Title: Grains of Sand
Rating: M for mature themes, substance abuse, course language and sexual descriptions.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters, names, places, anything from High School Musical or Disney. This story is copyright to the owner and may not be used without permission. I in no way affiliated with any of the High School Musical Cast, Disney, Kenny Ortega or Peter Barsocchini. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: The love they shared that summer was unforgettable, until he was stripped of his memory. Three years later, Gabriella Montez finds herself fighting to bring back the Troy Bolton she thought she lost forever.
A/N: I just came off a story that was fairly intense and took a lot out of me to write. It was going to be my last before I went on hiatus, but with the epicness that is summer, I couldn't let this one go. So this story is going to come pretty quickly - if you can't keep up, don't worry about it. The first story I ever wrote was 41 chapters and I wrote it in a little over two months. I'm about three quarters of the way through writing this story, and I'm anticipating it being about twelve chapter (if you've read me before, you KNOW that this is short) and I have 27 days to post it all. Come fall, I'm starting a clean page in real life that may restrict me from posting, so I wanted to get one more out before I go on hiatus until things slow down. This is a lot lighter than my last story, though if you're new to my work, you should know that I'm not a fluffy writer. I like drama and feuds, it's just how I am.
That being said, those of you who are new to my work, take notice. I write my characters through my own experiences and the way I know how people this age behave, not Disney's version. Therefore: I tend to write about alcohol (a lot), having sex, and one of my favorite words in the English language is "fuck". If you're not comfortable with this, don't sweat it. But you've been warned. And lastly, I know I'm going to lose some readers because I wrote this story in first person tense, but it was something I really needed to try and I think it really brings more personality into my writing, which you don't see very much from me. I hope you like it anyways.
It's funny how the nerves never really disappear. Thank you so much for your support. Let me know your thoughts, and thank you for trusting me. Hopefully I won't disappoint.
"A retentive memory may be a good thing, but the ability to forget is the true token of greatness."
I lifted my head from the glow of my cell phone and furrowed my eyebrows towards the driver's seat beside me, "What's wrong?"
"I forgot to bring tampons."
Even though I felt like regurgitating on the dashboard, my mouth flicked into a smile. Taylor McKessie fell into the norm: most people take memory for granted.
For such an incredible gift, it is abused more often than not. The mind's ability to store information in the hippocampus is so incredibly fascinating – or so my psychology class last semester taught me. Yet people are too wrapped up in their petty lives to truly appreciate it. Forgetting events or tasks can be simply harmless – misplace of my shoe in the closet or failing to set an alarm in the morning. These can be easily rectified with a few wasted minutes with my purple and gold flip flops flying every which way or bypassing the staple morning coffee in order to make it to Fagan's class on time. No one is hurt; no hearts are shattered.
The not so innocent experiences of a lost memory, however, could be catastrophic. There are situations of douche bag husbands and wives who have completely forgotten – or quite possibly ignored – the vows they have taken with two bands of commitment long before and tested alluring waters. Even more dangerous yet, the easy task of switching the lock my dorm room could have had dire consequences if not preformed. The last thing I needed was some psycho with a knife and a butt plug creeping around while I'm changing bras. Obviously, I'd rather remember this than whether or not my ballet flats are beneath my favorite Standford sweatshirt.
Although my friend's comment would be rather tragic had I been in her shoes, I didn't really put the forgotten tampons in the catastrophic category. Instead, I tensely glanced out the window to be greeted with the luscious evergreens and emerald trees that encaged us within the winding road.
"We could stop at the store, if you wanted." I suggested, trying to control the bounces in my knees that were obnoxiously whacking against the glove compartment. My acting skills had never been good – the driver simply rolled her eyes.
"Gabriella Montez," she punctuated my name like my mother, making me frown and gave me the temptation to pout, "you're doing it again."
"I have no idea what you're talking about." I responded, never turning away from the window. This, of course, was bullshit. I knew exactly what she was talking about but I was just too proud to admit my bones were rattling and I was about thirty seconds from ordering her to pull over to the side of the road so I could throw up whatever was left of my peanut butter sandwich in my stomach.
"Yes, you do," Taylor snapped back, her short bob wagging back and forth, "This is going to happen whether we have to drag you in there or not."
I grounded my teeth together, "I could call the police on you for kidnapping."
"We'd deal with it."
