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Always Say I Love You (A Buzby Beach Novella) Part 04

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DW is a veteran, a father, a husband, and a teacher. He's published 9 YA/NA novels thus far. The story you're reading might be next.

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Will walked into the door of his house in high spirits. He went straight through to the kitchen, where he found his father sitting at the kitchen table with a beer in his hand.

"Hi, Dad. I thought you would be in bed asleep by now."

His dad looked up at Will with drunk eyes and said, "What the hell is wrong with you, boy? Ain't you got no better sense than to go giving it to the neighbor's daughter? I have to work with that man. How do I look him in the eye, knowing you and his daughter are going at it like rabbits?"

"Don't talk about Mari like that, Dad. For your information, Mark's parents love the idea of the two of us as a couple."

Will's dad rose unsteadily to his feet. "Don't you dare tell me how to talk in my own house! Why I oughta..."

"You oughta what, Dad? Hit me. Punch me. I wouldn't try it if I were you."

The older man staggered around the table, fists clenched, and came at Will. Will didn't lay a hand on his old man. He just stepped out of the way and let the drunken fool fall to the floor.

His father lay there for a moment, stunned, tried to get up once, and then gave up and passed out on the linoleum. Will stepped over him and went down the hall to his room. He told himself, one more year, as he locked his bedroom door and secured it further by wedging his desk chair under the doorknob. As soon as I turn eighteen and graduate high school, I am out of this house and away from that drunken fool forever.

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The next morning Will's dad didn't say anything about his drunken tirade in the kitchen the night before. Will wasn't about to mention his father's behavior. He was surprised to see his father in the kitchen at all.

"Aren't you going to work today?" Will asked as he helped himself to a glass of apple juice from the fridge.

His dad lowered the newspaper he was reading and replied, "I'm taking a couple of vacation days. I thought we could go surf fishing down at Fort Fisher."

Will nearly choked on his juice. "When were you thinking about going?"

"What time do you get off work?" his father asked.

"Five O'clock," Will informed his dad.

His dad nodded his head. "Why don't you swing by here and pick me up when you get off work? You've got your sticker for your truck, right? We can pick up some bait in Kure Beach and head out onto the strand."

Will wondered if his dad even remembered threatening to hit him the night before or the awful things he said about Mari. From the expectant look on his father's face, Will realized the man had no idea of the previous evening's events.

"Sure, Dad. We haven't been fishing together in forever. I'll pick you up here a little after five."

"All right, son," Will's father said just before picking up his newspaper. "I'll see you then."

Will finished his apple juice, rinsed out the glass, and put it in the dishwasher before heading outside to his truck. Mari was leaning against the passenger side front fender.

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"I was starting to wonder if you'd overslept," Mari chided him. "Why are you so late?"

Will said, "Get in, and I'll tell you."

When they were in the truck with their seatbelts on, Will started the truck and backed out of the driveway. He told Mari all that transpired between him and his father the night before and just before he'd come outside to meet her.

"You're father acted like nothing happened last night? Do you think he was really drunk enough to forget what he said?"

Will nodded. "Yeah. He's been drinking himself stupid more often lately."

"Do you think something is going on with him, so he's drinking more?"

A shrug was Will's answer. He suspected he knew the answer. Understanding why and accepting it were two different things. Will couldn't bear the idea his mother would cheat on his father.

Mari pressed on. "Maybe he's going to talk to you about it when you two go fishing."

"You could be right," Will conceded. He pulled his truck into a space in the parking lot of Freda's Diner. Freda's Diner was located next to Dickerson's Hardware in a plaza just before the bridge to Buzby Island. He and Mari often had breakfast there before heading to work.

"Good morning, you two," Freda called out as Will and Mari walked in. "The usual?"

"You know it," Will replied. He and Mari sat in their usual booth, the second one back on the left side. They'd only been seated a moment when Marquisha, a girl they knew from South Hanover High and who waited on them nearly every day, brought an apple juice for Will and a sweet tea for Mari.

"The usual?" Marquisha confirmed.

"Yes, please," Mari replied.

"It'll be out in just a couple of minutes," Marquisha assured them before hurrying off to another table.

Mari took a pull of her sweet tea and murmured her approval.

"You should quit drinking that stuff," Will advised her for what could easily have been the thousandth time. "All that sugar and caffeine aren't good for you."

"I know," Mari agreed for perhaps the thousandth time. "But it tastes so good, and it does help wake me up."

Will said no more about it. The two had long since reached an agreement stating he was only allowed to remind her how bad sweet tea was for her once a day.

