"Troy?" Gabriella gasped, slowly pulling her boyfriend into her room. She wasn't sure why she was surprised by what she saw. She had always had suspicions about Troy's relationship with his father. There was always something that just seemed a little off with them. The anxious look in Troy's eyes when he realized he would be home just a few minutes late coming home. The way he would wince during basketball practices when he thought nobody had been looking. He and Gabriella had been dating for just over a year and he never let things get so heated between them that clothes would be shed, even though she could feel that he wanted to. But when he stumbled into her room late that summer night, Gabriella realized just how bad things were for him at home.
"Gabriella," he said, his voice breaking as he spoke her name. She carefully led him to her bed and sat him down on the end of it. She knelt down on the floor in front of him and softly traced the outline of the bruise beginning to form around his eye. Finally truly understanding what was going on, Gabriella slowly began to pull the hem of his shirt up. He was reluctant at first but eventually gave in and put his arms in the air, allowing her to pull the shirt off over his head. Tears formed in her eyes when she realized just how much damage had been done to the boy with the beautiful blue eyes in front of her. She ran her fingers over his chest, tracing scars and softly rubbing bruises for minutes before the silence was broken. Both of them had tears running down their faces as they looked into each other's eyes.
"Troy… how long has this been going on?" He looked down for a moment before looking back into her eyes, hurt shining through.
"Twelve years, eight months, three weeks, and four days."
"God Troy. I… I just… Why didn't you say anything before?" She asked, taking his hands in her own.
"What was I supposed to say? It doesn't matter. It's not usually this bad anyway. I should've…"
"Troy," she interrupted. She took this moment to wipe away his tears and lean her forehead against his.
"I should've been better. Practiced harder. Maybe then…"
"This is not your fault, Troy." She told him sternly, looking into his eyes. He looked down shamefully and tears fell to the floor. "Look at me, Troy." He continued to stare at his feet. "Please look at me, Troy."
"No," he whispered, still avoiding eye contact. She lifted her hand and raised his chin, forcing him to make eye contact with her. His eyes were red as tears fell freely from them. She felt guilty as he reached up to wipe away the tears she was shedding herself. She grabbed his hand before he could pull it away and kissed his fingers softly.
"Does this hurt?" She asked softly, running her finger underneath his bleeding lip. He shook his head no but his involuntary shudder showed otherwise. She left him for a moment and came back with a wet washcloth and an ice pack. He sucked in his breath slightly as she put the warm pressure on his lip and groaned in pain as she placed the ice pack on his swollen eye.
"Sorry," she whispered, letting him hold the icepack himself.
"It's okay," he whispered back as she ran her fingers through his hair. Knowing what she had to do, she braced herself for his reaction.
"Troy… I have to tell someone," she exhaled. His head jerked up and suddenly eye contact didn't seem so difficult.
"Gabi. You don't understand…"
"No!" He stood up, throwing the ice pack on to her bed.
"Why not?" Gabriella cried.
"Because! He's my dad! He would lose everything! I can't do that to him…" Fresh tears trickled down his face.
"You're his son! He shouldn't be doing this to you!"
"Gabriella, you don't understand," he said again.
"Troy, I don't care if you're mad at me. I care too damn much about you to let you just go back to him," she huffed, leaving her room to find her mom. Troy hurried after her and grabbed her hand as she reached the stairs. She felt him spin her around to face him and was surprised to be pulled into his embrace. He held her tighter than she ever felt him hold her before, and buried his face in her hair. She could feel and hear him crying and she tried her best to comfort him by rubbing his back and whispering in his ear. Having heard the two teenagers upstairs, Ms. Montez walked up the steps and saw the whole exchange.
"Is everything okay?" She asked, wondering why her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend were so upset. "Troy? Your shirt?"
Gabriella felt Troy tense up at the sound of her mother's voice. The teenagers slowly pulled apart and turned to face Ms. Montez. Gabriella saw the flash in her mother's eyes as she saw how awful Troy looked.
"Sweetie! What happened to you?"
"Mom," Gabriella started as Troy quickly wiped the tears from his eyes.
"Gabriella? Troy? What's going on?"
"Nothing, Ms. Montez," Troy began. "Just had some words with Chad, that's all."
"Troy…" Gabriella interrupted. Troy sent her a glare, but she continued anyway. "Mom… Mr. Bolton," Gabriella sighed, not knowing how to put it into words.
