A/N: Sorry. I know, it's been an age! And I apologise to anyone who's had to go back and read chapters or the whole thing. I understand if you can't be bothered, but I just lost my grip on this story. I had no drive and no idea where it was going to go. And also had to workout the timeline in my head again, and so changed a few of the lines of the previous chapter. Because otherwise the whole thing just didn't make sense. Just to be clear, this is now a Sunday, and it's the next Monday of the story, not this one coming which marks Sharpay's recovery time.
Thank you if you're still reading, and thanks to MaxximumRide666 for sparking this off again. =)
I blink, the sun shining brightly though a gap in the curtains. It's harsh on tired eyes, and I turn away from the window.
I have to catch my breath when I see her, and last night comes rushing back to me. Gabriella is lying on her side, facing me. She looks like a sleeping angel, her hair reflecting the sun with a glossy sheen, her cheek resting upon her hands, making a pillow beneath her.
Suddenly it occurs to me; my girlfriend is quite the Disney cliché.
I check the clock behind her head, and see it's just gone eight o'clock. Way too early for a Sunday. But it's worth being up early if I get to see this.
I reach out my hand, placing it on her cheeks. My thumb trails down, brushing over her lips. She stirs a little and I flinch, pulling my hand back. Gabriella's only reaction is to smile warmly, and snuggle a little closer.
After a while I figure I should occupy myself. I sit up, making sure the duvet covers Gabby whilst I take the sheet, wrapping it around my body. I move over to her keyboard, turning it on, whilst one hand holds up the sheets.
I turn the volume down a little, and run my right hand –my best player- over the keys, gently enough not to make a sound. I feel for what I think are the right notes, near middle C, and play around with them, starting to form something that could turn into a tune. It's soft, and mellow.
I feel her arms snake around my shoulders, avoiding my neck. A kiss brushes my cheek, and I close my eyes, leaning back into her.
"Morning, Tinkerbell." I can tell she's smiling, and look at her, an eyebrow raised before turning back to the keyboard. "So I was thinking… maybe you'd want this back." Gabby walks to the nearby study table, and takes her songbook off of the side. I see she's got the duvet covering her shoulders, and blush a little.
She opens it up, and hands me the folded piece of paper hiding inside. I take it, unfolding it gently. It looks like it's been opened and refolded a thousand times. I smile to myself. "As much as I love Kelsi…" She hesitates, her teeth tugging on her bottom lip. "I'd rather you were playing it for me." She looks down and I take her hand, placing a kiss on her knuckles.
I want to, I do. I just… well, maybe making her happy trumps how the student body thinks of me. I mean, my reputations been through hell this past week or two. What's one more thing to add to the list?
Then I realize something, and I let go of the sheet wrapping me, confident it will stay up, and start to play one of the songs from the show. It takes her a moment to recognise it, then she grins at me and throws her arms around my shoulders as carefully as ever, placing kisses down the side of my face.
"I knew you'd do it!" Gabby squeals and I laugh, the sound escaping my throat. "But are you meant to do that?" She asks, pointing to my neck.
I shrug. I don't think it matters too much now.
Gabriella shakes her head. "I want to hear you laugh, I do. Especially if you mean it." She smiles at me, obviously thinking back. "But I don't want to risk you losing your voice."
"That was code for 'shut up'." Gabriella warns me, her hand covering my mouth. I just nod, and she removes her hand, replacing it with her lips.
Now this is something I could totally get used to.
A loud rattling surprises, and Gabriella jumps away from me in shock as her mom tries to open the door. Gabriella trips over her duvet in her haste to move towards her clothes, grabbing my sheet as she does and pulling me down on top of her. The sheet becomes unravelled in the process, and I'm left half exposed on top of her, my face an inch away from hers.
"Gabby?" Her mom asks through the door, giving it another try. "Is you door locked?"
"Yeah- just a second mom, we're…" She can't stop the giggle that escapes her throat as she stares into my eyes from below me. Gabriella clears her throat, determined to sound serious. "We're getting dressed." She almost blanches as she realises she's said 'we' and bites her lip as she waits for her mothers response. There's an awkward pause, but I can't help but carry on smiling, because this girl is an absolute vision.
"Oh, is Sharpay still here?" Comes the reply, and I smirk as Gabriella blushes a little.
"Yeah, she's changing in the bathroom." Gabby lies, stuttering a little. I can tell she isn't used to keeping secrets- especially from her mom.
"Oh. Well, tell her I'm making pancakes. Do you think she'll want some?"
Gabriella stares up at me, and I nod, keeping silent as usual. "Yeah, that'll be great. Thank you, mom." She calls back.
