Title: Double Tree Hill Hotel
Author: Sweet Sarcasm
Rating: PG-13 for language and teen situations
Author's Note: Hey, everyone! Okay, so I've been horrible with updating The Bachelor. Please don't kill me. I'm suffering from writer's block with that story, and this is my newest project. So please be patient with me and I'll try to have the fourth chapter up before school starts.
Anyway, this story is a modern Cinderella, making it an AU. The first chapter is more of a prologue and focuses on Haley and Nathan's childhood. To be honest, it's not that exciting, but the beginning is cute and the ending is rather angsty. My beta left for Hawaii today, so this is un-betaed. This was inspired by "Eloise at the Plaza."
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the One Tree Hill characters, song lyrics, or the quote.
Who do you turn to when the only person
in the world that can stop you from crying
is exactly the one making you cry?
"1…2…3…4…5…" counted a tiny six-year-old girl, her eyes screwed shut. Giggles were heard nearby, but she ignored it. "6…7…8…9…" She was tempted to skip a few numbers and go straight to 100, but unlike her partner, she never cheated. After finally reaching the dreaded number, she called out, "Ready or not, here I come!" She scrambled towards the usual hiding place; behind the lobby desk. Not there.
She continued her search throughout the hotel, peeping behind every door and poking her nose through every plant. Finally, she found her target hidden in a pile of dirty clothing. "AHA! Found you!" she cried out dramatically, dragging the little boy out of his hiding place.
"No fair," pouted the little boy, his big blue eyes stubbornly looking away from the little girl's brown ones. "You cheated."
"Did not," retorted the little girl. "I won fair and square. So there." She stuck her tongue out childishly, the little boy retaliating with his own tongue out.
"I don't wanna play anymore," whined the little boy. "I wanna jump on the beds! Daddy told me they just got new mattresses on the fourteenth floor. Let's go!" He grabbed the little girl by the hand, and started to drag her towards the elevator.
"But Naaaaaaaaate," protested the little girl. "My mommy told me not to do that anymore. She said I would be in big trouble if I did that again." She tried to stay rooted to her spot, but the boy tugged on her harder.
"You won't get in trouble. I promise," the little boy told her proudly. The little girl looked up to him.
"Promise?" she asked warily, eyeing the boy suspiciously. He nodded solemnly.
"Always and forever," he promised her. She broke out in a grin.
"Okay, let's go!" the two six-year-olds raced towards the stairs; they had been banned from the elevator a week ago. Laughing, they zigzagged up the flight of stairs, dodging various guests and employees. Once, the little girl tripped over one of the stairs, but the little boy had helped her up, and holding hands, they made it to the fourteenth floor.
Panting, they hid behind a huge potted tree while they waited for one of the maids to finish cleaning the rooms. The little boy turned to the little girl and said, "One of these days, I'm gonna marry you, Haley James." He held her hand, and swung it back and forth.
The little girl smiled shyly, swinging his hand in return. "And I'm gonna marry you back, Nathan Scott." Closing her eyes, she leaned forward, her lips slightly puckered.
Nathan grimaced, but since he loved that little girl, he also closed his eyes and leaned forward, and their lips met briefly. He opened his eyes, and spit on his sleeve. "Bleh! Ew, girls have cooties!" He ran away from Haley and into one of the rooms.
Little Haley narrowed her eyes, afraid that the tears might fall over. Big girls don't cry, her older sister often told her. After her eyes had dried, she ran into the room that Nathan had occupied. He had taken over one of the beds, and was bouncing up and down, up and down.
They were caught a few minutes later, but it had been worth it. Nathan was sent to one of the many rooms in the hotel, and Haley was told to stick with her mother at all times. Her mother scolded her, and told her to sit in the corner of every room she cleaned. Haley licked her lollypop as she watched her mother make every bed, using her special technique known as the "Lydia James Tuck and Fold."
Haley had met Nathan a few weeks ago in the hotel's kitchen. Her mother was a maid at the Double Tree Hill Hotel in the city of Charlotte. Haley was often forced to tag along because her father worked full time and her siblings didn't like to be bothered with their little sister. Haley loved to watch the interesting guests that inhabited the five star hotel. She dreamed that one day she would be rich and famous and have a life similar to the fabulous guests.
Her new friend, Nathan Scott, was the heir of the fabulous hotel and the grandson of the founder, Royal Scott. His father had wanted him to know the family business at a young age, and after enduring an hour of boredom, he found Haley making mischief in the kitchen. They quickly bonded and soon became the best of friends.
However, their fun ended a few weeks later when September approached. "I have to go back home," Nathan said unhappily. "I'm starting kindergarden, and my mommy said I have to stay at home until school starts."
Haley was dismayed. "Do you have to leave? Stay here!" she begged, tugging on his shirt. "You can go to kindergarden with me here. Please?"
Nathan smiled sadly. "Sorry, Hales. My daddy is forcing me," he said in a low voice, as if his dad was right behind him. "But I'll try to come at Christmas."
Haley's brown eyes lit up. "Ooh, it's so pretty here during Christmas, with all the lights and the snow and the trees and the presents. I'll get you a present if you get me one," she offered shyly. Nathan grinned.
