Summary: He didn't know who she was. He didn't know why. But for some reason, there was something about Gabriella Montez that piqued his interest. And Troy Bolton had every intention to sate said interest. TxG one-shot.
AN: In a nutshell, this is what happens when you listen to A Walk to Remember OST nonstop and then watch HSM3. The storyline has been done and tried before. One of my favorite authors actually wrote a full blown story in the similar vein as this one so this one-shot isn't exactly innovative in its contents. But I had to get the plot bunny out of my system somehow and Diana's wildcatsgivebac was just the perfect excuse for finishing this.
Like what happened with Delicate, there I was, contently happy writing something for Running to a Stand Still and before I know it, the paragraph I'm writing had nothing to do with the said story. Several paragraphs later, Barely Breathing was born. This was written around the same time I was writing the second chapter for RSS, yup, this has been a long time in the making. On and off, for the past several months (years, even), I've written tidbits for this one-shot, only to lose interest in it after and rediscover the story again weeks/months later. This is definitely the longest one-shot that I've ever done and in a very different format so I'm hoping it works. This is also the first time I've incorporated lyrics and dialogue from the three HSM movies into several of the character's dialogue.
Switchfoot's "Learning to Breathe" actually inspired what kind of medical condition I used in the story.
And if the mere mention of the movie alone worries you, well, you'll just have to read till the end. What's the fun in telling you the ending, right?
Lastly and most importantly, this goes out to Arlyn for 'buying' this story and helping out Japan. You go, girl! Hope this doesn't disappoint.
Now onto the story…
I apologize for any grammatical mistakes and changes in tenses.
Disclaimer: I own nothing, not the song, nor the characters or the whole HSM universe. And definitely not the dialogue/lines borrowed from the movies.
'The broken locks were a warning you got inside my head
I tried my best to be guarded, I'm an open book instead
I still see your reflection inside of my eyes
That are looking for a purpose, they're still looking for life'
USPS Postmarked: November 21, 2007
Rm 310 Higgins Dorm, Duke University
123 Main Quad Street, Box 93712
Durham, NC 27708
938 Cooper Ave.
Albuquerque, NM 87102
The first time I saw you, the immediate thought that ran across my head was, "She looked so out of place". You were wearing a yellow dress while everyone was wearing red or white. After all, East High was a school full of pride and spirit. You were standing by the bleachers, the nearest one to the exit. And it looked like all you ever wanted to do was get out of there. But even from a distance, there was that sparkle in your eyes that made me rethink that assumption. You looked so… alive. You're eyes sparkled in wonderment, as if you've never been at a basketball game before. So imagine my surprise, when months later, you told me it was your first game ever.
Every time there was a break or a huddle, I found myself looking for you. I've never felt like that before. I've never been drawn to another person like I was immediately drawn to you. "Like a moth to flame," as my mother always puts it.
I'm in love with you, Gabriella.
Gabriella Montez shifted her head, peering at the stranger's face. Surprised that East High's most popular guy was standing before her, she almost forgot to answer him. "Huh?"
Troy Bolton smiled and waved the cup in her direction.
"Oh, I… um, I… no drink." She blushed and sheepishly replied. Use words to construct sentences, she said to herself.
"I kind of figured that," placing the cup next to her as he sat down, "which is why I got you plain soda. You do drink soda right?"
Taken aback, she could only muster a hesitant grin. But she took the cup nonetheless and sipped. Coca Cola. "Thanks. How'd you know?"
It was Troy's turn to blush. "I was um, watching you. The disdain on your face whenever someone drank the beer was a big huge sign that you're not a fan of alcohol. And it would be hard to miss that cringe when Jason did that keg stand a few minutes ago."
Gabriella just stared at him. And for a single moment, Troy was afraid that he just might have creeped her out. Then she smiled and voiced the same worries floating in his head. "I don't know if I should be flattered or creeped out," she honestly told him.
"Flattered," he said laughing. "Definitely flattered."
She beamed, rewarding Troy once again with her bright smile. She took a sip from the cup he handed to her. "I'm Gabriella, by the way."
"I know," was her only reply. She shrugged and elaborated upon seeing his confused expression. "It's kind of hard not to miss your face when it's plastered all over the lockers and posters around school. East High's kind of like a big shrine to you and the rest of the Wildcats. And I can see why after tonight's game."
He laughed, but Gabriella could see that he was mortified about what she just pointed out. Changing the subject, he asked, "So what are you doing here? If you don't mind me asking," realizing how that might have sounded, Troy added, "Not that I want you to leave or anything…"
She wrinkled her nose. "I'm not exactly a big fan of parties. I can't really handle drunk people. Especially the belligerently drunk. "
"Again, I ask, what are you doing here then?"
Gabriella shrugged and played with the rim of her cup. "I sort of found myself dragged to your party."
"Ah. That explains that. So how'd you like the game?"
"I can't say I'm a big fan of basketball but it was…" she paused, trying to think of a word, "exhilarating. I can't even imagine what you were feeling and you're the one actually playing out there."
"Truthfully, I was fucking afraid. Final game of the season - state championship at that, and everyone was sort of depending on me, you know. One wrong shot or a misplaced pass… it would be the end."
He felt her gaze as she searched his face, and then inclined her head to the side. "The Wildcats' superstar is afraid?"
"No, no, not afraid." Troy caught her eye and amended, "I'm just... scared."
"Well, that doesn't seem fair."
Troy blinked. "What'd you say that?"
"It doesn't seem fair that you're a part of a team, and yet, win or lose, it all boils down to you." Gabriella looked into his lucent blue eyes, surprised by the intensity she could see swirling in it. "I'm sorry if I managed to offend you or - "
"No, no," he said, stopping her. "It's just, you're the first person who actually thought of it that way."
Gabriella sent him a quizzical look.
"Win together, lose together, teammates. That's our team motto but sometimes, it just doesn't feel that way. To Chad and the rest of the guys, I'm the hoops man. To my Dad and the rest of his friends, I'm just the basketball guy." Dragging in a breath, he turned and stared at his tree house. "Sometimes, I just wanna be a guy, you know."
Gabriella grinned, trying to lighten the mood. "Well, if it helps, you definitely look like one."
He coughed in embarrassment. "Well, enough about me. So tell me, are you new at East High or something?"
She laughed. "I've been living in Albuquerque all my life, Troy. We've been going to the same school since, well, since we've been going to school."
"Oh." Troy had the grace to blush. "I'm sor-"
"Don't be. I'm not exactly Miss Popular."
"Still, I'm sorry," he repeated, his tone filled with chagrin. "But that doesn't explain why I've never seen you before. I can admit I'm a bit of a snob but I don't think I could ever ignore someone like you."
"Believe me, it's easy." She said, ignoring his subtle compliment. Realizing how pathetic she might have sounded, she continued, "I'm taking all these advanced courses ever since I started East High. So, most of my classes have always been with the last year's senior class.
"That still doesn't explain why I've never seen you during lunch at Taylor's table or…"
"I leave right after 4th period." Before he could ask, she elaborated, "In order to graduate, I only really need the four classes I'm currently taking so after AP Calc, I am free to go home which means I typically don't have lunch at East High."
"Ah, a regular Einsteinette," he remarked.
