A/N: My, my! My muse certainly loves me lately! This was an idea I thought up only a year ago… and only now have I had the chance to get my muse in gear and finish it. It's different from my other works, and I really hope you like it xx
"Sparkles Begin To Fade" hollybaggins; July 23rd 2009
This is a derivate piece of fiction featuring characters copyrighted and trademarked by Disney Enterprises Inc. It is based upon High School Musical, copyright 2006 by Walt Disney Enterprises Inc., all rights reserved; and High School Musical 2, copyright 2007 by Walt Disney Enterprises Inc., all rights reserved; and High School Musical 3, copyright 2008 by Walt Disney Enterprises Inc., all rights reserved. The author is not connected with nor is this work authorised by Walt Disney Enterprises Inc., or any other motion picture studios. This work is solely intended for posting on Fanfiction, for the benefit and enjoyment of its intended audience. No commercial or financial benefit accrues or is intended to accrue to the author as a result of said posting. Any unauthorised copying or redistribution of this work might subject the party responsible for such unauthorized copying or redistribution to legal action by the owners of the aforementioned copyrights and trademarks.
Her life had been planned out since she was eight years old.
Sure, there had been a few bumps and grazes in the road; she wasn't so naïve to think she could just get what she wanted without a little manipulation, a little nagging and a little screeching.
She had graduated from East High School six years previous - her eye on the prize; motivation and determination pumping through her veins at a great rate of knots. She was daddy's princess, mommy's angel. They knew she'd make it to where she wanted to be and they never cared about how much it cost to help her get there. If she wanted to attend Julliard for the next three years of her life, then she would attend Julliard for the next three years of her life.
Along with her ever-faithful brother, she had exceeded tremendously in all of her performing subjects. Broadway was her beck and call - even the West End had called for her! "Send us Sharpay Evans!" They had demanded to her flustered agent one day. "We must have Sharpay Evans!"
And have her they did. Sure, she acted like a complete diva for the vast majority of the time… and why shouldn't she? She was Sharpay Evans! If she didn't approve of the understudy because her voice sounded too squeaky, then off went the understudy - never to appear on a show with her again. If she wanted her shockingly bright pink coloured dressing room to be filled with pink roses after every show, then filled with pick roses it would be without fail. If ever there was one tiny review that didn't match what she deemed appropriate, she never held back on her qualities to make that critic write a retraction within a week. Just a little manipulation, a little nagging, and of course, a little screeching.
She felt on top of the world; her life was fabulous! Everything she had dreamed about, everything she had planned upon turning eight years old were all coming true. Forever coated in sequins and sparkles, making an art out of blowing kisses to her audience, never tiring of hearing that endless loyal applause… sometimes she forgot about the things in life she missed.
And then something hit her. Like a tonne of bricks -- knocking every ounce of air out her lungs and making her numb.
This wasn't part of her plan. This was never supposed to happen.
But upon absorbing the inevitable, upon realising her fate, she grew to accept.
No amount of manipulation, nagging or even squealing -- no matter how high the dose -- was ever going to help now.
And then she remembered. Take away the sequins and the audiences, the sparkles and the applause… take away one hell of a great act when it came to blowing kisses and the absolute adrenaline of performing and she was left with nothing.
She didn't ever want to be faced with nothing.
And she kept trying to remind herself of that fact as she found herself back home -- Albuquerque, New Mexico -- standing outside Gabriella Montez's childhood home and wondering just what the hell she was going to say. But then, what could she say?
She watched as a small delivery van pulled up outside the house, the occupant carrying a large bouquet of lilies and knocking on the front door. As the door opened, she couldn't help but think that Maria Montez didn't look as though she'd aged since the last time she saw her. She took a deep breath and clenched her knuckles. It was now or never.
"I'm Sharpay Evans."
Maria Montez raised an eyebrow questionably. "I'm sorry; I don't think I know you."
"Yeah, I went to high school with Gabriella and I heard about what happened and I really wanted to see her."
Acting. Another one of her great fortes. She tried to hide the smug smile of success as the older woman stepped to one side and allowed her into the house. "I'm sorry about the mess," she smiled softly. "As you can imagine, it's all gotten pretty hectic around here."
"You don't say," Sharpay pulled a face as two young girls ran down the stairs, clearly over-joyed and way too excited as they bounded into the living room and began to dance on the furniture.