"I'll get you the best present ever," he promised. They smiled at each other.
"NATHAN!" yelled an angry voice from the lobby. Nathan sighed.
"That's my dad," he told Haley. "I gotta go." Haley tried to stop the tears from overflowing, and barely succeeded. "Bye, Haley." Nathan waved a final time, and walked away from a sniffling Haley.
"Bye, Nathan," she whispered when he had disappeared. "Always and forever."
Months had passed, and Haley worked hard in kindergarten. She hardly visited the hotel anymore because she had made a new friend, Brooke Davis. On their very first day of kindergarten, some mean boy named Michael Buck had stuck his foot in the middle of the aisle, causing Haley to stumble and fall flat on her face. Brooke had ultimately saved her, punching Michael in the nose which had earned her a time out. Ever since that moment, they had been the closest friends, even though Haley didn't forget about Nathan.
However, Brooke was just as mischievous and often got herself and Haley into trouble. Christmas break was finally rolling in, and Brooke and Haley were inseparable. "Piglet, wanna go to New York City with me and my mommy and daddy for Christmas?" an excited Brooke asked, bouncing up and down. They were making holes in the sandbox. "We go every year, and my mommy said this year I could bring a friend! It's so pretty, Hales, you'll love it! I got my baby doll from there."
"Penelope?" Haley scrunched her nose.
"Yup!" beamed Brooke, her huge brown eyes shining. Haley grinned.
"I love Penelope! But I don't think I could go, Tig, I have to stay here," Haley said mournfully, her grin sliding off. Brooke's smile turned upside down.
"But why?" she cried. "I'll ask my mommy to talk to your mommy. I bet they'll let you!"
Haley bit her lip. "I can't. I promised my friend Nathan that I would see him at Christmas." Brooke frowned.
"Nathan? But I thought I was your best friend," pouted Brooke, throwing her shovel down. Haley gulped.
"You are my best friend, Tigger," she tried to console her. "Nathan's my friend, too."
"Nuh uh. I'm not your friend anymore. You can't have more than one friend, Haley James!" Brooke stuck her tongue out and stomped out of the sandbox, walking over to a group of girls by the jungle gym. Haley felt like crying, and just finished up making her creation.
When the last bell had rung, Haley was surprised to see her mother picking her up. Usually, she just walked home with her sisters and brothers, but now they were nowhere to be found. "Mommy? What are you doing here?"
"Well, Quinn, Vivian, and Taylor all got invited to parties and your brothers are with your dad to see a hockey game over by the high school," replied Lydia James, opening the door for her youngest daughter. "I thought you'd like to go to the hotel with me for a couple of hours. We'll eat at the restaurant and everything. How does that sound?"
"That sounds good!" exclaimed Haley. But when she saw Brooke walking with her mom to the car, her demeanor changed.
"Hales? What's the matter?" her mother asked, starting the car. She peeled out of the parking space and started driving to the hotel.
"Nothing," sighed Haley. "Brooke and me got in a fight, that's all."
"Brooke and I," corrected Lydia. She glanced at her daughter, her head resting on the armrest. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"No," mumbled Haley, gazing out at the window. Some fluffy snow had floated down to the windshield. It was the first snow of the season.
Lydia shrugged. "If you say so."
They pulled up to the employees' parking lot in the structure. Shivering, Haley pulled on her parka which had been handed down to her from her older sister, Taylor. Taking hold of her mother's hand, they raced to the entrance of the hotel. "Hello, Bill!" Haley cheerfully addressed the doorman.
The middle-aged doorman smiled, opening the door for Haley and her mother. "Hello, Haley. Haven't seen you for a while. How's preschool?"
Haley stomped her foot. "I'm in kindergarten!"
Bill pretended to slap his forehead. "Whoops, I forgot. Kindergarten. Well, you two better get in, it's getting chilly out here." He gestured to the hotel. "I think you might even find a surprise inside." He winked at Haley.
"Thanks, Bill," Lydia smiled gratefully. She tugged Haley in before she could ask any more questions.
Bill chuckled. "Ah, young love."
"Mommy, what was Bill talking about?" persisted Haley, pinching her mother's arm. She was punished by a light slap. "OW! Mommy!"
Lydia sighed. "Haley, dear, why don't you go over by the lobby? I need to talk to Mr. Maraschino about something." Mr. Maraschino was the manager. She tapped Haley from the behind. "Now, run along."
Haley trudged over to her usual couch that she sat in whenever she had to wait for her mother. She was startled to see someone already napping on her spot. He was laying face down, his dark brown hair ruffled and tangled. She bit her lip, unsure of what to do. She cleared her throat. "Um, excuse me, but you're sleeping on my couch…" she began in a small voice.
"Go find another couch. I got here first," grumbled the occupant. Haley frowned. He sounded just like her brothers and sisters, always bossing her around.
"Excuse me, but it's not your couch!" Haley whispered angrily, not wanting to attract any attention. An angry groan was emitted from the boy, and he rolled off the couch.
"Fine, take your old couch!" he griped, getting up to move to a new couch. "Geez."
