It had been amazing having the opportunity to spend time with his friends from high school this summer, but Ryan would have been lying if he said he wasn't pleased to be back in New York. Autumn was creeping in, making the greener parts of the city impossibly beautiful. He had now spent three years here and almost felt like a genuine New Yorker. Something as simple as giving a tourist directions ignited a fierce pride inside him. On top of that, it was his senior year at Julliard and that was almost like being a celebrity. Ryan remembered how in awe he had been of the dance seniors when he had been a freshman. On his first day back he had been practising in one of the free studios when he turned to find a squad of first years pressed up against the glass door, their eyes wide with wonder. With his graduation from the school looming, and the fear of being unemployed growing stronger every day, it was a much needed confidence boost.

He had only been back a few weeks and yet there seemed to be drama everywhere he turned. Rosie had broken up with her boyfriend over the summer, much to Mitch's delight. However, he was back to sulking soon enough as his attempt to kiss her after band practice one night had back-fired, causing her to push him and call him 'insensitive'. Ryan's other room mates Tom and Dylan were still going strong but Senior Year was already making everyone tetchy. Having three Music students in their final year as room mates was enough to drive anyone mad and Ryan was frequently subjected to sitting in on three-way arguments about whose turn it was to practice. His fellow dance majors were getting increasingly snippy with each other as they were required to work in pairs or small groups for their assessments. With it being such an important year, the stress was getting to everyone. In fact, surprisingly working with Kelsi on the musical seemed to be the most stress free thing in his life right now. Their decision to be friends made everything much less tense and much more enjoyable. They had been back in New York for less than a month and they had already had two 'coffee meetings' on the musical. Today he was on his way to meet her from Simon's Space so they could go to her apartment and do some work. He had brought along Natalie, the writer, to assist too.

He had never been to Simon's Space, despite having heard lots about it from Kelsi and Jen. On the outside, it looked like a run down ground level apartment. Ryan glanced at Natalie as they approached the crumbling wooden door that had a faded No. 23 scratched into it. She raised her penciled eyebrows but shrugged. As he pushed the door open, Ryan found that the exterior had been deceiving. Inside was a vast open space, covered with crash mats in different shapes and sizes. From the ceiling hung different types of circus apparatus. It didn't take him long to spot Jen, who was hanging from the silks in what appeared to be a very complex knot. However, she soon freed herself of the material, falling out of it into an impressive, and slightly frightening, drop. The silks caught her at the last moment a foot from the mat and Ryan heard Natalie gasp beside him.

"That's Jen." Ryan murmured to her. "Hey Jen!"

Jen gracefully pulled herself out of the silks and spun round. She grinned briefly at Ryan, and then her jaw dropped. For one silly moment, Ryan thought it was just an over-reaction to his hair which was now on a distasteful journey back to blonde. He then remembered he was wearing a hat to cover the catastrophe and, in any case, Jen's gaze was fixed slightly to the right of him. She was staring at Natalie and by default Ryan followed her gaze. She was indeed very striking. Her hair was a bleach blonde and her large green eyes were framed with thick dark glasses. She also had a very professional with her pencil skirt, blazer and hair in a tight bun. A bit like Taylor but with a quirky edge. Not his type at all but Jen couldn't take her eyes off her. Ryan glanced at Natalie and grinned in amusement as he saw her blushing.


Jen stumbled over the edge of the mat mid-sentence in her hurry to greet them and flushed scarlet. Ryan raised his eyebrows in amusement at her. He had never seen Jen trip or blush in his life.

"We haven't met." she said breathlessly, throwing her mass of hair off her face with a grin, confidently regaining her dignity.

"This is Natalie." Ryan said. "She's writing the libretto for the musical. Where's Kelsi?"

"Over there." Jen said, jerking her head off to her right but keeping her eyes trained on Natalie who was now smiling coyly down at Jen through her eyelashes. Pretending to be oblivious to the sexual tension mounting between the two women, Ryan peered across the room and found Kelsi laughing with Robb as he took her through a routine that looked like a cha-cha. Forgetting that he was probably interrupting something, Ryan nudged Jen.

"You're sure there's nothing going on between them?" he murmured curiously.

"Nah not anymore." Jen said vaguely. Ryan snapped his head round to look at her.

"Not… anymore?" he checked, giving her an accusing look.

"They had a little fling." Jen said, rolling her eyes. "Hey Kelsi! The A-Team's arrived!"

