Where We Left Off

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Luke

Luke woke to his alarm sounding. Cracking his exhausted eyes, he looked at his watch and realized he had been sleeping for only two hours. Unfortunately it was 3:30 am, and Danny would be there shortly to pick him up for their trip. The sun had yet to rise, but Danny insisted they leave early enough to be the firsts guests to arrive at Someday Soon Ranch. What a stupid name, he thought. Cursing as he rose from bed, Luke made his way to the bathroom. He showered and brushed his teeth in record time so that he was able to make a pot of coffee before sitting on his porch to wait.

He sat absent-mindedly drinking his coffee. Luke preferred black coffee, none of that sugary crap that people liked these days. He also preferred mornings, a time to reset before everyone else began their day and made too much noise. On this particular morning he noticed that it was a bit chilly. It was only the middle of August which seemed too early for cold weather in Colorado, but he didn't mind the cold. After so many years in the Middle East he welcomed the cold weather eagerly.

Just as he finished his drink he heard music. It was some God awful pop/country blaring on a car speaker. Luke knew that could only be Danny. He would take a bullet for that man, but his taste in music was atrocious. No matter how hard Luke tried he couldn't get Danny to turn that shit off, even at four in the morning.

When the car came to a screeching stop in front of his house Luke saw two other men in the back seat of the car. One was a very muscular man with dark brown skin that Luke knew as a man named Charlie, and the other was a stanger to him. He had met Charlie though a support group his ex girlfriend had suggested he attend. After one meeting neither went back, but they remained friends. Though Luke and Charlie had never served together, he seemed to be a good man. He was an Army Vet that had sustained a traumatic brain injury from an IED in Iraq. Now, he worked as a very talented mechanic in a Volkswagen repair shop.

The other man was small. He looked like a child in comparison to Charlie who was stacked with muscles. When Luke approached the car he could see that the man was in fact just a kid. He couldn't have been more than 22. When Luke got into the passenger seat of the 2015 mustang that Danny owned, he noticed the kid was in pretty rough shape. He had a bright pink scar than ran from his right ear, down his neck disappearing underneath his camo t-shirt. In addition, he was missing both of his legs and part of his left hand. Definitely a veteran, Luke thought to himself as he turned around to say hello.

"How the hell did you get roped into this Charlie?"

Charlie shrugged replying, "he said there will be beer."

"I wonder, is there anything you wouldn't do for a beer Charlie?" The man in the backseat said. Luke turned to face him and extended a hand.

"I'm Luke."

"Jesse" said the man timidly.

Luke turned back to face the front as Danny began to explain that this whole trip was possible because he met Jesse last week. He spoke a mile a minute so Luke mostly tuned it out, but from what he gathered Jesse was a friend of Charlies. Charlie had mentioned Jesse invited him to a program in the mountains that was supposed to help with PTSD and reintegration for discharged and wounded veterans. Once Danny heard about it, he wanted to go. Danny was all about getting free stuff and loved the mountains. When he called the Someday Soon Ranch to request a few spots he was quickly accommodated and now the four were speeding off toward a small mountain town in the Rockies by the name of Glen Haven.

The drive there was peaceful after they had gotten out of range for a radio signal. Danny had forgotten to charge his phone so Luke gratefully got a little reprieve from the blaring music. They drove with the convertible top down, winding around tight corners and climbing the steep mountain passes. The view was incredible. A swiftly flowing river danced with the road, and the trees towered overhead. They were mostly pine giving off the sweetest mountain smell Luke remembered from his youth.

As they climbed higher and higher, he felt a familiarity take over. He and his girlfriend had driven this very road many times together as teenagers. The memories of being young and in love brought a smile to his face, but a twinge to his gut. Luke hardly ever thought about those old memories anymore. It had been more than a decade since he made them. To evade the feeling in his gut he pushed away the memories of her, instead focusing on each curve of the road and how the wind whipped his face.

After an hour and a half of driving, they saw a small green sign welcoming them to the small town of Glen Haven. It read, population 37.

"Does that even count as a town with only 37 people?" Danny asked as he sped past it.

"It counts. But I bet not a single one of those 37 is awake yet man. Why did we have to get here so early?" Charlie questioned.

Danny ignored him as he kept driving. The town was empty save for a few houses lining the road and a small store. The store was aptly named General Store and had a large sign that read " fresh cinnamon rolls daily" with a list of the hours. By the looks of it, they didn't open until 6 am and the time was only 5:30 am. In addition, the earliest they could check in at the ranch was 6:30 am. Luke internally scoffed at Danny's miscalculation and suggested they keep driving. He knew of a small lake bordering this town that he had frequented in his youth.


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