Coffee, the greatest discovery man has ever made, it is one of the many things I learnt during my time at law school. Going back to university in my late twenties was far from easy, coffee was my salvation. The first thing I did once I walked out my apartment door was go to the nearest Starbucks, years later my morning routine is still the same, it’s just a different coffee shop I step through. I’m not saying I chose my office’s location due to Marcella’s across the street, and the fact they make the best coffee and Danishes, just that it might have had a small role in the decision.
The moment I smile at Jenna behind the counter she nods her head and without one word exchanged she starts making my order. I have become predictable it seems, and you know what, it feels good.
“Good weekend?” I ask Jenna, getting my cash out.
She groans, “Don’t wanna talk about it”
“One of those, huh?”
“Yep. What about you?”
I worked mostly, “it was good” that is less conspicuous than fine, right?
Giving Jenna the note and taking the tray I keep my head down, I just need one cup to help wake me up and focus everything for the day ahead. And I’m going to need my nerves, because today I come face to face with mama and papa Scott.
“See you at lunch” Jenna farewells me and I look back up and wink, “it’s a date” and with that I turn away and take my first sip.
“You wish” is called out after me and I chuckle as I step out of the front door and cross the street.
My reprieve is short lived, the moment I walk into the reception room Kerri looks up from the desk, still talking into the ear piece she sends me a serious look and holds up her hand. The first thing I do is place her latte on the desk and then I go straight to my office, even as the door shuts I feel her glare on my back.
Six minutes later my door opens and Kerri walks in, “he called again. Three times”
“Is it Christmas?” I ask curious, surely I have missed something, “my birthday is a month away” I add on in a mumble. Kerri rolled her eyes and I can’t help but chuckle, she is so cute when she’s mad, scary but cute.
She takes a step forward and crosses her arms and I make no plans to check if she is tapping her foot, “he is your father, ever thought he might just want to see how you are?”
Now that is classic, Paul calling up to see how I am, that will be the day. Frowning I start moving the folders on my desk, trying to distract myself from her disapproving glare, “it happens” Kerri says and I refrain from replying how it’s never happened to me before, and she knows that, after all we’ve worked together for years.
Hiding my bitterness with calm sarcasm I look up and smile “maybe he needs a kidney” and then I look back down, instinctively glancing at the folder I’m now holding, the one with Scott written on it, and suddenly my joke doesn’t seem so funny. Just further proof family is not for me, if the Brooke I use to know could turn into a mother who would use her kid then what hope do the rest of us have. Keep it simple, keep it free, and nobody gets hurt.
“Anything else?” I ask, wanting to firmly put my father where he belongs, behind me.
Without answering Kerri leaves, the door shutting loudly behind her. The quiet never lasts for long and as if on cue the phone rings.
Just before eleven I hear Kerri’s voice rise, “you can’t go in there”
Even before I hear the husky voice answer I know exactly who it is, butterflies fill my stomach even as I smile at the feisty “watch me” Brooke Davis calls out just before I hear the doorknob turn.
In the split second before she appears in front of me the past flashes before my eyes, I stand unwilling to be sitting placidly when she sees me, and I get ready for what I realise I’ve been expecting from the moment I read her name in Abby’s scrawl.
There are red alerts in a relationship, ones that tell you to look out for danger ahead, and let me tell you, when you tell a girl you are in love with her and all she can say is she likes you a lot, then those alerts start ringing loudly. She tells you “you can’t chose who you love” and you wonder if she still loves him, and when she tells you she doesn’t a part of you doubts it, it’s hard not to when you are giving everything you can and they are holding back. But I didn’t let go, I fought, because I knew that one day Brooke Davis would love me back. And she did.
