Home > Every Breath(13)

Every Breath(13)
Author: Nicholas Sparks

“Take a seat anywhere, inside or out,” she called out. “I’ll bring you a menu.”

The night was too gorgeous to waste inside, so Tru took a seat at one of the bar tables near the railing, facing the ocean. The moon was hovering just over the horizon, making the water glitter, and he was struck again by the contrast between this place and the world he knew, even if there were fundamental similarities. At night, the bush was dark and mysterious, rife with hidden dangers; the sea struck him as much the same. Though he could swim during the day, the fear of doing so at night resounded within him on some elemental level.

The waitress dropped off a menu and hustled back toward the kitchen. From the jukebox, a song came on that he didn’t recognize. He was used to that. Often, when riding with guests, he heard them referencing movies and television shows he’d never heard of, and the same went with bands and songs. He knew the Beatles—who didn’t?—and he favored their songs when playing the guitar, along with a bit of Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, the Eagles, and Elvis Presley mixed in whenever the mood struck. The song from the jukebox had a memorable hook, though it was a little too synthesizer-driven for his taste.

He skimmed the menu, pleasantly surprised by the selection of seafood, in addition to the expected burgers and fries. Unfortunately, most of the seafood was deep-fried. He whittled his decision down to a choice between grilled tuna and pan-fried grouper before folding the menu and turning his attention to the ocean again.

Minutes later, the waitress brought out a tray of drinks, stopping at some nearby tables before retreating inside without so much as a glance in his direction. He gave a mental shrug; he had nowhere to go and all night to get there.

Sensing movement near the gate, he lifted his gaze and was surprised to see Hope stepping onto the deck. They had probably been on the beach at the same time, and for an instant, he wondered whether she’d seen him leave and followed him. He dismissed the thought quickly, wondering why it had come to him at all. He turned toward the water again, not wanting her to catch him staring, but he found himself replaying their visit earlier that morning.

Her smile, he realized. He’d really liked the way she smiled.

Hope was amazed at how unchanged the place seemed. It was one of the reasons her dad liked Clancy’s so much—he used to tell her that the more the world changed, the more comfortable Clancy’s felt—but she knew he really liked to come because Clancy’s served the best lemon meringue pie in the world. Clancy’s mother had supposedly perfected the recipe decades earlier, and had won blue ribbons at six consecutive state fairs, as well as allegedly inspiring the recipe at Marie Callender’s, a restaurant chain in California. Whatever the truth, Hope had to admit that a slice of the pie was often the perfect way to end an evening at the beach. There was something about the mixture of sweet and tang that was always just right.

She looked around the deck. In all their years coming to the place, she’d never eaten inside, and the thought didn’t occur to her now. Near the railings on the right, three of the bar tables were occupied; on the left, more were open. She started automatically in that direction, suddenly pausing when she recognized Tru.

Seeing him alone at the table made her wonder about his reason for coming to Sunset Beach. He’d mentioned that he didn’t know the man he was supposed to meet, but the trip from Zimbabwe was a long one, and even she knew that Sunset Beach was hardly a destination for international tourists. She wondered who was important enough to make him come all this way.

Just then, he opened his hands in greeting. She hesitated, thought, I have to at least say hello, and walked toward his table. As she drew near, she noticed again the scuffed leather bracelet and the way his shirt was unbuttoned at the top; it was easy to imagine him heading into the bush in just such attire.

“Hi, Tru. I didn’t expect to see you here.”


She expected him to say more, but he didn’t. Instead, his eyes held hers a beat too long and she felt an unexpected twinge of nervousness. He was obviously more at ease with the silence between them than she was, and she tossed her ponytail over her shoulder, trying to exude more calm than she felt. “How was the rest of your day?” she asked.

“Relatively uneventful. I went for a swim. You?”

“Did a little grocery shopping and puttered around the house. I think I heard you playing the guitar earlier.”

