Zeke wanted to hug her.
He's never heard Sharpay sound so childlike. She sounded so young and vulnerable, it almost terrified him. She was supposed to be tough, icy even. Zeke had seen Sharpay's true self, but this was far from it. Even without her icy persona, Sharpay was still Sharpay – just a little softer than usual. But the girl in front of him – Zeke considered her as a girl again, not a woman, because that was what she looked like, a broken, scared little girl.
"I'm not angry. I'm not angry." Zeke stood up and finally, Sharpay looked up at him. Her cheeks were tear-stained but he couldn't trace one tear in her eyes. It was as if she hadn't cried. Her eyes were still as oceanic as they were eighteen years ago. But somehow, her cheeks were wet with the remnants of her supposed tears.
She was truly brilliant in all sense of the word.
And when the want was too much to bear, he couldn't help but try and be near her. But Zeke couldn't just invade her space without her permission. He was mindful of her space and his safety, as well. He needed to be near her, at least try and comfort her.
"Can I sit beside you?" Zeke suddenly blurted out before he could think any further.
And another previously..
"Damn it," She whispered under her breath and dialled again. She listened to the machine's words and quickly started to talk when the machine allowed her. "Hey, I got cut off. Oh, and it's Blair again. Anyway, his name's Cristiano, Mom. He's – I don't know. He's great, to be honest. We're really alike. But I don't really know what to say to him anymore now that I've hurt him. I said some horrible things. And I can't just take it back! We have this system and you probably won't understand it over the phone. It's just - ugh. Was it always this hard with you and Dad? Wait, don't answer that. I just - I wish you would pick up and talk to me. I need you. I can't talk to Ryan and Dad – Dad's gone, as usual. I don't have anyone else to talk to but you. And I just – you're here now and I want to be like those other girls who turn to their mother for support. I want our family to be normal for once. I want to have a mother and father who are there and who will protect me from anything that would cause me harm. This is the first time I've really said anything about this, so . . . I guess – I just – I have to go. Bye."
Blair wiped her tears away and sighed loudly. Could the day get any worse?
She quickly stood up and scrambled inside the shower. Once the hot water was running freely around her body, Blair knew that the day was about to go from bad, to worse, and by the end of the day, it'll be the worst day ever.
Chapter 13: The End Of The End: Part 2 (So Much For Their Happy Endings)
By: Beachbumyeahh :)
Truth be told, Sharpay was tired, in the simplest definition of the word.
Zeke was looking down directly into her eyes, his face contorted into such an adorable expression that all she wanted to do was to laugh right then and there – which would be inappropriate for their current situation. Sharpay used the back of her hand and wiped her wet eyelashes, the remnants of the tears she had shed just a few minutes ago.
She opened her mouth in reply but a sort of wheezing sound just escaped her lips, embarrassingly her thoroughly. Maybe she was just in shock. Sharpay didn't think he would act so calm after what they talked about. She still couldn't even believe Zeke followed her to France. It was as if she was living the fairytale dream she had been hoping of years ago.
Dumbly, she just nodded and lifted her feet back onto the ground to give him some space to sit on. She had given up the attempt to talk to him – the wheezing sounds hadn't stopped just yet. Briefly, she noted the feeling that her head felt like it weighed tons.
Zeke took his time in sitting down, politely placing distance between him and Sharpay. He tilted his head upwards; perhaps he was sending a silent prayer to God. She warily looked at him, vaguely remembering how religious Zeke had been. Well, maybe everyone else was more religious than her but that isn't the point. It was the way she was brought up. Ryan was the same, too. They didn't actually have their parents home every weekend to take them to church, so they weren't at fault.
She knew staring would be rude but she couldn't help it. Plus, Sharpay already embarrassed herself so much, staring wouldn't do much damage anymore. Zeke Baylor had aged. His face was now free of its childlike features and he looked like a man that went through too much and held too many secrets. He looked tired, too. Maybe she wasn't the only one feeling tired. His eyes lost the certain sparkle, too. Sharpay missed the way it would somehow always have that twinkle in it, even if she was screaming bloody murder at him.
"I mean, how can you forget what today is?" Sharpay shrieked, stomping around her dorm, occasionally glaring at her boyfriend that was currently sitting on her bed. "Today is the most important day of our relationship and you actually have the decency to forget it? Honestly, Zeke?"
Zeke apologetically smiled at her, his eyes creased upwards in an obvious attempt to hide his amusement. "Today? I don't see the importance of whatever today is, Shar."
