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All The Best

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It was somewhere between the ice cream shop and the farmer's market that I stopped paying attention. It wasn't like I meant to, she just started talking about all these things that I really don't care about and my brain was too busy soaking up all the familiar scenery to even pretend to engage with her anymore. The sun makes the window warm against my cheek and the trees all turn into little green blobs since she's driving well above the speed limit, but I don't mind. It's kind of dizzying, actually — and sort of making me sleepy the way everything just kind of blends together like that. Her voice is like mild background noise, second to the sound of the radio humming and going in and out since we're practically in the middle of a forest.

You never really know how much you miss home until you've been somewhere so different for a while. I never pegged myself as the type to miss anything about Lima but now that I'm driving through it after having been away from it for so long, I'm starting to feel comfort in the familiarity. Like how I know if I go down to the Lima Bean and order a caramel macchiato, it'll taste the exact same as it did two months ago. Or if I go down to Breadstix, their triple cheese pizza platter will always be a little too greasy for me. Sure, it's a crappy little two-mill town, but at least it's something I can always count on.

"Oh, and Quinn?" she turns to me this time when she talks, which is the only thing that drags me out of the trance the trees were putting me in, I think.

"Hmm?"

"Your school schedule came in the mail last week and the guidance counselor said if you needed to drop a class or two to take less credits, you can."

"I'll be fine, mom."

For the umpteenth time of this ninety minute car ride, her perfume makes my nose itch. She's wearing about three spray puffs too much, and about a pound of makeup. When I got into the car with my loose blue jeans and McKinley t-shirt, I almost asked her what the occasion was.

"I just don't want you to, you know, overwork yourself, Sweetie."

"I won't."

I don't know why, but when the car slows down so she can pull into the driveway, my stomach sinks to the depths of my body. And I feel a little bit hot all of a sudden. Her voice is like nails on a chalkboard with the way she says "home at last!" and I really have to fight the urge to slap her.

Nothing looks different here. The driveway is still that same gray and black cobblestone, the gate is still that clunky white plastic. The yard's neatly groomed as always and Mom's carnations are in full bloom. That ugly yellow wreath with the honeycombs and bumblebees still hangs proudly on the front door, and there's still a chunk of the gold number three that marks our address missing from the time Frannie and I kicked the soccer ball at it. It's the exact same house on the exact same street in the exact same neighborhood of the exact same city of Lima. But something about it just feels so much different.

Mom's been watching me like a hawk and noticing the slightest changes in my moods, so I don't stare at the house and re-familiarize myself with it for too long. I jump out, head around back and grab the two duffle bags she left for me to carry in. She shuffles my smaller bag to the side of her body and fumbles with the code to open the garage door. She seems to have changed it since the last time I was here. Probably because Dad knew the code to get in. I don't see his car anywhere — just my mom's, mine and Frannie's — so I'm going to go ahead and assume he hasn't moved back in.

Good.

No sooner than I dump my crap off at the door am I being pulled into the most awkward, body-swallowing embrace I've ever felt in my entire life. I thought my mother was wearing a crap-ton of perfume, but boy was I wrong. My sister's got her beat.

"Quinnie," the sound of her voice in my ear actually makes the corners of my lips turn up into a smile. I haven't seen her in a while, so I guess I actually missed my sister. Plus, one thing about her is that she has the most soothing voice ever. "Welcome home."

She pulls away and looks me up and down like she can't believe I'm standing in front of her. I'm probably looking at her the same way. Sometimes, it's hard to believe that she and I come from the same gene pool. She has the most perfect high cheekbones and the prettiest shade of brown eyes. When we were younger, her hair used to be so curly our mom couldn't run a comb through it. It's cut short and straight now, and she keeps it dyed brown. But still, she's clearly the pretty one. Hers is so… effortless.

"I missed you," she whispers through cherry red lips.

"I missed you too," I say, smoothing the loose strands of my hair back into my ponytail because something about my sister just makes me want to look like I stepped off a runway, too. I'm no match for her navy blue sundress and white wedge shoes, though. "How long are you staying?"

"Not long. I have to drive back tonight since classes start tomorrow, but I promised Mom I'd stay through dinner."

"Dinner?"

"Dinner. And no Dad here to ruin it."

"Thank god," Frannie and I both mumble that under our breaths at the same time and then it's moments like this when I do remember we come from the same gene pool.

"Come on," she motions towards the steps with her head. "I'll help you unpack."

We each drag a duffle bag up the steps and down the hallway and I've officially decided that so far, this is the least weirdest part about being home and it should probably be the most. I see my sister maybe once every thousand years but already, she's made me feel like this is the most normal thing ever. I guess it's probably because she's the one that's not staring at me like she's waiting for me to reveal some big important secret. She's not the one that's sneaking glances at me every five minutes or constantly asking me if I'm okay. She's treating me like I'm Quinn. Like I'm still sassy, smart, snarky old me. And it feels good for her to treat me like I'm Quinn because I really don't even know if I am Quinn anymore.

"So are you excited to go back to school tomorrow?" she asks, unzipping my duffle and shaking its contents onto my bed.

School? Oh, that's right. I have to go to school… what year am I in again? I wonder… I wonder what everyone's up to… it's been a whole summer...

"Eh," I shrug and sort through my clothes. "It's just another school year."

"Quinnie, it's your junior year! It's the year that everything counts. It's not just another school year. You've got your SATs and your college preps and your school selections."

"You're giving me angina."

She swallows a laugh and hands me a folded blouse. "It is stressful and a little overwhelming, don't get me wrong. But junior year is the time of your life. It sets the course for your whole future. You should be excited about that."

Actually, it sounds absolutely terrifying. And boring at the same time. Why do I need to take all those tests and pick a school like that? I don't even know if I want to go to college anymore. I don't even know what I want anymore.

"I'm just trying to get through the first day, Fran," I mumble. Mostly to myself. But also to her.

After that, it's mostly silent. She folds one thing, I fold another. She puts them into drawers, I hang them in closets. I unpack my bags and bring back the life into my room that wasn't there for two whole months. It seems unreal that this is my room again. It seems like I'm in a place where I don't fit. Like I'm sitting in the middle of an inflatable pool and someone's just let the air out of all of it and now I'm sitting in the middle — big as can be — while the world around me is getting smaller and smaller. It's an uncomfortable feeling. One that makes me wish that I wasn't here; one that makes me long to go back to where I was before I had to make this my new normal again.

"Quinn?"

I look up from folding and meet Frannie's watchful eye. Dammit, now she's looking at me like that too. I already know what she's going to ask. Everyone always looks at me like this before they ask. Before they —

"Are you okay?"

Told you so. I knew it.

"Mhm, I'm good. A little tired and hungry, but—"

"No," she starts and when she sits down on the bed this time, she pulls me down with her. "Like… okay, okay?"

"Frannie, I'm fine," I snatch my hand out of hers. "Really. I just wish everyone would stop asking me that. I'm okay. Truly. You don't have to worry."

How would you feel if you were me?

"Are you sure? Because you know if you want to talk… about… Beth, or anything, I —"

"I said I'm fine!" I don't mean to snap at her, but I don't feel guilty that I do. Because she has no right to even… I said I'm fine. What more does she want from me? If she's looking for me to have some kind of mental break or lapse and have me come crying into her arms, she's wrong. I don't need to talk.

"Okay, okay," she tries to back track but it's too late. "I shouldn't have brought her up, I just —"

"No, you shouldn't have and I said I'm alright." How many times am I gonna have to say that? "Come on. Let's see if dinner's ready yet. I'm — I'm starving."

"Okay. But Quinn, if you ever… need anything… just call me, okay?"

I really wish everything would just go back to normal. And that includes you not caring. You never told me to text or call you before. You never gave a rat's ass about me before. Why do you care now?

Is anything ever going to be normal again?


I forgot how nice freshly shaved legs could feel. I mean seriously, I must look like a weirdo with the way I keep running my hand back and forth across my leg. It's making me excited to lie in bed tonight and just rub my legs all across my sheets. I'm just excited to go to bed in general. I know I have to wake up early tomorrow morning with school and everything, but really. I've never been more excited to just put on a fresh pair of pajamas and lie in one place for the night.

When I step out of the bathroom and onto the plush carpeted floors of the hallway, I take the time to scrunch my toes along it. Because feeling the carpet pillowed beneath my bare feet is another thing I forgot how good feels. It's really the little things.

Since Dad doesn't live here anymore, I'm not so conscious about walking down the hallway to my bedroom anymore. I guess that's one positive thing about being home; I don't have to put on a full bathrobe just to make a three-step transition from bathroom to bedroom anymore. I clutch my towel to my body and tiptoe my way to my bedroom. It sounds like Mom's still downstairs cleaning up the kitchen. I thought for a moment she was going to let things go back to normal again and scream at me for not helping her clean up the dishes after Frannie left, but no. She told me to go upstairs, take a shower and relax. I guess someday things will go back to normal around here. Maybe wanting the first day to be normal is just too much to ask.

Even after I toweled off and got dressed, it's only 8:43. I have seventeen minutes before I can lie down and go to bed for the night and I know I told myself I would wait until at least tomorrow, I know. It's really too soon to jump too far back into my old life. But I really just can't help myself. After all, it's been a whole summer.

So I grab my laptop off of my desk, fire it up and type Facebook into the search engine. As soon as I click it, my profile already pops up. I'm seventeen years old, going on eighteen. I'm allowed to look at Facebook. But still, I feel like I'm doing something wrong just by looking. I feel like I'm doing something that I have to sneak with. But it's not wrong to just want to catch up on everything I've missed… is it? I don't think so. So I start scrolling.

Mercedes and Sam… not a thing anymore. Okay. Mental note to ask Mercedes why she finally broke up with Mouth of the South. Finn and Rachel… not a thing anymore either? What was this, the summer of breakups? He didn't really deserve… nevermind. Forget that thought, Quinn. Brittany's with… who isn't she with?Dear god, I can't keep up. Tina and Mike, okay I saw that coming. Not just because they're both Asian. Oh, look! Mr. Schue and Emma made it Facebook official! And they made it public so I don't have to be his friend to "like" it! Awww! I'll hit the "like" button. Mmm, somebody passed out at Cheerios camp. What else is new? Oh no, honey not that haircut… Santana, you're not fooling anyone with that. Everyone knows they're fake. Oh, Becky's still a Cheerio. That's nice. Ehh, Karofsky go to hell as usual. Okay but Kurt, that outfit is asking for it. Who's Blaine? He's actually half cute. This picture is actually really cute. I'll "like" it. Hmm, no Puck? Says he's been inactive since July. Wonder what his summer was like. He probably found a house to haunt. Hm. Seems like that's it. Well, just one more…

My fingers tremble as I type S-H-E-L—

"Quinn?" my mom opens the door and honestly, I'm grateful for the interruption because I don't know that I'd have been able to go through with that…

I slam my laptop shut with quickness because like I said, it feels like I was doing something wrong…

"Yeah?"

"You left your phone downstairs in your other bag. Here." she lies it down on my nightstand. "You heading to bed now?"

"Um," I glance at the clock on my dresser and it reads 9:02. A little past my bedtime, actually. "Yeah. I'm tired."

"Alright. Sleep with your door open."

"Mom, I —"

"Quinn, please. Door open."

"...cracked."

"Deal."

Part of me wishes she wouldn't have come in here and interrupted what I was about to do on Facebook. But the bigger part of me is glad. I think maybe that would have been a little too much for my first day back home; it probably would have kept me up all night.

And I'm going to need all the sleep I can get before I go back to school tomorrow.

Chapter Text



 

There was a point in time where I liked all the attention on me and now that I'm about a year older and a little bit wiser, I can't believe I'm that same girl. I used to be able to walk up the hallway with my head held high and my nose in the air because everyone just kind of bowed their heads and made room for me, like I was the queen of England or something. I liked that. It seems so far away now — like a distant memory — but I remember the sense of importance and security it brought me to strut like I owned the place. Funny how that me and this me feel like two totally opposite entities now.

I can feel everybody looking at me, like their eyes are boring a hole through the flowers of the Victoria's Secret backpack Frannie gave to me last night. It's pretty, don't get me wrong. The pastel pink background goes really nice with the tropical flowers all over it and I'm sure it was really expensive and all, but it's a bit loud for my first day back. I wish I had a plain white one or a plain black one and honestly, if my head was on straight, I probably would. But I kind of forgot I had to come back to school today and I know I'll have a book or two to drag home at the end of the day, so Frannie's loud backpack was what worked.

Anyway, I hate this. I hate feeling everyone looking at me. And though I don't really hear very well through the hushed whispers, I know they're talking about me.

Quinn Fabray, she's back. Where's she been all summer? Probably cooped up in the house all summer taking care of that baby. She wants everyone to think she gave it up for adoption but we know the real story. I'm surprised she doesn't have chunky white vomit all over her skirt.

Maybe I'm just paranoid.

In true we-had-all-summer-off fashion, the floors are shiny and still a little slippery from the fresh coat of wax, so my brown flats kind of make me slide but it's nice because I don't really have to pick up my feet to get around. It's weird, because I kind of missed this place. I didn't even realize it had a certain smell until now. It smells like crappy yellow notebook paper and new erasers. I didn't miss the cycle of everybody knowing everybody's business, but still. I guess I missed the part of this that feels normal.

It feels so normal that I don't even have to lift my eyes to find my locker. It's like muscle memory kicked in. Three steps past the water fountain, one step to the side and I'm there. 56-49-11-13. The code to unlock it kicks in from my memory too. I know everybody's gossiping and I'll have to tell a lie or twenty by the end of today, but really, I'm just glad to be back. I'm glad to —

"Hey, Quinn!"

Every bone in my body locks up and freezes. I even stop breathing. This isn't really a voice I remember and I don't have a conversation calculated in my head for this. I seriously spent every second of curling my hair this morning going over potential conversations and my responses but I didn't prepare for this. At least I don't think I did.

Slowly, I turn my head until —

Oh, it's just Mercedes.

"Hey!" I don't mean to sound as tickled and thrilled as I do, but that's what I am. I admit, I didn't really think about her that much while I was away, but now that she's standing here in front of me, I really did miss her. So much that I don't even care when she pulls me into an awkward little side-hug. I awkwardly side-hug her back.

"Girl, where were you all summer? Things got all crazy and I missed having the one person I knew would keep my ass in check," she asks.

I practiced for this.

"I was in Pennsylvania," that rolls off my tongue smoother than I expected. Maybe because it's not a complete lie. "I spent the summer with my dad, actually. Since he and my mom split, it's kind of the custody arrangement. I spend summers with him."

"Oh? Well I texted you like a billion times. I was starting to think we weren't friends anymore," she replies and to my relief, she sounds more accepting than angry.

"Yeah, I know, a bunch of people were telling me that. But he um, moved out to Lancaster. He lives on this big farm now with all these chickens and stuff with his new girlfriend, so I had like, NO cell phone service whatsoever." I can't tell if she's buying this or not… "I couldn't even get on Facebook, Mercedes. It was miserable."

She laughs and that's when I know I'm in the clear. "Yeah, I bet. It must've been nice, though. To just get away like that. But we have GOT to catch up. Who do you have first period?"

"Odenthal. Organic Chem." I rattle that off quickly but that's only because I made it a point to mesmerize my entire schedule last night and this morning because I just don't want to draw any unnecessary attention to myself with anything, and that includes stopping in the middle of the hallway so I can look at my schedule.

"Me too! Walk with me," she says as she holds her arm out.

I loop my own arm around hers and the two of us walk up the hallway together and for the first time since I stepped foot inside McKinley High School, I don't really notice whether people are looking at me or not. Mercedes starts telling me the story of her and Sam and how their summer romance turned to back-to-school tragedy, and I'm listening, I swear.

But I can't help noticing how much lighter I feel braving everything with my best friend on my arm again.


All day so far, it really has been feeling like I never left. The walks between classes, the bullying my way to my locker when the three-hundred pound jocks wouldn't get out of my way. Even down to the grayish slop the lunch lady slapped down in the middle of my tray and the watery milk I tried taking a sip of because I forgot money to grab a water from the vending machine.

The wind blows just enough to send the loosest strands of my hair all over the place and even though it's eighty-something degrees outside, it's nice underneath the shade of my tree. Sure when the wind blows, it kicks up the scent of the garbage can a few paces away from where I sat on the steps. And sure, the concrete is a little bit cold under my butt since the fabric of my yellow sundress is kind of thin. But this is McKinley at its finest. Weather nice enough to eat outside, conversations of everyone catching up from the summer all just running together. And it's too early in the school year for there to be any proper drama just yet, so everyone is kind of mellow.

The football players talk about the meeting after school today, the art club talks about some interpretation that I don't understand. The baseballers bet the soccer team that they'll win more games but when they're on the brink of an argument, they both agree that they'll definitely win more games than the basketball team and everything settles. And the Cheerios… so regal… sit in the middle of everything, lapping up any and every single speck of attention thrown their way. I can't help but think that I should be there. My seat is still open. It's the one furthest away from the trash can and closest to the football players so I could eavesdrop on anything that Finn said. It's strange how even though I'm not there anymore, they still don't sit in my seat.

Even though I kind of wish I still sat with my Cheerios and the wind gusts up yet another whiff of the smelly garbage, I feel mellow. I feel at peace.

It's the most at peace I've felt in a while. I haven't felt this kind of relaxation ever, I don't think. Or… well… I haven't felt this at ease since… since…

It's complete darkness like I've never felt. The door's shut, the light's off, and now I'm just waiting for everything to kick in. I'm not sure what it's going to feel like when it does, but I think it is starting to because my eyes feel so heavy that I can hardly keep them open anymore and my legs feel that staticy feeling like they do whenever I fall asleep.

And everything around me is quiet, too. I usually sleep with the fan on, so I hear that. And on the rare occasions that the fan is not on, my mom keeps the air conditioning system on practically all year so I can usually hear that. But tonight, I turned it all off. No fan, no air conditioner. So it's dead silent. Not even my thoughts exist anymore.

And really, this is all I ever wanted. To be able to lie down without any racing thoughts and sleep, I mean. Every night since she was born, I've stayed up until ungodly hours of the night because the thoughts in my head wouldn't shut up long enough to let me go. All I wanted was to turn my brain off for one night, just to get a decent amount of sleep.

I know the internet isn't always the most reliable thing out there, but I read on the Mayo Clinic site that those pills in the exact right combination were the way to go if I wanted to sleep. The Mayo Clinic is pretty reputable…

Maybe I should have —

"Man," her voice follows the loud thump of her backpack dropping down on the concrete, and I don't know which one of those made me jump. "I did not miss McKinley lunch. Michelle Obama was my girl and all but screw her and that healthy lunch initiative."

I glance at the little red apple and compact turkey (I think) sandwich on Mercedes' tray and it makes me laugh at how they think that would fill anybody up. It looks like prison food.

"I told myself I was going to try the tuna noodle casserole but," I lift my own tray up and stare at the gray sludge. "I think I'm gonna pass."

"It should be illegal to feed this to children. What I would give for a slice of pizza right now," she sighs and I just grin. To be honest, I'm still kind of stuck where I was a second ago. "You okay, Quinn?" I guess she noticed. "You seem a little… spacey."

"Yeah, I'm fine. I'm just… tired, I guess," I even feign a yawn. "It's hard when this is around the time I'm used to waking up."

"It's 12:45."

"I know, but look. When you're on a farm, there's really nothing better to do besides sleep."

"True that," she says with a mouth full of sandwich. "Why didn't you wanna sit with the Cheerios today?"

"Eh," I look back over at their table and… they do seem a little… fun. Molly's showing everyone something on her phone and they're all laughing and Santana is busy fixing Brittany's ponytail. I do kind of miss them… "I guess I just don't feel like I'm part of them anymore."

"Well are you at least going to the Glee Club meeting after school?"

"After school?"

Oh no, that's another thing I didn't prepare for. I didn't think anyone would ask me anything about my plans after school. I didn't rehearse anything for that!

"Yeah, it's for old and new members looking to join. It's just about when tryouts and signups are and stuff. But Mr. Schue said it's kind of mandatory."

"I um…" It's just Mercedes. She'd get it if you told her. Maybe the truth isn't so bad… "I probably won't be there."

"Why not? You are gonna join this year. Aren't you?"

"I dunno, I…," thinking of an excuse is so exhausting… "I have to tutor after school today, so there's that."

"It's only the first day of school?"

"Look, I don't want to join stupid Glee Club this year! Okay? Just leave it alone."

That was harsh. But… I just wish she would stop prying so much… I know she'd understand if I told her the truth, but I just…

"But Quinn," she starts and I know she's about to ream me out. All I can do is listen. "We're gonna take nationals this year and we have so many new ideas and plans and… and Glee Club was there for you last year when everything happened. I can't believe you're not —"

"I'll be there," I mumble, gathering my stuff to get up. She doesn't try to stop me when I walk away and I can't stop thinking about how mad she's going to be when she realizes that I just lied to her about being there.

Look, I know she's right. She's very right and honestly… there's really no place in the world I'd rather be right now than in Glee Club with everybody. But I really can't go and I wish she would understand that but she won't understand that without me telling her but I can't tell her so really… this is all just a big mess. I have a pretty good excuse for missing Glee Club today. But what about tomorrow? And the day after? And even worse yet, what if I actually did join? I'm trying to do better here and that just… wouldn't be good. For me or for them either. I just… I can't join Glee Club this year. I can't. Not now. Not ever. Maybe next year, when I'm stronger.

If there even is a next year for me…

X X X

I've been dreading final bell all day. And not just because that's when the hallways are flooded with everyone I managed to avoid all day, but because I really don't want to go home. I don't want to stuff my books into my locker and fill my backpack with my Stats workbook so I can take it home because Mr. Newman is the only asshole who assigned homework today. I don't want to grab my jacket and bully my way up the hallway just to go out through those double doors and have everyone see that my mom picked me up from school today because she won't let me drive my car just yet. I just don't want this day to be over already.

But yet, I can't wait for it to be. I can't wait to go home and lie in my bed and clear my head from everything that happened today. How is that possible? How is it possible to feel two totally conflicting things at the same time?

I just can't believe that I made it through an entire day without anything major. I can't believe I made it an entire day without seeing her. It's not like I actively avoided it or anything, it just didn't happen. And I'm now I'm starting to wonder if maybe I just made her up. Maybe she was just a figment of my imagination this whole time. I know that sounds crazy but I'm starting to feel that way these days.

Even though a part of me doesn't want to go home, I have to be quick with the way I go back to my locker and gather my things because if I linger around too long, I'll catch Mercedes and I really don't want her to know that I lied to her about going to Glee Club because she's my friend and I really need her right now. And it's not like I lied to be mean. So that counts for something, doesn't it?

I shove my afternoon books in the top and grab my Stats workbook from the bottom, then my jacket from the top hook and I think I'm making good time, but I must be moving a little too fast because the stack of posters that I have yet to hang slips off the middle shelf from my jacket sleeve hitting them and they all fall out and flutter to the floor. So of course, I have to drop down to my knees and pick them all up.

Honestly, I could probably take these all home. I'm not in the mood to decorate my locker and I doubt that I ever will be this year. I only brought them because I thought maybe I would be, but no. So I just collect them all up and prepare to stuff them away in my backpack.

Last year's Glee Club picture, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Panic! At The Disco…

You know that feeling when something hits you in the back or the stomach out of nowhere and you feel like you can't breathe?

It's like a thousand icicles just pierced my chest and took my breath away and I can't think. I can't even remember where I am. And all I want is to put it down but I can't remember how to work my fingers so I'm just stuck. I'm stuck holding it and looking at it even though my vision's starting to blur over with tears. So blurry that I just can't help but think…

Everything around is just flat out fuzzy and all I can make out are white lights. Even my hearing is fuzzy, like someone shoved cotton in both my ears and I'm expected to hear like this for the rest of my life.

I can make out my mom's voice calling my name over and over but when I blink, it's like she's further away. As if my vision has anything to do with my hearing. It's like they're both connected and the more I can't see, the more I can't hear.

She's screaming my name now and I think she wants a response but I can't give her one because my mouth won't even open. It's like my jaw is too heavy for me to work it. Saying anything would suck all the energy completely out of me.

Then something does. Something parts my jaw for me and from the little bit that I can feel, I know the feeling of acrylic fingernails against my lips. It's like those hazy moments between sleep and awake and I'm clinging onto sleep as much as I can when I really should be awake. Is that my mom? I'm guessing so because she's the only one around me that wears acrylics like this. She pries my mouth open and there's a soreness in my jaw that makes my head ring.

She won't stop saying my name and now that my mouth is open, I suppose I could give her a response but I can't because there's something in my mouth. Cold. Salty. Fingers?

Fingers in my mouth. Down my throat. Everything still fuzzy and blurry and downright —

"Whoa," someone says after they knock into me and finally make the picture fall from my hands.

I don't look up to see who ran into me, because I don't care. I stuff it — the picture of me, sweaty and haggard in that hospital bed holding that little bundle — into my backpack with the rest of the posters and stand up with legs that feel like Jell-O.

"Sorry Quinn, I'm just…"

His voice trails off, but only because I'm not listening. Maybe Mom was right. Maybe I should have stayed home today. She said she could have gotten my work from Miss Pillsbury and I could have started next Monday but I really did think that just diving in was what was best for me but maybe I was wrong. God, I can only imagine what a day it would have been if I had seen her.

"...hurrying because there's a football meeting at the same time as the Glee Club meeting and I—"

"It's fine, Finn," I mutter, mostly to myself, and sling my backpack over my shoulder. I can't even look him in the eye. Not whenever I know that he's the one who she… nevermind. I have to go before I let the tears still collected in the rims of my eyes fall.

I even brush past Mercedes on my way out and I don't care that she knows I lied. I don't care that she asked me where I was going as I walked.

I just care about getting the hell out of school for the day.

Chapter Text

She offered to stop at the house so I could change my clothes. She wasn't around this morning before I left for school, so she didn't see what I wore today until I came out and got into the car with her. She took one look at my yellow sundress, light brown flats and curled hair garnished with a white bow and said "I can run you home so you can change before we go if you want. You'll probably want to be more comfortable." In hindsight, I guess I wish I would have taken her up on her offer, because now, even with my jacket draped over my legs, I still have goosebumps. At the time, it seemed kind of stupid to waste gas by driving all the way across town from school, then driving back across town to get here when she could have just done it all in one trip. I didn't think there was any issue with my dress, so I told her not to worry about it and we could come straight here.

That was the last thing I said to her, and I wonder if she notices. My gut is saying that she does, because she keeps trying to talk to me and even after I give her a half-assed shrug or a head shake, she keeps trying. Even in the supermarket when she asked me if I wanted Rice Chex or Corn Flakes, I shrugged and she was quiet for a minute, but then asked me again if I wanted strawberry yogurt or blueberry. It's not like I'm trying to ignore her and I swear I'm not purposely staying mute. It's just that after everything that happened at school today, my mind is filled to the brim and sometimes I think that if I open my mouth and talk, everything's going to come out.

In the car on the way here, I almost told her that she was right. My head was pressed against the window and I watched the road go by beneath us and for the first time, I was able to just think about today and being back at school and it almost made me cry. I almost told her that she was right about me not being completely ready to go back to school. And I was going to ask her if she could call Miss Pillsbury tomorrow and tell her that I decided to take the first week off after all and settle in. But I had a moment where it became clear to me that I couldn't do that. Because I firmly believe that if I do take the first week off… I may never go back.

"Are you cold, Quinnie?" she asks, cutting through the silence that's almost awkward since it's only me and her left sitting here in the waiting room.

I start to shrug my shoulders again, but catch myself before I do. I'll give her a real answer this time. Just so she knows that I'm not giving her the silent treatment or the cold shoulder.

"A little," I admit. "But I'm fine."

"Are you sure? I could run to the car and get you another—"

"That's okay, I'm fine." I adjust my jacket over my legs and look at the clock hanging above a NO CELL PHONES poster. We were five minutes early and now it's five minutes past my appointment. Isn't that crazy how doctors expect you to be on time, then make you wait?

"You can go to the car if you want. Or even go home. I'm… good here," I offer only because with the strict no cell phone rule here, she must be bored and my appointment is for half an hour.

"I'm alright. I want to be here, honey. Really, I do."

As soon as she says that, the door across from our row of chairs finally opens and a tall, skinny brunette nudges her glasses and pokes her head around the corner.

"Quinn?" she has the most high-pitched voice I've ever heard in my life. I really hope she's just using that voice until she gets to know me because if that's her real voice, I swear I'll walk out right now.

My mom stands up at the same time I do, and I shoot her a very literal "what the hell?" look. She easily realizes her mistake, and sits back down but I can tell this is really hard for her because if I didn't know any better, I'd say that there are some tears in her eyes when she looks at me.

"I'll be right here, honey," she clears her throat and I just nod her off.

I hate to admit it, but I am kind of nervous. I have this huge lump in the back of my throat that only gets bigger as I follow this woman down the hallway. If they made a size smaller than a double zero, I swear she'd be it. She's so skinny that if she turned sideways, she'd probably disappear. And her hair falls a little below her neck, but it's super thin and there are lines of gray all seared through it. I wonder if she knows she has a run in the back of her stockings. And I wonder if she knows that when you're that skinny, you shouldn't wear pants that are form fitting like that.

"Go on in and have a seat," she steps aside and uses her head to point to the inside of a room off to her left.

The walls are a dark shade of tan, and the only light comes from a pole lamp behind her desk. There aren't many pictures hanging around, but the ones that are hanging up are pictures of little inspirational quotes. The carpets look really clean and the maroon area rug that rests in the middle looks like a pillow. There are two chairs in front of her desk, one metal one that folds and another with a thick cushion in the middle. I take the one with the cushion. Thank god it's warmer in here.

"Okay, so hi. I'm Bailey," she rattles off as she folds up the metal chair and leans it against a silver filing cabinet. She plops down in the seat behind her desk and takes her glasses completely off. "Lucy? Is Lucy fine?"

"It's Quinn, actually." I cross my legs and swallow hard in hopes of getting that lump to go away.

"Okay, Quinn. Great. Sorry about that. So I see you're a transfer from Oakland Pines, the Pennsylvania branch. Jessica sent over all your paperwork and gave me a little rundown on how your sessions with her went and the things you were working on."

Jessica. I haven't thought about her since I've been home. Damn. I miss her. She was the only one that made things make sense. She just understood everything. I didn't even have to explain it, she just got it. I wish I were talking to her again…

"But today, I'm just going to get to know you. Okay?"

"Yep."

"Did you like it at Oakland Pines?"

"I dunno," I shrug. "I guess."

"A buddy of mine that I graduated college with, Chase? He works at the Pennsylvania branch and he tells me a lot about it. It sounds like an amazing treatment facility."

I just nod my head at her because I have that feeling again. That feeling where it feels like if I open my mouth to say anything, everything's just going to spill out and I know that if there were ever a place for everything to spill out, it's right here. But still. I'd rather not look like a complete spazz. Especially on the first day.

Really, she's just making me miss it. I remember when Mom was driving me there and I was looking out the window at all the farmlands and the Amish people in Lancaster. I remember thinking that I was going to absolutely hate it. Let me be the first to say that first impressions are often wrong.

"Was that your mom out there with you?"

"Mhm."

"What's your relationship with her like? It seems like she really cares. She's super supportive and —"

"It's fake." That's the clearest thing I've said to her thus far, the only thing I didn't mumble under my breath, and the shock clearly shows. But I'd rather call a spade a spade.

"Fake? How do you mean?"

"It just… feels fake."

"What feels fake about it?"

I concentrate on a speck of lint in the middle of the carpet and stare at it until it gets fuzzy and my vision becomes double. It's just easier if I don't have to look at her while I'm talking, I find.

"She never cared before. I dunno why she cares now."

"Uh-huh," she scribbles that in a notepad. She tries to be discreet about it but I noticed. "What about your siblings? Do you have any? Are they —"

"I have a sister named Francesca that I see once every blue moon but now all of a sudden texts me every second of the day." When I first started seeing Jessica, she asked these kinds of questions too. Just cut to the chase.

"Well what do you two talk about?"

"I dunno. Nothing, really. I don't ever really know what to say to her. We're practically… strangers," I fumble with the loose thread on my jacket now. That'll keep me occupied for a while.

"Did you two grow up together?"

"I mean, yeah. We used to be close but then she moved off to college and then… yeah. You know."

"I see." To my surprise, she doesn't write that down. I wonder what the method to her madness is. I'll figure her out by the end of the month. I had Jessica all figured out by the end of the week but this one seems like she'll be a bit of a tougher nut to crack. "What about your father? How's he?"

I bite my lip in a legitimate attempt to keep my thoughts on him to myself, because I just know that if I blurt out anything about him or my relationship with him, it's going to open up another can of worms with this woman and I'm really not in the mood to get all deep and into my feelings but I feel it coming up like vomit in the back of my throat I feel it coming out and I can't stop it I just feel it rising up and rising up and rising up until —

"He kicked me out when he found out I was pregnant and hasn't spoken a word to me since, so…" It just rolls out of my mouth, but the good news is that the lump in my throat is gone. Bailey's quiet. Reflective, I think. Or wait, maybe she's about to ask me about —

"So… you had a baby?"

I knew it. I freaking knew it. First of all, how dare she assume that I had a baby. What if I had miscarried? Or gotten an abortion? Second of all, she has NO right whatsoever to bring her up. She doesn't know me, how dare she talk about her?

I was still a little bit freezing but now all of a sudden, I'm hot. Like burning up and sweating, actually. But it's weird because the way I feel outside matches the way I feel inside. I've only known Bailey for about fifteen minutes but I already want to kill her. I've never felt this much… rage. It's like it replaced my blood and now it's pumping through my bloodstream, white hot and so thick that I can't even control it. It makes my head thump. And my legs shake.

"Tell me what that's like? Being a mother?"

"We're not talking about her, okay?! Don't you talk to me about her! Don't EVER talk to me about her! I will leave right now and never come back, I swear to GOD, I swear to him! I didn't come here to talk about her, I came here for ME. She has NOTHING to do with this, I refuse —"

"Quinn, okay. Okay," she holds her hands up as a sign of forfeit and looks at me the way my mother looks at me when I drop a swear word around her. Like she doesn't believe my voice is capable of screaming like that. "We won't talk about that. That's off limits. Maybe we'll work up to it."

I doubt it. And if you ever talk about my kid again I promise that's the last day you'll see me.

"Are there any other topics that you'd rather not discuss yet?"

I start to tell her about her. I start to tell her that Jessica is the only one I talk to about her, but I don't. Because if I see her tomorrow in school… that's something I'll definitely need someone for. Bailey or not.


"Do you want red sauce or white sauce, sweetie?" she interrupts me, but I was only reading my English Literature syllabus so I guess I'll let it slide. I'd be a lot more irritated if I were doing real homework. "To go with the ravioli?"

"Red's fine," I mumble and turn the page onto the back.

I gotta admit, this is a little weird. I needed to cool down after talking to Bailey, so I told myself that I would sit at the kitchen island and unwind by reading through all my syllabuses and getting my binders organized. But right after I sat down and opened up my backpack, Mom came strutting in and opening the fridge and some of the cupboards and before I knew it, the kitchen was turned into some whirlwind of a faux Italian restaurant. I can't tell you the last time my mom actually made dinner and here she is, two days in a row making me food that doesn't come from some fancy chef that dad hired or a takeout box.

I know she's dying to ask me how my session with Bailey went but before she even put the keys in the ignition to drive us home, I told her that I didn't want to talk about it and she promised me that she wouldn't make me. So here she is, stuck wondering and bound by promise to not ask.

It all just feels so strange to me because if someone opened up our curtains and snuck a peek into this house right now, it would seem… dare I say it… normal. Like a typical mom making dinner for her daughter while her daughter goes over things for school. But this isn't what it always is. This isn't normal Quinn and Judy Fabray. Quinn's usually here by herself and Judy's off at country club and doesn't even know what classes Quinn's taking. Now she can recite my schedule forwards and backwards and she's home more often than not. This is just weird.

So imagine my relief when the doorbell rings.

"I'll get it," Mom says as she licks some sauce off her thumb.

"No, don't. It's… probably for me anyway."

I slide off my barstool, adjust the pair of sweatpants that I threw on when I got home, and drag my feet to the door. If I had to guess, I'd say it's Mercedes. Not that she told me she was coming over or anything, but it's almost 5:00 and the Glee Club meeting was over at 4:30, so that gave her enough time to go home and drop off her things and come over here to ream me out for lying.

The bell rings once more and before it's even finished ringing, I pull the door open. And sure enough, Mercedes is there. Lucky for me, she doesn't look too angry.

"Hey," I nearly whisper.

"Hey," her tone is just as monotonous as mine.

I step aside and let her in, and sometimes it's like me and Mercedes share this telepathic bond of some sort because I just give her a look and she already knows to start climbing the stairs to my bedroom. She sits at the edge of my bed and I close my door behind us, then sit in my desk chair.

"...You mad at me?" I just ask to get it out of the way. I mean if she is, isn't it best to just get that on the table right up front?

"For telling me you were going to be there or for completely blowing the club off?"

My eyes fall to the floor. Okay, I do feel a little guilty. Maybe I should just tell her the truth about why I couldn't come after school today…

"Nah," she shakes her head and relief floods my body. Thank god I didn't lose the only friend I'm sure I have.

"You're not?"

"You've been kinda out of it all day. I kinda knew you weren't gonna show up. We kept your spot open, though. You are gonna join. Aren't you?"

"Was Puck there?"

Word vomit. Again. That was horrible timing. Now she's gonna think that I'm just trying to avoid —

"So what, you blew the club off just because you want to avoid Puck?"

Knew it.

"No, I'm just… wondering is all. I haven't seen him and he hasn't been on like, Facebook or anything, so." Bad save. "Was Mr. Schue mad that I wasn't there?"

"Nah, he gets it. He wasn't expecting you either."

"He wasn't?"

"No."

Did he talk to Miss Pillsbury? She's the only one who knows where I was this summer and that's only because we had to tell her since she's the counselor… she probably told him. They're boyfriend and girlfriend. Why wouldn't she tell him?

"How was Rachel?"

Word vomit. Again. Jesus, Quinn. What is wrong with you?

Feeling her name roll off my tongue actually hurts a little. Like my stomach just twisted a knot and the universe gut-punched me and gave me a cold, hard reminder that she's actually real. Because after refusing to speak her name and not seeing her at all today kind of made it feel like she didn't even exist anymore.

"Rachel?"

Hearing Mercedes say it back to me hurts a little more. Salt in the cut.

"...Yeah. I um… don't have any classes with her and didn't see her today."

"She's fine, I guess. A little more annoying now that she and Finn broke up."

"They broke up?!"

Too interested. You're too interested. Cool it, now. Before she figures something's up.

"Yeah, at the beginning of summer."

I want to ask why, but I don't. So instead, I -

"Are you sure Mr. Schue wasn't mad at me? For ditching?"

"Quinn, no. I swear. He gets it. We all do."

You all do? You all get what? Nobody can possibly get what's going on with me… I don't even get what's going on with me…

When two knocks sound at my door and then it opens, neither one of us are surprised to see my mom. In fact, I was wondering how long it would take for her to come up here and interrupt us just to say hi to Mercedes. She couldn't have come at a better time.

"Hey Mrs. Fabray," Mercedes waves. That's why my mom likes her. She's the only one who speaks to her when she sees her.

"Hello, Mercedes. Are you two going to come down for dinner?"

"Yeah, mom. In a second. Just wait."

"Alright. Hurry, it won't taste good cold."

She shuts the door and leaves us alone again, and silence fills the air between Mercedes and me. It's like a silent game we play. A game of who's going to break the silence first. I win, because -

"I just meant that we all understand if you need a minute to just get over everything, you know? You went through hell and back last year and if you need to recover, that's fine," she says. "But shutting everyone out isn't going to do any good. We all want to help. want to help."

But if I told you, you'd look at me like a freak… I just know you would… I can't tell anybody…. I can't… is just… too much…

Tears make the corners of my eyes sting, but I hold them back as best as I can.

"I'm fine, I promise. I… only skipped Glee Club because I wanted to come home and take a nap. I was tired. I'm not sure I'm going to join Glee Club this year. I don't think I'm going to join anything this year. Not even Cheerios. Everything got so messed up last year and I just want to get back on track and focus on school. Y'know?"

Again, silence falls between us. And usually, with Mercedes, silence between us isn't awkward. She's one of those people I can sit in silence with for hours and still be comfortable. Neither one of us ever feels the fill it. But this time… awkward doesn't even cover it. Mercedes breaks it again. This time by getting up off my bed and heading towards the door.

"You know Quinn… whatever you're going through… you don't have to go through it alone."

And with that, I'm glad she's gone. And I'm glad she closes the door behind her because the way I need to cry right now is just so embarrassing and I don't want anyone to see it.

That's just it. You don't understand.

am alone in this.

Chapter Text

It's not until I'm lying in bed at 8:25 halfway watching Family Feud and waiting for the clock to strike 9:00 so I can go to bed that I realize I should probably try to kick the schedule I was on back in Pennsylvania. I guess in some ways, the schedule is the last thing I have left of that place to hold onto and in a way, I want to keep it because if I'm being honest, those two months I spent in Pennsylvania were the only two months I ever felt like I had a handle on my life. It was so simple; just a schedule they made me and all the other girls follow every day in and day out. Even on weekends. Just a stupid little simple schedule. Yet, it made me feel like I had so much more stability.

I guess it was just nice to feel like I could count on something.

But now that I'm back home, I should probably try to get myself off of it or at least not be so dependent on it. After Mercedes left, I went downstairs and struggled through dinner with Mom. I finished reading my syllabuses and even folded a load of laundry. When it was 6:30, that's when I told myself that I could go take a shower and then when I got out, I got everything ready for school tomorrow. And since then, this is where I've been. In my bed listening to Family Feud while bouncing back and forth between different apps on my phone.

I don't have to follow the schedule anymore. So while I'm yawning every five minutes and fighting to keep my eyes open, I realize that I'm stupid. And I reach over with a lazy arm and push the power button on my remote. Then plug my phone into the charger. Then roll over on the side I'm most comfortable.

Tomorrow, I'm going to tell Mercedes. I've made up my mind about that. For one, it's just going to feel so much better having someone who knows everything and for two, I can feel better if I stop lying so much. Plus, it'll probably be nice to have someone to talk to about all of it. Right now, the only people in this world that I could breathe a word to are Mom, Franny, Miss Pillsbury and Bailey and that's not a pretty good lineup. I'll tell Mercedes. Yeah. I can trust her. I know I can.

...But what if she thinks I'm weird? Or crazy? What if she decides that I'm just not someone she wants to hang out with anymore and then she goes and spreads it all around school? I can't think of anything worse than the entire school knowing that I spent the entire summer in a psych ward.

Or worse yet, what if she asks me why I ended up there? I could tell her what my mother things is the reason and the reason why I did whatever I did, but I can't tell her all of it… can I? I really can't tell her all the things me and Jessica talked about and all the things that Jessica made me realize about myself. She really might not accept me then.

Maybe telling Mercedes is a bad idea…

I can't believe Puck's in Juvie. I mean, I can because where the hell else is he headed? But I still can't believe it. He always seemed like, invincible to me or something. Like no matter what he did, he would never get in that amount of trouble. Or at least if he did, he'd charm his way out of it somehow. I wonder what he did. I wonder what it was that was the last straw. And I wonder when he's getting out.

I bet Mr. Schue knows about me too. I know it's against some kind of law for Miss Pillsbury to talk to him about the students, but I just know in my heart that she did. If they're boyfriend and girlfriend, I'm sure it's come up. That's another reason why I can't join Glee Club. When I walk in there, he's going to welcome me with open arms and it's not because I'm a wonderful singer like her and an amazing dancer like Brittany. It's because he knows jay poor pathetic Quinn did a stint in a psych hospital and she needs Glee Club so much to build her back up. Not going to happen.

And I wonder when she and Finn broke up. I wonder how. I wonder why. I wonder who broke up with who. Was it mutual? Did she cry? She probably cried. If I had to guess, I'd say he broke up with her. She's not strong enough to break up with him. No, she's way too weak. I know it's none of my business. But I just want to know if she cried and if she did, how hard? And who comforted her? Kurt. Probably Kurt. Definitely Kurt. He'd understand. He lost Finn too at some point.

I crack a smile at my own head, then roll over to the other side. I don't know why it's so hard for me to fall asleep tonight, but I think it's because Mercedes gave me a lot to think about. But if I don't go to sleep soon, I'm going to be extremely cranky in the morning, so I'll try again. Harder this time.

I close my eyes.

This should be the most normal thing in the world, shouldn't it? People do this every day, don't they? It's just a name. It's six stupid letters to type in, then a little tap on a magnifying glass because how many people in this area have that name? Not many. She'll pop right up and then all I have to do is tap on her and then it'll all be done. I'll have all my answers and I'll look back and realize it wasn't that bad. Right? It's normal. I can do this. It's no big deal. People do it every day.

But I can hear my heart beating in my ears and my thumbs are so numb that I don't feel my phone screen beneath them each time I tap a letter. And my throat's all closed up and my nostrils are too and I can't breathe. I can't even look at the screen. Why does it feel like I'm doing something that's about to lead to my death?

I've been wanting to do this for weeks now. I just never have the courage. I felt so brave tonight, like I could take on the world and so I thought that I'd better do the one thing I've been so afraid of. And here I am; chickening out.

I have to do it though. The only way I'll get any answers or closure is if I just…

S-H-E-L-B-Y

Okay, there. I typed it in and hit the search button. I did it. And just like I suspected, there aren't many Shelbys in the Lima area on Facebook. She pops right up. The very first result. I know it's her, not only by her face being in the avatar picture, but also because I caught a glimpse of blonde curls in the avatar with her before I looked away.

Maybe I shouldn't do this. Maybe I'm not ready. Maybe I should do this in school or something, like when I'm in study hall and there are twenty other people around to keep me from letting tears fall down. This is probably the cruelest form of torture I can even dream of. So really, it makes no sense that my thumb goes over to the very first search result and taps on it too.

I'm here now. I did the part I spent the last twelve weeks and two days too scared to do. So why should I stop now?

I know her Facebook page has loaded, because the lighting on my phone's changed and I can tell that without even looking at it. I'll just rip the Band-Aid off real fast. I'll do it.

My eyes fall on the screen and as soon as they move, two splashes of tears make perfect circles on my screen.

I wipe them off with my quilt, then look again.

She's… she's…

"Me."

I surprise myself when I talk. And down comes several more rounds of tears. But what I said is true.

Even from the picture, I know her hair is soft. She's only four months old and my God, she has so much of it. It's kind of straight, but there are some curls there without a doubt. They don't really lie down and that's kind of like my hair, isn't it? She has my hair, doesn't she? Mine lies down now but when I was younger, it didn't. It looked exactly like that and it was that color too, wasn't it? Like… like cornsilk. And those little beady eyes. Why is it that they look so ugly on me but so beautiful on her? They're just as big and round as mine, aren't they? I even zoom in on her eyelashes… they're so long. And curly. And her lips are so pink and heart shaped and little and tiny and petite and perfect and…

I have to put my pillow over my face to muffle my cries because they're coming out so loud and obnoxious that I know my mom can probably hear.

How is this even possible? Some days, I really don't even know how I'm alive. It feels like my heart is outside of my chest and I'm hollow and empty but I still wake up every morning.

I regret it. Oh God, I regret it. I didn't think I would, but I do. I swear I thought everything was just going to go back to normal if I didn't have her and I thought that it was the best thing but it's not. Nothing's normal and it's not the best and I wish every second of the day that I didn't do it. How can the best thing be for her not to be with me? And if it's the best thing, why does it hurt so bad?

And nothing's normal. I feel hollowed out and empty where she used to be and my mind constantly goes to her, even when I don't want it to. And I can't shake the feeling of there being someone out there in the world that looks like me and IS part of me but I don't know her or see her. How does anyone live like this? How does this not eat them alive? How do I go on every day knowing that she's out there and I'm here and this isn't the way things are meant to be?

I could have done it. I know I could have. I was just being stupid and selfish and I wanted to be me again. I wanted to be a Cheerio and popular and I thought that if she wasn't here, I could but I can't. I can't and now look at me.

I miss her so much and I don't even know how that's possible. I don't even know her. I held her one time. One miraculous time and I miss her so much that everything inside of me just aches. And it's like I can still feel her. On my chest and inside of me, too.

I could have done it. Mom would have watched her while I was in school and then I'd come home every day and fix her a bottle and hold her and rock her while I did homework. I wouldn't be able to be a Cheerio or in Glee Club but who the hell cares? If I ever needed a break, Puck or his mom would've taken her but it would be rare. It would be hard but I could have done it. I could have.

Why did I do this? Why? And as I sit here and continue to torture myself by scrolling… Shelby's not even miserable. Not one bit. I know it makes me horrible but I was just wishing that maybe she felt it too. Maybe she felt that this was a horrible mistake too. But she doesn't. She posts everything. Bath time, bedtime. Snack time, tummy time. She's not miserable. She loves it.

She sees her every single day and me… well the only time I get to see her is in my dreams.

I have to sit up with my back against the headboard because I'm pretty sure I can't breathe again. I even put my hand over my heart to see if it's still beating because I swear this is what dying feels like. I'm trying to do those things that Jessica taught me — the whole in through the nose out through the mouth thing — but it's not working. It's not working and I can't breathe again.

I just want to see her. And not through some stupid little Facebook pictures, either. I want to see her and feel her warmth against my body like I always do in my dreams.

I know I just took four or five, but they're not working. I should be asleep by now.

So I reach over on my nightstand and grab the bottle. When I sit up to swallow them with the cup of water next to my lamp, the room is shaky and everything's kind of warped but it's okay. I stuff a couple more into my mouth, a gulp of water, then swallow.

I'll be sleeping soon enough and dreaming of her smiling at me and drooling on me and jabbering and I'll be happy.

Sometimes, when it hurts this bad, I grab her blanket. The one they wrapped her all up in after I had her. I never washed it. And it know it sounds gross, but it still has a little bit of blood on it here and there but I don't care. It always makes me feel a little bit closer to her when I have it.

So again, I sit up and everything's dizzy and weird but I don't care. I start to go over to the top drawer of my vanity where I keep it for nights like these and I don't know how when everything's all blurry, but I manage to grab it. But I don't quite make it back to my bed because I'm finally sleepy.

And on the floor is where I pass out.

I seriously can't breathe. Seriously. But I don't think it's the kind of can't breathe that it was that night. No, I feel more like I need to throw up or something. Like my stomach is clenching up and any second I'm going to vomit everything I ate today onto my bed.

So I get up, a lot like I did that night, with my back kind of bent so I'm hunched over. Only this time, I don't go to my vanity. This time, I drag my feet down the hallway and flick on the bathroom light.

When I pull up the toilet lid, grip my hands around the seat and open my mouth, nothing comes out. But I still feel like I need to. I still feel like…. like everything just needs to come out. My stomach is still clenching and my heart is still beating out of my chest. And my throat feels all swollen and gross but nothing is coming. But everything's fine, because I know how to solve this.

I solve it with two fingers launched to the back of my throat and abracadabra. Just like that, everything — the ravioli from dinner, the brownie from after I got out of the shower, the two glasses of iced tea — all make an appearance in the toilet.

Wow, I feel so much better.

It feels like I just threw some emotions up, too. My heart and my head don't feel quite as heavy. That was almost… therapeutic, it seems? I don't know. Either way it goes, I feel so much better and so much lighter now.

So maybe after I flush the toilet, wash my hands and brush my teeth…

I'll finally be able to sleep.


"So really, it's just like a way of measuring. So if you hear someone say, for example, 'his IQ is several standard deviations above the norm for his age', this is what they mean. Standard deviation is, in a nutshell, a way of measuring."

Mrs. Kessler drones on and on and on and usually, I have no problem staying awake during Stats class, but I didn't sleep very well at all last night and I'm really struggling. Seriously, I'm almost asleep with my head resting in the palm of my hand when the phone rings and she goes all "Miss Fabray, you're wanted in the guidance office."

That wakes me up.

I shuffle my book and notebook into my backpack, sling it over my shoulder and weave through the sea of desks to get to the door. Maybe I'm just paranoid, but I think everyone can tell that I slept like crap last night. Jeans and a simple shirt aren't normal for me, but when I rolled out of bed this morning I really didn't feel like finding a good ensemble. So skinny jeans, white flats and an old frilly white blouse is what I threw on.

The hallway is like a ghost town. There's nobody and nothing around, save for a Join Celibacy Club! flyer that somebody ripped down.

Celibacy club. Ha.

Anyway, I already know what Miss Pillsbury wants. She probably wants to tell me that she knows my dirty little secret and blah blah blah and really, I'm not looking forward to anything she has to say, but I am glad she got me out of Stats and woke me up a little bit.

Here goes nothing.

I turn the knob and walk right into her office. And to my surprise (and irritation), she's not alone.

Bailey, of all people, is sitting next to her with an eager looking grin on her face. They both look like they're so proud of themselves and really, I have to fight the urge to leave.

"Quinn," Miss Pillsbury smiles at me first. "Sit, sit."

I hesitate a moment, but sit anyway and avoid eye contact with both of them. Pillsbury slides me a pamphlet that says "So You're Transitioning From A Treatment Center?" I purposely don't take it.

"Bailey and I were talking over the phone yesterday and we both decided to ask you if maybe you'd like to be seen in school," Pillsbury continues.

"Instead of at the office. McKinley actually has a contract with our services and if you'd like, we can pick a period of the day that is good for you and —"

Bailey only stops when I stand up and grab my backpack. I'm not staying here to listen to this. If anyone — ANYONE — finds out that I'm seeing a shrink… and if my SHRINK comes to school….

"No thanks," I mumble as politely as I can.

"Quinn, wait, you haven't —" Pillsbury tries, but I don't let her.

"No," I look them both in the eye this time. "No. School is… school is off limits. Look, I'll come down to the office every Tuesday, I'll sit and talk about my feelings with you. But not at school. Not here. ….I have to get back to Stats."

Neither one of them stop me when I leave. I think they get the picture without me explaining it to them. I know they were just trying to help make it easier for me instead of having me drive all the way across town every Tuesday for half an hour but school is just a no. This is the one place that nobody treats me like I'm a mental case and I really need it to stay that way. Furthermore, I really don't need people to know I see a shrink and I think that if every week in, let's say 6th period, I was being called down to the guidance office, people would catch on.

I wouldn't have minded staying for the rest of Stats and telling Miss Pillsbury about Oakland Pines and what it was like all summer but now, I'm literally rushing to get back to Stats.

Rushing so much that I don't notice somebody coming out of the bathroom. They don't notice me either. Because the two of us run right into each other; nearly bumping heads.

And when I finally tune into my surroundings to see who I owe an apology….

She makes my body turn to stone.

Chapter Text

It's like flashing red lights are going off all inside my body and all I can see in front of my face is DANGER. PROCEED WITH CAUTION. Nothing in the world could have prepared me for this because two months in intensive therapy out in Pennsylvania didn't even do the trick. I mean Jessica and I both talked and she got me to the point where I was able to rehearse a few things to say to her, just enough to carry a conversation without seeming like a complete and total spazz. But there was nothing in our sessions that prepared me for this.

Nothing prepared me for the moment my feet turned to stone and planted me on the ground. At first, I'm thankful for the way they feel like weights that pin me to earth because in an instant, I could float away off into space and not even notice.

Nothing prepared me for the moment my brain turned to mush and words were stuck like peanut butter in the back of my throat, or for the way a bead of sweat rolled down the middle of my back and made me shiver. Standing in front of her was like confronting death and me, in the middle of a forked road had to pass her to move onto safety.

I don't know why she holds so much power over me. Especially when I worked on not letting her have it so hard in therapy. But here I am. Still stuck. For crying out loud, I can't even think her name. I'll say it sometimes when it just falls out of my mouth like slobber from a baby's. Those are the times when I let my guard down. But I won't dare think it. She doesn't have a name in my head. Because the second I give her a name in my head...

Is the second I lose the last bit of sanity I have anymore.

"Oh, Quinn," lucky for me, she speaks first. A tone so soft and mellifluous that for a moment, I think she's belting out another one of her tunes. And I think, dear god never stop talking. "Sorry, I just, wasn't paying attention." She talks more at the ground than to me.

"Isso —," I start and there the peanut butter words come flying out in a jumbled mess. Like Jessica told me once in therapy, I try again. "It's okay." Small victories. "Neither was I."

"Shouldn't you, you know, be in class?"

"I could say the same to you." Sometimes, I really don't know where my snarkiness comes from when I talk to her. I'm naturally snarky, this I know. But she's probably the one person I don't want to be snarky with but it's like…. with her, I just can't turn it off. With her, it's amplified by about ten thousand.

Try saying her name. Jessica said that might help.

"Look, Rachel —"

"I miss you in —"

We both start to talk at the same time, so we both fall silent at the same time too. She gives me a look between my eyes and somehow, I know that she means that I can continue. But I give her the same look back and put the ball in her court because really, I don't want to be the one to speak first again. Not whenever I feel like I want to throw up. Not whenever there are still sirens wailing in my head telling me to proceed with caution.

"I was just going to say that I missed you in Glee," she says as she rocks back and forth on her feet. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that she's speaking from fear. And if that's the case then I want to laugh so hard because she's scared while talking to me, probably because I'm awful to her, but it's me who's the coward. It's me who's afraid of breathing more than one kind word to her at a time.

The silence between us is so heavy that it's awkward and I know it's because it's my turn to speak but I can't put together a full sentence with her. I really want to run the other way with my tail between my legs and give up.

I hate that I notice the littlest things about her. Like how there's a piece of string hanging loose from the sleeve of the black and white checkered cardigan she has draped over her blouse but if she pulls it, the whole thing will pop a seam. Or how the corners of her eyes aren't crinkled so I know her smile isn't genuine. And how the hemline of her skirt is crooked so I know she added that slip in herself, probably to seem more sexy but she didn't really need to do that. And also the way her lip gloss isn't glossy anymore except for in one spot but if I tell her that she might think I'm weird for looking at her mouth while she speaks.

It's so much easier to hate her. Liking her and really liking her is just so… exhausting.

"Are you going to join? We left a spot open for you."

I shrug. Still nothing from my mouth. The peanut butter words are back and heavy and hard in my throat and I know she's thinking that I'm being my usual self but I swear, I'm not. I just can't get my brain to work properly. It's like I glitch whenever she's around me and I haven't quite figured out the solution. I could just give her a "goodbye, Rachel," and I know that she'll get the point and let me go, but I don't want to. How do I tell her to stay when my mouth wants to tell her to go? To get out of here? To leave me alone for the rest of my life and never talk to me ever again because I don't want to feel the way I feel now and she's the only person in this world who's ever made me feel this way?

"We don't have to make this awkward, Quinn," she breaks the silence.

"What?" I say it almost as soon as she stops talking. More like a reflex than anything because in that moment, it really felt like she read my mind.

"Between you and me," her tone is gentle, which makes it easy to let my guard down a bit. "It doesn't have to be awkward." Is she really reading my mind right now? Or did she somehow pick up on the fact that she makes my insides feel like jelly? "I know my birth mom adopted your baby, and —"

"Just shut up right there."

Relief? Yeah, kind of. I guess I'm glad she doesn't know my big fat giant secret but in a way, I wish she kinda did. Maybe then I'd stop walking around so damn emotional all the time.

"I'll see you around," I mumble and breeze right past her.

"I know how you feel," her words stop me dead in my tracks. "Kind of. About adoption. I mean I know the situations are very different, but still. I was adopted and you….I'm just saying, I'm willing to listen. If you wanna talk."

I don't bother saying thank you, even though I want to. It's like my head and my heart share two different souls but they're stuck in this body of mine and every single day, they battle and sometimes I don't know which one is going to win. Today, I think my head won. Because my heart is telling me a million times that I should stay there and talk to her because it's the only thing that'll make me happy. But my head wants me to save face; hold onto the little bit of the old Quinn Fabray I have left in me and walk away from her.

And by the way Mrs. Kessler's door closes behind me as I go back to Stats class, it's clear that it's the one victorious.


The day before I left Oakland Pines, Jessica told me that when I got home, I was going to start noticing all the little ways my life has changed since Mom and Dad split. I told her that she didn't know what she was talking about, because Mom and Dad had split before I had my baby, which was a while before treatment, and my life wasn't all that different. She told me it was different, I just didn't notice because I didn't give myself enough time to feel.

Well now that it's 4:00 on a weeknight and I'm sitting on the couch in the good living room with a bag of popcorn in my lap, I think I'm finally noticing the difference. Really, I just thought that lounging around eating popcorn while watching The People's Court was my attempt at being a normal teenager but I feel anything but normal now. I guess it's because a year ago, this wouldn't even be allowed. A year ago, nobody was allowed to sit in the good living room unless we had guests and there was absolutely no eating whatsoever in here.

Funny how now that Dad isn't here, Mom just doesn't care about the rules.

Her outfit was really nice today, actually. She matched that checkered print really well with the —

When the show cuts to commercial, I pick my phone up off the couch beside me — mindful of not getting popcorn butter stains on the upholstery — and open up Instagram, for a change.

Since that run-in in the hallway during third period earlier, I've been forcing myself to think of other things when I think about her. When I think about Rachel. Sometimes I do a good job at forgetting that she exists, mostly when I'm doing something else. But every ten or fifteen minutes, she infiltrates my thoughts and I have to do something, like open up Instagram, and get my mind back off of her again.

But it's like the universe is playing cruel tricks on me today because the first thing I see when I open up my instagram app is that rachelbberry posted a picture and as my luck would have it, it's a selfie of her and her self-proclaimed BFF. Not that I have anything against Kurt. Honestly, I can see why the two of them get along so well. But if you ask me, he ruined a perfectly good picture.

Maybe it won't be so bad if I just…

My thumb goes down to the heart in the left hand corner and I tap it. There. I liked it. Because I do. I do like the picture...

Now I know everyone who follows me will see that queenquinn liked rachelbberry's picture and honestly, I know nobody will think that it means anything other than me scrolling through and nonchalantly liking her picture but what if someone does think it means more than that. What if someone figures it out and thinks that I liked it because… I… like… her?

But I don't like Rachel. Because that makes me the G word and I'm nowhere near that. I'm not. I don't care what anyone says. Even Jessica was wrong. I'm not the G word. Or the L word. Or even the B word. Not that B word, either. I am that B word sometimes. I'm not the Bi word, I mean.

What if somebody thinks I am…

But look at that picture. Look at her lips and her nose and those perfect chocolate brown eyes…

Mom plops down on the couch next to me and in the great decision of Should I Like Or Unlike Rachel's Picture On Instagram, Mom's presence makes the decision for me.

Just as quickly as I "liked" it, I go back and "unlike" it.

"Whatcha watchin?" Mom's question sends a brief surge of irritation through my body. It's short-lived, though.

"People's Court," I mumble.

"Oh. How was school?" She scoots a little closer to me and the irritation creeps back up.

"It was fine," I mumble again. "Tiring."

"I bet." Finally, to top it all off, she reaches over and strokes her hand through my hair and I'm sorry, but that is the last straw.

"We don't have to do this," I snatch away from her and scoot to the other end of the couch.

"Do what, Quinn?" She seems irritated with me, but I don't care.

"Pretend that we're something we're not. We kept up the act long enough, you can stop now. You don't have to pretend that you're a good mother and I don't have to pretend that I'm a —" she winces at the "good mother" comment, so I take a moment and redirect. I didn't mean to make her feel bad, but hey. Truth hurts. "We can just go back to normal. Okay? You don't have to play with my hair."

"What's normal, Quinnie?" There she goes, right back to that little "I'm Miss Perfect" tone. It's so annoying. Especially when I know that it's all an act.

"Not you playing with my hair," my voice is so vicious that I just can't help it. "We can go back to the way things used to be is all I'm saying."

"Well forgive me, but the last time things were 'the way they used to be', my daughter attempted suicide. So forgive me, Lucy. But no. I will not go back to the way things used to be. Things are changing around here."

"Is that what it takes for things to change? Do I have to die, or almost die, for you to realize that things need to change? Well forgive me, Judy. But I don't want that kind of change. Not if I have to die to get it." I get up off the couch, fully prepared to go to my room, but not until she knows this. "And by the way, I didn't try to kill myself. That's the conclusion you jumped to because you feel guilty. That's not my reality. And I'm not going to therapy today because I don't need it."

I think that last line is what really throws her over, because she was fully seated until I said that. Now, she's on her feet and facing me even though I'm halfway to the steps already.

"You're going to therapy, Quinn. I don't care if you don't feel like you need it. You… you don't know what that was like for me to find you like that. I was so…," she clears her throat when it becomes froggy from tears. "Anyway, you're going to therapy and that's final."

"Well sorry to bust your bubble, but I'm not. And that's that."

With that, she lets me go upstairs to my bedroom but as I'm stomping up the steps and preparing to slam my door, I do hear her calling after me. And I want so badly not to listen, but it's kind of hard not to when there's nothing else in the house but the sound of her voice saying:

"You're not eighteen yet and I'm still your mother so as long as I'm your mother, you'll do as I say and go to therapy!"

X X X

Mom had a point about me not being eighteen and having to do as I say, so it's really no surprise when I end up back in Bailey's chilly waiting room staring at the NO CELL PHONES! sign again. We rode the entire way over here in silence, but Mom came in with me again for a second, just to talk to Bailey. She pulled Bailey right aside as soon as she came out to call me back and two of them have been by the door talking for about five minutes. They're trying to be secretive and whisper, but I think that's kind of stupid because I already know they're talking about me. What else do they have in common? What else could they be discussing? The weather? It's been crappy and rainy for two days straight. That's not a five minute conversation topic. Sports? My mom's never watched sports a day in her life except for me and Frannie's soccer games and even then, she was on the phone most of the time. Politics? My mom's a hardcore Trump supporter and I'm pretty sure I saw an "I'm With Her" poster in Bailey's office so I highly doubt they're discussing that.

I thought it was illegal for Bailey to discuss anything with my mom. Even though I'm not eighteen. Anyway, I avoid eye contact with my mom when they finally stop talking and she walks back over to me.

"I'm going to go run some errands and pick up dinner while you're here," she says that to me with nothing but firmness in her tone but joke's on her because I don't even reply or acknowledge her. I just get up, smooth my skirt down, and follow Bailey back into her office again.

"So," she starts before we even sit down and before the door is closed. "Thank you for coming to see me again. I was worried that after our mishap about me coming to see you in school would make you shy away from coming, but it didn't. I'm glad to see you."

"Uh-huh," I sink down into the chair across from her.

Bailey clears her throat as she sits, "Even though I can't discuss with your mom the things I speak with you about in our sessions, she can ask me to mention some things to you and talk to you about some of her concerns."

"Yeah," I nod and concentrate on the same piece of lint on the carpet as I did the first time I came to see Bailey. She really ought to invest in a vacuum.

"And one of the concerns she just aired with me is the fact that you seem to be in denial about somethings."

I just keep nodding.

"Most notably about your suicide attempt. She seems to think that you're in denial about what really happened."

"I'm not. She just thinks that I tried to kill myself and I really didn't, so."

"Then why'd you end up in Oakland Pines? If you didn't try to kill yourself, Quinn?" She sits back in her chair and looks at me like I'm a puzzle she can't find the missing piece to. "Seems unlikely you'd warrant a stint there if you didn't."

"Because my mom thought I did. She was convinced I did. So… yeah."

"But you didn't try to kill yourself?"

"No."

"So you took a total of…" she quickly glances in my chart.

"575mg of Zolpidem for… what? Fun?"

"I just… wanted to sleep is all. I was having trouble falling asleep and I wanted to."

"Seems unlikely they'd waste insurance money and keep you at Oakland Pines if you weren't truly suicidal is all I'm saying." I shrug as an answer, which irritates her, I can tell by the tone of her voice. "Can you tell me what made you feel so much that you wanted to sleep to avoid it all?"

"The fact that I was sleepy."

"You know what, Quinn?" she takes her glasses off and pinches the bridge of her nose to calm down. "You need to be more realistic about your situation. You need to be more serious about your recovery and why you're here and you need to participate. Now I can sit here for hours and talk to you until I'm blue in the face about all the reasons why someone — professional — diagnosed you with both clinical depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and generalized anxiety and wrote out Trazodone and Zoloft scripts for you, and I can give you all the tools to help manage all these things but nothing is ever going to work unless you give me a chance and WANT it to work. Okay? You have to PARTICIPATE."

"I don't need this, though! I don't know why I'm here! I went to Pennsylvania, I PARTICIPATED for an entire sixty days there, I talked to the therapists, took my medicines, went to group, all that. I'm all fixed now. I'm better. So I don't know why I'm here."

"If that's the way you think therapy and recovery works, then Quinn —"

"Can I go now? Because I really think this is just a waste of your time and mine."

"Need to use the office phone to call your mother?" She's getting smart with me, but she doesn't know that I'm Quinn Fabray and really, I'm the queen of smartass remarks.

"No thanks, I have my own," I smile at her in the most sarcastic way and stand up.

"Quinn, wait," she loosens up for a moment. "Here. If you won't give my methods a try and you're not willing to participate with me, then here. Try this." She opens up her desk drawer and produces a red composition book. "Take a journal. Try writing your feelings down. At least once a week."

I sigh and roll my eyes, but take it anyway just because I think I've already insulted this woman enough today. I'll never write in it but at least I made an effort. At least she'll think I tried.

I stuff the thing in my purse, then dig around to find my phone so I can call my mom on my way out of her door.

I just don't want to relive everything I lived though in that treatment center and I feel like that shouldn't make me the bad guy. I already know all the things she's going to tell me to do. I've already done them. She's going to tell me to identify my triggers and I already know that's my baby. She's going to tell me to confront my triggers, which will lead to me writing my baby a note for her to receive on her eighteenth birthday but I already know I'll never have the courage to actually mail it. Then she's going to ask me about her — about Rachel — and I'm going to have to live through her telling me that the cross around my neck means absolutely nothing and all the things I've been believing my whole life about it being wrong and about me being condemned to hell are just silly. And she's going to encourage me to befriend Rachel and I can't do that. I just can't. So really… therapy is just a waste for me.

As I walk up the hallway and feel the tears prick the corners of my eyes… I feel a lot of things. But mostly, I just feel full. I feel like my body is just full of so much of everything. Hatred for myself, because I just suck as a person in general. Hatred for my mom because she's useless. And hatred for my dad because everything wrong in this world can be traced back to him. Hatred for Puck, because he has a hand in all this. Hatred for Rachel because she's the one that makes me hate myself for how much I….like her. Hatred for Shelby. Hatred for me, more. And then there's all that love stuffed in there, too. Love for my baby, love for Rachel, love for Shelby. But then the hatred comes again and sometimes it's stronger than love. I want the love to win. But it can't coexist with the hate and honestly it makes me feel tired and full. Stuffed. Maxed out on capacity. Like I can't hold anything else — anymore feelings inside of me anymore.

So before I pass the bathroom and head for the exit so I can go outside and wait on Mom…

I round the corner and go inside the bathroom instead. Because the only solution to this uncomfortable feeling of fullness inside of me is lies in two fingers to the back of my throat.

And call me crazy, but I swear this is true.

The moment everything I ate for the day comes out of my mouth and splashes into the toilet…

I don't feel so full anymore.

Chapter Text



 

"When the dreamer wakes up and starts to reflect, that is when we can infer that the pearl is representing his daughter. When he speaks of mourning the great loss of his pearl, he is meaning the loss of his daughter. Now why do we think the author of this piece would choose something like a pearl to represent the dreamer's daughter? Anyone?" Mr. Stoneham's eyes dart all across the classroom and this is when I decide to give up on listening.

One of the things I hate the most is when teachers lecture like this first thing in the morning. I mean, I get it. He can't control what time his literature class is scheduled and yeah, he got the crappy end of the stick with having to teach seniors for second period. I know he still has to get his material in either way, I get it. But it is 9:00 in the morning, Figgins just passed a new rule this year saying that we can't have food or drinks in the classrooms which means I don't have coffee, and the last thing my brain wants to do right now is dive into some college-level analysis of a dumb Middle English poem written ten thousand years ago.

It's taking everything in me not to put my head down on top of my binder and fall asleep like the entire back row did. The thing about Stoneham is that he doesn't care if you fall asleep. I know some teachers say they don't care whether the students pay attention to them or not, but I mean it when I say that Stoneham really doesn't care. He won't wake you up or write you up or make you stay for detention. He'll just make sure your test is a hundred times harder than everyone else's since you slept through his entire class. But you know what? It's early enough in the year that I can completely bomb a test or two in here and still get an A.

After yawning so wide that my jaw should have come unhinged, my eyes go over to the window that I'm sitting next to, and I stare out of it. Partly to keep myself awake, but mostly because I'm bored. And as I look at the flag blowing in what seems to be a rhythm in the wind…

It doesn't take long for my thoughts to wander off...

There was a time when I thought my mom hung thmoon in the sky. When I was little, she was Mommy and the only one who made everything bad in the world go away with a hug and kiss on the cheek. It didn't matter what the problem was, she'd fix it. Fell down at the soccer game? She'd kiss my elbow and it felt all better. Kids at school made my life hell by calling me fat? She'd pull me onto her lap and rock with me until I forgot all about why I was crying.

Now that I'm sixteen and the issues are a little bit bigger than me falling down and getting a skinned knee, I'm starting to wonder if maybe mom's touch only worked for small problems. Maybe there are problems so big even moms can't fix. I haven't gone to her for help in a very long time. But tonight, I'm half a step past desperate and maybe she'll help me — dig down deep and find some of that Mommy Magic — and know what to say.

Maybe she'll understand. I'm not expecting a miracle or perfection, but maybe she'll understand just enough to get me out of this headspace I'm in because I really need her right now and she's my only option.

I'm not supposed to do any of this. I'm not supposed to cry, to falter and be weak. I'm not supposed to do anything but smile and give off the impression that everything here is perfect. Because we're the Fabrays and that's what we do. We don't have negativity in this house. Nobody ever has a bad day. We're all picture perfect and come straight off the cover of the Good Housekeeping magazines.

But tonight, I caved in and I'm broken. I've been keeping it all together and holding it all in for too long and I think I finally exploded so maybe — just maybe — she'll have some understanding for that. Maybe she'll look inside the heart Dad turned cold so long ago and say hey, Quinn is right. She went nine whole months without even so much as wincing. And she's been going this long after the birth without breaking. Maybe she deserves a moment of vulnerability here.

It's not going to be easy. I don't know how I'm going to waltz into her room and tell her that I just looked my baby's adopted mother up on Facebook and I feel like it took a piece of my guts away and I need my mommy to hug me and tell me everything's okay.

I don't bother wiping my face off before I walk down the hallway, because that'd be pointless. I'm only going to cry some more and my face is still going to be blotchy red so trying to make myself look presentable before I stand in front of her and ask her to talk to me is just flat out pointless.

I can count on one hand how many times I've been in my parents' room. And all four of those times have been after I had my baby. When Dad still lived here, it felt like their room was the forbidden zone and I dare not cross the threshold unless I wanted to face the consequences. Now that it's only Mom's room, it feels a little more bearable.

I knock, softly at first. "Mom?"

I know she's still awake because I can hear the TV still on. She must not have heard me, so I knock again. A little harder this time.

"Mom…?"

Still, nothing. But I swear I can hear the TV. Someone is talking in there and since it's almost 11:30 at night, I seriously doubt she's on the phone with anyone. Maybe she fell asleep with the TV on. It's not probable, since she can't sleep unless it's totally quiet and dark, but it's possible.

I tuck my hair behind my ear and it against the door so I can listen and make sure it's the TV before I go in there unannounced because if there's a list of things that the Fabrays just don't do, that's another thing. Nobody goes inside of a closed door without knocking and being invited in first. It's just the rules.

Maybe that's not the TV I heard…

"Francesca called and said her flight landed well," I hear my mom say. She's using her country club housewife voice instead of her normal voice so really, there's only a handful of people she could be talking to. "Italy, dear. This semester, she's studying in Italy."

"You have her bank information?" His voice almost stings my ears when I hear it. I wish she didn't have him on speaker. It's been a while since I've heard him speak, but I could never forget his voice. It's big, booming and even through the phone, intimidating. Yet somehow, I kind of missed it. Something about my Dad's voice just makes me feel compelled to listen. "I'm gonna send her a couple hundred, just so she has that safety net for spending out there."

"Yeah, I'll send it to you in the morning, dear." Mom replies and I'm a little confused by the word "dear" coming out of her mouth. They're divorced. I can understand him calling and asking about his kids and I understand her telling him about us because we are his kids too, but why is she calling him pet names? "I'm a little worried about Quinn."

"Why's that?" he asks, but it doesn't really sound like he's interested. It's almost like he asked out of obligation.

