«It’s a pity you didn’t read the letters I wrote you,» he said. She didn’t speak for a while.
«Noah, I didn’t tell you, but I wrote you a dozen letters after I got home. I just never sent them.»
«Why?» Noah was surprised.
«I guess I was too afraid.»
«That maybe it wasn’t as real as I thought it was. That maybe you forgot me.»
«I would never do that. I couldn’t even think it.»
«I know that now. I can see it when I look at you. But back then it was different. There was so much I didn’t understand, things that a young girl’s mind couldn’t sort out.»
«What do you mean?»
«When your letters never came, I didn’t know what to think. I remember talking to my best friend about that summer, and she said that you had got what you wanted, and that she wasn’t surprised that you didn’t write. I didn’t believe that you were that way, I never did, but I thought maybe the summer meant more to me than to you…»
Noah looked away and she continued. «In time, the hurt began to fade and it was easier to just let it go. At least I thought it was. But in every boy I met in the next few years I was looking for you, and when the feelings got too strong I wrote you another letter. But I never sent them for fear of what I might find. By then you’d gone on with your life and I didn’t want to think that you loved someone else. I wanted to remember us like we were that summer.»
«You’re better than I remembered, Allie.»
«You’re sweet, Noah.»
He almost stopped there, knowing that if he kept the words inside him he could keep control, the same control he had kept the past fourteen years. But then something overtook him and he gave in to it, hoping it would take them back to what they’d had so long ago.
«I’m not saying it because I’m sweet. I’m saying it because I love you now and I always have. More than you can imagine.»
Allie took a sip of bourbon and began to feel its effects. But it wasn’t just the alcohol that made her hold Noah a little tighter and feel his warmth against her. Glancing out of the window, she saw the clouds were almost black. «Noah, you’ve never asked, but I want you to know something.»
«What is it?»
Her voice was tender. «There’s never been another, Noah. You weren’t just the first. You’re the only man — I’ve ever been with, I don’t expect you to say the same thing, but I wanted you to know.»
Noah was silent as he turned away. She felt warmer as she watched the fire. She leaned into him and felt the heat between them, felt his body, felt his arm tight around her. It felt so right to be here. Everything felt right. The fire, the drinks, the storm. It seemed their years apart didn’t matter anymore.
They gave in then to everything they had fought against for the last fourteen years. Allie lifted her head off his shoulder, looked at him with hazy eyes, and Noah kissed her softly on the lips. She brought her hand to his face and touched his cheek, brushing it softly with her fingers. He leaned in and kissed her tenderly, and she kissed back, feeling the years of separation dissolve into passion.
Without speaking, she started to undo the buttons on his shirt. He watched her as she did it and listened to her soft breaths as she made her way downwards. With each button, he could feel her fingers brushing against his skin, and she smiled softly at him when she finally finished. She felt short of breath as his hands gently caressed her, and she felt their heated bodies press together, skin to skin.
They spent the day in each other’s arms, alternately making love by the fire and then holding each other as they watched the flames. He recited his favourite poems as she lay beside him, and she listened with her eyes closed and almost felt the words. Then they joined again and he murmured words of love between kisses as they wrapped their arms around one another.
They went on throughout the evening, making up for their years apart, and slept in each other’s arms that night. Occasionally he woke up and looked at her, and felt that everything was suddenly right in this world.
Once, when he was looking at her in the moments before daybreak, her eyes opened and she smiled and reached up to touch his face. He put his fingers to her lips, gently, to keep her from speaking, and for a long time they just looked at one another.
When the lump in his throat subsided, he whispered to her, «You are the answer to every prayer I’ve offered. You are a song, a dream, a whisper. I love you, Allie, more than you can ever imagine, I always have and I always will.»
«Oh, Noah,» she said, pulling him to her. She wanted him, needed him now more than ever, like nothing she’d ever known.