Disclaimer: The characters are not mine, though sometimes I wish they were ;) Lauren, Harry, Marilyn, Milton, Marla, Steven, Daniel and Kevin are property of David E. Kelly and FOX network. I just borrowed them to play a little. Everybody else is mine, though :)
Rating: PG 13, just to be safe
Category: Lauren/Harry -angst, romance, friendship
Summary: Lauren has left, but where did she go?
Spoiler: Story is set after Season 2. Season 3 never really happened in my world ;)
Feedback is very much appreciated: allthingsjoliemoiyahoo.de
The minute she opened the door she was wide awake. All of the sleepiness she'd felt before was eradicated by the sharp November wind blowing in her face. Who needed coffee when there was an icy wind outside offering to awake you for free, she thought. While locking the door she tucked in her scarf and pulled her coat even tighter around her body to keep from freezing. Of course it wasn't working, by this time of the year the entire Boston area felt like a giant ice cube and she'd lived there long enough to know that the only thing getting you through winter were those sweet warm memories of summer and an undying faith that winter would finally succumb to spring if you just waited long enough. Lauren took a deep breath, turned around and ran to her car. Thank god there wasn't any black ice yet, she was already 5 minutes late and slippery roads would have only made matters worse for her. If she took Huntington Ave. and Belvedere instead of Interstate 93 she might just get to work in time.
The last couple of months hadn't exactly been easy on Lauren. One and a half years ago, when she'd finally ended things with Daniel and his parents had told her he was supposed to undergo psychological treatment in a closed facility she had thought it was all over and she could finally go on with her life. Which she'd done; for an entire school year she'd been doing great.
Then summer had come along, and a week prior to the holidays Steven had called her into his office. She would never forget that day, the way he had looked at her with an intensity she had never seen on him before. She'd sat down, digging her nails into her thighs as he started talking. When she'd left the office, she'd felt sick, her heart had still been racing and her palms had been sweaty. She'd been in complete shock and must have looked that way, too. Louisa had asked if she was alright, but Lauren hadn't heard her, hadn't heard anything anybody had said to her that morning. She'd held her classes without expecting anyone to raise their hands and her students had been pleasantly surprised by that and had kept quiet to not break "the spell" as they'd called it. By the 4th period word had gotten out that "something was going on with Miss Davis", so Marilyn had stopped by her classroom. Lauren had known she wouldn't be able to keep this from Marilyn, so she had told her what she'd heard from Steven that morning. Apparently three girls had dropped charges against Daniel and his psychiatric evaluation hadn't shown anything out of the ordinary, thus making him a free man once again.
"Lauren", Marilyn had muttered, "he knows where you live, where you work, he knows everything about you! What if he comes back?"
That last sentence had been hammering in Lauren's brain all morning, but she still had to come up with an answer. Marilyn had looked at her with fear and at that moment Lauren had known what she needed to do. There was only one thing she could do to be safe, so she'd told her best friend to keep quiet no matter what would happen. And Marilyn had never disappointed her.
During the following summer Lauren had moved, she'd found an apartment in a quiet neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city. Steven had helped her in finding a new job and by the time the new school year had started again Lauren had already settled in. Or so she'd thought.
The first day at Winchester High it had hit her. She'd felt lost without Marilyn, Harry and Steven and though she'd never expected it she'd actually missed Guber as well. So she would tell herself things would get better, she'd make new friends and in time she'd have forgotten about Harry and the others. But who was she to kid herself. Marilyn and Steven had been the only ones knowing about her leaving, and Marilyn even had her new phone number, just in case. They'd agreed on not using it except for emergency situations, but those hadn't occurred yet. Besides, it'd been too dangerous. If Daniel had actually wanted to get to Lauren, chances were he would keep an eye on her old friends, hoping they might eventually lead him to her. Lauren had insisted on not telling Harry anything at all for that particular reason, she'd been sure Daniel would try Harry first. It had broken her heart to leave them all behind, to leave without saying goodbye, but she'd known it was for her own protection and that was what she'd held onto. It was the right thing to do.