Kelsi spun round and upon noticing Ryan and Natalie, gave them an enthusiastic wave. With one last parting high five to Robb, Kelsi gathered her things and jogged over to meet them. As they left the building, Jen immediately fell in step with Natalie a few strides ahead, leaving Ryan and Kelsi to walk together.

"So what's the deal with… Robb." Ryan asked conversationally. Kelsi looked at him strangely.

"We had a sort of… thing. But we're just friends really…"

"No, no!" Ryans aid hurriedly, his neck suddenly feeling very hot. "I didn't mean… that's none of my business! I meant the dancing."

Kelsi's eyebrows shot up in surprise before she blushed in mortification.

"Sorry." she groaned. "I thought you meant…"

"It's ok." Ryan muttered, feeling embarrassed that she'd thought he was prying about her love life. "The wording…"

"Yeah." Kelsi stammered, looking at the ground. There was a short awkward silence.


"Yeah, well I used to visit Simon's Space with Jen all the time." Kelsi said, swiftly recovering. "And after he saw Martha and I messing around with your choreography he thought I'd be useful. It's mostly my height." she said rolling her eyes.

"So you meet up every so often for him to throw you around?" Ryan asked with a smirk.

"It sounds kinda weird when you put it like that." Kelsi chuckled. "But it helps him figure out new choreography and it's fun. Occasionally the venue put on a showcase and we get to perform. It's really informal." she added when she saw Ryan's face light up. "Just friends and family and stuff. I enjoy it though. We're learning a few ballroom moves right now."

"Was he impressed by your waltz?" Ryan asked with a knowing smile.


"You're welcome."

It was a warm evening that followed. The foursome convened in Kelsi and Jen's apartment. Jen wasn't involved in the musical but insisted on bustling around making them snacks and tea. From the way her hand seemed to linger near Natalie's whenever they were close, Kelsi had a pretty good idea why Jen was hanging around but it didn't bother her. There was lots of laughter and a lot of creative juices flowing. In fact they had worked so quickly and efficiently that they found themselves at a loss of things to do when it got to around 9pm.

"We could just call it a night." Ryan shrugged, looking through his many folders in case he'd missed something.

"Or we could go out!" Jen called from the kitchen. "You have a day off tomorrow Kels!"

"It has been a while." Kelsi sighed wistfully. "I still don't want to be too late though. If we leave really soon maybe…"

"Hey that's ok for you and Jen." Ryan protested. "You guys can get ready here! Natalie and I live miles away and…"

Natalie raised a finger, halting Ryan mid-sentence. With undoubtable flair, she pulled her hair out of it's tight bun and let it tumble down to her waist in impressive shiny waves. Next she plucked a lipstick from her back and painted her lips bright red. Replacing the lipstick in her bag and fluffing her hair out a little more she smiled at them.

"Ready." she said cheerfully. Kelsi looked to Jen to see her reaction and was not disappointed. Her friend's jaw was hanging open in amazement.

"Well I can't do that!" Ryan said pointedly.

"You could take off your hat." Kelsi shrugged. Ryan looked a bit defensive for a second then recovered.

"And when have you ever taken that advice?" he asked her with a smirk.

"We don't need to go somewhere with a dress code." Jen said with a roll of her eyes. "Stop being such a diva Ryan."

Ryan eventually gave in and allowed himself to be dragged from the apartment when Jen and Kelsi were ready. Kelsi didn't really need much adjusting. She simply threw on a pair of skinny jeans with a tanks top in heels, jazzing the outfit up with a bowler hat and a long silver necklace. Jen however had pulled out all the stops. Her outfit was simple, just a plain black dress and red doc martin boots, but it was Jen's secret weapon. It was the outfit she wore when she was trying to impress and by the way Natalie's eyes seemed to widen when she emerged from her bedroom, it was working.

Usually Jen and Kelsi frequented a quiet bar at the end of the block they lived on. However, tonight everyone was in agreement that they needed to blow off some serious steam. As usual, Jen was adamant that she knew 'the perfect place' and before long the four of them were squeezing through a crowd of tightly packed bodies as the music boomed around them. Jen and Natalie vanished almost the minute that they stepped through the door. Kelsi sighed and looked up at Ryan who arched his eyebrow in amusement. He started to ask her a question but Kelsi frowned and shook her head, pointing at her ear to show she couldn't hear due to the music. Instead he started to mime holding a drink. When she nodded gratefully he turned and began to squeeze through the crowd again. For someone with such a short stature as her, these situations were nightmarish. She did her best to move past everyone politely as possible but as Ryan began moving further and further away (he was evidently making better progress) she found that her elbows needed to be introduced, earning her some glares from her surrounding victims. As the grey beanie hat bobbed even further ahead, she tried calling on Ryan to slow him down but he obviously couldn't hear her over the music. Eventually the music quietened for a beat or two and all that was heard in the club was, embarrassingly, Kelsi's small voice shouting 'Where's the fire Evans?!'