Haley fought to hold back her tears and her lower lip quivered. She had always been a sensitive girl, and she did not like it when someone was mad at her or teased her. "I," she started off, then stopped suddenly. "Nathan?"
The boy stopped rubbing his eyes long enough to peer up at the girl. "Haley?" They squealed, and gave each other a hug. Nathan pulled out quickly, though, in fear of getting caught.
"Merry Christmas!" Haley grinned. Nathan grinned back.
"I have a present for you, but my mommy has it. I'll give it to you later," Nathan told her. Haley nodded.
"I got you something, too. My mommy needs to wrap it still," she explained. Nathan beamed, and looked at the elevator.
"Ready for some elevator racing?" he challenged her, itching to race over to the golden elevator. Haley grinned.
"Duh!" She pushed Nathan onto the couch, and took off, giggling. Nathan's blue eyes narrowed, and soon he was hot on her trail.
Hours later, it was time for Haley to eat dinner and then go home. Panting, they leaned against the wall closest to the entrance. "Man, that was fun!" exclaimed Nathan, wiping a bead of sweat from his forehead. Haley's head bobbed up and down in agreement.
"I need to bring Brooke up here so we can try it sometime," she said thoughtfully. Nathan frowned, and turned to Haley.
"Who's Brooke?" he asked, his brows crinkled.
"My best friend," Haley replied nonchalantly, not really looking at Nathan. "She's my Tigger." She giggled.
"Oh," Nathan responded dully, sinking farther down the wall. "So you actually like kindergarten?"
"Yup!" chirped Haley. She finally looked towards Nathan. "Don't you?"
Nathan shrugged. "I guess so. I'd rather be playing outside, that's all," he mumbled. "There's this kid, Tim, and he follows me everywhere! He even dresses up like me. It's so annoying."
"Oh," said Haley, not knowing what to say. She fingered her braids that Quinn had done for her.
"Nathan? Is that you?" A pretty blonde woman who had just entered the hotel was now walking towards Nathan.
Nathan gave a feeble wave. "Hi, Mom."
"What have you been doing since I left you? Not getting in trouble, I hope," Nathan's mom said exasperatedly. Haley knew the tone oh-so well. Nathan's mom finally noticed Haley. "Oh, hello. And who are you?"
"Haley James," Haley said shyly. She looked down at her feet.
"Well, it's nice to meet you, Haley," Nathan's mom said warmly. "Nathan's told me so much about you. We even went to the Tree Hill Mall to buy you a nice present."
Haley blushed. "Thank you," she replied softly. "My big brother Matt helped me get Nathan a present, too."
"That is so sweet," Nathan's mom cooed. She had a very pretty smile. "I'd hate to stop you guys from playing, but it's time for Nate's bath."
"Aw, Mom!" whined Nathan. His mother just ruffled his hair.
"Nathan can play tomorrow, and he'll give you your present, too," offered Nathan's mother, smiling.
"Okay, Mrs. Scott," Haley said eagerly. "I have to go eat dinner with my mother, too."
"Oh, is your mother here?" questioned Nathan's mom.
"Yup," nodded Haley, her braids bouncing up and down. "She's a maid here."
Nathan's mother was surprised for a moment, but that quickly passed. "Oh. How interesting." She turned to Nathan. "Well, let's go, Nate. I'm sure Haley's starving and we don't want to keep her mom waiting. Haley, it was nice to meet you. We'll see you tomorrow." She ruffled Haley's hair.
"Bye, Nathan. Bye, Nathan's mom," Haley added shyly. Nathan's mother smiled, and led Nathan away to the elevator.
The next day, Haley went to the hotel with her mother because there was no school that day. She clutched Nathan's present close to her chest, afraid to let it drop. The night before, Haley had helped her mother wrap the present. She even pasted the bow all by herself.
Haley found Nathan sitting over by the lobby, bouncing a rubber ball by himself. Grinning, she snuck up behind him and covered his eyes with her hands. "Guess who!"
"Haley!" guessed Nathan. Haley took her hands off and flopped down beside him.
"I have your present!" she exclaimed, pushing the package towards him.
"I have yours, too," Nathan told her. They swapped presents. They blinked. "Can we open them?"
Haley was tempted to rip the wrapping paper off, but Christmas was still days away. "I don't know, Nate," she said hesitatingly. "I'm not allowed to open any of my gifts before Christmas."
Nathan rolled his blue eyes. "Aw, come on, Hales," he wheedled. "It's just one present and I want to be with you when you open your present. I want to see if you like it." He pouted. Haley couldn't resist.
"Oh, all right," she grumbled, ashamed that she was blushing. She slowly started to undo the paper. "I'm sure I'll like whatever you…Nathan!" She gasped. Smiling from behind a plastic screen was a beautiful doll. Reddish-brown curly locks framed the heart-shaped face, and when Haley tilted the box, the long lashes revealed beautiful brown eyes. The doll was wearing a velvet green dress and black Mary Janes. "Oh, Nathan," Haley whispered. "She's so beautiful." Nathan blushed.