"Girls!" Maria scolded. "You'll ruin your frocks and then what would we do with you?" Placing a tired hand on her forehead, she smiled and pointed towards the stairs. "Gabriella and the girls are up there getting ready. You can just go up if you like. I'm sure she'd be really happy to see you."
Sharpay couldn't help but let out a sarcastic scoff. "Yeah, I bet."
"It's the second door on the right," Maria started making her way into the living room to try and control the two misbehaving girls. "I'd show you but I've-"
Sharpay held up a hand. "Really, it's fine. I'll navigate, I'm sure." And with that, she started to climb the stairs.
Slowly, ever so slowly.
It wasn't as though she was in a rush to be anywhere lately.
She could hear Gabriella Montez's delighted, yet always modest voice echoing through the house. She could make out Taylor McKessie's abrupt and strong tone seeping through. She could even make out Kelsi Neilson and Martha Cox's subtle inputs, even though she'd barely paid any attention to them in high school.
There were other voices, ones she did not recognise.
But they didn't matter. They weren't the focus of her attention at that moment.
She stopped outside of Gabriella's bedroom door and held her breath momentarily before letting out a large whoosh of air. It was now or never.
She tapped on the door and didn't even wait for a response before she slowly opened it. She figured they would all be too busy squealing to notice.
Several pairs of eyes landed on her as soon as the door swung open - four pairs shocked, the rest confused at the stranger standing in the threshold.
Sharpay could only feel the sadness and remorse as she took in a beautiful twenty-five year old Gabriella Montez standing there in the most stunning wedding gown she'd ever seen. The intricate beauty of her could no longer be denied, and everything she'd planned to do and say were standing strong and forceful in her mind.
She had to do this. She needed to do this.
"You." Taylor McKessie had never been the forgiving type. Years of built up resentment and hate spilled out in that one word and the other girls whom Sharpay had never met slowly exited the room, leaving Sharpay alone with Gabriella, Taylor, Martha and Kelsi. "I figured you'd want in on this. Centre of attention, right? Did Ryan call you?"
"Yeah, he did." Sharpay's voice was hoarse. There was no fight in her, no longer was she holding any poison in. Well, the type of poison that can only come from a stuck-up, rich, spoilt and overdramatic diva, anyway. "Last week."
Taylor clicked her tongue. "That boy sucks at keeping secrets."
"I asked how you all were and how you were doing. He told me about Troy and Gabriella, and I--"
"Taylor." Gabriella finally spoke up. "It's been seven years since high school. We can be mature, right?"
Taylor waved her off. "Only you, Gabriella, only you. I'm just kinda concerned that this is supposed to be the happiest day of your life, and here she shows up without any warning whatsoever. Even Ryan neglected to tell us she'd show up!"
"He didn't know. He still doesn't know I'm in Albuquerque; he thinks I'm still in New York."
"Ah, that's right, you're this hotshot actress now, right?"
"I've done a few Broadway and West End shows over the years--"
"Blah. Blah. Blah. Is that all you wanted?"
"Taylor!" Gabriella lightly slapped her friends arm. "Please, not today."
"You're telling me? How about her? She's the one who caused all the trouble back in high school; she's the one who tried to break up you and Troy on more than one occasion, and now she's shown up today of all days - your wedding day. Don't you think you have a right to be concerned about that?"
Sharpay shook her head and held her hands up in defence. "Honestly, I'm not here to ruin anything. I just wanted to speak to Gabriella."
"She's not swapping places with you, if that's what you mean."
"I'm not asking her to--"
"And Troy's not going to elope with you either. You still got a crush on him?"
Sharpay's hazel eyes narrowed darkly. There were some things about her personality she'd made an effort to change, but then a leopard can never change its spots.
"I hear you're this hotshot lawyer, McKessie. Did they teach you manners at Yale?"
"They taught me respect."
"Oh, joy. So maybe you can respect that I'm here to talk to Gabriella." Sharpay looked from Taylor's murderous glare, to Gabriella's look of confusion and bewilderment. "I'm not here to cause trouble, I swear." Her tone was almost pleading towards the blushing bride. "I'm not here to fight, I'm not here to ruin your day; I'm just here to talk to you. Just five minutes?"