"Well, she's been asleep every night by 10:15. You know she doesn't usually sleep that early, plus it's summer. She hasn't gone out with her friends or anything. I know it's only been a week since school's let out, but —"

"She's fine, Judy. Probably just finally got her head on straight, that's all."

"Have you spoken to her at all?"

"I don't have anything to say to that girl."

That girl.  Is that what I'm reduced to? I'm not a name to him anymore; I'm not a person? I'm a "that girl"?

"I'm just hoping she can finally get back on track," Mom says.

"The only sensible thing that girl's ever done is giving that baby away. Now maybe she'll think straight and start repenting for bringing an abomination into this world," his words make me feel like my entire body's been dipped in ice water, then hung out to dry in the middle of the arctic. It hurts…

And I want to let it hurt. I want to sit down with my back against the wall and let it all just sink in and let him hurt me the way he used to when he lived here. But I know my mom's on my side. She's been on my side for the past few months. She even turned the room that used to be Frannie's into a nursery when she thought I was going to keep her, so I know she doesn't think she's a bastard or anything of the sort. She'll defend me. She won't let him talk about me or about my baby like that.

"Oh, I think she will. I agree with you, dear. I think she's excited to start going to church and I think she knows she has to make it up to a lot of people, but mostly up to God. Having a baby out of wedlock just…"

No… she can't mean that. She can't mean any of that…

I back away from the door so I don't hear anymore because now the sting is really starting to set in.

She can't mean any of that. She can't. She… when she told me I could move back home, she told me that she loved me and she loved my baby too. She can't possibly mean what she said. My baby isn't an abomination… she told me she loved us. How could she say that if she loves us? I really thought Mom was on my side now. After she made Dad leave… I just thought…

The only person I need in this world is my baby. Everyone can think she's a bastard and an abomination and everyone can think I'm the biggest slut to roam the earth, I don't care. All I need is her. I don't need anybody else to be on my side. I don't need Mom or Dad. I just need Beth. I just need to go to sleep so I can see Beth. I want to be with Beth forever.

I know what I have to do now.

I don't need Mom to know that I was awake and listening to their conversation, so I tiptoe back up the hallway and go into the bathroom.

The only time I get to see Beth is in my dreams. In my dreams, I feel her body against my chest and feel her heartbeat against mine. Sometimes our heartbeats sync up and beat in tune with each other and those are the times I know that nobody will ever make me feel the way she does.

I just need to sleep so I can be with my daughter…

So I open up the medicine cabinet and —

"Miss Fabray?" Stoneham's voice is harsh enough to make me jump right out of my daydream. And I'm thankful for that, too. Jessica said that flashbacks are normal and to be expected but I really wish they'd hit me at a more appropriate time. Anyway, I make eye contact with Stoneham and somehow he knows that I need him to repeat the question. "Why do you think the author chose a pearl to symbolize the dreamer's daughter?"

"U-uh," I clear my throat and sit up straight to pretend that I was actually paying attention all along. "Because pearl's are beautiful. And rare. And precious. Maybe he thought all those things about his daughter." I know I think all of those about mine. "And pearls are hard to find. So now he lost it and won't ever get it back."

Stoneham smiles at me and that's when I can breathe again. "Beautiful analysis, Miss Fabray. Beautiful. Beautiful." He turns around and starts writing what I said on the chalkboard.

I take a breath and start to calm down as I mess with the pages of my literature book.

But just when I start to feel like my feet are back on the ground and I can 100% breathe again… something catches my eye. Or someone, catches my eye. They walk past the door of my literature class and stop at their locker. At first, the way my heart stops beating, I think my brain halfway expects it to be Rachel. She's the only person who's ever made my heart skip a beat. She's the only person who's ever made me feel like I'm not inside my body anymore.

I'm starting to realize that Rachel's the only one who's ever made me feel those things, but when I felt them from her, they were in a good way.

Because my heart has stopped beating now, but it's not in a good way. And I feel like I just left my body and I'm watching myself from the ceiling and that's not in a good way either.

The person in the hallway shuts their locker and starts walking the opposite way they came and I'm about to get a glimpse of their face but I look away at the second because I don't need to see his face to know who he is.

I'd recognize that mohawk anywhere.


It's been wet and rainy these last few days here in Lima, so I'm not really surprised that is wet and rainy today as well, but I really wish I could have had a talk with Mother Nature before I left my house this morning, because today is a day where I really needed it to be sunny. I needed the sun to be out and the birds to be chirping because I really needed to eat lunch with Sam and Mercedes on the steps today.

But because the universe hates me, here we are: stuck in the cafeteria sitting at one of those round tables next to the garbage cans and the entire senior class is enclosed in this one tiny space. I'm trying my hardest to listen to everything that Sam and Mercedes are saying, but they're mostly just talking to each other. I think they're back together, but I don't know for sure and I'm not willing to ask. I'm even trying to take a few bites of the slimy Salisbury steak and the hard rice.

If it were another day, I'd probably get up and buy a cookie from the snack booth, then a cupcake from the softball team's bake sale table. And I wouldn't bother with the Salisbury steak and rice. And I'd probably feel like the third wheel to Sam and Mercedes and combat that feeling by studying for the Biology quiz I have next period.

But today isn't just another day. Today is a day where I'm stuck at the table because if I get up, he might notice me enough to come and talk to me and I don't want that. I don't want to admit it, but I have spent the entire twenty minutes I've been in the cafeteria kind of watching him, which is why I wish we could eat outside today because at least then, there's more space for him to go and enough room for me to keep him out of my sight. But in this little cafeteria, I'm looking right at him.

He seems the same. I can't hear anything coming out of his mouth but just by watching his lips, I know that he's telling Finn all about his time in lock up and Finn is eating it all up. He's the big man on campus again, and all the little loser boys are afraid again. I don't want to watch him, but I can't help it. It's like when you lose a tooth and your tongue can't help but go to the empty space. My eyes are drawn to him and it's not easy to pull them away.

"Quinn," Mercedes calls me. I think it's the first time she's talked to me all lunch period. "You want my chips? I'm not gonna eat em."

"You can have my cookie too, if you want," Sam offers with a shrug and it takes me less than two seconds to figure that they're only asking me because I haven't even taken a bite of my food. "I didn't realize it was oatmeal raisin. Thought it was chocolate chip."

"No thanks, guys," I shake my head and of course, my eyes go back to Puck. I guess part of me feels like if my eyes are on him, at least I know where he is. At all times.

"Crazy that he's back," Sam says. When my eyes peel away again, I can see that he traced them so he knows who I'm looking at. "Thought for sure he'd get a while longer, huh?"

"I did," Mercedes chimes in. "So now I wonder who he smooth talked into letting him out so early. He was only there for like, three months."

"What'd he do?" I ask, eyes still on Puck. "Nobody will give me a straight answer."

"He stole an ATM. Right out of the 7/11 parking lot." Sam says.

"Oh," I whisper. Since my eyes are already on their table, I'm already looking when she — when Rachel — walks over to it. I have half a mind to look away so nobody thinks I'm staring at her, but I just can't do it. I like it when she tries her hair up. It's not often, but sometimes she'll wear it in a low ponytail and I think it's always nice when she does because then more of her face is showing.

I thought Mercedes said she and Finn broke up… I thought they weren't together anymore…

She takes the seat right next to Finn and the two of them say a few things to each other that I can't make out, then he pecks her on the cheek. Puck grins at them and at the same time he does, a lump forms in the back of my throat.

"Oh look," Mercedes's tone is semi-sarcastic. "The Royal couple really is back together."

"They are?" I ask. My voice cracks but I don't think Mercedes notices.

"Yeah, they told us in Glee Club yesterday that they're trying to 'work on their differences.'" Sam explains.

I just nod my head, but I don't wanna be here anymore. I don't want to sit back and watch any of this. I just…

"On second thought, yeah," I say as I stand up and gather my books for the next three periods. "I'll take your chips and I'll take your cookie. I'm gonna go finish in the library, though. I totally forgot I have a Bio quiz next period and I gotta study." I grab Mercedes' bag of Doritos and Sam's oatmeal raisin cookie, then stick them on my tray so I can carry everything. "I'll see you guys later."

They both yell their "bye, Quinn!" after me, but I don't stop to say bye back because I really have to get out of here now if I'm going to make it out before anybody sees me cry. I take my books and my tray and round the corner into the bathroom, silently praying that nobody's in here.

And for the first time in a long time, my prayers are answered. The bathroom is completely empty and I thank god as I put my books down on the sinks and head into the handicap stall. I know these floors are absolutely gross, but being sanitary is the least of my concern at the moment, so I sit down on the floor anyway.

If somebody were to come in and go to the stall beside me, they'd be able to see clear up my skirt to my pink lace underwear because my legs are folded so my tray has a place to sit but again, I don't care. I just put the tray in the folds of my legs, grab my fork and go to town.

I feel so… empty. Puck's here and Rachel's kissing Finn again and Mercedes is kissing Sam again and I spent the summer in a damn psych ward and… what about me? Will anything ever be normal again? Will I ever stop feeling this much? Will I ever stop feeling so empty?

The way I swallow the Salisbury steak nearly whole makes me feel good for a second, but then the emptiness is still there so I finish the rice off behind it in like three spoonfuls. A little less empty now, but still…

I break Sam's cookie into two equal sized pieces and put them both in my mouth at the same time. My cheeks kind of hurt with the way they're full to capacity, but I chew and chew and chew until the bits are small enough to swallow. Damn, that hit the spot.

I open the Doritos by squeezing them until one end busts open, then shovel them in my mouth before I've even swallowed all of the cookie. The bag was little, but the chips are gone in just a few seconds and my entire tray is completely empty, save for the little carton of apple juice. So I crack that baby open too, then guzzle it until a little bit of it is running down my cheeks and tickling my ears.

I swallow all of it so hard it hurts and only now do I realize that I'm crying. And I don't know myself all that well anymore, so I wonder what did it. Was it Puck being back, Rachel sitting with Finn or realizing that I'm so terribly lonely by sitting with Mercedes and Sam that finally made me cry? Maybe it's all three.

My stomach's so full that it hurts and I'm uncomfortable, but I have to let it sit for a while. So I do. I sit there with my back against the wall, my empty tray in the middle of my lap, my stomach poking out like I'm a couple weeks pregnant again and my hair sticking to my face from the tears.

I lift my phone to check the time and even though I'd usually let this all sit and marinate for a little while longer, the bell is about to ring to go to class and this bathroom is going to be flooded with girls who skip, so I have to hurry up and go now.

I yank the ponytail holder from my wrist and tie my hair back with it, then move my tray onto the floor. I crawl over to the toilet and again, I know it's not the most sanitary thing in the world, but who the hell cares? I shove my two fingers into my mouth anyway and it all comes out surprisingly easy. My shoulders hunch, stomach squeezes and in an instant, I feel whole again.

So… so much better.

XXX

In study hall, I usually have work to do but today I don't. I'm not sure if the teachers got together and collectively decided not to assign homework tonight, but I don't have any to do and I have nothing to study, so I guess I have no choice but to just sit here and wait until the bell rings so I can go the hell home.

I thought about trying to sleep because Mrs. Bunch is another teacher who could care less if we sleep. Except she's different than Stoneham because it's study hall and she can't make sure any test is hard. Anyway, I can't sleep in here because I'm not tired. I thought I was until I put my head down on my book bag and found that my stomach is empty but my mind is full. And when your stomach is empty but your mind is full, it's hard to sleep like that.

I don't want to just sit here and wait for the bell to ring, though. Because if I sit here then my mind will wander and these days, I don't know what my mind will wander to.

Maybe I'll just read ahead for literature class. That can't hurt.

I unzip my backpack and sift through it to find my literature book. And as I'm filing through all the books I have stuffed in here, I pass that little red composition book that Bailey gave me.

Maybe…

I pull it out.

I don't have anything else better to do. So why not? It's not like I'm going to do it all the time…

I grab a pencil, open to the first page and...

September 9th

I have nothing else better to do in this study hall so I decided to write in here. Is Bailey going to read any of this? I don't think so.

I'm supposed to write down my feelings. I don't have feelings though. Not right now.

I miss Cheerios. I miss Glee Club. I miss belonging to a group. Lately I haven't felt like joining anything but now I do. I don't like going home after school anymore. I wish I had something to make me spend more time away. The only time I get out is to go to therapy and I hate therapy.

I'm starting to remember everything that happened that night I wanted to sleep. I remember at weird times. Like in literature class. I'm remembering bits and pieces and they don't make sense because I'm remembering out of order. Maybe I didn't fully forget. So far I have

I looked her up on Facebook

I tried to talk to mom

I took pills

That's pretty much all of it anyway.

Puck is back. I don't care. He was in juvie but now he's not. I don't really care that he's back though. It doesn't affect me. I wonder if he thought about Beth while he was locked up though. It doesn't seem fair that he can think about her. I wish she wasn't half way his. I wish she was all the way mine. Rachel is back with Finn. I don't care though. Whatever. Everyone has somebody except me but it's because I don't deserve anybody. Nobody would make me happy anyway.

This is dumb.

I close the notebook because I don't know what else to write. I don't think I did what Bailey wanted me to do, but it doesn't really matter because I only did it because I was bored.

It's kind of weird though, because I didn't really know I felt that way. About Beth being half Puck's, I mean. I didn't know I wished she was all the way mine until I wrote it.

Maybe that's how journaling is supposed to feel...

Chapter Text

September 10

I wonder if there's any scientific explanation for threason why everything is worse at night. Maybe I'm the only person it happens to, but it's like I'm fine during the day and managing well but when I lie down to go to sleep at night, everything sets in and I can't turn my brain off long enough to fall asleep. The worst part about all of it is that all I really want to do anymore is sleep, but I never can. When I'm asleep, nothing hurts and everything is calm. When I'm asleep, there's nothing for me to think too deeply about. It's like a free trial of everything inside of me being calm and I'd give anything in this world to keep that up.

It feels weird to say, but I really miss Pennsylvania and I want to go back. It's funny because I spent the entire two months in that place desperate to get out and become tuned in to the real world again. But now that I'm tuned in to the real world, I wish I could tune back out and retreat back to the only place I felt safe. I think it's kind of counterproductive how they teach you everything you need to know to survive in that place, but nothing about what you're supposed to do when you're suddenly back in the same environment that broke you in the first place.

I guess I just miss the stability and possibly the routine. I miss having something to count on in my life. It wasn't much, but at least I knew that every day at 5:30, no matter what, I had group to attend and when thclock struck 7:00, it was my shower time.

Out here, I don't even know which way is up. Sometimes I come home to Mom making some elaborate dinner and sometimes she's not here and left money on the counter for takeout. For just once, I wish that something was the exact same when I got home after school. For just once, I wish that I could count on knowing that every day was going to be takeout or every day was going to ba home cooked meal. I just wish something in my life was stable and nothing ever is.

The strangest part about all of this is that I was never someone who wanted things to be predictable. Once upon a time, I loved for things to be shaken up and different from day to day, but now I'm the exact opposite. At least I think I am. I don't really know who I am anymore.

That's the scary part. I wake up every day not knowing which version of myself I'm going to get. I don't know if I'm going to be who I was before I had Beth or who I am now. I don't think it's possible the two of us coexist. Sometimes I feel like I took the old Quinn and stuffed her in a box and put her on the shelf and let this new Quinn take over. But the old Quinn is in there somewhere and she's dying to come out. I never know what I'm going to get with myself and I don't know who I am anymore and I'm scared that I'll never figure it all out.

I don't even know where I belong anymore and really, that's all I want. At least back in Pennsylvania, I was around people who were a lot like me. I had something in common with some of them. But here in Lima, I'm starting to wonder if there's anybody quite like me. At least it doesn't feel like itI don't know how to explain it, but it's like when I walk around school every day, I feel like everybody knows something about me that I don't know about myself. It's uncomfortable and strange and I never felt this way before, not even in my old school.

It's like someone came in and turned on all the lights inside my body and made it hard for me to hide. All the lights are on all the time and every time I feel like I found a way to shut them off, somebody moves the switch.

It's the strangest feeling to be surrounded by people all day in school, but still feel so alone. At any given time, I'm surrounded by at least twenty people in school, but still I feel like I'm the only one roaming the hallways. In some ways, I wish I could run back to the comfort of Glee Club. When I think about all the things that went on between the four walls of that choir room, my heart feels like it swells up a bit and I'm overwhelmed with how much I miss it. It's the only place in this world, aside from Oakland Pines, where I felt like I belonged. But now it's strange because I don't even know that I'd belong in there anymore. It's supposed to be a group of all the people that are misunderstood in McKinley and really, it is. But I think maybe I'm a little too misunderstood for even the club to handle me.

When my hand gets a cramp in it, I decide to put the cap back on my pen, hit the switch on my desk lamp and try to go to bed again. I tried to fall asleep about an hour ago, but after lying there and doing nothing but tossing and turning and fighting to get comfortable, I gave up. I gave up, grabbed the red journal from my backpack and thought that maybe if I got all my thoughts down on paper they'd no longer be all bottled up and trapped inside of me.

I think my journaling worked. Because when I lie back down in bed, pull the blankets up to my chin and roll onto my comfortable side…

I'm finally able to give myself to sleep.


I don't know what's worse, smelling the food or actually seeing it in front of me. I know all the cafeteria ladies do is defrost the packages of pancakes and sausage then stuck them in the oven until they're hot, but the scent of pancakes and the maple syrup to go with them practically kiss the inside of my nostrils. When my stomach growls, I put my forearm across it as if that'll quiet it down and stop myself from looking at Mercedes and Sam's trays.

They look just as good as they smell…

"All I'm saying is that it's not supposed to, but I'm really hoping it rains today so our little impromptu performance outside is cancelled," Mercedes says as she stabs a piece of sausage with her fork. She and Sam have been discussing something about Glee Club for the past ten minutes and if my stomach wasn't growling so much, I'd actually be paying attention enough to know what it is they're talking about.

"It's not gonna do anything but get us slushied," Sam's voice is all muffled from his mouth being full. "I think he makes it his personal mission to make us look like bigger dweebs than we already do."

"That's why I'm saying, 'Please let it rain'," Mercedes replies.

I push on my stomach as another growl roars through it, willing it to stay silent. I'm so hungry I could eat eighty pancakes in a row right now, and that's just the thing. I'm so hungry and all I want to do is eat a million things right now but I'm sitting here in front of Sam and Mercedes. And if I start eating, I don't know that I'll be able to stop. The last thing I need is for the only two friends I have to see me looking like some 500-pound hog inhaling pancakes at the breakfast table. I'd rather starve.

"Do you even know what we're supposed to be singing?" Sam asks, mouth finally empty.

"I think a rendition of some Pink Floyd song or something. I don't know. I bet Rachel does," Mercedes starts looking around the cafeteria and suddenly I'm not hungry anymore, nope. Nope. I don't want to eat. All I want to do is get up and run away before she can — "RACHEL! Come here!"

Too late.

Quick, grab a piece of gum out of your purse. Your breath probably smells. No, just fix your hair. Make sure you look decent. Wait, no. Make sure your shirt is showing just the right amount of skin. No, no, no, Quinn. Act disinterested. Act like you don't care. Play it cool. Play it cool. Play it…

"Yeah?" Her voice falls on my ears and melts like fresh snow on an already wet sidewalk. I didn't realize how much I missed hearing her speak until she did and now all I can do is wait on edge until she says something else.

"What are we supposed to be singing today?" Mercedes asks and to my surprise (and pleasure), Rachel sits down next to Mercedes and across from me.

Remember how Jessica said a positive step is saying something nice to her and not letting your negative feelings win? Don't act from a place of compulsion. Don't act from a place of repression…

I have to physically swallow the urge to tell her that her headband looks like a blind preschooler picked it out and told her it would look nice with her already prepubescent toddler outfit. I have to swallow the comment that wants to come out of my mouth and tell her she looks like she shopped in the junior's section of Baby Guess. If only she knew how much thought and processing it takes for me to have an interaction with her…

I'm starting to wonder if this will ever stop and make sense with me. Because I really don't think all of those things. I happen to think that her headband looks really nice and I like the way it's navy blue and matches her cardigan. I think her outfit is simple, but really elegant. The navy blue cardigan over top of the bright yellow tank top and then the navy blue skirt… it's really nice. It's not my style, but it's Rachel's style and I think it's really cute. So why do I want to crap all over her outfit if I actually like it?

Because it's easier to hate her, Quinn. That's why.

I guess that's true. The easiest thing is to hate Rachel. It's easier for me to hate her than it is for me to like her. Liking her means something…. totally different. And something that I'm really just not sure I'm ready to even think about yet.

But why should I keep taking the easy way out?

"I like your outfit today," I mumble, barely looking up from the open organic chemistry book in my lap. I want to know what her face looks like right now. If I had to guess, I'd say she probably looks surprised. But I can't make eye contact with her. That's too much.

"I—I got it from — I — I — thank you, Quinn," she stumbles over the words and somewhere inside of me, I have a smile. But I don't let it show. "I like yours too."

But Finn kissed her cheek yesterday. She sat beside him, he kissed her cheek and according to Mercedes and Sam, they're back together.

See what happens whenever I allow myself to think?!

I slam my chemistry book shut, stand up and gather all my things so I can just go and get an early jump to class because ANYTHING is better than sitting here.

"It's the first time you wore something that doesn't look like a first grader threw up all over you," I look her dead in the eye when I say that and I know it stung, I know it did because she looks totally humiliated but I don't care because she deserves to hurt.

No she doesn't…

Yes she does. She deserves to hurt because she hurt me yesterday and I don't care if she doesn't know it. I hope her feelings are hurt just the way mine were yesterday when I saw him kiss her.

I don't care.

X X X

September 11

I don't think it's healthy to feel so much anger built up towards one person. I think it makes people mean and angry to be so hateful and frankly, it's exhausting. But it's the only logical thing I can do sometimes. Which makes me wonder if maybe I'm not a good person.

I want to be nice. I want to be good. So then I tell myself that it's okay if I go up to her and apologize for what I said at breakfast and give her the excuse that I was just tired and hungry, which isn't a lie. But just when I want to apologize, I see something like him holding her hand and I get so angry that all I want to do is hate and be mean because the alternative is just so much work.

I remember one time in a group session, Jessica told me that I'd have to learn to get over it because Rachel doesn't reciprocate the way I feel and I don't think I ever understood what she meant until today. It sounds scary, I think. Getting over it, I mean. Does that mean I have to find some way to live with all this rage I have inside of me because the way I feel about her will never be the way she feels about me?

That sounds miserable.

Maybe the only person I should be angry with here is myself. I can't imagine going through my entire life feeling this way about her, knowing that she'll never feel this way back. And it's times like this where I feel like maybe it would be easier for everyone involved if I just weren't here anymore because the only thing that sounds worse than her never feeling the way I feel about her is the fact that in a year, I'll probably never see her again. That used to be my saving grace; knowing that once we graduate I'll never have to see her face again. But ever since I got out of treatment, it's the one thing that's scared me more than actually having to admit to myself and to her that I feel this way.

It's all just exhausting and every time I think about it and try to make sense of it, I give myself a headache.

I want to be happy about my junior year and excited, because that's what it seems like everybody is. Every day before class starts, I hear everybody talking about which colleges they're going to apply to and what they hope to get on their SATs. It's not like they ask me to join in their conversations, but I realize that if they ever did, I wouldn't know what to say. Because that's not me anymore. I don't even know what colleges I'm going to apply to and I have no clue what SAT scores I need to even get into those nonexistent colleges. I used to have such a clear cut image in my head and a dream to get out of Lima and make something of my life, but these days… I can't even see my life through the next week.

It makes me wonder if maybe I should have just kept Beth. Jessica used to tell me that it didn't do anybody any good for me to think like this, but I can't help it sometimes because I feel like I gave up the only thing that gave my life purpose. Maybe I messed up God's plan for me after all. Maybe all along, I was meant to get pregnant and keep her and raise her and have that become my life. And maybe I screwed it all up when I gave her to Shelby and signed all those papers. Maybe that's why I can't truly be happy, because I messed up God's plan for me.

The school day kind of feels like one big blur to me because it's like I'm not really living in the moment. It's like I don't realize things are happening until they're actually happening and by the time I process it, it's over. I think this is what Jessica called dissociating.

Annual health checks were today, where we all got called out of class and down to the nurse's office so she could make sure we're all growing right. I used to hate health checks. But today, I was kind of excited for them and they were the only thing all day that took away the rage I felt from breakfast. When I stepped on that scale today and the nurse told me I'm 123, I felt a sense of relief wash over me because for the first time in a long time, I'm in control of something. I was 125 when I left the Pennsylvania. I may not be able to control where my life is going anymore, but at least I know that as long as I throw up every day; when I step on that scale, I'll be a couple pounds lighter. It made me wish that mom hadn't gotten rid of all the scales in the house a few years back.

Another weird thing happened today when Puck came into home economics class. I thought that maybe I'd be mad that he was in my class but instead, I smiled when I saw him. That's another part of me that's exhausting because it's another part of me that wages a war every day. Part of me feels like I hate him and want absolutely nothing to do with him, but the other part of me thinks I might love him and that disgusts me. He tried to talk to me a little and I mostly just ignored him because even though I smiled when he came into my class today, I still feel weird whenever he talks to me.

There was an assembly today for the junior class where Miss Pillsbury and Figgins talked to us about what junior year means in terms of college and SAT prep and I listened for the most part, but I couldn't help thinking that they weren't really talking to me. College seems like such a far fetch for me anymore.

I'm starting to think that maybe I should look into homeschooling. I'm just not sure I'm fit to be around people anymore.

When the final bell of the day rings, I pack my books up into my backpack, sling it over my shoulder and stand up. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm so glad to be going home after the day I've had. It's getting to be a real pain coming here every day when there's so many people I try to avoid. I spent the entire day trying to avoid Rachel after my outburst at breakfast and every second after home ec trying to avoid Puck. I'm starting to think that maybe I should just try facing my problems head on instead of avoiding everyone, but then that means I'd have to face my feelings and I'm just not sure about that.

The crazy thing about today is that I spent the entire day looking forward to study hall just so I could write down everything I felt the entire day. I thought that maybe if I didn't get the feelings out while I was feeling them, I'd forget that I felt them and then journaling would just be pointless but that didn't happen. When I sat down in a desk and pulled out my pencil and turned to a fresh sheet of paper, it's like everything just poured out of me and made its way onto the paper. Maybe Bailey has a point about journaling after all.

Anyway, Mom texted me after lunch and told me that she'd be late picking me up from school today because she had to stop at the dry cleaners. I don't know what I'm supposed to do in McKinley for however long it takes her to get here, but it's times like this where I wish she'd let me start driving again. I don't think she trusts that I'm over the whole suicidal urges she thinks I have. She hasn't let me drive since I've been back.

Since I have a few minutes to spare, I guess I could go try to get rid of a few things. The bathrooms will be empty because everyone's either going home or going to their extracurriculars, so it's a nice time for me to be alone. Plus, I always like doing it better here than doing it at home because at home, my mom is on high alert. She barely lets me take a crap in peace since I came home, so I doubt she'd let me be alone in the bathroom for a while. I usually have to wait until she goes to sleep to do it, which is kind of an inconvenience sometimes.

Just like I suspected, the bathroom is empty. So I leave my backpack outside on the sinks and go into the handicap stall, already tying my hair up so it doesn't get in the way.

It's almost like an instinct now, with the way I put my fingers in my mouth. But this time, when my shoulders hunch, nothing comes out.

Weird.

I hover over the toilet for a second with my hands on my knees, trying to think of something that'll make me gag. And it works, it does. When I think of Finn kissing Rachel with his big fat man tongue, I do gag. But then, I realize why nothing will come out.

Nothing's going to come out if there's nothing in there to come out. I haven't eaten anything all day… not even at lunch.

I'm a little disappointed, but not really because all that means is that when Mom goes to sleep tonight, I can binge. I can go downstairs, raid the fridge and eat until I blow up and it doesn't make me a greedy pig to do that either because I haven't eaten anything today. So I won't eat dinner either. I'll save all my room for tonight after she goes to sleep.

When I grab my backpack off the sinks and start back up the hallway so I can just wait outside for Mom, that's when it starts to hit me.

I wish Beth were still here. She used to make me feel good about eating. She used to make me feel like eating was… was… important, kind of. It didn't matter how much I ate when I had her, because she needed it and that alone was justification. She didn't make me feel like I needed to get rid of anything I ate and she didn't make me feel like I needed to hang my head when I ate. These days, all I feel is shame whenever the food touches my lips… these days, I don't want anyone watching me while I stuff my face.

I wish Beth was here.

With tears now streaming down my cheeks, I put my hands against the metal bar to open the door. But before I push it, I hear something…

"You swore and said we are not, we are not shining stars. This I know, we never said we are."

I take my hand away from the door and follow it. I follow those…. beautiful noises. And the closer I get, the more beautiful they sound…

"Though I never been through hell like that I've closed enough windows to know you can never look back."

My feet have a mind of their own, but it's like muscle memory with the way they instinctively go to the choir room. I linger there for a few more minutes. I hope they're not done… they sound really good…

"If you're lost and alone or you're sinking like a stone, carry on…"

When they say that, I have to tilt my head back and look up at the ceiling. I know I haven't been the best believer in God lately, but I still have faith. And I think he sent me to this choir room while they're singing this song for a reason…

"May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground…"

"Carry on," I whisper to myself as a fresh round of tears come rolling on down. I reach into my back pocket and grab my phone just so I can shoot Mom a text telling her that she can just go straight home. She doesn't have to pick me up.

Not today.

Because I go inside the choir room.

Chapter Text

I don't think they notice me right away. Or, at least, I hope they don't notice me because they don't really stop singing. They all just keep looking forward at Mr. Schue while their mouths move in unison, singing the same words that initially drew me in. It sounds strange, but it feels like every word they sing comes out of their mouths and stick to me like Velcro on shoelaces. Their words are enveloping me, encasing me like a warm blanket on a winter's day and I have to close my eyes to take it all in because damn, it feels good.

"If you're lost and alone or you're sinking like a stone, carry o-o-o-o-on."

When I open my eyes, my smile opens with them and I just rest my head against the doorframe. I don't know if I'm actually going to join or if I'm just going to awkwardly stand here at the door listening, but either way, I don't want to lose this moment. Even if I wanted to, I don't think I could move. My feet are cemented to the ground and my body won't allow them to move any direction. In a way, I think it's my body's way of protecting me; of telling me that I'm not done healing yet. Their music is like a Band-Aid, patching up every broken part of me.

"May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground and carry o-o-o-o-on."

I think Mercedes is the one who notices me first, because her voice is the first one I notice that drops out. And sure enough, when I look at her, her mouth is still. Quiet. We lock eyes from across the room and I don't even have to look at the bottom half of her face to know that she's smiling. Her smile reaches her eyes. They crinkle at the corners.

And it's like the domino effect with her because one by one, their voices all drop out and their eyes fall on me only, it doesn't make me uneasy. I was halfway expecting to want to feel like running away with everybody just all staring at me like this but really, it only makes me want to come in and take that empty seat in the back corner.

Mercedes stops singing first. Then Tina follows. After Tina, Rachel stops singing. And after Rachel, Finn. After Finn, there goes Puck and Artie and Santana and Brittany too and before I know it, the entire room is silent. Waiting on me.

Mr. Schue slowly turns with realization and only when his eyes meet mine do I feel like backing away. He's always been the only teacher I cared about disappointing. Really, any other teacher in this building could look at me with worried eyes and I'd look right back at them without faltering but somehow when it's Mr. Schue, he makes me want to get down on my knees and beg for forgiveness.

He walks over to me at the door and every step he takes makes my heart feel like it's going to beat out of my chest. My eyes are low, downcast. I can't look him in the eye. I just can't.

"Is there something that you want, Quinn?" he asks, his voice that low and soothing tone. It's gentle, but still commands respect. Still demands an answer.

"I, uh," I quickly reach up to wipe a stupid tear that fell from my right eye. "I was wondering if it was too late to try out."

He shifts his weight onto his back leg and puts his hands on his hips. I feel like he's about to say no, even though in my heart of hearts I know he won't. There's a small part of me that thinks he might deny me and if he does, I can't say that I blame him. After all, they've been practicing a while now and nobody should get to join in the middle of everything.

"We'd be honored to have you," he says. "Go find a seat."

It's like Mr. Schue's words are the absolute law around here, because only when he gives me information do my feet finally come unglued. I shift my backpack onto my shoulder and go right to the back row, where I always sit. Everybody watches me climb the steps, but nobody says a word and in some way, I'm grateful for their silence. I think it'd only make it worse if they all welcomed me back one by one. Their silence and non reaction makes it less awkward, makes me feel like I never left. I silently thank them all for being so cool about this.

"Everybody," Mr. Schue says as he stands back in the front of the room again. Please don't make them welcome me back. Please don't make a huge deal about this. "Let's start again from the top," he says that with a wink at me and I can finally breathe for knowing he won't draw anymore attention to me than there already is. "And one, two. One, two, three, four…"

"Well I woke to the sound of silence, the cars were cutting like knives in a fist fight. And I found you with a bottle of wine, your head in the curtains and heart like the Fourth of July."

This time, I sing right along with them and I don't know you've ever sat in a room with a bunch of people who fully understand you, then opened your mouth and belted out a tune. If you have, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you haven't, let me be the first to tell you that it's the closest thing to magic you'll ever feel on this earth. The feeling of love. Of being united. Of doing something you love with people you love. I don't believe in much, but I believe in this feeling. And I don't know if I should trust it since these days, every time I feel like something is going right it suddenly goes left. But it's a feeling so genuine that I decide to hold onto it.

I think the name for this feeling is hope.


As I walk up the front steps to get to my door, I'm still riding the feeling that Glee Club gave me. And in a sense, I want to smack myself silly for not joining from the jump. I mean, it's not like I didn't know it was going to feel this good, because I did. There's something about Glee Club that has the power to make everything feel like it all makes sense. Something about Glee Club is magical. But when I left Pennsylvania, I vowed to myself that I would change all the things that were wrong about my old life so I didn't slip into any of my old destructive habits. When I left Pennsylvania, I told myself to see Rachel as little as possible.

Soon as I fumble with the lock and get the front door open, Mercedes' mom beeps the horn and Mercedes hangs her hand out the window to wave at me. I wave back, then shut the door behind me.

For the first time in a while, I don't have an anxiety attack about coming home. I just kick my shoes off at the door, put my backpack down beside the coat closet and head to the kitchen to tell Mom I'm home. For a while after I first came home, it used to shock me dead to see my mom in the kitchen. But these days, I'm not too surprised. It actually feels kind of normal to see her standing at the stove stabbing a meatloaf to make sure it's done.

"Hey," I say, looking around. Meatloaf and some kind of noodles. Where's the mashed potatoes?

"Oh, hi Quinnie. How was school?" she sticks the meatloaf back in the oven and like she read my mind, pulls the bag of potatoes from the fridge. "I'm making meatloaf and potatoes. Your favorite."

"Yeah. School was… fine," I sit down at the island and just watch her rinse the potatoes off. "Need any help?"

"Yes, actually," the way she says that, I can tell she's surprised I even asked. I'm surprised, too. I must really be in a good mood… "You can peel potatoes for me, sweetie."

I slide off the barstool and replace her at the sink with the potato peeler. Frannie used to peel potatoes with a spoon. I used to laugh at her for it, but I think I get her point now. She swore it was easier and a little less dangerous. Dare I say it, but I actually kind of miss Frannie…

"How was therapy?" Mom asks next.

"Hmm?"

Oh. Crap.

"Therapy. How was it?"

Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap. CRAP. I forgot all about therapy! When I told her she didn't have to worry about picking me up from school… crap. CRAP. Play it cool. Maybe she doesn't know I skipped. I think it's illegal for Bailey to tell her I skipped.

"It was fine too," I shrug. That didn't sound too convincing….

"Yeah? Who took you?" she presses, but I can't really tell if she's buying it or not….

"Mr. Schuester," the lie rolls off my tongue with ease.

"That's nice of him," she replies. I'm in the clear… she buys it….

"What do you boil these on?" I ask since I'm finally done peeling.

"Don't worry about it, honey. I'll do it. You go get cleaned up and comfortable. Just leave them on the counter there."

She says to just leave them on the counter, so leave them on the counter is what I do. I take them out of the bowl in the sink and put them in a new bowl on the counter. And as I'm leaving the kitchen to go up to my room and change out of this skirt, something catches my eye…

Hidden off beside the Keurig… one of our fancy glasses has a little bit of brown liquid left in it. Nobody drinks from our fancy glasses unless it's a special occasion… and nobody drinks Scotch Whiskey except…

Well, wait. Maybe it's not scotch.

I glance over at Mom to make sure her back is still turned and once I'm sure that it is, I pick the fancy glass up and sniff it. Just from the stench and the color, I already know what it is. But just to be sure, I tip the glass up to my mouth and take a sip. Scotch Whiskey. Just like I knew it.

I put the glass back in its hiding place, then stomp up the stairs.

Who does she think she's fooling? Does she think I'm an idiot? Does she really think that I wouldn't notice? She promised… she promised me…

I really want to slam the door, I really really want to. But I don't. Mostly because I don't want her to know that I'm in the bathroom. If she knows that I'm in this bathroom, she'll come up here and she'll want to talk to me and ask me what's going on and I don't want to talk to her. Not now, not EVER. How am I supposed to talk to someone who just deliberately stabbed me in the back? How am I supposed to talk to someone I don't trust? I CAN'T trust her…

She promised… promised

I know Jessica said to treat this session like any other session but I can't really do that when my mother's sitting right next to me. Something about this woman just makes me shut completely down when she's in my presence and for therapy, shutting down is something you really can't do. I don't think this session is going to be very productive…

But I promised Jessica that I'd try. Mom drove all the way from Lima just to see me this weekend and I did agree to let her sit in on this session, so I guess it's up to me to make the best of it.

"Quinn?" Jessica starts. "Why don't you start by telling your mother what —"

"A lot of everything comes from Dad," I mumble. Why not just cut to the chase? Me and Jessica have been preparing for this meeting for a week now; ever since Mom told me she was going to come and visit. I already know what Jessica wants me to say. Let's just get it over with.

Mom shifts toward me with what Jessica calls an "open body pose", but that doesn't make me take my arms down. They remain folded tightly across my chest. "What do you mean, Quinnie?"

"Exactly what I said," I clear my throat. "A lot of my… issues stem from the way Dad treated me."

Mom looks at Jessica and shakes her head slowly, which really makes me want to punch her. I have to hold onto my arms just to make sure I don't. "I'm not — I'm not sure what you mean by that, honey." She looks to me with a half-smile and I'm dying to ask her if she's freaking serious. I mean did she really think that she was going to home here and not get an ear full? Did she really think that Dad had absolutely nothing to do with any of this?

Jessica picks up on my silence, which I'm grateful for. She picks up on it and takes over for me when I just can't speak, "What Quinn's trying to say Judy, is that she… can pinpoint the source to a lot of the issues we've been working on to her father. And she wants you to know all of this, because a vital part of her recovery is trying to… avoid or possibly cut out all the things that are not helping her heal."

Mom stares at her, dumbfounded, then turns back to me. "You're saying Daddy made you… do what you did…?"

"No," I shake my head and look straight forward. "Not all the way. Partially." I feel them at the corners of my eyes, threatening to fall and I swear to god if my body betrays me by letting these tears go, I'll never forgive myself. I refuse to give this woman the satisfaction of seeing me cry during this session.

"H-How so? Quinnie, Daddy's always been —"

"He never thought I was good enough." There, I said it. Point blank.

"That's not —"

"Like the time we went to Ocean City for a week back in sixth grade and I wore that bathing suit you ordered special for me." The way my voice comes out kind of scares me. It's like there's no emotion left in me and maybe there isn't… maybe it's all gone. "How he told me if I wanted to wear that bathing suit, I'd better skip dinner and bedtime snack."

"Oh Quinn, don't be ridiculous. You know he didn't mean it that way. You know he —"

"Then how did he mean it, mom? If he didn't mean it that way, then which way did he mean it?"

"Your father —"

"He forced you to put me on Weight Watchers."

"That's because he cares, Quinn! You were really very unhealthy and your weight was —"

"I was eight."

Mom is quiet again and when I look at Jessica, her hands are writing a million miles per hour. Mom and I must be giving her good material. She hasn't even looked up from her notepad since we've started talking. I've been silent for a little too long now and I know I have more gripes to bring up with my mom, but I just don't know where to start. My brain is like a filing cabinet and I don't know which issue to tackle first.

"...I got a nose job," I merely whisper. Jessica stops writing because this is news to her. I haven't told her about my nose job. I guess it's probably because sometimes I forget about it. "When I was thirteen, I got a nose job."

"Now wait a minute, young lady," Mom starts. "You're not about to pin that on your father. Quinn, you BEGGED him for months to pay for the surgery. YOU wanted it!"

"Because I never caught a break!" Finally, I take my arms from across my chest and look at her because she really must be stupid if she thinks my nose job was something I wanted for my own sole purposes. I mean really, Judy. REALLY. "Every single day at school, I heard it. Kids calling me 'Birdy Beak' or Toucan Lucy. It was bad enough I got it in school but then I'd come home and hear him point it out too. How he'd say things like 'your nose is nothing like your sister's.' And 'you swam in your mother's gene pool for a nose like that.' I just… wanted it to stop. I expected kids at school to be cruel but he was my dad… he was supposed to think I'm perfect the way I am and he…" I sigh. "I just wanted to hear the end of it."

"Well how were we supposed to know it bothered you? We used to tease Francesca the same way and she never —"

"Doesn't make it right, Mom. It hurt… it hurt when he said those things to me. Every time he commented on my weight or made a joke about my nose or called me a slut or…. kicked me out of the house."

"Quinn, look —"

"And you defend him. All the time. You're always on his side, it never fails. Even when he's clearly wrong and I'm clearly right. You just… turn the other cheek and pretend you don't see it. And it just… it feels like you love him. Way more than you love me…"

"Then I'm done," she says, looking down at the ground.

"Huh?"

"Done with what, Judy?" Jessica pushes.

"It won't be like that anymore, I promise. I promise. If… if Daddy is the cause of all this… pain for you, then I won't stand for it. I promise, sweetie."

See, she promised. She absolutely promised me, but now I know that she lied. She lied to me. It was all just a big joke to her, she never took any of it seriously. There's a glass of Scotch on the counter downstairs and he's the only one who ever drank the Scotch. And it's no coincidence that she knew I wouldn't be home. I texted her. I told her not to pick me up. I went to Glee, I was gone for a while. She invited him over. He was here… and she promised he wouldn't be and she lied…

And now I don't know how to tell her I'm hurt. I don't know how to tell her that I know he was here and I know she went back on her word and it feels like she's picking him all over again because part of me knows that it's insane. Part of me knows that I can't ask her to make such a hard choice, between me and Daddy but what if I did? What if I did ask her to choose? It's starting to seem to me that she would choose him anyway, even though she knows how bad he hurt me.

I can't tell her and I can't be angry… So I guess the only thing there is left to do to make myself feel better is… that.

And it's no surprise to me how much better I feel once I'm flushing everything I ate today down the toilet, then wiping myself off so I can join Mom for dinner.

Chapter Text

September 12

I still haven't told mom I know she's been seeing dad. There's a part of me that wants her to know I know but then another part is telling me to just let it go because I don't really know if it's my place or not. When I think about it too much, I start to think that maybe it's selfish for me to want her to cut all her ties off to dad. She was married to him for 20+ years and she probably does still love him. I try to think of it in terms of me and Puck and even that doesn't make it any clearer for me.

Would I be able to cut off all ties with Puck? My gut instinct is to say that I would, but I'm not so sure. It would be hard, certainly. But if Beth asked me to do it, I think I would. Then again, I wouldn't be in the situation because if anyone treated Beth the way dad treated all of us, dad wouldn't be standing. I'd kill him with my bare hands and happily do life in prison for my daughter.

We had another assembly in 5th period today, and this one was a two-part one. The first part was fine and I halfway listened to the lady lecture us on the dangers of drinking and driving, but when the second part rolled around and she started talking about contraceptives and how to prevent teenage pregnancy, I wanted to sink in my chair and melt. It felt like everyone was just staring at me and it was one of those moments where I'm sure I wasn't just paranoid. I'm sure everyone was staring at me.

I'm starting to think that no matter what I do, that's going to be the legacy that follows me. I think around here, I could win a nobel peace prize and still all anybody would ever think when they thought of me is that I'm the girl who got pregnant when she was a sophomore.

I know it sounds awful, but all I could think about while I felt a hundred pairs of eyes on me is how much I wanted to eat until I felt sick. I know that's not healthy and Bailey would have a lot to say about that, but I'm being honest here.

I don't know when I'll see Bailey next but I think when I do, I'll tell her that I have started journaling. I do it twice a day: once in study hall and once before bed.

I like doing it before bed. It helps me go to sleep with a clear mind.


September 14

I know the old Quinn is still somewhere inside me because I felt her come out today at lunch. The seniors were going around passing out ballots for the homecoming court and I felt a little spark of the old me ignite. For a split second, I thought about how much I want to be homecoming queen next year. It wasn't big enough to make anything burst into flame, but it was enough to make me remember who I used to be. And I think if I could just get back to that, my life would be so much simpler.

I think the thing that surprised me the most about thinking of homecoming next year is the fact that I've actually thought about next year. Since I got home from Pennsylvania (and a little before that) I haven't really been able to see my life past the next week. It's like I'm just winging everything and when I make it to another day, I'm surprised. So the fact that I thought about next year sometime really surprised me.

I don't know why, but one of the first things I thought about when I thought about next year was how much I wanted to tell Bailey. I don't know. I guess somehow I felt like she'd have a sense of pride in me if she knew.

I've decided to give mom the benefit of the doubt. I haven't heard her mention dad and I haven't seen anything else suspicious since the glass of scotch so I've decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and say that she's the one who drank the scotch that day.

I guess all in all, I can't complain about the kind of day today was. The only bad thing about today was that I didn't get to see Rachel because Mr. Schue cancelled glee club because of some last minute thing he had to do with Miss Pillsbury.

I didn't know how much I missed her until I didn't get to see her today.


September 18

When Bailey first gave me this thing and told me to try journaling, I can't remember if she told me to only write in it whenever I can or to write in it every day. I'm not sure of her instructions and I haven't seen her in a while to ask. I think eventually I'm going to be in trouble for skipping so many sessions with her but I've already missed two and nobody's said anything to me or mom so I'm assuming it's fine. Mom would kill me if she knew, though. I wonder at what point Bailey starts contacting her…

But I have a good reason for missing, though. I've been in glee club every Tuesday after school, and every Thursday too. The only days she could see me are Tuesdays and Thursdays and I just so happen to be busy those days now too.

Glee Club today was awful and I found myself questioning why the hell I joined again in the first place.

I've gotten myself to a point where I can tolerate seeing Rachel and Finn together. I swear I can. But when I sit in the back row directly behind them and have to see them holding hands and canoodling the whole time, it really starts to grate on my nerves. We get it. You two love each other and couldn't be happier that you're back together. We all get it. It doesn't mean they have to flaunt it in front of our faces. Today, Finn pulled her close and whispered something in her ear and it was enough to make me physically nauseous.

I remember at some point in therapy back in Pennsylvania, Jessica told me I should always try to be in touch with my emotions, so I laid in bed for an hour when I got home from school earlier. My intentions were to take a nap, but then I started thinking and started trying to get in touch with my feelings and what I've found is that maybe I don't really like Rachel the way I thought I did. Maybe I just miss everything she represents for me. Innocence. Beauty. Maybe I just miss the relationship I used to have with Finn.

I wonder what Jessica would think if I told her that I've begun to think Rachel's name and allow her into my thoughts. Every single session I ever had with Jessica, we discussed Rachel in some way or another so I think that's why I'm making progress. In some ways, Jessica prepared me for exactly the things I'm facing with Rachel. But I'm starting to get a little bit scared.

What happens when all of her training runs out?


September 19

When I woke up this morning, all I could think about was how much I hated Glee Club yesterday and how much worse today was probably going to be because Mr. Schue assigned love song mashups so he can get an idea of what to sing to Miss Pillsbury for their six month anniversary.

I know this is the coward's way out, but I swear I had every intention on going to school today. I got up when my alarm went off, stuffed my legs into a pair of leggings and my body into a sweater dress. It wasn't until I was plugging my curling iron in to do my hair I realized just how much I didn't want to go. So I went downstairs and told mom that I just wasn't feeling up to school and the good thing about me spending a summer in a psych ward is that she doesn't ask questions anymore. When I tell her I can't do something, she doesn't question me or try to talk me into anything. She understands and tells me that it's okay and to call her at work if I need anything.

I could tell she was a little nervous about leaving me home alone, but she did. She only freaked out once around 10:30 when she called me and I didn't answer. But when I called her back at noon and told her that I was just sleeping, she calmed down.

I don't know if staying home today was the best decision I could have made, but I do think it was a little bit worth it. It was the first time in a long time where I felt like I could breathe. Usually, I feel like I need to keep myself busy to keep myself distracted, but I wasn't busy at all today. After I took off all my clothes, I put my pajamas back on and went back to bed until noon. And after that, I laid on the couch in my underwear and watched all the shows I usually miss while I'm at school, like Divorce Court, Maury and Dr. Phil. I didn't overeat today, either. I just had pancakes for a late breakfast and a whole container of strawberries, which isn't much. That was what I was most worried about, being home all day. I was just worried that maybe I'd eat everything in the pantry and it'd be five steps backwards for me.

I guess in hindsight, I probably could have gone to school after all instead of avoiding it just because I didn't want to go to Glee Club. I could have just skipped Glee. But seeing Rachel holding Finn's hand during school hours doesn't sound appealing to me either.

I know eventually I'm going to have to figure this out and figure out how to combat the things I feel for Rachel, because I can't keep avoiding school just because her and Finn are together but I don't know any other option yet, so this is what I'm stuck with.

I think the old me is starting to come back because while I sat and watched Dr. Phil today, the one thing I could think of to solve my problem is to somehow break Rachel and Finn up. I even came up with a whole plan on how to text Finn from a texting app and tell him anonymously that Rachel cheated on him. I even came up with a backstory for the guy she cheated on him with and it was so believable I almost believed it myself. And for a second, I really thought I was going to go through with it. I really, really did. Because that's what the old Quinn would do.

But this new Quinn felt ashamed, and that feeling isn't lost on me. The shame, I mean. That's not an unfamiliar feeling for me. How could I really plot to hurt Rachel? Because in the end, that's really all that would happen. Rachel would be heartbroken and probably drive herself crazy trying to convince Finn that she really didn't cheat. And it would be all my fault and I don't know if I could live with that on my conscience.

I'm starting to get really confused because I think this is growth. Doing the harder thing and dealing with seeing Rachel and Finn love each other and just sucking that up is the harder thing. So maybe that's growth and a real testament to the new and improved me. But then again, I used to like myself. I liked myself the way I was before any of this and I'm starting to feel like I'm losing myself so maybe that's not growth. Maybe that's just me getting lost in everything I want to pretend that I want to pretend I am.

Maybe I'll never be the Quinn I was before.

Maybe I don't even know who she is anymore.


September 21

I never thought I'd say this, but it really feels good to be back in school. I thought that taking a couple days off would be good for my morale, but really it just made me feel worse. Today isn't great, but it sure is better than yesterday.

When I came back to the breakfast table this morning after being gone for two days, I was kind of expecting Mercedes or Sam to say that they missed me or comment or something but they didn't. I don't know if I was more disappointed in the fact that they didn't seem to miss me or if I was happy they didn't make a big deal about it. I guess in some ways, I was both. Happy that they didn't make a big deal about me being gone for two days. And also sort of sad because it just reminded me of how little anyone would care if I just disappeared.

Nobody really said anything in Glee Club either. And again, I guess I was happy because nobody drew unnecessary attention to me but again upset because didn't anyone at least wonder where I was? Mr. Schue kept looking at me like he wanted to say something and I think he would have if I hadn't left so quickly when it was over. I think he know all about my summer stint but just hadn't quite figured out how to approach it with me. I wish he would, though. Because maybe then I wouldn't feel like it's a hundred pound weight just dragging around with me. Maybe if I could tell somebody, this load would be lighter.

I still haven't been to see Bailey and this is maybe five sessions now that I've missed. Maybe four, I don't know. I'm not counting. But maybe I should go.

I had no intention of staying home yesterday. I mean it. I really really had plans to go. The other day, when I skipped just to make sure I wouldn't have to see Rachel and Finn, I felt so much better that I was actually kind of excited to go the next day. But when mom came home that night and brought Chinese takeout, all I could smell was dad's old cologne all over her and giving her the benefit of the doubt was over. She fell asleep early, around 8:00, so I went downstairs and ate every single drop of leftovers until I felt sick. But when I tried to throw up, nothing would come out.

And I swear I'm not back to the way I used to be, like in middle school when I used to eat everything and get rid of it maybe five times a day. I swear I'm not that bad again. But I just felt so heavy and sluggish from all that food and I had to get rid of it somehow, so I just drank a whole gallon of water with some miralax mixed into it and it worked like a charm. I mean within half an hour, I was running to the bathroom and so grateful that mom and I had separate ones.

Anyway, I tried to get up for school yesterday but I spent the entire night in the bathroom and long story short, I will never take another laxative ever again in my life.

When I got home from school today, mom wasn't here again and I'm almost certain that she went out to meet dad, but I can't prove it. I was all alone and the thought crossed my mind again for the first time since I left Pennsylvania. I thought about just how little her life would be affected if I really wasn't in it. And I know how easy it would be. She's never home anymore so if I really wanted to do it — I mean really wanted to do it — I would just do it when she's not home so she can't make like last time and find me just in the knick of time.

I want to go back to Pennsylvania. I want to go back inside that bubble I was in while I was there. At first, I hated it and wanted out so badly but now, looking back, I can appreciate it. Out here, it's so scary to face everything. It's scary to keep track of how many triggers I face in a day and how to deal with them. Out here, everything happens and nothing slows down.

And I never thought for a second that when I got home, this would happen. I wish I could just call Jessica and ask her what I should do. She prepared me for everything there is to prepare me for out there, but she didn't think to mention how to deal with eating so much I make myself sick. And she never taught me how to stop.

I think the scariest part about it is knowing that I want to stop but not being able to.

Because what can you do when you have to eat food?


September 28

It's been a while since I've been able to sit down and journal, but I have a free minute now.

Everybody always says your junior year is your most hectic year yet, but I never believed it until now. Just in the last week, I've had six tests, five papers and three quizzes. In a way, I liked being so busy I couldn't think but now that everything's slowed down and I'm not so busy anymore, everything is rushing back and there are things that have just piled up from the week I spent too busy to think about them.

Today in Glee Club, Rachel and Finn sang something together and maybe I'm just crazy, but I think I felt some kind of disconnect. Because usually, putting Finn and Rachel's voices together is like putting peanut butter with jelly. They're two entirely different things separately but when they're put together, they make magic. But today, I didn't feel that magic. They didn't even look each other in the eye most of the time. Maybe I'm overly observant, but that's just something I noticed.

I've also noticed how Sam doesn't sit with me and Mercedes at lunch anymore. I asked Mercedes if everything was okay and she said it is and that they're just going through a rough patch. I didn't ask her to elaborate because I guess it's really just not my place.

We're going to start prepping for sectionals next week, so I hope Rachel and Finn sort whatever it is that they're going through out. While part of me desperately hopes that there's something going on between them, a different part of me does hope they work their differences out because I really do want to win.

I've been too busy lately to check Shelby's Facebook for any updates on Beth, but I caved in last night and looked. There wasn't anything I haven't already seen, which kind of disappointed me, so I just went through old pictures. And then when I looked at Shelby's friend list, I got angry because why the hell is Puck her Facebook friend? That doesn't seem fair that he is and I'm not. I got so mad about it that I sent Shelby a friend request on my own. I mean really, it's just not fair. She's my baby too. She's MINE, and he gets to see everything that Shelby posts about her. Whereas I'm stuck just looking at whatever she decides to make public, which isn't a lot.

After thinking about it for a second longer, I cancelled the friend request I sent to Shelby. I just don't know that I'm ready for all of that yet. I think it might hurt too bad to just be nonchalantly scrolling through Facebook one day and then randomly being faced with my baby that I can't have. I was feeling bold and angry, but when I calmed down I knew it was a bad idea. Which again… growth?

Maybe not though. Because I still wanted to see her, you know? I still wanted to be like Puck and see every single thing Shelby posts about my baby, so I just went off and made a fake profile. It's under some stupid name and I said I was a show choir coach from some school out in Columbus and it worked like a charm because Shelby accepted me within like twenty minutes.

I don't want to talk about her for too long because then I might get sad when I've had a really decent day today, but let me just say that she's gorgeous. She sits up in one of those little boppy pillows on her own now and likes to listen to people sing to her. I read through the comments and Shelby said that she really likes it when Puck sings to her and that made me so mad I couldn't even see straight. I just don't get why he gets to see her and I don't. Granted I don't think me seeing her is the best thing for me right now because really, I'm scared that I might just…. never give her back. But it's not fair that I don't have that option and he does.

I've noticed that lately, all I feel is anger towards Puck. Jessica said that anger would be normal when I start to feel it. So I guess it's normal that I'm angry towards him but I think the way I feel towards him is a little beyond anger sometimes. It's full out rage.

And I'm beginning to think I'll never feel any differently towards him.


October 5

October means homecoming month. The homecoming game is next weekend and I couldn't be any less excited. I don't even think I'm going to go.

I've noticed that I only get really low like this after I look at pictures and updates of Beth, so I've decided that I should probably try to stop but I really can't help it. It's like the sweetest form of self torture. It feels so good every time I go on my burner account and scroll through Shelby's profile but then I feel so down after I log out. Like maybe I should be back in Pennsylvania low. Like maybe my life is worthless kind of low.

...anyway, Sam and Mercedes broke up again. I wasn't surprised. I seen that coming. He stopped sitting with us at lunch and started sitting with the football team again which, in McKinley, is a tell-tale sign of a rocky relationship. Since they broke up, the Glee Club's been so weirdly divided and it's kind of awkward any time Mr. Schue gives us an assignment. I think he noticed the division too. Because he gave us the assignment to spend more time together so we can bond because the only chance we have at winning sectionals is if we bond as a team.

So Mercedes is having a sleepover tomorrow night. It's going to be her, Tina, Santana and Brittany. Rachel isn't coming because she and Finn already have plans, so I wasn't going to go either. But then mom came home last night from a Browns game and she was wearing one of dad's old coats. So I told Mercedes that I'll be there.

Even though Rachel won't be there, I'm kind of excited.

Chapter Text

I didn't forget the whole "show up fashionably late rule" or anything. I mean yeah, it's been a really long time since I've been to a party of any kind and I'm a bit rusty on what to expect, but I didn't forget the fashionably late rule that every girl in the history of girldom knows to follow. I was supposed to be here an hour after it started, maybe thirty minutes at the very earliest. But when I came home from school today, Mom wasn't home and she left me a note on the kitchen counter that said she wouldn't be back until late and to heat up the leftover spaghetti in the fridge if I get hungry, or order takeout with her credit card.

I've decided to work on giving her the benefit of the doubt again, so I made up the excuse in my head that she's just out with a few of her book club friends doing something fancy like wine tasting or chatting at a country club, but the more realistic part of my head has no doubt that she's out with Dad. I just have a feeling that she is and usually when I get these kinds of feelings, I'm never wrong. So anyway, when I got home she was gone and I sat around for a little just trying to decide what pajamas I should wear tonight, then I took a nap because I know we probably won't do much sleeping tonight. Or I tried to, at least. I couldn't really fall asleep. So I just laid there until I got irritated with myself and took a shower.

Mercedes told us all today at lunch that we could come at seven, so I tried to time my shower just right and get out at 6:30, but there's only but so much shaving and washing a girl could do. When I got out, it was only 6:05, so I sat on my bed again and went back through my pajamas. Then decided that maybe I could kill time by going to the store and picking up cupcakes or something because it kind of feels weird to show up to Mercedes' house without something to pitch in.

To make a long story short, I ran out of little bull crap things to do to occupy my time after school today, so that's how I ended up here at 7:00 sharp instead of being an hour or so late. But thankfully, it's not awkward or anything. To be honest, it kind of feels like I'm somewhere I belong. I know this isn't my home anymore, but it was for a good five months after Dad kicked me out and it was like as soon as I walked through the doors, I felt like I was at home. I felt like I was a place safe from the world. Like no matter what goes on outside that door, nothing will ever seep in and get to me. And really, it just felt good.

Mercedes' mom even gave me a hug when she came upstairs and she held me so tight that I felt like I could just melt into her and be okay. Even now as me and Mercedes stand at the kitchen table cutting strawberries and kiwi, I'm thinking about that hug and how I just buried my face in her neck and took in the scent of her perfume. For the first time I think ever, I actually believed someone when they said they were glad to see me. Like Mercedes, Mrs. Jones is a heavier-set woman and I can't help but think that her body suits her. She needs to be a bigger so her giant heart has somewhere to fit.

"You think this is gonna be enough?" Mercedes asks, stepping back and looking at our spread. "I kinda just ran out last minute when I got home from school. I didn't really know what to grab."

I stop cutting and take a look at the food too, just to give an honest answer. We've got three kinds of Doritos, tortilla chips and salsa, a fruit salad, three containers of Oreos, cupcakes, Twinkies, two tubs of ice cream in the freezer, a bunch of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, plus two large pizzas that her mom is going to go pick up at 8:00. I'd say we have more than enough.

"Mercedes, you're gonna have food coming out your ass from now until next week sometime," I reply and she laughs but I'm being very serious.

"I was worried I went a little overboard. I just didn't know how much to get. I've never… you know… had a thing before."

"It's gonna be fine. You have more than enough to hold us over. If we finish all this food and run out, we have a serious problem," I assure her and take a seat at the kitchen table.

I crack open a can of Sprite and take a sip as silence falls between us and I think I've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. I love the way me and Mercedes can sit and silence and neither one of us feels the need to break that silence for any reason. It just feels good to be able to do that with someone. It's a very rare thing and something I've only ever experienced with Mercedes.

"I'm glad you came over early to help me," she opens a can of Pepsi and sits down right across from me. "I feel like we haven't really had the chance to talk lately, it's just been so crazy."

"Yeah, I know," I mumble.

"Well how've you, like… been?" she asks and I pretend to be really fascinated with the L shaped scratch in the middle of the kitchen table. I pick at it with my fingernail like it's very important work. "I know we talk sometimes at lunch, but never like… good. Not like we used to."

"Yeah," I sigh and keep picking at the scratch.

"Everything feels kinda different, huh?"

"How do you mean?"

She doesn't answer right away, but I know Mercedes well enough to know that she's just trying to figure out a way to word whatever it is she's about to say to me, which makes me nervous. It's never a good thing when someone has to figure out how to say what they want to say, is it? That usually means they're about to say something that could possibly be offensive, doesn't it?

"It's okay if you're not okay, you know?" She finally speaks, and picks a Twinkie up off the table. I think her energy is just as nervous as mine because she doesn't open it or anything. She just kinda plays with it, sliding it back and forth from hand to hand and listening to the wrapper crinkle. "With everything that happened last year, I mean. It's okay if you're not okay and you know, if you ever want to… talk or anything about it, we can."

"Thanks," I whisper, still not making eye contact with her. I'm just scared that if I move my eyes at all, the tears are going to come streaming down my cheeks. It feels like I'm holding back two rivers and I'm really just not sure how much longer I can hold up.

I'm so tired of pretending that I'm fine…

"Well are you?" she asks, this time her tone a little elevated.

"Am I what?"

"Okay…?"

No. I'm not okay. I'm the farthest thing from okay. I'm… a wreck, really. My head is just so mixed up anymore. I don't know which way is up and which way is down. I hate going to school because I don't feel like I belong there anymore but that's the only place I have left to go because being at school is even worse than being at home sometimes. I feel like my life is on the fast track to derailing and I'm going to end up just so terribly lost in the carnage. I struggle every single day with just getting out of the bed. I hate going to school and seeing Puck because his presence makes me feel like I can't even breathe. Every time I'm at school and have to see Rachel, I feel like I'm caught in an endless battle between my head and my heart and it's just starting to really wear me down and on top of everything, I really, really, really miss my daughter. So much that I really don't know if I can live with it anymore. Nothing is okay. Everything is horrible and I don't know how to fix it.

"I uh…" I start, but my voice trails off as I bite my lip because I'm not sure just how much I want to tell her yet. I mean, I know it's Mercedes and all and if there's anyone in this world I trust with this information, it's her. But still. Everyone who knows just looks at me weird all the time and I don't know if I'm ready for her to look at me weird yet. "I didn't... spend the summer with my dad."

"You didn't?" She doesn't sound all that surprised which makes me wonder if maybe somehow she already knew. Maybe not about the whole treatment center thing, but I wonder if maybe she knew that I lied. Mercedes is good with that. Picking apart my lies, I mean.

"No," I shake my head. "I actually um… spent it in Pennsylvania…" I drag my cheek across my shoulder to wipe a tear away quickly before she notices it. "At a treatment center."

I wish I could see her face so badly right now, but I refuse to look up and make eye contact. I feel like I just told her my darkest secret and she has the ability to break me right now by either accepting or rejecting me. It's Mercedes so I'm really not expecting anything less than respect and support, but there's still that lingering possibility in the back of my mind that maybe she'll call me crazy and tell me to get out.

"Quinn, I—," she starts, but then stops and my breath catches in my throat and threatens to make a round of tears fall. "I… I had no idea, I…" she sighs, doesn't know what to say. "I… I'm sorry." I just nod at her. "...why?"

I shrug and not because I feel like if I start talking I'll start crying and don't know when I'll stop, but mostly because I really actually don't know. I don't know what to say. I don't know how to answer. I guess maybe it wasn't just one thing that landed me there. Maybe it was a bunch of things. Like the snowball effect with one thing just on top of another thing. How do I explain that?

"Is it…" she starts again and I finally grab a napkin to wipe away the tears that are just ravaging my face at this point. "Do you miss… Beth?"

"S-So much," I admit and the sound of my voice cracking makes me embarrassed and makes Mercedes get up and wrap her arms around me. I really wish she wouldn't touch me right now but I'm too busy trying to fight off sobs to even push her away. She's hugging me but my arms are tucked into my stomach and my body's too stiff to even move. It's like my crying takes every ounce of energy I have. "The only time I see her is in my dreams and I just… I wanted to see her so bad that I…." I can't even say what I did…

"Oh, Quinn…" she wipes my tears with her hands and rubs my hair and only god knows how uncomfortable I am with her comforting me right now. I just… don't want to be touched.

"I just wanted to sleep…" I whisper through my tears and she just nods and see, that's the best thing about Mercedes. The best thing about Mercedes is that she just knows. I don't have to say it. I don't have to sit here and tell her every intricate detail about what I did and how every pill I swallowed felt like it went straight to the pit of my stomach and just sat there. How every time each one slithered down my throat, my head felt lighter and lighter. She doesn't need to know that. Because she's Mercedes and she gets it and it's just not necessary with her. That's the best thing about her.

She just lets me sit here at the kitchen table with my head on her shoulder and her arms around me until I can't even squeeze out anymore tears. And as much as I hate crying, I have to admit that I do feel better. Like a ten pound load has just been lifted right off my shoulders but maybe I can just chalk that up to actually telling someone about my summer. Maybe that's not due to the crying.

"Have you told —"

"No," I wriggle out of her hug just to look her in her eyes even though mine feel puffy and swollen shut. "No, I haven't told ANYONE. And you can't either, okay? You can't tell ANYONE about this, Mercedes. I swear if anyone finds out… you can't tell. You CAN'T. You have to promise me that you won't —"

"Your secret's safe with me, Quinn. I won't tell anybody. It's not my place to. But you should… y'know? You should tell everyone about it in Glee Club, at least. It might make us understand you a little better. And we won't judge. We never do. And it might make you feel better. That's a safe place. We've all seen each other go through hell and back."

I just shrug again and dab my eyes with more napkins. At least the tears have stopped falling…

Mercedes hands me a wet rag and I take it, thanking her with my eyes. Another thing I love about Mercedes is that there are times when we don't need to talk to tell each other what we're thinking. I know I don't have to say "thank you" for the rag. I know she knows that with my eyes, I mean it.

Maybe she's right. Maybe I should talk to the club eventually. Maybe I'll be ready someday. I doubt it, but maybe…

"So what was it like?" she asks, sitting back down across from me. "Did they like, tie you to a bed or something?" I knew this was coming… I knew she'd want to know some details about Oakland Pines… "Was it weird and scary like in the movies?"

"No, actually, it was —"

But I don't get to finish telling her anything about what it was like there. Because for the second time in a long time, God answers my silent prayers once again. I didn't really want to tell Mercedes anything about Oakland Pines because really, I'm not ready to relive it just yet.

So I've never been more grateful to a doorbell ringing.


I'm all about honesty tonight and being upfront about my feelings, so let me be honest with myself when I say that I really wish Rachel was here.

It's not that I'm not enjoying myself, because I am. Sitting here on Mercedes' bed with my back against the headboard and a pillow across my lap while Mercedes sits next to me and Tina lies by our feet is fun. Watching Brittany try to make sense of the movie while she lies across Santana's lap on the floor is fun. Being in a room full of girls while Mercedes' Redbox money is being wasted because none of us are actually paying attention to the movie is fun. I just can't help but think that I'd be having more fun if Rachel were here.

I told myself that I'd try not to think about the fact that she's not here because she has plans with Finn, but that's really not working out for me. Every time I think about how much fun she'd be having with us, I think about why she's not here and when I think about why she's not here, I burn up with so much rage that I almost tell myself that I need to go home but then I talk myself out of it somehow and find it in me to enjoy myself long enough to stay, until the next hour when it happens all over again.

Like I said, it's not that I'm not enjoying myself with the other girls because I am. It sure beats the hell out of being home alone on a Friday night. But it's the strangest feeling in the world to be in a room full of people and still feel utterly alone. Nobody's really watching the movie because they're all talking amongst themselves, mostly about boy problems and I'm smiling and laughing and engaging whenever they say something funny. But I don't feel like I'm totally belonging here. I don't have boy problems like they do. I can't sit here and eat pizza slice after pizza slice after pizza slice like they are. I don't have any exciting over-the-summer stories to catch up on like they do. I'm sitting here on the bed with all of them and I'm in my pajamas too. But I feel like if I disappeared or just turned invisible, they wouldn't really notice.

"So yeah," Tina talks with a mouth full of chips and salsa. "Mike and I really don't know what we're going to do. I mean we'll probably try the whole long distance relationship thing while he's in college, but those never really last."

"It'll last if you want it to last," Brittany replies and I hate it when she talks because when she talks, I look at her and when I look at her, all I see are the ways that she and Santana are close and it goes back to me wishing Rachel was here. I know that if she were here, I probably wouldn't be running my fingers through her hair the way Santana is running her's through Brittany's, but still. If Rachel were here, at least I'd have the option. "If you go into it thinking it's gonna be all screwed up then chances are, it's gonna get screwed up. It's like probability. If you think it, I'll happen."

Everyone's just kind of silent and I think it's because nobody wants to laugh at how serious Britt just was.

"Yeah, but that's the thing. What if I want it to last but he doesn't?" Tina asks, bringing the seriousness back.

"Break up with him before he breaks up with you," Santana replies. "He's going to be in college surrounded by hot little college ass. You really expect him to be faithful to you? I say dump him before he does it to you. There's more fish in the river, or whatever."

"But what if he does want to be with me?" Tina says. "What if I'm reading too much into all of it and he really is just stressed about SAT prep and not purposely blowing me off?"

"Guys are just confusing," Mercedes chimes in. "It's hard to know what they want."

Brittany perks up at this, "And they never tell you what they want unless it's sex."

"So most of the time, we're just stuck guessing," Santana mumbles.

"Is that how it was with you, Quinn?" Tina asks.

"Huh?" She caught me a little off guard and I wasn't all the way paying attention. I know she's just asking because she wants to include me in the conversation, which is sweet. "Is that how what was?"

"Your relationship with Puck. Were you just kinda guessing all the time?"

When she says his name, something happens. Like something inside of me comes undone. I just reach over to the end table beside Mercedes' bed and grab my cup of water because it feels like I have to throw up. My stomach is tight and it feels like it turned to stone inside of me or something. I feel sick. Nauseous. Kind of like morning sickness with Beth, but a little more harsh and not so mellow. And all she did was say his name…

"I'd hardly call that a relationship," I mumble, swallowing another sip of water to calm my stomach. I never know what I'm going to get at the mention of Puck. Most of the time when people say his name, I just get angry. But sometimes, although it's rare, I'll start to feel sick and Jessica said that's normal too considering what happened between us.

"You should call it a family," Santana snickers and it's like a reflex with the way I throw my water across the room and hit her smack in the face with the cup. "HEY!"

Everyone is laughing except me and except Santana and I think it's because everyone thought I was just trying to be funny but Santana knows I did it seriously. She knows I wasn't joking. She knows it was deadly serious and she knows that I meant to hurt her. I wish it was something that would burn her eyes and stain her clothes, something other than just water. I know all this rage inside of me isn't healthy and I am kind of sorry that it all came out on Santana, but she shouldn't have done that. She has no right and she has no business talking about it. In fact, if I were sitting beside her, I might have punched her instead. You don't talk about my child in any way, shape or form. You do not mention anything that has to do with her.

"Hey…" Mercedes starts to speak gently, because I think she's started to notice that I was being very serious. I wasn't being funny. She can tell by the way I'm still glaring at Santana like I want to kill her. And in some ways, I do. "Hey, why don't we play something. Isn't that what we do at sleepovers? Let's play something. Truth or dare? Quinn, you go first."

Not until Santana gets it. Not until the bitch knows that she crossed a line with me and if she knows what's good for her, she'd never cross it again because that's when she'll die. Never talk about my child. And don't ever insinuate that I am anything more to Puck than the mother of his kid. I am nothing more to him and nothing less. He is no family to me. Next time, it won't be water. I promise.

I think Santana gets it because she starts to look away. Her face softens and she looks away and my glare doesn't stop until our eye contact breaks completely.

"Quinn, start it off," Mercedes says again, this time tapping my leg.

I take a deep breath to rid myself of the anger I just felt and try to calm down. "Tina, truth or dare?"

"Truth," Tina says.

"Is it true that you never let Mike go past second base?" I ask, just because that's a rumor I heard and I don't really care if it's true or not, but I need something to at least pretend like I'm interested in this stupid game.

Even as Tina starts to answer, I can't even concentrate. I just can't stop glaring at Santana. I can't stop thinking about what she was implying when she said Puck and I should be considered a family…

"Emily?" Jessica calls her name again, gently this time. I've been in four group sessions with Emily so far and we always sit beside each other, but we never talk. I don't think Emily knows how to talk. She just comes to group, sits down and listens. Intently. She nods when she needs to and shakes her head. Sometimes she'll clear her throat but really, that's all. "It's your turn to share. Can you tell us about a time where you felt powerless?"

Emily tucks a strand of her curly blonde hair behind her ear and adjusts her glasses. During group, we're supposed to turn towards whatever groupmate is speaking at the time, so I shift my chair just a little and prepare myself to listen. Emily's eyes never leave the ground.

"I um, felt powerless once when my old coworker… forced himself on me," she speaks slowly, like she has to think and calculate every word that comes out of her mouth but her voice is strong. "We were hanging out at the office Christmas party and he was drunk. Followed me into the bathroom. And he… raped me, I guess," she shrugs.

"Great job, Emily," Jessica nods her head. "And can you tell us what methods you've chosen to overcome those feelings?"

"Um… well… for a while there, I just… didn't. I kept seeing him. At work. And it was like… I was there again. Every time I saw his face, every time I heard his voice. It felt like I was back in that bathroom stall again… and it just… made me feel like… like maybe I don't deserve peace. Because I… I did make out with him, you know. We made out really heavy at first and then he moved in and… I didn't say no. Not at first. It wasn't like… you know. Like you see in the movies. I didn't push and scream and kick. I just… I said yes eventually. When I knew he wasn't going to stop. So I guess I deserved it in some ways. But every time I saw him at work, I felt… sick. Like I had to throw up and sometimes, I did…," Emily speaks so slowly, like she's piecing it all together as she goes along.

I reach over to the table and quietly grab a tissue to wipe the tears rolling down my cheeks. I don't even know why I'm crying. It's not like I know Emily personally or anything. I guess I just… feel for her…. I don't know…

Jessica said group is meant to show us that we're not alone with our feelings…

"Yo, earth to Quinn," Santana's voice is annoyed, but I don't really notice.

"Hmm?" I have to physically shake my head to clear my thoughts from it.

