Pt. 1 – Shiver
Haley looked down at her wrist and sighed. There, next to her silver watch was the colourful bracelet she had received five years ago. Sometimes, why she'd kept it with her after all this time was still beyond her. Maybe she just couldn't let go; no matter how many times she had tried, the bracelet stayed in its red velvet box, in the top drawer of her dresser, hidden away underneath a pile of T-shirts. Once in a while, she'd take it out; she'd sit alone in her bed, fiddling with the colourful beads, twiddling each bead between her fingers as she immersed herself in her thoughts. The simple motion just comforted her. Sometimes she was thankful that managed to calm her down, at other times she resented that she was still letting herself hang on to pieces that wouldn't, couldn't be put back together.
"Don't say I never gave you anything," he had said to her that morning on the docks. His voice rang loud and clear to her when she shut her eyes. He had given her a lot of things, happiness, laughter, safety, comfort, but when it mattered the most, he had given her grief, tears, sorrow. And he had taken her heart.
Her gaze travelled from her wrist, up to her fingers. And she'd still kept on wearing her wedding band. Even though she knew she was probably the only one. Unknowingly, she started twisting the ring round and round her finger, wondering if Nathan was still wearing his. Probably not; knowing Nathan, he'd probably moved on, dated a bunch and slept with another handful, she thought bitterly to herself.
"Who gets married at sixteen, anyway?" she suddenly spoke out to herself, but her voice was shaky. "To the love of their life?" She bit down on her bottom lip, trying to keep it from trembling. What a mistake that had turned out to be. What she'd desperately tried to keep from falling apart, crumbled to pieces. The more she'd tried to stop it, the more it happened. Life was ironic in that way sometimes. She felt the tears building in her throat, and before she could help herself, she let out a strangled sob.
"Oh, Haley," Peyton stood in the doorway.
Haley looked up at her, tears streaming down her cheeks. "I- I can't help it," she whispered, her words coming out in between chokes. "I just can't, Peyton, I can't. I tried so hard, but I'm not- I'm not strong enough, Peyton, I'm not!"
"Shhhh. Yes, you are, Haley. You are," Peyton put an arm around Haley's shaking shoulders and squeezed hard. "You're stronger than I ever could be."
Haley continued crying. "I should hate him," she sobbed. "I should be hoping that he burns and- and shrivels up in the darkest corner of hell," she stuttered, as she started hiccupping in between her tears. "But I can't."
"Because you love him, Haley. Because you- " Peyton stopped short in her tracks and noticed the bracelet on Haley's left wrist. Haley only took it out once a year to wear. "Shit, it's your wedding anniversary today, isn't it? I'm sorry I forgot, Haley. I should have stayed here with you."
Haley shook her head violently, her body still heaving with her crying. "He told me that nothing else mattered because he had me. This very day! Five years ago! And it was lies. All of it! How could he, Peyton? How could he do that to me?"
She turned to look at Peyton, and Peyton felt her heart break for her. Usually, Haley had all of the answers to every problem possible. But today, it was Peyton's turn to come up with the answers, and she had none. Instead, she just wrapped both her arms around Haley and let her cry. And Haley did just that. Cry.
Chris turned around and looked her straight in the eye. "Our tour bus leaves in a couple of hours and you know you should be on it."
She looked at him, frowning slightly. Her heart beat faster, as she thought about all the possibilities.
"You brave enough?" he simply asked, his icy blue eyes piercing right through her with his steely gaze. "I don't think you are, honest. But do you want to prove me wrong?"
"Chris, I- "
His smile curved into a lopsided grin. "Are you done playing house, Hales?"
She flinched noticeably at his last word. "Only Nathan calls me that. Not you," she replied quickly, her tone of voice firm, a little rigid. Even her quick response to this question surprised herself slightly.
"Nathan?" he walked around her, causing her to wrap her arms around herself. Chris always made her feel vulnerable, scared to a certain extent. "You going let down your dream for one jackass named Nathan Scott? What's he got that Chris Keller doesn't, Hales?" He said the last word sarcastically, smiling at her immediate look of annoyance.
He laughed a little. "It's sad."
She spun around to face him, getting agitated. "What is?"
"Sad how many people pass down chances like this everyday without knowing it. Pass up chances like this for something that's not even there."
