|I Love You More Than French Fries
Author: Unproper Grammar PM
"We'll drink their beer and bed their hunnies and it will be the best summer ever, Gabi." That was the plan. But in between planning her sister's wedding and avoiding her ex, Troy Bolton, Gabriella is quickly discovering that things rarely go as planned.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance - Troy B. & Gabriella M. - Chapters: 10 - Words: 85,290 - Reviews: 353 - Favs: 146 - Follows: 201 - Updated: 01-24-12 - Published: 04-23-11 - id: 6930156
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
So basically here is what happened: I couldn't write. To the point where I was crying I was so frustrated, nothing was happening. I have a list as long as my arm of one-shots to write for people, but I realized that in order to that, I needed to write something else. Something to remind me why I love writing to begin with. Start something completely new and entirely different.
So that is what this is.
It is loosely based off of the Summer series by Jenny Han. They are my absolute favourite. In general, though, the story will be entirely different, but the idea of the shared summer house steams from that, so! Plus I love them with my whole heart and recommend them completely.
Most importantly though, this is for my friend Julina, who deals with my mood swings and reads absolutely everything before I write it. It is her birthday, so I wanted to give her a treat! HAPPY BIRTHDAY BB, I HOPE YOU LIKE THIS SOMEWHAT. :3
Here goes nothing!
I Love You More Than French Fries
Chapter One: In the Heat of Summer Sunshine
"At the summer house, at the summer house, I'm curving like the ocean towards you."
- Summer House by Gold Motel
"Carmen's gonna help me find a dress, or so she says," seventeen year old Gabriella Montez said. "When the time comes of course, it might be a different story." Taking her long dark hair, she twisted it at the ends, pulling it over her shoulder. She was dressed in a pair of white shorts and a striped orange and yellow tank top, her shoulders brown and warm from the heat. Stepping carefully on the rocks, she balanced herself as to not slip into the water beneath them.
"Do you know what colour your want?" a gentle voice said, and she glanced behind her to see Troy Bolton walking just as steadily. "For your dress, I mean."
Gabriella shrugged, smiling softly at the sight of him. Red Abercrombie t-shirt and brown plaid shorts, his sandy hair seemed lighter from days spent out on the beach surfing. His face seemed more mature this summer, aged and more defined. He was still beautiful, but something about him was losing that childlike quality. Gabriella both shied away from it and thrilled to it.
"Not really. Purple maybe?" Gabriella said softly, still balancing on the rocks. "Maybe red."
"Green looks nice on you," Troy said thoughtfully, watching as she held her arms out for balance. She stumbled slightly, and he sprang forward, wrapping his hand around her wrist. "Careful!"
Steadying herself with the support of his arm, Gabriella smiled. "Thanks."
Smiling back softly, Troy slid his hand down her arm and enlaced their fingers. "Hold on to me, okay?"
Nodding, Gabriella gripped his hand, examining him carefully. "It's not a huge deal, though. Not really, I mean, it's just prom."
"But it's gonna be your senior prom," Troy said, walking forward and pulling her along. The rocky pathway that made up a better part of the beach was long, and when they were younger they used to attempt to dig in between them and search for buried treasure. Now, however, it was just a stop a long the way to the rest of the beach where swimming and surfing could take place. It was no longer the destination. Squeezing Gabriella's hand firmly, he smiled at her. "You only get one of them."
"You didn't even go to yours!" Gabriella protested, laughing as she tucked a strand of hair behind her eyes.
Swinging their hands between them, Troy led the way as they continued down the path as it narrowed and grew steeper. "Yeah, but I kind of wish I had. It would have been a good experience."
"Aw, are you having regrets at your young age of nineteen, Troy?" she nudged his arm playfully. "Wishing you could do things all over again?"
"Maybe," he said with another smile. "Maybe I would go and maybe I would take you."
Gabriella flushed. "Oh, no, that wouldn't be...I was much too young."
Troy laughed. "It was only a year ago, Gabi."
"Yeah!" she said, blushing even darker. "I was only sixteen! A year makes a difference, Troy! I had more baby fat and I was less mature and just in general less attractive! It would have been a tragedy!"
Still laughing, Troy grabbed her other hand and pulled her into him. "I beg to differ. I imagine we'd have a lovely evening. You'd wear green, cause it looks best on you, and I'd show you off to my friends—the ones who haven't met you—and we'd dance the night away."
"Do you even dance?" It was Gabriella's turn to laugh at the notion. She'd never seen Troy do so much as move with rhythm.
"Not really," he admitted, dropping her hands and wrapping his arms around her waist. In turn, she locked her arms around his neck and leaned into him as he swayed them slightly. "But I would with you, and I bet you'd be the best dance partner ever. Plus I'm a fast learner. It'd come to me."
Looking up at him, Gabriella felt overwhelmed with happiness. Rising up on her tiptoes, she pressed a kiss to the underside of his jaw. "Well then, why don't we test out that theory. Come with me to my prom."