"My mom and I were in the toy store and I saw it. It kinda looked like you, so we bought it. It was my mom's idea, though," Nathan added quickly. He was turning very red. So was Haley.
"Thanks, Nate," Haley said softly. Nathan was so red, he could only nod. It was getting very warm in the hotel lobby…"Why don't you open my present?" she suggested quickly. Nathan nodded and quickly tore through the wrapping paper, unlike Haley.
"Whoa, Hales! This is awesome!" he exclaimed, the color from his face subsiding. It was a brand new Spalding basketball. Haley shrugged, a pink tinge overcoming her cheeks again.
"I knew you liked basketball, and all my brothers play, so…" she trailed off. "Do you like it?"
"This is so cool!" exclaimed Nathan, ripping the box open. He tossed the ball up and down. "Thanks, Hales!"
"No problem," Haley said offhandedly, fingering the box the doll came in.
Nathan grinned at his present, and then looked at Haley. "Hey, do you want to have a snowball fight on the roof?"
"On the roof?" laughed Haley, turning the box over. "Nathan, that's crazy." But Nathan grabbed her hand and started to drag her to the elevator. "Nathan!"
But Nathan wasn't listening to her. "We'll put our toys behind the desk and just play for a few hours. We won't get in any trouble." He grabbed her doll and threw it in the shelf behind the desk along with his basketball.
"That's what you said last time!" protested Haley. She tried to hold back, but he was too strong for her.
"But no one's going to think we're up in the roof," countered Nathan, pushing the black button on the wall. He dragged Haley into the elevator, along with an elderly couple. They smiled at the young children who were arguing animatedly. "And it's not like we're going to mess up anything this time." He tried to reach the top button, but he was too short. He resorted to jumping up and down, but that attempt failed. Nathan turned to the old couple. "Do you mind pressing that button for me?"
The old man chuckled and complied with his request. "How old are you guys?" the old man asked as the elevator started to move up.
"Six," Haley and Nathan chorused, holding up six fingers.
"I'm older," boasted Nathan. Haley snorted.
"Nuh uh. I was born in February. You were born in June. I'm older," argued Haley.
"No, I'm older!"
The elderly couple smiled at each other as they left the two children arguing in the elevator. By the time they reached the top floor, Haley and Nathan had forgotten what they had been fighting about. "Wow," breathed Haley, her warm breath forming a small cloud. She shivered.
"Isn't it great? My mommy took me here yesterday before you came. We made snowmen right there." Nathan pointed to the far corner where a slightly puffy snowman had been formed. "Now, let's have a snowball fight!" He ran to the other side of the roof and started to make snowballs.
"I don't know, Nathan," Haley said worriedly. "This might not be the best idea."
Nathan snorted. "You aren't scared, are you?" he taunted. Haley's hands flew instantly to her hips.
"I am not! I just think – hey!" A snowball had hit her squarely on the chest. Nathan giggled. "Oh, that's it!" Haley started forming her own snowballs and soon a full-fledged snow battle had begun.
"Ha! You missed!" Nathan's muffled voice exclaimed. Haley couldn't see him.
"I'm gonna get you," she threatened, and started to run towards the direction of his voice. She didn't see the patch of ice that gilded a small portion of the roof, and slipped. A nail protruding from the wall scratched her palm, and blood gushed onto the white, untainted snow. Haley screamed.
"Haley?" Nathan came skidding to a stop when he saw Haley clutching her bleeding hand, tears leaking from her eyes. He knelt down beside her. "What happened?" he asked worriedly.
"I-I slipped, and hurt my hand," hiccoughed Haley. Nathan helped her up, and slowly they made their way back to the hotel, running into Haley's mother.
"Oh, my God, Haley, what happened to you?" Haley's mom dropped the basket of laundry she had been carrying and ushered her daughter inside one of the vacant rooms. Nathan followed, tears beginning to form in his own eyes.
"I scr-scratched my hand," explained Haley, holding out her palm. Her mother bustled into the bathroom and returned with Band-Aids and Neosporin.
"It was my fault, Mrs. James," Nathan admitted tearfully. "I'm sorry." His lower lip started to tremble, and unshed tears were housed in his sad, blue eyes.
"Oh, Nathan, it wasn't your fault," consoled Lydia. "It was just an accident. They happen all the time."
Haley whimpered and burst into tears when her mother applied Neosporin to the wound. Nathan turned slightly pale.
"Nathan, why don't you go find your mother?" Haley's mom suggested quietly to the young boy. "I think Haley needs to rest for awhile." Nathan nodded, and turned to Haley.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. Haley just looked away, and dejectedly, Nathan walked away.
The next day, Haley sat by herself in the hotel kitchen, trying to read a picture book. She was soon joined by Nathan, who was gripping on to a Cracker Jack box. Haley tried to ignore him; she was still angry with him for yesterday's incident. Nathan sighed and opened up the snack box. Inside was a multi-colored plastic bracelet. He smiled at it, and then slipped it onto Haley's wrist. "Don't say I never got you anything," he told her.
Haley smiled. The scar on her palm and that bracelet would remain with her for years to come, a reminder of what had happened so many years ago.