Two months into the first term Lauren's dreams about Harry had started to subside. She had used to dream about him almost every night, obviously a product of the underlying guilt and regrets she'd felt towards him. But by the end of October those dreams had decreased and Lauren had taken that as a good sign. Maybe things were finally getting better.
Lauren entered the front building with the first ringing of the bell. Her classroom was at street level, so she'd made it to her desk by the time the second ringing was over.
"That was close", she sighed.
During lunch break she chatted with Melissa, a science teacher who had transferred to Winchester from New York. She was about Lauren's age and since both women were new on the faculty they'd quickly become friends. Melissa was ranting about the parents of one her students who blamed her for their son's bad grades.
"You know, Lauren", she said, "if only they took one look at their precious little son before coming here blaming me, they would see that he's been smoking pot for the last few weeks. No wonder he's passing out in my class and what am I to do about it? I can't keep him awake for the life of me and sending him to Eric's office isn't helping either. So of course his grades dropped, but it sure isn't my fault!" She rolled her eyes."But it's always us, we're the ones getting flamed."
Lauren looked at her with compassion. "You can't let these things get to you, Melissa. I know it isn't easy, but we can't let that beat us!"
"Yeah, you're right, I know, but still…", Melissa sighed.
Both women turned towards the door of the teacher's lounge. Michael Andrews was just entering the room.
"Lauren, hey, can you do me a favour, please?" he asked her.
Lauren and Melissa exchanged glances. Melissa knew about Lauren and Michael's past, Lauren had told her they'd been dating in college and that their relationship had ended on bad terms.
When Lauren had met Michael on her first day at Winchester, she'd momentarily thought she was dreaming. Not in a good way, it had actually felt like her nightmare was never going to end. Trading the boy who'd stalked her against the boy who had cheated on her repeatedly hadn't felt like the nice trade it should have been. Of course the boy in question had become a man now, much like she'd grown into a woman as well. But seeing Michael had degraded her to the hurt little girl she'd felt like in college. Michael on the other hand had seemed to be pleasantly surprised to see her. He'd shown her around Winchester High, introduced her to the other teachers, let her in on some of the latest gossip and always referred to her as his "old friend from college". Not that Lauren had been remotely interested in listening to him reciting something that somebody who knew somebody had said about somebody else. She'd had her fair share of gossip at Winslow High and hearing about her new colleagues' "secrets" hadn't exactly been on her list that first day. Plus Michael being overly friendly, pretending nothing had happened between them 10 years ago wasn't helping either. But Lauren had brushed it all off and tried to focus on making a good impression. When she'd left college she had been determined not to let Michael ruin another day of her life ever again, and she would stick to that now. The following days she'd made it a point to avoid him whenever possible, and once Melissa and she'd become friends she'd let her in on what had happened and the two women had quickly teamed up against him. Not that they would badmouth him or anything, they would use more subtle ways to keep Lauren from being dragged into conversations with Michael. Melissa would come up with excuses, like she had a problem with her computer, parents and whatnot whenever he would sit down next to Lauren. And since Michael was a man he wouldn't see Melissa interrupting them as a hint that he wasn't welcome, all he ever did was wondering why he'd been working with Lauren for over two months without having gotten the chance to really talk to her.
Now that he was asking Lauren for a favour, Melissa quickly stood up, turning to Lauren.
"Remember you wanted to help me with that, uh, stuff we talked about yesterday? I really think we should do that now, there's only 10 minutes left till we gotta be back in class!"
"Oh, yeah, sure. Let's go", Lauren answered, smiling apologetically at Michael. "Maybe later, all right?" she told him and with that she was out the door.
He shook his head in disbelief and sat down at the table where Lauren had sat only seconds ago. "Women" he muttered pouring himself some coffee.
When Lauren left work that day she felt numb. It had been a rough day and she was still thinking about Michael. She felt bad for simply avoiding him instead of telling him to leave her alone. She'd always considered herself to be an honest person, but with him it was different. It had taken a long time to get over Michael and even longer for her to finally be able to trust another man again. She had used to feel so much hatred and disgust for him and all she had ever wanted was to leave that behind. Now that she had to face him again she simply couldn't bring herself to stand up to him. She preferred hiding to confronting. Actually she wasn't hiding, she thought, she was just avoiding. Lauren refused to consider herself afraid of him and avoiding sounded much better to her. She reached her car, got in and started the engine. She would have to go to the mall to pick out something for her father's birthday on Saturday, and although she already felt the beginning of a major headache creeping up in the back of her neck, she knew there was no way out. It was Thursday and if she didn't go there today, she would have to go tomorrow and traffic on a Friday afternoon would be horrible.
