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One Fall in New Hampshire (A Buzby Beach Novella) Chapter 08

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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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Mick and Laurie left. Taylor stayed.

"I'm fixing to get undressed, so I can go take a shower," I reminded Taylor.

Taylor snickered and said, "I've seen you naked, Ren. You won't shock me."

Taking Taylor at her word, I got undressed. She sat at my desk and pretended to be interested in one of my textbooks. I got my robe and toiletries kit out of my closet. Then I grabbed a towel and opened the door.

"I shouldn't be too long," I told Taylor.

"I'll be here when you get back," Taylor replied.

She was good to her word. I returned to my room, refreshed and clean. Taylor was on my bed, propped up against my headboard, reading my diving magazine. She turned and smiled at me when I walked in.

"Do you feel better now?"

I shrugged. "I feel cleaner. I don't know that I feel better."

"I know what will make you feel better," Taylor declared. When she saw the look on my face, she laughed. "Not that, Ren. I meant we should go on the drive you were talking about earlier. I know just where we should go, too."

Taylor took the Nova's keys from me when we got to the parking lot behind the dorm. "You do trust me, don't you, Ren?"

"I guess I'll have to," I conceded, "since you won't tell me where we're going."

"Don't worry," Taylor said. "I think you'll like it."

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We didn't drive far, about seven miles down an old country highway to the small lakeside town of Holderness. The town sat at the junction of Squam Lake and Little Squam Lake. A short channel connected the two lakes and divided the town.

Taylor pulled in and parked in front of a restaurant at the northeastern most point of Little Squam Lake just before the bridge across the channel between the two lakes. The place bore the unlikely name of Holderness Grill and Bowl.

"What is this place?" I asked after getting out of the Nova.

"This is where we are going to have lunch," Taylor informed me. "They make the best cheeseburgers here. You'll love their onion rings."

She wasn't exaggerating. The burgers were delicious, and I'd never had better onion rings. They were even better than Iggie's back on Buzby Beach.

"How did you find this place?" I asked Taylor after I swallowed the last bite of my onion rings.

"My grandparents, on my mother's side, own a lake house about a mile from here," Taylor explained. "My grandpa loves candlepin bowling. We spent a lot of Thursday nights here when I'd come up and visit during the summer."

"You must be a great bowler then," I conjectured.

"I can hold my own," Taylor boasted. "Do you bowl?"

I took a sip of my cola, wishing once again the people in New Hampshire knew how to make decent iced tea, and said, "I haven't bowled much since junior high. I was in the bowling club back then."

"Have you ever bowled candlepin?" Taylor asked.

"I've never heard of candlepin bowling," I admitted. "How is it different from regular bowling?"

"Let's rent some shoes, and I'll show you," Taylor offered.

The bowling shoes and the wooden lanes were the only things about candlepin bowling familiar to me. The bowling balls were small - about the size of a softball - and solid. The pins tapered to a flat end at the top and the bottom. Tip them over, and they'd look the same.

Taylor rolled first. She knocked down seven pins, leaving the six, nine, and ten pins.

"I'm a bit rusty, but with the deadwood lying like it is, a spare should be an easy pickup."

I raised a brow and said, "Deadwood?"

"In candlepin, you get to play the deadwood - the downed pins," Taylor explained. "You also get to roll three times."

I watched as Taylor rolled her next ball. The ball hit the deadwood at the right angle to send that pin sweeping through the remaining three.

"All right!" Taylor cheered. "Spare!"

"What about you're third shot?" I asked.

Taylor laughed. "You don't need it if you get a spare."

She pressed the reset button on the side of the ball return. "Your turn."

I hefted one of the small bowling balls from the ball return tray. Doing my best to mimic what Taylor had done, I lined up on the pins and took my best shot. To my credit, the ball went straight down the lane.

The ball went straight down the lane and took out six pins, leaving me with the four, seven, six, and ten. The one pin lay nestled alongside the six and ten pins.

"You've got a tough shot to make a spare, Ren," commented Taylor.

I carefully considered how I might succeed in taking down all four remaining pins, picked up my ball, and let it roll. My idea nearly worked, too. The ball hit to the left of the four-pin, sending it across the lane to hit the deadwood and knock out the six and ten pins. Unfortunately, the ball bounced off the four too hard and went past the seven leaving it standing.

"Tough break," Taylor said. "At least you've got one more chance to make a ten."

Only I didn't. The ball rolled right past the seven, missing it by an inch, leaving me with a nine in the first frame.

Taylor and I finished our game and bowled one more. She won each game handily though I showed steady improvement. After our second game, we turned in our shoes and headed out to the Nova.

I started toward the driver's door.

