Haley James is smart, beautiful, popular… and desperate for a change. A handsome stranger unlike anyone she knows could be the catalyst she needs.

Winds of Change

"And what he learned was that sometimes less is more. Mr. Smith, please sum up Miss James in one word," the balding teacher prodded gently. Sixth period English, with four minutes to spare, and it was safe to say that half the class was counting down the seconds.

"Hot," he licked his lips, and the class chuckled. The girl in question barely reacted, a tinge of a smile curling her lips as she kept her gaze levelly on the blackboard.

"Haley, a response?"

Turning, she shrewdly examined the jock. He was typical. Well muscled, a mop of light brown hair, quite a bit taller than she was.

"Troglodyte," she said coolly, snapping her planner shut and sliding it into her tote bag. Sniggers came from the front of the room, where the "nerdy" percent of Tree Hill High's population tended to gather. The rest of the room sat in tensed silence, knowing from her tone that it had been an insult but the word foreign to their ears.

"What the hell does that even mean?" Tim asked, scratching his head.

"Caveman," the pretty blonde's voice dripped ice, and Tim's hand dropped.

"Okay, moving on… have you all completed the small assignment from the beginning of the period?" Mr. Jones edged nervously, laughter in his eyes but common courtesy preventing it from escaping. The class murmured. "Alright, then pass them forward."

What are you searching for?

One word to sum up their desires and their goals. One word to explain all their hopes for the future. It was so easy to label someone else, but it was a far more daunting task to use one word on yourself.

Folding the paper crisply, nerves churned within Haley James's flat stomach. When the assignment had been given out, she thought it would be for personal record only. With the papers being passed forward, there was a much greater chance of a classmate reading it. Resisting the urge to fold in into a few more sections, Haley handed the paper to the cheerleader in front of her and tried to calm down.

The bell rang, silencing any doubts she had. Rising gracefully, the blonde waited patiently as she did everyday, poised by the door. From down the hallway, she could already see her best friend's golden curls springing about, unmanageable as always. Brooke Davis's laughter echoed from the other direction, and Haley identified it as the fake one her friend used only with athletes she hadn't slept with yet. Peyton Sawyer approached, looping her arm around Haley's waist, and in two strides, Haley's thin arm linked with that of Brooke Davis. This was their routine, every day. After sixth period, Haley would wait outside her classroom, while Peyton and Brooke met her in the middle. Together, they would all take a bathroom break, a time out for them to dish gossip, garner advice, retouch their makeup and read the latest graffiti on the stalls.

The door swinging shut, Peyton checked subtly under the stalls to be sure they were alone. Most people didn't dare approach the second floor girls' bathroom after sixth period. The trio's heart-to-hearts were infamous among both faculty and students, as were their tempers. No, this was one group that you steered clear of, if you could. Signaling to her brunette best friend that they were in fact alone, Brooke slid the lock closed as Haley slid down the wall.

"What's wrong with you today?" Brooke's observant green eyes connected with Haley's warm honey ones through the mirror.

"Nothing," Haley sighed softly, blowing her bangs away from her face.

"Don't 'nothing' us!" Brooke squealed indignantly. "Something is totally up with you."

"You've been different lately," Peyton said without taking sides, carefully examining her soft curls to be sure nothing was stuck in them. It seemed that lunch was the only area of school hazardous to Peyton Sawyer.

"I think its Chris," Brooke mock-whispered, eyes widening eagerly as she saw her best friend's stricken face.

"Damn right it's Chris!" Haley exploded, standing up angrily. Peyton barely batted an eye at her friend's lashing out. Haley James was a girl who tended to bottle things up. For so long, she would maintain her cool indifference, while things churned under the surface. Only in the comforting presence of her best friends would she allow her control to slip. The only time Haley's outburst had caught her by surprise was in kindergarten, and they had come a long way. Now, she rather looked forward to them. It was the only time you were guaranteed to hear what Haley really thought.

"What'd he do this time?" she asked sympathetically, slyly double-checking the lock on the door as the bell sounded, signaling the beginning of seventh period. It didn't matter much to the three beautiful girls taking refuge among the porcelain and mirrors. They had been very late to seventh period every other day of their high school career, and no one was expecting that to change any time soon.

"I think it's more like what he doesn't do. Which is, you know, call, come over, speak to me? I actually even stooped to calling his house phone yesterday. His mother answered, to tell me he was "out with some friends". Do you realize that this is an entirely new level of pathetic?" the blonde girl ranted, biting lightly at the left-hand corner of her mouth, as she always did when she was too angry for words.