Had it been anyone else, Gabriella would have been irritated, maybe even offended, but there was something about Troy and how he said it, like it was an endearment or something that had her laughing instead. "Yeah, I guess you could say that."
Both teenagers turned their heads towards the French doors. "Gabriella, you out here?"
"I'm right here, Tay," Gabriella answered, turning away from Troy.
Taylor fully opened the French doors and was genuinely surprised to see none other than Troy Bolton sitting next to her friend.
"Hey Taylor," he responded in kind. "Having fun?"
"Yeah, you've always known how to throw an amazing party."
Scratching his neck, Troy grinned. "Nah, Chad needs to get all the credit. I just provide the venue."
"Troy Bolton - humble? I thought I'd never see the day," came from behind Taylor's back as Chad emerged from the house. Seeing a girl sitting next to his best friend, Chad raised a brow at Troy.
"I don't believe we've met before. I'm Chad," he said, extending his hand towards the girl.
Standing up, she took Chad's hand and introduced herself. "Gabriella. It's nice to meet you."
"Mckessie," Chad then said, acknowledging the other girl's presence with a nod, who in turn just rolled her eyes. "So, what are we all doing out here when there's a perfectly jamming party inside?"
"Just getting some air," Gabriella replied.
"It was getting a little crowded in there," agreed Chad. "So, seeing as you know McKessie -"
"It's just Taylor, Danforth."
Ignoring Taylor's interruption, he continued, "Seeing as you're McKessie's friend, how come I've never seen you before? You new to East High?"
Taylor narrowed her eyes at the curly haired boy. "No doofus. She's been going to school with us for the last several years. You are such a snob. Just because she's not part of your clique doesn't mean that she's -"
"Woah, back up, McKessie. I meant no offense." Chad remarked, hands up in defense.
Gabriella smiled and put a comforting hold on her friend. "It's okay, Chad. Troy can explain it all to you."
"Well I hate to break this little bonding moment," Taylor began after glaring some more at Chad, "but Gabriella and I need to leave." Then she faced Gabriella and explained, "You're Mom's been calling nonstop."
"Oh," Gabriella whispered. "Let me just grab my coat."
Taylor, waving to the two boys goodbye, dragged Gabriella inside with her. Before she fully went in, Troy saw Gabriella hesitate. She then turned and looked at him. And smiled. "Thanks for keeping me company. And for the drink."
He smirked. "Any time."
"You do not want to get into that man," Chad exclaimed once the patio doors fully closed. "Too much drama."
Giving his best friend a bewildered look, "What are you talking about now?"
"I've seen that look. It has Jerry Maguire all over it."
"Dude, I know what I'm talking about. It's our senior year. You don't want to get too hung up on some girl and fall in love and all that shit."
Rolling his eyes, Troy lightly hit the back of Chad's head. "Fall in love? No one said anything about falling in love."
"Not yet my friend, but just you wait," Chad replied with an air of finality before heading back inside the house.
"Falling in love," he sputtered to himself as he gave his best friend a weird look. "Yeah, right."
"So you weren't really kidding when you said that you've only taken all these advanced courses throughout your whole time here in East High."
She jumped and turned, complete shock written on her face. She gaped as he stopped in front of her, leaving only a few inches separating between them. "Troy?"
"The one and only."
"What are you doing here? And how did you even know where I was?"
Reaching into his back pocket, he pulled out a crumpled piece of paper. "Well, according to this," he stated matter-of-factly as he smoothed out the paper's wrinkles, "you're locker number is B54, and 35 2 11 9 is your locker combo. You have AP English next which means you're headed that way after the break," he finished, pointing a finger toward the west hallway.
"Where did that come from?" she asked while trying to snatch the paper from his ever moving hands. Damn him and his fast reflex, she thought as she failed to grab the paper again. Not that her small stature helped as he raised the paper over his head once again.
Unfazed by her efforts, he cocked his head slightly and answered, "Oh, I got it from Chad. Who got it from Zeke. Who got it from Jason. Who happened to know some girl working in the admissions office. I approached her and she was kind enough to make a copy for me."
"So, you worked your hotness," she stated, waving her hands in his general direction, "on some poor and helpless teenage girl? And isn't that illegal? That's private information. I could sue, you know?"
A brow lifted up. "You think I'm hot?"
She wrinkled her nose. "I mean, if I was into cocky blue-eyed basketball captains who happen to have some very stalkerish tendencies, then yeah, I guess. But I fancy the tall, dark and debonair kind of guy."
In an overtly exaggerated show of arrogance, he leaned against her locker and sent her a very devilish smirk. She felt a flutter of butterfly in the stomach. "You know, just between you and me, any girl would die to be in your shoes right now. If you haven't heard, I'm the Troy Bolton. East High's reigning king, if you will."
Playing along, she adopted a similar expression on her face. "Ah, but you see, I'm not that kind of girl who swoons by your mere presence," she smirked and added, "your Majesty." Closing the space between them, she finished, "I'm the kind of girl that walks the other way."
She smiled, and he was momentarily captured by the innocence in her cinnamon brown eyes, by the tilt of her head as she gazed innocuously at him. The bell signaling the end of break rang and without another glance, she gathered up her books, closed her locker and walked the other way. He didn't know who she was. He didn't know why. But for some reason, there was something about Gabriella Montez that piqued his interest. And Troy Bolton had every intention to sate said interest.
Next time they met was a few days after the locker incident. After finishing one of Taylor's Scholastic Decathlon meetings (read: intense 'impromptu' study/review sessions), Gabriella was turning the corner, too wrapped up on chemical reactions and molecular structures, that she failed to pay attention to her surroundings. When she bumped – collided, more like it, into a brick wall, she let out a muffled curse and fell to the ground. She heard a few curses and blinked, her cheeks heating immediately as she studied the 'brick wall'.
"Are you oka y– Gabriella?" Troy's concerned voice sounded as he helped her up. "Are you okay? I wasn't really paying attention and I was in a hurry to leave practice that I," shaking his head, he asked again, "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," she answered in mortification. Just a bruised pride, she said to herself. "I'm fine, really."
"I'm so sorry."
"It's an accident, Troy. It's not like you intentionally crashed into me."
"Right," he said, scratching his neck in nervous fashion. "So, what are you doing here? I thought you always leave before lunch."
"Yeah, but sometimes I come back for one of Taylor's study sessions."
"Study sessions? Isn't it still way too early in the semester to start studying for exams. We literally just got back from Christmas break two weeks ago."
Gabriella grimaced. "That's Taylor for you."
"I guess," he replied, but not really understanding the need for review sessions.
Remembering him saying that he was in a hurry, Gabriella said, "I should go. It's getting late."
"Right. Sorry, again for bumping into you."
"Already forgotten. Bye Troy."
With one last smile in his direction, Gabriella turned around and started walking towards the exit.
"Gabriella," he shouted.
Stopping, she shifted her bag and looked at him as he ran towards her. Stopping a few feet away from her, he smiled. Her heart skipped a beat. Gabriella waited for him to say anything. But he just stood there.
"You called my name."
"Right, I did. Umm, this might be too forward but do you wanna grab some ice cream maybe?"
"Yeah, you know, cold, yummy, sometimes comes in a cup but is way better served with a cone?"
