Okay, so it's been awhile since the previous chapter, but I just couldn't find the inspiration to write this last chapter. I know, I know, no excuses allowed, but I apologize for how long this took. If any of you are reading-nerds like I am, you should go read, "Sisters," by Danielle Steel. I just finished it, and it was such a touching story that it inspired me to finish off the last chapter of this :-)
Thanks to all of you who have reviewed, and I hope you like this last chapter. It's pretty long...so enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own OTH
"'Tis better to have loved and lost,
than never to have loved at all."
Alfred Lord Tennyson
The morning was fresh and beautiful, and the streets were silent with the beginning of a new autumn day. The sidewalks were covered in an assortment of leaves, and every so often Brooke bent down to retrieve one that caught her eye as she walked along the empty paths. It had been a week since she'd discovered that she was pregnant, and she still hadn't gone to the doctor yet. Despite her lack of knowledge about pregnancies, she knew that taking walks was probably a good way to exercise, and as she strolled along she oddly felt at peace.
At first, spending so much time alone with herself was a nightmare. She'd grown so used to spending every single free second with Lucas, and when that luxury wasn't available any longer, she'd forgotten what it felt like to do things without someone else by her side. As she walked down the sidewalk, alone save for the constant scattering of leaves from the trees overhead, she remembered the many times that she walked with Lucas. They were always silent with one another, but he would hold her hand and sometimes even stop in stride to give her a gentle kiss, and in the absence of speech his gestures were more than enough.
A week ago, thinking of Lucas in the way that she was right now would have lead to tears and a constant ache in her heart, but today, thinking of him wasn't as cumbersome as it usually was.
It was early in the morning, no later than 7 A.M., and Brooke was surprised to see a young couple pushing a stroller on the other side of the street. She paused for a moment, and even though she knew that it was rude, she couldn't help but to stare at them. The man was pushing the stroller, and every few feet the woman by his side stopped him to run in front of the stroller to check the young infant that laid in it. Brooke smiled as she watched her fuss over the small child, and in that instant she wondered if she would ever be a good mother. As quickly as it had come, her smile disappeared.
The thought unnerved her, simply because she honestly couldn't predict how she would handle raising a child. Today was a good day, but she couldn't say the same for tomorrow, and the fear of the unknown was what truly scared her. What would she do when a bad day came along, a day in which she didn't feel so at peace with her life? What would she do if her emotions suddenly tugged her back into the constant heart-ache that had become all too familiar to her in the wake of tragedy?
She felt her mind begin to spiral out of control, and a desperate panic settled in her body at the threat of her unanswered questions. But then the crisp autumn breeze ruffled her hair, and the silence of the early morning was broken by the cheerful sound of a bird singing in the distance. Brooke sighed and took one last glance at the happy couple walking with their newborn baby across the street. Then she picked up her pace and turned the nearest corner, leaving her worried thoughts behind.
Brooke had been walking aimlessly for awhile now, and she didn't know when it was that she'd begun to move in the direction of her friends' house. But it didn't matter at this point, and she naturally turned the doorknob as if it were her own home and stepped inside.
The house was quiet and dark, and the only light was provided by the morning sunshine that flooded through the windows. It was still early, and Brooke knew that the small family was probably still sleeping. She tiptoed through the house, carefully stepping over the various toys scattered across the floor. When she reached the kitchen, the sound of a basketball pounding against the pavement meant her ears. She walked up to the window that was perched over the kitchen sink and peeked through, and a knowing smile crossed her face as she saw just who she'd expected.
Within seconds, she was outside again, quietly closing the back door that lead to the backyard. She walked across the grass that was still wet with the early morning dew until her feet reached the blacktop. The court was the size of a regular basketball court, maybe even bigger, and she remembered how excited Lucas and his brother were on the day they built it. It was a dream come true for the two of them- a full length court in one's own backyard that banished the constant need to play at the river court.
His back was turned to her, but as she edged a little closer to him she noticed his shoulders stiffen midway through shooting his foul-shot, recognizing almost immediately that someone else was in his presence. He looked over his shoulder, and she gave him a weak smile the moment his eyes focused on her.
"Hi Nate," she whispered.
