Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or places created by the High School Musical franchise or by Disney nor the songs used in this story by various artists.
Part 1 - Gabriella's POV – You Belong With Me
You're on the phone with your girlfriend, she's upset
She's going off about something that you said
She doesn't get your humor like I do
I'm in the room, it's a typical Tuesday night
I'm listening to the kind of music she doesn't like
And she'll never know your story like I do
I cannot help but roll my eyes as I hear my childhood best friend, Troy Bolton, apologize profusely, for the millionth time tonight, over the phone to his girlfriend of two months, the great Katherine Anderson, for something that really wasn't that big of a deal. I mean, if Troy had told Katherine she was a bitch or something, I'd see Katherine being upset but not over this. This was just Katherine being fussy.
"Babe, please, I'm so sorry. I was just joking about Chad and me raiding the locker room at the next basketball game while you girls are changing. Kat, the only girl I'd want to see in that state of undress is you…"
Seriously, gag me! Ugh, I honestly thought we'd have a good chance of having a real nice Tuesday night, a tradition Troy and I have had since we were little where I'd come over to his house and just watch TV or listen to music. Currently, I am laying on my stomach, my chin propped on my palms as I try to focus on the music that is now playing quieter because of Troy's call with his girlfriend. It is one of the old Incubus CDs, one of my favorites in fact, and I hate not being able to blast it like usual but understand that now wouldn't be appropriate, especially as Troy shot me a nasty look just a few moments earlier when I attempted to drown out his pleading tone with the music.
"Kat, please, it was just a joke. No, I won't be leading the Varsity team into the girls' locker room anytime soon. I'm a prankster at heart, I'm sorry."
Now see, this is where I, as the faithful best friend, turn to him and give Troy the most sympathetic look I can muster, knowing though that this was complete bullshit that he had to go through with Katherine the Goddess. It's not that I hate Katherine. I just don't love her. And why? There are a number of reasons.
The way her giggle is like nails on a chalkboard is one, the other is the way she snorts when she full out laughs. Katherine also has the tendency to expect the world plus more from everyone in her life, from her parents to Troy. See, Katherine comes from a rich family, probably as rich as the Evans twins, Sharpay and Ryan. More than anything, Katherine is used to getting her way and getting what she wants, when she wants it. Of course, this is more reason why I was actually surprised when Troy started taking interest in the cheerleader at the start of senior year. Then again, should it have been a surprise considering the fact that Katherine clearly wanted him?
But she wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts
She's cheer captain and I'm on the bleachers
Dreaming bout the day when you'll wake up and find
That what you're lookin for has been here the whole time
Him. Troy Bolton. My best friend since childhood. The guy who knows me inside and out. The one who is practically my other half. While we were growing up, we each went through that phase of "Eww, boys have germs" and "Yuck, girls have cooties," yet we were the exception to each other's list. Perhaps, as I think about it now, that is the root of our problem, well mine. See, at some point during sophomore year in high school, I developed feelings for my best friend that weren't all that appropriate for a best friend.
As Troy runs a frustrated hand over his recently cut dark brown hair, I'm reminded of the first time I saw him flip his longer and lighter brown hair back then and for the first time got dazzled by his sparkling cerulean eyes while we were laughing about a funny memory he had brought up. It had been during a Tuesday night during the summer, a night we had actually spent at my house, out in the backyard with our families.
We slowly rocked in the hammock along with the light breeze that brought some minor relief to the heat Albuquerque had been experiencing. It was my favorite night of all, just hanging out with my family but also Troy and his family.
"Seriously, Ella, can you believe that Sharpay lived to see the next day? I seriously thought Chad was going to go ballistic on her!" Troy exclaimed, laughing as he finished recalling the latest incident that had happened between Sharpay and Troy's other childhood best friend, Chad Danforth. "I mean, you know how touchy Chad is about his hair!"
"Which is why it's even funnier," I sputtered, recalling the image of Chad with one side of his hair significantly shorter. "God, I don't think he's ever going to take a nap at her place again."
"Troy! Gabriella! Dinner is ready!" his mother called out, smiling at us as she spotted us looking back at her.
"All right, we'll be there in a second," Troy got out, still laughing before he got up from the hammock, turning to help me up.
When he took my hand in his and pulled me up, Troy also flipped his long bangs out of his face, smiling down at me while now chuckling, his laughter mingling with mine before mine instantly died on my lips. I had to swallow as I stared into his twinkling eyes, feeling a strange spark run through my body that started at our joined hands and went through my entire nervous system. It was a feeling like no other, something so foreign to me that I didn't know what to do but try to act like nothing just changed between us.
