Tree Hill High School, Cafeteria
"I'm going to fail and eventually have to leave high school!"
"Show me your test! It can't be that bad."
I handed my best friend Haley my math test so she could see for herself what a loser I was. From her expression, I could tell she was as shocked by the result as I was.
"Wow, a 'D'. I can't remember that you ever had been that bad."
She was right. I couldn't remember either. Or, wait! That wasn't true. I had bad grades in scientific subjects before and almost had left school. But that was a few years ago, and this time it looked very bad for me. I had to come up with something. Just what? As if Haley could read my mind, she sighed suddenly.
"It doesn't work like that, Brooke Davis! We have to do something about it."
I knew it. We were not only best friends but also soulmates. "I want to become a famous fashion designer in the future. What do I need math for then?"
"I could list a whole bunch of things you need math for. Imagine, you want to bake a cake and don't even know how to calculate the quantities correctly. Or you go shopping and have to calculate, for example, if the amount the cashier has given you back is correct."
"Are you serious? You really recount the money?" I blurted out and immediately regretted it. Of course she did it. She was really picky about things like that.
"I've got an idea!"
She jumped up from her chair and grabbed my arms. From the glow in her eyes, I could see that she had apparently just found a solution to my problem.
"Brooke, that's it! You need tutoring lessons!"
I already hated the lessons in class. Now I should also sacrifice my free time for this torture? I shook my head determinedly. "I'm not taking any!"
"Why not? You know how important a good school education is. Especially if you want to have a good job later."
"You sound like my mother." I rolled my eyes. But secretly I knew she was right. I had to do something if I didn't want to fail this year. "All right," I sighed. "When do you have time to tutor me?"
The astonishment in her face wasn't feigned. I could tell that. "Yeah sure, who else?"
"I would love to help you, but I already have five students, to whom I give tutoring lessons. That's why I have hardly any free time. Nathan complains that I don't have time for him anymore."
Nathan was her boyfriend. In fact, unlike Haley, I never had a real relationship. It was hard for me to commit to only one guy. Besides, I was still young and wanted to enjoy my life, which had given me the reputation of the 'high school slut'. But I didn't care. Let them talk. It was an illusion to believe that you could find 'the one' at the age of 16 or 17. Unless your name was Haley. She and Nathan were inseparable. And funnily, they had fallen in love when she had given him tutoring lessons. Speaking of tutoring...
"Why did you suggest that I take tutoring lessons?" I resumed the topic again. "If not you, who should teach me?"
"Look over there!"
I followed her finger as she pointed to one of the tables at the far end of the cafeteria. The table where the 'geeks' sat, as we called them. The computer freaks and nerds. They had only the best grades in all school subjects, but practically no free time. Perhaps one of the reasons why they have never participated in any sporting activities. Or better, no activities at all outside school. They practically lived like a shadow next to us normal high school students. Unobtrusive, invisible and in their own world.
"Have you lost your mind?" I exclaimed and saw Haley pouting her mouth.
"I think that's the solution to all your problems."
"Then I'd rather leave school before I go to one of those and make a fool of myself!" I shook my head so hard that my brown curls flew around my head.
"They are really okay, if you get to know them better."
"Who says that?" I asked suspiciously.
Haley's expression clearly showed me how difficult it was for her to bring the conversation to my former best friend. Emphasizing on the former, because Peyton and I had been good friends for a very long time, before my 'best' friend had snatched my boyfriend away, for which I would hate her for all eternity!
"I'm sorry, Brooke! I shouldn't have mentioned Peyton."
I was a little sorry for her, because Haley was standing between Peyton and me and actually wanted to be friends with both of us. But sometimes things were just too complicated to be simple. I had kept my eyes on the 'geek' table all the time, and saw now one by one getting up from the chair and leaving the cafeteria. All but one, who had dipped his nose deep in a book and was shoveling his food into his mouth almost mechanically. "Okay, I'll do it!" I don't know why I suddenly changed my mind, but something almost magnetically dragged me to the boy with the book.
Haley ran after me, and I turned to her. "Do you think I can't do it alone?"