He trained his blue eyes on her, and without looking at the hoop, extended his arms and shot the ball. Seconds later, the net fanned out in a swooshing noise, and Nathan Scott turned around with a satisfied grin on his face to walk over to the woman that his brother had always loved.
She hadn't seen him since the funeral, and almost a month later, he looked the same if not worse than he had at his brother's burial. His 5 0'clock shadow had turned into something that resembled an almost fully-grown out beard, his eyes were blood-shot, and wrinkles that shouldn't have been there in the first place had surfaced on his 22 year old face.
He reached out and took her in his arms, but his body was stiff against her, and it was an embrace that held no feeling. He pulled away quickly, and she suspected that it was because he couldn't bare to touch her any longer.
The look in his eyes told her that she was right.
"Don't you think it's a little early for basketball?" she said, throwing in her signature eyebrow raise in an attempt to lighten the mood. This was why she had stayed away for so long, closing herself off from her friends and the world. She could barely handle her own pain, and seeing those that she loved in a saddened state was something that she couldn't bare.
"Don't pretend," he said, and then he took a step around her and walked back into his house and the sleeping family inside it.
She stood for a moment, shocked at his unusual animosity, and seconds later she found herself storming into the house after him. She barged into the kitchen to find him standing over the sink, gulping down a glass of water as if he'd never drink again for the rest of his life.
"Don't pretend what?" Brooke demanded, stomping her foot impatiently as he refilled his glass and downed the drink all over again.
Nathan wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and his shoulders sank as he leaned his weight against the sink.
"Don't pretend like you haven't seen us in three weeks, Brooke! Like it's okay to just walk into my home as if the lack of contact between us has been non-existent!"
His voice was filled with a controlled anger, but he wasn't really yelling at her. His tone was suppressed and close to a whisper, and Brooke couldn't figure out if this was because he didn't want to wake up his sleeping wife and son, or if he was making a futile effort to take it easy on her.
"Nate, you don't understand..." she trailed off, knowing right then that she had said the wrong thing. Because Nathan Scott did understand. It was his brother, his son's uncle, his wife's best friend.
But before she could take back what she said, he was speaking in his strained voice once again. "Then explain it to me, Brooke."
The peace that she had felt earlier suddenly vanished, and within moments she was sitting at the kitchen table, fighting to keep the tears back as the harsh reality of her life confronted her once again.
"I couldn't even look at myself in the mirror, and it just seemed so impossible to see you guys or to talk to you," she said, tracing her fingers over the wooden surface of the table.
His hardened gaze softened, and he pulled a chair out to sit beside her as she continued.
"Everything was impossible, and I couldn't find it in myself to get up and actually live...until now I guess."
He gently took her hand within his own, and she looked up at him with glassy eyes. All traces of his previous anger were gone, and even though he looked as if he were about to fall apart, there was a strength behind his blue eyes that gave her hope.
"But that's just it, Brooke," he said, shaking his head and dropping his eyes to the floor, "you're here and you're alive. Jamie...he's asked me so many times about what happened to you and where you were, and I think he understands everything else that happened with Lucas..."
His voice trailed off, and for a moment she thought that he was going to break down and cry, but he took a deep breath and forced himself to stare her straight in the eye.
"Lucas is gone, but you're not. Don't let yourself die with him, Brooke. You can't disappear on us again, and I know that it was hard, believe me I do-"
"I'm here right now, Nate," Brooke interrupted, squeezing his hand as if to prove her point, "and I'm not going anywhere again. I'm sorry...I should have called Haley, or you, or anyone."
Nathan nodded his head, and then the chair squeaked as he pushed himself closer to her and took her in his arms. She buried her head in his chest, willing herself to be strong, and to hold the tears back. His arms tightened around her, and he sighed deeply as he finally pulled away. Nathan had never really resembled his older brother. He was taller, more muscular, and had dark brown hair. Lucas was short and lean, with light blonde hair. But as she stared into his eyes, she knew that Nathan was just like Lucas, despite their physical traits. He had a good heart, and that was something that the two brothers would always have in common.
"So, eggs or pancakes?" Nathan asked, his lop-sided grin appearing on his face.
