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Starting Over at 55 (A Buzby Beach Novel) Chapter 21

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DW is 55 Plus & married for 30 years. He once nearly lost his wife in a horseback riding accident. He wondered if he could start over if...

starting-over-at-55-a-buzby-beach-novel-chapter-21

“Other than a surfing lesson, what are your plans for today?” Wanda asked. When she left Goldsboro, it hadn’t occurred to her that Jack might have plans that didn’t include keeping her entertained all day. Now that they were sitting down to breakfast, the idea that he might have made other plans for the day was worrying her.

“I’ve got to be at the house between ten and noon to wait for the TV to be delivered,” Jack said. “That’s as narrow a window as they could give me. After that, I was going to head into town to look for some clothes.”

Wanda’s eyes widened at the mention of clothes shopping. “What in the world do you have to buy clothes for? I’d think all you need is shorts and t-shirts, living here at the beach and all.”

“Yeah,” Jack agreed. “You’d think so. But I’ve been invited to a dinner tonight at the Coastal Towers, and the dress code is professional-casual. I don’t have much with me I’d consider appropriately professional-casual.”

Wanda leaned back in her chair. She thought carefully about how to ask just who’d invited Jack to dinner. Nothing came to mind, so she simply said, “Oh, you have dinner plans?”

“One of my mother’s friends from church, recently widowed, asked me if I’d like to go,” Jack explained. “I think she did it as a favor to my mom. You know, to get me out of the house and keep my mind off things.”

Relief flooded over Wanda. One of his mother’s friends. Then it’s certainly not like a date. Probably some retiree dinner or something.

“So what kind of dinner is it?” Wanda asked.

“It’s some accountant thing,” Jack said. “I guess my mother told Georgia I’m a business teacher, and she figured I’d be interested in the presentation.”

A trickle of concern wormed its way into Wanda’s mind. “Georgia’s an accountant?”

“She’s a partner in her own firm,” Jack said. “Some of her clients are out here on the island. Georgia was on her way to a meeting with one when we met for coffee yesterday.”

Wanda was liking this Georgia person less-and-less. “So tonight will be kind of a second date?”

“I wouldn’t call it a date,” Jack said. “There will be dozens of other people there. Maybe I’ll meet some people who can help me find a job.”

Wanda relaxed a little. “It’s more a networking opportunity, then. What kind of job are you thinking of looking for?”

“I don’t know,” Jack said. “I’ll have to do something, and teaching jobs are few-and-far-between in New Hanover County. I’ve learned enough the last few years teaching business that I’d probably make a decent bookkeeper.”

starting-over-at-55-a-buzby-beach-novel-chapter-21

Jack thought he’d been hired to teach math at West Wayne High School but, due to his minor in accounting, he’d wound up teaching business despite having no background in business. Without Cheryl’s help understanding the curriculum, he’d have bombed at it. As it was, he’d been quite good at it and, until the phone call, he’d quite enjoyed it. He’d even managed to earn an on-line MBA from the University of Phoenix during his twenty-five years teaching at the high school.

Skyler returned with their breakfasts. He set Wanda’s plate in front of her and smiled when she said, “Boy, does that look good.”

Along side Jack’s plate he placed a small pitcher of maple syrup.

“Is there anything else I can get y’all?” Skyler said. “More orange juice, another iced coffee.”

“I’m good,” Wanda said around her first mouthful of pecan pancake.

“Nothing for me right now, Skyler,” Jack said. “Thanks.”

“I’ll check on you in a few minutes,” Skyler said.

When he was out of earshot, Wanda said, “You were right. These pancakes are delicious. I wonder what they do different.”

Jack shrugged and continued chewing.

“What were we talking about?” Wanda asked before taking her next bite. “Oh, yeah, you finding a job.” She pointed her fork at Jack. “Do you really need to find a job? You’ve got twenty-five years teaching plus your National Guard retirement. That’s not to mention the life ins…ur…”

Wanda’s voice trailed off when she saw the gloom come into Jack’s eyes. He put down his fork and knife and pushed back from the table.

“Excuse me,” Jack said as he stood and started to walk away.

“Jack, I’m sorry,” Wanda said, grabbing his arm as went by. “I can’t believe I said that. Please don’t go.”

Jack didn’t look at her, but he stopped and took a deep breath. Nancy saw him get up abruptly and, thinking something was wrong with their order, came over to see what the problem was.

“Jack,” Nancy said, cautiously as she noted the strained expression on his face. “Is everything all right?”

“Yeah,” Jack said through clenched teeth. “I just overreacted to something my friend said. Everything’s fine.”

He moved back to his chair and sat back down. Nancy stayed close but when Jack didn’t elaborate, she returned to the register.

Wanda felt panic rising in her chest as she watched Jack wrestle with the feelings her careless comment had dredged up. Jack finally looked across the table and met her eyes. Wanda held her breath while she waited for him to say something.

The concerned look on Wanda’s face got through to Jack. His expression softened.

“You’d think it wouldn’t still hit me like that,” he said. “But when you mentioned the insurance it hit me that it should be Cheryl here with me, only it never will be, because she’s gone.”

Jack sounded so forlorn that Wanda felt tears start to form in her eyes. When he saw Wanda was about to cry, Jack snapped out of his funk.

“Hey, don’t do that,” he said. “You’ll get your pancakes all wet.”

Wanda snorted and shook her head. “Yeah, that’s what I’m worried about right now, wet pancakes.”

“Soggy pancakes are no laughing matter,” Jack said in a tone so serious Wanda couldn’t help but laugh. Her laughter broke the last of the tension and Jack laughed, too.

Jack's story continues in Chapter 22

© 2020 DW Davis

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