I'll Always Be Your Friend
Disclaimer: no I don't own it
A/N: This is a one shot that I thought of while sitting up at three in the morning after I couldn't sleep while listening to the acoustic version of Rihanna's 'Umbrella'. Finished it in three hours.
Eyes scanning the room, Gabriella watched as people mingled quietly in the crowded house. Everyone was still reeling from the loss. It felt as painful now as it did a week ago. Her mocha eyes trained on the woman sitting silently on the couch, her eyes void of all emotion. The people around her were in deep conversation, but Gabriella knew she was only half listening. This was a heavy burden to bear and she was bearing it all on her shoulders. Gabriella wanted to embrace her, tell her everything was going to be alright. But how could she do that when she couldn't even face the one who she knew needed her more?
Taking a sip from her cup, she made her way towards the front door. The atmosphere was too much. She wanted to cry, but she couldn't. She wouldn't dare. Letting the fresh air hit her skin, she breathed in slowly and stared at the cloudy sky. It was going to rain, she could feel it. It was only right that it would, for this occasion was anything but joyous. The sky looked how she felt. Ready to cry, but unable to do so. Sighing, she went back inside and went to find a familiar face. Her eyes once more connected with the broken woman sitting on the couch and her heart wrenched. She tore her gaze away and went into the dining room.
"Hey, Gabriella," her best friend, Taylor said upon her entrance.
"Hey," she said quietly. "How's he holding up?" she asked referring to the man sitting only a few feet away from them, his eyes trained on the far wall.
Taylor sighed. "Not so good."
Gabriella looked him over. The man she used to regard as her brother was lifeless. His usually vibrant brown eyes were dull. His once frazzled large hair was now shorter, a sign of his maturity, but also his loss. She wanted to wrap her arms around him, but once more she was unable to do so. There was one person that she needed to tend to first; one person that was her reason for being there in the first place.
"Where is he?" she asked Taylor.
Smiling sadly, Taylor motioned towards the back door. "He's been out there since we got here."
Nodding, Gabriella made her way towards the backyard. Her heart stopped short at the sight of her ex-boyfriend shooting ball after ball in the direction of the net, but always missing by a few centimeters. This wasn't easy for him. But why should it have been? Losing a father was never easy, she knew that by experience. Her heart went out to him, but she couldn't make her presence known. Too much history, too much heartache.
The break up was…hard for her, hard for him, but it had been mutual. Both thought it better for them to just go separate ways, though she never told him that she knew about the girl he had been seeing for three months before they broke up. Guilt was a heavy burden to bear and she couldn't put him through that. She could see it all playing behind his eyes when she told him that they should see other people. The fear of her knowing, the guilt that followed after. She didn't want him to hurt, so she kept her knowledge a secret, even as it weighed heavily on her own heart. He cheated. He chose to be with someone else. She wasn't good enough. So many times she had told herself that it was the other way around, that he wasn't good enough for her, but her heart just wouldn't believe that. For six years, they had been happy and in love. Somewhere along the line, she had screwed up and he decided to take solace in another's arms. She knew she wouldn't be able to forget his betrayal, but by her own accord, she had forgiven him.
Not ready to face him yet, she stayed in the shadows and watched him continue to miss basket after basket. The loss was getting to him, messing up the flawless skill that he had attained over the years of basketball training. He was vulnerable, he was scared, he was broken.
Thinking back to the funeral, she remembered how quiet he was. He refused to speak, refused to make a speech in honor of his father's memory. They had been so close, but he didn't want to relieve memories of a time when everything was better; when everything didn't hurt so much. At the burial, he didn't want to be a part of the crowd. He stood off by himself, sunglasses over his eyes, hands in his pockets. He looked like a child. She had never wanted to hold him so bad in her life, but her heart wasn't ready to give in just yet.
Silence reached her ears and she lifted her gaze, wanting to know why. She was immediately met by his cyan orbs and her heart jump started. It had been a year since she last looked into them and they brought back memories of picnics, midnight swims, musicals and the first time she ever had the privilege of looking into the drowning pools that were his eyes.
Words weren't spoken as the two ex-lovers gaze upon one another once more. She watched the emotions that played in the windows of his soul; happiness, sadness, regret, sorrow and guilt. It took two seconds for the happiness of seeing her again to turn into the guilt for what he had done. She could only guess that even though she never told him his infidelity was the reason for their break up, he knew it was the basis for her to ever think about it.