"They'll be on the table in ten minutes." Her mom says, and we hear her footsteps travel down the hallway, away from the door.
We both breathe out together, and smile in relief. That was very inconspicuous. We totally got away with that.
"Thank God the door was locked." She laughs, and I lean down before I know what's come over me, capturing her lips with my own. It's a soft kiss, and she responds just as gently. "Come on." She pulls away after a moment or two. "We need to get dressed- before she gets really suspicious."
The smell of pancakes in the morning is definitely something I live with. I think this whole morning is something I could end up liking a hell of lot actually.
Gabriella is sitting next to me, staring at me as she takes another small bite of pancakes off of her fork with her teeth. Her eyes are smouldering, and her lips stretch into a smile that makes my heart race.
I feel her foot against my own, and then her other foot moving to cup the other side of my leg, and run down it, sending shivers down my spine.
"Any plans for today, girls?" Her mom chirps as she enters the room once more, and we both pull away quickly, our knees banging against the table in almost perfect harmony.
It's loud, but hopefully not too obvious. And man, does it hurt.
"I… I don't know." Gabriella winces, one hand moving underneath the table. She rubs her own knee, and then moves onto mine, giving it a gentle squeeze before she pulls her hand away. "I guess we could finish up on our Biology project."
She sees the look on my face, and laughs. Though personally I don't get what's so funny.
"It's due tomorrow, Sharpay. And I'm not lowering my grade point average because you don't feel like doing work. So stop pouting at me." Gabriella smiles a little as the pout stays on my face. "If we get it done before lunch time then maybe we can go out. Or stay in." Her foot brushes against my leg again, and it's hard to tell how intentional it is. I'm suddenly hyper aware that her mother is in the room and attempt to suppress a blush as I stare down at my – suddenly very interesting – pancakes.
I nod, unable to do anything else. It's a good plan, if I'm honest. Work now, fun later. And I couldn't argue if I wanted to. My throat hurts and uneasy thoughts are preying on my mind. Did I damage my vocal chords last night? Should I go and see the Doctor?
"Are you okay?" Gabby asks, and I blink a few times before I look up, nodding at her. Silently, she gets up from the table, and comes back with a pen and notepad clutched tightly in her hands. "Liar. You can tell me. If you want to." She places the items on the kitchen island, and I stare at them, sighing. It takes a great deal of effort, a part of me no longer used to telling people things. Another part of me forces myself to pick up the pen, which I tap on the table for a moment. I don't know how to word this kind of thing. In the end, I just write.
'I think I need to make another doctors appointment.' I write, keeping it simple.
"Why? Do you want me to call your mom?" She asks, softly. I glance over at Gabby's own mother, who's engrossed in her newspaper, then shake my head. She frowns at me, confused.
I sigh. 'My mom isn't great at the appointments. She's focused on other things.' I neglect to write 'has a one track mind on plastic surgery'. 'And it's nothing. My throat just hurts a bit.'
Gabriella's eyebrow arches as she reads my note. "And I think I know why." She looks pained, like this is somehow her fault, and I touch her arm gently. "Which hospital and doctor are you under?"
I write down the details, and she nods, taking the note with her and moving into the living room. Within seconds I can hear that she's on the phone.
"So, you two seem to be getting on quite well again." Rachel Montez notes, looking up from her paper. "Better than before, I might even say."
I can only nod, biting my lip self-consciously. Oh, God. Does she know? I mean the only clues are probably my staying the night, this morning's locked door incident and the knees under the table and- OH GOD, she knows.
"Just don't hurt her like that again. Please?" She asks, looking at me from over the newspaper. It's a stern look, but still filled with concern. For the both of us I think. I nod, hoping my eyes express my apologies, and she nods back at me. It's just one nod, but it's firm as we make a silent promise to each other.
Neither of us want to see her that hurt again.
"You've got an appointment in three hours with your doctor, if you want it. It's an emergency one, as it's out of his usual hours, so I have to check if it's okay to put on your insurance." Gabriella asks, poking her head back into the room. It will cost a lot more, but I wave my hand at the question. My parents own the freaking country club. They've got great insurance, and the money to burn if they didn't. "Okay, I'll just go and confirm it with them." She disappears again, and comes back after a few more minutes.
"Well, should we try and get some work done before it's time for that?" She asks, her voice gentle, and I nod. I look to her, grabbing her hand and squeezing it gently. "What is it, sweetie?" Gabriella frowns softly at me, sitting back down at the table. "Do you… do you want me to come with you? To the hospital?" I nod, knowing my cheeks are flushed with the embarrassment of having to ask someone to come with me and be my voice. "Of course I will." Gabriella offers me a small smile, and jerks her head towards her stairs. "Come on. We've got a project to finish."
