A/N: It's finally here! The last chapter for SSL. I apologize for the long wait! I am really happy to complete yet again another story. & it was so fun and amazing to write. I really appreciate all the motivation and loving words you've all left me. Every single one has made me smile and I really want to thank you all for giving me this opportunity to tell you a story about NALEY in this different world. I hope to come back with a new story soon. I don't know when though, but I'll let you all know! I really hope you enjoy this chapter. Again, being my own critic, I'm a little iffy about it, but I really hope you do like it! Thank so much!
P.s. I wrote half of this chapter listening to Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely?" hehe. I thought it fit! Anyways. love you you lovely people!
Chapter 20 Final
Haley was in the middle flipping the channels, surfing for something interesting to watch, when she looked over her shoulder to see what Nathan was up to. He was slouching over the kitchen counter staring at his cell phone intensely as if it was going to start moving or something. For the past couple of hours, he's been waiting impatiently for his dad to call him. It took Haley forever to make him leave the café, but she couldn't blame him for refusing. She didn't want to leave the place either, but in order to keep him relaxed and calm, they had to go home and rest. She even suggested that a good night sleep would make the night speed by, but she was wrong.
"Are you going to spend your precious time with your phone rather than me or should I just leave?"
He glanced up, zoning out from his trance, and smiled nervously at Haley. "Sorry. I just can't wait any longer. It's 1 am and he still hasn't called."
"Exactly. It's 1 am. I think your father is asleep right now. So just come over here on the couch and watch some TV with me." She patted the cushion beside her and grinned innocently.
Nathan looked at his phone once again and hesitated to step away. But he figured that staring at the inanimate object wasn't going to do anything, so he gave in and walked over towards his girlfriend.
"Aren't you a little bit stressed over this?" he asked, settling down next to her.
Content with him by her side, she shrugged her shoulders sheepishly. "A little bit, but that's because I think the café will be fine."
"But the numbers- they're not-"
"It doesn't matter," she cut in. Turning her upper body towards him, she reached over to wrap her hands around his. "Didn't you see the progress we made this month after the rumors? The sales sky rocketed. Everyone came in every single day and every hour just to get a cup of coffee. They wanted to see us, greet us, and talk to us. Despite how critical and rude some of the customers were, we've worked our asses off to serve them well. Not only that, but we never gave up on each other. I have a feeling that your father has seen this success even if he hasn't said a word to you yet. With how much effort we put into this coffee house, I believe that we've accomplished a lot more than the number we've reached."
He felt a little less stressed after hearing her words of wisdom. She always had a way to make him feel better. Not only better, but worth it.
"Who knew you'd be a good luck charm?"
She patted the top of his hand and smiled. "At first I was someone who gave you bad luck."
"You still do," he joked. He caught the glare on her face and added, "Sometimes. But I like it. It challenges me."
"Well I'm glad," she answered, confused. "I'll try to make up more ways to challenge you. Just give me the time and day."
He watched as she released her hands away from him and watched her pick up the remote again. Without glancing away, he examined her expressions as she surfed through the channels. The way she wrinkled her nose when she didn't like the show on the health channel made him laugh. He loved the fact that she didn't have to act cute because she was already cute. And the way she laughed out loud at the jokes of some comedian on Comedy Central made him feel glad that he found a girl who enjoyed raw humor and didn't hide her flaws. There was a never day where he regretted ever saving her, wanting her or loving her. Other guys wanted girls like Alex, while he liked girls like Haley. Simple, reckless, dorky, unstylish and beautiful.
"You have a real a habit of staring, you know?" Haley mumbled, the reflection of the television flickering on her face as she clicked the remote. "First your cell phone and now my ears. What is it with you?"
He shook his head and leaned forward, closer to her. Feeling the proximity between them, Haley stopped playing with the TV and turned to him shyly.
Innocently he smiled and said, "I don't feel like watching television."
"Then what do you want to do?"
"I don't know," he shrugged.
From the way he was looking at her, his eyes a darker blue than usual, she knew exactly what he was thinking of. And it was kind of making her nervous. Ever since they started dating, all they've done was kiss and touch. They haven't done anything further than that. It's not like she hasn't had sex before. She was with Julian for a couple years, so it's certain that Haley wasn't a virgin. But it was different with Nathan. He made her feel complete even without doing the deed. She had really fallen for him, so hard that she was scared that he didn't love her as much as she loved him.
