"I don't know, Haley."
Startled by Brooke's doubtful tone, Haley turns away from the full-length mirror in a panic. "What? Does it not look right?" Leaning over, she tugs lightly at the hem of her dress. "Brooke!" she exclaims shrilly. "What's wrong?"
Brooke is standing just a few feet away, an admiring half-smile on her face. "Nothing's wrong," she insists softly. "I'm just afraid the future Mr. James is going to be unable to contain himself when you show up at the end of the aisle."
Rolling her eyes, Haley lets out a giddy laugh and a rosy blush fills her cheeks. "Thanks, Brooke. And you have to stop calling him that. You know he hates it."
"Psssh…he loves it," Brooke responds with a nonchalant wave. "I mean it, Haley. You look beautiful."
Haley looks down at the simple strapless gown and then reaches up to touch the loose waves of her golden hair. Glancing up at Brooke in her elegant jade-green gown, she nods, "So do you." Closing the distance between them, she reaches out to grasp Brooke's hand and then tugs her in for a hug. "Thanks for being a great friend. And thanks for being my maid of honor."
Brooke pulls back and gives Haley a cheeky grin, "Like anybody else could do the job justice! Especially the second time around," she teases.
Haley groans, "I thought we agreed that you weren't ever going to rub that in my face."
"Couldn't resist," Brooke shrugs unapologetically.
"Well, at least this engagement and wedding have been on my terms."
"You mean you never wanted the stuffy cathedral wedding Amelia was planning for you and Charles?" Brooke questions innocently.
Glaring playfully, Haley shakes her head. "Um, no."
"But hey, at least that kind of wedding will be right up Sydney's alley," Brooke points out.
Facing the mirror once again, Haley examines her make-up and nods, "Yeah, I'm sure their wedding is going to be an international event. I still think Amelia probably threw some sort of gala when Charles told her that we'd broken our engagement."
"Okay, so now that we're actually here, do you want to tell me how exactly we went from you nearly becoming Mrs. Charles Hunter to becoming Mrs. Nathan Scott?"
"You already know the answer to that," Haley replies distractedly. "We ran into each other shortly after I broke things off with Charles. We started dating and here we are."
Brooke lets out a sharp laugh, "Oh no, no, no. I may not be on your level of genius, but I'm not stupid either. Something's been going on between you two for longer than that. Come on, spill."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Haley responds, her face heating up as she lies through her teeth.
"And I don't know why you insist on lying when I can see right through you," Brooke fires back smugly.
Haley is blushing furiously as she finally turns to face Brooke. "Okay, but you have to understand something. I didn't tell you because I couldn't tell anyone. It's not that I didn't trust you…I was just in denial."
"Go on," Brooke encourages.
"I slept with Nathan."
Brooke rolls her eyes. "Well, yeah, I kind of figured that out already."
"No," Haley interrupts. "I slept with Nathan while I was still dating Charles."
"WHAT? When? Where?"
"At the New Year's Eve party," Haley answers. "In one of the private banquet rooms."
"So that's where you disappeared to that night. I've gotta say I'm a little bit surprised, Hales. It's really unlike you to do the random hook-up. "
"It wasn't really a random hook-up. We'd…talked before. We just connected from the first time we met."
"Haley James!" Brooke exclaims shrilly. "I can't believe you kept this from me! We're supposed to be best friends!'
"It wasn't exactly something I was proud of at the time."
"But I would have been proud!" Brooke exclaims excitedly. "And it would have given me more evidence in my case against Charles."
"Charles is a good guy," Haley scolds. "You know how understanding he was when I broke up with him."
"He wasn't right for you," Brooke insists. "But I'm pretty sure you've got someone who is. And I think he's probably waiting for you. Ready?"
Taking a deep breath, Haley smiles excitedly and nods. Snatching her bouquet from a nearby table, she links arms with Brooke and heads for the door.
The ceremony is small and intimate-exactly what she and Nathan wanted.
The private courtyard at the Tree Hill Golf & Country Club is a veritable explosion of color as the garden is in full bloom. Several rows of white chairs are filled with those who are closest to the couple, and a minister is waiting beneath the elegant, wrought-iron gazebo.
At the familiar sounds of the Wedding March, the small crowd rises to their feet and all eyes are on her. She can feel a warm flush creep up into her cheeks, but then she sees him standing at the other end of the aisle. Beginning her steady march forward, her smile just grows as she gets closer and closer to him. She practically floats on her father's arm and basks in the feel of Nathan's adoring gaze when she's finally standing in front of him.
Their vows are simple and heartfelt, as they stand together with joined hands.
There's an eruption of applause when they are finally declared husband and wife. Rising to her tiptoes, Haley allows Nathan to sweep her up into a soft kiss that is both passionate and intimate.
Finally, she's Mrs. Scott.
"You're stunning, baby." Nathan whispers in her ear before leaving the softest of kisses on her neck.
With the setting of the sun, the courtyard has transformed and is now twinkling thanks to the thousands of tiny white lights arranged for the occasion. The soft murmurs of their guests combine with the softly playing music, and the newlyweds are swaying comfortably on the dance floor. The clear night sky makes for a romantic setting, and the moon overhead is casting a familiar silvery glow over both of their faces.
Nathan lets out a relaxed sigh and Haley can feel the rumble of his voice where her cheek rests against his chest.
"I don't know what you were thinking, but I'm sure as hell glad that I convinced you to marry me."
"I know," Haley teases playfully. "How many drinks did you pour down my throat that night?"
"Not enough," Nathan surmises. "Or we'd have gotten married that night and we'd already be working on making a little Haley."
"And if you end up with a little Nathan instead?"
"Then I guess we'll just have to try again," Nathan answers cheerfully. Leaning closer, he takes a deep breath and tries to commit the moment to memory: the soft vanilla scent of her skin, the tendrils of her hair brushing against his forehead, the feel of her arms around him.
Letting out a breath, Haley presses herself closer to Nathan and smiles dreamily. "I never would have guessed this."
"This!" Haley exclaims. "That I'd be here with you…married."
"Oh, I knew."
Pulling back, Haley eyes him skeptically. "So when I was a scrawny twelve year-old who could barely fill out a one-piece swimsuit, you knew you were going to marry me?"
Nathan thinks for a moment and then grimaces, "I don't think there's a right way for me to answer that, so I'm just going to say that you were adorable."
Haley nods knowingly and burrows into his chest once again. "Good answer."
"So..." Nathan starts.
"Yes?" Haley says expectantly.
"Are you saying that you, Little Miss Five-Year-Plan, never planned on this? I thought you had your whole life planned," he teases.
Playing along, Haley shrugs, "You know the saying."
"What saying is that?" Nathan questions, his brow furrowed.
Haley smiles up at him, her eyes absolutely shining with love. "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry."
Nathan chuckles and pulls her even closer. "So, what do the next five years of your life look like, Mrs. Scott?"
Haley pauses and pretends to think about it before responding, "Busy. And I foresee many, many hours spent in bed."
"See, now that's a plan I can get behind," Nathan remarks encouragingly.
"I thought you might like that one."
Nathan chuckles, "I love you, Hales."
"I love you too," she smiles.
Leaning down, he drops a soft kiss against her hair. "There's just one thing I've got to get off my chest."
Haley looks up, alarmed by his serious tone. "What is it?"
Nathan smiles happily and lifts her hand to his lips before wrapping his arms around her waist to bring her closer. Leaning down, he lets his lips caress the edge of her ear before he whispers four simple words.
"I told you so."