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The Caffeinated Grape (A Buzby Beach Novelette) Chapter 01

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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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Poetic justice?

Donovan’s divorce finalized six months before the day of his ex-wife’s wedding to the man she cheated on him with. Thanks to a highly-skilled private investigator and ruthless lawyer, Donovan got most everything, and she got almost nothing.

Amelia got to keep her teacher pension, which seemed fitting since the affair that led to their divorce was with one of her teaching colleagues. After his attorney showed Amelia and her attorney the video the PI had of her and her lover in flagrante delicto on the desk in her classroom, Donavan's soon-to-be-ex quickly agreed to a quiet, uncontested divorce.

On the day of his ex-wife’s wedding, Donovan, on a whim, bought a Powerball Quick-Pick lottery ticket and won. The present value of his winnings, after taxes, and after splitting it 25/25/50 with his two grown sons- Thomas and William- was roughly ten million dollars. Donovan could have chosen to become one of the idle rich.

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It had been a good life, or so he thought.

Being idle was not Donovan’s way. Growing up on his family’s farm in Pink Hill instilled a strong work ethic in Donovan at an early age. His work ethic carried over to his schooling. Donovan graduated second in his class behind his girlfriend, neighbor, and future ex-wife Amelia. After high school, she went off to college to earn a teaching degree. He joined the Army as a combat engineer. Four years later, Amelia graduated summa cum laude from East Carolina University. Donovan finished his hitch in the Army - a veteran of Desert Storm with a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart - and the two got married.

Donovan went to work for a local construction company and attended night classes at the community college. Amelia took a position teaching fourth grade at the elementary school. A year later, they welcomed their first child, Thomas, to the world.

Three years after Thomas was born, Donovan finished his associate degree. Three years and a week after Thomas was born, William arrived.

Life was good for the Thorntons. Amelia earned her master’s degree and eventually her Educational Doctorate. Donovan earned his bachelor’s degree, an MBA, and his teacher’s license. Both boys did well in school, at sports and rose through the Scouting ranks to earn their Eagles.

Every summer, the family spent a week at Buzby Beach. The boys also attended Camp Riversail and worked their way up to being counselors through the camp’s leadership training program. The family would spend another week visiting a different part of the U.S. They felt blessed and praised God for all he’d given them. Then, the winter after William graduated from college, everything changed.

Amelia started spending more time at school after school hours. The number of staff development meetings on weekends increased. Her attentiveness toward Donovan waned until they came to be as strangers living in the same house.

A colleague who wasn't particularly fond of Amelia let slip to Donovan that there hadn’t been any staff development conferences on the weekends Amelia claimed to have attended them. Donovan, already suspicious, asked his boss if he knew a good divorce lawyer. His boss put him in touch with the most ruthless divorce lawyer in eastern North Carolina. Several weeks and an external hard drive full of evidence later, Amelia was served with divorce papers accompanied by a few select photos.

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A new home to begin a new life.

After consulting with a lawyer and financial advisor concerning his lottery winnings, Donovan retired from the construction company, sold the house in Pink Hill, and moved to Buzby Beach. The townhouse Donovan bought was near the south end of Buzby Island in the Crossroads Townhouses Complex. He’d chosen a townhouse instead of a standalone house to save himself the trouble of tending a yard. His townhouse unit had three bedrooms and two bathrooms upstairs. The downstairs boasted a living room, a family room, a kitchen, and a dining room. On the ground floor were a two-car garage, a laundry room, and a storage room.

The master bedroom had a roomy bathroom with a garden tub and separate shower. It also had a balcony looking out over the central courtyard where the community pool, tennis courts, and workout room were located. All the furniture in the master bedroom was new.

The other two bedrooms shared a bathroom. One of them would be the guest room. Donovan planned to turn the third bedroom into a writing loft and home office. He always wanted to write a book. He saw this as his chance.

