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Setting Friday Free (A Buzby Beach Novel) Chapter 38

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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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A knock on the sunroom door precluded Garrison's response to his father. Both men's heads snapped to see who could be interrupting them. Both men's jaws dropped. Friday, wearing the pale yellow sundress she usually left on the poolside table, stood in the doorway. Her face was drawn, and she stared at Mr. Kaylor.

Garrison recovered first. He rose from his seat, walked to the door, opened it, and stood back.

Friday's eyes scanned the door frame.

"Do I need to invite you in before you can come in?" Garrison asked.

Friday scoffed. "I'm not a vampire, Garrison. Vampires only exist in fiction."

Garrison rephrased the question. "Can you come in?"

"I think so," Friday said as she stuck her hand over the threshold. "I made it past the pool to the upper deck with my dress on. I've never done that before. Not in my corporeal form."

Friday gave the impression of taking a deep breath, and then she stepped across through the doorway. Standing in the sunroom, Friday smiled.

"This is the first time I've been indoors since before I died. I can't tell. It is warm in here?"

Mr. Kaylor stood and said, "Yes, Friday, it is warm. Can I get you a glass of iced tea or anything cold you'd like?"

Friday laughed and shook her head. "I wish I could drink a glass of tea. I haven't had anything to eat or drink since, well, you know."

"No, I suppose not," Mr. Kaylor said. He gestured to the table and asked, "Won't you sit down? We have a lot to talk about?"

Friday moved to the table and took the seat closest to Mr. Kaylor.

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Garrison closed the door. "Should I go inside or outside and leave you two to talk this out?"

"I'm okay with you staying," Friday replied.

Mr. Kaylor concurred. "I'd like you to stay, too, if you would."

Garrison took a seat on the rattan sofa opposite the table. Friday and Mr. Kaylor sat quietly for several minutes, gazing at each other.

"Pardon me for interrupting," Garrison said from his perch across the room. "But unless you're carrying on this conversation using telepathy, one of you is going to have to say something."

Mr. Kaylor and Friday looked down at the table and laughed.

"Should I begin," Mr. Kaylor asked.

"I think you should," Friday replied.

"I only have two things to say," Mr. Kaylor began. "First, Friday, I want you to know that you are the only girl I've ever been in love with. More than anything else, I need for you to believe me when I say I've never stopped thinking about you and never stopped loving you."

Friday reached across the table and put her hands on Mr. Kaylor's. "I believe you, Freddy. I knew you loved me. I loved you, too. The night, our last night, I wanted to prove how much I loved you. But I was nervous and -"

Mr. Kaylor squeezed Friday's hands. "I was nervous, too. I'd never, you know, done it, been all the way before. I was so afraid I'd do it wrong and thought if I drank enough, and you drank enough, then when we did it, neither of us would know if we'd done it right."

Friday smiled. "You, too. It's no wonder we barely made it here that night."

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Mr. Kaylor's face fell. "I wish we hadn't made it here at all. If we'd stayed at the party, if I'd taken you home, if only we hadn't come here, I'd still have you."

"I've always been here waiting for you, Freddy," Friday said. "I've waited for years for you to come back."

Tears began to roll down Mr. Kaylor's face. "If I'd known, Friday, I swear I would have come back a long time ago. I am so sorry. I'm sorry about everything. I loved you so much. I still love you. I've never loved anyone the way I love you."

Friday stood and pulled Garrison's dad to his feet. "I've waited so long to hear you say those words, Freddy. I love you, too."

As Garrison watched his father and Friday embrace, Friday began to shimmer and grow translucent. Before his eyes, she seemed to dissolve into nothing but a transparent glimmer. Then she was gone.

Mr. Kaylor's arms dropped to his side. He sniffed and, in a hoarse whisper, said, "Good-bye, Friday. I'll never forget you. I'll love you forever."

Garrison rose slowly from the sofa and walked to his father. "Dad?"

Mr. Kaylor turned to Garrison, sniffed, and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. "It really is over now, Son. Friday is free to move on. Friday is free, and she set me free of the guilt and sorrow I've carried all this time."

He sat down at the table and took hold of his tumbler but did not drink. Garrison took the seat opposite his father.

"Do you think we'll ever see Friday again?" Garrison asked after a long silence passed between them.

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Mr. Kaylor looked out the window at the swimming pool. He shook his head sadly. "I don't think so, Garrison. Friday doesn't have a reason to stay now."

Garrison frowned and nodded. He took a sip of his now warm and diluted sweet tea. "I'm going to miss her. Having her around made this old place more interesting."

Mr. Kaylor picked up his tumbler and downed the last of his tea. "I guess I should be heading back to the resort, to Trina." He stood and looked at Garrison. "Give Trina a chance, Son. She's good people, and she does want you two to be friends. Trina doesn't expect you to see her as a step-mother, but if you need her, she'll be there for you. I will, too. You can count on that."

Garrison swallowed against the lump in his throat. "Thanks, Dad. And I think Trina's all right. I like her. I think she'd good for you."

"I'll tell her you said so," Mr. Kaylor replied.

An awkward pause ensued, father and son facing each other, neither knowing quite what to do next. Finally, Mr. Kaylor reached out his arms and stepped toward Garrison. Garrison blinked against the moisture in his eyes and did the same. For the first time, they embraced. For the first time in his life, Garrison felt what it was like to be held by his father.

They ended the hug with the typical male ritual of three fist thumps on each other's backs. Garrison accompanied his father to the garage and watched as Mr. Kaylor drove off in the Coastal Tower's golf kart. Then he closed the driveway gate and the garage door and went back into the house. As he passed through the kitchen, he noticed the time on the microwave and realized Laurel would be coming from work soon.

Garrison sent Laurel a text message and asked her to please bring a cheeseburger and fries with her when she came.

Laurel comes over with a late dinner

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Laurel arrived at the house just before midnight with two cheeseburgers and two orders of fries.

"If you're going to have a second supper," she told Garrison, "then I figured I might as well, too."

"Let's eat out in the sunroom," Garrison suggested. "While we eat, I'll tell you a ghost story."

As they ate their cheeseburgers and fries, Garrison related to Laurel the evening's events between Friday and Garrison's father. Laurel listened spellbound and didn't interrupt once. The story Garrison told drew to a close as Laurel finished off her last fry.

"I wish I had been there to see it," Laurel lamented. "I would have liked to say good-bye to Friday."

Garrison nodded and said, "I didn't even get to say good-bye. One minute, Friday was hugging my dad. The next minute, she was gone."

Laurel balled up the paper her cheeseburger came wrapped in and stuffed it into the sack the meals were packed in. "Garrison was all this real. Did it really happen?"

Garrison was about to answer when they heard a splash in the pool.

© 2021 DW Davis