She smiled. "Right, ice cream. But I thought you said you were in a hurry."
"Yeah, in a hurry to leave the gym. It's a Friday, school's done for the week, nothing else to do. And well, if you're free, I'd like to take you out for ice cream."
"Like a date?"
"Must be your lucky day."
She rolled her eyes and started walking. "As long as you don't expect me to swoon at your feet."
"You've got yourself a deal, Montez."
"Lead the way, Your Highness."
"I prefer 'Your Majesty' but that'll do." He said, with a smirk.
Gabriella has always hated cocky guys. And their stupid smirks. And smoldering blue eyes. And kissable lips. "Has anyone ever mentioned that you're way too cocky?"
"Yeah," he stated as he took some of her books, "But I'd like to think of it as just being confident."
"Arrogant, maybe," she quipped.
He answered back. "Self-assured."
Without missing a beat, she added, "Smug, you mean."
He smiled and opened the campus door for her. "Minor technicality. And besides, there's nothing wrong with being overconfident."
"Ever heard of humility?"
"I have actually." Troy retorted as he fished for his car keys. "I'm going to let you in on a little secret."
Gabriella stopped in front of his car, leaning and waiting.
Unlocking his truck, he placed his bag and her books in the back seat. He turned around to look at her, somewhat trapping her between himself and his truck. "I'd rather avoid the hypocrisy of false humility."
Gabriella's skin tingled in the places where their bodies met. There it was again, she thought, as butterflies fluttered in her stomach.
"And here I thought you were a dumb jock."
Troy smirked and raised a brow. "And here I thought you were just a quiet and shy wallflower."
"Even bookworms have claws." She countered, smiling. For the first time in her teenage life, Gabriella wanted to melt into him, to touch a boy. To swoon.
They stared at each in silence. Her pink lips parted, as she looked at him and Troy wanted nothing more than to hold her, to kiss her. He dropped his eyes to her lips for a fraction of a second, and when they shifted back to hers, Gabriella was momentarily stunned by the fire she saw. She shifted her weight, moving her body closer to his.
"Troy," she said in a breathless whisper.
Instinctively, he moved closer. "Hmmm."
He cocked his head, confused by her words. Gabriella could tell when Troy came to his senses, as the fire in his eyes left.
"Right," he said as he moved away from her. "Ice cream."
"Yeah, you know," she began, tucking a stray hair behind her ears and suddenly feeling shy, "cold, yummy, sometimes comes in a cup but is way better served with a cone?"
His eyes smiled in mirth and the moment was broken. He opened the passenger door for her and waved her in. "Right. Ice cream."
Taylor had always thought of herself as a compassionate human being. A respectful daughter. A loyal friend. True, she can be a bit overbearing. Judgmental. Overtly cautious and mindful of her place in the high school food chain. But overall, her more redeeming qualities most certainly overshadowed her negative traits. She thought. But as she entered the science lab and saw her friend already at work, she could not help but think that sometimes, stereotypes were in place for a reason.
"So, I heard an interesting rumor today," she began as she slid on a seat next to Gabriella.
Looking up from her measuring beaker, she smiled, looking very intrigued. "Do tell, Tay."
"Well, a certain brunette, about yay high," holding a hand in the same height as Gabriella's, "was seen having ice cream with a certain blue eyed blonde haired jock."
"Anyone we know?" Gabriella asked, avoiding her best friend's eyes.
"Oh, don't try and play coy with me Gabi."
"Fine. I had ice cream with Troy Bolton last Friday."
Gabriella's brows furrowed. "Why? Because he offered."
"It was just ice cream, Tay. It's not that big of a deal."
"Not a big deal?" Taylor said somewhat exasperatedly. "This is Troy Bolton we're talking about. The Troy Bolton."
As if on cue, Troy and his friends entered the science lab. Per usual, they were their boisterous and loud selves. Chad was twirling that orange ball with a finger, relating some shenanigans he got into that weekend.
Taylor stared at Gabriella, and raised a brow when Chad nearly broke a beaker. "That's why. Ugh, behold the zoo animals heralding the new week. How tribal."
Glancing in Troy's direction, she smiled back when she saw him staring at her. She was too engrossed that she barely heard what Taylor was saying. "Judgmental much, Tay? Calm down. It was just ice cream. Just ice cream."
"But it never is just ice cream with guys like Troy."
"Do you remember in kindergarten, how you'd meet a kid, and know nothing about them, then ten seconds later you'd be playing like you were best friends, because you didn't have to be anyone but yourself?" Seeing the bewildered expression on her friend's face, Gabriella went on, "Like, did you ever feel like there was this whole other person inside you just looking for a way to come out?"
Confusion evident in her face, Taylor just shook her head. "No. Not really."
"That's how I feel when I'm with him, Tay. It's just easy. Effortless. Being with him, that is."
"That's nice, Gabs. Really, it is. But this is Troy Bolton we are talking about. Don't get me wrong, he's nice and all. But he's the Troy Bolton. Lunkhead basketball man."
Gabriella shook her head. "But he's more than that, Taylor. He's more than just a basketball player. He's nice and eloquent. And he's… he's just a great guy, Tay."
Smiling, albeit sadly, at her best friend, Taylor whispered, "We exist in," she paused, trying to find the perfect words to use to break it to her friend, "… an alternate universe from Troy the basketball boy. He's great, I know. Really nice. And not the typical snobbish popular boy that you see in movies. I know there's more to him than just what we see on the posters and paintings of him in East High. But he's Troy Bolton. The most popular kid in school. He can get any girl he wants without even trying. Everything is practically handed to him in a silver platter. And us… we're the brainaics. While Troy and his posse prefer the spotlight, we're always in the shadows. We're just," she continued, squeezing her friend's hand, "different from them. But if being with him makes you happy, then I'm all for it. I just want you to go into this with both eyes wide open. I really do not want you to get hurt, is all."
Looking away from Taylor, she stared at the table where Troy and his friends were sitting. He looked so happy, so full of life. A blonde girl came up to Troy, dressed in all pink and glitter, smiling flirtatiously at him. "Yeah," she murmured, avoiding Taylor's concerned gaze, "Me too."
Gabriella was never one for cliché moments. But not long after meeting Troy, she found herself living the very same cliché plotlines that she's often scoffed at.
Troy was just the guy. The misunderstood jock who seemingly led the perfect life and was adored by the East High masses. And yet behind his cool façade was a teenager who was itching to break the stereotype. And she was just the girl. The quiet one who did not give a damn about what anybody else thought. The kind of girl who thought she was above all the pettiness in high school but deep inside, yearned, even if it was just for a fleeting second, that she was a part of it all.
He was the jock. She was the quiet girl.
And true to form, they just sort of clicked.
It began with simple dates. A picnic at the park. A trip to the ice cream parlor. Movie nights – often repeats of the Princess Bride and City of Angels for her, and the Bourne Series for him. Daisies - her favorite flower, left at her locker every now and then. Countless nights where they talked endlessly over the phone about nothing and yet, everything. Soon, days turned into months.
It was easy. Spending time with him took no effort at all. For a girl who has never had a relationship, much less a lot of experience talking to guys before, being with Troy was simple. It was never a chore. Or a hassle. She never got nervous or self-conscious around him. At most, she'll get flutters in her stomach. But those were the good kind of nerves, she thought. She never had to pretend around him. And Gabriella could tell that he never did either.
