In other news, East High wildcat coach, Jack Bolton was killed yesterday in a tragic car accident. A drunk driver is suspected to have been involved. The funeral will be held Sunday at 2:00 p.m. at Hillside Christian Church. A memorial service will be held for all students and faculty on Monday at East High.
Memorial Service, Monday, East High.
I searched for Troy amongst the crowd, but he was nowhere to be found. He had left halfway through the service. My first instinct had been to follow him but I realized he might want some time for himself.
“Guys, have any of you seen Troy?” I ask as I walk up to my group of friends.
“No, he ran away before any of us could catch him,” Chad tells me and the others nod their heads in agreement.
“Oh, thanks,” I say as I excuse myself to continue looking for him.
I found him, leaning against the rail, looking defeated and well, completely exhausted. I had no doubt that he truly was worn-out. These last few days hadn’t been easy especially for Troy.
I had tried my best to be there for him but being Troy, he refuse to let me in. He hardly tolerated my comforting and I had a feeling that he had yet to let himself truly grieve, forcing himself to remain strong for his mother.
I knew he was hurting; I could see it in his posture, the ways he flinched when someone hugged or touched him, but more obvious was the haunted look in his eyes. The look revealing the scared young boy who had lost is hero. Troy needed me; he wouldn’t ever admit it, but the tightness of his grip on my hand during the funeral told me more than words ever could.
“I thought I might find you here,” I say trying to get his attention.
He either didn’t notice my presence or he was choosing to ignore it. So, I simply took his hand in mine, offering what little comfort I could. The only comfort he’d seemed to want.
“I already miss him,” He sighed heavily.
“I know,” I replied.
“You don’t have to be up here with me. I’m okay, you can go; I’ll be fine,” he tried to reassure me, although he had yet to look at me.
“I want to be here, Troy…. with you. Are you really okay?” I hesitantly ask, although already knowing fully well what his answer will be.
“I told you already that I’m fine,” He answered sharply.
‘Yeah, right’ I thought to myself. “Really?” I push; somebody had to or Troy would never truly face the reality of his father’s death.
“Gabi, I told I’m okay! Just leave it!” He told me his outburst indicating my suspicions.
“No, I’m not to leave it, Troy. You are not okay.” I said firmly, “somebody whose father just died is never ‘just fine’.”
“Well, you are wrong because I’m really just fine.” The quiet, shaky tone in which he spike told me he was close to the edge.
“God, Troy, You don’t…you know, why do I even bother?” I say, throwing my arms up in the air as I begin to walk away. When I felt his gentle grip on my arm, I knew that Troy had reached his limit.
“Please don’t leave.” he whispers brokenly.
I slowly turn around not quite prepared for the sight in front of me: Troy Bolton, Wildcat superstar, with tears sparkling in his clear blue eyes.
“I need you,” he manages before a sob tears in his throat. He begins to slide the railing, head in hands as he finally breaks down. My arms are immediately around him and I feel my shirt become wet with his salty tears. “You can’t leave me.” He stutters through his sobs and I tighten my hold.
“Troy, I will never leave you.” This only seems to cause him to cry harder as his shoulders continue to shake with long-withheld sobs. I whisper soft reassurances into his hair, tears of my own falling.
I don’t know how long we stayed like this, but eventually his sobs quieted, turning into shaking gasps. When he finally lifts his head from its resting place. He mumbles, “I’m sorry.”
“You have nothing to be sorry for, babe.” I reassure him.
“But I…I pushed you away, flat out refused to let you help me.”
“Troy, your father died. That entitles you to a get-of-jail free card on the stubborn refusal to open up.”
“Still...” he continues
“Troy, I forgive you,” I move on to a new subject, hoping he would understand the argument was over, “You know, we should probably head back down. Everyone is worried about you.”
“Do we have to? Can we stay like this for just awhile longer? I’m not ready to face everybody quite yet.” He says softly.
“Alright, but we have to go back sometime.”
“Yeah, I know, but right now I want to be here with you.” And despite the day’s events, he smiles, resting his head on my shoulder and closing his eyes.
“Me, too,” I tell him as I begin to run my hands softly through his hair. I can feel him begin to relax; I’m sure sleep is not far behind. However, the pleasant silence that had fallen over us was son broken by a booming voice belonging to none other than Chad Danforth.
“ I found them” Chad calls down to the others. Several footsteps rush up the stairs soon after. Troy lifts his head and we move to stand, our fingers instantly locking.
Chad moves forward and puts a hand on Troy’s shoulder and asks, “You okay, man?”
“No”, Troy answers honestly “but I will be.”
“Good,” Chad says and our hands separate briefly as he embraces Troy in “manly” hug.
“We brought refreshments,” Taylor speaks up for the first time since everyone arrived.
“Now, Troy I know these are no where near as good as your mom’s cookies, but Zeke and I think you’ll like them.” Sharpay says while giving Troy a genuine smile.
“I’m sure they’re great. Thanks, guys.” Troy thanks them sincerely.
“And we weren’t really sure what you wanted to drink…” Ryan begins
“So we brought you choices.” Jason finished, holding up an assortment of drinks.
“Thanks” he says once again.
After snacks and drinks were passed amongst the group, Chad stands up lifting his cup, “I propose a toast to Jack Bolton; may we never forget him.”
Just as everyone is about to drink, Troy stands up, “And I propose a toast to my friends for being the best friends a guy could ever have. I love you all” He says his eyes looking directly at me.
My eyes instantly fill with tears and I smile. Everyone takes a drink and our little party begins. Everybody shares their favorite memories of Mr.Bolton. Memories that bring laughter, smiles, even tears. Troy seems more at ease, like that burden had been lifted or at least shared. I know it will be awhile before things return to normal. It may never be the same as it was before but for some reason I’m okay with that because maybe, just maybe, it will be for the best.