He turned his head away and shot another free throw. "I didn't think you'd come."
"Why wouldn't I? Jack was like a father to me."
"Last time I checked, you were the most sought after lawyer in the country," he said as he went to get the stray ball. "Right after most sought after bachelorette." She blushed in embarrassment.
Every day, she cursed the newspapers and magazines that glorified her. She wasn't used to all of the attention. No, wait, that was a lie. Being the one to turn the entire school upside down upon her first arrival of East High and becoming the girlfriend of the most popular guy in school had given her the necessary tools towards dealing with a huge amount of attention. Truth was, she didn't want all of the attention. She didn't plan on having her life become one big show that everyone was watching, waiting to see what she was going to do next.
"I'm glad you came, though."
"What?" She snapped out of her thoughts, eyes training on the man who'd stolen her heart at first glance.
He looked at her, his familiar heart stopping smile taking its place on his face. "I'm glad you came."
She returned it with her own soft smile. "Well, you made it pretty clear that you wanted me here."
His warming gesture slipped off his face and he stared down at the ball in his hands. "I didn't mean to sound desperate."
He nodded and went back to shooting missed free throws. Gabriella watched, wishing he'd open up to her. She remembered the day she had gotten the obituary letter telling her of the death of Jack Bolton. Her heart broke at the news of departure of the only father figure in her life. She hadn't originally wanted to attend his funeral—too much weight to bear between seeing him being lowered into the ground for all of eternity and facing her past for the first time in a year—but an urgent and heartfelt letter from the man in front of her caused her to change her mind. He needed her there; needed her more than anyone else.
"Talk to me, Wildcat," she said, her high school nickname for him rolling off her tongue like second nature.
His head snapped up at the name, missing hearing her say it. He looked at the ball once more before taking a seat on the black pavement of his basketball court. She slowly walked over to him and sat in front of him. She waited patiently for him to speak, intent on listening to his every word. He sighed before running a hand through his hair.
"I don't know what to do anymore," he admitted, briefly looking at her. The guilt of what he had done to her was still there and he couldn't bear look her in the eye. "Everything seems to be falling apart around me and I can't make it stop."
Her heart lurched as tears began to fall from his beautiful ocean eyes. Without a second thought, she reached over and wiped them away. He looked up at her, surprised that she would even touch him after what he had done to her, to her heart.
"Life isn't fair, we both know that. When my father died, I was about ten or eleven and I didn't know what to do without him. He was my everything, the only person I could trust aside from my mom. When he left, I felt so broken, so lost, but eventually I began to pick up the pieces of my life and I accepted that he was gone, but I'll never forget him or the short time I had with him." She moved closer to him. "You're lucky, Troy. You got to spend most of your life with your dad, I didn't."
"But how am I supposed to keep living knowing he's gone?"
"By never forgetting. He wouldn't want you to stop your life because of him. He would want you to keep on living, but always remember the times that you two had together. It will take some time, but you'll soon find moving on will get easier and the weight will be lifted. You just have to try."
He looked into her brown eyes. "Has anyone ever told you how great you really are?"
She smiled. "Once or twice."
He chuckled and shook his head. Silence passed over them and he sighed. "I'm sorry."
"No, I know I'm the reason we broke up. I know…" he took a deep breath, "I know that you knew about her." She looked away from him. "And I'm sorry that I put you through that. I never meant to hurt you."
"Then why did you?" she asked, her voice low.
"Truthfully, I don't know. It was one of those days we had one of our arguments and she was just there. I didn't intend for it to last as long as it did. I didn't intend for you to find out. I just…I beat myself up every day for the pain I've caused you."
"It doesn't matter now."
"Yes, it does matter." He touched his hand to her cheek and turned her head, making her look at him. "I've loved you since the day we met…and I still love you to this day. I was stupid for doing what I did and I'm sorry."
She looked deeply into his eyes. "You know we can't go back."
He nodded. "I know." He dropped his hand and ran it through his hair.