It would be two more years before they saw each other again. Haley and Brooke got into trouble every now and then, but nothing too serious. Haley's mother still worked at the hotel, but Haley rarely accompanied her anymore. Nathan had become a faded memory, something that had been in the past. Haley still kept the bracelet and she wore it almost every day out of habit. The meaning and significance behind the plastic jewelry slowly became forgotten, but the comfort it gave her from day one lingered.
"Haley, I need you to come with me to the hotel today," Lydia told her youngest daughter one summer day. School had just gotten out, and Haley had just completed second grade with honors.
"Why can't I stay here?" whined eight-year-old Haley. She was lounging on the window seat, reading a thick book.
"Haley Alana James, I'm not going to leave you here all by yourself!" scolded Lydia. "Your father's at work, Quinn's still at Rebecca's sleepover, Taylor and Vivian went to the beach with their friends, and Matt and the twins went to the park to play basketball. You're too young to stay here without an adult."
Haley groaned, and chucked the book onto her bed. She pulled on a skirt and T-shirt, stuffed some snacks and her book into her backpack, and stubbornly followed her mother to the car. Usually, she would've stayed with Brook at her house, but Brook and her parents were in California, visiting her relatives.
"Well, well, well, if it isn't Miss Haley James!" whistled Bill. He still looked the same after all these years. "Wow, you sure have grown up since the last time I saw you."
"Hello, Bill," Haley addressed him shyly. She hadn't visited the hotel for years, and seeing her old friends was awkward for her, seeing as she gotten shyer as she grew up.
"You tagging along with your mother?" winked Bill. He could tell that Haley wasn't too happy with that particular arrangement.
"Unfortunately for her," put in Lydia tiredly. She thanked Bill for opening the door and then turned to Haley. "Hales, why don't you go to the pool to read your book? We have a lot of guests today, and I don't want you taking their seats by the lobby or the café. I don't think there's anyone swimming at the pool at ten in the morning." Haley made a face, and made her way through the crowds of people to the indoor pool, which was on the same floor as the lobby.
Haley found a chaise close to the pool, and propped herself on top of it. There was hardly anyone in the pool except for two boys her age and an elderly couple. The boys were noisily splashing each other and constantly racing around the pool. Haley assumed that the old couple was their grandparents because they were frequently scolding the boys for making so much noise. She sighed, and opened her book, keeping an eye on the boys every now and then.
A few minutes later, the elderly couple emerged from the shallow end of the pool and stepped out of the pool. "Nathan, Lucas, we're going up to our room. Will you guys be okay by yourself?" asked the old woman.
"Yes, Grandma," the dark haired boy groaned exasperatedly. "We know." He dunked the blonde boy under the water.
"Nathan!" the old man rebuked sharply. "I want you two to behave. Got it?"
"Yes, Grandpa," chorused the two boys. The old man started to walk out the pool area, but the old woman lingered behind. After being assured they would be fine, she followed her husband out.
The moment their grandparents left, the boys jumped out of the pool and chased each other around, even though it was against the rules. Haley tried to concentrate on her book, but with all the ruckus, it was too hard. However, Haley hated confrontations, so she just dealt with the noise. But her patience was thinning as the boys began splashing each other, wetting Haley and her book. She couldn't take it anymore. Slamming her book, Haley walked over to the pool's edge and yelled to get the boys' attention. "Hey! Hey!" she screamed. They stopped splashing and looked up at her. "Can you please stop making so much noise and splashing everywhere? I'm trying to read here!" She held her book up for good measure.
"What normal person reads by the pool?" scoffed the dark-haired boy. "That is so stupid!"
Haley's eyes narrowed, and she opened her mouth to make a retort, but the blonde one spoke up first. "Hey, what book are you reading?" he asked, genuinely interested. The dark-haired boy rolled his eyes, and turned over to float on his back.
"Black Beauty," Haley responded, showing him the cover once more. "I'm almost finished with it, and it's really good."
The blonde boy nodded. "I read that a while ago. It was good."
Haley blushed; she never had anyone to talk to about books. Her older siblings weren't too fond of reading, and when they did, it was some teen books she didn't understand. Brooke thought reading was a waste of time, and had trouble reading. Plus, this boy was somewhat cute. "I'm Haley."
The blonde smiled. "Lucas. Lucas Scott. And this," he jerked his thumb at the other boy, "is my half-brother, Nathan."
Haley frowned, wondering why this name sounded so familiar. As a matter of fact, this Nathan boy looked oddly familiar as well. Apparently, Nathan thought the same thing because he stopped floating on his back to look up at Haley. "I knew a Haley once. We played in the hotel all the time when we were younger," he said, his eyes falling to Haley's bracelet. It was the one Nathan had given her two Christmases ago. "Hales?"
"Nate?" squealed Haley. A smile blossomed on her face. "It is you!" She came closer to the pool's edge and stopped, unsure of what to do. Nathan grinned and splashed water on her. "Hey!"
"I haven't seen you in forever!" he exclaimed, swimming closer to her. He pulled himself out of the pool and stood right next to Haley. He had grown a few inches taller than her. "Wow, you're short."
