Disclaimer: I do not own, nor am I in any way associated with, HSM.


Eighth grade. The last year before high school began and he was on the bottom of the totem pole. But Zeke didn't like to think about that. He followed Chad's advice as he walked into the school that day, remembering that for the next nine months he was on top. Then summer would begin and he'd have three months of being nowhere before he was a punching bag for seniors.

Zeke shook himself. He had to stop thinking like this. He was king of the school! Well, Troy was king of the school, but he was at least a Duke or a Lord or something.

"Dude," Jason laughed, slapping Zeke on the back and steering him towards the lockers, "what's wrong?"

Zeke shrugged. "I don't know. I just can't get excited about this whole eighth grade thing." He pulled out the slip of paper with his locker information and began scanning the row in front of him.

Jason did the same and said, "Trust me this year's gonna be great."

"I'm not worried about this year," Zeke said, "I'm worried about all the other ones."

"There I am," Jason said, nodding to the far end of the hall.

"I'm not here," Zeke said with a shake of his head.

"Good luck," Jason laughed, hurrying to his own locker while Zeke rounded the next corner, continuing his search. He passed several old friends along the way, occasionally stopping to talk to some or simply bump fists with others. Finally he found his locker, close to the end of the eighth grade section, but blessedly close to the gym. He hurriedly dropped his bag on the floor and began unpacking, realizing that homeroom would be starting soon.

"Excuse me!" a sharp voice said and Zeke's locker closed on him. He jumped back just in time to avoid being hit, only to see a blonde girl at the locker beside his, carefully situating a mirror on the inside of the door. When she was pleased with its position she began examining her own reflection, fussing with her shining hair and perfect makeup. Zeke could feel something expanding in his chest. His heart, he thought, and decided this was what love at first sight must feel like because suddenly there was nothing so important in the world as talking to her.

"Can I help you?" she asked and with a start he realized that she was looking at him in the mirror.

"Um, I, uh … hi," he said, wiping a hand on his hip before holding it out.

She turned, regarded the hand with a snort, and resumed her work.

He held his hand there for a moment more, feeling somewhat lost. He finally dropped his arm to his side and said, "I'm Zeke."

"Uh huh," she said, setting a photograph of a small dog on the locker's shelf. The frame, he noted, sparkled pink like the girl's tank top.

"You must be new," he tried.

"Uh huh."

He was beginning to wonder if that whole love at first sight thing really was a load of hooey.

"Sharpay!" someone called down the hall. A boy in a yellow newsboy cap threw open the locker on the girl's other side and spoke quickly. "They've got a great baseball team! You should see the trophy case --"

The girl, Sharpay -- just thinking the name made Zeke's heart speed up -- held up a hand in classic "'cause the face ain't listening" fashion. The boy sagged against her locker door with a sigh.

"The drama department's not that great, but apparently Ms. Darbus at the high school is a legend."

"Wonderful." Sharpay dropped a biology textbook into the pink leather bag at her feet and closed her locker with a smile. "We'll make a huge splash here, I can just feel it. This is the start of something -- incredible."

She walked past Zeke down the hall, like a queen heading for her throne. Zeke saw the boy roll his eyes before following. Zeke glared at the boy without quite knowing why. The bell rang, startling him away from the retreating figures. He turned back to his locker but his eyes settled on the pink bag on the floor. Her bag!

He had grabbed it and was running down the hall before he'd even finished the thought. He saw her blonde head easily making headway through the crowd.

"Sharpay!" he yelled, a smile gracing his features. If he'd thought thinking her name made his heart jump, saying her name made it do an entire gymnastics routine.

She paused, turned, and frowned at him, each motion carried out individually as if it was worthy of her full attention.

He ran up to her, vaguely aware of the curious faces watching him interact with the New Girl.

"You forgot your bag," he said, holding it out to her.

She looked at it, then at him, then at it again. She quickly grabbed it and rifled through the contents before meeting his eyes. She gave the barest of nods and turned away, her heels clicking rhythmically against the tiled floor.

"Sorry," a voice to Zeke's left said.

He grudgingly forced his eyes away from Sharpay and was surprised to see the boy from before.

"My sister doesn't speak Civil. I'm Ryan Evans," he said, holding out his hand.

"Your sister?" Zeke asked happily. The guy Sharpay was willing to speak to was her brother! He fought the urge to shout with joy.

"Yeah, it's brutal," Ryan said with a harsh laugh. Zeke ignored this comment. If Sharpay was mean to Ryan, she must have a good reason. He glanced back down the quickly emptying hallway as if he might still catch a glimpse of his lady love.

"Hey," Ryan said suddenly, "who's that?"

Zeke looked to where Ryan was pointing and saw … Cassie? Kelly? "Kelsi!" he said triumphantly, startling the girl into dropping the papers in her hands.

Ryan hurried across the hall to help her gather them up. "Nice hat," Zeke heard him say.

"Dude!" Jason called and Zeke turned just as the final bell rang. Jason's eyes widened and started running down the hall, Zeke at his side.

"I'm beginning to think," Jason said between breaths, " you were right to worry."

"No way," Zeke smiled, "this is gonna be … fabulous."

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