Eleven-year-old Troy Bolton Jr. ran from the Northeast Albuquerque Middle School bus stop to his house as fast as he could, leaving his twin sister Brie lagging behind, calling for him to wait. Over the years, the two siblings had gotten pretty close to each other, making them really good friends despite the occasional arguments they still had.
"Dad! Dad!" Troy Jr. shouted as he flung the front door open and ran into the living room. "Guess what? Guess what?"
Troy Bolton Sr., Troy Jr.'s father, walked out of the kitchen, where he had been getting a snack. Now, at almost thirty-two years old, his hair was no longer messy-looking and falling into his eyes; instead it was cut a bit shorter and combed out of his face. Since his father, Jack Bolton, the coach for East High's basketball team-the Wildcats-had taken on a job teaching gym classes at one of the elementary schools, Troy had moved up from assistant coach to head coach in addition to helping his wife, Gabriella, with the drama club at the same school.
"Dad! Today during free period I tried out for the basketball team and made it!" Troy Jr. continued. "And the coach said I was the best player he had ever seen!"
"That's great!" Troy congratulated his son.
"Troy! What was the big hurry?" Brie wondered as she walked into the house, shutting the door her brother had ne- glected to shut as she entered.
"I wanted to tell Dad that I made the basketball team," Troy Jr. replied, his blue eyes turning toward his sister.
"I gotta go get ready for ballet," Brie announced, throwing the soft pink book bag she had been carrying onto the floor. "Is Mom home yet?"
"No," Troy answered. "She had to stay late at East High." The high school got out forty-five minutes before the three middle schools in the district did, but since it was the first day of the new school year, Gabriella had been required to stay past dismissal time to talk with the other geometry teachers. It was her first year teaching the subject, so she was a bit confused on the best ways to teach.
"Will she be back soon? I really need to get to ballet on time."
Troy shook his head no. "She won't be home until four-thirty." He then glanced at the clock that was on the wall. "It's three-twenty now. And your ballet class starts at what, four?"
Brie nodded in confirmation.
"Well Julliette's bus comes at quarter of four." I don't want my youngest daughter to have no one there waiting for her when she gets off the bus.; she's only in first grade, Troy thought to himself. Then, turning toward his son, he asked, "Do you think you could go to the elementary school bus stop at about three-forty and wait for your little sister's bus to come?"
"Of course. I'm almost twelve years old," was Troy Jr.'s response.
"And then when it comes, you can walk her home and keep an eye on her until I get back from taking Brie to ballet."
"Sure, I can do that."
"Great." Moving his attention back to his daughter, Troy said, "Brie, whenever you're ready, we can go."
"Okay. Thanks for working everything out, Dad," Brie smiled, hugging Troy before going upstairs to get changed into her leotard, tights, and ballet slippers.
"I'm gonna go out back and shoot some hoops," Troy Jr. told his father.
"Make sure you come in and check the time every so often so you know when it's three-forty," Troy instructed as he watched his son run into the kitchen, heading for the back door.
"I will," Troy Jr. called.
"Alright. One, two, three, four, and jete," Miss Emmy, Brie's ballet teacher, spoke.
Brie, along with the three other girls who were in the class, performed a fairly simple ballet jump, being sure to end in coupe. Coupe was one of the finishes used to complete a dance step.
"Now pirouette," Miss Emmy called out.
Brie did a perfect pirouette, taking care to keep the leg she was spinning on-also known as the standing leg-perfectly straight. Her opposite leg was bent in posse.
"Nice job, Brie," Miss Emmy complimented. "Abbie, you need to work on keeping your standing leg straight; I keep seeing your knee bend. Jessica, you weren't staying on your toes while you were spinning. And Marin, the toes on the foot of your bent leg were not being kept pointed."
"I did it right!" Jessica, a tall girl with brown eyes and straight blonde hair, argued. "Brie's the one who messed up!"
"No, you didn't do it right and no, Brie didn't mess up," Miss Emmy corrected.
Jessica gave Brie an angry glare. Stupid perfect princess, she thought hatefully to herself.
"I'm going to give you all five minutes to try to do a pirouette with no mistakes. Brie, I know you already did it, but it won't hurt you to practice the move a little more. I'll be walking around watching everyone and helping anyone who needs help," Miss Emmy announced.