Brooke laughed, and the sound startled her only because she hadn't heard it in such a long time. Brooke placed her hands on her stomach as she continued to giggle, wondering if her unborn baby could feel her sudden burst of happiness. In that instant, she remembered that the conversation they had just had was far from over. Nathan stood from the table, and her laughter died away as she grabbed at his arm and pulled him back into his chair.
"There's something else I need to tell you," she whispered, her voice hoarse from her laughter.
"Okay," he said slowly, noting the sudden look of concern on her face.
She took a deep breath and let it out, focusing her gaze on the flowers that Haley had placed all over the kitchen counters. There were ones of every style and variety, and she wanted to laugh because it almost made the room look like a florist. There was one pot in particular that caught her eye, and it was placed underneath the window, with the early morning rays of sunshine casting a halo around it. There was no flower in it, just plain dark soil, and she thought of the seed that was probably planted deep within it. It was something that was growing, prospering, beginning. A new life.
The sides of her mouth turned up into a brilliant smile, and she cleared her throat so that her voice would be strong and clear.
Nathan blinked over and over again, and after the distinct "tick" of the clock became the only sound heard in the kitchen, she began to wonder if he had heard her correctly.
Brooke jumped in her chair and turned around, knowing that it hadn't been Nathan that had just asked that question. Haley stood at the door of the kitchen in her robe, with her hands over her mouth and a wide-eyed stare that would have been hilarious had it been in any different situation.
She nodded her head once in answer to her friend's question, and if it was possible, Haley's eye grew even wider.
"Is it...I mean, it's Lucas' right?" Haley asked her voice louder than it normally was.
"Of course it is! Who else's would it be?" Brooke said, shooting her an icy glare.
Haley shrugged her shoulders, and for a long moment the three friends stood in silence. Brooke looked back and fourth between Nathan and Haley, searching their faces for a sign to tell her what they were thinking. She wanted to know if they thought this was just another tragedy, because in her heart she was fighting to believe that it wasn't. But then the tension of the room broke as Haley charged at her, flinging her arms around Brooke's shoulders and squeezing her to the point of pain.
"I can't believe it...I just, this is just crazy!" Haley said, her words muffled as she choked back a sob.
Then she felt a teardrop fall across her neck as her friend hugged her even closer, and Brooke pulled back instantly to see the first few drops of water fall from Haley's eyes. But before she could get the wrong idea, Haley immediately shook her head and smiled.
"This is amazing, it's a blessing Brooke. You know that, right?"
She nodded her head quickly in agreeance with her best friend. Then she felt her throat tighten at the same moment that her eyes began to moisten, and she knew that there was no reason anymore to hold back her tears. These tears were indifferent to the ones that she had grown so used to- they were tears of happiness.
The day had been long and eventful, filled with the laughter and talk of close friends who had been at a distance from each other for far too long. They sat on the back patio by the pool, with Jamie splashing in the water and the three adults talking amongst themselves. The sun was low in the sky, and Brooke knew that it would only take a few minutes for it to disappear completely. It was getting late, and she needed to get home.
As if he had read her mind, Nathan touched her shoulder and said, "Do you want me to drive you home?"
Brooke looked at the dozens of plates covering the table they were sitting at, and she knew that she was way too full from the barbecue they'd made for themselves to walk home.
"Yeah, I think that would be a good idea. You might have to carry me though, I ate so much I don't even think I can stand up."
Jamie laughed from the pool, and his small voice called out to his godmother, "Daddy only carries me places! You're too old to be carried, Aunt Brooke!"
Brooke smiled widely and watched Jamie splash around, completely content in the innocent world he lived in. He looked mostly like Nathan, but if you looked at him closely there was an uncanny resemblance to Lucas found in his blue eyes and blonde hair. If his nephew could look that much like him, Brooke could only help but wonder if Lucas's daughter or son would share the same resemblance.
She hugged Haley good-bye, and Jamie lovingly soaked her clothing all the way through when he jumped on top of her straight from the pool to give her a kiss and a hug.
She got into the car with Nathan in silence, and the moment he turned out of the driveway she took a deep breath and said, "I want to go home, Nate."