Haley James, blonde and beautiful and brainy, made up one-third of Tree Hill High's most elite group of girls. Peyton Sawyer, with her love of rock music and dark art and the fact that she was hot as hell, made up another portion. Brooke Davis, rich and spoiled, sultry and sexy, rounded out the trio. All together, they were the envy of the school, and the apple of its eye. In most situations, the three girls tossed together would be petty and jealous, a group bonded by circumstance. Not these three. Brooke, Haley, and Peyton had been together for years, closer than friends could possibly be, bickering like only sisters could. They knew each other inside and out, and defended each other fiercely. It was a strong, unbreakable bond between the three of them, which they valued above all other things.

Haley was the only one in a "committed relationship". Chris Keller, handsome and cocky, sarcastic and obnoxious, had caught her eye months earlier. Reluctantly, Haley agreed to be his girlfriend, a move that she was sorely regretting as their relationship matured. They hadn't spoken in days and she was positively boiling, her rage worsened by the fact that she knew in a few days, he'd show up outside her window with an acoustic guitar and a love song, and all would be forgotten.

Until next month, anyway.

Brooke made sympathetic noises in the back of her throat, but wasn't quite feeling them. Brushing back her glossy dark hair, she wondered why Haley bothered with relationships in the first place. They were just messy. Brooke was much more of a no-strings kind of girl. She hated that someone she loved so dearly was hurting, but she could care less about whether Haley and Chris actually made it or not. Brooke was the impulsive, reckless one, and Haley and Peyton had always treated her as the "little sister". She never got used to the feeling of dishing out advice, when she was so often the one in need of it, or picking up the pieces of others when she was so often the one being torn apart. It was difficult for her, but she tried anyway, just 'cause she loved them. Sage wisdom was always more Peyton's forte.

"I could seriously, like, kill him," Haley spat irritably, her light eyes dancing with malice. Haley was a girl of many layers, as Brooke and Peyton had discovered over the years. She could be cold and calculating, snarky and cruel, but it was mostly a defensive mechanism. Beneath that was a girl with a heart of gold, who cared for her friends and cared about her grades. Yet mixed in somewhere was a love of revenge, a longing to see anyone who crossed them get what was coming to them.

"Easy there Hales," Peyton laughed softly, but her own hazel eyes mirrored her friend's desires. Chris Keller was a grade-A asshole, in her opinion. He wasn't worthy of Haley, and he never had been. As far as she was concerned, the sooner her best friend dumped him, the better. Haley didn't deserve to hurt, and that seemed to be all Chris was capable of. If orange were her color, Peyton wouldn't think twice about wringing the rocker's skinny neck.

"Shit, I need to get to class," Brooke swore, accidentally dropping her lipstick into the off-white sink in her haste to pack up.

"Since when?" Haley laughed, her attention momentarily diverted. Peyton's golden eyebrow arched as a prompt.

"Since Mrs. Goldbloom moved Lucas Roe's seat right across from mine," Brooke winked.

"Lucas will still be in class in ten minutes, Tigger," Haley rolled her eyes, moving towards the mirror. "He's a good boy."

"You know him?" Peyton inquired.

"Not any better than I know anyone else in the school," the blonde shrugged. Haley James, being the brains behind their operation, had what seemed to be a mental rolodex of everyone attending Tree Hill High, consisting of their name, schedule, and dirtiest little secrets. It was quite the handy weapon, and had gotten them out of many a jam, as it included the teachers too. "But from what I've gathered, I don't think he'll be interested in being your post-game hook up."

"What makes you think that's all I want him for?" Brooke asked defensively, crossing her arms below her chest as she always did.

"So you want him to be your boyfriend?" Peyton asked skeptically.

"No," Brooke tossed off. "But I could, and I think that's the important part here."

"Whatever you say, honey," Haley softened towards her friend, smiling gently.

"Oh, no! Don't do that!" Brooke cried, horrified.

"Do what?"

"That benevolent, 'Yes, I know better, but I'm humoring you, because you're a child' look!" Brooke's electric green eyes narrowed.

"Well… come on Brooke. Don't you want to fall in love?" Haley asked, slight frown lines marring her perfect face.

"Because that turned out so well for you," the pretty brunette scowled, and the blonde's face distorted with anger.