Gabriella let out a small sigh. She chocolate orbs locked with Sharpay's, as if trying to read her mind. She couldn't understand why the girl, who had gone so out of her way to hate her during the last two years of high school, would suddenly show up after seven years insisting to talk. What could have been so important that Sharpay Evans needed to talk to her on her wedding day?
She looked towards her best friends and bridesmaids, each of their expressions telling her different things. Martha's was a look of confusement, mirroring her own. Kelsi's held curiosity, but she also looked sceptical of Sharpay's intentions. Taylor was staring her down as if telling her to throw Sharpay out and not give her the time of day. The drama queen certainly deserved as much for her past actions.
But Gabriella Montez never held a grudge. And her past actions were exactly what they were - in the past. No matter what had happened all those years ago at East High, she and Troy had stayed together. They'd survived four years of separate colleges, had bought their first house together in sunny California and mere months later, had got engaged.
No matter what Sharpay Evans had tried to do them both, together or separately, Troy and Gabriella had survived it and so much more since. Gabriella was certain there was nothing and no one that could break their bubble of happiness and bliss.
"Five minutes," she finally answered, ignoring Taylor's exasperated sigh of annoyance. Sharpay's face lit up with relief, as though her life depended on it. "I can give you five minutes."
"You're being stupid, Gabriella," Taylor hissed. "In case you hadn't noticed, we have a wedding to go to."
"Aren't brides supposed to be a little late?" Kelsi so helpfully, yet timidly, put in. It shocked her more when Sharpay offered her a small smile in response.
"Come on, Tay," Martha gently tugged on her stubborn friend's arm. "We'll leave them be. The quicker we leave, the quicker it'll be over and we can finish off preparing for the wedding."
"Please, Taylor." Gabriella looked at her pleadingly now. "She wouldn't be here if it wasn't important."
Taylor scoffed but still let Martha and Kelsi lead her out of the room. Sharpay could feel her heart beating rapidly in her chest at the prospect of what could happen within the next five minutes, but it was something her soul needed to do. As the three girls past, she turned to face them, looking at each one softly with each statement.
"Martha, we could have used you in the drama club at East; your dancing's so good. Didn't you ever think about trying for Broadway?"
Martha looked beyond confused. "Well, um, no. I've always wanted to teach literature, so it never really occurred-"
Sharpay smiled. "I think you're really good. And Kelsi, I read some of your entries for musicals a few weeks back. They're so good. Really, they are. I really hope they get chosen."
"Well, um, maybe you could star in them?"
"You know my key."
"Have I entered the twilight zone here?!" Taylor flung her arms dramatically in the air. "How on earth did you manage to get a personality transplant, Evans? Mommy and Daddy pay for it?"
"Touché." Sharpay's tone wasn't angry. She paused briefly, wondering what would be the best last thing to say to Taylor McKessie. Coming up with nothing in her mind save for one single thing, Sharpay took another small breath and just said it. "Congratulations on your engagement to Chad. Tell him I said hi?"
Taylor's forehead creased, her eyes wide. She was speechless, and on that last note, she allowed Kelsi to drag her from the room by the elbow and shut the door quietly behind them.
"So, what's this all about, Sharpay?" Gabriella asked, gently picking up the skirt of her gown so she could carefully manoeuvre towards the end of her bed and sit down without putting any creases in her dress. "Surely you didn't come down here all the way from New York to congratulate me on getting married."
Sharpay cleared her throat. "Well, no." She paused. "Well, actually, yes. A little bit. No, it's not really the nature of my visit, but after Ryan told me you two were about to get hitched, I figured I may as well offer my hearty congratulations to the happy couple while I'm here."
Gabriella frowned. "You visiting your family for a while?"
"Yes." It wasn't a lie. "For a while."
"When are you going back to New York?"
Sharpay's breath hitched, her heart stopped beating. Just for a moment, anyway. She looked away from Gabriella's questioning glance and moved to sit on the stool sitting in front of the dressing table. "I don't know. Not for a while, at least."
"So, why all this? Why today?"
Sharpay loosely folded her arms in her lap. "I always had the best timing in the world, right?"
"Sure, even if it always was just a little bit inconvenient."
The blonde breathed a chuckle. "Glad to see I haven't really changed that much." She looked up at her. "You don't look any different either. You do really beautiful, you know. Troy's socks are going to be blown off when you appear down that aisle."