He didn't turn to look at her, nor did he say a word. He just nodded his head and kept his eyes set on the road, and in a few minutes he pulled up to the house that Brooke had been too afraid to enter for the past three weeks. From the outside, it didn't look the same to her. The blue shutters that clashed so perfectly with the white siding of the house suddenly didn't look so appealing. The garden with the dozens and dozens of flowers in it was distraught and un-kept, much like her life had been lately. The roses placed on the windowsills, which Lucas had sworn he loved only because they were red and reminded him of her, didn't make the empty home feel as welcoming as it once had.
But the house that she'd lived in with Lucas was just one more thing she needed to come to terms with, and it wasn't going to be the last.
"Do you want me to walk you in?" Nathan asked from the driver's seat.
Brooke unhooked her seatbelt and softly said, "No, but you can be a gentleman and walk me to the door."
He laughed and jumped out of the car, and she followed him slowly. The pathway up to the front door seemed like it had gotten longer by an eternity, and by the time they'd finally made it to the front porch Brooke felt her chest get heavy. There was a small package on the steps, and she scooped it up in her arms without so much as a second glance at it. The mailbox was overflowing with letters that hadn't been looked at in three weeks, but she didn't have the will nor the heart to open a single one.
"Are you okay from here? You're sure you don't want me to come in with you?"
Brooke turned to look at Nathan, and her heart swelled with appreciation over how protective he was of her. It was like having an older brother, and it was good to have someone to fall back on if she ever needed it.
"I'm fine, trust me," she said, but the look in his eyes told her that he knew that she was just putting on an inconvincible act.
He shifted his weight uncomfortably from foot to foot, and she waited patiently for him to say whatever else he needed to say to her.
"Look, I just want you to know that I'm here for you, Brooke. I know that you're probably going to hear that from a ton of different people, but I really mean it. I'm going to be the best uncle to your son or daughter, just like Keith was to Lucas-" his breath hitched for a moment, and she knew what he was going to say even before he said it, "and just like Lucas was to Jamie."
Before she could reply, he hastily gave her a kiss on the fore-head and walked back down the pathway to his car. She knew from the glistened look to his eye that he was probably crying, and he didn't want her around him to see it. He waved to her and drove off, and she waited until his car was out of sight to turn to the door.
She pulled her house key from her pocket, and her hand shook as she held it in front of the door-knob. She could remember the last time she had been in this house, and she presumed that her house phone was still lying on the living room floor in shards from when she dropped it after the phone call. The open window to the left of the door and the sounds coming from it told her that the TV was still on, and her mind was vivid with the memory of how she had turned the television on, just for the proof that Flight 33 had really gone down. The bed was probably still made perfectly with the new sheets she had put on it with the intention of spending the entire day next to Lucas in bed, laying together amongst the pillows that she'd aligned perfectly against the head-board. The computer was probably still on, opened to the website for the airlines, because she had checked countless times that morning to make sure that Lucas's flight would be on time. The plane never even landed.
Brooke pulled back her hand with a jolt, and she turned away from the door, unable to go inside. The sun had just set, and the dusky haze of the oncoming night still made the outdoors seem welcoming. She cursed herself as she slowly sank onto the front steps, angry that she didn't have the small amount of courage it took to open a door and walk inside a house.
She sat quietly for many minutes, trying to talk herself into going inside, but her own words were unconvincing. If she couldn't do something as simple as this, than how was she going to be able to raise a baby?
She moved her hands to cover her face, and realized that she was still holding the package that she had found on the doorstep. Her eyes scanned the front of it, and the shipping address said that it had come from London. Her heart began to pound in her ears as she remembered the voice-mail Lucas had left on her phone from his flight.
"Oh, and by the way, I sent you something special the other day, but you probably won't get it for a few more days because I wanted to see your face when you opened it. Hope you like it. I'll see you soon...love you."
He'd sent her a gift. From London.
She stared at the package, imagining Lucas mailing it to her weeks ago, and in a haste she tore the cardboard apart and removed the many pieces of protective foam inside. At the bottom of the box was a book, and she quickly pulled it out and held it so close to her face that it almost touched her nose.
The cover was of a solid red door, and at the bottom it read, "Girls and Red Doors, by Lucas Scott."