He may have said he loved her. But she loved him more.
Biting her lip as she was contemplating on what to do, she looked to the side and smiled mischievously. Nathan lifted an eyebrow, curious to know what she was planning. A few seconds later, she reached behind her, grabbed the couch pillow and swung it over to him, hitting him on the side of the head.
"HEY!" he complained. "That's not exactly what I was thinking of."
Jumping off the couch, she laughed and swung at him again. "Oh, I know what you were thinking of."
"So you're trying to avoid it, huh?" he grabbed the pillow next to him and climbed off the couch.
"Ever heard of foreplay?" she giggled.
Furrowing his eyes at her, he decided to play along. "C'mere!"
"Are you really going to hit me?" she questioned, her eyes wide as she watched him leap closer to her. She scurried backwards to get away.
"You started it. So you pay! I promise, it won't hurt!" he joked.
"Go away!" she screamed.
For the next ten minutes they played the innocent game of pillow war. Nathan was careful not to injure the girl since she wasn't a man, but Haley put all her strength in every hit. But eventually Nathan decided he had enough play. Standing before her, his arms and pillow ready to take the next swing, he dropped the pillow and strode forward to pick Haley up off her feet. Pushing her against the wall, he leaned in sensually to kiss her on the lips.
Surprised by the kiss, Haley held her grip on the pillow tightly, preparing to smack him with it, but once Nathan started asking for more, her fingers released the pillow and she tightened her arms around his neck. With her acceptance of his kiss, he took the opportunity to lead her towards the couch, starting up a heated up make out session. And one thing led to another, quickening the time and lessening the stress.
Clay watched Tim down another shot glass of alcohol as they dined together at one of their favorite late night bars with Jake. Throughout their rough process to get back on their feet at the café, the three guys grew even closer than before. But they still had the same hate-love relationship they formed a long time ago.
"I don't think you should drink yourself drunk. We might have to work tomorrow," Jake stated.
Clay waved at him and shook his head. "Let him drink. Work or no work tomorrow, he's going to regret it in the morning."
"Do I still have a job yet?" Tim slurred, slouching over the table, his hand under his chin. His other hand reached over to grab a lemon from the small tray in the middle and stuffed it in his mouth.
"Nathan hasn't called yet. But we'll know in the morning."
"I'm gonna miss that big ol' tard," Tim mumbled, his eyes slowly falling.
"You mean Percy?" Jake questioned.
"NO!" the drunkard snapped. "The big fat one. He makes coffee."
Clay rolled his eyes and reached over for a buffalo wing they ordered earlier. He bit it and glanced over his shoulder to see what was going on across the street. A couple familiar faces were seen from a far. They were obviously ogling their eyes at them. They've became such celebrities in the community. Clay didn't mind it all. He was single. Tim was an obvious an answer. But it looked like Jake was forming some kind of friendship with Haley's friend.
"She's kind of like a Haley 2.0, huh?"
Confused, Jake took a sip from his glass and placed it back down. "Who?"
"That curly blonde. She looks like your type. Sweet, tall, artistic. She's almost like Haley."
"We're just talking."
"You should try doing more than just talking," Clay suggested.
"Right, like I'd take dating advice from you."
"Hey, I'm a pro at getting girls. Watch." Clay turned back around towards the giggly girls across the street and waved them over to the outside patio they were sitting at. The girls didn't hesitate. They were at the side of the little black gate that separated them in just a few seconds. Jake watched him carefully as Clay winked twice at a few of the girls and nodded his head a couple of times. And by his surprise, the girls almost looked like they were going to melt in their shoes right there. Although Jake knew how popular he was amongst the female community and always believed it was quite annoying, he was impressed.
After talking with the girls and catching a few of their numbers, Clay turned back around and tucked the pieces of papers into his breast pocket.
"I can't see!" Tim blurted out, his eyes shut, his cheek against the metal table.
Ignoring the guy, Jake responded with a not-so-impressed expression. "So what? You got their numbers. What's the point?"
Clay sighed deeply. "The point is that I just happened to get a hold of their hearts in just a few minutes. If you want some tips on how to get chicks, I'm you're guy. I know for sure that you won't be able to find anyone else like me."
"Except maybe Nathan."
