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Vin Tanner awoke to the blinding sunlight streaming through his bedroom window. The feeling of cotton in his mouth and the mind-splitting headache reminded him of last night's whiskey excursion. He sat up on the side of the bed and immediately regretted moving. He sat still for a few minutes and tried to figure out the best way to end it all. Shooting himself was an option but then again he would probably miss and the noise would be deafening. Maybe he could drown himself in the shower. A shower would be good; at least it would be a quiet way to go. He began to gingerly make his way to the bathroom when the smell of brewing coffee steered him to the living room instead.
He walked into the room and was surprised to see his best friend and boss, Chris Larabee, lying on the couch. He didn't remember Chris being here. Chris sat up as he heard Vin enter the room. He looked Vin over, then smiled wryly. "You look like hell, Tanner. Maybe I should shoot you and put you outta your misery regardless of the paperwork."
Vin blinked hard and ran his fingers through his tangled hair. "Nope, already thought about that. Too much noise." He sat down on the couch next to Chris and rested his head in his hands. "Decided to let the shower take care of it."
Chris chuckled and reached over to pat Vin's shoulder gently. "You want coffee or a shower first?"
"Okay, you go ahead. When you come out we need to talk," Chris said firmly.
Vin looked over at Chris questioningly, "About what?"
Chris held Vin's gaze steadily. "Don't give me about what. How about whatever the hell happened last night? It isn't like you to dive head first into a bottle." Seeing Vin about to protest he raised his hand and continued, "I don't care whether or not you want to talk. You've been a pain in the ass for the past few days and last night was the final straw. You are going to tell me what's going on. Now, go take your shower. Coffee will be ready when you get out. Then we'll talk."
Vin thought it would be less painful for his head if he did not argue. Chris was like a bulldog when he wanted to know something. He would sink his teeth in and hang on pulling and growling until he got what he wanted. Vin decided the last thing he needed this morning was a Larabee temper tantrum. "Okay, Chris. You win. I'll be back in few minutes." He got up and headed for the bathroom then turned back and gave Chris a quirky half-grin. "Check that coffee will ya? Doesn't smell like you put in any grounds."
Thirty minutes later, Chris watched as Vin sat at the kitchen table working on his second cup of coffee. Vin did not look any better than he did earlier. In fact, the dark circles around his eyes were even more pronounced. Chris moved over and sat next to his friend. "Are you ready to talk now?" he asked.
Vin closed his eyes and sighed deeply.
"C'mon, cowboy. Look at me," demanded Chris, knowing that anything Vin was feeling would be expressed in those blue eyes.
When Vin finally looked at him, Chris saw pain. "Vin, I hope you know by now, whatever it is, you can trust me with it. If I can help you, I will."
"I know that, Chris. You know, I don't remember much about last night. I don't remember you bringing me home at all. Anything gonna come back to haunt me?"
"Nah, don't worry about it. We were all worried about you because we've never seen you drunk. Buck drove your jeep over to his apartment. We can pick it up later this afternoon if you're up to it."
Vin nodded. They sat silently for a few minutes then Vin began talking. "Three years ago, I met the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. She worked at a shop I used to visit a lot. We started to fall in love a few months after we started dating. I proposed a year after we met and she said yes. It was the happiest time of my life, Chris."
Chris leaned over and placed his hand on Vin's arm. "What happened?" he asked softly.
"We had a place in the mountains we'd go to. There's a spot surrounded by trees so thick that the sun can only peek through. Off to the side is a stream that flows over the rocks. It was our secret place. We were gonna be married there. On our wedding day, I was supposed to pick her up at her apartment then we were to go get the preacher and drive up to our place." Vin rubbed at his eyes vigorously as he felt tears start to well. "Damn, I can't believe it still hurts this much," he said.
Chris smiled encouragingly. "Take your time, pard. I'm not going anywhere."
Vin took a deep breath to regain his composure. "I got to her apartment and she was gone. She left a note saying she had changed her mind. She took a few clothes but most of her stuff was left behind. Over the next several weeks, I did everything I could to find her but it was no use. It's like she just disappeared off the face of the earth." He laughed a bit shakily. "I thought we were totally in love. Guess I was wrong."
Chris tried to come up with the words to help his friend Even though they had only known each other a year, Chris felt that Vin was one of the strongest men he had ever met. Vin had been dealt with more obstacles in his young life than most people had their whole lives. It was becoming more and more obvious, though, that those obstacles had left their marks on Vin's heart and soul.
"I'm so sorry, Vin. We both know that I understand completely how it feels to lose someone you love. I wish I could say time heals all wounds but it doesn't. But when you learn to live with something, it does get easier. Let me ask you, what's triggered it to hit you so hard over the last few days, especially last night?"
Vin got up and walked over to the window and stood there with his back to Chris. "Today should be our second anniversary. Lisa and I should be at our place in the mountains celebrating."
A warning bell rang in Chris' mind. He was glad Vin's back was to him. He took a deep breath and asked calmly, "Her name is Lisa?" He prayed he was wrong but the name and timeline matched.
"Yeah, Lisa Sanders." He turned back to Chris and said, "Look I don't really want to talk anymore right now. I'm gonna take a walk and clear my head. I'll be back in a little while, okay?"
"You want some company?"
"If you don't mind, I think I need to go alone. I won't be long." Vin headed for the door then turned back and smiled at Chris. "I appreciate you being here, last night and now. Thank you for being here and for being my best friend."
After Vin left, Chris did not move. He was thankful Vin had wanted to be alone. Some best friend I am. Vin, how can I comfort you? I can't tell you the truth. I can't tell you I'm the reason Lisa left. Of all people for you to be involved with, why did it have to be her? All I can do is try to help you get through the day as best I can, then encourage you to let go of the past.
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