"Ooookay, I think this conversation is over," Peyton jumped in, picking her backpack up off the ground. She would have to remember to place it somewhere else next time. The floors in this school were disgusting. "B. Davis, go ensnare Lucas. Tell us how it goes."

"Will do," Brooke grinned with a cheeky wink, the fight of only moments before fading into obscurity. Fights between them never lasted. "Hales, are you gonna be okay?"

"Me? Hell yes, I'll be just fine. It's Chris you should worry about," Haley forced a smile, and Peyton and Brooke exchanged a look. Their petite blonde friend fancied herself a lot tougher than she actually was, and they could almost see in her eyes the pain of the relationship being torn apart.

"Alright then. Meet at my car after homeroom?" Peyton confirmed, and Haley and Brooke winced simultaneous. Peyton Sawyer, God love her, was not going to win any safest driver awards any time soon.

"Yeah, we'll be there."

"Okay, then. We're young, we're fine. It's time to do some damage," Brooke said, strutting off down the hall, excitement evident in her step. It was endlessly endearing to her friends that Brooke treated going to class and going clubbing with the same attitude.

"See you later, Hales," Peyton waved and began to walk away. Something tugged at Haley's heart then, a question she needed an answer to.

"Hey Peyt?" her friend turned. "What did you put in that one-word assignment thing for Jones?"

"Love," Peyton shrugged, and Haley knew she didn't just mean in the romantic sense. The curly blonde's mother had passed away years before, and her father was always off. She had always put others before herself, and she couldn't ask her dad to sacrifice his happiness for her own. She contented herself with Brooke and Haley, the tightest makeshift family she could ever dream of, but there was a yearning in her heart that her gorgeous friends couldn't satisfy.

"That's a good answer," Haley smiled, turning and heading off to her locker. Peyton's inquisitive gaze burned into her back, but she brushed it off as she turned the corner. Tugging her massive text book out of the locker, she turned slightly and met a pair of unfamiliar eyes. They were a beautiful shade of sky blue, with flecks of green in them, the idealistic color of the sea. They were part of a face she was sure she would've remembered if she had ever seen it before. It was exquisite, really, a work of art if she'd ever seen it. A chiseled jaw line, strong cheekbones, a high forehead, with those eyes and dark brown hair. A small smirk curved his full lips, and she realized with a jolt that she had totally been staring. How embarrassing! Suicide seemed appealing at the moment, but Haley settled for just looking back into her locker.

Pretending to be looking for something of utmost importance gave Haley the chance to examine him through a curtain of blonde hair. To her mild surprise, he continued to stare unabashedly at her. There was a confident swagger in his walk as he approached her. The gorgeous male bent slightly, as he was at least five inches taller than her, and he was so close that she could take in the faint scent of his aftershave.

"Beautiful, at least when I stare at people, I don't try to hide it," he whispered in her ear, his warm, minty breath tickling her cheek. He kissed it lightly before continuing on down the hallway as if he had never stopped. She, on the other hand, was frozen to the spot.

Who the hell did he think he was? She was Haley fucking James! Nobody touched her! Anger tugged at her, while intrigue pulled at the other side. She looked after him, a woman torn, memorizing his features and flushing at the wink he tossed her as he turned the corner. No, she definitely had never met this boy before. Slamming her locker door closed, the blonde made it her new mission to figure out exactly who he was. After that, she'd figure out who the hell he thought he was.

The bang startled Mr. Jones, looking up from where he had been grading papers. Through the glass in his door, he could see an angry Haley James heading down the hallway, and God help the person she was after. He cringed at the thought. One of his brightest students, but she certainly was a wily one. He laughed aloud at her display in class earlier, managing to both horrify him with her sense of humor and dazzle with her intellect.

A soft smile remained from the laughter as he continued on with his papers. It was one of his favorite assignments of the year, to see his students try to sum up all they wanted in one word. It never failed to amuse him, as was evidenced by the paper that could only have been Tim Smith's ("HOTCHICKS. Wait, is that one word?") However, a puzzled expression crossed his features as he mused over what had been written by the "star student". Haley James's signature loopy script graced the paper, the word written in purple ink as always, regardless of the fact that he had practically begged them to use either blue or black. No, it was the word itself, written by the girl who seemed to have it made, that caused him much deeper thought. She had followed the assignment perfectly. There was only one word written on the page to describe her heart's desires.


Please please please review and let me know what you think. This is my first naley, and it's really different form anything else I've done.

Thanks for reading!

xox Sam