Author's Note-I just want to say thanks to everyone who is still supporting me with my writing. This chapter is for all who reviewed or took the time to read the first chapter.

"And you're positive you saw her because I've been watching her house and I have yet to see Gabi," Chad asked and stated at the same time.

It had been three days since the basketball game, and out of all of Troy's friends, no one had seen her.

"I saw her!" Troy angrily replied. "I don't know how to convince you, but I did. I fucking kissed her, and then she disappeared…again!"

Chad pinched the bridge of his nose, both boys trying so hard not to snap. Chad took a deep breath, knowing just how much this could affect his captain.

"I get it Troy. It's important to see her again, but this whole stalking thing isn't working. I'm rarely home because of training, and when I am home I like to sleep." Chad put his binoculars down on the bed. "We need a new plan Captain."

Troy scowled. "I told you not to call me that." All of a sudden the orange walls were all too much for Troy. The sport posters were suffocating him and the trophies shielded his eyes.

Chad picked up his basketball, accidentally knocking over the one picture frame he had on his computer desk. The picture was of the varsity basketball team right after winning state the previous year.

Chad and Troy were getting ready for their senior year; however, looking back at their junior faces someone could look and see just how different Chad and Troy looked from the beginning of high school. Chad had made varsity his second year of high school while that was Troy's second year.

Sophomore year, both boys couldn't keep the smiles off of their faces as that was the time Troy had first felt Gabriella's lips on his cheek and the first time he pulled her close in a mere than friendly hug.

To this day Troy believes that he made the winning shot because of her, and it was his confidence that made him pull her to him.

Gabriella had been Troy's' and Chad's rock during the season. She seemed to be the only girl at school who wasn't interested in their popularity. Mainly it was because she had a boyfriend, and so it was so easy to talk to her. Chad had taken the role of her "big brother" which left Troy with no title.

Along with being friends with Gabriella they also had to become friends with Sharpay, Gabriella's best friend. For Troy it was easy because they fought like siblings, however, once Sharpay started dating Zeke at the end of sophomore year, Chad started having feelings for the blonde.

"Shit," Chad muttered as little pieces of glass scattered around the hard floor. "Stay there Captain," Chad directed. "The last thing I need is to be blamed for a cut foot."

Troy grinded his teeth, knowing better than to comment on Chad's direction. It was beginning to be no use in correcting his friend.

As Chad hopped across his room to go get a broom, Troy bent down, seeing that there were two pictures behind the team photo.

The first one Troy hardly remembered seeing on Chad's desk, however, he could remember that moment perfectly. Chad had intruded on his moment embracing Gabriella, and all three of them posed for a picture that Lucille Bolton wanted to take.

Gabriella was in the middle, her arms around both boys' sweaty waists since she was too small to put her arms comfortably around their necks. They all had victorious smiles on their faces as they represented East High perfectly.

The boys were in their uniforms while Gabriella sported her cheerleading uniform, her hair up in a mass of curls and red paw prints on her defined cheekbones.

Suddenly, Troy couldn't bear to look at the picture. There were too many good memories to ruin.

The next photo consisted of Chad picking Gabriella up in surprise the same night. He had scared her so much that Gabriella shrieked, but the picture turned out great anyways.

As Troy took in Chad's ecstatic smile it was in that moment that Troy realized Chad was still healing from the disappearance of Gabriella Montez. Both boys were hurt, and they were both dealing in their own ways.

Troy set the pictures down right when Chad came back into the room. He looked his best friend in the eye.

"Dude," Troy said in a serious tone, "she's back. We don't have to worry anymore."

Before Chad could say anything Tracy Danforth entered Chad's bed room, knowing something was wrong the moment she saw Chad grab the broom.

"What am I going to do with you two?" She asked with hands on her hips. "Get out of here before you step on the glass. The last thing I need is for Coach to blame me for letting you two slice open your feet."

Troy listened and swiftly maneuvered himself around the room. Chad followed, but not before he flashed his mother a sly grin in thanks.