She wanted the ground to swallow her whole but it did the trick. Ryan looked round in surprise and waded back through the crowd towards her. Without warning he grabbed her hand and pulled her gently behind him so they wouldn't be separated. Kelsi felt a jolt in her chest at the contact. She looked down and blinked dumbly at the way his hand was closed possessively round hers. For a second the reaction evoked a flutter of panic in her but she managed to recover herself. She and Ryan had been so close. More than that, they'd been in love. These gestures that they used to indulge in were bound to trigger nostalgia. She was bound to feel strange. However, when he let go she felt a brief sad ache in the pit of her stomach. She dismissed the idea that it was the loss of contact and instead considered that it was the lack of significance in the gesture. If she looked back to when she and Ryan had made their relationship official, after the Senior Musical, she remembered how her heart had been bursting with pride as she walked into the after-party hand in hand with her boyfriend. It wasn't just a sign of affection but a declaration to their friends of their new status and perhaps even a conformation to themselves. It had held such meaning. Now? It was nothing. Just a convenient way not to lose her in a crowd of people. Yes, it was certainly strange.

She felt a tap on her shoulder and faced Ryan again who was holding out a drink for her. She smiled and said thank you but Ryan frowned and mouthed 'what?'. Kelsi sighed. This was going to be a long night if they couldn't even have a conversation. It could be awkward enough trying to be normal with Ryan these days, let alone without using words. Instead she pointed to her drink and gave him the thumbs up. He grinned and nodded, giving her the OK sign. They stood in silence for a moment, sipping their drinks awkwardly. After about a minute, Kelsi caught his eye again and they both laughed at the absurdity of the situation. Kelsi was just about to try and indicate that they go outside or something when Ryan's face lit up. Without speaking, he put his palms together and let them fall apart outwards. Kelsi raised her eyebrows.

"Book?" she mouthed. Ryan nodded enthusiastically and then held up five fingers. Kelsi just stared back at him. He kept the five fingers up and stared at her as if willing her to understand. He did the book action again and then held up the five fingers. Then it clicked.

"Five words?" she asked. He replied by nodding enthusiastically and Kelsi burst into peals of laughter. Only Ryan would think playing charades in the middle of a busy club was acceptable. This was going to be an interesting night…

An hour, several hysterical games of charades and quite a few drinks later, Jen eventually found Ryan and Kelsi huddled in an alcove of the nightclub. Kelsi was clutching her sides as Ryan did… some sort of dance routine? Jen narrowed her eyes from her spot by the bar, scrutinising what he was doing. Why was Ryan Evans, someone who was supposedly a professional dancer, reinacting the famous dance scene from Napoleon Dynamite? Sort of pissed that her friends weren't with her on the dance floor, she marched over and stood beside Ryan, her hands on her hips. When he turned and saw he her jumped out of his skin, making Kelsi laugh even more.

"Napoleon Dynamite?" she mouthed over the noise. Ryan and Kelsi's elated expressions fell and she was suddenly taken aback at how disappointed they looked. Ryan started to talk to her very fast, his wide eyes pained. Jen had absolutely no idea what he was saying.

"I can't hear you." she growled impatiently, though she was quite aware that he couldn't hear either.

"You gave it away." Kelsi mouthed slowly for her. Jen frowned.

"Gave… Wait. You were playing charades?"

The pair nodded sheepishly. Jen sighed and grabbed their wrists, dragging them to the dance floor. Charades… Honestly.