Donovan, never much of a cook, only stocked the kitchen with what he brought from the old house – a container of Bailey’s Irish Creamer. The dining room boasted the oak table, chairs, and hutch he’d inherited from his grandmother. The family room, complete with a gas log fireplace, held the entertainment center and two theater-style reclining love seats from the old house. The living room sat empty. The Pink Hill house never had a separate living room, so there was nothing to put in the townhouse’s living room.

The two-car garage held Donovan’s denim blue 2015 Mustang GT. The other bay was empty, as was the storage room. Anything in the old house Donovan hadn’t wanted to bring to Buzby Beach had been sold, donated, given to the boys, or taken to the dump.

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Making new friends

His first night in the townhouse, Donovan barely slept. Everything seemed strange and out of place. All the noises were wrong. It took several nights before he slept through until morning.

For the first few days, Donovan stuck to a static routine: up at sunrise for a walk on the beach, breakfast at EJ’s, and then back to the condo for a few hours of writing. When noon arrived, he walked to Iggie’s for lunch. He spent his afternoons taking pictures along the beach and from the pier. Dinner at Dead Tom’s or the Pirate’s Cave would precede a quiet evening at home reviewing the photos he’d taken and deciding which ones to upload to his photography blog.

On his first Friday afternoon living on the island, Donovan noticed an “Opening Soon” sign on a sandwich board outside the door of a building under renovation at the corner of Eleventh Street and the Twelfth Street Extension. Below the sign, he spotted a flyer showing the business – The Caffeinated Grape – would hold their grand opening the following Friday. The door was open. Donovan knocked and stepped inside.

A woman with sandy blond hair and wearing a white t-shirt under a pair of paint-dotted denim overalls came out of a back room and said, “I’m sorry, but we’re not open yet.”

“Yes, I know,” replied Donovan as he took another step inside. “I was wondering if you have a photographer lined up for your grand opening.”

The woman stopped and took off the painter’s hat she was wearing and ran her fingers through the long, wavy locks this set free. “We hadn’t even thought about a photographer. Wouldn’t that be expensive?”

“If you hired a professional, it would be,” Donovan agreed. “But if your first customer and good neighbor Donovan Thornton offered to do it, you’d have a decent photographer free-of-charge.”

The woman laughed and said, “Let me guess. You’re Donovan Thornton.”

Donovan bowed. “At your service.”

This elicited another laugh. “I’m Becky Dedham. My husband Cedric and I bought this place and hope to make a go of it. We would much appreciate your free photography services.”

Donovan shook Becky’s outstretched hand. “I can upload pictures to your Facebook page, Instagram, or Twitter in real-time. Y’all are online, aren’t you?”

Becky frowned. “Actually, no. Not yet. I meant to set up a Facebook page, but we’ve been so busy trying to get the store ready I just haven’t gotten to it.”

“We can fix that right now,” Donovan informed Becky. “Where’s your computer? You do have internet, don’t you?”

All I ask is a hot cup of coffee.

Cedric arrived back from his latest trip to the hardware store to find Becky and Donovan hunched over the computer, each with a steaming cup of coffee close at hand.

“What’s going on here?” Cedric demanded as he set down the bags he was carrying. Then he pointed at Donovan and asked Becky, “Who is this guy?”

Becky explained how Donovan was setting the shop up with a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

“How much is he charging to do all this?” Cedric wanted to know.

Becky shushed him and said, “A free cup of coffee is all he wants in exchange for doing the work. He’s also going to take pictures for us at our grand opening and post them online, also free-of-charge except for a cup of coffee.”

Cedric sat down on one of the bar stools. “So, why’s he doing all this for us?”

“He’s new to the island,” Becky explained. “We’re new to the island. He wants to help out.”

Cedric twisted his lips. “And all he wants in return is a free cup of coffee?”

“I don’t need to wind up in a higher tax bracket,” Donovan said as he stood up from the computer. “Come look and let me know what you think of your Facebook page.”

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© 2021 DW Davis