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Setting Friday Free (A Buzby Beach Novel) Chapter 31

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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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Freshly showered and dressed

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Freshly showered and dressed for dinner at one of Buzby Beach's finest restaurants, Garrison and Laurel arrived early for dinner with Garrison's father and step-mother.

"Technically, Trina might be my step-mother, but I'm not calling her, Mom," Garrison announced to Laurel on their walk from his house to the resort.

Laurel squeezed the hand holding hers and said, "Trina doesn't expect you to call her Mom. She told me she hopes you will call her Trina. She's so afraid you'll start calling her Mrs. Kaylor. Garrison, she wants to be on good terms with you. Trina told me she hopes you and your dad can patch things up and have a better relationship."

Garrison slowed his pace but didn't stop. "When did Trina tell you all this? I didn't realize the two of you had time to bond."

"While you and your father were out by the pool talking to Friday," Laurel informed Garrison, "I found Trina on the front porch crying, and we talked."

Garrison did stop then and turn toward Laurel. "I'm glad you did. Scout's honor," he said, holding up three fingers, "I will try to like the woman my father married."

Laurel scoffed. "Your promise would mean a lot more if you'd ever been a Scout."

Garrison shrugged and nodded. Then they resumed walking to the resort.

Upon arrival, the host told them the rest of their party had not arrived, but he could seat them as their table was ready. Garrison thanked him and, with Laurel's hand in his, followed the host to their table.

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As they transited the dining room, Garrison noticed the way the other diners were dressed. He in his light gray khakis, solid blue button-front shirt, and gray canvas boat shoes, while Laurel wore the off-white Capris, light blue blouse, and strappy sandals she'd had on before they went swimming.

Garrison leaned close and whispered in Laurel's ear. "You were worried we'd be underdressed. We're one of the best-dressed couples here."

Laurel put her hand to her mouth to stifle a laugh.

The host led them to a corner table with a view of the ocean and the inlet.

"Clifford will be your server tonight," the host informed them. "He should be along directly to take your drink order."

The host bowed his head and left them to return to his duty station at the entrance. He returned to the table before Clifford had a chance to come by and take their drink order.

Garrison stood as his father and Trina approached. He shook his father's hand and gave Trina a perfunctory hug. Garrison sat after Trina took the seat the host held out for her.

Mr. Kaylor, wearing a pair of sand-colored khakis and a pale green golf shirt with his firm's crest on the left breast, waited until the host had informed them all of Clifford's imminent arrival and left them once again before commenting, "This place has improved quite a bit since the Coastal Carolina Realty Trust took over way back when. The previous owners never kept the resort in the condition it merited. They took every penny they could out and put none back in."

The conversation turned from Real Estate to school. Trina, looking stunning in a plum-colored satin blouse and a gold pencil skirt, asked Garrison how he liked his professors. Garrison's recitation of the good and bad points about his professors, as he saw them, was interrupted by Clifford finally arriving to take their drink order.

Garrison and Laurel both asked for sweet iced tea. Trina requested a glass of pinot grigio, and Mr. Kaylor ordered a high ball.

"Would you care for an appetizer tonight?" Clifford asked. He listed off several options from memory. The older couple ordered two shrimp cocktails. The younger couple chose the toasted ravioli with marinara.

Two couples, the old and the young

Dinner progressed smoothly. The two couples became more relaxed in each other’s company. Most of the small talk was about what the younger two spent their summers doing and how they liked college so far.

As the table was cleared off and after all four diners declined dessert, Mr. Kaylor suggested he and Garrison should go for a walk to help settle their meals while Trina and Laurel checked out the shops.

Mr. Kaylor insisted on paying the check. Garrison offered to split it, but his father wouldn’t hear of it. Dinner was his treat. One of the few lessons Garrison had learned during the few visits he had with his father over the years was to offer once, and if refused, to graciously accept the refusal.

Clifford bid them a pleasant evening as the two couples departed the dining room. Laurel and Trina headed to the small cluster of shops housed within the resort. Garrison and his father exited the building and followed the path leading south from the main building to the south end of the island. It was a warm, humid night. Garrison noticed the sky was overcast, and not a star could be seen.

"Looking at the sky makes me think we might be in for some rain before morning," Mr. Kaylor remarked as he stopped atop the last dune before the narrow stretch of sand sloping down to the waters of the inlet between Buzby and Pleasure Islands.

"We've been lucky with storms this year," Garrison told his father. "The few there have been giving us a wide berth. I hope it stays that way."

"The Carolina coast could use a break after what the hurricane did to us last year," Mr. Kaylor said, hopefully.

Garrison nodded his agreement. "Some folks still haven't recovered from that one."

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They stood silent, watching the water move through the inlet until Mr. Kaylor brought up the subject of Friday.

"I'm still not sure I believe what happened at the pool today," he began. "Ghosts aren't something I've ever believed in. But, you saw Friday, too, didn't you, Garrison? I wasn't imagining her there in the pool talking to me, was I?"

"She was there, Dad," Garrison assured the troubled older man. "I've actually seen her several times now. Laurel's seen her, too. Friday even came back after you left. She joined Laurel and me in the pool. I think those two are becoming friends."

Mr. Kaylor rubbed his chin. "For the sake of argument, we'll stipulate Friday exists. Or, her spirit exists. Given such a stipulation, we have to acknowledge her claim about being unable to move on from - what did she call it - the first heaven."

"Yeah," Garrison confirmed. "Friday said there were three heavens. When she visited us later, Friday told Laurel and me about several others whose spirits remain around Buzby Beach for a variety of reasons. Some could move on if they wanted but have chosen to remain here. Others, like Friday, have unfinished business and can't leave."

Mr. Kaylor shook his head and lowered his chin. "This is a lot to make myself believe, Garrison. Okay, back to trying to figure out what this unfinished business keeping Friday here is.

"We know it involves me. Friday and I only knew each other for a week. It was a wonderful week. We fell head over heels in love. If, if only, if only she hadn't died ..."

Garrison turned to look at his father, and, for the first time in his life, he saw his father crying. The man's face was in his hands, and his shoulders were shaking from the sobs.

© 2021 DW Davis