Spending time with each other was fun for the two of them. But like every cliché romance story, drama was never far behind.
"Dreams are meant for sleeping, mija."
"But Mom, Troy's different. He's -"
"You're not like every teenager out there. The same rules don't apply to you. So if you feel anything for this boy, you'll stop stringing him along."
Two simple words. I'm sorry. There are many things in my lifetime that I am sorry for. Things that I regret doing - and not doing. Words that I have wished to take back. Words that I wish I could have said. But the one thing that I am most sorry for was telling you that meeting you was my number one regret. Because that was a lie. And for that I am sorry.
I have made peace with the fact that I'm dying. I have made peace with the fact that I have a limited amount of time in this world. I was content living my life as it is.
And then you came along. You came into my life at a time when I needed someone the most, and I didn't even know it. And for the few precious months that we've spent together, you made me hope. And I haven't hoped for anything ever since I found out that I was dying. I never opened my eyes to all the possibilities until you walked into my life. And I hated you for that.
I hated you for making me feel. I hated you for making me feel as if I actually had a chance. You made me want to fight, you made me want to resist the inevitable. And that scared me. In just one timeless month, I started to realize that my heart can actually feel something other than its submission to death. You made me feel complete when all this time, all my heart felt was emptiness. That's why I had to let you go. Because for the first time, I actually wanted to be important to somebody. For the first time, I was actually looking forward to another day, another morning when I can see your face. You made me want to be selfish. You made me yearn for things that I never dreamt I will ever have or be. Because I wanted to be the one who comforted you. I wanted to be the person you came too when things get too tough. I wanted to be the person you came to when something amazing happens. I wanted to love you. But most of all, I wanted to be in your life. The only problem with that was, I can't because doing so would mean more hurt and pain for the both of us.
People always say that you can't fall in love with someone just by locking eyes with them. That knowing someone for such a short period of time only meant that whatever you were feeling, that was merely infatuation or lust, never love. But the moment you handed me that cup of soda, the moment you extended your hand to help me up, I knew that was it for me. Sometimes, you meet someone and before you could even know their name, before you could even get to know the real them, you know, deep in your heart, that sometime in the near future, that person will mean something to you. That was how I felt about you the second we met. All the things I've told you about how you made me feel - all that were true. My brother often said that it would take a miracle to cure me. And you know what, you were my miracle, Troy. You brought out a side of me that I hid from everybody else. And before I knew it, you tore down the walls I've surrounded myself with. With you, I could actually be myself. For a short moment in time, you made me feel like I was living. Actually living.
I will be forever thankful. Not only because you made me feel alive but because you loved me. You saw something far greater in me that I have let myself see or feel. You made me believe again. I don't want to be presumptuous in saying this but you'll fall in love again. You'll meet one very, very lucky girl who will make you feel ten times better than what I made you feel. This is not the end - not for you. Life is only beginning so please, don't take it for granted. Don't miss out on life because of me. Don't pine or wallow. Don't grief or sulk. Don't be angry. Live. For the two of us.
May 29, 2007
"Hey, so I was thinking that maybe we could go visit that place you've been talking about. Make a picnic out of it."
Troy made the comment offhandedly, trying to break the silence that grew more intensely between them. The afternoon had started off normal. They took a drive, finding themselves parked by the nearest lake. Gabriella had brought her camera with her and was soon clicking away happily. Shortly after, they drove back to town, stopping by for ice cream along the way where they met with Chad and Taylor. It was a nice afternoon between friends. They talked about school, the upcoming Decathlon that both girls were competing in, and soon, the conversation revolved around colleges and summer plans. She became quiet after that, and become progressively distant especially when their friends left.
"Hmm" was all she said in response.
He took her hand, fingers closing firm. "What do you think about a drive and picnic?"
The distant, considering expression on her face did not falter. And her hand was lax in his. "I can't."
"Okay," he said, squeezing her hand. "How about next weekend? Our first round of exams should be done by then."
She shook her head and looked up, her expression rigidly impassive. "We need to talk."
He looked down at her face, into her eyes, trying desperately – and struggling, to understand. "Okay."
"I can't be a little adult right now, Troy. I'm hoping you understand that."
"A little adult? You've completely lost me." His frown deepened.
"Troy," she began, moving her hand away from his before fiddling the straw in her cup. "I, um, I can't do this anymore."
The joy he felt earlier vanished, a foreboding feeling replacing its wake. Dread sent goosebumps running down his spine. He stiffened beside her, and she sat straighter in response.
"Is this about that stupid rumor? Because I promise you, Sharpay was being her usual bitchy self."
She shook her head. "It's not that."
Desperation soon turned into panic. He searched her face, trying to understand. "Then what it is? Help me understand."
Gabriella lowered her eyes. "I'm a lot better at saying goodbye than you."
Troy stared at her – as if he couldn't credit his hearing, and he repeated her words. Then, "Why are you saying goodbye?"
"I'm sorry, Troy."
His eyes narrowed. Panic grew to anger. Gritting his teeth, he asked, "Why are you apologizing? You're not making any sense, Gabriella."
"This… us, who are we kidding? Graduation is in a couple of months. You're off to Duke come September. And I -", she stopped and sighed, clearly exhausted. "Maybe it's better to end this now, before things get to deep."
"You're breaking up with me?" He hissed, flabbergasted. Troy felt like the wind was just punched out of him. He tried to recall what he could have possibly done. They were happy only hours ago. She was so carefree this afternoon. And now, she was breaking up with him? Troy's instincts had been screaming that all was not as he'd thought; the tone – the desperation in her voice, all but confirmed it.
"I'm sorry. I'm really, really sorry." Gabriella said, avoiding his gaze.
It was a long time before Troy said anything, eyes glazed as he stared at the opposite booth. And when he snapped out of his stupor, drawing in a desperate breath, she was long gone.
"Give it up, Bolton."
Troy drew a deep breath, and forced himself to not insult Gabriella's brother. Instead, he placed the vase of flowers – daisies, her favorite, in their front porch. Turning, he gave a small nod to Geoffrey Montez before heading down the steps.
"Why are you doing this?" Gabriella's brother called out, stopping Troy from leaving. "She obviously wants nothing to do with you. She ended it. It's been three weeks, Troy. Follow my advice and move on."
He narrowed his eyes at her sister's ex-boyfriend and from his stiff posture, Geoff could tell Troy was restraining himself from saying what he truly wanted to say. Geoff was expecting an insult or an angry retort, instead, all the boy said was "Tell her I said hello."
"Stay away from her. I mean it, Troy, stay away from Gabriella. It's for the best."
Troy tensed, whirled to face the man, a few years his elder, and exploded. "Why? Your sister ended it, just like that," he said, snapping his fingers to show how quickly Gabriella ended it. "Like I meant nothing to her. No explanations. Nothing. And yet, I find myself stopping by everyday for a glimmer of hope that I'll see her, even just for a fucking moment. I can't seem to let her go. I'm in love with your sister. So you tell me, why? Why should I fucking stay away when I know there's more to the story? Give me a reason why?"
Geoff's voice was low, lethally controlled. "Because she's sick. And she doesn't need the added stress that being with you will bring."
