Casual Conversations With An Ex-Roommate

This was written as a challenge for the OTHWriters911 board. Itwon in it's round but I forgot to post it. Let me know what you think!

Haley James traveled constantly, to the point where she kept two separate apartments in different states. And as a direct result of the constant traveling she'd adapted a horrible addiction to the tabloids you could pick up in at any number of the newsstands you passed in the terminals of LAX. She worked nearly constantly but the four hour flight between LA and Chicago was consumed by trashy magazines and books; people who knew her as Haley James, editor of a literary magazine that was taking the west coast by storm and slowly moving to take over the east as well, would be shocked to know that the hellish editor would be caught even looking at such pointless materials. But even a peek into either of her identical apartments would show that they were the only things that made the space look lived in.

"Doesn't look like you're going to get out of here anytime soon," Haley frowns at the cashiers words and glances at the television screen over her head that indicated that several of the flights were delayed courtesy of the winter thunderstorm that caught most of the Los Angeles by surprise.

"I guess I'll take another one," Haley added a final magazine to her already large stack.

"See you next week Miss James," Haley accepts the bag full of magazines and leaves the small airport shop quickly. If she let herself dwell on the fact that more then a handful of airport employees knew her by name it would depress her. She was more then well aware that she spent a large part of her life traveling, she didn't need it pointed out to her.

This wasn't the way her life was supposed to turn out. In high school she'd always imagined that ten years after graduating from high school she and Nathan would be settled in some suburban house with the white picket fence and the two point five kids. And a dog, no in her imagination it had always been two dogs. Some smallish mutt that would cuddle with her on the couch when Nathan had to travel for basketball and some pureblood dog of some sort that Nathan could take running with him. Hell, if she let herself she could even recall how she'd decorated that specific house in her mind. But all of that had drowned with Nathan. And the girl that had married him was long gone too, she supposed. She'd graduated from Tree Hill and fled, leaving behind everything she had ever known and everyone she had ever cared for. Add that to the list of things she didn't let herself think about, it was quite a large list and even Haley knew she was in denial about her life. But the list was important, she couldn't let herself turn into the nothing she had been in the months following Nathan's death.

"Lucas Scott, don't you dare laugh at me. I just want to come home!

If the name hadn't caught her attention the voice would have. Haley had always known that she would see Brooke Davis again and she's glad that she's spotted her first. She's changed, that much is obvious even at the twenty feet distance between them. She's put on weight, not a ton, but the few extra pounds that set in when everyday responsibilities came before the daily work-out. She wears casual jeans and a black sweater and with her hair pulled back into a loose ponytail Haley can hardly see her designer clothes wearing ex-roommate. But as Haley's gazes settles on Brooke's face and there is a flash of Brooke's deep dimples and an expression that bears illustration to her verbal cell phone banter that Haley can see the same girl.

It is then that Brooke catches Haley's glance and her eyes go wide with recognition. Haley can't hear the words she speaks into the phone but immediately it is slipped into her jeans pocket and Brooke has closed the gap between them, "oh my god! Haley!" Brooke immediately pulls Haley into a tight hug, "I can't believe it."

"Brooke you look great," it was exactly the sort of thing you said to an old friend that you'd long ago lost contact with. Without even intending to Haley had drawn fast and hard boundaries and walls; lines were drawn that couldn't be crossed out of common courtesy. Both knew in that instant that they would stick to the basic details of their lives and steer clear of the painful experiences that filled in the gaps.

Brooke is aware of the words and the implication but she pulls Haley to sit in two open chairs, "as do you Miss designer suit and bag." Brooke did her own appraisal of her old friend and unlike Haley's final conclusion could not find a bit of her old friend. Not in her stiff posture or the way her eyes veiled and possible emotion. "How have you been?"

