1Chapter 9 - "Talking"

"So you play basketball, but you hate it?" I asked, putting together the past five minutes of conversation in one sentence, "but you are, like, awesome. I don't get it."

Nathan nodded and took a sip of his Bacardi Silver, "my dad is this huge hard-ass and he's been on my case every single day about basketball. It's like... since he couldn't–or didn't–go anywhere with his basketball talent, he thinks that I should. It's like I'm living the life he should've lived."

"Wow, that's tough," I took a sip of my own Bacardi, "so your dad... what does he do?"

"He has a car dealership."

"Ah," I nodded, "a salesman. That sucks. Your dad was really good at basketball?"

he nodded, "yeah. He was going to go all-pro, but he busted his knee."

"Man, that sucks."

"Sometimes I wish I'd bust my knee."

"Nathan, no," I shook my head. "You don't want that. That would be totally awful. Come on, don't say that."

"You have no clue," he shook his head, "and now with Lucas coming to live with us, it's been this hectic whirlwind of fighting and screaming... I think it drives my dad even madder when he sees that Lucas and I have this kind of brotherly bonding thing going on."

"So you guys are pretty tight?"

"You could call it that. I mean, at first the guys and I used to haze him a lot, but then... I don't know... we kind of both silently rebelled against Dan and formed an alliance of sorts. Then, when he came to live with us... well... we grew tighter and wanted to take Dan out more. Especially after Luke's accident."

"Yeah, he told me about that," I nodded, looking away. "Keith sounds like a great guy. I wish Karen wouldn't have..." I cleared my throat, "though I understand where she's coming from, I guess."

Nathan nodded, looking at me. I could feel his prying eyes, but I continued staring at the sand, "Keith had such a rough time and when Karen brushed him off, he just gave up in defeat. He still keeps in touch, for Lucas, but other than that, he's kept his distance. You know, Keith made that one mistake and it ruined him. He went through torture seeing the woman he loved treating him like some kind of a monster, and that ate him up inside."

"I wish things were different," I sighed, finally looking up.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, I wish that... that things would have worked out between Karen and Keith. If he would have left five minutes earlier, or five minutes later, that would have never happened and he would most likely be hooking up with Karen right now. What if it would have been Lucas driving. What if–."

"You can't go your whole life wondering what if, Haley. You're going to drive yourself mad with the what if's. Oh, mind you I've had plenty of 'what if's.' What if I would have left fives minutes earlier, or five minutes later, or what if I would have taken the shorter way instead of the longer way. What if... but those what ifs didn't take away what is."

"Nathan, I don't want to forgive you." I looked up into his eyes. He held my gaze, not saying anything. "You know... if we hadn't moved here, I would still be hating you with such a passion and... but..."

"Haley," Nathan reached forward and grabbed my hand, sliding over towards me, "I've done so many terrible things in my life, and that has to be the very worst. It can't get any worse than that, but, please... please know that I never meant to hurt her, or you... or your family."

"I know that, Nathan," I said in a low voice, watching him as he laced our fingers, "I know that," I repeated as I watched Nathan's head leaning forward, until finally our lips found each other. His lips were sweet, soft... they sent goose bumps up and down my arms and legs as I succumbed to his kiss, letting myself get lost in it.

"Well, well, well. What is this?" a loud voice boomed from behind us. We broke apart and I fell backwards into the sand, looking up to see a tall man looming over us. "Nathan, what the hell are you doing out of school? And you..." he turned to me, sneering. "Who are you?"

"Haley James," I said in a small voice, feeling like a small girl.

The man's whole body tensed up as his cold, inquiring eyes glazed over with an emotion much like shock, "Dad, we were–," Nathan started, but was stopped by a hard glance from the older man.

He let out a booming laugh as he jeered at both of us, "you were about to fuck the same girl whose mother you recently killed, Nathan."

Nathan jumped up, startling me at his swiftness, "you shut the fuck up, Dad," he said harshly, throwing his finger in the man's face. "You have no fucking clue what you're talking about."

