Trashed and Scattered
Chapter Seventy-Three: Prophecies and Miscalculations
“Ready?” Jimmy asked with a smile, his fingers lingering an inch from the red door before him.
Peyton nodded, “Ready.”
With a light tap of his knuckles, the drummer sounded his arrival and within a few seconds, the door flew open.
“You made it!” Lauren gasped happily. “Come in! Come in!”
Jimmy instinctively wrapped his fingers around Peyton’s wrist as he led her into the chaotically loud home of Lauren Cooper. The blonde swiftly closed the door behind them, shepherding them into the noise with small talk and beaming excitement. As they strolled through crowds of unfamiliar faces, Peyton’s eyes danced along the bright yellow walls. If she’d, for a second, considered Lauren’s nature to be a facade, the colour scheme of her interior quickly shut down any lingering thoughts. Only truly happy people would coat their home in such an obnoxiously ghastly colour.
“Drinks are in here,” Lauren smiled as they rounded a corner into the white cupboard haven of a kitchen. “Cups are over there; ice is in there and Brian’s out there.”
Jimmy snickered, “What an excellent tour guide you make, Lo. I think you’ve missed your calling.”
“There’s better money in teaching,” she smirked. “I’ll catch up with you guys in a bit. Help yourselves!”
She disappeared just as quickly as she’d appeared, leaving Jimmy and Peyton alone with everyone else. As Jimmy quickly got to work fetching them drinks, he was greeted with a few shallow hellos and inquiries about his day.
“You have a lot of friends,” Peyton noted with a grin.
Jimmy laughed, “Yeah, poor fools seem to like me for whatever reason.”
“Lauren seems nice,” Peyton smiled. “You guys close?”
Jimmy nodded, his eyes glimmering with fondness, “Yeah, Lauren’s good shit.”
“Are you close enough I should be jealous?” Peyton teased, retrieving the drink in Jimmy’s hand with thanks.
He narrowed his eyes, “Jealous, why?”
“Because I had a stake in the female best friend thing,” she breezed whimsically. “Is she threatening my territory?”
Jimmy chuckled, “No one could threaten your territory, Lex.”
“Good,” she smiled, pressing the cold glass against her lips.
“So, now what?” Jimmy thought aloud. “Wanna go find Bri?”
Peyton hesitated, somehow sensing this might be a test of some sort. When Brian had strolled into her chair, she’d promptly asked if Jimmy had been in a mood when he’d seen him. It was atypical of Jimmy to leave without saying goodbye and When she’d seen the missed call from Brian on her phone, it didn’t take much to put two into together. He hadn’t gone into much detail but he had explained that he and Jimmy had had a conversation about the so-called Peyton problem. She knew better than to bring it up with Jimmy himself, sensing that an argument might not be far off the horizon. With her departure nearing, Peyton desperately wanted to avoid arguments with Jimmy at every and all cost.
So, she’d pretended like everything was fine. A concept not entirely foreign to her DNA. They’d gone ahead as Jimmy had suggested and spent a relaxing night in. He was in a less than pleasant mood upon his return home, though, so Peyton conjured an imaginary, albeit quite convincing, twelve-hour flu. She wasn’t about to sacrifice her memory of a Huntington Beach sunset to Jimmy’s foul mood. She was just as content to lean against his arm, wrapped up in mindless television until sleep overtook them both. By day break, it was as if nothing had happened. All was right in the world once more.
Reading Peyton like a book, Jimmy cast her a reassuring smile, “Come on.”
He led her out into the sprawling back yard, lit bright against the evening sky with sparkling fairy lights and technicolor patio lanterns.
It didn’t take long to find the handsome guitarist. He was holed up in a patio chair, smoking cigarettes and debating existence with the hunky singer. As Brian’s attention caught Jimmy’s impending presence, he dutifully kicked a chair out for his tall friend.
“I was wondering when you two would turn up,” Brian grinned.
Jimmy smirked, “Later’s better than never.”