"It's your turn. Tina asked you a question. Are you even in there?" She squints her eyes but I ignore her snarky tone and turn to Tina.

"What'd you say?" I ask her.

"Truth or dare?" Tina asks again.

"Truth," I mumble. Truth is, I'm still a little shaken by what I remembered from group therapy…

"Did it hurt to have a baby?" she asks, her tone full of eagerness. Boring question.

"Oh, boo!" Santana takes the thought right out of my head. "That question sucks. We all know it felt like she was crapping out a serrated knife. Ask a juicy question."

"Like what?" Tina asks.

"Yeah, like what?" I ask too and I immediately wish I hadn't because I know Santana is about to find whatever weakness I have and just… hone in on it. I don't even know how she does what she does, but she does it and she's good at it.

"Like…" she thinks out loud and I'm scared. Truly terrified. "Like… like okay. After all your horribly failed relationships with men — Puck knocking you up, Finn dumping you for the troll who lives under the bridge — have you considered being gay?"

See? I don't know, I don't know how she does it but it's like she knows! It's like she somehow figures out all my vulnerabilities and attacks them! How the hell does she know? How is she so far inside my head?!

"Ew, gross!" I exclaim, even sticking my tongue out for a little added drama. "That's gross! Santana, I don't even like my own vagina, why would I like someone else's?! That's gross! Never! Ever! Ew!"

I am such an awful liar… I could probably stand to tell the truth. But… no. This is the truth. This right here is the truth. I'm not gay… and I'm never gonna be gay… I AM telling the truth! Maybe if I convince them that I'm just so repulsed by this… they'll never ever ever ever in a million years think that maybe I could be… gay...

"Oh, stop. How are you gonna knock it if you've never even tried it?!" Santana scoffs.

"Yeah," Brittany starts. "I didn't know but then I tried it and it was like, sunshine and unicorns and rainbows."

.I've gotten vibes from Santana and Brittany ever since this sleepover started. I mean really, when Santana started running her fingers through Brittany's hair, my gaydar went off automatically. They're just… way too close. Too close to be just friends. So I think it's safe to say that maybe they're… gay…. and maybe… maybe they can give me… advice? Okay, what harm could there be in admitting it? It's just Santana and Brittany, who won't judge because I'm pretty sure they're gayish too. And Mercedes never judges. And Tina… I'm pretty sure she wouldn't judge. Maybe I could… just…

"I have —" I start, but once again… I'm saved. Saved by the doorbell. Oh thank god.

"I think my mom might have ordered in another pizza," Mercedes says and stands up.

"I'm gonna go grab another drink," Tina says and stands up too.

"Me too," I stand up quick, before Santana or Brittany can ask me to finish what I just started to say. Before I know it, all of us are following Mercedes down the steps. I'm the last one in the line down the steps and I'm grateful because now nobody can see the way the gay question made me sweat so much that there's a sweat mark in the middle of my back.

Tina heads to the kitchen along with Santana and Brittany while Mercedes answers the door. And I'm on my way to the kitchen too, but because I'm the last one in the line to go down the steps, I'm the one who is there when Mercedes pulls open the door.

And my stomach practically falls out of my ass when I see that it's not the pizza man standing on the porch.

It's Rachel.

Chapter Text

As she stands at the door, I stand frozen on the steps just a few paces behind Mercedes. I don't think I could move another inch even if I tried. And it's not until this very moment that I realize I've been on autopilot this whole time. This whole time, I've been coasting and just kind of relying on muscle memory to get me through the day and sure, it's been working. I mean, it almost got me through a whole sleepover. But now, autopilot isn't good enough. Now, the plane has just been driven directly into the throes of a hurricane with whirlwinds and heavy rain and I have to take over and fly this thing for real. I'm in panic mode. Every light on the dashboard is telling me that I'm in danger and if I had any sense, I'd turn around and land now, before I crash and burn. Only I can't do that. I can't control the damn airplane.

Because I can't even move.

Mercedes says something to her, but I don't know what because I can't even hear. All I see is her lips moving, and in place of where her words should be, I hear the sound of my heartbeat thundering in my ears. Mercedes steps aside to invite her in and suddenly, everything stops. It's like the calm in the middle of the storm. The eye of the hurricane is passing over me now and everything has settled just enough to let me breathe. And listen.

"Sorry I'm dripping all over your floor," she says to Mercedes and her voice breaks at the same time her face does. She bursts into thick tears and all I can think about is how I'd walk through fire just to make them stop.

"You're...cool," Mercedes says back to her but the tone of her voice isn't all that reassuring. And all I can think about is how I'd be way more convincing if I were the one to comfort her. Mercedes looks at her like she's a creature from another planet and I want to just get ahold of myself and scream "they're just tears, you idiot! Hug her!" but I don't. I grab ahold of the railing to make sure I don't float away. "What's going on? Why're you all wet?"

"I walked here," I can hardly hear Rachel say over the sound of my own heart. "Finn dumped me," she chokes on a fresh round of tears. And all I can feel is my heart stopping right inside my chest. She eyeballs Santana coming from the kitchen and I want to tell Santana that I'll kill her with my bare hands if she says anything to make this worse, but I don't. I just squeeze the railing harder so I don't float away. "Please… please don't say I told you so," she struggles to hold back her sobs as she looks Santana in the eye.

She stands there with soaking wet strands of that chocolate brown hair dripping all down her back, and I can't help but think how fitting it was for it to have rained. It's almost like Rachel herself phoned the weather gods above and told them to make it rain as she walked the half mile to Mercedes' house. That's something that would only happen to drama queen Rachel. That kind of theatricality doesn't exist in anyone else's life.

Everyone wants to talk about why. Why Finn broke up with her, why she walked over here instead of asking her dads to drop her off, why she decided to come here of all places. They all want to talk about the why. Why why why. But what does it matter? The reason doesn't change the outcome. All that matters is that she ended up here with soaking wet clothes and tears so rich that you can still somehow tell the difference between them and the raindrops.

"You were just missing a game of truth or dare. We came down to get more snacks. Quinn'll help you get cleaned up," Mercedes says and motions towards me on the steps with her head. "She'll show you where everything's at and grab you some of my clothes."

She looks up at me and I swear, those eyes are the most beautiful shade of brown there ever was. Her eyes look at me like they're afraid, like they're beneath me and waiting for me, the evil queen to say "off with her head!" and that makes something inside of me just go completely dead. It's not that I don't think she has reason to look at me like that, because she does. I've never been anything but awful to her, so why shouldn't she fear me?

I want to run down these steps and wrap my arms around her, squeeze her and tell her that everything's okay while I make like Santana and Brittany and run my fingers through her hair so it doesn't tangle. But I don't. I just let go of the railing because I'm pretty sure I won't float away. And put on my best annoyed face. And my very best annoyed voice. And say:

"Hurry up."

The way she follows me up the steps with her head down starts to feel like the old Quinn and Rachel relationship, and it feels good long enough for us to climb the steps and get to the upstairs hallway without Santana or Brittany or Tina or Mercedes to think anything's different. They do what everybody does and chalk it up to the fact that Rachel and I just "don't get each other." Being annoyed with her feels good until it stops without warning, just as I'm about to show her to the bathroom and I'm left feeling all naked and exposed.

Nobody told me what it was going to be like to not hate Rachel all the time and it's an uncomfortable feeling. I don't know which feels worse, though. Should I ride this uncomfortable wave of not completely hating her and be nice? Or should I try to force myself back into that role of hating her, even when I feel like I don't anymore?

She stands outside of the bathroom door with her eyes locked down on the cream colored carpet and it's not until I get my own head on straight that I realize she's only standing outside because I'm blocking the door and she's too afraid to ask me to move. It feels like crap to have her so afraid of me like this. So much that I can't even believe that I used to love this. Her fearing me. Her being too nervous and too beneath me to even look me in the eye. There used to be a Quinn — and she's still inside of me somewhere — that relished in the very idea of Rachel bowing down to me. Now that she's in front of me and she's actually doing it… really, all it makes me want to do is slap myself silly.

"Towels and washcloths are in the cabinet beside the sink, turn and pull up on the lever to work the shower," I still mumble to her, but my mumble is in a much more pleasant tone and I can tell she noticed because she actually looks up. Then I step away from the bathroom door. "I'll find clothes that'll fit and leave them outside the door."

It's getting to be a little too much for me. I know Mercedes would probably prefer to be the one to go through her drawers and find clothes that she doesn't care about enough to let Rachel borrow, but I'll do it. I'll do it just so I can stop seeing those big brown eyes looking at me like she just lost her best friend. I'll do it just so I can resist every urge in my body that's telling me to hug her and put my lips against hers and tell her that I would never break her heart. I know that I'll never be able to do that. And that realization in itself sucks.

That realization is enough to make the tears prick my eyes. And enough to make me have to bite my lip as I walk to Mercedes' room and pray that maybe I'll have enough time to have a small crying fit before the rest of the girls come back upstairs. But then —

"Quinn, wait," Rachel's voice is soft, the way it travels up the hallway and makes me stop in my tracks. I turn around slowly, to make sure my cheeks have enough time to stop being red and my eyes have enough time to stop being so watery. "Could you stay? And wait for me? So I don't get lost?" she talks just barely above a whisper.

My first instinct is to say "of course! I'll wait right here and talk to you through the door so you don't get lonely! And maybe I'll hear you sing! Do you sing in the shower? Probably, huh? Your voice is like an angel's lullaby. Please sing me something!" but of course, I don't. I let the other Quinn — the one that's inside of me beating down the box I shoved her in — out. And somehow, both of the Quinns decide not to fight each other today. Both of the Quinns meet each other in the middle and work together enough for me to say:

"This is what you get for ditching your girls to hang out with a stupid boy."

She winces at my words, but takes them in with a very slight nod. Then, she clears her throat and messes with the droopy wet fabric of her fancy-shmancy purple blouse. "I thought you thought Finn was one of the good ones," her eyes meet mine for just a split second before she looks down again. "That's want you always told me."

Caught. Busted. Red handed.

"Well…" I start, just hoping that somehow Old Quinn can come out and fix this. "He's still a boy and boys are stupid." Decent, but not great. Old Quinn could have done better than that.

Rachel accepts this, which is enough to make me breathe again, then opens the bathroom door and goes inside. And the only thing I'm thinking is that it just shouldn't be this hard. Interacting with Rachel shouldn't be as hard as it is and I really, really wish it wasn't. Honestly, it's just exhausting. Having to think after every word she says, having to process everything and calculate a response before I give it just to make sure she thinks that I still hate her and nothing more. It's the most mentally exhausting thing and I don't want it to be. Not anymore. I wish this came more naturally to me. I wish it didn't matter whether she thinks I hate her or not. I wish she could know that I like her, that I really like her and me treating her accordingly wouldn't be such a big… thing. But it is and it's exhausting and I just don't know how much longer I can do this.

"Rachel," I catch her just before she closes the bathroom door. She opens it back up so she can see me. "I'll be

outside after I get clothes for you."


It's funny how a couple hours ago, I was sitting on Mercedes' bed with her, Tina, Santana and Brittany and I was secretly miserable because I wished Rachel were here. I was watching Santana lace her fingers through Brittany's hair and I was jealous because I wanted to be doing the same thing to Rachel. I was laughing at the funny stories Tina told about the things Mike's parents would do but I was actually dying on the inside because I knew that tonight was going to be spent just wishing Rachel and I had whatever Santana and Brittany had.

I was staring at two girls, obviously in love with each other but only flaunting it in privacy and I was jealous of that. I was wishing I had what they had because I guess a secret relationship that nobody knows about except for the people you trust most in the world is better than no relationship at all. I was at a sleepover with some of my favorite people on this planet, and I was miserable because the one person I wanted to be there most in this world wasn't.

How the tables have turned.

It's not the fact that we're halfway through our second large pizza and collectively chugged eighteen cans of Mountain Dew between all of us that's making me jittery. Nor is it the fact that I've eaten maybe sixteen Oreos by myself. It's not even the fact that we're all sitting in a circle, facing each other and revealing our darkest secrets right now.

What's making me jittery is the fact that I can't stop thinking about how beautiful she looks. I found an old yellow t-shirt in Mercedes' drawer for her to wear, and a pair of old running shorts. Of course, Mercedes' clothes are a little big for her, but the way everything just hangs off of her body and nothing clings to her skin is what's driving me crazy. Her hair dried in a sort of wavy kind of way and she hasn't ran a brush through it so it's just sitting there, wavy and natural and I just want to touch it. Her legs are pulled into her chest and she rests her chin on her kneecaps, still chewing a piece of pepperoni and she has a little bit of grease on her lips but I can't tell her to wipe it off because then she'd know that I've been spending the last ten minutes staring at her lips.

I keep sneaking glances across the circle and sooner or later, Santana is going to figure me out. Tina and Mercedes probably wouldn't notice. I know for sure Brittany wouldn't. But Santana would. Santana would call me out on the fact that I've spent this whole "circle of trust" game just staring at Rachel and she might even expose me to everyone.

Just a couple hours ago, I was contemplating telling everyone in this room that I could possibly very probably actually maybe kind of sort of thinking that I might be...gay. But now, that seems like the scariest thing in the world.

I wanted her here so badly at first. But now I wish she was gone. Hanging out with Finn again.

"It's like for the first time literally ever," Santana is speaking but she's not really looking at anybody. Her face is blank and she's staring across the circle. "They can break my heart. And I'm actually scared." The great thing about this circle of trust game thing that Tina suggested is that none of us are really judging and we all kind of get it and forget about it after their turn is up. It's kind of unspoken.

We'll never breathe a word outside of this room about Mercedes being afraid that nobody wants to date her because of her weight. And we'll never talk about the way Tina cried a couple minutes ago when she told us she just doesn't feel like she belongs anywhere. We all hugged Britt at the beginning of this circle when she told us she was afraid she'll never graduate, but we moved on from that. And after Santana finishes crying about how she's in love with someone that could break her heart, we'll all support her and know that she's talking about Brittany, but we'll never say.

We're all silent and respectful, letting Santana wipe her tears away and act like they never existed, but we're not silent for too long. We just move right along into the next person and it sounds horrible, but that's how it works. We don't dwell too long on anyone's problems and that's why we all feel so open, I think.

"Rachel," Mercedes says. Usually Santana would call the next person since it was just her turn, but she's still gathering herself. "You next."

I look at the three slices of pizza left and pretend to be very interested in the way the cheese is melted over top of the pepperoni and the way the cheese is falling out of the stuffed crust. I guess I'm glad she didn't pick me to follow up after Santana's forbidden love story with my own forbidden love story, but I still don't know if I'm ready to hear anything Rachel says. Especially when I know she's probably going to talk about Finn.

"Um," Rachel puts her legs down and sits like the rest of us, with her legs folded. Jessica called that an "open body" position. It supposedly suggests that she's "ready to listen and be heard." Maybe it's not all bull crap after all. "Well… Finn," she starts.

Finn, Finn, Finn. That's all you ever talk about. Who cares about Finn?

"He broke up with me tonight. Everything was fine at the movies. Then he drove me home after the movies and just…," her voice cracks, and Tina hands her a paper towel for a tissue. "And instead of going inside to face my dads and tell them that I was just totally humiliated… I walked here." She wipes her face with the paper towel but I didn't see any tears. "And for a while, I totally forgot about what just happened to me tonight."

Everyone smiles except me. I want to smile, I do. I just don't want anyone to think that maybe there's a reason behind my smile…

"I've never been to one of these. A slumber party," she continues. "Not even in elementary. I was never invited to any of these. And we're about to graduate in a year. I've been thinking about all the things I just… missed out on. Because I'm not popular or… or pretty." Yes, yes you are. You're beautiful. How do you not see that? "Anyway, thank you guys. For not making me miss out on the sleepover experience."

How have you never been to a slumber party? Wasn't that like, everyone's birthday party in third grade? I wasn't pretty or popular either. I was fat and gross and just awful but I still got invited. Granted, every slumber party Lucy went to, she called Mom and went home crying because the other girls were complete jerks and just needed someone to take the brunt of their fat jokes. But still… I was invited…

"Quinn," Rachel clears her throat from being all choked up and I didn't know how much I love hearing her say my name until this moment. I look up from my pizza haven and meet her eyes. "It's your turn."

"Mhm," I nod my head and I guess they think I'm thinking because I'm being so quiet but really… I just can't believe she's never been to a slumber party.

Well… she's got the whole eat a hundred slices of pizza experience. And the gorge yourself on junk food until you want to puke; she ate like twenty Twinkies herself. It's early enough for her to get the makeover experience. And maybe before she falls asleep, she'll experience the "prank the first person who falls asleep" thing. She got the deep conversation and secret sharing experience from circle of trust. But you know what experience she didn't get from this slumber party? What experience she didn't get? Not yet…

They're expecting me to come back with some big extravagant secret. I could probably tell them about my summer in Pennsylvania, I think that's what Mercedes is expecting me to say with the way she's looking at me. I could tell them about Lucy and how she was two-hundred pounds with braces and acne and had to leave the sleepovers early because everyone was mean. I could even tell them about why Mom took every scale out of the house back in ninth grade and how I think I'm starting to have that problem again since I ate so much pizza and know I have to get rid of it once everyone falls asleep. I could even let them in on how I hate Dad, about all the nights I had to go sleep with Franny because their bedroom was right next to mine and I'd hate to hear Mom crying all night. Or maybe I can tell them how much I miss Beth, about how much I wish I wouldn't have given her up. And how much I hate Puck because of some things that Jessica and the girl in group named Emily made me realize about him and me.

I could tell them a bunch of things about me. I don't know which one is more juicy than the other. Or which one would make me cry less. But right now, I'm thinking about Rachel. And what would make her happy.

So I break the circle, stand up and say, "I have an idea."

Everyone just kind of stares at me like I'm speaking a foreign language and that's okay. They'll catch on and get into it after I do what it is I'm doing. They probably know that this is somewhat of a deflection technique, something I'm doing just so I don't have to embarrass myself during this circle, but who cares. I mean yeah, it's deflection because I really don't want to share. But it's also for a good cause. I swear.

"Guys, Rachel's never been to a sleepover before." I tell them, and grab my phone from the mound of pillows on the bed.

"Yeah, and? What's that have to do with anything?" Santana asks. "I just cried my eyes out to you and if you think you're getting out of this —"

"She's never been to a sleepover before. Don't you know what that means?" I shove the auxiliary cord from Mercedes' iHome into my phone's port. "She's never done the whole… jumping on beds, blasting music… screaming girl tunes…" I scroll through my phone for the perfect song… and as soon as I see it, it's like everything clicks and I know it's perfect.

As soon as the song starts, Mercedes, Tina and Brittany all realize that my idea is genius. They're the first three to stand up. And I don't know why, but it's like the power of music blasting so loud the neighbors could probably file a noise complaint makes me feel… brave. Like I can do anything with these girls.

I'm lip syncing like an idiot, but I don't care. I go over to Rachel, still sitting, and hold my hands out to her. And I know everyone could get the wrong idea from this, but why do I care if they do? Who cares if anyone thinks I have a crush on Rachel right now? Who cares if anyone sees anything more than a girl trying to get another girl to dance and sing old Britney Spears songs with her so she doesn't feel like she completely missed out on her childhood?

She takes my hands and lets me pull her up and before I know it, she's singing right along with me except she's not lip syncing. She's actually singing and I didn't think it was possible, but she sounds horrible and I think she's doing it on purpose because that's all part of the experience.

Santana is a tough nut to crack, but all it takes is Brittany pulling out her ponytail and swinging her hair around like a mad woman to get her up and on her feet and by the time the chorus rolls around, Santana is jumping and dancing and screaming right along with us. And we sound horrible. But we don't care. We all sing in horrible unison.

"YOU DRIVE ME CRAZY! I JUST CAN'T SLEEP! I'M SO EXCITED, I'M IN TOO DEEP. OH, CRAZY! BUT IT FEELS ALRIGHT! BABY THINKING OF YOU KEEPS ME UP ALL NIGHT!"

It's strange how I feel like the universe just stopped. And for these few moments in time, this is all that there is and all that they'll ever be. I feel comfortable. At ease. Wholesome. Like the only cure in the world for everything I was feeling is right here in this room with these girls. Nothing else matters. I ate so much pizza with the thought that I'd get rid of it, but that's okay. It can stay. I won't throw it up. And I think that maybe… just maybe… I can beat this whole thing.

It's a feeling that I carry with me. All the way over to my phone to pick a new girly song that we can flop around to and sing horribly since (You Drive Me) Crazy is coming to an end. It's a feeling that doesn't stop and doesn't go away.

Not even when I open up my phone to a Facebook notification that says Shelby Corcoran sent you a friend request!

Chapter Text

When I first got here and they did that whole intake thing where they sat there with my mom and told her exactly how long I was going to be in here for and where and when she could pick me up and visit me and all that stuff, it felt like my life was over. I remember them telling me that I'd be in that place for 90 whole days and as soon as they said it, it was like floodgates open and tears rolled down my cheeks and I just couldn't stop.

They made me give them all of my things and said that I'd get some of them back after they screened them and made sure they weren't "inappropriate", then took my shirt and pants and gave me a shirt and pants that had been "pre-approved." I looked at my mom and cried because I couldn't believe she was actually leaving me there for something so STUPID. But she just walked down the hallway, wiping her own tears, and left. Just like that. And I became less of who I was before.

I won't lie. The first few days were rough. It really felt like they took every shred of humanity I had in me and threw it away with the trash. I had no more privacy, no more alone time and no time to just sit back and think. If you've never been through it, then just think about feeling like you're an animal instead of a person. An animal told when to eat, when to sleep, when to pee. If you've been through this, then you know exactly what I'm talking about.

It's funny how I can sit here in this chair across from Jessica for what's probably the 30th time since I've been here, and remember how naked and exposed I felt the very first time I saw her. When she introduced herself to me and asked me a bunch of questions to get to know me. The first time I was just so convinced that talking to her wouldn't actually work.

But I sit here in front of her again, I find myself wishing that I could never leave this place. I know it's a dangerous thought and probably super unethical but in a way, I feel like Jessica is my best friend. And I can't believe that after I have my last session in a few weeks and leave this place after 90 days, I'll never speak to her again.

"So you have what? 15 days left? 12, maybe?" she sits down in her usual seat across from me and pulls her shoulder-length brunette hair into a ponytail. "Are you excited to get the heck outta here?"

"A little," I admit, then pick the yellow nail polish off of my thumbnail. My roommate's going to be pissed when I go back upstairs and she sees that I ruined all two hours of her hard work on my nails, but I can't help it. My hands have to be busy while I'm talking to Jessica in some way or another. She says that it's my anxiety. But I think it's just a habit. "I miss my big queen-sized bed."

Jessica snorts , then offers me a fidget spinner that I gratefully take. "Can't say I blame you. Going from a queen to a twin has to be hell, huh?"

"It is! Like I can't even roll over without falling off the bed. I'm so used to stretching all the way out and here, I'll be lucky if I sneeze and stay on the bed. It's totally nerve wracking."

She laughs some more and puts on her glasses so she can start to take her notes on the session. "What else do you miss about home? You miss your friends? You miss Beth?"

"Uh-huh," I nod and wince a little at her name, but it doesn't sting as bad as it used to. Before when she used to mention Beth, the entire session would go downhill because I'd either cry or get so angry that I'd walk out. But it's getting better now. Perhaps that's what we call growth? "I always kinda miss her. But it's not like I see her, you know? I just… miss her from a distance."

"I thought you said the adoption wasn't closed."

"It's not. It's open….ish. I mean, I know who has her and I know where Shelby lives and stuff and I guess I see pictures of her from time to time but it's not like I just walk down the street and hang out with her."

"Does Shelby live in Lima, too?"

"No, just like ten minutes outside of it."

"Then why haven't you seen her since she was born? The adoption's open which means Shelby obviously wouldn't care if you —"

"She totally wouldn't care if I… I mean she wouldn't deny me. If I asked. But I just… I don't know…"

"Why haven't you asked?"

"...I don't know," I shrug. I feel the tears coming on but I'm able to blink them back before they fall. "I guess… I guess I just don't know if I'm… ready for that yet. I… I miss her a lot and all. But I don't know if that means I want to see her."

"Understandable. But what do you say we make that one of your goals for when you go home? To reach out and ask Shelby if you could see Beth? Why don't we make that a goal?"

"...Sure," I shrug again and this time I feel a little guilty because I know in my heart of hearts, that will probably never happen. I don't think I'll ever be strong enough to see Beth. That used to scare me to death but these days, I kind of just accept it. I'll never be at a point where I can go over and see Beth and not want to stuff her in my purse and bring her home with me.

She scribbles that down on the goal sheet that I get on our last session together, then puts the pen down. "What about school? And your friends? Don't you wanna get back to them? And Glee Club?"

"I guess," I mumble and look down at the floor.

"Eye contact, Quinn. Remember. Eye contact."

I look up at her this time but mumble again, "I guess."

"You've never really told me about Glee Club. So tell me about it. What do you guys do? Just go around being… gleeful?"

"It's show choir," I explain and let the smile tugging at my lips come through. I forgot just how much I missed Glee… I used to think that it was just a sad part of my life and I only liked it so much because it was the only thing that made me happy while I was pregnant. But now I just… I don't know, I think I just miss it in general. "We go to competitions and stuff. There's sectionals, then regionals, then nationals. And we sing and perform. It's… it's a lot of fun, actually."

"So that must mean you can sing and dance really well, huh?"

"Not really. I mean, I'm okay. But I'm not the best. I'm not the best singer or the best dancer. I'm no Brittany."

"Brittany's the star?"

"No, no, just the best dancer. Well, her and Mike."

"Who's the best singer?"

"Rachel. Hands down. Maybe Mercedes too, but Rachel's just… she's got something about her that just… I don't know… she…" my voice trails off as I try to find the right words to describe her aside from incredible. "She makes you look at her. No matter what. She just gets up on the stage and commands your attention and you just can't help but stare at her and admire her and… she's amazing. She's so good."

"Rachel's a friend?"

"A friend? No," I shake my head. The thought is actually kind of funny. Rachel? A friend of mine? Ha. That's funny. I just left out the fact that she's intolerable. "She's the most annoying and frustrating thing on the planet. She could make a nun cuss in church. She's like a Cabbage Patch Kid mixed with a Teletubby and has the sex appeal of a Sunday School teacher. I've eaten broccoli that was more appealing than her."

"Woah," Jessica holds her hands up. "Time out, time out. What did Rachel ever do to you?"

"You just…" Good question…. I don't have an answer… "If you knew her, you'd understand. She's dating Finn."

"And that's why you don't care for her?"

"No, no, I could care less about that. I mean, Finn's hers. I don't want him. She can do whatever she wants." I shrug but I don't think that's all that convincing. "She's also Shelby's daughter."

"...I thought you said Beth was Shelby's only daughter?"

"She gave Rachel up for adoption."

"And so that's why you don't care for Rachel? Because she's Beth's sister? I'm just trying to figure this out."

"I don't like Rachel because Rachel's Rachel. There's nothing to figure out, Jess. That's all there is to it." I'm starting to get annoyed. Okay, I know I don't have any valid reasons to hate Rachel's guts the way I do, but I do. Okay? I just do. There is no deeper meaning.

"See, I don't think that's true." Jessica folds her hands and sits back like she's trying to study me. "I think there is something else to it."

"Why? Why not just take my word for it?"

"Because when you told me she was the star of Glee Club, your face completely lit up and it was like you were talking about magic. That doesn't happen with people you hate, Quinn."

"Yeah, well. You don't know Rachel." That's all I can even muster up to say.

"...Have you ever considered the fact that you may like Rachel?" she asks, after a few minutes of silence.

"Sometimes I like her. She's not horrible all of the time. But like 90% of the time, she's intolerable. Unless she's singing, I can't stand her."

"That's not what I meant, Quinn."

"Well what did you mean?"

"I meant…" she hesitates. "Sometimes… when we like someone a lot… our brain mistakes that for dislike. It's like… you ever hear the expression "loving someone so much you hate them"? It's like that. For really emotionally closed off people… they tend to mistake that love for intense hatred because this person has… broken through their walls. Understand?"

"...No. I don't like Rachel at all. It's not like that for me. I just really don't like her."

"Consider the fact that you don't."

"What?"

"...Consider how you grew up. Consider that nobody ever told you what having a crush on another girl was supposed to feel like."

"I'm done," I mumble and stand up. "You're not about to sit here and tell me that I'm…. I'm…" I can't even say it. It's so disgusting and horribly wrong and she's WRONG. "You're wrong. I'm allowed to dislike Rachel."

"You can't just walk out on every session that upsets you, Quinn! Sit down. And listen to what I'm trying to say to you. You can sit here and tell me that you dislike Rachel and I'm not saying that you don't. I'm not. What I am saying is that I think if you consider a few things, you can find out where the source of your dislike for her is coming from. And I suspect that source may be because she stirs up feelings within you that you want to suppress. Feelings that you hate."

I sit back down and say nothing. But she's wrong. She's very very wrong. I'm not… that. I'm not. I've never kissed another girl, I've never thought about another girl in an unnatural way and I sure as hell don't think of Rachel that way.

"Quinn, I'm not here to judge you. But if you don't look inside yourself for these answers, you're never going to get better. If you don't confront this head on and… allow yourself to be who you really are… you'll never stop hating yourself. You don't have to walk around hating yourself anymore. Because what you are and what you feel isn't wrong just because someone told you it is. It's not wrong. Stop hating yourself."

I fold my arms and still say nothing. Because I have nothing to say.

"You don't have to tell me these answers out loud. You can keep them to yourself. But just be truthful. Okay?"

I just keep staring forward.

"When you start to like Rachel, do you automatically shut that feeling down? Do you ever feel the desire to be closer to her? Do you shut that feeling down when you feel it? Have you ever spontaneously wanted to touch her? Do you shut that feeling down when you do?"

I blink once and the tears completely fall. Jessica hands me a tissue and stops talking, which I'm grateful for. I dab my eyes, then clear my throat. And then:

"A-Are you trying to say that I'm G—"

"Quinn!"

I feel the weight of her hands on me, and she shakes my body back and forth after she squawks my name with her loud, screechy, annoying voice. Before I pop my eyes open, I really have to weigh out the pros and cons of slapping my mother.

Pros: She'll get the hell away from me and understand I mean business.

Cons: She'll probably kick me out the house. Again.

"Quinn! Get up! Now!"

I roll my body over onto my side to face her and I swear the pros of slapping her and looking better and better and better. It is a Saturday morning and it's the first morning since I've gotten home from Pennsylvania that I've been able to sleep in. I was having a really good dream, I was soundly and restfully sleeping… WHY in the hell would she wake me up?!

"Quinn!"

Finally, I clench my fists together to will myself to calm down, then sit up with a hard, long, drawn out "WHAT?!"

"YOUR THERAPIST JUST CALLED."

"SO?! GET OFF OF ME!" I snatch my arm out of her grip and I haven't felt this angry since the day I found that cup of scotch on the counter by the Keurig.

She grabs my arm again, harder this time. "SO SHE TOLD ME YOU MISSED EIGHT SESSIONS. EIGHT?! I HAD TO TALK HER OUT OF DROPPING YOU AS A PATIENT."

"Congrats," I mumble and lie back down. I pull my pillow over my head and she yanks it back off. "STOP!"

"NO! GET UP! NOW! GET DRESSED! YOU'RE GOING TO THERAPY IN AN HOUR. I MEAN IT."

"Don't be ridiculous," I roll over again and grab another pillow. "They're closed on Saturdays."

"Well today's your lucky day. She set up a special session just for you and you're going. Be downstairs in half an hour or so help me I will GROUND you until graduation. UNDERSTAND?!"

She turns and leaves my room and leaves the door open behind her and I don't particularly know why, but this really irritates the hell out of me. I know I probably shouldn't. I know I'm just acting out of anger and I'm just mad that she woke me up like this and grabbed her hand around my arm really hard and yelled at me like I was ten-years-old again and left my room without closing the door, but still. I get up, still donning my t-shirt and underwear, and follow her. I catch her just as she's about to go back downstairs.

"You know what?!" I yell, and she stops right on the second step. "I am SO tired of you acting so oblivious! To everything! YOU weren't taking me to therapy! How the hell did you think I was getting there?!"

"Quinn, I —"

"You know Mom? You may be dumb, but I'm not." Now's not the time to bring it up…. now's not the time…. but I can't help it. "I know you've been seeing Dad again. Your too wrapped up in him to notice that I'm not going to therapy. I'm not stupid. I know you've been screwing each other again."

"Quinn, this is not about me and your father. This is about you going to therapy and working your treatment plan."

"Sure it is! It's always about you! It's always about you and about Dad! It's —"

"WHAT DOES IT MATTER? HE'S NEVER HERE WHEN YOU ARE. WHY DOES IT MATTER SO MUCH, QUINN? WHY?"

"BECAUSE YOU PROMISED! YOU PROMISED ME YOU WOULDN'T SEE HIM ANYMORE! AND YOU LIED! YOU SAT THERE IN FRONT OF ME, IN FRONT OF MY THERAPIST AND LIED."

"I DIDN'T KNOW I LIED!" For the first time since Frannie and I kicked the soccer ball into the house and messed up the numbers, my mom yells at me like I am actually her child and not a close friend. It's not all that startling, but it's enough to make me fall completely silent. Silent enough for her to feel like she has the upper hand again. "When I told you I wouldn't see him anymore, I really thought I was telling the truth. I really, really didn't think it'd be this hard. You just… you just don't know, Quinn. You've never been in love with a man."

I guess I can't really argue with her about that. She's right in a sense. I haven't ever really known what it's like to be in love in that way, I guess. But I don't think it really matters. Not when it comes to something like protecting your child…

"I love you, Quinnie," she says and for a second I think she's going to cave in and cry, but I'm wrong. She collects herself as usual and she's back to being the prim and proper and polished Judy Fabray. "I love you and when I thought I lost you, I —"

"More than Dad?" The question shocks me and I swear I didn't even know that it was going to roll off my tongue.

"What?" she asks and I really don't want to repeat myself because I know what I asked is kinda out of line, but…

"You said you love me. You love me more than Dad?"

Silence falls between us. She doesn't answer me right away but honestly? She doesn't really have to. Her hesitation speaks volumes. That's an answer enough for me. She only starts to speak when I roll my eyes and turn to walk away.

"Of course!" her answer makes me stop in my tracks. I still don't believe her. I'm not stupid. I know she's just doing her damage control. "Of course I do!"

"Yeah, right," I head back to my room but she just keeps talking to my back.

"Quinn! Get back here!"

"I'm done talking," I slam my door behind me and rummage through my drawers for a pair of pajama pants that I can just throw on. There aren't many times where I feel utterly ridiculous, but arguing with my mom on a Saturday morning while I'm wearing nothing but my underwear definitely takes me there.

And as if she wants me to take the cons for slapping her, my door flies open again and she stands in the doorway. I have to give it to her. This is the longest she's ever stood her ground with me. Usually she just lets me win and walks away. Looks like she finally grew a pair.

"You have to believe me," she says. Her face is all red and blotchy and I think I see tears on her cheeks from across the room. And for a split second, I do feel bad. For a split second, I think about just telling her that I believe her just to make her feel better. "You don't know what it's like to have to choose between two people you love, but you have to believe me when I say —"

"I don't believe you. I don't believe anything —"

"You're not a parent, Quinn!"

I feel like she just slapped me across the face with an open hand. It stings, it's hard and it makes my jaw drop. It even makes me hurt a little. Actually, I think I would rather she have slapped me…

I shove my legs into my pants and pull them up. Then grab a ponytail holder off my dresser and use it to tie my hair up. Then shove my feet into a pair of my running shoes, without socks. And with that? I brush right past her and head for the steps.

"Quinn!"

She calls after me, but that doesn't make me stop. She just keeps calling my name. Even as I stomp to the kitchen and grab the car keys. And even as I grab a jacket and slam the door behind me. I don't know where I'm going. But it's sure as hell not here.

I just don't know how she could say such a thing to me. Don't get me wrong. I already know she felt that way. I already know that she feels like since I don't have Beth, I'm not a parent and I can't possibly compare to her. I already know she feels like just because I don't parent the way she does — physically — means that I don't know what it's like to be a parent. But for her to say it?

I'm a hundred thousand times better than she is.

I slam the car door shut behind myself and shove my keys into the ignition so hard that I won't be surprised if they broke inside of there. And I know she's watching me from the window as I back out of the driveway, but I don't care. I'm on the road now and I'm away from her.

I know that I took the easy way out with giving Beth up. I know I was a coward who didn't want to give up my picture perfect teenage life and I know the harder thing would have been to keep her and sacrifice and be a parent. I know when Beth gets older, I'm going to have to answer to her and beg her to believe me when I tell her that giving her up wasn't easy. I already know all of this. But I swear to the God I'm not even sure I believe in anymore that I'm better than my mother. Because Beth would come first, always. I wouldn't stay in a marriage with a man that abuses me and my daughters. I wouldn't let that man continue to manipulate me. And if my daughter happened to attempt suicide partially because that man was so horrible to her, he would never be allowed in my house again so that my daughter can heal. Beth would always come first, above my husband.

And she would never have to question it, either.

I'm starting to think that Jessica really had no idea what she was talking about. She said that I wouldn't hate my life forever, but I'm really starting to doubt if that's true.

I think I need to start accepting that this is what my life is. It's always going to suck and it's never going to be perfect, so maybe I should just stop trying…


I don't know how or why I ended up here, but I did. When I got into the car and started driving, it wasn't my intention to come here. But I just kept going and going and I had nowhere specific in mind, and it seems like the fates just wanted me to go here or something, so here I am. Sitting across from Bailey. Watching her type things into my chart. In stunned silence.

I have to admit, I thought she'd be a little more pissed at me than she seems. I thought for sure she'd pull me into her office and tear me to shreds about wasting everyone's time and money.

But she didn't. She invited me in with a smile, told me to sit down and said, "welcome back." She didn't even ask me why I missed so many sessions. She didn't even look like she was so much as annoyed with me. She looked like her usual happy-go-lucky Bailey self.

Finally, she stops typing and opens up a notebook. She clicks her pen, then adjusts some papers on her desk, then looks at me like she actually missed me.

"Long time no see!"

"Mhm," I mutter. I trace her eyes to my pajama pants and loose t-shirt, then cover myself as best as I can with my jacket. I know I look horrible. She doesn't have to silently comment. "I um, just… rolled outta bed."

"I see that," she nods. "How was the sleepover yesterday night?"

"What?"

"The sleepover. At your friend Mercedes' house? Your mom mentioned you were at one yesterday night when I called this morning."

"Oh."

"...So why has it been so long since I've seen you?" There it is. I was waiting for the dreaded question.

"I joined Glee after school…" Usually she gets annoyed if my voice doesn't carry above a mumble, but today she seems okay. "It's every day… until 4:30."

"We can revisit the idea of seeing you in school if you'd like."

"...Sure," I mumble and I'm surprised that. I was halfway expecting myself to tell her no again. But saying yes just felt so natural.

"Is there a period that works best for you?"

"12th. Since I just have study hall."

"Perfect." She writes that down. "Were you crying? Your face is a little red…"

"I had a fight with my mom. It's nothing."

"Oh really? What about?"

"Stupid stuff."

"You think you guys are gonna make up?"

"I dunno."

"Well… your mom loves you a lot. I think you guys will make up."

I'm half tempted to tell her that she doesn't know what the hell she's talking about. She doesn't know the Judy that I know. She knows the Judy that my mom wants her to see. I'm half tempted to tell her that there was only one time in my life I ever felt like my mom truly loved me…

"I need an ambulance! Please! A-A-At 8748 Wynwood Court. I-It's my daughter sh-she stopped breathing, she's not moving, I don't know what she took! T-There's a pill bottle o-on her bed, I-I-I don't know how many were in there.

It's happening exactly like you see in the movies. Everything is fuzzy and blurry and I can see myself lying there on the floor and I know I should probably get up to tell Mom that I'm okay, that I just took a few sleeping pills because I was having a hard time falling asleep, but I can't. It's like someone put a thousand pound weight on top of my body and the only way I can get up is if I move it. And I try to open my mouth, I do. Because I just want Mom to know that I'm fine, that I can breathe and that I'm just in a really deep sleep, but my mouth is too heavy to open.

"Quinn! Honey, honey, it's okay. It's okay, Mommy's here, I'm here," she kneels down on the ground beside me and brushes my hair out of my face. "What did you take, sweetie? Oh sweetie, sweetie, what did you do?"

I try to open my mouth again to tell her that I just took a few sleeping pills, but all I do when my mouth opens is cough. She pats my back like I'm a baby again and moves my hair away from my mouth. And then I feel the tips of her fingers graze my lips, and pull them apart. When she puts her fingers in, they're so far that her wedding band scrapes the roof of my mouth. And she makes me gag.

… I guess there's probably a reason why the fates decided to have me drive all the way here on a Saturday morning. Maybe I shouldn't ignore it. Maybe I should actually participate. But I don't feel like talking about Mom.

"It was fine, by the way," I say. She raises her eyebrows at me. "The sleepover, I mean. It was fine. Fun, actually."

"Oh yeah? Tell me about it."

"It was okay. We just did the normal stuff, you know. Watch movies, eat popcorn, talk about boys. The usual."

"But you had fun?"

"I did. Until Shelby sent me a friend request on Facebook. That kinda ruined the mood a little for me."

"Why's that?"

"Nevermind." I still haven't confirmed or denied the request. Every time I feel like I'm strong enough to, every time I feel like I've gathered enough courage… I chicken out. I exit out of the Facebook app so quick and try to forget that her friend request is just sitting there. "It was weird, it was like…. like I belonged there or something."

"At the sleepover?"

"Yeah. It was like the first time in a long time I felt like I belonged somewhere. ...I don't think I'd have had that much fun if Rachel wasn't there, though."

"Why's that?"

Damn. For a minute there it really felt like I was talking to Jessica again. I forgot I'm actually here with Bailey. I thought we talked about Rachel before…

"No reason."

"You can talk to me, Quinn."

"...Do you think there's anything that's unforgivable?"

Why am I talking so much this session? Seriously, what's the matter with me? Did I really need to come to therapy this badly? It's like I can't stop running my mouth…

"What do you mean, honey?"

"I mean…. I mean my parents. They're still… they're still trying to forgive me for getting pregnant. They'd never forgive me if…"

"...Is Rachel someone you have feelings for?"

"Anyway, I'm kind of stuck on whether I should accept Shelby's friend request. It sounds like a good idea because then I'd get to see every picture she posts of Beth, but then again that seems scary. Oh, and I've been journaling like you told me to. I journal almost every night before I go to sleep and sometimes in school when I get a free moment. And I —"

"Quinn," she leans across the desk and looks at me with the most gentle eyes. "Is Rachel someone you have feelings for?" I look down at the ground and still don't answer that. "You really ought to be more honest with yourself."


I feel a little better now. After therapy I was still a little pissed off and fired up from our argument, but I stopped at Wendy's and got three orders of French fries and a Frosty to dip them in. And I got rid of it all in the parking lot without the vomit even burning when it came up. And after the long drive back home, I feel a whole lot better and I'm ready to take on Mom again because I know for a fact she's going to want to talk about it.

So I park the car in the driveway, grab my Wendy's bag and get out. Mom's car is still here so I know she's inside. I take a deep breath, jog up the front steps, and go right inside.

But the house isn't quiet like I expected it to be. I don't smell lunch and hear some cheesy soap opera like All My Children playing on the living room TV.

Instead, I hear two voices. And only one of them belongs to Mom.

I don't know if I'm ready to face Dad just yet, even if he does offer me some sort of an apology. So I drag my feet until I get closer and closer. I just… don't know if I'm ready to face my dad…

So it's a good thing I don't have to.

Because my mom isn't sitting on the couch talking with my dad like I thought she'd be. She is sitting on the couch, yes. And they are talking.

But imagine my surprise when I see Puck sitting there with her.

Chapter Text

October 8

It's very lonely to feel like you're the only person in the world who truly understands you. I'm sure almost everyone on this planet has felt this way at some point in their lives, but I'm almost certain that nobody's felt it quite as deeply as I am. I think maybe it's because even I don't fully understand myself.

I keep on thinking about the time Franny stole the last Hostess cupcake from the pantry and ran outside and shut the patio door when I confronted her about it. She slammed my finger in the door so hard that even at just eight years old, I let the tears fall and called her the nastiest name I could think of. She ran and told Mom that I had dropped not only one but TWO F-bombs and Mom called me up to her office and asked me face to face if I had said anything of the sort. When I lied and said no, she automatically grabbed me by the arm and dragged me to my room and said she knew I was lying because she "knows me better than I know myself" and that really stuck with me.

I used to believe it, too. All because she could look me in the eye and tell me when I was lying to her. I used to really, really believe that my mother knew me better than I knew myself.

These days, I'm not so sure.

I'm really trying to believe that her intentions were pure. I spent the last two and a half hours cleaning spaghetti sauce off the good china plates and convincing myself that she didn't mean any harm by telling him to come over. I left so abruptly and took the car keys and she was so nervous that she called the only person that she thought might know where I have gone. Puck. And she thought — I mean really really thought — that he and I were close.

I guess I understand. I had to put away that childish fantasy of having a mother who knows me like the back of her own hand and once I did that, I realized that really, she knows nothing about me and nothing about where I'd go in a situation like that. So I guess I understand that she did the only logical thing to her. And that was to call the guy I had a baby with. Even though he was the worst possibility to call, she did it out of love.

When I walked in and saw him, it almost felt like everything has happening all over again. It was like I was back in that bedroom and his lips were cold and slobbery and all over my neck and I could smell the strong scent of alcohol on my breath again. It made me feel like I wanted to throw up. Or better yet, turn back around and make a beeline for the door.

But I didn't. I sat down and acted like I was happy to see him and even gave him a hug when he told me just how worried he and my mom were about me. And I choked down a portion of spaghetti and meatballs over dinner while listening to him tell my mom about how he saw Beth the other day and how she's starting to pull herself up on the furniture. I wanted to listen, I really did. I wanted to hear all about the amazing little human my perfect thing is shaping up to be. But I couldn't get past that feeling of slobbery wet lips on my neck and that smell of wine coolers. And I couldn't get past any of it until I was waving goodbye and shutting that door behind him.

For a minute, I almost felt bad for Mom. Not for the argument we had earlier or anything like that, but for the fact that she just doesn't know. She doesn't know how hard it was for me to even fake a smile with him there. She doesn't know how many times I had to fight the urge to excuse myself to the bathroom so I could cry. She doesn't know that everytime I see Puck, I feel like he's on top of me, crushing me over and over and over again like he did the first time and I don't have enough fresh air to breathe. And I guess it just makes me feel bad because if it were Beth, I'd want to know. And if I didn't know, that would make me feel horrible for inviting him to stay for dinner. I wonder if I'll ever be able to tell Mom about the night I lost my virginity to him. I mean EVERYTHING about it...

Probably not.

It's kind of weird because I thought in some ways that maybe I'd be madder at Mom for inviting him over than I actually am. I'm actually not mad at her at all. And there were moments tonight where I actually enjoyed Puck's company, which kind of scares me. And makes me feel stupid at the same time. And maybe just a little bit like a phony. And a disgrace to women everywhere.

I don't know how to explain it. It's just that… on one hand… I do feel close to him. I mean every time I look at pictures of Beth, I see little bits and pieces of him and she's so perfect and I wouldn't change a single thing about her, so I guess that means I have to like him in some aspect, right? Because even the parts of her that are completely him, I love. So I have to like him at least a little bit. Right?

But then on the other hand, sometimes he makes me full of so much rage that I just… vibrate. And I want him to stay as far away from me as possible because I…. I guess I just…. don't feel al that safe around him. It's gotten to the point where I locate all exits when I'm around him and contemplate what I'd do to defend myself if he ever…. you know.

But then it makes me feel stupid and like a liar again because it wasn't like that. It wasn't like… like how you see it in the movies. It was different. And not really… scary. So maybe I'm wrong and I'm stupid and I'm a liar and a disgrace to all women everywhere.

Mom and I decided that we don't need to talk about it. The argument, I mean. We've both decided to let it go and after Puck left, I told her I went to therapy and she was just happy with that so we decided to leave it at that. No apologies, but no explanations either. She swore that she didn't tell Puck anything about me and my summer in Pennsylvania and my mom doesn't swear, so I believe her. Plus, Puck wasn't acting weird towards me at all. Anyway, I think that's all for now. Bailey would be proud of me for vomiting my words all over this paper. But speaking of vomit, I'm going to go get rid of the spaghetti and bread I ate tonight, then I'm going to bed.

I think this is it.

P.S.

Maybe Puck's not a bad guy. Maybe he's just the bad guy in my story.


"There are periodic tables attached to the back of your tests. Remember to identify all of the elements listed and all of their isotopes. Eyes on your own paper, guys. When you're done, put them in the tray on my desk and find something to do silently," Mrs. Odenthal does that real annoying thing where she claps her hands together after she's done speaking and sits down at her desk.

Everyone around the room flips their tests open and I know I probably should follow suit so I don't miserably fail this test, but I can't stop thinking about breakfast this morning. I can't focus long enough to even write my name on top.

I sat down at the breakfast table this morning, and I picked one that was kind of far away from everyone else and off in seclusion, partly so I could do some last minute cramming for this organic chem test, but mostly because they had my favorite cinnamon rolls for breakfast this morning and I knew if I ate one, there was no possible way I'd be able to stop. I'd be bouncing from table to table asking everyone if they could spare their cinnamon roll and then I'd do nothing but skip first period so I could sit in the bathroom and throw it all up. I'm trying to stop doing that. I mean really really trying. Sure I'm hungry and sure as I sit here staring at the pages of my test, my stomach is making more noise than fireworks on the Fourth of July. But still. Being hungry beats the hell out of eating 60 cinnamon rolls and looking like a gross hog in front of all the school.

Anyway, I sat down at an empty table this morning and at first, I was alone. At first, it was just me and my growling stomach sifting through the pages of my chemistry notes. But then, Mercedes came and sat next to me and started talking about her sleepover. And Tina came too. Then Brittany and Santana both followed and eventually, so did Rachel. And for the most part, I was just enjoying Rachel's company. For a while, I felt like a pervert though, because Rachel is wearing this really cute white tank top with tiny little navy blue sailboats on it and the jacket she draped over it wasn't buttoned up or anything, so I could see right down the front of her shirt every time she leaned forward and God, it was glorious. It made me feel disgusting and I guess a little bit shameful, but not shameful because I'm… gay or whatever. It kind of felt like I was objectifying her and I didn't mean to do that, but I did. And well, yeah. Maybe I did feel a little ashamed that I was looking at another girl that way, but that's something that I'll save for my journal later.

The thing I can't stop thinking about in regard to breakfast isn't how I could see that Rachel's wearing a plain black bra and has a light brown freckle on her left boob. It's Brittany and Santana.

When I wasn't looking at Rachel, I was looking at them.

And really, I guess their relationship just fascinated me.

Brittany kept trying to open her milk from the wrong side and when it didn't open, Santana just quietly took her milk away and opened it the right way for her and handed it back. No commentary, no snide comments about how stupid Brittany is. And when Brittany sneezed all over the place, Santana handed her the only napkin she had left, then took it upon herself to fix Brittany's messy ponytail. Every time Santana opened her mouth to speak, Brittany made it seem like they were the only two in the room. Santana had all of her attention. Every single drop. And she made sure the rest of us knew it.

But what really got me is how they looked at each other before they got up.

The bell rang and Santana threw her tray and Brittany's away too. And she came back to the table and waited for Brittany to gather up all her books. And Brittany took Santana's hand to help her out of her seat and I swear, their hands lingered. Their fingers were all interlocked and they walked out of the cafeteria like that. The only time they let each other go is when they had to go their separate ways to get to class.

The real kicker is how nobody even said anything to them. Nobody even stared or batted an eyelash. There's something about Brittany and Santana that everyone just kind of accepts as best friends and it's not questioned. I think they could probably kiss in the middle of the hallway and everyone would just say "aww." Yet… they don't. They could easily kiss in the hallway and only receive maybe one or two dirty looks but they don't. They still only look at each other with heart eyes in private and touch each other in the sensual way when they're not around everyone else.

The weirdest part about it all is that I get it. Even though there's probably nothing for Santana or Brittany to be ashamed about, that shame is still there. And it's crippling. And it must be exhausting. And I think I'm starting to understand exactly where Santana comes from, and why she is the way that she is.

I think it's pretty safe to say that Santana and Brittany are dating. They're definitely not just friends. And even though their relationship is secret, I keep finding myself wishing that I had what they have. With Rachel. Because I guess a secret relationship is better than no relationship at all.

Sometimes I think that maybe I should tell Santana how I'm feeling. I know that she'd get it. She'd probably deny it at first — just like me — but eventually she'd let me in and admit that the way she feels about Brittany is just as "unnatural" as the way I feel about Rachel. And when she finally does admit it, I think that maybe I should ask her how she coped with it when she finally realized what she is. I guess I just want to know how she deals with the shame and the fear. I just want to know how she doesn't completely hate herself for it.

Or maybe I'm completely wrong. Maybe Santana hasn't accepted it yet and maybe she never will. Maybe she'll spend the rest of her life in deep denial or just not knowing. Maybe me too. Maybe I'll spend the rest of my life alone too. Back when I was pregnant with Beth, I used to think about marrying Puck sometimes. I don't know if I used to picture marrying him because I actually like him or if I just wanted a way to rationalize what we did with God and think marriage would make it okay. When I used to picture marrying him, it wasn't completely horrible. It even felt like maybe I could be happy if I married him, as long as I had Beth. That didn't scare me. But the thought of living like this forever and never really accepting myself?

That's terrifying.

When I look back down at my test and try to refocus my brain after spending God knows how long just staring into space and thinking about Santana and Brittany's confusing yet enviable relationship, I notice that I was absentmindedly doodling.

God, Quinn. Pull yourself together.

I quickly shield my paper from the eyes of anyone who could possibly see, then frantically rub my eraser across the once empty margins that are now filled with various forms of "Rachel" and hearts. Thank God I can erase this. Thank God I didn't draw this in too dark. Thank God nobody will ever know that I doodle her name from time to time like a stupid little schoolgirl.

I break off the piece of lead that is now tainted from writing her name so many times, then pump new lead into the chamber.

And on top, I write:

Quinn Fabray

Period 1

October 9th

And finally start my test.


October 9th

It's times like this when I wish I saw Bailey. Sometimes I feel fake when I talk to her because she asks me how everything's going and I tell her "fine." And it's not like I'm trying to lie to her because I'm not. I'm really not trying to lie when I say that everything is fine. It really is fine at that moment when she asks.

I wish she could see me during the time when everything's not fine.

Times like this when all I want to do is curl up in a ball and just cry until no more tears will come out. Times like this when all I want to do is write down how I'm feeling so it's no longer inside of me.

I swore to myself that I wasn't going to throw up today. I swore that I would do my best and try my hardest not to. But they had pizza for lunch and I was so hungry from not eating any breakfast that I ate two whole slices and an entire container of mandarin oranges. And I tried to keep them down. I did. But I just felt so gross and so fat and I had to get rid of it.

For the first time ever, I felt guilty after throwing up. Because I just know that I let myself down. I can't keep a promise to anyone. Not even myself.

Part of me wants to tell Bailey that this is an issue again. I don't know if Mom told her anything about my eighth grade year and the reason why we don't have scales in the house anymore. But I'm starting to feel like maybe Bailey should know. Maybe she should know that anxiety, depression and PTSD aren't the only things she should be treating me for.

It just feels like every time I take five steps forward, I take ten steps back.

It's starting to get out of my control again. I used to think that it wasn't a problem because I was all fixed from the last time I worked on this issue. I used to think that I could just stop whenever I wanted to since I remembered all the things from last time.

But now… I'm not so sure.

X X X

I thought about going home so I could just take a good nap instead of coming to Glee today. It sounded really good. Mom let me take the car today so I could just drop my books off in my locker and just go straight home and climb right into bed. But I saw Mercedes and Tina in the hallway and they asked me if I was coming and I caved.

So now I'm sitting in the back of the choir room, mostly regretting my decision to come because Rachel took off her jacket so now she's just in that tank top only it's not a good thing because I'm behind her and can't see.

I'm really not in the mood to be here. And especially not in the mood for Puck, who wanders in like a jackass and sits right beside me. My stomach starts to churn...

"How come you didn't text me back after I left last night?" He asks. His voice is like nails on a chalkboard to me.

"I fell asleep." I don't even make eye contact with him.

"Oh, well. You coming to my homecoming party on Friday?" I ignore him, but he doesn't stop. "It's a costume party. So feel free to dress like a slut."

"You are the most —"

"Okay, guys!" Mr. Shue closes the door behind himself and stands in front of us. Good thing, too. Because I was about to give Puck a very large piece of my mind. "So. In preparation for sectionals…. I've noticed when I walked in that since I gave you the task of spending more time together outside of Glee, you've become closer. Yes? Mercedes said her sleepover was a success."

"Total success," Mercedes nods.

"Total. Quinn put on some old Britney tunes and we totally had a big jam sesh and I hit notes I didn't even know I could hit. It was like, magical," Rachel gushes, which makes me laugh. She's so cute when she gushes…

"I'm glad to hear that," Mr. Shue says and starts pacing which is never a good sign. "See? You guys are already more cohesive. So I've decided to keep that going. This time, more intimately."

The boys all start to giggle because of course, you can't say "intimacy" in front of them without their immature asses thinking it means sex.

Mr. Schue just shakes his head and continues. "Not that kind of intimacy, guys. I'm promoting nothing of the sort. Your assignment for this week is to work with a partner. I'm going to pair you guys up and you're going to pick a song to perform that showcases both of your vocal abilities. I'll pair you up based off who I think needs to learn to work better with one another. Starting with Finn," he looks directly at Finn who kinda just turns to stone. "You and Puck are still a bit shaky. I want you and him to work together."

I put my head down and sigh because I know for a fact that he's going to put me with Santana. She and I bickered like cats and dogs at Friday's Glee Club meeting and I know he remembers it. I can feel Puck's eyes on me. I know I'm nervous with him looking at me because I grab onto my cross necklace. And start messing with it.

I guess working with Santana could be a good thing, though. Maybe I could pick her brain about all the… shame…

"Why do you think that's the worst thing you could be, Quinn?" Jessica asks. "You could be a rapist… child molester… murderer… but gay. Why is that the worst thing you could be?"

"It's not," I mumble and wipe my tears away. "It's just that… they already hate me. You know? For getting pregnant. My parents already hate me. So it's like…. if I'm gay…. they'll never forgive me… ever…."

"Your parents don't hate you."

"They do… they hate me. And I'm pretty sure God hates me… so… what's the use?"

"Sam…. you and Santana will work together," Mr. Schue's voice is loud and for once, I'm grateful. Because my thoughts are a very scary place to be right now.

God hates me… why am I still wearing his cross? He hates me. I had a baby out of wedlock, I'm homosexual… I have sinful thoughts about the same sex…

"Rachel!" Mr. Schue says her name next. "I wanna see you work with…"

You're no child of God. You're a vile sinner and he hates you. Your faith is useless, useless Quinn. He hates you.

I roll the cross charm between my two fingers, then tug at it.

But so what? I'm gay… if God doesn't love me for it…. I guess I don't care….

Just as I pull my cross so hard that the snap breaks and the necklace falls off into my hand…

"Quinn," Mr. Schue says.

Chapter Text

October 10

I'm starting to think that the universe is playing some kind of trick on me. I admit that these past few months, my faith has been a little bit fragile. Maybe even longer than that. Hell, there are some times where I'm not even sure if I believe in God anymore. But this afternoon, something happened and I think my mind is changed. It really could be nothing but a cruel twist of fate, but I find it rather hard to believe it's a coincidence. Because Mr. Shue said that my partner would be Rachel just as I ripped my cross off. Even writing it seems like it's a scene ripped straight out of a bad 90s RomCom.  Mr. Schue said Rachel is my partner just as I ripped my cross off.  I can't make this crap up.

I guess in a way, it feels like He's testing me. Like He's partnering me up with Rachel just to see if I will break. And I hate to break it to you God, but I just might.

How am I supposed to last a week with her? The thought already makes my stomach churn and tie into knots. I can't decide if whether what I feel is excitement or pure terror. These days, they both kind of spark the same feeling inside of me and it's hard to tell which is which. But ever since I heard Mr. Schue say her name, it's like my world stopped and I didn't know that time was still a thing. When I pulled into the driveway and saw that it was only 3:15 I had to rummage through my purse to find my cell phone too, because something

inside my brain didn't quite believe it was still that early. In hindsight I know now that it felt so early only because Mr. Schue let us out at 3 so we could work on our assignments, when he usually keeps us until 3:45, but still. My point is that my concept of time is virtually nonexistent and I swear that only happened because of Rachel.

I also kind of feel like I have to pee and I've felt that way ever since I walked out of the choir room and told Rachel we could start tomorrow when she asked me when I wanted to get together. She used those exact words, too. "Get together", she said. And when I say that I thought someone turned the heat up to a thousand degrees, I mean that. I had to stop myself from saying "last month would have been nice" when she asked me when I wanted to get together and that's the truth. She said the words "get together" and I felt all the liquid in my body rush to my crotch and I've had to pee ever since. (To be honest I'm a little scared that I'll pee my pants, which may or may not be the reason I'm sitting in the driveway writing this)

Dear God, I hate to bother you but I really hope you bless me with enough strength to make it through this assignment with her.

One of the things my old therapist taught me was that I should try to identify the feelings I'm having towards her, and try to tell whether they or positive or negative. 

I know that the feelings I have towards her are positive feelings, but that doesn't mean I want to feel them. These feelings make me feel exposed. Like my back is to the wall of a closet and I can feel the monster's presence lurking up behind me but I'm too afraid to turn around. Or like I went into a bathroom stall, only to find out there's no lock and anyone could walk in on me. That kind of vulnerable. That kind of exposed. Which is confusing to me because how can love make a person feel like that? I love Rachel, I do. But how does a feeling like love — a feeling that's supposed to be a good feeling — make you feel so raw?

Just because they're good feelings doesn't mean I want to feel them. I know they're impure thoughts and you really don't like people like me, but I'm trying. I'm really trying and really struggling and so I would appreciate it if maybe you could put aside all my sins this week. Put aside the homosexuality, the fornication, my bastard child. And all those times I've doubted you, please. And just help me get through this week. I've even tried to think about all the things I dislike about her, but that doesn't work for me anymore. I'm desperate and need any help I can get.

Thank you, God.

I don't really want to write anything else for the rest of the day. I think I just need some time alone with my thoughts so they can sit in my mind and marinate. Kind of like how when you're taking a math test and you don't know the answer to one of the questions, so you skip it. And then after you finish everything else on the test, you come back to it with fresher eyes and you can make better sense of it and you can solve it? Well, my mind isn't exactly a math problem that I can step away from, but it's starting to feel every bit as confusing as a math problem, so maybe this will help. I don't think anybody understands how exhausting it is to constantly feel like you don't belong inside of your own head…

Anyway, I don't want to write anything else tonight because I want to step away from my thoughts, so I stuff my notebook into the glove compartment on the passenger's side, gather up my backpack and my purse, and head inside. It's still pretty early compared to how late I usually get home from Glee Club, so I bet Mom doesn't have dinner finished yet. Which is okay, I guess. I'm not really all that hungry anyway.

When I get to the front door, I fish my keys out of my purse and try to shove the one with a purple "Q" on it into the lock, but it won't go inside. A couple years back when I was still in middle school, I used to get my keys stuck in the locks because I would turn them too many times, so Dad put these fancy locks on our doors and now they won't even accept a key unless the door is unlocked. If you try to push a key inside while the door is unlocked, it's like trying to jam a nail into a brick wall; completely useless. So when my key doesn't even go inside the lock, I'm kind of nervous.

Mom always locks the doors. It's not like she doesn't have a reason not to, especially when there are some parts of Lima where you can't even leave your car doors unlocked while you run into the gas station to pay for your gas. But we live in the decent part of Lima, the part where you can leave your car keys in the ignition for the entire night and still come out to your car sitting in the driveway because chances are, everyone in the neighborhood has a car that's ten times better than yours anyway. Dad always used to think her compulsive need to lock the doors at all times was a little bit ridiculous, mostly because he would just be angry when all he did was run out to grab the mail. But I guess I'm like my mom in more ways than one because I kind of think locking the door like that makes me feel safe.

If Bailey could read my mind right now, she'd give me some big long explanation as to why I prefer to have doors locked and what it means to my psyche. She'd probably say something like "you needing to have doors locked represents your need to feel safe and secure after you've gone through something so traumatic." But Bailey's not here and my thoughts are purely my own and I'm thankful for that, at least.

Anyway, the door swings right open when I turn the knob, so I just walk right inside. And I know my mother is home, because her shoes are resting right beside the fireplace, the news is playing in the good living room and there are grocery bags still scattered all over the kitchen. She must have just gotten back, because the only thing that's worse than my mother's constant need to have the doors locked is her inability to keep the kitchen a mess for longer than fifteen seconds at a time.

"Mom…?" I call out as I ditch my shoes and backpack on the welcome mat in front of the door. "I'm home early."

I'm sure she probably heard my car pull into the driveway as she always does, but I still want to let her know, just in case she's upstairs changing or sitting on the toilet or something and realizes she forgot to lock the door and has a heart attack at the thought of an intruder. I know that sounds melodramatic, but I'd be lying if I said that's never happened before.

I head to the kitchen and grab my favorite mug from the cabinet above the sink, and push the button on the fridge to empty some water into it. "Mom!" I yell a little louder this time because with no response, I don't think she heard me.

A few sips and I put my water on the counter so I can empty out these grocery bags. I don't usually do this — mostly because Mom always has the bags emptied out before I even know she ran to the store — but I'm doing it now because I'm genuinely curious as to what she bought and what she has in mind for dinner.

Cranberry juice, iced tea, a six-pack of Canada Dry. Must be for me. She knows how much I love ginger ale.

I hear the floorboards creak above my head, so I know she's upstairs moving around. I just keep unloading the bags for her. She'll put everything away when she gets down here.

Hmm, ground beef, tomatoes, onion, fresh parsley, basil, a color of garlic, spaghetti noodles… must be making spaghetti. With the homemade sauce. Not the crap that comes in the can. I wonder what the occasion is. She never makes her homemade sauce anymore.

She must have been in the laundry room or something. It's really hard to hear in there when the dryer's going. Our dryer's about five thousand years old so it makes a lot of noise.

"You don't have to worry about me for dinner tonight, okay?" I yell towards the steps and go for one of the store-bought brownies with the fudge frosting because I'm hungrier than I realized. "I have to leave back out in a little while to do this thing for school, so I'll just eat on the go. Okay?!"

Silence. No response.

"...Mom…?"

I know she's here, because I just heard movement and the floorboards creaking. And her shoes are right over there and the TV's on and these groceries are just sitting here waiting to be put away and Mom never leaves the groceries out like that.

I head over to the window by the dishwasher and pull back the blinds.

Her car's in the garage. She's definitely here.

"Mooooom?" I tiptoe over to the steps and hold my breath so I can hear over the sound of my breathing. I hear a little bit of life upstairs. Like something's creaking or rustling. Maybe it's the dryer, she did say she was going to wash the sheets on our beds today. But maybe it's not…. "...Mommy?"

Still no response from her, so I go to plan B. Which… I didn't even realize existed until I realized that plan A is to stand at the bottom of the steps and call to her like an idiot in a horror movie.

Plan B takes me back to the kitchen and into the drawer where we keep all our carving knives. I pick up the biggest and sharpest one and tiptoe back to the steps.

She could be lying on the floor dead. Maybe she had a heart attack or something and she's upstairs on the floor dead.

To that thought, I just grab my cell phone from my back pocket and dial 9-1-1, but I don't press the call button. I just want to have it ready. Just in case.

My hand sweats so badly around the handle of the knife, but I just grip it even tighter so that I have a good hold on it just in case I have to drive it into somebody. It's not until I tiptoe my way all the way up the steps that I realize I wasn't breathing.

This is probably nothing. She's probably in the bathroom. After she got home from the store, she realized she needed to use the bathroom and she holed herself up in there. It was an emergency, which is why everything is left scattered around the downstairs.

Yeah, but she would have at least answered me. She would have at least said "I'll be down in a second, Quinnie!" or something like that. She wouldn't have just said nothing if it wasn't serious…

On my end of the hallway, I hear more rustling and creaking, which is how I know it's not coming from the laundry room because the laundry room is on the other side of the hall. It's clear across the other end, right across the hall from Frannie's old bedroom.

"Mom," my voice only comes out in a whisper and I don't think it would get any louder even if it could. It's barely making it out of my throat.

I inch my way further and further down the hallway and the closer I get, the more sure I am that the creaking and rustling is coming from my mother's bedroom.

What if she's maimed and can't speak? What if someone came in here and hurt her so badly that she can't even speak and tell me? Or what if she collapsed? And she's trying to get to me so I can hear her call out?

I don't know what's going on, but I don't think I'll ever be fully prepared for whatever's going on, so I just… rest my hand on the door and take a few breaths.

I know the light is on, because it's spilling out from underneath the door and into the hallway. I see shadows moving across the light. And the sounds of her TV playing, I think. Because I hear a man's voice that kind of sounds like the guy who hosts The Price Is Right. The door isn't closed all the way, just cracked. A little push would open it all the way. And I hear…. I think I hear…

I press my ear to the door, knife clenched tight in my hand that's a fist. And hold my breath again so I can have a listen.

Is that… is that…

It's like a wave of electricity runs through my body and up to the hand that's against the door. Without even so much as a second thought, I push the door open — not a lot, but enough for me to see inside — and clench my teeth so tight that I give myself a headache when my eyes confirm what my ears had heard.

I don't even care about being quiet anymore and I don't even care if they know that I know and that I saw.

The knife leaves my hand and clatters to the floor when I drop it, and my footsteps are heavy and loud as I run back up the hallway and down all fourteen steps. My eyes sting and burn as I stomp back into my shoes, and the tears that roll down my cheeks tickle my chin when I run back out to my car.

The front door to my house slams so hard that the walls should shake…

And I know that they'll know I saw them.


"I-I'm… I'm sorry I don't have any, like… snacks or anything, I just… wasn't expecting you to be here," she says as she puts the bowl of barbecue chips on the bed between us. "I thought we agreed to meet at The Lima Bean and I just —"

"Change of plans," I mumble and stretch my legs out for the first time since I sat down nearly ten minutes ago. She's probably looking at me like I'm a crazy person and I kind of feel like I am one, a little.

I just showed up at her house with itchy, red, I-just-got-done-crying-eyes, and followed her upstairs just to sit on her bed with my knees pulled into my chest, staring off into space while she scrambles around downstairs and tries to prepare for an unexpected guest. If I were her, I'd look at me like I'm a crazy person, too.

After my little "change of plans" one-liner, silence falls between both of us again, and I know it's awkward but I really don't know how to break it. I know she wants to ask me what's wrong, because anyone with eyes can tell that I just cried so hard on the way over here that I could have wrecked my car. But I just don't know what to say. I'm not in the right frame of mind to be around her right now. I'm not in the right frame of mind to be around anyone. But I just really don't want to be alone…

Did you see the way she just….looked at him? And the way she kissed him? And the way it seemed so…. natural?

They weren't expecting me home so soon. She knew I wouldn't be home for a while because I had glee… so she knew…. she knew and she…. had him come over….

Is that what they do? Does he come over every time I'm at school? And they just go upstairs and have sex like the happy couple they used to be…? Even though she promised she wouldn't… even see him…. for me…

After everything he said to me… after everything he did…

He threw me on the street like…. like I never mattered to him. Like I wasn't even his daughter. Like… like I was nothing. He threw me out… left me homeless… slammed the door in my face when I was seven months pregnant and came home to ask if I could have money for medicine because I was so sick I could barely walk…

And she lies down… and has sex with him…. probably every day that I'm not there…

"Have you thought of a song suggestion yet?" her eyes never leave the floor when she asks me, and I get the general impression that she's more nervous to be around me than anything. Normally I'd care about that. Normally I'd be trying anything to make her a little more comfortable. But I just…

"No," I mumble. "I haven't thought about it."

"Oh," she traces her fingers along the quilted pattern of her bedspread. "...Well are you going to the Halloween party after homecoming?"

"Probably not," I admit and really, I haven't thought about that either. But I know for sure that I won't go.

"Why not?" She tucks a lock of that beautiful brown hair behind her ear and finally looks at me. Something about her eyes makes everything melt away. I feel at ease when she looks at me. Like everything that's going on in my shitty, messed up personal life is minor compared to whatever is going on in this moment. I like this feeling. I hope she never stops looking at me.

"Last time I was somewhere with alcohol, I wound up pregnant," dry sarcasm is laced all in my tone and stupid, stupid me. She just looks back down at the floor again and I know that I've officially ruined the moment. Stupid, stupid me.

"Can I ask you a personal question, Quinn?" she asks.

"It doesn't matter if I say yes or no, you're gonna ask me anyway," I rest against her headboard and look around her room. It kind of looks like a preschooler who's seen one too many reruns of Full House threw up all over the place. But it has that Rachel-esque eccentricity to it and I'm not at all disappointed. It's exactly the way I thought her room would look. "Shoot."

"...Do you ever…," she starts and her voice gets lower and lower with every word. "Do you ever think about her? About… Beth?"

Not what I was expecting her to ask. How the hell do I answer that? How the hell do I tell her that I do, every second of every day and even on the days where I try not to think of her because it makes me sad, she still consumes my every thought process?

And how come I knew she was going to be that invasive with the question?

"I-I-I just mean…" there she goes with that explanation. Rachel can never just ask a question and leave it at that. She always explains herself. Always. "I met her. My birth mom. I met her and I just keep thinking that I… I just don't know if she ever thought about me. And loved me. Or regretted her decision. And I… I guess I was just hoping you could enlighten me a little bit on what goes into thinking like that… I know if it were me and I loved something, I could never let it go. If I loved something that much, I'd want it close to me at all costs."

"You will never understand it until it happens to you." The way that comes out of my mouth has so much matter-of-factness to it that I disgust myself. I didn't mean to be so brashly blunt with the way I said it, but that's just the way it is.

Stop being so mean…. open up to her a little… she's just looking for answers here, Quinn. Cut the attitude.

"The only way I could…. reconcile giving her up is just by knowing that I loved her more than I loved myself," I say. And she nods. And my eyes sting all over again. I can't believe I'm talking about this. "I mean yeah, I'd be happy as hell if I kept her. I could do it. Come home after glee club and… make a bottle and play with her… give her a bath… kiss her and… put her to bed…." I wipe away a pesky tear with my hand before she can notice that it fell. "But Beth wouldn't be happy with that, you know? She wouldn't be happy with a stupid mom that put her in daycare every day just so she could finish freaking high school…"

She doesn't even look at me when she hands me a tissue and I think that makes me love her even more than I already did. Because she doesn't make a big deal of my tears.

"...Sometimes it's just confusing because she loves Beth so much and I just wonder if… if she loves Beth enough to raise her and stuff, why didn't she love me? And raise me?"

"Don't think like that. Okay? Don't you dare think like that. The situations are very different and it'll just kill you to think like that."

She nods once and I can tell that's the end of that part of the conversation. "...Does it hurt sometimes?" she continues. "Knowing that you can't see her the way you'd like?"

"It does."

Admitting that to her is like admitting it to myself. Sometimes, it hurts so much that I just feel like…. like maybe if I don't think about it and don't acknowledge how badly it hurts that the pain will just go away.

And other times, I think that it'll never stop hurting. And I think that I'll be this way for the rest of my life. Just stuck in an endless, vicious cycle of pain and heartache.

Rachel gets off her bed and goes over to her jewelry box, but my mind is still reeling from the conversation. That's really the first time I've ever spoken about Beth so openly and honestly. I thought maybe it would feel liberating to do that because it's kind of taboo to talk about around my house, still. I thought getting it all off my chest and addressing those feelings would make everything feel easier. But it doesn't. Everything still sucks… everything still hurts. And maybe nothing will ever make sense anymore...

"I want you to have this," Rachel says as she holds out whatever it is that she produced from her jewelry box.

Without too much focus, I just take it from her hand and I have to blink a few times to get my eyes to stop being blurry so I can see it clearly.

"I took it a few nights ago whenever I snuck over Shelby's apartment," she whispers. "...She's a really amazing baby, Quinn."

I have to fight off a fresh round of tears as I stare at the Polaroid she just handed me. In it, my lil baby girl is standing with her little chubby hands on the coffee table and her smile is just as wide as can be. She boasts two tiny top teeth and two tiny bottom teeth and her smile is so honest that her eyes are completely closed. Those little blonde curls look so silky and the way her little diaper butt hangs out the bottom of the yellow and pink dress she's wearing is really killing me.