The whole dance floor, including the small group of four, cheered as Queen's Don't Stop Me Know began to blare from the speakers. As soon as the beat quickened the whole crowd began to dance ecstatically. It was practically an unwritten law with this song. Ryan watched Kelsi in delight as she through her hair around, her inhibitions vanishing. He remembered a time where this crowded, social situation would have intimidated her. She would have ended up standing timidly at the side, though secretly wishing she could dance. Now she moved with the rest of them singing through her wide smile. The song ended but before Ryan could even suggest another drink, the opening riff of Footloose resounded through the room and Kelsi's eyes snapped towards him, her expression a mixture of shock and hilarity. Ryan grinned widely and began dancing along knowing that she, along with him, had been abruptly transported back to their Senior Prom. In mid-dance he felt a small hand on his arm. He found Kelsi's eyes again to find them wide and staring just above his eyeline. His hand flew to his hair and he was embarrassed to find that his hat had flown off due to his enthusiastic dancing. His weird, patchy, blondish hair had been revealed. Ryan watched nervously as Kelsi looked at him frowning curiously. Her hand left his arm and slowly went up to touch his hair and Ryan found himself sighing softly as her fingers softly felt the tresses. He was grateful for how noisy the room was. It was strange how the crowd around them seemed to be a blur, whilst they moved in slow motion. She probably only touched his hair and held his gaze for three seconds, but if felt as if they had been contained in their own private bubble for an hour while the outside world rushed around them. Ryan wasn't sure if she felt it. He was starting to wonder if it was a moment between them at all, or just an effect of the many beers he'd consumed. Either way, he held her gaze as along as he dared, until she giggled and let her hand drop. The song ended. The lights came up. The crowd groaned. Jen detached herself from Natalie, her lipstick smeared, and scowled at the DJ. The night club was closing. He was back in reality.

"What does she expect me to do? I said sorry! Did she say anything to you?"


"Ryan?! Hey!"

At the sound of his name Ryan started and looked up from his laptop. Mitch was staring at him from across the kitchen table rather irritably. Ryan reluctantly closed his laptop, hiding the essay he was working on and focused on his friend.

"Sorry. What?"

"When did you tune out?" Mitch asked dryly.


"It doesn't matter." Mitch huffed. "I'll go from the start. So I totally apologised to Rosie, like, a month ago."

Ryan nodded, remembering how Mitch had obsessed over this at the time. Rosie played bass in the band and she and Mitch had a reputation for blatantly flirting throughout their rehearsals to amuse themselves. They'd never been an exclusive couple due to Mitch's insistence that he didn't 'do' relationships. Rosie, not only a talented bassist but an exceptional dancer too, had started seeing a guy in her year at Julliard. Despite only ever admitting a casual interest in Rosie, Mitch hadn't taken the news well and for the last few weeks of the semester he had been unbearable grumpy and bitter. Rosie had bourn the brunt of this, being subject to Mitch's bad moods and snappy responses during band practises. Having had a long time to think about his actions over the summer, Mitch had come to his senses and decided to give Rosie a sincere apology for his actions.

"She accepted your apology?"

"Yeah! She was absolutely fine!" Mitch insisted, his eyes wide. "But she's still being weird. I don't get it. She's with somebody so I'm not being… you know…"


Mitch's jaw dropped in indignation at Ryan's comment.

"I was never sleazy! A bit cheeky maybe but she was just as bad… Anyway, I've been trying to just be sort of friendly but she's still giving me the cold shoulder. What does she want?! I said sorry! Anyway, I wanted to know if she'd said anything to you." Mitch sighed, looking hopefully at Ryan across the table. Ryan chewed his lip nervously for a second. Rosie had said something go him though it had just been a brief passing comment. They had been packing up after practise and Ryan had quietly asked if everything was ok between her and Mitch. Rosie had laughed softly and shrugged.

"He apologised… If you can call it an apology. Didn't exactly explain anything but I guess it's the thought that counts." she'd said with a grimace. Ryan didn't really want to press her further and had left it at that.

"What did you actually say to her?" Ryan asked. "When you apologised."

"Well we were both early to practise one day and there was this super long awkward silence." Mitch explained. "So I said 'I've been an idiot.' and she said 'Yeah you have.' and then I said 'I'm sorry' and she said 'Thanks.'. And that was it."

"Ok i think I see your problem."

"You do?!"

Ryan sighed as Mitch's eyes lit up and he leaned in eagerly to hear what Ryan considered to be quite an obvious explanation for why Rosie wasn't back to normal.

"Yeah sure you apologised. In the most… detached way possible but I guess it's the thought that counts…"

"But - "

"Then," Ryan continued as if Mitch hadn't spoken. "You didn't offer her any explanation! She has no idea why you were acting the way you were. So in her mind you were just an asshole for a bit and then said sorry because you were tired of her being mad at you. Sitting down with her and explaining what was going on in your head when you messed things up won't fix anything, but maybe she can understand you and ten really appreciate your apology. Then it won't be a formality. She'll really forgive you and you can be real friends again. Because you were best friends and that's an awful thing to lose."

There was a long silence in which Ryan stared at the kitchen table whilst Mitch drummed nervously on his knees.

