Message in a Bottle
April 10, 1998
Web posted at: 3:13 p.m. EST (2013 GMT)
The author of the runaway "New York Times" bestseller "The Notebook" pens a tale of self-discovery, renewal, and the courage it takes to love again the second time around.
The bottle was dropped overboard on a warm summer evening, a few
hours before the rain began to fall. Like all bottles, it was fragile and
would break if dropped a few feet from the ground. But when sealed
properly and sent to sea, as this one was, it became one of the most
seaworthy objects known to man. It could float safely through
hurricanes or tropical storms, it could bob atop the most dangerous of
riptides. It was, in a way, the ideal home for the message it carried
inside, a message that had been sent to fulfill a promise.
Like that of all bottles left to the whim of the oceans, its course was
unpredictable. Winds and currents play large roles in any bottles
direction; storms and debris may shift its course as well. Occasionally
a fishing net will snag a bottle and carry it a dozen miles in the
opposite direction in which it was headed. The result is that two bottles
dropped simultaneously into the ocean might end up a continent apart,
or even on opposite sides of the globe. There is no way to predict
where a bottle might travel, and that is part of its mystery.
This mystery has intrigued people for as long as there have been
bottles, and a few people have tried to learn more about it. In 1929 a
crew of German scientists set out to track the journey of one particular
bottle. It was set to sea in the South Indian Ocean with a note inside
asking the finder to record the location where it washed up and to
throw it back into the sea. By 1935 it had rounded the world and
traveled approximately sixteen thousand miles, the longest distance
Messages in bottles have been chronicled for centuries and include
some of the most famous names in history. Ben Franklin, for instance,
used message-carrying bottles to compile a basic knowledge of East
Coast currents in the mid-1700s--information that is still in use to this
day. Even now the U.S. Navy uses bottles to compile information on
tides and currents, and they are frequently used to track the direction
of oil spills.
The most celebrated message ever sent concerned a young sailor in
1784, Chunosuke Matsuyama, who was stranded on a coral reef,
devoid of food and water after his boat was shipwrecked. Before his
death, he carved the account of what had happened on a piece of wood,
then sealed the message in a bottle. In 1935, 150 years after it had been
set afloat, it washed up in the small seaside village in Japan where
Matsuyama had been born.
The bottle that had been dropped on a warm summer evening,
however, did not contain a message about a shipwreck, nor was it
being used to chart the seas. But it did contain a message that would
change two people forever, two people who would otherwise never
have met, and for this reason it could be called a fated message. For
six days it slowly floated in a northeasterly direction, driven by winds
from a high-pressure system hovering above the Gulf of Mexico. On
the seventh day the winds died, and the bottle steered itself directly
eastward, eventually finding its way to the Gulf Stream, where it then
picked up speed, traveling north at almost seventy miles per day.
Two and a half weeks after its launch, the bottle still followed the Gulf
Stream. On the seventeenth day, however, another storm--this time
over the mid-Atlantic--brought easterly winds strong enough to drive
the bottle from the current, and the bottle began to drift toward New
England. Without the Gulf Stream forcing it along, the bottle slowed
again and it zigzagged in various directions near the Massachusetts
shore for five days until it was snagged in a fishing net by John Hanes.
Hanes found the bottle surrounded by a thousand flopping perch and
tossed it aside while he examined his catch. As luck would have it, the
bottle didn't break, but it was promptly forgotten and remained near
the bow of the boat for the rest of the afternoon and early evening as
the boat made its journey back to Cape Cod Bay. At eight-thirty that
night--and once the boat was safely inside the confines of the
bay--Hanes stumbled across the bottle again while smoking a cigarette.
Because the sun was dropping lower in the sky, he picked it up but saw
nothing unusual inside, and he tossed it overboard without a second
glance, thereby insuring that the bottle would wash up along one of the
many small communities that lined the bay.
It didn't happen right away, however. The bottle drifted back and
forth for a few days--as if deciding where to go before choosing its
course--and it finally washed up along the shore on a beach near
And it was there, after 26 days and 738 miles, that it ended its journey.
A cold December wind was blowing, and Theresa Osborne crossed her
arms as she stared out over the water. Earlier, when she'd arrived,
there had been a few people walking along the shore. Now she found
herself alone on the beach, and she took in her surroundings. The
ocean, reflecting the color of the sky, looked like liquid iron, and
waves rolled up steadily on the shore. Heavy clouds were descending
slowly, and the fog was beginning to thicken, making the horizon
invisible. In another place, in another time, she would have felt the
majesty of the beauty around her, but as she stood on the beach, she
realized that she didn't feel anything at all. In a way, she felt as if she
weren't really there, as if the whole thing was nothing but a dream.