I swore when it was clear that Troy too realized my weird behavior as he gave me a concerned look, no longer laughing. "Ella, you okay? You look pale."
"Umm, yeah," I stumbled out, mentally kicking myself for that lack of smoothness. "We better go eat before your dad comes over and threatens to make us do suicides for being late to the dinner table or something."
Troy seemed to take it as his body visible relaxed and he grinned once again at me. "Oh come on Gabriella, he's only done that a handful of times and those were all at my house. You don't have a basketball court here for him to make us do them on."
"Kids, if you aren't here in twenty seconds not only is your food going to be cold but I'll make you run suicides in this heat. I don't need a basketball court to make you do them!"
I grimaced as I heard Jack, hurrying Troy along and giving him a satisfied smirk as we barely made it by Jack's allotted time, finding some relief from the strange new feeling as I gave Troy a smug look and saw him silently acknowledge my being right yet again about something.
I snap out of my memory just in time to hear Troy hang up and let out a frustrated groan. "Everything okay?" I force myself to ask.
"Yeah, no, I don't know," Troy sighs, plopping down on the bed with his back against his comforter before he turns his head to look at me. "Why are girls so complicated? I mean, seriously? It was just a prank that I had truly once upon thought about but that was like ages ago. Kat has just been so, I don't know, difficult lately. Why do all chicks seem to be like that?"
Blood seeps into my mouth as I bite down on my tongue hard not to say anything that is the truth, that I want to say. Giving advice to my crush, who is also my best friend, when it comes to his girlfriends was never easy for me. But I do it, in the nicest way possible, because it's him, the better part of me. "First, us chicks do have something called hormones. While male hormones tend to lead them to want to see their girlfriend in a certain state of undress, female hormones can make us a bit more emotional. Second, I think I take offense to that."
If you could see that I'm the one who understands you
Been here all along so why can't you see?
You belong with me
You belong with me
There we go again, his dismissal of me being recognized as part of the female population in Troy's books, all delivered by a simple roll of his eyes at me. "You know Gabriella that you aren't like the rest of them. You're Gabriella, my best friend. You're way better than all of those girls put together."
Then why am I not the one you are longing for? The one you want to kiss good night? The one that you're planning on taking to the party after the game on Friday?
"Besides that, you never get irrational on me, ever. You're always so grounded and, well, normal. You never flip out on me either."
"I could start," I offer in an attempt to hide my disappointment with this conversation, knowing it would never turn out the way I secretly want it to. What I would give for him to wake up and see me and feel the way I feel for him. It'll never happen though, that much I've come to realize in the little over two years of crushing on him that has gone by. Stupid hair flip that started all of this…
Troy shakes his head at me though, reaching out a hand to brush back some of my hair before laying his right hand against my left cheek. It takes super strength from me not to lean into it or to sigh, both of which naturally bubbled forth for me to do. Side effects of crushing on a hot but also wonderful guy. "Don't, don't change Ella, please, especially to become like them. I don't know what I would do without you as my best friend."
Ah, the damning words yet again… my best friend.
Walkin the streets with you in your worn out jeans
I can't help thinking this is how it ought to be
Laughing on the park bench thinkin to myself
Hey isn't this easy?
And you've got a smile that could light up this whole town
I haven't seen it in awhile, since she brought you down
You say you're fine, I know you better than that
Hey, whatcha doing with a girl like that?
A few weeks have now passed since that night in Troy's bedroom and I can't help but notice how quiet he's become. The usually bright blue orbs have been a dull gray, especially these last few days. I can see something is troubling him but he keeps to himself, not telling me more than it's just issues with Katherine.
That news should delight me, right? But it doesn't. It can't because this means that Troy is hurting because of her, that she's sucked the natural joy that lives in his veins right out by doing whatever she's doing. I've asked Chad if he knows anything but he's as clueless as me. Troy has shut us both out and all we both can conclude is that Katherine is breaking Troy's heart in one way or the other.
As Troy and I walk to our neighborhood's park, I cannot help but wonder what really is going on in his mind. I think back to this past week, the way Katherine seemed to be practically glaring darts at me, something she has started doing recently now that I think of it.
Could I be the reason why they are fighting or whatever is going on between them? No way, that would mean Troy actually likes me like that and that's so not happening. Did I say something that pissed her off?
I can't recall anything though, as hard as I try thinking of the last time I really spoke to her, when our group of friends were hanging out. Without trying hard, I can see the way her dirty blonde hair blew in the night air two weekends ago when we all went mini-golfing on Saturday night, seeing the way Troy's fingers easily slid through them before he kissed her.