She studied him closely and knew he was hurting. This was not the time or place for them to speak of their ill-fated relationship. What mattered now was the fact that his father was gone and his life was falling apart. Getting on her hands and knees, she crawled up to him, squeezing herself between his legs and wrapped her arms around him. He, in turn, embraced her and buried his face into her neck.
"Why does life have to be like this?"
She ran her hand through his hair in a soothing manner. "Because life is all about learning lessons."
"Well, I'm tired of learning. If this is God's way of punishing me for what I did to you, then I'd rather he take me instead."
She pulled back and looked into his eyes. "Troy, don't say that. God isn't punishing you. Your dad died because it was his time. God doesn't punish people by killing the ones they love."
"Then why does it feel that way?" he asked softly.
"Because you're making it feel that way. What happened with us has nothing to do with your father's death."
"Then why can't I fix it?" Her eyes scanned his. He was breaking right in front of her eyes. "If this has nothing to do with us, why can't I fix it? Make it better? Why does it have to die just like him?"
"Troy." She wrapped her arms around him, holding him close like a mother would her child. "You can't fix it, because I have to. I have to be the one to make amends. Not just with you, but with myself. After I found out about you and her, I thought something was wrong with me."
"There's nothing wrong with you."
"You know that, I know that, but my heart doesn't. My heart is in denial and still believes that I was the reason you went to someone else. I just can't go back."
He nodded and rubbed circles on her back. "I understand."
He needed her. He needed her more than anything. It had been a week since his father's funeral and he couldn't get over it. Reaching over to his bedside table, he grabbed the phone and dialed her number. As he listened to it ring, he threw his legs over the side of his bed and sat up with his elbows resting on his legs.
"Hey, it's me." Silence. "Listen…I need to see you. Can you meet me at the park in ten minutes? Yeah, by the swings. Thanks. I'll see you in a bit." He ended the call and sighed, running a hand through his hair before getting up.
She walked through the barely lit park, umbrella shielding her from the pouring rain. Her feet carried her to their spot, a small bench that stood not far from the swing set. Her breath caught in her throat when she saw him sitting under the light of the street lamp, nothing covering his body from the storm. Slowly, she walked over to him, stopping when she was beside the bench.
He looked up at her and her heart broke all over again. He was completely broken. Wanting nothing more than to hold him, she dropped the umbrella and ran to his side, wrapping one arm around his neck, while the other rubbed his back. Feeling safe for the first time in a long time, he grabbed her upper arm and leaned into her, his eyes closing as warmth spread over his body.
"I'm sorry for calling you so late," he said.
She shook her head. "It doesn't matter. You needed me."
"I can't get it out of my head. I want to move on, but I can't."
"I told you, you need to give it time."
"I know, but it hurts so much."
"It's okay. It's gonna be okay. Let's get you out of here." She stood up and grabbed her umbrella and covered them both before taking his hand in hers. Before she could walk away, he pulled her back and she turned her gaze back to him. "What's wrong?"
His eyes scanned over her, a frown setting itself on his face. "I'm sorry."
She stopped and looked at him. "For what?"
"For getting you soaked. I didn't mean to."
She smiled softly. "It's okay. I was more worried about you than staying dry."
"You didn't have to do this."
"Yes, I did, Troy."
"Why? After everything I've done, I…"
She placed a finger to his lips to silence him. "Because I promised you a long time ago that no matter what happens between us, that we would always be friends and I'm sticking to that promise." She pushed his wet hair from his eyes and looked into them.
He knew he didn't deserve her. He didn't deserve to have someone this caring in his life, but he was happy she was a part of it. He didn't know where he'd be without her. "Thank you."
Smiling, she nodded. "You're welcome." Wrapping her arms around him once more, she buried her face in his chest and sighed in content.
Since the day they met, they had always been best friends. She wasn't going to let a failed attempt at a relationship destroy that. She couldn't deny that she missed him, because she did. She missed him dearly. She loved him as both a friend and something more. Boyfriends come and go, but best friends are forever. He had been her best friend before he was her boyfriend, so no matter what, he was always going to be a part of her life and she wouldn't have it any other way.
When the sun shines, we'll shine together
Told you I'll be here forever
Said I'll always be your friend
Took an oath I'ma stick it out till the end
Now that it's raining more than ever
Know that we'll still have each other
You can stand under my umbrella
You can stand under my umbrella