142 Days Later #14: Coffee with Georgia
Internal Alarm Clock
His internal alarm clock, trained by years in the Army, more years of getting up early for college classes, and even more years of getting up early to teach high school, got Jack up before six in the morning his first Monday morning living on Thatch's Island. Jack grumbled and rolled over to look at his clock-radio. Flopping onto his back, Jack stared at the ceiling. His hand never once reached over to the empty space beside him on the bed. It had learned not to bother.
With an exaggerated sigh, Jack heaved his legs over the side of the bed and sat up. A short time later, he walked out the front door wearing running shorts, a bright orange wicking t-shirt, his New Balance walking shoes, and his Garmin Forerunner wrist GPS. Jack looked east toward the ocean and squinted into the rising sun. He thought about going back inside to grab his car keys so he could get his sunglasses out of the Mustang but decided not to.
“I’ll pick up a hat and another set of sunglasses sometime today,” he promised himself.
Walkabout on Thatch's Island
Jack stepped out onto the grass and spent a few minutes stretching. When he felt stretched out enough, he did twenty-five push-ups that would have made his drill sergeant proud, followed by twenty-five crunches. He’d do another twenty-five of each when he got back from his walk.
The route Jack chose for his first official workout walk on Thatch's Island took him down Delivery Street to Queen Anne's Boulevard where he took a left and headed north toward Pirate's Hole State Park. He followed the road around the park and came out on Pearl Street.
Jack turned left on Pearl Street and then right onto Neptune Street past the Buccaneer Sport Shop and Bonney's Food Market and Deli. The food market was already open and Ms Skytte, the owner, was sweeping the walkway by the front door. She looked up when Jack walked by and waved.
Jack waved back, and called out, “Good morning.”
“Looks like it’s gonna be,” Ms. Skytte called back.
Two blocks later Jack was back at his house. After doing the rest of his push-ups and crunches, Jack did his cool down stretches before heading into the house. He’d worked up quite a sweat in the warm, humid morning air and felt a swim would be a great way to cool down before hitting the shower.
Taking A Swim After His Walk
Aunt Bernadine had her pool custom built. It resembled two sixteen by thirty-two foot oval pools that intersect in the shape of an L.
In the end of the L closest to the house was a set of steps with a hand rail that lead into the shallow part of the pool, three-feet gradually sloping to five-feet. The cross-section of the L was five-feet deep from end to end. Aunt Caroline had been tall enough that this just reached her shoulders when she would stand or walk in the pool. It took ten lengths of the pool to make one hundred yards.
Jack walked straight through the house, out the back door to the screen room, and finally out the screen room to the pool. Aunt Bernadine had treasured her privacy and her back yard was surrounded by a six-foot high wooden fence backed by a thick evergreen shrubbery that towered at least a foot above the top of the fence. Knowing no one could see into the back yard, Jack decided not to bother changing into a bathing suit and left his sweaty walking attire on the pool deck beside the outdoor shower swimmers were supposed to use to wash off before walking down the steps into the pool.
After letting the cool water of the shower wash the sweatiness from him, Jack walked down the steps into the pool and waded to the deep end. In the deep end, Jack dipped himself completely under the water and then floated slowly to the top, letting his body adjust to the coolness before beginning to slowly swim laps.
It had been some time since Jack had done any serious swimming. The only pool they’d had at the house in Goldsboro had been an eighteen-foot diameter, four-foot deep vinyl pool held up by an inflatable ring. Meagan and Branden had given him the pool for Father’s Day when Meagan was eleven. The pool had lasted three summers before one of the seams gave way and it flooded the back yard. He and Cheryl had talked about getting an in-ground pool but as the kids got older and spent more of their summers away at one camp or another the idea never gained traction.
Instead of putting in a pool, they’d bought a small sailboat and a pop-up camper, both of which they sold when Branden left for VMI. Cheryl had never enjoyed the sailboat and without the kids along, camping lost most of its allure. If Jack and Cheryl were going to go away for a weekend they’d preferred a nice hotel.
Aunt Bernadine’s pool was the size it was because that’s what fit in her backyard. Jack found himself turning a lot. He made about ten lengths of the pool and decided that was enough for the first day. Climbing from the pool, he realized he hadn’t grabbed a towel on his way through the house. Leaving his clothes by the outdoor shower, he padded into the house, being careful not to slip in the kitchen floor, and hurried to the master bathroom for a shower.