"You forgot that."
She handed me the math test I left on the table.
"This is a good start for a conversation. Just show him your grade."
"Yeah, he'll probably give me some lessons for pity," I said, rolling my eyes.
"You can do this! We meet in classroom."
She smiled reassuringly at me, and I made my way to the table, noticing that I was gradually getting more and more nervous. I had almost reached the table when he raised his head and our eyes met. My first thought was that he had really beautiful dark brown eyes. Eyes that now looked at me startled and confused. I mustered all my courage and put my math test on the table right in front of him.
"I hear you're such a math genius," I started, trying to understand why he still looked at me like a timid deer. "And since I'm really bad at the moment and maybe even flung out of school, I thought you might be able to help me."
I noticed his hand tremble slightly as he ran it through his thick, brown hair. Not exactly the reaction I expected. But what did I expect? I knew that the 'geeks' were all worldly innocent and had little contact with us 'normal'. So probably my direct nature had just scared him and he didn't know what to answer. But maybe I just started it all wrong. I put on my brightest smile and held out my hand to him.
"Yes, I know. The name is on top of your test."
He smiled at me and I felt a tingling sensation in my stomach. What a smile! I could only stare at him and barely noticed him taking my hand and squeezing.
I turned and saw Haley, who was standing a few feet away with a big smile and probably watched us the whole time. Having come this far, I also had to take the next step. I took a free seat next to Julian and tapped my finger on the test.
"Okay, since we clarified that. Can you help me?"
I had barely set foot into Haley's room when she closed the door and already bombarding me with her questions.
"So what did he say? Will he give you private lessons?"
"Sure." I shrugged casually to demonstrate that it really didn't matter to me.
"Did you think he would reject me?" I asked, frowning.
"No, I didn't. I just thought you might back down."
I looked at her in surprise. She really seemed to believe that I was a coward. But didn't I clearly demonstrate just yesterday that I could overcome my inner laziness? Because honestly, I really didn't feel like taking extra math lessons.
"And when does it start?"
Haley had retreated to her bed with a bag of crisps and I sat next to her. "Tomorrow. I'm supposed to come to his house," I said, reaching into the bag and pulling out some crisps. "Can you come over to my place first and help me?"
"Help? With what?"
I quickly stuffed the crisps in my mouth and chewed quickly to answer her. "To choose the right clothes," I explained, reaching into the bag again.
"The right clothes?"
She looked at me as if I wasn't quite sane.
"You go to a private tutoring and not to a date!"
She was right. But anyway, I somehow felt the need to look nice. Of course for me, not for Julian or even his parents, who would presumably be present as well. "Haley, please!" I looked at her with puppy eyes from that I knew Haley wouldn't refuse me. And indeed it seemed to work again this time.
"Fine. When should I come over?"
Twenty-four hours later, I was a nervous wreck, though there was really no reason for nervousness. I went to a tutoring date and not to a romantic date! Although both felt almost the same at the moment. For the umpteenth time, I tugged at my skirt and blouse, which I had found in the back corner of my closet and usually wore on occasions like birthdays, Christmas, or to church.
"You look great!"
Haley danced around me enthusiastically. And I took the opportunity to check my hairstyle again. "Ponytail or rather loose hair?" I took the hair up and then dropped it again.
I dropped my hair back over my shoulder and tugged a few strands over my forehead. "Okay, that will do, I think."
"You don't look like the 'Brooke' I know."
"Is that good or bad?" I asked Haley directly and looked at myself in the mirror again. She was right. I really looked different.
"Good, I think. At least for today."
She was at least honest. I looked at the clock. "Oh shit, I'm really late. We had agreed by 2pm, and now it's almost shortly before it."
"He won't bite your head off, when you're a few minutes late."
From a few minutes to 20, when I finally arrived, sweating and panting, at the Norris' estate. I had no idea what Julian's parents did for a living, but at least they didn't seem to be completely poor. They also lived in the better area of Tree Hill. Another indication of wealth. I went up the stairs and rang the bell. I didn't have to wait long, when the door suddenly opened and a woman with reddish blond hair was standing in front of me. She glared at me with a scrutinizing look.