Abbie walked over to Brie. The two girls had been best friends since preschool, and always helped each other with difficult ballet moves-if one of them could do it correctly, that is. "Can you watch me to make sure my standing leg stays straight?" she wondered.
"Sure, Abbie," Brie replied.
Abbie got her legs into the necessary position, then displayed a pirouette.
"Your knee was just a tiny bit bent this time," Brie told her friend.
"Can I see you do one?"
Brie nodded, then showed Abbie a pirouette. "That's what mine look like."
"I'm going to ask you to stop now," Miss Emmy said when time to practice pirouettes was over.
All the girls stood still.
"I just want to tell you all that auditions for our Christmas show-the Nutcracker-will be held here Saturday afternoon at one o' clock. So if you would like to perform in that, you can show up."
"I'm gonna get the part of Clara," Jessica bragged loudly. The role of Clara was the largest, most difficult role in the ballet for a girl her age and level.
"Well actually only girls en pointe can play Clara," Miss Emmy explained. Pointe was the same thing as ballet, only danced while wearing special shoes called toe shoes. Toe shoes allowed ballerinas to go all the way up on the tips of their toes. "You will all end up being either dolls in the Dolls and Soildiers dance, Russians in Pepperment, Chinese in Tea, or the Spaniard corps in Coffee."
Jessica rolled her eyes.
"Well that's all for today," Miss Emmy went on, ignoring Jessica. "You may all go."
Brie walked out of the ballet room and into the spacious waiting area. Looking around, she didn't see either of her parents. However, she did catch sight of her grandmother-and her father's mother-Lucille Bolton. Making her way over to her, she questioned, "Grandma, are you taking me home? What happened to Mom and Dad?"
Lucille looked at her granddaughter. "Brie, your mother was in a car accident on her way home from work."
Brie felt tears make their way into her eyes. "I-Is she alive?" she asked hesitantly.
"Yes, and she's at the hospital now. Your father and brother are with her. Grandpa is at your house keeping an eye on Julliette."
"W-Will she be okay?"
"I don't know," Lucille admitted. "I'm not even sure how bad she is."
Abbie, who had heard what had happened, walked over to Brie and quickly hugged her. "I'm sorry. I hope your mom will be alright."
"T-Thanks," Brie managed.
"I'll see you in school tomorrow, okay?"
Brie nodded lightly.
"Okay, well let's go," Lucille instructed. "Do you want me to take you home or to the hospital?"
"Hospital," Brie answered.
Brie ran into Gabriella's hospital room crying, her grandmother behind her. "Mom!" she gasped as she noticed her mother's left wrist and hand were all bandaged up, one of her cheeks had a bruise on it, and her brown eyes were shut; she was unconscious.
"Please don't leave me," Troy, who was sitting next to his wife holding her uninjured hand and stroking it gently with his fingers, pleaded as tears spilled out of his bright blue eyes.
Brie looked across the room and spied her brother sitting down on a chair that the hospital had provided for the room. Seeing there was an empty one beside him, she went over and seated herself.
Lucille walked over to her twin grandchildren. "Do you two want me to get you any dinner from the hospital cafeteria?"
Both Troy Jr. and Brie shook their heads no.
"Would you like me to stay here or should I go back to your house?"
"You can go if you want," Brie answered.
Troy Jr. nodded, agreeing with his sister.
"Alright, well I think your dad has his cell phone with him. Just call me when you want to go home and I'll pick you up. I think Grandpa and I will stay overnight at your place since I'm sure your dad will wanna stay here with your mom until she's ready leave the hospital."
"Okay," the twins said quietly. "Bye."
"Bye," Lucille returned before exiting the room of her daughter-in-law.
"H-Honey, please wake up," Troy begged. "Please. I-I'm not at all ready to say good-bye."
A groan came from Gabriella's lips as she opened her eyes halfway. "Wildcat?" she mumbled questioningly, using the nickname she had for her husband.
"Gabriella!" Troy exclaimed softly.
Gabriella sat up slowly and wrapped her arms around Troy, burying her face in his shoulder.
Troy returned his wife's hug. "How are you feeling, my love?"
"Sore," came Gabriella's reply. "All over."
"Poor baby," Troy murmured. Then, after a pause, he asked, "What happened during the accident? Do you remember anything?"