Just when I think I'm about to get off the bed and leave, something else comes over me and I do something I totally don't expect from myself.

I blink back the tears and just say "Thank you, Rachel."

And I still think I'm going to cry and disintegrate into a pile of salty, murky tears. So I just stuff the picture into my pocket, clear my throat and say "...We should do something by Madonna because that always goes over well. "Maybe Open Your Heart?" That's never been done."

To my surprise, Rachel doesn't dwell and try to get me to throw my feelings up all over the place anymore. She just crosses her legs and faces me and dives all in the conversation and I didn't realize just how much I needed her to have a non-reaction until now. God, that just made it so much easier to move on from Beth. I can't talk about her anymore. That's enough for one night.

"I wouldn't mind singing "Open Your Heart", but I feel like maybe we should do something more… personal. And meaningful. To ourselves."

"What do you mean?"

"Quinn, music should be therapeutic. Think of it as one time to let all the members of glee club get inside your head. We get one opportunity to tell them something. One opportunity to tell them how we really feel. Should we waste it on a Madonna song, just because it'll go over well?"

I sit back against the headboard again and really think this time. I never thought of music like that…

She starts scrolling through the playlist on her phone to think of more songs we could sing, but I'm still a little stuck.

It should be therapeutic...

"...Rachel, I'll go to the Halloween party after homecoming if you go."

"Why?"

Oh crap. I slipped up. I got too comfortable and a little too much slipped out and now…

Damage control, damage control, damage control….

Think. Think. Think.

"Because I don't want to be the only friendless loser there."

Rachel cracks a smile and tosses a furry pink pillow at me. "You've got a deal."

Whew. That was close. She almost figured out that I've got a big fat lesbian crush on her.

"Now keep looking for songs!" she's back to business all over again and I'm glad, but it's not necessary. I've got the perfect song in mind already.

Because music should be therapeutic… and I should say something I want everyone to know about me…

I quickly type the song into Google on my phone to pull up the lyrics, then nudge Rachel and show her the phone.

She takes one look at the song, grins, then says:

"It's perfect."

Chapter Text

 

 




When the bell rings to let me out of Spanish class, I gather my binder, my notebook and my workbook and stand up. The day’s moving in somewhat of a blur, and there’s a part of me that wishes it would slow down a bit because I’m not all that excited about making it to Glee club today. I need all the time in the world to prepare and today is flying by, and I wish I could just bottle time up and freeze it for a little; just until I get my head on straight about what I have to do today.

I haven’t been this nervous since I was lying flat on my back, feet inside plastic stirrups, with everyone looking down at me all spread eagle and exposed. I had only been in the hospital for about an hour and even though I asked every nurse that came in to check on me what I should expect, nobody would give me a straight answer.

It happened so fast, I remember. One minute my mom was wheeling me through the double doors and telling me that I wasn’t breathing the right way and then the next I was out of my dress and into a hospital gown and there were wires and bracelets and needles all over my arms. It didn’t happen slowly like you see in the movies, and it didn’t happen all intimately, either. There was no slow, pivotal music playing and there was no big moment where all I felt was bravery wash over me because the excitement of meeting her was far too great to be scared. It wasn’t like that at all. It was terrifying from the moment the nurse took me in and told me to undress until the moment the doctor pulled her out of me and laid her on my chest.

I haven’t felt this scared and nervous since then.

I have another two periods to go before I have to walk into Glee club and sing with Rachel, but I don’t foresee getting any calmer about this. I know all the lyrics and I memorized all the places where I’m going to try and do some vocal runs, but the idea still makes me want to curl up in a ball and hide. I don’t doubt our song choice, and I’m not second guessing making her sing most of it, because her voice is angelic. There’s not much in this world that Rachel can’t sing and sound amazing doing it, but I think the song we chose is especially special. She has a way of making it sound completely raw and vulnerable and it’s something that can’t be taught. She’s going to bring the entire house down with her performance and I’m happy to just sing the “oohs” and “ahhs” in the background.

But Mr. Shue said that we both have to sing 50/50 in order to get credit for the assignment, and that makes my stomach want to fall out of my butt. Rachel is amazing and I don’t know how I’m ever going to keep up.

A few paces away from my study hall classroom, I stop at my locker to drop off my Spanish books. I know I must be pretty out of it today, because I hardly notice when Mercedes walks up beside me. And I hardly hear her when she says, “Hey, Quinn.”

“Hey.”

“I missed you in lunch today. Everything alright?” she asks.

If by “alright” you mean hiding in the bathroom and going over song lyrics until my tongue dried out because I don’t want to look like a total fool next to her today by forgetting the lyrics then yeah, I’m alright. Pretty darn good.

“Yeah, I was just doing some studying. I had a Spanish quiz that I forgot all about, so I had to just look over a few things.”

“No, I get it. I just missed you. I had something I wanted to ask you.”

“Hmm?” I mumblegrunt.

“You’re coming to Glee club today, right? You and Rachel still performing?”

As if I needed a reminder. Thank you, Mercedes.

“Yeah, that’s still the plan,” I yank my statistics book from the top shelf and slam my locker closed. “Why?”

“Well I was just wondering what you were doing afterwards. Me and Sam are going down to Century Square. We’re gonna catch that new movie about the zombie slayer who falls in love with the vampire. Sam said he read the books as a kid and he wants to see it. It sounds pretty dumb, but yanno. You’re welcome to come with.”

I don’t really want to. In all honesty, I want to go home after Glee club today and I want to go straight to my room and put on my pajamas. I want to ignore my mother when she tries to apologize to me with a big elaborate platter of roast beef and mashed potatoes. I want to shut my bedroom door in her face when she tries to explain to me that what I saw yesterday wasn’t her having sex with my father. I want to lock the door with a bag of nacho cheese Doritos, a package of golden Oreos, an entire case of ginger ale and three bowls full of Ramen noodles. And I want to eat until my stomach hurts and I feel sick. I want to get rid of everything I ate, and I want to go to bed by 7:30 so I can be asleep by 8:30.

“That’s okay,” I start. “You and Sam can —“

“Quinn, come on. Please. We can get a large popcorn and stuff our faces with way overpriced candy and giant Dr. Peppers that make our noses burn when we drink too fast. It’ll be like old times, like when we used to go when you were pregnant.” She pleads with me.

How will it be like old times if Sam is going to be there? Old times would just be me and you…

“Mercedes, I…” On the other hand… at least I won’t have to deal with Mom today...if I go… “...What time should I meet you?”

“Sweet! Okay, so I’ll pick you up. My mom’s gonna let me have the car tonight so it’ll just be easier if I swing by and grab you. The movie starts at 7:45, so be ready by at least 6:30 so we don’t miss the previews.”

“Okay,” I say in a voice barely above a whisper.

The bell rings again so we both rush off in different directions and I’m kind of glad that the conversation is over. In all honesty, I haven’t been feeling the greatest since I caught Mom and Dad yesterday. I mean sure, hanging out with Rachel for a little while and figuring out our song for Glee club today did take my mind off it a bit. And I was able to kill enough time just slumming it and practicing at Rachel’s to be able to avoid Mom. And I guess I’m a little grateful for the fact that I’ll be out of the house all evening again. But I really just want to be alone today and there’s a small part of me that wishes I’d have told Mercedes no.

When I get to study hall, I hang my backpack on the back of my chair and sit down to get a head start on the Stats homework that Mr. Tolber assigned earlier. All day, I planned on using study hall as a chance to wrap my head around the fact that I have to perform with her, but I think I really just need to distract myself until it’s actually time. If I think about it too much, I think I might chicken out. But when I can’t focus on my homework and the math problems all look like jumbled up word soup to me, I reach into my bag and fish out the cherry red notebook instead.

October 11

I only did it twice today.

I know that by most logic, twice is still really bad and the only thing that’s considered good is not doing it at all. But I only did it twice today and I feel like that’s real progress for me because I usually do it about five times a day, sometimes more. I battled my mind and won today. It consumed my every thought. I went downstairs this morning after getting dressed and Mom’s been trying to make it up to me since yesterday, so even though she was already gone when I came downstairs, she left a platter of bagels and cream cheese on the kitchen Island. I took three bites of the bagel before throwing it away and I really tried to keep it down, I really really really did. But when I got to school, it felt so heavy and shameful in my stomach that I just parked my car and threw up right in the parking lot.

My head hurt a little more after that, so I went inside and convinced myself that I could have just two pieces of breakfast sausage. Tina and Mercedes were eating it at the breakfast table and school sausage used to be my favorite thing ever, so I ate it. I ate two pieces. And again, I swear I tried to keep it down. I really did. But as I was walking to English class, I could feel it in my stomach. It shifted with every step I took and I could just physically feel the pounds adding up. So I excused myself to the bathroom and got rid of that, too.

At lunch, they had those mashed potato bowls that I love so much. And by then, my stomach was really rumbling and I was starting to get another headache, so I got in line and ate that. I know I let myself down by indulging the way I did, when I could have opted for a salad or some carrot sticks, but it just smelled so… good. The mashed potatoes and the little popcorn chicken nuggets on top. I got extra sweet corn on top and almost drooled when I saw the cafeteria lady piling on the gravy. I ate it slow. I savored every bite.

And just as I was washing it down with an ice cold bottle of Gatorade from the vending machine and preparing to go to the bathroom and rid myself of it, I remembered that I have to sing in Glee club today.

I practiced all night last night once I got home from Rachel’s and I knew then that I didn’t want to sound hoarse for our performance today. I almost gave in anyway because I’m not the best singer in Glee club and I never will be, whether I’m hoarse from throwing up or not. But then I thought about how if I am horse today… I’ll mess up Rachel’s performance and I don’t know why, but the idea of letting her down makes me even sicker than the idea of gaining a few pounds.

So I kept everything from lunch down.

And I think that’s a real step towards progress for me.

It’s getting easier for me to talk about her, by the way. I mean I still can’t say her name out loud without feeling weird, but I’ve noticed that I can think her name with very minimal reaction these days and writing about her feels good.

I had a dream about her last night. After I got home, I was riding some kind of wave and it continued on into my sleep. I dreamt that she and I were laying on a rooftop in the middle of March and it was cold outside, but neither one of us cared because we had a blanket that we shared and a 

“Quinn?” Mrs. Bartelle calls my name from across the room, where she sits at her desk. She calls me just as she’s hanging up the phone. I put my pencil down and look up. “You’re wanted downstairs in the all purpose room.”



 

I forgot that I start therapy with Bailey in school today.

Matter of fact, I kind of forgot that we had a session a couple days ago after Mercedes’ sleepover. Everything’s just become a big massive blur to me after seeing Mom on top of Dad like that.

I thought I was in trouble when Mrs. Bartelle told me that I needed to go to the all purpose room, and I was sweating bullets the whole walk down here. I was sweating so bad that my feet started to slip out of my white wedges and I thought I was going to break my neck. I held onto the wall the whole way down. It wasn’t until I got to the door and peeked in through the tiny window and saw Bailey that I remembered I had even agreed to see her in school.

“You look nice today,” she says as she pulls her glasses onto her face. “I really love that dress.”

You’re only saying that because the last time you saw me I had pajamas on and my hair was up in the laziest and messiest bun known to man.

“Thanks,” I mumble back as I smooth out the wrinkles in my dress. It’s dark, navy blue with little white flowers all over it. It’s a spaghetti-strapped dress — one that would for sure get me in trouble for violating the dress code — so I put a dark brown cardigan over it and threw on a pair of brown boots. “I have a performance in Glee club today. I wanted to look decent.”

“A performance? That sounds cool. What are you gonna sing? Or dance to?”

“It’s um, it’s stupid, actually. My Glee teacher is super convinced that we need to mesh better as a group in order to win sectionals so he’s been assigning us partners and making us perform with them.”

“It sounds like a great idea, actually. Who’s your partner?”

“...Rachel.”

“The same Rachel you always refuse to talk to me about?”

“That would be the one, yes.”

“Are you ready to talk about her?”

“No.” I shake my head. “Honestly? I just want this performance to be over so I can stop stressing about it. I really just want to go home today, but.”

“But what?”

“Nothing.”

“Come on, Quinn. I thought we were really making a breakthrough. Last session you were doing so well, and I really thought that maybe you and I were —“

“I agreed to go to a movie with Mercedes tonight is all,” I mumble. “I want to go home after Glee club but I told her I’d come. And I don’t really want to go, but I guess going is better than being at home.”

“Okay, let’s back up for one second. Who is Mercedes?”

“She’s my best friend, I think.”

“You think?”

“Well, yeah,” I know Bailey’s really big on making eye contact when I speak to her, but I can’t. Not if I’m going to tell her what I think I’m ready to tell her. So instead of looking her in the eye, I pick up a piece of my hair and pick at the split ends. “She took me in last year when I had no place else to go.”

“Is this when you were kicked out of your home?”

“Yeah,” I whisper and nod even though my vision is blurred over with tears. I bite down on my bottom lip to will the tears to stay in my eyes.

“It’s okay time cry, sweetie,” she leans forward and hands me a package of travel tissues. “What happened to you was very unfair and extremely tragic. You can cry while talking about it if you need to. Nobody here is expecting you to be a pillar of strength. I’m not expecting that.”

I pull a tissue from the plastic and dab my eyes with it. “I… I stayed with Puck for a little bit in the beginning. I mean, no. I stayed with Finn at first because… I don’t know,” I wipe my cheek across my shoulder to dry more tears. “But then it all came out that I was lying and then I stayed with Puck and that was horrible… and I just… I don’t know. So then Mercedes told me I could stay with her. And she’s my best friend now, I really think she is. I tell her everything and she’s just so understanding all the time and she’s… such a good friend. Which is why I feel… guilty? I don’t know.”

“Feel guilty about what, Quinn?”

“Guilty that I haven’t told her? I mean she knows the basics about me going away and where I was. But I didn’t tell her anything else. And I feel like maybe she deserves to know because she’s always been so good to me.”

“You don’t owe anyone anything when it comes to your mental health, okay? I do think you could benefit from telling Mercedes and having someone outside of therapy you can bond with. But that should come on your own time. You shouldn’t feel obligated to share anything.”

“I know,” I dab my eyes with more tissues and look at my red painted toenails inside of my wedges.

“So I’d like to go back and talk about something you just said if that’s okay,” she reaches across the table and puts her hand on my kneecap. Any other time, I’d usually snatch away from her because I’m not a huge fan of being touched when I’m upset, but I decide to let this go. I decide to let her comfort me. “I don’t need you to relive the entire story. But I would like to know what led you to lie. I know the situation is still very tough for you to speak about and I have enough from your file and the notes from your sessions with Jessica to have a pretty general understanding about the lie. Now I just want to know why you felt the need to do it.”

“Can’t we talk about it some other time?”

“I think now’s as good a time as any,” she makes her voice very soft. “I would like to unpack the lie, if that’s fine with you.”

“It wasn’t really a lie,” I say. “I thought I was… pregnant to someone else and I wasn’t and when he found out I wasn’t he got mad. Simple.”

“You didn’t really believe that, did you? You can be honest with me, Quinn. I’m not here to judge.”

“I did believe that, though.”

“So you expect me to believe that a girl who gets a…” she opens up a folder on the table beside her and rummages through a few papers inside it. “...98% in reproductive health class and a 102% in human anatomy and physiology truly believed that she was pregnant to someone she hadn’t even slept with?”

“It happens.”

“I don’t think you believed that. I think you wanted to. But I don’t think you actually did. ...Did you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why did you lie, Quinn?”

“I don’t know why I lied, I just did.”

“Maybe it was because Finn being the father is what you wanted to believe?”

“I don’t know… maybe…”

“...Quinn, when something traumatic happens… like what happened between you and Noah, sometimes we do anything to compartmentalize and cope. Don’t you think it’s possible that you knew Finn wasn’t the father. Maybe you knew that Noah was, but you couldn’t really… cope with what happened to do. You didn’t want to believe what he did to you. So in order to cope, you… made up this different version in your head of what happened. A version in which Finn was the father. Does that make sense?”

“Can we stop for the day? Please?”

“...I do think this is a good place to stop.”



After talking to Bailey, I really don’t know how I ended up in the choir room.

It’s almost like I blacked out or something because I don’t remember packing my stuff up and leaving the room where Bailey and I talked. I don’t remember going back to class and making it through the last period of the day, and I certainly don’t remember walking into the choir room and taking my seat in the back. But somehow, I made it here. And I’m sitting behind Sam and Mercedes and I can’t stop thinking about how badly I don’t want to go to the movies with them today. I really just want to go home and lie down.

I’m halfway expecting the next person to come through the door to be Rachel, but it’s not. Instead, Finn shuffles into the room and takes his unassigned assigned seat in the front. Nor far behind him is Puck, and I have to actively look away from him. Most days, I can handle it. Most days it burns, but I can swallow it easily and put on a brave face and make it through the day by plastering on a smile and being cordial with him.

But there are some days — days like today — where it’s all just too much. It burns and I can’t swallow it, it hurts and I can’t put a bandage over it. I feel my leg shaking and I can’t stop it and I feel the tears forming deep in the ducts of my eyes, but I can’t stop them. He walks into the room with an air and a swagger about him that is utterly magnetic, and it makes me nauseous. Before he sits down, he raises his two fingers at me and winks, and I feel like my head is floating away from my body. He sits with his back turned toward me and I let out a breath, but I didn’t know that I was holding it in the first place…

“S-Slow down,” my voice comes out in a tone that I can barely recognize. I had to force it out, too. Like peanut butter stuck in the back of my throat that I have to force up. “Wait, slow down.”

It feels like he has a million hands. Two on my waist, two on my chest, two between my legs, two holding my arms. When did he grow so many hands?

And when did the room start spinning? I haven’t felt this way since I was eight and Dad took Frannie and me to a carnival in downtown Lima. I went into a funhouse and they had a room inside of it that kept spinning and spinning and I remember feeling so out of control and like I’d never get out of that room that I sat down and cried until Daddy came inside to get me. It’s all whirlly and spinny again and it doesn’t get any better when I close my eyes and I wonder if maybe I can cry and have my Daddy come pick me up again.

I used to think that Mommies and Daddies had special radar inside of them. Special radar that can sense when their children are crying and they need to come to the rescue. I believed that for a really long time. I believed that for so long that in fact, tonight is the first night I start to believe that it’s not true. Because I’ve been crying since he unbuttoned my skirt ten minutes ago and my daddy hasn’t come to save me yet.

“Wait, wait, w-wait,” I whisper and my breath smells fruity.

“You have to relax, okay? You really have to relax. It’s going to hurt if you don’t.”

“I’m not sure I —“

 

“So,” Mr. Shue clasps his hands together loud, and I’m usually annoyed but this time, I’m very thankful for the sudden noise to break me out of my thoughts. “Anybody finish their assignment?”

A few hands raise up in the air and it’s only when I see hers that I realize I missed her entire entrance. I haven’t seen her today, so I don’t know what she’s wearing and I didn’t realize just how much I actually missed her until now..

“Rachel?” Mr. Schue calls her name first. “Did you and Quinn want to go first?”

“We do, actually,” she says and glances back at me. I don’t know what else to do besides give her a measly thumbs up. She stands up from her chair and rushes to the front of the room and I’m not sure if I should get up too just yet. She’s always so much better at this kind of thing than me.

I don’t want her to do any of this alone, so I do stand up. And I walk across the very back row just so I don’t have to walk past him. Before I make it to the front of the class right beside Rachel, I fix myself because I just feel like I should look just as amazing as she does. Her red and blue plaid patterned skirt with her red and white sweater… she looks so comfortable and so confident and I wish some of it would rub off on me.

I remember that we discussed sitting down while we were rehearsing yesterday, so I grab two chairs and sit them side by side while she finishes our big elaborate introduction.

“So Quinn and I put a lot of thought into our song selection and we came up with something that showcases both my powerful, powerful range and her gentle, yet subtle beauty in hitting more softer notes,” she rambles and I roll my eyes at her just so everyone watching thinks our relationship is still mostly hate. “This song means a lot to both of us, but mostly to Quinn because she finally realized that music is supposed to express feelings that we cannot always express. Music is supposed to say the words we can’t always say. That was the inspiration behind our song choice. And well… I think this song fits the both of us perfectly.”

“The floor is yours ladies,” Mr. Schue sits down beside Tina and gives us our undivided attention.

Rachel hits a button on the remote that controls the speaker system and when the first notes of our song start, I feel like I’m going to get up and run away because I can’t do this all of a sudden. My stomach is in knots and my throat is burning with vomit that needs to come out. I’m not a great singer. I can’t do this in front of the whole class. We practiced and practiced and I thought I sounded decent but next to Rachel, I’m a complete failure. Our voices together can’t possibly be good. I’m the weaker link. And more importantly, what if everybody knows me after this? She made it a point to let them know that this song is important to me and I picked it for a good reason, so what if everyone knows now that I’m not as strong as I seem? What if everyone knows that I miss Beth after this and I’m not doing so great? Oh god, I can’t do this. I can’t… the notes are creeping up now and it’s almost my turn. 

I start the song I start the song and the first verse is completely mine and I’m gonna blow I’m really gonna blow it because I’m such a horrible singer and I’m so nervous and I can’t do this and everyone is staring at me!!!!

The notes that I’m supposed to start singing on come and go… they come and they go and everyone is just kinda looking at us like we’re crazy. Looking at me like I’m crazy. But I’m stuck. I can’t do this. I can’t sing. The song just keeps playing behind us and I can’t even say a word.

“Excuse us,” Rachel mumbles and turns the instrumental off with the remote again.

She grabs my arm and pulls me up out of my chair, then drags me off to the corner beside the door where nobody can hear us. She doesn’t look too disappointed in me but if I know Rachel like I think I do… she has to be annoyed at the very least. I can’t believe I messed this up for her…

“What’s going on?” she asks in a loud whisper. I glance over her shoulder at everyone still watching us. She follows my eyes and grabs ahold of my hand. I feel like an electric current just riveted through both our bodies. I look down at her hand grasping mine. Her soft, feminine hand. “We practiced, Quinn. You can do this. Just tune everybody out. Pretend they’re not here. It’s just you and me back in my room singing again. You can do this. We can do this. We’re amazing together.”

“I-I’m,” I start and have to clear my throat to finish. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, it’s fine. We can start over. Just… just look at me if you get nervous. Don’t look at anybody else.”

“Mmkay,” I nod and slowly follow her back to the two seats in front of everybody. I take a deep breath, then sit down again. She doesn’t say anything to anyone again. No apology, no explanation. She just grabs the remote and starts the song over.

I look at Mr. Schue to see if I can tell what he’s thinking but I can’t. His eyes are warm and gentle, kind. He’s understanding and looking at me like I’m a fragile baby bird that’s being pushed out of the nest too early. I know for sure that Miss Pillsbury told him about where I spent my summer.

I look at Mercedes who is looking at me like I’m the sun that lights up the room. She’s hopeful and really believes in me, I can feel that.

I look at Santana holding Brittany’s hand and I can tell she’s waiting for me to fail, but when she’s holding Brittany’s hand, she seems soft.

I look at Finn who’s looking at Rachel like she hung the moon in the sky and suddenly I want to be the only person to look at her like that.

I look at Puck and I start to think, once again, that I can’t do this…

She told you to look at her. You two are the only people in the room, remember….

So I turn my body a little bit before the note comes that I have to start on and look at Rachel. Her round, chocolate brown eyes. The soft bangs that fall to the middle of her forehead. The way her nostrils flare when she’s really about to nail a song. Something about her is my center. It’s my calm, steadying force. She makes me feel like I can do anything. She makes me feel so brave that when my note comes, I actually start…

“Weatherman said… it’s gonna snow… by now I should be used to the cold,” I don’t sound too bad… god she was right. All I had to do was look at her and picture that we were both back in her room again. It’s not so horrible… I can do this… “Mid-February shouldn’t be so scary. It was only December, I still remember the presents… the tree… you...and me.”

Okay, just a small part now. You and her sing the chorus together. Keep your pitch steady. Runs sharp. You can do this… you can do it.

Rachel opens her mouth to start singing the chorus and I do too. I just have to blend in with her. I can’t make her sound horrible. It’s impossible. I prove myself right when we both start to sing, “But you went away... How dare you? I miss you. They say I’ll be okay… but I’m not going to… ever get over you.”

You made it. It’s her turn now. You weren’t terrible but if you were, she can pick up the slack and really make this performance a home run. If anyone can do that, it’s Rachel…

“Living alone here in this place… I think of you and I’m not afraid…” She starts her own solo section and god I feel like the angels are calling me home. Her voice is so beautiful. And she’s looking at me while she’s singing and I’ve never felt more important. I’ve never felt more like I mean something to somebody. How can one person make me feel that way? “Your favorite records make me feel better. ‘Cause you sing along with every song. I know you didn’t mean to give them to me…”

“But you went away… how dare you? I miss you… they say I’ll be okay… but I’m not going to… ever get over you...”

She makes me feel brave enough to look away from her now. Like I can face the entire Glee club and sing my heart out if I want to because she’ll catch me if I fail. So for my next part, I turn and face the group. And take a deep breath before I start…

“It really sinks in, you know. When I see it in stone… but you went away… how dare you?”

“I miss you… they say I’ll be okay… but I’m not going to…”

“Ever get… over you.”

As soon as we’re done with the last note, Rachel reaches over and grabs my hand again. Everyone bursts into thunderous applause and I feel like I just climbed Mount Everest. I squeeze Rachel’s hand just to prove to myself that it’s real and she is holding me. We did great and everyone is clapping for us, some people are even standing. Mr. Schue looks like he’s crying and Artie does too. They liked it, they really really liked it. And I don’t care if they know how personal this song is. I mean yeah it’s about someone dying but in a sense, sometimes I feel like Beth died too… and I don’t care if they get that. I don’t care if I just showed them my heart. They all get it. And they all understand. And they all loved us.

I look over at Rachel as we still hold hands and she smiles one of her day-brightening smiles at me. And she mouths the words, “good job,” to me. And I want to cry all over again but I won’t. I’ll hold onto this feeling.

“Wow,” Mr. Schue stands up, still clapping. “I don’t know how anybody is going to top that. But… Finn and Puck? You two are up next to try.”



“You and Rachel killed that,” Mercedes says as we walk towards the gym doors so we can head out to the parking lot.

After the performance, I’m actually really glad I agreed to go to the movies with her and Sam. Today is shaping up to be a good day and maybe catching a movie with my best friend and her boyfriend will be the cherry to top it off. I know she just invited me out of pity. I mean, I know she invited me because she knows all about my struggles and she wants to keep an eye on me to make sure I’m okay. But an invite is an invite and I’ll take it, even if it is a pity invite.

“Thanks, I was so nervous,” I play with the straps of my backpack as I walk. “I just didn’t want to sound ridiculous next to Rachel.”

“Well you didn’t. You held your own,” she says. “I’m telling you, there were some parts where you sounded even better than Rachel.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“I’m not! Quinn, you have a great voice. It may not be as strong and powerful and it may not project as well as hers, but it’s beautiful. You can hit notes that she can’t. When you get all soft like that? Rachel can’t do that. She can hit the big notes. The real soft ones? That’s all you.”

“...I never thought of it that way… thanks…” Maybe Mercedes is right… maybe there are notes that I can hit that nobody else can… maybe I am a special part of Glee club after all… “Hey Cedes?”

“Yeah?”

“Thanks for inviting me out,” I wrap my arm around her shoulders because I’m really feeling the love all of a sudden. I know there are people around who can see us. Rachel’s a few steps behind us and she’s heading out to her car too and there’s Kurt who’s about to take Artie home. But I want to hug my best friend and that’s that. I don’t care who sees. “I really didn’t want to go home.”

“You’re welcome, girl.” Mercedes hugs me back and then we both let go. “I’ll see you in a little bit, okay? I gotta go find Sam. I’m supposed to be taking him home too.”

“Okay, see you,” I wave at her and grab my car keys from my jacket pocket. I leave out through the gym doors and head for the parking lot and I’m almost there when she calls my name and stops me.

“Quinn!” she calls after me and makes me stop in my tracks. “Hey Quinn, wait up!”

I turn around to face her and raise my eyebrows to let her know that I’m listening. “Yes?”

“Sorry for eavesdropping, but I just overheard.”

“Now you’re spying on my conversations?” I say that in the meanest tone I can conjure up, and she shrinks. “...I’m just kidding, my goodness. What’s up?”

“God, I thought you were back to hating me again,” she giggles. “But I just heard you tell Mercedes that you don’t want to go home. If you’re not doing anything and still don’t want to go home, you can come to my house again. But if you have more important things to do, that’s fine too. Just thought I should offer.”

“Thanks for the offer Rachel, but I… I do have plans, actually,” I grin at her and walk away before I’m tempted to just cancel on Mercedes. Plus, I’ve had enough Rachel for one day. My feelings are already in maximum overdrive and if I hang out with her again, I think I might lose it.

Hanging out with her does sound really appealing though…

Chapter Text

Every time I look around, I notice something that I didn’t notice before.

I guess maybe it’s because the last time I was here was the also the first time I was here and I didn’t exactly come on good terms. I came because I fought with my mom and I needed a place to escape to, and I was a big emotional wreck the last time I sat on this bed. This time, I’m thinking pretty clearly. There’s no tears clouding my vision and no fight with my mother clouding my head. I came on my own free will, I came on my own terms, and I can actually look around and make myself familiar with my surroundings.

I didn’t notice last time how perfectly her the room is. Playbills line the corkboard that hangs above her dresser, and they’re all in alphabetical order. Ticket stubs from various local plays are stuffed along the perimeter of her mirror, and a feather boa frames it. The yellow plush rug in front of her bed is in the shape of a star, and it matches the yellow canopy hanging over her bed completely. Everything is neat and everything has its place. I run my fingers along the light pink chiffon that her bedspread is made out of and inhale the scent of her room.

“If you’re hungry, we could order a pizza or something,” she breaks the silence between us and puts her phone down. I won’t lie, the silence was starting to get a bit awkward. “I’ll pay.”

I’m starting to realize that without having a song to be studying and rehearsing, we actually don’t have that much in common and we certainly don’t have much to talk about. She sits on the floor with her back slumped against her bed and I sit with my feet hanging over the edge of her bed. I could read her text messages over her shoulder if I wanted to, but I’m too busy taking in everything that I missed the last time I was here. Like the picture of her and Shelby tucked underneath her jewelry box on her nightstand.

“I’m not hungry,” I shake my head. The silence between us returns and this time, it feels a bit heavy. Like maybe she realized that we don’t have much to talk about, too.

“...You know you don’t have to hang out here, Quinn,” she nearly whispers as she picks up a stuffed white kitten and twists the black beady eyeball on it. “I wouldn’t have felt bad if you said no when I asked. I mean… why would you?”

“Why would I what?”

“Want to hang out with someone like me.”

“Rachel…” I bite my lip and try to formulate the words before I even say them. I want to tell her that she needs to stop selling herself short. I want to tell her that she’s awesome and anybody would be lucky to hang out with her. I want to tell her that she’s not as bad as everyone — as I used to — make her seem. I want to give her a hug and tell her that I’m sorry if I ever contributed to making her feel like she doesn’t deserve friends who want to be in her presence and I want to say sorry for making her feel that she was any less than me. I have all these things I want to say in my head, but for some reason, all that comes out is, “It makes me feel better if I hang out with someone that’s an even bigger loser than me.”

I wait for a giggle or a chuckle to let me know that she knows I’m just joking, but one doesn’t come. Instead, her face just twists up and she pushes the nose of the stuffed kitten really hard, like she’s trying to distract herself. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt her feelings and I really don’t know why I do that. I mean, I know it’s technically probably because hating her is still easier than allowing myself to feel anything more than that, but I don’t ever want to hurt Rachel. So I don’t know why I always do.

“Hey,” I say gently and rest my hand against her shoulder. “I’m only kidding. You really need to start believing in yourself a little more.”

I wish that I could keep going and say more. Like apologizing and all that stuff that I just said a little earlier. I wish I could tell her all of those things, too. But the self-preservation side of me won’t allow anything else to pass through my lips, so I leave it at that. Rachel tosses the stuffed kitten on her bed and sighs, still avoiding eye contact with me.

“Why did you agree to hang out with me again, Quinn?” she asks. “I’m not stupid, I know you had something planned with Mercedes tonight. Why would you choose sitting here with me over that?”

“Because I had fun with you yesterday, believe it or not.” I sit upright again and grab my own phone just to cut the awkwardness down a bit. “I’m… warming up to you, Rachel. You’re not that bad.”

“Oh,” she whispers.

I wish this were easy. I wish I was like normal girls without the thoughts I have going through my head, because then hanging out with Rachel wouldn’t be so hard. If I were a normal girl, I’d be sitting on her bed talking to her about why she and Finn broke up and I’d be encouraging her to play some Taylor Swift, sing at the top of her lungs, and get over him. If I were normal, I wouldn’t be fighting the urge to cry because I want to reach down and hold her hand so badly. I wouldn’t have to bite my lip and clench my fist every time I get the urge to run my fingers through her hair.

I must be into self torture. Because I knew when I agreed to blow off Mercedes and come hang out with Rachel instead that I would be absolutely miserable and absolutely on cloud nine at the same time. It’s scary to think that I may never get there. I may never get to the point where I can sit and hang out with Rachel without wanting to touch her in ways that aren’t normal. It might always hurt this bad. It might always be this hard…

“My dads are golfing until nine,” she starts, breaking me away from the internal madness that is going on inside my head. “So they’ll be home late.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. So we can, I dunno, break into the alcohol cabinet if you want.” 

I feel my eyebrows wrinkle and if she weren’t too busy avoiding eye contact with me like I’m Medusa or something, she’d see the very literal “what the heck?” look on my face right now. What? “W-Why would we…? Why would we do that?”

“I don’t know, I’m just trying to make things more interesting, alright? You can tell me how awesome you suddenly think I am all you want, but I know this isn’t that popular kids do when they hang out outside of school.”

“Okay first of all,” I slide down off her bed so I’m sitting right beside her with my back against her bed also. “It’s Thursday. It’s a school night. I’m not getting drunk on a school night. And second of all,” I scoot just a little closer to her so our arms are touching. God, she’s so soft. “Nobody it’s putting a gun to my head and forcing me to be here with you, Rachel. I’m here because I want to be. I wish you would just accept that.”

“Do you blame me for being skeptical, though?”

“No, not at all,” I mumble and rest my chin on top of my kneecap. I can see this is going to take a lot of effort to fix this relationship between us and get her to believe that I don’t hate her… “I don’t drink anymore. Last time I drank, I ended up getting more than I bargained for, so. Raiding the liquor cabinet is out.”

“Then what do you want to do?”

“Show me what you do for fun.”

“Okay Quinn, now you’re being —“

“I’m serious! You’re trying so hard to figure out things that I would like to do, but not telling me anything that you’d like to do. You’re trying too hard and believe me, you don’t have to try that hard. Believe it or not, I’m much more partial to quiet nights inside these days. So… show me something new. Show me what Rachel Berry does for fun.”

She sighs again and tilts her head up to the ceiling, deep in thought. I noticed a while ago that there’s a vein in her forehead that comes out when she’s thinking. Her eyebrows get all straight and her mouth turns down into a serious line. She looks up at the sky and then this vein that is just over her left temple comes out and I think it’s cute.

“...Have you ever seen “Beaches”?” she asks.

“I used to go to Myrtle Beach every summer with my family and —“

“No, no, not actual beaches. I mean “Beaches”... the movie? Bette Midler’s greatest work?”

“...Who?

“Oh my God, Quinn. Who are you? What planet did you come from?”

“Let’s watch Beaches then,” I shrug.




“Be sure to keep in touch, C.C., okay?”

As soon as the little girl’s childlike voice says the word “okay”, I feel my throat close up the way it always does when I’m about to cry. The rims of my eyes fill up with tears and I have to purse my lips together to keep myself from crying. It’s only now, when I’m trying to keep myself from blinking the tears out of my eyes, that I realize I haven’t blinked in a while. I’ll admit, I didn’t think I was going to like this movie much, but it grabbed me by the throat and I’ve been invested since the first ten minutes.

From the corner of my eye, I see Rachel mouth “Well sure, we’re friends, aren’t we?” along with the girl on screen from memory and although the lights are off, I can see tears shining on her cheeks. Thick tears, too. Hot and runny, the kind that you cry when you’re deeply mourning someone.

I don’t like seeing her cry like this and even though I know that she’s not actually hurt, it still makes me want to pull her in close so I can comfort her.

I hold my breath to keep my own tears in my eyes, but I really feel like I’m going to give in and cry too. I’ve never seen a movie quite like Beaches before. I’m not really much of a movie watcher to begin with, but I have seen a few that have really moved me and some have almost made me cry. I don’t know why, but I almost cried during Finding Nemo the first time I watched it, and when I was pregnant, me and Mercedes went to the movies to see Alvin and the Chipmunks and I almost cried during that too. But no movie’s ever got me the way this one did. No movie has ever made me have to actively talk myself out of crying.

Rachel fumbles with her necklace as a fresh round of tears roll down her cheeks while the movie draws to a close. I can tell we’re at the last few scenes because the music just got all dramatic and the camera is zooming out. I look down at Rachel’s free hand, just resting on the floor in the empty space between us. Part of me feels like I’m going to regret doing this the second I do, but if I don’t do it now… I might lose my nerve.

When she sniffles, I quickly lay my own hand down in the space between us too, and touch hers with my pinky finger. She startles gently, like she wasn’t expecting me to touch her at all, but does a great job at concealing her surprise. Mostly, she just looks down at my hand to make sure that I actually am touching her. I do my best to not make a big deal of it. I keep staring straight ahead at the TV screen.

And just as the credits start to roll up the screen, she locks her pinky finger around mine. And we stay like that for a few moments, pinky in pinky. Both staring at the screen and taking in what we just watched. Both too emotionally drained to get up and move, both too stuck to the bed trying to hold onto this moment together.

I wish I was brave enough to fully hold her hand. I wish I could shut the part of my brain that judges myself off and full on lock all of my fingers inside hers. I can’t even imagine that.

I already feel like my world started spinning just a little faster by touching her. And when she reciprocated and locked her finger inside of mine, my body felt hot and soupy, like someone turned up the heat and all my organs melted into sludge inside of me. Isn’t it crazy how someone can make you feel that way and have no idea that they do?

Her finger is soft against mine and more slender. It’s slightly clammy and usually when people with clammy hands touch me, I freak out a little inside because that’s sweat and that’s gross. But when it comes to Rachel… I’m happy to have her clammy finger pressed up against mine. I hope she never lets it go.

But all good things, of course, must come to an end. So when the screen goes black to display more credits, she pulls her hand away from mine and wipes the tears from her face as she reaches over to turn on her bedside lamp.

“So,” she starts, still sounding a bit nasally from crying. “That’s Beaches.” She turns off the movie with the remote and sits cross legged beside me, pulling herself together. “What’d you think?”

“I think,” I start, sitting up and gathering myself too. I tuck my hair behind my ears, blink back the round of tears that never managed to escape my eyes, and smooth out my jacket. I don’t know why I care so much about looking good for her when we just spent two hours staring at her TV. “I missed out on a preteen girl’s rite of passage. I feel like I should have watched that years ago.”

“It basically is an initiation ritual at every middle school girl’s sleepover. I couldn’t figure out how you hadn’t seen it.”

“Probably because I was never invited to the middle school sleepovers,” I mumble. She looks like she wants to comment on what I just said and possibly talk more about it, but I can’t think of anything I’d rather do less than talking about how sad my life was before I transferred to McKinley for high school, so I swiftly change the subject. “How often do you watch that?”

“I haven’t in a while, actually. Kurt and I used to watch it all the time, but… we just… haven’t hung out in a while, that’s all,” she shrugs and grabs one of her pillows to squeeze. I notice that she likes to fidget with things when she’s nervous.

“Is Kurt your best friend?” I ask her before I even realize what came out of my mouth. I’m always interested in knowing more about her. I want to be the person who knows her the best. I know that’s creepy and weird and she’s smart so she might figure that out, so I clean it up by saying, “Like C.C. and Hillary best friend, I mean.”

“I…” she squeezes her pillow a little tighter. “I mean, I think so. We used to watch Beaches and argue about which one of us is C.C. and which one is Hillary. I think he’s still my best friend. But I don’t really know. He’s… he’s got Blaine now, and… and it’s kind of like he forgot about me.” I can tell by the way she says it that it’s the first time she’s actually said that out loud. Part of me wants to open up to her a little bit too and tell her that I relate. I remember when Mercedes first got together with Sam. I felt like my whole world came crashing down around me because my best friend wasn’t my best friend anymore. It’s a horrible feeling. I wish she didn’t have to go through it.

“You know —“ I start to tell her about the time I felt like Mercedes ditched me for Sam, but she starts talking too. And I decide to let her interrupt me because what she’s going to say is more important anyway.

“Who’s your best friend, Quinn? Who’s the C.C. to your Hillary?”

“Mercedes,” I say without thinking. “I think. I mean I tell her things that I don’t tell anybody else. But there are still some things I can’t tell even her, so. I don’t know,” I shrug. “...You know, to be honest Rachel…. I don’t think I’m capable of a friendship like that.”

“...Me either,” she whispers.

I feel the urge to reach out and touch her again and now that I know she won’t think it’s weird because I practically held her hand during the credits of the movie, I think I can give in. I just want to put my hand on her shoulder. Gently, I swear. I want my hand on her shoulder so I can feel her breathing beneath me. But god, imagine if something more happened?

Imagine if…

I reach out and put my hand on her shoulder. I give it a light squeeze just so she knows that I’m here and I support her.

And she turns around. And she looks at me with those beautiful brown eyes — eyes that tell me that she needs me more than I ever thought she did.

And it feels natural the way she closes her eyes and leans in. So natural that I do the same. I close my eyes too, and tilt my head so our noses to bump.

And when our lips touch, it’s everything that I thought it would be. Her lips are smooth and glide gently underneath mine. Her breath is sweet, like she’d been eating candy prior to this. Her tongue pushes up against mine, then retreats back to her own mouth like she’s unsure if I want to kiss her or not. So I use my tongue to go and retrieve hers.

Her hand cups against my cheek and —

“Who do you think is the C.C. and Hillary between us?” she asks, just as my hand is hovering over her shoulder. I quickly pull it back and forget the thought. “Like, between us. Who’s C.C. and who’s Hillary?”

“Are you seriously asking which one of us would become a selfish, career-obsessed, egotistical jerk and which one would become a depressed, boring, wallflower of a housewife and lawyer?”

That makes her laugh. She tilts her head back and laughs one of those real hearty kind of laughs, too. One that comes from the gut and takes up your whole body. I made her laugh… and I think, for one split second, that I don’t want to do anything else with my life besides make her laugh.

“Good point,” she says through her smile.

I catch myself smiling with her and I realize that tonight is all I need to be happy. All I need is this moment right here, right now. All I need is her smiling at me, her laughter filling the room. Me in a pink and white dress with a white jacket over my shoulders, and her in a yellow blazer with a plaid skirt. Her hair slightly tousled but still silky and mine messy but kept held back by one braid at the crown of my head. If this is all my life ever is, I think I could be happy.

“You know Quinn, for what it’s worth…” she looks away from me and gets all serious and I’m nervous about what she’s going to say next. “I think anybody would be lucky to be the C.C. to your Hillary.”

A smile tugs at my lips. And for a moment, the part of my brain that overthinks everything is quiet. So quiet that I lean forward and drape my arm around her in somewhat of a side-hug ... one that she fully reciprocates.

“Thanks, Rachel,” I whisper into her ear as I inhale the scent of her shampoo. How is everything about her so perfect? If this is my life… if this is my life from now on… I will never be unhappy again...

But this isn’t. This isn’t all your life will ever be. Rachel’s not like you and you can’t have her. And even if you could have her in the way you want her, nobody would accept you. Not mom, not Dad, not God, not anybody around school. What kind of happiness could that possibly be? She’d never be able to come to your house and hang out like a boyfriend would. You’d never be able to walk down the hallway and hold her hand like you could with a boyfriend. Nobody — and I do mean nobody — would tolerate it. Hell, you wouldn’t even accept yourself. 

“It’s getting late,” I mumble through clenched teeth and spring up off the bed like it suddenly turned to lava and burned my butt. “I really should head home.”

“Y-Yeah,” she glances at the clock on her dresser. “Yeah, I guess it is.” She stands up too and collects the empty cups we were drinking lemonade out of.

I fasten the bottom three buttons of my jacket and cram my feet back into my pink and white Vans. There’s a small piece of me that feels bad for leaving so abruptly, but I can feel myself getting mean. It’s rising up in the back of my throat like bile and I don’t think I’ll be able to choke it down, so instead of me ruining this amazing night by saying something really harsh and mean to her, I’m just going to leave. I’m going to leave while it’s still a good night.

“I’ll see you in school tomorrow,” I mumble again and dash off down the steps. I can feel her looking at me, confused and wondering if she did or said something wrong. I make a mental note to tell her tomorrow that she did nothing wrong at all, but I have to go.

I have to go right now.

 



 

October 12

I did it once today but I swear it wasn’t my fault.

Last night with Rachel went really well and I thought for sure that I was making progress. I’m slowing figuring out how to navigate my feelings with her, and I’m figuring out how to choose the more exhausting option of being nice to her. Being nice to her still doesn’t come as naturally as being mean to her does, but I’m starting to see light at the end of the tunnel and starting to actually believe that it’s possible for me to be all nice to her all the time with a little more practice.

We watched a movie together and for the entire duration of the movie, it felt like we were the only two people on the planet. It felt like everyone else just disappeared and it was me and her and the entire universe was reserved for us. It was a very special feeling, one that I’ve never felt before and I thought to myself that if I could just bottle up that feeling and take little sips of it whenever I’m feeling low, I would have my entire life figured out.

After the movie, I started to remember that me and Rachel weren’t the only two people in the world and that there are other people out here, ugly people, people who will never ever accept me for what I may possibly be. And I remembered that I am one of those people. And I suddenly remembered how much I hate myself for what I am. And that thought made me burn up with so much rage inside of me that I had to leave, even though we were having such a nice time together.

I cried on the way home and stopped to get myself some food because, well, I was hungry and I couldn’t risk eating in front of Rachel. So I ate alone in the driveway. Mom was still awake, so I sat in the driveway until I saw her light go out and then that’s when I started eating. Three tacos from Taco Bell and one of those Mountain Dew slushies that they sell. I hogged it all down like the disgusting pig that I am, and I got rid of it about ten minutes later before I took a shower. I think she knows that I’m avoiding her now, because before I left for school this morning, she heard me playing music on my phone while I was getting dressed for school. She knocked on the door twice, but I just paused my music and said nothing. She opened my door and I just laid back down in bed and pulled my blankets over my head. I don’t mean to be rude to her, I just don’t have anything to say. She’s going to want to talk about what I saw when I saw them having sex, but I just don’t want to talk. Not about that.

I’ve been trying to get into her headspace and understand her a little, but I just can’t. I understand that she misses dad and maybe she even still loves him a little, but I can’t understand how she would ever want him back into her life. Not after all the things he’s done to us. Sometimes, things are just better off gone. Even if you miss them, even if you desperately want them back. Some things are just better off gone. And my parents’ relationship is one of those things.

I was almost late for school this morning because I didn’t want to leave until she already left, just so I could avoid her some more. I wasn’t late, but I did miss breakfast and even though I was hungry, I wasn’t too upset about missing it because I’m no stranger to dealing with the sensation of being hungry. And plus, I decided today that I’m done throwing up. I did slip up once today, but like I said, it wasn’t my fault.

Mercedes found me in the hallway before first period and I could tell that she was angry just by the way she was walking. She stomped and huffed and her nostrils flared and I couldn’t, for the life of me, think of a reason why she would be angry with me. But she started by telling me that I could have at least called to tell her and Sam that I was cancelling on going to the movies with them and that’s when I remembered.

I tried to explain to her that I didn’t mean to stand her up, that I just ended up hanging out with Rachel instead, and she thought I was lying. I don’t blame her for thinking that I’m lying though, because Quinn Fabray hanging out with Rachel Berry just seems weird. She yelled at me a little more about how they sat outside my house and honked the horn for like 20 minutes and we’re almost late for the movie and that’s when I apologized profusely because I didn’t mean to make them so late and I really did just forget to tell them that I wasn’t coming. She was so mad because I even called back to her when we were leaving yesterday and told her to “wait up” just so I could confirm the time. It was a really shitty thing for me to do, to stand them up like that. And I felt so horrible, so crappy, so… miserable that I went to the bathroom and ate the granola bar and grapes that I packed for my lunch today. And I just had to get rid of it because someone who can stand their best friend up like that just doesn’t deserve food.

In hindsight, I can’t say that I regret hanging out with Rachel instead because I don’t. I had a nice time with her and I get that Sam and Mercedes aren’t technically together yet. They’re supposedly “dating to figure out if they’re what each other wants”, but still. I would have been the third wheel and who really wants to be that? 

Mercedes apologized for blowing up, by the way. At lunch, she gave me her oatmeal cookie and apologized to me. She said what I already knew, that she invited me because she’s worried about me and she feels like I can’t just sweep everything under the rug. She wants to talk to me about me going to that treatment center all summer and I’m just not ready to talk about that yet. I know she’s been dying for details but that’s still just a part of my life that I’d rather not relive. I’m trying to forget. And plus, once I tell Mercedes how dehumanizing that place was, she’ll never forget it and she’ll forever look at me like I’m the girl who went to treatment. I’m not ready for my best friend to look at me like that yet.

I thought today was going to be a really rough day for me because the homecoming game is tonight and we had our homecoming pep rally at school today. I thought it was going to suck seeing everyone in their Cheerios uniforms, knowing that I wasn’t going to be in them. But I sat beside Tina, Mercedes and Rachel at the pep rally and it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t even want to be on the floor with the Cheerios, which I thought was odd. We made plans to go to the homecoming game together tonight, and afterwards we’re going to go to Puck’s party. It’s a costume party, so I have approximately six hours to figure out a slutty yet classy costume to wear before we all pile up at Mercedes’ house to get dressed and go. Her parents won’t be home to comment on how skanky we look, so her house is the best venue to get ready.

I’m not all that excited to see Puck tonight at his party, but Rachel’s coming with us so I guess that’s a small risk I’m willing to take. I know tonight won’t be as intimate as last night was with Rachel, but at least I’m going to see her outside of school and Glee again and that’s something worth celebrating.

I’m actually excited about the game and the party. I’m actually starting to feel like a normal teenager again.

I even forgot about Beth for a little while today. Usually, missing her is a very dull ache that’s always there. But today at the pep rally, it went away. And it stayed away all through us making the plans to go to the game and then to Puck’s party together. I didn’t think about her at all, and I didn’t miss her at all. And it felt good for a minute, but then it made me feel guilty because I shouldn’t be enjoying myself. I should be at home making bottles and reading bedtime stories. Instead, I’m planning to go out with my friends on a Friday night. And I forgot all about my sweet baby girl that someone else is taking care of.

I forgot about her.

...Doesn’t that make me a bad mother?

Chapter Text




The wind blows around me and for the first time, I notice the scent of fresh French fries cooking and hot dogs roasting. If I take a deep breath and really inhale, I can also sniff out the scent of hot chocolate bubbling and nacho cheese warming. My feet are firmly on the white and red row of bleachers in front of me and I can feel them vibrating from the music pumping through the overhead speakers. I know I probably look strange to anyone watching, but there’s not a lot of people here yet, so now is the best time to do it. I tilt my head towards the sky and close my eyes to really take all of this in.

I wanted to get here early, before everyone else just so I can have a moment alone to break the ice. I’ve noticed since coming out of treatment that little things are now big things with me and I don’t want to admit it, but I was a little bit scared of how I might react to being at a football game on the opposite end of the spectrum. Spending Friday nights under the lights at McKinley High School’s stadium is nothing new for me, but my brain is so used to being down on the field with turf underneath my sneakers, not bleachers.

 If my life was anything like the way it used to be, I would be in the locker room right now, asking Santana or Brittany to zip up my skirt in the back and make sure my ponytail looked okay. I would be wiping the scuffs off my shoes with a Clorox wipe and rolling my fifteenth coat of deodorant under my armpits because even though it’s supposed to be freezing tonight, I always found a way to sweat in my uniform. I’d be rolling my socks exactly three times on each side and tying perfectly symmetrical bows in my shoelaces. I’d be rubbing lipgloss across my lips and feeling my head swell with confidence as the other girls in the locker room marveled at how supple my lips are and how nice my butt looks in my skirt.

But my life isn’t like that anymore and I don’t know why, but it’s taking me a bit long to comprehend that. 

I chose a seat on the 50 yard line, right in the middle of everything so I don’t miss a beat. It seems fitting for the old me, because the stadium lights above my head are shining down directly on me like I’m cast into a spotlight and every ounce of me should be lapping this up right now. But I’m not like that anymore and the light shining down so brightly makes me uncomfortable. Not uncomfortable enough to move, because I got here early and this is a really great seat, but uncomfortable enough for me to have to wipe my hands on the knees of my jeans because they’re sweating. 

I'm starting to get used to the feeling of being a spectator and not a cheerleader when my phone buzzes on the bleachers beside me.

 

New Group iMessage

6:22 p.m.

TINA: hey Guys I’m parking now. Anybody in yet?

 

6:23 p.m.

 

MERCEDES: Standing in line for tix

MERCEDES: I’ll find seats

ME: already in. sitting at the 50yl. five rows down.

TINA: OK great 

MERCEDES: Save us seats

ME: will do

 

6:25 p.m.

 

RACHEL: Just now leaving the house :/ Couldn’t figure out what to wear. Have to stop and get gas - Be there in 15!

ME: okay see ya <3

MERCEDES: Call us when ur here

TINA: I’ll come meet u

RACHEL: Thanks!!!!!

We agreed to meet here at 6:30 since homecoming festivities start at 7:00, but I saw Mom’s car pull into the driveway at 5:40 and decided that going a little early wouldn’t hurt. She came in through the front door and I left out through the back door and we didn’t even cross paths. I checked the weather when I got inside my car and stopped at Marshall’s to buy myself a jacket when it said it was going to be chilly tonight. Sure, I could have just gone home and got one from my closet. In fact, my blue jean jacket would go really nicely with my jeans and long sleeved McKinley t-shirt. But I know the second I step foot back into the house, Mom is going to corner me and talk to me and I’m still just not ready to face her yet.

 I’ve still been working on having some empathy for her and trying to put myself in her shoes but every time I try to really understand her and the love she has for my dad, I just can’t… 

It took everything in me to get this far. It took all of my strength to walk up the cobblestone path, all of my dignity to climb up the cobblestone steps, and all my courage to raise my fist and knock on the door.

I shove my hands into my pockets because I’m so cold that they’re numb, and watch my breath disperse into the wintry air when I take a deep breath.

I’m just going to ask for fifty. That’s it. Just fifty. Twenty for my prenatal pills down at the pharmacy, twenty for some medicine to help with my cold, and ten for food because I’m so hungry that I’m lightheaded. All I need is fifty. They’ll give me fifty… won’t they?

 The porch light flickers on and I hold my breath. My legs feel like Jell-O beneath me, so I hold onto the railing that lines the porch to be sure I won’t fall.  

Maybe I’ll ask to use the bathroom, too. And possibly get some of my winter clothes.

The doorknob turns and I feel nauseous. I haven’t seen them or talked to them in about five months and I haven’t felt the warmth of my own home in six. It’s crazy how you don’t realize how much you miss home until you’ve been somewhere so different for a while.

The door creaks open and as soon as it does, fresh tears roll down my cheeks. I’m so cold that they feel hot, like burning my face.

“D-Daddy?” I say in a voice barely above a whisper when he opens the door all the way.

I must have caught him just as he was going upstairs for the night. He has his house slippers on and his robe is tied around his waist. At first, I think his face looks concerned… like maybe he’s worried about me. But just as quickly as that look of concern brushed across his face, it goes away. And I swear, I can see literal flames in his eyes and smoke coming out of his ears when his eyes flicker down to my terribly swollen abdomen.

“The hell do you want?” his voice is harsh, like driving down a gravelly street. And he won’t look at me. He looks down at my feet while he speaks. “The hell are you at my door for?”

“Quinnie?” Mom’s voice is gentle. Almost like stroking me with a feather. Hearing her say my name makes me feel warm and god, I just really really really want a hug… 

“I need some help,” I say through tears. I want to bring my hands up to my face and wipe them away, but I really feel like my body is frozen. “Please?”

 “I thought I told you not to come around here anymore. Didn’t I tell you to stay away? Didn’t I —“

“Russell —“ my mom tries to stop him, but he puts his hand up and silences her just like that.

“I told you you’re dead to us. Dead to this family. And I don’t — 

“Damn, when did they start charging us $12 to get in?” Mercedes interrupts my daydream and I’m incredibly thankful that she did before I got to the part where Daddy slammed the door in my face. She clatters down the bleachers to sit beside me and behind her follows Tina.

“I know!” Tina replies. “I’m glad I grabbed an extra twenty. Otherwise I’d have like, no money for food,” she sits down on the other side of Mercedes and leans forward to talk to me. “Great seat choice by the way.”

 “I wanted us to be able to see everything,” I mumble and formally shake my bad daydream from my head. There’s no space for being sad tonight. Just think happy thoughts… 

 “Hey,” Mercedes nudges me with her elbow and I raise my eyebrows so she knows I’m paying attention. “Sorry again. About what I said in the hallway earlier and how I blew up. It’s really no big deal that you didn’t come to the movie. I shouldn’t have reacted like that. 

“It’s okay,” I shrug. “I should’ve told you I wasn’t coming. I just got caught up in the moment.”

“I’m worried about you is all.”

“I know,” I say, eyes stuck on Tina to Mercedes know that she needs to watch what she says. She’s still the only person who knows… “I appreciate it.”

 Tina locks her phone and stands up, shoving it into her back pocket. “I’m gonna go grab something from the concession stand before the lines get all long. You guys want anything?”

 “Nah, I’m good,” Mercedes shakes her head.

“I’m alright,” I decline too. 

“Okay, I’ll be back. Rachel says she’s trying to find somewhere to park, so she’ll be in soon.”

“Okay,” Mercedes and I both say at the same time as Tina walks away. 

And something tells me that she was waiting for us to be alone to ask, so I’m not surprised when Mercedes opens her mouth and says, “So you were hanging out with Rachel?”

“Yeah,” I say coolly, trying my hardest to keep up my facade. “It’s no big deal. We just watched a movie and talked and then I went home. It was fine. Fun, actually.”

 “You and Rachel…?”

 “Yeah, me and Rachel,” I’m annoyed and it reflects in my tone. But I can’t get mad at anybody but myself for everyone’s constant doubt in our newfound friendship. Not after the way I’ve always treated Rachel. Hell, I’d doubt my intentions too. “...My therapist said I should try to make amends with everyone I used to pick on. So this is me trying to do that. With Rachel. And… and I guess I found that she’s actually pretty cool.” I lie so smoothly that I scare myself. Maybe it came so smoothly because it’s only a half-lie. Jessica did say that I should try to make amends with the people I was rude to. I just lied about this being my attempt at doing it with Rachel…

 “She really isn’t that bad. Especially outside of Glee club. She is cool,” Mercedes nods in agreeance with me. “What movie did you guys watch?”

“Beaches.”

“Oh my god! I love Beaches!”

“It was my first time seeing it and it was… it was something, I’ll tell you that.” 

She laughs and I grin, but my grin is short lived because I’m deep in thought again…

 I know I said I don’t think I’m capable of a relationship like C.C. and Hillary’s in Beaches, and I still think that’s true. But how would I know if it’s true or not if I’ve never really tried? I’ve never tried to let somebody know me so fully. I’ve never tried to establish a friendship deeper than surface level. Even with me and Mercedes, our friendship lacks depth. And I’m the reason for that. I always keep her at an arm’s length away. Maybe I should try to be deeper with her… maybe I should… tell her. 

Would she judge me? No. At least I don’t think so. She’s probably ask a million questions but that’s it.

Would she stop being my friend? I don’t think so. If anything, I think she’d understand me better.

Would she think I’m weird? Maybe. But liking another girl romantically is kind of weird… especially if I’m nothing but mean to the girl I like.

Would she think I’m a vile sinner? I mean probably, but Mercedes doesn’t seem real big into church… she accepts Kurt really well… so maybe…

“Hey ‘Cedes?”

“Yup?”

“...Am I your best friend?” I ask, voice going up an entire pitch at the end of the question like a kindergartener asking. “I mean, do you consider us best friends? Like do you think that we could be considered... best friends?”

“I have a lot of friends, Quinn,” she starts and I instantly feel my mood deflate. I don’t know why, but hearing her say that stings like a whole different type of rejection. I bite my bottom lip to keep my tears in check. “But none of them are like you.”

“...What?” I turn towards her and wrinkle my eyebrows.

“Just what I said, none of them are like you. I have a lot of friends but none of them… I don’t know, I guess I just never thought that I would be your friend. You always seemed like the kind of girl that I would hate. You know, skinny, blonde, pretty, popular… and your casual offhand racism used to get me.”

 I cringe when she says that, but I know that she said it in good faith. She didn’t mean anything by it, so I grin and say, “Sorry about it. Grew up with Trump supporters as parents, I’ve been classically conditioned. I’m learning, though. Keep correcting me when I’m out of line.”

 She laughs a little harder and wraps her arm around me to pull me in for a side hug. Mercedes gives the warmest hugs.

 “I guess what I’m trying to say is that I… just didn’t consider the possibility that I could be your friend,” she continues. “But then I got to know you and I realized that I can be my truest self around you. Around Tina, I can’t stand out too much or I’ll make her feel bad. Around Santana, I can’t be the chubby girl or she’ll tear me apart. With Kurt, I can’t dress the way I wanna dress or he’ll call the fashion police. And around Rachel, I can’t sing better or louder or else she’ll lose her mind. But with you, I can be my whole self. I can be the real me. There’s no part that I have to hide or try to contain. I can be every inch of Mercedes and that’s… that’s really special to me, Quinn. I’m not sure if I’m your best friend. Only you know the answer to that. So I can’t say that we are best friends. But you are totally and completely my best friend.”

 After she finishes her speech, I can’t explain how I feel but I’ll try. It’s like someone opened me up and started a fire. They lit a candle that has long since burned out. And I’m starting to feel warm again. Fuzzy, all over. It starts at my feet then works its way up until I’m toasty all over. It’s a wonderful feeling. One that I never thought I would feel ever again.

 “You are mine,” I reply as I lay my head on her shoulder. I can definitely tell her… I can definitely spit it out. “Hey Mercedes, I’m in love with Rachel! I can say it… she’s safe… “You know the deal with Rachel and me… it’s a little complicated because I think I might —“

 “I never want to drive through another parking lot on this campus ever again,” Rachel’s voice cuts through me and Mercedes’ moment as if on cue. It’s like we’re in a TV show or a movie and the director just told her to come in and cut me off before I can reveal my big important lesbian secret to Mercedes and I’d be lying if I said I was disappointed. I’m kind of relieved that I didn’t have to tell Mercedes what I planned on telling her… “I had to park like a mile down the street!”

 Mercedes laughs, “Hey Rach.”

She sits down next to me and folds her jacket across her lap and flings her hair over her shoulder and suddenly I feel like I can’t breathe. She’s so close that our elbows are touching and it feels like a wave of electricity is traveling through both our bodies. Her jeans are light and white-washed. They have rips in them at both the knees and her feet look comfortable and small stuffed into black Bearpaw boots. Her shirt is so white that it hurts to look at it for too long, and the black and red camisole underneath adds just the right amount of school spirit. Her scarf is red and black plaid, her signature print, and her hair looks as if she just recently straightened it. It’s silky and bone-straight and the lights make it shine. Her eyes glisten under the lights too and I notice that she used just the right amount of mascara tonight. She took my breath away, literally. I can’t believe she’s human and she’s sitting right next to me…

“Hey Quinn,” she nods my way and quickly focuses on the field. “So when does it start? When do I get to yell ‘home run!’?”

Me and Mercedes both just look at her, but for different reasons. I’m still trying to figure out how one person can be so effortlessly pretty and Mercedes can’t believe she just said “home run” at a football game. 

Rachel notices Mercedes’ confused look at swallows a laugh before saying, “That was a joke.”

“You look really pretty!” I spit out and my jaw drops immediately after I say it. Oh my god, did I really just…? Oh my god, oh my god! Damage control! Damage control! Does she think I meant it? I mean I did, but does she think I did? What does she think? Does she think… oh my god. Oh my GOD. I can’t believe I said that! “I mean compared to how you usually look,” I clean it up a bit but try to still remain nice. “You look great tonight. The… the scarf is a nice touch and your hair… you just… look great,” I mumble and hang my head. I’m so embarrassed.

“Thank you, Quinn,” she says with a slight, honest smile. 

Before I can wallow in my own embarrassment for too long, Tina clambers down the bleachers with her hands full of nachos and Mountain Dew. She sits back down beside Rachel again and I mentally thank her for saving me from an awkward moment inside of my head.

“Ooh, what’d you get good?” I try my best to sound interested in her food and it must work, because she reaches across Rachel’s lap with her boat of tortilla chips and cheese goodness.  

“Have some! There’s no way I’m going to finish all of these myself.” She offers. 

I already made myself seem interested and I’m still feeling a little awkward from telling Rachel that she looks pretty, so I decide to really commit and take a nacho. Just one, though. 

“Okay so,” I say, mouth full of chip and still chewing. “Ten bucks says we lose. Anybody wanna bet me?” 

“Oh, I’m not losing ten bucks on that. Have you seen our football team?” Mercedes laughs. 

“The kicker sprained his ankle…” Tina starts. “On the sidelines.”

We all laugh like it’s the funniest thing we’ve ever heard, and it feels so… filling. Like after you haven’t eaten for a while. Like your stomach is growling and hunger is gnawing at your entire being. And then you take that first bite of whatever it is you’re eating and you suddenly feel like the world has aligned again. It’s filling. Laughing with them. I filled a void in my soul. 

In seventh grade, my teacher made us read that book about that kid who lives in Pittsburgh and writes letters to a friend that we never get to learn the name of. I forget the name of the book but they made it into a movie with the girl from Harry Potter in it and the main character’s name was Charlie. He was in real bad shape, that kid. Mentally, I mean. But he finds this group of friends who heal him and by the end of the book, he’s riding through a tunnel with his friends and he has the windows down and he’s standing up with his hair blowing all in the wind and he says that he feels “infinite.”

 At twelve-years-old, I had absolutely no clue what he meant when he said that but I think now, four grades later and five years wiser, I finally know what that kid in that book meant.

 Because I swear, I feel it too.

Rachel leans back and laughs with her entire body and Mercedes nudges Tina who falls into me and lays her head on my shoulder and laughter rocks my entire body and the four of us, interlocked like a chain, just crack up together.  I feel like I can go on and on and on. Like I’m never going to end, like this world is mine to hold onto and cherish forever. I don’t ever see myself not laughing with them and that’s not lost on me. In this moment, I am infinite.

“You know, if someone would’ve asked me this time last year where I would be for next year’s homecoming, I never would have said this,” Rachel says as we’re still all coming down from the high of rich laughter. “I would have thought I’d be home with Kurt watching a stupid movie and lurking on Facebook while we watched all the cool kids have fun.”

“Yeah,” Tina shovels another nacho in her mouth and nods. “Yeah, me too. I never thought I’d be here either.” 

“And neither did I,” Mercedes shrugs. “I never thought I’d be here with you guys… with Quinn Fabray.”

“What?” I turn and face all of them just so I can see their faces because I feel like they’re telling some kind of joke here. Did none of them really think that we would ever be friends? Why would they feel like that… “Guys, I’m not… I’m not all that great. Stop it.”

“You just don’t understand,” Tina starts. “At the beginning of high school, you were a… a goal, or whatever. You were the most amazing thing and the rest of us… I wasn’t even IN high school and heard about you.”

“You were the most popular girl in school, a cheerleader…” Mercedes picks up where Tina left off… 

“Prettiest girl in the entire school, too,” and Rachel finishes. “The rest of us just seemed so… normal compared to you.”

“How the mighty have fallen,” I mumble.

“What?” Mercedes says.

 “Nothing,” I mumble again and look out onto the field as they prepare to start the homecoming ceremony. And just like that, the playful energy, the togetherness, the… infinity between us disperses like our breath in the cold air. 

You know, a lot of the time I spent in therapy was taken up by trying to convince myself that I’m not a horrible person. Jessica really helped me to realize that a lot of the pain I inflicted on other people was brought on by the pain and hatred I felt for myself, because I wasn’t living honestly. Repression is what she called it.

But I don’t care how repressed I was, there’s no excuse for some of the things I said and did… and most of the things I said and did were done to these three… these three who are making me feel more alive than I’ve felt since I came home. How can I not feel like a horrible person? 

“You know what?” I ask them, breaking the silence between us that is only filled by the rap song playing over the speakers. All three of them give me their undivided attention and it makes me feel weird to have them looking at me like that, hanging onto every word I say. “Me either. If someone would have asked me last year where I would be for this year’s homecoming, I never would have thought I’d be here. With three of the most amazing friends a girl could ask for.” I let the smile tugging at my lips take over. “I may not be out there in a Cheerios uniform tonight, but I think I like this better. I like you guys better.”

They all smile at the exact same time and it makes me smile too. And I’m right back to feeling infinite. 

“Aren’t you worried that hanging out with us is making your status go down?” Rachel teases.  

I grin. “The second I got pregnant, my status went down. The way I see it?” I look at Mercedes and Tina too, just so they know that I’m talking to all three of them. 

“You guys are just helping me bring it back up.”



 

“Are you sure your parents aren’t going to walk through this door?” Tina asks as she rips the plastic packaging of her costume open. “Like on a scale of 1-10, how sure?”

 “I’m absolutely positive.” Mercedes steps into her stockings one foot at a time and tosses her flowy black hair over her shoulder. “They went to Cleveland to see my brother play basketball. They rented a hotel up there for the night and won’t be back until tomorrow morning, so we’re safe.”

“I can’t figure out if my buttcheek is supposed to go in this or if it’s supposed to drape over my head…” Rachel says as she loops her fingers in and out of black fishnet to untangle it. 

“Just look at the picture,” Mercedes holds up the packaging that her costume came into and studies it for a second. “I think it’s supposed to go over your boobs.”

“My… boo — WHAT? There is NO way I’m walking around in —“ 

“Just wear it over your bra,” I mumble for the first thing I contribute to this conversation. “You don’t have to take your bra off.”

I know I should probably do a bit more than just sitting here on the edge of Mercedes’ bed like I am, but it’s like my feet are glued to the floor. The party started already and we’re supposed to be leaving in half an hour to get there, but I can’t bring myself to do more than just sit. And pick at my nails. And stare at the ground. Because anything — and I do mean anything — sounds more appealing than getting undressed in front of them right now.

 I know that if I don’t make a move soon and open up the Marshall’s bag that my costume is inside of, they’re going to start thinking that I’m weird. I mean, aren’t I though? Tina sits on the floor in front of the body mirror and teases her hair with a comb to get it just the right amount of frizzy. She wears nothing but a pair of leggings and a sports bra and even though she has rolls when she sits down, she doesn’t even acknowledge them or act like they exist. Mercedes twists from side to side in the mirror as she stands behind Tina and smiles at the way her sexy mermaid costume turned out. She just stripped down to her bra and underwear in front of us to put on her costume and she doesn’t even seem self conscious. Rachel still fights with the fishnet overlay of her costume, but as soon as she gets it all straightened out? She lays it across Mercedes’ bed and lifts her shirt over her head. She tosses it to the ground, too. Just like that. As if it’s a mere inconvenience.

 Why can’t I be like that? Why can’t I be so effortlessly comfortable around my group of best friends? Why does the simple thought of me undressing in front of them make me want to run away and hide? I know they’re probably not looking at me. In fact, they won’t even bat an eyelash when I do get undressed. But still. They’re going to see me. Naked, but not completely. In the flesh. Something about being bare and exposed like that just doesn’t sit well with me.

 Maybe I could go change in the bathroom. But if I do that, won’t I offend everyone? They all got dressed in front of me, and they all just admitted to idolizing me at the game. What kind of message does it send them if I hide off in the bathroom to dress like a skank? That I think I’m better than them? That I’m too good to undress and let them see my body? That’s not the message I want to send.

So I kick off my boots one at a time, slowly. And I stand up from Mercedes’ bed. And I focus on the unicorn stuffed animal on her dresser because his beady black eyes watching me isn’t as nerve wracking as my friends’ eyes watching me. I unbutton my jeans… 

And so does Rachel. She unbuttons them and pulls them down and steps out of them all in one motion like it's no big deal. 

And I don’t want to objectify her and I really don’t want to intrude on her personal space and invade her privacy by looking, so I turn around and think that the bathroom is sounding better and better by each passing moment. It’s sounding so much better, in fact, that I reach down and scoop up my Marshall’s bag and prepare my lips to say “I’ll be right back guys.” 

But how do you know that you’re…. gay? How do you know that for sure? How would you know that you are if you never really even looked? How do you know that you’re actually physically attracted to women if you’ve never looked at one naked?

Instead of telling them that I’m going to go change in the bathroom, I dump my Marshall’s bag out on the bed and shake out its contents. One leg out of my jeans and then the other… I turn around, pretending like I’m only turning around so I can stuff my jeans back into the Marshall’s bag…

And I’m sorry, I’m so sorry… sorry to all the feminists out there who fight to have their voices heard, who fight to let people know that our bodies are not just objects. I’m sorry… but I look. While I’m folding my jeans and stuffing them into the plastic bag and taking off my shirt…

I look at Rachel in her black bra and black underwear…



 

The last few days have been a blur, and I don’t quite feel like myself anymore. In fact, they’ve been so much of a blur that I can’t even begin to tell anyone how I ended up here. Here, sitting across from Bailey with my arms wrapped around my chest and my teeth clenched together because the tears rolling down my cheeks keep giving me the chills.

Bailey tilts her head to the side as if she’s watching a poor, naked little bird about to fly out the nest for the first time. Her eyes are filled with curiosity and maybe a little bit of sympathy. Her eyes make me feel like maybe I’m going to be okay. 

“Tell me about the party, Quinn.” she says in her usual soft tone.

I squeeze my jaw together and clench my teeth so hard that my head starts to ache. It’s not that I don’t want to tell her about the party, it’s just that I don’t know where to start.

“You don’t get to do this,” Bailey shakes her head at me. “You don’t get to call me on a Saturday for an emergency session and not tell me what led you to it. Okay?”

 “Okay,” I whisper.

“So tell me about the party.”

“...I don’t know where to start.”

 “From the beginning.”

Chapter Text





I knew as I was watching her shimmy the black and red cupcake skirt up onto her hips that what I was doing was wrong, but I couldn’t look away. My eyes traced her fingers as they pulled up the zipper, watched them as they made sure the ruffles laid evenly. I remember thinking to myself just how soft her golden skin looked, thinking about how it would feel beneath my gentle fingertips. She tightened the corset around her waist with the gold ribbons and made her boobs squeeze together just enough for me to eye the beauty mark on the left one and I felt the heat swirling around at my core. It wasn’t until she pulled the red ruffled sleeves up onto her arms that I realized I was sweating.

Her hair, silky and flowy like a horse’s mane, cascaded down her back and stayed perfectly in place as she put the feathered hat on her head and I felt dizzy. It was like someone came in and shook the room but everyone stayed still except for me. She slipped her hair over her shoulders and I imagined my lips dragging along those shoulders. I imagined her on top of me, enveloping me, forcing me to take in the scent of her skin. And when I started imagining myself pulling every inch of that pirate costume off her perfect body, Tina gasped and made me jump completely out of my thoughts.

“Oh my God, Quinn,” she said and I felt the color drain from my face. And my stomach started to hurt. And my throat started to ache. Because I thought for sure that she had just caught me deep in the middle of a sick fantasy about Rachel.

“What?” I managed to choke out beyond feeling like I needed to vomit. I stood there, donning nothing but my bra and underwear, feeling totally naked. My powder blue bra had white polka dots on it with a bow in the middle and my underwear completely matched. There was the fabric covering the most intimate parts of my body, but I still felt totally exposed.

“You don’t even look like you had a baby!” Tina exclaimed and though deep down there was a piece of me that wanted to melt into a puddle in the middle of Mercedes’ bedroom floor, I was too relieved to truly react. “You don’t have any stretch marks or anything! Guys, look!” 

Rachel and Mercedes both turned to look at me and at first, I folded my arms across my abdomen to cover myself. But then I remembered that I was trying to blend in and not seem like I thought that I was better than them, so I hung my arms at my side and let them look. I even twisted to the side and looked down at myself to seem like I was admiring my body as well.