I nodded and suddenly felt a sense of uneasiness. The way Julian's mother was staring at me proved that she apparently knew who I was, or about my reputation.
"Julian is upstairs and already waiting. Go up the stairs and then down the hall to the right. His room is at the very end."
And then she just turned away and left me alone. Tightening my bag in which I'd stowed my math stuff, I made my way upstairs. It was not hard to find Julian's room, and I knocked tentatively. When he opened the door and greeted me with a smile he compensated me for the frosty greeting his mother had given me.
"I'm... sorry I'm late," I stuttered, entering his room.
I put my bag down and looked around. Julian's room was so different from the other guys I knew. And I had already been able to inspect a lot of boy's rooms. Instead of trophies won at sports competitions, there were only shelves of books and DVDs in his room. Curious, I went to the shelf with the movies and reached into it. "The Breakfast Club", I read and suddenly had to grin. "This is one of my favorite movies. But even cooler is the soundtrack to it," I confided to him and put the DVD back.
"You really think so? Wait, I have something for you."
He went to another shelf and pulled out a CD, which he then put in his CD player and pressed 'start'.
When the Simple Minds song 'Don't You (Forget About Me)' through the speakers boomed, I couldn't hold myself back. I closed my eyes and let myself carry away by the music. I was a cheerleader. Dancing was my big passion. And there were just songs that made me forget everything around me. Even that I wasn't in my own room and was acting like a fool right now. I stopped abruptly, though the song was not quite finished, and opened my eyes. Julian stared at me with a look I didn't know how to interpret. I quickly went to my bag and took out my math stuff. "We should start now," I mumbled, avoiding his gaze.
"With what do you want to start?"
I was relieved that he hadn't resented my idiotic dance performance and opened my math book. "Maybe you can explain this to me?" I pointed to an equation in the book. No idea how we managed to stay focused for an hour afterwards. But somehow time flew by and when it knocked on the door outside and Julian's mother reminded us that the time was up, I was a bit disappointed. He shook my hand in front of the door and promised that he would call again to make a new appointment. As I slowly walked down the stairs, it occurred to me that it was the first time I had been in a boy's room and had not made out with him or even sex. A real premiere and a reason to repeat it soon. When I turned around and looked back to the house, I saw Julian standing in the doorway. I raised my hand and waved to him and was rewarded again with that smile that always made me nervous. Maybe we could do something else together, which had nothing to do with math, was my last thought, before I climbed on my bike and cycled home.
I watched Brooke leaving the house as I suddenly noticed my mother behind me. Even before I turned to her, I knew she had been drinking again. I could smell it.
"What do you think, to bring... this... this slut to our house!"
I tried to stay calm because I knew there was no point arguing with her when she was drunk. "Brooke is not a slut," I said, turning away to leave.
"Julian Andrew Norris, you... you're not turning away from me... when I want to talk to you...!"
Her eyes were glazed, and she already had problems with the articulation. "Please Mom, let me go!" I had no desire to argue with her, and certainly not about Brooke.
"She is bad... bad, Julian! And I don't allow you to see her again!"
"I'm 18, Mom, and not a baby anymore!" I protested. "I know what I'm doing." I barely had finished the sentence when I realized that I just made a big mistake, because her already pale face grew even paler.
"What did she do to you?"
"What?" I thought I had misheard. What did she mean by that?
"I knew I should have forbidden her... to... to go alone to your room."
When I slowly realized what she meant, I could only stare at her in shock. She actually believed that Brooke and I had made out in my room instead of studying! "I've given her math coaching," I explained patiently, although I was seriously wondering why I was justifying myself to her. "No more and no less."
"I heard... music... from your room."
She had her arms on her hips and looked at me reproachfully. And I made the next big mistake when I remembered Brooke dancing around my room with her eyes closed; I smiled.
"That's it. You'll never see this... this girl... again!"
I woke up from my thoughts and shook my head slowly. "We go to the same school. That will be hard to avoid." When she suddenly turned away from me and walked towards the living room, I followed her slowly.