Haley stuck her tongue out at him. "Whatever. What are you doing here?" By this time, Lucas had joined his brother, who was the same height as him.
Nathan shrugged. "My family's here for some convention thing. Luke and I had nothing to do, so we just came here. I tried looking for you a couple of times, but you're never here."
Haley stuck her book in her bag, which was lying next to the chaise. "I haven't been here for awhile. My mom made me come here today because I'm not allowed to stay home alone." She rolled her eyes.
Lucas laughed, his pale blue eyes twinkling. "We know what you mean. Right, Nate?" He nudged his brother on the side.
Instead, Nathan pushed him into the pool, shocking Lucas. Growling, Lucas grabbed Nathan by the ankle and dragged him down. Haley shrieked, and jumped back to avoid getting sucked in. "C'mon, Hales, jump in!" Nathan called, wrestling with Lucas.
"I'm fine," she called back meekly. She warily watched as the boys stopped splashing each other and started whispering something. Whatever they were saying did not look good. "Guys? What are you talking about?"
At that moment, the boys dove deep down the pool. When they didn't reemerge for what seemed like minutes, curiosity and fear took over Haley. She crept closer to the pool's edge, searching for any sign of the boys. "Nathan? Lucas?" Haley whispered timidly. Suddenly, a hand grabbed one of her ankles, and another grabbed her other one. She screamed as she was brought into the wet depths. Haley clung onto the wall and would not let go.
Nathan and Lucas swam up beside her, shaking with laughter. "Man, the look on your face!" chortled Nathan, slapping the pool wall. Lucas wasn't as vocal as his brother, but found the situation as hilarious.
"That's not funny!" snapped Haley, her eyes tearing when she saw that her book had sunk to the bottom. "I don't know to swim!"
The boys stopped laughing and stared at Haley. "What do you mean, you don't know how to swim?" frowned Lucas. "Everyone knows how to swim."
"Not me," gritted Haley. "Can you help me out of the pool?"
Nathan got out first, and offered his hand to Haley, who took it. "Hey, you still have that scar from the snow!" he exclaimed, smiling at the past memory.
"Thanks to you," Haley retorted. She turned to Lucas, who was still treading in the water. "Do you mind going down and getting my book?" Lucas shook his head, and soon his blonde head disappeared. Moments later, he emerged, the soggy book clutched in has hand.
"I don't think you can read it anymore," he said sheepishly, presenting it to Haley. She sighed.
"Oh, well. I'll just finish it at the library," she murmured. Again, Nathan felt the same guilt that had been present that fateful Christmas, when Haley scratched her hand.
"Sorry, Haley," he said quietly.
Haley smiled impishly. "It's fine." She shivered, the wet clothing clinging to her body.
"Here, you can use my towel," Nathan told her. He ran over to one of the tables to retrieve a fluffy green towel. He handed it to Haley, who took it gratefully.
"Thank you," she said politely, wrapping it around her body. "I wish I had brought some extra clothes with me." She rolled her eyes.
"Hey! We can get you some clothes from the gift shop!" Lucas piped. He climbed out of the pool, and walked over to grab his own towel, a fluffy blue one. "I'm sure Grandpa won't mind, will he, Nate?"
Nathan shook his head. "It's perfect! Let's go!" He grabbed Haley's hand, who pulled back long enough to grab her bag, and along with Lucas, they took off.
After "buying" some Double Tree Hill Hotel clothes, the three eight-year-olds decided to get ice cream at the café. Licking his spoon, Lucas asked Haley, "How did you guys meet?"
Haley and Nathan exchanged a look, and pointed to the golden elevator. "We'll show you!"
A friendship was formed between Haley and Lucas, and her friendship with Nathan was rebuilt. They spent the rest of the day exploring the hotel and riding on the elevator, getting in as much trouble as they possibly could get in. Problems and ailments were forgotten once they entered that magnificent elevator, and like life, they would experience the ups and downs together.
Five more years would pass before the three would be united once more, and it was then when the changes began to set in and lines were drawn. It was a rainy weekend in June when Nathan's thirteenth birthday party was held at the hotel. Haley had just turned thirteen months before, and her quiet nature dominated her life. Brooke still remained her best friend, even though her interest in boys became a dominant factor in her life. Haley was still the shy, sweet girl who did everything everyone told her to do. So it was a no-brainer that she would go to the hotel with her mother on that weekend to help with the party. This time, Haley's older sister, Taylor, would join them.
"I can't believe I have to help with some rich dweeb's party!" complained Taylor as they got out of the car.
"Taylor!" scolded Lydia. "Be nice." Taylor snorted, and turned to Haley.
"Wasn't this guy your boyfriend?" she asked bitingly. Haley turned pink.
"No! We are…were just friends," Haley mumbled. Taylor rolled her eyes and remained silent for the rest of the walk.
When they got inside, the girls were shocked to see the state of the hotel. It had been covered with wall-to-wall white lights, and blue balloons floated at the top of the ceiling. "Damn," whispered Taylor. "All this for a thirteenth birthday party? I didn't even get the two-layer cake I wanted. Stupid rich kids." Haley remained silent; she herself had received a small birthday celebration with her family and Brooke.
