[hs musical] waltz
On Thursday, when Ryan shuts his locker doorâ€”with one last glance into his Bedazzled mirror to check that his lip gloss screams â€œkissably soft!â€ and not â€œhooker!â€â€”Chad is waiting behind it like some creepy stalker, staring at him intensely, with crazy jock eyes.Â And after jumping back to plaster himself against the wall of lockers, Ryan manages to get his heart rate under control enough to say:
Chad says, urgent, â€œI need to talk to you.â€
Ryan frowns.Â â€œWhatâ€™s wrong?â€ he asks, and resists the urge to flick one of thatâ€™s ridicutarded corkscrew girlcurls out of Chadâ€™s face.Â It looks sagging and lifeless, like Chadâ€™s suddenly discovered conditioner but started using the wrong kind.Â â€œEven your hair looks distressed.â€
â€œI need a favor,â€ Chad says, flushing deeply.
Scowling, Ryan says, â€œI donâ€™t care what Rory told youâ€”I donâ€™t do that with everybody.â€
Looking confused, Chad says, â€œWhoâ€™s Rory?â€
â€œNobody!â€ Ryan yelps, and vows to have Sharpay arrange a bitch-choking this afternoon; he canâ€™t have this wretched reputation dragging him down any longer.Â Itâ€™s starting to make him paranoid.Â â€œWhat did you need help with?â€ he asks, since itâ€™s obvious Chad doesnâ€™t want a handjob behind the old Romeo and Juliet sets.
And glancing around the hallway, Chad leans in to whisper something in Ryanâ€™s ear.
â€œWow,â€ Ryan says, a week later, feeling as demoralized as Chadâ€™s hair.Â â€œYou really donâ€™t dance.â€
â€œShut up,â€ Chad mutters, gasping.Â â€œCramp, cramp, cramp.â€
â€œWeâ€™re not even doing ballet,â€ Ryan says in disgust, glaring down at where Chad is writhing (unattractively) on the floor of the Ryanâ€™s in-house dance studio.Â Itâ€™s top quality, blond-wood, hand-jointed, with gleaming mirrors all up and down the walls so at any time, Ryan can discreetly check that his hat is cocked just-so, and that his too-casual t-shirt falls at the perfect jut of his hip.Â Itâ€™s complicated being Ryan Evans, but the effort is worth it.Â â€œYou canâ€™t be cramping.â€
â€œIâ€™m cramping,â€ Chad moans, clutching at his hamstring.
â€œWeâ€™re waltzing,â€ Ryan sighs.Â â€œGod, Iâ€™ll be backâ€”I need a protein shake for this.â€
Actually, he ends up needing two protein shakes, one of which is a sickly-green color from the three tablespoons of powdered spirulina he adds when he watches Chad limp into the kitchen, sweaty and whining.Â He wishes, abstractly, that Sharpayâ€™s personal trainer wasnâ€™t there that day so he could engage her in an afternoon of pore-cleansing bikram yoga, but he figures that sheâ€”as anybody shouldâ€”deserves to be able to do her pilates in peace, undisturbed by the outside world.
â€œIs there any reason your usual hopping up and down wonâ€™t work for the prom?â€ Ryan asks, rubbing an ice cube of Ty Nant over his cheek.Â This is all extremely trying.
Glaring, Chad says, â€œI want to impress my date, okay?â€ and reaches for the fridge handleâ€”presumably for waterâ€”only to crunch three fingers in the process.
Ryan sighs and adds another scoop of spirulina to the blender.
At the end of the first abortive afternoon of lessons, Ryan feels stressed to his very limits, and so heâ€™s lying flat on a yoga mat, reaching his fingertips down into the center of the Earth to re-negotiate the boundaries of his existence with the spiritual forces when Chad thumps into the studioâ€”disturbing the murmur of Tibetan monks over the surround-sound system.
â€œSo what do you thinkâ€”you think you can fix me in like, three weeks?â€ Chad asks.
â€œYouâ€™re ruining my concentration,â€ Ryan complains, and adds, â€œPlus, prom is in â€˜like,â€™ four weeks.â€
â€œI gotta have some time to put some signature moves in,â€ Chad explains, as if this is obvious or as if he actually has signature moves other than falling down and injuring his dance partner.Â Ryan sighs, long-suffering, and listens as Chad lies down next to him, flat on the cool wooden floorsâ€”he doesnâ€™t even complain about Chadâ€™s sweat degrading the high-gloss wax.
