#1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks returns with an emotionally powerful story of unconditional love, its challenges, its risks and most of all, its rewards.
At 32, Russell Green has it all: a stunning wife, a lovable six year-old daughter, a successful career as an advertising executive and an expansive home in Charlotte. He is living the dream, and his marriage to the bewitching Vivian is the center of that. But underneath the shiny surface of this perfect existence, fault lines are beginning to appear…and no one is more surprised than Russ when he finds every aspect of the life he took for granted turned upside down. In a matter of months, Russ finds himself without a job or wife, caring for his young daughter while struggling to adapt to a new and baffling reality. Throwing himself into the wilderness of single parenting, Russ embarks on a journey at once terrifying and rewarding—one that will test his abilities and his emotional resources beyond anything he ever imagined.
After lunch, and with the day only getting hotter, I decided to bring London to the movies, one of those animated ones. Marge and Liz came with us and seemed to enjoy it as much as London did. As for me, I wanted to enjoy it, but my thoughts kept drifting to the previous week, which made me wonder what on earth might be coming next.
After the movie, I didn’t want to go home. Marge and Liz seemed content to hang out at my parents’ place as well, and Mom ended up making tuna casserole, something London regarded as a treat, what with all the white flour in the pasta. She had a larger than normal portion and began to doze in the car on our way back home; I figured I’d get her in the bath, read a few stories, and spend the rest of the night zoning out in front of the television.
But it was not to be. As soon as she got in the house, she trotted to see the hamsters and I heard her voice calling to me from upstairs.
“Daddy! Come quick! I think something is wrong with Mrs. Sprinkles!”
I went to her room and peered into the cage, staring at a hamster that seemed to be making an attempt to push through the glass. Her room smelled like a barn. “She seems fine to me,” I said.
“That’s Mr. Sprinkles. Mrs. Sprinkles isn’t moving.”
I squinted. “I think she’s sleeping, honey.”
“But what if she’s sick?”
I had no idea what to do in that case and opening the lid, I scooped Mrs. Sprinkles into my hand. She was warm, always a good sign, and I could feel her begin to move.
“Is she okay?”
“She seems fine to me,” I said. “Do you want to hold her?”
She nodded and cupped her hands; I put the hamster in them. I watched as she brought the little critter closer to her face.
“I think I’ll just hold her for a little while to make sure.”
“All right,” I said, kissing the top of her head. “But not too long, all right? It’s already almost bedtime.”
I kissed her on top of the head and headed toward the door.
“Daddy?” she asked.
“You need to clean their cage.”
“I’ll do it tomorrow, okay? I’m kind of tired.”
“Mommy said you’d clean it.”
“I will. I just said I’d clean it tomorrow.”
“But what if it’s making Mrs. Sprinkles sick? I want you to clean it now.” Not only was she not listening, her pitch was beginning to rise, and I wasn’t in the mood to deal with it.
“I’ll be back in a little while to get you ready for bed. Put your dirty clothes in the hamper, okay?”
For the next half hour, I flipped through the channels, finding nothing whatsoever to watch. More than a hundred channels and zippo, but then again, I was cranky on top of being tired. Tomorrow, I’d be scooping poop from a hamster cage, my client list was hovering at zero, and unless there was some sort of miracle, it would remain that way another week. Meanwhile, my wife was flying on private jets and staying at the Ritz-Carlton.
In time, I rose from my spot on the couch and went back to London’s room. By then, her hamsters were back in the cage and she was playing with her Barbies.
“Hey sweetheart,” I said. “Are you about ready for your bath?”
She answered without turning toward me. “I don’t want to take a bath tonight.”
“But you got all sweaty with Nana today.”
I blinked. “What’s wrong, sweetheart?”
“I’m mad at you.”
“Why are you mad at me?”
“Because you don’t care about Mr. and Mrs. Sprinkles.”
“Of course I care about them.” In the cage, both of them were moving about, no different than any other night. “And you know you need a bath.”
“I want Mommy to do it.”
“I know you do. But Mommy’s not here.”
“Then I’m not going to take a bath.”
“Will you look at me?”
She sounded almost like Vivian as she said it and I was at a loss. London continued to send Barbie rampaging around the Barbie townhouse; the doll seemed on the verge of kicking over the furniture.
“How about I get the water going, okay? Then we can talk about it. I’ll put extra bubbles in there.”
As promised, I added extra bubbles to the water and when it was ready, I turned off the faucet. London hadn’t moved; Barbie was still raging through the playhouse with Ken by her side.
“I can’t make breakfast,” I heard her make Barbie say to Ken, “because I have to go to work.”
“But daddies are supposed to work,” Ken said.
“Maybe you should have thought about that before you quit.”
I felt my stomach tighten, certain that London was mimicking Vivian and me.