I wasn't one of those people who had photographic memories – it would have saved me hours with my nose dug in the medical books this past year. But I was sort of hoping that I could somehow recall some epic movie about how to jump out of a black SUV that snaked through the Colorado woods and escape the evil serial killer that wanted to eat your liver for breakfast. Of course, I'd hardly consider my best girl friend since high school a murderer, but I still had the twisting sense of doom that coiled through my stomach and stretched across the entire surface of my body, burning away the tanned flesh.
Taylor kept sending me weird looks. Her fingers, the same shade as chocolate milk, tapped against the steering wheel with her already enlarged lip jutted out. Had the muscles on her arms not been toned – which was surprising given she chose to exercise her brain instead of her figure – I really would have considered playing Mission Impossible: Escape the SUV. But instead, I glanced down at the pathetic sticks of my arms beneath the flowy black tank top I wore and cursed myself for being involved in a sport that only toned my legs. At least I'd be able to run away from her before she'd tackle me.
It wasn't that I didn't want to spend two weeks in a cabin with my friends in the woods. Honestly, name one college student going into sophomore year that would turn down an opportunity to escape the prison of her parent's house during the long summer months to drink and hang out by a lake - I would be impressed if there was one. And these weren't just any friends either; they were my high school friends. But not the ones that you'd pretend like you'd call even though you really didn't care if they ended up flipping burgers at McDonalds for the rest of their lives. These were my close friends, the ones that I called when I hyperventilated over an anatomy exam or wasted hours talking on Facebook chat to instead of writing that stupid white blood cell essay I got a B on.
However, I knew this trip was going to either end up in my self-mutilation or a heart failure – since mine was already shattered.
My cell phone buzzed: an indication that I had a text message. After calming my stomach, I glanced down at the glowing screen that was even more illuminated due to the setting sun over the treetops.
"Chad said the guys have been there for an hour and we should hurry our asses up." I repeated the message from the other group that would be staying with us.
I saw Taylor tense ever so slightly when I mentioned her ex boyfriend's name, but she quickly tried to hide it from me. Typical Taylor, "We'll be there soon."
This reassurance didn't reassure me. It only made me squirm even more.
I suddenly decided that it was too hot. Even in the bluffs of Colorado, July was July. I pushed down my window and let the thin air roar through the car. It felt good, cooling the trickles of sweat that were racing over my black hairline and calmed my nerves ever so slightly.
"Ugh… could you roll that back up? You're fucking up my hair."
So much for relaxation.
There was, of course, one addition to the group that I was not so happy about. My nose crinkled as though I had smelled something foul when I turned around to see the blonde in the back seat. Her hair hung in straight strands that looked too big for her skin and bones. With a pink halter bedazzled with sequence, her perfectly polished fingernails clutched her expensive phone and her Louis Vuittons spiked towards the grey leather on the seat, strapped to her feet. Behind her sunglasses, sparkled with diamonds I was certain were real, I knew there were light brown eyes that deceived in their beauty.
I fought the temptation to spit on her precious shoes and instead sent her a sarcastic smile that made me look like a mutated clown, "Sure Sharpay, anything for you." The venom dripped from my lips.
I don't even know how Sharpay got invited onto this trip. None of us talked to her in high school – she kept to her obnoxious drama friends and was dubbed the name Ice Princess due to her ultimate goal in life to make us all bow at her feet. No one liked her, but they respected her to be sure that they wouldn't end up with a rumor started about how they had gotten gonorrhea and herpes from two different people. She and I didn't get along – I made the mistake of accidently spilling my best friend's chili fries on her outfit the first day of freshman year and therefore instigated her hatred towards me. Not that I cared, of course, but it did get sort of annoying when she tried to trip me at graduation.
"Blame Chad." Taylor murmured out of the side of her mouth – she was just as thrilled as I was to be blessed with Barbie bitch's presence, "Apparently they partied at U of A together and he said she was a good time."
"A hooker is a good time for him too." I pointed out; ignoring the glare she gave me. I glanced backwards again and frowned, "I don't like it."
"Well I don't like you either, so deal with it." Sharpay sung with a lower of her sunglasses and then dropped her head down to her phone again.
I had a feeling Taylor would get angry if I murdered the girl in the backseat, since she was just borrowing the car from her parents – the wonderful life of a cheap college student at its best.