"Oh, no," Taylor said. "I'm still the driver on this trip. You have no idea where I'm taking you next."

I gave in and went around to the passenger side. Taylor got behind the wheel and reached over to unlock my door.

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Expecting to head back to Plymouth, I was surprised when Taylor backed out and headed across the bridge over the channel. We followed the road south. Before long, we were rolling through Meredith. I noticed the town was located on a sizable lake.

"The lake your talking about is Meredith Bay," Taylor informed me. "Meredith Bay is part of Lake Winnipesaukee. The other end of the lake is about twenty-five miles south of here."

"I'm impressed. I've heard of Lake Winnipesaukee, but this is the first time I've seen any of it."

"You're kidding me," Taylor said. "How long have you lived in New Hampshire?"

"I went straight from Buzby Beach into my dorm room," I told her. "My parents moved to Rye. I've only been to their house twice. Once when they came and picked me up so I could get my car and bring it to school, and once with..., anyway, twice. Other than that, I've only seen the area up around Plymouth."

Mentioning the weekend Leslie and I spent at Newfound Lake didn't seem an important detail right at that moment.

Taylor turned the Nova left just past the only traffic light I'd seen since we left Plymouth. The lot she turned into turned out to be a municipal parking area along the bay. Boat docks lined the water's edge. This late in Fall, there weren't many boats docked.

"Let's find a payphone," Taylor suggested as she turned off the engine and exited the car. "I need to call Mick and Laurie and tell them we won't be home for dinner."

I pointed to a payphone near the entrance to the parking lot. "Why won't we be back at the school for dinner?"

"All in good time, my friend," Taylor assured me. "All in good time."

She asked me for quarters and put in a call to my dorm. Someone did eventually answer, and, based on what I heard of Taylor's side of the conversation, the person agreed to post a note to Mick on my door explaining that I would not be showing up for dinner.

A walking tour of the shops along Meredith's main street followed the phone call. It was a typical tourist-based small-town main street with quaint shops, eateries, offices, and galleries. Taylor stopped in front of one of the galleries.

"We should look at what's in here," she insisted. "This guy carves some of the best decoys you've ever seen."

The two of us spent quite a bit of time perusing the woodcarver's admittedly fascinating and detailed work. The artist himself was not present in the store at the time. A very knowledgeable sales clerk did describe each decoy for us as to the type of waterfowl and its habitat.

I expected Taylor would want to visit the gun shop after the decoy gallery, but it turned out her interest in duck decoys was purely aesthetic. Our next visit was, instead, to the sporting goods store.

"This place may look small from the street," Taylor warned me, "but the basement is full of fishing gear like you've never seen."

She wasn't wrong. I'd seen lots of store displays of fishing gear having grown up on Buzby Beach, but never anything as singularly dedicated to freshwater fishing as the shop in Meredith. I was in awe as I walked the narrow aisles taking in all the varieties of rods, reels, lures, and lines the store had in stock.

"Do you like to fish?" I asked Taylor as she admired a particularly fine-looking spinning reel.

"Now and then," Taylor conceded. "What about you?"

"I grew up on an island and lived a five-minute walk from the pier," I informed her. "What do you think?"

"Saltwater pier fishing is okay," Taylor allowed. "I prefer fishing from a boat out on the lake. We'll have to go next spring."

We checked out a couple of the gift shops as we continued our tour of the town. Our stroll eventually brought us to the top of the hill Meredith was built on. A left turn would take us back along Highway 3 toward the parking lot where the car sat. Across the street was a large white building with an impressive sign out front by the highway.

Taylor pointed to the sign and said, "Hart's Turkey Farm Restaurant. Tonight, we dine."

"What kind of place is this?" I asked as we crossed the street. "If it's a farm, where are the turkeys."

Taylor rolled her eyes as we safely reached the far side of the road. "This is the restaurant where they cook the turkeys. I don't know where the actual farm is."

"How expensive is it to eat here?" I asked.

Taylor kept walking toward the entrance while she answered my question.

"This is my treat," Taylor said. "I wouldn't bring you here and expect you to pay."

I snorted. "You let me pay for lunch and bowling."

Taylor took my hand and tugged me toward the door to the restaurant. "That was different."

"How was it different?" I asked as I let her lead me.

"It just was," Taylor said. "If it makes you feel better, I'll let you hold the door for me."

"Gee, thanks," I said with a chuckle.

Turkey wasn't the only thing on the menu at Hart's Turkey Farm Restaurant but ordering something else on my first visit seemed wrong. I ordered the regular turkey plate. Taylor ordered the Turkey Pie.

"Next time we come, you should try the Turkey Pie, Ren. It's so good."