Possibly the greatest night of my life, I take that back, it is the greatest night of my life, was when Brooke surprised me on set of my last movie and said those three words I’d been waiting for. It was the closest to perfect I have ever gotten; it blew my past experience with Peyton completely out the window. We didn’t sleep that night, we made love, and we made plans for our future, in those hours I had everything I thought I could possibly ever want. Finally we did fall asleep, with the sun high above us. I fell asleep with the woman I loved in my arms only to wake up to a whole new world. I woke up to a nightmare
Cold, that is how it felt when I opened my eyes, and before I even saw Brooke I knew something had gone terribly wrong. Getting up with the sheet wrapped around my waist I found Brooke dressed and hastily repacking her bag in the living room, “Brooke”
And then those tear stained eyes turned to me, “I have to go”
“You just got here” on retrospect I probably should have asked what had happened, I should have done something to comfort her, but I was frozen, because all I could process in that moment was that she was leaving.
Instead I stood still as Brooke gave up on her luggage and swore, grabbing simply her handbag she went to leave, and by the time I caught up with her she was nearly on the street.
I remember calling her name over and over again, yet my voice didn’t seem to register, and it wasn’t until I grabbed her arm and span her back around that she seemed to remember I even existed, “where are we going?” and I smiled, the moment I did I knew I’d done something wrong.
“Peyton’s dead” was all she said.
I’ve heard it said you never forget your first love, I don’t believe you ever forget your second or third or any other either, but that first love does seem to somehow keep your affection even years later. Peyton’s death hit me hard; it hit a lot of people even harder.
In one swift blow Brooke had lost her best friend and the joy in our reunion was gone. Brooke’s mask went immediately up, and with Lucas deep in grief Brooke saw it upon herself to keep everyone together, she planned the funeral, made sure Lucas was coping alone, made sure baby Sawyer was healthy and happy, hell she practically had the weight of Tree Hill’s grief on her shoulders so it wouldn’t collapse and destroy us all. Meanwhile she pushed everyone away, even me. All I wanted was to be the shoulder she cried on, and yet she barely could meet my eye.
For four months I stood by quietly and let it happen, I kept thinking time would heal the wounds and if I just waited like I had before then she would come back to me. Not physically, on the surface we were a couple, we shared a house and a bed, but emotionally we grew further and further apart.
Four months after the accident, months of barely seeing my girlfriend and our conversations not flowing like they use to, I snapped. As much as I had wanted to deny it I’d known I was losing her, slowly bit by bit she was taking her heart back. I never thought it would bother me that Brooke didn’t need me, but back then there were moments when I would have done anything to feel like she did.
And what really started to piss me off, probably more than it should have, is how much time she spent with Lucas. I hadn’t seen him since the funeral, we were not close friends if we were ever friends in the first place, and I didn’t know what to say to a man who just lost his wife, especially when I resented his monopolising so much of my girl’s time. I still to this day just want to know why it had to be Brooke?
The man had Haley and Nathan, a whole town of friends, why did it have to be Brooke who always checked in on him, who had taken on the role of surrogate mother for Sawyer, it simply drove me crazy. I hated calling her and hearing the baby in the background, or her saying she’s working late when she wouldn’t have to if she didn’t check in on Lucas so much. Why did our dishes get left uncleaned so she could make sure his house is spotless?
I loved her, more than I had ever loved before or since then, and she was slipping away. Just like that. Brooke had given me no reason to not trust her, at the same time she hadn’t given me much of a reason not to feel like everything I felt was justified.
Which is why one day I found myself on all fours going through her home looking for a book, some might call me a mad man and say what I did was irrational but if you knew our history, and my history, then you may understand where I was coming from. The reason I broke her trust, that reason has a name – Lucas Scott.
