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The Beginning After by Kiersten Modglin (11)

Twelve

PEIGHTON

When Peighton awoke, she was surprised to feel someone beside her. She rolled over with a jolt, only slightly relieved when she saw Clay lying there. She pulled the sheet up from under his arm, trying to cover herself more. He rolled over, stretching across the bed. He lifted his head up, readjusting the pillow and flopping back down.

“Well, it’s a little late to cover up now, Ace.”

“I can’t believe we did that,” she admitted, pulling the sheet to her chin.

He rubbed his hand over his bare stomach, yawning. “Yeah, not our smartest move.”

She let out a snort, biting her lip. “Not by far.” They laid in silence for a while, both staring at each other. “So, you should probably go, right?” she asked awkwardly.

He propped himself up on his side, his head resting in his palm, a grin on his face. “Are you kicking me out?”

“I mean, I just thought you’d have work to do or something. Plus, I have a few errands to run later so I won’t be around much.”

“And you don’t want me to be around when your son or your housekeeper get here, right?” He smirked. “Throw me my shirt, will ya?”

She threw it to him. “No. They can’t see you, especially Kyle. He can’t know about this, not right now. He’d never forgive me.”

“Say no more,” he said, standing up and looking around for the bottom half of his clothes. She looked away, trying the cover the blush she felt warming her cheeks. “I didn’t say you can’t look.” She giggled.

“Oh, just put your pants on, you big show-off.” She grabbed them from the floor and tossed them to him, holding the sheet tight around her. He caught them with one hand, pulling them on. She bent over her nightstand, pulling a pair of shorts out of a drawer and slipping them on under her sheet. She then let the sheet fall, turning her back to him and pulling her shirt over her head. He walked around the bed to face her.

“Don’t worry about anyone finding out, okay? We both have a lot to lose if that were to happen. So, I think we can just agree that this was a one-time thing, a slightly stupid, yet fun, lapse in judgement, and we don’t have to ever speak of it again.”

She nodded. “I think that’s for the best.”

He bent down, touching her chin. “Just one last thing before we go back to being strangers again.” His lips brushed her forehead before moving to her mouth. It was over before she was ready. She sighed quietly as he made his way to the door, pulling it open.

They walked down the hallway quietly, their socked feet swishing on the carpet as they made their way onto the staircase. “Will you be back?” she asked.

“If the investigation warrants it,” he said. “Unless you’d rather me not. I can send another officer if you’d be more comfortable that way.”

They walked into the living room before she could answer and she stopped dead in her tracks. “Kyle?” she asked, staring into the kitchen at her son. The toast he had been eating fell to the floor.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” he screamed. “I wasn’t gone for a day, Mom, not even a day and you’ve already found someone new to shack up with.”

“Oh, wait, Kyle, this isn’t what it looks like,” Clay tried to defend her, holding up his hand, but Kyle wasn’t listening.

“I can’t believe you would do this to Dad.” He bolted out of the room and then out of the house, moving past her in a blur.

Peighton, still frozen in place, couldn’t speak. Even if she had wanted to stop him, to grab him and beg him to listen, she had no excuse for what she’d done. She couldn’t make this right and she didn’t deserve the right to try. She took in a deep breath, her chin shaking. She could feel the tears coming but was trying her hardest to hold it together. Frank appeared around the corner, his eyebrows raised.

He held out his hand to Clay, shaking it firmly. “How’s it going?” he asked, his eyes darting to Peighton. He took a bite of the bagel in his hand casually.

“A heads up would’ve been nice, Frank,” Peighton said exasperatedly.

His jaw dropped open slightly and he took in a breath. “How was I supposed to know you’d have…company?” he asked. “You told me to bring him home. I brought him home.”

“No, I know that, it’s just that he was already upset with me. And now…” she paused, dropping her hands to her sides with anguish. “And now, I’ve made it even worse.”

“I’ll talk to him, okay?” Frank said, taking hold of her shoulders firmly. “He’ll come around, Peighton, just give him time. This is a lot to take in all at once.”

She sighed, feeling the tears begin to fall. He pulled her into his chest, rubbing her back. “I’ll talk to him,” he repeated.

Behind them, she heard Clay clear his throat. “I’m going to go, Peighton. I’m sorry about this,” he said softly, his hand brushing her back as he walked past them and out the door. She didn’t let go of Frank, keeping her face buried in his chest as she heard the door shut.

“Will he forgive me?” she asked, finally looking up to meet his eyes.

“He just needs time.”

She nodded, wiping her eyes.

“I think he should stay with me for now, that way we know where he is. I’ll keep an eye on him, and then once he’s calmed down, I’ll make sure he comes home. Just give me a few days with him to deal with everything.”

“Okay,” she agreed. “Just take care of him, Frank. Make sure you know where he is.”

He nodded, walking to the door. “I’m going to go now, before he takes my car and runs.” He laughed, staring out the door.

“Frank—” she called after him as he headed out the door. He stopped, looking over his shoulder. “Are you mad at me?”

He turned back around, shutting the door, seeming to think about it. “What kind of best friend would I be if I didn’t say I’m a little disappointed?” he asked. “But then again, what right do I have to be mad at you? You’re doing what it takes to survive. That’s all we’re all doing right now. I can’t judge you for that.” With that, he opened the door and disappeared.

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