"He doesn't count. He doesn't have skills either. Girls go to him without even trying. So you won't learn anything from him. Trust me."
"I don't want chicks anyways. I want a girl. And just one girl."
Clay nodded. "Well, I can do that for ya. I'm your man."
"I wanna learn," Tim managed to mumble, his eyes slightly open.
"Sure, why not."
Jake shook his head, amused by this ridiculousness and popped a few peanuts into his mouth. While chewing, he glanced at his watch and thought about the café and whether Nathan received the results yet.
"Do you think we'll have a job in the morning?"
Clay removed his focus off of picking at Tim's face and thought about the morning after. He shrugged sheepishly and said, "If we don't. I have a back up plan. I'll just play music and record an album."
"No, I'm serious. You think even though the number wasn't high enough, you think we did alright to stay?"
"I was being serious, but if you want something else, my answer is yeah. I think we did well enough to stay. If Mr. Scott doesn't see that, we'll just protest, I guess."
Jake chuckled a little bit. "I guess we'll see."
The morning after, Haley found herself lying in Nathan's bed. The first thing she saw when she opened her eyes was Nathan's perfectly sculptured face snoozing right next to her like a little baby. It reminded her of the time she spilled water all over his face when she thought he was dead. He really was a deep sleeper. She could hardly hear him snore.
She smiled at the sight of him unconsciously licking his lips and reached over to traced her finger over his eyelashes to tickle him a little bit. Then she noticed how bare her arm was and then pulled her hand away. She glanced down at her chest, pulled the covers up and peeked inside. Immediately her eyes widened, she quickly tightened the blanket over her breasts.
I'm really naked. But why I am so shocked? I was completely sober last night. I remembered everything. . . Maybe I lost my mind last night because of him. I kind of lost it. But I can't blame him. He was so damn sexy last night. But was I good? How well did I do? I'm probably the least of his expectations when it comes to physical activity.
"If you're wondering why you're naked it's because we did it last night," she heard him mumble beside her.
She twitched at his voice and glanced at him. His eyes were still closed, but she found a small grin on his lips.
"Well of course I know we did it. I'm just a little self-conscious."
"Don't be," he stated, opening his eyes slowly.
"Nathan, I know you've been with plenty of other girls. I'm just a little less-"
"You're not less anything," he cut in. "Stop looking down at yourself. Whatever I saw yesterday was beautiful. Whatever I'm seeing right now is beautiful. All those girls you think I slept with can never compete with you. No one can, okay?"
"Really?" she questioned innocently, gripping the blanket tightly.
He smirked and nodded. "It's nothing but the truth."
Her cheeks burned at little and looked away bashfully. With her face turned away from him, she felt a sudden touch against her jaw line. Her eyes moved towards him as he caressed her softly with his cold hands. He then tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear.
"How about a round three?" he suggested with a grin.
"Uh. . ." she began, but a loud buzz could be heard from downstairs. Immediately, both of them stiffened and looked at each other in panic. "That could be your father. HURRY! GET OUT OF BED AND ANSWER IT!"
Nathan quickly pulled away from her, but leaned back to grab a kiss for the morning and then he stood up to pull up a pair of sweats. Soon after, Haley watched as he swiftly ran across the room and down the stairs to answer the call. She laughed at the sight and decided to follow him as well. So she wrapped the whole blanket around her body and scurried her way down the stairs.
"Hello?" Nathan answered.
Haley tiptoed her way down as she craned her neck to listen to the conversation in the living room.
"Son, sorry if I disturbed you. It's a little too early for me to be calling you," Dan answered. Nathan checked the time on his digital clock hanging on the wall. 6:15 am. He realized he only slept for three hours.
"No, it's not too early. I've been waiting for this call."
"I was going to call last night, but had no time. But I've made my decision."
"Okay . . . Then tell me!"
"Unfortunately you didn't reach the number I wanted you to accomplish," Dan began, making Nathan feel extraordinarily nervous. "But from what I've seen and heard in the past month about how passionate and hopeful you and your workers have been, I've decided that you could keep the cafe."
"What?" Nathan questioned in disbelief.
"I said Chivalry is safe. Did I stutter?"
"No . . . I'm just speechless right now. Did you just say that the café will stay?" he repeated.
In that instant, Haley began jumping on the stairs in excitement of the news.