Sighing, I slouched in my seat once again and allowed my mind to detach itself away from my body. If I stopped thinking about the onset of what would occur in less than fifteen minutes, then maybe my palms would stop sweating and I'd actually be breathing like a person instead of a hyena. Of course, my daydreams only led me to fireflies flashing beneath the twinkling stars in abandon fields and ice cream that had already been licked – the memories I wanted to relive, but didn't have the strength to. By the time Taylor flicked on the turn signal that would lead us away from the other summer homes, my knees were wobbling so furiously I thought the airbag would pop.
Chad's cabin wasn't one of those creepy away-from-nowhere kind of locations that just asked for killers to slice your throats. Instead, it was just off the main road that also had other summer homes hidden beneath the trees. There was a tiny store about seven miles around the lake if we needed extra sunblock or Smirnoff, so I wasn't too concerned that we would be eaten alive by a psycho a la Silence of the Lambs. However, when we finally pulled up to the deep wood of the cabin, I couldn't help but feel the lurch in my stomach as though something vile would creep from it.
My first response when the truck crackled to a stop against the stoned driveway was to flip down the visor and immediately check my appearance after the day long drive. Taylor did the same, though she tried to make it more nonchalant. I didn't care. There were bigger things to worry about than if Sharpay thought I was a spaz – whether or not each individual black curl coiled down my back was much more important. So was making sure the smudge of makeup beneath my left eye was wiped away and my tanktop left enough cleavage to make an impression, but not a negative one.
"Gabs, come on. We should get moving." Taylor nodded her head; as though she had not been doing the exact same thing that I had been a few seconds ago. Barbie's complaints of the mud five feet away interrupted my scrutiny. That constant pang in my stomach pulsated again.
"Tay-" I whispered, my voice quivering, "I can't do this."
She stared at me for a long moment, sympathy glossing in her dark eyes. It made me both uncomfortable and irritated, for no matter how hard she tried, she would never understand what I was going through.
"It's gonna be fine, alright? You're going to have a fun time with your friends for two weeks."
I sighed and turned back towards the passenger window, watching as Sharpay's face turned the color of her shirt as she shouted for us to get our asses moving since she was already starting to feel dirty. My gaze, however, saw past her. Past the luscious green trees and wooded barks that held them in place. Instead I saw nights wrapped tightly in blankets – grasps to create heat even on the warmest of nights. And then, as quickly as it was recollected, it was gone and I was left to stare at Sharpay's impatient tapping of her expensive heels.
I hoped she'd break her ankle.
"Come on," Taylor rubbed my shoulder encouragingly, "we've got stuff to unpack."
Fumbling to put my aviator's on – okay, so I stole them from my best friend when I was fifteen so they weren't mine necessarily- took longer than I anticipated, since my hands were trembling ever so. Finally, I gathered the strength to open the door and press my gladiators against the gravel, jumping from the car.
Immediately, I was greeted with the warm air that swirled around in the dust of the truck. I could now tell why Sharpay's panties were in a bundle – it felt as though the sweat would never evaporate from my body. However, unlike drama queen, I simply straightened the white denim of my shorts and proceeded to make my way to where Taylor was opening the hatch.
I spun around just in time to watch a dark figure bolt from the porch of the cabin, leaving the front door to swing open in its wake. The crunch of stone against his sneakers was an overwhelming sensation and I had little time to think before I was suddenly spinning in the air, my weight being held by built muscles. The natural stank of sweat and thick scent of his cologne immediately made me smile – I didn't need to feel the tight ringlets beneath my fingers or the sturdiness of his jaw to know it was one of my two absolute best friends in high school. But even so, he set me down and my hands remained around his neck when he pressed a tight kiss to my forehead.
"'Bout fucking time you show up." Chad teased when he pulled me into a one armed hug, ruffling the twirls I worked so hard to perfect.
"Chad!" I whined and attempted to elbow him in the stomach, until I realized I was completely weak compared to the enormous build he had earned during the training season his freshman year. Of course, I had seen his newly sculpted body already, but it never failed to shock me, "Don't!"
Rolling his eyes, such a dark brown they appeared black, he tapped the bottom of my chin and nudged my hip, "That's what you get for making us wait. Payback's a bitch."
