Lucas stared out at the empty racetrack. It was dark and the rowdy cheering fans had long since left the stands. His heart sank. It was supposed to be a new beginning. This was supposed to be his defining moment, the one thing that would change his life.
But it hadn't. Nothing much had changed. And now there was nothing to but go back to Tree Hill with his tail between his legs. Sure there were options. He could always help his ambitious North Carolina Entrepreneur of the Year mother run her string of successful cafes. Or he could go back and help his dad coach basketball at his alma mater high school. Yeah, Dan Scott would love that one. And Lucas knew there was a vice president's vacant office just waiting for him if he chose to go into the car dealership trade with his uncle Keith.
Sadly none of the choices were that appealing. He wasn't particularly close to either parent and the fact that his uncle had been nailing his mother for years was more than a little disturbing. But it did make for a hell of a holiday get together. Lucas shook his head. With his family there was always something to fall back on but Lucas needed more. He wanted more.
He'd led a good life. He came from a good family, his parents, Dan and Karen Scott were Tree Hill High School sweethearts. Dan Scott had been the Great White Hope, the next Larry Byrd of his generation but it wasn't to be. A college knee injury sidelined his basketball career before it could even begin. It was one of several defining moments that would shape his life at UNC.
Another was a pretty blonde named Deborah Lee. Everyone called her Deb. Dan had met her at the freshman orientation and right way they had hit it off. She was a nice enough girl and he enjoyed spending time with her. There was mutual physical attraction of course but for Dan, it was something more.
He was feeling vulnerable and alone. He was scared. The weight of the world was on his shoulders. The pressure to succeed was enormous. He heard it everywhere from Brian "Whitey" Durham, his old basketball coach to his college coaches and recruiters to his overbearing father, Royal. He'd come to expect that but the one thing he didn't expect was for Karen Rowe to tell him she was pregnant.
And that's exactly what she had done in The Field House, the school gymnasium renamed after Whitey. She had told him she was pregnant with tears in her eyes. It was just like they planned but only a little earlier. She was happy. She had put his hand over her still flat stomach that now harbored their unborn offspring.
Dan panicked. He loved Karen but the thought of being a husband and a father so soon terrified him. What about school? What about basketball? There was no way he could do it all and even if he could, he wasn't sure he wanted to. It was all too much. Too much too soon.
So he had taken the coward's way out and fled. He had hurt Karen as he ran off to college. There it was a different world and the popular, handsome athlete was living it up. He was partying and he was having a good time with Deb. But life would soon change again.
He could not forget what he had left behind in tiny Tree Hill. Ignoring his wishes, Karen had refused an abortion and deep down he was kind of glad. Then one day it hit him. He was not where he was supposed to be. It was all wrong. Life was all wrong.
There was no way he would ever be able to simply walk away. He was headed for the NBA. He had the drive and the talent. No one on their right mind would turn their back on such a destiny. But Dan always had a plan. He would leave the sport and school because of a knee injury…a fictional one nonetheless but still an injury. Then he would go back to Karen and back to the local University. He would lead a normal life. She was his true love and he belonged with her and their baby.
After carefully thinking everything out, that is exactly what Dan did. The night before leaving school, he had thought about going over to Deb's dormitory to say good bye but at the last minute he had decided not to. Instead he left her an apology ridden note…then he was gone.
It played out just like he thought it would. He returned home and enrolled in school nearby. He had a quickie marriage ceremony with Karen and they moved into a small home to begin their new life together as a family. But there was something else he didn't count on. Deb's return. And when she did, she had a secret of her own. She, too was with child, their child.
Karen was devastated. Royal Scott was furious. Dan was stuck in the middle. He'd give her money if she would just go away quietly. Deb would have none of that. Besides, she really loved Dan. Her wealthy parents had already disowned her so what did she have to lose? She moved to Tree Hill herself and almost four months to the date after Dan and Karen welcomed Lucas Eugene Scott into the world, Deb gave birth alone to Nathan James Lee.
Dan and Karen graduated college. Dan obtained a teaching certificate and began his career as a P.E. and Health educator at Tree Hill High. He also became assistant coach to Whitey for the boys' varsity basketball team and head coach of the junior varsity. Karen, on the other hand, had put her business savvy and degree to good use. A small loan allowed her to open up her first café which she ran hands on as head cook, head waitress and proprietor. It was a raging success that led to a chain of a half dozen other operations. She was well on her way to reaching her goal of owning an even 12 cafes all over the region.
