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Chapter 6
NOAH WAS sitting in his rocker, drinking sweet tea, listening for the car, when he finally heard it turn up the drive. He went around to the front and watched the car pull up and park beneath the oak tree again. Same spot as yesterday. Clem harked a greeting at her car door, tail wagging, and Noah saw Allie wave from inside the car.
She stepped out, patted Clem on the head, then turned, smiling.  It was different today, though. Newer feelings now, not simply memories any more. If anything, his attraction for her had grown stronger overnight, and it made him feel a little nervous in her presence.
Allie met him halfway, carrying a small bag. She surprised him by kissing him gently on the cheek, her free hand lingering at his waist after she pulled back.
“Hi,” she said, radiance in her eyes, “where’s the surprise?” He relaxed a little, thanking God for that. “Not even a ‘good afternoon’ or ‘how was your night?’”
She smiled. Patience had never been one of her strongest attributes.
“Fine. Good afternoon. How was your night? And where’s the surprise?”
He chuckled lightly, then paused. “Allie, I’ve got some bad news. I was going to take you someplace, but with those clouds coming in I’m not sure we should go.”
“Its not raining yet How far is it?”
“Up the creek about a mile.”
“And I’ve never been there before?”
“Not when it was like this.”
She thought for a second while she looked around. When she spoke, her voice was determined. “Then we’ll go. I don’t care if it rains.”
“Are you sure?”
He looked at the clouds again, noting their approach. “Then we’d better go now,” he said. “Can I bring that in for you?’
She nodded, handing her bag to him, and he jogged to the house and took it inside, placing it on a chair in the living room. Then he grabbed some bread and put it in a bag, bringing it with him as he left the house.
They walked to the canoe, Allie beside him. A little closer than yesterday.
“What exactly is this place?”
“You’ll see.”
“You’re not even going to give me a hint?”
 “Well,” he said, “do you remember when we took the canoe out and watched the sun come up?”
“I thought about it this morning. I remember it made me cry?’
“What you’re going to sec today makes what you saw then seem ordinary?
“I guess I should feel special.”
He took a few steps before responding. “You are special,” he finally said, and the way he said it made her wonder if he wanted to add something else. But he didn’t, and Allie smiled a little before glancing away. As she did, she felt the wind in her face and noticed it had picked up since the morning.
They reached the jetty and, after tossing the bag in the canoe, Noah quickly checked to make sure he hadn’t missed anything, then slid the canoe to the water.
Can I do anything?”
“No, just get in.”
After she climbed in, he pushed the canoe further into the water. Then he gracefully stepped off the jetty into the canoe, placing his feet carefully to prevent it from capsizing. Allie was impressed by his agility, knowing that what he had done so quickly and easily was harder than it looked.
She sat at the front of the canoe, facing backwards. Noah had said something about missing the view when he started to paddle, but she’d shaken her head, saying she was fine the way she was.
And it was true. She could see everything she really wanted to see if she turned her head, but most of all she wanted to watch Noah. It was him she’d come to see, not the creek. His shirt was unbuttoned at the top, and she could see his chest muscles flex with every stroke. His sleeves were rolled up too, and she could see the well-developed muscles in his arms.
Artistic, she thought. There’s something almost artistic about him. Something natural, as if being on the water were beyond his control, part of a gene passed on to him from some obscure hereditary pool.
She couldn’t think of anyone else who remotely resembled him. He was complicated, almost contradictory in so many ways, yet simple, a strangely erotic combination. On the surface he was a country boy, home from war, and he probably saw himself in those terms. Yet there was so much more to him. Perhaps it was the poetry that made him different, or perhaps it was the values his father had instilled in him, growing up. Either way, he seemed to savour life more fully than others appeared to, and that was what had first attracted her to him.
“What arc you thinking?”
She felt her insides jump just a hit as Noah’s voice brought her back to the present. She realized she hadn’t said much since they’d started, and she appreciated the silence he had allowed her. He’d always been considerate like that.