Marquisha returned with their plates, a sausage and egg scramble with crispy hash browns and a biscuit for Will and Texas-sized French toast with bacon for Mari.

"Y'all need anything else?" Marquisha asked more out of habit than a belief either of the couple needed anything more.

"We're good, Marquisha," Will replied for them both. "Thanks."

"I'll check back on you in a bit," Marquisha promised before speeding away.

Mari took a bite of her bacon. "Nice and crisp, just how I like it."

The two tucked into their food. It wasn't long before Will was downing the last of his biscuit, and Mari was spearing the last bite of her French toast with her fork. Marquisha came to refill Mari's tea and ask Will if he wanted any more apple juice.

"No, thank you," Will said. "I've had enough for one morning."

Marquisha put their check on the table. "You can take that up to the register whenever you're ready," she said automatically. "I'll see y'all later."

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Will and Mari walked up to the register together. Mari carried her sweet tea - it had been served in a Styrofoam cup- and asked for a lid while Will settled their bill. Before they left, Will returned to the table and left a nice tip for Marquisha. They'd just gotten out the door when their path was blocked by Quentin Daggit and his friend Hobart Sherwood. Both boys played on the South Hanover High football team, both thought too much of themselves, neither liked Will, and Quentin had a big crush on Mari.

"Hey, Hob, look who's here," Quentin goaded Will. "It's the Virgin Mari with her pet jackass Willy Boy."

Will and Mari tried stepping around the two, but the pair of muscle heads blocked their way.

"What's your rush, Mari?" Quentin asked as he stood right in her way with his arms across his chest. "Why don't you come back inside with us to finish your drink? I'm sure Willy Boy here won't mind."

When Quentin said this last, he grabbed Will's shoulder, fully expecting the smaller boy to wilt and do nothing. A stiff heel kick to the thigh, just above the knee, was the last thing Quentin expected, and a look of surprise mingled with the grimace of pain on his face as he fell.

Hobart shoved Will away and knelt at Quentin's side. "Dude, are you all right?"

Quentin's response was a moan as he held his knee and tears streamed down his face.

Hobart turned a hateful glare on Will and said, "I'm gonna mess you up, Willy Boy."

The hefty football player never got up off his feet. Will's right arm shot out, his hand held like a blade, and connected solidly with Hobart's throat right at the top of his Adam's apple. The bigger boy toppled over like a felled oak and lay there on the sidewalk next to his sobbing companion.

"The shock of the punch should wear off in a minute or two, and you'll be able to breathe again," Will told Hobart. "Then you can help your bro friend up. His leg will be sore for a little while, but he ain't hurt too bad."

Hobart was barely able to draw breath and less able to talk, so he nodded his understanding.

"It's too bad your friend accidentally hit you in the throat when he fell," Will continued. "Do you know what I mean?"

Still unable to speak, Hobart merely nodded.

Mari tugged at Will's arm and said, "Maybe we should stick around and make sure they're okay."

Will looked at the time on his phone and nodded. "All right. C'mon Hob. Help me get Quentin up."

Hobart took a ragged breath, coughed a few times, and nodded. Will gave him a hand up.

"I didn't know you knew karate Will," Hob wheeze.

"Mari's dad taught us a few moves he learned in the Marines," Will confessed. "This is the first time I've ever had to use 'em."

Quentin, who had rolled over into a sitting position and was rubbing his leg where Will had kicked him, said, "You didn't really think we were gonna do nothing, did ya? We were just messing around."

"You been messing around with Mari and me since middle school," Will pointed out. "Just because we're not in your little jocks and cheerleader crowd. I'll tell you something. I'm tired of it."

"We're tired of it," Mari chimed in.

"And we're not gonna let y'all make our senior year miserable like you always try to do," Will finished.

Hobart helped Quentin to his feet. Quentin tested his weight on the leg Will kicked and decided there was no real harm done.

"Hey, Will, it was just talk, you know. Jocks always pick on the brains. It don't mean nothing."

"Maybe it don't mean nothing when you're the one with all the muscles," Will pointed out. "But when you're the one afraid of getting his ass kicked if he talks back, it ain't just nothing."

Hobart laughed, his voice still scratchy. "You were the one kicking ass today Will."

Will and Mari's story continues in Part 5

© 2020 DW Davis

Comments

DW Davis (author) from Eastern NC on December 30, 2020:

Thank you for your comment. Always much appreciated.

The next part of the story will post soon. Please come back and see what happens when Will and his dad get to the beach.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on December 29, 2020:

I guess he was tired of being picked on from everyone. The fight with his dad was probably the last straw.

Would have been interesting to see if him & his dad actually got along on their trip.

Nice write.

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