Part 4 – focusing on the present

I’ve tried calling you all night. I wanted to tell you in person, but I haven’t been able to reach you. I’m minutes away from flying to the mainland to start a new job.

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Van deflates onto an old, wooden bench just outside the resort. He had been so focused on the blackjack table, that he missed several calls, voice mails, and texts from Benita. She had been trying to reach him for hours. Her last message was a voice mail recorded about an hour ago,

Van, you are my dearest and closest friend. You know me better than anybody. That may explain why this hurts so much. I pray that you will understand. I have been blessed with an employment opportunity I simply cannot refuse. I will be away from the island frequently and for extended periods of time. This means I won’t be able to give our relationship the attention it requires or give you the time you deserve.

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Van is not an emotional sim, but he feels the uncomfortable pain of tears stinging his tired eyes and the empty feeling of loss encroaching upon his belly.

This opportunity can provide the future we’ve prayed about. However, we need to be apart for awhile… maybe a long while. I need to focus on the present without becoming too distracted with our future. I know this is a terrible way to handle this, and I’m sorry.

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Just like that, she’s gone. No different than those bastards Mitch and Wade, searching for their non-existent El Dorado. One of life’s little cruel jokes, it seems.  Van lifts his head to regard the ocean; the only constant he’d ever known.  It has been more than a day since the last time he slept. But his exhaustion seems irrelevant right now. The bigger problem seems rather obvious. He has no job, no money, and no way to resolve the debts that aren’t even his to begin with. He inherited them simply because he wanted a place to finally call home. Now it’s only a matter of time before he loses that as well.

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He sits for a long time like this before realizing he is not alone.  Removing the tears from his face with the back of his hand, he sits back on the bench. Skyler had run away from the resort with him. Van assumed she had gone home. Clearly she had not, because he finds her nearby in the pre-dawn light, sitting on the ground and sobbing. Setting aside his own problems momentarily, he quietly approaches her. Without looking at him, she apologizes profusely, adding that she really knows how to *expletive* things up. Van sits next to her in the sand, reassuring her that it wasn’t her fault. This was all Omar.

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Still working to avoid eye contact with Van, Skyler shakes her head, explaining how Omar set the whole thing up. Skyler is relatively new to Isla Paradiso. She’s only been here a few months and has only been an adult slightly longer than that. Her parents kicked her out of their house back in Pleasantview shortly after turning nineteen. Skyler stops to gather herself before continuing. She doesn’t blame them, really. There is no denying that she is a total *expletive*. Both a liar AND a thief – two awesome qualities that make for a super-happy life. She’s fallen into a lot of trouble since becoming an adult and thought she could move away from her troubles. She wanted to leave the “bad” Skyler Gilscarbo in Pleasantview. She knew better. But she literally had nothing to lose.

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She had seen a lot of hype about Isla Paradiso on the internet. So she stole the money she needed to fly here. Not exactly a great start to a new life. Her outgoing personality and “hot body” got her the job as a hostess at the casino. Then, as the opportunity presented itself, she did a great job of *expletive* everything up again. Easy access to money and a little bit of trust seemed like the perfect formula. And it was… for getting *expletive*. Omar found out about it and threatened legal action unless she returned the money. He agreed to take half her salary until she paid it off. Then tonight happened.

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Van remains silent as she continues. For whatever reason, Omar picked today to snap. He threatened to file charges against her unless she found a way to persuade Van to cheat in the casino. It seemed like a really weird request, but she was afraid of what would happen if she didn’t cooperate. So she agreed. Having spoken to Van all this time without facing him, Skyler finally regards him with angry and defiant eyes.

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She’s only been on Isla Paradiso for a couple of months, and already she is in more trouble than she can handle.  Omar had evidently called her landlord as soon as they were kicked out of the resort. It’s  the middle of the *expletive* night. The little *expletive* spilled everything about what she had done at the casino. The landlord didn’t even have the courtesy of calling to see what had happened. All she got was a text message notifying her about the eviction,

You’re out. Don’t come back here.

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Van invites Skyler to stay at his place long enough to find another apartment. He explains that he’s most likely going to be looking for somewhere else to live as well. The debt collectors have already started threatening repossession. And now that he has no job, there is no way he’ll be able to keep what little he has. They arrive at the house just before sunrise. Van is fast asleep in his bed a few seconds afterward.

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He wakes with Skyler sleeping in his bed next to him. The pile of clothes at the foot of the bed suggests that she is not wearing anything at all. Van does his best to quickly make a quiet escape, but she stirs just as he throws back the covers. She asks what kind of dude would pass up the opportunity to *expletive* a smoking-hot girl laying naked in bed next to him. Van shrugs. Doing his best to avoid what could turn into a real messy situation, he chuckles and says he’s not good for much of anything before his morning coffee. He stands and is about to ask her to get dressed when she throws off the covers then poses suggestively on the bed for him.

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She wasn’t kidding when she said smoking-hot. Van swallows a gulp of air, then compliments her. He quickly pulls on a pair of pants, then somberly explains what had transpired between him and Benita last night. He’s’ just not in any frame of mind to jump into another romantic relationship. Skyler quickly redirects him, clarifying that she only wants to *expletive* him, not marry him.

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Skyler’s foul mouth has already begun to wear on Van. He smiles, taking in eyefuls of her beauty, then asks her politely if she could try to tone her language down a little bit. He agrees that any warm-blooded guy would have leaped at the chance. He’s probably insane for not doing so himself. But it just doesn’t feel right. Not yet, anyway. She nods while bearing a disappointed smile. She doesn’t understand him, but she will respect his space.

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Van breathes a relieved sigh. He’s happy to have her hang out here with him until the bank kicks him out for not paying the mortgage. Unfortunately, that may be a lot sooner than either of them are ready for. Van rubs his eyes, then the back of his neck, and adds that his offer has only one condition…

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Please go put some clothes on.

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