“Good things,” she answered quietly, and she saw in his eyes that he knew she was thinking about him. She liked the fact that he knew it, and she hoped he had been thinking about her as well.
She understood then that something was stirring within her, as it had so many years ago. Watching his body move made her feel it. And as their eyes met for a second, she felt the heat in her neck and breasts, and she flushed, turning away before he noticed.
“How much further?” she asked.
“Another half-mile or so. Not any more than that.”
A pause. Then she said: “Tell me, Noah, what do you remember most from the summer we spent together?”
“All of it.”
“Anything in particular?”
“No,” he said.
“You don’t remember?”
He answered quietly. “No, it’s not that. It’s not what you’re thinking. I was serious when I said ‘all of it.’ I can remember every moment we were together, and in each of them there was something wonderful. I can’t pick any one time that meant more than any other. The entire summer was perfect, the kind of summer everyone should have. How could I pick one moment over another?
“Poets often describe love as an emotion that we can’t control, one that overwhelms logic and common sense. That’s what it was like for me. I didn’t plan on falling in love with you, and I doubt if you planned on falling in love with me. But once we met, it was clear that neither of us could control what was happening to us. We fell in love, despite our differences, and once we did, something rare and beautiful was created. For me, love like that has happened only once, and that’s why every minute we spent together has been seared in my memory. I’ll never forget a single moment of it.”
Allie stared at him. No one had ever said anything like that to her before. Ever. She didn’t know what to say and stayed silent, her face hot.
“I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable, Allie. I didn’t mean to. But that summer has stayed with me and probably always will. I know it can’t be the same between us, but that doesn’t change the way I felt about you then.”
“It didn’t make me uncomfortable. Noah ... It’s just that I don’t ever hear things like that. What you said was beautiful. It takes a poet to talk the way you do. and like I said, you’re the only poet I’ve ever met.”
Peaceful silence descended on them. An osprey cried somewhere in the distance. The paddle moved rhythmically, causing ripples that rocked the boat ever so slightly. The breeze had stopped, and the clouds grew blacker as the canoe moved onwards.
Allie noticed it all, every sound, every thought. Her senses had come alive, invigorating her, and she felt strangely satisfied that she’d come, pleased that Noah had turned into the type of man she’d thought he would, pleased that she would live for ever with that knowledge. She had seen too many men in the past few years destroyed by war, or time, or even money. It took strength to hold on to inner passion, and Noah had done that.
This was a worker’s world, not a poet’s, and people would have a hard time understanding Noah. Who did she know in Raleigh who took time off to fix a house? Or read Whitman or Eliot? Or hunt at dawn from the bow of a canoe? These weren’t the things that drove society, but she felt they made living worth while.
To her it was the same with art, though she had realized it only upon coming here. Or rather, remembered it. She had known it once before, and again she cursed herself for forgetting something as important as creating beauty. Painting was what she was meant to do, she was sure of that now. She was going to give it another shot, no matter what anyone said.
Would Lon encourage her painting? She remembered showing him one of her paintings a couple of months after they had first started going out. It was abstract, meant to inspire thought. Lon had stared at it, and then had asked her what it was supposed to he,
She knew she wasn’t being completely fair. She loved Lou, and always had, for other reasons. Lon was a good man, the kind of man she’d always known she would marry. With him there would be no surprises, and ‘there was comfort in knowing what the future would bring. He would be a kind husband and she would be a good wife. She would have a home near friends and family, children, a respectable place in society. It was the kind of life she’d always expected to live. And though she wouldn’t describe theirs as a passionate relationship, she had convinced herself long ago that this wasn’t necessary for fulfilment. Passion would fade in time and things like companionship and compatibility would take its place. She and Lon had this, and she had assumed this was all she needed.