See the brooding blonde is the bane of my existence, he is seemingly incapable of not falling in love with every girl who looks his way, and then using his words and stupid, squinting eyes to make them love him back. It’s as if once they have Lucas Scott no other guy can compete, and I should know, I have fallen in love exactly two times, and both of those times with an ex of yes you guessed it, Lucas Scott. When the elegantly, graceful Peyton Sawyer walked into my life, god, something hit my heart and I fell hard and fast, she was saucy and quick and verbal battle with her was the best foreplay there was, and the tortured look in her eyes just made me want to make her smile, and best of all she had a love of music that rivalled mine. I thought I had found the one, eventually we moved in together and life seemed perfect. But (there is always a but) every time she saw a copy of the book ‘An Unkindness of Ravens’ she would buy it, damn, she took a copy everywhere she went and constantly reread it. Maybe it wouldn’t have concerned me if the book hadn’t been written by her ex and a large chunk of it was dedicated to their adolescent relationship. When she couldn’t close her suitcase – for our weekend away together – because of that book, well, I snapped. I could no longer compete with a memory. I resented Lucas Scott and that book for breaking my heart, so much so that I couldn’t resist the temptation to read it. The thing was, I loved the book and every single character described. Not only was I enthralled by this version of Peyton that was so different to the girl I knew, but there was this other girl, the other girl from the book – Brooke Davis. She captivated me. Her devotion, her heart, her struggle, how everyone she loved let her down yet she still managed to take the world by storm. She was a survivor and she didn’t need anyone else to help her claim that title. I had no idea what I was walking into when I hopped a plane to Tree Hill with the intention of offering Lucas a movie deal, what I found was the close nit group of friends still around each other, Lucas and Peyton happily engaged, and Brooke Davis as beautiful, wonderful and messed up as she’d been in the book. The first ever conversation I had with her she threatened me. How could I not fall in love with her? Tell me that. I did, quicker than I thought I ever could, not after what happened with Peyton, but I did. Brooke Davis does not give her heart easily, she once gave it to an immature boy and he managed to smash it into little pieces. That boy was Lucas Scott, and in high school he cheated on her with her best friend, which would be Peyton, and she never loved or trusted the same again. Was I worried about dating another Lucas Scott ex? Yes, I was. Brooke might have had issues due to her first round with love, but so did I. And as willing as she was her heart never seemed willing, so after four months of no more I love you , I started to wonder if my second try at love was going to end the same way as my first - losing to him.
Does any of this explain why I ended up destroying the house trying to find a book?
I was convinced there had to be something, something somewhere, that linked to their past. Peyton had dozens of the same book, so where was Brooke’s thing? Because I’d starting to feel like there was more to this than her wanting to be there for a friend and I simply couldn’t be in another relationship haunted by his shadow.
What happened next is still so vivid in my memory.
Brooke catching me by surprise, confused and asking me what I was doing, and not feeling one bit guilty I’d looked to her.
“Are you going through my stuff?” her eyes had pinned me to the spot, no longer confused she’ turned to the familiar anger, something I’d managed to raise in her over and over again in those four months.
Still half crazed I’d ignored her emotions, caught up in my own “It has to be here somewhere. I’ve looked over the whole house”
“What are you talking about?”
“The book, Brooke! I am talking about Lucas’ book” my shout still echoes in my mind sometimes, every single time I see a copy of that novel.
At first she was taken aback by my admission and then her body had stiffened and she’d crossed her arms in a defensive move, every inch telling me to back off, and soon her composure was as cool as her voice “Julian, you won’t find it so whatever you are trying to prove is pointless”
See that was the thing, if anything Lucas was at least her friend so she should have a copy of his novel, it would be strange for her not
to. So I didn’t know how to react to the lack of Lucas, in fact it’s as if he’d been completely erased from the house, even the few pictures of him had no longer been up. All I could think was, so what is she hiding?
I’m a masochist, I should just leave it as it is, and I should just accept their friendship and trust that I’m the one she is in love with.
That is what I told myself, it’s not what I did though.
“Pointless? You don’t talk to me, ever since Peyton’s death you’ve been pushing me away… you still refuse to let me in” I spat the words out at her, and saw them hit her one after the other and then her mask slipped on. She licked her lips, I remember even that small detail, “I told you I loved you, what more do you want?”