"Troy?" Ms. Montez interrupted, putting her hand on Troy's shoulder. "Did your father do this to you?"
"Yes," Gabriella answered for him.
"I need to hear it from you, Troy." Silence. Troy felt Gabriella take his hand and squeeze it tightly.
"Yes," Troy finally said, eyes not meeting the mother's in front of him.
"Oh, Honey," Ms. Montez sighed, pulling Troy into her arms. At first he was reluctant to the motherly embrace, but he soon found comfort in the woman's arms. "Gabriella, why don't you bring Troy to your room and get him cleaned up a little bit. I'll be right there," Ms. Montez said, pulling away from the broken young man in front of her.
"Gabriella?" Troy whispered as she led him to her room again.
"Yes?" She sat him down on her bed and kneeled in front of him.
"Do you…um… do you still… love me?" He asked in almost a whisper, eyes focused on the floor beneath his feet.
"Troy… of course I still love you. I love you so much," she told him fresh tears falling freely down her face.
"Why doesn't he?" He asked, voice breaking again.
"Troy," Ms. Montez said, walking into her daughter's room and interrupting the moment. "I'm going to take you to the hospital."
"You really don't need to," Troy insisted.
"Troy, let us take you," Gabriella pleaded.
"It's really not as bad as it looks," he told the girls.
"Come on, Troy. I'm taking you whether you want to go or not," Ms. Montez said, putting her foot down. "I'm going to get my things. Meet me at the car."
"Gabi, don't make me go… please," Troy begged.
"You don't understand. If I go to the hospital they're going to call the police on my dad. Or worse – CPS. I'm still a minor… If they take me away from him…"
"Then this can't happen again."
"Then I could be taken away from you, too," he said, trying to persuade her.
"You can stay here."
"I don't think it works like that."
"I can't let you go back to him," she whispered, tracing the scar forming under his eye.
"I won't let anyone take you away from me. I promise."
"You can't promise that," Troy said as he reluctantly followed Gabriella out of her room.
"Troy," Gabriella sighed, attempting catch up with Troy.
"I don't want to talk about it, Gabi!" He snapped, shutting the door of the guest room behind him. After almost two hours at the hospital, the police allowed Troy to go home with Ms. Montez to stay. This was after he watched those same police pull his father away from his hospital room and into the elevator. When Troy asked the police about the incident they explained to him that his father was being held in custody under the charges of domestic violence and child abuse. After seeing his father's eyes as he got pulled away, he refused to speak to either of the Montez women, only nodding in agreement when necessary.
"We don't have to talk about it," she called through the door. "Just tell me that you're okay," she said softer. When he didn't reply, she sunk down and leaned against the door. She would wait all night if she had to; she had to know that he was all right, or as all right as he could be. Hours passed, and it was just after four in the morning when Troy finally came out of the room he would be staying in until things were sorted out. He smiled slightly at the sight of his girlfriend on the floor outside his room. He kneeled down painfully and stroked her cheek softly. She opened her eyes and sat up as soon as she saw her boyfriend. He helped her stand up and she waited for him to speak.
"I'm thirsty," he said, breaking the silence. "Want to come downstairs with me?" She nodded and watched him carefully as they walked down the stairs together. They both kept silence as he filled up a glass with water and took a sip from it. The silence continued when he offered her some of his drink, to which she shook her head and looked down.
"Baby…" Gabriella finally started, walking closer to him. "Please talk to me."
"I know you're mad at me… Just please tell me you understand why I told my mom. Why I made you go with her to the hospital."
"I'm not mad at you, Gabi. I'm just… overwhelmed. Listen, can we just sleep? And talk tomorrow?" He almost begged.
"Sure," Gabriella gave in, following him upstairs. Slightly upset that he continued to his room without even looking back at her, Gabriella allowed herself to close her eyes once she was in her own bed. It took all of eight minutes, however, for Troy to sneak into her room and sit at the end of her bed.
"Gabi?" Troy's voice sounded broken as Gabriella turned around to face his back. She could tell he had been crying.
"Tell me everything's gonna be okay," he pleaded. Gabriella pulled him down next to her and kissed his eyelids softly as more tears trickled down.
"Troy," she pulled away slowly, looking her boyfriend straight in the eyes. His eyes were glossy as they connected with hers. His look was intense, as if he were searching for the all the answers in her stare. "Everything's going to be fine."