Trashed and Scattered
Chapter Forty: In My Remains
A young Peyton hurried down the crowded streets of New York, a coffee cup clutched tightly in one hand and her sketchbook tucked into her arm, the other hand gripping it with a grip of death. She maneuvered around the groups gathered along the sidewalks, a feat she was still adjusting to. New Haven was significantly less populated; the Yale campus hardly littered with anyone other than students. And the students were always so distracted by their noses in their books that it was hardly an issue of fitting them all into one place.
Her breath caught in her throat as she rounded the last corner and slowed her sprint to a jog. Her lungs rebelled and wheezed as she labored to slow her heart rate. The last thing she needed was to start hemorrhaging from the heart; she’d never make it to work if she suffered a heart attack on the sidewalk. She was late enough as it was, there was no time for that.
As she pushed through the glass door, she let the anxious relief cool her malicious breathing. She panted, half-collapsing against the reception desk as she forced two large gulps of air into her chest.
“I’m so sorry,” she muttered between breaths.
Rick, her mentor and secondary father smirked up at her from his chair, “Did you run here?”
“Yes,” she said, clutching at her chest as her eyes sputtered stars.
“Silly girl,” he snickered, spinning around to fetch a heavy weighted pencil.
She sighed, finally taking control of her tired lungs, “I hate being late.”
“Well,” Rick smiled, “why are you late? Not that it matters.”
“I had a hellish night,” she explained limply, shuffling around to the back of the desk and flopping into the leather chair.
Her hands instinctively adjusted the bangs hanging just passed her right ear. She scattered the shorter strands and let them fall over her lined eye.
Rick frowned sympathetically, “Well, get your station set up. No use worrying yourself about something that’s already done.”
“I’m really sorry, Rick,” Peyton insisted.
She hated tardiness. She worked hard to set a good example for herself. Rick had hired her on as an apprentice fresh out of university, so Peyton felt obligated to be the best worker bee she could. Rick was as easy-going as they came, though. He hardly batted an eye at Peyton’s wayward schedule—the girl was so talented that she could have skipped out for a month and he probably wouldn’t have made a fuss about it. He saw something in her that he was determined to nurture; he’d make a pro out of her yet.
“It’s all good, P,” he assured her with a smile. “Just put it behind you.”
Like a walk of shame, she dragged her feet to her chair tucked into the back corner. She set her coffee down onto the little shelf she’d painted black a few weeks prior. Flipping through her book, she ripped several pages from the rings. Business for an apprentice was hardly the thing financial dreams were made of, but she’d been slowly drumming up enough work to keep her head above water. Rick would mercifully throw a client or two her way, ensuring each one that Peyton was the next big thing.
“How many on your docket for today?” he asked her curiously, glancing up at the mechanical clock hanging above the door.
Peyton swirled around, flipping open her scheduling book until she found the right date.
“Six,” she said happily. “That’s two more than I thought. I assume that’s your doing.”
Rick laughed, shaking his head, “Nope. Jonas.”
“Bless his soul,” Peyton grinned. “Your son is a godsend.”
Rick pointed over at her with amusement, “That he is.”
“Speaking of which,” she thought aloud, glancing around the shop. “Where is that man?”
“Late,” Rick smirked. “Maybe he, too, had a hellish night.”
Peyton rolled her green eyes, “Every night for Jonas is a hellish night. The guy is part demon, I’m sure of it.”
“He can’t be both a godsend and a demon, Peyton,” Rick chuckled.
Peyton shrugged, “And yet…”
In proper universe timing, in strolled a remarkably hung-over Jonas. His grey eyes were burdened with fatigue, his shoulders slumped forward as if holding them up was too exhausting. He was sporting a Pantera tee, which he wiped his hand against as his coffee leaked down onto his fingers.
“Sorry,” he muttered, breezing to his own station and promptly unpacking his tools from the cabinet.
Rick smiled, “It’s a common theme in the shop today. Should I give you guys a bonus? A watch, perhaps?”
“Only if it’s a Rolex,” Jonas smirked over his shoulder at his father.
Rick rolled his eyes, climbing to his feet, “I’m going to go do that. And while I’m out, I’m going to grab breakfast. Anyone want anything?”
“Nope,” Peyton and Jonas answered in unison.
“Suit yourselves,” Rick shrugged. “But no whining in an hour when you’re both starving to death.”
Jonas laughed, “No promises.”
