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Setting Friday Free (A Buzby Beach Novel) Chapter 14

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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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Garrison returned to his house after talking to Officer Langstrom. He showered, dressed in a blue golf shirt and khaki shorts, and made sure he had Laurel's address on his phone. When Garrison entered the garage, he had a choice to make.

There were two cars, a truck, and a motorcycle in the garage. The Harley once belonged to Garrison's father. As far as the boy knew, no one had ridden the bike in thirty-five years. Garrison didn't even know if it ran.

The truck was his Grandpa Kaylor's 2008 Ford F150 four-wheel drive. It was still up on blocks as it had been since 2012 when Garrison's grandfather died from undiagnosed prostate cancer and left his entire estate to his only grandchild.

One of the cars was his grandmother's 2005 Toyota Avalon. This was the car Garrison commuted to UNCW in. It has been up on blocks, too. One of Grandpa Kaylor's friends from the Yacht Club put Garrison in touch with a trustworthy mechanic who came out to the house and got it running without charging an arm and a leg.

The second car was the one Garrison chose to drive for his date with Laurel. A year after his wife was killed by a drunk driver walking home from lunch at the Yacht Club with her friends, Grandpa Kaylor bought himself a blue 2011 Mazda Miata 6-speed convertible. Even though Garrison was only twelve at the time, Grandpa Kaylor taught him how to operate the clutch and gearshift. Reacclimating to the manual transmission took Garrison a few embarrassing practice sessions.

The mechanic who got the Avalon running did the same for the Miata. He offered to get the truck running as well, but Garrison decided to hold off. Two cars were enough for him, he decided.

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Garrison put the Miata's top down and backed the two-seater out of the garage. All the vehicles were equipped with a garage door opener with a second button for the driveway gate. Garrison pushed this button to open the gate and then again to close it after he passed through.

Laurel's house in the Nantucket Pointe subdivision was easy to find. Garrison crossed the drawbridge connecting Buzby Beach to the mainland, followed Patalanda Road until it intersected Myrtle Grove Road, and then took a right.

Garrison followed Myrtle Grove Road until it ended, where it met Masonboro Loop Road and took another right. Google Maps GPS told Garrison to follow Masonboro Loop Road until it was time to turn right onto Whale Way. Laurel's house was on the cul-de-sac at the end of Whale Way. When he pulled into her driveway and stopped, the dashboard clock showed Garrison he was one minute early.

Laurel greeted Garrison at the door with a hug and a quick kiss on the lips. Then her eyes opened wide.

"Is that your car? I thought you drove a Toyota."

Garrison chuckled. "The Avalon was my grandmother's car. I use it as my commuter car. This," he waved toward the Miata, "was my grandfather's car. He'd always wanted a two-seater sports car, but grandma kept talking him out of it because such a car isn't practical. He bought it after she passed away."

"The car looks to be in great shape," Laurel commented. "How old is it?"

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"This beauty is a 2011 model," Garrison told her as he guided her to the passenger side with a hand pressed gently against the small of her back. Then he opened her door for her.

"Aren't you being the gentleman?" Laurel teased with a smile as she got into the car. "Thank you."

Garrison closed the passenger door and hurried around to the driver's side. Once seated and buckled in, he checked to make sure Laurel fastened her seat belt. Seeing hers was, Garrison started the car, and they were off on their date.

"Do you think we should count this as our third date or our fourth date?" Laurel asked as Garrison navigated them towards the Carolina Ale House on College Road.

"How are you counting?" Garrison asked. In his mind, they were on their first date unless he counted breakfast the previous morning as a date.

"Breakfast yesterday was our first date," Laurel said, listing the events she was counting as dates on her fingers. "Then we met for lunch at Flatz. Afterward, we went back to your place with Calvin and Mariah and hit the pool." She held up her hand to show four fingers extended. "I'm going to count them all. So, this is our fourth date."

"Four dates in two days must be a record," Garrison joked. "We might become famous."

Laurel laughed. "As long as we don't let it go to our heads."

The Carolina Ale House was starting to get busy when the young couple arrived. They were early enough not to have to wait for a table, though. When their server - a young man who introduced himself as Geoff - came around, they both ordered sweet iced tea.

"I'll let you look at the menu while I go get your teas," Geoff told them after noting their drink selection on his pad.

As he walked off, Laurel leaned over to Garrison and asked in a quiet voice, "Does Geoff look familiar to you? I think I've seen him around campus."

Garrison shook his head. "He doesn't look familiar to me. Half the people working in the restaurants around here probably go to UNCW. You probably have seen him before."

Geoff returned with their tea and asked if they were ready to order.

Garrison deferred the decision about an appetizer to Laurel.

Laurel wrinkled her nose and said, "I don't think so. Not today."

"Have you decided on what you'd like to order?" Geoff then asked with his pen poised over his pad.

Laurel pointed to her selection on the menu. "I'll have the Ahi Tuna Wrap with a side salad; no dressing on the salad."

"The Tuna Wrap is one of my favorites," Geoff said in affirmation of Laurel's choice as he made a note on his pad.