It's shocking to Haley's very being that Brooke's voice still sounds exactly the same, that even if her physical appearance had changed she was still Brooke. "I'm good. I'm actually the editor of a Literary magazine, we started it while I was still in college and it just kind of took off. We're actually branching out and I spend a lot of time in Chicago." She doesn't mention the second apartment in Chicago, there was a certain workaholic patheticness that she couldn't mention to Brooke. "But what are you doing here?"

"I was actually visiting my parents in LA, my dad had a heart attack."

"Oh, I'm sorry," it was the courteous thing to say and it both made her cringe at the tone and bring her security in the walls that separate them. She hadn't opened up to anyone in ten years, what was the point of starting now?

"Oh he's fine," Brooke waves it off. More then anything she'd love to tell Haley all about how for once she and her parents, after decades, had reached an understanding about one another. "I don't think anything could really kill him, I'm just anxious to get home."

"To..." Haley let the sentence trail, she assumes that Brooke had married Lucas. But really, for all she knew, Lucas had married Peyton and the three of them had just managed to remain friends. But a pang of guilt hits her stomach, it was not the first time she'd felt that exact emotion over losing contact with people who'd helped her piece herself back together after Nathan...and just helped make up who she'd been in high school.

"Lucas of course," Brooke flashes her dimples before rummaging through her purse, "and our kids." It never failed to amuse Brooke that she had become one of those proud parents who carried a thousand pictures around with her.

Haley automatically accepts the picture that is handed to her but it takes several seconds to come out of her self-induced stupor. It's wallet sized picturing two little boys, both in khaki pants and blue button down shirts, sitting back to back with a young toddler propped up against their shoulders.

"Aiden's the oldest," Brooke launches into mother mod, pointing at the dark haired boy, "he's five. Caleb," a boy that clearly takes after Lucas, "is three. And Eva," a little girl who couldn't possibly be more Brooke, "is a year and a half."

"They're beautiful, perfect." Haley coos, and she means it. It meant more then she could express to be able to even take a peek in the lives of two of her, once, best friends.

"They're a handful," Brooke laughs but in their casual conversation she doesn't bring up the loss of Caleb's twin at birth. Or how having the three of them with her all day everyday nearly made her crazy, and how some days were so bad she locked herself in her bedroom while they were supposedly napping and sobbed.

"And you and Lucas are good?"

"Well, we're still Brucas...we fight all the time but we've been married for seven years so I suppose that says something. But enough about me, what about you? I don't see a ring, but that matters very little these days. God," Brooke groans, "I sound like an old married woman."

"Well, you are," Haley teases, hoping to avoid the topic. She'd chosen to throw herself into the magazine to prevent herself from having any social life in college and each day it just made moving on that much easier. Or at least it helped her to forget.

"Well?" Brooke stares expectantly, she is as driven as ever and it's obvious she will not be distracted from this particular topic of conversation.

"I'm not really seeing anyone, work keeps me really busy. I actually have two apartments, one here in LA and one in Chicago."

"Two separate apartments?" Brooke arches and eyebrow and while Haley waits for the workaholic comment to come Brooke states, "sounds perfect for playing the field. You're young and hot..."

"Oh yeah, and playing the field worked so well for you in the past." There. She'd done it. As unconsciously as she'd put up the walls she took one down. She'd been the first to offer up an intimate memory they shared that few people would recall after ten years. It was an olive branch. Brooke was thrilled. Haley was terrified.

"We," Brooke clears her throat, she knows that by offering up this piece of information she may just push Haley away again, "named Aiden after Nathan. His full name is Aiden Nathanael Scott."

"That's great, he would have loved that." He. Always he. Never Nathan. Never outloud anyway.

"Nathan would be proud, the boy has been able to dribble as basketball since he could walk."

"And Caleb? Does he play?"

"Actually no," Brooke shakes her head sadly, "he has a very weak heart he's..."