â€œSo what are you doing, anyway?â€ Chad asks the ceiling.
â€œIâ€™m centering myself,â€ Ryan explains.Â He stretches out his fingers and toes and all his muscles, expands inside his skin, and feels like heâ€™s lengthening, reshapingâ€”all the oxygen rushing through him like a stage high.Â â€œBecoming one with the Earth.Â Reaching down inside of it.â€
Chadâ€™s silent for a while before he says, â€œBut youâ€™re not moving.â€
â€œYou donâ€™t have to move to move,â€ Ryan says, not-so-patiently.Â â€œNow either get out or shut up.â€
â€œIâ€™m shutting up,â€ Chad promises.Â And he does, so that the next time Ryan opens his eyes, ten minutes of perfect, untouched mediation later, it sounds like the single, sweet, high note of a singing bowl to look at Chad, eyes closed, fingers flat against the floorâ€”moving and not moving at allâ€”reaching toward the middle of the Earth.
The next three dance classes are no better, and Ryanâ€™s starting to run out of excuses to feed Sharpay, now that sheâ€™s no longer preoccupied with mastering the roll-upâ€”she does an amazing one; Ryan would tell her if he didnâ€™t make him hate her a littleâ€”because for some reason he doesnâ€™t really feel like advertising that heâ€™s teaching Chad Danforth to dance.
Chad hasnâ€™t said anything like, â€œDonâ€™t tell anybody,â€ or â€œDonâ€™t tell anybody, you little queer, or Iâ€™ll punch your lights out,â€ either, which is both heartening and a little weirdâ€”East High is still, at heart, East High.Â They all suffer fugue states during certain musical productions (of which he and Sharpay have vowed never again to speak) and last summer, but with the exception of Troy and Gabriellaâ€”who, gagâ€”defy the paradigm, jocks keep to the jocks and drama kids to the drama kids and etcetera and so on.Â The system works and it has for a reason; Chad likes rocking the boat but not when theyâ€™re sailing so gloriously along.
â€œOkay, seriously, Ry,â€ Sharpay says to him over dinner one night, picking at her macrobiotic meal, â€œwhatâ€™s going on?Â Youâ€™ve been holed up in that studio all the time and youâ€™re keeping secrets from me.â€Â She narrows her eyes at him in sisterly worry, the idle pink feathers in her latest Juicy Couture boa shivering in concern .Â â€œHas something happened with that Rory person again?Â I already arranged to have him appropriately choked.â€
â€œAnd you did fabulously, heâ€™ll never show his face at another East High event again,â€ Ryan comforts her.Â Sharpay arranges shut-downs like no one else in the world.Â â€œIâ€™m fineâ€”Iâ€™m just working on a project.â€
Sharpay raises her newly-threaded brows at him, and Ryan makes a note to call his waxer.
â€œWell,â€ she says, the tines of her fork rolling a broccoli floret across her plate, â€œas long as this doesnâ€™t end in utter and total social tragedy.â€
Sharpay is head of the senior prom committee, so naturally it promises to be fabulous.Â Ryan hadâ€”for once and exercising his newfound independenceâ€”abstained from participation.
Itâ€™s in part because itâ€™s Sharpayâ€™s moment to shine and in part because Ryan would rather occupy himself putting together choreography for the community theater that had heard about his work through somebody from somebody else or whateverâ€”the important thing is he gets to wear loose pants and act bitchy to a good baseline.
Itâ€™s senior year and everybody is thinking about their futuresâ€”even Troy and Gabriella have deigned to take a moment away from staring sappily and with wholesome affection from one another to dissect which colleges have offered what scholarships, and talk about how they will describe their (abysmally vanilla) relationship on their Facebook profiles.Â Sharpay is bound for Tisch and Kelsi (aka, piano rat) is going to Oberlin, because of course she needs a place to luxuriate in being a social outcast and a musical genius all at once.
Chad Danforth, Ryan is given to understand, has been recruited by some school with a basketball team.
â€œItâ€™s kind of a big deal,â€ Chad explains during their fourth lesson.Â He looks red and his man-hands are all sweatyâ€”Ryan makes a note to have somebody open the skylight windows on fair days.Â Heâ€™s doing this out of charity, he shouldnâ€™t have to endure sweat.
