And when I bade the dream, upon thy spirit flee, thy violet eyes to me upturned, did overflowing seem with the deep, untold delight of Love's serenity; thy classic brow, like lilies white and pale as the Imperial Night upon her throne, with stars bedight, enthralled my soul to thee! –Edgar Allan Poe
From across the Theatre stage, I hear the familiar snap of fingers that always signals the beginning of a number, and for the first time in my life, I am not the one in which the snap is directed at. Instead, I watch as Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez line up in sequence, with their backup dancers all poised and ready for the music to start, and they are smiling, though Troy's smile seems a bit too polished for comfort. From my side, I feel Sharpay nudge me, her elbow prodding my rib as she whispers behind fully manicured nails, "This is going to be hilarious."
I raise an eyebrow, but do not question her implications. Sharpay has been rather touchy these few days and I do not wish to offend her, and so I smile smugly to myself and muster up the partiality to nod at her suggestion. Without even looking, I can tell she wants to bite her nails, because she is half-nervous. She, as the vice-president of the drama club, is being threatened by amateurs that have simply waltzed in and undermined her position as Queen. She is beginning to become fidgety, and I can tell because is she tapping her Christian Dior pink boots on the floor to the rhythm of the song's beginning.
Gabriella is the first to move. She prances around Troy Bolton, her face alit with (what I suspect is) genuine delight. She sings, her voice slightly rough around the edges, but it will do. I steal a glance at Sharpay, whose lips are pursed in a thin, straight line, and feel her irritation diffuse into the surrounding space. She crosses her arms over her chest, evidently not pleased.
Troy misses a step while concentrating on the high note of his second line, and Sharpay winces. She has worked altogether too hard on Troy and I feel her despair at his mistake, because Sharpay demands perfection and Troy does not seem to be able to grapple with the notion. Especially when he tries to combine dance and song in a single sequence. Gabriella, on the other hand, is a natural. I feel Sharpay's frown directed at the brunette, and I secretly am pleased. I wonder if this is a sort of competition she feels engaged in with me, to see whose transfer of skills is best, mine or hers. She has always been the competitive sort, whereas I take a backseat and do not mind. But for once, I am allowed to shine through Gabriella, and Sharpay is a little put-off by the notion that she, as Gabriella's understudy, may not ever be allowed to take on the role of Minnie. Gabriella is wonderful, too wonderful for the part.
The musical number goes rather well, with the number of injuries to Gabriella's toes being drastically reduced to only two from last week. Troy, on hearing the end of the song, drops to his knees and removes Gabriella's shoes, gingerly touching the bruising on her heel that is starting to turn an ugly purple. She winces at his touch and he profusely apologises, while she simply shakes her head with a smile, running her hands through his hair and whispering that she is alright.
At the piano, I swear I can hear Kelsi Nielsen sigh at the romantic gesture as she gathers her music sheets that fall to the floor.
Troy is still up for more bravado. He is down on one knee, staring up at Gabriella with one finger on her sore heel. Slowly but surely, he takes his hand, presses a kiss to his fingers and then directs them to her feet, as if silently apologizing for his misdeeds. She is quiet, sentimentally absorbing this little affection with tears in her eyes. He, ever the sweet guy, ready to sweep her off her feet at any given moment, is treating her like an angel.
Beside me, Sharpay's mood sours. She snaps her fingers, causing the roomful of actors to look at her. She makes her way on stage, her boots angrily clacking each time they hit the floor and starts to yell out stage directions.
Meanwhile, Gabriella has taken a seat on the edge of the stage, rubbing her heel. Troy is beside her, touching her shoulder while watching her soothe her injury, and I am surprised at the intimacy. There is only one time she turns her head to look at him, a smile on her face, and he smiles too and presses his lips to hers in a small kiss.
I wonder why I get shivers at the very sight. Perhaps it is revulsion. Intimacy beyond stage has always intrigued me, perhaps because the only intimacy I have ever shared with someone is with Sharpay. She is my other half, my almost-lover, and I do not know what to make of any other sort of relationship.
