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Setting Friday Free (A Buzby Beach Novel) Chapter 26

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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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Alan is in Delaney's seat

Garrison shook Alan's hand and said, "Not much. We've mostly been going over the syllabus and talking about the earliest hunter-gatherers who came over on the land bridge. We haven't gotten deep into it yet, though."

Alan nodded toward the front of the room. "Who's the chick staring daggers at you? She's hot. Is she your girlfriend or something?"

Garrison snorted. "She's more like my stalker. Right now, it's probably you whom she's mad at, not me. You're in her seat."

Alan looked around the room. "I didn't think we had assigned seats."

"We don't," Garrison told him. "But Delaney, the girl staring at us, decided she was going to sit behind me in every class, and we have five classes together."

"I wouldn't mind having a hot girl like her stalking me," Alan said with a sly grin. "Uh, oh. Here she comes."

Delaney marched up to Alan and said, "I believe you are in my seat."

Alan shrugged and replied, "From what I hear, there are no assigned seats."

"He's right," Mariah chimed in from her seat at the table next to Alan. "We can sit wherever we want."

"Yes, but I was already sitting here," Delaney argued. Color rose in her cheeks. "This is my seat."

Alan shook his head, frowning, and said, "I guess it's not your seat today. I'll tell you what. Promise to have lunch with me, and I'll move so you can sit here."

"Drop dead, new kid," Delaney spat at Alan. She turned her venom on Garrison. "You just let him sit in my seat. Why didn't you tell him I sit there? Are you trying to get back at me for not having breakfast with you?"

Garrison laughed. "You didn't have breakfast with me because I already had a date for breakfast. Besides, Alan's right. We don't have assigned seats, so he can sit here if he wants."

"If you want to treat me this way, fine Garrison," Delaney hissed. "Maybe I will go sit somewhere else."

"Please do," Calvin suggested from next to Garrison. "Professor Richardson just walked in. I think he's waiting for you to sit down."

Alan meets Delaney take two

Delaney found a seat on the other side of the room. Professor Richardson launched into the day's lesson about what drove the original settlers from Asia to the Americas fifteen to twenty thousand years before the first Europeans crossed the Atlantic.

Class ended with a hefty homework assignment - lots of reading to be done by the next session on Wednesday and a two-page synopsis of the reading material to be submitted electronically due by midnight on Friday. On the bright side, Professor Richardson announced there would be no class on Friday to allow them time to complete their writing assignments.

Alan walked out of class with Garrison, Calvin, and Mariah. Garrison was about to invite Alan to join the three of them and Laurel at the Hawk's Nest for lunch when Delaney approached all smiles and kindness.

"I was hoping to catch up with you, Alan," she said as she sidled up next to the new boy. "We got off on the wrong foot. Will you give me a chance to start over?"

Alan glanced at Garrison and his friends before meeting Delaney's gaze and saying, "Sure. Why not? Everyone deserves a second chance."

Delaney's smile widened. "Hi, I'm Delaney. I haven't seen you in class before."

Alan smiled back. "Hi, Delaney. My name is Alan. I was late starting class and just got to campus this weekend."

"I'm sure there's an interesting story about why you were late," Delaney cooed. "I'd love to hear it. Where are you going now?"

Mariah piped up and said, "We were just about to ask Alan if he wanted to go to the Hawk's Nest for lunch."

"What a coincidence," Delaney said as she rested her hand on Alan's arm. "I'm heading over there myself. We can all go together."

"Uh, sure," Alan replied. "We all need to eat lunch."

Delaney giggled and squeezed Alan's arm. "You're too funny, Alan."

Laurel bristles at seeing Delaney

Garrison turned away before either Delaney or Alan could see the incredulous look on his face. Calvin walked away with him while Mariah kept pace with the other two.

"It looks like you've been replaced, G," Calvin whispered as they exited Morton Hall and turned towards the University Union.

"Thank goodness," Garrison answered under his breath. "You have to feel sorry for Alan, though. I feel like we've thrown a lamb to the wolves."

Calvin glanced behind and said, "Oh, I don't know. I have a feeling Alan knows just how to deal with a problem like Delaney."