"Today is our – how many months has it been? Ugh, Zeke! See! You made me forget!" She stopped directly in front of him and glared. "I don't like forgetting these things, Zeke. You know that."
He chuckled and stood up, cupping her cheeks with his hands. "Shar," Zeke started, his voice slowly calming her anger, its effects unnoticed by both of them. "I know you care about these little things more than me. And I'm sorry I made you upset by forgetting. I just –" He nuzzled his nose to hers, making her squeal in surprise and laugh, unwillingly though. "I'd like to remember the day we first started out. I like to remember your birthday. I like to remember our first kiss and our first time together. But I'd like to remember those days on the day it happened. It doesn't feel as special if we celebrate it every month, right? I don't want you to feel like I've forgotten because I do. I do remember everything."
Sharpay sighed and allowed her arms to wrap themselves around his waist. He let go of her cheeks and almost instantly, her head was on his chest. Zeke rested his hands on the small of her back, a smile on his face. "So, is all forgiven?" He questioned nervously. With Sharpay, your relationship will never be predictable, even if you have been together for quite awhile.
"There are times when I question myself why I'm still with you –"
Zeke kissed the top of her head softly, interrupting her. "I ask myself that everyday I'm with you."
"– but it's times like these that I remember why I keep on loving you, you sweet little jerk." Sharpay whispered, defeated.
Sharpay realized how little she knew him now, unlike before when it felt like she was him and he was her, as if they were one. During high school, she would always know how he felt just by one scanning look at him. She would always have an idea, a hunch of what he was thinking. Sometimes, Sharpay thought their connection was stronger than the supposed twin-telepathy. She knew that whenever his eyes glazed over, he felt exceptionally happy – that usually happens after a successful basketball game or an exciting make out session with yours truly. But she didn't know what to do with him anymore. She didn't know what he was thinking or what he was feeling. She can guess what his emotions are due to his facial expressions, but the gut feeling was gone.
She had no idea where his head was at. She didn't know what color Zeke liked best now. He always answered that question with a smirk, saying light yellow always. Yellow always made him happy and that's why he's always preferred blondes over anything else – that admittance never failed to make her blush. He always reasoned out that he didn't want to be like other boys who followed the golden rule of having blue as their favourite color, except if it was the same shade as her eyes, he added cheekily – he managed to earn a long kiss for that one.
Sharpay didn't even know if he still baked. Somehow, imaging Zeke avoiding the kitchen was hard. He was always the reason why until now, she didn't want anything to do with cooking and the kitchen. When they were together, she attempted to cook but the years apart were too hard to try again. And Sharpay was sure the kitchen and its appliances didn't miss her that much – she almost burned down Zeke's parents' house when she tried to bake cookies for him once.
She shook her head and tried to focus her gaze back onto Zeke. He surprised her when she found him looking at her with a piercing gaze. Sharpay turned her head away, discreetly – or maybe not? – hiding the slowly creeping blush on her face. She really had to stop thinking like – like Zeke was still hers to keep, to hold, to love. She needed to stop because he wasn't hers and it'll only get harder for her if she keeps thinking like that.
"So, Sharpay," Zeke smiled warily, his eyes slightly creasing upwards. "I guess it's my turn to explain, huh?"
Blair closed the front door quietly, her Porsche's keys clutched tightly in her palm. She could practically feel her eyes throb and that wasn't helping her one bit. Her hair was held up by her imported chopsticks and she wore the first thing she could grab from her closet – fortunate for her, her closet didn't house anything but brilliance and beauty. Blair was clad in beige short shorts, a white shirt that clung to her body tightly and a black vest she found on her bedroom floor.
She adjusted her bag on her shoulder and slipped on her white sunglasses and was about to cross the path to the garage when Blair saw the black Mercedes parked right in front of her house. She had seen it before, in emails practically yelling happiness. Darbus had been ecstatic about his new ride a few months ago. Blair couldn't detect the happiness now, though. It felt like the shine of its exterior was mocking her, taunting her.
Darbus was leaning on the passenger's door, his feet crossed and his eyes closed peacefully. Blair sighed, knowing that staring never did any work. She ignored the nosy neighbours that peeped from behind their fences and walked unenthusiastically towards the car.
"Are you driving me to school?"
Darbus opened his eyes and straightened his posture. "That depends," He twirled the keys of his own car around his finger. "Does it fall into the category of building a bridge and getting the fuck over it?"