He kissed my temple again and rubbed the surface of my arm. It was then that I suddenly remembered one of my other travel mates and saw Taylor eying us longingly, though not jealously. This made me frown. I obviously didn't want to upset my closest girl friend, but the bond that Chad and I had was unbreakable, unable to be replicated by any other outside force, especially a significant other. He must have noticed as well, for his gaze tightened as it landed on Taylor's struggles as she tried to hall the obnoxiously large magenta suitcase from the trunk. Not letting go, Chad ushered me towards the other two girls and smiled brightly at the one with her arms locked together.
He quirked a black eyebrow and caught a glance at me, "Sharpay, You're… here-" Apparently he was just as surprised she showed up as we were.
For a moment, I thought she was going to growl at him, "You invited me, didn't you?" She snapped, her pointed nose jutted in the air with superiority.
He looked at me, as though I had the answer to save him. Irritated at his irrational decision, I put on the smuggest smirk I could muster that only earned me a step on my toe, "Yeah! I just didn't think this was your thing, yah know?"
"I was told there would be tequila."
That seemed to be a good enough answer for him.
"Awesome." Chad reached out as though she were part of his species of male therefore knowing the sacred handshake I didn't quite understand. Instead, however, Sharpay raised her razor eyebrow and her arms remained bolted to her chest. I couldn't help but laugh as his face revealed he already knew he had made a mistake by asking her to tag along. Served him right.
"Gabs?" Taylor's attempt to be subtle to get our attention was a complete failure. Immediately, I felt Chad's chest suck in a hot breath as he turned in the direction of the rear of the car. He squeezed me tighter to him, as though I had the strength to get his legs to move. He was stupid, clearly – I didn't even have the guts to go into what awaited for me inside the cabin, let alone have a few extra bars of courage for him. Regardless, he began to drag me towards the sight of Taylor continuing to yank at Sharpay's luggage. It was then that I realized there were four of these matching suitcases – two already sitting in a neat row on the ground.
"Did you just bring your closet or what?" I snapped back, glaring at Sharpay who was still typing away on her phone.
Even behind the shades of her sunglasses, I could tell she rolled her eyes, "It's the fucking middle of nowhere, I spent a hundred and twenty-seven dollars on my manicure and I'm not about to ruin it in some fucked up shack."
Chad snorted, "Should have thought about that before, sweetheart. We don't have cable in there, so we're gonna be hangin' out here."
"Ugh!" Sharpay groaned and returned to her texts.
"Umm, can someone please-" Taylor's request was lost in a series of groans and a crash.
Chad and I looked at each other before immediately sprinting to save her from being toppled on. We arrived at the same time, but Chad's reflexes were quicker and he rescued her from the crash. I watched the exchange when Chad grasped the suitcase and chuckled awkwardly. Had Taylor been a blusher of a gigglier, she would have done both. But as a studious female activist, she simply gave a loose smile and mumbled, "Thank you."
He took Sharpay's crap from her and dropped it to the gravel without much care. It was a good thing Blondie was still on her phone, for I was certain she would have flipped had she seen it. I suddenly felt like I didn't exist when they looked at each other, like they couldn't remember I was there. I knew that feeling, that sensation of the world fading and an earthquake rocking beneath your feet. It was a feeling I once loved, a feeling I would never experience again.
Shaking his head to break gaze, he awkwardly scratched the back of his neck – a habit that made the ache in my stomach burn, for I knew whom he picked it up from.
"Uh, maybe you should just let me take the rest of these. You can grab the food." Chad suggested, eying up what we brought along to devour at a later date.
This seemed to wake up Taylor from whatever fantasy or memory she was lost in. Immediately, her nose twitched and her face glowered with anger, "I'm perfectly capable of getting a suitcase, thank you very much."
Chad and I exchanged looks – there was the hard ass valedictorian we always knew.
"Okay, then." He blew out and reached for the last of Sharpay's belongings. I grabbed my high school soccer duffle from the trunk and staggered to keep my balance. Chad, however, didn't come to my rescue like he did with Taylor. He was too busy trying to avoid getting yelled at by her for carrying the bags of apples and chips. I was left to hook my pillow under my arm and attempt to walk towards the direction they were dropping the stuff to. The red and white of my bag was a contrast to the neutral hues of the others.
"We're going to have to make a couple of trips." Taylor stated, probably thinking things over in the logical side of her brain.
