He didn't know where he was going, but Troy had to get away. He got into his truck and took a few deep breaths before turning the car on and driving away. His was so frustrated, so angry, so confused. He felt like he needed to scream.
"When were you going to tell me about this? Juilliard?" Mr. Bolton asked his son.
"There's nothing to tell," Troy said truthfully.
"Well maybe there is. I heard you're talking to other schools. I mean, is this serious?"
"Yea, U of A isn't the only school that's talked to me, Dad, you know that."
"But it's the only school WE talked about. Chad would be awfully disappointed if you decided to change your mind."
"No, Chad would get over it. Would you?"
Troy's foot was like lead on the gas petal of his truck, he was gaining speed by the second. He wasn't sure exactly how he got there, but eventually he ended up on the interstate. The interstate that would take him to Northern California if he kept on it. The interstate that would take him to Gabriella.
"Son, we've been going to U of A games ever since you were a little kid. All you ever talked about was wearing that Red Hawks uniform!"
"I'm not a little kid anymore, Dad!"
A few hours had passed and he was still driving. He realized how late it was and pulled over to a gas station. He began to fill up his truck while he took out his phone and dialed home.
"Hello?" His mother answered the phone sounding worried.
"Hey, Mama," Troy said softly.
"Oh, Troy. Thank God. Where are you?"
"Um…" Troy looked around. "A few miles south of Durango."
"Is that a joke?"
"Where do you think you're going? It's the middle of the night."
"I was thinking Palo Alto, California?" Troy tried.
"Honey, you can't just pick up and go see Gabriella. It doesn't work that way."
"Sweetie, I know you miss her, but this is going a little too far, don't you think?" His mother tried to argue. He took a breath and looked at his watch.
"No, I don't," he sighed. "I'll call you when I get there, okay?"
"Drive safely and stop for gas when you need it. And pull over if you get tired," Mrs. Bolton said, giving in.
"I love you."
"I love you, too, Ma. Goodnight," he said hanging up.
It was about fifteen minutes on the road again before his phone rang. Gabriella.
"Hey," he answered.
"Hey, Yourself. Where are you?"
"As in Colorado?"
"That's the one."
"So they weren't joking."
"My mom called yours?"
"Yes. You're crazy, Wildcat."
"I just wanted to see you."
"I'm flying back in a few days for prom."
"So you'll drive back with me instead. I wanted to see you now."
"I just miss you."
"You may be a good actor but you're a bad liar, Wildcat."
"I'll see you in the morning. If I drive straight through I should get there before breakfast."
"Okay. You know I have classes to go to tomorrow?"
"Okay. Drive safe. Pull over if you get tired," she advised. Troy smiled.
Gabriella tried to go to sleep that night, but she wasn't finding it easy. Thoughts of Troy filled her mind. She knew that tone he used. The "I-feel-awful-right-now-and-I-just-want-to-forget-about-life-and-lie-with-you-for-hours-and-do-nothing" tone. She hated to think that he was feeling that way when she was so far. How would it be next year? He couldn't just skip practices and classes to see her every time he was feeling stressed. It wasn't until the sun was started to rise that she fell asleep.
It was 8:30 in the morning when Ms. Montez opened the door to find an exhausted Troy Bolton standing there.
"You made good time," she said, allowing him into their apartment.
"Not much traffic," he said. "I'm sorry for not calling first."
"That's okay. Are you hungry?"
"No thank you."
"Gabriella is still asleep. She's not meant to wake up for another 15 minutes. I don't think she slept very much last night. She was really worried about you."
"I didn't mean to make her worry."
"I know. Why don't you call your mom and let her know you got here okay and I'll go wake Gabriella."
"Um, actually Ms. Montez, do you mind if I wake her?"
"Sure," she smiled, handing him the phone. "I'm just going to go finish getting ready for work. He smiled as much as his tired body would let him and gratefully accepted the phone. However, as soon as she was out of sight he put the phone down and walked down to what he assumed was Gabriella's room. He assumed correctly and knelt down next to the bed. He ran his fingers through her hair and brushed his thumb across her cheek.
"Mmmm… five more minutes…" she mumbled. He smiled, a bit more genuine this time, and kissed her forehead. "Troy?" she asked, slowly opening her eyes.
