Sweet and Sour

Prompt 3
Credit: TGIF512

Prompt: Ryan becomes obsessed... with none other than one Gabriella Montez. The only problem? She's taken...

Ryan Evans isn't one for regretting. But sometimes, when work gets him down, he goes down to the bar down on Cherster Street and drinks a little to forget the present and relive the past.

This time, he orders shots. Doing shots without anybody by his side gets him lonely, so he surveys the bar to find a drinking partner. But there is none. It is Thursday, and nobody comes to Joe's on Thursdays because there's a ten-pound per jug discount over at the pub on Mocassin Lane.

Ryan doesn't bother with it because he hates the taste of beer. Far too crude, too coarse, too sour. He rather preferred vodka shots- slightly bitter with as little taste tease as possible on the tongue. But they work, all the same.

His mind whirls while Margarat, the only bar tender that night, gives him a dashing smile while wiping a glass with a piece of white cloth- kinda like the way bar tenders are always seen doing. He smiles back, flashing a row of perfect white teeth, and she saunters over and gives him a kiss on the cheek- a real soft and friendly one, nothing more.

"So," She drawls in her funny accent that is a cross between Southern and cynicism, "You gonna tell me 'bout her again?"

Ryan nods. "Sure am."

He tosses back his fourth shot as Margarat pushes another four more toward him. He smiles lazily, his hair falling into his eyes and his breathing slowed. She puts down the clean, dry glass and picks up another to start drying again. "Well, how old is she this time?" She asks patiently, as though she was talking to a kid. Ryan takes no notice, only closes his eyes to imagine the woman he'd been in love with since forever.

Gabriella Montez.

His memory has started to dull a little now that he'd into his late twenties. Or perhaps it had always been that way. He'd never ever been good at memorizing.

Finally he speaks, a little unsteady but sure, "I think she's fifteen in this one." The bar tender nods, though more to her glass than to his words. "Oh yes," Ryan continues as his eyes flutter shut once more. "She's definitely fifteen."

And so she is, only fifteen when she first walked into his life- so vibrant, so lively. Her dark curls are lustrous and so shiny and they match the way her eyes always widen in surprise or confusion. She is brilliant at science and arithmetic and unwavering in her affection for Troy Bolton. This, he knows almost all too well.

He has become friends with the duo after their Twinkle Towne musicale had become a success- outselling most of his and Sharpay's previous seventeen musicals. They were nice, loving and without spat or distrust. But it was so sweet that it became sickening. Ryan never onced missed the soft, saccharine gazes Troy sent Gabriella, and her own tender gazes back. Right next to him, Sharpay would always sigh and link fingers with whoever she had decided to go with that week. This time, he sees Zeke Baylor sitting quietly next to her, his dark skin contrasting greatly with her blonde locks as she leans against him, giggling.

He thinks he knows how it had all started. It was their musical, the callbacks, the auditions. Sharpay had gone crazy trying to figure out what Troy and Gabriella were trying to pull by auditioning for Twinkle Towne, and she had started to follow them around everywhere. Naturally, he did, too. But long after the musical was over and everybody became friends, he still followed her around- and he didn't even know why.

But then again, he was probably insane.

He throws back another shot, still babbling.

Now she is sixteen and wishing him and Sharpay good luck for their Spring musical. He is watching the two girls embrace, and when she comes around to him, he holds out a hand to shake hers in a formal gesture. She giggles and instead, hooks her arms around his neck and kisses his cheek. He remembers his face flushing and patting her back awkwardly as Sharpay looks on, amused. They disentangle themselves just as Troy makes his way around the red curtains into the dressing room and ushers his girlfriend away back into their seats.

Sharpay places a hand on his shoulder, and he can still feel it, even now, and it's warm and comforting as she whispers in his ear, "You love her."

He nods almost dumbly. Sharpay hugs him from behind, swaying a little while gently humming the tune of her solo. "Just a moment more," She sings, "...and she'll be yours, forever.". It is how the last verse ends, and he can still recall the tune, ten years later.

Margarat has gone through four glasses already and still has nearly a dozen more. He finishes his eighth shot and orders a cherry and lime daiquiri. Margarat adds a tad bit more rum than usual, just so that he can continue his story.

They're both eighteen this time, graduating. She is valedictorian and frets over the normal, usual things, like whether or not she is able to remember her speech, or if her hair is curled just okay, or if she has managed to smudge her mascara just yet. He remembers standing around awkwardly while Sharpay pats her on the back and hugs her tightly, wishing her all the best for her speech.

"Good luck." Ryan sees himself whispering to Gabriella. He is still standing aloof, and her eyes are welling up with tears. Sharpay squeals and starts to cry as well, and he remembers thinking how girls always got so emotional about stuff like this. Sharpay comes around the brunette and wipes away a tear, saying remorsefully, "Oh, but your makeup..."

Gabriella holds up a tube of water-proof mascara and the both girls laugh themselves silly while trying not to cry at the same time.

A second later, Troy appears and he has dyed his hair black, surprising Gabriella and Sharpay. "Oh my god!" He sees her cry out, touching the boy's darkened locks while sniffling, "You cut it!"

Ryan tunes out. He is eighteen, watching the love of his life being kissed by someone else.

His flash back ends.

Margarat smiles sadly at him and pushes a glass of iced green liquid toward him, saying, "It's on the house, babe."