"Look, I know what I said was out of line but -" Blair clenched her jaw and tried to think of something better to say. He wouldn't want to listen to this crap. Hadn't she heard his bitter and sarcastic question a few moments ago? "You know what, I'll just -" She mumbled, seeing as Darbus wasn't listening to a word she was uttering. Blair turned her back around and began to walk to her garage where her non-taunting and beautiful car was waiting to be driven in a speed unknown to man.
Darbus sighed and held the door open for her. "I'm not going to apologize, Evans," he yelled out, making her stop walking. "Just get in the car."
Blair walked back towards his car slowly. She was about to step in when she stopped, coming back up to see his face in close proximity with hers. "I'm just trying to figure everything out, okay?" She shook her head and spoke up in a much clearer voice. "The thing with my parents and the new town and now you – it's just hard. You used to be the only thing constant in my life. I'm not used to this. I am sorry for saying those things, you know."
She closed the car door herself, leaving him to stand there in confusion.
The car's buzz quieted down as they parked in front of the school. Blair's throat felt dry and choked up because of the tension inside the car. She didn't even try to strike up conversation with him. Anything she brought up would only be brought down by his dark mood. It wasn't like she blamed him; it was because of her that he was like that.
Darbus' deep voice jolted her out of her thoughts and after hearing what he had to say, Blair wished it never removed her from her thoughts. "Evans, we need to talk." He locked the door and looked at her with a defeated frown. "I just . . . I don't think I can do this anymore."
"Do – do what?" She stammered, confused on what he was trying to say.
"I don't even know if this is better for both of us." He mumbled, leaning his forehead on the steering wheel. Blair practically melted on the spot. Darbus looked so confused and hurt, his face almost looked childlike. That was when she decided she never wanted to see him hurt. She will never hurt him again – purposely, of course. She couldn't promise not to hurt him completely. Someone as beautiful as her best friend shouldn't be able to look as sad as he did right now.
Blair gently placed her hand on his shoulder and spoke up. "What's going on?"
"I don't know. It's just, I don't think we should be friends – it's hard to – God, what did you do to me, Blair?" He laughed, turning his head to look at her with a sad smile. A normal girl might have felt a little scared being locked in a car with a guy that was significantly stronger than her and had strong feelings for her. But, alas, Blair was not a normal girl and this was her best friend, her only true friend to be honest.
For her sake, Blair ignored his statement about their friendship. She didn't know what would happen if his suggestion went through. Instead of fear, she felt anger. Blair was trying to understand his situation, feeling pity for hurting him constantly and now he blamed her? No way, mister, that wasn't how the story went.
"What did I do to you, Darbus?" She flared, instantly retracting the hand that rested on his shoulder. "I didn't do anything to you! If anything, it's you who did something to me! Before this, my life was happy. I wasn't confused about how I felt for you, I wasn't crying over you, and I wasn't locking myself away in my room because of you!"
Blair gave him one of her best glares before turning to her door and unlocking the lock. Once she did, it instantly locked itself again. "What the hell, Darbus? Let me out, damn it!" She unlocked it again and looked at it challengingly, which gave him ample of time to lock it again. Blair hissed and glared at him again. "Real mature, jerk." She unlocked it again and was about to open it when it locked, yet again.
She shrieked and slammed back on her seat, crossing her arms in anger. "You think you're so cute playing this childish game," she mumbled angrily.
"Look at me, Blair," Darbus spoke up again, his voice as soft as it can be, leaving her no choice but to follow his request. "I'm not who I used to be. Look. Do I look as menacing? Do I look as tough and confident? Don't you think I'm confused as well? I'm not used to emotions, Evans. That's why we became friends in the first place. We used to be heartless assholes that didn't care."
Blair took this time to look at him closely and noticed the dark bags under his eyes. He looked so tired and weak, it shocked her. And there were marks on his face – wait, were those . . . bruises? "What the . . ." She mumbled, reaching out to touch his face. He didn't move away. A couple of weeks or months ago, he would've. Blair didn't know if she wanted him to move away or not. Her thumb grazed the almost undetected bruises on his smooth face. "I don't even know if I want to ask how this happened."
"You wouldn't want to know."
She nodded, knowing if Darbus said she didn't want to know, she really didn't want to know. "Okay." Blair breathed deeply, glancing at him with a soft expression. "I'm sorry I blew a gasket just now. My initial reaction to protect myself is anger." She attempted to smile but somehow it turned into a grimace. "And I'm sorry I hurt you."
Darbus leaned his cheek on her hand and smiled at her warily. "Blair . . ."
Blair placed her other hand on the other cheek and held his face close. She was going to do this. She had to finish this, once and for all.