“True that,” Brian nodded once.
As Jimmy and Peyton both pulled up a seat, Matt flashed his dimples their way, “Brian here was just talking about fate.”
“And isn’t it funny that you two should walk up,” Brian added cheekily.
Peyton smiled faintly to herself, revelling in the thought of star-born souls.
“Fate is bullshit,” Jimmy declared, decidedly banishing Peyton’s current swoon.
“What?” Matt laughed. “You can’t just decide fate is bullshit, Rev. That’s pretty ballsy, even for you.”
Jimmy snickered, “Show me some proof and we’ll talk, Shadz.”
The singer and the guitarist both cast their gaze in Peyton’s direction, their eyebrows raised high to the star lit sky.
Peyton put her hands up, “Woah, woah. I’m not proof of anything.”
“Awfully coincidental that you should show up,” Matt reasoned lightly. “And meet Zach...and agree to his weird perverted tattoo party.”
Brian nodded smugly.
Peyton laughed, “There was nothing perverted about it!”
“No,” Matt agreed against his will. “But there could have been!”
“It’s like you said,” Jimmy interjected. “Coincidental.”
Peyton joked, “And I’m, personally, too sober for such a heavy conversation,”
Matt relented, “Fate isn’t bullshit. That’s all I’m saying.”
“Well if it isn’t bullshit,” Jimmy sighed. “Then it’s cruel.”
A damp mound of darkness quashed the light-spirited atmosphere all at once. Peyton squirmed a little in her chair, feeling Jimmy’s ice-cold fingers latch onto her heart. With another sigh, he gave it a tight squeeze—rendering it to pieces beneath the moonlight.
“Well...Fate led Brian to a new sleeve,” Matt tried weakly. “So...”
“And it looks fucking sick,” Brian added cheerfully. “Jim, check it out.”
Brian leaned over to his best friend, stretching his arm out to display Peyton’s recent work in all its glory. A glimmer of pride shot up through Jimmy’s veins as he took in every single line the beauty had etched into the guitarist’s skin.
“Not bad!” Jimmy grinned, turning to look at the uncomfortable artist. “You gonna do mine next?”
“Do your what?” she half-laughed. “Your arms are pretty full.”
“Just one,” he pouted. “You could fill the other one. I swear I pay generously.”
Peyton smirked, “Like room and board?”
Jimmy nodded once with a laugh, “Exactly!”
“And when you’re done with him,” Matt smiled. “I’ve got a few ideas floating around.”
Peyton snickered, downing a mouthful of her drink, “Between the three of you, I’ll never find the time to get out of here.”
Jimmy caught the sentiment between his teeth, letting his tone fall accordingly, “Would that be so bad?”
“Yeah, Peyton,” Matt joined happily. “Don’t tell me a part of you doesn’t want to stick around in California for a while longer. You can’t beat the views!”
Peyton grumbled to herself, feeling as though she’d somehow stumbled into an existential bear trap. This was far too public a venue to be airing such conundrums.
So, she smiled politely and buried her lips into her drink.
The men quickly moved forward, getting into a long-winded and only partly interesting conversation about their newest tattoo ideas. Peyton listened with one ear and took in the sights of the party with what was left of her attention. Everyone seemed so damn happy beneath the California sky. It was a far cry from the roof top parties she’d frequented back in New York. Everyone there held their noses high in the air and their tastes on the top shelf. She felt more at home in ten minutes with strangers than she ever did in a room of her peers.
“Hey!” a squeaky voice pulled her from her observations. “Mind if I steal Peyton? We’ve got a girl on girl game going on inside and I’m without a partner!”
Peyton glanced up to find Lauren smiling down at her.
“Girl on girl, huh?” Brian grinned.
Jimmy’s lips curled into a devious smile, “Can we watch?”
“Beer pong, you creeps,” Lauren scolded playfully. “Want to come play, Peyton?”
The brunette nodded, using the arms of the chair to pull herself to her feet, “Abso-fucking-lutely.”