Rick disregarded his son’s attempt at a joke and headed for the door, the bell sounding his exit. The second the fatherly figure had vacated, Jonas spun around to face Peyton. She was still organizing her day, ensuring every single detail was perfectly planned and ready for execution.
Jonas smiled over at her, admiring the determined look Peyton would adhere when she started her day off wrong. She was effortlessly beautiful, which Jonas never really tired of. What he liked most about her, though, was that she was even more beautiful internally. She was an angel among men, which had intimidated him at first. But Peyton was cool; she was easy to talk to, endlessly hilarious, and understanding to a fault. She was his guidepost for morality and she was always willing to lend an ear. She’d make someone a really great wife one day, he thought.
“So,” Jonas finally breathed, sparking Peyton’s attention.
Her gaze was magnetic.
“I gather from my dad’s cryptic little comment that you were also late this morning?” he grinned.
She nodded with a smirk, “Not as late as you though.”
“This isn’t a competition, Peyton,” he laughed.
“If it was, you’d lose.”
He snickered, “It’s too early for your shit.”
“No shit,” she smiled, raising her hands up to her chest. “Just facts.”
She absently brushed her hair from her face, tucking the strands behind her ear. She’d been growing out her bangs for nearly a year and had hardly hit a length where they’d stay tucked behind her helix piercing. Why she’d ever thought bangs were a good idea, she’d never know.
The second her hair was out of the way, Jonas recoiled at the sight. Peyton’s eye was painted in dazzling shades of blue; a few streaks of black thrown in for dimension. His reaction tipped off Peyton’s security and she promptly pulled her hair back down.
“That’s a fuckin’ beauty,” Jonas noted, closing the distance between them.
Peyton sighed, “It’s nothing.”
“If that wasn’t a war wound,” Jonas noted knowingly, “you’d be showing it off like a new tattoo. So, spill.”
“No,” she replied simply, reluctant to get into the gritty details of her personal life.
It wasn’t that Jonas was privy to certain truths; over a drunken round of drinks one night, Peyton had confessed the entirety of her childhood trauma. She hadn’t bothered to go too far into detail, but had provided enough insight that Jonas didn’t have to play the guessing game. His mother had recently passed away, and while he reeled from the loss, Peyton hadn’t flinched. It was the surest sign Jonas had to indicate Peyton might not be as whole as he’d always thought.
After learning about the origins of the scar that stretched out onto her forehead, and reluctantly letting her show him the unnatural way her wrist would crack when she rotated it, he’d learned enough. Peyton was resilient, he understood then. He’d never respected anyone as sincerely as he respected Peyton Winchester; not once in her regaling did she complain or cringe. She spoke mechanically, as if she were reading from lecture notes. There was no emotion tangled up into her life—it was all methodically memorized.
“Let me guess,” he said coolly, reaching out to brush the hair from her face.
He wasn’t offended at all when she flinched away from him.
Peyton’s shame was all the answer he needed.
“I’m going to fucking kill him,” Jonas stated matter-of-factly.
Why Peyton tolerated that guy’s bullshit was beyond Jonas’ level of understanding. She was the most in-control woman he’d ever met, but Jared was like her kryptonite. He was controlling and manipulative, Jonas had pegged him as an abusive ass the second he’d laid eyes on him. It was the way he held Peyton’s arm as they walked. There was no protective charade, it was all unrelenting control. And Peyton leaned into it with the weight of the world.
“It’s my fault,” Peyton sighed, “I told him that—”
“No,” Jonas stopped her abruptly. “Don’t you ever fucking say that again.”
She furrowed her brows, “Say what?”
“That it’s your fault,” Jonas replied sternly.
“Well this time it was,” she insisted. “I told him that—”
Jonas cut her off again, “Peyton.”
“What?” she growled impatiently. “If you’d let me fucking talk—”
“There is literally no explanation for a guy hitting you,” he said seriously. “It’s not okay, Peyton. I don’t care if you went after his dick with a pair of scissors; he should never lay a god damn finger on you.”
Her eyes saddened, her face falling into a shameful slump. Jonas relaxed his touch against her cheek, smiling sympathetically. It wasn’t easy to chip at Peyton’s feelings, but he’d done it. He hated to make her upset—but sometimes that’s what she needed.
“You know what you’re doing, right?” he asked lowly.
Her eyes narrowed.
“You’re looking for shit where you’re not going to find it,” he said quietly.
“I’m not looking for anything,” she retorted.
He nodded once, “Yes. You are.”