Walking from Morton Hall to the University Union didn't take long. Laurel was waiting for them outside the Hawk's Nest. Her face darkened when she saw Delaney.

"What's she doing here, and whose the guy she's hanging all over?"

Calvin waved Laurel off and said, "Cool your jets, Laur. The guy's name is Alan. He just showed up for school this week. Delaney's decided Alan would make a finer catch than our boy, G, here. I suggest you go with it."

Laurel didn't balk at the shortening of her name if she even noticed it at all. She did give Garrison a belated kiss and hug, which he returned with more enthusiasm than they were offered.

Mariah, Alan, and Delaney joined them at the entrance, and then all six went inside and joined the line waiting to select their noontime meal. Getting their food proved easier than finding a table. By consensus and despite the heat, they all went outside and claimed one of the shaded round tables designed to hold up to eight people at a time.

As they started eating, Delaney convinced Alan to tell them why he'd arrived at school a week late.

Alan's story

"It's no big deal," Alan began after taking a bite of his sandwich and washing it down with a swallow of soda. "I spent the summer in Poland at the American Embassy with my father - he's a diplomat - and my dad, or his assistant, got the date of my return flight mixed up. I arrived back in DC on Friday, packed up and drove down here Saturday morning, and moved into the dorm Saturday afternoon."

"How cool was it to get to spend your summer in Poland?" Delaney asked between bites of her salad.

"This was the second summer I spent with my dad in Poland," Alan informed the group. "Before then, he was in the Czech Republic for two years. He's been to lots of countries all over Europe. I've visited him in most of them."

Delaney finished her salad and asked, "Does your mother go to visit him with you, or does she stay here in the States when your dad is overseas?"

Alan's face fell. "My mom was killed in a terrorist attack in France six years ago. I live with my grandparents now when I'm Stateside."

A chorus of condolences rose from the friends, and Delaney said, "I'm so, so sorry, Alan. I had no idea. I wouldn't have asked about your mom if I'd known."

Alan sighed and said, "It's okay. Enough time has passed since it happened that I don't get all choked up and teary-eyed every time I talk about her anymore."

The group fell into an awkward silence. No one touched their food.

Alan looked around at them and forced a smile. "Hey, go ahead and eat. I'm going to. I'm starved."

He took a big bite of his sandwich. Garrison picked up his burger and followed Alan's example. Shortly everyone was eating again.

Delaney drags Alan off to study

Mariah finished her lunch and got the conversation going again.

"Alan, I know this is going to sound cliche, but what's your major?"

Alan laughed, finished chewing the last of his potato chips, swallowed, and, after washing them down with the last of his soda, said, "Political Science. What else? My parents were both career diplomats. My dad still is. Majoring in Poli Sci seemed like a natural thing for me to do."

Calvin nodded. "Makes sense to me."

Alan pointed his empty cup at Mariah and returned the question.

"Believe it or not, Calvin, Garrison, Delaney, and I are all English majors," Mariah told Alan on behalf of the four of them. Calvin and I came to UNC-Dub together. We met Garrison at orientation. Delaney," she hesitated for a heartbeat, "she joined our little group the first day of classes."

Alan nodded and pointed his cup at Laurel. "What about you? I take it you're not an English major."

Laurel shook her head. "I'm the odd one out. I'm a business major. My sister owns her own business, and when I graduate, I'll help her manage it."

"Laurel's leaving out her part ownership in the business," Garrison interrupted to add.

"Because it's not much," Laurel said, casting a frown at Garrison. "Not enough to be worth mentioning."

Delaney stood suddenly. "I'd love to continue this getting-to-know-you session, but I need to get some homework done before tennis practice. Alan, I was wondering if you want to study with me."

Her sudden invitation caught Alan off guard. "Uh, sure, I guess. I've got a one-thirty class. You can catch me up on what I missed in History class until I have to leave for it."

Delaney held out her hand. "We should get going, then."

Alan started gathering his trash. Delaney stopped him.

"Garrison will take care of the trash. He's good at it."