She'd driven here this morning, though she scarcely remembered the
trip at all. When she'd made the decision to come, she'd planned to
stay overnight. She'd made the arrangements and had even looked
forward to a quiet night away from Boston, but watching the ocean
swirl and churn made her realize that she didn't want to stay. She
would drive home as soon as she was finished, no matter how late it
When she was finally ready, Theresa slowly started to walk toward the
water. Beneath her arm she carried a bag that she had carefully packed
that morning, making sure that she hadn't forgotten anything. She
hadn't told anyone what she carried with her, nor had she told them
what she'd intended to do today. Instead she'd said that she was going
Christmas shopping. It was the perfect excuse, and though she was sure
that they would have understood had she told them the truth, this trip
was something she didn't want to share with anyone. It had started
with her alone, and that was the same way she wanted it to end.
Theresa sighed and checked her watch. Soon it would be high tide, and
it was then that she would finally be ready. After finding a spot on a
small dune that looked comfortable, she sat in the sand and opened her
bag. Searching through it, she found the envelope she wanted. Taking
a deep breath, she slowly lifted the seal.
In it were three letters, carefully folded, letters that she'd read more
times than she could count. Holding them in front of her, she sat on the
sand and stared at them.
In the bag were other items as well, though she wasn't ready to look at
those yet. Instead she continued to focus on the letters. He'd used a
fountain pen when he'd written them, and there were smudges in
various places where the pen had leaked. The stationery, with its
picture of a sailing ship in the upper right hand corner, was beginning
to discolor in places, fading slowly with the passage of time. She knew
there would come a day when the words would be impossible to read,
but hopefully, after today, she wouldn't feel the need to look at them
When she finished, she slipped them back into the envelope as
carefully as she'd removed them. Then, after putting the envelope back
into the bag, she looked at the beach again. From where she was
sitting, she could see the place where it had all started.
She'd been jogging at daybreak, she remembered, and she could
picture that summer morning clearly. It was the beginning of a
beautiful day. As she took in the world around her, she listened to the
high-pitched squawking of terns and the gentle lapping of the waves as
they rolled up on the sand. Even though she was on vacation, she had
risen early enough to run so that she didn't have to watch where she
was going. In a few hours the beach would be packed with tourists
lying on their towels in the hot New England sun, soaking up the rays.
Cape Cod was always crowded at that time of year, but most
vacationers tended to sleep a little later, and she enjoyed the sensation
of jogging on the hard, smooth sand left from the outgoing tide.
Unlike the sidewalks back home, the sand seemed to give just enough,
and she knew her knees wouldn't ache as they sometimes did after
running on cemented pathways.
She had always liked to jog, a habit she had picked up from running
cross-country and track in high school. Though she wasn't competitive
anymore and seldom timed her runs, running was now one of the few
times she could be alone with her thoughts. She considered it to be a
kind of meditation, which was why she liked to do it alone. She never
could understand why people liked to run in groups.
As much as she loved her son, she was glad Kevin wasn't with her.
Every mother needs a break sometimes, and she was looking forward
to taking it easy while she was here. No evening soccer games or swim
meets, no MTV blaring in the background, no homework to help with,
no waking up in the middle of the night to comfort him when he got
leg cramps. She had taken him to the airport three days ago to catch a
plane to visit his father--her ex--in California, and it was only after
reminding him that Kevin realized he hadn't hugged or kissed her
good-bye yet. "Sorry, Mom," he said as he wrapped his arms around
her and kissed her. "Love you. Don't miss me too much, okay?" Then,
turning around, he handed the ticket to the flight attendant and almost
skipped onto the plane without looking back.
She didn't blame him for almost forgetting. At twelve he was in that
awkward phase when he thought that hugging and kissing his mom in
public wasn't cool. Besides, his mind was on other things. He had
been looking forward to this trip since last Christmas. He and his
father were going to the Grand Canyon, then would spend a week
rafting down the Colorado River, and finally go on to Disneyland. It
was every kid's fantasy trip, and she was happy for him. Although he
would be gone for six weeks, she knew it was good for Kevin to spend
time with his father.
