Sunday: An Easy Mark

Ryan Evans was dreaming again. It was the same dream he had been having for almost a week now. He was standing on the edge of a railing, looking down into the black abyss below him. He kept on trying to see the bottom, but suddenly the ground beneath him vanished, and he plunged downwards. But it wasn't your ordinary falling dream. Somehow, Ryan, in the dream, liked it. He wanted to reach the bottom. At the bottom would be an answer. The answer to everything. A stunning cold found its way into his lungs, making it hard to breathe, and darkness encased him. Before he reached the answer, though, Ryan always woke up. And he did so now.

"Ry…Ryan! Ryan , you dork, wake up!" Sharpay Evans smacked her brother smartly across the shoulder, jerking him into reality. "You were having another nightmare. We are almost there, so you had better get your mind back in order by the time we reach it!" Ryan nodded sleepily, rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, and shook the abyss and darkness out of his head.

The Evan twins walked into the food court at Albuquerque Central Mall with very different outlooks. Sharpay was greatly looking forward to seeing Gabriella Montez, Troy Bolton, Zeke Parker, Chad Danforth, and Talyor McCessie. They had been planning on this shopping trip for ages; but never had their plans involved her twin coming along. Ryan could be so embarrassing sometimes.

Ryan's thoughts, on the other hand, were preoccupied by the ideas of how to escape Sharpay and her friends. He had not wanted to come either, but his mother had not wanted him hanging around the house. So here he was, an unwanted companion among a large group of friends. Sharpay spotted the back of Troy's head at a table to the far left, so her hurried over to him. Troy looked up and smiled when he saw that Sharpay had joined them, but it soon faded when he saw Ryan distantly approaching.

"What's he doing here?" He groaned, making the others turn around to see who it was.

"I thought we agreed that Ryan wouldn't come on this trip," Gabriella pointed out grumpily. Sharpay rolled her eyes, and sat down next to Zeke, her current boyfriend.

"My mom didn't want him at the house when her book cult came over, so he had to come with us," she grumbled sulkily. "If I had had my way, he wouldn't be here. So don't get mad at me!" Ryan could tell that they had been talking about him as he awkwardly sat at the far end of the table. Chad automatically scooted away from him. Ryan didn't mind; he was used to it by now.

"So where do you guys want to go first?" Troy said, completely ignoring Ryan's presence.

"Why don't we just walk around," Taylor suggested, "and see if anything looks good enough-and cheap enough- to buy" Chad nodded, and everyone stood up. The all boys except Ryan shifted over in the direction of Sport's Wear, but the girls yanked them over into Hollister.

"Hey Gabs," Troy said, pulling out a miniscule bikini out of a rack, "why don't you wear this when school gets out for summer? I'd love to see you in it!" Gabriella marched over and slapped him playfully, making Troy laugh. He held it up to her. "It sure looks like it would fit" Gabriella snatched it out of his hands, threw it on the rack, then pushed her boyfriend to the ground, laughing.

"You little perv!" She yelled, lightly kicking him. He grabbed her leg, laughing harder, and brought her down with him. When Zeke jokingly picked up the bikini and held it in front of Sharpay, they soon were also in a catfight. Troy and Gabriella's "fight" had commenced to tickling, making everyone stare at them. At last a worker found them out, and made them leave the store. Still giggling, the three couples left Hollister, and drifted over to Abercrombie and Fitch.

Nevertheless, the same "fight" soon ensued in that store; only over thongs for the girls.

"They are better over in Victoria's Secret anyways" Sharpay remarked, sending them off in gales of laughter as they were kicked out of A&F too.

For the remainder of the afternoon, the friends browsed the mall, creating chaos and personal jokes as they went. They all managed to squeeze into a phone booth in the movie theatres, and took several insane pictures. Gabriella promised to make them all scans once she got home.

After watching a movie and circling the mall twice, Taylor finally said sadly,

"I guess it is about time to go home" Sharpay nodded absentmindedly, before her head suddenly shot up.

"Oh!"

"What is it, Shar?" Zeke said, putting his arm around her waist concernedly.

"I…I forgot about Ryan!" She yelled, dramatically slapping her hand to her forehead. "I think we lost him in Hollister!" Chad snickered, and the blonde drama queen looked over at him expectantly.

"We were lucky enough to leave while he was in a changing room," Chad said, smirking. "You might as well thank me for losing him, or we would have been stuck with him all over the mall." The basketball player rolled his eyes. "No offense, Shar, but your twin tends to be a geek" Sharpay also rolled her eyes, as the group made their way over to the food court again.