She hitched her bag on her shoulder higher at the same time that I reached in to grab my pillow from where it was lodged beneath the seat. By the time I turned around, Taylor and Chad were stiffly trying to collect as much as they could without looking at each other. Of course, Sharpay was no help; she simply placed the iPhone into her vise grip and pranced towards the cabin, white skirt riding up her ass with every stride.
Not long after, Chad and Taylor glanced up at me with matching, careful smiles; ones that would be certain I wouldn't fall apart at the seams. At first I was confused, but then I realized what their hidden meanings represented.
It was time.
My eyes widened and I felt a burn – an unpleasant one – race beneath my skin. Slowly, my feet began to tug me backwards, away from disaster, "Um,I- I uhh… I think I'm gonna go check out the road," I tried to make a lame excuse that didn't do any damage, for they just took a step closer, "You know, good to be safe that if there's like… a fire… or we get struck by lightning… I can calculate the time it would take…"
"Gabriella." Taylor punctuated my name, "It's time."
I shook my head in denial. No matter how many times I prepared myself for this scenario, I would never be able to be fully ready for this.
"N-n-no… no it's not… I-I need to…"
Chad walked towards the seizure I was having and dared to dodge my vibrations to slide an arm around my shoulder, crushing me to his chest. I couldn't help it – I wiggled my face into his armpit to hide from the very immediate future, "Come on, it's just him."
I swallowed, "That's why I can't do it." My voice was muffed by his green shirt.
His fingers tenderly tickled my arm, playfully trying to pull a reaction from me. I was, however, immobilized by fear and uncertainty. What I really wanted was to scream and jump into the SUV again, speeding away at a hundred miles an hour and never look back. Anything for that pesky worm that kept slapping against my stomach in painful pangs to disappear.
And yet, despite my hesitations, there was nothing more that I wanted than to rush into that cabin to see for myself.
"Come on, he's been waiting for you." Chad told me softly, making my heart skip a beat even though I knew it was a generic statement that involved the three of us – not just me.
The war between running for the hills and sprinting towards the doors left me without control of my limbs. Therefore, as Chad began to drag me towards the cabin, I had no power or strength to protest.
As I looked up, I noticed it was a pretty cabin – cozy with a sense of security and humbleness. From the shingles to the wraparound porch, everything was covered with cedar. It was fairly large with two windows that face towards us on the second story, matching the bay glass that allowed revealed the illumination of the lights that had been flicked on within. Although it was concealed by the trees, I knew the choppy lake was just a walk on the path that led down the hill. None of this mattered, of course, for the thick trees around me were disappearing with every inch that drew closer to the stairs. I gripped both Chad's waist and the strap of my duffle bag tighter when we began to ascend the steps – had I not, I would have tumbled in dizziness.
Every neuron in my brain was screaming at me to stop, to turn around and never look back. It was idiotic to continue the path I was on. The only thing that lingered would lead me to immediate heartbreak – although there wasn't left of my heart that was left to shatter.
Every cell in my body was seducing me to continue. The mystery and curiosity and excitement – they were all so very appealing. For every negative thought of why I should not enter, a counteraction of question and longing soothed the fright.
I wanted to know and I wanted to run.
The problem was I didn't know which I wanted more.
It didn't seem like I had a choice, however. Before I knew what was happening, Taylor was holding the door open for the two of us to step through the threshold. Before we could, Sharpay rudely cut in front of us with perfect poise and perfection that – had I actually been paying attention – made me want to trip her. She was lucky I couldn't feel my fingers or toes, for she would have been in for something.
None of this mattered, of course. Not when I took my first step into my home for the next two weeks.
Immediately, I knew he was there.
I couldn't see him – in fact, I was so nervous that I couldn't see much of ANYTHING other than blurs of the light hardwood flooring and the cozy feel of the darkened walls. Had there been a blinking red light that acknowledged the stairs sitting straight before me or the kitchen tucked to my immediate right, I wouldn't have noticed. The couches that faced the fireplace or each other and the large, bay windows that overlooked the vegetation outside were ignored. I knew where I was but I wasn't sure what it looked like. It was just a giant blob of brown through my eyes.
But I could feel him.
Not in a creepy schizophrenic kind of way that would strap me into a straightjacket. No, this was familiar, warm – intoxicating. Like all the heat of the room hovered just above my skin, but not in a way that was uncomfortable. I felt a breath ghost over every bump in my spine until it caressed the inside of my ear, coaxing me towards its owner. My eyes fluttered to a point half way between closed and opened and my curls danced lower over my back when I reveled in the sensation of what made this room suddenly so different, so holy, compared to the rest of the universe in that moment. It wasn't my imagination –this was lava flowing as steadily as molasses through every vein in my body.