Gabriella sighed, rubbing the sides of her head slowly. The room that she had grown up in just wasn't the same. The creamy green walls that used to calm her seemed duller, her queen sized bed that hadn't been slept in for a year seemed uncomfortable, and her balcony doors weren't as inviting.

When Gabriella glanced at the glass doors she could see clearly into Chad Danforth's room. What she saw didn't surprise her. For about three straight days he had been trying to see her, and there was no doubt that Troy was the reason why Chad constantly had binoculars out.

This made Gabriella be very careful. She expected Coach Bolton to host training over the season and so when Chad got up to go work out that gave Gabriella time to leave her room without Chad spotting her.

Something pulled in Gabriella's chest as she watched Chad hop out of his room, leaving Troy alone. The curve of her mouth dipped as she took in the born leader of the East Side.

From the very first basketball game Troy played in everyone in town could see that Troy was meant to lead their team to victory. Troy was just like his older brother Justin and their father Jack. He had determination, and that is what scared Gabriella the most. What if he was determined to speak to her again? Then there would be no stopping him.

There was a knock on Gabriella's door, making Gabriella tear her eyes away from the boy who had once given her courage.

"It's time to go Gabriella," Anna Montez informed her distant daughter. Anna didn't look her age as she stood in the doorway. The effects of losing her husband three years previous and then losing her daughter for a short time didn't take any effects in her perplex ion.

Gabriella looked at the wedding ring on her mother's thin finger. A slight irritation settled in Gabriella's stomach. If she could get over losing her father than why couldn't her mother?

"I'm ready."

Anna looked her daughter over once. The five feet between them seemed like five miles. They used to be close; however, things had changed the moment Gabriella left a note telling Anna that she had to leave to forget her mistakes and to find happiness again.

As the two women got into Anna's car it was silent for exactly three minutes and twenty-two seconds. Gabriella was counting.

"It was very kind of Mr. Matsui to meet with us on a weekend."

The younger girl picked at her holy jeans. "It's summer. I think everyday counts as a weekend to him."

Anna turned into the school's parking lot. "I suppose you're right."

The meeting surprisingly started off well. Mr. Matsui, the principal, always found delight when talking to or about Gabriella. He was her father's close friend, and so in Gabriella's eyes, since she had no aunts or uncles, Mr. David Matsui was like family.

She would never admit it out loud, but Gabriella had been afraid when stepping foot into the warm office. Gabriella had felt like she let David down by leaving. Since her father's death the young wishful thinking girl that was still buried deep within Gabriella and her complex personality saw her father, Carlos Montez, through Mr. Matsui.

"You've done a very nice job with these records Anna," David spoke as he set the forms down on his empty desk. "You've settled in okay Gabriella?"

Had she really settled in yet? Gabriella didn't think so, but she smiled anyways.

"Yeah. I even saw some of the summer basketball game a couple of days ago." She felt like she had to add the basketball part because to be truly settled in she had to contribute to cheering on the one thing that held this town together.

David perked up. "Oh? What game did you see? East or West?"

"I saw the East High game. It was very exciting."

"They keep improving too. The team they played was the team they lost to three years ago. Troy will no doubt lead us to victory again."

Anna cleared her throat, not wanting to get anymore off topic. She, just like her daughter, no longer appreciated the game.

"This was supposed to be Gabriella's senior year. Can that still be possible?"

David seemed a little embarrassed that he so easily got off topic, but he recovered quickly. "Our school system is set up so that each student has to graduate with twenty-three credits. Each year, most students take seven and a half credits and end up graduating with an average of twenty-eight depending if they pass or fail a class."

David paused in order for Anna to soak in this information. He had a feeling Gabriella already did the math in her head.

"You said most students?"

"Yes, with the exception of athletes and that includes cheerleading. Our school policy allows all athletes to have a study hall year round which gives them only seven credits a year."

Anna looked as if this was the first time she was hearing about the study halls Gabriella was allowed to take which probably was the first time since Anna mostly let Carlos deal with Gabriella's schooling because he had worked at all the schools; being the East side's Athletic Director.

