Why hello there! Haven't been on here in a while. Here's a nice explanation for this story. I was working on the one-shot collection for 'Seven Wonders' which is coming right along and should be out in a few days or so, when I got this amazing idea for a story. It's going to be a really REALLY touchy subject if you didn't get that from the title or the description. It'll probably be pretty short, anywhere between six to eight chapters. I don't really know where I'm going with it at the moment, but I will figure it out. ;)

If you're confused now, I don't blame you. Feel free to ask any questions you may have through review or PM. I will answer them, I promise. But everything will be explained within the next chapters.

I own nothing. Thanks for picking "The Last Shot!"

The Last Shot

Chapter One: You Can't Forget

Where do you go when you want to escape?

When the world just seems like it's too much to handle, where exactly is a safe haven? When you know that the one place that you're supposed to be protected at all hours is no longer a secure environment, how do explain the fear? How do you react? Are you thinking rationally or realistically? Are you preparing your last words or fighting for your life? Do you try to safe your friends, your family? Or do you just want to get yourself out of the situation while you have the chance?

What do you do when you know you're going to die?

Some people may sit and pray, silently saying goodbye to their parents and younger siblings they left behind. Others hide in a corner, silently crying but wishing someone, anyone, will stop this disaster from happening. Most try to find a flight pattern, a getaway, all the while hoping that the maniac responsible for this won't find them. Won't catch them in the act of saving their own life, because they know if they're caught, there's a very good chance that that precious life of theirs will be no longer.

Do you question your existence if you make it out alive but others don't?

And how can you go on in life, living in the same town, attending the same school, seeing the same people? The parents of the dead children who glumly acknowledge your presence, praising how lucky you are to be alive. Do you want it all to just stop? Do you pick up you belongings and flee the town, desperate for a new life? Of course you do. You think that if you leave town, leave the city, leave the state, it'll all return to normal. You'll settle down in a new town, a new city, a new state, and hopefully fail to remember that horrible atrocity never occurred. Only, you can't erase it from your mind. It's that nasty scar on you that will never leave. It'll haunt you until the day you perish.

Because no matter how hard you try to put it out of your mind, that really did just happen.

And you can't forget.

"No, no! Please!"

"Don't hurt me!"

"Run! Before he gets you too!"


16-year-old Gabriella Montez awoke in a cold sweat, breathing heavily and eyes fearful. She glanced at the alarm clock beside her head and sighed, placing a hand over her furiously beating heart and sitting up in bed. She'd been having this nightmare for weeks now. Months, even. Even now, as it was six months later, she was still afraid of nearly everything that passed her. Even though she'd moved nearly one thousand miles away from the tragedy, it still haunted her wherever she went. It was something that she just couldn't escape.

Pulling on clothing and making her bed silently, she tried to put her mind on anything but that horrible day. March fifth would forever be embedded in her brain. And as her mother carefully drove her to school that day, she remembered that it had been just like this. A normal day where her mom would bring her to school, drive off to work and then come and pick her up at three o' clock. But March fifth had been anything but a normal day.

It had been a day from hell.

"You know," Maria Montez spoke to her daughter, pulling the car to stop in front of the school. "You don't have to do this today. I can turn around and we can go home. We'll come back when you feel ready."

But Gabriella sighed, unbuckling her seatbelt and opening the car door. "I'll be fine."

"Call me if you want me to come get you." Maria ordered. "Because I will. I'll drop everything and come."

Shaking her head and hopping out of the SUV, Gabriella plastered on a fake smile. "I won't need to. Bye Mom."

The car door shut securely and Gabriella walked timidly onto the campus. Groups of people were swarming the front lawn and steps of East High School, her new academic retreat. A few people glanced at her, but no one really made her feel uncomfortable. She walked slowly, trying to take in the New Mexican school and its students. A few boys whistled at her and she sighed, not ready for this kind of confrontation yet. As she neared the school steps, one of the boys called out to her.

"Hey, hot stuff! Come on over!"

She ignored him. His friend shouted, "Tommy, check out the babe!"

Gabriella froze in her place. Tommy. Suddenly all of the memories of that fateful day flooded back to her as the one proclaimed Tommy neared towards her. "Hey. I'm Tommy. You new here?"

"L-Leave me alone!" Her voice trembled as she spoke. "Don't hurt me! Please!"

Tommy only stared at her, an expression of confusion washing over his features. "I wasn't going to-"

"Don't do it! Don't do it!"

"Do what?"

"Is there a problem?" A new boy took the scene and glanced at Tommy, who backed away, arms raised in form of surrender. The blue-eyed boy glanced at Gabriella. "Hey. Are you okay?"

Gabriella smiled slightly, relaxing just a little. "You saved my life."

