Author's Note: Hey everyone! I'm back! And with a new oneshot too!
So, I wrote this in the span of about two days. It's been bugging me mercilessly. And now that it's posted, I can finally work on my math paper in peace! lol.
Hopefully, it won't be too bad...we'll see!
Summary: Gabriella has always hated this day. But no one at East High knows why...until now.
December 11th. Probably the worst day in Gabriella's life. Every year she dreaded this day and its "convenient" location: two weeks before Christmas, in the jolliest month of the year. While everybody else was out shopping, laughing, and doing more shopping, Gabriella isolated herself, sulked, and cut herself off from the world.
Her mother hated this day as well. And while Gabriella liked to think that she hated this day more than anybody, she really knew that her mother held that distinction. But they both hated it for the same reason. This day held the same haunting memories, the same despair, and the same grief for the two of them.
It was the day that Gabriella's father died.
Usually, Gabriella entered East High with her head held high, her arms swinging as she walked, and a ready laugh on her lips. But this day, she slouched, trying to make herself as small as possible. Her arms hung limply at her sides, and her beautiful face was marked with a look of pain.
She saw her friends all huddled around Chad's locker. If you could call it that. It was more of an extension of his room. Three-week old lunches, two-month overdue homework assignments, and ripe gym clothes were all stuffed haphazardly into the poor metal frame. It was a wonder that he managed to fit anything else in there.
Troy's head stuck out most of all. Being one of the tallest guys in the school, he was pretty easy to pick out in a crowd. The shrieking group of girls that he was desperately trying to fend off helped also. Gabriella watched as he looked around wildly, searching for a way out. Their other friends also formed some sort of a protective barrier around him, a physical example of what Gabriella had placed around herself.
Of course, being tall also spelled some bad news. He was easily able to spot Gabriella, who stood away from the screaming horde. "Gabriella!" he called out. She immediately turned away and pretended not to hear him. "Gabriella!" he called again. This time, he was able to push his way through the girls to reach her. He laid a hand on her shoulder. "Hey," he said.
She felt a strange little tingle when he touched her. But she highly doubted that he felt it too. "Hi," she replied glumly.
"Are you alright?" This time, he placed one hand on each of her shoulders, staring into her eyes. A jolt of electricity seemed to shoot through her. "You don't seem like your usual self."
Gabriella wrenched her gaze away. "I'm fine, Troy. I'm just not feeling like myself today." She slipped out from under his hands and walked towards her locker. He stared after her, and the girls that had crowded around him looked on jealously. But then, they started to swarm him again.
As soon as Gabriella reached her locker, she rested her forehead against its cool metal door. One hot tear fell from her eye and dropped onto her cheek. She hated this day, she hated the memories it brought her, she hated the way her mom suffered the same way every year.
She desperately wanted to tell someone. Most of all, she wanted to tell Troy. Out of everyone else, he knew her the best. They could complete each other's sentences, voice little facts about each other at the drop of the hat, and she could count on him for anything. But Gabriella, being the caring, considerate girl that she was, didn't want to make someone else depressed all because of something that had happened long ago.
No, she would bear it alone. She'd done it many times before, and she was sure that she would be able to do it again.
Something was going on with Gabriella.
Troy couldn't keep his mind off of her at all. While he kept telling himself that she was fine and just feeling a little down, he couldn't help but feel that something deeper was affecting her. Gabriella wasn't the type of person to let "waking up on the wrong side of the bed" affect her at school. But today, something was obviously changing her attitude. He could see it in the way she walked, the way she held herself today, and the way her face kept its sullen expression when he talked to her.
Her eyes held some sort of deep sadness, something that Troy had never seen before. Her cheeks, which were normally upturned in a tinkling laugh, were low and solemn. She was pale, and she looked tired, not happy and energetic like she usually did.
Is there a reason why you're noticing all this? Troy asked himself. Yes, there was.
He was in love with his best friend.