 “Hm, yeah,” I mumbled, looking down at the parts of my butt that weren’t covered by my underwear.

“I told you, Quinn’s a freak of nature,” Mercedes shook her head and continued curling pieces of her hair. “She didn’t even go up a shirt size while she was pregnant.”

“How did you manage to get through the whole thing without even getting stretch marks, though?” Rachel asked me as she stepped into her thigh-high boots. “I sipped a milkshake once and five new ones popped up on my hips.”

“I slathered my body in cocoa butter from the second I found out until the doctors pulled her outta me,” I said coolly. “I probably used about ten tons over the course of eight and a half months. I didn’t get any on my stomach or my hips, but I did get some on my arms and my boobs.”

“Your boobs?” Tina raised her eyebrows as her eyes fell on my chest. I had to fight the urge to cover myself again.

Instead, I tore open my costume with my teeth and started shaking the tutu open. “Yeah,” I replied. “When the milk came in and stuff. I got some on my boobs. You can’t really see ‘em now because they’re on the parts that are covered, but yeah. I got some there. 

The entire room got quiet after I said that and I started to think that maybe I shared a little too much or seemed a little too invested in talking about boobs to appear straight. Tina wove two perfectly symmetrical braids into her hair and Mercedes adjusted her tail while Rachel zipped up her boots. Me? I stepped into the lime green sparkly dress that I bought and adjusted it to fit around my hips. It was like everyone was thinking the same thing but nobody wanted to say it. Nobody was brave enough to break the ice until Tina stood up, grabbed her cowgirl hat, and started fitting it around her head.

“You can ask,” I mumbled as I tried to figure out which way the Tinkerbell wings were supposed to go on my back. “I know you want to, so you can.”

“What was it like?” Tina spat with her back facing me. “Going through everything you went through last year, I mean. With getting like… kicked out and stuff?”

 “Honestly?” I sat down on Mercedes’ bed again and rubbed a little bit of lotion onto my dry feet before I had to stuff them into the gold glittery slippers with the white puffball on top. “Honestly, it was mostly just weird not coming home every day. I mean, there were times when I didn’t know where I was going to eat or sleep and really, I was just lonely most of the time. But once I started staying here, with Mercedes, it wasn’t that bad. It was… it was nice, actually. I miss it.”

“So why’d you go home when you did?” Mercedes asked and for the first time, I realized that maybe me leaving the way I did affected her more than I thought it did. She tried to, but she couldn’t mask the hurt in her voice. “We said you could stay here as long as you needed to. My mom and dad were happy to have you. They even said that —“

“Because this isn’t my home, Mercedes,” I was firm with the way I said that but I wasn’t mean. At least, I don’t think I was. “As much as you and your mom and dad made me feel like it was, it wasn’t. It wasn’t my food to eat, it wasn’t my room to dirty up and it wasn’t my water to use. And I needed a mom. My mom. I might have made a mistake by going back home when my mom offered me to, but I don’t regret going. I don’t regret taking that burden off you and your parents.” 

“You weren’t a burden, Quinn…” her voice trailed off like she suddenly remembered we weren’t the only two in the room, then she looked away from me. “You could have stayed.” 

The room got quiet again, so I just stuffed my feet into my Tinkerbell slippers and stood up again so I could use the mirror to fashion my hair up into a bun. Tina shrugged her shoulders into her cowgirl vest and Mercedes unplugged the curling iron. Rachel sat down on the bed next to where I was sitting and zipped up her boots. But after a moment of silence just long enough to be awkward, she looked up at me and said:

“You’re brave, though. I don’t know if I could have forgiven my parents for what yours did to you.”

“Yeah,” Tina nodded. “Me either.”

Hearing them say that wasn’t lost on me. I wanted to open up my mouth and thank them for even acknowledging that what happened to me last year was cruel on my parents’ part, but I was afraid that if I did, I would start crying and I didn’t know if I would ever stop crying. In that moment, I had never felt more loved. And seen. And heard. And accepted. It was a wonderful feeling, one that carried me and gave me some strength that I didn’t know I needed. I wanted to thank them, I swear I did.

But all that came out of my mouth was, “Here, lemme help you guys with your makeup.”


 

“Do you think you’ll ever thank them?” Bailey asks. She sits across from me with one leg draped over the other and her notepad in her lap. Today’s session feels more relaxed than any other session and I can’t tell if whether it’s because she’s dressed in sweatpants when she’s usually in casual slacks, or if it’s because I feel more comfortable with her in general. Maybe it’s a combination of both.

“Don’t you think it’d be a bit weird if I did now?” I ask. “I can’t just randomly come out now that it’s over and be like ‘hey guys, thanks!’ That would be weird.” 

“Not exactly. It seems like you’ve stumbled into a pretty great group of girlfriends. They seem accepting and I think you thanking them would go a long way, actually. You should consider it. It doesn’t have to be today or tomorrow but I think you should thank them eventually.”

 “Yeah,” I sigh. “...I don’t think that’s what’s important, though.”

 “Then what do you think is important?”

“I don’t know… nothing?”

“I think the fact that you have a support system now is pretty important.”

I shrug. She’s probably right. I mean up until this moment, I didn’t really think about the fact that Rachel, Mercedes and Tina are all considered to be my support system and I guess she’s right when she says that’s important because it is. It is important. But how can I think about that when my mind is still… everywhere?

“Can we continue?” Bailey asks. “Because I’m hearing everything you say but I’m still not understanding what led you to call me for an emergency session.”


I had decided somewhere between us passing the cell phone repair shop and the ice cream parlor on our way here that I was going to stay sober tonight. Rachel and Tina were in the backseat of my car, headbanging to the song that Mercedes had put on and I was gripping the steering wheel to concentrate on not missing my turn to Puck’s house. I knew when I looked in my rear view mirror and saw Rachel singing her heart out that I had to stay sober tonight for her.

Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to stay sober anyway. Jessica had told me while I was still in Pennsylvania that things were going to now be in baby steps for me and I knew that drinking and smoking weed was too big a step for me to conquer all in one night. I didn’t plan on drinking or getting high in the first place. But when I looked back and saw Rachel all carefree and laughing with Tina, I knew that she was going to want to drink tonight and have that experience and I wanted that for her. I wanted her to know what it’s like to go to a high school party and get horribly drunk, and I wanted her to do it in a responsible way. So that was the push I needed to officially decide to stay sober so someone could look after Rachel.

 I knew as soon as we got there that I was way in over my head, though. Jessica said baby steps and I really did think that going to a party with my friends was a baby step. But I knew as soon as I saw what I was up against that I was terribly mistaken.

At least a dozen people all stood around in the front yard, passing a joint back and forth between them. We hadn’t even gotten inside the house yet and I could already hear the music pounding through the walls. One girl leaned over the porch railing and threw up into a garbage can while her boyfriend patted her on the back in the most loving way possible. I stopped at the door as Mercedes pushed it open, thinking about whether it was a good idea for me to go in there or not.

 As soon as the door opened, a gust of smoke smacked all four of us in the face and I immediately knew that if I spent longer than three minutes inside that house, I would get a contact high. Still, I followed Rachel, Tina and Mercedes into the house and looked around.

The air was so thick with weed smoke that my eyes burned and I could hardly see, but I could estimate that there were about eighty people crammed inside Puck’s small house. I couldn’t move without accidentally elbowing someone here or there and couldn’t inhale without smelling perfume or body odor. I thought our costumes were slutty and skanky, but we looked like saints compared to some of the other girls. There were sexy maids and sexy referees, sexy princesses and sexy animals. Most girls wore absolutely nothing but a bra and underwear and slapped a pair of bunny ears on top of their heads to qualify as something but I think they’d be much more respectable had they just not worn anything at all. One guy from my English class held his girlfriend up against Puck’s kitchen island and the two of them made out so heavily that I started to think I was in the middle of a low-budget porno. 

Strobe lights flickered off the ceiling and empty beer cans littered the floor. The bowls that once contained potato chips and pretzels now only had crumbs in them and the only bowl left full was one full of Sour Patch Kids. I turned around to Rachel, Tina and Mercedes to ask them if they wanted me to grab them a beer from the cooler on the floor, but they were gone. Almost as if the three of them had disappeared into the puffs of weed smoke around me. 

“Rachel?! Tina?! Mercedes?!” I called out even though I knew they wouldn’t be able to hear me because the music was deafeningly loud.

I looked around, mumbling meaningless apologies under my breath every time I bumped into someone, and made it to the back door. I poked my head outside and let the fresh air sting my cheeks because I didn’t realize just how hot I was inside that house until I wasn’t in it anymore. I shuffled out the door, adjusted my Tinkerbell dress, and looked around the backyard for them.

 My mind felt a little hazy, but I knew it was just because I was inhaling so much weed. I was no stranger to being high because I had been high at least three other times prior to this night, but it still took me by surprise because I hadn’t put a joint to my lips at all. Contact highs are a real thing. I found a table to lean up against and took a breath, hunched over. I remember wanting to cry because Puck’s house isn’t that big and I didn’t know how in the world I’d managed to lose three people. 

“Nice ass, Fabray!” A guy whistled at me and when I whipped around to see who it was, he was gone. 

I pulled my dress down a little further and sat in an empty lawn chair because obviously if I stood around in this skimpy lime green thing, boys were going to stare. I grabbed a water from the cooler next to my feet and twisted the cap off before taking a sip. I felt my contact high wearing off and part of me was grateful that my sobriety was returning, but a bigger part wished it wouldn’t wear off at all because for the first time since I’d been home from treatment, my mind was completely silent when I was high.

I sighed and took another sip of my water, then stood back up. I had to find Rachel, at least. I wanted to make sure she was being responsible and not getting too drunk. I really wanted to make sure that nobody was trying to hurt her.

Back inside the house, it seemed like the amount of people had actually doubled somehow. I bullied my way through the crowd of drunk teenagers and found my way back to the kitchen island. I guess I was hoping that maybe Puck had put out more chips and pretzels because I was actually sort of starving, but it didn’t surprise me to see that he hadn’t. I reached for the bowl of Sour Patch Kids instead, but before I could take some, I heard, “Is Rachel here with you?”

I turned around again and was met with Finn. His face was painted green and his brown t-shirt had rips all scattered about. His hair was standing up on all ends and his jeans were dirty and I thought he made a very convincing Frankenstein’s monster. He clutched a red Solo cup and wore a goofy grin that I wanted to slap off his face.

 “What?” I asked as if I hadn’t heard him. I stood on my tiptoes to get closer to his level so I could hear him better and he bent a little to get closer to mine.

 “Is Rachel here with you?” he asked again, louder this time.

“...What’s it matter to you?” I asked.

I don’t know why but when he asked about her, something inside my brain just snapped. That something made my body feel hot and made my legs start to shake. I felt like I wanted to yell at him to leave her alone, to tell him that she was mine now and he had treated her badly so he lost her and he can’t have her back. But of course, I didn’t say any of that. I just waited for his response.

“I was just wondering if she came and since the two of you suddenly seem to be butt-buddies now, I figured you’d know,” he replied. 

“Yeah,” I nodded because I just didn’t want to seem like I was as obsessed with Rachel as I actually am. “She’s here. With me, Mercedes and Tina. But I don’t know where. We split up.” 

I grabbed a few Sour Patch Kids from the bowl on the island and shoveled them into my mouth. Finn and I stood side by side in silence for a few moments, but it wasn’t awkward. In some ways, I see a lot of myself in Finn. One way we’re alike is how we both like to just watch people sometimes. I knew we were watching the same people, because we both laughed when a boy from the football team took a body shot off of Brittany, and Santana’s face turned red. I think we laughed at that because we were thinking the same thing — that Santana’s face being red really fit her already fitting devil’s costume. 

“I’m gonna go grab a couple beers from outside. You want one?” Finn asked.

“No, I’m fine,” I shouted loud enough for him to hear me. “I don’t wanna get too sloppy tonight. I’m gonna go see if I can find Rachel and the girls.” 

“Suit yourself,” he shrugged and walked to the door. 

As soon as he was gone, I made my way through the groups of people again and headed for the living room to see if maybe the girls went in there. If they weren’t outside and they weren’t in the living room, then I planned on checking the basement next.

“Whew,” someone called out from behind me and I froze because I knew who that voice belonged to and I guess maybe I thought I could somehow make it through the night without seeing him. “Damn girl, you’re wearing the hell outta that costume.”

I turned around slowly, the way people always do in the movies. You know how everything gets kind of blurry and intense the moment the protagonist finally confronts the antagonist? And the music gets kind of muffled? And everything around is jumbled? So that the lights and the people all turn to giant blobs? And the cameras zoom in on the girl’s face?

He lifted the white Hannibal Lecter mask away from his face and I felt my stomach lurch. His eyes crinkled at the corners as he smiled honestly at me and looked me from head to toe. His teeth looked sharp when he grinned, like a bear about to attack its prey. His mohawk was flat and sweaty and underneath the jumpsuit to his costume, his muscles were barred. He raised his eyebrows and I did absolutely nothing. I stood there.

“Of course you look even better out of it,” he winked at me. 

I tried to take a step back and stumbled a bit, probably because I was still getting a contact high, and just smiled at him.

I smiled at him. Can you believe that?

I smiled.


 

“Why do you think you smiled?”

“I dunno,” I shrug and wipe a pesky tear that fell from my eye. “Because I didn’t know what else to do?”

“Our bodies respond to trauma in very unusual ways. Take me, for example. When I was a little girl, I laughed at my father’s funeral.” 

“You what?” 

“I laughed, I did. Hysterically, too. I went up, saw him lying in the casket and completely lost it. My mother was mortified but I couldn’t help it. I just laughed until I couldn’t laugh anymore.” 

Hearing that makes me feel a bit better. I don’t think me smiling at Puck is exactly the same thing, but it does help to know that I wasn’t acting completely crazy by smiling at him the way I did.

 “Sometimes our bodies respond to trauma in unusual ways. You smiling at Noah was just a knee-jerk reaction. It doesn’t mean anything more than that.”

“Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Okay.” 

“...So what happened after that?”

 


I backed away from Puck and almost fell when I did because I was so dizzy. My ears were ringing yet everything was silent. My eyes felt like I was crossing them, but they were perfectly straight. My body felt like it was being crushed repeatedly but I was whole. I had to get away from him, I had to. So the first thing I noticed from the corner of my eye were the steps that led up to his bedroom, and I ran for them. I ran like my life depended on it and even now that it’s over, I still do feel like my life did depend on it.

I was high, I realized that once I stumbled into his bedroom. The smile I gave him probably came from that fact, and I felt totally calm and relaxed. I wanted to laugh at nothing and wanted to grin at everything. I felt happy, on cloud nine. But I knew that I needed to come down, so I shut the door and sat down on his bed. I looked around at the Playboy posters and the Cleveland Browns trading cards.

I looked at the floor and felt my lips tug up into a smile as the ash gray carpet beneath my feet swirled and changed colors in tune with my breathing. One moment, the carpet was gray. The next moment, it was blue. It changed each time I breathed and it felt good to control something. The room started to wobble the way it does when you’re in a carnival funhouse and I felt myself getting nauseous, so I laid down. His sheets smelled like him and his bed was firm, but comfortable.

As I looked up at the drop-ceiling tiles, they caved in… then curved back out. Like the carpet, the ceiling tiles changed every time I breathed and I felt myself laughing even though I couldn’t hear it. I felt nothing but everything at the same time. When I lifted my arms up, I stared at my fingers. I opened my hand, then closed my hand. And the shadows of my fingers were fuzzy and yellow. Blotches of bright green and purple flew around my head like butterflies in a meadow and when I closed my eyes, they disappeared.

When I closed my eyes, everything disappeared. And I started to remember the last time I was in this room…

“I’ve never done this before,” I whisper and feel nauseous at the smell of my own breath. It smells fruity and strong and makes the headache behind my right eye a little bit stronger.

He sits up and tosses his shirt onto the floor. I think I think that he’s… sexy? He has really nice abs and a really strong looking body and he could protect me if I needed him too because he has muscles. Big muscles. But he could also crush me…

“Really? Never?” His voice doesn’t sound as slurred as mine. 

“N-never.”

“Your words were slurred, Quinn. You couldn’t speak coherently, but he could. Couldn’t he?” Jessica squeezes my hands. “Couldn’t he?”

“I’m cool with that,” he smiles at me. “I’m glad I get to be your first.” His lips are harsh against mine and we kiss again.

When I talk to Santana about sex, she says that it’s supposed to make you feel warm down there. And tingly. Like a feeling that just keeps building and building until you can’t take it anymore and you just HAVE to have that person. I don’t feel that… is there something wrong with me?

“You didn’t have those feelings toward him. When you were kissing, you didn’t feel that way. Did you?” Jessica keeps talking.

Our tongues swirl together like they’re dancing or something and all I can taste is the strawberry mango wine coolers I drank. He doesn’t stop kissing me, even as he leads me into laying down. His bed smells like him, and it’s firm, but it’s not uncomfortable. His eyes are closed while we kiss, but mine are not. The Playboy posters plastered on his walls stare down at me like they know what I’m doing. And it’s almost like the Cleveland Browns trading cards look at him and smile like they’re proud.

 He lies down on top of me and I feel like I can’t breathe, so I turn my head to the side. I turned my head to the side and broke our kiss, but he just puts his lips on my neck instead. His lips are cold and very very wet. Sloppy, they make me feel gross. I look at the football poster on the back of his door and try to breathe even though he’s crushing me.

“You’re so beautiful,” he mumbles into my neck.

 Really? Does he really think so?

“Yeah?” I ask.

“Totally. Hottest one on the Cheerios,” he holds himself up in a push-up position over me and smiles at he looks down at me. “Your eyes… and those lips… god.”

He thinks I’m beautiful. Not hot, not sexy, not pretty. But beautiful. He thinks I’m beautiful… he doesn’t see the flab beneath my vest or the cellulite beneath my skirt. He thinks I’m beautiful… wow... 

He moves his hands below my waist and I feel the fabric of my skirt fly apart when he undoes the button.

“Wait,” I squirm underneath of him and put my hands on his shoulders. “Maybe we shouldn’t.” I felt hazy as I said that and I hope he can understand me…

“You need another drink?” He reaches over on the side of his bed and hands me another glass bottle.

“N-no,” I shake my head. “T-tell me again?”

 “What, that you’re beautiful?” he grins. “You are. So beautiful.”

“You’re not stupid for believing that,” Jessica stops squeezing my hands and strokes them with her thumbs for a moment because I just can’t stop crying. “You had a very vulnerable day. You weren’t stupid for believing him when he said that and you weren’t weak for needing to hear that.”

His lips go back to my neck and his hands pull at my skirt until it’s down around my ankles. He tosses it to the floor and uses his hips to force my legs apart.

 I don’t know if I really want this...

“S-Slow down,” my voice comes out in a tone that I can barely recognize. I had to force it out, too. Like peanut butter stuck in the back of my throat that I have to force up. “Wait, slow down.”

It feels like he has a million hands. Two on my waist, two on my chest, two between my legs, two holding my arms. When did he grow so many hands?

And when did the room start spinning? I haven’t felt this way since I was eight and Dad took Frannie and me to a carnival in downtown Lima. I went into a funhouse and they had a room inside of it that kept spinning and spinning and I remember feeling so out of control and like I’d never get out of that room that I sat down and cried until Daddy came inside to get me. It’s all whirlly and spinny again and it doesn’t get any better when I close my eyes and I wonder if maybe I can cry and have my Daddy come pick me up again.

I used to think that Mommies and Daddies had special radar inside of them. Special radar that can sense when their children are crying and they need to come to the rescue. I believed that for a really long time. I believed that for so long that in fact, tonight is the first night I start to believe that it’s not true. Because I’ve been crying since he unbuttoned my skirt ten minutes ago and my daddy hasn’t come to save me yet.

“Wait, wait, w-wait,” I whisper and my breath still smells fruity.

“You have to relax, okay? You really have to relax. It’s going to hurt if you don’t.” 

“I’m not sure if we should do this.”

“Nobody’s gonna know.” 

“Can we just kiss a little more? I’m not ready yet, I just wanna kiss you some more.”

“It’s a little late to go back to that.” He grabs the rim of my underwear and starts to pull a little before sighing. “Come on. You gotta let me in…”  

I don’t feel like this is happening to me anymore… I feel like… like… like I’m some other part of myself that I didn’t know existed? And the part of me that was here just a second ago is gone now? The part of me that was just here a second ago ran away and hid… and I don’t know where she’s at. She’s somewhere crying and I can’t get her to come out and be here anymore.

“Do you have a condom?” It’s my voice that said that, but I didn’t even feel the words come out of my mouth.

“You have to trust me.”

From the corner of the room, I watch myself. I don’t feel it when he yanks my underwear off so forcefully that they rip, and I’m not there when he makes his first thrust into my body. It’s not actually happening to me because if it was, wouldn’t I feel it?

Things like this don’t happen to me. You know what happens to me?

I get picked as captain of the Cheerios. I get picked as prom queen and homecoming queen. I get picked as class president. I score high on my SATs and get into Princeton or Harvard or Yale. I get to give a speech at graduation because I’m valedictorian. I get to major in something really cool at college like business or law. And I get to make a lot of money. I get to have a house with a few kids and a white picket fence and a golden retriever. I get to live until I’m 89 and die happily of old age. 

 Things like this don’t happen to Quinn Fabray, and that’s not Quinn Fabray that I’m looking at right now.

“Quinn, I’m going to tell you this because I don’t think anybody else has. I am so sorry this happened to you,” Jessica pulls me close for a hug and I know she’s violating all kinds of therapist rules right now, so I push her away.

“You don’t have to be sorry because that wasn’t me. That didn’t happen to me.”

“Quinn, I —“  

“It didn’t happen to me. It wasn’t me. That was someone else.”

The girl on the bed underneath of Puck gets the chills when her tears dribble down to her ears. She puts her hands on his chest  and tries to push him away from her but he’s too big and I think he takes it as a sign that he’s doing well.

I’ve heard that happens sometimes. Santana told me once that sometimes it feels so good that you pull away and want to stop because you just can’t take it anymore and I think he thinks that’s what’s happening. The poor girl. I should probably go over there and help her instead of sitting in the corner of this stupid room just watching him hurt her over and over and over again but I can’t. It’s like I’m stuck. So all I can do is watch.

 Watch as he holds her arms above her head and keeps moving his waist. Listen as he grunts. She’s lost underneath of him now, she’s not even moving. I think she might even be dead. Her legs are spread apart, feet hanging off either side of the bed. And she doesn’t move… I don’t even think she’s blinking…

“Sweetie, it’s very common to dissociate when you’re going through something traumatic. Honey, what you’re describing is something we call an ‘out of body experience.’ Our minds don’t know how to react to the trauma and so we dissociate in order to cope. We detach ourselves… because what happened is so traumatic that we just…”

I shake my head so hard that the tears rattle off my cheeks. “No, that wasn’t me… it wasn’t me. I… I would’ve felt it. I would’ve stopped it. I wouldn’t have let that happen. It doesn’t happen to me. That wouldn’t happen to me. It wasn’t me… it wasn’t me…”  

I think the girl on the bed with Puck is dead. I think I might have just witnessed a murder. And while I want nothing more than to just stay where I am in the corner by his closet, I need to know if he just killed this poor girl.

So I tiptoe over to the bed and hold my breath so he can’t hear me breathing. He grunts one last time and his movements get all jerky and then he rolls off her body and lies on the pillow with his hands behind his head. She is still. Perfectly still. Almost like a statue.

“That was great,” he chuckles.  

I lean in a little closer so I can get a better look at the girl, just so I can see if she’s breathing.

 Her eyes have tears in them. Hazel eyes that look more green than anything but could pass as brown if she were wearing a certain color. And golden blonde hair pulled up into a tight ponytail. She kind of looks like me a little, but she looks… smaller than me. Weaker than me. I am stronger than she is. She is not me.

But if she’s not me… then why does she have the same beauty mark beneath her left ear as me?

“It was me…” I whisper. “...He raped me?”

“I think you know the answer to that,” Jessica brushes my hair away from my forehead. “You do.”

I rolled off the bed and fell to my knees because I still couldn’t stand up properly. On my knees, I crawled over to the garbage can in the corner of Puck’s room — the same garbage can I threw my ripped underwear into that night — and gripped the sides with my hands.

“But I didn’t say no. I didn’t scream, I didn’t fight him off…”

“You were drunk and he was not. There are multiple ways to say ‘no’ without uttering the word. You didn’t give consent and if you did, coerced consent is NOT valid consent. What happened to you was rape, and it was wrong.” 

And I didn’t have to put my fingers into my mouth or think of something gross to do what I did next. I opened my mouth, and all the contents of my stomach came spilling out.


 

“Quinn, please take a deep breath. You need to calm down. Sit back down.”

“I—I can’t,” I stand up and hold onto the chair as I try to do what she says and breathe. “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe, I’m so hot…” I take my sweatshirt off so I’m in nothing but my raggedy tank top and try my hardest to breathe like Bailey says I need to. “I can’t breathe, I think I’m dying, I think I’m…”

“You’re having an anxiety attack, Quinn. I need you to sit down, okay? Sit down. Sit down and tell me what happened after you threw up.” 

“Is this normal!?”

“You just relived the memory of being raped, it’s very normal. You just need to calm down and focus on what you’re doing. You’re telling me about the party, remember? What happened after you threw up?”


I had thrown up a million times before that time but I had never felt that different. Maybe I felt different throwing up that time because I didn’t actually force myself to do it, but I think I felt so differently because it felt like everything I had ever felt during that night was now in the trashcan. Throwing up that time felt like I was expelling some kind of poison from my body. It felt like all the shame and pain and embarrassment that Puck had put me through came out of me and now it was in the trashcan. And I felt lighter. 

I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and started to take the bag out of the trashcan but before I could, the door flung open. And though I just threw up and thought that by doing that I would feel a bit better, I was still too weak to run and hide or say that I was already in there, so I just crawled to the corner of the room and stayed quiet.

My head was still spinning and my eyes still felt heavy, so I stayed quiet with my head slumped against the wall. I was quiet even as I realized the people who barged in and interrupted my high throw up session were Brittany and some guy I’d only seen once before on the football field. 

The two of them laid on the bed where I just laid and started going at it. I started to crawl over to the closet so I didn’t seem weird by watching them do whatever it was they intended to do, but I was still a bit weak, so I just stayed there and watched and I was glad that the room was dark. Brittany straddled the guy and before I knew it, her top was off and on the floor.

But before they could take anything further, the bedroom door flung open again and this time in walked The Devil in Disguise. Or Santana, as she’s more commonly known.


 

“Are you sure what you inhaled was just marijuana?” Bailey asks. She’s trying to deflect the situation because I’m still calming down from my panic attack, and I think it’s working.

“I’m just saying,” she continues. “I’ve been contact high before but it’s never made me as tired and weak as it made you.”

“I’m getting to that.”


 

I don’t really remember what Brittany and Santana said to each other, all I know is that they had a big argument and it ended with Brittany and the guy leaving. Santana sat down on the bed and started to cry and that’s when I decided that I should try to leave again. I picked myself up off the floor and accidentally bumped into Puck’s clothes basket, which made Santana look up. She squinted to see me through the darkness and seemed angry when she realized it was me.

“What the hell are you doing in here? Were you here the whole time?!” she yelled at me.

“I, uh,” I tried to talk for the first time in a long time and realized that it was hard for me to sift through my brain and find the words. Instead, I just laughed. 

“Oh my god, are you high?!”  

“Maaaaaybe,” I laughed a little more and sat on the bed beside her because I felt like I was going to fall over. “I was feeling woozy so then I came to lay down but then something maaaaagical happened and now you’re here,” I laughed.

“...You ate the Sour Patch Kids, didn’t you?” she smiled like she was amused.

“I ate a few, yes.”

“....Yeah, those were soaked in acid. You’ll be okay in about an hour.”


 

“...So you accidentally ingested LSD?” Bailey has a slight smile on her face and I can tell that she wants to laugh but doesn’t know if it’s appropriate if she does.

“I’ll never eat another Sour Patch Kid again,” I bust out in serious laughter which makes her bust out in serious laughter and before I know it, I feel normal again. I don’t feel like I just had a panic attack.

 “Sounds like it was an eventful party.”

“And I’m not even done telling you about it yet.”


 

I laid down on the bed and looked up at the ceiling again, which wasn’t changing tiles anymore. Santana laid down beside me and both of us were silent, deep in thought. Though I felt better after throwing up, I still had a little bit of courage left inside of me. So I turned my head toward Santana and said, “You okay?” 

“What do you mean?” she turned toward me too and the two of us locked eyes. For the first time, I could see a little bit of pain behind her eyes and I started to understand her just a little.

“I mean what just happened. Are you okay? That must’ve been pretty… shitty to walk in on.”

“You mean to walk in on my best friend making out and having sex with a loser? Yeah, pretty shitty.”

“You and Britt are just friends?”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

 “I just mean…” I sighed. “Look, you can’t really get mad at her. She’s technically single.”

“It’s whatever. I can’t make her love me, you know? I want her to. I want her to with all my heart but I can’t make her do something she doesn’t want to do.” 

“How do you know she doesn’t want to be with you?”

“That’s not what I meant. I meant… I meant I can’t make her be with me if she’s not ready to.” 

“Well I don’t get it,” I shrugged. “If you want to be together then just be together.”

“It’s not that easy. It’s… it’s just hard, Quinn. You don’t understand. You’ll never understand what it’s like.”

“I do, though,” I whispered. “Keeping the secret inside of you is exhausting but it’s not fair to the other person. I know it’s easier to hate Brittany but you can’t get mad at her. You can’t hate her because she doesn’t even know what she did wrong. Just because you’re not ready to flaunt it yet doesn’t mean that she has to keep it inside, too…”

“...It sounds like you speak from experience.” 

“I can just relate in some way,” I explained.

And then, before I even had a moment to process what the hell was happening, Santana sat up. And she leaned in. And she tilted her head. And she kissed me. And while that by itself was enough to surprise anyone… what surprised me even more is that…

I closed my eyes and kissed her back.

 

Chapter Text




On my way back from the bathroom, I tighten the drawstrings on my sweatpants and adjust my t-shirt. We paused for a bathroom break and it wasn’t until I looked at the clock on the wall above the sinks that I realized I had been talking to Bailey for one full hour. That is the longest I’ve ever talked to her, even if I’m counting my very first session with her. It’s weird, because it doesn’t even feel like we’ve been talking for an hour. 

The office is sleepy on this Saturday evening, with only me, Bailey and the receptionist in the building, so I don’t bother shutting the door behind me. As I sit back down, Bailey shoves her hand down into the open bag of Doritos on her desk and stuffs a couple into her mouth before turning the bag towards me. She writes in her notebook while she chews and for the first time since I started seeing her, I look at her closely.

She’s not ugly. Her eyebrows are thin and perfectly shaped, and they match her thin brunette hair perfectly. Her eyes are wide-set and round and they sit just above a thin nose with large nostrils. Her lips are almost too full for her jaw, and her chin boasts a deep dimple. In a way, she reminds me of an older version of my sister. My beautiful, always put together and perfectly poised sister. The fact that Bailey sucks some Dorito crumbs off her fingers makes me grin, because that’s not something that Frannie would ever do.

“You’re welcome to some,” she swallows and picks up her Yeti cup. “There’s water in that mini fridge behind you, too.”

“Thanks,” I say as I reach for a small handful of chips. “I wasn’t expecting to be here this long, I should have packed myself a lunch.” I take a small bite of the chip, careful not to look like an overgrown pig in front of her by shoveling them all in my mouth the way I would normally do. “Sorry for keeping you so long.”

“It’s no deal,” she shrugs. “I clear my schedule for two hours when someone needs an emergency session, so we’re nowhere near our time limit.”

“Do you get calls for emergency sessions a lot?” I ask.

“Sometimes,” she closes her notebook and takes her glasses off. “I’m really glad you called me, Quinn. I never expected you to, but I’m glad you did. It actually feels like we’re getting somewhere, doesn’t it?”

“It does, I guess.”

“Do you want to keep going?”

“I forget where I was,” I eat my last chip and dust my hands off on my sweatpants.

“You and Santana. Tell me, what was it like to kiss her? How was that?”

“...Honestly? It felt… different.”

“Different? Different how?”


I tilted my head to the side so our noses didn’t bump and parted my lips just enough to let her tongue inside. And her mouth, it tasted sour. Like maybe she had eaten something salty just moments before we started to kiss, but I still found it strange because it was the first time I even noticed how a kiss tasted. And even though she kissed me hard like she was angry, her tongue, it was soft. And gentle the way it explored the corners of my mouth.

Her fingertips grazed my jawline but only for a minute because they continued up the side of my face until they curled in between my golden locks of hair. I felt my Tinkerbell bun come undone and got chills up my spine when my hair came tumbling down. I remember thinking that she must be inhuman or something because I didn’t feel the breath from her nostrils against my skin, and she didn’t pull away from me so she must not have been breathing.

She kissed me like she was hungry and like she needed even more than I could give her, and I just remember wanting to keep up.

She wasn’t who I wanted to kiss, I remembered that in an instant and my eyes fluttered open. Every inch of my being wished that she was someone else, but even though she wasn’t, it still felt different to kiss her. Different in the most literal sense of the word, too.

Kissing her was taking the earmuffs off.

My whole life, I had gone through the world existing with nothing but muffled sounds. Birds would chirp all around me and rain would beat on the windowpane. Mr. Schuester would turn the music up and we would all sing. And all of those sounds — the beautiful music of the world around me — were dull. And they had been that way for as long as I could remember, so I never knew that I wasn’t hearing at 100%.

Not until I kissed Santana.

I kissed her and the earmuffs came off and suddenly, the word burst into life. I could hear clearly and everything came together and this part of me that I never knew was missing was suddenly found. The world made sense and after all that I went through, I realized that there was nothing wrong with me.

She wasn’t the person I wanted to kiss, but goddamn she made my world make a little more sense and from that moment on, I knew I could never kiss another boy and feel the same way. I always thought that kissing another girl would feel wrong. I never thought that it would feel this right.


“Can we pause here for a second?” Bailey asks.

“Uh, sure,” I nod my head. “But I’m not done.”

“I know, I know. I just have one small question.”

“Go ahead and shoot.”

“Are there any feelings for Santana, by any chance?”

“No,” I say firmly and very matter-of-fact. I would be lying if I said I didn’t know that question was coming. I expected that, and it’s a question that I asked myself after the kiss. And after much consideration and being completely honest with myself, the answer is a very positive no. I have no romantic feelings whatsoever for Santana. “I… I kinda wish she wasn’t my first girl kiss. But I am grateful that she did what she did. I’m grateful that she kissed me. Because if she didn’t, I don’t think I would have ever known how right it felt to kiss a girl.”

I bite my bottom lip and feel the tears sting my eyes but I’m determined to keep them in. Still, I look up at Bailey and meet her eye. And I take a deep breath before I ask the question that I’ve been wrestling with since last night.

“...Do you think I’m a bad person?”

“Why would you ask me that, Quinn? Of course I don’t think you’re —“

“Because I used her. Santana, I mean. She was hurting and I just… used her.” I blink once and the tears come rolling down my cheeks.

“Used her in what way?”


Her hands were all tangled in my crunchy hair-sprayed hair as her tongue darted in and out of my mouth. The heat between us made droplets of sweat form on my nose and I didn’t want to be the weaker one between us two but I needed to breathe, so I pulled away for one split second. And our noses touched as our lips lingered just inches away from each other’s. She looked at me from underneath her long eyelashes as if she wanted to apologize for what just happened, and I looked at her the same way. And though she wasn’t the person that I wanted to kiss like that, there was still some part of me that didn’t want her to stop kissing me like that, so I leaned in for another.

And while her hands went back to being tangled up in my hair, I didn’t know what to do with my own. So I put them on her hips, and I think maybe that sent a message. Santana took my bottom lip between her teeth and bit just a little but enough to drive me wild. I wished so badly that she were Rachel.

And then I thought to myself that someday, I might actually kiss Rachel. Someday, I could possibly be in this situation with her — with someone who actually matters to me — and what if when that someday comes, I have no idea what I’m doing?

So I closed my eyes and pretended that she was Rachel. If she were Rachel… what would I do?

I would pull my lips away from hers and kiss the soft, velvety skin that is on her neck. And when I did that, she would suck in a sharp breath the way Santana had just done. I would kiss her jaw, then her neck, then back up to her jaw again, before settling on tasting her lips again. And she’d bite her bottom lip because she wanted me so badly, just like Santana was doing.

If she were Rachel and she put her hand on the inside of my thigh, I would have parted my legs the same way I did for Santana. And I would have taken a deep breath… and held it as her hand drew closer and closer to me.

I didn’t actually think it was going to happen, which sounds stupid, I know. We had made out for a solid five minutes and her thumb was stroking the inside of my thigh, so I should have known that something was going to happen. But I really didn’t. Not until her hand grabbed the middle fabric of my underwear and pulled it apart from my skin. And it happened so fast, the way her hand touched my flesh that I barely even processed it.

Still, the stupid part of my brain thought that was going to be the extent of it.

My mind was totally blank when her thumb stroked me as she kissed my neck and I didn’t know much, but I did know that I didn’t really want her to stop. Which, in hindsight, was a new feeling for me. I wasn’t used to wanting something sexual to happen, not as fully as I wanted what I allowed her to do. She started to kiss me again and I remember not kissing her back, but it still wasn’t because I didn’t want to do it. It was mostly because I just didn’t know what to think about what she was doing below my waist. I didn’t know what to think, but I knew that it felt different than the time I had sex with Puck because I was sure I wanted it this time whereas with Puck, I was mostly unsure.

I pulled my lips away from hers only when her index finger made a home inside of me, and still I never said stop. I remembered what she had told me before, about sex feeling like something building and building until you burst with anticipation, but I still didn’t feel that. I felt nothing, at first.

And then I felt everything.

Her single finger moving back and forth and the moan starting from deep in my gut and moving it’s way up to my throat. My breaths getting shallower and more sparse. My toes curling inside of my shoes. And just when I thought that maybe this is it — that mind-blowing, earth-shattering feeling everyone is always raving about — everything inside of me just went numb.

And I couldn’t stop thinking about how wrong it was to actually like what Santana was doing to me. I hated myself because I knew that I wouldn’t feel nearly as badly had it been a boy with his fingers crammed inside of me, but it wasn’t a boy. It was a girl — it was Santana — and I felt the shame wash over me like a tsunami tearing down an entire city. My jaw started to tremble because I realized that I wasted these glorious moments of good feelings on a girl who didn’t even matter and now, I was so ashamed and I would probably never do it again. I had about fifteen minutes of feeling nothing but pure bliss… and now I had nothing.

“Santana,” I mumbled her name and squirmed away for all of three seconds before she got the picture that she should stop.

That wasn’t lost on me, by the way. She stopped as soon as I even hinted at wanting her to and maybe that right there was the main difference between what happened with her and what happened with Puck.

“Was that not okay?” she looks at me with the utmost concern and I started to feel bad for making her stop.

I wanted to tell her that it was okay, that she wasn’t hurting me or doing anything wrong. I wanted to tell her that I just wasn’t into it the way she was into it and it didn’t quite feel that good for me and that I was just trying to be nice, but I couldn’t bring myself to say any of that. I couldn’t bring myself to tell those kinds of lies.

“I’m just…” my voice got softer as the sentence went on. “I’m not…” I couldn’t bring myself to lie, but I also couldn’t bring myself to say… well… anything.

Santana nodded her head so fast that her devil horns started to fall forward and I only realized that she was crying when I saw her tears glistening in the glow of the streetlights spilling through Puck’s blinds. “It’s fine, I’m sorry,” she sniffed. “You can go.”

I shifted my underwear back to their normal position and adjusted my Tinkerbell dress when I stood up. And I looked at her, wanting to say something but not actually able to. She sat on the edge of the bed with tears rolling down her cheeks and I just stared.

In hindsight, I wish I would have sat back down. I wish I would have wrapped my arm around her shoulders and told her that it was okay and that she didn’t need to cry. I wish I would have told her that I understood what she was going through — maybe not fully but at least partially.

I wish I would have told her that I’m gay too and it’s very confusing.

But I didn’t. I chickened out. And I left the room.


 

“So yeah,” I look down and focus on the black speck of dirt on my yellow Converse sneakers.  “I used her.”

“Well Quinn, that doesn’t make you a bad person.”

“Doesn’t it, though?” I tuck my hair behind my ears. “She was going through something, she was upset. And all I saw was a way to gain some experience and insight. All I saw was a way to… be sure that I’m… yeah.”

“You can say the word, you know.” She tilts her head and I raise my eyebrows at her as if I don’t know what she’s talking about. “Gay. Or lesbian. Or bisexual. You can say the word out loud. It’s not a dirty or forbidden word.”

I open my mouth to try out one of the words she just put out there but none of them feel right in my throat. I know she said they’re not dirty or forbidden words, but all of them feel like they are. Dirty. And forbidden.

“Or you don’t have to label yourself yet,” she offers. “...We’ll work up to that. So what happened after you left Santana?”

“I went back downstairs…”


I had to step over empty beer cans and alcohol bottles all over the steps to climb down them and I had forgotten how strong the smell of weed was beyond the steps. Everything was loud again, the number of people had probably quadrupled by then, and there was still no sign or Rachel, Tina or Mercedes. I stepped over some girl hunched over in the hallway and made my way back to the kitchen to see if maybe I could find someone who might know where my friends went. I saw on the kitchen island that more bowls of chips and pretzels had been set out but after my experience with the Sour Patch Kids and still not feeling 100% myself, I decided I’d rather starve than take another chance.

I scanned the kitchen and there was no sign of my friends there, so I headed for the backyard but before I stepped out the door, I saw Brittany. She sat on the lap of another random guy and the two of them were busy making out while a group of people around them cheered it on and I suddenly remembered who I had left upstairs on the bed.

And I started to feel bad.

I know I wished that Santana was someone else, but I didn’t hate kissing her and letting her go to third base with me. I wished it was Rachel instead because at least then, the shame and regret that I felt would be worth it, but it’s not like I hated doing those things with Santana. And maybe I could have been what she needed in that moment. She was hurting, that was clear. And maybe she needed someone to take her mind off of Brittany, who was clearly the reason behind her hurt. If I was helping her in any way by kissing her... if I was easing the pain she was feeling by letting her do that to me... how could God hate me for it?

I swore that I wouldn’t drink, but I really needed at least a beer to take the edge off of my mood. Shame was starting to wear me down. It was like a heavy knit sweater that was making me uncomfortable and hot. So I plunged my hand deep into the ice and water and fished around for the certain kind of beer that I actually like.

And while I was fishing around in the water and ice, I came across the same strawberry mango wine cooler I had the last time I was drunk and in this house. And I started to remember how relaxed and at ease I felt when I was drunk that first time. And I started to realize that maybe I liked that feeling the first time because while I was drunk like that, it was the one time I wasn’t thinking about everything all at one time.

I grabbed the wine cooler instead of the beer in hopes of just having that feeling again.

And as I twisted the cap off the wine cooler and tossed it on the floor, someone bumped into me and made me spill it all over myself.

I wasn’t mad when they bumped into me, either. I mean, I actually kind of expected someone to bump into me. Puck lived in a two bedroom house and there had to have been about a hundred people all crammed inside, so it would have been kind of stupid to get mad at someone for bumping into me. But I did, however, turn around to see who it was just so I could be aware of who I should probably apologize to. And I immediately wished I hadn’t turned around.

Frankenstein Finn continued to stumble after running into me, but that’s not what made me wish I hadn’t turned around. What made me wish I hadn’t turned around was seeing the pirate hanging all over him, kissing all over him, making him stumble. Her feathered hat was gone and her sleeves were hanging off. Her corset was a little loose and her stockings had rips in them that weren’t there when we first got here. Her makeup was running and her skirt was a few inches higher. And she laughed hysterically like Finn had just told her the funniest joke except… he didn’t even say anything. She laid on him and kissed him and laughed and hiccuped and laughed some more.

And Finn just looked at me and said, “Sorry, she gets a little crazy when she’s drunk, apparently.”

I clenched my teeth together at the sight of his hand resting on her lower back. But I grinned at him and said, “It’s fine, let her have some fun!”

And I didn’t stick around long enough to hear what he said back, if he said anything back at all. I just walked as fast as I can to the back door and stormed outside so I could cool down because nothing — and I do mean NOTHING — had ever made me feel quite like that before.

It was like my vision had turned red. And anger was white-hot and it bubbled inside of me like the jets in a hot tub. It bubbled and brewed and made me shake. It made me shake so badly that all I could do to control it was throw my wine cooler down on the pavement and exhale when the glass shattered all over the place.

Why couldn’t that be me? Why couldn’t I be the one she sloppily hung all over? Why couldn’t I be the one she looked to to kiss when she was drunk? Why couldn’t I be the one apologizing to someone because she made me bump into them? Why did I have to be gay? Why couldn’t I just be made simpler? Why did Rachel have to be Rachel? Why did she have to be a girl? Why? Why? Why? Why?

I started to wonder if maybe this is how Santana feels all the time. When she sees Brittany kissing someone else or hugging someone else or talking to someone else. Does she feel this kind of anger? Does she feel this kind of rage? Does she hate the fact that she has this big secret inside of her that she can’t let out? Does she hate herself for being the kind of coward that can’t tell the girl how she really feels?

I started to think that maybe Santana isn’t angry at the world. I started to think that maybe she doesn’t hate everyone else. Maybe she was angry at herself. Maybe she hated herself. And if that was the case… then it’s extremely exhausting to be that angry all the time.

I was becoming someone who knew firsthand.

I powered my way back through the house without looking at Rachel and Finn because if I had looked at the two of them, I might have killed one of them or both of them, I’m not sure which. And I walked with a purpose back up those steps to Puck’s room. I wasn’t going to kiss her this time and I wasn’t going to let her go to third base with me. I was going to sit down and tell her that I feel the same way she does and I’m angry about it too and we can be angry together. We can hate ourselves together.

But when I opened up the door, Santana was gone.

And there was just an empty bed.


“What do you think would have happened if Santana had still been there?” Bailey asks.

“I would’ve told her that I’m… that I’m the same as her and that it’s exhausting and maybe we could bond over that.”

“Do you think you would have said the words?”

“What words?”

“That you’re gay. Or lesbian. Or bisexual, whichever label fits you best.”

“...I don’t know. I was contact high and still riding the effects of LSD, so maybe.”

“Well did you leave after that? Or did you stay?”

“I left. Well… almost.”


 

I sat back down on Puck’s bed again and I really wanted to cry because I did wish that Santana were still there. I don’t know why, but I thought that maybe she would be able to help me with the rage I was feeling inside. It seemed like she had been dealing with it far longer than I had been, so I thought maybe she’d have some tips or something. Or maybe she’d just be a listening ear that could really understand.

Though it was dark, I looked around Puck’s room and again and fought off the memory of how I could barely zip my skirt back up the night we had sex because I was crying too hard. He put his hand on my back and tried to comfort me by saying that he wasn’t going to tell anybody and that God would forgive me for having sex before marriage, but I just kept crying. And it wasn’t until now, an entire year and a half later, that I sat on his bed and realized that I wasn’t crying because I disappointed God and thought he would tell people we had sex. I realized in that moment that I was crying back then because I had done something I really didn’t want to do.

I remember picking my underwear up off his floor and trying to piece them back together before giving up and throwing them into his trashcan. And I remember looking back on his bedsheets, seeing a smear of red and uttering an “I’m sorry” underneath my tears. He told me that it was normal for there to be blood the first time and back then, I was gullible and naive and I believed him. At that memory, fresh anger coursed through my body and all I could do was grip his quilt until my hand shook. Things were clearer now, and I wasn’t as naive. I wanted to go down the steps and kill him in that moment because the only thing that makes it normal for someone who has been using tampons for years to bleed during sex is if something was forced inside of them.

I was beginning to think that anger was just part of who I was from then on. I was beginning to think that I was always going to be angry on some level. Angry at Rachel for being who she is and making me love her. Angry at myself for being gay. And angry at Puck for stealing who I used to be because ever since that night, a piece of myself has been gone and I haven’t been able to get her back.

As tears rolled down my cheeks, I laid back on his bed again and took a deep breath to try and swallow that anger. And I found that it helped a little if I thought about the one good thing that came from the night he took a piece of me away.

It was Halloween after all, and I tried my hardest not to think about her, but I couldn’t help it anymore.

I would’ve dressed her up in a really cute costume, probably something to match me. I wouldn’t have been a slutty Tinkerbell, I would’ve been something more wholesome. Like… like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. I would’ve been Dorothy and I would have dressed her up in a really cute puppy dog costume and carried her around in her car seat that I would have decorated to look like a picnic basket. Yeah. We would have been Dorothy and Toto. And even though she wouldn’t know what the hell was going on, I would have taken her trick or treating. Door to door, listening to everyone gawk at how cute the two of us looked together. I would be out trick or treating with her. I wouldn’t have been at that stupid party. I wouldn’t have been lying on Puck’s bed for the second time, crying because I felt so mixed up and like a stranger in my own head.

I began to think… once again… like maybe I would be better off dead…

But I didn’t have time to think that way for too long. Because just as that thought crossed my mind, Puck’s bedroom door flew open without even so much as a knock. And I sprung right up on the bed.

Mercedes stood in the doorway and looked at me like she was ready to throw up or cry or both. And she said,

“Quinn, come on. We have to go, and we have to go NOW. It’s Rachel…”

Chapter Text

To get more settled, I sit all the way back in my chair and fold my legs before I lean against them with my elbows. The bag of Doritos is completely gone and now a container of mini powdered donuts sits in its place. Bailey has little droplets of powdered sugar at the corners of her mouth but I think she’s comfortable around me, because she doesn’t bother wiping them off. I’m comfortable around her too because I don’t feel the need to cover my arms or chest anymore. I’m sitting in front of her in nothing but sweatpants and the flimsy tank top I slept in last night and it feels like the most normal thing in the world.

“What happens if I go over my hour time slot?” I ask, eyeing the donuts. I want two or three more, but I already ate about five and I don’t want to look too fat in front of her.

Bailey glances up at the clock and nudges her glasses with bier index finger. “We still have half an hour for you to finish your story, so don’t worry about it.”

“Well yeah I know, but what if it takes longer than that for me to finish? Do I just get up and leave mid-story or do I stay and finish it and let you charge my insurance? How does it work?”

“That’s really not something you need to be worrying about. I’m not a clock-watcher. Just tell me your story and I’ll let you know when I’m ready to dismiss you.”

“But don’t you have to like, counsel me too? Or something?”

“Today I just plan on listening. I’ll get to the counseling on Tuesday when I see you in school.”

“Oh, yeah. Right. I forgot about that.”

“We have all the time in the world together, Quinn. And today’s been a real breakthrough. I’m not ready for that to stop yet, so continue. I’m all ears. What happened when you got home?”

“Rachel came with me.”

“Really?! And how did that happen?”


 

Saturday, October 13

iMessage

1:38 a.m.

 

ME: Hey it’s Quinn, not sure if you still have my number saved or not. Just wondering if you made it home okay

 

I locked my phone and shoved it into the back pocket of the jeans I put on underneath my Tinkerbell dress and pretended like I was listening to everything they were saying while I was actually busy drafting a text message. Mercedes dumped water from the Brita pitcher into a coffee mug while Tina sprayed Lysol on a spot where vomit used to be. The spot on her linoleum kitchen floor had been clean for about ten minutes, but she still kept scrubbing because she was convinced that her parents would pick up on the smell somehow.

“Give her some bread to eat. It’ll help soak up the alcohol and she’ll sober up,” I said. I did my best to avoid looking at Rachel, still dressed in her costume, hunched over and throwing up into the sink.

“I already tried, she just threw it back up,” Mercedes put her head down on the kitchen table and sighed. “I knew we should’ve put a limit on her. I knew it, I knew it, I knew it.”

“We have to figure something out quick,” Tina was panicking, that was easy to see. She threw the wet paper towels into her garbage can and sprayed a new round of cleaner. “She’s going to wake up my parents and I swear they’ll kill all of us.”

My phone buzzed in my back pocket and I slipped it out while I said, “Mercedes, why don’t we just crash at your place tonight?”

 

iMessage

1:40 a.m.

SANTANA: I made it home fine.

SANTANA: Listen u dont have to act like u care.

 

“Uh-uh! My parents are going to be home like super early in the morning and the one rule they had about leaving me alone was that I didn’t invite anybody over, so,” she replied, trying to hand Rachel the mug of water since it seemed like she finally stopped puking. “Plan B, anyone?”

 

iMessage

1:41 a.m.

SANTANA: We dont have to mention this at all

SANTANA: We were drunk. & I would appreciate it if u didnt tell ppl what happened.

 

“She can’t stay here. My parents will freak and never let me out the house again. Like ever.” Tina finally put the cleaning supplies away and started spraying air freshener all over the place.

 

1:41 a.m.

ME: Secrets safe with me. Glad you made it home.

I waved a gust of it away from my face and took a deep breath as I considered what I was about to say. There was still a part of me that was so angry at what I saw. I tried to forgive her because I knew she was drunk and I wasn’t one to judge people on the things that they do when they’re drunk, but I couldn’t help myself. Every time I looked at her, I saw little glimpses of the way she threw herself all over Finn. I saw visuals in my head of her tongue touching his lips and his hands cupping her waist and it made me feel physically sick. Still, I knew that there was a big part of me that cared about her. It was buried underneath all the agitation and rage, but it was still there nonetheless. So I ran my fingers through my crunchy-from-hairspray hair and finally made my offer.

“I’ll take her home with me,” I said, stuffing my hands in the pockets of my jacket just to appear more lax. “My mom went to some thing with her book club tonight and she probably won’t be home until tomorrow sometime. And she won’t ask questions.”

“Are you sure?” Mercedes picked herself up off the table. “Like totally sure?”

“Maybe we could call her dads and tell them that she just got like, super sick at the party or something.” Tina suggested and I remember looking at her like she just agreed to sympathizing with Adolf Hitler.

“That’s an awful idea,” I shook my head. “I’m serious guys, it’s fine. I’ll take her home and let her sleep it off. She’s going to wake up with a huge hangover, but she’ll be fine. Mercedes, come on if you’re going home. I’ll drop you off.”


 

“Don’t you think that was a big step you took?” The smile on Bailey’s face as she asks that question says everything that I need to know. She’s proud of me, I can feel it. And it’s a weird feeling because even though at least a million people have said it to me at least a million times before, it’s not something I ever really felt. But I feel it with Bailey today and it’s a feeling that I really want to hold onto. “You acknowledged your personal feelings towards Rachel and acknowledged the jealousy you felt at having witnessed her kiss somebody else. But you put those feelings aside and you were still able to remain civil with her. I’d say that’s a step in the right direction, wouldn’t you?”

“I mean, I…” My voice trails off as I let that marinate in my mind for a little bit. I guess for what it’s worth, she’s right about that. I used to be so angry with Rachel for no reason that I shut her out. And if I was still that same person who just got angry with her for no reason, I would have agreed with Tina and taken her home so she could get in trouble with her dads because I hated seeing her kiss Finn that much. But I didn’t do that… “I guess, yeah.”

“I’m proud of you, Quinn,” she smiles at me again and glances at her wristwatch. “Okay, twenty minutes left. Let’s see if you can wrap this up.”

“Okay. Well, after we left Tina’s, I took Mercedes home. And then we went back to my house…”


I heard the toilet flush as I rummaged through my drawers in search of something that she would be comfortable in. I wasn’t worried about anything of mine actually fitting her, because Rachel had to be about two sizes smaller than me. I found one of my old summer camp t-shirts and a pair of old flannel pajama pants that I thought would work. I folded the clothes neatly and heard the toilet flush again, so I knew that she was probably done. But I still didn’t want to violate her privacy, so I knocked on the bathroom door.

“You good in there?” I called through the cracked door.

“I… I think so,” her voice was wobbly, but clearer than it had been all night so I took it as a good sign.

I pushed the door open and looked at the ground instead of at her, hunched over the toilet. I still couldn’t quite bring myself to look her in the eye. Not when I was still feeling so much anger. “Here’s some pajamas. I know you don’t have underwear or anything to change into, but you can take a shower. If you want. The, um… towels and washcloths are in that cabinet right there.”

“Thank you, Quinn,” she cleared her throat and stood upright. She was ready to say something else, but I didn’t give her the chance.

I left the clothes on the ledge of the sink and closed the door behind me before I said something I might have regretted. When I heard the shower water start, I finally let out the breath I forgot I was holding, and went back to my bedroom to get myself settled in. My hair was still damp from the quick shower I took as soon as we got to my house, so I pulled it up into a bun and flopped down on my bed. Mercedes wanted me to text her when we got to my house and got settled, so I grabbed my phone off my nightstand and opened it up to five new text messages.

 

iMessage

 2:01 a.m.

 

SANTANA: Thank u for being there tonight btw.

SANTANA: Goodnight Quinn 

 

2:34 a.m.

 

ME: welcome. gn.

 

Text Message

2:07 a.m.

513-555-8876: Yo y u n dem leave so early

 

2:10 a.m.

513-555-8876: ???

 

2:35 a.m.

 

ME: who is this?

 

iMessage

2:21 a.m.

 

FINN: U with Rachel?

 

2:35 a.m.

 

ME: yes she is here @ my house and she is fine. that’s all you need to know. she will text you in the morning.

 

Text Message

2:36 a.m.

513-555-8876: Puck

I froze when I read his name across my screen, and my thumbs trembled as they hovered over the letters, waiting for my brain to command them to type out a response. I could suddenly feel my heart beating out of my chest and my head started to spin. I wondered how he got my number, but I didn’t have time to focus on him texting me for too long, because my phone started uncontrollably buzzing in my hand and a different name flashed across the screen.

INCOMING CALL FROM

FINN

I know I had no right to do what I did next because Rachel isn’t my property and I don’t get to stake some unfair claim on her, but I couldn’t help it. Tapped my finger on the right side of the screen and hit “decline call” to take him straight to my voicemail. I felt bad immediately after I did it, but I couldn’t help it. I just wanted him to be gone for the night. It was late and I only had a few more precious minutes before Rachel and I were too tired to even be awake anymore. The rest of the night was just going to be us and I wanted it to be perfect without Finn clouding anything.

I pushed Finn from my mind and Puck, too. I locked my phone, tossed it onto the pillow beside me, and closed my eyes. It’s worth noting that I felt completely better and not so groggy anymore, so I knew the LSD wore off. Mom was gone all weekend and I was glad. She wasn’t with her book club and in truth, I didn’t know where she was but I knew it was somewhere with Dad. I felt bad for lying to the girls when I said she went somewhere with her book club, but I just didn’t know how to explain to them that my mother was seeing my father again. Not whenever they knew that he kicked me out. Truthfully, I still wasn’t sure how to explain to myself that the two of them were seeing each other again. Either way, I was glad she was gone for the weekend because I don’t know how I would have explained Rachel to Judy Fabray whenever I was tripping on acid myself.

I started to think about how long of a night it had been, especially considering that it had started with me feeling out of place at a homecoming game. And the more I thought about it, the more relaxed I started to feel, which felt really odd but I chalked it up to the fact that I was exhausted.

So when Rachel came out of the bathroom and walked across the hallway to find me inside of my bedroom?

I didn’t protest at all when she laid down beside me and we both gave ourselves to sleep.


 

“So that’s it?” Bailey raises her eyebrows at me. “That’s everything?”

“Yep.”

“You and Rachel just laid down and went to sleep?”

“Mhm,” I nod.

“So at which point did you need to call an emergency session?” Her eyebrows wrinkle and her head tilts. “I’m a bit confused.”

“I’m sorry to bother you on a Saturday like this, but I just… I needed to talk. You know? It was… it was overwhelming, I guess. Everything that happened. It got to be too much. It wasn’t baby steps like Jessica said it needed to be, and my mom’s still not home, so I just… I came here.” I mumble my half-assed explanation and I’m glad that Bailey doesn’t seem too mad.

“Well it certainly was an eventful night, I’ll give you that. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you calling me whenever you just need to talk. That’s what I’m here for. It just sounded pretty urgent on the phone when you called is all.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry,” I shrug my shoulders and shake my head at the same time. “It wasn’t anything like that… I just needed to talk.” I look up at the clock and see that it’s been exactly one full hour. “So, is that it? Are we good?”

“Um…” Bailey looks at the clock too. Her face still reads clear confusion, but she starts to stand up anyway. “Yeah, sure, sure. We’re good. I’ll um… I’ll see you Tuesday? For our school session?”

“Yep, it’s a date,” I give her a thumbs up and grab my sweatshirt as I head for the door.

And as I leave out of the building, I want to punch myself in the face and cry because that was such a great session. I was finally opening up to her and finally using therapy the way I am supposed to use it. I was finally making positive steps forward.

But I messed it all up by lying to her in the end and I hate myself for that.


 

I kick my shoes off at the door and throw my keys down on the mantle as soon as I get home. Mom’s still not back from wherever she went with Dad yet, which means I still have the house to myself for a few more hours. Most normal seventeen-year-old girls would take the opportunity to have friends over and do whatever it is that normal teenagers do whenever their parents aren’t home for the weekend, but I’m just looking forward to lying on the couch in my underwear with no judgement.

I take my sweatpants off and toss them into the corner of the stairs, then take my sweatshirt off too so that I’m in the same tank top I was in during my therapy session. And freely in my underwear, I grab the entire carton of butter pecan ice cream from the freezer, the bag of cheddar and sour cream Ruffles from the pantry, the entire two-liter of ginger ale, and head for the good living room.

I turn the TV on, grab the really thick brown blanket from the back of the loveseat, and settle in for a Law and Order: SVU marathon.

I think I’m washing away all the progress I made today by doing this, because I know deep down that there’s no way I’m going to eat all of this food and not throw it back up in a few minutes, but I can’t help it. I am without a doubt going to dust off this entire carton of ice cream. Then I’m going to eat every last crumb of these potato chips. And when I’m done with that, I’m going to guzzle all two liters of ginger ale until my stomach hurts. Then I’m going to waddle to the kitchen sink, stuff my fingers down the back of my throat, and watch it all come back up like magic. I know that’s what I’m going to do. But I really, truly, cannot help it. It’s the only way that I’ll feel better about blatantly lying to Bailey. Because that’s what I did. I blatantly lied to her and she gave me no reason to.

I don’t know why I stopped there. I don’t know why I lied and said that Rachel and I just laid down and went to sleep when that couldn’t be any further from the truth. The truth is… the truth is that I am… gay. And I’ve never been more sure of it than I am today.

And that alone is terrifying. Especially when I think about what led me to the conclusion...

 Rachel’s hair drips down her back as she sits on the edge of my bed, fresh out of the shower. Her face is flushed and pale, but I still think she looks beautiful. Her voice is hoarse as she says, “I swear I’m never drinking again.”

I laugh and sit upright instead of lying down, just to let her know that she has my attention.

“I’ve said that before,” I smirk. “But saying that doesn’t do anything but teach you a lesson about your limit.”

“I don’t really remember what happened,” she whispers with her head to the ground and for the first time, I kind of get the sense that maybe she’s ashamed of herself and I want to envelop her in a hug and tell her that she shouldn’t be. “Did I really kiss Finn?”

“Yeah, you did,” I say rather matter-of-factly, and I instantly regret my tone. I was still feeling a little sting over seeing her kiss Finn like that, but I think it’s gone now. Now it’s mostly just filled with the inherent need to make her feel better because she really seems torn up over this.

“Hey,” I scoot so I’m actually sitting next to her and I rest my hand on top of hers once I see a tear fall down from her cheek and splash onto her kneecap. “Hey, it’s okay, alright? We’re young. We’re young and getting drunk like that is all part of the experience. Nobody’s going to remember what happened at that party by tomorrow, I swear.”

“Have you?” Her voice is a little louder now, but still mostly just a whisper.

“Have I what?”

“Been that drunk?”

“Oh, please. I was that drunk the night I got pregnant,” that rolls off my tongue before I have the chance to stop it and now that it’s all out in the open, I can’t retract.

“You were drunk the night you got pregnant?” she asks, looking at me. I just look down… “Was Puck drunk too?”

I bite my lip, wrestling on what — if anything — I should say. Rachel’s the one person I never want to lie to. It seems like the two of us are really rebuilding our relationship and I just don’t want to mess it up or build it on the foundation of a lie, no matter how little a lie it is. The truth is that yes, I have been that drunk before. And I don’t really want her to know that… but I also don’t want to lie to her, either…

She’s silent and I know Rachel well enough by now to know her different silences. She has one silence that she reserves for if she’s trying not to say something she really wants to say. And she has another silence that she reserves for the moments where she’s trying not to cry. This kind of silence is a new one. This kind of silence right here is the kind of silence she reserves for when she’s putting the pieces of a puzzle together…

“He… he wasn’t, was he?”

I let another few seconds of silence pass us by before I find the perfect diversion by saying, “Are you hungry? I’m hungry.”

She looks at me like there’s something deep and unspoken between us and there kind of is. She understands what I just admitted to and I’m halfway expecting her to harp on it and ask me for details and ask me the same questions I know everybody else will ask me if I ever tell them. The whole “why didn’t you tell anybody?” and “why don’t you go to the police?” I flinch when she opens her mouth because I really am expecting one of those questions to pass through her lips. 

But instead, she says, “I’m…starving, actually.”

Before I know it, I’m scraping the bottom of the chip bag with my fingertips. It didn’t feel like I ate that much already, but obviously I must have because it was a brand new bag. The ice cream carton is empty too, so there’s just one thing left to do. I twist the cap off the ginger ale and gulp it down until my throat burns and my eyes water.

And once it’s gone, I roll off the couch and walk, painfully, to the kitchen. I go right over to the sink and rest my hands on the granite as I look inside.

The dirty waffle maker at the bottom makes me smile…

“Hmmm… chocolate chips?!” Rachel shouts over her shoulder as she continues going through each cabinet. Her feet dangle off the edge of the countertop as she stands on top of it it on her knees, too short to see the top shelves.

“Chocolate chips are good,” I stand on my tiptoes to reach the power cord.

“And butterscotch chips?!” she yells again.

“In waffles?!” I plug the waffle maker in and spray it down with some cooking spray.

“Yeah, you’re right. That’s a little weird,” she laughs.

She climbs down off the countertop with the bag of chocolate chips in tow and sits down on one of the barstools at the kitchen island. She watches me as I add water and stir the waffle batter. And she watches everything else, too. Her eyes just kinda roam every corner of my kitchen, and then she turns around and they roam every corner of the parts of the good living room that she can see from the kitchen.

“I used to think that your existence was unfair,” she says it in a way that sounds like she’s kind of embarrassed.

“What do you mean?” I ask as I pour the batter into the iron and close it shut.

“I just caught myself looking around your house and not being able to believe that I was actually in it, having a sleepover and making waffles at three in the morning with you.”

“Rachel, I’m —“

“I was wrong to do that. I’m working on being so judgmental.”

I head to the fridge and grab the half empty jug of orange juice. I pull two cups down from the cupboard. “It’s okay, Rachel. Honestly. It is.”

“No, it’s not. I make so many judgments about people without getting to know them. You know, I used to get SO upset because I thought you were judging me without getting to know me but I just realized that I was doing it to you too and —“

“Rachel, BREATHE. Take a breath.” I remind her, but only because I think she’s been beating herself up about enough things tonight and seriously, “misjudging”’me is not one of those things she should be beating herself up about at all. I find it cute when she does that, though. Sometimes she rambles when she’s upset and she just keeps going on and on and on and on and I think it’s super adorable. I love it when she does that.

It’s silent between us again, and I’m starting to notice that Rachel is like Mercedes with silence. She doesn’t always feel the need to fill it and I like her even more for that.

The waffle iron beeps softly, so I open it up and scrape her big fluffy Belgian waffle onto a plate. “Order up,” I chuckle as I nudge the plate in her direction. 

As I start pouring more batter into the iron for my waffle next, she cuts a piece of cold butter onto her waffle and I watch it melt. For the second time tonight, I’m being told that I’m… unbelievable in some way. They told me once at the football game that they thought I was perfect, in a nutshell. And now she’s telling me that she can’t believe she’s having a sleepover and eating waffles with me. It’s as if they think I’m superhuman or something. But really, if they ever got inside my brain, they’d run away screaming. Something’s gotta humanize me to these people… 

“Wanna know something?”

“Sure,” Rachel nods as she starts spraying whipped cream on top of a square of butter she just put down on it. “Something like what?”

“I used to tiptoe down here and sneak food once everybody was sleeping because my dad always made me feel like it was wrong if I was still hungry after dinner.”

“What do you mean?” she takes a giant bite out of her waffle and gets whipped cream on the tip of her nose. I catch myself almost wiping it off for her.

“Appearance is everything with my family, okay? And I was always the chubby one. And I lost a crap load of weight on my own. I… joined gymnastics, took dance classes, went on weight watchers… you name it, I did it. But once you’re known as the chubby one…. well… you never really shed that image. And my dad used to comment on every little thing that I put into my mouth. Eventually it got to be so much that I just… ate whenever nobody was watching,” I shrug, scraping my own waffle onto a plate.

“Wow,” she puts her fork down which is when I know that she’s about to say something serious. “...I never considered how hard it must be to be you, Quinn. I used to think that being Quinn Fabray was easy because you’re so pretty and popular and… you know…. you.”

“You know most days…” I climb on top of the bar stool across from hers and start putting butter and powdered sugar and syrup on my own waffle. “Most days, it was easy. It was just the flip of a coin, really. Some days I had control on it and I knew how to be a good cheerleader, a good role model, a good student, a good cheerleader, a good daughter…” I take a breath because I don’t know if I should go any further but then I think that it’s okay because it’s Rachel and she’s the one person in this world I so desperately want to be close to. “But other days I got tired of keeping the mask on. And those days, I let it slip. And I made mistakes. All I wanted to be was a good person but it’s hard to be a good person when you walk around angry that you have to hide all the time.”

She reaches across the table and in the blink of an eye, her hand is on top of mine. And I feel that internal calmness just wash over me. It’s almost like as long as she’s touching me, everything is alright. And it’s a feeling that nobody has ever been able to give me before.

“You know Quinn, for what it’s worth… I think you’re a great person.”

“Really?”

“Really. I mean, if you would’ve asked me a year ago, I might’ve had a different answer. A year ago, I might have said that I thought you were just as good as terrible. But I’m starting to get to know you. I’m starting to get to know the real Quinn. And the real Quinn is someone I really, really like.”

Ever since she said that to me, I’ve been replaying it over and over in my mind and using it to try and be a better me. I don’t think she knows just how much hearing her say that meant to me and I don’t know if she’ll ever know. But it stuck with me.

Even as we were cleaning up and I suggested that we go lie down so she didn’t wake up with a hangover, I just kept thinking about what she said. And even when she told me that she didn’t feel drunk anymore and I said “that’s what they all say”, I just thought about how the one person who truly matters to me the most right now thinks that I’m a good person. If Rachel thinks that I’m a good person then maybe I am.

I scrub my hands and wash the sink out after I’m done getting rid of everything I just ate, and I find myself back on the couch.

And I’m still just thinking about the parts that I didn’t tell Bailey. The parts that actually led me to needing the emergency session...

I don’t feel anything and I’m starting to wonder if it’s because Jessica was wrong and I’m not really as gay as the thought I was. If I were truly gay, wouldn’t I feel something right now?

Rachel is sleeping in my bed beside me and I feel absolutely nothing. I can hear her breathing and I can feel the warmth of her body radiating against mine. Our backs are to each other but we’re close enough that I can feel her presence underneath the covers with me.

This is everything I ever wanted. Yet, I feel comfortably numb.

Maybe it’s because she’s drunk and I’m not attracted to a drunk girl. But then again, I’m pretty sure Santana was drunk when we made out and did other things earlier and I was totally into kissing her…

Or maybe I’m just not attracted to Rachel at the moment because she’s in a very vulnerable position and I really care about her too much to take advantage of the situation. But even if that is true, shouldn’t I be feeling something? I’m in bed with the girl who turned my world upside down and I feel… nothing. I feel —

“Quinn?” her voice cuts through the darkness and almost makes me jump. She’s been so quiet for so long that I was sure she was sleeping!

“Hmm?”

“Were you sleeping?”

“No.”

“Good, because I can’t.” The blankets rustle on top of us as she turns so she’s facing me. “It’s hard to sleep when the room is spinning.”

I try to stifle my laughter but I can’t, so it fills the entire room and I roll over so that I’m facing her, too. We’re face to face now and I’m starting to feel something…

“Thank you, by the way,” she says though her own laughter. “For letting me stay here and for taking care of me. My dads… they wouldn’t have killed me or anything but they would’ve told me how disappointed in me they were if I went home and sometimes that’s worse.”

“You don’t have to keep thanking me for everything.” I say.

I’m definitely feeling something now. I’m feeling like I want to reach out into the empty space between us and touch her. I want to hold her hand and never let it go. I want to close my eyes because if I’m living a dream right now, I don’t ever want to wake up. God, I want to be more than her friend.

“Quinn? How did you fall asleep when the room was spinning?”

“I don’t remember,” I whisper, feeling that familiar burn of anger rising up inside of me because I know we will never be anything more than friends. It’s like a flame that’s gaining momentum and trying to burn brighter. I swallow hard to stifle it, to put it out. I don’t know if I’m successful.

“Am I annoying you with all my questions?”

“A little,” I admit. I’m still trying to put out the fire… “But it’s okay. I don’t mind.”

I’m not sure if I really want to know the answer to this at the moment, but I just…. I really need to know. And I’m already trying to bury my anger, so what’s another ten pounds of it added? I already don’t have a shovel big enough to bury all of it so I might as well pile it on… right?

“Why were you making out with Finn?” I ask and if she even has half a brain, she can probably tell that my tone is more jealous than curious and I’m not quite sure if I care that she can tell the difference right now. “If you two are broken up, then why are you making out with him?”

“He told Puck and Artie that I’m a bad kisser. I wanted to prove him wrong and I guess… I guess I just got carried —“

“Why does it matter so much? Why do you care what Finn thinks of you when nobody is going to even remember in the morning what he said?”

She is silent, and it’s Rachel Silence #4, the kind of silence that happens when she’s not sure how to answer a tough question. 

“I guess I don’t know,” she whispers.

Things are quiet between us but this time, it is one hundred percent awkward. She is pondering while I am fuming. I just wish she would stop caring about him. I know it’s way easier said than done when she is in love with him but seriously… he doesn’t deserve her. I… I would treat her so much better. I swear I would. And I can’t spend the rest of my life silently pining after her, I just can’t. It’s going to be exhausting if this is all I ever do and I can’t see myself ever getting over her…

“...Quinn, I have another question.”

“God, what Rachel?” It’s completely dark in my room since we’re supposed to be trying to go to bed, so I can’t see her face. But I can tell that she has one of her innocent looks on her face. One of those innocent looks that usually makes me want to melt into a puddle on the floor.

“I need your advice,” she says.

“Okay, fine.”

“...What would you do if you really wanted to kiss someone… but you didn’t know if they wanted to kiss you back?”

I literally feel like my head is about to explode. It can’t possibly be healthy to feel this much anger inside one tiny body. I want to get up and just walk away. I want to scream and punch several holes into the walls. Why are things like this?! I don’t know if I can do this. I know she’s just trying to ask me questions that most girls ask their normal girl friends but I don’t know if I can be that kind of friend to Rachel. I honestly don’t think I can do this. I tried. I gave it an effort. But I can’t.

“Just ask,” I manage to give my honest answer and I don’t know how I did that but I did. “In a flirty kind of way, of course.”

“Well that’s not possible. So then what?”

“Well why aren’t you sure the person doesn’t want to kiss you back?”

“Because we’re not together and there’s probably no way we ever will be together after what I did tonight, so…”

“Well —“

“I don’t want to be with that person either, by the way. I just… had a feeling.”

“Is there any indication at all that he might be into you?” I feel just a tad bit lighter now that she says she doesn’t want to be with him. I’m glad for that, too. Because Finn just doesn’t deserve her. She doesn’t need to be with him. They will never work out because he just… doesn’t understand what a special person she is. I’m glad she says that she doesn’t want to be with him.

“No. There’s no indication. I think tonight would have been the indication and there was none.”

I take a moment to actually think of decent advice to give her. I mean if she doesn’t feel like Finn wants to be with her then what does she have to lose?

“Next time you have the opportunity to kiss him, just go for it,” I sigh.

“Go for it?”

“Yeah. Make sure he’s not drunk or anything. And just… go for it.”

“Okay.”

Again, things are silent. That awkward silence, too. And it’s even more awkward because it’s a type of Rachel silence that I haven’t identified yet. So I’m extremely grateful when she breaks it.

“Quinn?”

“What.” I say through agitated, clenched teeth.

