Gabriella Montez was excited about today. She and Ryan Evans had been assigned as lab partners in AP Biology and he was coming over to her house to study. He had offered to use his house, but Gabriella didn't think that Sharpay would allow them to get much studying done. Sharpay was a very needy and interfering person. Considering this, Ryan readily agreed and he was now on his way-she hoped-to her house. Why should this be cause for excitement, you ask? Gabriella had been nursing a crush on Ryan since they came back from Lava Springs this past summer. He had transformed into an independent, confident, normal guy. He joined the baseball team this year and opted to take a lesser role in the musical in order to attend practices for both. This meant that Troy Bolton would now be first choice for male lead which suited Sharpay just fine, and Gabriella. Troy had some things to figure out, but Gabriella was accustomed to having to say Goodbye and it was only a matter of time before she'd have to say it him too. So she did.
Gabriella Montez began her Senior year as a single lady and it looked like she would be ending it as one. Ryan didn't seemed perfectly happy living in the Friend Zone. All the better, she noted, one less person to say goodbye to.
Ms. Montez was in the kitchen cooking tamales for their dinner and aroma of well-seasoned meats filled the house along with the festive holiday music that blared from the kitchen stereo. Gabriella came down from her bedroom to busy herself and take her mind off of Ryan Evans. Her offer to help was accepted by Ms. Montez and so Gabriella began mixing the cornmeal into a paste that would be later filled with delicious shredded meats and other various fillings.
As her mother moved about the kitchen she danced to the music. Gabriella enjoyed watching her mom dance and knew that her natural rhythm came from her. Gabriella would normally dance with her, but tonight she only sang along. The doorbell rang and Gabriella remembered who it was that would be on the other side of that door. After wiping her hands on a dish towel, she sprang for the door and opened it with a genuine smile. "Hi, Ryan."
Ryan had his hands in the pockets of his jacket and a wool-lined aviator hat on his head. The wind seemed to be blowing pretty hard so Gabriella stepped back quickly to let him in from the cold. A swift breeze blew in just as she was closing the door and she felt her skirt ruffle, then a chill run down her back. She shivered involunarily. "Hi, Gaby."
Ryan had taken off his jacket and was looking around for a place to put it. She showed him to the coat closet where he hung up his jacket and tossed his hat into a corner. His hair, Gabriella noticed, seemed to fall back into place after the haphazard removing of the hat. His hair was perfect and she wanted to run her hands through it, force it to rebel.
"The house smells good. Is your mom cooking?"
"Hmm? Oh, yes. We're having tamales for dinner."
Ryan followed the aroma into the kitchen where Ms. Montez was still dancing and singing. She was doing the Salsa when she turned and saw their guest. "Ryan, it's good to see you," she greeted him cheerfully.
"Hi, Ms. Montez."
"We're going to study in the living room, Mom."
"Okay, I'll keep the music down."
Gabriella and Ryan walked into the room adjacent to the kitchen, separated only by a wide arch, where there were two couches, a coffee table and a television. On the table were gingerbread cookies and a biology textbook with papers sticking out of the pages. They sat on the couch nearest the table and got to work. About an hour later, as they were working on individual questions from the homework, Ryan looked toward the kitchen with a frown on his face. Gabriella looked up at him, then toward the kitchen.
"Is the music too loud?""No, it's just... have all the songs been in Spanish?"
Gabriella listened to the song and recognized it right away. She laughed. "You haven't heard this song before?"
Ryan shook his head No.
"It's 'Feliz Navidad'. The only Spanish song English stations play at Christmas."
"Why? What does it say?"
Gabriella smiled and translated the lyrics of the chorus for him. "Feliz Navidad: Merry Christmas. "Prospero ano y felicidad: Have a happy and prosperous New Year. More or less. Didn't you take Spanish?"
"No, I took French."
"Beause there's a plethera of French-speaking people in New Mexico?" Gabriella said this with sarcastic humour.
Ryan feigned an insulted expression. "It just so happens that both 'The Phantom of the Opera' and 'Les Miserable' are based in France. I have to perfect the language if I want to do justice to the characters."
"Oh good. I was hoping there would be a practical, everyday, application for it," she teased.
"Not everyone takes life so seriously, Miss Montez," Ryan teased back. He tickled Gabriella's waist causing her to squirm further back into the edge of the couch.
Ryan was leaning over her now, bright blue eyes twinkling over her, and she forgot where she was for a moment, lost in them. He seemed to realize that he was staring too, and so Ryan leaned back and picked up his pencil from the table. "Let's get back to work, shall we?"
Gabriella shook her head and blinked rapidly, curls flying about as she did so, trying to clear her mind. "Yeah..."
"Gabriella," Ms. Montez called out from the kitchen, "is Ryan staying for dinner?"
Gabriella sent an inquiring glance to Ryan. He smiled at her and said cheerfully, "I've never had tamales before."
She smiled back, glad that he wasn't too uncomfortable after what had just passed between them, whatever it was.
"Yes. He's staying."