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Chapter 5
ALLIE WOKE early the next morning. She’d slept in the shirt he’d given her, and she smelt him once again while thinking about the evening they’d spent together. The easy laughter and conversation came hack to her, and she especially remembered the way he’d talked about her painting. It was so unexpected, yet uplifting, and she realized how sorry she would have been had she decided not to see him again.
She looked out of the window and watched the chattering birds search for food in the early light. Noah, she knew, had always been a morning person. She knew he liked to kayak or canoe, and she remembered one morning she’d spent with him in his canoe, watching the sun come up. She’d had to sneak out of her window to do it because her parents wouldn’t allow it, but she hadn’t been caught and she remembered how Noah had slipped his arm around her and pulled her close as dawn began to unfold. “Look there,” he’d whispered, and she’d watched her first sunrise with her head on his shoulder, wondering if anything could he better than that moment.
As she got out of bed to take her bath, feeling the cold floor beneath her feet, she wondered if he’d been on the water this morning watching another day begin, thinking somehow he probably had.
SHE WAS RIGHT. Noah was up before the sun and dressed quickly, same jeans as last night, undershirt, clean flannel shirt, blue jacket and boots. He drank a quick glass of milk and grabbed two biscuits on the way out of the door. After Clem greeted him with a couple of sloppy licks, he walked to the dock where his kayak was stored. He liked to let the river work its magic, loosening up his muscles, warming his body, clearing his mind.
The old kayak, well used and river-stained, hung on two rusty hooks attached to his dock, just above the water line. He lifted it free, inspected it quickly, then took it to the hank. In a couple of seasoned moves, long since mastered by habit, he had it in the water and was working his way upstream, paddling hard, working off the tension, preparing for the day.
Questions danced in his mind. He wondered about Lon and what type of man he was, wondered about their relationship. Most of all, though, he wondered about Allie and why she had come.
By the time he reached home, he felt renewed. Checking his watch, he was surprised to find that it had taken two hours. Time always played tricks out there.
He hung the kayak to dry and went to the shed where he stored his two-man canoe. He carried it to the hank, leaving it a few feet from the water, and turned towards the house. In the western sky he saw storm clouds, thick and heavy, far off but definitely present. The winds weren’t blowing hard but they were bringing the clouds closer. From the look of them he didn’t want to he outside when they got here. Damn. How much time did he have? A few hours, maybe more.
He showered, put on new jeans, a red shirt and black cowboy boots, brushed his hair and went downstairs to the kitchen. He did the dishes from the night before, picked up a little around the house, made himself some coffee and went to the porch. The sky was darker now and he checked the barometer. Steady, but it would start dropping soon.
He’d learned long ago to never underestimate the weather, and he wondered if it was a good idea to go out. The rain he could deal with, lightning was a different story. A canoe was no place to he when electricity sparked in humid air.
He finished his coffee, putting off the decision until later. He went to the toolshed and found his axe. After checking the blade by pressing his thumb to it, he sharpened it with a whetstone until it was ready.
He spent the next twenty minutes splitting and stacking logs. He did it easily, his strokes efficient, and didn’t break a sweat. He put a few logs off to the side for later and brought them inside when he was finished, stacking them by the fireplace.
He looked at Allie’s painting and reached out to touch it, bringing back the feelings of disbelief at seeing her again. God, what was it about her that made him feel this way? Even after all these years? What sort of power did she have over him?
He finally turned away, shaking his head, and went back to the porch. He checked the barometer again. It hadn’t changed. Then he looked at his watch.
Allie should he here soon.
ALLIE SPENT the morning downtown. The Depression had taken its toll, but she could see signs of prosperity beginning to work their way hack. Fort Totten Park looked exactly the same as it had fourteen years ago, and the kids who played on the swings after school probably looked the same as well. She smiled at the memory then, thinking back to when things were simpler. Or at least had seemed to be.
Now, nothing was simple. She wondered what she would have been doing now, had she never seen the article in the paper. It wasn’t very difficult to imagine, because her routines seldom changed. It was Wednesday, which meant bridge at the country club, then on to the Junior Women’s League, where they would probably he arranging another fund-raiser for the private school or hospital. After that, a visit to her mother, then home to get ready for dinner with Lon, because he made it a point to leave work by seven. It was the one night a week she saw him regularly.
She suppressed a feeling of sadness about that, hoping that one day he would change. He had often promised to and usually followed through for a few weeks before drifting back to the same schedule. “I can............
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