I turn my thoughts back to the stage. Sharpay is calling for another number to be rehearsed and I cringe at the thought of it; she has chosen a particularly saucy number and I for one do not want to watch Troy and Gabriella slobber all over each other and while I'm forced to pretend that I enjoy it. While I make plans to leave for a more suitable medium of occupation, I hear Sharpay calling my name.
I turn, and notice that she is examining Gabriella's heel, and it has become rather unsightly. I pity the poor girl who looks rather in pain, and so I offer to take her off to my dresser where there are plenty of bandages and the like to help her feel better. I approach Gabriella and almost offer her my arm for support, but decide that perhaps, there is another way to go about doing this. A way that will certainly piss the hell out of Troy and in the mean time, indirectly pretend that I am genuinely concerned about Gabriella, which I am not.
I slide one arm under her knees and tilt her slowly into my other arm, so that she is now lying against me as I pick her up. I can feel Troy's eyes on me, on my back as I turn to leave for my dresser, and a part of me wishes that I could only see the look on his face. But my imagination churns up a pretty good image, and so I am satisfied.
Gabriella appears unaffected by this closeness to my body. Instead, she is smiling up at me and thanking me for my kindness. I almost want to laugh at the irony because my intentions are certainly anything but kind, but I shut my mouth and nod back at her, in all politeness. She turns her head as we enter my dresser, and I catch a whiff of her hair. It smells rather nice, all feminine and girly and soft. I have no time to fathom the thought as I lay her down on the plush sofa that sits at the corner opposite my dressing table. She watches me unlock my top drawer and pull out a medical kit, one that was often used when Sharpay had wanted us to learn a dance that incorporated hip-hop and ballet. The short conclusion we drew from the amount of aches and bruises we suffered from the rehearsal was this: never again.
I crouch down with the kit, pulling Gabriella's right leg up to examine it. The bruise looks bad from on close inspection, but I've certainly seen and experienced worse, and so I take out a bottle of arnica and dab it on a square of cotton wool. The garish yellow concoction smells a thousand times worse than it looks, and I rub it in gentle, circular motions around the bruise. Gabriella sits perfectly still at the moment, watching my motions, and as she leans forward to watch me dab more lotion on her, I can again smell her. This time, there is time for contemplation. Her scent makes me think of pop-rock, something altogether hard-core and yet girly. I'm willing to bet she does not smell like anything out of a bottle.
I make the mistake of looking up from her foot and into her face. She is biting her lip, with eyes so full of expression that I very nearly fall over. Her gaze is intensely wonderful, and I find myself unable to look away. Without breaking contact, I blow gently over her heel, letting the medicine evaporate a little and cool the heat away from the injury. Her lips curl up at the corner, and her smile dimples her right cheek. I feel a thousand waves of pleasure from that single dimple, and as I bask in the glory of that little show of affection, I reach into the kit for a wrap that would fit her heel snugly.
There is no room for awkwardness, somehow, which unsettles me because we have not spoken once to each other. In my life there are little times where I can recount periods of silence, because Sharpay is always talking or making some sort of noise or playing music. I wonder if this moment should feel as significant as it does now.
I tear off a strip of tape, sealing it over the anointed heel. Gabriella's wince tells me I'm too rough, and so I rub around the bruise, blowing once again, and tear off another strip. This time, I'm more careful, and she relaxes around my touch.
For the next two minutes, I wrap yet another layer on her foot before I am finally done and can touch the spot where her bruise used to be without her feeling pain. She is all grateful smiles when I finally look back at her, and she reaches out to touch my shoulder, stroking it, murmuring her thanks.
The contact of her touch is beyond words. It differs so much from Sharpay's carefully orchestrated movements and brushes that are generally stemming from artistic mediums. Gabriella's touch appears impetuous, affecting me in odd ways that do not sit well with me. She makes me feel giddy, as though there is something that I have been missing all along that I have so long been unaware of.
She is making me reconsider my stance on love.
Slowly, she retracts her hand and places her palms on either side of her. She tests the strength of her heel on the floor first, before trying to stand up. There is a slight discomfort that shows on her face, and she very nearly slips. But I catch her side and steady her upright before she can fall.