A harried blonde woman hurried over to the James girls. It took Haley awhile to realize that it was Deb, Nathan's mom. "Oh, good, are you helping with the party?" she asked, slightly out of breath. They nodded. "Great! I need someone to help with the food and people to blow balloons. You girls can do that, and can you help with the food?" she asked Lydia. Lydia nodded. "Excellent! Girls, you can go to that table and blow the balloons with the machine over there." She directed them to a table in the far corner. "Blow as many as you can."
"That sounded so wrong," Taylor muttered to Haley as they walked towards the table.
"What are you talking about?" asked Haley, confused. Taylor rolled her eyes.
"Never mind!" snapped Taylor. "Here, I'll work the machine and you can tie the balloons." Haley nodded.
After working for forty-five minutes, the birthday boy and Lucas burst into the hotel, chatting loudly. Haley's eyes lit up, and she wondered if she should say hello to them. However, Deb sent Nathan and Lucas over to her anyways, telling them to take the balloons somewhere else. "Why do I have to do this?" complained Nathan, walking over to Haley and Taylor. "It's my birthday!"
Lucas just shook his head. "Dude."
"Stop being such a brat," Lucas told him calmly, finally reaching Haley. She gulped, and handed the balloons over without saying a word. However, Lucas frowned in confusion, and his face lit up in recognition. "Haley?"
"Hey, Lucas," Haley said shyly. Nathan had joined Lucas, grabbing some more balloons.
"Let's go, Lucas!" groaned Nathan, pushing him. He didn't seem to notice Haley, even though she was right in front of him. For some odd reason, Haley's heart began to beat faster and she gulped. Nathan sure had grown up over the years, and Haley had never felt so self-conscious in her life.
Lucas rolled his eyes. "Nate." He gestured to Haley. "Don't you remember Haley? Haley James?"
Nathan eyed Haley, clearly checking her out. "Oh, hey, Haley. I haven't seen you in awhile!" He grinned at her, but for the first time, Haley felt herself turn warm.
"Hey, Nathan. Um, happy birthday," she said quietly. Nathan nodded.
"Again, you disappeared on us during all these years. What happened?" asked Nathan, leaning against the table. Haley blinked.
"Oh. I-I was busy with the same old, same old. School, friends," she babbled. Behind her, Taylor tsked.
"Cool," nodded Nathan. He turned to Lucas, who also had grown up quite a bit. He was handsome, too, but not as much as the dark-haired Nathan. "C'mon, Luke, Mom is going to have a cow if we don't follow her orders."
Lucas sighed. "Your mom can be so bossy." He turned to Haley. "Hey, are you staying for the party?"
"Oh…I don't know," Haley replied. "I might have to, though."
"You should come tonight," Nathan told her. "It's going to be the best party ever." He flashed her that smile that up until now, Haley had always been immune to. But not now…
"I'll think about it," she smiled. Nathan and Lucas grinned.
"Great. We'll see you tonight at seven!" With their arms full of balloons, the boys trudged away from the table, chatting excitedly about tonight. Haley let out a long breath, not realizing she had been even holding it.
"Oh, man," Taylor chuckled sarcastically. "Now you're in for it." Haley shook out of her daydream and turned to her older sister, puzzled.
"What are you talking about?" Haley asked confusedly. Taylor just shook her head.
A few hours later, Taylor and Haley finally finished all the balloons. Nathan and Lucas had been replaced with two other hotel employees, and they just sat in the kitchen, exhausted. But their relief was short-lived right when Deb came in looking for both of them. "Oh, there you are!" she exclaimed breathlessly. "I know you two are probably tired, but I was wondering if you guys can stay tonight and help with the party. Serve food, clean up, get the guests' coats…I know it's too much to ask from you, but I promise you'll be paid." The blonde woman seemed absolutely exhausted, and it seemed too harsh to refuse the offer. Taylor and Haley exchanged a look.
"We'll help with the party," Taylor told her dully. Deb's face lightened up.
"Great! Thank you so much, you have no idea how much this means to me!" She strode away, humming some merry tune.
"This is just what I need, some bratty, rich thirteen-year-olds being served by us," griped Taylor, pounding her fist on the linoleum counter. "This is just freaking great."
Haley didn't reply, just elated that she would get to see Nathan again. "Do you think I should get him a present?" she wondered aloud.
Taylor glared at her. "You are so blind, Haley. God!" She stalked away, the kitchen doors swinging behind her. Haley just stared after her, confused.
That night, the hotel was buzzing with excitement. Haley had never seen so many people her age in one spot. There were also many important looking adults, chatting by the lobby. All of the young people were grouped everywhere else. The hotel had never looked grander. Blue and white balloons floated high above their heads, and white lights flashed on and off. A small band played on one side of hotel, playing some rock song everyone seemed to know.
While all the guests were donned in formal clothing, Haley felt extremely out of place with her normal work clothes. "Let's do this," Taylor grumbled, picking up a tray of fancy hors d'œuvres. Haley did the same thing, and they walked around the room, offering the small snacks to random people.