Her hands shook as she flipped it open to the first page, and as she did so a small sheet of paper slipped from the pages.
It was a letter from him, and her eyes began to blur with tears as she quickly scanned the short amount of words. She read it once, twice, three times, savoring the distinctive cursive hand-writing Lucas wrote in.
I've been writing this book for awhile now, and it finally came full circle when I got to London. It's been awhile since I wrote my last book...3 years right? I figured it was finally time to get started on something new. And of course, the first copy goes out to you. It hasn't even hit the stores yet, and it's still only the first manuscript, but I just couldn't wait any longer to give it to you. I miss you, and I can't wait to see you read this, because I know that I'll be with you again when you do.
P.S .- Just read the dedication of the book, it says it all.
She rubbed her eyes to free them from her tears, and flipped to the first page. In the center of the page, it said, "For you. I love you."
His words were mysterious and subdued, probably in an attempt to conceal who they were intended for. But Brooke knew that it was for her, and she ran her finger over the words continuously, tracing each letter until the words were imprinted in her mind. A part of her wanted to believe that if she kept on reading them, Lucas would appear beside her and whisper his written words in her ear. The realistic part of her knew that it was just a foolish dream.
She would make sure that his second and last book would get published, and she would also see to it that this one would be even more successful than the last. Lucas deserved it.
There was a loud roar from overhead, and Brooke looked up to the sky to see a plane gliding into the heavens. She strained her eyes to follow it as it climbed higher and higher into the deep abyss of the hazy night, and in that moment she felt him. She felt his arms around her, the smooth caress of his lips against her neck, the gentle lull of his voice as he whispered in her ear. She imagined him being a passenger on the plane soaring over her head, imagined him rising into the heavens, on a trip that would never bring him home. Her eyes followed the airplane until it vanished behind the clouds, and she knew in that instant that he was there. She didn't exactly know where there was, or if it even existed, but an indescribable feeling told her that it did. It was like a silent sanction, a closure that she needed in order to keep moving forward.
Then she stood up, dusted off the bottom of her pants, and turned back to the door. All traces of her previous anguish were gone as she slid the key into the knob, turned it, and with a loud creak pushed it open. She stepped inside and shut the door behind her, all the while thinking a single profound thought.
It was better to have loved and lost him, than to never have loved him at all.
12 years later
He stood with his back turned to her, chatting along pleasantly with his older cousin, and she stared at the back of his blonde head intently. He was tall for his age, and the other boys in school taunted him for being so skinny and lean. But in her eyes, he was perfect. She placed a hand on his shoulder, and he whipped his head around and her breath caught in her throat when her eyes locked with his.
They were blue as the ocean, with specks of gray in them. Sometimes, she just stared at him for drawn out moments, and he would pester her and tell her not to do it because it frightened him, but she couldn't help herself. He reminded her too much of someone else.
"You're doing it again," he said, his eyes squinting in that way of his, and she sighed.
She never got over how much he looked and acted like his father, and she expected that she never would.
"I can't help it, handsome. I've got to stare at you and make up for the fact that I won't be seeing you for an entire week!" she said, grinning at him.
The noise of the airport was almost deafening, as dozens of indistinct figures rushed to their flights. A few feet away stood Nathan and Haley, surrounded by enough luggage to serve them for an entire year away. They were going to Florida for a short vacation, and Jamie insisted that his younger cousin came with them.
"This will be the final boarding call for Flight 421, to Daytona, Florida."
The calculated voice of the announcer echoed through the airport, and a chill went up her spine as she tried to block out the memory of the last time she had stood in an airport, twelve years earlier, waiting for Lucas to board Flight 33.
She had already said good-bye to Nathan and Haley, prompting them over and over again to call the moment the flight landed. She waved to them once more and turned back to the young boy standing beside her.
"You have your ticket, right kiddo?" she asked, and unable to resist, she reached out and smoothed his hair over his fore-head.
He shoved her hand away, but a playful smirk crossed his face. "I thought we agreed that I was too old for all that lovey-dovey stuff? At least not in public, Mom. I get enough heat from the boys at school about how 'hot' you are," he said, using air quotes to emphasize the word, "and I really can't deal with the public displays of affection on top of everything else."
