Disclaimer: In the first chapter
The occupied car could hear the sweet voice of Sharpay Evans as she sat in the passenger's seat of Zeke's car singing softly to ease Derek into what would be a short nap from their current location to Zeke's apartment.
Sweet dreams be yours dear,
If dreams there be
Sweet dreams to carry you close to me.
I wish they may and I wish they might
Now goodnight, my someone, goodnight.
Sharpay repeated the words 'goodnight' a few more times as she looked behind her to see Derek's eyes droop before shutting completely. Turning back Sharpay smiled, "I think he's asleep."
"Really?" Zeke quickly looked over his shoulder to see if Derek was sleeping before turning his attention back to the road. "Yeah you're right," he whispered, "I thought he would've tried staying up to hear you sing a little more. You have a really amazing voice by the way."
"Thanks and I usually sing Goodnight, my someone to my younger cousins when they try falling asleep. It works with them so I thought I'd give it a try with Derek." She said with a smile on her face as she looked down at her hands. "I had a lot of fun today. Thank you Zeke."
"What are you thanking me for? It was a pleasure having you and I know that Derek enjoyed today just as much… Probably more than he would have if it were just me and him." He smirked.
"Yeah well I had a lot of fun too. So thank you for distracting me for the day…" She said before looking out the window of the car watching as the haze of dark blue and lush clouds effectively darkening the sky with only the street lamps and the bright crescent moon to light their way.
They fell into a comfortable silence. Both enjoying the others company without the need for small talk. Sharpay thought it was weird that she could feel so comfortable sitting next to Zeke without talking. Whenever she was with Dan there always seemed to be the lingering need to say something, anything. But with Zeke she was perfectly content in the silence. She guessed it was because they had some history together before she became a "star". With him she could be the somewhat old Sharpay. Not the in school, screaming, mean, ice queen Sharpay, but the sweet and caring one that she reserved only for her family; and the occasional schoolmate. He was the man she once ran to because he made the best desert for her, the man she trusted to go to prom with. It was comforting, familiar.
"Want to come over?" Zeke asked, breaking the silence. When he didn't receive an answer he quickly looked and saw her conflicted features. He realized that he might have been a little too forward, knowing that she had a boyfriend and should probably be getting back to him. "Or I could drop you off if that's what you'd prefer?"
A minute had pass and she had yet to answer him. Zeke was starting to wonder if she had even heard him, but then dismissed the thought. "I mean I know you have Danny and you guys did just move back to New York like four months ago. So you might want to go home and be with him." He rambled, "but I know Derek would be mad at himself if he didn't get to say goodbye to you a– and I wouldn't mind a little adult company, but completely your choice. I mean, yeah, you could see my apar–"
"Zeke! I'd love to see your home," she laughed, ending his nervous ramble. "Dan has practice today anyways so he's going to be a little longer before getting back to the house, so I could do for the company as well."
"Oh, well that's…" He cleared his throat, "that's great… Cause we're here." He stated before nodding his head so she'd turn around to see his apartment.
Sharpay turned in her seat to see a small apartment building, red bricked with black balconies. Before she could move her hand to open her door she saw it open, Zeke standing on the sidewalk offering her his hand. She hadn't even realized that he had gotten out of the car, but all thoughts were pushed aside as she noted his chivalry.
"It's not much, but it's home." He said while closing her door.
"I hadn't even realized an apartment this small and lovely could survive New York." She said, still exasperated by his apartment building.
Zeke laughed, she'd obviously not seem some of the other building in New York to think his tiny apartment was lovely. "I'll get Derek and then we'll go up, yeah?" At her nod Zeke opened the backseat door to carefully lift Derek into his arms before he and Sharpay walked into his apartment.
"Good–" Derek yawned, "–night"
"Night, Derek." Said Zeke, flipping the light switch off and closing the door softly before heading into the kitchen/living/dining room.
