Home > Every Breath(12)

Every Breath(12)
Author: Nicholas Sparks

It hadn’t surprised her when Susan had recently called to tell her that she was three months pregnant. But Ellen, too? Ellen, who’d met Colson for the first time last December? Ellen, who’d once sworn she’d never get married or have kids? Ellen, who’d lived life on the wild side until her late twenties, and used to commute to Atlantic City to spend weekends with her then-boyfriend, a cocaine dealer? Not only had Ellen been able to find someone willing to marry her—a churchgoing investment banker, no less—but two weeks ago, she’d confided to Hope that, like Susan, she was twelve weeks pregnant. Ellen and Susan would be having children at roughly the same time, and the realization made Hope suddenly feel very much on the verge of becoming an outsider in what was once the closest circle of friends. The rest of them were either in or about to enter a new phase of life, and Hope had no idea when, or even if, she’d ever join them. Especially when it came to having kids.

That scared her. For a long time, she’d believed that the whole “ticking biological clock” thing was a myth. Not the part where age made it increasingly difficult to have children—every woman knew about that. But it wasn’t something she’d ever believed would pertain to her. Having children was one of those things she’d taken for granted, that it would simply happen when the time was right. She was wired that way and had been as long as she could remember; she couldn’t imagine a future without children of her own, and it wasn’t until college that she learned that not every woman felt the same way. When her freshman roommate Sandy told her otherwise—that she’d rather have a career than children—the concept was so foreign that she’d initially thought Sandy was kidding. Hope hadn’t spoken to Sandy since graduation, but a couple of years ago, she’d bumped into her at the mall, with her new baby in tow. Hope guessed that Sandy had no memory of the conversation they’d had in the dorm that night, and Hope hadn’t reminded her. But Hope had gone home and cried.

How was it that Sandy had a child, but Hope didn’t? And her sisters, Robin and Joanna? And now, all of her closest friends were either already there or on their way? It made no sense to her. For as long as she could remember, she’d pictured herself pregnant, then holding her newborn infants, marveling at their growth and wondering whose traits they had inherited. Would they have her nose, or their dad’s big feet? Or the red hair she’d inherited from her grandmother? Motherhood had always seemed foreordained.

But then, Hope had always been a planner. She’d had her life charted out by the age of fifteen: Get good grades, graduate from college, become a registered nurse by twenty-four, work hard at your job, and get your career going. Meanwhile, have some fun along the way—you’re only young once, right? Hang out with your girlfriends and date some guys, without letting anything get too serious. Then, maybe as thirty was approaching, meet the one. Date him, fall in love, and get married. After a year or two, start having children. Two would be perfect, hopefully one of each sex, though if that last part didn’t happen, she knew she wouldn’t really be disappointed. As long as she had at least one girl, that is.

One by one, through her teens and twenties, she’d checked those things off. And then Josh came along right on schedule. In her wildest dreams, she never would have believed that six years later, she’d still be single and childless, and she had trouble figuring out exactly where the plan had gone awry. Josh had told her that he wanted marriage and children as well, so what had they been doing all this time? Where had the six years gone?

One thing she knew for sure: Being thirty-six was a lot different than being thirty-five. She’d learned that on her birthday last April. Her family was there, Josh was there, and it should have been a happy event, but she’d taken one look at the cake and thought, Wow, that’s a LOT of candles! Blowing them out had seemed to take an inordinately long time.

It wasn’t the age thing that had bothered her. Nor was it that she was closer to forty than to thirty. In spirit she still felt closer to twenty-five. But the following day—as if God had wanted to smack her in the face with a not-so-gentle reminder—a pregnant thirty-six-year-old had entered the emergency room after slicing her finger while cutting an onion. There was a lot of blood, followed by a local anesthetic and stitches, and the lady had joked that she wouldn’t have come in at all, except for the fact that hers was considered a geriatric pregnancy.

Hope had heard the term before when she’d been in nursing school, but as a trauma nurse in the ER, she saw few pregnant women and had forgotten about it.

“I hate that it’s called a geriatric pregnancy,” Hope remarked. “It’s not as if you’re old.”

“No, but trust me. It’s a lot different than being pregnant in my twenties.” She smiled. “I have three boys, but we wanted to try for a girl.”


“It’s another boy.” She rolled her eyes. “How many kids do you have?”