Troy stiffened slightly and Gabriella worried that she had broken the magic. But as quickly as it happened, he relaxed and tightened his hold on her.
"Sure," he said, brushing his lips over her hair. "I'd love to."
"Even though you'll be twenty by then?" she asked warily, "you really won't mind coming to my lame high school prom?"
"I wouldn't miss it for the world."
"I'll wear green, too," Gabriella said sincerely, and Troy drew back from her, looking her in the eye.
"Gabi, you don't really have to wear green if you don't want to," he said, "you'd look good in anything."
Grinning, she wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged him, burying her face in his chest. "You're such a charmer, Bolton."
"I'm not charming if I'm just saying the truth," he said back, knowing very well that at this point he was being a charmer. But he'd be nothing but charming if it would make her smile, make that blush spread across her cheeks.
"Whatever," she mumbled, resting her chin on his chest as she looked up at him. "We'll always be together, right Troy?"
"Sure as the day is long, Gabi," he answered earnestly. "I can't imagine my life without you in it. But," he stepped out of their embrace and twirled her around. "You're gonna have to teach me to dance first. Or else I might make a fool out of ourselves at your prom and trip over my feet and crack my head open on the dancefloor."
"Can't have that, can we?" Gabriella giggled as she came out of the spin. Stepping forward, she kissed the corner of his mouth briefly, before skipping down the rocks. "Come on! We had better do it on dry land."
They danced on the beach that evening, practicing the steps to the waltz and the foxtrot and the Macerna. Laughing and falling and kissing as the heat cooled and the sun went to sleep and everything settled in to a perfect summer night.
Two Years Later
My entire life, I've had seasonal depression.
Seasonal depression is basically self-explanatory. During the cold, dark fall and winter months, I experienced a sadness that couldn't be explained. The dark clouds in the sky and heavy Boston snowfalls made my stomach hurt and my heart ache. I hated winter. I hated snow and snowboots and slush; slush was disgusting. Coloured a dark charcoal from the exhaust fumes of cars and trucks and automobiles. Nothing about it was pretty. Winter was acceptable during one month and one month only and that was of Christmas. But once December 26th rolled around, I was ready for it to hit the road.
I never wanted anything to do with winter, so the few months that it dragged on (and sometimes it dragged) I would huddle up inside and dream about summer. I yearned for the sun and heat and happiness of summer. My entire life was summers. Everything was dead in the winter, all the plants and all the leaves and all of the water turned to ice. Animals hid from it! Nothing was breathing in the winter.
But in the summer everything was alive. Summer was everything.
Maybe it was less the actual season that did it for me and more everything that summer represented. Freedom. No school for three months? Count me in. As an honors student, the better part of my years were spent pouring over books and studies, lab reports and essays. I enjoyed it; I wouldn't work so hard if I didn't, but there was nothing about it that I wanted to hold on to. Having a break, a shift in the system; that was what I loved.
I'd be lying, though, if I said the only appeal of summer was warm weather and lack of school work. What I really loved about summer was the summer house. It was a standard cottage, but I liked calling it a summer house. It made it seem more special. It made it seem different.
That was because the summer house was different. The summer house had everything. Every summer, my family would pack up; myself, my mom, and my older sister Carmen, and travel to the summer house. We would stay up until two weeks before school. They would be the best days of my life.
We weren't alone at the summer house, though. The house wasn't even technically ours. It belonged to their best friends, Jack and Lucille Bolton, both of whom they had met in college. Jack and Lucille had two children as well, though for many years it was just the one, and our two little families would congregate together all summer.
Maybe that was what was most important to me about the summer house. Maybe that was what held the most excitement. I'd never admit it, but the thing that made me yearn for summer most of all was Jack and Lucille's son, Troy.
The summer house was where I felt alive. The summer house had Troy.
And up until six months ago, Troy was everything to me.
But it wasn't like that anymore, and this summer felt just like winter to me. I felt dead.
"Are we there yet? I mean, seriously, I think we have been driving for about six hours. Isn't it a five hour drive?"
"Carmen, would you settle, please," my mother's irritated voice sounded. "You're acting like you're six years old. Not twenty-five."
In a fit of maturity, my sister kicked the backseat. "I can't help it, Ma," she said, blowing her long bangs out of her eyes. "I don't even understand why you decided to drag me along this year. I haven't been to the summer house since I was twenty-one. I'm an engaged woman. This is insanity."
"Carmabell," my father interjected from his spot behind the wheel. "You are getting married at the end of the summer and we are paying for it, and you insisted that your mother be a part of the planning."
"I know," Carmen said with a roll of her eyes. Ever the drama queen, I thought.
"And we are not going to forgo our family tradition!" my father continued, his brow furrowed. My dad was and always had been a family man, and a traditional one at that. Every holiday had a routine and it was not to be messed with. When Carmen decided that she wasn't going to come up for the summer one year and instead go to Cuba with her friends and work in New Haven, where she attended school at Yale, he was crushed. He would never admit it out loud, but I had a feeling it was less about planning his daughter's wedding and more about having her one more summer before she no longer had the same last name that caused him to bring her along.