"Hey," he whispered. She quickly sat up and pulled him into her. The two hugged for what seemed like forever.
"What were you thinking driving here in the middle of the night?" She asked finally pulling away. Her hands were lingering on his chest and his on her thighs.
"I told you. I missed you," he said, leaning his forehead on hers. She looked into his eyes for a moment before he leaned in and kissed her softly.
"What happened?" She asked knowingly.
"Nothing out of the ordinary," he sighed. "When do you have class?"
"In a half hour," she said looking at the clock that now read 9:00. "I'll be back by noon. Why don't you try to get some sleep?" She suggested, running her fingers through his hair.
"Okay," he said softly.
True to her word, Gabriella walked into her room at 11:54. She stared at the sleeping boy in her bed and sighed. What was he doing there? What was so important that he couldn't wait to see her? It was just then that her house phone rang. She hurried to answer it in fear that it would wake her sleeping boyfriend.
"Hi, Coach Bolton."
"Please tell me Troy is there?"
"Yea he's here. He's asleep."
"Oh thank God. He's there, Lucy! We've been calling all morning. His phone was going straight to answering machine and nobody was answering your phone."
"I'm sorry. I just got home, my mom's at work," she apologized.
"Can you please wake Troy?"
"Of course. Hold on a second." She brought the phone with her and quietly entered her room. "Troy, sweetie?" She whispered, running her fingers through his hair just like he did to her earlier.
"Your dad's on the phone," she said.
"Shit. I forgot to call," he said, getting a sudden burst of energy. She handed him the phone and he took it out in the hall while she changed into a pair of sweatpants and Troy's red Wildcats T-Shirt. She didn't sleep much last night either and she was hoping they could continue the nap together. She got comfortable and began to close her eyes when she heard Troy's voice start to get louder. She opened her eyes and sat up. Maybe she would find out why Troy was there. She could only hear Troy's side of the conversation, but she made out what she could.
"I said I was sorry! My phone died, what do you want from me?! Well I did so you're a little too late! No, Dad! Because I don't want to! Well right now I'm not under your roof!" His voice got softer. "Of course I'm going to come home, Mama. I just needed to get out of the house. Because I didn't want to talk to Chad about it, I wanted to talk to Gabi." Pause. "I wanted to see her. No… please don't put Dad back on. Please… Dad! Dad, stop! Dad would you… would you please… would you just let me speak?! Dad! Dad, I'm gonna hang up! Ugh," he sighed, finally hanging up the phone on his dad. He didn't understand what his dad's problem was. It was his life; he should be reaching for his own dreams not his father's. Where was all this extra pressure coming from? He didn't even know what he wanted to do yet. He still loved basketball. But he loved theater now, too. He felt just at home on the stage as he did on the court. His mind continued to race and all of the sudden he felt his breath begin to shorten. He tried to take deeper breaths but felt he was incapable of it. His eyes because to water and his heart was beating faster. He dropped the phone and dropped to his knees, leaning on the wall for support. What the fuck was going on?
Gabriella wasn't sure what to think of what she heard. She became aware of his lack of presence after he hung up, but became worried when she heard the phone crash to the ground. She opened her door slowly, and looked over. Upon seeing her boyfriend leaning on the wall trying to catch his breath, she ran over and kneeled next to him.
"Troy?" She asked worried. He felt her presence and knew she had said something, but he kept his eyes closed. His head was leaning on the wall and his right hand was clutched over his chest, as if he was trying to reassure himself that his heart was in fact still beating. "Troy?" She said again. He heard her more clearly this time "Troy, look at me," she demanded, becoming increasingly worried. She, of course, knew he was having a panic attack. Two summers of first aid training will teach you that. She didn't know, however, if he understood what was happening to him. She slowly pulled him back off the wall and sat him on the opposite side so his back was leaning instead of his head. His eyes were open but everything was blurry. He allowed her to move him back, but instantly brought one knee up closer to him. He felt her kneel in front him and take his face in her hands.
"I can't breathe," he said between breaths.
"Yes you can."
"I can't," he repeated.
"Look at me," she demanded again. It took all he had in him to pick his head up and look her eyes. "You can breathe. I promise you, you can breath." Looking into her eyes, he believed her.
It was at the moment that Ms. Montez walked into her apartment. She hurriedly made her way over to the children and kneeled down behind her daughter.