Peyton sighed, already impatient with the conversation. She’d wanted to come into work, dive into her art, and forget about the events of the last twenty-four hours. She knew she’d get enough of an earful once Joanna had set eyes on her latest fashion choice.
Joanna had gone after Jared once; she chased him around with a broken beer bottle. She was painfully inebriated, but she’d stumbled outside the bar to find Jared pinning her best friend up against a wall. Peyton was unabashedly calm during the entire thing, but Joanna knew better than to trust Peyton’s indifference. She wasn’t sure where Peyton had picked up such apathy for her own life, but it was Joanna’s sole mission in life to break her of it.
Peyton made a point to keep the warring J’s apart after that as much as she could help. She knew Jared was trouble—but he was a bad habit she just couldn’t kick. No matter how badly she wanted to.
“I love him,” Peyton muttered quietly, as if admitting it was the worst thing of all.
Jonas shook his head, “No, you don’t.”
She challenged him silently.
“Joanna’s studying psych, isn’t she?” Jonas half-teased. “I’m sure she’d tell you the same thing I’m thinking.”
“And what’s that?” Peyton sneered.
Jonas took a deep breath, “That you’re settling into abuse because it’s what you know. You’re confusing abuse with love, P. Which totally makes sense, don’t get me wrong…But your mother didn’t love you.”
Although Peyton knew that to be the truth, it still stung to hear. It was the one piece of her childhood that she’d tried her best to manipulate; she’d convinced herself over the years that her mother was sick. Her mother was awful. But somewhere, deep down, her mother did love her. She had to. They were blood, after all…That had to count for something, right?
But Peyton maintained an elegance about her notions. She put on her very best mask and told the world she didn’t give a damn about her mother. Slowly, that mask embedded itself into her skin. Only when she’d peel at the scabs festering around the façade would the darkness pool out from beneath. She’d learned to stop picking and to just let things heal.
“I don’t care about that,” Peyton groaned.
“Of course you do,” Jonas countered. “Why wouldn’t you?”
Peyton cocked an eyebrow, despite the pain it caused her swollen eye, “Why would I?”
“Because,” Jonas sighed. “Mother is god in the eyes of a child.”
Peyton fell silent, mulling that over and over in her mind. Jonas was smugly proud of silencing his comrade; it was a difficult task at the best of times.
“It only makes sense,” Jonas added. “Not that you’re a child anymore…But I don’t think you’ve left that girl behind as much as you think you have. Jared is not your mother—and you are not ten anymore.”
Peyton bit back tears.
“It’s okay to let it go, Peyton,” he assured her with a warm smile. “You have plenty of people that love you. You don’t need to suffer through this shit alone anymore. I won’t fucking let you. I’ll kill him if I have to, swear to god.”
She knew he was right. She knew it was time. So why, then, was it so damn hard?
“Mother is god,” she repeated quietly.
Jonas snickered, finally pulling his hand back, “Before you go giving me too much credit and chalking me up to be the next Plato, I ripped that line off from a movie.”
She nodded, “I know.”
She laughed, “Silent Hill. Of course I know. What do you take me for, an idiot?”
“Sometimes,” Jonas smirked. “You have a tendency to be a little dumb.”
“Fuck you!” Peyton snickered, rolling her eyes.
“With your Ivy League education and all,” Jonas added with a grin.
She moved away from him, returning to her workload with a heavy load on her mind. She knew what she’d have to do—but time spent leading up to it, she was sure, would kill her.
“Jonas?” she mused over her shoulder, watching as he retreated to his own half of the room.
He perked up once more, “Yeah?”
“Can you come with me?” she asked nervously. “Later?...I’m…Afraid.”
Jonas had never heard those words uttered from Peyton’s plump lips. She was seemingly unafraid of everything. It deeply saddened him to watch her crawl through her own mishaps.
“Of course,” he assured her. “What are friends for?”
Peyton was eternally glad to have a friend like Jonas. She hoped he wouldn’t succumb to her curse of affection and fade into nothing but a memory.
And just like that, for the first time in years, Peyton’s mind wandered back in time. A set of icy blue eyes surveyed her for completeness, softening over the bruised edges of her skin.
Peyton recoiled at the thought, like an electric shock had zapped through each of her nerves.
“You okay?” Jonas called over, watching as Peyton flinched away from herself with a horrific look stapled to her face.
She shook it off, refocusing her attention to the floor a few times before nodding, “Yeah, I’m…I’m fine.”
But those ancient crystal blues plagued her all day long.