"So this is about the hiking trip I took her on? She fainted from fatigue, that's what the doctor said but she's perfectly fine."
"Are you not listening? My sister is really sick. So for your sake… and hers, just stay away. Believe me," Geoff said, leveling the younger man with a pointed look as he opening the front door, "better leave now before you get too attached."
"You don't listen, do you?"
Troy met Geoff's gaze, although it took all his will. He lifted his chin, his eyes steady as he extended another vase filled with lilies in Geoff's direction. "You said that I should leave, before I could get too attached to your sister. Well, it's too late now. I'm in love with her. So I'm going to be here, every single day with flowers and chocolates and other things your sister adores until she tells me why the fuck she broke up with me. In fact, is she here?"
"She's not here, Troy."
"Well, then what time is she coming back?"
Geoff paused. A long minute passed.
Against his better judgment, Geoff found himself revealing, "It depends on when the doctor releases her."
"What?" Troy practically screamed. His incensed demeanor instantly changing. "Doctor? Is she okay?"
Placing the vase on the ground, Geoff sat down on the porch swing. He rubbed his temples – he could just feel a headache coming on, and for the first time, Troy noticed how haggard he looked. "When I told you my sister was sick, I didn't exactly divulge the full extent of it."
"Well?" Troy asked and sat next to Geoff when he paused. "You can't just stop there?"
Geoff met Troy's gaze steadily and began, "Gabriella has a heart disorder. The doctors call it the, um, congestive cardiomyopathy. Her heart is failing, not pumping enough blood. She had a heart failure yesterday morning. The doctor said her heart getting weaker."
"Is she…" Troy faltered.
"She's in surgery right now."
Geoff waited, allowing the teenager a few seconds to process the information. Then he continued, " This past year… her heart function is worsening. None of the medicines we've been given is working. We're waiting on a heart. But even if she does get a heart, it's not a guarantee that her body will take it. She's currently on the heart transplant waitlist. And if she doesn't get a transplant soon, she may not even reach her nineteenth birthday at the rate its going.
"You said that if she doesn't get a heart soon that the she might not… she might not make it? What is the surgery for?"
"Dr. Myer is implanting a ventricular assist device. It can't keep her heart beating and functioning forever. It's just buying her some time before we do get a heart. And even with the VAD implantation, there are still a lot of risks and complications."
His fists clenched so tightly, his nails cut into his palms. With much conviction, Troy said, "I want to see her."
"Do you even know what you're getting yourself into?" Geoff asked, one brow arched.
"I want to see her," Troy repeated. "I wanna be there when she wakes up. I need to be there."
Geoff's brown eyes – so alike Gabriella's, blanked. For a second, Troy thought he saw pride in the older man's eyes, but it was gone as soon as it came. Calmly, he asserted, "This isn't just a game, Troy. This is real. Her sickness is real. She might die. And soon. Why would you wanna set yourself up for that kind of pain?"
The words were low, laced with tenderness and naiveté that only a teenager in love can say. "Like I told you, I love her."
Anger flared in Geoff's eyes that instant. "What do you know about love, huh? You're a fucking teenager. You guys have dated for, what, three months? What do you really know about my sister? She's been through so much shit already. What do you really know?"
"Gabriella hates jazz music," Troy stated, somewhat randomly. He looked at him for one long minute, bitter with an emotion he couldn't place. "But whenever you ask her to watch you practice or go to any of your gigs, she never thinks twice about saying yes."
At hearing that, Geoff turned away from the boy. But Troy continued, "Because she knows it makes you happy. She's always wanted to ask your mom about your Dad. But she never does because she doesn't want to see pain in your mother's eyes. She has this really annoying habit of separating everything on her plate yet a minute into the meal, all of its jumbled back together. She hates burdening anyone. She hates asking for help when she knows she can do it herself. She loves to swim even though she's allergic to chlorine. She can never say no. She apparently hates chocolate ice cream but gets brownie fudge chocolate every time we go to the ice cream shop. She'll purse her lips when she's annoyed at someone. And when she's really angry, there this vein in her forehead that's like itching to pop. When she smiles," Troy maintained, a rueful smile on his face, "she has this dimple, only on her left cheek though. She really wants to go to Stanford. Become a lawyer. Do some good in this fucked up world."
He held the tears back. "Do you know how hard it is to find someone like her? Do you know it's nothing short of a miracle that she's the way she is? With all the pain in this world, your sister is still an optimist. She believes the good in people."
Troy paused, staring rather blankly at the vase on the porch floor. The lilies looked fresh. Alive. Beautiful. He turned his gaze, taking Geoff aback by the intensity and strength swirling in his blue eyes. "So maybe I'm young. Maybe I don't know what love really is. I know don't deserve her. I don't deserve someone like her." The tears Troy kept at bay flowed, a trickle of tear sliding down his cheek. He quickly brushed it dry. "But I know that whenever I'm around Gabriella, whatever I feel for her is worth fighting for. This isn't just a game to me. So you ask, why would I want to set myself up for that kind of pain when she's one heartbeat away from death," he laughed at the unintended pun, "it's because I would rather have all the time I can have with her than not have her in my life at all."
"She wanted you to have this," extending a letter to Troy. "She gave to me minutes before she collapsed yesterday."
Troy hesitantly took it, seeing his name neatly written in Gabriella's feminine script. "She was transferred to Intercommunity Hospital of New Mexico last night."
Troy brought his gaze back to Geoff's face. His expression thankful. Geoff added, " Room 2805. She should be out of surgery by now, but still under from the anesthesia."
He blinked – and fought the urge to let his tears flow freely. In the most heartfelt tone Geoff has ever heard, Troy said, "Thank you." Troy smiled. "Thank you."
He was the last one allowed to see her, the nurse said. All was silent. Still. Except for the sounds coming from the machines, the room was engulfed in relative silence. Her doctor said that she was still heavily sedated so the chances of her waking up in the next few hours were slim. Both her mother and brother had already left, already emotionally and physically drained from being in the hospital all day. He asked if he could stay, her mother acquiesced but the nurse informed him that visiting hours would soon be over. He was about to argue but the doctor, placing a calm hold on the nurse informed that he could stay for as long as he wished. The doctor, a man in his fifties who seemed to remind Troy of his grandfather, only smiled when he thanked him. He could hear the nurse muttering something about young love as she brought him extra blankets.
Troy walked slowly to the bed, afraid of what he'll see. Upon reaching her side, he gasped. She looked so small. Fragile. Unconsciously, his fists clenched. The sound of paper crumpling reminded him of the letter Geoff gave him. With one last look at Gabriella, he took a seat. He stared at the letter and noticed the tear stains on the envelope, the ink smudging from where her tears fell. He slowly traced his name before, cautiously and half scared, he opened the envelope. Dreading to read what she wrote – a letter, that in her mind, she thought was most likely here last message for him.
He unfolded the letter; he scowled at the first two words he read.