She and David had been on relatively good terms since they'd divorced
three years ago. Although he wasn't the greatest husband, he was a
good father to Kevin. He never missed sending a birthday or
Christmas gift, called weekly, and traveled across the country a few
times a year just to spend weekends with his son. Then, of course,
there were the court-mandated visits as well--six weeks in the summer,
every other Christmas, and Easter break when school let out for a
week. Annette, David's new wife, had her hands full with the baby, but
Kevin liked her a lot, and he had never returned home feeling angry
or neglected. In fact, he usually raved about his visits and how much
fun he had. There were times when she felt a twinge of jealousy at
that, but she did her best to hide it from Kevin.
Now, on the beach, she ran at a moderate clip. Deanna would be
waiting for her to finish her run before she started breakfast--Brian
would already be gone, she knew--and Theresa looked forward to
visiting with her. They were an older couple--both of them were
nearing sixty now--but Deanna was the best friend she had.
The managing editor at the newspaper where Theresa worked, Deanna
had been coming to the Cape with her husband, Brian, for years. They
always stayed in the same place, the Fisher House, and when she found
out that Kevin was leaving to visit his father in California for a good
portion of the summer, she insisted that Theresa come along. "Brian
golfs every day he's here, and I'd like the company," she'd said, "and
besides, what else are you going to do? You've got to get out of that
apartment sometime." Theresa knew she was right, and after a few
days of thinking it over, she finally agreed. "I'm so glad," Deanna had
said with a victorious look on her face. "You're going to love it
Theresa had to admit it was a nice place to stay. The Fisher House was
a beautifully restored captain's house that sat on the edge of a rocky
cliff overlooking Cape Cod Bay, and when she saw it in the distance,
she slowed to a jog. Unlike the younger runners who sped up toward
the end of their runs, she preferred to slow down and take it easy. At
thirty-six, she didn't recover as fast as she once had.
As her breathing eased, she thought about how she would spend the
rest of her day. She had brought five books with her for the vacation,
books she had been wanting to read for the last year but had never
gotten around to. There just didn't seem to be enough time
anymore--not with Kevin and his never-ending energy, keeping up
with the housework, and definitely not with all the work constantly
piled on her desk. As a syndicated columnist for the Boston Times, she
was under constant deadline pressure to put out three columns a week.
Most of her coworkers thought she had it made--just type up three
hundred words and be done for the day--but it wasn't like that at all.
To constantly come up with something original regarding parenting
wasn't easy anymore--especially if she wanted to syndicate further.
Already her column, "Modern Parenting," went out in sixty
newspapers across the country, though most ran only one or two of
her columns in a given week. And because the syndication offers had
started only eighteen months ago and she was a newcomer to most
papers, she couldn't afford even a few "off" days. Column space in
most newspapers was extremely limited, and hundreds of columnists
were vying for those few spots.
Theresa slowed to a walk and finally stopped as a Caspian tern circled
overhead. The humidity was up and she used her forearm to wipe the
perspiration from her face. She took a deep breath, held it for a
moment, then exhaled before looking out over the water. Because it
was early, the ocean was still murky gray, but that would change once
the sun rose a little higher. It looked enticing. After a moment she
took off her shoes and socks, then walked to the water's edge to let the
tiny waves lap over her feet. The water was refreshing, and she spent a
few minutes wading back and forth. She was suddenly glad she had
taken the time to write extra columns over the last few months so that
she would be able to forget work this week. She couldn't remember
the last time she didn't have a computer nearby, or a meeting to attend,
or a deadline to meet, and it felt liberating to be away from her desk
for a while. It almost felt as if she were in control of her own destiny
again, as if she were just starting out in the world.
True, there were dozens of things she knew she should be doing at
home. The bathroom should have been wallpapered and updated by
now, the nail holes in her walls needed to be spackled, and the rest of
the apartment could use some touch-up painting as well. A couple of
months ago she had bought the wallpaper and some paint, towel rods
and door handles, and a new vanity mirror, as well as all the tools she
needed to take care of it, but she hadn't even opened the boxes yet. It
was always something to do next weekend, though the weekends were
often just as busy as her workdays. The items she bought still sat in the
bags she'd brought them home in, behind the vacuum, and every time
she opened the closet door, they seemed to mock her good intentions.
Maybe, she thought to herself, when she returned home . . .
