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Setting Friday Free (A Buzby Beach Novel) Chapter 18

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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.

Garrison busied himself with ensuring he had everything ready for his classes the next morning. Thinking about his eight o'clock tennis class brought Delaney to his mind for the first time since he last saw her the Friday before.

I wonder if she'll be around the tennis courts in the morning while I'm in class. Lani is almost as big a mystery as Friday. She sat near me in every classroom, then pretended she couldn't stand me and then wants to meet up to play tennis. I wish I knew what was going on with her.

Further pondering of Delaney's motivation was put on hold when Garrison realized he needed to leave for the hospital or be late for lunch with his mother. While she thought nothing of making him wait or canceling on him at the last minute, Dr. Armstrong would pitch a fit if she had to wait for Garrison to arrive.

Garrison drove the Avalon. It was a more comfortable car than the Miata, and it had an automatic transmission. When Garrison thought about all the traffic lights he would navigate between his house and the hospital, choosing the car with the automatic transmission made sense. Besides, the cloudy sky and the Weather Channel both told of rain coming in sometime in the afternoon.

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The hospital parking lot was nearly full. Sundays were a popular day for people to visit friends and family whose particular ailments or injuries required a weekend hospital stay. Garrison was forced to park far from the entrance and walk.

I'll probably get soaked on my way back, he thought, sourly as he traversed the lot.

When he entered the hospital, the volunteer working at the information desk stopped him and informed him he needed a visitor's pass.

"I'm not here to see a patient," Garrison told the white-haired lady with the nicotine-stained smile. "I'm meeting my mother for lunch in the cafeteria."

"Is your mother a patient here?" the lady asked, gracing him with a tolerant smile.

"No, ma'am, she's a doctor," Garrison smiled back at the lady and then added, "Dr. Andrea Armstrong."

The lady's smile widened. "Oh, you're Dr. Armstrong's son. Then, I imagine you've been here before."

"Yes, ma'am, several times," Garrison assured her.

"Go ahead on your way then, young man," the lady instructed him. "Enjoy your lunch."

"Thank you," Garrison said as he moved past the information desk and down the hallway to the left in the direction of the visitors' elevators. He rode the elevator to the ground floor, took another left, and arrived at the cafeteria.

Garrison and Laurel wait for Dr. Armstrong

A quick look around the dining area told Garrison his mother wasn't there yet. He purchased a sweet iced tea and sat at a table with a view of the entrance. His drink was nearly gone, and Garrison was about to help himself to a refill when Laurel came in. He waved to get her attention and walked to meet her halfway to the table he claimed.

Laurel gave Garrison a quick hug and said, "I take it your mother hasn't shown up yet."

Garrison shook his head. "No. Typical. If she tells me one o'clock, I'm usually lucky to see her by two when she shows up at all. Sometimes, she'll get called in on a case and forget I'm here waiting for her."

He held his cup up to Laurel. "I was just about to refill my sweet tea. Do you want something to drink while we wait?"

"Sweet tea is fine with me," Laurel said. Then she smiled and said, "I'll hold our table while you get it."

When Garrison returned with his refill and Laurel's tea, she asked him, "Are you going to tell your mom about the article you showed me?"

"Officer Langstrom thinks I should find out what she knows," Garrison said. He pulled the article out of his pocket. "She may or may not tell me anything, but I'll know if she's hiding something. My mother believes she has a great poker face. She doesn't."

Both teens finished their tea, and Garrison was returning with refills when Dr. Armstrong swept into the cafeteria.

"You did make it," she called out to Garrison when she spotted him waving. Her face clouded when she spotted Laurel. "And you brought a friend?"

Garrison and Laurel both stood, and Garrison said, "Mom, this is my friend Laurel. She's also a freshman at UNCW. Laurel, this is my mother, Dr. Andrea Armstrong."

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Dr. Armstrong."

Dr. Armstrong regarded Laurel with piercing blue eyes. "Yes, I'm sure it is. How long have you known my son?"

"Counting today, and the day we met, all of four days, Doctor," Laurel replied. "I hope you don't think me pretentious for joining him for his lunch with you today."

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Dr. Armstrong smiled and held out her and to Laurel. "I like her, Garrison. She gives as good as she gets. Now, I'm afraid I haven't much time. Have you ordered?"

Garrison pointed the way to the serving lines. "We were waiting for you, Mom."

"I'm here," Dr. Armstrong pointed out. "Let's eat."

The food selection was limited because the cafeteria kitchen closed at two o'clock on Sundays. It was nearly two when Garrison and his lunch companions stepped up to the serving line. Dr. Armstrong chose a grilled chicken salad. Laurel, liking what she saw on the doctor's tray, picked the same thing. Garrison, grown quite hungry during his wait, took a cheeseburger but skipped the fries. He grabbed a bag of potato chips instead. Dr. Armstrong insisted on paying for all of them.

Dr. Armstrong asked Garrison for a quick rundown on his first few days of class. He provided her with a digested version of events and mentioned making friends with some of his classmates, primarily Calvin and Mariah. Garrison didn't mention Delaney.

"Do you and Laurel have any classes together?" Dr. Armstrong asked after picking the onion bits out of her salad.

"We don't," Garrison said. "Laurel is a business major. She has an entirely different set of requirements."

Dr. Armstrong nodded as she took a forkful of her salad. Garrison took a bite of his burger. Laurel looked at him and raised her brows. He waggled his eyebrows at her and then pulled the article about the drowning from his pocket.

Garrison asks his mother about Friday

"Mom, I want to ask you about this story I found while doing some research online this weekend," Garrison ventured as he held the paper out to his mother. "According to the article, an eighteen-year-old girl died in grandpa's swimming pool about this time of year back in 1982. Do you know anything about what happened to her?"

Dr. Armstrong glanced briefly at the article. "I remember something about a girl found drowned in their pool back then. It was long before I knew your father. Even though we both grew up around here, we didn't have the same circle of friends back then. Your father should be able to tell you more about it. He's the one who found her the next morning. Have you talked to him?"

Garrison carefully folded the article and placed it back in his pocket. "I've called him a couple of times and sent him a text, but I haven't heard back from him."

"Typical of your father," Dr. Armstrong said with a shake of her head. "If he calls you, by gosh, you'd better be there to take his call. If you need him, well, Garrison, you know, don't hold your breath."

Garrison blew out a breath of air and said, "Yeah, I know what dad's like."

Dr. Armstrong changed the subject. "Have you received your invitation to the wedding?"

Garrison did a double-take. "Whose wedding?"

"I thought not," Dr. Armstrong said with disdain. "Has your father even told you he's engaged?"

Garrison nearly rose from his chair. "Dad's engaged! No! He hasn't said a word to me about it. Who is he engaged to?"

"It's not my place to tell you about it, Son," Dr. Armstrong replied. She glanced at her smartwatch. "I have to get going. Garrison, I'm glad you came by. And I'm glad to meet you, Laurel." She gently touched Garrison on the shoulder, rose from her seat, and headed for the exit.

Garrison's story continues in Chapter 19

© 2021 DW Davis