â€œI donâ€™t know how you think you can play basketball if you canâ€™t even do a simple two-step,â€ Ryan grumbles, and stomps on Chadâ€™s foot after Chad steps on his.Â â€œIf you damage me permanently, Danforth, Iâ€™m going to make you eat your jockstrap.â€
Sheepish, Chad says, â€œIâ€™m not doing it on purpose.â€
â€œYeah,â€ Ryan agrees, â€œthatâ€™s the scary part.â€
Theyâ€™re barefoot now in the studio, since Ryan had gone through the first part of the lesson terrified that he was going to end up with a broken toe just weeks before his final Juliard auditions.Â Heâ€™s got a soul or and they sort of bonded over baseball or whatever, so he wants to help Chad score with whichever bubbleheaded dance nazi he scored off the cheer squadâ€”but heâ€™s not risking his future as a fabulous Broadway dancer in Chadâ€™s pursuit of an STD.
Chadâ€™s feet are calloused and nearly as sweaty as his hands, so Ryan knows that thisâ€”standing around, swaying awkwardly to old, sultry clarinet, echoing through the roomâ€”should not be as nice as it feels.Â But Chadâ€™s hands are ginormous wrapped around Ryanâ€™s and he always smells like Tide detergent and cheap deodorant, the wax off of the gym floor and the industrial cleaner they use in the locker room.Â Chad smells like one of his basketball games and he thumps around Ryanâ€™s dance studio like heâ€™s at one of them, too.
â€œHey!â€ Chad says suddenly, sounding excited.Â â€œI think Iâ€™m getting it!Â Iâ€™m getting it, right?â€
â€œShut up, youâ€™ll ruin it,â€ Ryan snaps, but Chadâ€™s right, heâ€™s getting it.Â And they box their way across the floor to the beat, barefoot in blue jeans and Ryan thinks that if this doesnâ€™t get Chad pussy, heâ€™s going to go choke a bitch with his own two hands.
This yearâ€™s prom theme is â€œThe Garden of Eden,â€ so heâ€™s helping Sharpay individually hand-glue fake leaves onto the decorations when he suffers some kind of total psycho brain fart and he blurts out, â€œIâ€™ve been teaching Chad Danforth to dance and I think Iâ€™m liking it a little too much.Â Maybe.Â Probably.Â Anyway, he has enormous hands.â€
Sharpay only blinks her eyes twice before she asks, â€œAmerican or International style?â€
Ryan scoffs, and Sharpay waves her hands, saying, â€œRight, rightâ€”stupid.Â American smooth.â€
â€œThe waltz,â€ Ryan admits.Â He makes a face.Â â€œHeâ€™s terrible.Â Like, really appalling.â€
â€œOhmigod,â€ Sharpay says, reaching over to put a hand over Ryanâ€™sâ€”theyâ€™re covered in glitter and tacky glue and he hasnâ€™t seen the sun in nearly 72 hours.Â Her voice is shaking when she asks, â€œAndâ€”youâ€”youâ€™re still teaching him?Â You havenâ€™t you know, backhanded him?â€
Sheâ€™s his sister, his twin, so of course she knows exactly what this probably means.Â Itâ€™s also probably why he hasnâ€™t said anything to her until now, until the afternoon after he sees Chad leaning against the lockers, grinning wry and crooked as he talks to that unfortunateâ€”okay, not that unfortunateâ€”girl who runs the academic decathlon.Â May she die a virgin, Ryan remembers thinking, and then followed that up with, oh my God, thatâ€™s horribleâ€”nobody should die a virgin except for Troy and Gabriella! so heâ€™d known that this was bad, bad, totally wretch.
Swallowing hard, Ryan imagines that this is the moment he has to face the truth of the whole business.
â€œNo,â€ he finally says, wrenching it out of his chest.Â â€œI didnâ€™t even threaten to.â€
Sharpay slaps a hand over her mouth, wide-eyed with shock.Â â€œOh, Ry.â€
He covers his face, feeling himself gluing star-shaped sparkles to his face.Â â€œI know.â€
In solidarity, Sharpay wakes him up the next morning to hot him up.Â It takes longer than it normally would since Ryan feels all defeated and stupid and anything but fetchingâ€”but Sharpay busts out the Tigi Bedhead and rubs the hairwax hot in her hands before she attacks him, saying, â€œBuck up, Ry, we canâ€™t be defeated by stupid ballwhores all the time, all right?â€
â€œGod,â€ Ryan had moaned, covering his face, â€œdonâ€™t say â€˜ballwhores.â€™â€
And then sheâ€™d shown him the brand new Paul Allen shirt sheâ€™d gotten him and â€˜miraculously foundâ€™ his best and most favorite pair of skinny jeans and his most fabtacular pair of checked Boho Beachcombers and shoved him into her car, stuffing a round of Carmex into his hands as they went and so Ryan knew that even if everything else went to hell, Sharpay loved himâ€”in a kind of great white shark sibling sort of way.