"That's awful, I'm sorry to hear that," the tone has returned. Haley knew she would regret it later. That night when she crawled into bed and let herself analyze every mistake she'd made that day she knew that it would be at the top of the list. She just couldn't do it, couldn't let Brooke back into her life along with a million reminders of Nathan. She was happy, or at least okay, with the way her life was. She was okay with the fact that she was kept so busy most of the time that she couldn't think about everything that had brought her to where she was, to who she was.

"He's a really sweet boy, actually Mouth has been working with him on his commentating skills, it's really cute. You know, the guys still get together to play at the River Court," Brooke recognized the tone and it stung but she refused to lapse back into small talk Haley was obviously still hurting and Brooke couldn't just ignore that. "You should come back to Tree Hill, it hasn't really changed in ten years it's amazing. Everyone would love to see you, Luke especially. The kids would love to meet their Aunt Haley too..."

Haley forced a smile, even the thought of stepping a foot back inside Tree Hill boundaries again caused her to clam up, "maybe."

"Meaning no."

Haley took a moment to weigh her options, she could lie and say that she would actually consider going to visit or she could tell Brooke the truth. "You're right."

Brooke nodded, she knew that if she pushed the topic too far Haley would pull away for good. She'd been that person once, closed off to the rest of the world but Luke had been able to get through to her, to show that even though life was hard it didn't mean you had to stop living. Haley needed a person to do that for her. "I think you should come back."

"Well, you don't really have a say in the matter do you, Brooke?" Haley's voice is cold and clipped.

Brooke ignores the words all together, "I know it hurt you to loose Nathan. And I know that you're afraid that if you go back to Tree Hill you'll see him around every corner, and remember every fight and make-up that you guys ever had there. And guys what? You probably will. But it's been ten years Haley, it's time for you to start living. Nathan would hate this. I know you loved him, always and forever, but you can't just stop living..."

It was the always and forever that started the tears that had been threatening to fall for the nine years she had pushed them away. "You can't just waltz into my life and judge what I'm doing right and what I'm doing wrong. You have no right." Her words are thick with tears but there's no anger behind them.

"Actually I do." Brooke places a hand on Haley's arm, "we're roommates remember."

"Brooke, we haven't been roommates in ten years."

"I know," Brooke nods, "but that doesn't change the fact that you're always going to be a part of my life Haley, even if you're not actually a part of it. And that's why I think I have a right to give you this order, take some time off work. Come to Tree Hill, or not. But figure out your life, because what your living now isn't a life. I don't know what is, but it's written all over you that you stopped living a long time ago and you need to start."

"We're going to begin boarding for Flight 1460 service to Chicago Midway five minutes." The crackling voice of the super perky flight attendant cuts off any further conversation.

"That's me," Haley stands, she still has tears shimmering in her eyes but for the first time in years she does nothing to push them away. "It really was good to see you."

Brooke stands as well and pulls Haley into a hard hug again, "it was great seeing you too. Here," she pulls away and digs through her purse again, pulling out her wallet and a pen. In a swift motion she's pulled out the picture of the kids she'd showed Haley earlier and flips it over to scrawl something on the back. "That's our number, in case you ever feel like visiting Tree Hill again. Even if you don't ever use least think about what I said."

"I will," Haley nods and the tears seem to rush forth with more intensity, minutes ago she'd been wishing that this encounter hadn't happened and now she's not sure she'll be able to say good-bye without sobbing. "Say hi to Luke for me...and the kids..."

"I will, you take care of yourself, okay?"

"I will," Haley echoes Brooke's previous response, before shouldering her briefcase and with one last small wave walking away. Minutes later when she is sitting in her comfortable first class seat with her martini already in one corner of the tray, but front and center is the picture Brooke had handed her. She didn't know if she'd ever use the number on the other side the picture would go up on her empty refrigerator, probably in Chicago, and she'd know it was there. But some things were better left in the past. She believed Brooke's words, it was time to move on do more then forget her past but come to terms with it. Only time would tell if she could fit her past in with her present, but first she had to learn to come to terms with it all.