“Are you drunk?” she asks.

“Huh? No, I didn’t drink anything tonight, I didn’t —“

And what interrupts me next isn't her words. No.

What interrupts me this time are her lips…

Pressing up against mine.

Chapter Text

“But things just get so crazy… living life gets hard to do…” I sing along softly to myself as I drag a comb across my scalp to part off another piece of my hair. I scoot a little closer to my mirror and pick up the straightening iron, careful not to tangle my headphones up in the heat. “And I would gladly hit the road, get up and go if I knew… that someday it would lead me back to you…”

The steam from my hair fogs up the corner of the mirror I’m using to guide myself through straightening my hair, but it’s gone by the time I put the flat iron back down. Tomorrow’s Monday, which means it’s the first day back to school from homecoming weekend and I don’t know why, but something inside of me wants to look extra nice tomorrow so I’ve decided to do something I only do every once in a blue moon and straighten my hair. I usually wear it with a little bit of a curl to it, but I think straightening it might show off a different side of me.

“That may be allllllllll I’llllllll need…” Mom’s still not back from her weekend trip with Dad, so I can sing as loud as I want to and it’s the little moments like this when I appreciate being alone. “In darkness she is allllllllll I see. Come and rest your boooooones with me… drivin’ slow on Sunday morning…”

I had a pretty eventful day by myself, I must say. Aside from lying on the couch and bingeing Law and Order, I made myself dinner. Sure, all I did was boil some fettuccine noodles and dump Alfredo sauce from a jar over them, but it was still pretty tasty. I’m still working on not asking Mom for anything at all, so I washed a load of my own laundry instead of waiting for her to do it. I took a good shower in which I washed my hair and shaved every inch of my body that had hair on it that I didn’t want to be there. I picked out a nice outfit to wear to school tomorrow. I did my stats homework that Mr. Newman assigned on Friday. And now I’m straightening my hair before going to bed for the night.

I’ve been trying to put off thinking about seeing her tomorrow. And yes, she’s back to not having a name in my mind. I’ll talk to Bailey about it all on Tuesday when I see her during my school session, but I’m pretty sure this is a regression. I used to be able to think and speak her name so freely with very minimal internal meltdown but I’m right back to where I started and I am ashamed of myself, sure. But mostly, I think it’s warranted because she did kiss me.

And even though I’m not the one who initiated it, it still makes me a terrible person because she was drunk and I wasn’t, but man, did I kiss her back…

“What the hell are you doing, Rachel?!” Even though it’s dark, I can see the painful rejection in her soft brown eyes as she looks at me like I’ve just served her the purest form of betrayal by pushing her away like I just did.

I pushed her hard, too. 

Maybe a little excessively.

I put my hands on her shoulders and gave her the hardest shove I could muster up with how tired I am. Her lips tore away from mine in the same instant that they made contact in the first place, and the whole thing was something much less than a kiss. It was a peck, maybe. If I could even call it that.

“I-I’m so…” her voice trails off and cracks and for a second, I really think she’s about to cry. It’s not that I don’t want to kiss her, because I do... god knows I do… but not… not like this… “That was just me… going for it like you said I should.”

I say nothing and just lick my lips because I don’t have anything to say and I want to taste the parts of her that remain. I had thought about our first kiss for a very long time. I thought that it would happen in the middle of a dark night underneath a blanket of stars. And it would happen after I had worked up enough courage to tell her that I like her as something more than a friend. And after I thought about that for too long and that idea became too romantic, I imagined it happening after we win sectionals. Everyone will be happy and basking in some amazing performance-induced afterglow and I’d pull her to the side to congratulate her and tell her how amazing her solo sounded. And then I’d look her in the eye and kiss her. But then that one started to sound a little too much like sexual harassment, so I thought of a third one that happens during the next time we hang out. I’d pick the movie this time since she picked Beaches last time. We would just be finishing up Pretty Woman or Miss Congeniality or Girl, Interrupted and she’d be riding the high of watching one of my favorite movies. And then I’d tell her that I’m sorry for the way I treated her and she’d tell me it’s okay and then I’d lean in and kiss her.

My point is, I had a lot of different ideas for how our first kiss was going to go and none of those scenarios included either of us being drunk. And we only get one first kiss. One first kiss to look back on and remember with a smile. And she ruined it. She wrecked it all and threw our one and only chance out the window. How could she…?

“Do you hate me now?” She whispers into the space between us.

Her question catches me off guard because I didn’t even consider the possibility of being angry with her. Disappointed, yeah. Sad, yeah. But angry? The thought never even crossed my mind.

“No,” I shake my head. “But I think that you —“

I don’t even get a chance to say what it was that I was about to say, because just like the first time about ninety seconds ago, her lips are on mine again. Harder this time, too. Like… like she’s hungry and yearning for me to be hungry along with her.

And I want to be strong enough, I do. I want to be the pillar of strength between the two of us. I want to know that she’s drunk and be responsible enough to reject her and not take advantage of this situation, but I’m not. I’m not that strong and I’m not that responsible and I can’t force myself to act like this isn’t the one thing I’ve been holding on for.

Even on my darkest days…

The days where I miss my daughter so much that my heart physically hurts and I don’t feel like I can keep existing in that kind of pain. The days where I look at Puck and feel myself tearing away from my conscience the way he tore away at my body that night. The days where my mother sneaks off to spend time with my father and I want to be happy for her because it seems like he’s making her happy again, but I can’t be happy for her because all I see when she takes him back is the way his hands made her lip bleed on more than one occasion. And the days where I hate myself and my existence so much that I just don’t feel like I deserve anything — including food. 

Even on days as dark as those, the one thing that kept me going was the idea that maybe someday I could know what her lips feel like underneath my own.

How is anyone supposed to be strong enough to reject that?

Our lips stay closed at first, but I still take in how hers feel. They’re smooth, like gliding against freshly lotioned skin. And she kissed me so suddenly that I didn’t have time to turn my head, so our noses are touching but even her nose is soft. We stay the way we are, just pressed up against each other, for a moment. And just when I think that maybe this is all we’ll ever do and I can rationalize that, she pushes her lips against mine harder. And I take that as a sign that maybe she’s ready to move a little further.

I part my lips just slightly so she can get the hint, and she does. She opens her mouth too and we linger just like that for a few seconds, wondering which one is going to be brave enough to make the move. I want to… god knows I want to… but a wave of nervousness just washed over me like nothing I’ve ever felt before.

We’ll never come back from this. Once we do this, our relationship is forever changed. We can never go back to being the kind of friends who hole up in her room and watch Beaches, or the kind of friends who offer to do makeup to match the slutty pirate costume. Once we do this, the toothpaste has officially been squeezed out of the tube and we can’t push it back in…

Her tongue slowly peeks out of her mouth and the second I feel it cross over into my mouth, I lose all control.

My tongue pushes against hers and they meet in a crash; a kaleidoscope explosion of feelings all over both our bodies. In this moment, as our tongues swirl and chase each other around our mouths, it feels like the rest of the world is silently sleeping. Everything around us is hushed. But the two of us are loud as can be. The world is black and white and she and I are the only things in bright, bold colors.

Her mouth opens wider, drawing me in. I pull away from her for just a second so I can catch my breath, but she doesn’t let me. She follows my movement, wanting to hold onto my kiss like it’s something she cherishes. She draws closer and closer until my head is smashed down into my pillow as far as it can go, and I let her take the lead. I’m a little surprised when her hands find their way to my body. One lays on my hip, her palms graze the parts of my skin that aren’t covered by my t-shirt or pajama pants. The other rests on my cheek.

I wait for it to feel wrong.

I wait for the guilt and the shame and the regret to fill me up and swallow me whole the way it did when I kissed Santana. I wait and I wait and I wait. And it never comes.

Even when my palms rest at the nape of her neck and my fingers curl through the tufts of her hair that are still damp from her shower, the guilt never comes. And it starts to feel like some of the choreography we have to learn in Glee club sometimes, the way our movements just flow. She wraps her hand further around my waist and I pull her face closer because even though her tongue is so deep in my mouth, I still want more and more and I’m starting to think that even if I had every part of her, it wouldn’t be enough.

She lifts my t-shirt up just slightly and I don’t usually sleep in a bra but I really am glad that I put a sports one on tonight because if she pulls my shirt up any further, my chest will surely be out. Her fingers trace my navel then wrap around to the skin on my back and I pull away again, just to catch my breath. Her fingers dance around the rim of my t-shirt until I get the picture that she wants me to take it off and I happily oblige. I lean up and pull my shirt over my head.

And even though it’s dark in my room and I can’t see much, I can feel her movements and I know that she takes her shirt off too. Only, unlike me, she didn’t have a bra to put on. And I want to look, I do. I really really want to look at her and make the best of this moment because it honestly may never happen again, but I don’t. I want to respect her and while she has no bra on and I do, we are not equal. So I put my hands on her shoulders and pull her back in for another kiss.

Part of me thinks that I never stopped hallucinating from those Sour Patch Kids. As she takes the lead again and rolls me onto my back, I’m almost sure I never stopped hallucinating.

I part my legs a little so she can lie between them while we kiss and I don’t have to think about what I want to do next, it just comes to me. I peel my lips away from hers and move on to kiss her neck. She smells like soap and conditioner and every time I inhale the scent of her, I become a little more delirious. I move my lips down to her collarbone and she bites her bottom lip to hold back a hushed moan.

“Should we stop?” She whispers to me, completely out of breath.

And for a moment, I think I’m going to say no. But when she talks, I can still kind of smell the strong fruitiness of the alcohol on her breath. Even past the scent of Belgian waffles and whipped cream and chocolate chips, the alcohol is still there…

I went and slept in my mother’s room after that. I told her that she was right and we should stop because she was drunk and I thought it would be awkward between the two of us, but it wasn’t. She clutched my blankets to her bare chest and grabbed her shirt from the floor where she tossed it and put it back on. I put mine back on, too. And told her that I’d see her in the morning. She asked me where I was going and I told her that I was going to sleep in my mom’s bed to give her more room but the truth was that I needed to separate beds because I had all these feelings racing through me. I had all this anticipation and heat building up in me the way Santana said it was supposed to. And I knew that if she had reached over again in the middle of the night and so much as touched me, it would go further than just a heavy makeout session without our shirts on. I wasn’t strong enough to rebuff her a second time.

I’m not sure how much of last night she actually remembers because we didn’t mention it. I woke up this morning and looked at the clock on mom’s nightstand and saw that it was 11:30. And then I remembered that I had her across the hall in my room. So I grabbed my phone and I texted her to see if she was up yet and she responded that she was.

In those few hazy moments between me being half-awake and then fully awake, I couldn’t remember if what happened last night was real. It was a crazy night, filled with me ingesting LSD and making out with Santana and I started to think that maybe what happened with me and her was just some sort of dream. But I rolled out of Mom’s bed and walked down to the hall to the bathroom and when I looked in the mirror, my shirt was on backwards. And I knew then that what happened between me and her was very real.

We didn’t mention it, though. I went to my bedroom and found her lying in bed scrolling through her phone and I laid down beside her with my head on the same pillow and watched her. We went through her Facebook timeline together until I finally asked if she wanted breakfast. And then we ate some of those frozen pancakes that come in the plastic baggie. And we watched the Lifetime Movie channel until she decided it was time for her to go home so her dads wouldn’t worry. And that was it. No mention of us kissing, no mention of our shirts being off.

I am nervous to see her tomorrow after knowing what we did, but I’m also kind of banking on her not remembering. She was drunk, after all. I can’t remember exactly how long it took for me to start remembering what happened the night me and Puck did what we did. It came back in bits and pieces and it took a really long time.

“In darkness she is allllll I see…” I’m on my last section of hair to straighten and it seems fitting because it’s the last part of the song. I can’t hear because my headphones are still in my ears, but I see through my mirror that my door is slowly swinging open.

I rip my headphones out of my ears and turn around so quickly that my knee hits my mirror.

“Get out,” I say just as quickly as I turned around.

“Was that you singing?” She pushes my door open all the way and comes inside even though I just told her to get out. “You sound really good Quinnie, are you practicing for… choir club or whatever it’s called?”

“It’s called Glee club and I told you to get out.”

“I remember you and Frannie used to sing that song in on Sunday mornings while I made lunch when we got back from church. You remember that? You used to sit on the counter and help me put butter on the slices of bread for the grilled cheese. Remember?” 

She sits down on my bed and crosses her legs. She’s still dressed up so she must have just gotten home. Her hair is just as blonde as mine and it’s pulled up into a very elegant looking bun with pieces of hair left out and curled at her sideburns. Her dress is olive green and sparkly with a low-cut neckline. And she’s wearing the pearl necklace Dad bought her for their anniversary three years ago. 

Of course I remember. I’m not stupid. That was one of the times where I was actually happy… “Yeah,” I sit down on the bed beside her but still far enough so that she knows I mean business. “We used to sing that and some other song… you know, that one… that one that goes —“

“Easy like Sunday morning,” she laughs and puts her hand on my kneecap. “Ah, I miss those times. I miss when you girls were my babies.”

I sigh and put my head down. I miss those times, too. Dad worked every Sunday so he would drop us off back at home after church and head to the office for a few hours. Frannie and me would race upstairs to take our church clothes off so we could go help Mom with lunch. And I had not a care in the world…

It sucks now though because the older I get the more I realize just how tainted my family memories are. Like for instance, Dad’s office was never open on Sundays. So he’d drop me and my mom and my sister off at the home he made with us and speed off to Cleveland to go bone his accountant, Tess. And then he’d come home hours later to eat the freaking pot roast that Mom made for dinner. And I never quite understood why Mom would cry when she found red lipstick on the collar of his suit. Back then, I just thought that she should be more careful when she kissed him. I knew dry cleaning was expensive, but it was her own fault for getting lipstick all over him.

“You wanna know something?” She asked, squeezing my knee. I pick my head up and look at her. “...When you were pregnant… I used to think about how I was going to get to do that again.”

“Do what?”

“Sing on Sundays,” she sighs and wraps her arm around my shoulder. I scoot a little closer… “There was a lot of things I was excited to give her… to give Beth, I mean. I was gonna sing on Sundays after church again. And remember your white and pink baby blanket? The one Frannie used and then you used…? I was gonna give that to her, too.”

“I’m sorry,” I whisper. I think I might cry. But I’m not sure. I can’t tell because my eyes aren’t stinging. “I didn’t… think about that. I didn’t think that… that you would even… I mean, I didn’t think… I…”

“Shh,” she rubs my shoulder. “I know, I know. You don’t have to explain.” For the first time in a long time, my mom presses her lips to my temple.

We’re having a moment. If I say what I want to say right now, it’ll probably ruin everything. But she deserves to know, doesn’t she? If it were Beth, I’d want to know… I’d want to know if my baby was struggling with something like this…

“Hey Mom, you remember Puck? Or… Noah, I mean…” I start and I feel brave enough to say it to her, I do. I feel brave enough…

“Beth’s father?”

“Umm… yeah, yeah, him,” I nod. “So look, when we…” I bite my lip and look up at her. Her eyes are tired and she has worry lines all over her face. If I say this to her, I will break her. She’ll go all crazy and start crying and she’ll wonder why I didn’t tell her sooner. And she’ll probably call my dad and tell him that we need to talk to the lawyer. And she’ll hold me and she’ll cry into my neck and tell me that she’s sorry… if I tell her this… it’ll completely break her… “...I just wanted to say that we would’ve gotten married.”

“Oh, Quinnie,” she squeezes me tight and I must admit that it kind of feels good. “I wouldn’t have wanted that for you. I would’ve wanted you to be a kid.”

“...Are you back with Dad?” I ask her, partially out of curiosity but mostly because I need to change the subject or else she’ll know I just lied. “And you don’t have to lie. You can tell me.”

“Your father and I…” she sighs. “It’s complicated. It’s hard to just throw away someone you love. I’m sorry if we hurt you, okay? I didn’t want you to find out the way you did. I wanted to tell you but I didn’t want it to throw off your recovery. Because my main focus is getting you well again, I swear. We should have told you. I should have told you.”

“Promise me something?”

“Anything.”

“...Promise me that you won’t let him do it again. Promise me you won’t let him… you won’t let him hit you again.”

She is stunned to complete silence. As a tear rolls down my cheek, I look at her again and she’s not looking me in the eye but that’s okay. I’m looking at the scar on the side of her mouth that he put there the time she hit her with rings on his fingers. I saw that one. Me and Frannie both did. And Frannie, like the knight in shining armor that she is, threw herself in the middle of them when she saw him going after her again. I watched on the staircase, shaking in tears. I watched as he pushed her to the side and raised his hand at our mother again, knowing that we were watching. And I swear, I think the only thing that made him stop was hearing Frannie say, “Daddy, stop.”

Sometimes I don’t understand how two conflicting things can be true.

How me and Frannie could count on him for anything, but nothing at the same time. How me and Frannie could lie on his chest and fall asleep at a baseball game and know that we’re completely safe, but the same hands that put us to bed are the same ones that shattered plates in the middle of an argument. How the same man who used to give us piggyback rides out in the front yard could also be the same man who slammed the door in my face. I don’t know how two things can be true at the same time…

But then I think about how I hate her and love her at the same time and I wonder if it’s anything like that.

“Mom…?” I call her name after it’s been silent for a few moments. And I try the tactic I learned in therapy with Jessica. I learned that saying something difficult is sometimes easier when you’re looking at something funny. So I look at the plastic flower on my windowsill that dances when the sun hits the solar panels on it. I lock in on that. I concentrate on that.

“Yes, sweetheart?

Just think about Beth… if it were Beth…. I would want to know…

“...Noah Puckerman raped me.”

Chapter Text

October 15

I think it’s strange how everyone at McKinley loves each other, but nobody actually likes each other.

I thought that coming back to school today after homecoming weekend would be different. I thought that everyone would remember the energy at Puck’s party and get along. Like how the jocks were playing beer pong with the band geeks and everyone in Glee club felt like members of the popular kids. I thought that would all bleed over into school and McKinley High’s clique problem would be solved. That was wishful thinking.

For the most part, everybody acted like homecoming weekend never happened. The band geeks were back to getting their faces shoved into toilets and Artie was slushied early this morning by one of Karofsky’s friends. I was sad because I was really hoping that the world at school would be at peace, but I was still looking forward to seeing Rachel because something between us had surely changed.

She sat with us at breakfast, which was unusual because she usually sat with Finn. She carried her bagel and orange juice over to where me, Mercedes and Tina we’re sitting, and plopped down next to us. At first, I thought I was going to have to excuse myself to the bathroom because all I could think about when I looked at her was the way her tongue felt inside of my mouth. But it was clear right off the bat that she didn’t even remember the kiss, which made me feel sad. I thought at first that I would feel relieved that she didn’t remember the kiss, but I was wrong.

She sat with us again at lunch and I offered her some of my water. She forgot to grab a carton of milk and didn’t want to go stand back in line for it, so I offered her a few sips of my water. She didn’t take it, which felt more like rejection than anything I’ve ever felt. I knew then that she really didn’t remember the kiss and probably didn’t remember anything else from that night. I looked across the cafeteria and saw Santana sitting alone and I almost went over and sat with her but I didn’t because I remembered that she didn’t want us to mention what happened at the party. So she sat alone for the entire lunch period, occasionally sneaking glances at Brittany and the way she was sitting on a football player’s lap.

I don’t get how everyone can just ignore the things that happened at Puck’s party. Everyone is doing such a good job at pretending like those things never happened that I start to wonder if maybe I’m the weird one for thinking that things were going to change.

I was excited for Glee club today, but I’m not anymore.

I just want to go home today.


October 16

I wonder what Bailey is going to say today when I tell her that I told mom. 

I thought about opening up the session with admitting that I lied to her and telling her the truth, that I kissed Rachel. But I think she’ll be more interested in hearing about me telling my mother about me and Puck.

Maybe she’ll tell me that she’s proud of me.


I watch the clock as the bright red hand that measures the seconds rolls back up to the top and makes the minutes hand inch to the right just a little. I’ve only been sitting here for three minutes but it already feels like it’s been an eternity.

I thought that seeing her today would be like seeing her over the weekend but for some reason, it feels different today. Like she’s a totally different Bailey. And I know she’s the same, I know that. Her wispy brunette hair falls just past her shoulders the way it always has and she’s still super thin and lanky. She has the same tortoise shell glasses that she’s had since the day I met her and her calming aura is still the same. But there’s something about her now, sitting across from me at a school desk, that just feels… off.

I had a long list of things I wanted to tell her about but now my mind is empty. And all I can do is stare at the way her fingernails all slope evenly. And wait for time to be up so she can dismiss me back to class. I’ll only have one class left to get through once I leave here, and then I’m off to Glee club. Glee club is good. Glee club is familiar. Glee club is safe. We’re working on our numbers for sectionals next week and it’s been a nice distraction.

“You’re quiet today,” Bailey’s voice is soft as she tries to nudge me into speaking. I’m not trying to be quiet and I’m not purposely giving her the silent treatment. It’s just that I have nothing in my mind that I want to say. It’s like someone opened my skull, plucked my brains out, and decided to keep it. “Is everything okay?”

“Mhm,” I nod my head. Underneath the desk, I pick at the small scratch on my leg that I accidentally put there while I was shaving on Sunday night. “Just kinda tired.”

“I hear you on that.” She rummages through her briefcase in search of something and I don’t know what that something is until she puts a stack of plain white paper and a package of colored pencils on the desk between us. My eyebrows wrinkle and she picks up on it. “For your hands,” she motions under the table. “I notice that you fidget a lot when you’re nervous about something. And I don’t want you to make yourself bleed, so. Draw me a picture. Keep your hands busy.”

My fingers slowly trade my razor cut for a colored pencil. I pick up one single piece of paper and an orange colored pencil and start drawing a pumpkin that looks more like an apple than anything.

“Jessica used to do this for me,” I grin at the memory of her. Man, do I miss her sometimes… “She noticed that I would bite or pick at my nails or my clothes or my hair whenever we had our sessions. She started bringing me things. Like puzzles or paper or fidget spinners to keep my hands busy.”

“That’s the first I’ve heard you talk about Jessica in a while,” she says as she picks up her own piece of paper and a black colored pencil. “Do you ever miss her?”

 

“Miss her?”

“Yeah, do you ever? And it’s okay, you can tell me. I won’t be sad or anything. I’ve heard that she’s an excellent therapist.”

“She was really great,” I stop drawing for a moment just so I can really take a second to think about what I want to say. I’ve really come to like Bailey over the last few sessions we’ve had together and I would hate to hurt her feelings. “I think she was just what I needed in that moment, y’know?”

“Explain?” She doesn’t look up when she asks me to. She just adds some whiskers to the black cat she’s drawing.

“I just mean that… that she was what I needed, which is why she seemed so great. I never had somebody that just listened and didn’t judge until I got put into therapy. And I just needed someone who would listen and care. She was exactly what I needed at that moment in my life.”

“I see,” she nods and picks up a brown colored pencil next. “So. Are we gonna talk about the homecoming game and the party or do you wanna talk about something else?”

“Well aren’t you supposed to be counseling me? I thought the deal was that I spill my guts Saturday for you to counsel me today. So… counsel.”

“Yeah, I have a few things I could say about what happened at the party and stuff but this is your therapy session. We talk about whatever you want to talk about. There’s no time limit on me helping you, Quinn. I can do my job at any time. I just want to make sure I have all the pieces of the puzzle before I try to put you back together again.”

“All the pieces of the puzzle…?”

“Yep,” she nods some more. “I’m gonna fix you. But I just need you to keep talking until I have all the pieces.”

I finish scribbling the orange to fill in my pumpkin, then start to search for a dark green colored pencil so I can work on the stem. “...I told my mom.”

“Told your mom what?”

“...About Puck.”

Just as she was about to grab a red colored pencil, her hand freezes, hovered over the box. She stays like that for a few seconds and I swear, I can physically see the gears twisting in her head as she thinks about what to say next. She eases the colored pencil out of the box and looks up at me through her eyelashes. I hold her gaze so that she knows I’m serious because for some reason, I think Bailey thinks that I lie to her sometimes. Jessica was really big on me making eye contact when we spoke. It’s hard to keep my eyes locked into Bailey’s, but I do it.

“That’s a big step, Quinn,” she tries to focus on coloring her cat but she just can’t. So eventually she puts the red pencil down and gives up. “What made you want to tell her?”

“I don’t know, it just… it felt like the thing to do,” I grab the black colored pencil next and start making a face on my pumpkin. It’s so much easier to talk to her while I’m distracted, I find. “She came into my room last night and she told me about her and my dad, finally. She told me that they’re sort of seeing each other again but not officially, or whatever. And it went well, actually. We didn’t scream at each other or argue. And she hugged me and kissed me for the first time in such a long time, so I just told her. It was… easy, actually. It was like I wanted her to know. Deep down somewhere I wanted her to know.”

“And what did she say? How did she react to being told that?”

“I thought she was okay at first. I didn’t really want to tell her at first because I thought it would… break her? Maybe? I dunno. My mom is just really emotional sometimes. And she’s been through a lot. So I didn’t want to tell her something that was going to upset her when it seemed like she was so happy. But she seemed okay at first. I told her and then she took her arms from around me, which made me feel… bad, I guess? Like she didn’t believe me. She was hugging me one second and then after I said it, she just stopped. And then she got up off the bed — we were sitting on my bed, I mean — and she kinda like… got on her knees in front of me. She knelt down in front of me and made me hold her hands. And she asked me to repeat myself. She said, ‘Quinnie, I’m not sure I heard you right.’ And I started crying. Like, really crying too. But not because I was sad or anything it was mostly because…because saying it out loud made it… it made it feel… like… like…”

“Made it feel real?” Bailey grabs a package of travel tissues from her briefcase and hands them to me without saying a word about the tears falling from my eyes. I like that about her. She never makes a big deal out of seeing me cry.

“Yeah. It made it feel real. Saying it out loud made it feel real, I guess. So anyway, yeah. I started crying and she started rubbing my hands. Real soft like she would have done if I was still a toddler or something. And she was all ‘Are you sure?’ And that kind of made me mad but I didn’t freak out or anything. I just nodded my head but I felt kind of bad because… because I’m not really sure. I’m not sure. I just think that —“

“Time out,” she holds her hands up. “Why are you not sure that you were raped?”

I flinch at the way she says the word so surely. It feels like a dirty word that infiltrates my brain every time she says it. When that word falls on my ears, it makes me feel dirty. And then I want to go home and take a shower but the joke is on me because even when I get out of the shower, I still feel dirty. I don’t like the way that word makes me feel.

“It’s just not that easy for me,” I mumble.

“Quinn, time out. Okay? Time out. I want you to look at me.” Her voice is strong and harsh, like she means business. I look at her through misty eyes and try my best not to look away. “You. Were raped. In every sense of the word. What that boy did to you was rape, and it was very wrong. Do you understand me?”

I look away from her eyes and down at the floor. I pretend to be very interested in my dark and light brown moccasins.

“You were intoxicated, unable to give consent. And that boy knew that. It’s the reason he kept giving you more and more alcohol. You were impaired mentally and physically and you did not want anything sexual to happen. You —“

“But I never said no! I never told him no and I never pushed him away or screamed for help! And for god’s fucking sake, I still talk to him! Like who does that? Who in their right mind still… talks to their rapist. And I smiled at him! I fucking smiled at him and I see him in the hallways and I say hi! Who… does that? Who talks to and smiles at their rapist…? I… don’t get that. I don’t get myself…” I sniff and put my head down on the desk. “But you and every therapist I talk to are so hell-bent on saying that it was rape, and I don’t get it.”

“You don’t get to punish yourself because you’re not the perfect victim,” she puts her head down too so it’s as if we’re on the same level. “This isn’t a movie, Quinn. This is real life. This isn’t something that some movie producer is making happen for dramatic purposes. This is real life. This is your life. And in real life, the girls don’t always say no. They don’t always scream for help. And in the cases where they still have to see their rapist every day, they might be cordial. Because being angry with the man who did this to them is too exhausting.”

She waits a few awkward moments for me to say something back. But I don’t have anything to actually say. I wish we didn’t have to keep talking about this. I thought if I just agreed and said that yes, Puck raped me, that we could just be done with it and move on because it’s not some big thing that I need to rehash over and over. But nobody seems to let it go.

“Quinn, I’d like to take you out this Friday night.” Her voice is firm and serious, which makes my head pop up. 

I have a bad headache from crying my eyes out the way I just did and I’m just not sure I heard that correctly. “...What?!”

“This Friday night, you and me. I wanna take you out. I know this great Italian place downtown where we could be alone. And then maybe afterwards we could go down to the SweetFrog and get dessert. Come on. What do you say?” she tilts her head.

“I… I have Glee club Friday and I can’t miss. It’s mandatory since sectionals are next week.”

“Well what about after? Glee club is over by like, what? 5:00? I could pick you up around 6:30.”

“I’m going to Mercedes’ after so we can practice some more and I’m probably going to stay over there. I think Tina and Rachel will be there too so we’re making a big thing out of it.”

“How about Saturday? Come on, I just really want to take you out.”

I can literally feel my cheeks turning bright red and I feel embarrassment creeping up inside of me. Is she serious…? I mean I’m trying to let her down gently and tell her that she’s way too old for me and even if she wasn’t, I think the only girl I like is Rachel… and I’m so not sure if I’m gay and I think that it might be illegal because I’m only seventeen and… where the hell is this coming from!? I was just starting to like her… please don’t tell me I have to get another therapist. I already told her so much…

“I’m sorry, I’m just really busy all weekend,” my voice cracks as a fresh round of tears might actually fall. “I have a lot going on with sectionals.”

Bailey leans back in her chair and takes her glasses off. She folds them and puts them on the desk and crosses her arms over her chest. “...Do you see what you just did?”

“I… What?” I’m still trying to figure her out but I’m really honestly struggling here. I’m about to get up and walk out because I don’t think this session is what I need right now. I just told my mother that I was raped or whatever and I really need advice, I don’t need her hitting on me.

“All those ways you just politely told me no without actually saying the word.”

She was… kidding? This was a lesson? ...Screw her! My heart just fell into my butt!

“I’m leaving,” I roll my eyes at her and start gathering my things.

“Sit down, Quinn. We still have twenty minutes left. You can be mad at me all you want but I think it worked, didn’t it?”

“Whatever,” I mumble.

“I asked you out and you told me no. You didn’t expressly say the word ‘no’, but you told me over and over that you didn’t want to go out with me. Did you not? There are a thousand ways to say no. Just because you weren’t crying and begging him to stop doesn’t mean that your ‘no’ was any less effective. You’re putting the blame on yourself and that’s not fair. I won’t let you do that. It’s not up to you to make sure you don’t get raped. It was up to Noah to not rape you. When you asked him to just go back to kissing, that should have been his flag to stop.”

“I know…” I whisper.

“You know?”

“...I mean, yeah. I went through all of this already with Jessica and… and I know what happened with Puck was wrong. I know the sex we had was —“

“The rape.”

“Huh?”

“Stop calling it sex. If you’re ever going to make it through this, you have to call it what it was.”

“Oh. Well… the… rape. I know it was bad and it was wrong. But… but I just don’t want that to be me. You know? I told my mom because I thought she should know. Jessica told me I could tell her whenever I felt like it was a good time and it felt like a good time to tell her, so I did. And I want to tell my friends, too. Tina and Mercedes. Rachel… I think Rachel already knows, kind of. She put the pieces together. But I don’t want that to be me. I don’t want that to be all everyone sees when they look at me. And I think that’s all my mom sees now.”

“I don’t think that’s true.”

“It is! Mom’s been just looking at me randomly since I told her. She got on her knees in front of me and asked me to repeat myself and I did. I told her again. I said the words out loud. I said ‘Noah Puckerman raped me’ and put her face into my lap and started crying. But she pulled it together so I thought she was fine, but then she went down to the kitchen and made me donuts. The kind that you make from the can of biscuits. She only made them when we were sick when I was little and she made them again and I don’t want donuts, okay?! I don’t want donuts. I just want her to know that I was raped and I want her to keep treating me the way she’s always been. Because if she keeps making me donuts and touching my hair at random moments and constantly asking me if I’m okay or having secret phone calls in the hallway with my dad or driving me to school or SLEEPING IN THE BED WITH ME, all I’m going to do is remember that she’s acting this way because I was raped and I just want to forget! I want to forget about it. But she won’t let me. And if it’s that way at home… if I’m constantly being reminded at home that I was raped by the guy I got pregnant to, then why would I want to tell my friends? It’s bad enough my mom looks at me like I’m a baby bird about to break its wings now. Why would I want my friends to look at me like that too?”

“So you’re going to hold it in? You’re going to hold it in because you don’t want the people who love you to hurt for you? Because that’s what they’re doing, Quinn. They’re hurting for you. I know you said this topic is off limits, but I’m supposed to help you and I can’t help you if there are things that we need to talk about but you won’t allow me to talk about.”

“Don’t you dare,” I speak to her through clenched teeth because I already know who she’s about to ask about. And I’m making progress in therapy, I can feel that. I feel so much lighter after talking to Bailey these days and there are some things that I want to bottle up the way I did before I went to Pennsylvania, but I don’t bottle them up anymore. I talk to her about them. So I know I’m making progress. But I’m not ready to talk about her yet, I can’t handle talking about her. I can only handle one thing at a time. “I mean it, I swear to god I’ll leave.”

“If your daughter had just told you that she was raped —“

“I’m leaving and I mean it this time,” I stand up and pick up the books I brought here because I was so excited to see Bailey today that I didn’t stop at my locker to drop them off. “I’ll see you next week. And sorry about my language today.”


 

October 16

I’m going to call Bailey tomorrow and ask if we can have another session on Saturday.

I feel bad for the way things ended today because it’s not her fault that my head is so messed up that I get angry when I can’t get control over it. I don’t think she’s going to hold a grudge for the way I slammed out of our session today, but I know that she’s going to ask about Beth next session and I guess that’s okay. Now that I’m calmed down over the initial reaction of talking about her, I’m willing to try.

Yesterday was a whirlwind. I told mom about what happened between me and Puck that Puck raped me and ever since then, she’s been acting weird. She’s been checking on me at random moments throughout the day and she’s been asking me if I’m okay more than usual. I keep telling her that I’m okay and I thought maybe I’d feel bad for lying to her about me being okay but I realize that it doesn’t really feel like a lie to say that. The truth is that I am okay. I’m not perfect, but I’m fine right now which is more than I can usually say about myself. She dropped me off at school yesterday and waited in the parking lot until I got in. It’s almost like she thinks that Puck is going to do it again and she can stop it this time, which feels weird. She let me take my car to school today but I could tell that she was upset about not dropping me off. She tried to sleep in the bed with me again last night but I told her that I was fine and needed my space and she let me. It was just weird because after I told her about it on Sunday, she cried for a few minutes and then she held me. And I wanted to tell her to get off of me, but it kind of felt good the way she was holding me so I let it go. And we fell asleep just like that. She didn’t change out of her dress and she didn’t take her makeup off. She just laid in my bed with me with her arms around my waist all night and when I woke up Monday morning for school, I could tell that she cried herself to sleep. I fell asleep before her so I didn’t hear it, but the mascara streaks on her cheeks told the story.

Bailey told me that she’s just acting so strangely because she’s hurting for me and I guess that makes sense. I want her to act normal. I didn’t tell her just so she could act weird about me and I didn’t tell her because I wanted sympathy. I told her because I wanted her to know this about me just so she could understand why I’m not always jumping to see Puck. I want her to act like I never told her a thing but she’s not and though it’s kind of annoying, I’m trying to understand it because I don’t know how I would react had it been Beth who told me something so ugly.

Does it make me crazy if I don’t want Puck to go to jail? I know that it probably won’t ever happen because I don’t ever want to press charges (I’m not even sure if I can. It’s been so long) and I don’t want him to get into trouble. Doesn’t that make me crazy? Shouldn’t a sane person want their rapist to be punished? Maybe I’m insane after all.

Today in glee club, Rachel sat next to Finn again and I’ve been holding back tears ever since then. I thought for sure that I meant something to her, so I kept the seat beside me open and she didn’t even sit in it. I did, however, notice that she pushed him away when he tried to put his arm around her. I’m not sure what that means, though.

I tried to talk to Santana today, too. But she just ignored me.

I’m starting to think that Puck’s party was all just a figment of my imagination.

I invited Mercedes over today to cheer myself up. I wanted to invite rachel over too, but I thought that it might hurt too much so I stuck to just Mercedes.


 

“What did you get for number three?” Mercedes asks.

I put my calculator down and flip the page of my notebook back to the previous one where number three’s answer is. “I got 54. But I could be wrong.”

“I got 53, but the answer can’t be an odd number so I think you’re right.” She erases her answer and jots down mine instead. “I have something to ask you…”

Oh god, what is it? “Yep?”

“So… you know how we have to pick roommates for when we go to Hershey for sectionals next week?”

“Uh-Huh,” I nod and punch a few numbers into my calculator.

“I was wondering if you would be mad if I bunked with Tina.”

“Why?”

“Because… okay, look. I know we just assumed that you and me would bunk together automatically because it’s what we do. Everyone assumed that me and you would bunk together. Even I assumed. But Tina doesn’t have anyone and so I was thinking —“

“No, not why would you bunk with Tina. Why would you think I’d be mad?”

“Because we’re best friends...?”

“You can room with Tina, I don’t care. I just… I’ll let Mr. Schue assign mine.” I shrug like it doesn’t bother me but really, it does. Why is she picking Tina over me? Now who am I going to room with?

“Rachel wanted to room with you anyway, so it works out…” Mercedes tries her best to make her voice sound all nice.

I put my calculator down instantly. “Rachel what?”

“We were talking today in chem and she said she wanted to room with you for sectionals. Tina doesn’t have anyone to room with and Rachel wants my go-to roommate so it just makes sense…”

“I have to room with Rachel?”

“Well you don’t have to, but I thought you two would want to, since… you know…”

“Wait, she told you?!”

“Told me what?”

“That we kissed?

“You kissed Rachel?!”

Chapter Text

I have never wanted to run and hide as much as I want to run and hide right here, right now. It’s like ever since I came home from Pennsylvania, I’ve been living and existing in total darkness. And it’s darkness unlike I’ve ever felt before, but it’s not lonesome. It’s comfortable. Because in the darkness, nobody can see me. I’m free to do whatever I please. 

I can eat my weight in junk food and throw it up in the darkness. I can lurk on Facebook and stare at pictures of my daughter until I cry so much I pass out in the darkness. I can stare at her brunette hair and pale pink lips and fantasize about how it feels to kiss them in the darkness. I can be every part of me… the bulimic, the Facebook stalker, the lesbian… I can be anything I want to be in complete darkness like that. Some might call it hiding, but I choose to call it solace.

But now, I want to run and hide. Because someone came in, turned all the lights on, and now I’m visible. All those parts of me that I wanted to lay low and hide can suddenly be seen. All the lights are on everywhere and no matter where I turn, there is no more safe place to hide. That’s what I feel like.

I suck on my bottom lip and look down at my notebook that has a half-answered math equation on it, just to avoid looking at her. I feel her looking at me. Her eyes feel like they’re pulling away layers of my clothing and she won’t stop until I’m naked. And my hand shakes. Uncontrollably, too. I couldn’t stop it from shaking even if I wanted to. Before I know it, my jaw is shaking just like my hand and my vision gets all blurry as tears collect in the rim of my eyes.

What did I just do? What did I just say? I don’t even know how to clean this up. I can’t backtrack. I can’t act like I didn’t just say what we both know I said. I don’t know how to fix this…

“Mercedes,” her name comes out of my mouth in the form of a whisper but it feels like my voice is going to crackle into pieces and shatter on the floor. “Mercedes…” It’s like I forgot how to say anything other than her name. Am I not capable of forming words anymore? “Mercedes…”

“Whoa, Quinn,” she closes her math book in a quick instant and shuffles over to me. And I start to cry just as she wraps her arms around me and encases me in the warmest hug I’ve ever had. “Hey, it’s okay, it’s okay. You don’t have to… I’m not judging you if that’s what you think… okay? Just… just breathe, okay? Breathe. I didn’t know. I didn’t mean to sound… I mean I didn’t know. I didn’t know, that’s all. I didn’t know.”

I’m stiff and rigid as her arms are draped over me like a coat keeping me warm in the middle of winter. She’s hugging me but I’m not letting myself be hugged. And when I feel the tears roll off my cheeks and splash down onto my bare kneecaps, I loosen up a bit. Because letting her hug me might actually make me feel better. I loosen up and let my head fall against her shoulder. 

“You can tell me if you want,” she keeps her arms around me but looks straight ahead and this is just another one of the many reasons why I love Mercedes. 

She remembers how to handle me from way back when I stayed with her while I was pregnant. I remember telling her once that I don’t like to be gawked at when I cry. She brought me bacon with a side of Nutella and I started crying because somehow she knew I was craving that exact meal without me telling her. She stood in the doorway and looked at me when I cried and I got so mad that I cried even harder and that’s when I told her that I don’t like to be looked at while I cry. She remembers that. And I’m reminded once again why this girl is totally and completely and eternally my best friend.

“You don’t have to tell me,” she says, clearing her throat. “But you can tell me if you want.”

If I were ever going to tell somebody, it would be her. And maybe Santana, but Santana doesn’t count. She’s my best friend. I should be able to tell her, shouldn’t I? I wouldn’t even be freaking out about telling her if I was disclosing that I kissed a boy. It wouldn’t be a big deal if I kissed a boy… I would have told her that night if I kissed a boy…

“...I liked it.” As soon as I admit that, floodgates open and more tears just roll down my cheeks and they’re so thick and hot and plentiful that I’m starting to wonder how my tear ducts are even producing them anymore. I’m crying so much I should run out of tears, shouldn’t I? I’m going to get dehydrated.

“I brought her here so she could sleep it off and we were, okay? We were going to go to sleep but she just kept asking me all these questions. She kept asking me all these questions about what I would do if I wanted to kiss someone and I basically told her to just go for it. And she kissed me and I’m just really freaking confused, okay? I’m so confused because I liked it. I really, really liked it…”

“Okay,” she says softly, nodding her head. “So do you like her?”

“...Yeah,” I shrug my shoulders. “Yeah, I do. And not in the way I’m supposed to like her, either. I like her in… the other way.”

“The way Santana likes Brittany.”

“Yes.”

She takes a long, drawn out deep breath and holds it in for a few seconds before exhaling very loudly. Her entire body moves in tune with her inhaling and exhaling, too. It’s like a big, long sigh that she just took, only more dramatic. She says nothing after her sigh and I say nothing either. We both just sit here on the edge of my bed, bodies touching and silence saying more than words could ever. My head has a home on her shoulder and her arm has a home around my body. I’ve stopped crying but having her comfort me feels too good to give this moment up.

As hard as it was for me to admit what I just did, it feels like a ten pound weight was just lifted off my shoulders and thrown into the garbage can. I’m not sure exactly what I expected from Mercedes, but it wasn’t anything less than this. In my heart of hearts, I knew that she wouldn’t care. I knew that she would offer me nothing less than love and support which is a double-edged sword, in a way. Mostly, it makes me feel stupid for not telling her in the first place but it also makes me feel good because at least I’m not carrying this around on my own anymore.

“So…” she starts after taking another deep breath. “What was it like?” I lift my head up off her shoulder and look at her with a wrinkled eyebrow. “Oh, come on. I want details. Down to the nitty gritty. Down to the dirty. I want all the details. What was it like? Was it all…romantic and passionate? Or was it like, quick? Tongue or no tongue?”

“Seriously?” I can’t help the smile tugging at my lips. I sniffle and wipe the rest of my tears away with the backs of my hands. Am I really about to gush? Am I really about to talk about my first kiss with Rachel with someone? Like it’s normal? Like… like I just kissed my crush and my best friend is cheering me on?

“Oh, I’m serious. Spill. I want to know everything.”

“Okay,” I’m smiling so hard that my cheeks kind of hurt. “So… you know how when you’re watching a movie and the boy and the girl ease in super slowly until their lips touch?”

“Uh-huh,” she stands up and repositions herself so she’s lying on my bed now, down on her stomach.

I fold my legs, grab onto my pink fuzzy pillow, and start stroking the fuzz downward. This feels so… normal. It feels like I’m about to tell her about kissing a boy. I feel like a normal teenage girl… thank god.

“Well that’s totally not what it was like,” I laugh and so does Mercedes. “She like, attacked me. So we laying in bed and we were talking, right? And she just like, started asking me all these questions. She was like ‘Quinn, what would you do if you really wanted to kiss someone but you didn’t know if they wanted to kiss you?’ And so stupid me, thinking that she was talking about like, Finn or something, was like ‘Just  go for it next time you get a chance!’ And so she just kissed me! I was mid-sentence and BAM!”

“Oh my god,” she whispers with a face-eating smile. “She has balls!”

“I know! It shocked the hell out of me, too! So I pushed her away and was like ‘Dude, what the hell!’ And then she was like ‘Do you hate me?’ And I told her no, because I didn’t. I wasn’t mad I was just caught off guard. So then she kissed me again!”

“Wait, WHAT?! No way!”

“Way! And then that’s when things got steamy…”

“Was it a good kiss?”

“It was a good kiss…” I look down and blush with my eyes closed. “It was a GREAT kiss, actually.”

“So what do you mean by steamy?” She leans a little closer to me and I can tell she’s really on the edge of her seat with this one.

“Mercedes, I don’t kiss and tell,” I tease, winking at her.

“Oh, bull shit , you’re not about to leave me hanging!” She sits up and whacks me in the arm with a pillow. “Spill! Now!” I purse my lips together, close my eyes and shake my head. “Come on! Spill! Spill or I won’t tell you what me and Sam did yesterday night after Glee club.”

“Wait, back up. You and Sam did something?!”

God this feels so good. This feels SO good. I feel like normal Quinn again. And I really thought that would never happen… please god keep this feeling. I don’t want this to end…

“Me and Sam did something,” she grins and looks away from me, refusing to make eye contact.

“Okay, wait! Wait, wait, wait! Why are you just now telling me?! This happened yesterday night?! After Glee club? So that means you went an entire 24 hours just holding something juicy in?! What kind of BEST FRIEND are you?! What did you do?!”

“I was gonna tell you tonight!” She covers her face all nervous and embarrassed, which makes me laugh. “If you didn’t invite me over I was gonna invite you over just so I could tell. It’s been eating me up not telling you. Honestly, it has.”

“So what did you do?! I know it wasn’t first base, that would be boring. You wouldn’t be all excited to tell me if it was just first. So was it second? Third? ...Full on home run?” I get closer and closer as I list the bases and I notice that her face gets all red and rosy when I say home run and I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS. “...NO…” My jaw drops. “No, no, no! No! NO! You and SAM?! Really?!” I cup my hand over my dropped jaw. “You’re joking. You’re friggin’ joking. You’re lying!”

“Why would I lie?!” She puts her head face-down into my quilt and squeals.

I take my fuzzy pink pillow and smack her in the butt with it. “Why didn’t you tell me?! You wait an entire day to tell me?! You maxed out your V-Card and you didn’t even tell me! You should’ve called me! Like directly after! What is wrong with you?! Oh my GOD! So what was it like? Did he hurt you? Was he gentle? Where was it at? Was it awkward? Did it hurt? How long did it last? HOW did it happen?!”

“Okay,” she takes a deep breath to steady herself from laughing again and looks me in my eye. “No, yes, his house, kind of, a little and about… maybe an hour if you include the foreplay. Maybe.”

“Oh my god, you’re serious,” I pick up my pillow again and stuff my face into it. I can’t believe my best friend lost her virginity! Dear god! What is this world coming to?! “How did it even…? Like when did you decide you were gonna…?”

“I don’t know, it just happened. I went to his house after Glee club because his parents took his little siblings to baseball practice. And we were just making out and watching a movie at first, no big deal. But it got heated and one thing led to another. It didn’t hurt as bad as I thought it was going to. It was mostly just mildly uncomfortable.”

“Did you… you know?”

“Did I what?”

“...The big O…?”

“No,” she shakes her head. “I told him I did, though. I mean, I came close.”

“Are you gonna do it again?”

“Gee, I dunno, Quinn, let me just get my planner out and schedule it.”

“You know what I meant.” I flop down on my bed and stare up at the ceiling, taking the moment of normalcy in. I missed this. I missed having girl talks with my best friend. Maybe I do have a friendship like the one in Beaches after all… “Can I ask for a dirty detail?”

“Only if you give me the dirty details about you and freaking Rachel.

“Okay, deal,” I hold my pinky finger out and wait for her to link hers inside of mine. When she does, I ask the burning question. “Was it just the usual? Or did he go down on you?”

“Promise you won’t tell or make fun?”

“Bible,” I mumble, looking over at her.

She closes her eyes and blushes again, but she doesn’t break promises so she opens her mouth and says, “He did, but it sucked. It was too… slobbery and wet.”

“Well, with a mouth like that, I dunno what you expected.”

The two of us burst into gut-busting laughter and I know I keep saying it but it just bears repeating. I missed this so much. And I never really thought I would get to this point again. Part of me thought that I would always coexist with the sadness inside of me. I thought that I would forever hate myself and forever miss my baby and the idea of laughing like a normal junior in high school, having sex talks with my best friend just seemed so far-fetched and completely ridiculous. I never thought I’d be me again.

“Okay, your turn,” she props herself up on her elbow and looks at me. “Did you kiss Rachel with tongue or no tongue?”

“Tongue. And she’s a really great kisser,” I rest my hands on my stomach because I feel the butterflies fluttering all through it. I always get butterflies when I think of her. “We took our shirts off, too. And it was weird because I felt her skin all over mine and it was great, but the thing that really got me going was feeling her stomach all pressed up against mine. I never felt that way before. I never wanted someone so fully… I never wanted to have every inch of someone’s body like that… you know?” She nods her head and says nothing. She just listens. So I keep going. “I really thought we were gonna go all the way. I didn’t want to stop and it didn’t seem like she wanted to stop and after we took our shirts off, it seemed like the only logical step after that was to go all the way.”

“So why’d you stop then? If you didn’t want to stop and she didn’t want to stop, then why —“

“She was still drunk. And I’m not into that. The last thing I wanted was for her to wake up the next morning wondering what happened the night before because I know how bad that sucks. I just knew how I felt after me and Puck had sex and I wish someone would have given me the courtesy of stopping like that but —“

“What do you mean?”

Damn it, she caught that. I was hoping she wouldn’t catch that. But Mercedes is a very observant friend and I kind of knew that she would. The moment I said it I knew that she’d catch it. And well… well maybe I’m not exactly ready to tell my best friend about that just yet. Because Mercedes is one person who doesn’t look at me like the sad, pathetic girl who got raped. But I don’t want to lie to her. The only thing worse than telling her what happened would be lying to her after we’re having this amazing of a time. I just have to figure out the right combination of words… I gotta figure out how to say it. Because after saying the words out loud to mom the other day, my stomach’s been hurting and I’ve been walking around feeling dirty.

“Quinn, did Puck do something to you?” She asks me flat out and my lips twitch because they want to say yes, but I’m not quite sure how to get that out. “He did, didn’t he?” My lips twitch again. “I knew it…” she whispers.

“How?”

“Because you’re the one girl in the entire school he doesn’t brag about sleeping with, even though everybody clearly knows he did. Something seemed odd about the entire situation.” She lies flag against my bed again and her hand slips underneath of mine. We rest palm-to-palm until I decide to interlock our fingers. “Were you drunk?”

“Yeah,” I mutter.

“Was he?”

“No.”

“Did you ask him to stop?”

“Yeah.”

“...That son of a bitch,” she shakes her head. “Did you tell anyone?”

“Just you. And my mom… on Sunday.”

She slowly turns her head to face me and while I don’t really want to look her in the eye because I might cry if I do, I think it’d be rude if I didn’t. So I turn my head, too. And I watch her mouth as the words roll out.

“I hate him,” she says.


 

“So why haven’t you and Rachel talked about the kiss?” Mercedes asks me as she picks up a mustard-colored trench coat. She holds it up and wrinkles her nose at it after looking at the price tag.

We’re not actually here to buy anything, I don’t think. After talking about everything under the sun, we finished our homework and the two of us decided that we were bored. And there’s nothing much to do around Lima besides go get something to eat, but my mom made enough steaks for Mercedes to eat dinner with us so we weren’t hungry. I don’t know why, but somehow we ended up in my car and we were driving down the highway singing at the top of our lungs like the teenage girls that we are. And we were halfway through Kelly Clarkson’s Breakaway album before we found ourselves in the parking lot of the mall.

Lima’s shopping mall is pretty crappy, if I’m being honest. Half the stores are closed down and the other half are so understaffed that you could walk out with merchandise in plain sight and not get caught. But it’s something for two seventeen-year-old girls to do on a school night without getting into trouble.

“I’m pretty sure she doesn’t remember it,” I reply, holding a white denim skirt up to my hips. “She was drunk after all. And I don’t really know how to mention it, either. I can’t exactly go up to her and be like ‘hey you kissed me last weekend, remember?’ Can I?”

“I think she does remember it,” she shrugs and heads for the hat section about five feet away from me. “We were talking about you in Chem today and it just seemed like she did.”

“Is that what you meant earlier? When you said ‘because you two, you know’...?“

“Yeah,” she puts a black and silver striped fedora on top of her head and looks at herself in the mirror. “I just meant that it seemed like you two were getting close. If I’m being honest, I was a little jealous in Chem when she talked about you. It kinda seemed like she was trying to steal my best friend.”

“How did she talk about me?” I hang the skirt back up and go for a yellow dress with little red flowers all over it. “Was it like, in a crush kinda way? Did she hint towards liking me? I know she’s not gay, but a girl can dream.”

“I mean, I don’t know,” she puts the fedora back and picks up a New York Yankees SnapBack. “It could’ve been in a crush kind of way but I wasn’t listening for it to be in a crush kind of way so I didn’t hear it in a crush kind of way. You know what I mean? Me, her, Brittany and Tina were talking about room assignments for sectionals and Brittany said that her and Santana were rooming together. Tina started talking about how she didn’t have anyone to room with since me and you were going to room together and obviously Kurt and Rachel were gonna room together.”

“But Mr. Schue said no boy-girl roommates.”

“Well yeah, but Kurt’s… Kurt. The only person he wouldn’t be allowed to room with is Blaine.”

“Good point,” I put the yellow dress back and sift through the rack for anything else that looks remotely interesting. “So then what?”

“So then Rachel was like ‘well you can room with Mercedes and I’ll room with Quinn.’ And me and Tina laughed because we both thought you hated Rachel. And Tina started making these stupid jokes. Saying that you would probably put gum in her hair while she was sleeping and stuff.”

I wince a little bit but I get it. I’ve never done anything to show anyone that I feel differently about Rachel so them feeling like I would put gum in her hair is without a doubt reasonable. I would never do anything like that to hurt her though...not anymore…

“But Rachel just started defending you and stuff,” she puts the SnapBack back on the rack and goes through the t-shirt bins. “She started saying how you’re actually really nice. And she said that you and her got ‘really close’ over the weekend. And the way she said ‘really close’ just bugged me.”

“You don’t have anything to worry about, trust me,” I sigh and wander over to the jeans. If I were going to buy something here in JC Penney, it would probably be a pair of jeans. I don’t own a lot of jeans and I’d really like to start wearing them more. I’d like to start dressing more… “gay”, if you know what I mean. “It’s kinda pathetic when you think about it.”

“What is?”

“How I’m crushing on a girl that’s not even gay,” I pick up a pair of jeans with rips on it and check the price tag. “I mean that just kinda spells heartbreak, don’t you think?”

“I think you’re selling Rachel a bit short, to be honest. Maybe she’s just not out.” She picks up a pair of really cute pink Bearclaw boots and looks at the size. “Or maybe she doesn’t think about things as much as you do.”

“Have you met Rachel Berry?” I notice how she puts the boots back after looking at the pricetag, so I pick them back up and put them in our shopping cart that only has a pair of earrings and a bag of Jelly Belly jelly beans so far. I have my mother’s credit card that my dad still pays the bill on, so we can shop all we want, in reality. “She’s like, the epitome of a straight white girl.”

“Well, so you think,” Mercedes picks up a sparkly silver belt and tries it around her waist. “But I don’t know many straight girls who kiss other girls, drunk or not.”

“She’s only ever dated guys, though. She’s never even shown interest in girls.”

“Same about you.”

“Do you seriously think that Rachel could possibly be anything but straight? I mean seriously Mercedes, get real. You don’t have to try and make me feel better by giving me false hope.” I pick up a pair of sunglasses and try them on.

“I don’t think it’s false is all I’m saying,” she puts a pair of sunglasses on too. “I can ask her if you want. I won’t make it obvious or anything. But I’ll ask her if she… maybe feels some kind of way about you. I just think it’s highly unlikely that she’s completely straight if she kissed you the way you say she did. And sexuality is like… a scale, I think. Nobody steps on it and makes it read zero. Sure there are some people who are closer to zero than others… like some people weigh 90 pounds and others weigh 190. But nobody weighs zero. Nobody steps on the gay scale and reads zero.”

“....So on a scale of one to gay, how gay are you? How close to zero are you?”

“I’d say just about as close to zero as Rachel is,” she laughs and I laugh too.

“Come on,” I say through my laugh. “Let’s go pay for this and then see what Hot Topic has to offer.”

“Alright, I’m gonna run to the bathroom. I’ll meet you at the checkout,” she says and dashes off to the bathrooms.

Still smiling from laughing, I push our shopping cart through the aisles and weave through the racks of clothes until I get to the checkout lines. And my phone buzzes where it rests in the top part of the cart right next to my wallet, so I take my eyes off the cart just long enough for me to grab it. But in that split second of me taking my eyes off steering the cart, I’ve already ran into the person standing in the checkout line in front of me.

“Oh my gosh,” I put my phone back down quickly and look up. “I am so sorry, I wasn’t paying attention. Are you okay?!”

The lady in front of me turns around fast, but she doesn’t seem angry. In fact, her voice is sweet as she says, “Oh, no, it’s okay.”

And all I see in that flash between her back being toward me and her face being toward me is a curtain of thick, shiny, chestnut brown hair flying in the hair as she turns to face me.

And I feel like someone opened up the back of my shirt and dropped several ice cubes down the back of it. The hairs on my neck stand up. And my face gets kind of hot. And my stomach starts turning into a bunch of knots until I feel like I need to run away and vomit. Only, I can’t run away and vomit because it’s like someone put Krazy Glue on the soles of my shoes. So I’m stuck standing in front of her with beads of sweat rolling down my forehead and a stomach ache that makes me feel like I’m going to throw up all over her expensive-looking, white Prada shoes.

I remember the last time I saw her… she doesn’t look much different… maybe a little more tired, with light purple bags under her eyes… but she still looks the same as the last time I saw her…

“And it is to be noted that as both parties agreed, a traditional open adoption is henceforth and ever more put into place with sole primary custody given to Ms. Shelby Corcoran. As agreed upon, noted in the documents signed by Lucy Quinn Fabray…”

The judge’s low, monotonous voice sounds like the way all adult voices sound in those old Peanuts cartoons. The dull brown of the conference room really matches his voice. The carpet is brown and the table we’re sitting at is brown. The bookshelves behind him are brown and the chairs our butts are in are brown. Everything is brown, brown, brown. I’m trying to listen to him, I am. But my true focus and attention is less than five feet across the table…

Shelby’s long brown hair is tied up into a loose ponytail, and she softly bounces the bundle swaddled neatly in a yellow blanket. The bundle stirs in her arms and whimpers and when it turns its head, I see a small tuft of hair that is light brown and curly on top. The closer the hair is to the nape of the bundle’s neck, the blonder it gets. Shelby shushes her, presses lipstick-covered lips to her little tiny pink ones and I feel like someone sucked my soul out of my body through a straw because she actually stops whimpering when Shelby does that.

My chest starts to ache and the nurse in the hospital told me that it’s normal for that to happen when the baby cries. Apparently the baby crying makes my mommy hormones go all crazy and my chest starts to hurt and sometimes my boobs will even leak a little. I didn’t believe her about the leaking part. Well, up until now, that is.

I fold my arms across my chest to cover the wet mark growing on my blouse.

Someone should really tell my stupid mommy hormones to shut the hell up because there is no baby to nurse…

“Quinn,” she sounds just as surprised to see me as I am to see her. God, I really need to throw up. “My God, you look great. Hi!” 

Before I can even protest, she pulls me into a tight hug and I swear, my boobs starts to hurt the way they did the last time I saw her. When she hugs me, I close my eyes. Because I saw a tiny foot dangling inside the cart behind her and when she hugs me, I can see behind her more clearly and I don’t want to see her. I don’t want to see her, I don’t want to see her…. I don’t want to see her.

My heart feels tight. I swear to god my heart just stopped working. Is it hot in here? I’m hot. Is anybody else hot? Why is it so hot in here? Why can’t I breathe? Why is the room spinning?

“I’ve been meaning to reach out to you to set something up,” she continues talking but it’s really just going in one ear and out the other. It’s more like she’s talking at me instead of to me. “I noticed that you deleted your Facebook account and I wasn’t sure how else to get in touch with you, but Valerie — our adoption counselor — said that she could get in touch with you for me and I’ve been meaning to, but it’s just been slipping my mind.”

“Yeah, I,” the words come out of my mouth but I have to choke back the round of vomit that feels like it’s going to come out. “Deleted my Facebook, yeah. Social media just… isn’t my thing.”

“No, I totally understand. I mostly just use it to post pictures of Beth.” Please don’t say her name… Shelby’s mouth continues to move so I know she’s still talking but I stop listening the second she steps aside and lets me get a good, closer look at the shopping cart behind her. I roll my eyes up to the ceiling… and say a quick prayer.

Dear God, please help me. Please help me get through this. Please give me the strength to get through this. Please bless me with enough strength to look at her and keep it together. Please God. I know I ask for a lot but I really need this right now. I really really need to get through this without falling apart.

“Of course,” Shelby continues talking when I finally tune back into what she’s saying again. “We can go through each other if you want. It doesn’t have to be that formal. We don’t have to go through a counselor every time you want to see Beth, we can work something out ourselves.”

I finally stop prolonging the inevitable and allow my eyes to settle in on her. And it feels like a knife being jabbed into my heart the second I look at her.

Her eyes are blue, like Mom’s. That real pretty shade of blue, too. Not like a deep ocean colored blue, but like a crystal clear sky blue. And her eyelashes are super long and curly, she gets that from Puck. And I thought maybe I would hate the parts of her that she got from him, but somehow they make her even more perfect. Her nose is mine. It’s pug, but it’s long and her nostrils are narrow. And her cheeks are mine, too. They’re chubby and high. Like she stuffed a bunch of acorns in them and smiled when she did. And her blonde is blonder than mine, more golden than anything. The sides of her hair are thinner than the top and way straighter, too. The top of her hair curls up in little blonde ringlets like Frannie’s hair used to do when she was a baby. And Shelby’s got her dressed all warm in yellow footie pajamas. She looks good in yellow. Just like me.

Her chubby fingers grip the front handle of the cart as she looks around, taking in all the sights around her. Her eyes are shiny, like they’re about to cry tears.

“Oh…” I start to say “Oh my God,” but my voice gives out and cracks after the “Oh”, so I give up. My jaw starts to tremble but to my surprise, the tears that want to fall down my cheeks don’t feel like sad tears. I still don’t let them fall, however. 

I think Shelby can tell I’m ready to cry, though. Because her hand is gentle and soft against my shoulder and she says, “Do you wanna hold her?” in the softest voice I’ve ever heard in my life.

And I think the answer is no. If I look deep down inside and let myself actually think before I give her an answer, I think the answer would be no because holding her would spark something inside of me that I had to snuff out when I signed those adoption papers. But I’m thinking with my heart and not my head, so my heart makes my head nod “yes” so fast that I get dizzy.

Shelby lifts her little body out of the cart and I can see that there’s a duck face on the butt of her onesie. The duck is what finally makes my tears fall down. I don’t know what has gotten into me, but my arms are outstretched like a little kid trying to pet a puppy that doesn’t belong to me. They’re outstretched with anticipation and excitement.

“Ooookay, Beth,” Shelby’s voice is so comforting and soothing as she hands her over to me. “This… is Quinn. You remember her? You remember how her heartbeat sounds from the inside?”

She’s heavy. I mean, not really. She’s not really heavy. Maybe no more than fifteen or twenty pounds, really. But she’s… she’s heavy. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that she might be heavy. That she might have weight to her… that never… crossed my mind?

Her little body up against mine… I hold her with one arm under her butt and my hand against the middle of her back.

And she’s actually breathing. Like I can feel her breath against my neck while I’m holding her. 

I want her to lean against me. Maybe put her head on my shoulder or something. I want to put my lips against her head and inhale how she smells and just take in the feeling of who she is as a person. But she’s far away from me. Her hands are against my chest like she’s pushing me away from her and her chest couldn’t be any further from mine. A shiny sliver of drool drips down on my wrist and it gives me the chills.

“Ooh, sorry, sorry,” Shelby pulls a tissue from her pocket and wipes it off of me and I have never wanted to slap a woman as much as I want to slap her in that instant. “Teething, so there’s a lot of that going on.”

“It’s okay,” I say softly, careful not to alarm Beth by talking too loud. “She looks like me… like, like actually like me, not just in pictures like, like actually.”

“She does,” Shelby nods. “And like Puck a little bit, too.”

“Can I, um…” I don’t want to ever stop looking at her. Isn’t that funny? How I didn’t want to look at her at first but now I don’t ever want to stop? I peel my eyes away from her for a split second just to look at Shelby while I ask my question. “I want to kiss her… I like, really want to kiss her. Is that normal?”

“She likes kisses and cuddles. She likes kisses on her forehead or her cheek,” she smiles as she tells me. And the way she looks behind me with a greeting kind of grin lets me know that Mercedes has officially made her way back from the bathroom, but I can’t be bothered to look at her. I’m just so… in love…

“Hello, Mercedes,” Shelby nods in her direction.

“Hey Ms. Corcoran,” Mercedes is polite when she greets Shelby back. And it’s not long before her attention is turned completely on Beth. “My goodness Quinn… she looks like you…”

“I know,” I whisper. “...Beth…” I say her name just a little bit louder than a whisper, which finally makes her look at me. And when our eyes meet, it’s like the planets have just aligned and everything in the universe is still. Everything is as it should be. “Hi… hi. I’m Quinn. I’m your mommy… well, your birth mommy…”

Mercedes rubs her finger along Beth’s chubby little hands and makes her curl her fingers. My god, she moves… “You’re so pretty,” Mercedes talks to her in a baby voice.

She seems okay with us talking to her, so that’s good. But I really want to touch her… so I take my hand off her back and run it through her downy soft blonde curls.

And that is the worst mistake of my life because as soon as I do that, she pushes away from me even harder, looks over at Shelby, and starts crying. No, not crying. Screaming.

“Oh no,” I try my best at doing Shelby’s calm voice and bouncing her up and down. “No, it’s okay, it’s okay, shh.” But the more I talk to her, the further away she pulls from me and eventually, her chubby little arms reach out for Shelby.

“It’s okay,” Shelby’s mommy voice is so much more convincing than mine. And I don’t have much fight in me when she takes Beth right out of my arms. “Mommy’s here, mommy’s here. It’s okay.”

It kinda hurts when she says that. And it hurts even more when Beth instantly stops crying. Shelby puts her lips to Beth’s tear-covered cheek and rocks with her from side-to-side.

I’m her mommy, too…. can’t she feel that? She grew inside of me. I feel that. I still feel that. When she touched me and looked at me I felt that. It was like someone reignited a flame that burned out but when it was reignited, it burned just as bright as it did before it was put out. I still feel that. Why can’t she? I’m… I’m mommy. I would never hurt you…

“She’s just not very used to strangers, I’m sorry,” Shelby explains. But I’m not a stranger. I’m… her mom… “She’ll get used to you once we start getting on a regular visit schedule. Maybe you could even babysit sometime, you and Puck. Or you and Mercedes. Or even you and Rachel, I’d love that.”

“Yeah,” I mumble, feeling like I’m about to cry again. “We should get going, right Mercedes? We have school tomorrow and it’s kinda late.”

“Yeah,” Mercedes nods, picking up on my energy. I love it when we have unspoken moments like this. Moments where she can tell that I’m a little in over my head here and I’m hurting pretty deeply from watching my baby — my flesh and blood — recoil when I touched her. “It’s late.”

“Well Quinn, here, lets exchange numbers,” Shelby rummages through Beth’s diaper bag for her cell phone but I just shake my head even though she can’t see me.

“It’s okay, Shelby,” I keep shaking. “Really. We have… we have to go.”

I hold onto Mercedes’ hand and pull her away fast before the tears start coming. We even leave our shopping cart full of boots, jellybeans and earrings right in the checkout line.

It’s a little strange, but I feel like I want to talk to someone right now. And that someone isn’t Bailey or Mercedes or even my mother. That someone is someone I feel like would understand me. The only someone who would make me feel better right now.

I want to talk to Rachel.

Chapter Text



New Group iMessage

Wednesday, October 17

4:53 p.m.

 

MERCEDES: Quinn

TINA: Quinn!!!!

 

4:56 p.m.

 

ME: mercedes.

ME: tina.

ME: what?

 

4:57 p.m.

 

TINA: Where were you today???? Missed you @ lunch and glee club

MERCEDES: Rachel u here?

 

5:01 p.m.

 

ME: woke up with bad cramps & a visit from aunt flo :/ so i just stayed home.

ME: what did i miss?

TINA: Nothing really it was boring

MERCEDES: Karofsky got suspended for drawing a dick on Kurts locker lmfao

ME: LMFAO.

 

5:07 p.m.

 

MERCEDES: The real point of me txting the group chat was to pick roommates

MERCEDES: Mr Shue said he needs to know roommate situations by the end of glee club tomorrow so he can book rooms

 

5:10 p.m.

 

ME: i’m good w/ whatever, lol

TINA: Me too honestly

 

5:15 p.m.

 

RACHEL: Hey guys. I’m ok with whatever is decided too :)

TINA: Rachel!!!! Ur Alice!!!

TINA: **alice

TINA: ******alive!!! Fcking autocorrect

RACHEL: Yeah sorry I was in the store and left my phone in the car 

 

5:21 p.m.

 

ME: heyyyyyyy rachellllllllll

RACHEL: hai :b

 

5:22 p.m.

 

MERCEDES: So me/Tina together and Quinn/rachel? That good!

MERCEDES: *?

TINA: I’m cool with that

RACHEL: Fine with me!

ME: i’m good with that.

 

5:31 p.m.

 

ME: we should stay at someone’s house the night before we get on the bus to leave so we can all just go up to the school together.

 

5:43 p.m.

TINA: So Friday night have a sleepover? Even tho we have to get up early Saturday morning? Lol I’m down

RACHEL: Whose house? I’m in but I’m going to bed early. I always try to get as many hours of rest as I can before I have to sing or I’ll be tired and not at my best for the competition.

ME: hershey is 7hours away sleep on the bus.

RACHEL: I won’t get good rest on the bus though…

 

5:50 p.m.

MERCEDES: New plan sleepover @ my house Friday night for everyone except party pooper Rachel

ME: lmfao.

TINA: Great idea

RACHEL: Stop it guys I said I was in just that I want to go to bed early.

 

6:00 p.m.

 

ME: we can stay at my house. my mom already said yes. i’ll drive us to the school saturday morning. just come home w/ me after school on friday so we have time to actually have fun since rachel’s bedtime is 9:00 lol

TINA: Ok sounds good!

MERCEDES: Your house on Friday. Got it

RACHEL: I’ll be there

 

6:01 p.m.

RACHEL: And it’s not 9:00, it’s 9:30 FYI.

I laugh to myself as I lock my phone and put it on my nightstand next to my bottle of water. I lied in the group chat, by the way. And I’m pretty sure Mercedes knows that I lied but she didn’t say anything, so I think I’m still in the clear. 

It’s not that I think they’d be mad at me if they knew I lied, it’s just that I think they’d feel slightly betrayed if they knew that I didn’t tell them the reason I stayed home from school today was because I saw Beth yesterday. They’re supposed to be my best friends and I’m supposed to be able to tell them everything, but I just don’t have it in me today. Telling them I saw Beth is nowhere near as difficult as admitting that Puck raped me and in all honesty, I could easily open my mouth and tell them that I saw Beth. But when I say that I just don’t have the energy to deal with their reactions to me seeing Beth, I mean it. I just don’t have it in me today.

In truth, I don’t have it in me to be alive today. I know that sounds bleak, but it’s the truth and when I’m feeling this way it’s best that I just don’t be around people.

I knew last night before I fell asleep that the halls of McKinley weren’t going to see Quinn Fabray today. I knew last night after I took my clothes off to take a shower that I wasn’t going to school today. I took my clothes off and went to put them in my dirty clothes hamper like I usually do, but I froze. Because something inside of me didn’t want my skirt and my tights and my frilly pink blouse to be washed. Her body had been pressed up against my clothes and maybe if I stuffed my face into the pile, I could still take in her scent. I hung my dirty clothes back up in my closet. Way in the back where none of my clean clothes would touch them. And then I got in the shower, but I didn’t stand up. I sat on the floor, water beating down on my head, and I cried. And I cried and I cried and I cried some more because I couldn’t get the image of my little baby girl snatching away from me when I touched her.

I still had a headache from crying when I woke up this morning and when my alarm clock went off, I really did try to get up and get dressed for school. I couldn’t stand the thought of sitting through twelve periods of honors classes, but the idea of getting to go to Glee club at the end of the day sounded promising. I kept talking myself into getting out of bed. I kept telling myself I would get up in five more minutes but then the five minutes came and went and before I knew it, I was late. Mom came in to check on me and I told her that I was just feeling a little sick today and the good thing about being in therapy for almost killing yourself is that your mother stops asking questions when you say you’re not feeling well. She told me that she was heading out for a little while but to keep my phone on and when she closed the door behind her, I rolled over and closed my eyes.

But I didn’t sleep.

I spent a total of twelve hours in bed today, only leaving twice to go pee, and I didn’t sleep not once.

I just laid here all day, thinking of all the things that went wrong in my life and led me to where I stood yesterday in JC Penney with my child screaming because I touched her...



She was grateful that the sink was made of porcelain, because it felt cold against the palms of her hands while the rest of her body was hot and sticky from sweat. Her fingers were sore but she flexed them open and then closed, just to make sure they could still move.

Her ponytail matched her energy. It was low and droopy, matted from all the sweat that made her curls fall. Her mascara made dark black streaks at the corners of her hazel eyes and the pale pink lipstick that she meticulously put on just hours before was smeared all over her chin.

It looked like her reflection in the mirror, yet something about her was different. Maybe if she had looked beyond her eyes, she’d have seen the life that left them. If she hadn’t looked away so fast, maybe she’d have noticed the way her light had gone out. Maybe… she’d have seen herself leave.

Her jaw started to tremble and she tried to hold steady but one blink of her eyes and they made tiny rivers all down her cheeks. She hung her head and looked down into the drain as it swallowed her black tear, then moved her sore toes. Scrunched them along the fluffy brown rug beneath her feet, pressed them down to feel the softness.

She could still feel his hands on her chest, his hips colliding into hers. She could still hear his groans of murmured pleasure, taste his sweat on her lips. If she closed her eyes, she could see the Playboy poster taunting her on the ceiling she stared at, smell the alcohol oozing from her pores.

If she had wings, she would fly away. Somewhere far, far away from here.

Her hands didn’t feel like her hands. She was robotic with the way she reached sore arms behind her back and unzipped the red and white pleated skirt. The fabric peeled away from her skin in layers and she wished that her body had a zipper, too; one that would make it possible for her to step out of her skin like a dirty old jacket.

The skirt fell to the floor in a heap, and she flinched at the noise, but bent down to pick it up so she could send it to the laundry basket. She wobbled, uncertain when it came time to take off the stiff vest.

“Quinn,” her mother’s voice followed two hard knocks on the bathroom door. It was a gentle reminder of who she was; a gentle reminder that she had a name.

“Yeah, Mom?” She barely felt her voice as it left her throat.

“I put your dinner plate in the microwave so you can heat it up when you get hungry,” her mother called from the other side of the door. “Is everything all right?”

In her hands, she noticed crimson red stains on the white pieces of the skirt. She looked down at her legs and found more red blotches on the tops of her white socks.

She threw herself at the shower then, and turned it on so suddenly that the water falling from the nozzle made her jump. She didn’t let it warm up before she jumped in it, no. She stepped into the running water and thrust herself — socks and uniform vest still on — into the one thing that would make her feel clean.

“Quinn!” Her mother knocked harder. “I asked if you are you okay!”

“Yeah,” she called toward the door, watching the water turn pink as the blood lifted from her socks. “I’m taking a bath…” her voice was rickety. “D-Don’t come in.”



