Disclaimer: I don't own anything
A/N: This was made in remembrance of 9/11. I know, the day is almost over, but this took me the whole day to write. Why? Because I was trying to get it just right. I got the idea to do it as I was sitting in front of my television, watching the memorial service at Ground Zero. I have always been a sensitive person, so this day has always gotten to me especially when I watched the people read off the names and there's always the select few who tear up. I know that there have been other instances around the world where more people have died, but this, being that it took place in my hometown, hit home for me. New York City has changed since that day and the skyline has never been the same without those giants towering overhead. It will take some time before the scars of that day have fully healed, but even then, no one will ever forget the lives lost that day eight years ago. This was done without any help from my Beta so excuse any mistakes. I looked it over once to fix any I found, but I'm not sure if I got them all.
Thick rain clouds hovered above Albuquerque, New Mexico, a rare sight to see in the middle of the Chihuahuan desert. For this particular day, however, the clouds were rightly set. It was a perfect reflection of the moods of many people, including a certain Gabriella Montez who sat on the school bus, staring into space. She had more of a reason to be this way than of anyone else on the bus. Subconsciously, she played with the locket around her neck, the only thing she had left to remind her of him.
Her mother had told her that she didn't have to go to school if she didn't want to, but Gabriella refused to stay home. She refused to sit in her room and let her depression get the best of her. She was tired of crying, so this was the only way to get her mind off of everything. She told her mother that she was fine with going to school and that's how she became stuck on this bus, thinking of the only thing that ever plagued her heart.
Pulling up to East High moments later, the bus came to a full stop and students filed off. Each one quiet, but none as quiet as the brunette in the back. Gabriella listened as her fellow classmates spoke lowly to each other, keeping up with the mood of the day. Eight years later and it was still a burden on everyone's shoulders. Eight years later and the scars still ran deep. Not wanting to hear anymore talk of it, Gabriella quickly went inside and to her locker.
Even inside, the atmosphere was sullen and quiet. It was part of a silent respect that everyone came to know over the past few years. They knew what this day was, knew what it stood for. None of them knew if one of their classmates lost someone that fateful morning. None of them knew that one was right in front of their faces, breaking as each second passed by.
She opened her locker and stuck her books inside. It had been decided the day before that there would be no classes and, instead, would be a memorial service in the auditorium followed by the dismissal of all students. Gabriella hadn't been looking forward to it. It would only remind her that she was fighting her true feelings about this day.
Feeling arms wrap around her waist, she smiled softly as her boyfriend of five months put his chin on her shoulder and held her close.
"Good morning, beautiful."
"Good morning to you, too."
He kissed her cheek. "So what do you think about us getting the entire first half of the school day off?"
She shrugged, her smile slipping from her face. "I don't like it, but I guess we have to."
He chuckled. "It would be you to want to have class." He noticed that she was no longer smiling and his lips curled downward. "What's wrong?"
She shook her head and closed her locker. "Nothing." She turned around in his arms and faked a smile. "Nothing at all."
He saw right through her. "Gabriella, what's wrong?"
"I just told you, 'nothing,'" she said and looked away.
Cupping her cheek, he made her look at him. "Don't shut me out, please."
"Troy, there's nothing wrong. I promise you."
His eyes searched hers. He could plainly see that she was lying, but didn't want to push her into telling him. He knew she was stubborn and it would take a while before she decided to open up to him. Sighing, he pecked her lips and leaned his forehead against hers.
"If you want to talk, I'm here. No questions asked."
She smiled softly. "Thanks, Troy."
He returned the smile and kissed her once more. Dropping his hand from her cheek, he swiped up one of hers and held it, interlocking their fingers.
"Ready to go to this thing?"
She nodded though she really wasn't. She would never be ready to go to something that would remind her of the day she lost everything. With her hand securely held in his, she walked beside him towards the auditorium, hoping that she would be able to make it through without breaking down.
Students talked quietly among themselves as they waited for the silent service to start. Troy pulled her towards the front, seeing their friends occupying the second row.
"Hey, guys." Troy took a seat beside his best friend, dragging her down with him.
Taking a seat beside him, she stayed silent and listened to their conversation. She was glad that Troy hadn't let go of her hand for she was afraid that she would bolt out of the auditorium without looking back. Principal Matsui walked on stage minutes later and brought the attention on him.
"Settle down everyone." The auditorium went silent and she glanced up. "In a few minutes we are going to begin the service and I expect everyone to be respectful. While we wait, teachers are going to pass around a sheet with your name on it. Please check off your name so we can know who's here and who's not."
Sighing, Gabriella leaned her head against Troy's shoulder. He turned to her and kissed the top of her head. She wasn't sure if he realized it or not, but he was her support system. He was the only one keeping her from crying out at that moment. Closing her eyes, her mind brought her back to a different time…a different place.
The ten year old brunette was upset.
For the first time since she could remember, her father had left for work without saying goodbye. He had never done that before. He would always wake her up, no matter what time it was, and say goodbye. On top of it all, she had a bad feeling about today. She had a feeling that something was going to happen, something that would change her life.
Doodling in her notebook, Gabriella failed to notice Principal Kelly walk through the classroom door. She was oblivious to the sullen stare that Ms. Adams was sending her way. She couldn't see the sorrowful looks that crossed the two women's faces.
"Gabriella." She looked up from her notebook. "Principal Kelly would like to see you in the hallway."
Nodding, the brunette slowly stood, afraid of what was coming next. She could sense the tension radiating off of them and knew whatever Principal Kelly had to say wasn't going to be pleasant.
The sound of music broke Gabriella out of her memories and she opened her eyes. She stared at the screen and watched as a choir of high school students began to sing the Star Spangled Banner. It was somewhat comforting to hear their soft voices, but she could still feel her heart slowly breaking within her chest.