As she spoke, her eyes wandered around Gabriella's bedroom. Many of her scholastic decathlon trophies sat on the shelves alongside photos and memories from East High - pictures from Twinkle Towne's opening night, photos with her friends (many of which were pictures of herself and Troy). Her high school diploma sat in a gold frame on the wall, along with her graduation photograph. Beside that was a picture of her and Troy at graduation, cuddling, smiling, beaming… ready and willing to set sail into a new chapter into their lives.
Maria Montez certainly was the proud and beaming mother if she had kept Gabriella's bedroom in the same state as it was since she was eighteen.
Gabriella fiddled with her engagement ring anxiously. Sharpay allowed herself to be just a little jealous of the diamond that adorned it.
"How did Troy propose?"
"You came all the way here to ask me how Troy proposed to me?"
"He made me dinner. Burnt it. And the candle-lit table he'd set up for me got ruined because he knocked over the red wine and stained his mom's favourite table cloth. The bottle hit one of the candles and it fell forward and the curtains caught light." The story of the most catastrophic proposal ever did not diminish the look of love and happiness on her face. "When I got home from work, the walls were black, the oven was destroyed, and Troy was sitting on the couch with his head in his hands surrounded by five or six firemen. When I asked him what had happened, he said he'd ruined everything and told me I was going to definitely say no to him. When I asked what I'd be saying no to, he took the ring out of his pocket and said "marry me". I told him to ask me anyway."
"And, judging by the very nice outfit you're wearing, he did ask again."
"He asked again."
"And I'm guessing you said yes, right?"
"In a heartbeat." Her eyes were still shining.
That was what Sharpay Evans had been missing her whole life.
There was silence after that. Tension hung in the air, and Sharpay became more aware of Gabriella's nervous habit of twisting her engagement ring around on her finger. She couldn't determine whether Gabriella was nervous about why she was there, or if she was getting those cold feet symptoms Sharpay had only heard about.
"I wanted to say sorry for everything, Gabriella," she finally blurted out, her gaze on her lap. "For Junior year and for senior year. For everything from your first day at East High up until graduation day."
Gabriella looked more confused than ever. "What do you mean?"
"For sabotaging your call-back audition for Twinkle Towne. For trying to get you into trouble with Darbus that day you slipped and covered me in chilli-cheese fries." Here, both girls smiled at the memory. "For messing with your head - you and Troy. For trying to get you fired from Lava Springs. For making Fulton make your life a complete misery there while I did everything in my power to distract your boyfriend with scholarship talks and golfing promotions." Sharpay took another deep breath. "For making him miss dates. For tricking him into singing with me at the Star Dazzle talent show. For making Fulton turn on the sprinklers on the golf cause that day Troy packed you both a picnic. For ruining Kelsi's perfect song for you both. For being the real cause of your break-up that summer - I saw how much that hurt him when you quit and left."
Gabriella cast her eyes downwards at that memory.
Sharpay continued. "For taking you all out of the talent show. For condemning my brother for being friends with you. For telling Troy about your acceptance into Stanford before you could. For totally taking your place in the senior year show and totally ruining it. For doing everything in my power to take your role in the first place. For trying to steal that perfect song too."
"Sharpay, it doesn't--"
"For every nasty glare I gave you. For every nasty, sarcastic, patronising thing I ever said to you. For thinking you were just some freaky genius girl. For thinking you and Troy were just a match made in retarded heaven. For trying to steal your boyfriend on one or more occasion."
Her eyes lifted and met Gabriella's.
"For never giving you the chance in the first place. Because I think if I had, we would have been friends back in high school. Sorta."
Gabriella was speechless at Sharpay's apology - an apology that steamed back years over things that Gabriella hadn't thought about in such a long time. For petty things that were never the end of the world, yet the way Sharpay was talking to her, it seemed to her these things were the end of the world. Or maybe they would be, if she hadn't plucked the courage to apologise for them.
Right her wrongs. Even the insignificant ones.
"Sharpay, it doesn't matter." Gabriella's voice was quiet, hoarse. "Really. I appreciate you coming all the way here to apologise for all those things, but it really doesn't matter. It's over now. High school was a long, long time ago. I never hated you. You didn't do all that by yourself."