He'd loved her ever since they had sung together at the Winter Musical auditions. Even though it wasn't an official audition, Mrs. Darbus heard them anyway, and gave them a callback. They went on to claim the lead roles and give East High a show it had never seen before.
But, through all this, he'd never worked up the courage to tell her how he felt. Troy had the feeling that she didn't see him as anything more than her best friend. That was all she would ever see him as, and nothing more.
Gabriella was experiencing it again. The nightmare, the one that always accompanied this day.
"What would you like for Christmas this year, mon ange?" Mr. Montez asked her. He looked at his daughter in the rearview mirror, while keeping most of his attention on the dark road ahead of him. Although his last name was Spanish, Mr. Montez was half French. He sometimes spoke French around his little girl, using it as her "term of endearment" instead of the usual "honey" or "sweetheart".
A five-year-old Gabriella brought her hand to her chin and thought hard, assuming a pose that she had often seen her father using as he worked. She believed that it would let her think harder. "Daddy, can I have a pony?"
Mr. Montez chuckled. "You can have anything in the world, mademoiselle, as long as you can take care of it!"
Gabriella pouted. "Okay, so what about my own candy factory?" She clapped her hands together at the thought. "Please, Daddy? I'd let you and Mommy have lots of samples!" The little girl grinned toothily.
Tsking, her father shook his head. "Think smaller."
Biting her lip, Gabriella thought even harder. Mr. Montez glanced at his little daughter in the rearview mirror, laughing when he saw her expression. "I know what I want for Christmas, Daddy!" she squealed.
"I want you to stay home with me and Mommy this year. So we can all stay up and wait for Santa, the three of us!" the little girl said seriously.
"I don't know if I can, darling. I might have to go away again." Mr. Montez's job often required him to make business trips, and many of them, including last year's, needed him to travel on Christmas.
"Oh," she said in a small voice. He could sense the hurt in her daughter's voice, the sorrow.
Twisting around, he told her, "You know what? I'll stay home this year. Promise. Forget the business trip!"
"Yay!" she cheered. Smiling, Mr. Montez turned back to the road.
The last thing Gabriella saw before losing consciousness was the bright light of a truck as it sped towards them.
"Daddy!" she screamed.
About half an hour later, she woke up in the arms of a stranger. Gabriella thrashed about, trying to escape. "Where's my daddy? Where's my daddy?" she cried, tears falling down her cheeks. She saw a form on the street, covered in a white blanket. Breaking away, Gabriella ran to the form, dropping to her knees beside it. She slowly lifted the blanket, bursting into tears when it finally came away.
Mr. Montez was dead.
She heard her name being called. "Gabriella! Gabriella!" But she couldn't move. Her body was numb with shock, refusing to let her stand up. "Gabriella! Gabriella!" The voice grew louder. "GABRIELLA!"
"WHAT?" she yelled. Taylor and Sharpay jumped back in fear. Looking around, Gabriella saw that she was in study hall. The bell had just rung, signaling the end of the period. Students had rushed out, eager to go to lunch. But her friends had stayed behind to wake her up.
"Gabriella, are you okay?" Taylor asked, concern evident in her voice.
"Yeah, you seemed like you were having a nightmare," Sharpay added.
Gabriella shook her head, closing her eyes briefly. The image of her father's face flashed before her eyes before she opened them again. "I'm fine, just a little tired. I'm gonna go to lunch now," she said, standing up and gathering her books. She rushed out the door in order to avoid any further questioning.
Sharpay gathered up the rest of the gang. "Guys, there's really something going on with Gabriella," she started.
"She totally fell asleep in study hall, and we all know that's not something that she would do. Plus, it looked like she was having a nightmare!" Taylor said.
"She didn't come to greet us this morning," mused Ryan.
Chad waved the test paper he had gotten back from Mrs. Darbus. "And she didn't seem to be interested in what she got on the test!"
"What did you get?" Zeke asked. Chad looked at it and blanched, hiding it behind his back.