"Now Ella, make sure to keep your yellow golf ball on the course this time. I'm not swimming in the lake to get it for you tonight," Troy teased from where he was standing right behind me as I tried to focus on making my first putt on our fifth course and not on the electricity I felt in the air with him standing so close to me.
"Shut up Wildcat. Some of us aren't golf addicts like you," I countered, narrowing my eyes on the track I wanted my ball to travel in order to make a hole in one, a far shot for me but worth a try. The curve and ramp of course made it a bit more impossible but since I was already dreaming of being with my best friend, which clearly wasn't going to happen, I may as well attempt this too, right?
There was silence for a few beats before I felt someone grip my hips, glancing behind me and gasping as I saw Troy looking right at me, a smile on his lips. "Fine, let's do this together. I'll show you."
I silently nodded and turned my head back around, catching Sharpay's and Taylor McKessie's smirks on their faces and blushing, hating how I already knew that I'd be teased later on for this. Within moments, I feel Troy's calloused hands touch my bare arms, sliding down to rest on my hands that are gripping the golf club.
"Ease up on your grip, Gabriella. You want to guide it, not choke the poor club."
I heard the chuckle in his voice and wanted to melt right into him, never being as close to his body as I was now. Sure, we've hugged each other plenty of time and even just napped in each other's arms, in a platonic way of course, but the way his body curved around mine… It gave me shivers.
"Are you cold Ella?"
"No," I weakly got out, wondering if he could hear the way he made my heart hammer so hard against my ribcage.
By the time I was able to focus again on the present moment, I had just heard the tail end of Troy's last instructions to me, scolding myself in my head for not having listened better, knowing now that I was definitely going to make a fool of myself.
Troy didn't let that happen though and I wasn't actually all that surprised that he didn't. Instead, Troy stayed with me, there at the top of the course, and helped me bring back the club and follow through with it after it hit the bright yellow golf ball. My eyes closed involuntarily after the golf ball started moving on its way, savoring the feeling of being in his arms, of him touching me, snapping open as I heard him crow in victory.
"Yes! I knew I could help you get a hole in one! Who is the master? Huh? Who is the master?"
Quickly, I pushed aside my feelings to turn around to face him, Troy no longer touching me, and glared at him. "Is that all that was? Just another thing to do to prove that you are the resident golf pro?"
My questions seemed to make Troy stumble a bit before he gave me a bashful look, rubbing the back of his neck. "It's an accomplishment, on both of our parts," he tried to soothe, stopping his little happy dance.
I was about to say something back when a pair of pale arms wrapped themselves around Troy's waist, Katherine's face appearing right over his shoulder as she kissed his neck. Before my very eyes, my best friend morphed into her boyfriend, turning in her hold and looking down at her as if they were the only two people in the world.
"Good job baby. You were wonderful," I heard Katherine coo.
Troy wrapped his left arm around her body while he used his right hand to push back some of her dirty blonde strands of her lengthy hair she had left down for the night, seeing his fingers slide easily, effortlessly, through. "Thanks babe."
When they leaned into each other to kiss, I watched just a moment long enough to see their lips connect before looking away and trying to tune out everything that had to do with the couple I desperately wish I was a part of, in her place, wishing Troy could see me the way he saw her.
Since then, I made it a mission to avoid Troy when Katherine was around, unable to stomach seeing them together. It seems though that I didn't have to try hard as I've seen them frequently enough in the halls of East High but not together usually and when they were together those few times, things looked tense, confirming for sure that something was going on between them.
Troy and I take a seat automatically on the bench that had been our place to sit and think in our teen years, under a tree that we had climbed when we were little, thinking we were on top of the world up there, never realizing that there were buildings that were taller than this little tree that now sat behind us and hung over our heads.
Despite Troy's silence and my worry about him, we sit comfortably on the bench, Troy's arm naturally curling around my shoulders as I lean my head on his shoulder, the way we often sat here, together, enjoying the quiet of the night. A part of me realizes that if anyone should ever walk by and see us, they'd make the mistake of thinking we are a true couple instead of one only in my dreams.
What bothers me the most though is that I know I could make Troy happier, much happier than Katherine ever has and could. It was me that knew how he got that scar on the bottom of his chin, knowing he split it on a dresser when he and Chad were jumping on Troy's bed against my own warning at the time. I think we were about six. I remember his tears and his cry, me trying to soothe him while Chad ran off to get Troy's mom.
That small scar on his left knee was when he and I got into a joint bike accident when we were first learning how to ride a bike without the training wheels, with our fathers pushing us along. I took a tumble first after my dad let me go and then Troy collided right into me and then over me after I was on the ground, scraping his knee and hand in the process. In fact, funny enough, I have an almost identical scar on my own left knee from that same incident.