There's Nothing Like A Cool Dip In The Water
Jack's First Visit To The Island Roastery
A short time later - showered, shaved, and dressed in a pair of off-white cargo shorts and blue patterned, light-weight, button-up shirt - Jack left the Mustang and walked the half mile over to the Island Roastery on Queen Anne's Boulevard. The old wooden door clanged a bell when Jack entered the coffee shop a few minutes before nine.
Jack had no sooner stepped over the threshold than four gray haired old men followed him through the door and moved straight to the only empty table. A tall, slim, blond Jack guessed to be in her early twenties immediately came from behind the counter to take care of them.
There was a short line of people waiting at the counter and as Jack watched a young man, who looked like he could have been one of Jack’s students, was filling orders as fast as he could. Jack looked around at the occupied tables to see if Georgia might already have arrived and was waiting for him. A quick scan of the room showed she was not.
The aroma of fresh ground coffee and fresh baked pastry gave the Island Roastery a pleasant atmosphere. It’s decor, simple and comfortable, made Jack feel right at home even though he’d never, to his knowledge, set foot in the place before.
From the back of the shop, a lady wearing a white apron and carrying a tray of croissants appeared. She set the tray on a table to the left of the service counter, behind a display case showing off a variety of tasty looking pastries and donuts, and walked over to the young man taking orders.
Jack heard the woman say, “Let me give you a hand, Drew,” and heard the young man answer, “Thanks, Mon,” before moving away from the register to make the next customer’s beverage.
With Drew and Mon working together, the line began to move more quickly.
The younger lady who’d moved from behind the counter to meet the four older men who’d come in together behind Jack went back behind the counter and started making coffees and espressos for those same men.
Drew finished making a white chocolate mocha and a caramel macchiato for the couple ahead of Jack. Before Drew could ask Jack for his order, the bell over the door rang again and Georgia rushed through the door.
Georgia Joins Jack
Seeing Jack already in line, Georgia smiled and moved to stand beside him.
“I was trying to get here early so I’d be here to meet you when you got here,” she said. “But I the ferry just as it pulled in and had to wait for every heading to the mainland to get off. Sorry if I kept you waiting.”
“No problem,” Jack said. “I just got in line myself. Drew here hasn’t even had a chance to take my order.”
Georgia turned to the young man behind the counter. “Hi, Andrew. How’s your summer going? Working hard?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Andrew replied. “We’ve been real busy this summer, so far.”
“That’s good to hear,” Georgia said. She turned to the lady helping Andrew out at the counter, and said, “How about you, Monique? How’s the pastry business doing?”
“Almost more than I can handle,” Monique said with a smile. “Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Now, what can we get for you two this morning?”
Georgia said, “I’ll just have a cheese danish and a twenty, black.”
Jack looked at Georgia and raised his brow. “What’s a twenty, black?”
Georgia smiled, and said, “It’s a twenty ounce cup of the house blend, black. The house blend here is to die for.”
“We roast our beans fresh right here in the store,” Andrew informed Jack. “They come in fresh every week from an importer over in Wilmington. Sometimes more often in the summer.”
“That sounds good,” Jack said. “I’ll have the same.”
“Do you want a cheese danish, too?” Andrew asked.
Jack shook his head. “I’d rather have a plain bagel, toasted, with cream cheese. Can you do that?”
“No problem,” Andrew assured him. “Do you want plain cream cheese or garden veggie?”
Jack’s brow rose in thought. “Hm, garden veggie sounds good. I’ll have that.”
“Coming right up,” Andrew said as he rang up their order. He watched with amusement when Jack and Georgia squabbled good-naturedly about who was going to pay. In the end, Georgia won out.
“After all,” Georgia said in her winning argument, “I invited you for coffee. It’s only fair that this date be on me.”
Another Is This A Date Conundrum
Jack had acquiesced though he wasn’t sure about her classification of their meeting as a date. As they waited for their order, Jack told himself, What the hell, I’m having coffee with an attractive woman in a quaint beach town cafe on a beautiful summer morning. Why not call it a date?
He looked at Georgia, noting how the conservative skirt and jacket she wore did nothing to hide the fact that she had a nice figure.