"I wanted to see you work as a real businessman, Nathan. That's all I wanted. I wanted to see this journey as something more than money. It's about the passion you put into your work that really counts with me. And since the community has raved about how genuine and amazing Chivalry, I knew that you've really focused on being the man you needed to be. I'm proud of you son."
Hearing those words made the morning ten times better than before. It's all he wanted in the beginning. Everything just seemed too perfect.
"Now go on. Make me proud."
The both exchanged goodbyes and Nathan finally hung up. He turned to Haley happily, a grin cemented on his face and sighed deeply.
"So we're fine?" she squealed, her eyes wide.
"Yeah," he nodded.
Again, Haley jumped in glee, holding the blanket over her body and rushed over to embrace Nathan's shirtless body. It wasn't cold like earlier. He was warmer. But she knew it was because he nervous and thrilled about the news.
"I knew it."
"You're an artist and a psychic, what else can you do?" he mumbled against her hair as he held her tightly to him.
"How 'bout we do a round three to celebrate?" she suggested, pulling away from him to give him a seductive look.
"That I don't mind." First he glanced at the clock to see the time and then quickly grabbed her hand. "We have enough time to get ready for work."
"We can tell the guys about the news after we celebrate."
He chuckled. "Sounds good to me," he smiled and leaned in for a kiss.
She giggled through his lips and wrapped her arms around his neck. Soon the sheet wrapped around her fell to the ground, revealing her body.
"AH!" she screamed, pulling from him quickly to pick it up, but Nathan shook his head and stepped on it.
"What are you doing? We're not going to need that."
She scoffed and smirked. "Nathan!"
Alex was busy working at her boutique when one of her workers approached her with a stern look on her face. That wasn't a really good sign especially when she's been picking up some of the clothes from the store without getting caught.
"Alex, remember when I told you to keep a look out for people who've been taking our clothes?"
"Yes," she nodded.
"Were you lying to me at that time?"
"Uh. . . I wasn't lying. I said that I'd look around."
"But you were the one who took the clothes. Am I right?"
"I'm- I was only borrowing them for a while."
"Borrowing them? They've been returned nor have you asked for permission!"
Outside, Julian was walking by during his lunch break when he over heard the conversation in the store. It was obvious that Alex was caught for her shop lifting deeds. He figured it was karma. But lately, she's been very quiet. She hasn't been going to the clubs late at night and he's recently found out that she's been helping Haley at the Chivalry. In fact, he heard the two had reconciled. He figured she was trying to her best to be a good person. And he didn't want her to get into any more trouble.
"I'm going to call the police on you, Alex. This is not right! To know that our own employee is taking things from the store makes us look bad! You're fired!"
"I said you're fired and we're going to charge you for all those clothes you stole."
"I'll bring them back. I only used them once!"
"That doesn't matter, you stole and you need to pay for that!"
"I'll pay for it," Julian spoke up, stepping inside the store.
Alex turned to him confused. "Julian."
"I'll pay for the clothes. If that's what needs to be done, I'll do it. Just don't call the police on her. "
"Julian, you don't have to do that. I've put you through enough."
"No, it's okay. I don't mind. I'll do it just this one time."
Alex's manager scoffed and thought about the decision. She had her phone ready to call the police station. She really wanted Alex to get what she asked for.
"I don't think I'll let her loose like that."
"Look, you've already fired her. All that needs to be done is get the money you deserve for all the clothes she took."
The manager turned to Alex and asked, "How many have you stolen?"
"Uh. . . Like seven?"
"Seven!" Her manager's eyes widened and turned to Julian angrily. "Do you have any idea how much seven designer dresses cost?"
Julian glanced at Alex, disappointed and tried to hold in his shame. "I'll pay for it." He pulled out his wallet from his pocket and took his credit card out. "Here, charge it from my card."
"Julian. I'll go to jail for it. Don't do this."
"Fine, but after this, I never want to see you around this store ever again," the manager ordered, staring at Alex intensely.
Alex nodded and put the hanger she was currently holding back on the rack. She watched her manager turn around and walk up to the counter to pay for all that she had stolen. Then she looked at Julian who was folding his wallet back into his pocket.
"I warned you," Julian stated.
"I know, I'm just - - , I haven't stolen anything in a while. I guess I was just -"
"Well, you know after this you won't be able to find a decent job. She's going to tell all these boutique stores about your situation."