She laughed loudly and grabbed a hold of him, pulling his lean body into an embrace. He struggled against her at first, but despite his tall frame, she was still stronger than him. He let out an annoyed sigh as he allowed his arms to wrap around her, permitting the moment with him that he knew she needed. After all, if his memory served him correctly, the last time she had seen his father was in this very airport.
Mothers were always close with their sons and daughters, but Will Scott liked to believe that the relationship he shared with his own mother was something more. With the absence of a father in his life, it was hard to get by as a boy on the verge of being a teenager. But his mother compensated for his loss, and he couldn't help but admire her. She was brilliant and superior in his eyes to any other adult he had ever known, and she had this strength about her that never faltered. He'd read his father's book, the one with the red door on the cover, and knew that he had loved his mother deeply. He also came to the conclusion that his mother had loved his father just as much, judging by the diamond ring she kept around her neck. He assumed that it was the engagement ring his father had given her, and sometimes, he would catch her staring into space, absentmindedly slipping the ring onto her fingers, and he knew that she was thinking of him. As he stood with his arms wrapped around her, William Scott knew why his father had loved her so much. His mother was one of a kind.
"Mom, it's a week. Just a week, and I'll be in this exact airport again, standing here, and I'll be home," he said into her neck, loving how he was almost as tall as she was at the young age of 12.
She pulled back and held him at arms length, fighting to keep Lucas's words out of her head.
"29 days, Brooke, and we'll be standing here again. I promise."
A tear slipped from her eye, and Will immediately wiped it away with the tenderness and love of someone well beyond his 12 years. Then he smiled, revealing his braces that he utterly despised, and hugged her once again.
"Don't cry, Mom," he said, then lowered his voice to a whisper. "Maybe I can just stay home, Jamie's the one that really wants me to go..."
But Brooke immediately shook her head, gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, and stepped away from him. "You're going. You'll have fun, and you'll call me the second that plane touches the ground, got it mister?" she asked, attempting a stern voice that just seemed foolish coming from her. She could always imagine Lucas being stern and laying down the law with their son, but she was too easy-going to ever be that serious with him. Of course, there were times when she yelled at him, but she wasn't the kind of strict and uptight mother that she always saw in the parking lots at Will's school, and she was okay with that.
He nodded his head, gathered his things, and with one last look into his mother's eyes, he sprinted off to join Nathan, Jamie, and Haley. She keeps her eyes rooted to her son's blonde head as he walked farther and farther away from her, but the crowds were so thick that she eventually lost sight of him. Then she closed her eyes and pictured, as if it were yesterday, the retreating figure of Lucas when he had walked away from her in this very airport. In a haste, she jumped up onto the nearest chair next to her and scanned the thousands of people maneuvering to and from their flights. It took her less than a second to spot Will.
Placing her hands over her mouth, she screamed out his name, not caring that every other person in the airport had turned around to stare at the crazy lady standing on top of a chair. She watched him turn and look expectantly over his shoulder, and she waved her arms frantically until he saw her. He smiled and waved back to her, and she ignored the stares of the people around her as she shouted, "I love you!" She could tell, even from a distance, that his cheeks were turning red from embarassment. He mouthed the words back to her, and Nathan shot her an amused stare as he spotted her standing on the chair.
Moments later, they dissapeared through the doorway that would bring them onto the plane.
Brooke still had her arm raised in farewell, and she murmured, "He'll be fine," over and over again. But she wasn't trying to convince herself, because she already knew from experience that everything would be okay in the end. She was still standing, still moving forward after 12 years without Lucas by her side. But she had his son with her, and even if their child was the last gift that Lucas had been able to give her, it was the greatest one of all.
So that's it, the first time I've finished a story that's longer than 2 chapters! I was really hesitant about posting the part 12 years into the future, because I thought at first that it would be okay just ending it with Brooke walking back into the house. But I knew that I needed to show that everything truly did turn out okay in the end, with Brooke being strong enough to raise her son and even to allow him to walk away from her in the airport and board a plane with the knowledge that his own father had died on one... I hope you guys liked it, and if you did (or didn't), please let me know your thoughts in reviews! Love you all!