The finishing touches are done within an hour and a half, and I'm not actually feeling bad about this. Not at all, actually. I mean Gabriella was working on it, and my GPA isn't exactly the lowest in the school. I decide that we actually make a pretty good team.
After that we sit on her bed. I'm sitting between her legs as she plays with my hair, and it feels gorgeous. Just her fingers running through the strands, her nails occasionally grazing lightly over my scalp. She talks about everything, and yet nothing, and eventually we fall into a comfortable silence. Then she moves my hair, gathering it all up into her precious, tiny little hands and placing it over my right shoulder. I feel her fingers gently stroke the bruising that still shows on the back of my neck, and I tense. Her fingers are soon replaced by her lips, brushing delicately over the sensitive skin, and I can't help the way my back arches and my head lolls backwards onto her shoulder. I'm exposed. Everything about me currently comes down to this, my most vulnerable feature (at this point in time) is being offered up to her. All she has to do is take it.
Her lips pull away from my skin, and I feel her breath on my neck, as she hesitates. Last night was special, and I'd felt safe- but somehow this feels different. And yes, somehow, I still feel like I'm the safest person in the world. Her arms move to my front, and she holds me in a way that's both firm and soft before her lips are back on my neck. On the bruises she continues to be careful, but then she works her way up, her lips moving up to my jaw line, and I sigh.
"Are you okay?" Gabriella asks, her voice no louder than a whisper.
I nod, slowly, my eyes closed as I try and make sense of the words moving around my mind. Perfection is one of them. I turn in her arms, trying not to break the contact too much, and kiss her once on the lips. It's soft, and slow, and I hope it tells her what's going through my mind. We break apart, both breathing a little heavier than we probably should be after such a tame kiss, and study each others eyes for a moment. Then she smiles, and takes my hand.
"Come on, we should start to head off. Don't want to be late to your appointment." She gives me a final peck, on the corner of my mouth, and we get off the bed.
I want to think of a song, to try and distract myself. But I've left my iPod in the car, and the only song that's going through my mind is the freaking funeral march. Of course, I know it won't be that bad. It can't be that bad, because I'm not sure what I would do if it was that bad. I can't even think about it, and so I don't. I sit there, trying to think positively, imagining the doctor is just going to tut and tell me that I'm wasting his time over nothing.
Of course, things never go to plan. It starts with the doctor looking very surprised that my mother isn't with me, and Gabriella introduces herself to him as a good friend. I almost smirk, but keep it at bay, and the doctor nods apprehensively.
"Right, well is this about your surgery options? Because I've already spoken to you and your mother quite a lot about that." He sighs, running through his history notes. I sigh, but my body goes a little rigid at the mention of surgery.
"Forget the surgery." Gabriella says, her voice quiet, but firm. "We're not here to talk about things she doesn't need." She glances at me, and places a left hand on shoulder, her thumb stroking my neck. It comforts me a little, and I feel my posture relax a small amount. "We're just worried that she's damaged her vocal chords." She coughs a little at the end of her sentence, and the doctor looks at her, frowning.
"Can I ask where these concerns are stemming from?" The man asks, and I nod. Of course, I can't say anything.
"Well, partially because she had to get her stitches redone last Tuesday. I know you weren't at the hospital, but I assume you know the basics."
"Yes." He nods once, looking down at the files. "Nothing tells me what causes the incident, but I know that she-" He turns to look at me. "You came into the Emergency Room quite late on the Tuesday night, bleeding from the neck. It had been torn in some way, and so they patched you up again." He looks down at his notes once more. "Though I can see you vocal chords weren't checked at the time. Has anything else happened since?"
I bite my lip, and look at Gabby. My eyes are filled with apology, and so are hers. "Yesterday… there was a separate incident. And she spoke. It was only for a moment or so, but-"
"Well, that completely defies my instruction." The doctor says, and I can tell he's a little pissed. He takes in a breath, and looks at me with these eyes that have seen a thousand lies. "Though I understand it's hard to not talk for so long. I trust that it was important?"
I nod without a moment of hesitation, a small, guilty smile on my lips. I look up at Gabby, and she smiles back at me, her hand squeezing my shoulder a little.
"Then, let's do some checks. Shall we?"
He goes to his little trolley, and takes out a clean mirror. One of those little ones that dentists use. I pen my mouth when he tells me to, and he uses the mirror to look down my throat, and see my vocal chords. The thought freaks me out a little, and I feel sick. My palms are sweating again.