Both of us were quite full when we finished dinner. Taylor wouldn't let me pick up the check. Night had fallen while we were eating.

"Are we heading back to school now?" I asked when we left the restaurant.

"Are you going to let me keep driving?" Taylor asked.

I laughed. "If I say no, is our evening over?"

Taylor shrugged. "I'll just say that if you take over the driving, we won't get dessert."

"How can you think about dessert after we just ate so much turkey?" I wondered aloud.

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Taylor and I left Hart's Turkey Farm Restaurant and returned to the car. She got behind the wheel and drove south on Highway 3 to Weirs Beach. Almost everything at the beach was closed. Taylor parked along the boardwalk near the steps leading down to the sandy beach section of Weirs Beach.

I looked around before we descended the steps. "I never knew there was all this here. Does the whole place shut down at the end of summer?"

Taylor stopped and looked up Lakeside Avenue. "Most of these places open up on Memorial Day weekend and close after Labor Day. Some open weekends before and after for a couple of months. By this time of year, nearly all of them are closed."

We went the rest of the way down the stairs to the beach. I reached down and picked up a handful of the sand.

"How did this sand get here? I don't think it happened to be here naturally."

Taylor bent down and picked up a handful. "I've never thought about it. I suppose somebody had it all trucked in here at some point in the past."

She dropped her handful and then brushed her hands off on her jeans.

"Come on. Where almost there."

I brushed the sand from my hands and asked, "Almost where?"

"You'll see," she said, taking me by the hand and pulling me along the beach.

I looked up to see Taylor leading me toward a rock formation rising from the sand at the beach's far end. Towering over the rock formation's flat top were the bare skeletons of trees that would have provided shade to the rock in the spring and summer when fully leafed out.

Taylor released my hand as we got close and began to climb up on the rock. I followed behind her, and in short order, we were standing atop the granite plateau looking out over the lake's dark surface. Taylor moved to the edge of the rock and sat with her feet dangling over the edge. After spending another moment taking in the scene, I joined her.

"This has always been one of my favorite spots," Taylor told me as I sat down. "When I spent summers up here with my grandparents, I loved coming down to Weirs Beach and hanging out at the arcade, watching the tourists, and sitting up here looking out over the lake. On the weekends, the beach would get so crowded that traffic would slow to a crawl. When motorcycle weekend comes around, you might as well forget about trying to move around down there on Lakeside. There are Harleys lined up along the street from one end to the other."

"Mick told me about motorcycle weekend," I said. "There's a big bike race somewhere near here, and bikers from all over show up for it and sort of take over Weirs Beach."

"The bike race is at the track down in Loudon. It's a big deal around here. The funniest thing is that some of the roughest looking bikers are doctors and lawyers and teachers when they're not out riding their hogs.

"Not all of them, though. Some were hardcore bikers. I met a few."

"Did you ever get to ride on their bikes?" I asked.

Taylor wrapped her arms around her chest and leaned over so far I feared she might fall off the rock. Just as I reached for her, she leaned back and turned to look at me.

"Ren, you know I wasn't a virgin our first time, right?"

Her question caught me off guard. "Well, yeah, but neither was I."

"I know," Taylor said with a flick of her brows. "And I'm glad you're not.

"You should know I lost my virginity to a guy during motorcycle weekend when I was sixteen. I never even knew his real name. His biker name was Foxer. He had red hair, like a fox, and fox tattoos on both arms. He told me I could ride on his bike if I'd be his little vixen.

"Don't get the wrong idea. Foxer thought I was eighteen because I told him I was. I spent the evening cruising up and down Lakeside with him on his Harley. Then he took me back to his campsite, and we had sex.

"Foxer freaked when he found out I was a virgin. As soon as we got our clothes back on, he brought me back to the arcade and left me there. I never saw him again. I came over here to the rock and cried for hours."

Mary Ann taught me more than how to please a woman in bed. She also taught me that there are times when a woman will tell you something, and she doesn't want you to say anything; she just wants you to hold her. I sensed this was one of those times. I reached out and put my arm around Taylor's shoulder.

The minute she felt me putting my arm around her, Taylor moved closer to me, put her arms around me, and nestled her head against my chest. We sat there on that rock, looking out over the lake, silent but together, for a time lost in time.

Ren's story concludes in Chapter 9

© 2020 DW Davis

Comments

DW Davis (author) from Eastern NC on December 19, 2020:

I like Taylor a lot. When I first brought her into the story, I had a very different character in mind from who she turned out to be. She grew into exactly who Ren needed to be with.

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on December 19, 2020:

Taylor is a nicely rounded character, we're learning a lot about her and I like her.

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