She turned her head and saw a man standing a little way down the
beach. He was older than she, maybe fifty or so, and his face was
deeply tanned, as if he lived here year-round. He didn't appear to be
moving--he simply stood in the water and let it wash over his legs--and
she noticed his eyes were closed, as if he were enjoying the beauty of
the world without having to watch it. He was wearing faded jeans,
rolled up to his knees, and a comfortable shirt he hadn't bothered to
tuck in. As she watched him, she suddenly wished she were a different
kind of person. What would it be like to walk the beaches without
another care in the world? How would it be to come to a quiet spot
every day, away from the hustle and bustle of Boston, just to
appreciate what life had to offer?
She stepped out a little farther into the water and mimicked the man,
hoping to feel whatever it was that he was feeling. But when she closed
her eyes, the only thing she could think about was Kevin. Lord knew
she wanted to spend more time with him, and she definitely wanted to
be more patient with him when they were together. She wanted to be
able to sit and talk with Kevin, or play Monopoly with him, or simply
watch TV with him without feeling the urge to get up from the couch
to do something more important. There were times when she felt like
a fraud when insisting to Kevin that he came first and that family was
the most important thing he'd have.
But the problem was that there was always something to do. Dishes to
be washed, bathrooms to be cleaned, the cat box to be emptied; cars
needed tune-ups, laundry needed to be done, and bills had to be paid.
Even though Kevin helped a lot with his chores, he was almost as busy
as she was with school and friends and all his other activities. As it
was, magazines went straight to the garbage unread, letters went
unwritten, and sometimes, in moments like these, she worried that her
life was slipping past her.
But how to change all that? "Take life one day at a time," her mother
always said, but her mother didn't have to work outside the home or
raise a strong and confident yet caring son without benefit of a father.
She didn't understand the pressures that Theresa faced on a daily basis.
Neither did her younger sister, Janet, who had followed in the
footsteps of their mother. She and her husband had been happily
married for almost eleven years, with three wonderful girls to show
for it. Edward wasn't a brilliant man, but he was honest, worked hard,
and provided for his family well enough that Janet didn't have to
work. There were times when Theresa thought she might like a life
like that, even if it meant giving up her career.
But that wasn't possible. Not since David and she divorced. Three
years now, four if you counted the year they were separated. She
didn't hate David for what he had done, but her respect for him had
been shattered. Adultery, whether a one-night stand or a long affair,
wasn't something she could live with. Nor did it make her feel better
that he never married the woman he'd been carrying on with for two
years. The breach of trust was irreparable.
David moved back to his home state of California a year after they
separated and met Annette a few months later. His new wife was very
religious, and little by little she got David interested in the church.
David, a lifelong agnostic, had always seemed to be hungry for
something more meaningful in his life.
Now he attended church regularly and actually served as a marriage
counselor along with the pastor. What could he possibly say to
someone doing the same things he'd done, she often wondered, and
how could he help others if he hadn't been able to control himself? She
didn't know, didn't care, really. She was simply glad that he still took
an interest in his son.
Naturally, once she and David had split up, a lot of her friendships
ended as well. Now that she was no longer part of a couple, she
seemed to be out of place at friends' Christmas parties or backyard
barbecues. A few friends remained, though, and she heard from them
on her answering machine, suggesting that they set up a lunch date or
come over for dinner. Occasionally she would go, but usually she
made excuses not to. To her, none of those friendships seemed the way
they used to, but then of course they weren't. Things changed, people
changed, and the world went rolling along right outside the window.
Since the divorce there had only been a handful of dates. It wasn't that
she was unattractive. She was, or so she was often told. Her hair was
dark brown, cut just above her shoulders, and straight as spider silk.
Her eyes, the feature she was most often complimented on, were
brown with flecks of hazel that caught the light when she was outside.
Since she ran daily, she was fit and didn't look as old as she was. She
didn't feel old, either, but when she looked in the mirror lately, she
seemed to see her age catching up with her. A new wrinkle around the
corner of her eye, a gray hair that seemed to have grown overnight, a
vaguely weary look from being constantly on the run.
Her friends thought she was crazy. "You look better now than you did
years ago," they insisted, and she still noticed a few men eyeing her
across the aisle in the supermarket. But she wasn't, nor ever would be,
twenty-two again. Not that she would want to be, even if she could,
unless, she sometimes thought to herself, she could take her more
mature brain back with her. If she didn't, she'd probably get caught up
with another David--a handsome man who craved the good things in
life with the underlying assumption that he didn't have to play by the
rules. But dammit, rules were important, especially the ones regarding
marriage. They were the ones a person was never supposed to break.