She giggles nervously, and it makes me wonder if she feels the same way I do. My palm is still resting in the curve of her side, my thumb outstretched over a small portion of her waist. The heat of contact is chilling, and I find myself unable to repress this strange feeling that wells up in my chest.
Gabriella looks up at me, too polite to say anything, but I know she is uncomfortable. So I step away from her, like a gentleman, clear my throat, and offer to lead her back to stage.
It seems to break the tension and she nods. She takes my arm for support, and we make our way slowly toward the stage where I can hear Sharpay has gone on with that sultry number she had picked out before we left.
Gabriella and I reach the side of the stage two minutes into the song, whereby we notice Sharpay has substituted herself into Minnie's role and has her hands all over Troy Bolton. Next to me, Gabriella stiffens, and I can imagine the look on her face as being one of absolute betrayal.
Troy and Sharpay do not spot us, for we are well hidden in the darkness of the heavy red Theatre curtains, and we watch in silence as their dance delves deeper into a more apparent sexual foray.
To his credit, I notice Troy appears a little uncomfortable, but he does well to match Sharpay's steps one for one. As the song approaches its crescendo, he is instructed to slip his hands down her waist to just above her butt, and so he does. Sharpay, in turn, slips a hand into his hair to cup his neck as she brings their faces close enough for a kiss, meanwhile slipping one leg up to encircle his hips.
Evidently, the sight is too much for Gabriella, and she bursts from the curtains as if to announce her presence like a betrayed lover. Troy springs away from Sharpay with guilt written all over his face and stutters out an explanation.
But Gabriella does not want an explanation. Her frown turns into a curt smile, and she merely announces, "I see you've both had your practice, perhaps I shall need some time for my own rehearsal." Troy quickly nods, moving forward to take her hand when she turns to me and extends her arm. "I should like to try out this number with Ryan first, if you don't mind, Troy."
Troy stops in his tracks as if suddenly shot in the chest. His look is one of absolute hurt, and secretly I am impressed by Gabriella's succinctness on the matter. He deserves whatever he gets, and perhaps more.
Sharpay raises her eyebrows when I step forward and take Gabriella's hand into mine, twirling her once and letting her skirts whish around her knees. Sharpay acknowledges the moment with a clap of her hands, shooing everyone off stage to clear way for our dance. Troy, too, steps down and takes a place right in the front row of the Theatre, his arms crossed over his chest, as if unsure of what to make of this.
Kelsi, on the piano, is evidently uncomfortable. She arranges her music, pushes up her spectacles and begins the first note that begins our sensual dance.
Very slowly, Gabriella's head tilts up to meet my eyes. She takes a step into my arms, close, but not touching any part of me. I dip my head in the role of shy, sensitive Arnold, while she cups my jaw and strokes my cheek with her thumb with a boldness that embodies Minnie, her eyes never leaving mine. I let my hand come up to cup her hand, and slowly, we push apart from each other. The music builds up as we turn back to face one another, our movements bringing us back into each other's arms, our legs stepping around with in and out pirouettes, a sort of teasing that does not do justice to the sexual tension between the two characters.
There comes the moment for me to grasp Gabriella close for a kiss on her neck, and before I lunge in for the kill, I take my time to glance once at Troy, then at Sharpay, before planting one sweet kiss on Gabriella, whose head rolls back on my shoulder in something akin to pleasure. I find it amusing that Troy's hands are fisted at his sides while watching Gabriella's wanton display, and he is possibly thinking all sorts of murderous thoughts towards me. The very notion makes me smile while I run my hand over the curve of Gabriella's waist.
The ending of the song, as cliché as it is, indicates that Minnie eventually chooses to be with Arnold forever despite her parents wish for her to marry Benedict. The exact stage directions are that Minnie wraps herself close into Arnold's embrace, and together they share a passionate kiss while behind them, the stage erupts with all sorts of confetti and colourful ribbons.
I look at Gabriella, wondering if she wishes to end the song in this manner. But she does not. As the song draws to a close, all she does is press herself into me so closely I can feel her body through her dress while her head is tucked into the nook of my shoulder. I press a kiss into her hair as she sighs and rub circles into my back. She feels pliant in my arms, soft, feminine, and she makes me feel a way that I have always been unable to feel around Sharpay when we play lovers on stage.