When she reached Nathan's group, Haley had never felt more humiliated in her entire life. Nathan noticed her, and motioned her over. Her head hung low, Haley walked over to them. "Would you like something to eat?" she mumbled, still not looking up.
"I'm glad you came, Haley," Nathan told her happily. "This is Tim, Skills, Fergie, Junk, Peyton, Bevin, and Theresa." At each introduction, each mentioned person would raise a hand, smile, or nod. "And of course, you know Luke." Lucas smiled warmly.
"Hey, Haley. What's up?" he asked her, his calm voice emitting friendliness. However, this did not comfort Haley at all, and all she could do was nod.
"Not much," she replied quietly. She shuffled her feet, still not looking up. "Listen, I have to go back to work. Does anyone want anything?"
"Sure," they replied. Everyone took something, except for Theresa who claimed to be full.
"Well, I have to go now," Haley said lamely, finally looking up to get a good look at everyone. The first person she noticed was Peyton; she was clearly the prettiest of all the girls. She had this golden, curly hair that Haley and Brooke had always wanted and beautiful green eyes. She was wearing this beautiful red dress with very thin straps, something that Haley would never wear. She also noticed how Nathan kept on staring at her. Gulping, Haley turned around, afraid that her tears would spill. But fate wasn't too kind.
"That is so awesome!" the one called Tim exclaimed. "I've always wanted to be a servant!" He pretended to carry a tray similar to Haley's and served the guests 'food.' "Can I use your tray?"
Before Haley could respond, he grabbed the tray from her, not realizing how light it was. The food went flying in the air, landing all over Haley. The sauces had toppled over her chest, seeping through her clothes. Haley just stood there in shock, not knowing what to do. "Whoops," Tim said sheepishly.
Completely humiliated, Haley spun around and ran into a tall redhead, who had been carrying a tall glass of soda. The soda splattered both of them. "Hey! Watch it, wench!" the redhead growled.
Almost in tears, Haley ran to the kitchen, ignoring the calls of the other children. Taylor was already there, getting ready for the next round. "Haley! What happened to you?" she asked, her cold demeanor temporarily shucked.
"Mind your own business!" snapped Haley. Taylor was surprised, but let it go.
"Fine. Be that way," she said coolly. "Get cleaned up and then go out there." She left her poor sister behind, brushing past her.
"Are you all right, sweetie?" one of the employees asked, handing her a napkin. Haley nodded, tears leaking from her eyes.
"I'm fine," she sighed. "But I don't have any other clothes, and I can't go out there."
The employee smiled. "Don't worry, I'll cover for you. Just go over to the bathroom and try to get yourself cleaned up. You don't want to be sticky all over, do you?" She pointed to where the bathroom was located.
"Thank you," Haley said gratefully, trying to wipe the sauce off her clothes.
"No problem." The woman grabbed one of the trays and quickly exited out of the kitchen.
Haley stared at herself in the mirror as she washed up. She certainly wasn't as pretty as Peyton; she had straight, auburn hair and brown eyes. Nothing special about that. The incident kept on swirling in her head; the part where Tim had called her a servant stuck out the most. Haley closed her eyes. She had never thought herself of a servant, but it was true. She was just dirt on the gleaming floor that Nathan and his friends belonged on.
Strains of slow music began to play in the lobby, and Haley decided to lay low and watch the people dance. Slipping through the bustling employees, Haley stood behind a huge potted plant, hidden from the glamorous world even though she had the best view of them all. Her eyes fell to the middle of the room, where an attractive couple her age was slow dancing, her arms around his neck and his hands on her waist. The boy had dark hair and was the most handsome of all the boys there. The girl had curly blonde hair and was wearing a red dress. It was Nathan and Peyton.
Haley willed herself to look away, but she couldn't tear her eyes away from them. So she had no choice but to see the boy she had loved since she was six lean in to kiss the beautiful Peyton, someone Haley could never be. The moment their lips made contact was the moment when Haley's heart broke into a million pieces. A jagged sob escaped her lips, and tears fell from her eyes. A cruel chuckle caused Haley to finally turn away from the awful scene and she found herself face-to-face with her sister.
"You finally got it now, didn't you?" Taylor asked her quietly. It wasn't quiet in a good way; the way she said it made Haley think of that redhead who bumped into her; it was cruel. "Wake up, Haley! Nathan's too good for you. You'll always be the maid's daughter, the lowest in the social chain. You will never be good enough!" She gestured to the dancing couples, gleaming jewels in the dark world. "So why don't you all do us a favor and grow up? You're too old to believe in fairy tales." She just shook her head mockingly and left Haley alone.
"You will never be good enough." Taylor's words echoed over and over again. Finally breaking down in tears, Haley whirled around and never looked back.
I used to think that I wasn't fine enough
And I used to think that I wasn't wild enough
But I won't waste my time trying to figure out
Why you're playing games.
What's this all about?
And I can't believe
You're hurting me.
I met your girl,
What a difference
What you see in her
You can't see in me.
But I guess it was all just make-believe.
Love by Keyshia Cole
Author's Note: Okay, so maybe it wasn't the best, but reviews are love. Ten reviews would be lovely. :)