A Bend in the Road - By Nicholas Sparks
Where does a story truly begin? In life, there are seldom clear-cut beginnings, those moments when we can, in looking back, say that everything started. Yet there are moments when fate intersects with our daily lives, setting in motion a sequence of events whose outcome we could never have foreseen.
It’s nearly two A.M., and I’m wide awake. Earlier, after crawling into bed, I tossed and turned for almost an hour before I finally gave up. Now I’m sitting at my desk, pen in hand, wondering about my own intersection with fate. This is not unusual for me. Lately, it seems it’s all I can think about.
Aside from the steady ticking of a clock that sits on the bookshelf, it’s quiet in the house. My wife is asleep upstairs, and as I stare at the lines on the yellow legal pad before me, I realize that I don’t know where to start. Not because I’m unsure of my story, but because I’m not sure why I feel compelled to tell it in the first place. What can be achieved by unearthing the past? After all, the events I’m about to describe happened thirteen years ago, and I suppose a case can be made that they really began two long years before that. But as I sit, I know I must try to tell it, if for no other reason than to finally put this all behind me.
My memories of this period are aided by a few things: a diary I’ve kept since I was a boy, a folder of yellowed newspaper articles, my own investigation, and, of course, public records. There’s also the fact that I’ve relived the events of this particular story hundreds of times in my mind; they are seared in my memory. But framed simply by those things, this story would be incomplete. There were others involved, and though I was a witness to some of the events, I was not present for all of them. I realize that it’s impossible to re-create every feeling or every thought in another person’s life, but for better or for worse, that’s what I will attempt to do.
This is, above all, a love story, and like so many love stories, the love story of Miles Ryan and Sarah Andrews is rooted in tragedy. At the same time, it is also a story of forgiveness, and when you’re finished, I hope you’ll understand the challenges that Miles Ryan and Sarah Andrews faced. I hope you’ll understand the decisions they made, both good and bad, just as I hope you will eventually understand mine.
But let me be clear: This isn’t simply the story of Sarah Andrews and Miles Ryan. If there is a beginning to this story, it lies with Missy Ryan, high school sweetheart of a deputy sheriff in a small southern town.
Missy Ryan, like her husband, Miles, grew up in New Bern. From all accounts, she was both charming and kind, and Miles had loved her for all of his adult life. She had dark brown hair and even darker eyes, and I’ve been told she spoke with an accent that made men from other parts of the country go weak in the knees. She laughed easily, listened with interest, and often touched the arm of whomever she was talking to, as if issuing an invitation to be part of her world. And, like most southern women, her will was stronger than was noticeable at first. She, not Miles, ran the household; as a general rule, Miles’s friends were the husbands of Missy’s friends, and their life was centered around their family.
In high school, Missy was a cheerleader. As a sophomore, she was both popular and lovely, and although she knew of Miles Ryan, he was a year older than she and they hadn’t had any classes together. It didn’t matter. Introduced by friends, they began meeting during lunch break and talking after football games, and eventually made arrangements to meet at a party during homecoming weekend. Soon they were inseparable, and by the time he asked her to the prom a few months later, they were in love.
There are those, I know, who scoff at the idea that real love can exist at such a young age. For Miles and Missy, however, it did, and it was in some ways more powerful than love experienced by older people, since it wasn’t tempered by the realities of life. They dated throughout Miles’s junior and senior years, and when he went off to