"She only has fourteen credits. Even if she takes no study halls this year, the most Gabriella can get is eight credits. She would be one credit shy of twenty-three."

Gabriella nodded her head, already knowing this information. She never expected her mother, however, to look so nervous.

"She's a very bright girl Anna. You're lucky to have her as a daughter, and that is why I've been pulling strings with the math and science teachers."

Anna stopped glancing at her daughter and concentrated on David fully now. "What kind of strings?"

"I've explained to them how as a freshman Gabriella tested out of some of her basic subjects, math and science, to be placed in sophomore classes. Ideally, by now, she should be enrolled in advanced placement subjects like calculus and physics, but unfortunately, she did not take pre-calculus or basic physics yet. Those are typically junior classes."

"And what's so important about these advanced classes?" Anna folded her hands in her lap, praying that David had good news for her. People talked in their town, and Gabriella's return home would be huge news, although if Gabriella couldn't start this year as a senior than that would be the biggest gossip yet.

"The advanced classes are two credits each instead of one. Now, I specifically talked to Ms. Kemper and Mr. Jackson, and they both agreed to let Gabriella take their finals for their math and science class the last day of summer, and if she passes with anything higher than a B-minus, then she can take the advanced classes for physics and calculus."

Anna did the math in her head, Gabriella glancing around the room with a bored look, already expecting this.

"So if Gabriella was to take no study halls, and she made it into at least one advanced class she would and could graduate with her class?"

David smiled, already getting out the two books Gabriella would need to study from. "Yes, Anna, I am going to do everything in my power to get Gabriella up on that stage."

Gabriella was hoping that when her mother drove them home that Chad and Troy would not be at Chad's house. Most likely, they would be at Troy's house participating willingly in some random workout Coach Bolton created.

"The last day of summer is in exactly eight days. That means—"

Gabriella cut her mother off with a quiet voice. "I know mom. I have to study."

Anna pulled into the driveway, getting frustrated with her daughter for her lack of optimism.

"You're right. You're going to have to study every moment you have."

Gabriella rolled her eyes, looking out of the window. Luck was not on her side as Troy, Chad, Jason, Zeke, and Kelsi were all in Chad's backyard throwing around a football.

Anna saw who Gabriella was looking at, although a part of Anna wanted to comfort her only kid, there was a larger part of Anna that felt like she had to buckle down on her daughter. If she converted back into an easy gong mother who put her trust in Gabriella, than she was afraid she would lose her daughter again.

"Are you talking to them yet?' Anna really meant Troy when asking her question.

"Nope. I don't really plan to either. If they want to talk then they can come to me," Gabriella said coldly.

"You're really going to make Sharpay do that? You're going to make all your friends do that?" Anna was trying to hold in her temper.

Gabriella opened her car door, stepping outside as she tried to ignore the five pairs of eyes watching her intently. Anna followed suit as each Montez woman stood her ground.

"That's a little selfish, don't you think?"

"You can call it what you want, but they don't need me. They seem to be doing perfectly fine without me."

Anna tried to talk to Gabriella rationally, but her words broke something. "You think we don't need you?" Her voice shook as her volume increased. For a moment Gabriella considered looking back at the other teenagers, however, she knew they were listening and it was embarrassing.


"No!" Anna yelled harshly, "You do not get to say something like that, and expect me to be calm! You left us. You left me a note, took all your money from your banking account, and ran away! I had no choice but to keep moving forward."

"I had to leave. Staying—"

"You didn't have to leave!" Anna kept yelling. "I was a wreck the first two months! I had dreams of you never coming back! You could've been dead in some ally and I wouldn't have known."

"What do you want me to say? I can't say I'm sorry because I'm glad I left." Gabriella screamed back. Any house on the street could hear them. "Living here was killing me! Knowing everyone's problems was killing me. I cheated on my boyfriend and that ate me alive for weeks! And then dad's death…You acted as if nothing happened. You still wear his ring after three years!"