Zeke Baylor's apartment wasn't anywhere near as nice as Troy and Gabriella's mansion or Chad and Taylor's house for that matter. He had a small 2-bedroom apartment that left little legroom. When he first moved to New York he bought the cheapest 2-bedroom apartment he could find; considering he had yet to have a well paying job. Nevertheless, he made sure it had two separate bedrooms for times such as today. Zeke knew he'd be asked to babysit from time to time by his friends, so in his mind it was just easier to buy an apartment with two bedrooms instead of a pull out couch that he'd have to fix every time someone stayed for the night; and that was quite a lot of times.
Aside from the two bedrooms the rest of his home was small. Every other house necessity was squashed together in one large room. The kitchen was large enough for him to make home cooked meals for family and friend dinners, however the dinning room, also consisting of the living room, was not as fortunate. He had enough room for only one four person round table in the middle and a short coffee table in front of his 5"6 long couch. However, his whole apartment was going to change with the new income he started making with his head chef position at Cajun Kaos.
Zeke was coming into a lot more money than he had first expected, but he couldn't complain because now he was able to start paying off all his debts; bank loans for his schooling and apartment. And at the rate he was going he was looking at paying a seven-year credit debt in a matter of months. Only after his balance was cleared would he start looking for a more… Open living area where he could talk to friends, such as Sharpay, without being in three rooms at once.
"He's asleep?" Asked Sharpay.
"Any minute now he should be down and out." Smirked Zeke. "Do you want coffee or tea?"
"Tea, please." She said gratefully.
Sharpay couldn't stop looking around. His home was quaint, from the color of the walls to his antique furniture. When she first arrived at his home she hadn't known what to expect, maybe some basketball memoirs or a large kitchen for cooking, but never had she imagined a small, beautifully furnished apartment. Everything seemed to be an antique of sorts, the small brown leather couch, wooden coffee table with flower engravings and an identical wooden bookshelf that reached the ceiling along with a moderately large television in the living room. A small circular wooden table, flower engravings– much like the coffee table and bookshelf –circling the edge of the table and it's legs, with four different chairs, velvet and maroon cushioning, in the dining room that attached itself to the only modern looking assortment in his apartment; the small, yet perfectly fit kitchen. She had never thought of Zeke as the old fashion kind of man, but looking at it now she couldn't think of anything better for him.
"Thank you," said Sharpay as he set her cup of tea in front of her. "You have a lovely apartment Zeke." He looked at her quizzically, "No, I mean it. I love the antique's you've put in here. They're very… you."
Zeke laughed, had she just said he looked old in a nice way? "Thanks, everything antique-y, basically anything wooden, were my parent's. They couldn't take it with them when they moved so I took it cause I couldn't really afford anything at the time. But I think I'm going to sell them when I move."
"I'll take them!" She exclaimed before she could think anything through. "I mean… If you plan on selling them I'd be more then happy to pay for them."
"Zeke, they're beautiful!"
"Yeah, I know that. But I mean… You're rich. Why would you want to buy some rundown furniture when you could go to an actual antique store for something of better quality?" Zeke asked, genuinely concerned.
"I may have money, but I don't blow it on random furniture I'm somewhat happy about. What you have here is real, it's breathtaking and personally I have no idea why you'd even want to get ride of it." She answered sincerely; gripping her mug in her hand to bring the cup up to her rose colored lips before taking a tentative sip as to not burn her throat.
'Breathtaking', really? Sharpay surprised Zeke yet again. He could see that she was passionate about her statement; she really believed his parent's old neglected furniture was amazing. I have got to tell my mom that someone else loves them! He smiled at her, "Sorry Sharpay, but it was just brought to my attention that I shouldn't get rid of my parent's beloved furniture, so I'm going to have to take back my selling proposal to you." He said mockingly.
Sharpay just smiled before growing braver and swallowing more of her still hot tea. "So mister Cajun Kaos chef, tell me, what's new in your life. We have eight years to catch up on."
