Eighteen-year-old Gabriella Montez was lying in her hospital bed. She waited for her boyfriend Troy to come see her. She had a rare type of cancer, and didn't have much time left. She wanted to see Troy more than anything.
She closed her eyes and thought for a moment. She wasn't ready to die yet. She just wasn't ready. All her friends had been practically dying of grief, especially Taylor. She had been visiting Gabriella every single day in the past two weeks. When she went to visit her that day, Gabriella had told her the bad news.
"Taylor, this is going to be the last time I ever see you. I just wanted you to know that I love you, and I hope you get into a good college and have a good life," she had said.
Taylor was miserable when she heard that. She wanted to hug her best friend, but Gabriella was too frail to be hugged. So she just sat there and cried for about five or ten minutes until the nurse got her to leave.
Gabriella sighed, and looked around the hospital room. Truthfully, it was kind of scary to be hooked up to so many machines. It wasn't fair. Why did she have to die so soon? Why did she have to have cancer? Her parents had cried their eyes out, and then they got into a huge fight about whether her father was allowed to see her or not. Her parents' divorce was just another thing that was so unbelievably unfair.
A bunch of her teachers came by as well. Of course, most of them said that they would miss having such a brilliant student, which kind of bugged Gabriella. She sighed. They were teachers, but still. They didn't have much sympathy to offer. Only her chemistry teacher asked if she was scared of dying. Gabriella snapped back bitterly that she was, but after her teacher left, she felt bad about it. She was just so miserable.
Kelsi and Martha were miserable, too. They had made her a bouquet the week before, and it made Gabriella cry. She chatted with them for a while. Kelsi and Martha had cried a little, too.
All of that week was full of closure from her friends Even Chad and Zeke came. Zeke offered her a cookie, and Gabriella gladly accepted it. Everyone knew that hospital food was the worst. Chad seemed a little sad. Maybe they didn't know each other too well, but he was really sympathetic, because he had a cousin die of leukemia. They had a nice, long talk, and Chad tried everything he could to cheer her up. He was really nice about it. Gabriella supposed that he probably felt just plain terrible for Troy. She couldn't blame him.
Sharpay and Ryan's visit was a tad awkward, but it ended okay. Sharpay apologized for all the mean things she had done to Gabriella, and she was forgiven. Ryan didn't have much to say to her, but he did apologize. He definitely seemed upset. Gabriella was friendly and sweet. She had never done anything to purposefully hurt anyone. He didn't think she deserved to die, either.
Troy was the last one left to pay her his final visits. Gabriella desperately needed to see him before she died. She knew that if he didn't he would be an inconsolable, grieving mess. She had to talk to him. She had to see him. She had to try and convince him not to be so sad before it was too late.
Just then, a nurse knocked on Gabriella's door. "Gabriella…you're boyfriend is here to see you. Shall I let him in?" Gabriella barely managed a nod, and Troy walked in, his face tear-stained. Gabriella was something special to him. He couldn't stand the thought of losing her.
They really had been through a lot together. They had met each other at the ski lodge over winter break, sang Start of Something New, and then met each other again at East High, and got to play Minnie and Arnold in the school musical, "Twinkle Towne". And later that summer, Troy had given her a special necklace, and they later worked together at the Lava Springs country club, and competed in the club's talent show. And that school year, their relationship was perfect. Sure, there were a couple of bumps along the way, but they loved each other too much to let it get to them. But now…now it was too late. He had to say goodbye to her. Troy was especially sad about this, however, because he had planned to propose to her in a few years. He really did have a dream that they were going to become a family one day, but that dream was shattered now.
Gabriella sighed. "Hey, Troy. I'm glad to see you. Really, I am."
Troy just shrugged, and wiped away his tears. He didn't exactly want to be there, but he felt had to. He knew that Gabriella wanted him next to her in her last hours of life, even if it put him though absolute misery.
Gabriella took a deep breath. "Troy," she said softly, "I left my T necklace on the table. Do you want it?"