He nods, "Thanks.", and sips it slowly. It is sweet and oddly sour- though with no alcohol. Ryan looks up at Margarat and grins. "What's it called?"

Margarat sets down her last glass, leans forward on the counter and says, with her hair falling into her face, "Gabriella Montez."

Ryan stares down at the glass and his grin fades into a thin line. He recalls when they were both twenty three, fresh out of college and any further education. He's working out a couple of job applications at his desk when he gets a call from Sharpay, who is four states over in California. "Guess what!" She shrieks into the phone, and Ryan, wincing, asks, "What?", although he is a little afraid of the answer.

"GABRIELLA AND TROY ARE GETTING MARRIED!" His sister yells into her handphone, and the background is noisy and he can hear music played over a loud PA system. "Where are you?" He asks, a little irritated- partly by the loud banging of the music and partly because he's forgotten what previous APs he's taken in High School.

"I'm at a club!" Sharpay screams again, and they're suddenly cut off. Ryan makes no move to call her back, but his mind almost bursts from the realisation that Gabriella Montez- beautiful, smart, ... his Gabriella Montez is getting married.

To Troy Bolton, no less.

He chews on his lip and shuffles the papers around, thinking that if, that maybe, if he worked himself hard to death, he'd forget her.

But three years down the road, when he's getting calls from the hospital saying she's just given birth, her picture from high school still stands on corner his desk.

He sips his drink again. Sour rings in his head, but the sweetness tames it. He wished it were bitter, too, just like his thoughts. Maybe if someone would've just incorporated misery into a flavour...

A bell jingles then, sounding the arrival of someone and interrupting his train of thought there. Margarat peeks over his shoulder to look at the intruder, and shrugging, she focuses her attention back onto wiping her hands.

Ryan sighs into his cup, now empty, just like his heart.

"Can I get you something?" Margarat asks the mysterious stranger who walked in. The person doesn't answer, instead, hides off in the corner of the bar, his face darkened by the shadows.

She shrugs as though it could've been a worse reply. Ryan looks a little pathetic. More like a drowned puppy, she muses.

"So what happened to her?" She asks, more out of curiousity than anything. Ryan looks away, distracted, before saying, "I don't know." He pauses. "Last I heard, she was staying at home, taking care of her kid."

She nods, the figure at the corner of the bar stirs, and Margarat suddenly feels uncomfortable. A cold feeling rushes up to her gut as the voice suddenly growls low, "Ryan Evans?"

Ryan looks up with his blonde hair spilling out and covering his eyes. They're wide with fear, and Margarat thinks he knows the stranger, seeing as how he had stiffened visibly at the first syllable.

The stranger steps out of the shadows and into the dim light of the bar, and Margarat sees out of the corner of her eye Ryan's lips move. He is mouthing something, and vaguely, she recognises it as hurried cuss words.

"Troy Bolton." Ryan's fingers shake. The man he referrs to nods, suddenly breaking into a smile and says, "I never knew you had a thing for her."

Ryan freezes, almost stuttering, "You heard?"

Troy nods. "Every word."

"Well," Ryan says, almost boorishly, "Don't believe it. I was drunk."

"Drink reveals only what the sober conceal." Troy says like he's memorized it from a book. Ryan places his head down onto the counter, waving the man off. Troy glances up at Margarat, saying, "Could I get a-"

"Shoot, get him a Gabriella Montez." Ryan mutters from the counter. Troy looks seemingly confused while Margarat says, "Yes, it's exactly what you think it is."

Troy nods slowly while Ryan begins to tap his fingers on the bar top. It is the tune that Gabriella sang for her solo in Twinkle Towne, and Ryan hums it while Troy suddenly realises why the tune is so familiar.

"Gabriella's solo." He utters, his eyes almost transfixed onto the blonde. "I never knew you would remember... it was so long ago."

Ryan shrugs and they spend the rest of the evening with Margarat, drinking Gabriella Montezes. Never would either have expected to see each other again. Or drinking drinks named after the woman they both loved.

But then again, it's kinda funny how life turns out.

"But didn't you marry her?" Ryan asks as Troy drowns his second Gabriella Montez. The latter smiles and shakes his head, "Nah. She ran away the night before. Said she didn't really love me and all that."

Ryan merely nods, quietly processing the information in his mind. He turns at the thought of more questions, but he finds Troy Bolton fast asleep, slumped over on the counter, snoring silently.

Well, he thinks, burying his face into his folded arms, If you can't beat them, join them.

The last thing he thinks about before sleep completely overtakes him is how sweet Gabriella smells, and yet, how sour her after-taste really is after she's gone for so long and you haven't even come to remember when the last time was that you saw her and it hurt all just the same.

Sour. Gabriella Montez was sour and he couldn't help but still want her all the same.

Ryan hurt so bad. He just wanted to sleep it all off. Like a hangover.

And he was sure that by tomorrow, he'd be good as new.

Maybe he'd even be able forget Gabriella Montez, too.

A/N: I didn't really follow the prompt. At all. I'm sorry. But I did try my best to get something up, and this was depressing because I really feel depressed this whole week. Stupid exams.

The writing style I wrote this in is a adapted from SE Hinton's style in a couple of her books. It's a little weird, I'll admit, but great fun to write in.