It was so easy to remember the last time I felt this way, as perfectly as though it had occurred just an hour before. I could still count the milliseconds between each thump of his heart against my ear or feel the way the sheets enclosed us from the rest of the world – kept us safe. Skin on skin, hand in hand – I saw a flash of blue beneath my eyelids that could never be replicated.
Someone was calling my name through the rush of memories and dreams. But all I could hear was the bewitching purr of: "Gabi… Gabi…"
"Gabs… you need to breathe!"
I blinked, returning to reality once again. Chad's breath was in my ear, making sure not to draw attention but also caring for me in what he thought was my time of need. I turned and bumped my head against his chin before looking up into his black eyes.
"You alright?" He murmured softly, intimately without being romantic.
I didn't answer before sending him a wobbly smile, "You worry too much." I patted his chocolate hand that held onto my waist, keeping me from drowning.
He guided us over to where Taylor and Sharpay had now entered further into the cabin. It was then that I recognized the two boys who were chatting brightly with them. Neither made my heart skip nor made me wish for pillows to faint on. Instead, they brought a tiny curl of my lips when both the boys looked upon me.
"Hey! You made it!" The tallest grinned a blinding smile against the contrast of his skin – a shade darker than Chad's.
"Why the fuck did they not get lost?" The other exclaimed and shook his shaggy, black hair, "We should have driven with the chicks."
"Hey!" Both Chad and Taylor snapped at the same time. They stared awkwardly for a long moment before Taylor took a step forward and pointed her finger in a scold.
"This is not the fifties. I will not be called a chick." She hissed between ground teeth.
"And it's your own fucking fault for reading the map upside down Cross!" Chad added, making me giggle. He glared at me and elbowed me in the ribs. In response, I stepped on his toe.
"Hey, we're all here, right?" The giant, Zeke Baylor, said optimistically.
"Unfortunately." Sharpay rudely stated, still typing away on her phone and infuriating me.
The tension was growing, whether it was playful or not. Had I not been so focused on the way the hair on the back of my neck rose with every flicker of movement, I would have felt the thick air between them growing, "Awe… fuck off it Zeke… you were practically pissing in your pants when we had to turn around." Chad hissed, "Actually, Cross was the one who had to take a shit for three hours."
The one called Cross – his first name was Jason- held his hands up in defense, "I told you we shouldn't have gotten Taco Bell! You know I don't sit well with Mexican-"
"You're such a pussy-"
"Would you guys shut up? I'm getting a headache."
I was suddenly immobilized.
I knew that voice – I had lived for that voice.
The entire room froze, along with the rest of the world. The birds beyond the windows stopped chirping, the crickets stopped buzzing – even Sharpay stopped texting. I wanted to both scream and never say a word again, for the silence was excruciating. Had I not been petrified to stone, I would have been able to feel Chad pull me closer with protection. The pound of my heartbeat rattled against the widows when there was a shimmer of movement beyond the couch and a silhouette of something divine rose.
When Troy Bolton turned around, I was punched in the stomach with memories that had been hidden in my heart for three years.
I couldn't move, I couldn't speak, and I couldn't breathe. The men I had dated between the summer of my junior year at East High and my freshman year at Standford suddenly meant nothing – they were simply dusts in the wind. No one had made me feel the way I felt the moment Troy finally came into the light. I hadn't forgotten but had never again experienced the way lightning was electrocuting every cell in my body – until now. That hazy feeling of the world fading consumed me; Chad, Taylor, Sharpay, Zeke, Jason – none of my friends existed, nor did the cabin that surrounded us. The earth suddenly shrunk to the few feet that rotated around the three months that this man had been mine.
I watched intently as his lengthy eyelashes flew open. My hands twitched as they remembered the way the brown fibers of his hair felt as I ran them through his bangs to grip the back of his scalp. His long lips curled into a closed mouth smile, reminding me of the way his defined jaw had dropped when he had seen me in that black dress on our third official date. Beneath the navy v-neck that allowed a glint of a golden chain to shine in the light held revealing muscles that had been kissed with a bronze hue. My skin prickled when it remembered how, even though they were not quite as defined or large as they were now, they contorted around the curves and crevices of what were not quite my womanly shape I now possessed. And of course, the bright blue in his eyes yanked me back to a time when they drilled upon me, just before he kissed me with as much fire and intensity as an exploding star.
