Okay, so this is my next project and my first try at a really EPIC Troyella. :) It's based on JJ Abram's show from the nineties, 'Felicity' which I very highly recommend. However, the only similarities will be in this chapter and the next and then the story will take it's own route.
The Distance Between Us
Chapter One: You Will Remember This Moment
"Mr. Bolton. Care to give the answer to question fourteen?"
"Uh," the boy replied. "Um, not really."
Laughter rang through the classroom and I felt a smile slip onto my face and my heart skip a beat. Anyone else and I would have rolled my eyes to the heavens, this boy? This boy could do no wrong.
Besides, he provided such a wonderful distraction during these long revision sessions that were becoming the norm as exams and graduation creeped upon us.
"Miss. Montez?" a voice asked, and my eyes darted away from the back of the boy's head, feeling my face flush at being exposed. Glancing around the classroom, I noticed twenty odd pairs of eyes staring at me, including his, and I felt mortified.
It wasn't that I was bored in class. It was more that I was dead in class. The whole idea of school had become so draining these past few months and the distracting qualities of certain classmates were certainly proving to be far more interesting than the chapter questions for my biology assignment.
My teacher, Mr. Masterson stared at me with a peculiar expression on his face. It was so unlike me to just zone out the way I had, but what else was I to do? I knew the material, anyway.
"The answer to question fourteen, Miss. Montez," he said, and I could see the gears working in his head trying to figure out why I was so unfocused these past few weeks.
Feeling panicked, I looked down at my textbook, frantically searching for the question so I could pull the answer out of thin air. I heard someone giggle and my cheeks burst into flames. This wasn't even remotely amusing! This happened all the time! Why was it funny all of a sudden?
Finally locating the question, I looked back up and met my teacher's concerned eyes. "The stimulation of cell division made the chemicals effective weed killers because they cause uncontrollable, unsustainable growth. This means that the plant is spending all its energy and nutrients to grow new cells at the expense of the old cells. The old cells now have no energy or materials to maintain themselves or repair themselves, causing the plant to die," I took a deep breath, relaxing, knowing that my answer was right and that it was clearly just a momentary relapse on my part. "So it essentially causes the plant to spend all its energy on growth and not on the essential functions of life."
Mr. Masterson nodded and turned back to the chalk board, scribbling something on the board. My heart-rate slowed and the colour on my cheeks slowly dissolved as everyone returned to the previously scheduled program. I glanced back down at my notebook and tried to remain focused on the next question, despite the urges I had to look back up and resume what I had been doing prior the interruption.
But the urge would not go away and I swallowed, feeling very uncomfortable. My eyes forced themselves up, despite my better judgement, and I came face to face with Troy Bolton.
He was turned around slightly in his seat and gazing at me with the strangest look I've ever received. I flushed such a dark shade of crimson that I almost felt dizzy. His eyes looked straight into mine, but he did not look away. He did not smile at me nor he did not say anything.
He just stared and I counted the seconds that passed by before he finally turned around.
I let my head smash onto my desk. I was such a dork and he was probably thinking those exact words right now.
"You all right, Miss. Montez?" Mr. Masterson asked again and I resisted the urge to hurl my textbook at him.
You know how people always talk about things to tell the grandkids? Like when they meet their one true love, they always joke that they'll have to tell the grandkids. Or if they do something really remarkable, really memorable, you say it's 'something to tell the grandkids'.
I don't really have anything to tell my grandkids, if I ever do have any. At least, nothing about my high school years. I've done nothing remarkable nor has any of it been very memorable. After realizing that to stand out in high school meant really putting yourself out there in ninth grade, I made the decision of blending into the crowd instead.
The result was many a lonely night spend at home and very few friends on Facebook. It's not to say there wasn't girls I talked to in classes or that people didn't know me. There were people who knew me, people who knew Gabriella Montez, the shy math nerd. Having no real high school memories to speak of was certainly near the top of my lists of regrets stemming from four years of social hell.
The regret that topped the list and remains to do so until this day is that I was one to those girls. You know, the ones who spent years lusting over a boy who they had barely (if ever) spoken to? Yeah, I was one of them. For the entire duration of my high school career, I watched Troy Bolton from afar.