"Don't think I haven't noticed. I already told you- he had to come with us. It's not my fault!"

"Well you had better call him," Taylor send, looking through the windows, "because it's getting dark and stormy out there. Wouldn't want him to be scared, now would we?" Suddenly, Troy, Zeke, and Chad got evil grins on their faces. Sharpay put her hands on her hips.

"Leave him alone you three" Zeke made a puppy-dog pout.

"Aww, come on Sharpay; it'll be really quick!" Sharpay glared at him in response, before whipping out her cell phone, dialing in her twin's phone number.

"Hey, Ryan? It's Shar. Come on over to the food court, it's time to go." A worried, yet disgusted look came across her face. "No excuses; get your butt down here…no, I don't care… if the shirts are on sale!" The group gave each other meaningful glances, chortling. "Hurry up!" Sharpay hung up the phone. "He's coming" Zeke, Chad, and Troy quickly spread out, hiding behind pillars and walls.

"Boys, cut it out!" Gabriella said.

"It will be fast, I promise!" Troy whispered loudly, winking at her.

"Shh!" Chad hissed. "He's coming!" The boys crouched down. Ryan walked right past them, not seeing anything. Chad, who was the first one he passed, slowly slunk behind him, breathing down his neck. Ryan turned paler than usual, but kept on walking. Then Troy grabbed his legs from the side, Chad grabbed the back of his shirt, and Zeke popped up directly in front of him, yelling out a cheery "Hello!"

Ryan's reaction was just what the boys wanted. He let out a loud yelp when Troy and Chad grabbed him, making him fall crashing down. But he had slapped Zeke across the face when he fell.

"Ryan!" Sharpay scolded him as he got to his feet. "Stop overreacting! It was just a joke!" Ryan rubbed the back of his neck, his face looking like a tomato from embarrassment. Troy and Chad lay on the floor laughing, while Zeke was massaging his stinging cheek. Sharpay ran over to her baby to make sure he was ok.

"I was meaning to ask you," Zeke said softly, while Ryan stood sulking in front of the teasing teenagers, "if you wanted to come over to my house after this. Troy, Gabi, Chad, and Taylor are coming too. I forgot to ask you earlier, and I couldn't ask you now that Ryan is here"

"Why?" Sharpay asked, finished with her examination. "Did you not invite him or something?"

"Well…" Zeke said awkwardly, but Sharpay cut him off.

"It's ok. He's a party pooper anyways." Zeke still looked upset, so Sharpay reassured him, "Ryan isn't fond of parties" Zeke shrugged in acceptance, and then went off to shut Troy and Chad up.

"Hey Ry," Sharpay said, grinning manipulating at her brother, "is it ok if I go over to Zeke's for awhile?"

"Uh…Sure" Ryan said simply, though he didn't look happy about it.

"Thanks!" Sharpay giggled, giving him a glittery smile. "See you later then!" Ryan nodded, and they all separated. Ryan went over to his light blue jaguar (his sweet sixteen birthday gift), but didn't turn it on just yet. He watched as Zeke and his sister drove off in their car through the frantic windshield-wipers, and then Troy and Sharpay in theirs. Ryan waited as long as he could before he headed home, anxiously tapping his steering wheel.

Meanwhile, everyone else reassembled back at Zeke's house. He hurried off to the kitchen to help bake dinner with his mom, while the rest sat down in front of the TV in his room, chatting. Their host soon came up bearing food, leading him to be tackled by two hungry boys. He merely laughed, and sat down next to Sharpay. Troy found the remote and surfed channels until he found a good show. Then everyone curled up together, and 2 out of three couples ignored the food and the show for the remainder of the evening.

At last, Sharpay pried herself off Zeke and told him that she should be getting home (they were the one third that had been actually paying attention). Careful not to step on the busy couples, she maneuvered her way out of the room, and downstairs. Zeke soon followed, and drove her home.

After giving him one final, long kiss, Sharpay skipped up to her house, and unlocked the door. Smiling back at her boyfriend, she closed the door behind her.

The blonde paused for a moment at the bottom of the stairs, and listened. All was quiet. Breathing a small sigh of relief, she crept silently to the second floor. She did stop at Ryan's bedroom door, though, and put her ear to it. She heard a barely audible groan. Sighing with relief that the worst had evidently past, Sharpay slunk off to her room, careful not to make any noise as the rain pounded against the 4-story mansion.