"Oh, so the judges didn't acquit you of manslaughter in the third degree? And, I guess I don't recall the names correctly, either, do I? Because I was sure that Sarah James Wilson was the victim in a horrendous car crash, survived by her husband, Drew Wilson, sons Hayden and Holden James, and only daughter, Haley James," he said in a matter-of-fact, overbearing voice. He knew what he was doing, "and here you are, Son. You are making out with Mrs. Wilson's only daughter. Does she know who you really are?"

"I know who Nathan isn't," I stood up.

"Oh. That's sweet," Dan laughed. "That's very nice that you're coming to the defense of your little boyfriend, sweetie, but what do you call coming to the defense of your mother's murderer?"

"Listen, asshole. My mother was probably the kindest, most forgiving person I've ever known. She would give anyone a second chance if she could. I am not going to sit back and judge Nathan as an atrocious murderer when I'm finally realizing the truth."

"And the truth is?"

"That he has learned more from making one awful mistake than you've probably learned in your whole lifetime."

"Are you sure about that?"

"Yes," I said confidently.

"Well, then I'm sure that your father will be oh-so-happy to know that his daughter has chosen my son–of all people–to make out with–alone, on an empty beach, at my empty beach house. I'm sure he'll just love that."

"You don't know my father," I spat, my eyes slit.

"Oh really? Well, I was talking to our new neighbor today, and I'm sure he is very protective of his little girl. This would probably cause him to be bothered a little, don't you think?"

"Our new neighbor?" Nathan spoke up, his face wrinkled in confusion.

"Oh yes," Dan smirked, "seems like your little girlfriend over there has moved in to the house upon the hill. The one located straight across from ours, Nathan. You know."

I stood there, in total shock, as Nathan gaped and Dan had an evil smirk on his face, "I..." I started, but trailed off.

"Can't find a smart ass comment to make now, can you? Get in the car, both of you. I'm taking you both home, and then we can have a long talk with Drew Wilson about this."

"Piss off," I rolled my eyes, throwing my hands up and backing away as the man took a step forward. "There is no way I'm going to go anywhere with you."

Dan's eyes slit as he glared at me, "listen, Missy, you are going to walk up these damn steps and go get in the backseat of my Expedition."

"Like hell."

"Haley," Nathan said, his head lowered, "just do it."

"Nathan, I... I can't believe..."

"He knows your dad, Haley. Don't make it worse," he said through clenched teeth.

"That's right," Dan nodded. "Listen to my son."

"And you shut the hell up calling me your son," Nathan said with cold, hard eyes. "You have no right to call me that. Or Lucas for that matter."

Dan let out a haughty laugh, "I've spent hours upon hours working in order for you to have the things you have, Nathan. If it weren't for me, you would be in prison now. If it weren't for me–."

"Shut the fuck up, Dad. You know, I can make it on my own. I don't have to have you breathing down my neck about how much you save my ass all the time, because you don't."

"Oh, and I suppose you're going to move out?" he chuckled, his hand on his hip as he leaned forward, laughing so hard.

"Yeah, I am," Nathan said in a serious voice. "I can do it."

"Nathan, seriously," Dan straightened, his chuckling subsiding, "get in the car and let's settle this at home. You're talking ludicrously."

"No. I'm finished with you, and with all of your bullshit, Dad. You can write me the hell out of your life."

"You can't do that, Nathan," Dan said, his whole body tensed. "You can't move out on your own at 17."

"Yes, he can," I spoke up for Nathan's silence. "By law, he can. If he takes this to a court, he could get emancipation from his legal guardians: you."

"You shut up," Dan snapped. "I wasn't talking to you."

"No, she's right," Nathan said. "We were talking about this in government one day. That's what I'm going to do. I'm gonna get emancipation from you and mom."

"How are the judges ever going to side with you?"

"I could be a witness," I spoke up again. "I mean, if I tell how much of a bastard you are and–."

"How much you and mom fight at home, the whole deal with Luke, you framing Karen in order for Lucas to come live with you," Nathan took over. He turned towards me, an air of acquired confidence. "I could do this."

"No, you can't, Nate," Dan said, his confidence having taken a massive blow as Nathan talked like he was serious.

"Come on, Haley," Nathan grabbed my hand and started walking forward. He shoved past Dan as we started back towards Nathan's truck.

"This won't ever work, Nathan," Dan called out behind us as we both got in his truck and sped away.