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Starting Over at 55 (A Buzby Beach Novel) Chapter 23

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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-23

Jack stood by the sink, iced coffee in hand, stunned both by how Wanda looked and how she’d behaved. He straightened himself up, set down his tumbler, turned, and looked out the window.

Wanda was lying on her back, hands behind her head, one leg out flat, the other bent at the knee. Her eyes were closed but she was smiling.

Jack swallowed hard and looked away. He picked up his iced coffee and took a healthy swallow.

“If I had any doubts about why Wanda’s here,” Jack said to his now empty Tervis cup, “she’s pretty much cleared them up.”

Jack sat down in one of his new chairs. He needed to think about what to do about Wanda.

starting-over-at-55-a-buzby-beach-novel-chapter-23

Out by the pool, Wanda turned her head and opened her eyes just enough to look at the kitchen window, hoping to see Jack looking back at her. When she didn’t, she propped herself up on her elbows and frowned.

What else do I have to do to get him to come around? Wanda asked herself. She turned and looked at the pool. A smile spread across her face and she reached for the shoulder straps of her bathing suit.


starting-over-at-55-a-buzby-beach-novel-chapter-23

Inside, Jack came to a decision. He was going to try to explain to Wanda that while she was a beautiful woman, and he was very fond of her, he just wasn’t ready for the kind of relationship with her that she obviously wanted.

We’re friends, and we need to stay friends. I’m not ready to get involved with anyone that way, especially not a friend and colleague, not one who was a friend of my d…my dead wife.

His mind made up, Jack rose from the table and headed out to the pool.

When he entered the screened porch, Jack looked out on the pool deck for Wanda. All he saw was her bathing suit laying on her towel. A splash of water told him to look for her in the pool.

Wanda was standing in the pool at a point where the water reached her shoulders, blurring but not completely hiding the fact that she had absolutely nothing on but the skin she was born with. Jack blinked hard and shook his head, unable to believe what he was seeing.

“I thought you might be more comfortable about jumping in the pool au natural if I did it first,” Wanda told him. “Come on in, the waters fine.”

Jack didn’t answer. He just stood and stared, a shocked expression on his face. Watching him, Wanda realized she’d gone too far.

“Say something,” Wanda pleaded, walking slowly into the shallower section of the pool. “Please.”

“I don’t know what to say,” Jack said. “Wanda, I… I don’t know what to say.”

Wanda took a deep breath, which caused things she’d meant to keep submerged to momentarily rise above the surface. Jack closed his eyes and turned away.

“The look on your face tells me all I need to know,” Wanda said. “Maybe I should have been more patient, but Jack, I couldn’t wait anymore.”

She’d climbed from the pool and was standing at the edge, trying to will Jack to turn and look at her. He kept his gaze averted. It wasn’t easy for him. Wanda had a body any man would want to admire.

“I’ll just get my things and go then,” Wanda said.

Jack stood there torn between the physical attraction he felt toward Wanda and the emotional turmoil her actions were causing in his head and heart.

Wanda picked up her bathing suit and towel. Before going into the house, she had one last thing to tell Jack.

“I want you to know, Jack, that I would never have wished for what happened to Cheryl to happen, but I also want you to know that what I feel for you began a long time before Cheryl’s accident. Maybe if I’d been more patient, given you more time…”

She shook her head and gave a sad laugh. “Maybe if I hadn’t been so needy, things might have worked out for us someday. I hope you can forgive me, Jack. Please don’t come inside until I’m gone. Okay. Just stay out here until I’m gone.”

Jack, his back to her now, nodded. He didn’t trust himself to speak.

“Okay,” Wanda said. “Okay.”

Jack heard the screened porch door swing closed behind her, and then the kitchen door. He stood and watched the sunlight dance on the water in the pool until he heard her car start and listened until he couldn’t hear her car’s engine.

“Whoa!” he said when he was sure she was gone. “What just happened?”

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Wanda sat in her car, fingers clenched on the steering wheel, fighting back tears of frustration.

“I made such a fool of myself. Things were going so well and I made such a mess of it. GOD! Jack will probably never speak to me again. What was I thinking? Why couldn’t I just wait and let him come around in his own time? Why’d I have to rush him?”

She turned her head and looked through tear-blurred eyes at Jack’s front door. With a final sniffle, Wanda wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her blouse.

“This isn’t the end. I’ll give Jack a couple days, and then I’ll call and apologize. He’ll understand. I’ll blame our shared grief. Jack will forgive me. Even if…this…wasn’t meant to happen we’re still friends. He won’t forget that. It’s gonna be okay.”

The light at the intersection of Center and Bridge Streets changed from red to green. Wanda took her foot off the brake and eased down on the accelerator.

“You’ll see, Jack. You’ll try to figure out what just happened and you’ll realize I only did it because I love you and I want to be with you. You’ll see that’s the way things are meant to turn out for us.”

Reassured by her own words, a determined smile curled Wanda’s lips. She looked both ways before turning right onto Center Street. As she drove north toward Bridge Street she glanced one more time at Jack’s house. “See you soon, Jack. I love you.”

© 2020 DW Davis

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