He didn't expect Jason to swoop around and grab the paper. "58!" he crowed, waving the test above his head.
Taylor glared at Chad. "Didn't you say you would do better?"
"Yes," Chad said in a small voice.
Towering over him, Taylor asked "And will you do better next time?"
"Yes mom." Everyone laughed as Chad cowered under Taylor's intense stare. Although they were dating, they didn't seem too much like a teenage couple—more like an old married one. Their friends constantly teased them about this.
Troy was silent throughout the whole exchange. Kelsi noticed this and said, "Troy, are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." He looked up at his friends. "So what are we going to do about Gabriella?
The gang was silent. Then Ryan voiced something out. "Maybe someone should talk to her?"
Taylor bit her lip. "I'm not sure if that'll work. She doesn't seem like she wants to talk to anybody. This morning, she didn't even come over to us to say hi."
Sharpay piped up. "And in study hall, she basically said fifteen words to us and walked away. I think she wants to be alone."
Ryan shook his head. "How's anyone gonna know what's going on if no one talks to her? And if she really is going through something, who better to help her than her friends?" Heads started nodding around the group as the wisdom of Ryan's idea began to sink in.
"Never knew you were so deep, buddy," Jason laughed, clapping Ryan on the back.
"So…who's gonna talk to her?" Zeke asked. The gang all thought for a moment. Simultaneously, everyone turned to face Troy.
"Uh…why's everyone staring at me?" Troy asked nervously, looking at all of his friends.
"We've all decided that you'll be the one to talk to Gabriella!" Kelsi exclaimed.
Biting his lip, Troy said, "Why me?"
"Because you're her best friend. You guys have been through so much; it's only reasonable that you are the closest out of all of us," Taylor explained.
"Can someone else do it?" Troy whined. He glanced everyone, his face falling every time someone shook his or her head.
Chad laughed. "Looks like you're the only one for the job, man."
Crossing his arms, Troy mumbled furiously. All of a sudden, his face lit up. He quickly turned away and started walking down the hall, pretending to be mad.
They watched him go, and then Sharpay faced the gang again and squealed, "Oh my god! Did you see how his face lit up before he walked away? He's excited!"
Kelsi commented thoughtfully, "Maybe they'll realize how they feel about each other now."
"Finally!" Chad burst out. "It's been going on forever! They've loved each other ever since January of junior year! We're seniors now! Don't you think that they would know by now?"
Taylor rolled her eyes. "If they don't, then they are two of the most oblivious people in the world."
The guys crossed their fingers. "Troy better tell her! I'm tired of hearing him talk about her all the time!" Jason complained.
The gang laughed, hoping that, for the benefit of their friends that they would finally open up.
Finally, the end of the day came. The seniors had a free period, which many took as an opportunity to leave early. Usually, Gabriella would meet up with Troy and they would stay in the school library together, working on homework until Troy had to leave for practice. But today, she opted to leave right away. She wanted to get away from the school, away from the questioning looks and the puzzled expressions. She wanted to be alone, to wallow in her grief uninterrupted.
Gabriella felt bad for avoiding Troy. Especially because whenever he wasn't around, she felt empty. He was like her better half.
Although Gabriella didn't really like to admit it, she did have feelings for Troy. The kind of feelings that made her stomach warm, her hands sweat, and her breathing hitch.
But it wasn't like he wasn't going to see her as anything more than a little sister. After all, he was the most popular guy in school, the basketball captain, and East High's poster-boy. She was just the girl that sang with him in the Winter Musical, the unpopular wallflower. She wasn't a cheerleader, the type of person he was supposed to like.
While Gabriella did want to leave school, she didn't want to head home. She didn't want her heart to break from seeing her mom sitting at the kitchen table, a coffee cup in her hand and staring at nothing. Mrs. Montez always took a day off on December 11th, no questions asked. Gabriella didn't want to experience the dead, heavy silence in her house that accompanied this day.