As Peyton called out an impolite “later, losers” to the boys, Lauren winked lazily down at the nervous drummer. She was thrilled that Jimmy had brought Peyton along and was greedily looking for any and all excuses to get to know the tattooed unicorn bounding her way indoors.
“Your house is beautiful,” Peyton smiled as Lauren fell into step with her.
“Oh, thanks!” Lauren beamed. “I bought it with an ex-boyfriend but I kept it in the split!”
Peyton frowned, “Oh, sorry...”
“For what?” Lauren asked flatly. “The guy was a real dirtbag. But the house is nice, so...worth it!”
Peyton laughed softly, “Fair enough.”
She followed Lauren through hordes of people until they landed in her living room. A flicker of horror inspired itself as her green eyes landed on the only familiar face in the room.
“Do you know Crystal?” Lauren asked cheerfully. “Or Amy?”
“We’ve met,” Crystal answered smoothly.
The red headed girl by her side smiled, “But we haven’t. I’m Amy!”
“Peyton,” the artist replied with an awkward wave.
“Peyton’s going to be my teammate,” Lauren announced. “That cool with everyone?”
Crystal let her lips spread into a friendly smile, “We do need a fourth.”
Though it would have been strange to say it out loud, Peyton was aggressively thankful for Crystal’s approach to their reunion. She’d assumed a fist would be headed her way in some form of retaliation for setting her friend’s world aflame. But, instead, Crystal settled into chit chat and playful trash talking as Lauren and Peyton emerged as the world’s worst beer pong players.
“I’m so sorry that I’m so bad at this,” Lauren giggled, closing one eye with concentration as she lined up her shot. “I drag you in here just to lose. I’m a terrible host.”
Peyton chuckled, “We’re equally terrible. No dead weight on this team.”
“Glad to hear you think so,” Lauren laughed, sinking her ball into a red cup.
She and Peyton erupted with triumphant ‘oh’s, throwing their arms above their heads. Crystal and Amy exchanged blank looks, unfazed by the one and only shot either opposing team had actually sunk.
“Oh no,” Crystal teased. “Now I have to drink...oh no.”
“Shhh,” Lauren giggled. “Just drink up!”
The victory was short-lived and soon, both Lauren and Peyton were dubbed the world’s worst beer pong players—and the party’s most intoxicated participants.
“I need air,” Lauren giggled, slamming her empty cup against the table. “It’s too hazy in here.”
Crystal snickered, “That’s just your beer goggles, Lauren.”
“Maybe!” the blonde smiled. “But I need air either way!”
Peyton smirked, “I will join you!”
The clumsy pair made their way outside, dodging a plethora of buzzed people along the way. Lauren led a quick pit stop, lingering over Matt’s shoulder as she stared at Brian expectantly.
“Make with the cigarettes, Haner,” she instructed him firmly.
Brian scoffed, “I beg your pardon?”
“Cigarettes!” Lauren repeated, her aggression making her giggle. “Hand ‘em over!”
“What? No!” Brian objected with a laugh.
As an argument ensued between the guitarist and the blonde, Jimmy found amusement in Peyton’s current state of swaying. The brunette grinned down at him, letting her hand fall against his shoulder to steady her weight. He quickly reached up, wrapping his fingers around her arm as he assessed her poor balance.
“I’m drunk,” she informed him. “Lauren got me drunk.”
Jimmy snickered, “I can see that.”
“Are you drunk?” Peyton quizzed, narrowing her eyes with suspicion.
He shook his head, dangling a half-emptied cup into the air, “I’m only on drink number three.”
“We lost,” Peyton told him with a pout. “We lost and now we’re drunk.”
“And we need cigarettes!” Lauren added loudly. “So, hand ‘em over, Haner!”
Brian cackled, “If you stop fucking calling me that, I’ll give you my cigarettes.”
“You’re a saint!” Lauren declared, happily snatching the pack of Marlboros from his hand. “Lighter too!”
Brian rolled his eyes, “All you brought is a habit, Lauren.”