My mother smiled softly and turned around to face us in the backseat. "Besides, this really is our last time we can all be a small family unit! Why not embrace it, Carmen? Besides, you know that in town there are great little shops that would be beneficial to planning the wedding, and Lucille knows everyone. It'll be worth it!"
Carmen shrugged, but I could see her resolve was weakening. "You're right," she said with a content sigh. "Plus I could use some bonding time with Gabi here before I go off and be made into a decent woman."
"Yeah, that's really high on your list of things to do," I said with a smirk, "hanging out with your kid sister."
"Well, when you put it that way..." Carmen trailed off with a grin. My sister was six years older than me and absolutely gorgeous. Tall, tan, with dark eyes and hair, she had definitely gotten all of the best features when it came to the DNA pool my parents provided. In high school she was the captain of the cheerleading squad, as well as Homecoming Queen two years in a row (which wasn't even technically allowed, but the student body loved her so much that they vetoed the rule in favor of preventing an uproar), and maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA. She dated all the best looking jocks and partied with all of the hot girls. So it was a surprise to everyone included when she came home from Yale with her boyfriend Alex, who was not only completely nerdy and not at all interested in throwing around a football, but also completely and entirely smitten with her. It was the strangest pairing I had ever seen, but I had always underestimated my sister in terms of intelligence, I suppose.
That 4.0 didn't come out of thin air.
Carmen and I had never been particularly close. The age gap was a little too much for her to take interest in me, especially at the summer house. There were tons of kids her own age there milling about town and the beach, and usually upon stepping out of the car, she'd ditch me for Tommy or Susan or Jacqueline or someone else where she could get her big kid kicks. I was fairly certain that this was one of the big perks to my parents about going to the summer house; that for two months, Carmen had her own crowd to hang out with, and Troy and I had each other.
I shook my head, focusing on the scenery that passed by out the window instead of thinking about him. Carmen may have been dramatic, but she was certainly right. We had been traveling for what seemed like an awfully long time. I snuck a glance at my father in the front seat and saw his brow furrowed as he concentrated on the road. I tried to glimpse the dashboard; maybe he was just driving extra slow today.
This summer was going to be different. I just knew it. With the added company of Carmen for the first time in years, plus the change in dynamic between Troy and I, I had a feeling everything was going to be a little bit uneasy. In truth I hadn't wanted to come at all, but I didn't even bother trying to tell my parents that I was going to spend the summer working instead. I couldn't do that to my dad, and I really couldn't leave my mom to deal with planning Carmen's wedding all by herself. They'd end up killing each other, and I'd feel guilty until the end of time.
Really though, I didn't want to see Troy. I wasn't ready to see him. The last time I had was a cool September afternoon; the kind that signals that summer is gone and fall has come early, and we had been angry. There had been a lot of yelling, a lot of crying on my part, and a lot of storming away on his part. I guess you could say it wasn't a civil break up, and it wasn't something I enjoyed reliving.
As a result, I hadn't spoken to him at all, which was weird since I had spoken to him at least once a week since I was thirteen and felt myself slowly falling in love with him. But now at nineteen, I didn't care what he did, and I certainly didn't feel like seeing him anytime soon.
Yet I was. Troy would be at the summer house along with his parents and his little sister Helen. And I would hate every moment.
"Almost there, girls!" my dad said brightly and excitedly, and I couldn't help the smile that spread across my face. Despite my qualms about seeing Troy, having my dad so happy made it worth it. "Summer will start momentarily."
Carmen laughed, twisting her engagement ring around her finger. She nudged me playfully. "Dad's like a big old kid, huh?"
I nodded, smiling along with her. "Pretty much. When it comes to the summer house, at least. He and Jack always act like kids together."
My sister studied me carefully, noting the tone of my voice when I mentioned the house and Jack. She laid her hand on my arm. "How are you doing, by the way?" she asked, her voice dripping with concern. "I mean, you haven't seen Troy since—"
"No," I said quickly, cutting her off. "I haven't. Don't worry, Carmen. It's no big deal."
Carmen's mouth set into a thin line and she folded her arms. "I could kill that boy for what he did to you."
I shook my head. "It's no big deal. These things happen. We'll be fine. Who knows, maybe he won't even come..."
Twenty minutes later, though, as we pulled up to the beach house, I knew he was there. I could feel it. My mother was clapping excitedly in the front seat, and my father turned around to grin at us.
"Montez women," he said to us, "summer has officially begun!"
My mother let out a little whoop and threw her arms around my dad's neck before practically falling out of the car. Carmen merely laughed, their excitement apparently contagious before once again rolling her eyes. Picking up her purse off the ground, she stepped out of the car and walked to the truck where my parents were unloading their luggage.
I was alone in the car.
Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes, trying to pep myself up. It's no big deal, Gabriella, I said to myself. This is just Troy. You've known him your whole life. And yeah, sure, maybe he broke your heart a few months ago, but it's still just Troy. You know him. You know how to deal with him. It's no big deal.
But it was a big deal. It was a huge deal. But I couldn't let him or anyone else, for that matter, see that.
Stepping outside, a reunion was happening all around me. Jack Bolton was clapping my father on the shoulder, and he waved a greeting to me quickly before the two men set off, carrying the bags of luggage and belongings inside. My mother was enveloped in Lucille Bolton's arms, and if I didn't know better, I'd swear their girlish squealing were actually sobs. But I knew them and they were just dramatizing, far too excited at seeing each other for the first time all year.
"Is that Gabi?" Lucille said, and I couldn't help but smile at her. She was such a warm woman, so happy to see others happy. Her eyes were so bright, a pale blue shade, just like Troy's, and I felt myself falter upon seeing her. The resemblance always took me by surprise if only for a moment.
"Hi, Lucille!" I said, stepping into her extended arms and giving her a hug. "How are you?"
"I'm good, honey," she said, giving me a squeeze. "How about you?" Pulling back, I saw an expression on her face that made my stomach fall a little bit. She was worried about me. Worried about the damage left behind by her son. I swallowed, mustering up the best 'I'm perfectly fine and nothing is wrong and I am not angry with your son' smile I could manage.
"I'm great, Lucille," I said, my voice surprisingly even and clear. "Really."
She placed her hand on my shoulder and gave another little squeeze. As she did so, I felt a tug at my leg and looked down. The top of a tiny brunette head was staring back up at me.
"Gabi!" the voice said, and I laughed, bending down and picking the small girl up. "I missed you!"
"Helen!" I said, hugging the little girl to me. "I missed you, too, sweetie."
Helen Bolton was the unexpected bundle of joy that popped up five years ago. Completely unplanned, a total surprise, she was born in August when I was fourteen. I loved her like my little sister, marveling at how much she grew each time I had seen her. She was named after Helen of Troy, an instant connection to her older brother whom she looked up to more than any figure on the Disney channel.
I hoped he had been kind to her even during the times when he was kind to no one.
"Will you play Barbies with me later?" Helen asked, playing with a strand of my hair.
"Of course, Len," I said with a smile, "we can do whatever you want."
"You mean you'll build a fort with me, too?" she asked just as eagerly, and I laughed at the excitement dancing in her eyes.
"Yep! A fort just for you and I. No one else allowed."
"Yay!" Helen cheered, wrapping her arms around my neck.
"Mom, there's nothing in the fridge. Like, nothing," a voice came from no where, and I glanced up a little too quickly. I nearly dropped Helen at the sight.
There was Troy, standing in front of me, his blue eyes trained on his mother, acting like nothing had happened. Like this was a perfectly normal situation.
"Troy!" Lucille scolded, "say hello for goodness sake! Where are your manners, you're twenty-one years old and Helen here has more class than you!"
He smiled sheepishly before walking over and greeting my mother. She smiled at him, wrapping him up in her arms like the son she had never had. My mother always had a soft spot for him, and I knew that despite everything, she still loved him just as much as before. I didn't really know what to make of it; my mother's crooked sense of loyalty, but I guess I didn't really want her to hate him.
Hating him was awful.
"How are you, honey?" she asked, placing her hands on his face and examining him. "Are you eating right? Has your mother's cooking improved?"
"Maria!" Lucille snapped, "my cooking is getting better, I swear!"
Troy laughed. "Her cooking is still terrible, Maria. I'm glad you're here now, you'll save me from food poisoning for a few weeks."
Lucille scoffed and everyone laughed. Carmen walked over and greeted Troy, giving him a quick hug as he congratulated her on her engagement. She smiled, flashing her engagement ring stiffly. I smiled inwardly. Carmen certainly didn't have it in her to forgive Troy as easily as my mother did. She could hold a grudge better and longer than any of us put together.
"Troy!" Helen yelped from my arms. "Come say hi to Gabi! Right now!"
His eyes fell on me then and I gripped Helen in my arms tighter. His face grew tight and I saw him swallow visibly.
"Did you forget about Gabi?" Helen asked, sounding angry.
Troy shook his head. "I didn't forget, Len."
I smiled awkwardly. He looked just as good, if not better, than I remembered. His face was still soft lines and angles, his eyes still as blue as blue could get, and his hair still sandy and soft looking. It was shorter than before, spiky in the front and neater around the sides, but he still looked about the same as he did the summer before. Back when things weren't great, they weren't good, but they weren't the way they were now. Back when he was still mine.
"You've gotten skinnier," were the first words out of Troy's mouth upon seeing me.
He had never had a lot of tact, this was something I knew well. He wasn't a man of many words to begin with, often stumbling over his thoughts before they could leave his mouth. So when he did speak, it was like his tongue got over excited. Like the words were rushing to slip past his teeth and make a break for it. Freedom! Thoughts being expressed!