"I'm calling... calling your father. For a change, he... he should take care of you."
As she reached for the phone, I grabbed her wrist. "Don't do that, Mom! Should he find out that you have been drinking again?" To my biggest surprise she suddenly began to laugh hysterically.
"As if your... father would care... what I do. He's only interested in himself... himself and his... his bitches he shares... his bed with."
I closed my eyes in frustration and had to agree with her silently. My father, a famous movie producer, lived thousands of miles away from us in Los Angeles and came only home to fleeting visits. I was not naive. I knew from young age on that he wasn't faithful to my mother during his absence. And he made no secret of his affairs. I remembered the day I first found her drunk when I came home from school. I was just thirteen at the time and totally shocked because I had never seen her in such a state before. But it hadn't been a one-time slip, as I had realized soon afterwards, because she drank regularly from then on and occasionally took pills she supposedly needed for her nerves or for her insomnia. And I just felt helpless and totally overwhelmed because I had no idea how to help her. There was no one to whom I could have confided. So I kept it a secret and tried to cover up what happened almost daily in our house. My mom hadn't been very sociable before, but she hadn't left the house in five years. It was too embarrassing for her that someone could find out that she was drinking. My dad knew about her condition, but either he didn't care or he tried to block it out. In any case, he did nothing to help her. So only I remained. And suddenly I understood why my mom had been so hostile towards Brooke. She was afraid. Afraid to lose me to a girl. Because if she lost me, she would have nothing left in her life to live for. Gently, I took the receiver from her hand and put my arm around her. "Take a rest, Mom. You will feel better after that." When she nodded, I brought her to her room, helping her into bed. I already had the door handle in my hand when she called me back.
"Julian? Promise me... that you... that you won't see this... this girl again..."
I looked at her for a moment before I nodded hesitantly. "I promise," I said softly, knowing at that moment that I lied to my mom for the first time in my life.
I was sitting on the bed in my room at home, holding my phone in my hand and trying to conjure it to ring. It was only a few hours ago that I said goodbye to Julian, but I couldn't wait to make the next appointment with him. It wasn't because I was so keen on math, but rather because of the fact that I really enjoyed Julian's presence. He was able to explain well and had a calmness and patience, that even I understood everything. With his help, I would certainly pass the next math test. I was firmly convinced of that. I had been staring at my phone all the time that I flinched as the tune to 'Don't You' sounded. I had changed my ringtone after I got home and put it on Julian's profile. "Hey!"
"About our next lesson... I thought we might meet tomorrow after school."
"Okay, and where? At mine or at your place?"
"In the cafeteria."
I nervously began to nibble on my lower lip. So my feeling didn't betray me. His mother didn't want me near her house again. "Okay," I said slowly, feverishly thinking what else to say so he wouldn't just end the conversation. "Thank you for tutoring me. You were a tremendous help." When he laughed, I felt a tingle in my stomach.
"Take care, Brooke. See you tomorrow."
I took a deep breath before telling him what had been in my mind all day. "What are you doing in your spare time?"
"What do you mean?"
"Do you have any hobbies?"
"What do you do when you come home from school, don't study or don't give any private lessons to various girls," I explained more precisely, waiting eagerly for his answer. For a moment there was only silence. But then I heard him clear his throat.
"Well, if I told you that you're the only and first girl I give private lessons to, would you believe me?"
Why did my stupid heart start beating so fast all of a sudden? The question was completely harmless, and yet I felt this tingling sensation all over my body. I covered the speaker with my hand. "The only and first girl," I whispered audibly only for me. "Yes," I breathed into the speaker. "I would believe you."
"Okay, then... see you tomorrow, Brooke!"
"Julian..." I started, but he had already hung up. I put my cell phone aside, dropped back and closed my eyes. And as I slowly drifted to sleep, the last thing I saw was his face before my mind's eye, dark brown eyes and a smile that could make you forget everything else around you.