Her father and mother didn't break them, her sister and brother-in-law
didn't, nor did Deanna and Brian. Why did he have to? And why, she
wondered as she stood in the surf, did her thoughts always come back
to this, even after all this time?
She supposed that it had something to do with the fact that when the
divorce papers finally arrived, she felt as if a little part of her had
died. That initial anger she felt had turned to sadness, and now it had
become something else, almost a dullness of sorts. Even though she
was constantly in motion, it seemed as if nothing special ever happened
to her anymore. Each day seemed exactly like the last, and she had
trouble differentiating among them. One time, about a year ago, she
sat at her desk for fifteen minutes trying to remember the last
spontaneous thing she'd done. She couldn't think of anything.
The first few months had been hard on her. By then the anger had
subsided and she didn't feel the urge to lash out at David and make him
pay for what he had done. All she could do was feel sorry for herself.
Even having Kevin around all the time did nothing to change the fact
that she felt absolutely alone in the world. There was a short time
when she couldn't sleep for more than a few hours a night, and now
and then when she was at work, she would leave her desk and go sit in
her car to cry for a while.
Now, with three years gone by, she honestly didn't know if she would
ever love someone again the way she had loved David. When David
showed up at her sorority party at the beginning of her junior year,
one look was all it took for her to know she wanted to be with him.
Her young love had seemed so overwhelming, so powerful, then. She
would stay awake thinking about him as she lay in her bed, and when
she walked across campus, she smiled so often that other people would
smile back whenever they saw her.
But love like that doesn't last, at least that's what she found out. Over
the years, a different kind of marriage emerged. She and David grew
up, and apart. It became hard to remember the things that had first
drawn them to each other. Looking back, Theresa felt that David
became a different person altogether, although she couldn't pinpoint
the moment when it all began to change. But anything can happen
when the flame of a relationship goes out, and for him, it did. A
chance meeting at a video store, a conversation that led to lunch and
eventually to hotels throughout the greater Boston area.
The unfair thing about the whole situation was that she still missed him
sometimes, or rather the good parts about him. Being married to
David was comfortable, like a bed she'd slept in for years. She had
been used to having another person around, just to talk to or listen.
She had gotten used to waking up to the smell of brewing coffee in the
morning, and she missed having another adult presence in the
apartment. She missed a lot of things, but most of all she missed the
intimacy that came from holding and whispering to another behind
Kevin wasn't old enough to understand this yet, and though she loved
him deeply, it wasn't the same kind of love that she wanted right now.
Her feeling for Kevin was a mother's love, probably the deepest, most
holy love there is. Even now she liked to go into his room after he was
asleep and sit on his bed just to look at him. Kevin always looked so
peaceful, so beautiful, with his head on the pillow and the covers piled
up around him. In the daytime he seemed to be constantly on the go,
but at night his still, sleeping figure always brought back the feelings
she'd had when he was still a baby. Yet even those wonderful feelings
didn't change the fact that once she left his room, she would go
downstairs and have a glass of wine with only Harvey the cat to keep
She still dreamed about falling in love with someone, of having
someone take her in his arms and make her feel she was the only one
who mattered. But it was hard, if not impossible, to meet someone
decent these days. Most of the men she knew in their thirties were
already married, and the ones that were divorced seemed to be looking
for someone younger whom they could somehow mold into exactly
what they wanted. That left older men, and even though she thought
she could fall in love with someone older, she had her son to worry
about. She wanted a man who would treat Kevin the way he should be
treated, not simply as the unwanted by-product of someone he desired.
But the reality was that older men usually had older children; few
welcomed the trials of raising an adolescent male in the 1990s. "I've
already done my job," a date had once informed her curtly. That had
been the end of that relationship.
She admitted that she also missed the physical intimacy that came from
loving and trusting and holding someone else. She hadn't been with a
man since she and David divorced. There had been opportunities, of
course--finding someone to sleep with was never difficult for an
attractive woman--but that simply wasn't her style. She hadn't been
raised that way and didn't intend to change now. Sex was too
important, too special, to be shared with just anyone. In fact, she had
slept with only two men in her life--David, of course, and Chris, the
first real boyfriend she'd ever had. She didn't want to add to the list
simply for the sake of a few minutes of pleasure.
So now, vacationing at Cape Cod, alone in the world and without a
man anywhere in the foreseeable future, she wanted to do some things
this week just for herself. Read some books, put her feet up, and have
a glass of wine without the TV flickering in the background. Write
some letters to friends she hadn't heard from in a while. Sleep late, eat
too much, and jog in the mornings, before everyone got there to spoil
it. She wanted to experience freedom again, if only for a short time.