"No." Sharpay blinked with watered eyes. "But I certainly instigated them. And I certainly had the one goal in mind to hurt you. Hate you."
"It doesn't matter."
"But it does to me." Her eyes pricked but she refused to let one small tear fall. "It matters to me. I've lived my entire life thinking that everything about it was perfect. My family are so fucking rich, I got everything I wanted and I took it all for granted. I treated every servant like dirt, because I thought anything and anyone below me was filth. And that included teachers and students from elementary school all the way through college. I didn't respect anybody, not even my own brother. And he's been the one constant in my life. The one person who's always stuck by me no matter what."
"He's still there for you, Sharpay. And you do have a good life -- look what you've achieved."
"Yes," she answered bitterly. "Leading roles on Broadway and at the West End. Everything I ever worked for and dreamed of."
"Your hard work certainly paid off," Gabriella smiled softly. "You should be so proud. It's an amazing thing."
"But it means jack-shit. All of it… it's all bullshit."
"It's what you always wanted."
"I don't have any friends, Gabriella." Her admission shocked the bride-to-be. "Not one. My parents and Ryan are the only people who get the VIP treatment - front row seats to every show and tickets to every after party. No one else. I don't have a best friend to share it all with; a boyfriend, a fiancé, a husband. I do my shows, get the big applause; I get hundreds of bouquets and teddy bears from adoring fans and excellent reviews from the press. But they're all just faces. I don't know their names. I don't know the basics of their lives and I don't even have them there to talk to when I feel lonely or lost. I go home to a cat. A freaking cat. And that thing only ever wants to see me or be near me when it's dinner time."
Gabriella blinked heavily. "I had no idea you felt so… alone."
"It's a full life, you can imagine."
"I'm so sorry, Sharpay. Why haven't you said anything to Ryan about all this? Why haven't you visited here more often, or said all of this to me before? I told you everything in high school doesn't matter anymore - I've never held any grudge against you. You can get me tickets to your show - front row, if you're really offering. And I'll go… Troy will, too. And those parties sound like fun and we could be friends. All you had to do was just… join in."
Sharpay shook her head. "I'm not asking you to feel obligated or feel sorry for me here, Gabriella. I'm just…" she sighed deeply. "I'm just asking for your forgiveness, but then I'm not expecting it either. There're a lot of things that are wrong in my life, and they're all down to me. I can't go back and change them, but I can make up for them in a small way. I'm sorry for everything, I really am. This isn't some act, or a game, or another set-up. I've completely lost the strength to make this evil mind work any longer."
"There's nothing to forgive." Gabriella smiled at her encouragingly. "I promise. No pent up feelings over here. High school was over seven years ago. We're adults now, right? Even Taylor; she's stubborn but she'll come round eventually."
"I'm not staying, Gabriella. At least, here, anyway. I just came here to say congratulations - pass it onto Troy, for me? And I came to apologise. I'd love to do the same with Troy but I guess we're kinda running out of time here before he thinks you've eloped with some other guy and left him at the alter."
"There's nothing to forgive on his part either, Sharpay. Honestly."
Another moment of silence. The air was thick but a hint of sadness radiated the once happy and excited room.
Sharpay, seeing nothing else that needed to be said, stood up and squared her shoulders, smiling. "Well, I guess I should--"
"Come to the wedding." Gabriella stood up too, her eyes insistent. "Please. I'd like it if you were there and I know Ryan would be thrilled at your presence. He's wanted you in on the gang for so long, you know."
"No obligations, remember?"
"I don't feel obligated, Sharpay. I'm asking you because I'd love for you to be there. If you were, well, I guess everything would be complete."
Sharpay scoffed. "As if you need me there to complete your day! You're marrying Troy Bolton - hotshot basketball player, major hunk-tastic and love of your life since you were sixteen. You seriously need me there?"
"I don't need you there; I want you there. And, hey, this could be the start of something new, right? I promise I'm not just asking so you give us free front row tickets, I swear." She giggled and Sharpay grinned in response.
If only she'd given Gabriella Montez that chance all those years ago.
She shook her head again but the smile remained on her features. "Congratulations, Gabriella. You look really beautiful, and you two really will make each other happy for the rest of your lives. I wish you all of that."
As she backed away, Gabriella pleaded with her again to stay.
"This is all done, and now you've got a wedding to get to."