Troy bit his lip. That T necklace was a symbol of their relationship. Of course he wanted to keep it. He wanted to keep it more than anything. He gulped, and nodded, taking it.
Troy stood there for a moment. He looked at Gabriella closely. She was pretty pale, but he figured that's what you got when you were in the hospital. Suddenly, Gabriella gasped. Troy stared at her in alarm. "Gabriella, are you alright?"
She shook her head. "Troy, I'm slipping. I can feel it," she said as a tear ran down her cheek.
"Don't talk like that Gabi. You're gonna be okay," said Troy as he wiped the tear away with his finger and kissed her softly.
"Troy, I want you to promise me something," said Gabriella in a voice that was barely a whisper.
"Anything for my girl," said Troy. He felt tears well up in his eyes as he looked down at the most important person in his world.
"I want you to promise me that you'll find someone who's good, and, sweet, and who loves you as much as I do. Can you promise me that, please?" asked Gabriella.
Troy took a deep breath. He really didn't want to. He didn't want to love anyone else but Gabriella. He would feel like a traitor if he didn't. But he said yes anyway.
Gabriella sighed in relief. "Thank you, Troy. I love you."
She closed her eyes. The heart monitor next to her buzzed, and Troy knew what had happened.
She was dead.
He gulped back tears. Gabriella…she was dead. Dead. She would never breathe, or be there for him, or kiss him again. He couldn't believe what was happening. He just stood still, in a trance. He wasn't quite sure how long he had been standing there, but the next thing he knew, Mrs. Montez came up from behind him and tapped him on he shoulder.
Troy turned around. "Hey." He didn't know what to say to her. He wasn't sure what to do. But on impulse, he pulled her in for a hug.
Mrs. Montez was sobbing. "She can't be dead. She just can't be. She's too young to die. She's just such an amazing girl."
All Troy could do was sigh. "I guess I should be heading home now," he said. Mrs. Montez nodded in agreement.
The funeral was a week later. Taylor, Martha and Kelsi were pretty upset. Sharpay smirked and tried to say that she was happy that Gabriella was gone, because she no longer had any competition, but she didn't fool anyone. Everyone knew she was as sad as everyone else.
Troy was in a daze throughout the whole service. As a matter of fact, he was in a daze the entire past week. Chad called him five times to talk, but neither had much to say. His dad went a little easy on him during basketball practice, and so did his teachers. Of course, he and Taylor got lots of hugs and apologies, and the two of them were actually starting to grow closer.
Troy thought about the promise he made to Gabriella. He felt bad for making her a promise that would be very difficult to keep. There was no one like her. No one else would be able to understand him or relate to him like Gabriella. Most girls at East High were the shallow cheerleader type. He thought of Taylor at first, but decided against it. They just weren't very close, no matter how much they had bonded lately.
One day, Troy was at the mall. He wanted to go to the Sports Center and look around. But he didn't want to buy anything, so the manager kicked him out. He sighed and strolled out the door.
Not sure where to go next, Troy wandered over to the food court. It was 4:00, and he was getting hungry. He knew he would get yelled at if he spoiled his dinner, though, so he bought a hot pretzel. He sat down and chewed on it, contemplating. He was going to keep his promise to Gabriella. He was going to find the right girl for him. He just hadn't found her yet.
Troy looked up, a little surprised to see Kelsi staring down on him. He blinked, absent-mindedly. "Hey, Kelsi," he said. "Take a seat." Kelsi nodded and sat down.
"How are you?" Kelsi asked.
Troy pointed to himself. "Me? How do you think I am?" he snapped, but instantly regretted it. Kelsi understood, though.
She nodded solemnly. "I'm devastated, too. You guys were a great pair. I was really hoping you could be in so many more musicals and plays. You could have become famous!"
Troy thought he was going to explode. "Thanks, Kelsi," Troy said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Thank you SO much for rubbing that in while I'm still trying to calm down," he burst out, trying hard not to raise his voice.
Kelsi was angry. She knew that Troy was hurt, but Gabriella meant a lot to her, too. She and Troy both brought out the best in her, and practically did wonders for her self-confidence. Even if she was a lot more outgoing than she had been two years ago, she still felt a sort of dependence to both of them. "Well, too bad. I have the right to express my feelings, too, you know?"