She also wanted to shop this week. Not at JCPenney or Sears or places
that advertised Nike shoes and Chicago Bulls T-shirts, but at little
trinket stores that Kevin found boring. She wanted to try on some new
dresses and buy a couple that flattered her figure, just to make her feel
she was still alive and vibrant. Maybe she would even get her hair
done. She hadn't had a new style in years, and she was tired of looking
the same every day. And if a nice guy happened to ask her out this
week, maybe she'd go, just to have an excuse to wear the new things
With a somewhat renewed sense of optimism, she looked to see if the
man with the rolled-up jeans was still there, but he had gone as quietly
as he had come. And she was ready to go as well. Her legs had
stiffened in the cool water, and sitting down to put on her shoes was a
little more difficult than she expected. Since she didn't have a towel,
she hesitated for a moment before putting on her socks, then decided
she didn't have to. She was on vacation at the beach. No need for shoes
She carried them with her as she started toward the house. She walked
close to the water's edge and saw a large rock half-buried in the sand,
a few inches from a spot where the early morning tide had reached its
highest point. Strange, she thought to herself, it seemed out of place
As she approached, she noticed something different about the way it
looked. It was smooth and long, for one thing, and as she drew nearer
she realized it wasn't a rock at all. It was a bottle, probably discarded
by a careless tourist or one of the local teens who liked to come here at
night. She looked over her shoulder and saw a garbage can chained to
the lifeguard tower and decided to do her good deed for the day.
When she reached it, however, she was surprised to see that it was
corked. She picked it up, holding it into better light, and saw a note
inside wrapped with yarn, standing on its end.
For a second she felt her heart quicken as another memory came back
to her. When she was eight years old and vacationing in Florida with
her parents, she and another girl had once sent a letter via the sea, but
she'd never received a reply. The letter was simple, a child's letter, but
when she returned home, she remembered racing to the mailbox for
weeks afterward, hoping that someone had found it and sent a letter to
her from where the bottle washed up. When nothing ever came,
disappointment set in, the memory fading gradually until it became
nothing at all. But now it all came back to her. Who had been with her
that day? A girl about her age . . . Tracy? . . . no . . . Stacey? . . . yes,
Stacey! Stacey was her name! She had blond hair. . . she was staying
with her grandparents for the summer. . . and. . . and . . . and the
memory stopped there, with nothing else coming no matter how hard
She began to pull at the cork, almost expecting it to be the same bottle
she had sent, although she knew that couldn't be. It was probably from
another child, though, and if it requested a reply, she was going to
send it. Maybe along with a small gift from the Cape and a postcard as
The cork was wedged in tightly, and her fingers slipped as she tried to
open it. She couldn't get a very good grip. She dug her short
fingernails into the exposed cork and twisted the bottle slowly.
Nothing. She switched hands and tried again. Tightening her grip, she
put the bottle between her legs for more leverage, and just as she was
about to give up, the cork moved a little. Suddenly renewed, she
changed back to her original hands . . . squeezed . . . twisting the
bottle slowly . . . more cork . . . and suddenly it loosened and the
remaining portion slipped out easily.
She tipped the bottle upside-down and was surprised when the note
dropped to the sand by her feet almost immediately. When she leaned
over to pick it up, she noticed it was tightly bound, which was why it
slid out so easily.
She untied the yarn carefully, and the first thing that struck her as she
unrolled the message was the paper. This was no child's stationery. It
was expensive paper, thick and sturdy, with a silhouette of a sailing
ship embossed in the upper right hand corner. And the paper itself was
crinkled, aged looking, almost as if it had been in the water for a
She caught herself holding her breath. Maybe it was old. It could
be--there were stories about bottles washing up after a hundred years
at sea, so that could be the case now. Maybe she had a real artifact
here. But as she scrutinized the writing itself, she saw that she was
mistaken. There was a date on the upper left corner of the paper.
July 22, 1997.
A little more than three weeks ago.
Three weeks? That's all?
She looked a little further. The message was long--it covered the front
and back sides of the paper--and it didn't seem to request any reply of
sorts. A quick glance showed no address or phone number anywhere,
but she supposed it could have been written into the letter itself.
She felt a twinge of curiosity as she held the message in front of her,
and it was then, in the rising sunlight of a hot New England day, that
she first read the letter that would change her life forever.
© 1998 by Nicholas Sparks
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