The theatre is dead silent when the last notes fade away. Gabriella disentangles herself from me, smiles as she looks up at my face, and I find myself smiling too. That dimple flashes at me in a second, and it is then I realize her hand is still in mine. On impulse, I lift it up and press a soft kiss to it.
Sharpay clears her throat and steps forward. "I think we're done with rehearsal today." She stretches out her hands and addresses everyone else around, "Thank you everybody. You may all go home now. Don't forget next week Monday, there's still a rehearsal. Full dress, so please do not forget your costumes and make up."
Before I know it, Gabriella has slipped away behind the curtains backstage. I rub my fingers, trying to figure out why they feel so empty without her hand clasped in them.
Suddenly, a palm grasps my shoulder, and I turn to face Troy. I expect anger, or a punch in the very least, but he simply gives me an even look before saying, "You gotta teach me that."
I don't let my surprise show. So I smile and ask, "Teach you what?"
"You know," Troy appears to muster up a smile with some effort, "How to dance without stepping on a girl's foot."
My smile widens, and for a moment I feel a sense of relief. For a while, I can pretend that I did not just toy with Troy's girlfriend and get away with it. I shrug and reply, "Well, it took me quite a while to get used to it. I used to step on Sharpay a lot, too."
"Really?" Troy asks, surprised. "I always thought you two were born dancing."
"Alright," I confess. "I lied. I've never stepped on anyone's shoes before."
Troy smiles. I smile.
"So uh, how mad do you think she is at me?" He asks, tucking his hands into his jeans pocket. I wonder how much it takes for him to say that to me, of all people. He must be rather desperate. Or stupid.
But I take pity on him, because in spite of what I am inclined to believe, Troy Bolton is actually not so bad. He is actually a rather nice person.
Still, I am not interested to foster a friendship with him. He is not the sort I can feel friendly with, simply because I am not willing to let go of Gabriella and the feelings she incites in me.
I pat Troy Bolton on the back while a deliberate smile on my face does not betray any sort of emotion to him. I say, "Give her a few moments to cool down. I'm sure you two will be alright."
Troy nods, thanking me. A handshake later, he sprints off to backstage, and I wonder why he would ever believe me and what I have to say.
As I slip away to my dresser, I wonder what sort of interesting developments will take place next week. I wonder if Troy and Gabriella will finally crumble from that little romantic panacea they have created for themselves. I wonder where I stand with her. I wonder what Sharpay must think.
I open the door to my dresser and shut it, reveling in the familiarity of the place. It is bathed in soft tones of peach and gray, a little too feminine for my taste, but still comforting none the less. My head throbs from the many questions today poses, and so I reach in to my second drawer and fish around for something to cheer me up.
I end up with a fortune cookie. It is the last of the remaining when Sharpay went through her feng shui phase and insisted on having all the furniture rearranged for good luck and buying up packets and packets of fortune cookies in order to grant her direction in her Theatre decisions. She outgrew that phase a year ago, and had stored the remainder of the fortune cookies in my dresser drawer. Every now and then, I take one out when I find myself in a predicament, though I don't necessarily trust a cookie enough to let it dictate my life.
I peel off the wrapper, feeling the brown hard edges as they slide over my fingers. I crack the biscuit open and find the little slip of paper that would perhaps help me along this little situation that I've dug up for myself.
All it says are,
This too, shall pass.
18, 2, 74, 51
"Hm." Is all I say. I fold the little slip in half, tuck it into my pants pocket, and proceed to munch on the fortune cookie as I make my way out of the door in hopes that the fortune cookie may very well be right this time round.
A/N: I am terribly exhausted. This is my VERY VERY VERY crucial exam week and what do I do? Write fanfiction. This is not becoming of a student. I'm halfway between congratulating and reprimanding myself. I think I will fail tomorrow's general paper. ):
Anyway, wish me luck! I am definitely going to need much of it.
Oh, and review! Keep me happy(:
PS: Check out my other story, Entangled in Her if you really liked this baby.