Gabriella woke up to the steady sounds and beeps from the heart monitor. She had spent enough time in the hospital to familiarly know the sounds of the various machines littered next to her bed. It scared at first, when she was younger. She had been there when her grandmother died. She didn't remember much from that day except for one thing. The sounds of the heart monitor flat lining. The beeps of a steady heartbeat and then, a hiss of a single beep. She didn't understand at first, thinking that something was wrong with the machine. It wasn't until the door opened and nurses and doctors flooded in that she realized, her grandma was gone. A few years later, it was her turn to lay on the bed, wires attached to her. The only sounds that kept her company when her family was gone for the night were mechanical sounds emitting from all the machines. She found it creepy at first. But soon, she grew to find the machine-driven sounds to be calming. It soothed her. Especially after hearing a bad news.
She shifted. Then winced when a stab of pain erupted in her chest. Gabriella peeled one eye, opening her mouth to speak but nothing came out. She moved, slowly reaching for the nurse's help button. It was then she noticed the figure to her right, partially covered by blanket. Blinking her brown eyes wide, struggling to make out shapes in the dim light, it was several seconds before she realized it was Troy who laid asleep, his frame too big for the small hospital chair.
Gabriella edged to the side, trying to get a better look at him and the item – some sort of paper or pamphlet, he was clutching in his left hand. The movement, however, caused the television remote to fall haphazardly on the ground. She grimaced. He awoke. Arms flailing before grasping the edge of his makeshift bed, Troy came to his senses with a painful groan. Still dazed, he blinked owlishly across the dim room, before fixing his gaze firmly on the bed.
"What are you doing here?" Gabriella asked, voice still raspy from lack of use.
He frowned and sat straighter, placing the letter in the bedside table. "Do you want me to call the nurse? Water, maybe."
This time, it was her turn to frown. "Water would be good."
He nodded and set about finding a nurse. He came back a few minutes later, a pitcher and a glass in one hand. He came to stand by her side, offering her the cup and helping her sip the water from a straw. After she has had enough, he placed the cup on the table before sitting on the edge of the bed, mindful of the many wires weaving through the blanket and onto the floor.
His gaze fixed on the heart monitor, he asked, "Why didn't you tell me you were sick, Gabriella?"
She looked at him. Then at her hands. Her frowned deepened. "Because I didn't want you to see me like this," she eventually said. " Tubes running out of my body. I don't want anyone to see me like this. Especially you. I want you to remember what we had," she looked up, startled to see him looking intently at her. "But not like this, Troy."
"Had?" Picking up her use of past tense, he repeated. "What we had? We're far from over, Gabriella."
Gabriella screwed up her face, then she shook her head. "You asked me before, what was the one thing in this world that I wanted to do. Remember what I told you?"
"Yeah," he agreed, remembering that day. It was probably their third date. He took them to the local drive-in movie theatre. The movie was unexceptional and they spent half the time mocking whatever scene was playing out in the big screen. When it ended, and the place was all but deserted, he turned to her and asked that very same question the hero asked his lover. "You said there's too much beauty in this world to just single out one," Troy recalled.
"I lied." She responded, with a laugh. But it came out as a cross between a cry and laughter. "I lied. There is one thing."
Eagerly, he stated, "Name it. And I'll do anything and everything to make it happen."
She smiled at his enthusiasm – albeit sadly. Her eyes, Troy could tell, were swimming in unshed tears. She softly said, "I really want to run. I wanna know what it feels like to have the wind caress your skin as you start running towards something or someone. Pathetic, I know. You don't even think about it, do you?"
He opened his mouth to answer, but no words came out. How does he respond to that? How can he reassure her? How can he make her feel better, tell her that everything was going to be okay when a part of him doesn't even believe it.
She continued, oblivious to his internal struggle. "You don't think twice when you play basketball. You don't think twice about running when you're late for class and the second warning bell has already rang. To you, and pretty much the rest of the world, running, it's nothing. You just take it for granted. Her voice faltered. But I can't. I can't run. I can't even walk my own dog around the block. Every little thing that I do, I always have to weigh the risks. I always have to ask myself if whatever it is I'm about to do will result in me fainting afterwards or having a heart failure. Every single thing that I do, I do it because I have to, because I need to. Because otherwise, it could land me back in the hospital or worse."
Troy struggled to think, to understand. "I still don't understand why you didn't tell me?"
Gabriella shrugged and looked ahead. "I'm alive. Beating heart and all, even if it is failing, I am alive." Head high, eyes forward, she continued, "But I'm not living, Troy. You know, I always wonder if the things that I enjoy doing right now… if I would still enjoy them if I actually had a strong heart. Take academics for example. I love reading. I love going to school and sitting in class, taking notes. I love doing homework. But in the back of my head, I always ask myself if I only like studying and reading because I have no other option. I've never been big on reading when I was young, you know. Hated it with a passion."
She glanced at him. "My worn out copy of Pride and Prejudice? The one you always make fun of because I keep reading it even though I've read it a million times already? It was the first book I actually read, not because it was assigned for school or anything. It was the only book the nurse could get me. It was right after the first time I collapsed. The doctor said I couldn't do any strenuous activities. No sports. No nothing. I can't even go up two flights of stairs without feeling like I'm going to faint. Every now and then, I ask myself, would I have enjoyed playing sports? Would I have enjoyed pigging out on junk food? Would I enjoy traveling? Or walks in the park? I just, I want to have the luxury to actually figure out what it is that I like without this whole heart disorder looming above me."
"This is why I didn't say anything. Five years. I have waited for a heart for five long years. I've been in and out of this hospital since I was thirteen. September 2006, I remember the date clearly, six months after I was accepted into the donor wait list, I was supposed to get a heart. But the donor died. My doctor said it happens, that another heart will come along. So I hoped that another heart will come. Five months ago, we got another call. They said there was another heart for me. It came at the right time, my doctor said. My heart was worsening. Geoffrey was ecstatic. Mom, well, she just started crying. Over and over again, she said, 'Finally. Finally.' Come to find out, there was too much damage on the heart after my doctor opened the donor up. I stopped hoping after that. It hurt too damn much. There was another possible heart donor a few weeks ago. Mom and Geoff, there were happy - still hoping. But I didn't feel anything when Dr. Meyer told us the news. I wasn't even excited. Another patient got bumped up in the list because he got hurt. I didn't even feel devastated. I stopped feeling anything. Then you came along. I haven't felt like this in a really long time. In fact, I haven't felt like this at all. I've always, always weighed the risks, Troy. But you… you were my biggest risk."
"You should have told me."
She shook her head. "Have you not heard any of -"
He interrupted and repeated. "You still should have told me. You said your piece. Now it is my turn. So you listen. And you listen well. I don't care if you're sick. I don't -"
"No, you listen," she reasserted. "I don't know if the doctors or my family has told you, but I'm dying. If I don't get heart soon, a big operative word on soon, I might as well be dead."
His face hardened. He roughly grabbed her chin, making sure that they were eye to eye. "Don't you dare say that again. Don't you dare," his voice faltered and his blue eyes glistened. "I love you. I fucking love you. Do you understand that? I love you. You can't die on me. I don't know… "
He finally broke down and allowed the tears to flow. "You can't just make me fall in love with you and then die on me. You can't be that selfish."
Her eyes widened. It was the first time he said those words out loud. In the three months they've dated, love was never mentioned.
"No. No!", he repeated, practically screaming the word this time. His words were bitten off, infused with steeled anger. "You may be okay with dying. But I'm not. I know we're young. Some people would say we don't know any better. But this," he took her hands and squeezed it, "us, I know it's real. I was fated to meet you. I was supposed to love you. But how can I love you when you're just giving up?