I must have laughed despite me thinking I was just doing it in my head because Troy's eyes are now searching mine. "What?" I can't help but ask.
"What's so funny?" he questions, a quizzical look on his face.
"Oh, umm," I pause, stumbling while I try to figure out what to say, what could be appropriate considering his misery. I decide on the truth. "Well, I was thinking of how we got our matching scars."
It takes Troy a few moments but a slight smile crosses his lips, the first I've seen in a while, even if it is minor. "You mean how you gave me mine?"
My jaw drops in shock and I feign hurt as I pull away from him, crossing my arms for effect while he starts to chuckle, music to my ears. "I did no such thing!"
"Oh come on Ella, admit it. If you hadn't lost your balance first and then crashed right in my way, I wouldn't have been hurt!"
I am about to defend myself when I catch sight of Troy's grin, deciding in that instant that if this is what it took for Troy to smile like that, I'd suffer in silence. Then again, I can't let him get away scott-free or he really will think it was all my fault. "Cause you are so graceful you wouldn't have hurt yourself on your own, right? What about the time you ran right through the screen door, popping it off its track, when you and I were playing war in your house?"
"Again, your fault. You were chasing me," he teases, chuckling as I roll my eyes. "You were always the chaser."
Still am in some ways Troy. "And what does that tell you Troy if I was the one chasing you with a working toy gun with those fun Nerf balls? It means I was always the winner!"
I give him a triumphant look while he further dissolves into laughter. "All right, I give you that, most of the time. God, how I really wish we could just go back in time and live the worry free life we had back then Ella. Things have always just been so good, so easy with you. I wish every girl I ever dated and date could be like you."
Hello Captain Oblivious! That clearly means something, right???
Before I seize on the opportunity to say something to him, Troy pushes on. "Thanks Gabriella, for being such an amazing best friend to me. I'm one hell of a lucky guy to have not only two childhood best friends but one especially who is as special as you are. My life wouldn't be the same without you in it."
I allow Troy to pull me back into his side, turning my head so he can't see the tears welled up in my eyes. "You mean quite a deal to me too Troy, a great deal. More than I think you could ever imagine."
Quickly, I wipe away a tear, struggling against the thickness in my throat that threatens to choke me as the emotional moment overwhelms me. It's faint, almost inaudible, but if I believe my ears actually heard it and I wasn't dreaming, I hear him reply, "I understand that feeling more than you could possibly imagine Gabriella…"
Oh I remember you driving to my house in the middle of the night
I'm the one who makes you laugh when you know you're about to cry
I know your favorite songs and you tell me about your dreams
I think I know where you belong. I think I know it's with me.
Can't you see that I'm the one who understands you?
Been here all along so why can't you see?
You belong with me
Another week and some odd passes by and I'm getting more worried about Troy as time goes on. We had our usual Tuesday outing in his room but he was so stiff, so distant, that I left after an hour. I couldn't tell if I had done something, in fact I had asked him that and Troy had denied that it was anything I did. Instead of putting myself through the torture of seeing him clearly bothered and suffering when Troy clearly didn't want to talk to me, I left. Since then, things only seemed to get worse, Troy keeping his distance from me, his smile vanished once again.
I glance at one of the numerous pictures of us together through the years, each one smiling and with each other, wondering helplessly how things got to be this way. For sure, I know after racking my brain for the past several nights with little sleep that I didn't do anything. I've made sure to be supportive of him in every way, including the times it involved Katherine.
Shrugging my shoulders, I sigh before tearing my gaze away from the pictures, looking down at the open textbook in front of me there on my bed, focusing just enough to copy down a formula down in my notebook next to me.
Half an hour later, I jump as I hear a series of loud bangs against my balcony doors. I glance up from where I am laying on my bed to see a silhouetted figured I'd recognize anywhere, thankful I have my balcony light on so I can at least see that it is in fact Troy through my curtains. Then comes his voice. "Ella! Gabriella! Please, open up!"
"Troy?" No way! What the hell is he doing over here in the middle of the late night?
Quickly, I scramble off my bed to open the balcony door, letting a panicked looking Troy through before closing the door again. "Troy, what's wrong? What's the matter?"
I meet his blue eyes as he stands there, panting as he tries to catch his breath, trying to understand what is going on in his mind just then. "Troy?"
Standing by or waiting at your back door
All this time how could you not know that
You belong with me
You belong with me
Have you ever thought just maybe
You belong with me
You belong with me