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Owen's Love (A Buzby Beach Novella) Chapter 11

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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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"I do believe that is the first time I have seen someone eat a cheeseburger with a knife and fork," Kenzie commented when Owen ate the last bite of his dinner.

"I believe this is the first time someone has paid such close attention to me during a meal," Owen responded.

"There wasn't much else for me to do," Kenzie reminded him. "And I think you should know I broke a date to stay and make dinner for you."

Owen looked up with furrowed brows. "You never mentioned having a date or having a boyfriend."

"Ace, his real name is Spencer, isn't my boyfriend," Kenzie admitted. "We went to high school together. Heck, we went to school together from Kindergarten on. Ace might have been my boyfriend, except he never wanted a girlfriend. Do you know what I mean?"

Owen nodded. "I get the picture."

"Anyway," Kenzie went on, "I called and told him about you and how you were on the news. Then I told him I was going to wait here for you because I figured you'd be ready for a good dinner by the time you got here."

Owen was quiet for several long seconds, and then he asked Kenzie, "If Ace wasn't your boyfriend in high school, who was?"

Kenzie took a sudden interest in her fingernails. Owen sat patiently, quietly, and waited for her answer. Finally, she looked up and met his eyes.

"There was one boy I dated through most of high school. His name was Alan White. Tall, good looking, captain of the basketball team. I was a cheerleader - stop laughing - and he was a varsity athlete. You know the story.

"The night of our junior prom was going to be the night - do I have to tell you what I mean by the night?"

Owen shook his head.

"Only it didn't happen. Instead of what I thought was going to happen, Alan broke up with me and wound up spending the night with Suzie Collins. She was the head cheerleader who'd been trying to steal Alan from me all year. Suzie thought she should have Alan after Chris Shankin, the quarterback and captain of the football team, broke up with her at the start of football season because she was too much of a distraction from his game.

"I should consider myself lucky. Last summer, Alan left to play ball at UNLV, the only school to offer him a full ride, and Suzie hasn't heard from him since. On April 1st, though, she delivered a seven-pound ten-ounce reminder of the night they shared. I don't know if Alan even knows about the baby."

Sharing stories of their past

When Owen didn't react to her story with anything other than an overwhelmed look, Kenzie remarked, "I guess I gave a very long answer to a very short question."

Owen nodded. "Yes. Yes, you did. I'm almost afraid to ask my next question."

"Me first," Kenzie insisted. "Did you or do you now have a girlfriend?"

Owen thought carefully before answering. "I did not and do not have a girlfriend. In high school, I was too busy working on getting my EMT certification and getting good grades to give any girl the attention a boyfriend should - or so my friends who were girls claimed. Since high school, I've been in one Army training school or another and haven't had time to meet and get to know anyone."

Kenzie nodded knowingly. "There must have been one or two of those 'friends who were girls' that you liked more than the others."

Owen's smile gave him away before he could stop it.

"I knew it," Kenzie said triumphantly. "Spill. Who was she?"

"There is a girl named Braelyn. We met sophomore year in Mrs. King's chemistry class. Brae was my lab partner. The two of us became close, the best of friends. There was only one thing that kept us from becoming more than friends."

Kenzie interrupted. "Either she had a boyfriend, or she is the girl version of Ace."

Owen snorted. "Brae had a boyfriend."

"She 'had a boyfriend.' I take it she and the boyfriend are no longer together. Where is Brae now?" Kenzie asked.

Owen leaned back on his stool and sucked at his lower lip. His gut was telling him there was no right answer to Kenzie's question. The truth would have to do.

"She's living in Buzby Beach with her parents. Brae only applied to one college, the college Mark - the boyfriend she's no longer with - was attending. He got a full ride based on his running times in high school. Brae didn't get accepted. Now she's taking classes at Cape Fear Community and hopes to transfer to either UNCW or ECU after she finishes her associate’s degree."

He looked up at Kenzie and added, "Sorry. Long answer to a short question. I suppose that makes us even."

Is she the kind of girl who would kiss you right now?

Kenzie moved back from the counter and leaned against the stainless-steel table in front of the serving window. Her arms were crossed, and the playful twinkle in her eyes was gone.

"Is Braelyn why you're headed to Buzby Beach every weekend?"

"No!" Owen denied the idea emphatically. "Until she showed up at my door last Saturday night, I had no idea she was even in North Carolina, much less still living with her parents in Buzby Beach."

Kenzie rolled her eyes and reached for Owen's empty plate and glass. She took them into the kitchen. Owen assumed she put them in the dishwasher. When she came back, Kenzie told Owen dinner was on the house.

"After all, how could I charge the big hero for dinner? Now, you should probably be on your way to Buzby Beach. I'm sure Braelyn's probably worried as to why you’re so late. Or did you call her and let her know what happened?"

"Braelyn has no idea whether I'm going home this weekend or not," Owen informed Kenzie. "She sure doesn't know I decided to drive down tonight instead of tomorrow morning. Why would I tell her?"

"I should think you would if you're trying to get together with her," Kenzie said as she unlocked the front door. "Isn't that why you headed home tonight instead of tomorrow, so you could surprise her and impress her about how badly you want to see her?"

Owen still hadn't left his seat. "No, Kenzie, I don't want to get together with Braelyn. I got over any feelings I had for her a long time ago. Besides, there's someone else. Someone I met just recently. She's an NC State student who goes home every weekend to work at her family's diner. Does she sound like anyone you know?"

Kenzie locked the door and took a step toward Owen. She blinked and sniffed and said, "I think I might know her. Is she prone to jumping to the wrong conclusion?"

Owen nodded. "She has been known to do that, yes."

Kenzie took another pair of steps in Owen's direction. "Is she the kind of girl who would keep her family's business open extra hours just to feed some guy she barely knows but really wants to get to know better?"

Owen smiled and slid from his seat. "I think she might be that type of girl. I sure hope so. It's why I couldn't wait to leave the post and get here tonight."

Another step brought Kenzie nearly toe to toe with Owen. "Is she the kind of girl who would kiss you right now if she were standing right in front of you?"

"Yes," Owen replied softly. "Yes, she is."

"Yes, she is," Kenzie echoed as she reached up to pull Owen's head closer so that her lips could find his.

© 2021 DW Davis

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