"No, just let me talk, okay?" He tried to nod but quickly realizing she was still clutching his face. "You're my best friend, Cris – my only friend, to be honest. Nobody can banter with me like you do. I love that. I know I can act like myself when I'm with you. I act like a retard around you when I get hyper and I don't even feel ashamed. And I can come to you for something serious, too." Her hands slid downwards and rested near his collarbone. "You remember the time when I called you after you just landed here? I begged for you to come home because that was when I found out Jonathan was cheating on me with a college girl."
Darbus nodded, wringing his hands together nervously. He hated the way she made him feel – nervous, unworthy, and pathetic. No one had ever made him feel like that, except for her. She was different.
"I told you I couldn't come back home since I had just landed." He spoke softly, meeting her gaze with a sheepish look. "I also said that I'd send people to kill him."
Blair chuckled, tilting her head to one side to move aside the strands of hair that fell on her face. "I almost thought you were serious with that one, you know. I remember waking up at two in the afternoon with my eyes puffy and bloodshot, checking to see if someone had SMS'ed me that my ex was dead. But then I tripped on a body on the floor. I remember shrieking like there was no tomorrow, scared to see if it was Jonathan on the floor. That maybe it was a part of your sick joke, to bring me my dead cheating boyfriend."
"It was me you tripped on." Cristiano continued her story, smiling idly at the memory. "You stomped your foot on my chest when you realized it was me. I bruised."
"But you still came and after my fear wore off, I hugged you until you begged me to let go, saying that if I didn't, you'd fall in love with me." Blair whispered, her eyes widening in size, as if she had just realized what the story entailed.
Cristiano's hand softly grazed her cheek, his eyes falling on her lips. "Sadly, I did."
Blair studied his eyes for a long time. She still couldn't believe that this was the boy from a few months ago. He had changed so much, and maybe she had, too. She wished for the days when they would just curse at each other and insult each other for fun. But this was what they were now – two people trying to keep hold of a relationship that was simple to solve but hard to forget. It was either they date or become strangers.
Blair surprised both of them when she suddenly crashed her lips against his. Her eyes automatically closed while her lips stayed frozen on his. She was frozen in surprise and worry because Darbus had yet to move. She wrapped her arms around his neck and applied pressure again and soon enough, his lips were sliding against hers in ease. He kissed so softly and slowly; it was almost agonizing. She whimpered slightly at the slow pace he was going and Blair could've sworn she felt his lips smirk against hers – her Cris was still there and that made her feel a whole lot better about the kiss.
Darbus pulled away and leaned his forehead against hers. "Blair –"
"Shut up," Blair whispered before crashing her lips against his again, this time hungrier than before. He might have sensed her urgency because soon enough, they were kissing as if they were in a battle.
It was everything Blair imagined it would be – hot, exciting, amazing, and absolutely right. It was the perfect teenage kiss. Her heart pounded against her chest and her mind felt like it was lost in a fog. She couldn't even ignore the mad fluttering in her stomach as her lips continued to slide against her best friend's.
She was in love – hopelessly and undeniably in love with Cristiano Darbus.
Oh, God, no.
"I guess . . . we really screwed things up, huh?" Zeke tried to smile but after what Sharpay had just explained, he just didn't have the energy.
She didn't say anything, just continued to gaze at him with those soft eyes. He compared them to the eyes that stared at him the first time they saw each other again – when Hayden was passed out in the Evans house. Her eyes were burning back then – with anger and . . . panic, Zeke realized with surprise.
He had been harsh that night. But it was too much, right? After years of practically living like a workaholic zombie unable to feel, when suddenly his reason for doing so was thrown right into his face.
"I reacted badly that night," he said, looking at her thoughtfully. "The night when Hayden was drugged, I mean. I forbade you to see her. You're her mother and I tried to forbid you to come near her."
Sharpay sighed loudly, wringing her hands. "I can't say it was the right thing to do, but it was sort of reasonable, and I didn't exactly listen. I stayed in her room for the night – I didn't get an ounce of sleep that night."
"I figured that out when I drove home that night. You never listened to me before. I figured you couldn't have changed that much."
She laughed softly, making Zeke look at her in a longing kind of look. "I'm just going to be honest with you, okay?" He nodded, waiting for her to continue. "I know what I did was wrong but I never really figured out why you didn't look for me."
He raised an eyebrow at her. "I would've, you know – if maybe Ryan or anybody from your family would tell me where you were. The first year, I couldn't function. I counted how many times I held Hayden that year. It was a total of five times. They tried to talk me out of my depression – well, I think it was depression – but they were never successful. I was never home. They were always at the apartment with Hayden. I don't know how I lived through that year."