Tree Hill High School
The next morning, while at school, I was completely lost in my thoughts, so that Haley, who was not only my friend but also my seat neighbor, had to bump me with her elbow so that I could follow our teacher's instructions. I was relieved when the school gong rang signaling that the lessons were over for today. I quickly stuffed my books into my school bag and was about to leave the classroom when Haley held me back.
"You'll tell me right away what's wrong with you, otherwise I won't let you go!"
It sounded almost like a threat, and I sank back onto my chair with a sigh. "Okay, I'll tell you, but promise me you're not going to make stupid comments."
She nodded and sat down next to me. "Tell me!"
"I'm meeting Julian," I confessed, and then saw how amusing she seemed to find it. "And no stupid grin," I added, as her smile widened.
"You have a crush on him."
It was not a question but a simple statement that made me feel compelled to correct it before she got it wrong. "I don't have a crush on him," I set it right, raising an eyebrow to emphasize my words. "I'm taking tutoring lessons from him."
"Oh, you meet him to study. Of course, that's something completely different."
Did I hear any hidden irony in her words? Her stupid grin proved clearly that she didn't believe me. "Haley, I only met him yesterday. Even I don't fall for a boy so quickly."
"You met him the day before yesterday, if I may correct you. And ever since you've been hanging around with him."
"To study, yes." I rolled my eyes annoyed. Sometimes Haley could be really stubborn. As she suddenly turned her head to the door and began to grin again, I followed her gaze.
"Speaking of the devil..."
"Julian!" His sight alone raised my heartbeat. I quickly jumped up and grabbed my things. But Haley was faster. She stood in front of him, smiled and held out her hand to him.
"Hi, I'm Haley, Brooke's best friend."
"Hi, Haley. I'm Julian."
"Yes, I know. I've heard a lot about you."
For this remark I would have liked to kick her in her butt. Couldn't it be more embarrassing! And Julian apparently felt uncomfortable about it too, because he looked abashed on the floor. "Can we go?" I don't know where I took the courage to grab Julian's arm and push him out of the classroom. I paid no attention to Haley. She would have to explain to me later what that remark had been. We reached the cafeteria when he suddenly stopped and looked at me.
"What did you tell the others about me?"
The question struck me as a surprise and at first I didn't know what to answer. "Nothing," I said after a while of silence. "I swear, I didn't say anything about you. Only that we study together."
He nodded and then sat down at one of the free tables and pulled out his schoolbooks. "Then let's start."
The atmosphere between us was strangely strained since the classroom incident, so after a short while I could barely concentrate on what he was explaining to me. It didn't make any sense that way. I jumped up from my chair, shoved my books quickly into my school bag and then took a deep breath. "You're afraid of people gossiping about you, what they might think when they see you with me," I said, noticing my voice quivering slightly.
"That's not true!"
"Yes it is. At least be honest with yourself," I hurled the worlds at him. "Do you think I didn't notice how your mother looked at me?" When he lowered his head, I knew I was right. "Thanks for your help," I said, trying not to show how hurt I was. "But we should just stop this here and now. I don't want to ruin your reputation." I turned away from him and suddenly noticed, to my own horror, tears in my eyes.
As he grabbed my arm and slowly turned me to face him, I saw in his eyes the same disappointment that I felt right now.
"I don't care what my mother says. And I don't care what others say. What's important is what we both want."
I closed my eyes and noticed the tears running down my cheeks.
"What do you want, Brooke Davis?"
When he raised his hand and then gently stroked my cheek with his finger to wipe away the tears, tutoring was the last thing on my mind. But I was also aware that I couldn't tell him what I really wanted - to kiss him. So I just tried to think businesslike. "I want you to give me further tutoring," I said in a slightly trembling voice and immediately felt a swarm of butterflies flying through my stomach as he grinned at me satisfied. My God, what had I let myself getting into? Haley was right. I really had a 'crush' on Julian, or to put it better, I had fallen head over heels in love with him.
"Can we go on?"
His question freed me from my emotional chaos and I just nodded. But my joy that we had decided to work together shouldn't last long when Julian's cell phone began to ring. I watched him how he took the call and suddenly became nervous. He hurriedly stuffed his books in his school bag.
