Trashed and Scattered
Chapter Sixteen: The Choices We Make
Jimmy had stuck around long enough to enjoy a much needed cup of coffee with his hungover friend. She was disheveled to hell, looking rougher than he’d ever seen. Age is tricky that way; we don’t snap back like we could in our youth. She savored the scent ruminating up from her mug.
“So…” Jimmy yawned. “What do you get up to while you’re hanging around here?”
She shrugged, “I’ve been doing renovations mostly…”
He glanced around the kitchen, admiring the fresh coat of paint and the wires hanging from an opening in the ceiling. She informed him that it was a work in progress.
“Typical Dan,” Jimmy thought aloud.
Peyton’s brows fell low, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
He shrugged his shoulders, “Just typical…throwing his daughter to the wolves to save himself some work.”
Peyton was immediately defensive, which she knew bordered insanity. Her father had let her endure years of abuse out of fear of starting over. He’d turned a blind eye to her suffering; she knew this. And yet…
“It’s not like that,” she replied quickly.
“Maybe it’s not,” he replied easily. “But it’s just weird that you’re here and he’s not.”
As Peyton began listing off each reason why it made more sense for her to journey out to California, she’d talked herself in a circle and come back around to nothingness. The sole reason she was there was because she couldn’t find the power within herself to say no.
“Whatever,” she dismissed herself. “I’m not a kid anymore. It’s just a house. It isn’t like he asked me to go sponge bath my mother and hold her hand as she beat the shit out of me.”
Jimmy was genuinely taken aback by the casual tone she’d taken to describe her upbringing. It had certainly left him with some emotional scars; he hoped Peyton’s dark sarcasm was simply a coping mechanism.
Part of him, he was sure, would always hate Dan. Regardless of what Peyton had to say on his behalf.
“You’re right,” he said to save himself an argument.
Peyton was seething but knew they weren’t close enough anymore to really lay into him. He didn’t understand. He’d never understood.
Dan was all she had for family. He’d taken care of her, soothed her wounds and watched out for her when her arm had been pinned back into one piece. He’d killed himself making a new life for her…She didn’t want to be bitter forever. She couldn’t be.
“Do you want some help?” Jimmy asked after a few moments of silence. “I have something to do…But I could come back later.”
The hopeful tone in his voice instantaneously relaxed Peyton’s mood. The kindness in his eyes helped her to root back into reality, releasing her frustrations with a sigh.
“I don’t want to put you out,” she answered oddly.
He smirked, “I’ll bring you dinner. You still like Thai?”
“Cool,” he declared, dumping the half cup of coffee into the sink and leaving the cup at the bottom. “I’ll be back in a while then.”
“Okay,” was all Peyton could think to say.
As Jimmy headed for the door, Peyton following closely on his heels, he turned to her with a smile, “Isn’t it weird?”
“What?” she asked lightly. “Being in here? Openly talking and shit?”
He nodded, “Yeah…or all of it.”
As Jimmy set his hand onto the handle, Peyton’s nerves filled up with panic. It was nearly a flashback, watching him drift from her. It had taken only one night to reawaken every feeling she’d been harboring for the past thirteen years. She was scared to death now of losing him. What if he didn’t come back?
Feeling partly brave and partly disoriented, she grabbed his shoulder to gain his attention. He whipped around curiously.
She stepped toward him and he flinched back slightly.
With a laugh she assured him, “Just hold still.”
Jimmy’s heart melted into his bones. His ribs lay drowning in affection.
She pushed herself onto the tips of her toes, realizing all over again just how tall he’d grown to be. With a hand firmly planted on the back of his neck for stability, they leaned together to seal the gap.
It was hungrier than the kiss they’d shared before. It was grown. Matured. Fueled by absolute and unfiltered desire. It was as if the time spent apart had only flourished itself further into a flame of tension, waiting and praying to be extinguished in time.
Jimmy pushed his lips further into hers, wrapping his arms around her waist out of instinct. He crashed Peyton against the wall, desperate to keep the connection, feeling it build as she sighed into him.
But the sound woke him up. He snapped out of it, pulling back hastily. His blue eyes studied her for answers as she stood apart from him, panting subtly for air.
She grinned, looking only a little embarrassed, “Just in case?”
He let himself laugh, nodding knowingly as he awkwardly side-stepped for the door, “I really have to go…I’ll see you later though.”
“Okay,” she said reluctantly as he slipped through the exit and into the daylight.
He beat his head against the wood silently, scolding himself for allowing his desires to slip through his control. Adjusting his discomfort in his jeans, he strolled to his car and slammed the door behind him. He let his head fall against the steering wheel, the wave of guilt comforted only by the lasting impression of Peyton’s lips on his.