“Here,” Jimmy smirked, pulling his own black lighter from his pocket and offering it up to the bossy blonde.
Lauren smiled, “Thank you!”
Matt grinned, “You’re going to smoke that whole pack?”
Lauren looked to Peyton for validation; the artist could only shrug.
“Maybe!” Lauren half-heartedly announced. “Mind your business, boys!”
“Yeah!” Peyton concurred, giving her head a dizzy nod. “Mind your business!”
“Come on, Peyton,” Lauren instructed, linking her arm with the tattooed brunette’s.
Jimmy’s fingers trailed from her skin as she was effectively removed from his grip. He shot an affectionate smile her way before she got so turned around that he was sure she’d slip and die. He kept his blue eyes fixated on her retreating figure until Lauren had dragged her far into the shadows.
“My girlfriend seems to like your girlfriend,” Matt smirked over at the drummer.
Jimmy scrunched his nose, “She’s not my girlfriend.”
“Not yet,” Matt nodded.
“And since when is Lauren your girlfriend?” Jimmy caught cheekily. “Are you on again?”
Matt shrugged, “Aren’t we kind of always?”
“Well, your girlfriend stole my smokes,” Brian half-laughed. “So, for your sake, I hope she’s a keeper. I didn’t just donate my addiction for some fling.”
“Here,” Matt chuckled, pulling his own pack from his pocket and tossing it across the table. “Smoke mine.”
“Yeah, Bri,” Jimmy grinned deviously. “Smoke his.”
As Brian loudly scolded him for the grossly sexual undertone, Jimmy couldn’t help but glance one last time over his shoulder. He hoped Lauren was behaving herself and not exposing all of his little secrets beneath the moonlight. But, he thought, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if Peyton knew the truth of it all. Maybe it could help him work out his own feelings—one way or another.
“Much better,” Lauren announced, plopping herself down into the grass.
Peyton collapsed next to her, stretching her legs out against the yard. The sky began to spin at a dizzying speed, the stars collecting into a streamline of brilliance.
“I’m so glad you came tonight,” Lauren gushed, pulling a cigarette from Brian’s pack and lazily offering the remainders to Peyton.
She was hardly one to turn down Brian’s cigarettes. With thanks, she pulled a smoke from the pack. Lauren flicked Jimmy’s lighter to life, igniting the end of her cigarette into a flurry of orange. With a lung full of nicotine, Lauren passed the lighter to Peyton.
“Natalie used to—wait, have you met Natalie?”
Peyton nodded, lighting the end of her smoke and curling the lighter into her palm. She was reluctant to relinquish anything of Jimmy’s.
“Natalie was a bit…mean,” Lauren finished her thought carefully. “And she never let Jimmy come to my parties.”
Peyton scrunched up her face, “That is mean.”
“I know!” Lauren screeched. “I always told him he was too good for her! She’s a snake.”
“She’s something alright,” Peyton agreed, dancing along the line of etiquette.
She wasn’t one for shit-talking behind someone’s back—she preferred straight aggression. Anything she muttered behind someone’s back, she made sure she’d be comfortable saying to their face. But given the terrible things Natalie had had to say about Lauren, Peyton figured there was no logical reason to silence her ranting.
“I’m glad she’s gone,” Lauren said into the sky. “And I think I have you to thank for that!”
Peyton shook her head, her senses spinning from the combination effect of nicotine and alcohol, “Jimmy’s a big boy. He made his own decision.”
“No way did he cut himself off from that leach without provocation,” Lauren deduced, her words slurring together with a frustrated groan.
“I really hate to think I broke up a relationship,” Peyton admitted quietly, hoping the smoke might hide her shame.
The blonde pulled her face to one side, “You have no idea, do you?”
“No idea about what?” the artist asked breezily, her usually defences drunk and down.
Lauren smiled, “How much you mean to him.”
“I have an idea,” Peyton shrugged.