Catching him checking her out, Georgia asked, “What are you thinking about, Jack?”
Knowing he’d been caught and, surprising himself, not feeling embarrassed about it, he told her the truth.
“I was thinking you look very nice in that outfit.”
A shy grin crossed Georgia’s face and her eyes sparkled at the compliment. She tilted her head and said, “Why, thank you, Jack.”
Inside, Georgia felt her heart beat speed up and a flutter in her stomach. How did he do that to me with a simple compliment?
Andrew set their coffees on the counter and handed Georgia her cheese danish. To Jack he said, “Sir, I’ll bring your bagel out to you when it’s ready.”
“Thanks,” Jack said absently to Andrew as he picked up his coffee. He turned and scanned the tables to find a seat for himself and Georgia. A couple of older ladies who’d been sitting at a table by the front window appeared to be leaving.
Jack touched Georgia lightly on her arm to get her attention and when she looked at him, said, “How about that table by the window?”
“Yes,” Georgia said. “That’ll do nicely.” She was disappointed when Jack took his hand off her arm and let her lead the way to the table.
Their conversation started off with Georgia telling Jack about her work at the CPA firm. Jack told Georgia about his years teaching high school and what it had been like going back to college after leaving the Army.
Gradually, the talk turned to their children, what they’d been like growing up and what they were doing now. Before the subject of their deceased spouses became something more than an occasional mention in regard to the other topics, Georgia announced that she had to be going.
Making A Real, Honest To Goodness, Date
Glancing at the beautiful gold watch she wore, Georgia frowned and said, “I really do have to go. I wish I didn’t.”
“So do I,” Jack said, giving her an easy smile. “I’ve really enjoyed this morning. Will you still be on the island for lunch?”
Georgia consulted the calendar on her iPhone, and shook her head. “No, I’m afraid I’ve got a lunch meeting back at the office.”
“Oh,” Jack said, his shoulders slumping. “Perhaps another time.”
He pushed his chair back and started to get up.
Georgia smiled up at Jack and said, “I’m not doing anything this evening. I’ll probably finish up at the office around six.”
Jack hesitated at pushing his chair under the table. “I was probably just going to order a calzone or something from Pirate's Pizza.”
Georgia stood up, and said, “I know that place.” She didn’t tell Jack they were a client. “They only do take-out and delivery, right?”
Jack nodded, so Georgia continued, “Tell me what you think of this idea: You order and pick us up a couple calzones from Pirate Pizza and meet me at the picnic shelter in the park, the one on the east side of Pirates Hole. Do you know the place I’m talking about?”
Jack nodded, and said, “I walked by it this morning.”
“Good,” Georgia said. “You bring the food and I’ll bring the drinks. Is sweat tea okay with you?”
Georgia’s assuming I want to do this picnic thing she’s dreamed up, Jack thought. Why not? It’s not like I had other plans.
“Sweat tea sounds fine,” Jack told Georgia. “Should I bring anything else besides the calzones?”
“We’ll need forks and things like that, paper plates, napkins,” Georgia said. “Can you get those or should I pick some up on my way?”
“I’ll bring those, and some cups for the tea,” Jack said. He smiled. “This is going to be fun.”
“Fun is what I’m going for,” Georgia said. “And after we fill up with food, we can take a walk around the park to work it off.”
She glanced at her watch and gasped. “I’m really going to be late if I don’t go right now.”
Much to Jack’s surprise, she leaned towards him and kissed him lightly on the cheek. Georgia pulled back, seeming almost as surprised as Jack was, and wiped at the lipstick on his face.
“I’ve gotta go,” Georgia said. “See ya, Jack.”
Jack stood there, and managed to say, “Okay, see you.”
He walked with her to the door and watched as Georgia got into her car. A moment later she got out of the car off and got out.
“My client is right next door,” she said, explaining why she’d gotten out of her car. “Mr. Barfield, at The Cone Castle.”
“Oh,” Jack said, and tried not to laugh. “I see.”
Georgia reached behind the seat of her Mercedes and picked up her laptop and attache cases.
“I think that’s everything,” she said. “See ya, Jack.”
Jack hadn’t moved. He was making a heroic effort not to laugh. Not trusting himself to speak, he simply nodded at Georgia before she turned and walked over to The Cone Castle.