He shut his brain off as he drove, resting on his laurels to get him home safely. He was shocked as he pulled into his driveway, wondering if he’d blown any red lights or ran over any children along the way. He couldn’t say for certain.
He climbed out from his car, rubbing at his neck with a delicate touch as the new tattoo stung with irritation. The second he stepped into his home, he rushed into the bathroom to rip the bandage from the wound and let it breathe. It was beautiful, if not a little crusted with crimson dried blood.
Deciding he needed to properly clean the flesh wound, he stripped his clothes from his body and stepped into the shower. The hot water steamed his aching muscles away; something about laying around on a rooftop all night made for a particularly sore and uneasy morning.
But Peyton’s eyes danced in his head; her smile drew his out, too. The sound of her voice, distinct but vaguely familiar, lulled his mind from the chaos. He was tormented, and he didn’t know what he was to do about that.
Despite the typical healing properties of an abnormally hot shower, he stepped back into the bathroom feeling less than rejuvenated. Frustrated, maybe. But not rejuvenated.
All he wanted was to be back with Peyton, heckling her about her lifestyle choices and getting to know each and every detail of her being. He could listen to her talk all day long and he figured he’d never miss a beat. He’d never tire of her childish laugh or the look she’d get when he’d said something wrong. It had taken exactly one night to erase thirteen years of damage.
“Fuck,” he grumbled to himself, running his fingers through his black hair and resting them atop the new black lines inked into his skin.
Chained to this existence?
He blinked at himself, as if he could will away his thoughts just by facing them. They persisted, despite his best stare down.
Getting absolutely nowhere with himself, he abandoned the bathroom mirror and set off for the bedroom. He pulled out a pair of fresh denim that wasn’t coated in bits of shingles and a black tee. As he slid the shirt over his neck, he winced a bit from the pain.
His cell phone rang from somewhere down the hall. He figured it was probably still in the pocket of his jeans and reluctantly sodded off to find it. Whoever it was and whatever they wanted, he didn’t have the time. He was busy stewing and formulating and plotting.
Jimmy grumbled to himself as he flipped open the cell and planted it against his ear.
“Hey, man,” Jimmy said.
“Hey! What’s up?” Matt asked casually.
Jimmy shrugged, “Not a whole lot…What’s up with you?”
“I’m sitting at the studio,” he half-laughed. “And Mudrock’s asking where the fuck you are.”
With all of the excitement of the past day and a half, he’d completely spaced on the details of his daily life.
“But it’s Sunday,” Jimmy argued to buy time.
They’d already had this argument. He’d lost.
“Dude, I’m not going over this again,” he laughed. “You coming or not?”
Jimmy groaned, “Yeah, yeah…You know I’m just going to finish in one take. I don’t see what the fuckin’ rush is.”
Matt laughed, “Just get in here, man.”
Jimmy hung up the phone without a formal goodbye; he figured if he was being pulled from the comfort of his home on a Sunday, Matt didn’t deserve a farewell. He wondered if he should have told Peyton he’d swing by later…He wasn’t sure he’d be done in time to be back by dinner.
He’d just have to make it work. Though, if he’d had his way, he would have abandoned the guys to camp out with Peyton.
He grabbed his keys from the discarded jeans and skipped his way downstairs. Just as his foot hit the last step, a blonde rounded the corner. He jumped with surprise.
“Oh, you are home!” she smiled. “I thought I heard you!”
Jimmy forced a smile, trying to hide his contrition, “Yeah…Just for a second.”
“You didn’t come home last night,” she noted with disappointment. “I called Brian and he said you went home…I was worried sick about you, Jim!”
“Sorry,” he frowned. “I stopped by my parents on my way home and ended up falling asleep on the couch.”
Her face relieved its stress, “Next time can you let me know? I thought you were dead in a ditch somewhere!”
“Sorry,” he said again, almost convinced that he meant it.
“It’s okay,” she smiled fondly, closing the gap between them and wrapping her arms around his waist.
He writhed with guilt.
“Headed to the studio? Zach called about an hour ago looking for you.”
“Yeah,” he nodded. “I’m late as fuck too…So…”
She giggled, leaning up to plant a gentle kiss on his lips. He melted into her for a second, forgetting what a total piece of shit he’d been less than an hour before.
“I’ll text you when I get there,” he told her, separating himself from her. “My mom needs help moving a piano tonight…So I’ll probably be late.”
“Okay,” she nodded coolly. “Just let me know, okay?”
He smiled, “Okay.”
“Love you,” she sang as he darted for the door.
He called back to her instinctively, “Love you too.”
There was no time for beating his head against the door this time. He had a life to live and problems to sort out—and a solid sixty minute drive ahead of him.
The voices in his head were eating him alive.
Oh, shit. (What's in the bucket)