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See Me(12)
Author: Nicholas Sparks

“I don’t want to settle down yet, either.”

“Maybe. But you definitely need a date.”

“Would you stop?”

“Okay, fine. You don’t need a date. What you need is to get lucky.”

When Maria didn’t bother responding, Serena giggled. “Touched a nerve, huh?” she chirped. “Okay, never mind. What’s on your agenda today? After we get out of here? Are you going paddleboarding again?”

“I was thinking about it.”


“Unless you want to try it again.”

“Not a chance. I still don’t understand why you like it so much. It’s not like dancing. It’s boring.”

“It’s good exercise. And it’s peaceful.”

“Didn’t I just say that?” Serena asked.

Maria smiled. “How about you? What are your plans?”

“I’m going to take a nice long nap. And then, after that, I’ll play it by ear.”

“I hope you find something to do. I’d hate for you to miss a wild Sunday night on Greek row.”

“Now, now… jealousy’s an ugly thing,” Serena said. She hooked her thumb toward the windows. “Dad’s finally back and I’m starved. Let’s go eat.”

Later that afternoon, while Serena was no doubt sound asleep, Maria was on her paddleboard in Masonboro Sound, a place that had long since become her favorite spot to spend a weekend afternoon. Masonboro Island was the largest barrier island along the southern coast of the state, and while she sometimes navigated to the Atlantic side of the island, most of the time she preferred the glassy waters of the marsh. As always, the wildlife was spectacular. In her first hour on the water, she’d seen ospreys, pelicans, and egrets and had taken what she thought were some pretty good photographs. In June, for her birthday, she’d treated herself to a high-quality waterproof camera, and though it had been a financial stretch and she was still paying off the credit card bill, she hadn’t yet regretted it. While they wouldn’t end up in National Geographic, a few of her photos had been good enough to hang on the walls of her condominium, which was a prudent decorating option since she could barely afford the condo, either.

But out here, it was easy to think about those things without necessarily worrying about them. Though she’d only taken up paddleboarding since she’d moved back to Wilmington, it had the same effect on her that dancing used to have. She’d reached the point where keeping her balance was effortless and the steady paddling rhythm melted the stress away. Usually, within a few minutes of being on the water she was left with the sensation that all was right with the world. It was a warm, relaxing glow that started in her neck and shoulders before spreading to the rest of her body, and by the time she was in the shower after returning home, she’d feel ready to face yet another week in the office. Serena was wrong about paddleboarding. It wasn’t boring; it was necessary these days for her mental health, and she had to admit it wasn’t half bad for her figure, either. In the last year, she’d become toned in places she didn’t even know could be toned, and she’d had to have her suits altered because they’d grown too loose in the waist and butt.

Not that it would matter. Serena might have been wrong about paddleboarding, but she had been right about Maria’s run of bad luck in her love life, starting with Luis. He was the first guy she’d ever been serious about, the first guy she’d ever really loved. They’d been friends for almost a year before they’d finally started going out, and on the surface, they had a lot in common. Like her, he was the child of Mexican immigrants and intended to become a lawyer; like her, he enjoyed dancing, and after they’d been dating for a couple of years, it had been easy for her to imagine a future with him. Luis, on the other hand, had made it clear that he was content to continue going out – and sleeping with her – as long as she never expected anything more than that. Even bringing up the subject of marriage had freaked him out, and while she’d initially tried to convince herself that it didn’t really matter, she’d known deep down that it did.

Still, in the end, the breakup had been a surprise; he’d simply called one evening and told her it was over. She’d eventually tried to console herself with the facts that they wanted different things in life and Luis simply wasn’t ready for the kind of commitment she knew she wanted. But then? Just a little over a year later, right after she’d taken the bar exam, she’d learned that he was engaged. She’d spent the next six weeks in a funk, trying to figure out why the other girl had been good enough to marry while he hadn’t even been able to discuss the subject with her. Where had she gone wrong? Had she been too pushy? Too boring? Or too… something else? Looking back, she had no idea. Of course, the whole experience would have been easier if she’d met someone else after Luis, but with every passing year she found herself wondering more and more where all the good guys had gone. Or even if there really was such a thing anymore. Where were the guys who didn’t expect you to sleep with them after only a date or two? Or guys who believed that picking up the check on a first date was a classy thing to do? Or even a guy with a somewhat decent job and plans for the future? God knows, after she and Luis had broken up, she’d put herself out there. Despite the long hours she spent studying in law school and then later, working in Charlotte, she’d gone out regularly with friends on the weekends, but had anyone halfway decent asked her out?

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