She had started to forget, which was convenient because she only remembered bits and pieces here and there anyway. She forgot the way his lips were cold and harsh against her skin, and forgot the way his body against hers made it hard to breathe. She even forgot the way his smile seemed to shine in the darkness, and the way his body filled hers up. It happened three months ago, after all.

She was able to walk through the halls again, no stains on her crisp uniform.

She was even able to ignore how her hips seemed to have widened and her abdomen had gotten firm. Everything was normal if she didn’t smell onions that made her nauseous, and she wouldn’t cry easily if she just didn’t watch the Hallmark Channel anymore. Nobody would notice if she tied a rubber band around the button of her cheer skirt to make it fit, and surely nobody would think negatively if they noticed her breasts had gone up an entire cup size.

If she ignored it, nothing would happen. If she acted casual and remained calm, everything would just go back to normal and everything would be okay.

She could keep smiling at him in the halls and she could act like she enjoyed her first time for sure. If the girls asked, she’d laugh and say that he knew what he was doing. And she could make up what she believed an orgasm felt like, just to lie and say she had one with him. And if he wanted to make it official and become a couple with her, she could fake that too. Because after all, nothing happened. She threw away her ripped underwear, washed away the sticky traces of blood between her legs. She had taken three showers a day since it happened, maybe even four sometimes because she’d take them every time she started to feel a little dirty.

She could keep this going, she knew she could.

Even as she sat on the toilet and waited for the hourglass in the tiny gray box to stop flashing.

And so what if the gray box said “PREGNANT.” She could just wear baggy clothes and quit the cheerleading squad, no big deal. She didn’t have to tell anyone if she didn’t want to…



She sat in the chair and watched as they passed around the mashed potatoes and baked chicken and green beans and homemade macaroni and cheese. It wasn’t her first family dinner but it was the first family dinner where she felt like everyone actually liked each other. And she started to feel like she belonged. But one quick glance around  the table — at the shades of brown skin and the honest smiles — and she was reminded that this wasn’t her family. And she could never truly belong to something so wholesome.

“You can dig right in and help yourself, sweetie,” Mercedes’ mother handed her the glass bowl full of mashed potatoes. “We don’t really practice much table etiquette around here.”

“You like macaroni and cheese, right? My mom makes the best,” Mercedes slid the dish her way after piling three spoonfuls on her own plate.

She wanted to cry because for a second, she didn’t notice the yellow duffel bag on the steps. She didn’t remember that everything she could stuff into that yellow bag in the time her father allowed her to was everything she owned. And she didn’t feel like the Joneses only saw her pregnant belly. They saw her, lost and lonely and confused, and invited her into their home…

She —

“Quinnie?” My mom pulls me out of my thoughts by knocking on my door and normally, I’d be pretty annoyed with her for interrupting whatever it is that I’m thinking about but today, I’m actually kind of glad that she did. I don’t really need to lie here and relive all the moments from when I wasn’t myself.

Honestly? I just started feeling like myself again. I think it happened when I was laughing at the homecoming game with Mercedes, Tina and Rachel. It was at that moment — the moment I felt infinite — that I stopped feeling like I was just watching myself go through the motions every day. The night Puck raped me, I felt myself leave. I don’t know where I went, but I left my body and I never came back. I just sat on the sidelines and watched as the shell of Quinn Fabray went on with her life as if nothing happened. Laughing at the game with my friends… well… I think that brought me back. And I’m starting to realize that all the “shes” are actually me…

“Come in,” I roll onto my side to face the door. She opens it just slightly and a small stream of light spills into my otherwise dark room. “Yes?”

Mom pokes her head in. “Your friend is here to see you. Are you gonna come down or should I send her up?”

“You can send her up,” I sigh and sit up so I can turn a light on and make it look like I haven’t been lying in bed sulking all day.

I should have known Mercedes was going to come over, and I’m kind of glad that she did. I knew she was going to come over because she knows that I lied in the group chat about skipping school because of my period. She knows I was down in the dumps after seeing Beth yesterday. She kept asking me if I was okay on the ride home and no matter how many times I assured her that I was, she didn’t believe me. She offered to stay the night with me last night just to make sure I didn’t get myself too down but I told her it was a school night and that she could go home.

I pull my hair out of the messy ponytail it’s been in all day and run my fingers through it. I don’t want her to get worried if she sees that I’ve been in pajamas all day without brushing my hair. She’ll get worried and start asking me all these questions and I’m just not in the mood for that.

I’m still dragging my fingers through my hair when I hear her footsteps pad into my room. Sometimes with Mercedes, it’s best to apologize before she gets a word in. It makes her less hostile when you do that.

So I start, “Before you say anything about me skipping school, I know I —“

“Hey….” she says.

And I already know who it is without looking because I’d recognize that perfect pitch anywhere…

“I hope you’re up for visitors…?”

…..Rachel says.


I suck a little bit of chocolate frosting off my thumb and index finger and nudge the box closer to her so she doesn’t have to reach over me to get another one if she wants one. I don’t know why she brought a dozen and I’m kind of afraid to ask. Don’t get me wrong, I love Dunkin’ Donuts and I can eat an entire dozen on my own. But I’m wondering why she chose to bring a dozen instead of two or three or a box of donut holes.

“Leave it to you to be the overachiever and get a whole dozen instead of just a few,” I say in a half-desperate attempt to understand what she was thinking when she purchased the whole dozen but I said it kind of mean and now I wish I never said anything at all.

“I didn’t know which ones you liked,” she mumbles, stirring the ice cubes in her iced coffee.

The two of us sit on the floor with our backs against the bed. We don’t look at each other and we hardly even speak, but I think the feeling is mutual when I say that we’re honestly just enjoying each other’s presence. I won’t lie, the silence is a little bit awkward and it almost feels like there’s a big purple elephant in the room. Only, it’s a big purple elephant that only I can see because I’m the only one who remembers our kiss.

“I’m sorry if I imposed,” she looks down and traces her fingers along the condensation on her iced coffee. “You know, I really debated whether I should just show up or text you first. I was kind of scared that you’d say no if I texted.”

“Why would I say no?”

“Because I don’t know Quinn,” she sighs hard and her voice raises a pitch so I can tell that she’s a little bit frustrated. Plus her face gets real red when she’s frustrated and I think it’s cute. “Maybe I’m still finding it hard to believe that you’re actually my friend.”

“God, will you stop it?! You are the most frustrating thing sometimes, I swear!” My tone matches hers. “Why do you act like someone is holding a gun to my head and forcing me to be your friend every time we hang out?”

She shrugs and continues to look down like she finds making pictures in the condensation on her iced coffee to be really interesting and intriguing work.

“If you came here to make me feel like crap for the way I treated you then congratulations, okay?” I pull my knees into my chest and rest my chin against them. “I’m… I’m sorry. I’m sorry I was so horrible to you for the last three years of high school. I’m sorry that I was mean before I even got a chance to know you. You just don’t understand…”

“Well then make me. Enlighten me a little bit. Because I’m still kind of confused. One minute it’s like you like me and we’re friends but then the next minute you’re insulting me again and I really can’t keep up with your mood swings, Quinn. They’re starting to give me whiplash.”

“Then you can leave,” I shrug my shoulders. Wait… no. I don’t mean that…

“Okay fine,” she stands up and adjusts her outfit. “You can keep the donuts. And I’ll tell Mercedes that I’ll room with Tina instead so it’s not awkward.”

I’m sorry, don’t go. I just… look, you kissed me. You kissed me and ever since you did, it’s all I’ve been thinking about. You kissed me and you don’t remember and plus you were drunk so I couldn’t even enjoy it and on top of everything, my child didn’t want me to touch her yesterday and I just really need you right now Rachel, okay? You’re the only person who can make me feel better. Don’t leave.

“Rachel, wait,” I spring up off the floor too. “Don’t, okay? I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I just had a really rough few days, that’s all. And I shouldn’t be taking it out on you, but I am. And I’m sorry. I—“

“No, I shouldn’t have come. It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have just shown up here unannounced. I didn’t do anything except make it even more awkward between us. But after that night, I just… I just really wanted to see you,” she whispers that last part.

“...You remember, don’t you?” I sit down on my bed and look away from her as soon as I ask…

“It’s all that I’ve been thinking about,” she mumbles, head geared down toward the floor. “And today… when Mercedes asked me… I really… I really didn’t know. I really didn’t think about it until she asked me and now… now I can’t get the idea out of my head.”

“What do you mean?”

“Today in chemistry. Mercedes… well, she asked me if I was… you know. We were talking about Kurt and about Blaine and then Santana and she asked me about me. And if I was. And I told her that I wasn’t, because it sounds so… it sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But she said it’s like a scale. That people step on. And nobody reads zero. And when she said that to me, it made sense. I had never thought about it until she said that to me and now I can’t get the idea out of my head so I came here. And I came here, thinking that maybe… maybe if I saw you then I’d know the answer. I would know if I was. But I see you and I’m thinking about you and about what we did and I still… I still don’t know…”

Her voice is all shaky and unsteady and for once, I think I can be the solid one. I think that I can be the rock.

So I slowly get up off my bed and walk over to her. She never lifts her head to look at me, she keeps looking at the ground and I’m pretty sure it’s because if she moves her eyes, her tears will spill. So she doesn’t look at me, but that’s okay. She doesn’t need to look at me. All she needs to do is feel me and know that I’m just as confused as she is.

I slip my hands underneath of hers and hold them steady…

“It’s okay,” I whisper to her. “Because I don’t know either.”

Chapter Text

October 18

I would never tell Beth about the starving children in Ethiopia with no food or water or clothes or shoes on their tiny feet.

I don’t always think about the things I would do if I were actually raising her, because it’s that kind of thinking that sends me into deep emotional turmoil. It took me three weeks of therapy with Jessica to learn how to train my brain to stop thinking that way. But today, I’m breaking the rules and thinking about something that I would do if I were actually raising her, and one of the things I wouldn’t do is tell her that there were children somewhere in a third world country starving, unlike her.

Rachel and I didn’t talk in school today and I’m trying to learn how to be okay with casual silence between us since we’re both obviously so mixed up over what our relationship is or isn’t, but I’m not okay. I’m not okay and I just really want her to talk to me or acknowledge my existence but she won’t. She didn’t sit with us today at lunch and she totally ignored me in Glee club. Mercedes tried to convince me that it’s only because we’re so close to sectionals and she’s trying to hunker down and focus because she has two solos, but I don’t think that’s the reason at all. I know Rachel, I think. I know her and she wouldn’t just ignore me for no reason. I know she’s probably just trying to figure out in her head how the pieces of our puzzle all fit, but I hate that she ignores me in the process and there’s nothing I can do about it besides wait for her to come around.

I know I said a few entries earlier that I’m starting to understand how Santana feels sometimes because walking around with this much shame in your body is exhausting enough to make anybody mad all the time. But now, I think I’m really a little bit jealous. Sure, sometimes she has to sit there and watch while Brittany does her thing and makes out with and hooks up with a bunch of random guys all the time, but at least she gets Brittany where it counts. At least at the end of the day when the lights go out and everyone’s not watching, Santana gets the side of Brittany that nobody else does. The rest of her casual hookups gets nothing but sex, but Santana gets the emotional parts in between and she is lucky. I know keeping the relationship hidden is probably frustrating, but I’d rather have a secret relationship with Rachel than no relationship at all.

When I got home from school, Mom wasn’t home. She put a note on the fridge that told me she left my dinner in the crockpot and said that she’d be home no later than six. I swear I’m still trying to kick the habit, but today was such a horrendous day of dealing with Rachel ignoring me that I felt like it was warranted and excusable. I ate every drop of the chicken pot pie Mom left in the crockpot and drank the entire two liter of ginger ale in the back of the fridge. And it burned when it came back up, but I don’t regret actually doing it because I felt better. It felt like every part of sadness I had over Rachel ignoring me was thrown up into the sink along with my dinner and it made me feel good enough to hold on for one more day.

I’m trying my hardest to not be angry with Rachel for not considering how it might feel for me to be ignored for an entire day, and I think I’m succeeding. Mostly, I just wish that we were as brave as Kurt and Blaine. I never realized how much courage it must take to walk the hallways hand in hand with someone you love. Especially if your love is frowned upon by 80% of society.

Mom kept her promise and she was home by six on the nose. The first thing she did when she got home was open up the crockpot to make sure I ate. She was surprised that I ate all of it, but seemed happy because I think she noticed that yesterday, even though I was home all day and stayed in bed, I didn’t eat a thing. Mom’s really weird when it comes to me and food, and she has been ever since I passed out at gymnastics back in eighth grade. She panicked and took me to the hospital and the ER doctor told her that I passed out because my electrolytes were low. That, coupled with the fact that all the enamel had worn off my teeth and my throat had a tear, led them to get me a psych consult and that was the first time Mom had even heard of bulimia. I went to therapy for three weeks after that, Mom threw away all the scales in the house and that was the end of that. She was ecstatic when she saw that I ate everything she made for me today and when she sat on the couch next to me just to tell me “good job” for eating, I wanted to kick her. I decided against it, though. It used to annoy me, how clueless my mom is. But these days, it kind of comes in handy.

I asked her tonight if I could stay home from school again tomorrow because I’m pretty sure Rachel is going to ignore me again and I don’t know if I can handle two days in a row. Mom asked me why I wanted to stay home so much this week and I didn’t lie completely. I just told her that me and my friend were having trouble communicating and I was a little sad. She told me that she was sorry, but I had to go to school and for some reason, I got really mad.

Bailey would probably give me some long, in depth analysis about how I only got mad because my mom didn’t relinquish her control to me like she has been doing and I guess she’s probably right. But I got angry nevertheless and told her that I shouldn’t have to go to school if I don’t want to. That’s when Mom got mad at me back and told me to “suck it up” because a friendship going through a rough patch was not a valid reason to miss school. She also told me that I need to stop being so dramatic with everything because my life is fine, and that there are starving children in Ethiopia who would kill to have my life while I’m dying to get out of it.

So now I’m wondering if maybe my mom thinks that everything I do is dramatic, from giving my child up for adoption to taking too many sleeping pills and ending up in a treatment center. I mean, she must think that I’m dramatic, right? If she said it, she must have been thinking about it for a while.

Anyway, I would never tell Beth about the starving children in Ethiopia. Because even if there are starving children in Ethiopia who have it much worse, it wouldn’t change the fact that she’s sad.

Telling her that wouldn’t change a thing about the way she felt.


October 19

I tried again to stay home this morning, but my mother really wouldn’t let me.

When my alarm went off, my eyes shot open and I woke with a very heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach. I felt nauseous when I got out of bed, so I went downstairs to where my mom was sitting at the kitchen island making coffee, and asked her again if I could stay home. She slammed her coffee mug down and said “dammit Quinn, I said no. You are going to school and that’s final and I don’t want to hear another word about it.” I stomped upstairs and slammed my door and flung my clothes all over the floor while I tried to find an outfit to wear. The heaviness in my stomach didn’t go away.

I thought that maybe I was feeling so uneasy because a part of me knew that Rachel wasn’t going to talk to me again today and I didn’t want to face her with that knowledge. And I didn’t really want to be around Mercedes or Tina or anybody in Glee club, for that matter. I wanted to spend another day alone in bed doing nothing while I waited for Rachel to decide it’s okay to talk to me again.

On the drive to school, I kept replaying the last time we talked over and over in my head, trying to think of something wrong that I could have possibly said. The last thing I told her was that I was just as confused as she was. I said “I don’t know either” as I held her hands. She looked at me with tears misting in her eyes — my favorite eyes — and told me that she needs time to figure it out. I told her that she could take as long as she needs and that I would wait for her. I leaned in to kiss her because it just seemed like the natural next step, but she pulled away. She took her hands out of mine and told me that she was “so confused” before she left. Maybe I came on too strong when I told her that I would wait for her to figure it out, but I meant it. Rachel is the kind of girl worth waiting for, I know she is.

When I got to school, the air felt as heavy as my stomach. The cafeteria, which is usually bustling with noise and conversations that run together, was so silent that we could actually hear the morning announcements. And everybody’s heads were kind of low. And nobody looked each other in the eye. And everybody stayed kind of close.

I whispered to ask Mercedes what happened, because I’m apparently the only one in school without a Facebook account at the moment, and she finally told me that Karofsky’s dad found him hanging in his closet last night. Noose around the neck. Feet dangling. It didn’t feel real when she said that to me and it didn’t start to feel real until Figgins got on the loudspeaker and announced that grief counselors would be available in the auditorium all day today, and Coach Beiste is planning a ceremony to retire his football jersey for next Friday. If anyone wants to plan to speak at the service, let her know directly. Mr. Schue cancelled Glee club today so that those of us who needed to see the grief counselors could find the time to attend.

I haven’t stopped thinking about it all day. I haven’t stopped thinking about what his father must have felt to walk in and see his son’s body like that. I can’t imagine what his final moments must have been like. Nobody knew he was struggling that bad but he must have been because he actually went through with it. Whatever pain he was in, he needed it to go away that badly. And it’s sort of scary, because I know exactly how Karofsky must have felt…

I knew I shouldn’t have gone to school today. Something deep in the pit of my stomach told me that I shouldn’t.

And I blame my mother for not listening to it.


I put one small spoonful of peas — the smallest spoonful I can manage — onto my plate and move to the baking dish full of meatloaf. Mom’s already sitting at the dining room table with a full plate, but she’s waiting for me to join her before she actually starts eating.

She insisted that we eat together tonight, and she insisted that we eat in the dining room with the good silverware and no cell phones. I’m halfway expecting her to announce that my father is moving back in sometime this week or maybe even that she’s pregnant again at the ripe old age of 53 because I can’t think of any other reason why she’d want to eat in the dining room with the good china when we usually eat off plastic plates and sit in front of the TV.

I’ve already planned this out, too, because I kind of saw this coming a mile away. Mom doesn’t lie about when she’s out spending time with Dad anymore. She tells me the truth and she’s been telling me that they’re going out more often lately. I knew it was only a matter of time before he asked to move back in, because he does own the house after all and he still pays the mortgage on it. So I already planned out how I’m going to go to Mercedes and ask if I can stay with her again. I know the Joneses would say yes because I do think they enjoyed having me, and I could be all moved in by Sunday. That gives me two days to pack up everything I’ll need and move it about six minutes away to the Joneses house. I can do it. And I’ll make it in enough time to go to school on Monday, too.

With my plate in tow, I sit in the place across from Mom at the table, and bow my head while she “blesses the food for the nourishment of our bodies.” I’ll probably cry or something when she actually opens her mouth to tell me that she’s letting Dad move back in, but I will say that she has guts. I don’t think I’d ever have enough balls to sit in front of Beth and tell her that I’m taking her father back after all the horrible things he’d done to us. It’s just not the kind of thing I’d make my daughter sit down at the table with the good china to tell her.

“So how was school?” She smooths a cloth napkin over her dark brown dress pants and scoots her chair closer to the table. “And how was choir club? Anything cool? New? Exciting?”

Just to avoid looking at her, I try to stab a pea with each of the tines of my fork. “It’s Glee club,” I correct her for the millionth time. “And it was fine. We’re just working on things for sectionals next Saturday.”

“Oh, that’s right. You’re going to Hershey next weekend with the club. Remind me before you leave. I’ll put some money into your account. I want you to be comfortable out there.” She sips some white wine from a fancy glass and wipes her mouth with another cloth napkin.

“Thanks.” I spear one more pea with the last tine then hold it to my mouth. “We’re leaving early Saturday morning.”

“Okay, I’ll make a note of that.”

Well, this is awkward. You can stop sipping your fancy wine and trying to pretend like us having dinner together like this is normal. You can put your fork down and clear your throat like you want to do, and ask me how I would feel if Dad moved back in. I already know that’s what you want to do. So just do it already, Mom. Save us both the awkwardness and the irritation and just say it already. 

“Quinnie,” she starts after swallowing a mouthful of mashed potatoes. Here we go. “If you want to stay home from school tomorrow… I mean if you’re not really feeling up to going and you’d like to maybe stay home or come to the office with me for a few hours…”

I freeze right in the middle of putting a piece of gravy-covered meatloaf into my mouth. “Why would I want to do that?”

“I’m just saying that it’s okay if you would want to do that. I was wrong for pushing you into going to school today and I’m very sorry, sweetie.”

“You’re being weird.” I put my fork down and take a breath, because it’s clear that I’m going to have to be the one who initiates this. I should have known better, though. My mom is many things and a coward is one of them. She can’t look me in the eye and say what she needs to say because she knows it’s wrong. “Look mom, if you want —“

“If I’ve been pushing you too hard, Quinn, please don’t hesitate to say it,” she says and even from across the table, I can tell that her eyes are full of tears. “I just want you to be okay. You know, if something ever happened to you… or even to Francesca, for that matter, I don’t know what I would do.”

I’m confused. So… is this dinner not about her wanting Dad to move back in? What is her problem, then? “Wait, Mom. Where is this even coming from? I’m fine. I’m… I’m fine?”

“Your school sent an email to all the parents today… and I just wanted to make sure you’re doing okay, honey. I love you so much and I really just want you to know that you can talk to me. About anything.”

“An email…?” An email about what? What could McKinley possibly send an email to our parents about? The fact that we get slushies thrown in our faces on the daily? The fact that two kids got caught having sex under the bleachers last Monday? The fact that the school’s environment is extremely homophobic and every gay kid gets severely bullied? Maybe… wait, maybe… oh god. “They sent you an email about Karofsky…”

“I just can’t imagine what that boy’s parents are going through. To lose a child…” She shakes her head as her voice trails off and takes a deep breath. “You can talk to me, Quinn. I don’t want what happened last summer to ever happen again. I don’t want to ever know what that’s like.”

“Mom, I —“

“No, honey. I won’t let you put the blame on yourself for any of this. I should have been more present in your life, I should have been more attentive. I should have known that you were struggling and I didn’t. I’m… I’m your mom. I’m your mom and I should have known everything about you.”

My god, I can’t listen to this right now. Maybe it sounds harsh or maybe it makes me seem like an uncompromising bitch, but I’m so tired of hearing her apologies. I’m trying to listen to her and I’m trying to let it resonate with me. And I’m trying to let her apologies heal our relationship like I promised Jessica I would. But I’m just finding it really hard to do because why is she only sorry now? Why did it take me overdosing on a bunch of pills for her to realize how wrong she and my father treated me during a time when I needed them the most? And what if I hadn’t overdosed? What if I didn’t want to sleep that night and I didn’t end up in treatment and I was just still coexisting with all the crap I was before everything happened? She’d still be my father’s minion. Nothing would have changed.

“It was that Friday night, wasn’t it?” Her eyes are very glossy with tears now and I feel horrible for feeling this way, I do. But I really don’t care that she’s about to cry. It has absolutely no affect on me. I just sit there, opposite end of the table, staring at her while her tears drip down onto her plate. I have no expression on my face and no words to say. “Ever since you told me, I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out when it happened because… because how did I miss it? How did I really not know? And it was that Friday night, it had to have been. You came home and went straight upstairs and I knocked on the door to ask if you were doing okay and you told me that you were taking a bath. You… you didn’t come out of your room for the rest of that weekend. I didn’t see you until that Monday, you just laid in bed all weekend… it was that, wasn’t it? That was it… how could I have not known?”

“You wonder why I don’t tell you things,” I slam my napkin down onto the table and push my chair out so I can stand up. “This is the reason why I don’t tell you things, Mom! This right here!” I storm past her so I can run up the steps and go to my room, but she grabs my arm to stop me. “Let go of me!”

“Quinnie, I just want you to talk to me!”

“And then what, Mom? You want me to talk to you so then what? So you can look at me and see nothing but… what? Someone who has a baby out of wedlock? Someone who got raped? Someone who overdosed?”

“When I look at you, I see my daughter, Quinn. My child. If you would just stop it and quit with the drama for five seconds, you’d realize that I’m just trying to —“

“YOU’RE NOT TRYING TO DO ANYTHING EXCEPT MAKE THIS ALL ABOUT YOU!” I snatch out of her grip. “You think that sitting here crying about all the things you should have done and all the things you should have known is going to do what? Make me want to tell you things? Make everything better? It’s not about you, Mom! It’s not about you!”

“I’m not making this about me, Quinn! But you need to stop pretending that you’re the only one who was affected by —“

“I’m sorry, WHAT?!” She has got to be kidding… “Finish what you were going to say, Mom. Please. Finish.”

She is quiet, calculating. She takes a deep breath. Then starts again, “You are not the only one who’s life was upended by all of the things that happened last year. I am your mother and when you hurt, I hurt. My life was turned upside down, too. My life was in shambles, too. I—“

“Oh my fault, Mom. I forgot that you were the one who got kicked out of your house at sixteen-years-old. I forgot you were the one who stood on the porch shivering when your father slammed the door in your face. I forgot you were the one who was so lost and confused, thinking about whether you should keep your child or not. I forgot you were the one who wanted to, despite everything, be a mother to your child but just… couldn’t. Because even though you loved her more than anything in the world, you couldn’t stop thinking about how it felt to lie on a bed, cold and naked, while her FATHER… raped you. Do you have any idea how hard it is to love someone so much when they look like someone you’re supposed to hate? Do you?” A tear slipped out of the corner of my eye, but I just brush it off. “So… yeah. I’m sorry if I forget that your life was a personal hell for you, too.”

After I say that, she lets me leave. I walk right past her and go to the steps and she doesn’t even stop me. She says not another word. Not even when I slam my door so hard the walls shake.

I’m starting to think that our relationship is a little bit beyond repair… and I don’t even think that I care if we ever do repair it.


October 20

Every time I think that things are going great, they fall apart again and I’m starting to wonder if this is all my life will ever be.

I saw Bailey today for a half hour session. It wasn’t as long as I probably needed it to be, but at least I saw her and we both agreed that she will start seeing me every Tuesday in school, but also every Saturday at her office. I apologized to her for storming out of our last session and she told me that it was okay, but somehow I still feel like it really wasn’t okay. Somehow I feel like by storming out the way I did, I set our progress back a few weeks and that’s the last thing I wanted to do. I asked her today how it works whenever I start to feel like I don’t need therapy anymore and she told me that she will discharge me whenever she feels like I’m ready. And that scared me, because I don’t think I ever will be ready to be discharged. Some people have therapists their entire lives and I’m starting to think that maybe I’m one of those people.

She didn’t ask me about Beth, by the way. I was a little grateful that she didn’t because I was so sure she would since I stormed out last time she asked about her. But she didn’t. And I think she didn’t ask about Beth because we spent most of the session talking about Karofsky and how his suicide made me feel.

In truth, I don’t know how his suicide makes me feel. On one hand, I think it makes me kind of sad to know that there was someone roaming the halls of McKinley who felt that horribly. But on the other hand, I can’t bring myself to understand how he could actually go through with it if he knew that he had a mother and father who loved him.

When I said all of that to Bailey, she seemed confused and I know it was because she thought that I struggled with the same thing as him. But what she didn’t realize was that Karofsky and me were not the same. When he hung himself, he was actually trying to kill himself and I wasn’t. All I wanted to do was sleep.

And even if I did try to kill myself — which I didn’t — at least I wasn’t leaving anyone who loved me behind. If I tried to kill myself, I didn’t have a mother like Karofsky’s who would tearfully clean out my locker and a father like his who would demand to speak to the school faculty to find a reason. The situations are entirely too different to really compare, and if I did try to kill myself, it wasn’t for selfish reasons.

I think when I see Bailey on Tuesday, I’m going to tell her that I saw Beth. I’ve been trying to put it out of my head and just ignore all the feelings it awakened within me, but I think I could really benefit from telling her. Maybe she can give me advice on how to see her without my heart aching the way it did when I held her.

Maybe Bailey can give me some answers.


October 21

Mercedes asked me if I wanted to come over today and I told her no. She told me that she missed me because she hasn’t seen me since school on Friday, but I lied and told her that I was going to church and having breakfast with my mom this fine Sunday morning.

I don’t know why I told her that I didn’t want to hang out when in reality, I did. I wanted to be in her company today so I didn’t just mope around all sad and hung up on thinking about Karofsky and Beth. I wanted to hang out with her so badly that I actually typed out “sure, I’ll be over in an hour” but I deleted it and sent “no thanks I have plans with my mom today” instead.

It’s strange how being weirdly sad like that makes you do all the things you don’t want to do.

Mom went to church with Dad this morning and they went to this really expensive restaurant for brunch and I have been on the couch all day. ABC Family has been playing old Disney movies all day and I’ve seen almost every princess movie within a ten hour frame. I know it’s not fair of me to think this way, but I can’t help but wonder if Mom really does care about me and my wellbeing or if she’s just trying to act like she hasn’t been a terrible mother to my sister and me. I wonder that, because she sure has been leaving me alone a lot for someone who is worried their child might try to kill herself.

I wasn’t trying to kill myself when I took all of those pills, but if I was… I would do it on a day like today when Mom isn’t around to shove her fingers down my throat and make me vomit them up again.

I would try to kill myself alone.

I would get up off the couch that I’ve been sitting on all day, and I would go upstairs to my bedroom. I would take all of my clothes off and put them in the basket. And then I would go to the bathroom and run myself a really warm bath. While I was in the bath, I would think of all the things that I am going to miss about this world. I would miss the way the house smells after Mom makes french toast and the way the sidewalk is damp and warm after it rains in the summertime. I would miss the way it feels to drive down the highway with Mercedes while we sing Behind These Hazel Eyes. Oh, and I would miss the way Rachel’s nostrils flare when she gets angry and the way her hair smells when I’m close enough to get a whiff. I would miss the way Beth’s slobber felt warm as it dripped down my arm, and miss the way I was angry at Shelby for wiping it.

All these things I would miss about this world, but it wouldn’t be enough to make me stay.

I would get out of the bath and put lotion all over my body before I was dry because I’d want my skin to be all soft.

And I’d take every pill in the medicine cabinet.

Then I’d lay down in my warm bed and close my eyes until finally, I floated away from this world.

I’d leave everything behind.

All the tears, the pain, the hurt.

I’d be gone and so would everything else.

I miss my friends.

I know saying that seems counterproductive, especially when I didn’t accept Mercedes’ invite to hang out today, but I do. I miss the way hanging out with them made me feel and I’m hoping that maybe I can get a little piece of that back when we go to sectionals this weekend.

In between movies, I scrolled through my phone’s camera roll and looked at all the pictures I took during homecoming weekend. Pictures of me smiling as we sit on the bleachers at the game. Pictures of Mercedes with her lips on my cheek. Pictures of the four of us laughing. Pictures of the four of us wearing our costumes. Pictures of me and Mercedes in my car when we got to the mall, videos of us singing like total idiots. Pictures and videos of me being happy.

And I closed my eyes and remembered exactly how I felt every time the camera flashed and captured those moments. How I knew in that moment that someday, the pictures would fade and become distant memories; stories that we would all tell our kids after we drifted apart and lost touch.

But in that moment, I felt it all happening. Like how we were sitting on those bleachers with the lights beating down on our heads. Or how we were listening to that song. It was all happening in that moment and I was living in it. 

Those were the moments I knew I was alive.


The auditorium is always the hottest room in the entire school, so as soon as I sit down, I unbutton my blazer and hang it over the back of my chair. I watch the double doors and look for Mercedes, since I haven’t talked to her since breakfast. I didn’t eat lunch in the cafeteria. I ate lunch in the bathroom by myself because I felt like today was a day where I wanted to binge and I didn’t want to do it in front of everybody.

I feel like I felt for an entire month after what happened with Puck. I feel myself going through the motions. I go to class and take notes like a good student and I reply to conversations like a normal person. But everything feels mechanical, like nothing is really happening to me and I’m here… but I’m not here . It’s an odd feeling.

“Hey,” she says softly as she takes the seat beside me.

“Hey.”

My eyes follow Rachel as she sits down, too. But she sits two aisles over and off in a corner by herself. And I don’t know why, but that stings. It makes me want to pull my knees into my chest and cry until my head hurts. Why is she being like this?  

“Where’s Tina?” I ask, just casually trying to brush the whole Rachel thing off. My voice is wobbly like it’s going to break, but I steady it.

“She had to stay after to finish a quiz in her English class. She’ll be here in a little bit.” Mercedes unzips her backpack and pulls two packages of fruit snacks out. She offers me one and I take it. “What’s with her?” She motions with her head over to where Rachel is sitting. “She hasn’t been sitting with us and she hasn’t texted back in the group chat.”

“She just… I don’t know,” I shrug. Tell her. Mercedes usually makes you feel better anyway… “She came over my house last Wednesday and she hasn’t been talking to me since.”

“She’s not mad at you.”

“She told you that?”

“Yeah. We were talking in Chem again today. She just… she needs a minute. She’s… she’s having a rough time.”

“A rough time with what?”

“...She thinks she’s gay. And she doesn’t know how to —“

“Okay guys!” Mr. Schue stands up in the middle of the stage and claps his hands together. “Before we start rehearsing for sectionals, I wanted to ask you guys something. Now as you all know, we’re still very much mourning the loss of David Karofsky.”

We know, Mr. Schue. We don’t go through one class without hearing a single teacher talk about how suicide is not the answer. How many times do we have to hear it?

“I want you guys to know that I care about each and every one of you. I really do. I love you kids like you’re my own. So if any one of you is ever… struggling with anything — anything in this world — you can talk to me,” he sits down at the edge of the stage and swings his feet. “I know sometimes it’s harder on you kids than any other kid in this school. It’s hard being an outsider. But what Karofsky did…” he sighs. “Guys, that is never the answer. It pushes the pain off to someone else. I am always listening. Always here for you guys.”

He looks out and makes eye contact with every single one of us, and I feel something unspeakable in the air. Something powerful, too. It’s so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Nobody says anything, but nobody has to. We all know what we’re thinking. We all know that we’re a family.

“With that being said,” Mr. Schue starts again. “Coach Beiste has asked me if you guys would consider performing this Friday at the memorial assembly. I told her I would have to ask you guys… with sectionals being this weekend and all, it would be a lot of added pressure because you already have numbers to perfect and adding one more number could be —“

“Mr. Schue,” Rachel calls out from her side of the auditorium. She’s all alone, nobody else is sitting beside her. But everybody gives her their undivided attention. “I think I speak for everyone in here when I say that we would love to.”

Mr. Schue gives us all those individual looks again, then stands back up. “Okay. So I already have a song selection in mind and you guys can follow after me. Okay? Let’s take it from the top. One… two… one, two, three…”

As soon as the music starts playing over the audio system above our heads, we stand up one by one so we can all take the stage. Mercedes stands up before I do, and she holds her hand out to me. I contemplate for a second… but I take it. Blaine’s the first one up on stage, and Mercedes pulls me up onto my feet just as he starts.

“There’s no one in town I know. You gave us some place to go. I never said thank you for that… thought I might get one more chance.”

I follow Mercedes up to the stage and I notice that she won’t let my hand go. And for a minute, I start to consider something…

“What would you think of me now? So lucky, so strong, so proud. I never said thank you for that. Now I’ll never have the chance…”

How scary must it have been for Mercedes to hear that I overdosed? And how scary must it be for her to not know if I’ll ever do it again? I won’t talk to her about it and I haven’t told her anything past the fact that I went to Pennsylvania for treatment. That’s all I’ve given her. And I’m her best friend. She’s mine, too. But I’m her best friend… how scared must she feel to know that she could have lost me the way we lost Karofsky?

Still deep in thought, we all join in for the chorus.

“May angels lead you in. Hear you me, my friends. On sleepless roads the sleepless go. May angels lead you in…”

And as I sing, my head is still reeling…

Maybe that’s why she won’t stop holding my hand. Maybe that’s why she keeps looking at me. Because she’s scared of what could have been my fate. I would be scared if she did what I did, too… I’d walk around terrified over the mere idea that I could have lost my best friend…

“If you were with me tonight… I’d sing to you just one more time. A song for a heart so big… God wouldn’t let it live.”

And Rachel’s struggling, too. And she’s not talking to me. She’s… she’s just… like I was. And maybe I could help her through it, maybe I could. If maybe she’d just talk to me. But she won’t… and I can’t make her… we’re all struggling with this… this secret. And if we would all just come out to each other, maybe nobody will struggle the way Karofsky did…

I look at Santana as soon as the song ends. Because we’re all going through the same thing. All of us…

“Okay guys, that was good. Really, really good,” Mr. Schue says and smiles at us like he’s genuinely proud. “You guys can take five and get a drink. When you come back, we’ll work on sectionals material.”

Rachel is the first one out of the auditorium and I think everybody is starting to notice how… off she is. I want to go after her and tell her that it’s okay, but I don’t know if I would make everything worse by doing that, so I don’t.

Instead, I…

“Hey Santana,” I mumble as I approach her. She stops sucking on her water bottle and raises an eyebrow at me. “You wanna talk? ...Alone?”

“About what?” her tone is hasty but I just let it roll off my shoulders because I know that hasty is one of Santana’s more permanent moods.

“You know what.”

“I told you to just drop it. Okay? Nothing happened. We were both drunk and it wasn’t anything. It was —“

“One of our classmates just killed himself because someone here at this school outed him. I think we have a lot to talk about. We —“

“OH WOULD YOU STOP IT?!” she shouts and now everybody in the auditorium is looking at us. “STOP TRYING TO GIVE ME ADVICE AND STOP ACTING LIKE YOU’RE ALL HOLIER THAN THOU AND HAVE LIFE FIGURED ALL OUT JUST BECAUSE YOU SPENT THE SUMMER LOCKED UP IN A PSYCH WARD.”

And to that… I really have nothing left to say. Not when everyone is looking at me and they all suddenly know one of the things I wasn’t ready to tell people yet…

Mercedes looks at me and for a second, I want to run to her and let her comfort me but then I remember that she’s the only person I told and the only person who could have possibly told Santana…

“Quinn,” Mercedes tries to call out to me but shake my head at her and I leave.

I run past everyone’s eyes which are now just staring at me and only me.

 

Chapter Text



My dad used to pick me and Frannie up by our arms whenever we would sit down and cry.

I remember the first time he ever did it, too. I was four, maybe five. And Mom had just yelled at me and Frannie because we kept running inside the house to fill up our water guns, only to spill water all over the kitchen floor when we ran back out the door to go shoot them at each other in the yard. We ignored Mom and kept running inside. Cold, wet, bare little feet thumping all over the polished wooden kitchen floors, childish laughs bouncing off the walls. Mom yelled again from the reading room, but Frannie and I never took her too seriously. Then, in our haste to get back outside and continue playing our rendition of “cops and robbers,” Frannie slammed the door. She thought I was already completely out of it, but I was only halfway out of it and my finger got slammed hard between the frame and the sliding glass door.

The gash on my finger was about three inches long and it bled all over my t-shirt and all over Mom’s favorite Sherpa rug. After the shock of seeing my own blood outside of my body wore off, I sat down on the rug and screamed my head off at first. Then, I started crying. Real thick alligator tears, too. Mom, Dad and Frannie both ran to me and I shook my bloody finger in their faces, still crying. Mom scooped me up and put me on the countertop so she could rinse my finger off under the faucet while Frannie was crying hysterically too, trying to convince Mom and Dad that it was an accident and she “didn’t mean to cut off Lulu’s finger, I swear.”

Mom got all the bleeding to stop and she went upstairs in search of a band-aid. I continued crying my little baby tears and Frannie stood back and calmed herself down after Mom reassured her that my finger wasn’t cut off. Dad stood in front of me, finger still throbbing, and grabbed me by my forearm. He forced me onto my feet and looked down at me from his six foot, four inch frame. And I can still hear the tone of his voice saying, “I don’t care if you cry, Lucy. But you’re gonna cry standing up.”

That was Dad’s motto. Frannie skins her knee during a soccer game? She can cry, but she’d better cry standing up. I come down wrong on the balance beam at a gymnastics meet and bruise my entire ass? I could cry, but I’d better cry standing up. Frannie’s boyfriend forgets her birthday and breaks up with her the day after? She had to cry standing up. I come home hysterically crying because a kid drew a picture of a pig and labeled it “Lucy”? He didn’t care if I cried, but I wasn’t going to sit on my mommy’s lap and cry. No way.

Dad would completely lose his mind if he could see me now, sitting on the floor of the handicap stall, crying my eyes out.

If it were any other day at any other time, the part of me that is slightly a germaphobe would be freaking out because my bare legs are flat against the cold gray and white linoleum floor. I’m silently kicking myself for not wearing tights under my dress, but the weather said that it’s going to be the last nice day before the chilly fall weather starts setting in, so I wanted to wear a dress with no tights.

If it were a normal day, I’d be thinking about all the pee and mud and rain water that’s been tracked all over this floor, but it’s not a normal day and all my stupid brain can think about is producing more and more tears when really, I’m just so tired of crying. I’m holed up in the handicap stall of the girls’ bathroom, sitting with my bare legs on the nasty floor with my hands over my eyes, crying. And I really want to snap out of this, I really do. 

But I can’t get everyone’s faces out of my head.

Did you see the way everyone looked when she said it? Everyone’s eyes got so wide, so serious, so… surprised… They looked like they had just witnessed a murder. And now… that’s the only look they’re ever gonna give me. They’re only ever going to give me that sad, pathetic, “we pity you, Quinn” look and I don’t want that look. I wanted Glee club to remain the one place where nobody looked at me like that.

I sniff and swallow hard as I rub my eyes with the backs of my hands. Just when I feel like I’m done crying though, more tears well up in my eyes and I feel my face crumble and my hands go right back up to cover me because even though nobody can see me in here, I just want to be extra careful and be extremely sure that nobody can see the tears as they fall.

I can’t believe Mercedes told her… I just… can’t believe it. Why would she tell her? And when did she do it? I… I trusted her. Is there really nobody in this world that I can trust? How could she, though? She’s my best friend… my truest friend… I thought I could trust her with my life… why would she tell Santana?

“She’s gotta be around here somewhere,” I hear Mercedes voice crawl into the bathroom, as if me thinking about her made her appear somehow.

Even though I’m mid-sob, I bite down on my bottom lip to suppress my cries and slowly, careful not to make any noise, ease myself up onto the toilet. Still biting my lip, I put my feet on either side of the toilet seat and squat down so that if she happens to poke her head around in here, she won’t see my feet through the bottom of the stall. I don’t want to be found. I don’t want to be comforted and convinced to go back into the auditorium and practice for sectionals.

I want to sit down, let it all out, and not cry standing up.

“Quinn?” Tina’s voice comes next and it’s so loud that it feels wrong against the quiet inside my little stall. “Quinn, you in here?”

I watch the shadow of her body as she comes inside, looks around for a split second, then leaves.

“Come on,” Mercedes’ voice is there again. “Let’s get back to rehearsal. Let’s just give her a minute.”

I wait a few more moments, crouched down on top of the toilet, just to make sure that I really am in the clear and not going to walk out of my stall just to be ambushed.

When I’m relatively sure that they’re both gone, I ease myself, one foot at a time, back off the toilet seat and unlock the stall. I thought that maybe after I came in here and let it all out and got it all out of my system that I would be okay and feel fine enough to go back to rehearsal because after all, it is the week of sectionals, but I think I’m just going to go home.

I guess it’s not safe to cry alone here.


I drop my bookbag off by the bannister as soon as I get into the comfort of my house, and take my brown and black moccasins off on the rug. I don’t bother shutting the door because it’s really nice outside, and there won’t be many more days where the sun gets to shine inside the house. So I keep the heavy wooden door open and make sure the glass storm door is closed instead.

“Mom,” my voice is still a bit groggy from all that crying, but it goes away pretty easily when I clear my throat. “Mom… something happened today at Glee club. And I just wanna tell you about it before other moms hear about it and ask you questions, okay…?” I take my jacket off and hang it on the coat rack.

“Mom?” I call her name again as I make my way to the kitchen, where she normally is. But it’s not really all that surprising to me when I find that she’s not in it. In fact, I’m halfway expecting to see the bright yellow sticky note, stuck to the plastic covering sugar cookies so fresh that the wrap is still sweating, waiting for me on the kitchen island. I lean over a bar stool and snatch the note off the plastic wrap, careful not to tear it.

 

Quinnie,

Went out to late lunch

with daddy. Should be back

around 5. Will bring

food home for you but

chicken from the walmart

deli is in the fridge. Heat
it up if you get hungry.

 

Love you
mom xo

 

P.S. They’re homemade.

Your favorite!

Just like I do with all the notes she leaves me to tell me where she is and what time she’ll be home instead of texting me or calling me like a normal human being, I crumble it until it’s in the smallest ball of yellow paper and blue ink possible, then I throw it into the garbage.

She doesn’t care. She can’t possibly. I don’t know about her, but if it were me and I was as afraid of losing my daughter as she claims to be, I wouldn’t be leaving her alone so much. I would make an effort to be home as much as possible and as involved in my daughter’s life as possible. I wouldn’t sit at a dining room table in front of a big dinner and cry to her about how much I love her and how much I would cry and be sad if she killed herself. I would show her. I would be home making dinner for her every day. I would be sitting with her while she does her homework and asking her questions about her day. I would be asking questions about how her therapy sessions have been going and I would ask her if maybe she wants to go hang out and see a movie on the weekend instead of her father. I would make sure she knew that I was actually interested in her life and who she is as a person. I wouldn’t keep messing up by continuously calling something important to her “choir club” when she’s corrected me time and time again. And for god’s fucking sake, I would notice that she dropped ten pounds in less than two months and always seems to need to use the bathroom after eating.

She doesn’t really care about me. At least, not in the way she says she does.

When my hand wraps around the stainless steel handle of our french door refrigerator, I realize that I don’t even know what I’m looking for. It’s not like I’m actually hungry and it’s not like I actually want the chicken that she apparently got from Walmart. But still, for some reason, I stand in front of the open fridge, glossing over all the possibilities.

Two sticks of butter, a carton of eggs, half-drunken jug of United iced tea, an unopened bottle of ginger ale, almond milk, 2% milk, Kraft singles, string cheese, leftover mashed potatoes, leftover pot roast, Walmart chicken, two full packages of peach Activia yogurt, Heinz ketchup, French’s mustard, Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce, blueberry bagels, Philadelphia cream cheese, green grapes, one single apple and a package of bacon.

At first, I head for the chicken. But my mind stops midway and I go for the cream cheese instead. And as I unwrap the entire block it and take a bite like it’s a candy bar, I sit on a bar stool and really think about what Mom and Dad could possibly be doing right now.

They’re probably at some fancy restaurant staring deeply into each other’s eyes while they order something gross and expensive like escargot. I take another giant bite of the cream cheese. And dad is probably singing some stupid sob story like “Judy, it’s time I come home. Don’t you think? I love you so much.” And Mom is lapping it all up, too. I take a third bite. She’s not smart enough to be like “Russell, did you stop banging your receptionist? Or how about your bookkeeper, Irene? Will you be funneling anymore money into your interns’ accounts for secret abortions or was that just a one time experience limited to poor little Rebecca?” One more bite of cream cheese. She doesn’t respect herself enough to say “oh and Russell, if I let you come back home, please promise you won’t throw me against the walls when I ask why you smell like another women’s perfume. And please don’t rip our daughter’s cheer uniform off of her body and call her a whore because you found condoms in the vanity drawer that you had no business looking inside of. She wasn’t using those condoms for any sexual activity, they were just given to her for free at the clinic she went to so she could get tested for STDs after she was raped. Oh, did I mention she was raped? Yes. Our poor little Quinnie was raped, Russell. How sad.”

One more bite of the cream cheese and suddenly, I realize that I’ve eaten the entire thing. And I lick my lips. And my fingers too, because it was so good that I don’t want to waste a single piece. And maybe I wasn’t hungry before, but I sure am hungry now after eating that, so I find myself back in front of the fridge.

I go for the chicken this time and she only got me six pieces, so I just take the entire container over to the island and sit back down again.

And I can totally picture Dad’s reaction to Mom telling him that I was raped, too. He’d react like any typical man would, because my dad is the definition of a typical man. All the things you read about in the media… all the stereotypes and horror stories of girls who were raped? My dad’s reaction would be exactly that. first, He’d be all, “That’s just a story she made up to cover up the fact that she’s a little whore. You really believe her blatant lies, Judy? If she was gonna cry rape, why did she wait until a year after the fact to speak up? She’s ashamed of what she did and is now looking for an excuse. You see that Puckerman boy? He’s a good looking kid, why would he have to rape anybody? She prances around in that uniform all the time, the skirt barely covers her ass. She knows what attention she attracts. Stop falling for Lucy’s lies, Judy. You’ve been doing it since the girl could talk.” And maybe Mom would believe him.

I only notice that all six pieces of chicken are gone when I reach into the container to grab another piece and hit the very bottom. I lick the grease off my fingers and before I’ve even chewed and swallowed the chicken that is still in my mouth, I’m standing in front of the fridge again. And this time, it's the mashed potatoes.

But I don’t sit at the island anymore. No. I plop right down on the floor with my back against the fridge and take the lid off the glass bowl. And I could warm them up in the microwave like a civilized person, but what’s the point? It would take an entire two minutes to warm them up properly and I don’t have time for that. I’m hungry right now. I don’t even grab a spoon because again, what’s the point? 

I reach my hand down into the bowl and take an entire fistful of mashed potatoes. They’re cold and my hands are starting to hurt. My hands ache the way my stomach is starting to, but all of that hurts way less than the thought of Mom and Dad having dinner together. I stare at the wall in the hallway, at the picture of me and Frannie ten Christmases ago. We’re both in matching velvet dresses with white fur around the arm holes. Mine is green and Frannie’s is red. And she’s hugging me and we’re both surrounded by fake snow and Christmas bulbs. I miss that. When times were simpler.

I stare at the wall until I reach down and feel nothing but cold, clean glass. And when I look down, the bowl tells the same story. It is empty. Almost as empty as I feel.

But I know better than to let it sit for too long, because letting it sit for too long makes it harder to come back up. So I wipe my mashed potato hands on the seat of my dress and get the ginger ale from the top shelf. Mom would kill me if she knew that I drank straight from the bottle, but Mom’s not here so I twist the cap off and take gulp after gulp until my nostrils burn.

And then, as if I’m on a schedule or something, I lean over the sink and shove my fingers to the back of my throat.

What if she never comes home? What if it’s never the way it was when I first came home from treatment? What if Mom stays away less and less? What if Dad takes her away longer and longer each time? Until eventually, she just doesn’t come home at all? And then I’m all alone? And what if I want to sleep again? What if I get so bad that I want to sleep again and take all those pills but Mom’s not home anymore and she’s not here to put her fingers in my mouth to make the pills come up?

What if when I go to school tomorrow, somebody says something? Because everybody knows now. Santana told everybody and Mercedes told Santana and Rachel isn’t talking to me and Shelby has my baby and Mom is never home and Beth cried when I held her and Dad thinks I’m a whore and Puck raped me and Karofsky’s dead and nobody is here and I’m all alone and now…

The pile in the bottom of the sink looks different. I run through everything I ate today in my head, just to try and remember if I ate anything red. But when I start to taste that awful metallic taste in my mouth, I stop thinking. Because I know I didn’t eat anything red today and the only thing that tastes the way my mouth tastes right now is blood.

But I spit into the sink, just to be sure. And it still doesn’t feel real to me — seeing that my spit is bloody too — I wipe my mouth with my forearm. And I keep my mouth open as I back away from the sink.

Where’s Mom?! I need Mom! Is it five yet?! Is it close to five?! I’m bleeding! There’s blood in the sink and in my mouth and on my shirt and on the floor and my mouth tastes like blood and I just threw up blood and I’m kind of freaking out and I need Mom! Mom?! There’s blood coming from my mouth! Mom!?

I grab my cell phone off the island and dial her number with shaky, bloody hands. It rings for what seems like an eternity.

“You have reached the voicemail box of… Judy Fabray… please leave a message after the tone.”

Her voicemail picks it up and as soon as I hear the beep, I —

“M-Mom?! Mom, it’s me! Something happened and I… Mom, I’m really scared! I’m so scared, can you just come home? Please? Please? Please?”

I hang up and call her again, only for that stupid robot to answer and tell me to leave a message for the second time.

“MOM! Why aren’t you answering the phone?! I need you to come home! What is WRONG with you?! You can’t just ignore me, you — you can’t!”

I hang up again and I’m really freaking out, like really really freaking out so I just sit back down on the floor and try to calm myself down and think logically, that if I go to the hospital or if Mom calls back, I won’t admit that I went on a binge. I’ll just say I ate a whole lot because I didn’t eat lunch in school today and I made myself sick and I threw up blood. Yeah, that’s what I'll say. Smart, right? They’ll buy it…

But I can’t stop shaking, I can’t stop crying. My whole body is just shaking and maybe… maybe it’s because the last time I saw blood — my blood — surprise me like that was when… well, it was when…

She closed her eyes and tilted her head back so the hot water could spray all over her chest, but she saw him when she closed her eyes. And she didn’t see the part of him that was hovering over her while his waist moved. She saw the part of him that was somehow way, way worse.

She saw the way he looked over his shoulder and grinned when he was finished. The way his eyes glossed over her naked body and he leaned in to kiss her cheek just one last time before he got up. He pulled his boxer shorts up, stretched, and made a noise.

Her eyes snapped open in that instant, and she lowered her head, tilted it down to the ground so she could start to put shampoo in her hair.

But with her head geared towards the ground, she noticed the way the shower water ran pink against the bath mat. She lifted her feet, examined for any cuts or scrapes.

And then she realized where she was bleeding from.

I pull my knees up into my chest and put my forehead against them, trying to take deep breaths in and out, the way Jessica taught me. If I can just control my breathing…

I want my Mom. I want her to scoop me up and hold me and put me on the kitchen counter the way she did when my finger was bleeding. I want her to give me a hug and tell her that it’s okay. I don’t want to be alone anymore. I want my Mom. I wish my Mom was home…

She sat on the edge of her bed, droplets of water still clinging to her skin, fuzzy towel wrapped around her as her hair dripped down her back. She stared at her closet like she could see something beyond the walls.

Finally, when a bead of water rolled down her back and gave her the chills, she snapped out of it. And she picked up her cell phone and opened up the calendar app.

She counted the days since her last cycle, hoping that maybe Mother Nature decided to bless her a few days early. But when she saw that it had only been eight days since the end of it, she realized then that he was the reason for her bleeding…

And she didn’t want that to be true.

So rather than dwell on it, she tossed her phone to the side and grabbed her makeup bag from her vanity. She was determined to put this behind her, determined to let herself forget.

And that started with putting makeup on her wrists to make the bruises — bruises that he put there — disappear.

“Quinn…?” A soft voice follows the sound of the storm door opening, then slamming shut. “I know you’re in here, I saw your car in the driveway.”

Her voice makes me lift my head up. I must have fallen asleep. I must have. I must have sat on the floor and cried myself to sleep because I absolutely have to be dreaming because there’s NO way in hell that voice belongs to who I think it belongs to.

“You really shouldn’t leave your door open,” her voice sounds further away now, like she’s either looking all through my house or I’m slowly waking up from my dream and it’s fading. “I would’ve come sooner, but Mercedes said I should stay and rehearse for sectionals because she knows you and thought that you would’ve wanted a minute alone. So I came after Glee club.”

I stare at the archway that leads into the kitchen, waiting to see if and praying that I’m not dreaming. Please come in here… please be you… please.

“Quinn…?”

The last time she says my name is when she finally stands in the archway and looks in on me sitting here on the floor, knees tucked into my chest. And she just looks at me, you know? Like she’s silently taking it all in or something. Like she just walked in on the scene of a crime and her brain is trying to process everything that she’s seeing long enough to make a lasting memory. 

She looks at me. Mashed potatoes on my dress, blood clutching the corners of my mouth, tears streaking across my cheeks, hair damp and matted from sweating. Guilty look written all over my face.

Then she looks at my kitchen. Empty food containers scattered all around me like evidence of the murder I’d committed. Tiny droplets of blood trailing from the sink to my place on the floor.

And I look at her. Black beret on her head, matching her black skirt and heather gray blazer. Hair shiny and even-lengthed, resting just below her breast line. Concern and fear scrawled on her face as if written in permanent marker.

And for a second, I really think she might say something or maybe she’ll even cry because she’s clearly seeing me at my worst. Hell, I even prepare myself for the idea that she might keep up with her week long tradition of completely ignoring me and walk away.

I expect everything except what she actually does.

I don’t expect it when she says nothing and holds her chin up high like she just decided that she’s going to be the strong one here. She walks over to me slowly, like negotiating with a hostage keeper or armed murderer. Then, she sits down.

And I think that’s it, I really do.

But Rachel never ceases to surprise me, so I’m a little flabbergasted when she scoots so that her back is against the fridge like mine.

And she puts her arms around me.


I don’t know what to think as she brings the comb up to the top of my head and drags it through my hair for the hundredth time. For the first time in a long time, I just have no idea what to think. And I have no idea what to say either, which is fine because we’ve been silent for so long that talking would probably be weird.

We haven’t talked in about an hour.

She sat with me on the kitchen floor for a good ten minutes, saying nothing with her mouth but everything with her actions. She pulled me closer so that my head was resting on her shoulder, and we sat just like that for ten minutes. It felt like the world stopped spinning when she held me like that, and I almost fell asleep with the way her thumb kept stroking my shoulder.

It was like she had an internal timer set inside her body or something. It was like she said “okay, Quinn. I’m going to let you feel all of this and be really sad for ten minutes but after that ten minutes is up, we’re pulling you together and letting all this sadness go.” Because after ten minutes of sitting there in silence like that with her thumb just rubbing my shoulder while I grew dizzier and dizzier inhaling her scent, she stood up. And I looked up at her like some little kid watching Santa Claus come to life or something. She held out her hand and I took it and let her pick me up onto my feet.

And it was like I forgot how to walk or something, because I let her lead me. I let her lead me up the steps and into my bathroom. And I just watched like an idiot as she turned the water on and pulled the nozzle to make the shower come on. She squeezed my shoulder tight and looked into my eyes like the way people do before they tell each other “I love you”, except she didn’t say that. She just left me alone and closed the door behind herself. And the whole time I was standing there in the shower, not washing up, just letting the water hit me… I just kept thinking that I wish she would never leave.

I dried off and got dressed and heard some shuffling downstairs and as I walked down, I said a few prayers that it was still her and not my mother because even though I wanted my mother — cried for my mother — just a second ago, Rachel was the only person in the world I wanted to see.

I could’ve died happy the moment I walked into my kitchen and saw her sitting on the bar stool, eating a cookie and drinking from my favorite mug. The mess was gone, too. No blood, no mashed potatoes, no chicken container, no cream cheese wrapper, no vomit in the sink. Everything was completely cleaned up and it was as if nothing had ever happened in my kitchen.

And somehow, she knew what I meant when I gave her that look. That look that said “follow me to the living room.” She knew what I meant by looking at her like that, I know she did because she came. And she sat down on the couch. And I went to sit next to her, I did. But she put her hand on my arm and made me sit in front of her. And that’s when I saw that meeting in the living room was her idea all along, because she had a brush and comb waiting on the coffee table.

And I swear to you that magic does exist. If you’re ever in doubt, all you have to do is close your eyes and feel her touch. Her gentle, loving hands, caressing your scalp as her fingers trace the strands that the comb already went over. It’s the closest thing to magic you’ll ever feel, I swear it.

“I’m sorry I’ve been so mean to you lately,” her voice makes me open my eyes and for a second there, I forgot how unfair it is that she even speaks in a perfect pitch. “I’m just trying my best. I’m trying to keep my head on straight for sectionals but it’s hard when I’m just so mixed up, I…” she takes a breath after doing that ranting thing I love so much. “...I told my dads that I think I’m…”

I instantly stop breathing and I know she picks up on that because she continues, like she’s doing damage control.

“They’ve been really supportive. Talking about getting me a counselor and taking me to this big parade or whatever,” she mumbles. “And I know I should be happy because not a lot of kids get that kind of support from their parents about something like this, but.” She sighs. “It kind of just makes me feel weird.”

I turn around so I’m facing her. “Look, Rachel, I —“

“You don’t understand what this will mean for me….what it will mean for my career,” she looks away from me, up into a corner as if avoiding eye contact is going to make her tears stay in or something. It doesn’t work though, because they come rolling down her cheeks soft as ever. “It’s just so… hard…”

“I know,” I whisper. “I know, I know…”

“And I keep thinking that maybe if I just ignore it, you know? Like if I ignore it, it’ll go away and I can pretend like it’s a part of me that doesn’t exist. Because I can be happy without it. I was happy without it for seventeen years, how hard could it be to go back to that? It’s not like my life would be miserable. I could get married… maybe to Finn, and settle down and have kids. And my life wouldn’t suck, it’d be fine.”

Ouch…

“But then I look over in the choir room and I can’t pretend like my heart doesn’t skip a beat when I look at you,” she says and another tear rolls down her cheek. I have to fight the very soft, slight smile that wants to spread across my face. “And I can’t pretend like I don’t think about you. What you’re doing, what you’re eating, what you’re thinking, who you’re with, what kind of shampoo you use, what you sing in the shower. I want to know your favorite song, your favorite food, your favorite movies, your favorite color… and that’s new to me. I never felt that way before. Not with Finn, not with Jesse. And I keep thinking that this is it, you know? This is what it’s always supposed to have been like but it never was like that because I could still live without them. If I needed to. If I ever needed to pick between Finn and my career or Jesse and my career, I could do it because my life won’t stop if those boys aren’t it. But you…. Quinn, when I think about my life without you, I just… I don’t see it.”

I have never heard anybody talk about me that way…

I get up off the floor and sit beside her on the couch because I was broken an hour ago and she picked up all my broken pieces and put me back together again. So I’m going to do the same for her.

I wrap my arm around her shoulder and lean back so that we’re both comfortable against the couch.

“...OGX.”

Tears still making her eyes look like they’re sparkling, she looks over at me. “...What?”

“My shampoo. I use OGX. The one that comes in the white bottle with coconut milk and whipped egg.” I say and she laughs. That real soft kind of laugh, too. The one that’s more like blowing air through your nostrils than anything else. “And I don’t sing in the shower often, but ‘We Belong Together’ is usually my go-to and I don’t know why because I don’t even like Mariah Carey that much. I mostly listen to the junk that comes on the radio, so I’m really into that ‘Motivation’ song at the moment, you know by that girl that was in that girl group?”

“Fifth Harmony. It’s Normani,” she grins.

“Yeah, that’s the one!” I nod my head and keep going because she does actually seem interested. “I don’t know if it counts as a food, but I like ginger ale because it’s good whether it’s cold or warm. But if that doesn’t count as a food then I really like my mom’s chicken parm. But it has to be my mom’s or I won’t eat it. And I don’t want to be all basic white girl, but my favorite movie is ‘Mean Girls’... for obvious reasons. But I’ve also watched ‘Titanic’ enough time quote the entire thing from start to finish, so. Maybe that could be a favorite too. And my favorite color to wear is yellow but my favorite color to look at is pink.”

“Favorite book?” she lies her head on my shoulder and laces her fingers between mine so that we’re holding hands.

“I don’t read enough to have one but I liked ‘The Great Gatsby’ when we read it freshman year.” And it’s like I’m doing it out of habit because I don’t even think about it when I press my lips to her forehead. And she doesn’t even blink. It’s like it’s totally normal.

“How tall are you?”

“Five-five.”

“Pizza or chicken?”

“Pizza for sure.”

“Ice cream or cake?”

“Ice cream cake.”

“Chocolate or vanilla?”

“Chocolate.”

“Giving or receiving?”

“Both.”

“Rachel or Mercedes?”

That question makes me stop. I really don’t know… She turns her head and looks me in the eye with a playful grin so I know she’s just joking but I still don’t know how to honestly answer the question…

“Depends on the day,” I mumble and wink my eye at her. 

“Today?”

“Rachel, for sure,” we both laugh. “Look, I understand what you’re going through. And how confusing it is for you and your mind. Believe me, I understand. But please… don’t ever ignore me like that again.”

“I won’t,” she shakes her head.



 

Chapter Text



I put my car in park about five minutes ago, and I’ve been waiting with my hand on the door handle to get out ever since.

I watch as dozens of kids, my peers, all drag their backpacks and go in through the double doors like throwing themselves into the halls of McKinley High is the most normal and unimportant thing that they’ll ever do, and for once, I wish I was just like them.

I wish I could hold my head up high with my backpack weighing me down and strut into the school like busting out eight hours inside of it will do nothing but make me a little stronger in the end. Most of the ones I watch go in haven’t a care in the world. A few girls wear sweatpants about five sizes too big and some of the boys wear basketball shorts even though it’s fifty degrees today. Some of the girls have their hair thrown up into lazy buns and the boys wear baseball hats. Some of the girls wear rundown sneakers and the boys even wear slippers. I would give anything to be like that.

Instead, I sit here behind the wheel of my car, just watching the people that I’m actually a little jealous of because when I woke up this morning, I told myself that I would be like them.

I told myself that I would put on the only pair of jeans that I own and put my old Cheerios hoodie on, too. And I was going to wear the sneakers that I save for rigorous Glee club rehearsals and complete the look by putting my hair up into a ponytail. People would know that something was wrong with me just by the way I dressed, but I was going to debut the new Quinn. New Quinn doesn’t care about how she looks, she cares about being comfortable. New Quinn doesn’t always feel like wearing dresses and keeping her hair done up. New Quinn knows that everyone in the entire school is aware that she spent last summer in a treatment center for supposedly trying to kill herself, but New Quinn is embracing that. In fact, if anybody else is struggling with depression and anxiety and being raped and missing their child and coming out as gay? New Quinn will help you. New Quinn is brave. New Quinn is not a coward.

But unfortunately for me, Same Quinn is the one that rolled out of bed this morning.

I started to put the jeans on, I swear I did. I even had one leg through and was sitting on my bed to put the other leg through. But then I thought about it a little too much and caught a glimpse of my favorite brown skirt and saw the yellow cardigan I always wear to go with it and I got scared. Because it seems like there’s no room for New Quinn to exist and even if there was, it’s so much easier to be the Same Quinn.

Bailey told me once that change is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable, but I don’t like it. I don’t want to be uncomfortable. I want to stay as I am in my own bubble.

But see, the problem is that Same Quinn doesn’t want to go inside. New Quinn could strut in there in her jeans and hoodie with her chin up. New Quinn would answer any and all questions about the treatment center she went to, and she would take every snide comment about it in stride. That’s the difference between the Quinn who’s wearing jeans and a hoodie and the Quinn who’s sitting inside her car having a panic attack over the fact that everyone now knows.

I could always ditch. I could always just go back home and try to debut New Quinn tomorrow. Mom’s not home. She had to go to work for a couple hours today and after that, she’s going to a business lunch with Dad. So she won’t be home for a while and she’ll never know that I didn’t go. Except maybe if the secretary calls her to let her know that I’m not in school but by then, she’ll already be busy with work and lunch with dad that she won’t even care that I skipped school. Yeah, that’s it. I’ll ditch. I’ll give everybody a day to let the shock of Quinn Fabray needing a treatment center wear off. It’s Tuesday, so Bailey might be upset if I’m absent and missing our session, but if I tell her what happened and how Mercedes stabbed me in the back, I’m pretty sure she’ll understand. She’ll get it. I can skip.

Just as I go to turn my car back on so I can drive home, my phone buzzes on the passenger’s seat next to me.

 

New iMessage

Tuesday, October 23

7:16 a.m.

RACHEL: Text me when you get to school. We saved you a seat in the cafeteria ♡


It’s like that heart emoji holds some kind of special power within it. Because I swear, the second I see it, I open up my door. And I grab my backpack.

And I get right out of the car.


So far, so good. Nobody’s staring, nobody’s saying anything. So far, we’re fine. Everybody is talking to each other and nobody’s eyes are following me. No sign of Santana. No sign of Puck. This is good. Maybe I can just coast through the day.

The scent of french toast sticks and breakfast sausage makes my mouth water, and if things continue to go as well as they’re going right now as I’m sifting through the tables to make my way over to where Tina, Rachel and Backstabber of the Month are sitting, I’ll probably go up and get in line so I can get some.

I’m a little glad I didn’t end up wearing jeans and a hoodie today, because that would have attracted attention. I know it sounds terrible and I apologize for being stuck up and snooty, but it really is much more jaw-dropping when Quinn Fabray isn’t completely fabulous. People have come to expect greatness from me and nobody’s staring right now because I look normal. A brown skirt, a white tank top, a yellow knitted cardigan. A white headband with a bow on the left side and a pair of brown Uggs. I look like the way I have always looked. Like I own this school and everyone expects that these days. I definitely would have attracted unwanted attention by wearing the stupid hoodie and jeans.

“Hey,” I say as I put my backpack on the table and sit down. Mercedes opens up her mouth and starts to say something to me, but I turn my back toward her so I’m facing Rachel. “Thanks for saving me a seat.”

Rachel and Tina both notice the way I turn my back on Mercedes — literally — but neither one of them say anything and I’m glad because if anyone says anything to me along the lines of “you should forgive her,” I might freak out. I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive her. She’s the reason this entire situation just got more complicated and if she’s willing to run her big fat mouth about that, what else is she willing to run her big fat mouth about?

Did she tell people what Puck did to me?

How about the fact that my baby cried when I held her?

Did she tell everyone about my thing… whatever it is… with Rachel?

How am I supposed to trust her after this?

“So are you sure that Mr. Schue said that Blaine is getting it or are you just assuming because that’s the way we practiced it?” Tina asks Rachel.

Even though my back is turned to her, Mercedes nudges her styrofoam tray toward me, and I look down at it. She left a piece of sausage and three french toast sticks on it. She must have noticed me eyeing Tina’s tray. I hate that she knows me so well. And I hate that she’s clearly trying to get me to forgive her.

“No, he literally said that Blaine is taking the lead on ‘Hear You Me.’ He said he’s letting Blaine take the lead on it for the assembly on Friday because I have two solos for sectionals that I have to worry about. As if I can’t do both? We all know Blaine’s a great singer but if we really want to do the assembly any justice, I should get the lead.” Rachel is ranting again and I’m trying not to smile but she’s just so cute when she does that and I can’t help it.

“Yeah, but at least it’s just the assembly,” Mercedes says and pushes her tray just a little closer to me. I keep my back turned towards her and pick up a piece of sausage with my two fingers. “It might actually be nice to give someone else a chance.”

“Yeah, Blaine works hard. He deserves it,” Tina agrees and I say nothing. I just keep chewing on my sausage.

“I didn’t say that he doesn’t deserve it, but over me? Shouldn’t this be about the person who can sing the song the best? It’s not just an assembly, it’s honoring our dead classmate. Just because he —“ she stops as soon as I put my hand on her leg under the table. She’s getting all worked up and she’s going to make a spectacle of herself and get herself all flustered and she needs to stop. So I rub her knee. Gently. But still hard enough for her to know I’m here. “I just really want to honor Karofsky is all I’m saying and I think the best singer in Glee club should do it.”

I close my eyes as soon as she says that because I feel the tension put into the air as soon as the last syllable rolls off her tongue. God, Rachel. Why… did you have to say that…? I open my eyes slowly, only to be met with Mercedes and Tina both looking at her like they want to reach across the table and choke her. And this is the reason why they never wanted to hang out with her…

She’s not that bad guys, I swear. She just feels threatened. You have to know how to handle her and understand her comments. She didn’t mean you guys are bad singers. She knows you’re both really good too. It’s just that she feels threatened. Blaine is edging into her spotlight and she’s insecure. That’s all. Please don’t be mad at her. Please don’t kick her out of the group and want to strangle her. I know she comes off like that but she doesn’t mean it.

“So what if Mr. Schue gave the solo to me?” Mercedes asks, adding even more unnecessary tension to the already awkward situation. “Then what?”

Rachel looks like she’s seconds away from crying, but she tries to defend herself anyway. “Mercedes, I’m not saying that —“ 

“She didn’t mean it like that,” I snap at Mercedes and I know that I’m probably only snapping because I’m already mad at her but I can’t help it. “What she meant was that —“

And as if the school building knows that this situation is about to escalate and blow up way beyond our repair, the bell rings to dismiss us all to go to first period.

Rachel stands up before any of us, like she’s about to storm away and go cry in a corner somewhere, and I just want to make sure that doesn’t happen, so I get up as fast as I can, too. I grab my backpack and my books off the table and Mercedes’ tray that I was eating off of so I can throw it away, but Rachel is moving super fast. And I know she’s upset because she forgot the oversized purse that she keeps her books inside of.

“Ra—“ I start to call after her, but someone way bigger and way taller than me bumps into me as I walk and everything in my hands — my books, my backpack, the tray — goes crashing to the floor. And now I’m annoyed. Because I could have definitely caught up to her if this big 500-pound hog would just watch where he’s going.

I don’t even know his name, I just know that he’s a linebacker on the football team and he has really bright red hair. He mumbles a half-assed apology to me as I bend over and start picking up everything that he made me drop.

And as I’m bent over, literally just trying to clean up the stuff that the football player should be helping me clean up, I catch a glimpse of black and white Adidas sneakers standing off to the side of me.

And my whole body just kinda freezes, you know? Like when you step outside into the cold air for the first time all day and you feel it chilling you to the bone? Even though you have a coat on your body and a scarf around your shoulders and a hat on your head, you still feel the cold hitting every inch of your body. It makes you stand still. It stops you in your tracks. It makes you freeze.

Because I’d realize those Adidas anywhere, and I know exactly who they belong to. They’re beat-up and hardly white anymore. Creased at the toes with dirty, frayed laces. The logo is on the side is worn off and the stripes are peeling off. They’re a pair of shoes that he should have gotten rid of a long time ago, but always says that they’re “seasoned” and he can’t part with them but in reality, he holds onto them because they’re the one thing his dad ever bought for him.

“That’s a sight I surely missed,” he has laughter in his voice and it makes my stomach lurch. And I suddenly feel like I have to pee. “Never thought I’d see Fabray’s ass in the air again… of course last time, it didn’t have any clothes on it.”

And it happens just as quick as I blink. I can’t even remember how I got from point A to point B. I don’t know how I went from being bent over, picking things up to holding Puck’s body against the wall with my forearm pressed against his throat. And my arm is shaking, too. I’m holding him against the wall, choking him, so tight that my arm is shaking.

You son of a…

“DON’T YOU EVER, EVER, EVER TALK TO ME LIKE THAT.” I feel the blood rushing to my face and I feel hot, like the anger is just consuming my body like a volcano erupting inside of me and I see red. And you think that is just an expression, you know? Seeing red? You think that’s just an expression until it’s happening to you. And your arm is crushing your rapist’s windpipe. And you really, really, really think you’re going to kill him, you do. You think you’re going to kill him because if he was dead then at least maybe you can start to move on with your life when it sure seems like he moved on with his. He took everything from your life and got to move on like nothing ever happened. So you think you’re going to kill him because all the anger in your body is just being released through your arm crushing his windpipe. But then you remember that you’re not a monster like him. And you don’t want to kill him, at least not really. Because he killed you when he raped you, and you don’t want to be like that. So you let him go.

I take my arm away from Puck’s throat and watch him cough the life back into himself. My blood is still pumping and I can hear my heart beating in my ears. It’s loud, above the sound of everything else. It’s so loud that I hardly notice the very small crowd that had gathered around us. Yet, somehow, I was able to hear the fat redheaded linebacker say, “Dude, you need to go back to the loony bin.”

And that’s it for me.

I grab my backpack and leave my books and the food I dropped and walk towards the main doors. I’m skipping today, and that’s final.

“Quinn!” I hear Mercedes calling after me as I leave the cafeteria, but I don’t stop walking. “Quinn! Quinn, wait!”

“Just leave me the FUCK alone, okay?” I stomp up the small hallway and never look back. I think it’s both unhealthy and unnatural to store this much anger inside such a small body.

“Where are you going?!”

“I’m skipping! I’m not staying here!”

“Okay then, wait up! Wait up! I’ll come with you!”

When she says that, I finally turn around and stop walking. “I don’t want you to! I want to be alone! Leave me alone!”

“No!”

I try to calm myself down by taking a few deep breaths, because I see Tina coming down the hallway behind Mercedes but what really makes me calm down is the fact that Rachel is coming, too. And she saw me fall apart yesterday so I don’t want her to see me falling apart again.

“Where are you going?” Mercedes stands in front of me. “Are you going home?”

“I don’t know,” I mumble. “But I’m getting outta here, I can’t stay here, I can’t… I can’t stay. I have to go. I shouldn’t have even come today.”

“I’ll go with you,” Mercedes shrugs. “Wherever you’re going. I’m coming to.”

“And me too,” Tina puts her hand on my shoulder. “You shouldn’t be alone today. Not after that.”

Tina and Mercedes both look behind themselves, eyes falling on Rachel. Rachel, who just looks at the ground and says nothing. They look at her and wait for her to agree… but I know Rachel… and I know that she won’t.