"I see some swelling." He tells me, as he takes the mirror out of my mouth. "And some residual scar tissue that seems to have grown. Probably due to last weeks trauma." He shrugs. "It's loose, hanging a little like dead skin, so I can try and take some off now, and hope it doesn't grow back." I nod, licking my lips. My whole mouth feels dry, and I try to swallow. But it seems impossible.
"Is there anything Sharpay can do? To help it not grow back?" Gabby asks. She sounds a little ill at the thought of him scraping at my vocal chords, but stays strong.
"I suppose to try and avoid irritating it, so definitely no speaking or… whatever happened last week." He looks to Gabriella, and then realises she isn't going to help him decipher that. "But it's hard to say. Sometimes scar tissue grows how it's meant to, and sometimes it doesn't. The best we can do is try to let nature do it's thing, and not to disturb it too much.
It's a relatively simple technique. He squirts some kind of local anaesthetic up my nose, and follows it with a tiny little camera and… biopsy taking device that looks a bit like a piece of spaghetti. It's long, and I don't feel any pain- just an uncomfortable sensation and the warmth of Gabriella's hand in mine.
When he finishes my throat feels strange, somewhere between numb and tingly. He tells me something about how he thinks he got enough of it not to interfere with my vocal chords in the future and how I really shouldn't test it until I pass my deadline.
"It's just over another week." He says. "I'm sure you can cope with that."
I nod, but my mind drifts to the crap that's been going on. About the way I haven't been able to defend myself. It never really occurred to me before, you know? How much I relied on my voice to get others to do what I wanted, to cut down other people and, of course, to build the walls I'd built around me.
Within about a week Gabby had knocked down a few bricks, got me to treat her like a friend. We'd got along, and it had been nice. Within a week and a half I'd been so smitten with her that I'd kissed her. And now… at this rate I wouldn't have any walls left by next Monday.
She takes me by the hand again as we leave the hospital. She's silent in the car, but once again it doesn't feel awkward. I try and think back, to when we reached that stage. It occurs to me we've never had an awkward silence between us- not when we weren't fighting at least. No matter what I've said to her, she's always had a reply, and vice versa. I think back to the Summer, when things had been going well for her and Troy. They'd have been better, of course, if I hadn't tried to interfere. I smile as I remember her standing up to me, by the pool, setting me straight about what she had thought about me at that point in time. I wish I could ask her about it now. Did she ever hate me?
After all, I'd been quite the bitch. That much was certainly true. She takes me home, and we sit in the car outside my house for a moment. I see the curtains twitch, and know it has to be my mother. I hadn't told her I was going out last night, so God knows what she's thinking right now.
"Thank you, for letting me go with you." She finally says, and I look at her with a slightly stunned look on my face. No, I should be thanking her. I reach across, and touch her face, and she nods, understanding. "Do you want me to come inside, or…"
I bite my lip, thinking, and eventually shake my head. I look back towards the house, where the door has opened, and my mother stands there, waiting for me with an impatient tap of her foot.
"Right, I suppose you'll have enough to deal with." Gabriella gives a small chuckle, but I can tell she doesn't want to be laughing about this. I want to kiss her, but I can feel my mother's eyes on us, and so I move my hand from her cheek, and touch her hand, giving it a tight squeeze.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Sharpay." Gabby smiles at me, and I nod. "You can come over to breakfast, you know. If you want to." My grin widens, and I nod once more. Reluctantly I let go of her hand, moving out of the comfort of her car. She watches me as I approach the house, not leaving until I turn and give her one last, small wave.
Then I'm faced with my mother, who's scowl makes my heart sink a little. But I'm not letting it get me down that easily.
"And where have you been?" She asks, locking my way to the front door. I frown, wondering how she expects me to reply, and so point behind me, to where Gabriella's car is driving away. "With that girl?"
That girl? I hate how my mother can't just leave anything in my life alone.
I feel my neck prickle as I push my way past my mother. She grabs my arms as I go by, turning me to face her again. "I hope it was for that science project your brother says you've been doing with her. Don't want to mix with the wrong kind of people, do we? Not unless we have to."
I wish I didn't have to mix with her, and I almost say the words. But, of course, I can't.
"What do you mean 'wrong'?" I hear Ryan's voice from the kitchen, and turn to him. I give him a look of relief and he nods at me, in way of a greeting and acknowledgment.
"I'm not stupid, she's obviously Spanish." My mother sighs, exasperated at having to explain herself. "And we don't mix with people who could one day be our staff."