Surprisingly the mall wasn't as crowded as Lauren had anticipated. She quickly found a parking space close to the front entrance, something she really appreciated during this time of the year. Once inside she unbuttoned her coat, loosend her scarf and was just about to turn right when she suddenly realized she didn't even know where the men's department was. She actually had to take a look at one of the giant information signs that were located at each of the entrances. She knew most of the womens' clothing shops fairly well, yet having never been in any of the mens' somehow depressed her. Or was it rather the lack of necessity that made her sad. Lauren wasn't someone who took pity on oneself, but more than a year had passed since her last relationship had ended and she really missed having someone in her life. Someone her age and with a sane mind would be nice, but that was about all she was asking for by now. Melissa had tried to introduce her to some of her sister's friends, but Lauren had dreaded to go on blind dates. So when Melissa had asked her to accompany her to her sister's engagement party, it had seemed like the perfect way to meet someone. Two days before the party, though, Lauren had come down with the flu and it had taken almost two full weeks for her to fully recover. She'd seen that as a sign that none of those guys had been meant for her anyways and put her faith in destiny. She would never admit it to anyone, but deep down inside she still harboured the little girl's idea of destiny bringing along the perfect man, although "perfect" had since been replaced by "halfway decent and mentally stable. Right now she had more important things to think about, though. She needed to find a nice dressy shirt for her dad and and he wasn't easy to buy cloths for. She'd already decided on something blue, dark blue if possible, but the sheer variety of fabrics and brands was kind of intimidating.
She looked up from the shirt rack.
"Harry" she gasped, "Oh my God! What… how…. " then she paused.
Her mind had just gone completely blank. They both stood looking at each other in disbelief and although it was just a few seconds before Harry replied it felt like a lifetime passing by. She had spent countless hours imagining what she would say if she ever met him again and she had even come up with a few cheesy lines, but now that Harry was actually standing right in front of her, she couldn't remember them.
"Haven't seen you in a while" he went on, "so how are you?"
"I… I am… I'm fine….I was just…I'm looking for a shirt for my dad's birthday."
She looked down, feeling all of the guilt she had so carefully buried inside herself rise up. She didn't want to cry, not here, not in front of him, but Lauren felt her eyes grow wet. She blinked, forcing back the tears, and finally looked up again. Harry was still there.
"You want some help?" he asked. And from somewhere far away she heard herself say yes.
They had managed to pick out the shirt without actually talking and after Lauren had paid, they went outside.
"Thanks again, you did save me a lot of time" she said, "you know how I am when it comes to cloths. I can never decide what to buy."
"Yeah, I think I remember" Harry replied deadpan.
Gee, that had come out all wrong, why did she have to bring up their past. And suddenly she froze.
"Lauren, what's wrong?"
"I… I need to go…. I will… I'll see you, okay?"
She turned around and started to make her way back to the parking lot. How could she forget, how could she not think about the obvious? If Harry was here, who was to say Daniel didn't follow him? Lauren felt chills running down her spine. How could she have been so stupid to be with Harry for that long? She looked at her watch. 7.30pm, that meant she'd spent about twenty minutes in that store, twenty minutes with Harry that might as well cost her life. How could she have possibly allowed herself to risk everything she had worked on for the last four months. He'd caught her off guard and she hadn't been prepared. But Lauren needed to be careful, she couldn't just take her chances and throw everything away. While rushing back to the front entrance and upbraiding herself for such utter stupidity Lauren never forgot to check the store windows to see if she was being followed. But she couldn't make out anything unusual, Daniel was nowhere to be seen so eventually she tried to take a few deep breaths while taking out her car keys. You'll be okay, she tried to tell herself, but it didn't help. Her pulse was still racing and she kept having flashbacks of Daniel breaking into her old apartment. Suddenly she felt a hand on her shoulder.
End of chapter 1