Troy Bolton was like magic made from angels D.N.A. He was breath-taking in his beauty; his face all strong angles, like it had been sculpted out of marble. His hair was sandy brown and fell in soft strands over his forehead and eyes, oh, his eyes. The deepest blue I have ever seen. There was something in them when he got really excited that just...just spoke multitudes of what he really was.
Of course, I had only ever seen this from afar. He was in my chemistry and biology classes, but other than that, we had no social interaction. Over the course of the past four years, I have spoken to him exactly twice.
The first was in tenth grade when he asked for a pen. I thought my heart was going to stop right immediately, the way he shifted in his desk in front of mine and whispered the request for a writing utensil to me, as if it was a secret just between us. As I passed the item to him, I felt my heart skip over a dozen beats and I wanted to capture that moment on film, just so I could replay it over and over and realize that I hadn't made it up.
The second was two months ago. I had received an extremely high mark on my biology test and he felt the need to comment on it.
"Holy shit, how did you manage that?" he had asked, his eyes gaping.
I shrugged, trying to keep my cool even though I felt I was going to explode just because he was looking at me. "I studied pretty hard."
"Looks like it paid off." Then the most amazing thing happened. He smiled at me. An actual, honest to God smile. It was the one he shot around to hundred of people daily, but something about it made me feel special. Like maybe, he was smiling it just for me.
To me, Troy Bolton wasn't just a status symbol. To me he seemed real. I wanted to get to know him, the real him. I wanted to talk with him, I wanted to see beneath the layers that were so clearly there.
It was an impossible thought, but it was still one that occupied my mind often.
The night my acceptance letter from Stanford came, my mother cried for three hours straight.
"Oh, Gabriella," she had sobbed, clutching my head to her chest. Awkwardly, I patted her back. "Oh, my baby, it's all happening. You're going to Stanford! Stanford University! Your dream! It's finally happening! I can't believe it's happening!"
I didn't say much in response, instead choosing to inspect the regal penmanship of the Dean's signature at the bottom of the page. My life was going exactly to plan. I was headed off to Stanford University, the place my mom and I had been talking about since I was a little girl. I was going to start premed and then in four years, I'd be off to Stanford Medical School and then I would start my internship and hopefully by the time I was forty, I would have a husband and three kids with a white picket fence.
My mother dabbed at her tears. "Oh, my baby, I'm so proud of you! You've worked so hard this year! I'm so blessed to have such a dedicated daughter! You never let distractions come in your way!"
She grinned so brightly at me that I couldn't help but smile back. But inside I was screaming. Yes, it was all finally happening.
So why wasn't I excited?
Graduation tumbled upon me faster than I had expected. One-second I was writing exams and cramming, sitting at home on prom night, curled up with a carton of ice cream and Titanic, and the next I was standing in alphabetical order with my classmates.
Receiving my diploma was like nothing I had expected. When I imagined this moment entering East High for the first time, I had imagined feeling happy, proud, accomplished. Now, living it, all I wanted was to get it over with.
I had been named valedictorian secretly three weeks ago. For some reason, it gives the student body a great joy to guess who their class speaker is, why, I have no idea. Either way, with everything I did, this deserved methodical research and strong time management. So I had googled everything I could on inspirational messages, watched humorous speeches on Youtube and read a dozen famous speeches all to prepare my own. The result was twelve cue cards filled with cliched messages and what I considered clever and witty jokes. Gulping nervously, I only hoped that everyone else would enjoy it as well.
As the two hundred names were being called, I looked up and watched as each person received their own diploma, and I applauded politely. Beautiful cheerleaders and performers from the drama department walked in perfect straight lines with dazzling grins and I realized I knew none of their names. Boys from sports teams and the school newspaper, even students from academic clubs such as chess or photography...each one was a face I couldn't place with a name.
I felt sick. Staring down at the note cards in my lap, I suddenly wanted to run. They were covered in words I never meant, never understood. My cursive writing had carefully in-scripted the same Dr. Seuss cliches everyone used. Glancing around me at my peers, I realized I knew none of them. I knew nothing about what they were about, nothing about what they were like, what they loved.
And I was expected to go up in front of the hundreds of people here and act like I was their best friend? Chances were, until someone announced my name, there was a more than good chance that none of them knew me either.
"Now I present to you, the class Valedictorian of 2008, Miss. Gabriella Montez."
Standing on shaky legs, I tucked a strand of hair behind my ear and advanced to the podium, the people around me blending into the scenery in one massive blur. I saw my mother's beaming face in the audience and as much as I wanted to smile back at her, I couldn't.