My stomach clenches, and I fight to get away from her, pulling my arm from her grasp in such a rush that it leaves nail marks down my arm.
"Mom!" Ryan calls, coming closer. "How can you say that? Gabriella's one of the smartest people in our school. She's gotten accepted early to a ton of colleges, including Stanford."
I glance at him for a moment, wondering why I don't know about this. Early acceptance means she leaves before the school year is up, right? I push the feeling aside, and settle my gaze back on my mother.
"It's not the brains that will be her downfall." My mother tuts. "But the laziness. It's just bred into them."
I can't say anything, which means I can't change her mind. And so I leave the room, listening to Ryan try and make his point. He weakens as she powers on with her mind set on the outcome, and I actually cry a little as he's forced to back down.
This is the way she works. You tell her something and she'll try and force you to either see things her way or pretend you do. The thought takes me back to the Country Club, and the reason that there had been so many staffing positions to fill last Summer. The whispered arguments and comments that had been passed around after the lifeguard had been fired, along with the waiter that he'd been seeing outside of work. Mother and father had noticed, and during one heated debate where the workers had gathered as a union to stop discrimination, my parents had fired about 70% of our staff.
No one dared breathe a word about the situation after that, Ryan and myself included.
I don't know how many minutes I sit against my door, silent tears slipping down my cheeks as I focus on my breathing. I know I can't sob or scream, and it kills me as I listen to Ryan start to give up.
"I don't know why you're being so defensive." My mother says, her voice betraying her sneer. "You're not thinking about dating her, are you? I mean it's someone I suppose, but… have you met Karen's daughter? She's lovely. She goes to a Catholic school, just outside of town."
I block out the rest of the conversation, not wanting to have to listen avoid the subject of his love life once again.
I hear a 'ping' from my phone and fish it out of my pocket. The screen is lit up, telling me I have a new message. I press 'ok' and read it.
I miss you already. Is that bad? Xx (Gabriella M, 6:37pm)
For the first time since I've been home I smile, my fingers slowly typing out my thoughts.
If it's bad then we both belong in jail. I just want to see you. Xx
I sit there for a long moment, staring at my phone, and my heart speeds up a little when the screen lights up once more.
Believe me, I know. The reply says, and I wonder if it's as desperate on her end as it is on mine. I doubt it. It's a school night, so mom says you can't stay. But if you want to escape for a bit then we can watch a movie at mine. Xx (Gabriella M, 6:40pm)
I text back an yes, faster than I've ever texted in my life, and within a moment I've grabbed my car keys. I bite my lip, and think about Ryan before I go to his room. I can hear mom downstairs, but it sounds like daddy's home. He's moaning about people that he works with and stupid stuff that I don't care about. At least they're distracted. I knock on his door, and hear a grumbled 'come in'. When he sees it's me he sits up quickly, wiping at his cheeks.
"Shar, what's up?" He asks, his face forming a frown. "Are you okay?"
I nod, and hand him my phone with Gabby's last text on it for him to read.
"Are you sure you want me to come?" He asks, but he can't hide the hope on his face, and so I nod, giving him a small smile. "Then let's go."
Twenty minutes later we've pulled up at Gabby's house, and I knock on the door. She opens it within a minute, and looks a little surprised to see Ryan as well.
"Oh, hi. I didn't know you were coming." Gabriella says, but replaces the stunned look with a smile in a moment.
"I hope it's okay. I think Sharpay wanted to get me out the house." He smiles, and I elbow him lightly.
"Of course it's fine. Come inside, we have a movie to watch."
Ryan gestures for me to walk in first, and I do, grabbing Gabriella's hand as we walk towards the living room. Ryan follows, and when I turn to him his eyes are on our hands. I stop, and look at him, my eyebrow arched in a challenge.
"Am I… is this what I think it is?" He asks, and I bite my lip as I nod. I know he won't disapprove, but it doesn't stop the butterflies that are currently messing with my stomach. "Right."
"What's wrong?" Gabriella asks, her tone a little defensive. "I thought you'd be happy-"
"I am!" Ryan says, holding his hands up for protection. "I'm just not sure I want to be around when someone tells mom and dad that both their children are gay."
It's the first time it's really been said out loud, like that. He's never admitted it that plainly- like it hardly matters- to me before, and I've never even thought of myself as gay, but I suppose I can't be straight. So I have to be something right? Either way it fills my thoughts as we watch Sweet Home Alabama, Gabby's fingers tracing patterns up my arm. It occurs to me that he's right. If we tell our parents, then I'm not sure how long it will be before they stop calling us their children.