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Chapter 7

LATER THAT same morning, three men - two lawyers and the judge—sat in chambers while Lon finished speaking.
"It’s an unusual request," the judge answered, pondering the situation. "It seems to me the trial could very well end today. Are you saying this matter can't wait until later this evening or tomorrow?"
"No, your honour, it cant," Lon answered almost too quickly. Stay relaxed, he told himself. Take a deep breath.
"And it has nothing to do with this case?"
"No, your honour. It's of a personal nature. I know it's out of the ordinary, but I really need to take care of it."
The judge leaned back in his chair, evaluating him for a moment. "Mr. Bates, how do you feel about this?"
The lawyer cleared his throat. "Mr. Hammond called me this morning arid I've already spoken to my clients. They're willing to postpone until Monday. Mr. Hammond has agreed in return to reopen discussion on a certain matter not covered by this proceeding."
The judge looked hard at both of them. "I don't like it," he said, "not at all. But Mr. Hammond has never made such a request before, and I assume the matter is very important to him." He banged for effect, then looked at some papers on his desk. "I'll agree to adjourn until Monday; Nine o'clock sharp."
"Thank you, your honour.” Lon said.
Two minutes later he was leaving the courthouse. He walked to the car he had parked directly across the street, got in and began the drive to New Bern, his hands shaking,
NOAH MADE breakfast for Allie while she slept in the living room. Bacon, rolls and coffee, nothing spectacular. He set the tray beside her as she woke up, and as soon as they had finished eating they made love again, in powerful confirmation of what they had shared the day before.
They showered and afterwards Allie put on her dress, which had dried overnight She spent the morning with Noah, Together they fed Clem and checked the windows to make sure no damage bad been done in the storm. Two pine trees bad blown over, though neither had caused much damage, and a few shingles had Mown off the shed, but, other than that, the property had escaped unscathed.
He held her hand most of the morning and they talked easily, but sometimes he would stop speaking and just stare at her. When he did, she felt as though she should say something, but nothing meaningful ever came into her head. She usually just kissed him.