She stiffened. "This is it, Troy. This is all we've got. I can't leave the hospital, not without bringing all these machines with me. I can't go anywhere without these tubes obstructing my path or... This. Is. It. Inside this hospital room… this is all I can offer you."
Her eyes met his. Gabriella shook her head again. "I was always the girl with an out - an exit strategy. You always walk away before they can walk away from you. That was how I lived my life, Troy. With everything going on around me, you can never get too attached. I leave before anyone can ever hurt me. And I walk away before I could hurt anyone else. Then you happened. You screwed up the plan."
He scoffed. "The plan? What plan? Of you dying? What about me, huh? What happens to me after you di -", he stopped, he couldn't bring himself to say that world again. "You have to promise me. You have to promise me that you're going to fight. Promise me. You can't walk away from me now. You can't walk away from this - us."
Sliding her hand over his, she maintained, "You can't ask me to hope. If I get a heart, then I get a heart. If I don't, then I don't. Hope is a fragile thing, Troy. Mine broke long ago."
"Then I'll just have to hope for the both of us. You're going get a heart, Gabi."
"You can't guarantee that."
"Nothing in life is ever guaranteed. Just promise me you're going to fight."
More forceful. "Promise me."
Gabriella lifted her chin, tying to appear strong. "I'll try."
His fingers tightened in hers. "Promise me."
"Isn't this enough?" she asked, despair in her brown eyes.
"No. Not for us."
Deciding for a different tack, she questioned, "Remember that movie, the one with Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan?"
His brows furrowed in confusion. "City of Angels? Yeah, I remember. I mean, we've seen that movie about a million times already."
"And you remember what Seth said?"
Catching on, he tensed beside her. "Don't."
"I would rather have had one breath of her hair", she recited from memory, "one kiss of her mouth, one touch of her hand, than eternity without it. One. Isn't this enough?"
His eyes steady on hers, he recounted, " And you know what Maggie said, 'I don't understand a God who would let us meet, if there's no way we could ever be together.' You could have picked a better movie to make your point, you know."
An uncharacteristic shyness gripped her. "Yeah… well. I didn't think you paid attention to the movie that closely."
"Why are you so scared to fight? Why is it so easy for you to give up? Why are you so ready to die?"
Something – despair, fear – flashed in her eyes. She took her hands from his and hugged herself. For the longest time, she said nothing. Just when he was about to touch her and ask, she stated, "I can promise that I'll try to stay away from the light. I can promise you that I'll fight. You think I just want give up? Die? I want to have a career. Be a lawyer. I wanna have kids. I wanna be someone's wife and mother. I wanna travel the world. God, there are so many things in this world that I wanna do. Places I wanna see. Experiences that I wanna have."
"And you can still have it, Gabi."
"I'm tired Troy." She brushed the tears away. "I'm really, really tired. This heart condition has been my entire life. I'm exhausted just trying to live."
"My mom cries at night. When she thinks that me and Geoff are already asleep, she cries. And it's not that heart wrenching sobs. It's not wailing. Just silent tears. Like she's trying so desperately to hold it in but failing. And some nights, I can hear her, when she prays out loud. It's the same prayer over and over again. And she's getting more desperate. I don't wanna be the one that takes my mom's religious convictions away. I don't wanna take that from her. Live or die, that's exactly what's going to happen. She's gonna lose faith."
She paused and looked away from Troy. Her crying increased and soon, her hiccups slowed down her speech. "And Geoff… he got into NYU. It's his dream school. But he went to U of A instead. He said it's because of the scholarship. I know he stayed because of me. Live or die, there's going to be some part of him, who will resent me for taking his dream away."
"I'm barely hanging on. You ask me to fight. To hope and dream. But do you know how hard that is, when all this, is your reality."
He turned her towards him. He bent his head and gently wiped her tears. Forehead against hers, he said, in a soft voice, "Dying won't make any of this go away for them, Gabriella. It won't make their lives any easier if you die."
"But it would be one less worry."
Troy reached around her, holding her as her sobs grew. Pressing her head against his shoulder, she bit her lip, trying to stop her tears. After a moment, he whispered, "I love you. I need you. So you can't give up now. Please. Please."
They cried and held each other. And for the first time, in a really long while, Gabriella allowed herself to dream. And to hope.
Gabriella Montez' diary, addressed to Troy Bolton
June 28, 2007
Mom has always said that writing your thoughts down on paper is therapeutic. And she was right. I kind of feel better already, and I haven't even put any of my thoughts on paper yet.
The smell of the flowers you've brought me fills my room now. It's nice. The smell of chemicals – you know, that smell that all hospitals seem to have in common, is barely noticeable now. Like I said, it's nice. You're graduating right now. Should be walking the stage and accepting your diploma from Principal Matsui as I write this. I know because your mother has been texting me non-stop. I'm so proud of you. You do know that right? And so happy that you'll be heading to Duke come September. I know it's hard but in a year, I'll be able to join you.
Dr. Myer came by this morning shortly after you and your parents left to give us an update. He said the cardiac transplantation was a success. I might have to take it easy for the next few months. Tons of rehabilitation and all that, but his prognosis is very positive. I never really thought I'd finally hear those words come out of his mouth.
Speaking of which, I never really thought I'd wake up and the first person I see is you. Never in my wildest dreams. Granted, I was in a hospital bed and you looked uncomfortable in that small couch. But beggars can't be choosers, right? (By the way, how did you ever get the nurses to continually let you stay the night?) I never really thought I'd fall in love with you too. But I guess there's a first time for everything.
I've had a lot of time to think. Didn't really have much choice since I'm stuck in this small room. You asked me days ago why I didn't tell you I was sick. I don't think you ever fully understand. I mean, how do I get rid of that part of me that is you? For that matter, how do I get rid of that part of me that is in you? Because pining away for a sick girl is not the life I want for you. My mom once said I was being selfish, for letting things between us continue for as long as it did. I was dying. And you don't deserve all this. Taking care of a sick girl. You shouldn't feel obligated to. But if I'm being truthfully honest, for the first time, I want to be selfish. I want you, of all people, to help me get better. I'm going to need you more than you need me. And that scares me. Not because I'm scared or too proud to ask for help. But because, in the near future, I'm scared that you'll realize that this is the life you wanted for yourself. Even with my new heart, there are still a lot of things I can't do. I wonder if you fully realize that?
I don't doubt your love for me. At times, I feel like I don't deserve it. I'm lucky. I'm very lucky to have a guy like you. Being in love with you is like that moment when you jump off a swing, and you just sort of linger in mid-air for a split second – flying, weightless. There's that split second before you land on the ground, a gasp, an intake of breath. That's what I feel. Bliss. Pure, unadulterated bliss where I can breathe again.
You'll always be my favorite part of me. I was barely breathing before I met you. And now… now, I'm alive, holding on. To you. To us.