"I'm sorry, Brooke, but I have to leave now."
He just ditched me and ran out of the cafeteria. And I just stood there and didn't know how to interpret the situation. Did he use the call as an excuse to get away from me, or had it been his girlfriend who wanted to check on him if he was faithful to her? However, our 'date' had cut short and I packed my stuff and headed home.
I can't remember ever having cycled home from school so fast. When I arrived at our house, I was completely out of breath. While I unlocked the door with trembling fingers and then took two steps at a time, sprinting upwards, I wondered what would await me this time. She had sounded really desperate and anxious on the phone. But my imagination was far from reality when I pushed open my mother's bedroom door and found her lifeless body on the floor. With one glance around, I noticed the half-empty bottles that lay next to her and the tube of pills that was also already half emptied. Pure fear let me hold my breath as I dropped to my knees beside her, groping for her pulse with trembling hands. "Mom! Mom, can you hear me?" I shook her slightly, making sure she was still alive. But she didn't respond to my words. Half blind, because tears were blurring my vision, I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone. I called 9-1-1 and then everything happened quickly. Paramedics and a doctor stormed into our house, laid my mother on a stretcher, and carried her to the ambulance. I was allowed to ride in the back because there was no more space in the front. And as we drove with blue light and sirens to the hospital, I held her hand and prayed that she would survive. While my mother got medical treatment at the hospital, I had to wait outside in the waiting area and suddenly wished that Brooke was here. Although we hadn't known each other for a long time, I knew that I could trust her. But maybe it was just wishful thinking on my part, because I so yearned for someone with whom I could share my worries.
I looked up as the doctor approached me. "Yes?"
"Your mother is out of danger. We pumped her stomach out and gave her an infusion."
"How... how long will she have to stay in the hospital?" I asked, feeling my heart beat faster with relief.
"Only one day. She's even responsive and assured us that it was not her intention to kill herself, but that she simply underestimated the effect of alcohol together with sleeping pills."
He smiled, and all of a sudden I felt just ice-cold rage. It was so typical of her to downplay her addiction. She urgently needed help. Help that I couldn't give her. "She needs help," I mumbled, surprised that I had actually voiced the words loudly.
"You mean she drinks on occasion?"
I nodded silently because I didn't know what else to say. For years I had watched how she slowly destroyed herself. Here we were at a point where I couldn't and didn't want to bear it anymore.
"Well, in that case, your mother might want to think about therapy."
I rolled my eyes. You could rather teach a horse to fly, than to make my mother accept professional help. It was not like I didn't try. But as long as she didn't accept that she was ill, I couldn't help her.
"You live alone with your mother?"
I looked at the doctor thoughtfully for a moment before I nodded. 'Yes, all my life,' I silently added, though it wasn't quite true. But that's how it felt to me because my dad was married to his job and lived his life far away from ours.
"Your father is still alive?"
I nodded again, though it didn't really matter if he was alive or dead. It made almost no difference, because he was never there anyway and didn't care about us either.
"Then you should let your father know. Maybe he can convince your mother to take therapy."
"I hardly believe that, but... thanks." I got up. "Can I see her?"
The doctor nodded and then took me to the room where my mother was lying. As I pushed the door open and faced her, I felt a stab in my heart. She had been such a wonderful, lovable person before she had succumbed to alcohol. And now she was just a shadow of herself. She just didn't deserve this. With a few steps, I was at her bedside and took her in my arms. "I'm sorry, I wasn't there sooner," I said quietly, burying my face against her shoulder. She held me tight, and I let the tears flow that I had tried to suppress all the time.
Three days had passed since I last heard from Julian. And gradually I was really worried. Not only hadn't he called me, he hadn't shown up at school either. Supposedly he was ill, as I learned from one of his classmates. And even if that was a plausible explanation for his absence, I didn't believe it. It was a strange coincidence that he had fallen ill just after our debate. I couldn't hide my distressed mood from Haley when I drove to her for homework the third day of Julian's absence.
"Your concentration is lacking. The sentence you just wrote is full of spelling and grammatical mistakes. What's wrong with you?"