“Your bath is ready,” I said.
“I told you I’m not taking a bath!”
“Just come on . . .”
“NO!!!” she screamed. “I’m not taking a bath and you can’t make me! You made Mommy get a job!”
“I didn’t make Mommy get a job . . .”
“YES YOU DID!” she shouted, and when she turned, I saw tears streaming down her cheeks. “She told me that she had to get a job because you’re not working!”
Another father probably would have been less defensive, but I was exhausted and her words stung, if only because I felt bad enough about myself already.
“I am working!” I said, my voice rising. “And taking care of you and cleaning the house!”
“I want Mommy!” she cried, and for the first time, I realized that Vivian hadn’t called today. Nor could I call her; the event was probably in full swing right about now.
I took a deep breath. “She’ll be here tomorrow and the two of you are going to the blueberry farm, remember? You want to be all clean for her, don’t you?”
“NO!” she shouted. “I hate you!”
The next thing I knew, I was marching across the room and seized London by the arm. She began to struggle and scream and I dragged her to the bathroom, like a bad-parent video on YouTube.
“Either you get yourself undressed and into the bath, or I’ll undress you. I’m not kidding.”
“GO AWAY!” she screamed and after putting her pajamas on the countertop, I closed the door. For the next few minutes, I heard her alternately crying and talking to herself while I waited outside the door.
“Get in the bath, London,” I warned through the door. “If you don’t, I’ll make you clean the hamster cage all by yourself.”
I heard her scream again; a minute later, though, I heard her climbing into the tub. I continued to wait. After a little while, I heard her playing with her tub toys without the anger I’d heard earlier. Finally, the door opened; London was in her pajamas, her hair wet.
“Can we dry my hair tonight instead of leaving it wet?”
I gritted my teeth. “Of course we can, sweetheart.”
“I miss Mommy.”
I squatted down and took her in my arms, breathing in the sweet-clean scent of her soap and shampoo. “I know you do,” I said, and held her close, wondering how a father as messed up as I could have managed to help make something so wonderful, even as my little girl began to cry.
Can’t wait for more?
“TWO BY TWO” will be live at midnight!
Grab your copy! 😀
STAY TUNED TOMORROW FOR OUR
“TWO BY TWO” GIVEAWAY!
Want more books by Nicholas Sparks?
Don’t wait any longer!
Nicholas Sparks is one of the world’s most beloved storytellers. All of his books have been New York Times bestsellers, with over 105 million copies sold worldwide, in more than 50 languages, including over 75 million copies in the United States alone.
Sparks wrote one of his best-known stories, The Notebook, over a period of six months at age 28. It was published in 1996 and he followed with the novels Message in a Bottle (1998), A Walk to Remember (1999), The Rescue (2000), A Bend in the Road (2001), Nights in Rodanthe (2002), The Guardian (2003), The Wedding (2003), True Believer (2005) and its sequel, At First Sight (2005), Dear John (2006), The Choice (2007), The Lucky One (2008), The Last Song (2009), Safe Haven (2010), The Best of Me (2011), and The Longest Ride (2013) as well as the 2004 non-fiction memoir Three Weeks With My Brother, co-written with his brother Micah. His eighteenth novel, See Me, published on October 12, 2015. His newest book, Two by Two, will be published on October 4, 2016.
Film adaptations of Nicholas Sparks novels, including The Choice, The Longest Ride, The Best of Me, Safe Haven (on all of which he served as a producer), The Lucky One, Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, Nights in Rodanthe, Dear John and The Last Song, have had a cumulative worldwide gross of over three-quarters of a billion dollars.
In 2012, Sparks and his publishing agent and creative partner Theresa Park, launched Nicholas Sparks Productions, with Park as President of Production. A film version of The Guardian is currently in development, as is a film based on Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers’s friendship with Chicago Bears teammate Brian Piccolo.
Sparks lives in North Carolina. He contributes to a variety of local and national charities, and is a major contributor to the Creative Writing Program (MFA) at the University of Notre Dame, where he provides scholarships, internships, and a fellowship annually. He co-founded The Epiphany School in New Bern, North Carolina in 2006. As a former full scholarship athlete (he still holds a track and field record at the University of Notre Dame) he also spent four years coaching track and field athletes at the local public high school. In 2009, the team he coached at New Bern High School set a World Junior Indoor Record in the 4 x400 meter, in New York. The record still stands. Click to watch the Runner’s World video with Nicholas.
The Nicholas Sparks Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit committed to improving cultural and international understanding through global education experiences for students of all ages was launched in 2011. Between the foundation, and the personal gifts of the Sparks family, more than $15 million dollars have been distributed to deserving charities, scholarship programs, and projects. Because the Sparks family covers all operational expenses of the foundation, 100% of donations are devoted to programs.