Getting away from Quinn had been far easier than Peyton had thought. Oddly enough, his girlfriend hadn't protested as much as he had expected once he'd explained everything. Quinn had insisted that she wasn't upset, but Peyton knew her well enough to know that there would be hell to pay later. He would have a lot of making up to do, most likely in the form of sparkly jewelry or a new set of Jimmy Choo's. Knowing Quinn, she would demand both.
Peyton sighed as he looked around the pub. He hadn't been in Ike's for years, but it still looked the same. The faded yellow, peeling wallpaper that Peyton had always said looked like a nasty case of jaundice was still there. The delectable smells of different kinds of food cooking swirled through the hair, igniting hunger in nearly every patron who stepped through the door. The homey, quaint brown oak tables filled the room. And although Ike was much older now, the friendly old Italian man with bushy black eyebrows and a crooked smile still stopped in every now and then to check on the place he'd started from the ground up after the Korean War.
He'd been coming to this place ever since he was a teenager, and Peyton was glad that Ike hadn't sold it to someone else or closed it down. The place held a lot of nostalgia and good memories for him and no matter how he was feeling, going to Ike's always calmed him down.
Peyton settled into one of the booths in the corner and pulled his cell phone out of his pocket. He contemplated sending Brody a text to let him know that he'd arrived, but decided against it. Brody was almost always on time, where Peyton was habitually late. This time, though, Peyton had made sure to leave his apartment fifteen minutes early, which allowed him extra time to wade through traffic if need be.
The door swung open and the bells on it rang, causing Peyton to look up. When he did, he saw none other than Tiffany Marchand, Brody's little sister, walking into the store. Her chocolate brown hair was shorter than it had been the last time he'd seen her, and now flowed down just past her shoulders in a layered and tapered style. She was wearing a pair of gray pinstripe pants and a cream colored sleeveless dress shirt, topped off with a heather gray bolero and smart black and pink ballet flats.
Peyton exhaled slowly, not even realizing until that moment that he had been holding his breath.
The brunette tossed her hair behind her shoulder as she approached Peyton's table.
"Hey, Carter." Tiffany settled in the chair across from Peyton. "How goes it?"
To say that Peyton was surprised by Tiffany's appearance would be a huge understatement. He'd spoken to Brody—albeit briefly—and gotten the impression that Brody would be the one meeting Peyton, not Tiffany.
"What's wrong?" Tiffany questioned with a tilt of her head. "Cat got your tongue?"
Peyton chuckled and rubbed his chin. The response was so characteristically Tiffany, and it was in that moment that Peyton decided that this would only be awkward if he let it. After all, it wasn't as though he and Tiffany were complete strangers. Yes, they had a strained relationship, due to Peyton's actions, but wasn't starting over the point of Peyton's return?
"You haven't changed," Peyton remarked, smiling.
"I'm thirsty," Tiffany said, looking around. "Can we get some drinks?" She hadn't planned on actually making herself comfortable, especially since Brody had promised her that it wouldn't take long, but she hadn't had anything to drink, and her throat was terribly dry. As long as she was here, she might as well get something out of the evening.
"Uh, sure," Peyton replied, bemused.
"So, are you going to tell me why you came back?" Tiffany questioned, as she took a long pull on her Heineken. The question caught Peyton off guard, as he hadn't been expecting Tiffany to initiate conversation. He cleared his throat and took a sip of his Dasani before he replied.
"It's kind of a long story."
"Do you see me going anywhere?"
Peyton was unsure if he should talk to Tiffany about why he was really back. He planned on revealing the truth to everyone later on, but Brody was his best friend and the person that he had initially planned to talk to about this. Peyton trusted Tiffany, so he knew that she could keep a secret, but he was struggling with coming to terms with his problems as it was. Brody was someone who Peyton had always talked to about everything, and, actually, Brody knew things about Peyton that not even his own family knew. It wasn't that Peyton was worried that Tiffany would think less of him—but this was the first time they'd spoken since he left. It was obvious from Tiffany's body language and demeanor that she still hadn't forgiven him for what had happened that night. Peyton didn't blame Tiffany for that, but there was no time for him to apologize now. There were more pressing matters at hand.
Tiffany was staring at him expectantly, waiting for Peyton to say something. A beat passed with neither of them speaking, and then Tiffany rolled her eyes.
"I can't believe I skipped out on Frankie's birthday party for this," she muttered as she drained the last of her beer. She slapped a five dollar bill onto the table and shrugged into her bolero.
"Nice talking to you, Carter." Her voice was dripping with sarcasm. Why had she even bothered wasting her time? Obviously Peyton was playing a hoax on both her and Brody—after all; he had barely talked to her. How would it be any different with her brother? She highly doubted that Peyton even had an actual explanation to give. Disgusted, she exited the pub and made her way to her car.
Inside the pub, Peyton was still sitting at his table, completely dumbfounded. He was rarely ever at a loss for words, but Tiffany's behavior had rendered him speechless. A quick glance at his watch allowed him to see that it was just half past eight o'clock, much earlier than he expected it to be. He had two options at the moment: go home and face the wrath of Quinn, or sit there for a little while longer. Peyton decided to go with the first option, as sitting and waiting would only delay the inevitable.