loving her, and being with her through the best years of my life.
She murmurs, "Noah… my sweet Noah…"
And I, who could not accept the doctors' words, have triumphed again, at least for a moment. I give up the pretence of mystery, and I kiss her hand and bring it to my cheek and whisper in her ear: "You are the greatest thing that has ever happened to me."
"Oh… Noah," she says with tears in her eyes, "I love you, too."
IF ONLY IT would end like this, I would be a happy man.
But it won't. Of this I'm sure, for as time slips by I begin to see the signs of concern in her face.
"What's wrong?" I ask, and her answer comes softly.
"I'm so afraid. I'm afraid of forgetting you again. It isn't fair… I just can't bear to give this up." Her voice breaks as she finishes, but I don't know what to say. I know the evening is coming to an end and there is nothing I can do to stop the inevitable. In this I am a failure.
I finally tell her: "I'll never leave you. What we have is for ever."
She knows this is all I can do, for neither of us wants empty promises.
The crickets serenade us, and we begin to pick at our dinner. Neither one of us is hungry, but I lead by example and she follows me. She takes small bites and chews a long time, but I am glad to see her eat. She has lost too much weight in the past three months.
After dinner, I become afraid for I know the bell has tolled this evening. The sun has long since set and the thief is about to come, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. So I stare at her and wait and live a lifetime in these last remaining moments.
The clock ticks.
I take her in my arms and we hold each other.
I feel her tremble and I whisper in her ear.
I tell her for the last time this evening that I love her.
And the thief comes.
It always amazes me how quickly it happens. Even now, after all this time. For as she holds me, she begins to blink rapidly and shake her head. Then, turning towards the corner of the room, she stares for a long time, concern etched on her face.
No! my mind screams. Not yet! Not now… not when we're so close! Not tonight! Any night but tonight… Please! I can't take it again! It isn't fair.. It isn't fair…
But once again, it is to no avail.
"Those people," she finally says, pointing, "are staring at me. Please make them stop."
The gnomes. A pit rises in my stomach, hard and full. My mouth goes dry and I feel my heart pounding. It is over, I know. This, the evening confusion that affects my wife, is the hardest part of all. For when it comes, she is gone, and sometimes I wonder whether she and I will ever love again.
"There's no one there, Allie," I say, trying to fend off the inevitable.
She doesn't believe me. "They're staring at me. You can't see them?"
"No," I say, and she thinks for a moment.
"Well, they're right there," she says, "and they're staring at me."
With that, she begins to talk to herself, and moments later, when I try to comfort her, she flinches with wide eyes.
"Who are you?" she cries in panic, her face becoming whiter. "What are you doing here?" She backs away from me, her hands in a defensive position, and then she says the most heartbreaking words of all. "Go away! Stay away from me!" She is pushing the gnomes away from her, terrified, oblivious of my presence.

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