Mariah stands up for Delaney

Garrison's blood heated, and he could feel it in his face. The words about to jump off his tongue halted in their tracks when Laurel touched his arm.

"Don't say it," she whispered in his ear. "I know you want to, but don't. She's not worth it."

"Isn't that cute?" Delaney purred. "Whispering in his ear, about me, no doubt. As if I could care." She tugged on Alan's hand. "Come on, Alan. I don't want to make you late for class on your first day."

Alan and Delaney departed. As they did, Alan looked back over his shoulder and mouthed, "Save me."

"She's leading the lamb to the slaughter," Calvin joked. "Alan did say she was hot."

"Delaney sunk her hooks into him right away, didn't she?" Laurel noted. "Now, if she'd quit being a you-know-what to Garrison."

"Y'all shouldn't be so hard on Delaney," Mariah scolded her friends. "She's socially inept. From what she's told me, her whole life until she got here was all about tennis and only tennis because it was her only shot at making it to college. Boys were always off-limits. Delaney acts like she does because she doesn't know how she should act."

"Or," Calvin began, "Delaney acts like she does because she's a spoiled brat athlete who always got what she wanted and doesn't care about other people's feelings."

Garrison's brow furled. "Honestly, Mariah, I'm with Calvin on this. Delaney's behavior is worse than just being socially inept."

Mariah heaved a sigh and stood up. "Whatever, guys. You can't see this from a girl's perspective. Laurel, you're with me, right?"

Laurel gave a non-committal shrug. "Delaney definitely needs to work on her interpersonal skills. I'd be happy if she stopped trying to get digs in on Garrison."

Randall is a big library

"Right now, we have a different Delaney related issue," Calvin pointed out. "Where are we doing to study? Delaney is at the library with Alan, so we probably shouldn't go there."

"Randall is a big library, Calvin," Mariah said after depositing her and Calvin's trash in the nearby receptacle. "I'm sure we can manage to avoid the two of them."

"Are you willing to take that chance?" Calvin asked his girlfriend. "Delaney might come looking for us. She might be waiting with Alan at a table near the door watching for us to come in."

Garrison cleared the rest of the table and took the mess to the trash can. "You're acting a little paranoid, don't you think, C?"

"Maybe, G, but do you want to run into Delaney again today?"

Garrison paused and stared into space. Then he looked at Laurel, who returned his gaze with raised brows. "No, not today. Tomorrow in calculus will be soon enough to deal with her again."

Laurel smiled. "The Union is clearing out. Why don't we grab a table in the corner and work in there? There's wifi, and if we get thirsty, we can get something easy enough."

Her friends quickly agreed, and the four of them went inside and found a four-top in a quiet corner where they could work. In no time at all, each of them was sitting with their textbooks open, their laptops running, and lost in their own work.

An hour passed before Garrison leaned back from his laptop, stretched, yawned, and announced, "I'm going to visit the Men's Room and then get some iced tea."

Mariah lifted her fingers from her keyboard, scooted her seat back, and stood up. "I need a break, too. How about you, Laurel?"

Laurel nodded and said, "Yeah, I'm ready for one."

Calvin didn't say anything. He just stood up and headed for the restroom.

Garrison stood and took three steps toward the restroom when Harry Chapin's song "Cat's in the Cradle" started playing on his phone.

"Whose ring tone is that?" Laurel asked as she walked by him.

Garrison snorted. "My father's."

Laurel's lipped formed a circle. She patted Garrison on the shoulder and followed Mariah to the restroom.

Garrison sat back down and pulled out his phone. "Hi, Dad."

"Where are you?" his father asked without any niceties. "I'm here at the house, and you're not here."

Garrison rested his head on his hand. "You're at what house, my house?"

"The house on Buzby Beach," his father stated. "I'm sitting outside the gate and can't get in. Did you change the code?"

"It's the code the agent gave me when I moved in," Garrison told his father. "I have no idea if it's been changed or not."

"Obviously, if I can't get in, the code’s been changed," Mr. Kaylor argued. "You need to come home from wherever you are and let me in."

Garrison's story continues in Chapter 27

© 2021 DW Davis

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