Between the Faded Print
A/N: So I tried a 'Notebook' fic for Tierney Beckett, because she loves that movie. I hope that you enjoy it!
She fingers the newspaper for the nth time.
Noah Calhoun, in front of the old Windsor Plantation: "An old promise", the caption beneath the photo read.
She knows that name, knows it so well- it is a name that has haunted her, every day for a year, and for many years after that. An ache fills her chest, as though a creature has sunk its claws through her heart and has mercilessly tugged.
Tiredly, she closes her eyes and passes a hand over her forehead.
He's trash, Allie, trash!
God knows she tried. God knows she'd tried to save her daughter.
Like mother like daughter, the phrase ran- oh, and how damn accurate it is! There is even something in Noah's expression, or perhaps it is his stance, that reminds her of-
But no, that time is past, and she, Anne Hamilton does not live in the past!
Except that it is staring at her, right in the face, and she can see quite clearly, even in the dim attic light, the bundle of letters that she has hidden in her bureau for the past seven years. It is there.
And then there are his eyes, those warm, dark eyes she could have happily drowned in-
"What's happenin' to my Annie?"
She closes her eyes even more tightly and presses her left hand into the corners of her eyes.
Breathe in, breathe out.
With a little, strangled cry, she spins around, feeling for all the world as though a (betrayal) has taken place.
"John!" she gasps, taking in the sight of her husband, his vaguely concerned face, the perfectly coifed hair, the gentle eyes that pierces her soul with (guilt) love.
He leans against the doorframe, studying her silently.
"John, honey, what is it?" she asks, after several moments have passed.
Her husband pauses, his brow furrowed in thought.
"You're holding the newspaper again," he comments, an unidentifiable quaver passing through his voice.
She laughs, feeling foolish. "Well, our Allie did faint when she saw it—I'm just thinking of her, you know, a mother's worries, and…" she trails off.
John is staring at her again, but his face is somehow softer. He takes a few, halting steps towards her.
"Annie," he says, tenderly, and holds out a hand. "Annie, come here."
"They're coming, they're coming!"
"Annie, honey, take my hand!"
She chokes and feels a sudden rush of warmth as the carpet became a blur of cream. She feels, rather than hears or sees, John quickly pace through the room, take a seat beside her, take her hands in his.
"Annie," he whispers, "I know why you hate the boy so much."
Indignation flares through her, and she brusquely dashes her tears away.
"I do not hate him, John. I have never hated him. You even heard me tell Allie, all those years ago, that he was a nice boy. I never hated him. I could never-" but she falters, for she knows his name will come up, and she doesn't think she could bear to say his name. She doesn't think she could bear to let John hear his name, when she has never even told him- John, who has been so kind to her, so gentle, so caring. John, who will look at her in the mornings and call her "sunshine" even when she is grumpy and sick.
He waits patiently until her sobs subside, then he gathers her in his arms. She presses her face against his freshly pressed shirt, lets him run his hands through her hair, even though she usually loathes that.
"Annie," he murmurs. "I knew when I was courting you that there must have been someone else- from the past, most likely. And then when we were married, all those times we'd go for holidays near Seabrook, you'd drive off, sometimes for hours- and you'd come back crying."
His eyes are gentle like razor blades, and the guilt scrapes her heart in unrelenting waves. She clutches his shirt collar desperately.
"I'm sorry, John," she sobs, "I'm sorry!"
He removes his hand from her hair, places it softly on her cheek.
"It's ok, Annie," he whispers, brushing away her tears. "You could've left, but you stayed. It's all in the past."
She can only see hazily, but even in this blur of colour, she can see the warmth radiating from his face.
"I love you, John," she says, brokenly. "I love you, you know that, don't you?"
Even through her tears, she can see him smile, sees the light grow.
"I know, Annie," he whispers, and leans in to kiss her. The kiss is gentle at first, but it quickly grows, and Annie clutches at his shirt to pull him closer.
Don't leave me. Never leave me.
She isn't sure who pulled away first- it may have been her. She feels John slip his arm around her waist (so protective, so supportive) as the irregular sobs shake her body.
They sit together in the silence, in the curtain-drawn room. The half-shadows play on his face, and she raises a hand to trace the patterns on his cheek.
"You should go to her," he says, quietly, and Annie knows exactly what he means. She nods, brushes the last of her tears away, reaches shakily for her bag, which is lying on the side of the lounge.
"I love you," he adds, as she is about to leave the room, and she turns at the doorframe, a smile touching the corners of her lips.
"I know, honey," she says, and he smiles at her, an understanding smile that makes her want to kiss him all over again. "I know."