Instead, she headed for Ashelm Park, a small expanse near her home. She sat on a bench and stared out at the duck pond, watching as the setting sun wrought its colors upon the water.
"Daddy, daddy, wake up please!" a crying Gabriella screamed. She placed her tiny hands on her father's arm and shook it with all of the strength that she could muster. "Daddy!"
A hand dropped onto her shoulder. "Honey, he won't wake up. He's dead."
"NO! He's not! He's just sleeping! I need to wake him up!" Gabriella went on shaking her father's arm, all the while crying, "Daddy! Daddy!"
A nearby paramedic shook his head at the little girl. "Poor thing. She lost her father, two weeks before Christmas."
"What do we do?" another man asked.
"Just…leave her alone for now. But keep an eye on her."
Gabriella tired out after five minutes of vigorous shaking. Her arms fell limply to her sides, huge sobs bursting out of her throat. "Mon père ," she whimpered.
Someone walked up next to her and dropped to their knees. Turning her head, Gabriella saw that it was her mother. "Mommy," she said softly.
Mrs. Montez noticed her daughter for the first time. She reached out and hugged the little girl to her, silent tears falling on both of their cheeks.
Hot tears started to cloud Gabriella's vision. She swiped them away hurriedly, but it wasn't long before new tears started to take their place.
"Hey," someone said. Gabriella jumped, her heart racing. She turned around and her heart skipped a beat when she saw Troy standing behind the bench.
"Hi Troy," she replied.
He came over and motioned towards the bench. "Mind if I sit here?" In response, she made room for him on the tiny bench, and he sat down, stretching out his long legs and putting his hands behind his head.
Gabriella looked over at him, admiring the way the setting sun outlined his profile. "How'd you know to find me here?" she asked.
"I'm not sure actually." Troy scratched his head. "Well, for starters, it didn't seem like we would be meeting in the library, 'cause it didn't seem like a normal day today. And it didn't seem like a normal day today 'cause when you came in, you didn't even say hi to us and scold Chad about his locker. You also seemed like you wanted to be alone, and I remember you telling me about this place."
Gabriella drew her knees up to her chin and wrapped her arms around herself. "Sorry about this morning," she whispered.
"Gabriella, what's wrong?" She looked up to find Troy staring at her, his blue eyes searching her own. "Was it something we did?"
"Is it something that I can help with?"
"Do you want to talk about it?" Troy's heart sank when Gabriella shook her head. He didn't really know what to say next; it was obvious that she was hurting inside. So he did the only thing he could think of: he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close.
Unfortunately, this seemed to make her even more depressed. He noticed tears coursing down her tanned cheeks, and her shoulders began to shake. "It's almost Christmas," he commented, desperate to have something to talk about.
Gabriella whimpered. "He said he'd be here for Christmas."
Troy snapped to attention. "What? Who?"
She continued on, as if she hadn't heard him. "He said that we'd all be together."
"Gabriella, who are you talking about? Please, I want to help. But you don't have to tell me now…just when you're ready."
"My father," she said softly. Troy jolted; he'd never heard Gabriella talk about her father. He'd always assumed that it was a tender subject with her, so he never prodded her about it.
"It was thirteen years ago, today. My dad was driving me home from his office, because he'd taken me to work with him that day. I remember he was asking me what I wanted for Christmas. I asked him for a pony, and he started laughing, saying that I could have anything I wanted, as long as I could take care of it." She started to shake uncontrollably now. "So then I asked him for my own candy factory. I promised him that he and my mom would get all of the free samples that they wanted." Troy smiled at that; he could picture in his mind a little Gabriella asking for a present.
"He told me to think smaller. So then I put my hand to my chin and thought really hard, thinking about what I really wanted for Christmas."
"And what was that?" Troy asked gently. To his surprise, her tears, which had just seemed to dry up, started to flow again. He pulled her closer, and her tears began to fall on his shirt. But he didn't care; all he wanted was to comfort her.