Soon, the names started. People around her listened intently to the names being read, but she refused to. She didn't want to hear it. It would only remind her further. The names discontinued and a loud chime rang through the auditorium speakers followed by another. Her heart stopped as the rest of her memory filled her head.
Standing in front of Principal Kelly, Gabriella feared the worst. The tall blonde in front of her sighed before looking her in the eyes.
"Gabriella, your Mother's on her way to pick you up. She has something to tell you."
"What is it?"
"I…I think your Mother should tell you."
"No, I wanna know now. What happened?"
"Please, just…wait for your Mother." She touched the girl's shoulder. "Come. You can wait for her in my office."
Gabriella followed her, wishing she could know what was going on. As they walked down the hallway, television sets from various classroom could be heard, all on the same channel. Looking into one, she could see a reporter speaking into the camera before the image of two smoking buildings flashed on the screen.
"What's going on?" she asked.
"The World Trade Center has… just been attacked."
Her heart stopped. Her father worked in one of those buildings. She tried to remember which one, but it wasn't coming to her.
"My…my Dad works in one of the buildings."
Principal Kelly nodded. "I know."
Walking through the office door, Gabriella saw her mother standing at the secretary's desk with her back to the door. She could tell that she was crying by the way her shoulders shook.
"Mom." Her mother turned around and Gabriella looked into her tear filled eyes. "Mom, what's wrong?"
"What? What happened to him?"
"He…" She sobbed. "He was at work when the planes hit. He called me five minutes before they crashed…and told me he had just arrived in his office."
Gabriella shook his head. "He's not…he's not…"
"I don't know. All I know is that…he could be."
Breaking down, Gabriella began to cry and her mother quickly ran to her, embracing her tightly. Gabriella grasped her mother's shirt and sobbed into her comforting grip.
The last chime sounded and Gabriella bolted out of her seat, running from the auditorium. Reaching the lockers, she leant against them and cried. Her legs soon gave way and she slid to the floor. She hated this day. She hated reliving this day over and over again in her head. Memories never failed to remind her of what she lost each anniversary. Feeling a hand on her shoulder, she looked up and into the worried bright blue eyes of her boyfriend.
"Talk to me," he whispered.
"He died today…my F-father died in those attacks all those years ago and…I-I never got a chance to say goodbye." A sob escaped her lips as fresh tears rolled down her cheeks. Troy pulled her into his arms and held her. "I never got to say goodbye," she cried against his shirt.
"Shh. It's okay, Gabriella. It's all okay."
His heart broke for her. He knew how much she loved and admired her father by the way she talked about him whenever he asked her about him. This confession explained the sadness in her voice that would accompany the admiration. She was hurting not just because he died, but by the way that he died. He remembered how many people were unsure if their loved ones survived, though those on the plane were not lucky at all. For those in the buildings, some survived, most didn't. Her father was one of those unlucky many.
"Don't cry," he said as he stroked her hair.
"He was everything to me and…I lost him in the blink of an eye."
He sighed. "He wouldn't want you to be sad. He would want you to be happy because he's not suffering, because he's in a better place."
"But I miss him."
"And he misses you, but crying isn't going to bring him back." He pulled away from her and wiped her tears from her face with the pad of his thumbs. "The best you can do is to just remember him."
"But it hurts when I do."
"And it's gonna hurt, but that's normal. You lost someone very close to your heart so of course it's going to be painful, but you just have to remember the good times you've spent with him."
"I don't want to remember, I want to forget."
"Because I can never see the good memories, I just see the day it happened, the day when I lost him. I just want to forget everything…even him."
Stroking her cheek, he stared into her eyes. "Never forget him, Gabriella. Never forget him or what happened. That day is just as much a part of your life as your Dad was." She sighed and looked away. He stood up and outstretched his hand. "Come on."
She looked up at him. "Where are we going?"
"Somewhere that will make you feel better."
She took his hand and he pulled her up before leading her down the hallway. He eventually led her to the rooftop, both staying silent as they enjoyed each other's company. Standing with her back to him, she sighed and stared into the distance, leaning her head against his shoulder.
"You're right. This place does make me feel better. Thanks, Troy."
He nuzzled his nose against her neck before kissing her skin. "Anytime you need me, I'm always here."
She looked at him. "You know…I never thought I'd ever be able to be happy since my Father died."
"I sense a 'but' coming on."
She giggled and turned to him. "But…then I met you and everything changed. You were the first person to make me truly happy, the first person that made me smile without having to force it, and I love you for it."
He grinned. "I love you, too." He kissed her. "So," he said, rubbing his nose against hers, "do you think your Father would have liked me?"
Smiling softly, she ran her hand through his hair. "I think he would have loved you." She sighed. "I just wish he could be here to meet you."
"I know, I know, he's in a better place. I just…I wish he was here. I wish he could see me and what I've become."
"But he can see what you've become. He's watching you right now," he pushed her hair out of her face, "and he's proud of what he sees."
He nodded. "Yeah."
Wrapping her arms around his torso, she pulled herself against him and breathed in the comforting scent that was him. Closing her eyes, she remembered her father; remembered his eyes, his smile…his laugh. She remembered everything about him. Since it happened, she tried to forget him, tried to wipe that day from her memory. But looking back, she realized she couldn't do that. She couldn't possibly forget the man who helped give her life, the man who always held a place in her heart.
A/N: My facebook status for today: "Let us remember all of the heroes made, all of those who were lost, all of those who still mourn. Let us not forget that fateful day eight years ago when New York City and the entire United States was brought together by a tragic event that changed us forever. RIP the people lost on 9/11/2001"