“I hope it wasn’t a nuisance.”

“Not at all,” she said. “I enjoyed what you were playing.”

“That’s good, since you’ll likely hear the same songs over and over.”

She surveyed the other tables, then nodded at his menu. “Have you been waiting long?”

“Not too long. The waitress seems busy.”

“Service has always been a little slow here. Friendly, but slow. Like everything else in this part of the world.”

“It does have its charms.” He gestured at the seat across from him. “Would you like to join me?”

As soon as he asked, she recognized it for the telling moment it was. Offering a neighbor a cup of coffee after he’d rescued her dog was one thing; having dinner with him was something else entirely. Spontaneous or not, this had the makings of a date, and she suspected that Tru knew precisely what was going through her mind. But she didn’t answer right away. Instead, she studied him in the flickering light. She remembered their walk and their conversation on her deck; she thought about Josh and Las Vegas and the argument that had resulted in her being at the beach alone.

“I’d like that,” she finally said, realizing how sincerely she meant it. He stood as she pulled out her stool, then helped her adjust its position. By the time he returned to his own seat, she felt like someone else entirely. The thought of what she was doing left her slightly off-kilter, and she reached for the menu, as if it would ground her. “May I?”

“By all means.”

She opened the menu, feeling his gaze on her. “What are you having?” she asked, thinking small talk would tame her butterflies.

“Either the tuna or the grouper. I was going to ask the waitress which one is better, but maybe you know?”

“The tuna is always delicious. It’s what my mom orders when she comes here. They have a deal with a few of the fishermen around here, so it’s fresh every day.”

“Tuna it is,” he concurred.

“That’s what I should do. The crab cakes are really delicious, too. But they’re fried.”


“They’re not good for me. Or my thighs.”

“Seems to me that you don’t have anything to worry about. You look lovely.”

She said nothing to that. Instead, she felt the blood rise in her cheeks, aware that another line had just been crossed. As flattered as she was, it definitely felt like a date now. There was no way on earth she could have foreseen any of this, and she tried to concentrate on the menu, but the words seemed to jump around. She finally set it aside.

“I assume you decided on the crab cakes?” he asked.

“How did you know?”

“Habit and tradition often render change undesirable.”

His response brought to mind an upper-class Englishman ensconced in a wood-paneled library at his country estate—an image utterly incongruous with the man sitting across from her.

“You certainly have a unique turn of phrase,” she remarked with a smile.

“I do?”

“You can definitely tell you’re not American.”

He seemed amused by that. “How’s Scottie doing? Still moving around?”

“He’s back to his rambunctious self. But I think he was mad at me for not bringing him out to the beach again. Or at least disappointed.”

“He does seem to enjoy chasing the birds.”

“As long as he doesn’t catch them. If he did, he probably wouldn’t know what to do.”

The waitress approached, seeming less harried than she’d been earlier. “Have you two decided what you’d like to drink?” she asked.

Tru looked over at Hope, and she nodded. “I believe we’re ready to order,” he said. He gave the waitress their food orders and asked if the restaurant had any local beers on tap.

“Sorry, sweetheart,” the waitress answered. “Nothing fancy here, and nothing on tap. Just Budweiser, Miller, and Coors, but the bottles are ice cold.”

“I’ll try a Coors, then,” he said.

“And you?” she asked, turning to Hope.

It had been years since she’d had a beer, but for some reason, it sounded strangely appealing right now. And she definitely needed something to ease her anxiety. “I’ll have the same,” she said, and the waitress nodded, leaving them alone at the table. Hope reached for her napkin and set it in her lap.

“How long have you been playing the guitar?” she asked.

“I started when I was apprenticing to become a guide. One of the men I was working with used to play at night when we were at the camp. He offered to give me some lessons. The rest I just picked up over the years. Do you play?”

“No. I took a few piano lessons when I was a kid, but that’s it. My sister can play, though.”

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