â€œI should have known, really,â€ Sharpay tells him when they walk into home room, â€œI mean, Roryâ€”why else?Â They have the same stupid hair.â€
â€œShut up,â€ Ryan says, sliding into his seat, and adds, â€œAnd his hair isnâ€™t stupid.â€
â€œWhoâ€™s hair is stupid?â€ Chad asks, coming up behind them, and Ryan manfully keeps himself from doing anything particularly crazy and embarrassing by burying his face into the latest US Weekly.
â€œWho invited you to the conversation, tall person?â€ Sharpay snaps, and fluttering her hands, she says, â€œDisappear from my field of vision.â€
Chad decides to sit down on Ryanâ€™s deskâ€”giving Ryan an eyeful of the smooth elastic of black boxer-brief material.Â Ryan makes a soft, helpless noise, and tells himself, so what, he has a giant, impossible gay crush on Chad Danforthâ€”at least he isnâ€™t wearing cokepants and doing bikram detox in the Utah desert or trying to whiten his babyâ€™s teeth or anything.
â€œSomebodyâ€™s hostile,â€ Chad mutters, and then, conspiratorial, leans in to say to Ryan, â€œHey, can we talk later?Â I gotta ask you something.â€
Ryan slumps down further into his seat.Â God knows what this episode is doing to his spine.Â He mumbles, â€œIâ€™m busy.â€
â€œItâ€™ll only take a few minutes,â€ Chad says.
â€œA few minutes is a few minutes too long,â€ Sharpay says, coming to the rescue, voice acidic.Â This is like the one time in fifth grade when Jordan Newberg had realized he and Ryan were going out and called him a â€˜doofus,â€™ and how Sharpay had punched him in the face and then drawn an L for loser on Jordanâ€™s forehead.Â â€œYou realize that prom is in just three days, right?â€
â€œHey,â€ Chad snaps, glaring, â€œyou get that Iâ€™m trying to talk to your brother, right?â€
He sees Sharpay stand up on her fabtacular silver wedges and get right into Chadâ€™s face before she says, â€œAnd do you get that I asked you to remove yourself from my presence, ball giant?â€
â€œAnd Iâ€”â€ Chad starts, but Ryan interrupts by slapping the magazine flat onto his desk and rocking up to his feet, because really, the last thing he wants to see is Sharpay break a nail on Chadâ€™s perfectly chiseled features.
â€œAnd Iâ€™m leaving,â€ he tells them both, and stomps off to hide in the boysâ€™ bathroomâ€”which he realizes is kind of a miscalculation when not four seconds after he bangs into a stall to do some breathing exercises he hears Chad bang into the bathroom after him, shouting, â€œRyan, we need to talk.â€
â€œOh, sweet mother of Botox,â€ Ryan moans, leaning his forehead against the closed stall door.Â â€œWhat?Â I already taught you to waltzâ€”there is no way I can show you the quickstep in three days, okay?â€
â€œItâ€™s not about dancing,â€ Chad protests through the door, and after a beat admits, â€œOkay, itâ€™s sort of about dancingâ€”justâ€”can I come in there?Â I feel stupid talking to you through this door.â€
Ryan thinks the only thing worse than having to talk to Chad right now would be having to talk to Chad in a confined space.Â So Ryan says, â€œNo!Â Leave me alone.â€
Thereâ€™s a long silence, and Ryanâ€™s almost convinced himself that Chadâ€™s left when instead, he hears abominable thumping and Chadâ€™s voice say, â€œMove or I land on you,â€ from overheadâ€”giving Ryan just enough time to squawk and shove himself into a supremely uncomfortable position, half-perched on top of the toilet seat before he hopped over the top of the stall wall and landed in a half-crouch.
Beaming, Chad says, â€œHey, Evans.â€