"I know," she responded with her head down.
"You should've known when you stole that first dress."
"I really don't want to hear this lecture, Julian."
"Hey, I just helped you. You deserve a lecture from me."
"Here," the manager stated, handing the card back. "Do you want to know the price?"
"No, I'd rather not," he answered.
"Okay, now leave. I'll take care of all your papers myself."
Alex sighed deeply, her head down, obviously ashamed of what she did and stepped out of the store. She could hear some of the customers snickering around and talking about her like a bunch of cruel girls from high school. Julian hurried her out so she wouldn't hear all the gossip and grabbed her hand as they walked down the street.
She looked at it confused. "Julian, what are you doing?"
"I'm trying to make you feel better."
"Look, I know you're sorry. I'm sure you've been feeling that way for a while now especially after everything that's happened. But I figured, since it's all in the past now, we can be friends again."
"I don't deserve to be your friend."
"I'm not going to let you be alone. Let's just start over."
"Can you really do that?"
"If Haley can do it. I think I can too. Sometimes people need second chances."
Alex looked at him, unsure if it was a good idea. She believed that Julian wasn't really completely confident in his decision, but to hear that he was willing to try and make things work, made her feel a little less self-conscious. Like he said, Haley did it. He could too.
"So let's start over."
"As friends," she corrected.
Julian smiled, agreeing. "Yeah, as friends. Being in a relationship didn't work out for us."
"Obviously," she answered.
He chuckled and released his hand from hers to wrap his arm around her shoulders. "I heard there's good coffee at Chivalry."
"It's true. It really is."
"Then we should go there."
Five months later.
She pinned her bangs back and then dabbed a little bit of red lipstick on her lips. She glanced at herself one more time in the mirror before turning away to grab something from her closet. Inside, she pulled out a pretty large gift. It was wrapped in silver wrapping and a nice pink bow. It was something Vivian would like. After shutting her closet door with her foot, she walked into her little sister's room where a halfway filled suitcase was sitting on the floor. Vivian was finally accepted to NYU. With the help of her family, Anthony, and scholarships, she was able to find a way to get in.
"Here," Haley stated. "It's a present for you."
Vivian walked out of her closet with arms full of clothes and dropped them on the bed.
"You got me a present?"
"I figured it'd be something to remember me by."
Her little sister picked up the package and glared at her sister. "Don't tell me it's paint or coffee grains, if it is, just keep it."
Haley scoffed and threw a sock at her sister. "Hey, I made it."
"Do you want me to open it now?"
"Sure if you want to, but I'd rather you open it when you get to New York."
"I'll just open it now." Vivian sat at the edge of her bed and pulled the bow off. Haley just rolled her eyes at how stubborn her sister was and watched her open it. Pieces of gift wrap fell to the floor when Vivian finally revealed what the present was. "Wow," she gasped. She picked up the medium sized canvas and smiled at the painting of the three women on it. "When did you make this?"
"I've been working on it for a couple of months now."
"Impressive," she nodded. "I love it!"
"Really? I was going to just buy you make up since you love make up and all, but I thought this was more meaningful. You won't be seeing us every day now since you're going to be gone most of the year."
"This is so much better than make up," Vivian smiled, carefully placing the canvas back on the bed to hug her older sister. "Thank you!"
"Anytime. I know how much you hate my way of dressing, but I know for a fact that you'll miss seeing me walk around in what you call 'disastrous'," she stated, holding her sister tightly.
Parting from her, Vivian nodded. "You're right. I'm really going to miss it."
"Well, I'm going to finish up getting ready and I guess I'll meet up with you and mom at the gallery?"
"Duh, where else am I going to go?"
"I don't know," Haley shrugged. "Are you bringing Anthony with you?"
"Yeah, after he's done working on some lame geek project."
"I can't believe you still call your boyfriend a geek."
Vivian scoffed and placed her hands on her hips in disbelief. "Excuse me! He's not my boyfriend."
"It looks like it. You guys spend almost every second with each other. If it's not that, I think you have a thing for him."
"I do not!"
"Keep telling yourself that."