Lucas had grown up a happy, handsome, lanky blonde haired little boy. As soon as he knew what to do with it, his father had placed a basketball in his hand. It became obvious quickly that the child had inherited his father's pedigree. From his first sunk three pointer in a Fisher Price hoop, Dan had mapped out his kid's future. Lucas would have what he could have but had walked away from.
Although a polite and quiet boy underneath, the success and prodding from Dan soon turned the Lucas into a cocky, arrogant athlete who walked around with a superiority complex, his nose high in the air, followed by a legion of equally popular jocks. He dated the prettiest girls and was the subject of high school hero worship. And he was bound for a successful college career, preferably at Duke that would lead to an NBA career. But there was a stepping stone to get there. High Fliers, the most prestigious, pre collegiate basketball camp in the country. Only one student per high school would receive the coveted invitation and Lucas was a shoe in. Nothing could or would stand in his way. Or could it?
Deb Lee had struggled as a single mother. Sometimes she worked two and three jobs at a time. She had been a maid and a waitress and a grocery store clerk and everything in between. Still making ends meet had been tough. She sometimes alone at night regretted refusing Dan's offer of money. Not for herself but more for her son. Nathan was her baby, her pride and joy and he deserved better.
They lived in a one bedroom apartment courtesy of Section 8 down by the other side of the River Walk. Determined to get off welfare, Deb was awarded a state grant that would allow her to open her own business. It was a bar that served greasy food in the back of an alley but it was her baby. Her other baby. She named it Deb's Den.
Nathan had grown up a sweet and happy boy. He had black hair and piercing blue eyes. He looked like the man he had seen in passing in town, the handsome young coach. But physical resemblances were as far as it went. He knew he had a father and a brother on the other side of town but they never interacted.
Nathan was popular among his friends, the close knit small group of boys that played at the River Court. And he was a kind soul. A good student who respected his elders and loved his mother. And he was also a monster force to be reckoned with on the court. His talent was raw and his game aggressive and it didn't go unnoticed…especially by Coach Whitey.
He informally nominated Nathan Lee for High Fliers but only one per school could go and Lucas Scott had been the obvious choice. Two young men, brothers by blood bonded by the gift of athleticism. Only one could go and it was determined that a playoff on the streets would settle it.
Lucas was threatened and the only fact scarier than that was that Dan was threatened as well. The shame and humiliation of defeat from the bastard they had only whispered of before. They would not allow it. Hazing, beatings, taunting and finally a staged kidnapping wouldn't hinder the determined younger boy. With the whole town watching, Nathan Lee defeated his older brother in front of their father. He did it for himself, for his mother and everything else they had lost and struggled for.
The rivalry changed both young men. Over a considerable amount of time, civility became friendship but a tense undertone would always remain. Lucas was a reformed jerk but he was still his father's son.
The NBA would be the destiny for neither. Lucas had gone to college but he had struggled to find his niche. For Nathan it was easier. His uncle Cooper was a professional racer and fast cars had always intrigued the young man. So he had followed suit and off and on throughout the years had joined the men at the track.
"You okay, Luke?"
Lucas looked up at Nathan who was still wearing his track suit.
"I'm fine, man."
Nathan knew his brother. He knew him well.
"You're going back, aren't you?"
"What do I have to stay for?"
He had finished completely out of the runnings yet again and he was becoming bored with life. He'd never share Nathan or Cooper's intense enthusiasm for the sport.
"What do you have to go back to, man?"
"I don't know. Maybe I can find myself. Work on getting my life together. Save my marriage maybe."
Nathan nodded. But he'd heard the same old song and dance before. He'd heard it too many times.
"Okay, man", he sighed.
"It's cool. Really. You don't have to explain anything to me. Do your thing."
Nathan shook his head.
"Nah. It's not my place. I just want you to be okay. I want you to be happy."
"That's what we all want, little brother."
"Then make it happen."
Lucas winked as the brothers knocked fists.
Taking one last look out and inhaling the night air, he turned on his heels to leave.
"Just, um, make it right, man. Take care of her. Okay?"
Lucas nodded. He may have inherited the athletic talent from his father but his roving eye and restless heart had come from his mother. Lucas, despite his best efforts and intentions, hadn't been the best husband around. But he'd make it up to her or die trying.
"I will. Um, I'll call you later", Lucas promised.
Nathan watched until the older man was out of sight. He took a deep breath.
"Later", he whispered.