“I’ve known Jimmy for four years now,” Lauren informed the brunette lightly. “And every single year on October 30th, he continues to remind me that it is Lexi’s birthday. It’s cute really.”
Peyton hid herself in the nicotine to avoid really acknowledging the weight of her existence.
“I don’t mean to be that guy,” Lauren continued, dropping her voice down to a near whisper as she glanced around nervously and leaned closer to the brunette. “But…I’m pretty sure he was always holding out hope you’d come back. I know that sounds obvious but I really mean it. He never, ever committed to Natalie.”
Peyton caught that with a bit of knowledge, nodding her head, “Yeah, he doesn’t believe in marriage.”
At least, she was sure that’s what Natalie had said.
Lauren contorted her face, “No, no, no. Sweet, sweet Peyton.”
“What?” the drunken artist half-laughed. “That’s what Natalie said!”
Lauren considered locking her Jimmy knowledge away into a vault, but the alcohol coursed with such a fury that she was rendered useless beneath its rule. It demanded to be heard.
“Two years ago,” Lauren said, choking a little on the smoke she pulled into her chest. “We went to this wedding, all of us. And Jimmy and I got super, super drunk. We got to talking about marriage and weddings and whatever…you know, the usual.”
Peyton laughed, “Sure.”
“I asked him if he thought Natalie was the one…You know, the future Mrs. Sullivan. The girl of his dreams.”
Even as a memory of a hypothetical, Peyton couldn’t help but cringe. The idea of Jimmy spending his life with someone as toxic as Natalie made her skin crawl. She told herself it was protective instinct and not jealousy.
“And what did he say?” Peyton asked cautiously.
Lauren giggled, “He said no fucking way!”
“Then why did he bother dating her?”
She shrugged, “He said he’d already met and lost the one. He said he didn’t think there was anyone else for him. So…I don’t know. Maybe he just figured settling down in a half-assed way would be enough.”
“That’s all very sweet and everything,” Peyton managed through her nausea. “But I don’t think it’s safe to assume he meant me.”
“Of course he meant you!” Lauren objected loudly. “Who else would he mean? You guys are like a fairy tale! I love it!”
Peyton scoffed gently, “We are no fairy tale, Lauren. We’re…complicated.”
“Everything is complicated,” Lauren smiled, smashing her cigarette out into the grass. “That’s what keeps life interesting!”
“If you say so,” Peyton smirked.
Lauren fawned over at her, patting the artist’s thigh with excitement, “Speaking of interesting! Tell me about New York! Jimmy said you have your own tattoo shop!”
Peyton smiled politely, exhausted by the same old question and answer routine. Nevertheless, she happily answered all of Lauren’s questions and couldn’t help as a smidgen of fondness slithered it way up as Lauren openly gushed over Peyton’s life. She reminded her a little of Joanna, the boundless exuberance for life and unfiltered upbeat giddiness.
And just like that, Peyton was homesick all over again.
Instead of leaning into the wayward mess of longing, Peyton tried to rally and look for companionship where it was available. At that moment, friendship came in the smiling, bushy-tailed form of Lauren Cooper.
“I’m going to be a boring teacher,” Lauren huffed, letting her body fall flat onto its back. “Like, could I have picked a lamer career?”
“I think it’s noble,” Peyton smiled. “No way in fucking hell could you convince me to hang out with other people’s kids all day. That sounds fucking terrible.”
Lauren giggled, “I love children. I’m excited to be a mother one day. I think I’d be good at it!”
“I bet you would,” Peyton smiled. “You’re pretty fuckin’ bubbly.”
“It can be a bit off-putting,” Lauren cringed. “I know.”
Peyton shook her head with a laugh, “I like it. You remind me a lot of my best friend…It’s nice.”
“I’m glad you think so!” Lauren beamed. “I think I annoy Matt with my…excitability…sometimes. But oh well.”
“Well, you can annoy me any time,” Peyton offered warmly. “I’m a little sick of all the testosterone in my life at the moment.”