The boy raised an eyebrow. "I did what now?"

"Can't you see it?" She asked, pointing back at where Tommy was standing, a good twenty feet away. "He was going to kill me!"

"Are you okay?"

The question came again. Seven months ago, she could answer this freely. It hadn't happened to her back then. Her boyfriend and best friends were all still alive. Her favorite teacher and principal were still alive. Everyone was still alive. And she was happy, still living her life in that small New Hampshire town. But now, months after it had come about, it wasn't so easy to answer that simple of a question anymore. Especially since it had so many different answers.

She summed them up into one.

"No," She confessed. "I'm never okay anymore."

And with that, she took off running.

Gabriella Montez had always felt safe in the library.

For some reason- and no, it had nothing to do with her academic stature- everything was just so peaceful and complacent in the library. East High's library was just as comfortable as the one back in New Hampshire. She found an abandoned couch in the back of the Young Adult section and sat down, feeling quite at home. She didn't want to come in contact with anyone here. She wanted to remain anonymous, nameless, faceless. That run-in with Tommy had been all too real. Tommy. She let out an involuntary shudder at the name. She couldn't control herself. It just happened. Feeling something hard behind her back, she reached into the cushions of the couch and produced a book.

Give A Boy A Gun by Todd Strasser.

Shrieking with fear, she threw the book across the floor and faced the other direction. God, what was wrong with her? She couldn't do anything these days without being reminded of that horrible day which ended in such a horrible night. She could still remember waking up in that dark hospital room to the smell of caked blood dried to sweat slick skin. There was a sharp, searing pain in her left arm and she couldn't move her head. Dizziness produced two images of her mother, sobbing in the chair beside her. Gabriella had been so confused. Oh, so confused.

"Mom, what happened?" She croaked, her voice sounding foreign even to her. Her eyes went in and out of focus and the whole moment just felt surreal.

"Oh honey..." Maria sobbed even harder. "Oh baby..."

"Mom..." Gabriella was struggling. "What happened to me? What's going on?"

Maria fought hard to control herself. "I'm sorry honey. I'm so sorry. Brian isn't... and Jess and Hailey... oh and Chris and Katie..."

Brian. Something had happened to her Brian. And did she really just name nearly all of her best friends. Gabriella coughed violently. "What happened to them?"

"They're... dead!"

Gabriella remembered vomiting at that very moment before blacking out completely. Her best friends. Katie with her long legs and beautiful model-like body. Hailey, her long blonde hair and bouncy personality that made everyone love her. Jess, the sporty athletic one of the group who had the best team spirit. Chris with his sweet, nice-guy personality and sensible charm that had the girls falling for him at his feet. But because he had such good morals, his eyes were only for Katie. And then there was Brian. Her Brian. Charming and charismatic, he cared for her and she doted on him right back. What was she going to do without all of them?

"Um, excuse me," A voice interrupted her thoughts. "Did you drop this?"

Gabriella snapped back to reality and came to recognize the boy with the striking blue eyes she'd talked to in the courtyard. She quickly shook head. "Um, no. But thank you."

"Alright." He dropped it atop a shelf of books and sat down beside her. "Mind if I sit here?"

Gabriella shook her head again. "No. That's fine."

"I'm Troy Bolton." He smiled, extending a hand towards her.

"Gabriella Montez." She shook his hand, his palm feeling warm in her own. "I just moved here from New Hampshire."

Where the sudden burst of confidence came from, she didn't know. But for some strange reason, Troy Bolton seemed like he'd be a great listener. And if she could befriend him, she was desperate for anyone to listen to her. She just needed to vent.

His eyes widened. "New Hampshire, huh? Terrible thing that happened last March in Plainfield, wasn't it?"

Gabriella's heart rate sped up. "You know about that?"

"Everyone knows about that." Troy corrected. "It was all over the news for months."

She took this news in and pondered it for a moment. Everyone knows. Maybe she wasn't alone in the world after all. Suddenly, there was a loud bang from the other side of the library. Gabriella screamed in horror and leapt behind the couch, crowing and hugging her knees to her chest, trembling in fear. It couldn't really be happening again. She knew she shouldn't have gone to school today. Then, from the scene of the bang, there was laughter and Troy turned around to look at the shaken girl.

"Hey, it's okay. Someone just dropped their textbook. Those things are really loud." He soothed. "Are you often scared by loud noises?"

However, Gabriella ignored his question, continuing to quiver as she stood again. "I was there, Troy."

"You were where?"

"There. At Plainfield, last March." She confessed. "And now, I'm scared of everything."

Troy was shocked. She was there? During that horrible tragedy? Something told him he was the first she'd confided in since she'd been here. "Have you seen a psychologist?"