I put my pen aside, sighed, and ran a hand through my hair. "It's about Julian," I said, glaring at Haley as she started to smile. "That's no reason to be happy. I'm really worried. He hasn't been to school for days."
"Did anything happen between the two of you?"
"No, not since our last conversation." I was lost in thought for a moment, but couldn't think of a reason why he should avoid me.
"Did you call him?"
I nodded. "At least a dozen times. He doesn't answer my calls. Or better, his mailbox is activated. He turned off his cellphone."
"If you can't reach him by phone, then go to his house."
Yes, that was exactly it! Why didn't I have the idea? I would just ride to his house and convince myself how he was doing. I jumped up from my chair and embraced my friend. "Thanks, Haley! You're the best!" I quickly packed my stuff and put my bag over my shoulder.
I heard her words as I was almost out the door. It was a long way from Haley's to Julian's house. And when I finally got there, I was completely out of breath. I parked my bike and walked slowly up the driveway until I came to the steps that led to the house. I hadn't quite reached the door when it was suddenly opened. In the doorway stood Julian's mother, and her look didn't bode well.
"You are not welcome here! I thought I made that clear the last time."
I flinched involuntarily. She had a kind of nature that made me deeply unsure and made me feel small and shabby. "I... I'm just here to find out how... Julian is," I stuttered.
"That's none of your business!"
"Please Mrs. Norris," I pleaded. "I just want to know how he's doing, because he hasn't been to school for so long."
"Yes, I know." I shifted nervously from one foot to the other and would have liked to storm the house to convince myself of his health. But she stood before me like an avenging angel, ready to throw me into purgatory. "Can you at least tell me what's wrong with him?"
"He has a bronchitis."
I knew that I didn't get any further with this. This woman hated me. That was quite obvious. And she would rather chop off her hand than let me see her son. "Then... then tell him that he should get well soon," I mumbled, turning away to leave. But suddenly something occurred to me. "Please tell him to call me when he's feeling better." I finally turned away from her and noticed her piercing look, like a knife in my back, as I slowly walked down the driveway until I came to the place where my bike was chained up. I took one last look back to the house, got on my bike and drove home.
Tree Hill High
It took me 10 days to overcome my bronchitis and to go back to school. And then I saw her. She stood in the middle of a group of teenagers and laughed at something that someone had just said. When I heard her laugh, my heart began to ache. How could I explain to her that I couldn't give her tutoring anymore? Or in other words, how could I explain to her that we wouldn't meet again at all? My mother had used the time I had spent in bed to make her own plans. She had contacted my father and told him that she intended to move back to LA. No one had even asked for my opinion. But it has always been like that. I was in the hierarchy of this family, if you could call us that, far below. My opinion didn't count. They just decided over my head. And I had complied because I didn't want to leave her alone. Even though she hoped that we would become a family again, I knew that changing the location wouldn't change our situation. My dad would continue to work and take care of his own life, and we would have to see how we could manage our own. For me, it meant a change of school, which in itself wasn't bad, because I was quite flexible and had no friends here anyway that I would miss. With one exception: Brooke. As if she had guessed my thoughts, she suddenly raised her head and looked in my direction. I tried to smile, but I failed miserably.
As she ran towards me, I thought for a moment she would fling her arms around my neck, but just before she had reached me, she suddenly stopped.
"Are you okay?"
I nodded because my throat was suddenly tight. Her eyes lit up, and I could see how happy she was to see me again. "Can we talk privately?" I said quietly that no one would hear. She nodded and then smiled at me.
"In the cafeteria?"
I nodded and then went ahead. Arriving in the cafeteria, I sat down at the table where we had last studied together. She was nervous. I could clearly see that because she was constantly running her fingers through her long hair and chewing on her lower lip. It was time to tell her the truth. "Brooke, I... I have something to tell you," I began, meeting her curious gaze. She had sat down opposite me with her elbows propped up on the table.
"What do you want to tell me?"