"God, where to start… Well, after a few wasted years in University I was finally persuaded to go to culinary school… After four years I finally got my degree for cooking, but only got a legit job a year later. One year at Joe's Cooking Extravaganza–" Sharpay burst out laughing, before quickly covering her lips with her delicate ivory fingers, realizing Derek was sleeping in the adjacent room. Zeke snickered, "– Believe me I know how it sounds, but the place is a genuine four star restaurant… Anyway, after a year at Joe's the head chef, Ben, from Cajun Kaos offered me an apprentice job. Ben was retiring and thought I had potential, so he taught me a few more tricks and long story short now he's gone and I'm the new head chef."
"Wow, you did really well for yourself! I mean how many people can say they worked at only one other four star restaurant before becoming head chef at New York City's hottest, five star restaurant? The name of your first job is quite… interesting, but considering where it lead you, you ought to give thanks to the person who hired you at Joe's Cooking Extravaganza." Said the petit blonde before going into another laughing fit at the mention of the restaurant's amusing name.
Zeke couldn't contain his own laughter as he looked at his guest. Sharpay had thrown her head back– not able to contain her outburst of laughter– chest heaving upwards, exposing her long ivory neck. He could see her laugh lines, the twinkle in her eye as she looked back at him. It was then that he wished he could forever capture this moment. The moment where there was nothing else in the world that mattered except them; no boyfriend at practice, no nephew sleeping in the adjacent room, only Sharpay and Zeke, two friends relishing in the company of one another. But the laughter slowly died down, the world came back into view and the two just sat there, sipping their beverages while trying to regain their breath.
"Ha! Well," Zeke chuckled, "now that you know about my life. Please indulge me in yours."
"Well," she giggled, trying to regain her composure, "my jobs haven't been as extravagant as yours, but I did well for myself. Three years of schooling for my acting, singing, and dancing degrees, then it was off to Hollywood. But as you can tell, I did not become a big time movie star, because…" She took a deep breath, "well I'm not that good." She stated, as if she were repeating someone else's words. "But it was for the better because after almost quitting I got the lead role in the theatrical performance of The Goodbye Girl. After that my future was set!" She exclaimed happily.
"You lived in California?"
"Yeah, for… Roughly five years." She nodded, before finishing her tea.
"Here, let me put you some more." Zeke courteously said while taking her mug.
"So you lived in California for the better part of five years and along the way you met Dan. How long have you two been together?" Zeke questioned rather detached from the subject, but knew that he had to know.
"Oh," the blonde was equally uncomfortable with the subject change. Not that she didn't want to talk about the man she was dating, but she felt dirty talking about him with Zeke. As if Dan was a snake in Sharpay and Zeke's friendship, poisoning their relationship. "We met while we were in California, actually we met at a club." The blonde looked down at the table; spotting a stain, just staring, as if it were the most interesting blemish she'd ever seen before she let out a husky chuckle. "Funny story actually. I was at The Five of Spades – that's the club – when he came up to me and introduced himself. I– at the time being very anti-athletics –hadn't responded to his name, as other women would have, which led to his bewilderment and a two years long relationship."
Zeke smiled. Despite his unknown feelings towards Sharpay's boyfriend, Zeke knew that she cared deeply for him. And knowing that there was someone, even if that someone was Danny, making her happy made him happy. "I'm happy for you Sharpay. I hope you two are happy together." He said before placing her second cup of tea in front of her and placing his hand over hers, rubbing circles unconsciously over her palm.
Sharpay gripped his hand. It felt so reassuring, so safe and memorable. She squeezed his hand once more before slipping it out of his grip to place her long fingers over the warm mug and walking over to his small couch. Zeke soon followed her with his own mug in his large calloused hands. "So now that you know about my relationship, what about you? Any women for the great Zeke Baylor?" She said raising her perfectly trimmed eyebrow and sipping her warm drink.