"I asked him if he could stay home this year. 'Cause every year, he'd always had some business trip that he couldn't afford to miss. And every year, it happened on Christmas. So it was always just my mom and me.
"When I asked him that, at first he said that he might have to go away again. When he saw that it made me sad, he said 'Forget the business trip' and he turned around to look at me, just for a second. But when he turned back—" She started crying uncontrollably.
"Shh, shh, it's okay," Troy said. He bit his lip—how would he be able to comfort her? "You don't have to tell me anymore. It's alright."
But she shook her head. "When he turned back, there was a truck heading straight for the car. When he had turned around to look at me, he'd unknowingly steered the car into the oncoming lane. And by the time he realized it, it was too late…
"Somehow, I survived. I don't know why…but it's not fair that I got to live and he didn't. Now, every time this day comes, I hate it, with every part of me. It's also why I've moved around so much; we'd move to a new place and settle down. But then my mom would find something that reminded her too much of my dad, and then we'd pack up and move again.
"But it's all my fault that he died…if I hadn't said that, he wouldn't have turned to look at me. And if he hadn't turned to look at me—" Gabriella couldn't speak anymore. Her sobs started up again, and in between, she cried, "It's all my fault! He promised he would be there..."
Troy shook his head. He took his finger and placed it under Gabriella's chin, bringing it up so that he was able to look into her eyes. "Gabriella, listen to me!" he said fiercely. She stopped crying and stared up at him, surprised at his tone. "It's not your fault; it was never your fault. You couldn't have known that your question would have caused his death."
Gabriella was silent for a time. She refused to meet his gaze, choosing instead to stare out over the pond. Troy grew worried. He was afraid that he'd hurt her, or scared her. But all of his doubts escaped from his mind when she looked up again. Her eyes were shining, and she stretched up. At first, Troy didn't know what was going on, until their lips met.
She kissed him quickly, then pulled away. "Sorry," she whispered. "It was an accident."
Troy was silent. He touched his lips absently, staring off into space.
By now, Gabriella was mentally hitting herself. Look what you did, stupid! You kissed him! Now he'll never go out with you!
Unbeknownst to the brunette girl, Troy was thinking a similar thought. Nice going, Bolton. She'll never talk to you again.
There was an awkward silence for a few moments. Until they both looked at each other and said, at the same time, "I need to tell you something."
"You go first," they said together again.
"No you." Troy and Gabriella stared at each other.
Troy took a deep breath. "Um, Gabriella, did I ever tell you that I love someone?" She shook her head. "Well, she's this girl that I met not too long ago. She's kind and brilliant, talented and very, very beautiful. Do you think if I asked her, that she would go out with me?"
Gabriella felt tears come up to her eyes again. He couldn't love her; she was stupid to ever think that. As much as it pained her to do so, she couldn't stand in the way of him and happiness. "Of course, Troy. I bet she'd be really happy."
"Good." All of a sudden, Gabriella felt his lips against hers again. She stayed still for a split second, the thought Troy's kissing me! TROY'S KISSING ME! running through her head. Then, her arm twisted around his neck, and one hand buried itself in his hair. His own arms wound themselves around her tiny waist, pulling her closer to her.
They broke off, both of them needing air. Their foreheads rested together as they breathed heavily, staring into each other's eyes.
"You know that girl I was talking about?" Troy whispered.
Gabriella's heart lifted. "Yeah?" she asked breathlessly.
"It was you. Gabriella Montez, I think love you."
"Troy Bolton, I think I love you too." With that, they reached in and kissed again as the sun set on the duck pond. And Gabriella thought to herself I'm not so sure I hate December 11th anymore. She pulled away briefly and smiled up at him. "Thanks for everything, Troy."
Troy grinned at his new girlfriend, his blue eyes twinkling. He pulled her into a warm hug and said in her ear, "Anytime, Gabriella."
She could have sworn that as a breeze blew by, she heard the whispered words, "Ma belle fille."