She looked expectantly at me with her fawn-colored eyes, and I knew that I would extinguish that shine in her eyes. "I can't give you tutoring lessons anymore," I said hastily, because I wanted to get it over with quickly. And I was right. She looked at me with wide eyes and I could see shock and confusion in them.
"Why, what have I done?" she asked alarmed.
Why did she think she had done something? "Nothing," I hurried to say quickly. "You didn't do anything. It's not you. I would love to continue tutoring you, but I... " I stopped because my throat was suddenly constricted. It had been so easy when I had practiced it in front of the bathroom mirror. But to see her now face to face was something completely different. "Brooke, I'm going to leave Tree Hill," I confessed to her softly. "I'm going back to Los Angeles with my mom."
When her eyes filled with tears, I wanted to take my words back. But I also knew that I couldn't. It was like a patch. You had to tear it down quickly so it wouldn't hurt so much.
"In two weeks. We still have some things to do before we can move to L.A."
"In two weeks..."
I nodded, and then I remembered. "Your big math test is in two weeks," I said, looking at her sympathetically. "I'm sorry, Brooke. I would have liked to help you. But maybe you can find someone else who can give you private lessons." It was not what she had expected, because suddenly she jumped up from her chair without a warning and ran away. Confused, I followed her with my eyes. What had I said that she just ran away? And while I mulled it over, the gong sounded, signaling that the next lesson had started.
I heard the gong, but I didn't care. I couldn't go to class now. As the other students scrambled into the classes, I made my way through them and ran to the girls' restroom. Luckily, no one else was there except me. I entered one of the cabins, locked up behind me and slowly slipped to the floor, tears streaming down my cheeks. I had waited so long for the moment to see Julian again. I had wanted to tell him that I felt more for him than just friendship. I had wanted to ask him if we could meet for a real date. My diary was full of entries about Julian and what I hoped for us in the future. I had written his name with hearts around it. And now I was sitting here on the cold, dirty floor in the girls' restroom, crying my heart out. There would be no future for us because he would go to L.A, a city thousands of miles away from me. He would meet another girl there, fall in love, get married, have children with her... Suddenly the door opened and someone came in.
"Brooke? Are you there?"
I scrambled to my feet, put the latch back and flung my arms around her neck. "Haley," I sobbed on her shoulder and closed my eyes as she stroked my hair. "He's leaving Tree Hill. He's going to Los Angeles." I didn't need to say much, because I knew Haley understood. It took a while for her to let go of me when she noticed that my sobs were getting fewer.
"When you didn't turn up to class, I asked if I could look for you. I knew where you were right away. You always go there when you feel miserable."
I nodded and gratefully accepted the handkerchief that Haley handed me. "That's true," I admitted. "But this time it's worse." When she chuckled, I frowned. "What's so amusing about it?"
"Nothing, only that I knew it all the time. You really fell in love with him, right?"
I nodded and felt tears in my eyes again. "But that doesn't matter now because he's leaving Tree Hill in two weeks."
"You should tell him anyway."
"That I have feelings for him?" I shook my head. "I'd only make a fool of myself. He believes that I'm only interested in tutoring."
"You just want to let him go like that?"
"What else am I supposed to do?" I exclaimed desperately. "He's going to L.A. in two weeks and maybe I'll never see him again."
"At least you have two weeks left. You should use that. Why don't you ask him for a date?"
Yes, why not? Haley was right. Either I gave up on Julian right away, or I tried to make the best of the situation in the remaining two weeks. "Okay," I agreed. "I'll call him and ask him for a date."
"Great. Then that's settled and we can finally go back to class."
I smiled involuntarily when I saw Haley rolling her eyes. Yes, sometimes she didn't have an easy time with me. I had to admit that. But what are friends for?
"Clean up your face. No need that the others see you were crying."
I went to the sink, put my hand under the soap dispenser and pressed the button. My eyes started to burn as I rubbed my face with soap, but at least I was freed from tears and make-up afterwards. "Am I presentable enough?" I asked Haley after washing my face with clear water and then drying it off.
"Perfect. Now let's go."
I took one last look in the mirror and then left with Haley to attend the rest of the lesson.