The Drive

Texas 8/23-8/25/2017

Generally, a trip back home to Texas was something to be excited about. He'd get to spend time with his parents, friends from his school years that stuck around the area, or friends stationed just 'down the road' at Fort Hood. Vince would have given anything for that to have been this trip and not what it really was. This was a trip made under far more dire circumstances; his father wasn't doing well and his mother had demanded he come home for them to discuss it. He wasn't an idiot. He knew the moment he heard that he needed to be there to hear the news that it was going to be something that knocked him on his ass. It wasn't going to be a simple case of his father having something he was going to easily walk away from.

He didn't have to do it alone at least since Emily and Halley had joined him at nearly the last minute for the trip. Having to invite her would have meant admitting he was as scared as he was about what he could face in Texas. Thankfully, his ex-wife and once again girlfriend knew him well enough to insist on going.

Their arrival in Bryan hadn't felt like anything out of the ordinary, his family was estatic to see the three of them. Granted Emily and Halley got the most attention and with good reason. They'd been missing during his previous trips back home. So it only made sense that they were spoiled the moment they walked through the threshold of his family home. Vince on the other hand was more preoccupied with spending some one on one time with his father. Yet everyone had remained extremely tight lipped about what was going on; even his brother and sister who had already arrived two days previously.

Thursday, the day after their arrival, his sister took Halley off of his and Emily's hands so they could sit down with his parents. It wasn't a pleasant conversation and to be perfectly honest it was pretty one-sided once his mother dropped the bomb.

'It's cancer.'

The look on his face must have asked the question without the need for him to open his mouth. 'It's stage three...in his lungs.'

Vince yet again wasn't an idiot, he didn't expect to live in a world where his parents would be around forever but that didn't mean the blow wasn't lessened. A proverbial punch to the gut that he took with as much grace as he could have. Why spend time crying over it when he could use that time to spend it with his father? Afterall, there was still time, they were getting him the best treatments they could. Remission was a thing, right? Balling it all up and setting it aside, his anguish, was easier but not less painful. And it's what he did until the time came that he couldn't hold it in any longer.

A time that came Friday night while his mother, Emily and Halley were out getting last minute groceries before the storms started to really hammer the area. Vince had taken up property in a chair on the back porch to watch the rain fall. The perfect place to check in with his old friend, former flame, Angie via text message. The conversation seemed to be going well enough for a while but, god did it take a wicked turn when he least expected it.

I'm sorry, I'm finding this a little difficult....Talking to you....it just needs time....Are you really happy for me?...

He stared at the phone screen for a while before he sent his final message, a tense You too. Then it felt like suddenly the entire world was pushing down on him but not just down, at every angle. The final proverbial straw on the proverbial camel's back. Something inside of him snapped for a split second and with the crash of thunder he was hurling his phone full force at the concrete floor of the porch beneath his feet. Vince surged out of his chair and tucked his hands behind his head. "This isn't fucking happening.", he growled to himself as the realization of what he just did hit him. "Fuck."

His teeth were grinding together as he looked through the sliding glass doors and into the house. Nobody'd seen him do it. So he leaned down and grabbed the phone from the ground and turned it over in his hand to inspect it. Not too bad, he could get it fixed or that was the initial thought anyway. The moment he realized the damned thing wasn't turning back on he let it fall to the ground again and slipped his hands behind his head again. One shaky breath out, trembling with everything he'd been trying to hold inside since he and Emily had sat down with his mother and father on Thursday.

It's cancer. Vince closed his eyes around the vivid memory as it surged through him and put a metallic taste in his mouth. All the while his fingers curled against his scalp until they turned white with pressure. One shaky breath in.

The shock of the news was wearing off about his father, Emily hadn't been wrong when she said eventually he wasn't going to be fine. This wasn't fine. This was a rare, humbling moment of the world breaking Vincent Marlowe. All he could do was stare down at the phone that was utterly destroyed at that point. One shaky breath out. "It's fine...it's fine...", he repeated to himself. Vince's mind skittered over the conversation with Angie. He couldn't even pick up his phone and text her at that point either. Shouldn't be texting her anyway, right? Caring about her was fine if he didn't care about her.

Angie deserved to be happy just like he deserved to be happy that he and Emily were together again. He'd married her for a reason after all. So why was this pissing him off so horribly? Vince would convince himself it was because he was possibly losing a friend, an important friend, in the midst of the world shaking news about his father. It couldn't have been anything beyond that. He was a man with morals after all; Vince was with Emily, he loved her, he wouldn't jeopardize that.

A swift boot to his phone sent it skipping out across the lawn just before he heard a noise from inside that yanked his attention that direction. Emily, Halley and his mother were back from the store. Vince watched his mother glance to him then say something to Emily that prompted his ex-wife to hand Halley over to her. Was there a fucking vice grip in his chest? Sure as shit felt like one was squeezing his heart. He opened his mouth around a breath and turned so he didn't have to watch Emily heading towards the door, towards him.

Instead, he let his eyes close again and listened for the door to slide open then closed. "Don't.", he warned her against saying anything even if he couldn't coherently specify that. Emily didn't need to say a single word, her tugging him to face her and the way she pulled him into a hug was more than enough. Everything crumbled as he wrapped his arms around her and leaned his face against the side of her head, the anger at the situation morphed into pure unadulterated pain. He wasn't aware of anything other than the warmth of Emily holding him, the smell of her hair, the warm stream of tears falling from his eyes. Vince found himself in a paradox where everything was simultaneously fine and absolutely horrible at the same time.

And, surprisingly, he was fine with that if only because of the woman standing there comforting him.