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The Beginning After by Kiersten Modglin (8)

Eight

PEIGHTON

Peighton stared out the window into the dark sky, watching anxiously for her son. It was nearing midnight and he still hadn’t returned any of her calls, or better yet, come home. She took a sip of her coffee, surprised that it had already turned cold. Where in the world could he be? She considered calling his friends’ parents, but she wanted to give him whatever space he needed. Still, she couldn’t help worrying about him. Her son wasn’t known to be rash, but after the way things had happened, she couldn’t blame him for acting out. When he finally came home, she promised herself she would sit him down and explain everything.

She stared around the empty room. It was much too quiet. It was rare that she had the house completely to herself, even more unusual that it happened overnight. She should take advantage of the quiet, she realized, watch a show that Todd had hated, read a book even…but everything just made her feel more alone than she knew she was. She would have gladly argued with Todd over the remote just to have him there one more day.

Her cellphone chimed, causing her to jump. She set her cup of coffee down, pulling the phone from her robe pocket. “Hello?” she called into it.

“He’s here.” Frank’s voice came over the line.

“Who’s there?”

“Kyle. Who else?” he asked.

“Oh, thank god. Is he all right?”

“Of course he is. Wouldn’t I have led with ‘hey, your kid’s missing an arm’ if something had happened to him?”

She couldn’t help but smile at his usual dark humor. “I’ve been so worried. Are you bringing him home?”

“Nah,” he said. “He seems pretty upset. I’ll let him stay here for the night and calm down. I’ll bring him home tomorrow. What happened, anyway?”

“Drew was here.”

“What?” he asked, lowering his voice.

“Yeah, this morning. I told him to leave but not before he went on and on about the affair and trying to make amends. Kyle heard the whole thing.”

“Son of a bitch. No wonder the kid’s a wreck,” he said gruffly. “I told him to get lost last night and he left. I never thought he’d come back.”

“Worse than that, Frank, he watched us. Waited until you left this morning.”

What?

“Yeah. It was creepy. If I wasn’t so worried about Kyle it would have me a lot more freaked out. You don’t think he’d try to…you know, hurt us or anything?”

“No,” he said quickly. “No. The guy’s bark is worse than his bite. You’re safe, Peighton. You and Kyle both. If it makes you feel better, I can come over for a few nights just to be on the safe side, though.”

“What?” she asked, taken back.

“I said I can come over for a few nights. You know, keep watch, that sort of thing.”

“I heard what you said…are you not going to be working here anymore? Why wouldn’t you be here every night?”

He paused. “I thought you knew. I mean, my job was to protect Todd.” He spoke slowly, as if begging her to catch on. “I just assumed with him, you know, gone

“That we wouldn’t need you anymore.” She pressed her lips together, this revelation a devastating blow. Just one more thing from her old life that would disappear now.

“Look, Peighton, if you guys still need me, of course I’ll still be there for you. It’s just…Todd was like my brother, but he was also my biggest source of income. With him gone, you’re out of a job, I’m out of a job. He was kind of our glue, you know?”

“Of course,” she said, feeling her cheeks flush. “Yes, you’re right. I just hadn’t realized, I guess. I hadn’t even thought about it. That’s why you were gone this morning.” It all fell into place in her mind.

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to upset you.”

“No. You aren’t. I mean…I feel like I’m losing someone else now too, but you’re right. I can’t expect you to be here anymore. Todd is gone. Everything changes.”

“I’m still here. Just…not in the way that I was before. I can’t be.”

“I understand. I’m just emotional right now. I’m going to go.”

“Don’t be like that

“Take care of Kyle for me, okay? And bring him home tomorrow morning.” With that, she ended the call, unable to speak anymore in fear of bringing on more tears. He was right, of course. Had she thought about it, she would’ve realized things would have to change, but that didn’t make this any easier. All around her, pieces of her life were falling apart. She walked to the kitchen, pouring out her cold coffee and replacing it with a dash of tequila.

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