"Um, welcome, everyone to the commencement ceremony of East High School's Class of 2008," I began, swallowing the lump in my throat. With trembling hands I flipped through my cue cards. "It may seem like a cliche, but standing here among my fellow classmates and peers, I can't help but feel that..."
Then I stopped. "I feel that..." Another pause. Someone coughed. I looked back out to the audience, seeing hundreds upon hundreds of confused faces, one being my mother, whom I could tell was wondering anxiously why I wasn't continuing. Taking a deep breath, I set my speech down.
"I can't do this," I muttered into the microphone and the sea of people around me began to mumble to themselves. "I'm sorry," I looked back out at the class of 2008. "But I can't help but feel that...I don't know any of you."
The room was so quiet that it physically hurt. I felt that if I continued talking, people would break out in tears from the pain. Yet, like tears or vomit, the words just kept coming despite what I wanted.
"And I'm supposed to stand up here and talk about dedication and teamwork and how we're all in this together...when there's over two hundred faces looking back at me and...I can only name about sixty." I swallowed, feeling my breathing slow. "How can I be expected to talk about something I know nothing about? Staff and students of East High, I'm sorry, but you picked the wrong valedictorian. I can't talk about the places we'll go and the things we'll see, because I don't know any of you. And I don't know if that's my fault or yours...or if it even matters."
The silence that followed was excruciating. I could see my mother, my dear sweet mother, drop her head into her hands and I felt a pang of guilt spread through me. The principal was talking animatedly to a teacher, obviously trying to think of some way to make it seem like my entire speech was an elaborate joke; as if I was going to pull a rabbit out of my cap and scream, 'Surprise!'
Every student looked at me with a mix of confusion, shock and disgust on their faces. This was their valedictorian? This was who the teachers chose? I felt the tears well up in my eyes, and I bit on my bottom lip hard, trying to make it all go away. I couldn't do them justice.
A single clap echoed through the auditorium and my head shot up. Another clap, followed by another. It was all coming from one person, but whom? Glancing around wildly, my heart stopped when I saw the single figure standing up in the sea of red and white robes.
Troy Bolton was standing, looking straight at me and applauding.
The ripple effect this caused was amazing. Beside him, his best friend with the curly afro of hair stood up and began applauding as well. Then another student. One by one, each rose and began clapping.
I knew it was only a show, only to pretend that they had known me. But as I made my way back to my seat, my eyes never left Troy's, nor his mine. We remained locked in a gaze, one that communicated so much that I felt my heart would burst.
If I had to tell my grandkids one thing, it would be about the boy with the golden heart who stood up for me when no one else would.
As the ceremony commenced and students filtered through the auditorium, saying goodbye and hugging and cheering and crying, I weaved my way through them with my head down.
My mother took one look at me and turned the other way, her face covered in tears. I had let her down. I had humiliated myself and her.
I should have just said the Dr. Seuss speech.
Ducking my head down further, I picked up my pace, running in between students. I had to get out of there, I had to turn away and never look back. Naturally, I crashed into someone.
"I'm sorry!" I squealed, feeling my body hurtle towards the ground. I winced, waiting for the impact, but it never came. Two strong arms had encased themselves around me, and I opened my eyes slowly, afraid to see who my savior had been.
It was Troy Bolton and upon this realization, his arms felt like they were burning through the fabric onto my skin. I leapt up.
"Oh my, God, I am so, so sorry." I was in a state of panic. Troy just set me down and smiled.
"It's okay," he said softly. "It's kind of a crazy place around here, isn't it?"
I nodded. "I'll be going then." I said, beginning to run off in the other direction. But a strong grasp on my wrist propelled me backwards. Sparks shot through me and I flinched as if his touch burned me.
"Hey, hey," Troy said, turning me around to face him. "That was....that was a really brave thing you did back there."
I shrugged it off. "Yeah, well, it happens sometimes." Couldn't we just pretend it never happened? Why did he have to make me feel even worse about my current situation without even meaning to?
"No, really," he continued, stepping closer. "I don't know how you did it. It was really...admirable."
What was he playing at? First he did that remarkable thing and now he was talking to me? What was his deal? We had had less than three minutes of oral communication between us over the course of four years. Why now?
