Nathan Scott walked into the tiny cafe and assumed the seat that had been his favorite booth for the last seven or so years. Worry lines and a tired smile loomed over his still handsome face as he took out his wallet and smoothed back his dark hair.
"Can I get a menu, please, Haley?"
Haley James smiled and wiped her hands on the back of her apron. She had been in love with that man ever since she was fifteen years old. Every single word he mouthed, every look he gave her absolutely made her shudder.
"You've been coming in here every day that you've been home since we were in the eleventh grade. That's what, seven, eight years now? Every single time you sit in the same place, ask to see the menu, and you end up ordering the same thing. The variety hasn't changed since then and not that that even matters because you always get the strawberry cheesecake and an iced cappuccino."
"Maybe I want to try something different this time", he winked. "Menu please?"
Haley shook her head and handed him the plain brown cover that enveloped the menu. The once white pages had faded to yellow and the cover was always sticky with syrup or some kind of substance. Haley watched as Nathan's blue eyes scanned the contents of the menu.
"Thanks, Haley. I'll have the strawberry cheesecake and also an iced cappuccino, please."
She grinned as she yanked it back from him and retreated to the kitchen where Karen Roe was slaving over the next batch of yummy pastries.
"Order up, Karen. Strawberry cheesecake. I'll take care of the cappuccino."
"Let me guess...Nathan", Karen smiled. "Boy's been ordering the same damn thing since the first day he ever set foot in here. One day we should surprise him with something else. Maybe the cherry cheesecake.
Haley laughed at the older woman as she took special care in preparing Nathan's drink. They had grown up together in tiny Tree Hill, North Carolina. They had attended the same schools and the same church and in a town as small as theirs, everybody knew everybody. Karen was the mother of Haley's best friend, Lucas Scott and for the majority of her teen years, Karen had been like a second mom to Haley. Lucas just so happened to be the half brother of Nathan. It was a long complicated story dating back to Karen's high school years and her then sweetheart, the rich, successful yet dastardly Dan Scott. The handsome basketball star had left her behind, alone and pregnant and just a few months later, his new college love, Deb was pregnant as well. It had been a rocky relationship from the start, which only escalated into the teenage years when the two brothers both played for Tree Hill High School's Ravens. Both had inherited their father's superiority on the court and Nathan had unfortunately inherited his attitude and devious ways. Through a long list of angst and drama, the two men had somehow been able to develop a common bond and a friendship began. Both attended and started for Duke University and after graduation were both first round NBA draft picks, Lucas for the Atlanta Hawks and Nathan for the Charlotte Bobcats.
Haley had began working at the cafe as soon as she turned fourteen and even so many years after high school, it was not an uncommon sight to find Tree Hill's favorite brothers dining in their usual booth. Ever since Haley could remember, Lucas had always been there for her as a protector, friend and confidant. She had interacted with Nathan much later on, starting off as his sophomore tutor. There had always been an underlying attraction but Haley had suppressed any and all romantic feelings because of fear of rejection and mainly because of Peyton Sawyer, Nathan's gorgeous girlfriend.
Still Haley, like the whole town, was proud of the hometown boys. Their dream had been a long shot and they had all certainly come along way from shooting baskets into homemade hoops in the back yard. Haley had dreams of her own. She had longed to get out of Tree Hill, go to college and get a glamorous job in a big city. But fate had dealt her another card. There was no money for college and although she had been out of high school for five years, it seemed sometimes that she might never get out of that house...that cafe...that town.
"Here you go, Nate. Strawberry cheesecake and iced cappuccino. Extra berries and syrup just the way you like it."
"Thanks", he said in between big mouthfuls.
She left him to his dessert and silently bumbled about behind the register. She had spent many a day just watching him, wondering if he knew she was looking. He was so beautiful, so wonderful and she had loved him ever since they were kids, even when he was just a skinny old thing, all arms and legs and big blue eyes. But how he had grown and developed into a muscular, handsome man. Haley had watched from afar as he built his beautiful new home, tooled around the back roads in fancy sports cars, and raced along the countryside on dirt bikes and motorcycles. On and off from the time they were middle schoolers, Peyton was Nate's usual company. Blonde, blue eyed, and an hour glass figure, she had been the toast of the town. Outstanding athlete, captain of the cheerleading squad, honor roll student, and daughter of one of the richest families in the county. Peyton was the girl every guy wanted and every other girl wanted to be. The couple had been through their trials and tribulations, break ups and affairs but their love had endured over the years. Then IT had happened, shocking everyone around. A devastating dose of reality that had been the subject of everyone's thoughts, gossiping whispers, and prayers. The one thing most definitely responsible for the sad, tired expression that seemed to now be permanently plastered onto Nathan's face.
"Well, thanks for everything, Haley", Nathan said, stretching as his perfectly tanned muscles threatened the confines of his wife beater tee shirt. "It was delicious as always. I guess I'll see you next week."
He left the six dollars for the food on the table along with a more than generous ten dollar tip, something he made a habit of after hitting it big in the NBA. As she bussed the table she watched from the window as he slid into his new, black Mustang and roared away, the sound of a Marilyn Manson CD blasting as he left a trail of dust.