A little before noon, Noah and Allie went in to prepare lunch. Using what he had on hand, they tried some chicken and baked another batch of bread rolls, and the two of them ate on the porch, serenaded by a mockingbird.
 While they were inside doing the dishes* they heard a knock at the door, Noah left Allie in the kitchen.
Knock, knock. Louder.
Noah approached the door.
Knock, knock.
"I'm coming," he said as he opened the door. "Oh, my God."
He stared for a moment at a beautiful woman in her early fifties, a woman he would have recognized anywhere.
"Hello, Noah," she said.
Noah said nothing.
“May I come in?" she asked, her voice steady, revealing nothing.
He stammered out a reply as she walked past him, stopping just before the stairs.
"Who is it?" Allie shouted from the kitchen, and the woman turned at the sound of her voice.
"It's your mother.” Noah finally answered, and immediately after he said it he heard the sound of breaking glass.
"I knew you would be here," Anne Nelson said to her daughter as the three of them sat around the coffee table in the living room.
"How could you be so sure?"   
"You're my daughter. One day when you have kids of your own, you'll know the answer." She smiled, but her manner was stiff, and Noah imagined how difficult this must be for her. "I saw the article, too, and I saw your reaction. I also saw how tense you've been during the last couple of weeks, and when you said you were going shopping near the coast, I knew exactly what you meant."
"What about daddy?"
Anne Nelson shook her head, "No, I didn't tell your father or anyone else about it. Nor did I tell anyone where I was going today."
"Why did you come?" Allie asked.
"I came because I had to," her mother said, "which I'm sure is the same reason you came. Am I right?"
Allie nodded.
Anne turned to Noah. "I know you don't think so, but I always liked you. I just didn't think you were right for my daughter. Can you understand that?"
He shook his head as he answered. "No, not really. It wasn’t fair to me, and it wasn't fair to Allie. Otherwise she wouldn't be here."
 She watched him as he answered, but she said nothing. Allie, sensing an argument, cut in. "What do you mean when you say you had to come? Don't you trust me?"
Anne turned back to her daughter. "This has nothing to do with trust. This has to do with Lon. He called the house last night to talk to me about Noah, and he's on his way here right now. He seemed very upset. I thought you'd want to know."
Allie inhaled sharply. "He's on his way?"
"As we speak. He arranged to have the trial postponed until next week. If he's not in New Bern yet, he's close."
"What did you say to him?"
"Not much. But he knew. He had it all figured out. He remembered my telling him about Noah a long time ago.”
Allie swallowed hard, "Did you tell him I was here?"
"No. And I won't. That's between you and him. But knowing him, I'm sure he'll find you. All it takes is a couple of phone calls to the right people. After all, I was able to find you,"
Allie, though obviously wearied, smiled at her mother. "Thank you," she said, and her mother readied for her hand.
"I know we've had our differences, Allie, and that we haven't seen eye to eye on everything. But I'm-your mother and that means I’ll always love you."
Allie was silent for a moment, then: "What should I do?"
"I don’t know, Allie, That's up to you. But I would think about it. Think about what you really want.”
Allie turned away, her eyes reddening. A moment later a tear drifted down her cheek. "I don't know . . . " She trailed off, and her mother squeezed her hand.
Anne looked at Noah, who had been sitting with his head down, listening carefully. As if on cue, he returned her gaze, nodded and left the room.
When he was gone, Anne whispered, "Do you love him?"
"Yes, I do," Allie answered softly, "very much."
"Do you love Lon?"
"Yes, I do. I love him, too. Dearly, but in a different way. He doesn't make me feel the way Noah does."
"No one will ever do that," her mother said, and she released Allie's hand. "I can't make this decision for you, Allie, this one's all yours. I want you to know, though, that I love you. And I always will. I know that doesn't help, but it's all I can do."
She reached in her handbag and removed a bundle of letters held together with string, the envelopes old and slightly yellowed.
"These are the letters that Noah wrote to you. I never threw them away, and they haven't been opened. I know I shouldn't have kept them from you, and I'm sorry for that. But I was just trying to protect you. I didn't realize...”
Allie took them and ran her hand over them, shocked.
"I should go, Allie. You've got some decisions to make, and you don't have much time. Do you want me to stay in town?”
Allie shook her head, "No, this is up to me."
Anne nodded and watched her daughter for a moment, wondering. Finally she stood, went around the table, leaned over and kissed Allie on the cheek. She could see the confusion in her daughter's eyes as Allie embraced her.
They stood together for another minute, just holding each other.
"Thanks for coming, Allie said, “I love you."
"I love you too."
As her mother made her way out of the living room, Allie thought that she heard her whisper, "Follow your heart,” but she couldn’t be sure,
NOAH OPENED the door for Anne Nelson as she went out.
“Goodbye Noah," she said quietly. He nodded without speaking. There wasn't anything else to say; they both knew that. She turned from him and left, closing the door behind her. Noah watched her dim away without looking back. She was a strong woman, he thought to himself, and he knew then where Allie got it
Noah peeped into the living room, saw Allie sitting with her head down, then went to the back porch, knowing that she needed to be alone. He sat quietly in his rocker and watched the water
After what seemed like an eternity he heard the back door open. He didn’t turn to look at her—for some reason he couldn’t-and he listened as she sat in the chair beside him.
“I’m sorry," Allie said. "I bad no idea this would happen."
Noah shook his head. "Don't be sorry. We both knew it was coming to some form or another."
"It’s still hard.”
"I know." He finally turned to her, reaching for her hand. "Is here anything I can do to make it easier?"
She shook her head. "No. Not really. I have to do this alone. Besides, I'm not sure what I'm going to say to him yet." She looked down and her voice became softer. "I guess it depends on him and low much he knows. If my mother was right, he may have suspicions, but he doesn't know anything for sure."
Noah felt tightness in his stomach. When he finally spoke his voice was steady, but she could hear the pain in it. "You're not going to tell him about us, are you?"
"I don't know. I really don't. While I was in the living room, I kept asking myself what I really wanted in my life." She squeezed his hand. "And do you know what the answer was? The answer was that I want you. I want us. I love you and I always have." She took a deep breath before going on. "But I also want a happy en............

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