"I dated a few women… Only three serious relationships that all seemed to go down the drain and one recent break-up that would have turned serious." He stated before cringing at the thought of Natasha and her many 'friends'.
"Ou, that's doesn't sound too good, go on." She said rather giddily at the aspect of learning the nitty-gritty of Zeke's recent break-up.
"Well my ex-girlfriend, Natasha–"
"Natasha's are never good. Go on." Waving her hand for his continuation.
"Well, Natasha was really nice, sweet, hot–"
"And there is your first mistake!"
"Are you going to let me finish?" Zeke questioned playfully, amused at her interjectorily commentary. Sharpay brought her fingers up to her lips mimicking a zipper closing her lips and locking it before throwing away the imaginary key. Zeke laughed, "Well, she was also very popular, with particularly everyone, other than Chad. She introduced me to her many 'friends', which were mostly men. I'm disappointed to say that only after becoming somewhat friends with her 'friends' and already being four months into the relationship I found out that she cheated on me… A lot… With all her 'friends'… All her 'friends' that I became friends with."
Sharpay's feature's softened. She new what it was like to feel betrayed, maybe not by a lover, but she still knew that it hurt. Reaching over she placed her palm over his thigh, squeezing it reassuringly.
"I'm fine, don't worry about it." Zeke stated, a little too dismiss ably.
"Zeke, I know how it feels. You can't lie to someone who's also gone through red, hot, blood boiling betrayal. This may sound clichéd, but it does get better. And yours was just a girlfriend. Soon you'll find your soul mate and you'll thank Natasha for giving you the chance to find your true love." Said the blonde, eyes glazing into his own chocolate orbs, searching for his understanding.
"Who betrayed yo–" Zeke was swiftly cut off by the sharp sound of a cell phone ringing.
"Oh shoot! Hold on one moment." Sharpay said raising her index finger for him to stay silent. "Hello? Hey! Yeah… Oh, yeah O.K. Sure, I'll be right over, I'm just with an old friend, but I should get there in twenty minutes the latest. That all right Jim? O.K. perfect, I'll see you in a bit, bye." She said before snapping her phone shut and putting it into her purse. "I'm so sorry Zeke, but turns out Dan's baseball team went out for drinks after their practice and Dan's a little worse for wear. So I have to go get him."
"Do you need me to come and help?" Zeke asked, trying to buy even the slightest amount of time to spend with Sharpay.
"You're sweet Zeke, but you have Derek and anyways Jim– Dan's boss –said he'd help me." She said before getting up, walking the few steps to the dinning table to recover her jacket. "I had a really great time with you today Zeke… And Derek! You'll tell him for me wont you?"
"Of course." The two got into their first uncomfortable silence since their day together began. Neither knowing how to end their wonderful day. "Uhm… I was, uh, just uh… I was just wondering if you wanted to… Uh, go for coffee sometime or something like that?"
The petit blonde's features lit. Unknown to her why her smile brightened and a radiant glow poured through her pores at the thought of seeing Zeke again. "I'd love that. Here let me give you my number." She quickly took out her pen and notepad writing quickly on the paper. "Here, call me when you're free and we'll go for coffee or something." She smiled.
Zeke took the paper from her and moved towards his door, opening it for her. "I'll defiantly call you."
"Good. Bye Zeke." She said before reaching up on her tiptoes, affectively surprising him by giving him a small kiss on his cheek before turning and heading down the stairs of his an apartment, intending on catching a taxicab outside.
After a few moments of just standing statuesque right outside his door, Zeke turned, walked into his apartment and locked the door before slumping on his couch. Leaving him to memorize her cell phone number: (212) 779-0978.
So there's the next chapter. Question's, comment's appreciated.
Just so my HSM 'Fistful of Love' followers know, I have recently started writing another fanfic for another TV show, it will not interfere with this story (I have a system). However, I have also just started school, that WILL MOST PROBABLY interfere with my writing.