She nodded. "Once. She told me I have to try and forget it ever happened."

Troy was listening intently. Gabriella shook her head. "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Because when something like that happens to you, it's impossible to forget. I still have nightmares, Troy. And it's now six months after the fact. Why would they tell me to forget?"

Troy shrugged. "I-I don't know. I really don't."

"When something this tragic and frightening happens to you, it's burned into the back of your mind like a brand on a cow." Gabriella explained in a bitter, icy cold tone. You want it to go away, but it won't. You wish it didn't happen, but it did. It's all there- the guilt, the pain, the fear. And no matter how hard you try, you can't forget."

One Year Earlier...

"What's with all the salt?" Gabriella giggled. "You're going to have a heart attack before you turn twenty!"

Brian McFarland stuck his tongue out at his girlfriend. "I like salt! Give me a break."

"I'll give you a break, but don't expect your heart to." She grinned, adding ketchup to her fries. "It's all in moderation, really."

"Ew, Gabriella." Hailey Valence sighed. "Ketchup makes me sick, you know that."

Gabriella rolled her eyes at her friend. "You just have a problem with everything red."

"That's not true." She defended herself. "I love tomatoes."

"Then how can you not like ketchup?" Jessica Collins asked with a laugh, reaching for the bottle herself. "It's made from tomatoes."

Hailey blushed. "I just don't, okay?"

"Katie and Chris if you don't stop making out, I'm going to salt you next." Brian warned, aiming the salt shaker at his best friend and girlfriend. "Seriously. Like we need to see that while we try to eat."

Katie Mitchell pulled away from her boyfriend in annoyance. "I'm not hungry."

Chris Davis flipped Brian off before turning his attention back to Katie. "I'm hungry for you."

"Oh God, that was freaking cheesy." Jess pretended to gag while Gabriella and Hailey laughed uncontrollably.

"I feel so left out." Hailey complained as she glanced from Katie and Chris to Gabriella and Brian. "Why doesn't a guy want me?"

"Um, a guy does want you." Katie pointed out. "You broke up with him."

"Oh my God, please don't bring Tommy Pearson into this!" Hailey covered her face in humiliation. "He's the biggest freaking loser on the entire face of this Earth."

"You didn't think that when you were going out with him," Gabriella pointed out. "Besides, he loves you. And I heard he fell into a state of depression after you dumped him."

"Not to mention every guy in the entire athletic department beats him up on a daily basis," Chris added. "Maybe we should help that kid. I feel kind of bad for him."

"No." Hailey stated vehemently. "We will not save him from troubles he brought upon himself."

"Hail, it isn't his fault." Katie counteracted. "They're beating him up because they think he's a dork. Which, I guess he kind of is. But he's so smart and he's pretty nice. And he loves you, as Gabby has pointed out before us."

Gabriella grinned. "He does."

Brian nodded. "I'm agreeing with Kate. The kid's a genius. My computer gave me the blue screen of death and he re-wired it so I wouldn't have to buy a new one. I didn't even know you could do that."

Jess was taking a sip of her soda before her eyes widened. "Would you look who it is? Tommy's here!"

Hailey gasped. "He's here? We have to leave!"

But it was too late. Tommy Pearson walked over to the group, a smile on his face. "Hi guys. Hi Hailey."

"Why are you talking to me?" She said rudely, narrowing her eyes at him. "We broke up, remember?"

"I know that." His face fell. "But I just thought-"

"Yeah? Well you thought wrong." Hailey interrupted. The rest of the table was silent, not daring to look at Tommy. "You're a freaking loser and I hate you. I don't want to date you again so don't bother asking. And I will never, ever, love you. Ever. Do I make myself clear?"

Tommy didn't answer. He just turned his back on the table and pushed through the doors of the diner forcefully. Gabriella kicked her friend under the table. "Hailey! How the hell could you be so mean to him?"

"What?" She honestly could see no discrepancy in her actions. "He has a right to know."

"You could've been nicer to him about it." Katie scolded. "Don't be a bitch, Hail."

"Oh, I'm a bitch now because I turned down Tommy Pearson?" The blonde girl said his name as if it were a poison passing through her lips. "Whatever. You guys just don't understand."

"I would hate for someone to tell me that they hated me and would never love me." Gabriella admitted, pushing Hailey into her hole of self-pity even further.

Brian smiled, kissing her cheek. "Well you don't have to worry about that. Because I would die for you."

Little did he know that his words would come back to haunt him...

So there you go. A little background about Gabriella's friends and relationship. This will be MAJORLY important within the next couple of chapters, so don't think I just put it there for a chapter filler. Review and tell me if you liked it and would like to see more or if it was incredibly stupid and you want me to crawl into a hole and not come out for a while. ;)