I remembered everything about Troy Bolton and the love we shared that summer.
And when his eyes lifted to stare politely at us, not even double taking in my direction, I knew he remembered nothing about me.
The worst part was that I couldn't blame him for it.
The rest were held their breath, though of course, I didn't notice. Each of my friends was glancing between him and me as though they were waiting for me to sprint from Chad's arms and throw myself at him. I had to admit, a part of me wanted to. I had an aching desire in the pit of my stomach to let him hold me and kiss the top of my head as he chuckled into my ear and tell me how much he missed me, how unbearable these last three years had been. He wouldn't, of course, but it was something to hold onto when my legs wiggled like jello and threatened to pool beneath me.
Though I should have expected it, Sharpay was the one to break the silence. For the first time since her driver dropped her off at Taylor house, she slid her phone into her pocket and perched her sunglasses into the golden shimmers of her hair.
"Well don't you look delicious?"
Troy didn't recoil, but instead crossed his arms to make his biceps appear even larger than what they really were – if that was possible.
He quirked one of his dark eyebrows in what I knew was bemusement, "Do I know you?"
Sharpay pulled out the big canons of her acting skills and forced an evil smirk to cross her face, not before licking her lips of course. I held my breath and tensed beneath Chad's grasp as she reached out and placed her pampered little fingers onto his forearm. I mentally screamed for her to back off, that his skin belonged to me – even if it didn't anymore.
"I'm Sharpay Evans," she hummed, trailing her touch up his arm until it cupped the sturdiness of his neck, "You and I used to fuck wildly every night in high schoo-"
"Okay!" Chad, for the first time since we entered the cabin, released me and started towards where Troy was wide-eyed and disgusted. It was lucky that I was busy fighting the green-eyed monster that suddenly wanted to spill Sharpay's blood, otherwise I would have crashed to the floor, "I'm glad you guys are reacquainted." He pushed his way between Sharpay's greedy fingers and Troy's hesitation.
Sharpay made no effort to hide her pout as she stalked away. Troy, turning towards who I knew was his best guy friend, whispered "dude?" to ask if the proclamation was true.
"No way in hell." I heard Chad mutter and patted him on the back. My heart fluttered when I saw him let out a sigh in relief.
He then, with utter perfection that made my knees weak again, turned towards the girl struggling to hold her bag. Immediately, he smiled in recognition and strode over to her, "I'm blaming you for listening to these douche bags for the past two hours bitch."
Taylor grinned and adjusted her strap cutting against her shoulder, "At least I didn't get lost." She teased before Troy's arm wrapped around her in a friendly hug – one that made the jealousy in my body bleed jade in my eyes. I had to remind myself they had "met" previously when she was dating Chad and Troy had visited the University of Albuquerque.
There was an underlying tension in the air, apart from the one that made my body rage with both fear and desire. Chad cleared his throat, which immediately made Taylor frown with disproval and Troy turn to him innocently. The air suddenly grew much thicker when Chad's afro thunder flipped around as he caught a glance at me.
"Bolton, there's someone else you need to meet." He patted him on the shoulder and then turned towards me.
Gravity suddenly disappeared the moment as Troy spun around for the very first time.
I couldn't breathe, literally. Oxygen refused to enter my lungs and I choked on my own tongue. He had looked at me so many times before that it seemed silly that he caused my toes to curl and my balance to sway. Nonetheless, my stomach shriveled and I couldn't help but lose all sense of the world around me, never leaving my spot.
For a brief moment, I thought this would be like the cheesy episode of Full House where Michelle magically regains her memory after falling off her horse, only with a romantic twist. My heart lifted and I opened my mouth, suddenly believing that this would be just like Hollywood. The boy who had amnesia suddenly gazed upon the woman of his dreams and his memories rushed back with fleeting intensity. She, or me in this case, would be the key to unlock the suppression the head injury caused, the entire childhood he had forgotten would return with the blink of an eye. He would then sprint to her and collect her in his arms, kissing her soundlessly with a twirl and a giggle. There would be a happily after and he would never forget the summer they fell in love again.