As a result, he had disclosed things I don't think he ever intended to in moments of vulnerability, and especially when he was drunk. Sometimes it was worth it; he'd confess how pretty he thought I was on our dates or when we were getting hot and heavy, how much he wanted me. When we fought, however, he got vicious and mean, and I wasn't never really a fan of being put down, but especially not in moments where he didn't really mean them.
Of course there was always the suggestion that since he rarely spoke, in those moments were he said things, they were everything that he meant. I tried not to think that way. I didn't like to think he had it in him.
But I knew he did.
"Thanks," I mumble, standing awkwardly in front of him. I couldn't look at him, at least not in the eye. Helen squirmed uncomfortably in my arms.
"I didn't mean it as a compliment," he said, folding his arms. "Are you eating right?"
"Troy!" Lucille hissed and I saw my mother stiffen out of the corner of her eye.
"It was just a question, ma!" Troy snapped back. "I'm just concerned."
There was a chuckle and everyone looked at the source. Carmen stood, arms crossed, looking down at the ground. She glanced up upon noticing everyone's gaze fixed on her. She shrugged.
"Sorry if I find that a little hard to believe, after all of these months..."
"Carmen!" It was my mother's turn to feel embarrassed. "Don't!"
Rolling her eyes, Carmen began to stalk towards the house. "Don't what? Address the elephant in the room? They dated, they broke up, he broke her heart, and now things are awkward. Can we stop beating around the delicate bush here? Cause things are gonna be really uncomfortable all summer if we act like they aren't channeling The O.C. the whole time."
It was quiet for a moment, no one wanting to be the first to break through the tension. Helen tugged on my hair.
"What is it, Len?" I asked softly and she frowned at me, looking like she was going to cry.
"Are you guys not gonna kiss hello?" she asked quietly, "you did last year."
I heard Troy let out a breath and glanced over at him. He dragged a hand through his hair.
"I'm gonna take off, Ma," he said, smiling tightly at her. "Sorry about all of this, Maria, Carmen."
Brushing past me, he pressed a quick kiss to Helen's head. Still resting in my arms, she twisted her mouth into a frown while I tried to breathe. He was so close, little Helen being the only thing separating us. He glanced up quickly and our eyes met, and I swear I felt the wind get knocked out of me.
Then he walked over to his white pick up truck, climbed in, and took off.
Helen looked defeated and she looked up at me with her big blue eyes. "Gabi," she said, frowning so much her forehead was creased.
"What is is, Len?" I asked, bopping her in my arms, "I'm sorry if you're upset, baby, it's no big deal. Troy and I are just..."
"No," I shook my head, smiling. "We're just...being silly. We'll work it out. I promise."
I didn't mean it and I was so thankful for Helen's age at that moment. She believed me instantly. "Good," she said happily, "cause he put flowers in your room a little while ago and I want you to see them and not be mad!"
I nearly dropped her again. Troy had put flowers in my room. And not just any flowers, but lilies.
I handed off Helen to Carmen quickly, feeling sick to my stomach, before racing inside the house, past my father and Jack, and to my bedroom. It looked exactly as it had the year before, aside from one minor adjustment. A large vase of beautiful pink lilies sitting on my desk with no card.
I nearly crashed into Jack on my way to the bathroom where I emptied the contents of my stomach, already wishing that it was winter.
"I'm going out," I said a couple of hours later as I stepped into the kitchen. After my outburst, everyone had decided to go about their days as if nothing had happened. My dad and Jack were seated on the deck, drinking beers and laughing. Troy was still no where to be found.
My mother, Lucille, Helen, and Carmen were seated around the table pouring over endless bridal magazines and post it notes. Post it notes about fabrics, about textiles, food, and lord knows what other things. It was something I may have enjoyed last year. Right now it just made me queasy.
My mother frowned. "Where are you going?" she asked. I knew she wished I was sitting with them, and as much as I wanted to grin and bear it for her sake, I just couldn't. The air in the house felt thick and constricting, and the presence of the lilies in my room was making me dizzy with implications. Not only did I want to go out, but I had to.
"To see Chad," I answered with a smile, hitching my purse up over my shoulder. "He just shot me a text a couple of hours before we arrived and told me he was working a double shift at the movie theatre and to come say hello. I haven't seen him since last summer, so..."
"Oh, Gabi, all the way into town?" my mother's frown grew wider. "By yourself?"
Carmen scoffed, turning a page in the magazine and marking it with a hot pink Post-It. "She's not ten, mom, and downtown is hardly dangerous."
"I'm nineteen, mom," I said, feeling annoyed. I hated when she treated me like a child, and something about the summer house made her do it more frequently. It happened every year. "I've lived on my own for a year."
"I just, I would feel better if you took someone with you," my mother said, biting her lip. "Maybe Troy?"
"Oh, Maria, hush," Lucille said, batting at her hand. "She's just going to see Chad, after all. And she's been coming up here for years; she knows the town, and the town knows her. Besides, who knows where that son of mine has run off to."
