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PEYTON'S PACKAGE

ALISTAIR, PEYTON’S PACKAGE

When the main house calls and says there is a package from the hospital where Peyton is addressed to Finn and me, he is fucking excited. I have to wait in his office for him to return since I’m not allowed in the big house but as foreman, he can go when invited. I’m fairly sure he’s disappointed it isn’t Peyton herself that is the package, but I feel like a fucking kid at Christmas when I see the box.

He puts it on his desk and slices the top open. Once we clear the packing shit out of the way we see two envelopes and below that two rectangular packages wrapped in brown paper. What the hell? Looking closer one envelope has Finn’s name on it, the other has mine. The same is true for the brown paper packages, each looking like a pizza box only not square. We each take our envelope and package and go to a separate corner in the room. I have always opened my presents first – fuck the cards. Today is no different and I tear the package open.

Holy.

Shit.

It’s a painting on a canvas. It is… fucking amazing. There is a soldier who looks a lot like me in the middle of a battlefield – you know he is surrounded by all kinds of fucking horror shows and nightmares yet you can’t really make anything out either… he is looking off into the distance at the moon. It is absolutely incredible. That’s when I notice the signature in the corner… P. Grant.

Peyton Grant.

Peyton fucking painted this. I quickly open the letter and her first words draw me in and make me hers, although she doesn’t know it yet. Shit, I don’t know it yet. Not for sure. All I know for sure is she’s sexy as hell, fucking smart, funny and damaged.

And I’m hers forever.

“Alistair,

Thank you for saving my life, at a time when I didn’t see that it was worth the effort. You and Finn have given me another chance to live a new life – one I deserve, and I’ll never be able to thank you enough.

I’m doing much better these days, with more good days than bad. It has been a struggle to come as far as I have, but I have a ways yet to go. I hope to return the favour someday and be your support, should you ever need it. I’ve seen the demons in your eyes too, Alistair, and I hope you will say something to Finn before you let them take you to the dark places I went that brought me here. You have a trusted resource, lean on him when you need to. When I get home, you’ll be able to add me to that list too.

Your painting is unfinished – and when you’re ready, you’ll tell me what is missing. What inspires you, Alistair? What drives you every day to be the strong man you are? The caring friend? Loyal soldier? Hard worker? All the different hats you wear, they have a power source. An inspiration if you will. When you know what it is, I’ll add it to the painting.

When you recognize that in yourself, I want to give it to visually if I can so it will always motivate you. You’re an amazing person Alistair, and I’m grateful to have met you. Don’t let the demons win – your soul is far too good for what awaits those who lose.

With love again in my heart,

Peyton”

Holy shit. I mean… yeah. Holy shit. Is she saying? No. She isn’t. Is she? Maybe? No. Yes. Maybe? Jesus Christ junior high, calm the fuck down. First thoughts – the painting is spectacular. She’s incredibly talented and I’m glad she’s exploring this part of herself. I have no fucking idea what my inspiration is… I guess that’s her point. I have soul-searching of my own to do… yeah. No shit.

I’ve been working on it. The informal support group has now turned into meetings twice a week at the vets’ hall. There are three different psychiatrists who volunteer their time to host the meetings and it is going really well. Too well, actually. There has been little to no fucking support for these vets for so goddamn long that they’re desperate for the help – fucking pisses me off. Risk your life, serve your country and then you’re on your own afterwards. Very few people can do and see the shit we experience and not walk away with scars, even if you can’t fucking see them. We’re going to need to add more meetings, hopefully in other surrounding areas so more vets can go. It all takes time and fucking money, but I’m working on it.

It has been a great distraction from Peyton and how much I have been missing her. It has been fucking years since she left! Well, not quite but it sure feels like it. Agony. That part is accurate. Fucking agony. I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed our get-togethers with her at the bar until we stopped having them. I miss seeing her. I miss talking to her. I miss her laugh. I miss her smile.

I miss her.

This painting and this letter… these are… fucking everything to me. This is like fucking Christmas! I don’t ask Finn what his letter says, and he respects my privacy too, but he has a big fucking smile on his face so I’m guessing it’s also good. His painting is of him crouching and trying to bear the weight of the world on his back. Yep. That’s fucking Finn alright. The painting is incredible and so lifelike – you see the strain in his face but also the strength. You have no doubt he’ll be successful and be as strong as we all need him to be.

Because he’s Finn fucking Olson and not even a goddamn roadside bomb can take him down.

Feeling like a twelve-year-old girl, I ask him for some paper and a pen. I take my stash back to my room so I can write Peyton back. She reached out first so I plan to take full advantage of the opportunity. If she doesn’t continue, I guess I’ll take the hint. I won’t fucking like it, but I’ll respect her wishes. But I have to try, especially since she sent these paintings… At the very least I need to say thank you.

It’s the right thing to do.

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