"Oh hush!" Vivian whined, pushing her older sister out the door. She was in no mood to bicker with her sister. But she had to admit that Haley was sort of on the right track. Anthony started looking cute these days. She wasn't sure if it was the way he started cleaning himself up a bit or the fact that she saw past his image. But somehow, she didn't want to admit it. Anthony wasn't exactly her type. Going from Clay Evans to Anthony? Only time will tell how everything goes especially since he's also attending NYU since it's closer to the business he wants to work at,
Haley chuckled, amused by how flustered her little sister became at the mention of Anthony. She couldn't help but joke about it. She's never seen her little sister so fond of someone like that before. It was a good thing though. She really hated seeing her sister mope around because of Clay. He was a nice guy and all, but he wasn't the guy Vivian deserved. Anthony was the perfect guy to help Vivian become a better person. They were opposites, but they were perfect opposites.
She went back into her room, stepped into some really comfortable heels, snatched her purse from her closet, and then exchanged goodbyes with her mom and sister before heading out the door. The reason why she was heading out earlier than everyone else was because she needed to fix a few last minute things before they opened the gallery for the show.
For the past five months, she's been busy organizing this event non stop. With the hours of working at the café and Paint Shop, it was hard to juggle meetings with the people who were in charge of the show and the building. But it was all well worth it. And she had Nathan to thank for that. Without him, she wouldn't have reached this success. Once she revealed her final product of the painting, he immediately thought that she deserved to flaunt her talent. She's done so much for him. Now it was his turn to return the favor. So he sneakily called up some important people his father was associated with to help broaden her career. Some of these people were wealthy people who loved art of any kind and were really big bidders. They knew art and they took it seriously. Just like Nathan, Mr. Kim and every person involved in Haley's life, they were impressed by her pieces. So impressed that they asked if it was possible to buy her work.
Haley wasn't exactly happy that Nathan did this behind her back. In fact, she was completely furious that he would take advantage of her and show her pieces without her permission. But once he told her how much they were willing to offer for her paintings, she stopped complaining and apologized for scolding him.
Nathan didn't want them to just buy her work and be done with it. He tried to persuade them to give her a full art show. One that showed every single painting she's ever made. It was her dream to be able to have that. And he was going to do all he could to make that happen. And fortunately, he was able to convince them enough to give her the best present anyone has ever given her. An art show.
"Well, lookie here, Miss Fancy Painter James," Peyton greeted as Haley entered the gallery after a short drive from her house. "And you look absolutely stunning!"
Haley blushed at the compliment. "I tried. I am going to be the center of attention tonight."
"Aint that right. You're going to be every where. On this wall and that wall," Peyton pointed out, stretching her arms out to show her the white rooms filled with many of her paintings.
Even Haley was the creator of these master pieces, she was still speechless that they were all hung up on these walls. Sometimes she felt like they weren't good enough yet. It was just amateur paintings, but people loved them enough to give her a full show.
"I'm nervous," Haley stated as Peyton led her around.
"Well that's easy for you to say. You've done this plenty of times."
"That's more than me."
Peyton smiled and wrapped an arm around her friend's shoulders. "Come on, let's get this place ready for your big show, missy. Are you ready?"
"Ready as I've ever been."
"Where should I put the balloons?" Tim questioned, holding a dozen helium balloons in his hands.
Percy adjusted his tie in front of the mirror and glanced at the boy. "You look like you can fly away with those."
"She deserves this many."
"Are you trying to get rid of her?"
"No, you old fart. I'm trying to congratulate her so once we come back here after the show, we can all celebrate."
"The same old, Tim. Always trying to get Haley's heart," Clay stated, shaking his head while he cleaned up one of the tables.
"Too bad it's already taken," Nathan stated, waiting patiently by the door. "By me."
All of the guys were taking their precious time decorating the café in order to surprise Haley for her success. Without her, none of them would be where they were now. She's the reason why Tim became the sweet boy he was now. He was still a trouble maker but he was kinder and appreciated people more without judging their actions. Clay became more interested in a past love, music. Because of her support and motivation, he was able to get back into the zone and stand on stage without being scared. Jake was able to overcome his one-sided love over her and move on to someone he deserved. She helped him realize that a man and a woman can still be friends and that there will always be someone out there for him. She's the reason why he met Peyton. Percy, well Percy was always the same. Sweet, gentle, and lazy. But because of Haley, he was able to bare all the criticism he received from Nathan and Tim and the guys. She was the comfort he needed when no one believed in him. He was in charge of the coffee after all. Without him, there would be no Chivalry. And lastly, she gave Nathan something he never thought he'd get from her. Love. Support. Happiness. She was everything that he wanted and everything he asked for. Because of Haley, he was able to feel like he was worth it. When his parents had no belief in him nor thought he could make it out there, she was there to convince him that he could prove them wrong. Despite how reckless and naïve she could be, she helped him succeed. And she helped him to love. And vise versa.