Helen sat up on her knees, a big book of wedding dress designs open in front of her. "Can I come with you, Gabi?" she asked, her eyes as big as saucers.
I shook my head, walking over to her. "I won't be gone long, Len," I smoothed down her hair and she smiled up at her, a big toothless grin. "I'll bring back some candy from the theatre and we can watch that Barbie movie you were telling me about tonight. That sound good?"
Helen nodded excitedly, sitting back down in her seat. "That sounds good, Gabi!" she said brightly, turning back to her book. "Carmabell will watch, too, right?"
Carmen laughed, pressing a kiss to Helen's head. "Of course, Len. Whatever you want."
"Troy, too?" Helen asked eagerly and Carmen tensed slightly. She glanced up at me and I offered a shaky smile in response.
"It's a girls movie, Len," I said as I began to make my way towards the door. "I don't know how much he'd like it."
Troy wouldn't watch with us, this much I knew. As I walked to the theatre, making my way through the familiar streets and roads, waving to people I knew and examining the things that had changed, I wondered to myself how much actual time he was going to spend around the house. Would he avoid it all together? He had been less than pleasant upon seeing me. That didn't bode well. Did I care, though? Did it really matter?
The fact that there was still a vase of lilies sitting in my room and that they were there at all meant something, though. I hadn't thrown them away and for some reason, Troy had put them there.
Shaking the thoughts out of my head once more, I opened the door to the movie theatre. It was a beautiful building with high cleanings and rich wood and red carpets. A real classic looking place. Truth be told, it wasn't the most modern place in town, but there were few parts that were. The theatre often played only two movies at time; one film that was recent, but were still in larger cinemas a few months earlier, and some sort of a classic film.
The theatre was a hotspot for dates on Friday nights, but that was about it. The rest of the town's teenagers would flock to the beach or the diners most nights, having either already seen the films or just not having the interest. If anything, they saw it as a quiet place to make out. So for the most part, only elderly people really attended it, and I always wondered both why they kept it open on Thursday afternoons, and how they managed to do so with so little income.
Yet every summer, Chad Danforth fought for his job at the movie theatre. I was convinced it was because it was the job that required the least work. I had known Chad since I was fourteen and his family bought a summer house in the area. He and I bonded instantly; I loved his silly nature and he loved my face. Once that appeal wore off, however, we discovered that we had the same taste in music and television, and that we enjoyed bantered back and forth. Aside from Troy, he really was my best friend. He and Troy got along really well, too.
Of course everything changed last summer, and now I was fairly certain they weren't on speaking terms. But it didn't seem like Troy was on speaking terms with anybody these days.
Chad was standing behind the concession stand that afternoon looking thoroughly bored. There was only one other employee working that afternoon, a boy our age named Angus. As in Angus beef. His father had apparently thought it would give his son a shtick, to be named after something that sounded macho and manly. Men loved angus beef, right? He thought it sounded tough. Or something. It would have had the desired affect had Angus not taken after his mother. He was slight boy with biceps so small it seemed like they could snap in half, acne, and curly brown hair. I waved to him upon seeing him standing behind the ticketbooth, and he flushed hotly before pretending to be very busy with the register and his non-existent customers.
"Hey, Danforth!" I called out as I approached the concession stand. "Who does a girl have to kill to get some service around here?"
Upon seeing me, Chad's face lit up and he hopped over the counter, sliding across the wood. In three large steps, he was in front of me and had engulfed me in a bear hug, twirling me around. I threw my head back and laughed.
"Gabi!" he shouted, hugging me tightly, "my savior! My light! My favourite! You're here!"
Still laughing as he set me down, I ruffled his curly mop of hair. "Aww, you're my favourite, too, Danforth."
Wrapping his arm around my shoulders, he began to lead me back over to the concession stand. He hopped back over, before leaning on the counter and grinning brightly at me. "Goddamn, though, you are a sight for sore eyes. There is literally no one else up here yet! You know who is here so far? The Evans poodles and Kelsi Nielson. I wanted to scrape my eyes out with a fork just for something to do."
Hopping up, I took a seat on the counter and looked in through the glass at the candy treats inside, trying to decide which Helen would like best. "Well, glad I could be the last resort to rescue you from your boredom."
Chad nudged my thigh with his elbow. "Ah, shut it, Montez," he said, and for a moment I couldn't help but notice how cute Chad looked. He had grown up since I had last seen him; his features more defined, his shoulders more square. But Chad and I weren't attracted to each other, not like that at least, and I was thankful for it. I was still a girl, though, and I could still appreciate that my best friend was an attractive speciman. "You know you're always my first choice."
"That I am, Chad, that I am," I said, flashing my most winning smile and pointing down into the counter. "Can I have a bag of licorice?"
He nodded, leaning over and pulling out a bag and tossing it to me. "I'll put it on your tab."
I guffawed. "Oh, my tab. You mean the one I haven't paid off since you started it when we were fifteen. Got it."