But now, as she watched Noah rowing, she questioned this assumption. He exuded sexuality in everything he did, everything he was, and she caught herself thinking about him in a way that an engaged woman shouldn’t. She tried not to stare, but the easy way he moved his body made it hard to keep her eyes from him for long.
“Here we are,” Noah said as he guided the canoe towards some trees near the bank.
Allie looked around, not seeing anything. “Where is it?”
“Here,” he said again, pointing the canoe at a fallen tree that was almost completely obscuring an opening.
He guided the canoe around the tree, and both of them had to lower their heads to keep from bumping them.
“Close your eyes,” he whispered, and Allie did, bringing her hands to her face. She felt the movement of the canoe as he propelled it forwards, away from the pull of the creek.
“Okay.” he finally said after he’d stopped paddling. “You can open them now.”
THEY SAT in the middle of a small lake fed by the waters of Brices Creek. It wasn’t large, maybe a hundred yards across, and she was surprised at how invisible it had been just moments before.
It was spectacular. Tundra swan and Canada geese literally surrounded them. Thousands of them. Birds floating so close together in some places that she couldn’t see the water. From a distance, the groups of swans looked almost like icebergs.
“Oh. Noah,” she finally said softly, “it’s beautiful.”
They sat in silence for a long while, watching the birds. Noah pointed out a group of chicks, recently hatched, following a pack of geese near the shore, struggling to keep up.
The air was filled with honking and chirping as Noah moved the canoe through the water. The birds ignored them for the most part. The only ones that seemed bothered were those forced to move when the canoe approached them. Allie reached out to touch the closest ones and felt their feathers ruffling under her fingers.
Noah took out the bread he’d brought in his bag and handed it to Allie. She scattered it, favouring the little ones, laughing and smiling as they swam in circles looking for food.
They stayed until thunder boomed in the distance—faint hut powerful—and both of them knew it was time to leave.
Noah paddled the canoe hack to the main creek. She was still amazed by what she had seen.
“Noah, what are they doing here?”
“I don’t know. I know the swans from up north migrate to Lake Matamuskeet every winter, hut I guess they came here this time. I don’t know why. Maybe the early blizzard had something to do with it. Maybe they got off track or something. They’ll find their way back, though. They’re driven by instinct, and this isn’t their place. Some of the geese may winter here, hut the swans will go back to Matamuskeet.”
Noah paddled hard as dark clouds rolled directly overhead. Soon rain began to fall, a light sprinkle at first, then gradually harder. Lightning . . . a pause . . . then thunder again. A little louder now. Maybe six or seven miles away. More rain as Noah began to paddle even harder, his muscles tightening with every stroke.
Thicker drops now, falling hard. Noah rowing... getting wet… cursing to himself ... losing to Mother Nature.
Allie watched the rain fall diagonally from the sky as it rode on westerly winds that whistled over the trees. The sky darkened a little more. She leaned her head back for a moment to let it hit her face. She ran her hands through her hair, feeling its wetness. It felt wonderful, she felt wonderful. Even through the rain she could hear him breathing hard, and the sound aroused her sexually in a way she hadn’t felt in years.
A cloud burst directly above them and the rain began to come down harder than she’d ever seen it. Allie looked upwards and laughed, giving up any attempt at keeping dry, making Noah feel better. Even though she’d made the decision to come, he doubted that she’d expected to be caught in a storm like this.
 They reached the dock a couple of minutes later, and Noah moved in close enough for Allie to step out. He helped her up, then got out himself and dragged the canoe up the bank, tying it to the jetty.
As he was tying the canoe, he looked up at Allie and stopped breathing for just a second. She was incredibly beautiful as she waited, watching him. She didn’t try to keep dry or hide herself, and he could see the outline of her breasts as they pressed through the fabric of the dress that clung tightly to her body. He quickly turned away, embarrassed. When he finished and stood, Allie took his hands in hers, surprising him. Despite the downpour, they didn’t rush towards the house, and Noah imagined what it would be like to spen............
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