"Are we still talking about me?" Mitch asked apprehensively.

"I don't think so." Ryan sighed, leaning back in his chair. He suddenly felt drained. He and Kelsi had been getting along fine but Mitch's predicament had opened his eyes to how precarious everything was. He had apologised and she had agreed to be his friend again, but was that really enough? They had never talked about what happened. Whenever they came close to talking about how they had split up the situation became unbearably awkward until someone left or changed the subject. It wasn't just the discomfort but the fact that Ryan was starting to believe that he owed her an explanation. He considered how good it would feel to finally clear the air and get some closure. He knew Kelsi could never feel for him what he felt for her. Not after everything that had happened. However, the way he saw things, they had a real opportunity to be close friends again. It seemed ridiculous to let that chance pass him by. But how would he even begin to talk to her about something like that? He didn't even know where to start! What if it made things worse…

Conscious that he'd been silent for quite a while, Ryan looked up and found Mitch looking back at him, his eyes swimming with concern.

"Dude, what's…"

Ryan's cell phone rang loudly around the apartment, cutting off the conversation and making them both jump. Ryan gave Mitch a small grimace of apology and answered it.

"Hey Kels."

"Hey! Look I just realised, you left your sweater here from the other night. Do you need it or shall I just hang onto it?"

Ryan paused for a millisecond then seized his chance.

"Uh, actually, I can come round and get it. Maybe we could do some work on the musical." he suggested, hoping his voice didn't sound too nervous.

"Oh… I don't think…"

"Or we can just hang out." Ryan said hurriedly. "We've done a lot this week."

"No it's not that. It's just… Martha's here. She's visiting this week."

Ryan's stomach plummeted. He was very fond of Martha and missed her but she hadn't been so quick to forgive him for the way his and Kelsi's relationship had ended. He wasn't surprised. The only people that had seen first hand what Kelsi had been through were Sharpay and Martha. Sharpay was his sister. Martha had no such tie to him and had made it very clear at their last meeting that he wasn't forgiven.

"Oh… ok. Well I'll see you next week then." he said resignedly.

"Sure." Kelsi replied softly. "Sorry Ryan…"

"It's fine. You guys have fun."

Ryan hung up the phone but instantly became lost in his thoughts. Martha obviously had no interest in seeing him, but if anyone could help him work out how to speak to Kelsi, it was her. Maybe he could give her his side of the story at the same time... Most likely scenario was that it wouldn't change her feelings at all, if she even agreed to see him but Ryan missed her. He had always seen himself and Martha as kindred spirits and it was strange to find her so hostile to him. He was willing to try anything at any rate and resolved to text her, telling her where and when they could meet and leaving it up to her whether she showed or not. Maybe if he was lucky, he'd win back two friends.

I'm giving you half an hour of my time Ryan. I'm supposed to be on vacation."

Martha fell into the chair opposite him and stared moodily at him from under her hair.

Ryan wasted no time and launched into his explanation of events. He began from when they first moved to New York then continued on to after Christmas when everything had started to change, to seeing her again two years later and finally where he was now. He left out the revelation that he still had feelings for her. That was overly complicated for his own brain, let alone anyone else's.

When he finished he saw Martha push something towards him across the table. Glancing down he saw a solitary tissue lying there. Only then did he notice that a couple of tears were trickling down his cheeks. He hastily took the tissue and dabbed his eyes, hoping no one else in the cafe could see. He didn't dare look up at Martha. Apart from the fact he was in love with Kelsi, he had purposely left all other details in his account, including his own selfish thoughts at the time. He suddenly doubted that this would make Martha want to help him. Surely this had made it worse. Surely she would be halfway to the door by now...

Unable to stand the silence any longer Ryan looked up, blinking the moisture in his eyes away. Martha was looking back at him with an odd expression. It wasn't the hatred that he had expected, but it wasn't sympathy either. Her head as cocked to the side curiously and a small frown creased her forehead.

"That was very… honest." she said calculatedly.

Ryan didn't quite know how to answer that so he just looked back at her steadily.

"I sort of expected you to give me a ton of excuses and then expect me to tell you everything was fine. " Martha said slowly.

"Trust me." Ryan snorted. "I know everything's not fine."

"You seem a bit… too upset." Martha said, the frown returning. She stared steadily at Ryan and he was given a disconcerting feeling that she was trying to read his mind. "Ryan… You don't still…"

"I know we can't be together." Ryan cut in, dodging the question he was sure Martha was going to ask. "I messed it up too much and in any case she deserves better." he said hurriedly. "But for some insane reason she's agreed to be friends with me and I… I just need to sort this out and get some closure so it's not looming over us. She deserves that much."