Looking up, I met his eyes and again I felt an unspoken conversation pass through them. I swallowed. "Thank you, for back there. You didn't have to do that."
He ducked his own head down, suddenly bashful. "Yeah, I did. It's not everyday someone says what everyone else is thinking for them – in front of hundreds of people, no less."
I laughed, my throat dry. "Yeah, well...happens."
He nodded and looked away, scratching the back of his neck. "Um, I'm Troy Bolton, by the way," he said awkwardly, extending his hand. I stared at it for a moment, and then back at him. When I didn't reach over to shake it, he pulled his hand back and chuckled to himself.
"I know," I said and squeezed my eyes shut as soon as the words left my mouth. "I mean, it'd be pretty hard for me not to."
He scratched the back of his neck again. "Heh, well, I could say the same for you."
My cheeks flushed wildly and I saw the realization of the full impact of his words spread across his face. "Wait, no, I didn't mean it like that, Gabriella."
The moment my name fell from his lips, I knew he was being sincere. I nodded and as if acting on impulse, I pulled out my yearbook, the one I had completely forgot I had on me; feeling suddenly compelled to remember this day.
"I know," I smiled shyly and extended my book to him. "Could you sign my yearbook for me?"
I swore I saw his eyes light up as he smiled and nodded, taking the book in his hand. "Sure thing," he paused suddenly and his face fell. "I haven't got mine on me."
My eyes shifted to the side. Why would he care. "That's um, okay."
He smiled again and pulled a pen out of his robe pocket before flipping my year book open. I felt my face flush a deep red at the lack of signatures.
"I haven't been able to get many people to sign it yet," I protested, though I knew it was useless and unnecessary: I had already announced my unpopularity moments ago.
Instead of replying, he looked down at the book thoughtfully and sat on the ground. "Do you mind if I just take a couple of minutes with this? I want to get this right."
"S-sure," I stuttered, taken aback as he made himself comfortable. I circled around him like a hawk as he scrawled words into my book, holding it close to his body to keep it away from my view. What was he writing? Something about how he thought I was actually completely ridiculous? Something about how I should never change and keep in touch? Maybe he was writing out the Dr. Seuss poem himself.
After moments that felt like years had passed, he handed me back my book. "Take care of yourself, Gabriella." His hand brushed mine and then he turned to walk away.
Faster than a child on Christmas morning, I tore open my book to read his inscription. What I read warmed my body from head to toe and made me dizzy with the implication of it all.
First, please don't think that I don't know who you are. I do know who you are, very well in fact, and I'm sorry if that sounds stalkerish. You're Gabriella Montez, possibly the smartest girl I know...but as I say that, I don't really know you. I don't know what you were thinking when you'd stare off in class, nor do I know your hobbies or interests outside of math club and choir. But I do know that you've changed me, inspired me in ways you can't even imagine. I'm sorry we never got the chance for you to find out. Take care of yourself.
Love, Troy Bolton
My heart swelled at the words. Could it be? I stared at his retreating back with my heart in my mouth. Was it possible that he had felt the same way I had all this time? No, it didn't make sense. But looking back down at the inscription, my mind only drew one conclusion.
One that said that maybe, Troy Bolton was as much in love with me as I was with him.
My mouth moved against my own will and I found myself shouting and running after him. "Troy!" I yelled, my legs moving faster than I had expected. "Troy!"
He turned around, as if expecting my reaction. "Yes?" He asked, a grin dancing across his lips.
I grinned back. "Where are you going to school?"
"NYU. How about you?" Our conversation was all shouting, yelling and grinning and my heart was going to burst at that very moment.
"That's...pretty unclear!" No it wasn't. I always knew where I was going. I was going to Stanford.
He laughed one more time and when he looked up, his eyes were sparkling like the surface of the ocean. "Good luck, Gabriella."
And with that, he was gone; disappeared into a sea of hugs and cheers from friends and people I knew nothing of.
But as I pressed my hand to my mouth in shock and tried desperately to erase the huge grin on my mouth, I knew I had no choice but to do what I did next. Call it temporary insanity, call it young love, call it what you want. I just knew that what I was about to do was the craziest thing imaginable, not just for a girl like me...but for anyone in general.
And it felt so good.
"So, basically, I've given up everything my parents ever planned for me, everything I ever expected...all for a boy I don't even know."
-Felicity Porter, Pilot