As if she’d done it for me and not for her and that killed me, that made all my doubts seem more real “YOU!” I grabbed her by the shoulders, “I can’t take it anymore, I want you back, the real you, all of you, not Lucas Scott’s left over’s”
“I’m not his left over’s”
I refused to admit I’d used the wrong words, I was not mad, I was desperate to hold onto that one night before it all went wrong. Whispering I had changed my tone, “where were you, before you came home, can you tell me you weren’t at his house?” and maybe if she said no I could get it all back. But you already know the end to the story.
“Julian, he is my friend”
“He has other friends”
“You’re right, but I made a promise to Peyton that if anything happened to her I would be there for Lucas and Sawyer. This isn’t about our past, and I know it’s hard on you but it will get better. I promise you”
“When? It has been four months so when do you get your life back?”
“They are a part of my life, they always will be-”
“If he is such a big part of your life then where the hell is his book? I thought it was bad enough when Peyton threw him at my face but this is ten times worse, having you hide him away-”
“Stop Julian, stop before you say something you regret. I’ve told you how I feel, I am not the one putting Lucas between us, you are, so just stop”
To this day I’m still convinced I did the right thing when I ignored her plea and didn’t stop, her words only inflaming me more.
My reply is logged in my memory word for word, like most of that day, “You might have not put Lucas between us Brooke but that wall you refuse to bash down, you sure as hell built that”
It’s her reply that really hurts my head, where the guilt suddenly appears.
“Fine! You want in, is that what you want? Want me to open up every corner of my broken heart, will that make you happy, I’ll show you the god damn book”
and she hit my chest before spinning around and heading towards the spare room. I had to jog to keep up with her strides, and without elegance Brooke stormed into the room and opened the closet pulling out a big box before dumping it on the bed and tipping all its contents over.
The thought that flashed through my mind in that moment was a bittersweet I guess I just found Lucas
. One of those be careful what you wish for moments.
Next Brooke picked up a package and threw it at me, “there is what you’re looking for!” she screamed, not one tear in her eye she tried to pick everything up and put it back in the box. At that point I barely noticed the package that had fallen by my feet; instead my eyes were taken in by all the letters, the photos, the insignificant pieces that must have meant something to Brooke. It wasn’t until she stuffed a grey sweater into the box that a sob broke free.
That was when I flinched and unable to look at her I finally paid attention to the package. The brown unopened paper with Brooke’s name on it above a New York address is bright in my memory, a beacon. You would have to be a complete idiot to not recognise a book inside its shape, “you never opened it?”
“No” one simple word can change everything even more.
Which left me with one burning question, “you’ve never read it?”
“I lived it”
The memories fade and I find myself back in my office, the door opening completely and Brooke Davis… Brooke Scott storms in. She doesn’t simply walk, she glides in all her feisty glory, her presence taking over the room and forcing all other memories to vanish. It’s only the now.
I might have subconsciously expected this confrontation since finding out the connection but I now realise I’m far from ready for it.
“Look who it is” and I’m shocked that the words actually come out normally and aren’t a nervous stutter.
She stops, eyes slowly looking me up and down before she meets my eyes, and I smile like what you see?
But then she frowns and I realise she is simply trying to figure me out.
“What is this about?” she asks practically screaming, and damn that voice still can send shivers down a man’s spine.
I shrug, “I have no idea what you are talking about”
“So I’m meant to believe it’s a coincidence you’re my daughter’s lawyer” and she kinks her eyebrow, a Brooke Davis signature move.
“Yes. I had no idea who Abby was when she first approached me but I assure you Brooke, she came to me, not the other way around” why I even bother defending myself to this woman is beyond me, after everything that happened she should explaining things to me.
Her body relaxes, “do you know about Keith?”