"He's having a panic attack…his dad just called," Gabriella explained, keeping her eyes on him and continuing to breath slowly. "Troy, I need you to breathe with me now, okay?" She said calmly, aware that if she freaked out it would only make his condition worse. He nodded as much as he could and tried his best to regulate his breathing.
"Troy, honey," Ms. Montez started. "Can you hear me?"
Troy nodded slightly again and continued to breath with Gabriella's rhythm.
"Mom can you get him some water please? And see if we have any M&Ms." Ms. Montez nodded and escaped into the kitchen. As Gabriella watched her mom walk away she felt Troy's hands make their way up to her own, which were still on his face. His breath started to slow down and he felt his heart slow with it. She looked him in the eye and continued to breath with him until he was all right on his own again.
"Thanks," he said softly, slightly embarrassed.
"Don't mention it," she said, looking at him worriedly as he brought their hands down. What was so bad with his dad that he drove fifteen hours to see her only to have a panic attack in her hallway?
"Honey, why don't you go lie down in Gabriella's room. She'll be right there," Ms. Montez said as she came back, water and M&Ms in hand. He nodded and Gabriella helped him up. He held on to her for a moment to steady himself before slowly walking back to her room.
"What was that?" Ms. Montez asked.
"I don't know. I heard the phone fall and I came out here and he was on the floor," she said taking a deep breath. It was one thing to keep her calm for Troy but now that he was in the other room she allowed herself to let it all sink in with her mother.
"You did really great, Honey," her mom told her. She nodded and one tear escaped. Her mother wiped it away and handed her the things she asked for. "Has this happened to him before?"
"I don't know," she told her mother honestly. "If it has I didn't know about it."
"Go check on him. I'm going to call his mother."
"Okay. But don't ask him to talk to them, okay? At least not yet."
"Okay," she agreed. Her daughter offered her a small smile and walked back into her room. Troy was lying on the bed, facing away from her. She put the water and M&Ms on the night table and sat on the bed. He didn't turn around, even when she began to rub his arm.
"You want to talk about what happened in there?"
"No," he sighed, turning around so that he was lying on his back. Their hands found each other and she looked at him worriedly.
"Has that ever happened to you before?"
She ran her thumb across his bottom lip. "How are you feeling? Are your lips tingly?"
"How'd you know?" He asked her curiously.
"Sometimes when people hyperventilate that happens. The M&Ms will help," she said, handing them to him.
"Thanks," he said, opening the bag and popping a few in his mouth. He poured a few more out in his hand and picked out the green ones to hand to Gabriella.
"Keep them," she said, closing his hand.
"I'm sorry if I scared you," he said, continuing to eat the candy.
"I think you scared yourself more than you scared me," she said, rubbing his arm softly. "What did it feel like?"
"Like my heart was beating so fast that it would eventually just stop. And like I couldn't catch my breath."
"Did it hurt?" She asked.
"I don't know," he admitted. "I just had to get away from him. I know he doesn't mean to, but… he just… puts so much pressure on me," he said, referring to his father. "And I thought once the season was over her would back off a little, but he hasn't."
"And I just don't understand what his problem is! It's my life, and I have to live with whatever decision I make!"
"I know," she said softly.
"I don't want to go to U of A." The words left his mouth unintentionally, but he meant what he said. She looked at him, a bit surprised. Whether or not he had been thinking that, she hadn't heard him say it out loud yet.
"Really?" She said, wondering if he was just saying this out of anger for his father.
"Really. I'm not saying I want to go to Juilliard because I don't. I just don't want to go to U of A either."
"Good for you," she said, stroking her thumb over his cheek. "That couldn't have been an easy decision to make."
"It wasn't. But it was my decision," he sighed, closing his eyes and enjoying the feeling of her hands on him.
"Yes it was," she smiled, watching his eyes close at her touch. "I'm proud of you." His eyes stayed closed while a smile formed on his face. He pulled her down and she willingly laid with him. He put an arm around her and ran his fingers up and down her back while she leaned on his chest, one hand over his heart.
"You're really great, Gabi," he whispered, kissing her hair. She blushed and looked up at him. He smiled at her and kissed her lips softly.
"I love you," she told him, their lips centimeters apart.
"I love you, too."