"You're gonna get me fired one day, Montez," he said with a shake of his head. "But seriously, so fucking glad to see you. How have you been? How's Stanford?"
I smiled, fondly remembering the year I had spent as a Freshman at Stanford University. California and the whole experience had been so different from what I was used to in Boston. Warm, sunny, new. I loved all of it. "It's been amazing. I love it. I love the freedom, I love the state, I love the people."
"You love the pot?" Chad wiggled his eyebrows and I laughed.
"As much as you are loving it in Albuquerque," I shoved him, and he stumbled slightly. "Which I imagine is not at all, given that you are on the starting line on the Redhawks. I watched every game by the way. Why did you never tell me you sucked so bad?"
It was Chad's turn to shove me. "Har har, Montez. I don't suck. I leave all of the sucking up to Bolton and his band of merry suckers over at Berkeley."
I tensed and shot Chad a look, ripping into my bag of licorice and glaring at him. "I had just gone a full five minutes without thinking about that douchebag," I said, grabbing a piece and biting into it mock angrily. "You just had to bring him up."
Chad frowned and grabbed his own licorice whip from the bag. "Sorry, Gabi," he said sincerely, "I didn't realize things were still that bad between you. We mock him all of the time. It's our new common ground."
I shrugged. "It's not that things are bad. We just...don't talk. So we're nothing, mostly."
"Yeah, same goes for he and I," he said, already finishing his licorice and starting on a new piece. I felt bad suddenly, knowing half of the reason their friendship had disintegrated was because of me. "You see him yet?"
I nodded. "Yeah. He said I was too skinny."
Chad knocked my knee. "That's cause you are," he said, whipping me with his licorice next. "You're all skin and bones, Gabi. Skin and bones."
I rolled my eyes, not saying anything. A beat passed between us. "Whatever, Chad."
I hated when silence transcended upon the two of us. We weren't the types who dealt with it well. Chad always wanted things to be happy, for things to be good, and was constantly working to avoid tension or uncomfortable situations. And I just couldn't deal with much of anything when it came to social situations, so really we never had a silence between us that wasn't awkward.
"Well, fuck him," Chad said, "just ignore his dumb ass. He's just mad cause you got hotter over the year and he's still ugly old Bolton. No one's gonna wanna fuck him now."
I laughed, but I knew he was wrong. I could already think of at least seven girls who would gladly, and Sharpay Evans, one of the poodles Chad had mentioned earlier, was definitely at the top of the list. I wouldn't be surprised if she had already made a move.
"There's a bonfire at Jason Cross's house in a couple of days," Chad said, taking another piece of licorice. "It's gonna be bomb. A few kegs, some marshmallows and graham crackers. Some sick beats. You in?"
"Of course I'm in," I said, "wouldn't miss it for the world. Besides, you'll need a wingman if you're gonna try to hit on Taylor McKessie again."
Chad grinned, leaning over and grabbing a bag of Sour Patch Kids from beneath the counter. "I can always count on you, Gabi," he said sliding the bag over to me, "my number one girl."
I stuck my tongue out at him. "Toss me a bag of Almond Joys for Len and you got yourself a deal, Danforth."
As he handed me the candy, Chad sighed and placed his hands behind his head. "It's gonna be great, I'm telling you. We'll drink their beer and bed their hunnies and it will be the best summer ever, Gabi."
I laughed along with him and I hoped he was right. It was all I could do, really.
It was three AM and I was sitting in the kitchen, drinking a glass of milk.
I never did well on the first night at the summer house. I never could manage to sleep in my bed which, by all means, was my bedroom. The house was probably one of the largest in the area (the perks of being owned by not one, but two families) and that meant that we all had our own bedrooms. That was until Helen was born, but she took over Carmen's old room. But with Carmen here now, that meant they were bunking. Not that Carmen minded. No one would mind sharing a room with Helen.
But on that first night, something about the house felt new and foreign and wrong. It had been that way my entire life. Usually, Troy would stay with me. We would watch a movie and make hot chocolate, or play Scrabble and cheat; making up words as we went along. This marked the first time I spent the first night in the summer house alone in...well, in probably forever.
And it made it feel even more weird. Not only were things between Troy and I entirely different now, but he wasn't even home. He hadn't returned from wherever he had gone off to earlier in the afternoon, and despite my best judgment, I was worried.
I shouldn't have been, though, because just as I was raising my glass to my mouth, the back door clattered open, and Troy fell into through the doorway, stumbling on his feet, a complete drunken mess.
I was on my feet at once. "Shh!" I hissed. "You're gonna wake everyone up!"
Tripping over the shoes in the hallway, Troy staggered into the kitchen, holding onto the wall for support. "You shh!" he snapped, "you're talking all loud!"
I frowned, smelling the alcohol on his breath from all the way over where I was sitting. Why had he gone out drinking? He was always terrible with his alcohol, unable to hold it and never able to know his limit. "That's because you're being loud!"
