The Best of Me

The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks Read Free Book Online

Book: The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nicholas Sparks
Tags: nicholas sparks
was able to unleash her rage at Frank; it was to him that she confessed her worries about the kids, and even her growing conviction that she’d somehow made a wrong turn in her life somewhere along the line. She shared with him stories about the countless anguished parents and impossibly optimistic children she met at the Pediatric Cancer Center, and he seemed to understand that she found a kind of salvation in her work there, even if he never said as much. Mostly, he just held her hand in his gnarled, grease-stained fingers, soothing her with his silence. By the end, he’d become her closest friend, and she’d come to feel that Tuck Hostetler knew her, the real her, better than anyone in her current life.
    Now, though, her friend and confidant was gone. Missing him already, she ran her gaze over the Stingray, wondering if he’d known it was the last car he’d ever work on. He’d said nothing to her directly, but thinking back, she realized that he’d probably had his suspicions. On her last visit, he’d given her an extra key to his house, telling her with a wink “not to lose it, or you might have to break a window.” She’d tucked it in her pocket, not thinking much of it, because he’d said other curious things that night. She could remember rummaging through his cupboards, looking for something to make for dinner while he sat at the table, smoking a cigarette.
    “You like red wine or white wine?” he suddenly asked, apropos of nothing.
    “It depends,” she answered, sorting through cans. “Sometimes I have a glass of red wine with dinner.”
    “I got me some red wine,” he announced. “Over yonder, in that cabinet over there.”
    She turned. “Do you want me to open a bottle?”
    “Never did much care for it. I’ll stick with my Pepsi and peanuts.” He tapped ashes into a chipped coffee cup. “I always got fresh steaks, too. Have ‘em delivered from the butcher every Monday. Bottom shelf of the icebox. Grill’s out back.”
    She took a step toward the refrigerator. “Do you want me to make you a steak?”
    “No. Usually save those for later in the week.”
    She hesitated, unsure where this was leading. “So… you’re just telling me?”
    When he nodded and said nothing more, Amanda chalked it up to age and fatigue. She ended up making him eggs and bacon and tidied up the house afterward while Tuck sat in the easy chair near the fireplace with a blanket over his shoulders, listening to the radio. She couldn’t help noticing how shriveled he looked, immeasurably smaller than the man she’d known as a girl. As she prepared to leave, she adjusted the blanket, thinking that he’d fallen asleep. His breaths were heavy and labored-sounding. She bent down and kissed him on the cheek.
    “I love you, Tuck,” she whispered.
    He shifted slightly, probably dreaming, but when she turned to leave she heard him exhale. “I miss you, Clara,” he mumbled.
    Those were the last words she would ever hear him say. There was an ache of loneliness in those words, and all at once she understood why Tuck had taken Dawson in so long ago. Tuck, she figured, had been lonely, too.

    After calling Frank to let him know that she’d arrived—his voice already sounded slurry—Amanda hung up with a curt few words and thanked God that the kids were otherwise engaged this weekend.
    On the workbench she found the garage clipboard and wondered what to do about the car. A quick perusal showed the Stingray was owned by a defenseman for the Carolina Hurricanes, and she made a mental note to discuss the matter with Tuck’s estate lawyer. Setting the clipboard aside, she found her thoughts drifting to Dawson. He, too, had been part of her secret. Telling Frank about Tuck would have entailed telling him about Dawson, and she hadn’t wanted to do that. Tuck had always understood that Dawson was the real reason she’d come to visit, especially in the beginning. He didn’t mind, for Tuck more than anyone understood the

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