"Nathan is real to me, Chris. And I love him."
He laughed even more. "And you know what that sounded like, Haley? It sounded like reassurance to my ears," he drawled slowly and moved closer to her as he spoke. "Perhaps I need to kiss you again to make you change your mind," his speech slurred slightly as he leaned in closer to her.
"Chris!" Haley moved away from him, folding her arms tightly across her chest. "I've told you before and I won't tell you again. That was a mistake, all right?"
Chris held up both hands in mock surrender. "Geez, Haley, just having a bit of fun. What, being a wife made you forget how to have fun? Nathan must really be really awful in bed," he said, sneering. "I could teach you a few things or too," his voice lowered dangerously. When Haley shot him a death glare, he quickly continued. "Fun. I could teach you how to have fun. After I teach you how to become a musician." He looked at Haley, and then sighed when she kept silent. "Sitting here in Tree Hill is not going to cultivate your talent. It's your call."
He walked out of the room, his last sentence hanging in the air, leaving her more confused than she'd ever been.
Haley sniffled a little, her cries subsiding. Her cheeks were still damp from the tears and her nose was alarmingly red against the rest of her pale face and her chapped lips from the cold. "Thank you, Peyton."
Peyton smiled. "That's what I'm good for," she said.
Haley forced a smile. "I don't know why I did what I had done. I don't know why I'd kissed Chris, or be so ignorant towards my dissolving marriage."
"Come on, Haley. We were all young. But that doesn't mean we were stupid. We did all the things we did for a reason, one way or another. Except love. Because it doesn't take a reason to love another. You can't explain it," she paused. "That's why it's so beautiful. It may not make sense, but who says you need sense for love? It just happens, and it happened to you."
Haley smiled wistfully. "I loved him."
Peyton cocked her head to the side, debating on something that she had always wanted to ask, but never dared to. "Haley- " she started slowly. "If you loved Nathan so much, why did you let him go?"
"I never told you, did I?" Haley shrugged. "I never wanted to tell anyone, because it would be too painful. It still is painful, even now. But maybe, it's about time you knew."
Nathan shut the door behind himself and Haley and grinned. "You know, now that Taylor's finally leaving, maybe we can get some hot water for our own showers. And well, maybe you could take that shower with me, Mrs. Scott." He smiled down at her and leaned down to kiss her, pulling her close to him.
She kissed him back, but her head was a million miles away from her. When he pulled back, she smiled wanly up at him. How long could she keep going on like this?
"Nathan, I- I've got something to tell you," Haley finally said softly, gently, as her husband turned around to look at her.
"What's wrong?" he asked. "You did great tonight, Hales."
"Michelle Branch liked my voice back there tonight, Nathan. And she thinks I could really make it big. Chris said that she wanted me along on their tour. I'm already so far ahead with classes," she said, still not quite daring to look Nathan in the eye. "And I'd be back right in time for our finals."
He tensed up at the mention of Chris' name. "The great Chris Keller. Again. Is there any scene that doesn't involve that little attention-seeker this week?"
Haley finally looked up at him, trying to make him understand. "This isn't about him, Nathan. This is about opportunity. I have, my entire life, been the reliable one and the dependable one and I've always done- I've always done precisely what was expected of me."
"How 'bout getting married, Haley. Because that wasn't very expected of you, was it?" He replied her angrily.
She walked towards him, placing both her hands on his chest. He felt so strong, so firm, like he could protect her from anything; he made her feel safe. "Yeah, because for once, I did something for me. Something I wanted."
"So this thing, is it what you want?" He spoke quietly, placing his hand on top of hers and moving them to his heart.
"It's my chance, Nathan."
"It's yours. It's yours to take, if you leave me."
Haley swallowed hard. "It's not the end for us, Nathan."
"Then look at me deep in the eyes, Hales, and tell me that you didn't kiss him."
Her breath caught in her throat and she averted her gaze from his. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out.
Nathan shook his head, cursing under his breath. "I knew it," he muttered angrily. His gaze didn't falter from Haley's, not one bit. He looked straight at her, as he removed her hand from his heart, pushing it angrily away. "If you leave, we're done."
He gave her one last long cold stare, and walked out of the apartment, the door slamming behind him.
She stared after him, that sound shattering her heart into pieces.