Troy rolled his eyes, making his way over to the cupboard where he pulled out a glass. Turning on the tap, he poured himself a glass of water. "What are you doing up so late anyway?" he asked. "Why are you even talking to me?"
"You know why I'm up," I said, annoyed. "I never sleep on the first night."
Something flickered over Troy's face, and for a moment, I almost thought he was sad. But as quickly as it had appeared, it left, and his aggravated demeanor returned. "I forgot. You always kept me up with you. I hated that. "
I recoiled, feeling like I had been slapped. I had always thought our nights together were special. That he enjoyed them. Or at least enjoyed being with me. "I thought you liked that," I said, hating how hurt my voice sounded. "I didn't know you felt that way."
"Well, I didn't like it," he mumbled, taking a sip of his water. I wished he was sober. At least then I could gauge whether he meant it or not. But would it really have made a difference? "I just did it to keep you off my back."
Swallowing, I sat back down in my chair. "I'm sorry I was such a burden," I said sourly.
"A little late," he murmured, "but apology accepted."
I stood up again, my eyes watering and my lip trembling. It was now or never and I had to know. It had been bothering me all afternoon. I folded my arms over my chest and tried to keep my voice as steady as possible. "What were those flowers, Troy?" I asked boldly. "Did you leave them there because you care? Like an olive branch? Or did you do it just because you're sick and twisted?"
Troy laughed again. "I didn't put them there. My mother did. She knows you love them."
I felt anger flare up in my chest. "You're lying," I said. "Your mother doesn't know that. Only you know that. And Helen told me that you put them there. Why are you lying, Troy?" I taunted. "What do you have to hide?"
"I have nothing to hide," he spit. "What, you think I'm still in love with you or something? That I'm trying to hide my feelings for you or something? I didn't give you those flowers; my sister just wants to make everything a happy fairy-tale between us again. But it's useless because you know what? I wish you weren't even here. I wish I didn't even have to talk to you."
At this point, he might as well have slapped me. "You've been doing a pretty damn good job at it!" I shouted, and I knew at least someone was up by now. We were being too loud. "You've been ignoring me all year!"
"You've been ignoring me!" he shouted back.
"And with good reason! You broke my heart!"
"So what? Shit happens Gabriella. Fuck you, really. You've always acted like such a child."
"I'm the child?" I spat back. "That's rich. You're the overgrown, spoiled little brat. You disgust me."
"I disgust you?" he asked, chuckling darkly. "Is that so?"
I glared at him. "I hate you. It's beyond disgust, Troy. I hate you. Anything I ever felt for you is gone because you broke my heart and didn't give a fuck about it. I don't want to even look at you, but I have to. But just know, there is not a damn thing I like about you. I hate everything."
"Well, I hate everything about you, too," he exclaimed.
"You know what?" I said aggravated, "you're right. Fuck it. You don't want to talk to me? Fine. Let's just not talk. You saw what it was like this afternoon, Troy. We'll ruin the entire summer for our families if we stay in the same room, so you stay away from me, and I'll stay away from you."
He laughed bitterly, slamming his glass on the counter. "Fine. You stay out of my way, Gabriella, and I'll stay out of yours."
"Fine!" he said once more, his eyes flashing. "And eat a damn sandwich. You're all skin and bones and it's not attractive." He turned on his heel and began to walk away towards his bedroom.
I felt so angry, I could break something. Instead, I called after him. "Hey, Troy!" I shouted, desperate to get the last word. He stopped, but didn't look at me, and I felt the words slip off my tongue before I could stop them. "My prom dress, you know, for the dance you promised you'd take me to and then didn't? My prom dress was green."
Troy stiffened before lifting his hand and flipping me off. With that, he walked up the stairs and to his bedroom, and I heard the door slam behind him.
I blinked after him, my throat feeling tight and my head feeling cloudy. Mechanically, I poured the remainder of my milk down the sink, and placed mine and Troy's glasses in the dishwasher. Then I ascended up the same stairs he had and walked into my room.
Closing the door behind me, I looked at the lilies sitting on the table. They were beautiful. Once upon a time, they would have meant so much to me. Now, all they were was a harsh reminder of the past; something we once had. I didn't want to know his motivation behind leaving them. I didn't want them there.
So I picked them up, opened my door and walked across the hall to Troy's room. His door was shut, and there was no sound of movement behind the door, but I felt like if I listened close enough, I could hear him breathe. I set the flowers down in front of his door and turned and re-entered my room, before settling on my bed, and bursting into tears.
Thank you to Kirsten, who edited this monster. MY PARTNER IN CRIME, WHERE WOULD I BE WITHOUT YOU.
I know, there's probably a lot of questions. Why is Troy such a jerk? Why did he and Gabi break up? What did he do to break Gabi's heart? What is the significance of the lilies? WILL THERE BE MORE ANGUS? Unfortunately, I will not be answering any of these questions any time soon, but I can tell you that next chapter is from Troy's perspective and will at least offer a tiny by of insight into his world.
And also there is free music in the form of a fic-soundtrack at my LJ.