"Not if I say you don't!" Troy spat. "Don't you think of anyone but yourself, like, ever?"
Kelsi was taken aback. She wasn't sure how to reply. But she did know, beneath her jumbled, frustrated mind, that they were both saying what they were saying out of anger and grief. If he had the right to say things he didn't mean, Kelsi decided, well then, so did she. "Well, what's easier?" she asked, letting the words just come out of her mouth. "If we all went around thinking of other people, then we might as well see purple dinosaurs everywhere we go! Grow up, Troy."
Troy sighed, and frowned. He didn't mean to make Kelsi upset in the first place. But who started it didn't matter, he decided. At this moment, they were both saying things for the sole purpose of making the other infuriated. "You want me to grow up?" Troy questioned her. "Well, I refuse to grow up until you stop being a selfish, needy brat."
For a moment, Troy and Kelsi just stood there, staring at each other. They were pretty much out of things to say, so they both stormed off.
It took Troy a long time to cool off after that. He shot hoops for an hour before dinner, which made him feel just a little calmer, but not that much. Dinner was mashed potatoes, chicken, and rice, which Troy loved, but he had to force them down. The pretzel had spoiled his dinner after all. After dinner, he went to his room and took a short, half-hour nap. That made him feel much better, and finally, he relaxed a bit for the first time since earlier that afternoon.
When Kelsi got home, she naturally went to her piano first. She tried to compose a piece she was working on, but she didn't like how it was going, so she slammed her pencil down in frustration, and helped her mother make dinner. She was getting so distracted that she cut her finger with a knife while she was chopping tomatoes. As she grouchily got a bandage, she practically shook with frustration. Nothing today had gone the way she wanted it to. Before she fought with Troy at the mall. She hadn't been able to find the CD she was looking for in the music store, or get a bus ride home after the argument. She had to walk home, in the rain.
During dinner, however, she cooled off a little bit. She and her parents were having spaghetti with red sauce, which she loved, and her annoying little brother was sleeping over at his friend's house, so everything was nice and peaceful. She felt ready to talk to Troy again.
Right after dinner, she tore upstairs to her room to talk on her private phone line. She was about to call troy, but he beat her to it.
"Troy, I just wanted to say that…well, I'm sorry for all the stuff I said to you," she said before Troy could speak. "Look, I think we both said a lot of stuff we didn't mean today."
Troy sighed. "I know. But hey, we're both still a little racked up, I guess."
Kelsi sighed. "I know. I'm sorry I rubbed it in about you guys not getting to be famous." Kelsi said, then added, "But you were right about how needy I am to you guys."
Troy was a little shocked. "Hey, you know I didn't mean that. You were a little needy at first, but I think you're a lot better now. Honestly, I do."
Kelsi smiled weakly. "Wow, troy. That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me."
Troy replied, "Don't mention it."
They could tell they were getting a little sappy, so Kelsi tried to lighten the mood by saying, "So…I'll see you tomorrow?"
Troy nodded. "Yeah, see you there."
They both hung up. Troy went upstairs and sat on his bed. He realized then that the right person for him was right in front of him all the time. Kelsi was nice, and a little shy, just like Gabriella. She was smart and understanding, just like Gabriella. She was a lot like Gabriella in many ways. Not only that, but she cared about him.
He went back downstairs to call Kelsi again.
"Hey, Kelsi?" Troy stammered, suddenly overcome with shyness.
"Yeah, Troy?" Kelsi said, in a friendly voice.
Troy scratched his head. "So, do you want to hang out at the mall next Saturday?" he asked, praying she'd say yes.
"Sure, that would be great!" she exclaimed enthusiastically. She had always kind of liked Troy, and being still a little dependent, she was glad to hang out with him. "I'll see you there."
"Thanks, Kelsi." Troy hung up, feeling satisfied. Maybe he couldn't get over Gabriella's death just yet, but at least Kelsi would be there to help him through it.