"Now come on, we don't want to be late," Nathan stated, hurrying the guys.
Jake and Clay finished stapling the banner against the wall while Percy placed the cake in the fridge. Once everything was hidden and fixed, they all headed out to meet up with Haley at her show.
It didn't take long for everyone to arrive. But it was hard to find a parking space since the place was packed. It was incredible how many people came to the event. Nathan could just imagine Haley's face right now. Rosey cheeks. Soft smile. Eyes wide like she's surprised all the time. He chuckled at the thought.
But eventually they were able to find a spot and entered the place. From left to right, people were gazing and admiring every small and large piece on the walls. Others were eating some of the hor d'oeuvres while others were silently negotiating whether to bid on a certain piece or not. It was terrific.
"You came finally!" Haley called out from the center room.
All the guys smiled at the sight of the beauty and greeted her with tight hugs and compliments.
"Everything looks amazing, Haley!" Jake stated.
"Yeah, it's kind of overwhelming."
"A good overwhelming or bad?" Clay questioned.
"Oh, good! Definitely good!" she answered nervously.
They all chuckled at her reaction. They knew that Haley wasn't used to being the center of attention, but it was nice to see her beauty flaunted out there. Not just in her physical appearance, but in her talent.
"Don't be so nervous," Nathan stated, hugging her to his side. "Everyone loves it. I love it."
She sighed deeply and smiled as she wrapped her arms around his waist. "I know. . . I'm just - I can hardly believe this is happening."
"Incredible, huh?" Peyton questioned, stepping up beside the group. "It feels good to know that people appreciate your work."
Soon the art show began to slowly ended. Everyone greeted and complimented Haley on every piece hung on the walls. About half of them were bought and because of that, she was able to gain enough money to pay half of Vivian's college tuition. It was like she was given a gift that she used up in order to give someone else something. She never thought of keeping the money for herself. Not once. Her sister and her mother needed it more.
Afterwards, everyone met up at the café where they held a small after party for Haley. She was touched by how much work and effort they put into decorating the place just for her. She just couldn't believe how she was able to gain such amazing friends in her life. Before, nothing ever seemed to be in sync for her, but now, now she was able to breathe easier and see straight. She no longer had to worry about being alone. Because she had her family and friends. And the community.
While everyone was busy enjoying themselves by drinking and eating the cake Percy made, Haley decided to take a step outside for a little bit of fresh air. She wanted to soak in the moment and savor it.
She took in a warm summer breath and glanced over her shoulder to look inside the café. Smiles could be seen and laughter could be heard. Those who never liked each other were talking to each other. Some who've never met were getting to know each other. And others who were romantically paired up were growing more and more chemistry between each other. It was just a perfect scene to see the people she adored together in one room.
"Hey, what are you doing out here? We need the guest of honor," her mother stated, stepping outside.
Haley smiled at the sight of her gorgeous mother and shrugged. "I just needed some air."
"Overwhelming, huh?" she questioned.
"Yeah, just a little bit."
Lydia walked up to her eldest daughter and glanced behind her to see the chaos inside the café.
"It's interesting how things turn out. Seeing old friends with new friends. And old loves with new loves."
"Who knew putting both together could be so chaotic," Haley joked.
"But at least everything's worked out between all of you."
Lydia looked away from the window and observed her daughter for a moment. She placed a hand on her shoulder and said, "You know, I'm proud of you."
"You told me all day, mom," Haley answered, acting like she was annoyed but really wasn't.
"I know, but I really want you to now that I really am. Your father would be proud of you too," she added. "If only he was here to see that."
Haley really wished for the same thing. It hurt a little that he wasn't able to see her accomplishments and experience them with her, but she remembered that he never left her. His spirit was always there. When he passed away, it seemed like she was missing something. Like that father figure was gone and could never be found. But ever since she joined her Chivalry family, she was able to find that comfort again. With the combination of Jake, Tim, Clay, Percy, and Nathan, she found the missing piece she prayed for everyday. These men were able to give her the same comfort a father would give to his child. Support, laughter, wisdom, company, and love. It felt like she never lost her father. It's not like these men replaced him, but the feeling and spirit they brought into her life made her believe that her father brought them here to protect her. To take care of her. Like it was written that way.