"What do you expect Gabriella? I was in love with your father. It still hurts. We all have problems. You just chose the easy way out and now we're all dealing with the consequences."

Brown eyes met with the same brown eyes, both equally daring the other one to speak. By staring at her mother Gabriella could fully see the harm she had done.

"I can't deal with this."

Anna's eyes went wide in surprise. Fear overwhelmed her mind as Gabriella started to walk away.

"Wait!" Gabriella froze in her steps, keeping her back to her watchful friends and scared mother. "Are you leaving again?

She had never seen or heard her mother so vulnerable. Gabriella sighed, knowing that somewhere deep inside some of her old morals and compassionate heart were telling her that running away was not necessary.

"No mom, I'm just going for a walk."

During her sophomore year Gabriella began dating a boy named Kyle Kirking. He was a sophomore too, a talented basketball player, and he was in love with her.

They had begun dating around Thanksgiving time, slowly building their relationship through the basketball season. Like Troy and Chad, Kyle played on the varsity team a year earlier than most.

Basketball season lasted until late February. The play-offs went on for quite a while, and it was within that month Kyle told Gabriella about his love. At a time, Gabriella once thought that she would and could love Kyle when the time came, however, Kyle didn't give her time to respond since he was late for practice.

During the first week of March East High won the championship for state. That was the first time Gabriella cheated on Kyle with Troy Bolton.

At the end of April Gabriella broke up with Kyle. She never told anyone about why she broke up with Kyle because it repulsed her. How could she cheat?

Every passing day became harder as Troy and she came to the same understanding; to just forget their steamy kiss ever happened. They remained friends, avoiding all awkward conversations of being together. Finally, after Troy finally had enough pretending, he gave Gabriella a choice.

He couldn't deny his feelings any longer, and so he had to take charge. Gabriella had to tell Kyle or he would. Troy no longer could handle being second place in Gabriella's life. He wanted all of her or nothing.

Needless to say, things did not end well with Kyle and Gabriella. She was forced to face Kyle once more after already breaking up with him, and she looked him in the eye and admitted that she cheated on him with Troy. Gabriella hardly forgave Troy, and yet, he was the very last person she saw before running away.

"You really are back?"

Her grip on the swing tightened and her eyes shut in slight frustration. "How did you find me?"

The dark haired male sat down on the seat next to her. "We dated for moths. Of course I'm going to know where you go." Kyle kicked some of the woodchips underneath his feet. "Although I will admit, I did have my doubts if you were actually back again."

She looked at him with a sad expression. There were too many words to say, but not enough ways to say them.

"You are staying, right?"

"I want to," she whispered. Wiping at her eyes she looked at him. "But right now it's hard to tell."

Kyle scoffed, making Gabriella look at him with even more frustration.

"What's hard about it? You either stay or you don't. It's black and white Gabi."

"There is some gray area too," she murmured. "My mom can hardly look at me, I'm too scared to confront the gang, and now, to top it all off, I'm sitting at an abandoned park, sounding pathetic."

"What did you expect when you came back? Did you expect that everyone would be the same? Or that we would all be waiting for you?" Kyle's temper was getting the best of him, and so he took a deep breath and stood up.

"I didn't want everyone to be waiting for me, but I just thought—"

"You thought what? That it was going to be easy?" He pinched the bridge of his nose. Gabriella stood up, getting ready to leave quickly, just in case Kyle started to lose it again. His next words came out low. "Did you know the next three games East High played were disasters? Granted, we were only playing in the Fall Recreational Season, but we ended up losing."

"That has nothing to do with me." Gabriella's voice was small. It was hard to convince Kyle when she couldn't convince herself.

"It has 'everything' to do with you! Five out of the ten guys were either your friends, ex, or…" it pained Kyle to admit the last relationship, "…or your fling. You just left and now you randomly showed up and we're all in shock."

Gabriella did something she never thought she would do in front of Kyle.

She cried.