"I always thought Ryan told you where I was. I thought . . . you despised me so much that you didn't even bother to look for me," Sharpay mumbled almost incoherently.
Zeke bit the inside of his cheek – a habit he had gotten during his younger years, a habit he had never really gotten over. "Do you know that Hayden almost died the day after you left?" Sharpay turned her gaze straight, seeing her grandmother's large house that she somehow managed to inherit without trouble. "You didn't. She was a day and half. My eyes never left the nursery after you were gone. I watched her like a hawk because I blamed her. I kept on thinking that it was her fault you left – and I've been blaming her until this summer."
She didn't try to interject because she had been thinking the same thing. Sharpay wasn't dumb. She could see the distance between Zeke and their daughter.
"Anyway, I just left to go to the bathroom. And then, when I came back, I found doctors around Hayden's crib. They were yelling, panicking even. And I couldn't do a damn thing. It turns out, there was a problem with her lungs and started turning blue when I left. I couldn't stay there while they tried to save my day and a half old infant's life. I ran away and returned the next day. Do you know how hard that was? I felt like a failure. First, you left. And then, I just left for a few minutes, only to return and find my baby dying. Don't get me wrong, I might have despised her back then but I've always somehow loved her."
Zeke closed his eyes and leaned on the bench's handles, placing his chin on top of his open hand. He took a deep breath, willing the images to go away. It felt so real, as if it happened just yesterday.
"I came back the next day, rammed Ryan into your hospital room's wall, asking where you were. When I realized that he didn't know a damn thing at the moment, I left. I went to every place that I remembered was important to you. Your house, my house, the apartment, the old high school, Lava Springs, the university, your old dorm room back in the university, all your dorm mates' house, the restaurant where I first took you out, the basketball gym where I proposed after my game, the beach where we got married – hell, I even went to Vegas to the hotel where we first had sex. I don't know why, but I thought 'Hey, maybe Sharpay remembered the gang's Vegas trip where everything turned serious with us'. I never imagined that it would be here – I forgot how important this place was to you," Zeke heatedly whispered, turning his head towards Sharpay's direction. She was still looking ahead, unable to meet his eyes.
"A week later, I came back. I came to the apartment to find my parents and Ryan there, taking care of our daughter. I looked at Ryan and I just knew he knew where you were. I excused him out the apartment and calmly told him to tell me where you were. He punched me in the face and told me how much of an asshole I was. He told me how heartless I was to leave my daughter. He told me that Hayden already lost one parent and she didn't need to lose the other one. He also told me to get over – get over you. That if you wanted to come back home, you would. But until then, I should just let you be."
Sharpay bit her lower lip before finally look at him. Zeke spoke as soon as their eyes locked. "I never looked for you again. I realized Ryan was right, that if you really wanted that life, you'd come back. I wasn't going to force you into a life you didn't want – which you didn't, by the way."
"But –" Sharpay whispered, her voice cracking at the one word. She cleared her throat and tried again. "But I want to now. I want to make it up to you. I want to try again, Zeke. I love Hayden so much – I regret not watching her grow up. And I – I meant what I said back at the dinner. I still love you. I want to trust you again. I want to you to trust me again."
This time, it wasn't her tears that fell fast. It wasn't her wheezing sobs that rang around the garden. But it was her soothing words that entered his ear and it was her arms that were wrapped around his shaking torso.
A/N: Oh. Wow. Just . . . wow. :)
Hello, dearest readers. I won't present any excuses now. Even I can't believe how long it's been since I last updated. I don't think I have readers left, do I? I don't think so. But I am sorry about the very, very late update. But in defense, I did post a note on my profile and I think I warned you about that in the previous chapters, right? But still, saaarry. :)
Well, this has got to be one of the long ones - the chapter, I mean. It doesn't move much or maybe it does, I don't really know. I just want to sound "professional". Haha, sucks. Anyway, follow my ff twitter, will you? I sometimes update there on how the chapters are going and if I have a new story up. http:// twitter . com / imatellytubby
I have a very weird name but it's me. :) So, yeah. Sorry again and review, please? I want to know if someone is actually still reading this. If no one reviews, I'll be really sad and never update again. :( Kidding, but seriously. Tell me if you're still reading. I'll be panicking for days just for you guys. :)
-- beachbumyeahh :)
glücklick! (I got this from my dearest beta, K. Bears :D )
PS. I'm such a fan of long chapter titles. Hahaha. And oreos are HEAVEN. B-)