Lauren glanced over at the woman beside her, truly reveling in the kindness that had somehow blossomed despite the stormed negativity it had been brought up in. She found herself trying to imagine Peyton as something timid and afraid, but could not, for the life of her, find anything but strength. There was something familiar about Peyton that Lauren couldn’t quite put her finger on. Pushing passed the drunken blur, Lauren forced herself to dig deep beneath the artist’s uniquely beautiful exterior.
“I’m around any time!” Lauren replied happily. “Jim’s got my number.”
As Peyton smiled and assured the blonde that she’d take her up on her offer, Lauren was enamored. The luster of Peyton suddenly made total sense. You’d almost never know Peyton had been the subject of abuse for half of her life. You’d almost swear she’d been nurtured and treasured.
You’d almost swear she’d known unconditional love.
“Shit,” Peyton grumbled, breaking Lauren’s fixation in a snap. “I’m really drunk.”
Lauren giggled, “Me too.”
As if he’d read her mind, a giant emerged from the darkness. He grinned down at her, playful adoration twinkling in his light eyes.
“Hey, Drunky,” Jimmy snickered. “Any chance you’re ready to go? Johnny just fucking puked everywhere. It’s really killed my buzz.”
Peyton laughed, crinkling her nose at the visual, “I’m ready.”
“Okay, let’s roll,” Jimmy nodded.
“I’m a turtle, Jim,” Peyton pouted, reaching both hands up toward him. “Help me.”
“Jesus Christ,” he mumbled with a laugh, rolling his eyes as he grabbed her with both hands and pulled her onto her feet.
“Brian’s bitching about his smokes, by the by,” Jimmy said to Lauren.
From her place on the grass, she waved him off, “He’ll get them when he gets them.”
“Thanks for the party,” he smirked, letting Peyton lean her drunken weight against him.
“Thanks for coming!” Lauren beamed. “And for bringing Peyton! I love her!”
Jimmy laughed, “Yeah, me too.”
“I’ll see you guys later!” Lauren called up to them, making absolutely no effort to climb to her feet. “And give her my number, Jimmy! I mean it! Girl time!”
“Yeah, yeah,” he grumbled, swiftly ushering the brunette away.
He helped her stroll through the party, waving farewell to the few familiar faces as they passed. A yellow cab was waiting patiently by the curb, which they greedily crawled into—though neither of them had called for it.
“Have fun?” Jimmy asked knowingly as Peyton swayed in the back seat.
She laughed, “I did! Did you have fun?”
“Watching you drunk as shit is entertaining as fuck,” Jimmy snickered.
“Just don’t let me die,” she warned. “Or I’ll come back and haunt your ass.”
Jimmy smirked, “Haven’t you already?”
“Haven’t I already what?” Peyton asked confusedly, brows sewn together. “Died? Or haunted you? Oh my god, am I dead? Dude, I told you not to let me die!”
Jimmy couldn’t help the laughter that escaped him. With every waking hour, Peyton was sounding more and more like him—as insane and incoherent as that may have been.
“Don’t call me dude,” he teased.
She rolled her eyes, collapsing all at once against his shoulder, “I need to sleep.”
“You sleep,” he smiled. “I’ll wake you up when we get home.”
“Home,” Peyton mumbled, her consciousness fluttering away with the breeze.
Jimmy reached across his chest, pulling Peyton’s brown strands away from her face and tucking them neatly behind her pierced ear. She was impossibly peaceful as she drifted off against him. He sighed to himself as he made painstaking efforts to memorize each detail of each of her features.
“Wiley?” she whispered, nearly inaudibly.
He smiled faintly, “Yeah?”
“I don’t want…to leave you.”
Jimmy narrowed his eyes, leaning slightly forward to try and gage her level of alertness. She showed no signs of stirring, no actual conscious acknowledgement of his presence. It was almost as if she’d mumbled the words to herself. She was out cold within seconds.
Seizing the opportunity to be bold without repercussions, Jimmy leaned his head against hers, “Then don’t.”