They're sitting on beach - well, not a beach per-se since Albuquerque, New Mexico's all dessert. So, they're sitting on the edge of a lake, as small waves crashed ashore, touching the tips of their feet. The sun was setting but both of their skin were a bright pink – more so his. She's reading a book, Pride and Prejudice from the looks of it with its tattered edges, and he's looking at her intently, memorizing the lines of her face, the way a single stray of hair always fell on her face. He doesn't think she noticed, but he loved to touch her hair. He loved to stroke it and wrap his fingers in it. He was disappointed when she took almost a foot of her hair cut. Thankfully, her hair grew quickly so his second favorite past time (holding her was his first) quickly resumed.
The wind blew and a leaf landed gently in her paperback. With a laugh, he picked it up and threw it of the side. He was rewarded with her gorgeous smile before she went back to reading.
This time, a white piece of paper landed in her book.
"What's this?" she asked.
"It's for my Sociology class," he began explaining. "We were supposed to write our top five most memorable moments. And then we had to show it to whoever was connected or related to that moment. Read it."
"Okay," she replied, deciding to humor him.
"Number 5," she said, reading it out loud. "First time I rode my bike without the training wheels at age 3. What is this?"
"Go on, finish reading it."
She looked at him weirdly. "Number 4, helping dad and grandpa build the tree house. Number 3, scoring 35 points," she continued, reading out loud until her voice drifted once she got to the very last in his list.
"I… wha-", she looked up, halting when she saw her boyfriend on his knees, holding onto a box. A very small box.
Brown eyes met blue. He smiled, slowly moving the box closer to her and said, "Will you do me the honor of being my wife?"
For once, words abandoned her.
"I had this whole speech planned. Ask Dad. He had through sit through hours and hours of me repeating it over and over again. But for some reason, I can't remember a single word. Except maybe part where I tell you that I love you. You do know that right? Because I do. And I was supposed to say something about cherishing you for the rest of our lives and making you the happiest woman on the planet. It started with, 'I know we're still in college' and I don't quite remember what comes after that, something about how we're young but…"
She smiled through her tears. How could she not when he was kneeling before her, looking so nervous and adorable? Did he really think she was going to say reject him. Him, the guy who stuck by her when she was hospital-ridden. The boy who waited for her while she recovered. The boy who never gave up on her. "A million times yes," she announced, stopping him from his rambling speech. She repeated, "Yes. Yes. Yes."
"It can be a long engagement," he replied, as if trying to convince her some more. "We don't have to get married right now…"
"Maybe after we graduate, or maybe even later after we've established our…"
He stopped. His grip on the box tightened. And for the first time, he noticed that she was kneeling in front of him too.
"Yes," she repeated, more softly this time.
Gripping her hand, he asked, "Are you sure?"
"I've never been so sure of anything as I was of you. So why don't you just shut up and kiss me?"
He beamed and moved his face closer, cradling her face with his hands gently. And then he noticed the box. And the engagement ring. "Babe, the ring..."
"Just shut up and kiss me."
"Yes, ma'am." And he did just that, he sealed her lips with his, kissing her with reckless abandon, pouring everything he felt about her in that kiss. He drew her fully against him, his tongue, his lips, his hands creating ecstasy – the most exciting kind, within her. They didn't say anything for a long time, even after their kisses grew less heated and she found herself curled against his side.
Here, with each other – their hearts beating as one, no words were needed.
June 4, 2008
#5: First time I rode my bike without the training wheels at age 3
#4: Helping Dad and Grandpa build the tree house
#3: Scoring 35 points in a single game against West High
#2: The first time Dad taught me how to play basketball
#1: The night I met you
'I'm hangin' on another day
Just to see what you throw my way
And I'm hanging on to the words you say
You said that I will be OK
I'm falling apart, I'm barely breathing
With a broken heart that's still breathing
In the pain, there is healing
In your name, I find meaning
So I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on
I'm barely holdin' on to you'
I am no doctor. Absolutely no expertise in the field of medicine and what not except for what I've seen on the medical drama shows on TV. So to those who have an idea/knowledge of heart disorders and its treatment, I apologize if I managed to blunder it in some way or another. I did do some research but there's only so much my brain can actually understand with all that medical jargon. Business and accounting I can handle, blood and talks of medical stuff, not so much.
Anyways, hope you liked this one-shot of mine. And I hope you guys didn't get confused by the chronology of the letters.
Thank you for reading.
THANK YOU to Arlyn for donating and being an overall amazing person.
Reviews are much appreciated.
Oh, also, the playlist can be found here: .com/playlist/21698785803/standalone. These are songs that I've listened to, aside from the Walk to Remember OST, during the writing of this one-shot. Some totally relate to the story. Others, not so much but all the songs helped me as I wrote this. Finally, after like three years, Barely Breathing is done.
Magic, Ben Kweller
I see it in her
I hear it in
I feel it in her
I know it's in her
Fresh Pair of Eyes, Brook Wagooner
'Cause I want to be seen
With a fresh pair of eyes
The single white tree
In a black hood of disguise
Hands Down, Dashboard Confessional
Hands down this is the best day I can ever remember,
I'll always remember the sound of the stereo,
the dim of the soft lights,
the scent of your hair that you twirled in your fingers
and the time on the clock when we realized it's so late
and this walk that we shared together
The broken locks were a warning you got inside my head
I tried my best to be guarded, I'm an open book instead
I still see your reflection inside of my eyes
That are looking for a purpose, they're still looking for life
This Modern Love, Bloc Party
What are you holding out for?
What's always in the way?
Why so damn absent-minded?
Why so scared of romance?
Cry, Mandy Moore
I wanted to hold you
I wanted to make it go away
I wanted to know you
I wanted to make your everything
Brick, Ben Folds
As weeks went by
It showed that she was not fine
They told me, "son, it's time to tell the truth"
Someone To Fall Back On, Jason Robert Brown
I am no prince,
I am no saint,
I am not anyone's wildest dream,
But I can stand behind
And be someone to fall back on
Swallowed in the Sea, Coldplay
And I could write a song
A hundred miles long
Well, that's where I belong
And you belong with me
Breathe, Michelle Branch
So I whisper in the dark
hoping you'll hear me
do you hear me?
In the Sun, Michael Stipe feat. Joseph Arthur
Will you help me to understand
'cause I been caught in between all I wish for and all I need
Maybe you're not even sure what it's for
Any more than me
Transatlanticism, Death Cab for Cutie
I need you so much closer
So come on, come on
This Year's Love, David Grey
This year's love had better last
Heaven knows it's high time
And I've been waiting on my own too long
But when you hold me like you do
It feels so right
Keep Breathing, Ingrid Michaelson
All that I know is I'm breathing
All I can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing
Comes and Goes, Greg Laswell
This is for the ones who stand
For the ones who try again
For the ones who need a hand
For the ones who think they can
Breathe (2 am), Anna Nalick
There's a light at each end of this tunnel,
You shout 'cause you're just as far in as you'll ever be out
And these mistakes you've made, you'll just make them again
If you'd only try turning around.
Like a Star, Corrine Bailey Rae
You've got this look I can't describe
You make me feel like I'm alive
When everything else is a fade
Without a doubt you're on my side
Breath in, Breath Out, Matt Kearney
We push and pull,
and I fall down sometimes
I'm not letting go,
you hold the other line
Like a Star, Corrine Bailey Rae
You've got this look I can't describe
You make me feel like I'm alive
When everything else is a fade
Without a doubt you're on my side