"What do you want from me Ryan?" Martha asked in an even voice.

"You know both of us so well." Ryan said apprehensively. "And you were there for Kelsi when everything happened. I thought maybe you could tell me if it's a good idea to speak to her about this or not. And how I should sort of… go about it."

Martha considered the man before her carefully. Her eyes roamed over the strange patchy blonde hair that was sticking out from under his hat. It almost made her want to giggle knowing how horrifying that would have been for Ryan in high school. She could almost see his look of shock as he removed a towel to see the result. He was right. She did know him well. They had always been kindred spirits through their love of dance, their eagerness to fit in and outgoing personalities. There was also the fact that they had both been there for each other in high school during their senior year when they had both harboured crushes. It felt a little strange how things had turned out. Martha had always expected Ryan and Kelsi to get together and to last. She never even thought she'd get a chance with Jason, let alone find herself in a relationship with him three years after high school.

"You really changed you know." Martha said quickly, surprised to find her voice shaking a little.

Ryan looked her sombrely in the eye and nodded.

"You were…"

"I know -"

"You were an asshole Ryan. I hated you, so what Kelsi felt I have no idea. Actually, no. I do have an idea because I was there."

Ryan flinched and looked away and Martha felt a small pang of guilt. She was glad she had gotten that out of her system. It was the truth after all. Part of her had hated Ryan at the time. However, the cocky, careless Ryan that she had seen in her mind from when she had been supporting Kelsi didn't seem to be in front of her. All she could see was one of her best friends from high school, admitting what he'd done wrong and trying to do anything in his power to make it right.

"I understand if you don't want to help." Ryan mumbled.

"I'd hardly come here just to yell at you."

"That would be understandable too."

Martha's mouth twitched at that.

"Ryan, you must know as well as I do that Kelsi's a lot different than how she was two years ago. She's the same amazing person and she finally has the confidence to let people see that most of the time."

She saw Ryan's eyes light up and his mouth fall open a little, as if he couldn't quite believe she was actually talking to him.

"But she's not so afraid of speaking her mind now. In fact she can be kind of frank. So don't beat around the bush Evans."

"Okay." Ryan said promptly, his attention rapt.

"Be as honest as you were with me." Martha added, looking at him sternly. "She knows you better than anyone, even after two years. She'll know if you're leaving something out."

"I wouldn't…"

"And last of all…"

Martha took a deep breath and for a millisecond considered not telling him. In the end she crossed her fingers and hoped it would help rather than harm the situation.

"The other day she… she referred to you as 'one of her best friends'."

Ryan seemed to freeze in front of her. In a way that was almost comical, his mouth started to seem strained at the corners, as if he was trying not to smile.

"Oh." he said in a forcibly grave tone. Martha couldn't contain herself and let out a splutter of laughter.

"Jeez Ryan you're allowed to smile."

Ryan let out a small laugh and allowed a grin to spread across his face.

"What I mean is," Martha said as she composed herself. "Respect that. For whatever reason, she trusts you. Don't mess this up. Just tell her what happened. If she doesn't like it then…"

"Then she has every right to never talk to me again." Ryan said curtly. Martha nodded then glanced at her watch and back at Ryan.

"I've gotta go. I booked a class…"

"Of course." Ryan said nodding in an understanding way, though Martha could see that forced polite smile on his face again. She suddenly felt a flutter of longing for her old friend. The one who had performed scarily accurate impersonations of Sharpay for her entertainment. The one who had lifted her into the air after the baseball game at lava springs, suddenly erasing almost half her insecurities about her size. The one who had convinced her not to give up on the guy she was now so happy with. One of the things that had drawn Martha to Ryan in the first place was his motivation. When he set his sights on something, he went after it with everything he had. In high school, it had always been to choreograph the perfect show, and he had his Julliard Scholarship to show for it. Doubtless it was partly this quality that had put him down the wrong path in the first place but now his main priority seemed to be redeeming himself. And she knew him well enough to know he meant it. Before Martha knew it, she was clearing her throat to speak.

"Kelsi, Zeke and I are going out tomorrow night. Why don't you join us?"

Ryan stared at her.

"You… Really?"

"Well we're going to an open mic bar and Zeke is… Well his singing hasn't improved much since East High. We could use a tenor."

Slowly, surely, a grin halfway between bemusement and excitement lit up Ryan's face.

"I'd really like that."