21. Maybe Tomorrow

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The employee quarters had a back door with a small set of stairs that faced the road Peyton would take to return home

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The employee quarters had a back door with a small set of stairs that faced the road Peyton would take to return home. I chose the spot because it was angled so that that I would remain out of sight to anyone coming up the road - as long as I kept seated.

I sat down and curled my arms around my legs.

About an hour later, Charlotte returned and disappeared into the main house. I couldn't see her expression but she seemed the same as usual, all grace and poise, sunglasses perched on the top of her head. I could've been imagining things, but it sure looked like she had a skip in her step.

"Freak," I mumbled, tapping my knee with the twig I had in my hand. Sighing, I returned my attention to the swirls and spirals I was making on the dirt.

Half an hour later, when there was still no sign of Peyton, I texted him and let him know where I was.

Twenty minutes after that, Peyton rounded the curve on foot, appearing in my line of vision. Even from far away, I could tell that he was off: distracted, distant. He smiled when he saw me but his expression was strained, the smile forced.

He'd also tucked in his shirt.

Immediately regretting the decision to come here today, I looked at my feet. Expecting him to take a seat beside me, I scooted over to make space. But he stepped over the spot and kept going, choosing instead, to take a seat two steps above me.

"Hey," he said, to the back of my head.

I turned around to face him, squinting against the sun. 

He rubbed his hand over his jaw and neck, making a soft bristly sound. He hadn't shaved and I could see golden stubble glinting in the light.

He looked tired, his face wan. Actually, he looked terrible - for him, anyway - and I could tell it bothered him that I was seeing him like this.

So I turned my back on him, returning my attention to the dirt. "I should've called before I came over. I'm sorry, I didn't think it through."

I drew a circle around a pebble in the dirt. Him, inside. Me, outside.

"It's okay," he said, resting his forearms on his knees. We sat in silence for a while, the back of my head prickling from his stare.

"I saw you," I confessed without turning around. "Out by the lake with Charlotte. Your mom said you were out there so I came down and-"

"It's alright," he said.

I stopped talking. I should've been able to ask him what all that was about. And he should've been able to answer. We were friends, after all.

But the truth was, I didn't really know Peyton. Peyton only showed me what he wanted me to see. He chose what, when, and how much he wanted share with me, and that was it. So no, for all the time we spent together, I didn't really know him, not in his world.  Whatever was going on in this house was private. All I knew was that it was serious and that he wouldn't share it with me. 

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