“Oh,” Hope had answered. “I don’t have any. I’m not married.”

“No worries. You still have time. How old are you? Twenty-eight?”

Hope forced a smile, thinking again about the term geriatric pregnancy. “Close enough,” she responded.

Tired of her thoughts—and really, really tired of the pity party—Hope figured a distraction was in order. Since she hadn’t bothered to pick up any groceries on her drive down and needed to get out of the house for a while, she first visited a roadside vegetable stand. It was just off the island and had been around for as long as she could remember. She filled a straw basket with zucchini, squash, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and peppers, then drove to a neighboring island, where she purchased some Spanish mackerel. By the time she got back to the cottage, though, she realized she wasn’t hungry.

After opening the windows, she put the food away, poured herself a glass of wine, and began sorting through more boxes. She tried to be selective (while keeping both Robin and Joanna in mind), condensing down to a small pile of keepsakes that she returned to a single box she stored in the closet. She brought the rest downstairs to the garbage cans, satisfied with her day’s work. Scottie had followed her out, and she stayed with him at the front of the house, not wanting to chase him down the beach again.

Checking the clock, she fought the urge to call Josh. He was staying at Caesars Palace, but she reminded herself that if he wanted to talk to her, he knew the number of the cottage. Instead, she thought, why not a little me time? What she really needed was a nap—the lack of sleep the night before had caught up with her. She lay down on the living room couch…and the next thing she knew, it was midafternoon. Through the open windows, she could hear the faint sounds of someone playing the guitar and singing.

Peeking out the window, she caught a partial glimpse of Tru through the railings. She listened to the music for a few minutes while she tidied up the kitchen, and despite her gloomy thoughts of earlier, she couldn’t help but smile. She couldn’t even remember the last time she’d been attracted to someone right off the bat. And then she’d gone and invited him over for coffee! She still couldn’t believe she’d done that.

After wiping the counters, Hope decided that a long bath was in order. She enjoyed a good bubble bath, but the rush of her daily life made showering easier, so baths were something of a luxury. After filling the tub, she soaked for a long time, feeling the tension slowly ebb from her body.

Afterward, she swaddled herself in a bathrobe and pulled a book from the shelf, an old Agatha Christie mystery. She remembered loving the books as a teenager, so why not? Taking a seat on the couch, she settled into the story. It was easy reading, but the mystery was just as good as what she found on television these days, and she got halfway through the book before finally putting it aside. By then, the sun was beginning to dip at the horizon, and she realized she was hungry. She hadn’t eaten all day, but she found she wasn’t in the mood to cook. She wanted to keep the relaxing flow of the afternoon going. Throwing on some jeans, sandals, and a sleeveless blouse, she did a quick pass with her makeup and pulled her hair back into a messy ponytail. She fed Scottie and let him out in the front yard—he was visibly disappointed when he registered that he wouldn’t be going with her—and locked the front door. Then, she left the house via the back deck, strode down the walkway, and descended the steps to the beach. Whenever their family had come to Sunset Beach, they’d always eaten at Clancy’s at least once, and keeping up the tradition felt right on a night like tonight.


Clancy’s was a few minutes’ walk past the pier, and Tru liked the place even before he climbed up to the main deck from the beach. He could hear strains of music intermingled with conversation and laughter. At the top of the stairs was a wooden arch decorated with white Christmas lights and faded lettering indicating the restaurant’s name.

The deck was illuminated by clutches of tiki torches, the flames rippling in the breeze. Peeling bar tables and mismatched stools near the railings framed a cluster of wooden tables in the center, half of them unoccupied. The interior had more seating; the kitchen was located to the left and the sparsely populated bar area housed a jukebox, which Tru noted with interest. There was a fireplace as well with a cannonball on the mantel, and the wall surrounding it was decorated with maritime items—an ancient wooden wheel, a tribute to Blackbeard, and nautical flags. As Tru surveyed his surroundings, a waitress in her midfifties emerged through a set of swinging doors, carrying a tray of food.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
Most Popular
» Every Breath
» Tarian Outcast (New Tarian Pride #3)
» Tarian Silver Lion (New Tarian Pride #2)
» Tarian Alpha (New Tarian Pride #1)
» Devil's Daughter (The Ravenels #5)
» Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss
» A Curve in the Road
» One Day in December