"Well I was just driving, then someone behind me started speeding up really fast and hit the back of my car. The vibration of the crash caused the window of the passenger seat to crack a bit. I leaned over to see how bad it was damaged, and when I did, it shattered. I cut my wrist and hand. Then, I started to feel dizzy all of a sudden. The last thing I remember is hitting my head on the steering wheel."
"What about your cheek? It's bruised."
"I guess I must have hit that, too at the time I hit my head."
Troy nuzzled Gabriella's hair gently. "Did you know Troy and Brie were here?"
"No," was Gabriella's answer. She lifted her head and looked around the room. Once she saw her two oldest children, she smiled. "Hi."
"Hi, Mom," both of the twins greeted.
"Precious Gabby, I want you to lie back down," Troy instructed.
"Lie with me."
"Okay; I will," Troy promised as he released Gabriella from his arms.
Gabriella let go of Troy, also, and placed her head back on the pillow that was at the top of the bed.
Troy first grabbed a blanket which was lying next to the bed on a small table, then laid down next to his wife, tucking both him and her in.
Gabriella snuggled up to Troy, yawning.
"You look sleepy. Why don't you take a little nap?" Troy suggested, placing a kiss onto Gabriella's nose, then her un-bruised cheek, then, finally, her soft lips.
Gabriella returned the kiss on the lips, then snuggled up to her husband and closed her tired eyes.
Time had passed until the clock showed it was seven-thirty p.m. Troy Jr., Brie, and Julliette were all sitting in the living room with their grandparents.
"What time do you guys usually go to bed?" Jack asked.
"Julliette has to at quarter of eight, and Troy and I have to around eight-thirty," Brie replied.
"Oh, okay. Well Julliette, you have fifteen more minutes before bedtime."
Julliette nodded, indicating she had heard her grandfather. "Is Mommy gonna come home to say good night to me?"
"No, I'm afraid she isn't, honey," Lucille answered sympathetically. "She got hurt bad so she needs to stay at the hospital to get better. But I'm sure you can call her on the phone and talk to her-as long as she's not asleep or anything."
"Alright; I will. Is Daddy coming home or is he hurt, too?"
"Daddy's staying with Mommy at the hospital. He's not hurt, though. Not at all. He's perfectly fine. He just wants to be with Mommy because he worries about her and wants to make sure she's alright overnight. Also, the hospital can be a pretty lonely place, so he's good company for her."
"I hope Julliette's gonna be okay without Mom and Dad here," Brie whispered to her brother, who was right next to her.
"Me, too," Troy Jr. whispered back. Then, raising his voice back to its normal volume, he wondered, "How long is Mom supposed to be in the hospital for? And is Dad ditching work until she's out?"
"I'm not sure," Jack responded. "Your dad-I'm sure-will call as soon as he hears something. And I wouldn't say he's 'ditching work'. He probably called East High and got a few days off for himself."
Just then, a slender, full-grown calico cat lumbered out from underneath the sofa.
"Hi, Tutu," Brie greeted, getting up from her seat to lift the cat into her arms. When she was a little girl-four to be exact-her parents had bought both her and her brother a kitten. Hers was a female, while Troy Jr.'s was an orange tabby male named Hoops. Both of them loved and cared for the little animals very much.
Tutu let out a loud purr.
"I want to pet her. Please?" Julliette begged, looking at her older sister.
"You can." Brie brought the cat over to her sister. "Do you want her to sit on your lap, too?"
"Yeah," Julliette smiled.
Brie placed her cat on her sister's lap, then took her seat by Troy Jr. again as she brushed orange, brown, and white cat hairs off her purple shirt.
"Do you have any homework?" wondered Lucille.
"No," Julliette replied.
"No," Troy Jr. and Brie echoed.
"There's never homework on the first day of school," Brie added.
"Oh, I forgot about that. It's been a while since I was in school," Lucille told her grandchildren.
"Gabby, do you want some water before you go to sleep?" Troy wondered. It was nine-fifteen at night, and Gabriella was feeling exhausted-even after the nap she had taken around dinnertime.
Troy grabbed the cup of water his wife had been given to drink during the evening meal that had been served and handed it to her carefully. "Here you go."
"Thanks, Wildcat." Gabriella took the cup from Troy, sipped a little bit of the liquid inside, then handed it back to him. "I'm finished for now."
"Alright." Troy put the cup back where he had gotten it from, then kissed Gabriella good night.