However, this was not Hollywood; my dreams and heart were crushed when Troy held out his hand for me to shake.
"Gabriella, right?" He asked with the same expression as he had before. Like he had never seen before or sung my name as he just had now.
In his eyes, he hadn't.
I wanted to kick him in the balls and hoped he never recovered. Not in an "I hate you because you're a douche bag" kind of way, but in a heartbreaking "you were in love with me until you got amnesia and this makes me feel like shit" kind of way. This pain in my chest almost hurt as sharply as the last time I had seen him – with his face bloodied and his eyes closed. At least then he hadn't been looking at me as though I was just an ordinary person, like I had never mattered.
Everyone was staring at me – I could feel it but I couldn't meet any of their gazes. The only eyes I could look into were his, even if my vocal cords had been snapped in half.
His eyebrows cocked incredulously at my silence. I wanted to say something, anything to save myself from stupidity, but words were impossible.
"She's the one and only!"
I had never loved Chad as much as I did in that moment.
Magically, he had snapped from the trance that we were all under and strode across the hardwood to sling an arm around my shoulder, once again. Saving me from pure mortification by making me not appear like I wasn't intelligent enough to speak, he leaned forward with animation in his darkened face.
"Dude, she's like an East High legend!" Chad said frantically, though never making his acting skills lack, "She's the reason the girls won back to back state championships when she scored the winning goal in the last minute. She started a cat's tail on fire when she was twelve and she managed to prove Darbus wrong our freshman year by reading Shakespeare's Sparknotes. How can you not remember her?"
I didn't bother mentioning that Troy had already switched schools when we went to state junior and senior year. I also kept it silent that Troy had been the one to get me the cigarette lighter and held down the feline when I ignited the tail and that he had been the one to print out my Sparknotes when I slept in because I was too tired after a game the night before.
Troy glared at him without amusement. We both knew his last sentence was a terrible joke.
I wasn't a shy person – in high school I had somehow managed to be in what was considered the "popular" crowd for the reasons that a) apparently the guys thought I was semi-attractive – though I didn't see it – and that automatically meant I would blow them and b) ever since I moved to Albuquerque when I was ten, I had been best friends with the basketball superstar and the guy every girl wanted to fuck senselessly that was standing before me, unable to recognize who I was. But right now, I had nothing to say, because everything that would come out would just sound like word vomit.
Troy turned back towards me, narrowing his eyes with perplexity and confusion glassed over the surface of his eyes. His head tilted in scrutiny, as though he was trying to read my cues and figure out why this freak wouldn't say a word.
"I'm starving." Jason candidly stated, rubbing his stomach like a Buda and making everyone but Troy turn towards him. I couldn't stare at my summer love longer and forced myself to turn towards him.
"Dude, I told you to eat more of your burrito!" Chad's chest rumbled beneath my cheek.
"Maybe we should let the girls get unpacked and we can fry up the grill and start the fire?" Zeke, always the polite one, suggested with a kind smile towards me – maybe it was out of pity, I couldn't be sure these days.
"I second this!" Chimed Taylor, who appeared as though her baggage was going to cause her to topple over.
Chad chuckled and kissed my hair. I wondered if the burn of eyes drilling into my cheek was from Taylor or Troy, but I ignored them as Chad stepped away and I hugged my pillow closer to my side to keep it from falling.
"Make sure my suitcases are in order from largest to smallest in my room." Sharpay ordered and snapped towards the luggage that pooled at her feet.
The guys looked between each other and immediately burst out laughing. I couldn't help but feel the reacquainted flip of my stomach when the sweet sound of Troy's vibrations rumbled through the house. The lines around his eyes fanned out with perfection and glee. I was intoxicated.
"You're on your own, Evans. You're not in Beverly Hills anymore."
"Ugh!" She pouted and stomped towards the center of the house, her heels echoing as she went.
Chad rolled his eyes, "It's going to be a long two weeks."
I looked up to see Troy was grinning brightly, turned away from me as though I had never existed. My throat welled up staring at him, knowing that the friendship that led up to developing feelings of adoration were nothing more than the pathetic grains of sand at the bottom of an hourglass – no matter how many times I flipped it, they would never stick to the top. He didn't remember me, or the love that we shared that summer three years ago. I was no more than anyone else in this room, no more than a lost memory.
Chad was right; it was going to be a long two weeks.