For as long as they could remember, Troy and Gabriella had been best friends. It was the cliché, next-door neighbor relationship that began when Gabriella moved to New Mexico at the young age of four. They were inseparable from the start, never leaving the other's side, and bringing their two families together to create one much bigger. The Bolton's looked after Gabriella as if she was their own and in turn Ms. Montez did the same for Troy.
Once they started high school, things became complicated as all co-ed friendships eventually do. They had gotten tipsy at a party their freshman year and decided it would be a good idea to make out for almost an hour upstairs before they got walked in on. Sophomore year Troy drunkenly admitted to Gabriella during a 2AM phone call that she was the most beautiful girl he'd ever laid eyes on. During their junior year their friendship seemed to take a step back. Troy was always busy with basketball and Gabriella with her studies.
It was also junior year when Troy, in all his basketball glory, had become a bit of a player, and not just on the court. He'd date around a lot, and every few months he'd find a girl who would stick around for more than just one night of making out in his truck. After a few weeks or so he would always break it off with them, claiming 'it just wasn't right'. Gabriella never questioned his motives, but always knew that he had broken up with his latest catch when he'd show up on her balcony in the middle of the night with a carton of ice cream and cigarettes on his breath.
The first time it had happened, she was very unimpressed. She criticized his way of coping and thought seriously about telling him to go home and come back again when he brushed his teeth. Eventually, it became comforting. Enticing even. The third time that this had happened, they only made it through half the carton of ice cream before Troy leaned in and closed the already small gap between their lips. The next day he had already asked out a new girl and the two continued their relationship as if nothing had happened, just as they did their freshman year.
After that, Gabriella waited for those nights. He would show up in the middle of the night with hurt in his heart and lust in his eyes. She longed for the taste of ice cream and cigarettes that came around every so often. Both of them were so busy with their own things and this seemed to be the only constant in their relationship. What she didn't know is that he too, in his own way, looked forward to these nights.
Troy always prepared himself for the inevitable break-ups that he was responsible for. He would go to the drug store to buy cigarettes an ice cream first. He would stand outside his latest conquest's house and smoke one cigarette before knocking on her door and breaking the news. He would sulk in his room for hours until it was just late enough to wake his best friend. He would smoke two more cigarettes on his way over and throw out the rest of the pack outside her house.
Troy wasn't sure why he played this same game every few weeks. He wasn't lying when he said it wasn't right, but he always failed to mention that he knew exactly why it wasn't right, and who he could be with that would make it right.
It was never really a secret the way Troy and Gabriella felt about each other. It wasn't as if they were oblivious to each other's feelings, or feared that their own feelings were not returned. They were both aware of the situation that they were putting themselves in and as far as they were concerned, it was working for them. Gabriella knew that Troy hadn't felt anything for those girls he had dated. Troy knew the real reason that Gabriella didn't date had nothing to do with her need to focus on school.
It had been only one night since Troy's last drop by to her house in the middle of the night, and she knew she shouldn't expect him back again for at least a few weeks. It was for that reason precisely that she was quite surprised when he stumbled onto her balcony late that Sunday night.
"Troy?" She asked carefully, opening her doors to let her neighbor in.
"Gabriella…" he slurred, almost tripping into her room.
"Are you drunk?" She whispered, helping him over to her bed.
"I can't do this anymore," he admitted.
She was at first unsure of what he meant by that statement, but was quickly understanding when he leaned in and captured her lips in his own.
For as long as they could remember, Troy and Gabriella had been best friends. It was the cliché, next-door neighbor relationship that started out innocent and grew into something deeper as the two grew older. That night, Gabriella made a note to herself how sweet the rum on his tongue tasted. But as sweet as it was, it would never compare to the taste of the cigarettes and ice cream that had brought them together.