"I wish he was here too," Haley stated. "But he's always here.'
Lydia leaned in closer to plant a gentle kiss on her daughter's cheek and hugged her tightly to her side.
"I love you so much," Lydia mumbled into her daughter's hair. "You and Vivian, both."
"I love you too, mama."
During their little mother-daughter moment, they heard someone clear their throat loudly behind them. Looking over their shoulders, they found Nathan standing there bashfully.
"Ms. James, Mr. Percy's asking for you."
Haley smirked at her mother, mocking her for trying to flirt with one of her co-managers.
"What?" Lydia questioned, catching her daughter's expression.
"Nothing. Go on," Haley answered, parting from her mother's embrace. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
"Oh, right. The same goes for you," Lydia replied, pointing between her and Nathan. Haley just rolled her eyes before her mother patted her on the shoulders and walked back inside. Nathan chuckled to himself. He also knew what was going on between her and Mr. Percy. It was cute and weird at the same time.
He placed his hands in his pockets and strode towards Haley's side.
"Is something wrong?"
"No, everything's perfect."
"So why are you having this emo moment outside?"
She scoffed and playfully slapped him with the back of her hand. "I'm just thinking. It's been such a long day. My sister's leaving for college tomorrow and it's just . . ."
"Overwhelming? I know, you've said it billion times today."
"Wow, are you trying to irritate me on my special day?"
He smirked. "No. I'm just stating the truth."
"Well state the truth elsewhere," she pouted.
Nathan chuckled and shook his head as he pulled her to his side. "You know I'm just kidding. I love you too much to ruin your day."
"That's a lie," she answered. "You still manage to ruin my day despite how much you love me. I mean, seriously, the other day, you made me men's bathroom!"
He smiled at that. It was always Tim's or Clay's duty to clean the men's restroom, but he wanted to joke around with her and made her do it. Just for fun.
"It was funny."
"It was disgusting," she snapped.
He chuckled to himself and pulled her towards him. His hands wrapped around her waist and vise versa. She smiled when he tucked a piece of hair from her face and held him tighter.
"I really love you, you know that?"
"Psh, I love you more."
"I know this may seem sudden, but would you ever consider getting married again even though you went through all of that with Julian and Alex?"
Her eyes widened at the question and looked down nervously. "I don't know. Maybe someday."
"Okay," he nodded. "Here's my next question. Would you consider marrying me someday?"
In that moment, she could feel her cheeks burn, her pulse race and goose bumps forming on her body.
"Are you proposing?"
"I'm proposing a proposal. You know, just to make sure you'll accept it."
A grin was seen on her lips instantly. She didn't know what to say, so the only answer she could give him was a passionate kiss on the lips. She leaned, tilted her head to give him one of the best kisses he's ever had. When they parted, he had to take a few seconds to find his sight again.
"I guess that's a yes?" he questioned.
"No, it's a maybe."
He groaned and poked her playfully on the nose.
"When I'm ready, you'll definitely be the one I'll marry," she explained.
Nathan sighed deeply and embraced her tightly against his chest. He was so thrilled that she was able to give him an answer already.
"Come on, let's go back inside," he suggested, separating from the hug and linking their hands together.
Once they both headed back inside, Vivian came running forward with a pieces of cake in her hands and smashed it all over Haley's face causing a huge mess.
"Oh my gosh," Haley gasped.
"I couldn't leave without doing that at least once," Vivian smirked.
"Well, I'm going to get you back!" Haley wiped off the dessert from her face and wiped it all over her little' sister's face. Then she grabbed some more and took the time to spread it over Nathan's face by surprise.
"Hey!" he snapped.
"You look kind of sexy," she joked.
"Really? You think so?"
She wiggled an eyebrow and tip toed up to kiss him on the lips again. A few seconds later, Mr. Kim finished using the restroom and walked out as he wiped his hands dry. On his way back to his table, he past the dirty faced Haley and smiled.
"She's so lovely," he chuckled, pointing at her as everyone laughed with him.