"A wedding which I'd like you to attend."
"Thanks, but you guys deserve centre stage. You always did, and now you can celebrate it in style. Reaching for stars in heaven and all that jazz, right?"
"Have a good-en, Montez," she grinned and spun on her heel, struck a pose and strutted out of the bedroom door.
She did attend the wedding.
In true Sharpay Evans style, of course. Super top secret.
Troy and Gabriella's wedding would, of course, be nothing but perfect. They were getting married in a beautiful garden just outside of Albuquerque with the sun shining, the birds chirping and general happiness there as a very special guest.
The vows were tear-jerking. Too sweet and perfect for words. Sharpay caught a tear slipping down her cheek as they were pronounced man and wife. She was happy she was hiding in the shadow of a large oak tree behind all the seated guests. No one saw her, no one sensed her. She could cry and not have to think up an excuse for her sign of weakness.
She had caught Gabriella looking for her in the crowd after they shared their first kiss as husband and wife, and she smiled at that.
So genuine, so carefree and so sure of who she was and where she was going.
Sharpay envied that. She'd always envied that. She'd just been too stubborn before everything in her life came crashing down to consume her into darkness to realise that.
With one final look at Mr. and Mrs. Bolton, Sharpay smiled and felt free of her demons at last.
She could let go of everything.
Even without a little manipulation, a little nagging… and even without a little screeching.
It definitely was an event to behold.
And she walked away with truly deserving pride in her chest. She'd righted so many wrongs, apologised to so many people for her past actions, and Gabriella Montez was the last.
She could finally accept, and let go.
The New York Post had covered the story first.
The Albuquerque Journal had not been far behind.
September 9th, 2015.
Broadway award-winning actress and singer, Sharpay Evans, loses her short battle with cervical cancer.
The words screamed at Gabriella Bolton. She clutched the newspaper tightly in her hands, scrunching the page ends up, her knuckles turning white.
Her husband of almost four months gently placed his shaking hand above her own; caressing, soothing.
"That's why," she uttered chokingly. "That's why she was there."
"Gabi." Troy Bolton softly pried the newspaper away from her burning fingers before lifting her hand to his lips, pressing a kiss to each fingertip.
"Since she came and apologised, I've tried to call her, Troy, I have…"
"I know, baby, I know." He pulled her face into the comfort of his neck and rocked her gently as soft, warm tears hit his skin.
"She was so lonely. But she never said anything, and neither did Ryan. Why didn't she tell me?"
"She wanted to right her wrongs. Make everything okay. You know what Sharpay's like… she likes her dramatic ends. And, look," he gestured towards the newspaper where her smiling face was staring back at them. "She certainly got it."
"She could have said, Troy. She could have told me on our wedding day. I told her I wanted her there with us, and she wouldn't. She could've stayed and then she'd be with so many people around her, and she wouldn't have been lonely--"
"She'd never admit she was anything but independent. Gabi, this isn't your fault. It's just the way Sharpay wanted it. Her family would have been with her; Ryan…" He drifted off with a shaky breath as he pressed a deep kiss to the crown of her head. "She wouldn't have been alone. But at least she'd be content with her life."
Gabriella couldn't talk through her sobs and merely nodded. She wrapped her arms tighter around her husband and clung onto him for life.
He was her rock. Her life, her soul.
Sharpay had nothing in her life worth fighting for. Not like she'd always thought.
And that shocked Gabriella into oblivion, proving to her just how much people take things in their lives for granted; never realising their mistakes until it's too late.
"I love you," she told him, sobbing and shaking more and she tried to press tender kisses to his neck and jaw. "I love you so much. So, so much."
"I love you, too," he replied, kissing her head and hair over and over, conveying his feelings in the best way he knew how. "Always."
Sharpay hadn't a lot of time to do the things she'd wanted since she'd been diagnosed. The things she did, she did with dignity and pride. Selfishness had no longer been a part of her as she'd attempted to stitch up every wound she'd caused over the years.
She had done nothing for herself in her last days.
Gabriella's new lease of life meant that everyday was to be lived to the fullest.
And a forever of being with Troy and loving him so much was simply not enough to convey just how much.
It was just that Sharpay missed and never got round to feeling in life.
Just that one thing Gabriella Bolton would cherish forever and more.
The sparkles slowly begin to fade…