“Your son, yes. He’s very sick”
“He’s dying, and if he doesn’t get a kidney transplant soon he’s gone. My son will be dead” she looks straight at me, her voice so calm as if these are words she must have to say every day. They probably are. But there’s a slight hopeful look in her eyes, a light, as if I can safe him and I guess a part of her thinks that is true. If I end this case then Abby can go back to being the organ farm her family use her as… okay, even thinking that phrase in connection to that young girl seems wrong, even thinking them in connection to Brooke feels wrong. Essentially though that is what is going on, and though letting Abby down might save Keith it won’t fix what is broken in that family. It won’t turn Abby back into the girl they need her to be.
I stare just as hard at Brooke, “and what about Abby, what about what she wants?”
“Don’t speak about my children as if you know anything about what they want” she shoots out fast.
I smile, I can’t help it “isn’t that why you’re here though, why I’m here? Because of what Abby wanted-” I shake my head “-it’s too late to stop this”
“I can’t believe that” she pauses, looking down her hair falls over her face, masking her hazel eyes from my view. When she speaks it is in a whisper “I can’t stop Abby if this is what she wants, but I also know she doesn’t want her brother to die, but I can’t stop this. You can
“It seems the whole problem is the kid feels like no one gives her a choice, everyone who should care about her is always telling her what to do… I won’t be another one of those people” I refuse to be. Besides, she is paying me.
“And I am?” her eyes fly up, her already pale skin losing the rest of its colour. “I am doing my best, Julian, I’m trying to hold onto the pieces of my family, what am I supposed to do, let Keith die?” her eyes are begging me for some sort of answer, okay, begging someone, maybe its not me.
I lean back in my chair, “if there is one thing you taught me it’s that sometimes you just have to let go”
Anger stains her cheeks, “I can’t believe you just compared my children’s lives to our relationship”
Before I can even respond there is a small knock on the door and Kerri pops her head in, “Mr Baker, your eleven o’clock is here”
“Good, show him in” I say and Kerri remains looking between Brooke and I, I tilt my head at Brooke “are we finished here?”
She simply nods and goes to leave, “it was a pleasure seeing you again” I call after her and she turns back once to glare at me before flicking her head back around and storming out.
Kerri steps into the room as Brooke leaves, her eyes follow the brunette to the elevator and then she lets out a long whistle before turning back to me “so that’s the Brooke Davis”
“In the flesh”
“She’s younger than I expected” and then she waits, eyeing me in that what aren’t you telling me
way that she does.
“I sensed some serious I know what you did last summer
vibes between you two”
“Um… I’m not sure what you are implying” that I’m a stalker?
Kerri lifts her brows “she knew you and you know her. Ex girlfriend?” she smiles but her eyes suddenly widen “oh my god, she is, isn’t she?”
“Kerri, we probably shouldn’t leave Mr Atkinson waiting”
Quickly back stepping Kerri nods, “right” and finally leaves my office.
At four o’clock I sit across from Judge Peters, explaining Abby’s case. I am all too aware that the girl in question sits outside waiting with both her parents, and I try not to think about the boy that’s life may depend on what is decided here today, my focus has to remain on Abby. Not her mother, not her father and sure as hell not her brother, a boy who should mean nothing to me. But listening to the Scott’s lawyer I’m even starting to hate me, “let’s get one thing straight here” I interrupt, “Keith Scott is not what this case is about, it’s about a twelve year old girl who has been to hospital more times than I can count yet has never been sick, the same girl who approached a lawyer so her rights could be looked after”
“A twelve year old girl who is too young to fully understand the repercussions of her actions, it is her parents place to-”
“Use her as a living organ donor?” I once again cut in, the judge looks between us and then slowly places her pen down. She looks at me from above her wire rimmed glasses, “Mr Baker, does your client understand what winning this case means”
“Yes, your honour, Abra Scott is well aware of her brother’s condition, but like I’ve said this is about her not him. She is also well aware of the risks that come with the operation, and how it will forever change her life and health” and that is what I am trying to convince the judge, to put aside the natural flinching at letting a young boy die and focus on Abby. If I can keep it that way the case is a lock, like I told Abby, nobody can force you to donate an organ against your will.