Gabriella returned the kiss, then pleaded, "Please sleep next to me tonight. It'll make me feel safe and secure, especially since hospitals scare me a little."
Troy climbed onto the bed and pulled Gabriella close to him. "I know. I don't like hospitals, either."
"How was school today?" Lucille, who was sitting in the living room reading, asked as Troy Jr. and Brie walked inside the house carrying their backpacks.
"It was okay," Brie answered with a shrug. "We didn't do anything that exciting and we got homework; I hate doing homework."
"I had gym today," Troy Jr. responded. "We played soccer. I don't really like that sport too much, but it wasn't that bad. I can't wait for my first basketball practice; it's tomorrow."
"Well I have some news for you," Lucille began as she put her book down.
"Is it about Mom?" Troy Jr. questioned.
"Yes. Your dad called about three hours after you two left this morning. He said she's gonna be leaving the hospital tomorrow afternoon. But once she's at home, she's still supposed to rest and take it easy."
"She never takes it easy, though," Brie remarked.
"Don't worry, Brie. Your father will make her. He can be very firm when it comes to your mother's health. I'm sure if he sees she's doing too much, he'll make her stop and sit or lie down for a little."
"Once she had a cold and Dad totally freaked out. He told her to stay in bed, he made soup, and he spent the whole day with her....leaving Brie and I to watch Julliette," Troy Jr. said, sounding a bit annoyed as he finished speaking his words.
"Be quiet, Troy!" Brie teased.
"No, you be quiet," Troy Jr. teased in return. "Now I'm gonna go to Jake's house; we're gonna play basketball. I'll be back here in time for dinner." Jake Benlin had been Troy Jr.'s friend since the first day of preschool. He shared his love of basketball, and also had made it onto the middle school team.
"Wait a second. I think you need to do your homework before you go out anywhere," Lucille told her grandson.
Troy Jr. responded by slowly trudging towards the staircase which led to the upper level of the Bolton house. I guess the sooner I start the sooner I'll get done.
At that moment, the phone began ringing.
"I'll get that," Brie offered, dashing toward the cordless phone and taking it off the hook. "Hello?"
"Hey, Brie," came Abbie's voice from the other line. "I'm having major problems with my ballet. Can you come over and practice with me?"
"Sure Ab," Brie agreed. "I just gotta do my homework first."
"Alright. How long will that take you?"
"Like twenty minutes, half an hour, something like that."
"Okay. Well I'll see you in a little bit, then. Bye."
"Bye." Brie hung the phone back up before hurrying upstairs.
"Wildcat, I'm so sore," Gabriella, who was lying next to Troy in her hospital bed, complained.
Troy gave his wife a sympathetic look. "I know, I know, baby girl," he murmured. "And if I could take the pain away from you, I would. But I can't. So I'll do the next best thing I can do."
"What's that?" Gabriella wondered.
"Give you kisses, cuddles, hugs, massages, and when we get home-hot baths to ease the pain. Sound good?"
Gabriella smiled lightly and nodded. "I can't wait to go home. This bed isn't the most comfy place to rest in; the matress is too firm, and the covers they give are made out of scratchy material."
"Yeah, I don't quite get that. This is supposed to be a place for people to recover from sickness or injuries, but yet while they're recovering, they have to be uncomfortable."
"I'm sorry, baby girl. I'm sorry you have to suffer through all this. But tomorrow after you get home, I will spoil you rotten. That's a promise."
"Wildcat, you're the sweetest."
"I need to be sweet," was Troy's response. "If I was bitter, then you would hate me."
Gabriella giggled her sweet giggle. "You know you're crazy, right?"
"Yeah, I know. I'm reminded of that almost every day," Troy smiled as he wrapped his arms around his wife. "And I love having that reminder."
Gabriella returned Troy's hug as she snuggled into him.
"I'm not squeezing you too tight, am I?" Troy checked.
"No, not at all," Gabriella answered.
"Alright; just making sure. I don't want to hurt you any more than you're already hurt."
"I don't think you ever would. You're so gentle with me."
Troy, still keeping Gabriella in his grasp, began rubbing her back slowly. "How does this feel?"
"Good," Gabriella replied, sounding very relaxed as she tightened her grip on Troy and buried her face into his shoulder affectionately. "So good."
Troy pressed a kiss onto his wife's head. "I'm glad. And I really hope you feel better-completely better-soon."