Then the server turned to Garrison. "And what looks good to you today?"

"I guess I'll have the Baked Turkey and Brie with a side of fries," Garrison informed Geoff.

"Mm, yours sounds good," Laurel said, licking her lips.

"You can change your order if you like," Geoff told Laurel.

Laurel bit her lips and looked back and forth between the two choices. "No. I'll stick with the Tuna Wrap. Thanks."

"I'll get your order right in," Geoff promised, "and then I'll bring you some more tea. Your both sweet, right?"

"Right," Garrison said and then added, "At least she is. Me, not so much."

Laurel smiled and blushed. Geoff may have groaned, but Garrison couldn't be sure.

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While they waited for their food, Laurel and Garrison share more about their families and the things they did as kids. Garrison learned about Laurel's parents moving to Florida after her dad sold his accounting practice and retired. They kept the house in Wilmington for Denver and Laurel until both girls were ready to move out on their own.

"I suspect Denver may just stay in the house," Laurel confided to Garrison. "Her business is here, and she's doing well. Why should she leave? Eventually, I think my mom and dad may start dropping hints about Denver buying the place from them if she does stay."

"What about you?" Garrison asked. "Do you plan to stay around here?"

Laurel tilted her head to one side and shrugged. "Denver expects me to partner with her in the business after I graduate. I'm not sure if a career at Denver's Franks and Fries is what I want out of life."

Garrison sat back and asked, "Does Denver have plans to open any other stores or maybe go the franchise route? Maybe you could run your own store?"

Laurel snorted. "When I look at the crazy hours Denver works, managing my own restaurant is the last thing I want to do."

Their conversation was interrupted when a server who wasn't Geoff brought them lunch. The young lady didn't introduce herself. She simply asked which one of them had the tuna, set the plate in front of Laurel when told, and then put the other plate in front of Garrison. The young lady walked off after asking if they needed anything else and checking on drink refills.

Garrison and Laurel exchanged minimal conversation as they ate. What talking they did was centered primarily on how their food tasted, if they liked it and if Laurel could steal some of Garrison's fries. Naturally, he let her.

Geoff stopped by three times. The first time, he brought more sweet tea and asked about the satisfaction with the meals. The second time, Geoff dropped off their check. The third time, he brought back Garrison's credit card and gave him the charge slip to sign. Garrison included a generous tip. Then he and Laurel left the restaurant and got in the Miata for the short ride to the movie theater.

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The pair had a wide variety of movies to choose from. Garrison secretly hoped Laurel would pick the new sci-fi movie. His hopes were in vain. She decided on a romantic drama based on a novel by her favorite writer.

Garrison bought the tickets. Being full from lunch, both elected to forgo popcorn and drinks from the concession stand. They found seats half-way up and to the center. There was no one else in the theater at that moment. Only a half-dozen or so people joined them before the movie started.

When the final credits rolled, Garrison admitted that the movie wasn't as bad as he thought it would be. He actually liked most of it, even if he wasn't crazy about the main character’s not getting the girl in the end.

"I wish we could watch it again," Laurel said once they were outside and walking to the Miata. "It was just like the book. Of course, they had to leave some parts out. The movie would have been too long if they didn't. Still, I loved it."

Garrison smiled but withheld his opinion. His favorite part had been the way Laurel wrapped her arms around his and rested her head on his shoulder. She hadn't minded when he moved his hand from the armrest to her thigh just above the knee, either. Somehow, telling her those were the parts of the movie he liked best seemed like the wrong thing to say.

They reached the Miata, and Laurel asked Garrison if he was going to put the top down. Garrison looked up at the thunderheads building in the afternoon sky.

"I think I'll leave it up. Those clouds don't look friendly. I don't want us getting soaked while putting the top up in a sudden downpour."

Garrison's words proved prophetic. He'd just made the left turn off of College Road onto Pine Grove Drive when the ever-darkening sky opened up, and the bottom fell out all at once in the form of huge raindrops. The shower was intense but quickly passed. The sun was out again by the time they reached Laurel's house.

Garrison walked her to the front door.

"I wish I could invite you in," Laurel said, "but I have to get changed and ready for work. Showing up late doesn't look good when your sister is the boss."

"I understand," Garrison assured her.

Laurel moved close enough to Garrison for their fronts to touch and licked her lips. "I had a really great time today. Thank you."

Garrison put his arms around her and pressed his lips to hers. When he broke off the kiss, he said, "Your welcome."

Laurel pushed her hair back over her ear. "Okay, well, um, are you going to come by the restaurant tonight?"

"I can if you'd like me to," Garrison said.

"I'd like you to," Laurel answered. She gave him another quick kiss and then let herself into the house.

Garrison smiled all the way back to the Miata. He smiled on the drive home. The young man smiled while walking through the house. Garrison smiled until he walked out onto the deck on his way to take a swim.

© 2020 DW Davis

Comments

DW Davis (author) from Eastern NC on December 25, 2020:

Meg, I think you can guess who.

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on December 24, 2020:

Oooh, a cliff hanger. Bet someone's in his pool!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 24, 2020:

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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