Peters manages to smile at me and sits straighter in her chair, “let me speak to the plaintiff… alone”
I nod and quickly get up, the other lawyer, whatever his name is follows behind me.
Outside the room my attention quickly goes to Abby, she sits on one of the benches along the wall, her small feet swinging back and forth, “Abby, the judge wants to speak to you”
Abby’s begins to look up and already I’m thinking about how to instruct her in what to say and what to avoid, but she doesn’t look to me, instead when Abby looks up she turns straight to her parents. The family, it’s always going to be the weakest link.
“Abby” I say, sterner this time to force her attention to me, and I make a point of not looking at Brooke or Lucas. Even though I can feel them glaring at me, holding out my hand I keep my eyes on Abby, she eventually nods and gets up and placing my palm on the small of her back I lead her to the office, lowering my voice I manage to get out one sentence before she enters the room “just remember everything you’ve said to me, focus on what you want”
I stop at the doorway and let Judge Peters take over, but just before the door shuts I see Abby’s big eyes look directly at me. Damn it, she’s scared.
This is why I hate working with kids. Shit. I march back down the hallway and see Brooke, my intention is to avoid them but both send worried eyes too me, “is she okay?” Brooke is quick to ask, and I frown, I can’t help it, she sounds genuinely worried.
“Is this normal? Our lawyer never said they would want to talk to Abby this soon, she’s not ready” Lucas adds on.
“She gets intimidated easily” Brooke then says, “I don’t understand why you can’t be in there with her, she shouldn’t be alone”
“Hold up, can you both just stop worrying. From what I’ve seen of Abby she can handle herself, besides the judge just wants to get Abby’s side without any adults whispering in her ear”
“Okay, okay” Brooke mumbles to herself and I can’t help but notice the protective way Lucas wraps an arm over her shoulder and squeezes her hand with his free one. I really don’t’ want to see all this husband and wife-ness. If I want to vomit I prefer doing so after too much whisky, speaking of, I could use a stiff drink right about now.
With Lucas and Brooke’s attention momentarily off me I take my chance to escape, but soon I’m called back in to see the judge, I take the seat next to Abby and the Scott’s sit next to their lawyer.
“I am appointing a guardian ad litem to spend two weeks with Abby, and it goes without saying I expect everyone’s full cooperation, and once I get the ad litem’s report back then we’ll have a hearing-” Judge Peters pauses to address solely Abby “-do you understand?” and for a moment I think Abby is just going to keep sitting there but she nods quickly before retreating back into her private shell.
“Two weeks?” Brooke asks, her eyes dart to Lucas and he covers the hand that clutched his arm, and immediately the lawyer pounces into action “Your honour, due to the severity of my clients son’s illness two weeks is a very long time to this family”
Peters doesn’t blink, “fine. The hearing will be next Monday, in the meantime I want all medical records pertaining to both Keith and Abra Scott, and anything else I need to know at that time bring it with you… I will see you all next week” and as she finishes there is a collective sigh amongst the other party.
The judge leaves, her heels taping on the tiles as she makes her exit, straight away I turn to Abby but she’s already getting up and moving to her parents. Brooke and Lucas stand, and she places a hand on Abby’s shoulder, “come on Squirt, let’s take you home”
“I need a moment with my client” I interrupt the deranged Brady Bunch moment and am rewarded with Brooke’s steely gaze shooting daggers at me.
She tightens her hold on Abby, “right now she’s my daughter”
I go to say something, anything, but the moment I see Abby follow her parents step towards the door I know there is no point. Family trumps everything, and that is one thing I will never be.
“Come with me, please, Brooke, we can put Tree Hill, Lucas, Peyton, everything, behind us. I know you love me, please, come with me”
“Julian, I can’t”
“No, you won’t, there is a difference”
Our past echoes down the halls as I leave the courthouse behind the three different shades of hair that represent the Scott’s. There was a time that watching Brooke walk away from me was all too common, and then I thought I would never have to watch it happen again. I guess I was wrong.