“You guys…” Rachel says softly. “I… I can’t. It’s the week of sectionals, and I…”

“Rachel, Quinn needs us,” Mercedes says. “We can’t just —“

“After what happened with Karofsky, we need to stick together.” Tina says.

“But it’s sectionals!” Rachel says. “It’s sectionals week and Mr. Schue would KILL us if —“

“We’ll be back in time for Glee club,” Mercedes rolls her eyes.

“...You guys are insane. It’s the week of sectionals and… and I’m sorry, but I can’t. I’m not throwing away my career. Not for some silly high school friendship that probably won’t even last.” And that’s the last thing she says before she walks up the hallway….

Is that what she thinks? I know how much sectionals and how much her career means to her but… Rachel…

“Come on,” Mercedes mumbles and grabs my hand. “We don’t need her. Let’s just get you out of here.”

Tina grabs my other hand and the three of us walk out the double doors and through the parking lot to my car.

I would do it for her…

If she needed me today like the way I think I need her, I would do anything in this world to make sure she knows that I’m here for her. I wouldn’t call her a silly high school friendship that won’t last. She means more to me than that. How could she say that? After the day we had together yesterday? After… after everything? She thinks that this is just a silly friendship?

How could she say that…?

“We could go to my house,” Mercedes suggests as she puts her seatbelt on. And I’m just too hurt and too upset to even care that she’s coming with me. I want to kick her out of my car because she’s the reason for this being a big shit-fest today, but I want Rachel. I want Rachel here with me so bad that I don’t even care….

“My parents aren’t home and we can be alone and just watch movies or something.” She continues.

“Well my parents aren’t home either, so you can take your pick.” Tina fastens her own seatbelt.

I can’t believe Rachel isn’t here… I can’t believe she’s not —

All three of us startle at the same time when we hear a knock at the passenger’s side window.

And I can’t control the smile on my face when I look over and see that she didn’t let me down. That she’s standing right there, waiting for us to let her in.

Chapter Text



I pride myself on being a very responsible teen driver.

Sure there are times when I’ll look down to answer a text message really quick and sometimes I forget to use my turn signal when I merge into highway traffic. And okay yeah, there was this one time when I accidentally hit a guardrail because I was trying to avoid hitting a family of ducks. And I can’t forget about that one time I crossed a median in the middle of the turnpike because I made a wrong turn, but it was okay because no other cars were around and I didn’t damage my tires. I know it looks bad on paper if I list every stupid mistake I’ve made on the road since I got my license, but I swear I’m a responsible driver. Everybody has to wear their seatbelts in the car with me, and I’m (usually) really good with keeping my eyes focused solely on the road. 

So it’s only from the corner of my eye that I notice Tina’s hand slowly reaching up into the front seat with me and Mercedes. She’s being really quiet, too; like she’s trying to sneak and I have to swallow my laugh so I don’t blow her cover because I know exactly what she’s reaching for.

On the middle compartment where both me and Mercedes’ elbows lie, her phone is plugged into my sound system and we’ve been in the car for about 15 minutes now, stuck listening to her playlist, which includes a whole lot of Beyoncé and Whitney Houston. I’m not dissing Mercedes’ taste in music or anything because it really is pretty decent, but the songs she’s been playing aren’t exactly the kind of songs you think about listening to when you’re in a car with three of your best girlfriends with nothing but the wide open road ahead of you.

I won’t lie, every five minutes or so, the nagging reminder that I’m mad at Mercedes creeps into my mind and I grip my steering wheel so tight that it should probably turn to dust. But then I tell myself over and over again that the three of them ditched school just to make sure that I wasn’t alone today and that is very kind of them. And thinking that is usually enough for me to swallow the burning anger I feel at the fact that she’s sitting in my car beside me after betraying me like that. I can usually swallow it enough to enjoy this moment with my friends until the next wave of anger washes over me and I have to remind myself how kind they are for skipping with me again.

We don’t know where we’re going, all we know is that we’re getting out of Lima for a little. We didn’t decide if we were going to get something to eat or going to a mall or going to see a movie. All we know is that we’re in a car, driving until we’re tired and free.

Anyway, I guess Tina’s movements were quiet or slick enough, because Mercedes catches her hand just as she grabs her phone and slaps it.

“My God!” Tina is all anger with the way she slams herself back into the seat and folds her arms over her chest. “Don’t you think someone else can have the aux cord for just ONE song?!”

“This is a classic!” Mercedes says as she turns around. “What sane person doesn’t like Heartbreak Hotel?!”

“I’m just as big a Whitney fan as anybody, but you’re killing me. Literally. Killing me.”

“And if I have to listen to another song straight off the b-side of a Beyoncé album, I will jump out of the car and hitchhike back to Lima.” Rachel makes me laugh with the way she says that. Everything she does is just so… exciting to me. I hope I never stop feeling like this… “I would rather cut off my own ears and I’m not being dramatic.”

Mercedes’ jaw playfully drops and with a laugh, she faces me. “Well it’s Quinn’s car, and she gets to decide what we listen to. So what’s it gonna be, Quinn? The lovely sounds of Beyoncé and our fallen goddess Whitney? Or death metal music and showtunes ripped straight off broadway musicals?”

I flick my turn signal on so I can get into the right lane and glance in my rear view mirror to see if anything is behind me before I merge. “Give Rachel the aux cord,” I mutter, focused on making sure this eighteen-wheel truck can see me while I’m merging.

Rachel and Tina both “ha-ha” Mercedes was she unplugs her phone, celebrating their win. I can’t help but grin right along with them and with the side-eye that Mercedes just gave me, I know she thinks that I only gave Rachel the aux cord because I’m in love with her, which… is partially true, I guess, but also because I’m just really curious as to what kinds of songs are on her phone.

“Nothing that sounds like a kindergartener wrote it or like it belongs on a theater soundtrack though, okay?” I look into the backseat through my mirror, and she’s just grinning from ear to ear as she shoves the cord into her phone’s port. “I mean it” I say. “I’ll disconnect the aux cord and we’ll listen to the radio!”

“Yeah, yeah, okay,” she waves me off with her hand and for a minute, I forget about everything except for this right here.

When she presses play and the first song of her choice comes on, and I turn the volume up just a little bit louder because even though I’m really not the biggest fan of what she just chose, I suddenly love it just because she does. Mercedes groans all dramatic and Tina laughs while Rachel tries to defend her taste in music by saying that it’s actually a really good song if they would just listen to the lyrics.

I feel that little spark of infinity again.

You know that feeling you get when you’re driving down the highway, not really knowing where you’re going and not really caring? Because all the people you love are in the car with you and your hair is down and your smile is honest and your stomach hurts from laughing? A sore stomach for all the right reasons, they call it. And maybe you’re not the best singer but that’s okay because the girls in your car don’t care if you’re Whitney Houston or Rebecca Black. They care about who you are and how you’re feeling.

It’s that feeling of infinity. And I feel it again as we all — Mercedes included, even though she just trash talked the song — open our mouths and belt at the top of our lungs as chorus rolls around.

“I can drink whiskey and red wine. Champagne all night. Little Scotch on the rocks and I’m fine, I’m fine…”

And that feeling — that infinity — rises up inside and swallows me whole as the four of us get as loud as we can possibly be for our favorite part.

“But when I taste Tequila! Baby I still see ya! Cuttin’ up the floor in a sorority t-shirt, same one you wore when we were… Sky high in Colorado! Lips pressed against the bottle! Swearin’ on a bible baby I’d never leave ya, I remember how bad I need ya… when I taste Tequila! When I taste Tequila!”

All four of us laugh so hard that I swear the car shakes. And I don’t know why we’re laughing, because we sounded really good together. But we’re laughing and laughing and laughing some more and I think that we’re never going to stop which is fine with me. Maybe we’re laughing because we weren’t expecting this song from Rachel. Maybe we’re laughing because Mercedes acted like she hated it but was belting louder than all of us. Or perhaps maybe we’re laughing because right here, right now, is all we’ve ever needed. I don’t know what it is about this feeling between us. But I hope to God I never stop feeling this way.

As the verse continues to play, Rachel and Tina both lean up so their heads are in the front seat with me and Mercedes, and I turn the radio down so they can all hear what I’m about to say.

“Lets go to Cedar Point,” I suggest. I’m not sure how serious I am with my suggestion, but I realize after I say it that I’m very hopeful. Maybe I am serious… “I’m serious, guys. Let’s just go.” Or maybe I’ve officially lost my mind.

“Are you… actually insane?” Rachel scoots so that she’s even further in the front seat with me and Mercedes and her face is right next to mine. I have to seriously fight the urge to turn my head a couple inches and just kiss her… “Like, clinically insane? That’s CRAZY, Quinn!”

“Yeah, we don’t have any money,” Tina says next. “Well, at least, I don’t. I didn’t bring any. I didn’t even bring my jacket.”

Mercedes turns and faces me. “And you know it’s like two hours away, right? It’s all the way in Sandusky.”

“So?!” I merge into the lane that will lead us to the exit toward Sandusky and press down on my brake since traffic’s stopped. “Come on, guys. Don’t be boring. We’re sixteen years old. When are we ever going to be this spontaneous again?!”

“Quinn, we literally can’t just go two hours away to Cedar Point!” Mercedes raises her voice a little and it’s a swift reminder that I’m actually supposed to be mad at her right now. Give me one good reason not to kick you out of my car right now… “Do you hear yourself right now?”

“Tickets are like $50 to get in, plus we’re going to need to eat lunch. I didn’t bring a hundred bucks to school with me, did any of you bring a hundred bucks to school with you?” Tina looks at all three of us. “Didn’t think so.”

“And we have to be back by 3:45 for Glee club, remember? Mr. Schue said if we miss even one rehearsal this week that he’s banning us from performing at sectionals and I can’t be banned!” She’s so cute when she panics. “This is my career, there could literally be scouts in the audience, scouts that see me perform and want to SIGN me! I cannot be banned from performing.”

“Rachel… shut up,” I mumble to her as I’m turning around to face her because traffic is still at a standstill. She looks at me like she can’t believe I actually just told her to shut up and to be honest, I can’t believe I said that either. But in a way, it kind of felt… good? Because it’s like a little piece of our relationship hasn’t changed and there’s still that comfort and normalcy. It’s like for a second, we’re the old Rachel and Quinn and I didn’t realize how much everything between us had changed until I just told her to shut it.

And it’s weird, because she does. She actually does shut up and stops panicking as soon as I tell her to and it feels weird. A good weird. The kind of weird that I like. Weird because I have the power to stop her from having one of her anxious meltdowns.

“You have two solos for sectionals. Not one, but two. Do you really think Mr. Schue would pull your solos? Who the hell would he give them to? He can’t give them to our second powerhouse because she’s in the car with us and she’ll be in trouble, too. If he takes your solos away it screws the entire numbers up and he wouldn’t do that so close to sectionals.”

“She’s right,” Tina nudges her with her elbow. “He wouldn’t just give your solos away four days before sectionals. The only person who can perform them just as good as you is Mercedes and she’s right here with us.”

“And you,” I single Tina out next. “Don’t worry about the money. I have a credit card in my wallet that has a thousand dollar limit that belongs to my dad, and I can max it out if I want to. I’d consider it payback for kicking me out last year.”

All three of them laugh when I say that and I laugh a little too, but I’m really not joking about it. I’ve been considering maxing out the American Express card for a few weeks now. Every time I go to do it, either my conscience stops me or some random twist of fate prevents it from happening. Case in point: Beth and Shelby showing up while me and Mercedes are at the mall.

“And I know it’s far. It’s an hour and a half from where we are now, but it’s literally only 8:00. We’ll get there at 9:30 and that means we’ll have like almost five hours to ride rollercoasters and eat until we explode. Five hours before we have to get on the road and go back to Lima. Come on guys. Come on. When will we ever do this again? When will we ever skip school again?”

Mercedes takes a long, deep breath. It’s the kind of deep breath that comes before she’s about to give in to me. “...Okay, I’m in.”

“...I do want to ride that new rollercoaster they put in last summer,” Tina sighs. “Count me in.”

“I’m in,” Rachel mumbles but when I look back at her through the mirror because traffic started flowing again, I notice that she looks nervous. And she rests her head against the window.

But I know she’ll have a good time if she would just loosen up a little bit, I know she would.

So instead of turning the car around and doing what I know would ease her worried little mind, I turn the radio up a little louder and wait for us to sing and for infinity to return again.


“It’ll be 195.80,” the short guy with spiky hair working behind the ticket counter says, and I slide the pink and white American Express card that says Lucy Q Fabray across the bottom of it in white letters underneath the slit in the bottom of the glass. He swipes it, then shoves a piece of paper underneath the slit for me to sign.

I sign it exactly as my name appears on the card, Lucy first, and I know they all notice because they’re all crowded around me watching me sign because it’s like they didn’t believe that I actually had the credit card I claimed I did. And I’m trying to be happy today, I’m really trying. So I decide to not be annoyed with the fact that I’m going to have to explain that my name is Lucy.

“Here you go,” I use my nicest voice possible and smile at the guy when I shove his pen and the credit card slip back underneath the glass. “Thank you.”

“Do you need a receipt?” he asks.

“No thanks,” I shake my head and continue through the turnstiles. I stop right before the entrance so that Mercedes, Tina and Rachel can grab their tickets off of me. “Don’t worry about it, guys. Tickets were only $45.99… well, $48 and some change if you include tax.”

“I thought you said it was your dad’s card, though,” Mercedes grabs her ticket off of me and looks up at the big blue rollercoaster that travels over the entrance. That one is the Gatekeeper, and it’s my favorite.

“You didn’t like, steal someone’s credit card, did you?” Tina takes her ticket from me next.

“God, no,” I laugh and shake my head as I hand Rachel her ticket. She takes it and stays just as quiet as she’s been since the drive here. I’m starting to feel a little bit bad for dragging her here when she was so clearly against it, but I know she’ll have fun once we get inside. At least… I hope she will. “It’s fine, technically. But it’s on my dad’s account. I’m just an authorized user. He kicked me out and shunned me from the family but the man’s got so much money that he doesn’t realize he never took my name off the AMEX account. We’re all on it, kinda. Me, my mom and Frannie.”

“So who’s Lucy then?” Mercedes asks as we start to walk through the gates.

“Me,” I shrug like it’s the most natural thing ever and everybody should know that my name isn’t Quinn. “Quinn’s just my middle name. That’s what the Q on the card stands for.” Please don’t ask for the story behind it, please don’t ask for the story behind it.

“Why didn’t I know that?”

“You never asked and it never came up,” I shrug again. I’m ready to change the subject. I don’t want to talk about Lucy anymore. “Okay, come on. Let’s get in line. We only have a few hours and we’re not about to waste ‘em. We have to get on Gatekeeper. Like now, while the line isn’t long.”

I miss when me, Mom, Dad and Frannie used to come here every summer. It might sound a little bit sad, but it was the one thing I used to look forward to. It seems silly now, but I used to think about it every summer. Every summer, Mom packed up the cooler with sandwiches and juice boxes and potato chips and we made the two hour drive up to Sandusky just to go to Cedar Point for the weekend. The first day, we would always lay out our towels and have a picnic on the beach. Mom would lie on her back with her chin up towards the sun and try to get a tan while Dad used to hold Frannie’s hand while they wandered into the ocean. And I would always sit beside Mom, eating all the snacks she brought along with us, content just to make my own little sandcastle.

It’s a bit sad now looking back on it, because I realize now that it was the only thing I could count on. I knew that every summer, no matter how hot it was or how badly Dad made Mom cry, I knew that we were going to go to Cedar Point. And the entire weekend we were there, nothing from Lima ever touched us. Not the lipstick on Dad’s collar that made Mom cry, not the shattered plates that Frannie and I had to step over so we could comfort Mom while she cleaned them up, and not Dad making us watch while he “showed us how bad girls are treated” as he kept pushing our crying mother to the floor. For at least one weekend, we felt normal. Like a family of four who loved each other.

Our last summer here ended with me crying. I was thirteen and about to start the eighth grade in a week. And I was so excited because me and Mom had just went out to Kohl’s and bought me this real pretty pink and white bathing suit. It had tropical flowers all over it, and it was a very tasteful two-piece that showed off my stomach. And for whatever reason, Mom had decided that this was the year she would let me and Frannie go to the amusement park first and we’d do the beach on the last day we were there. So there I was, little and excited to debut my special new bathing suit. So I took off my towel and was ready to race Frannie, my beautiful skinny little twig of a sister, to the tide. But Dad took one look at me and handed me his t-shirt. And he told me that I was too fat for what I had on and if I wanted to swim, I had to change. It wasn’t the first time my father had called me fat before, not by fair. But this time sticks out so clearly in my memory because this was the first day I realized that I could make myself lighter by getting rid of everything I ate.

Our final trip here as a family was the last time I was here, and I used to get sad thinking about it because I didn’t realize that was the last time. Because you never think the last time is the last time. You’re laughing and you think that you still have a few more good ones left. And you’re crying over the seagulls attacking your french fries, but you think that you have plenty more trips to get plenty more french fries. And you’re laying there with your sand between your toes and the sun beating on your skin and you think that next year, you’re going to get the funnel cake with the ice cream on it from the boardwalk vendor. You never think the last time you do something is going to be the last time. Not until it’s too late.

I must have zoned out or something because I don’t remember how I got here, but the next thing I know, we’re standing in line for Gatekeeper. Mercedes and Tina are in front of me, and Rachel is behind. Quite a few paces behind, too.

I know that it’s only because we’re here on a Tuesday morning in the middle of fall, but the lines aren’t very long at all, and we’re moving pretty quickly. But Rachel seems stuck and there’s nobody behind us yet, so as the rest of the line moves, I stay put. I linger around in the back for her.

“You okay?” I ask, slipping my hand inside hers. She doesn’t answer me. She just looks down at the ground but she doesn’t have to say anything for me to know what she is thinking. She’s thinking the same thing that I’m thinking. And I’m thinking that I should stop holding her hand in front of all these people.

So I drop her hand and we both catch up with Tina and Mercedes because someone has just gotten in line behind us.

“You know, I’m really glad you decided to come,” I mumble. My back is against the metal railing of the queue line and I’m looking straight ahead. She’s standing beside me, same position. “I know that this was a big risk for you. I know that every bone in your body told you to stay at school today. But you didn’t. And I’m glad you came.”

Even when I thank her, she still says nothing. The four of us just continue on up as the line moves quickly and we’re waiting to be seated into the next available carts in no time at all.

I wonder if it’ll always be this hard. Like will I ever be able to hold her hand in public? Because I really want to be able to hold her hand. Will I ever be able to lean in and kiss her whenever I feel like she needs to be kissed?

And why is it that every time the two of us make progress, it comes to a screeching halt again? Like yesterday the two of us were sitting on my couch, laying on each other, being all affectionate and that was fine. There was no shame in that because we were alone and behind closed doors and free to be ourselves. But now, I can’t even hold her hand without worrying about the people who are looking. I can’t —

What pulls me out of my ever-racing thoughts is not the fact that the line moves up again and we’re clear to sit inside the cart that just pulled up in front of us. No. The thing that pulls me out of my thoughts is a hand. A hand that weasels its way underneath of mine and squeezes. Her hand. And as I’m about to climb into the cart in front of Tina and Mercedes, I turn around and look at her instead because she must want my attention… right?

“You’re someone I’m willing to take risks for, Quinn,” she whispers to me. And I’m stuck for a second, I really am. I’m stuck just staring at her because I can’t believe she just said that to me. I’m stuck. So I’m grateful that she’s not, and she motions for me to continue on into the cart.

I step inside of it one foot at a time and help her inside of it, too. The both of us sit down and fasten our seatbelts like nothing just happened and she didn’t say what she just did. And I’m starting to think that maybe that’s our thing. Maybe it’s our thing to be affectionate and then act like it didn’t happen. Maybe it’s our thing to be open about it but then hide it the next second. And it’s frustrating, it is. But I kind of like having something that’s totally ours.

As the ride attendant checks our safety restraints and uses the announcements to go over everything we’re not supposed to do on the ride, I put my hand on Rachel’s kneecap. She looks down at it like she can’t believe it’s there and I’m actually touching her, so I keep it still for a second. Not totally still, I do caress it with my fingertips. But only when the ride actually starts do I finish what I initially started to do when I put my hand on her leg.

I turn my palm rightside up and offer it to her. It’s a simple offering, but an offering nonetheless and I hope she accepts it…

We’re not in Lima, so who cares? If someone sees us holding hands, who cares? We’re in Sandusky. We’re at an amusement park. Nobody here knows Rachel Berry and Quinn Fabray. For all they know, we ARE girlfriends. We ARE gay or lesbian or bisexual or whatever it is that you want to label us, but this is us. And we’re here. And there’s nobody to laugh at us as we walk down the hallways and nobody to start rumors. This is all we’ve ever been to the people who don’t know us — the people who don’t know that we’ve ever dated men or had babies. This is who we are in this moment. This is us.

As the chains stop clanking and we reach the top of the hill, Rachel laces her fingers inside of mine and squeezes tight. And it’s that moment before everything drops out from underneath of us and sends our stomachs into our chests. It’s a single split second, but it feels like an eternity because we know what’s about to happen; that the chains are about to let loose and send us plummeting to the uncertainty below.

Rachel squeezes my hand so tight that my fingers go numb, then sucks in a deep breath. And the scream that she lets out as we free-fall down the hill and whirl into an upside down spiral is loud enough to rupture my eardrums, but is beautiful enough to make the hairs on my arms stand up.

And maybe if I wasn’t here with the girl I’m almost certain that I’m in love with, I would scream too. Maybe I would squeeze her hand back and close my eyes as we do another corkscrew and go upside down….

Maybe I’d scream loud enough to rupture her eardrum, too.

And for a second, I think that this right here is what could be it for me. If I could freeze time and bottle it up and keep it with me and replay it every time I need something to make me feel better, it would be this moment right here. This moment of Rachel, squeezing my hand so tight that it throbs. Her silky brunette hair whipping in the wind and her perfectly straight and white teeth all shining as her mouth hangs open. When it’s just me and her. Hand in hand. Here in heart.

I wonder what the people in Lima would say if they could see us now. I wonder if they would judge or if they would be happy for us. I wonder if they would be surprised or able to see it coming. I wonder if they would laugh or cry.  I wonder, I wonder, I wonder.

But that’s enough wondering for today. So for the first time in my entire life, I make the conscious decision to stop thinking.

I just want to live in this moment with her.


It’s funny how when I was on the four rollercoasters, I felt absolutely nothing but pure bliss. She held my hand on all four rides and swear all four times I died and went to heaven. She even put her head on my shoulder as we were going up the hill on Millennium Force because that hill is so steep and so high that it takes a solid five minutes to get up it. Mercedes and Tina were sitting behind us and they were both “aww”-ing and to my surprise, neither me nor Rachel said anything about it. It’s like they were teasing us for being a couple and being affectionate in public, but neither one of us felt the need to correct it or be embarrassed. So now I guess Tina knows. And I guess she doesn’t care. Because she hasn’t made a big deal about it.

Anyway, I felt nothing while I was with her. But now that she’s in the bathroom and I’m sitting here on a cold wooden bench next to Mercedes, waiting for her and Tina to come out, I feel everything and I wish I had dressed for the weather. My legs are starting to get numb because my tights aren’t thick and my brown skirt isn’t much protection. My cardigan is made from heavy knitted wool, but it doesn’t help much because I’m wearing an actual tank top underneath of it. I have never been more cold in my entire life and even though I’m drinking a large cup full of hot chocolate, I am still shivering.

Mercedes notices and drapes her thick furry jacket over my legs. I’m the only idiot who didn’t bring a jacket today because I was so focused on looking nice and acting like the same old me. Tina’s wearing a sweater and a pair of jeans with some boots and she has the jacket she wore to school, Rachel’s wearing knitted leggings and an oversized sweater and she has the jacket that she wore to school, and Mercedes wore a long-sleeved t-shirt with a pair of jeans and she has the jacket that she just gave to me. And then there’s me. Stupid me. In white tights, a brown skirt and a white cardigan. At least I have my UGGs to keep my feet warm…

I don’t thank Mercedes, by the way. When she puts her jacket across my legs, I don’t say thank you and I know it bugs her that I didn’t, because she starts talking to me.

“...Thanks for letting me come today. Even though you’re clearly still mad at me, you still let me come and didn’t let it break up our friendship, so… thanks.” She sighs. “How long are you gonna be mad, Quinn? I can’t take this… this you being distant and not telling me things. It sucks.”

“Well gee, Mercedes. Let me just check my timer and see if my time for being angry is up yet. Let me get back to you. But it was set for a pretty long time!” I snap and shove her jacket back at her. I don’t want the jacket of a backstabber.

“Well how long, Quinn?! If I had known that you were going to be this pissed off, I would have —“

“You didn’t know I was going to be mad?! How did you not know?! You literally told Santana Lopez that I spent my summer in treatment — a secret I TRUSTED YOU WITH. You —“

“Wait, back up, back up! Hell to the no! What?! You think I TOLD Santana?! You think that I — YOUR BEST FRIEND — told SANTANA?!”

“You’re the only person I told! The ONLY person I told and if Santana knows then clearly —“

“Then screw you, Quinn,” she looks me dead in the eyes when she says that, so I know she means it. It kind of hurts to hear her say that. “Seriously. Screw you. If you think for one second that I would break your trust like that and tell ANYONE, but especially SANTANA, anything about you then you CLEARLY don’t know me and who I am as a friend and we don’t need to be friends any longer. I can’t believe you would actually think that I would do some shady shit like that.”

“Then how does she know?! Huh?! Answer me that! Because she found out some way and Mercedes, when she told all those people, I just… I wasn’t ready. I would’ve told. I would’ve told the club. But I just wasn’t ready ... not yet. So I need to know how she knows.”

She takes a deep breath as if she’s about to tell me something that’s going to alter the course of my life. And she scoots over on the bench, too. Real close to me. Like I might need support after she says this or something. But she doesn’t look me in the eye, which really scares me because you don’t look people in the eye while you’re about to hurt them. The only people who do that are psychopaths.

“...I guess about a month ago your mom didn’t know where you were. You remember that? You didn’t tell her that you joined Glee after school and then you went somewhere else after Glee and she got all worried, remember?”

“I went to therapy. And then to Wendy’s for dinner. We… had a fight. A big fight. And she said something really mean, so I just… drove myself to therapy after Glee club. And then to Wendy’s. She got all weird and panicky.”

“Yeah,” Mercedes nods. “...And remember when she called Puck? Because she thought he might have known where you were?”

As soon as she says that, I stop breathing and practically stop listening because I already know where this is going. And I feel all weird and empty inside, like someone punched a hole through me or shot a cannon clean through my middle. I feel so empty that I actually have to touch my stomach and make sure there’s not a hole where my guts used to be.

“He told everybody in Glee club about a month ago. But everybody decided that they were going to wait to mention it ... wait until you told them about it yourself.”

“...So everybody already knew?” I whisper, hands starting to shake. “Everybody in Glee has known for a month… and nobody told me…”

“That’s why I thought you were mad at me. I thought you were mad because I didn’t tell you they everybody already knew. But I just didn’t want to hurt you even more, you know? You already don’t talk to me about it, so I know it’s still fresh for you. So I just didn’t think that you needed to know that everybody already knew…” She puts her hand against mine to stop it from shaking. “Quinn, I would never tell anybody anything you told me not to. I would never —“‘

She pulls her hand away from mine quickly and jumps because out of nowhere I throw my hot chocolate across the way. But that’s not enough, I’m still shaking and angry so I get up and kick the garbage can. But that’s still not enough, so I keep kicking it and kicking it and kicking it and I’m cold but my tears are hot and I’m mad and I’m sad and I don’t know how I can be both at the same time and it’s not fair and why does this have to be my life and am I always going to be this angry will it ever truly go away or will it always be here inside of me and the garbage is all over my boots because I’m stepping in it but I can’t stop kicking I can’t stop kicking and I’m crying and my tears and my snot is flying all over the place and that’s gross but I don’t stop kicking and I’m just so mad and sad but more mad than sad maybe just today because most days I’m more sad than mad and it’s Tuesday and I skipped school and I’m at Cedar Point and I missed my session with Bailey and I need her and he raped me and I had a baby and my mom is never home and —

“Quinn, stop! Stop!” Mercedes grabs me by the arms and I’m all sweaty and out of breath even though it’s fifty degrees and windy. “It’s okay…”

“It’s not! It’s not okay!” I shrug really hard to get her hands off of me and more tears just keep falling and I can’t stop it and I can’t help it. “It’s not okay!” I stomp my foot, breathing heavy. People are staring but I don’t care. It’s not okay. “He keeps taking from me…” I shake my head as a fresh round rolls down. “Why does he keep taking from me? I thought I gave him everything...I thought he took everything that I had, y’know? That night, I… he took everything I had and I didn’t think I had anything left but he keeps taking… m-my…body, my dignity, my identity, my sanity, my… v-virginity …” I feel like I’m going to throw up when I say that… “And now this? My privacy, my… peace of mind? Things I didn’t even know I had. Why does he keep taking things from me?”

She has tears rolling down her cheeks, too. But somehow she’s still strong with the way she wraps her arms around me and holds me as sobs rock me so hard my entire body aches. “He’ll never take anything else… never.” She whispers in my ear.

“What’s… what’s going on?” I hear Rachel’s voice come from behind me but Mercedes won’t let me out of her body-swallowing hug.

“Is everything is okay?” Tina asks.

“She’s still just a little upset about what happened in the cafeteria this morning,” Mercedes clears her throat and loosens up a bit. “She’s okay.”

I wriggle out of Mercedes’ grasp and wipe my face with the sleeves of my cardigan. Rachel looks at me like her heart is actively shattering by seeing me cry. And that’s when I decide that Mercedes is wrong. I know that she was just trying to protect me and do what she thinks I would want because she’s still the only one of my friends who knows for sure what Puck did to me, but she’s wrong to make excuses. I’m wrong for letting her make excuses.

“You can’t keep trying to protect me,” I look at Mercedes with new tears lining my eyes, shaking my head. I might be crying, but I’m strong. “We can’t keep making up excuses. Because making up excuses protects him.” I sniffle and Mercedes closes her eyes, flinching because she knows what I’m about to do. “...Puck raped me, guys. Like… actual rape. Like.. I said no, asked him to stop, started to cry, started to bleed rape.”

Tina’s eyes grow wider with every word I say and Rachel looks like she has actually seen a ghost. Her face is pale white, her eyes are glassy and she wears no expression. I can’t even tell what she’s thinking. And Mercedes puts her hand on my shoulder, as if she’s giving me a little bit of her strength.

“So… yeah,” I sigh. “That’s why I’ve been so…” I sniff again. “I thought I could ignore him and ignore it and ignore the way he makes me feel but I… I think I hate him? So much that it consumes me? I dunno…”

I think Tina and Rachel are both in shock. But they work differently because when Tina is in shock, she asks questions to make it feel more real. While Rachel — my Rachel — hasn’t breathed since the words left my mouth. I think she might pass out.

“...How?” Tina asks, voice that tone that is just both dazed and confused.

“I was drunk and he wasn’t. He kept giving me drink after drink and he wouldn’t stop when I asked him to.”

“...When?”

“Summer before sophomore year… when I got pregnant.”

“Did… did you… does he… were you… were you like… conscious? Like… like awake?”

“Yes, Tina,” I sigh. “I remember bits and pieces but I was fully conscious. I… felt him… you know… inside of me…”

“Okay, we can stop,” Rachel mumbles under her breath so low that I can barely hear her.

“And it like… hurt?” Tina continues, still in her own personal state of shock.

“Pretty bad, too…” I nod.

“Please, Tina, stop now,” Rachel mumbles again.

“And you like… cried? But he kept… going?”

“TINA —“ Rachel starts to yell at her again but she doesn’t get much about before she makes a mad dash over to the nearest garbage can that I didn’t kick over.

And her shoulders hunch up to her ears as vomits into the trashcan.

 

Chapter Text

I hope Mr. Schue doesn’t ask us why we’re late.

I mean, I kind of doubt that he will ask because ever since we started preparing for sectionals, he pushed the start time of Glee club until 4:00 so that we have a chance to go home and eat dinner or go grab something from the McDonald’s down the road. Most of us just stay at school and don’t leave because Mr. Schue and Miss Pillsbury usually order pizza for the kids who don’t have cars or can’t afford to go eat, but there are a few of us who take the opportunity to get out of McKinley for 45 minutes. Me, Rachel, Tina and Mercedes are not the ones who usually leave. We usually sit in the choir room and talk amongst ourselves until the ones who did leave came back.

The clock on the touchscreen radio my dad had installed for my sixteenth birthday last year reads 3:51 as I’m pulling into the same stall I parked in before we left this morning. We were supposed to be here at 3:45, it’s 3:51 and we are exactly six minutes late, and I think if Mr. Schue asks, I’m just going to tell him that we got stuck in traffic on the way home from Panera.

Which wouldn’t exactly be a lie, by the way. We did hit traffic on the way home from Panera, it just wasn’t a Panera in Lima. We decided to starve at Cedar Point, because Tina, Rachel and Mercedes wouldn’t let me pay for their food there because it was super expensive, plus we all wanted to ride as many rollercoasters as possible and it just didn’t seem like food was a priority out there. But as I was doing 80mph on the highway, my stomach started to growl and I wondered if theirs were growling too. It was only 2:10 and we were only an hour away from home by then. So I pulled off on an exit and we ran into the Panera and ordered a bunch of sandwiches and soup. And if you’ve never tried to drink broccoli and cheddar soup from a paper coffee thermos while you’re driving and trying to make it back to Lima in time, let me be the first to tell you that it freaking sucks.

I throw my gearshift in park and pull the keys from the ignition as soon as I turn my car off. Rachel is out of the car first and practically sprinting to the double doors, but Me, Tina and Mercedes are not far behind her. Even in my clunky UGG boots, I’m still keeping up with them. Rachel flings the right side of the double doors open and flies right through it and I don’t know how, but the rest of us manage to get through it before it closes, too. And for a minute, I think Rachel has missed her calling and should surely try out for the track team next year. She’d run one hell of a marathon.

“What time is it, Quinn?!” Rachel asks as she throws the doors to the cafeteria open. The cafeteria isn’t a shortcut, babe. It takes just the same amount of time to get to the auditorium through the cafeteria as it would take had we gone through the gym.

“3:52!” I yell, even though I’m tired and out of breath. God I really hope Mr. Schue isn’t mad at us. I mean, we’re not technically late, are we? I mean yeah, he wants us all back and lined up for our first number by 4:00 on the nose, but we’re not that late. We’re making it on time. God, I haven’t ran this much since I was a Cheerio. God, I’m a little winded.

I stop at the trashcan so I can throw away the Panera wrappers and containers that Rachel left in the front seat of my car when she jumped out of it like it was on fire. Mercedes and Tina pass me up and slip right through the white and red doors that lead to the auditorium, but I take a moment to catch my breath. I didn’t realize how out of shape I was.

I’ve already decided that I’m not going to apologize if we get into trouble for what we did today. If Mr. Schue yells at us for being a little late and is angry with us for skipping school today, I think I will tell him that I’m sorry if we disappointed him by skipping, but I am not sorry for having a good day away from this place. It was the best day I’ve had in a really long time. 

Me and Rachel rode in the front cart of all the rollercoasters together. We rode in the very front, where you could see everything before it was about to happen to you. And every time we were about to freefall down a giant hill or turn upside down taking on a giant loop, she reached over and held my hand. And she screamed, but she laughed when she did and it seemed like her screaming and her laughter were telling me that it is going to be okay. Sometimes I would look back and Mercedes would be laughing because Tina’s hair was blowing all over the place. And even though I cried when Mercedes told me about what Puck did, I forgot that I even cried because he wasn’t there with us. For the first time since that night, I didn’t carry him or what he did with me. I left it behind and was my own person. And I swear, I’ve never felt anything like that. I’ve never felt anything like Tina jokingly pausing the radio in the middle of a song we were screaming at the top of our lungs so we could hear just how ridiculous we sounded. Or anything like Mercedes constantly reminding me to walk through the amusement park with my head up every time I looked at the ground, because “we all believe you here, Quinn. And he will never hurt you again.” And I’ve certainly never felt anything like Rachel looking over at me multiple times on our rides, as if she needed to make sure I was still there with her.

I’m telling you, there’s no way I could ever be sorry for this day.

Just as I open the doors to enter the auditorium too, I notice that Rachel hasn’t gone in yet. Mercedes and Tina are making their way up to their spots on the stage, but Rachel is still standing where I am. Off in the wings, one foot on the ground and one foot still on the steps. She clutches the railing in her hand and stares in a way that is a little bit scary because she is not blinking. Little beads of sweat roll down her forehead, but I know that they’re probably coming from the fact that she was running so hard to get here.

“Hey,” I walk down the steps, but stop when I get to where she is. “Hey, is everything okay? Are you okay?” I slide my hand underneath of hers and she actually lets me. “Rachel…?”

“I don’t want to see him,” she says, voice so soft that I have to strain to hear her. “I keep trying to walk in there and take my place center stage but I just don’t want to. I don’t want to see him.”

“Who?”

“I don’t know if I can, I don’t know how I could possibly even look at him the same way, knowing what he did.”

Only when she says that do I realize who she’s talking about. And I sigh, hard and deep before I open my mouth. “...Don’t give him that power. Don’t let him make you feel that way.”

“It makes me sick. You see what it does to me, I threw up , Quinn. It just makes me so sick to think of anyone doing that to you.”

“Look, I know —“

“I was already a little sick over the fact that he had you like that. And maybe a little jealous, too. But it was against your will , Quinn, I —“

“Shh,” I mumble and pull her into a hug. Mostly because I can feel how upset she’s getting and I want to calm her down, but also because I don’t want to keep hearing how what Puck did to me makes her feel. He’s hurt me enough as it is but I don’t think I can handle him hurting Rachel.

“Don’t think about it, okay?” I mumble in her ear as she squeezes me tighter for the hug. “Don’t think about it. It’s okay. I’m right here with you. Okay?”

“Okay.”

I really thought we were going to make it through rehearsals completely unscathed.

When me and Rachel finally joined everybody on stage and took our places, Mr. Schue just kinda looked at us like he wanted to say something, but he didn’t. He just counted out or beats to start and watched in the audience next to Miss Pillsbury  while we performed three entire numbers from top to bottom. And he stood up when we were done, too. He stood up in front of us with his hands on his hips and it seemed like he was going to clap for us and tell us that we did a great job, but he didn’t. Instead, he took one hand off his hips, stroked his barely-there beard, and glared at the four of us school skippers. And he said “let’s take it from the top!”


It was almost 7:00 when he finally dismissed rehearsal, and he did it by finally clapping for us. And he said, “Very good, guys. That’s exactly the way I need to see it done on Saturday. Excellent job. I’ll see you back here tomorrow.” And Rachel and me and Tina and Mercedes all climbed off the stage with everyone else, happy that we finally got to go home. But as we were about to walk out the door, he said, “Rachel, Tina, Mercedes, Quinn? Can I speak to you for a second?” And we all looked at each other like we saw ghosts. I could literally feel the color draining from my face.

And that’s how we ended up here, sitting taking up four seats in the auditorium, guilty looks all over our faces. Waiting for Mr. Schue to make sure every other kid is gone because he doesn’t want everyone to hear him yelling at us, I assume. Mercedes has her hands folded in her lap as if she’s about to take the fall for all of us, Tina holds her chin in the palm of her hand and looks relatively unamused, and Rachel’s leg nervously shakes. I want to reach over and steady her leg, but I can’t move my arms from being folded across my stomach because I’ll throw up if I do. For some reason, being in trouble with Mr. Schue really makes me nauseous…

He jumps down from the stage and pulls a metal chair over so he can sit in front of us. He unfolds it and sits backwards on it, his eyes low and disappointed. Maybe even a little bit angry.

“Do I even need to start by saying how disappointed in you girls I am?” He makes eye contact with every single one of us, and every single one of us looks away. It’s like we shrink under his gaze. “Do you four even care about sectionals? About the success of this club? Because I don’t think you do. If you did, you wouldn’t have been so quick to skip — to disregard MY rules. I said I needed each and every single kid in Glee club to be focused this week. Dedicated. And I come to find out that three of my most powerful vocalists and one of my best dancers just decided to skip school today. Rachel, you have two solos. Two of them. Two —“

Rachel’s eyes are glossy and she seems like she’s about to burst into tears. Even her voice is shaking when she says, “Mr. Schue, I —“ 

“I don’t want to hear any of it. I specifically said if anyone gets into any trouble the week leading up to sectionals that they were getting pulled from the performance. How am I supposed to set an example when you four are getting a detention from Principal Figgins tomorrow and I’m still going to let you perform? If it wouldn’t totally screw over all the other kids who worked hard and were here and didn’t skip school today, I would pull you. All four of you. Rachel’s solos go to Kurt and Blaine, Mercedes’ two big runs go to Santana, Tina’s go to Brittany. And it’d be nothing to put Sugar with Sam for the dance break, Quinn. Nothing.”

“You can’t do that!” I didn’t realize how much I cared about being featured in the dance break until he just threatened to take it away from me…

“You four are reckless. Out of control. Jeopardized EVERYTHING we’ve been working for. You’re not the Rachel, Tina, Mercedes and Quinn I raised. Not at all. But you’re right, Quinn,” he purses his lips together tight. “I can’t do that. Not to the other kids who were here and working.”

“We’re sorry, Mr. Schue.” Tina practically mumbles and all three of us look at her as if she’s just spoken a different language. I think all three of us were sorry, but none of us quite knew how to say it. “But we only skipped today because Quinn needed a break away from this place, and she needed us.”

“That’s right,” Mercedes nods. “And after what happened Karofsky…”

“We just didn’t want to ignore our friend,” Rachel’s voice is soft, but not as soft as her hand inside mine is. And I wish I had something to say. I wish I had something to add to what the three of them are saying, but I don’t. I just don’t.

Mr. Schue looks directly at me like he’s daring me to say something or to cobertate their stories but it’s like all the words have been sucked out of my brain and I don’t know how to form words anymore. But for the first time, it’s okay that I don’t have the words to say what I want to say. It’s okay, because my four best friends are right with me and they help me when words cannot escape me.

“One of the football players made a nasty comment in the cafeteria today,” Tina starts.

“Yeah, he said Quinn needed to go back to the… the…” Mercedes picks up where Tina left off but she can’t quite remember it the way it happened, and Rachel does, so she’s the one who finishes it.

“Loony bin,” Rachel mumbles like she’s being extra careful to not offend me.

Mr. Schue’s face settles way down, and he doesn’t look at me anymore. I should tell him, though… I should tell him…

If I tell him then maybe he’ll understand.

“Alright,” he sighs and stands up. “Don’t make this a habit. You four better be in school and at rehearsal ON TIME tomorrow, Thursday and Friday. I hope I’m making myself clear.” All four of us nod our heads at the same time. “Alright. Now go. Get outta here. Go get some sleep. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

All four of us gather our things, but it’s only the three of them that really start heading for the door. Rachel can take them home. She drove to school today. Because I’m lingering, a little bit. And I’m still not too sure about what I’m going to do, but I think he needs to know because I don’t want him to think that I just had some mental breakdown today and I’m a basket case for no reason.

“Quinn, you coming?” Mercedes stops by the door and asks me.

“Why don’t you see if Rachel can take you home? There’s something I have to do here,” I give her a look and Mercedes knows my looks well enough to know that she shouldn’t push this. She knows me well enough to know that I will tell her later, when I’m ready to talk about what I’m going to do.

Mr. Schue starts sweeping the confetti up off the floor and I don’t know what else to do, so I grab the extra broom and start to help him. I don’t know how this is going to affect everything. I don’t know if this is going to change the way things are. But he needs to know. He… he deserves to know. He’s like our dad. He’s like a father to all of us and if two of his children are feuding… he just really needs to know, doesn’t he? Just so he can be aware of it. Just so he can avoid certain pairings and stuff…

“Thank you, Quinn,” his voice is all nice and chipper like he wasn’t just yelling at me and I find that odd.

“You’re welcome,” I say, a little under my breath. “Mr. Schue?” Oh god… here goes nothing… “There’s actually something I want to talk to you about.”


October 23

I turned off all the lights in my bedroom and closed all the vents so I couldn’t hear the air coming through. Then I put my head under my pillow and closed my eyes and laid just like that until I felt okay again. I let the quiet put things where they’re supposed to be and when everything was settled, I was fine again.

I told Mr. Schue what happened to me and I instantly regretted it the second I did.

He didn’t make me feel bad about it and he didn’t dwell and ask for details, which I thought he would do. He asked me if my parents knew and I told them that they did. He asked me if I told the police and I told him that I didn’t. He asked me if I was okay and I told him that I wasn’t, but that I am getting there with the help of the three girls who skipped school with me today.

And then he pulled me into a hug.

One of those real warm, strong, endorphin-releasing hugs, too. He held me in his arms until it was long enough to be awkward, and he looked at me with a very reassuring look and told me that he loved me and was “glad I told him.” And for the first time, I trusted a man very completely when he told me that. And I felt safe in his arms even if it was for just one second.

I felt strong enough to come home, but not strong enough to be around people, so I came in through the back door when I got home and tried to avoid Mom. But she caught me and started yelling about me skipping school which I didn’t really understand because she told me she won’t force me to go to school anymore. She told me that I’m grounded and I’m not allowed to have my sleepover on Friday, but I guarantee I’ll have my sleepover anyway because my mother is clueless and won’t be home on Friday and probably won’t remember grounding me in the first place.

In a way, I feel a bit lighter knowing that I don’t have to carry around the secret of spending my summer in treatment in Glee club anymore. It feels good to have it out there amongst my fake brothers and fake sisters. And it feels good to have my fake father know why I’m uncomfortable around one of his fake children.

But I’m still also a little bit angry at Puck for deciding that it was his place to take that burden off of me.

I am both happy and mad about my peers knowing where I was

And I’m still trying to figure out how that’s possible.

Chapter Text

If I could feel my fingers, I would reach them into my pocket and wrap them around my phone. I would pull my phone out of my pocket, then I would open up the weather app just to see if it is actually freezing outside or if the way I feel is making it seem colder than it actually is. I can’t feel my fingers, so I keep them clenched into fists and straight down at my sides. Above me, a street light flickers to life and I walk a little faster.

There’s something about this time of year that I both love and hate.

Something about a quiet walk down a sleepy street when the world around you is pitch dark and it’s only 6 p.m. The clocks haven’t been bounced an hour back yet, but the universe is already preparing itself and you can feel the change coming the way you can feel the snow coming. Your breath is white and dispersing into the air every time you exhale and the leaves crunch underneath your feet because they’re all dead and waiting to waste away. And the cold air cuts you in half like a magic trick gone wrong. It aches in your bones and makes your teeth chatter, but it wakes you up in the oddest sense. There’s something about this time of year that is both beautiful and bizarre.

I adjust the straps of the duffle bag on my shoulders and clench my teeth together tight so they’ll stop chattering. There’s nobody else out here with me and not because it’s too late to be out walking, but because it’s just entirely too cold. And I thought I prepared myself, I really thought I did. I put on the thickest pair of pants I own and shoved my feet into a pair of UGGs. I even wore a long sleeved shirt under my Cheerios sweatshirt and put my trench coat on over everything. But in my haste to get out of the house and get out of the house quickly, I forgot to grab a pair of gloves and my favorite hat. I thought about turning around and going back just to get them, but I was too far gone once I realized I left them and plus, I was sure she’d still be there waiting for me.

As I carefully trample over a pair of railroad tracks, I feel a sense of familiarity wash over me and I am fully prepared because I already knew that I would happen. I am starting to really learn my triggers and I knew that if anything would set me off, it would be walking through the slums of Lima with my yellow duffle bag on my shoulders while I shiver and my nose runs.

I’ve only been to Puck’s house one time and that was when we had sex, so I’m pretty sure I’m lost and even if I’m not lost, it’s not like I can see any familiar signs around here because I can’t stop crying long enough to clear my vision.

“Great, Quinn,” I snivel and try my best to read the street signs. I’ve been talking to myself quite a lot since I found out I’m pregnant. I guess maybe it makes me feel a little less crazy because I can always disguise it like I’m talking to the baby and not myself. “Just great. Now you’re lost…”

I know that I’m pregnant now and I’m going to be someone’s mother in a few months and that I should really, really, really try to start growing up, but I can’t help myself.

I sit down right in the middle of the railroad tracks. The gravel hurts my butt but my legs and back are really sore from walking so much and I really have to pee and I’m cold and my nose won’t stop running and I don’t know where I am and this bag is heavy and this baby won’t stop kicking me and I can’t go home and I really messed up with Finn and I’m hungry and I don’t want to BE somebody’s mommy! I want MY mommy…

I’m thankful that nobody’s around to see this and that it’s really dark out here and the sound of an ambulance a few streets over is loud enough to drown me out, because I put my face in my hands and cry my eyes out.

“I… wanna go home…” I mutter into my hands as tears just pour out of me. “I wanna go home… I just wanna go home…”

I want to be in Mommy and Daddy’s waterfall shower and I wanna wash up with my pink loofah. I wanna put on my fuzzy jammie pants and my fuzzy socks and ask Mommy for a cup of hot chocolate. I wanna lay on the couch and watch Halloween with Mommy — the really old one with Jamie Lee Curtis. I wanna lay my head on her lap while she rubs my hair and I wanna to eat popcorn until I’m sick and then go to bed with my old Winnie The Pooh blanket and sleep good for school tomorrow. I just wanna go home.

“D-Dear — G-God,” I try to talk through my tears but these hiccups keep interrupting me and I can’t stop them because I can’t stop crying. “I-I’m s-s-sorry. I’m sorry. I l-l-learned my lesson. I w-won’t ever h-have sex until I’m married. I-I’m sorry. I-I’m sorry for s-si-sinning. But c-can I p-ple-please go home now? Can you make Mommy and Daddy forgive m-me? Please?” I take my hands away from my eyes just so I can look up to the sky. “Please.” I take a couple deep breaths to try and stop crying because I think the baby is worried because it stopped kicking me. I just kinda put my hand on my stomach to let it know that it’s okay, though. “I didn’t even want to have sex with him…” I whisper, because I don’t think that last bit will really matter to God. Whether I wanted it or not, I still did it and I’m still paying the price for it. I’m still an idiot.

I don’t really know what the plan is. I mean, it doesn’t include sitting in the middle of the train tracks and having a meltdown. Even if I kind of wish a train would come and just… end this.

I guess I’m just going to go up to Puck’s door and ring the bell. And just… beg to stay, I guess. I mean, at least I’ll be around someone who loves me and loves the baby too… right? Even if he’s the only one in the world who does, it feels good to know that somebody loves me… loves… us? Puck loves me. I don’t really… I don’t really remember everything about that night but we did have sex and that… that means he loves me. It’s okay that I don’t remember because it happened and it happened with someone who loves me. He just wanted to show me how much he loves me. Right? So it’s okay if I go stay with him, right? Because he loves me and will maybe love the baby too… right?

Right?

I remember getting up off the train tracks like it was yesterday.

How I coughed because I was crying so hard and when I coughed, it felt like my bladder burst and it spread all down my legs like embarrassment in the form of pee. And I got up and waddled, full of disgust with myself and disappointment that a train hadn’t come for me. And as soon as I started walking, Beth started to kick me again and I clenched my fist. I was fully prepared to punch myself in the stomach — punch her — because it seemed like she was mocking me. But then it all clicked for me, the whole idea that she was all I had left in the world when everyone else and their mother all turned their backs on me. So I just kinda rubbed her instead, you know? And I told her that I loved her for the first time which kind of made me feel all tingly inside and mushy and sappy and that’s a part of me that I won’t get back. I grabbed my duffle bag and started to walk again, trying to remember the direction to Puck’s house. I remembered that he lived on Silverton Avenue so I took a left at the stop sign and hoped for the best.

I was so lost back then, I had no single clue. And in truth, I feel a little lost now, I’ll admit. And yeah, the situation is the same in a lot of ways. I couldn’t go home back then and I can’t go home now. I wasn’t in the best place with my parents back then and I’m not in a great place with my mother after tonight. A large part of me wished the train would come and hit me back then and a small part of me wouldn’t mind that happening again tonight. I was freezing my ass off back then and I’m freezing my ass off again tonight. I had a yellow duffle bag back then and I have that same yellow one now. But unlike back then, I know where I’m going this time. And I don’t make a left at the stop sign.

I make a right.


What would take a mere five minutes by car took me a little over an hour by foot, but I made it. And maybe it’s because I’m a little nervous to just walk up and knock on the door because I don’t know if they’re home or not, but I take a moment to actually look at the house. And I don’t mean to sound snooty and I don’t mean this the wrong way, but it is nothing like my house.

The red bricks are weathered and wearing away and the white painted shutters are all chipping. The porch is caving in but her dad’s been working to fix it little by little. The welcome mat is still on the front porch and it barely says “welcome” anymore. Two plastic pumpkins adorn the steps, which are chipping just like the shutters. The leash for when they let Whitney and Bobby outside is all ravelled up so I know they were out here just recently. The porch light is on, and it has the same slight flicker to it as it had the first time I ended up here.

Her house is nothing compared to the Fabray house, I will say that honestly. But there is nowhere else in the world that I would rather be than where I am right now. It’s nothing like my house in all the best ways.

I hold my breath and knock hard three times because I know the doorbell doesn’t work. It’s another thing her dad is going to fix when he gets the time. Whitney and Bobby sound like a herd of elephants when they run to the door and Whitney barks but Bobby doesn’t. He puts his paws on the door and though it’s blurry from the way the glass on the door is cut all decoratively, I can see his tail swinging back and forth.

“Shut up!” I hear her mom yelling at them from the other side of the glass and it makes me grin. “Shut up! Before I go get the slipper!” I smile even harder at hearing her say that, because I know the woman and she doesn’t seem like she could hurt a fly.

The locks snicker as she undoes them and the screen door rattles when she pulls the main door open. She’s still in her day clothes, so it doesn’t seem like I’ve interrupted anything. She nudges the dogs back with her feet before looking up and seeing that it’s me. And I don’t know what reaction I was expecting or hoping for when she opened the door and saw that I was me, but I can’t explain how good it makes me feel when her lips turn up into a gentle smile.

“Quinn,” Mrs. Jones says in that real smooth kind of voice. Mercedes told me a long time ago that her mother used to lead the choir at her church and I can totally see that. Her voice is perfectly pitched. Even when she’s speaking. “I was wonderin’ when I was gonna get to see you again. You don’t come around here no more. ‘Least not when we’re home.”

“I was gonna call before I dropped by, but I…” my voice trails, and I crane my neck slightly to the side to see behind her. “Is Mercedes home?”

“Actually no, she went out with that boy after she finished up her nightwork,” she shakes her head. 

And I bite my lip really hard to try and hold them back. But I suck at keeping my composure these days so I’m just stuck hoping that she doesn’t notice them when they roll down my cheeks. They’re silent. And there’s not many of them. But they’re there and underneath the glow of the porch light, I’m willing to bet that she can see them. Mrs. Jones doesn’t miss a single beat.

“Okay,” I mumble and adjust the grip on my duffle. “Will you just tell her I stopped by?”

“Quinn, now wait a minute now,” she steps onto the porch when I turn my back and take a step. I slowly turn back around, tears now rolling freely down my cheeks. “Is everything all right now, sugar?”

She asks that question like she already knows the answer, and her eyes are all over me. She looks at my duffle bag, then my clothes. Then at my hair, which is probably still a mess because I didn’t fix it before I packed my bag and left. Then she looks at my face. All over my face, too. At my throbbing lip that I can still taste the blood on. At my cheek that is sore. At my eye that still feels like I have an eyelash stuck in it. Her palm rests against the part of my cheek that isn’t bruised.

“Come on in and wait on ‘Cedes,” she motions toward the door with her head.

She grabs my duffle and I follow her inside like this is the first and not the second time I’ve used this place as my sanctuary. It’s funny, because when I think of the word safe, this is exactly what I think of.

I think of kicking my shoes off at the door and walking through the hallway of Mercedes’ house, feeling the carpet warm my cold feet. I think of taking a deep breath and smelling something hearty and spicy cooking in the kitchen. I think of the way I feel when I look at the walls and see portraits of people and not flowers, and the way everything in here is nice but used. Nothing has plastic covering it and none of the furniture is specifically reserved for special occasions. People live here. Laughter fills the empty spaces between these walls and if her father wasn’t halfway asleep watching The Simpsons in the living room, I’m sure that some soft jazz music would be playing because there’s always music in this house.

I follow Mrs. Jones to the kitchen, where she motions for me to sit down. I pick the chair closest to the fridge and she stirs something that is simmering in a pot on the stove before getting a washcloth from the drawer by the sink. She sticks it under the faucet for a second, wrings it out, then goes back to the stove.

“Sunny days…” she half-sings and half-mumbles the lyrics so low that I can hardly hear her but I can tell that her tone is very pretty. “...loves them… can you stand the rain…” She turns the volume on her radio down just a bit as she stops singing and grabs the rag.

I wonder what song that was. I kind of liked it.

“Here you go now, baby,” she slowly holds the rag to the part of my lip that was bleeding a little bit. “You hold that there ‘til that bleeding stop, you hear?”

“Yes ma’am,” I nod my head and watch her as she grabs something with a red lid and shakes it into the pot before stirring again. Mercedes is so lucky…

“‘Cedes told me you two done seen that baby… what was it? Coupla weeks ago at JC Penney’s?”

“Yeah,” I take the rag away just long enough for me to talk. “We actually went to do some shopping and we ran into them. ...Shelby’s her name. The adoptive mother, I mean. Her name is Shelby.”

“Mmm-hmm. And ‘Cedes told me that baby’s gettin’ big. Said she’s cute, too.”

“She is,” I put the rag back to my lip. It hurts to talk about Beth… but maybe the only way it’ll stop hurting is if I do it, so… I don’t know. “She’s got my mother’s eyes. They’re blue. But that real pretty kinda blue, though. And she’s got my hair. It’s blonde but it’s curly. And she’s kinda fat, which… I guess she gets from me, whatever.”

She laughs softly and puts a lid back on the pot. “I ain’t get a chance to talk to you after you had that baby,” she gently pulls the rag off my face and examines it for a second before putting it back. “I’m real proud uh you for what you did.”

“What?” What does she possibly have to be proud of me for? If only she knew how much I’ve been screwing up since I left this house…

“I am. It takes a lot to do what you did. To realize that your baby might deserve a lil bit more than what you can give her. And to go on and give her a better life than what you could have given her at your age when you’s just a baby yourself. That’s a real mama’s sacrifice, what you did there. Real mature thing to do. Proud of you.”

I can’t say anything back to that, so I just nod my head like I’m an idiot or something. But how do you say anything back to someone as nice and warm as Mrs. Jones when everything she just said was completely untrue about me?

I am not strong. What I did by giving Beth up was not some sort of ultimate sacrifice. Giving Beth up was selfish. I wanted to give her up because I thought that if I got rid of her that I could have my old life back. I thought that if I didn’t have to see her every day that I would just… be fine and be able to go back to the way things were before Puck and before her. But I was wrong. I was so wrong that everything happened and now I’m here.

Mrs. Jones takes the bloody rag from me again and puts it back in the sink since it seems like my lip has finally stopped bleeding. She opens up the fridge and hands me a can of ginger ale from the 12-pack on the bottom self.

“It’s Canada Dry, just the one you like,” she puts her hand against my head like she’s checking me for a fever.  “You gonna tell me who did this to your face?”

Again, I say nothing but Mrs. Jones is like her daughter in a sense that she doesn’t take my silence the wrong way. Most adults tend to take my silence as a sign of being rude or a brat, but not her. She understands that there are some things I have to work up to talking about and she is fine with that. So I just crack open the can of ginger ale and take a sip.

The truth is… if I tell her how I got all these marks on my face, she will probably lose a little bit of respect for me and I don’t think I can handle that right now. In fact, I KNOW that she will lose respect for me. Because I’ve lost a little bit of respect for myself.

“Mmkay then,” she strokes my hair back for a second then goes back over to the stove. “Your old room we use as storage for when ‘Kel brings all his junk from college, so there’s stuff all over the bed so you can sleep with ‘Cedes for tonight. Imma clean it up real good for you tomorrow though and you’ll be in there tomorrow night so you can start sleeping good for school.”

“Okay,” I mumble and I love how it doesn’t need to be explained that I’m staying here again. It’s just understood.

“Everything is where it used to be, so you go on upstairs and get you a shower. I’ll call ‘Cedes and tell her what’s up.”

“Thank you.”


“I told my mom not to let Mykel put his shit in that room in case we needed it for times like this,” Mercedes tosses me a pillow to put on my side of the bed as she smooths her quilt back down. I tried to tell her that she didn’t need to change her bedsheets just because I’m sleeping with her tonight, but she insisted so I insisted on at least helping her change them.

“It’s cool, really. I just need some place to close my eyes for the night,” I sigh and sit down on her bed once it’s all made. “...Are you sure you don’t mind this? I mean, I know it’s not really cool for me to just show up like that. I mean, if you —“

“Quinn, it’s like having an eternal sleepover again. I’ve been dying to get you to come back here,” she sighs and sits down with me. “To be honest, I was kinda thinking that you hated it here. You went back home so fast when your mom offered and it’s not like we kicked you out or anything, so —“

“I wanted to go home , Mercedes,” I’m a little snippy when I say that but I think it’s warranted. She keeps trying to dredge up this conversation and make it into more than what it is when it’s not like that at all. I wish she’d just stop it. “I wanted nothing more than to go home. You —“

“This WAS your home, Quinn. Or at least I thought we made it seem that way. My mom loved having you around, my dad nearly cried while he was helping your mom get your things when you were still in the hospital. You know my dad still talks about how much we had when we used to play Trivia on the Echo? He still tries to beat your high score. And my mom still buys ginger ale when she grocery shops, even though nobody in my house —“

“I said thank you! I’ve said thank you to you and your parents SO many times. What more do you want!? This isn’t my home! I wanted to go home!”

“Wow…” she shakes her head at me. “Wow, Quinn… just wow. So… what? My family and my house is only good enough for you when your psychopath father and your lackadaisical mother decide that they don’t want you every other month?”

“You’re making this into way more than it has to be! I went home with my mom when she offered because I wanted to go home! Not because I hated it here or didn’t want to be here or didn’t love your family! I LOVE your family Mercedes…. I love your house. But this isn’t my home. This isn’t the place where my mom kissed my skinned knee when my dad tried to teach us how to ride bikes. And this isn’t the place where I learned how to tie my shoes. I didn’t make memories here. And your parents aren’t my parents no matter how bad I wish they were. My mom doesn’t sing in the kitchen anymore. My dad doesn’t fall asleep watching reruns of The Simpsons anymore. And when I’m here… I’m just reminded of the way things used to be. And I missed that. I missed my LIFE. I wanted my life back. So I wanted to go home… I wanted to go home…” I sigh because I’m crying again even though I told myself that after I cried in the shower I wouldn’t cry anymore for the rest of the night. “...But home isn’t even home anymore. Home hasn’t been home in a long time. So I don’t know where I belong.”

“You belong right here with us, Quinn,” she puts her hand on my shoulder. “And you don’t have to go home. Ever. You… you can’t live there. Your mom… she’s not changing. She’s still the same. And your dad is too. So you going back there… it’s… it’s pointless unless they change. You can’t heal in the same environment that broke you.”

She says that to me and it’s like she made my world stop spinning. And everything I thought I knew has just been thrown out the window because everything I thought I knew was wrong. She just made my world make that much more sense. Because she cannot be anymore correct.

How am I ever going to get better if Mom is still going to be the same half-caring, half-careless, fully-nonchalant mother that she’s sort of always been? And how am I going to get better if Dad is always going to be… Dad? How am I ever going to feel any better or get any better when nothing about the way things were before have changed?

I can’t heal in the same environment that broke me.

I let that sit with me, but I don’t want it to be too silent, so I sniff. And I wipe my tears. And I say, “I told Mr. Schue.”

“...You what? You told him… what? About… about that? About… it ?”

“Yeah,” I shrug. “...I don’t even really know why I did it. I wish I hadn’t. But I just thought… I just thought that maybe if he knew… that he would understand and maybe even… excuse us for skipping… I dunno,” I shrug again. “I wish I didn’t.”

“Well what did he say?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did he believe you?”

“Not at first? He like… I don’t know. He got kinda mad at first. Like he dropped his broom and was like, ‘Quinn, that is a very serious accusation. And it’s not some excuse that you just say when you regret something that was totally consensual, so think very long and hard about what you’re saying.’ And I told him again what happened. In more detail. About… about the drinks he gave me and stuff.”

“...So what do you think is going to happen?”

“Mercedes, I don’t know. And I’m scared.”

“Why are you scared?”

“Because! Because maybe he’s gonna tell somebody or something. Isn’t he like… a mandated reporter or something? Because… I dunno,” I look down and pull at a loose thread on my pajama pants. “...What if I’m wrong?”

“Whoa, wait,” she gets up off her bed so she can come and stand in front of me. She kneels down in front of me and grabs onto my wrists like she is pleading with me to make eye contact with her. So I do. I make eye contact. “Stop doubting yourself. You are not wrong.”

“But what if I am? What if I.. what if I did say yes at some point, what if I’m telling all these people that he did this to me and I’m… I’m wrong? What if I’m wrong? And.. and I’ll always feel like this.”

“Like what?”

“...Dirty.” I mumble.

“Quinn…” she gets up off her knees and sits beside me so that she can hug me. “When do you go back to therapy?”

“Tomorrow,” I wriggle out of her hug because I’m so done with being emotional for one night. “I missed my session yesterday when we skipped, so. I have to go tomorrow… and I think we’re gonna discuss what I should speak to the psychiatrist about.”

“What do you mean? Isn’t she the psychiatrist?”

“No, she’s just my therapist,” I explain and it feels kind of weird to talk about Bailey like this. It feels like she’s just been a figment of my imagination for this entire time and talking about her to Mercedes makes her actually human and actually real. It’s a weird feeling. “You get a psychiatrist and a psychologist… a therapist. The therapist just talks to you about stuff. But the psychiatrist gives you medicine. And I have to see her next week. For the first time.”

“Are you scared?”

“Not really.” I shake my head but after a second thought… “Maybe a little.”

“Quinn?”

“What?”

“What happened that night? When you tried to… like… do it? Why did you… do that?”

I’ve never talked about this with anyone else except Jessica. It almost feels like foreign territory…

“...I had my Facebook up. And you know you get those notifications for when people post things? Well I got one from Shelby, and —“

Me and Mercedes both jump out of our skin when two loud knocks on her bedroom door interrupts me. Both our heads turn toward the door and my heart is still beating in my ears so loud that I hardly hear Mercedes tell him to “come in.” Her dad opens the door and pokes his head inside and normally I’m really happy to see Mr. Jones and all because he’s super nice and really really funny, but I kind of hate him right now because I was about to go to a real dark place in my mind and you can’t just drag people out of mindsets like that with a simple knock on the door.

“Hey ladies,” he opens the door completely once he sees that we’re fully clothed and decent. “The Mrs. wanted me to tell you that the chili’s done if you want a bowl.”

“Okay, thanks dad,” Mercedes brushes him off so quickly that I can tell she’s eager to get back to our conversation and I hate to break it to her, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to talk about that tonight. It was more of a one time thing and I sort of just missed that chance.

“And I don’t have my first patient until twelve tomorrow so if you want a ride to school in the morning just let know,” he continues.

“Thanks!” Mercedes says a little more huffy this time but he doesn’t even care about her attitude.

“And Harley-Quinn,” he says and I let out a small laugh. I forgot he calls me that sometimes. I think it’s kind of clever. Nobody’s ever made a harlequin or Harley Quinn pun for me before. “I’m running to the store tomorrow so let me know if there’s anything you want me to pick up special for you.”

“Anything you grab is fine,” I assure him. “Thank you.”

“Are you sure? There’s absolutely nothing you’re gonna need?”

“I’m sure.”

“She’s sure,” Mercedes chimes.

“I’m just saying, we don’t have that white girl shampoo no more so if you need me to grab it, let me know which brand because I —“

I laugh so hard I snort and Mercedes springs up off her bed. “My god!” She starts closing her door. “Goodbye dad!” She closes the door on him and sits back down in the same position she was in before he interrupted us. “So… you were saying? About Facebook?”

“I’m actually kind of hungry,” I stand up from her bed and she gets the point. She gets that I don’t wanna talk about it anymore.

“Okay, me too,” she stuffs her feet into her slippers and heads for the door. “We don’t have to talk about that night, okay? But will you at least tell me who punched you in the face?”

“My mom…” I mumble and open the door. “But I hit her first, so.”

“What?! Why?!”

“Because, Mercedes! Why does everything have to be a conversation with you?!”

“No, Quinn,” she stands in front of the door and blocks it. “You don’t get to shut me out anymore. What happened? Why’d you guys fight?”

“...Because of Rachel.”

Chapter Text

So.. when I left school on Wednesday after Glee club, I was in a really good mood because I finally nailed my pieces of choreography for sectionals. I don’t know if I told you, but there’s a section during our second song where I have really complicated partnerwork with Brittany and I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up because when you have to dance next to Brittany, it’s easy to look like you don’t know what you’re doing. I nailed it, though. I just kept track of the count in my head and memorized which beats I was supposed to be doing what on and I did great. Mr. Schue even pulled me aside and told me that he knew he had made the right decision to feature me alongside Brittany for the number, and I reminded him of that with how well I did.

I pulled my car into the driveway and parked it behind Mom’s, but I didn’t get out right away because a couple blocks back, my phone had buzzed with a text from Rachel and I waited until I got home to open it. I probably could have — and in hindsight, should have — waited until I got inside and got settled to text her back, but I was anxious so I turned my car off and grabbed my phone all in the same motion.

 

New iMessage

Wednesday, October 24

5:23 p.m.

RACHEL: You did good today!

 

I felt like all the energy in my body rushed straight to the tips of my fingers. You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach as you’re going down the hill of a really tall rollercoaster? It feels like your stomach is traveling up to your throat and you feel like gravity is leaving you suspended in the middle of nothing. I had that exact feeling when I read her text message. My thumbs flew across the keyboard as I typed out a response, then deleted it so I could think a bit harder. I did that three times before I settled on something to say.



5:37 p.m.

ME: thanks :) i totally thought i was going to mess up.

 

5:37 p.m.

RACHEL: I knew you wouldn’t. You’re 1 of our best dancers. Makes total sense why Shue would put you front and center for TTC.

 

She texted back really fast and I could feel my heart beating inside of my chest. I know I’m not supposed to think too much because thinking too much is a product of my anxiety and that’s what I’ve been working on with both Jessica and with you. But I couldn’t help the way my brain made it into something it’s probably not. I just kept thinking that since she texted back so fast, she was probably waiting by her phone for me to reply. And that must have meant she really wanted to talk to me.

 

5:38 p.m.

ME:  i’m not that good lol. i’m no brittany. i dont dance as well as britt and my timing is not as good but thaaanks. hahahah

 

5:38 p.m.

RACHEL: Stop selling yourself short. You always tell me that I’m hard on myself but so are you.

As I read her reply, three gray dots popped up below her response, so I knew that she was typing some more. I finally decided in that moment that I should get out of my car and stop sitting in my driveway. I thought that maybe by the time I got out of the car and into the house, she would be done typing whatever it was that she was going to say and I’d have a nice juicy text waiting for me after I kicked off my shoes.

But as soon as I put my hand on the door handle to get out of the car, my phone buzzed and I was too anxious again to wait until I got inside to answer it.

 

5:38 p.m.

RACHEL: At least you look better in your stage dress than Brittany does. :b

 

A wave of heat washed over me so thoroughly that I had to check my vents to make sure they weren’t open, which made me feel dumb because my car wasn’t even on. I smiled down at the phone and looked over my shoulders to make sure nobody could see me as my thumbs flew across the screen. It felt weird, too. The good kind of weird, I guess. It just felt weird that I didn’t have to think of a response before I typed one out. It just came to me automatically and I knew what I wanted to say.

 

5:39 p.m.

ME: oh?

ME: so you must be attracted to girls w/ love handles & cellulite & scars on their knees then.

 

5:40 p.m.

RACHEL: No…

 

The three gray dots popped up again and I watched my phone with nerve-wracking anticipation that faded like pain when the gray dots disappeared. I started to lock my phone and try to go inside again, but another text came in.

 

5:40 p.m.

RACHEL: Blonde hair

RACHEL: And green eyes

RACHEL: Pretty teeth

RACHEL: Perfect nose

RACHEL: Ex cheerleader

 

5:41 p.m.

ME: light childhood trauma?

 

RACHEL: Omg my kinkkkkkk

RACHEL: Lmao :) :)

 

ME: LMFAO.

 

RACHEL: Can’t help what I’m attracted to

 

ME: i think i know just the girl for you…

 

5:42 p.m.

ME: she comes w/ a lot of baggage though so just be warned

ME: and she has small boobs :/

 

5:43 p.m.

RACHEL: Okay I just laughed out LOUD.

RACHEL: My dad probably thinks I’m high or something it was literally out of nowhere.

RACHEL: Wtffffff lmao

 

ME: hahahahahahahahahahahaha

ME: full disclosure! didn’t want you to get your hopes up!

 

I started to think that maybe I took it a little far and misread the entire conversation because my attempt at flirting clearly fell flat. I thought that she was flirting with me, you know? She basically described me and said that my features are what she’s attracted to and she told me that I looked good in my performance dress today. I mean, I guess maybe if you look at it from a different angle, she could have been saying all of that just to be nice but I ruined it all by adding some random comment about my chest size and I was so sure I screwed it all up, so I finally got out of the car.

I took my shoes off at the door as usual because Mom was actually home and she would freak if I walked all over her freshly vacuumed carpets with my outside shoes. I hung my jacket up on the rack behind the door and went straight into the kitchen, where Mom was pulling the lasagna out of the oven.

“Hi Quinnie, how was school?” She asked me as she licked some sauce off her finger. “Dinner’s done just in time for you.”

Like I said, I was in a really good mood so I put my phone on the countertop facedown and took a giant whiff of the lasagna. My stomach growled and I realized that I hadn’t eaten anything all day, so I smiled at my her and said, “Smells great, Mom. I’ll be right back down.”

That’s where I messed up. If I had never left my phone on the counter while I ran upstairs to do my business, none of Wednesday’s events would have ever happened.

It’s not like I took forever or anything. I ran up the steps two at a time and went straight into the bathroom; I didn’t even bother to close the door. I just pulled my dress up and my tights and underwear down and went straight into peeing. And I washed my hands with soap and water of course, but I washed them fast. Then I was in my room for no more than two minutes, throwing my dress and my tights into the dirty laundry basket and putting on a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt. I was back downstairs in four minutes, five at most.

But it was already too late.

Mom acted super casual about it at first and I didn’t suspect a thing. I mean, I kind of did a little bit when I went back into the kitchen to cut myself a piece of the lasagna and saw that my phone was rightside up instead of facedown like I left it, but I thought that maybe she had just moved it so she could grab the plates or something. I cut myself a real big healthy piece of lasagna and put it onto a square glass plate. Mom was already in the dining room, so I took the seat across from her and grabbed a fork from the fancy silverware pile that we use for guests.

“How was school?” She asked me, blowing on a forkful before shoveling it into her mouth.

“It was good,” I said through my own mouthful and I was trying to be discreet with the way I was looking at my phone underneath the table. Four new text messages were flashing on my lock screen and they were all from her. I wasn’t trying to be discreet because I suspected anything, because I still didn’t at that point. I just knew how much my mother hated having phones at the table.

iMessage

5:46 p.m.

RACHEL: I’m satisfied with every part of you.

RACHEL: I don’t care what’s small and what’s big.

RACHEL: And plus… they’re not small. They’re perfect ;)

RACHEL: ...Jk :b

“Nothing new to report?” Mom’s voice was a little weird at this point, but I still just thought that maybe she was about to ask me something about my dad. I didn’t think anything was going to happen. Especially anything like what did. “Are you guys ready for the choir competition?”

“Nope,” I mumbled as I tried to text back without looking.

 

5:59 p.m.

ME: you would know… but maybe you’ll find out for sure eventu

I was halfway through deleting the reply for being too cringy when I realized that I misspoke and it seemed like Mom was all over me. Her eyes were narrow little slits as she glared at me from across the table, so I sighed and locked my phone up. I was just going to text Rachel back after dinner, and it gave me a little bit more time to think of a response that was equally flirtatious and not cringeworthy.

“I meant ‘nope’ as in no, there’s nothing to report. But we’re really ready for competition. We’re just rerunning things to make sure everyone knows what they’re doing and the timing is right and everything.” I corrected what I just said, but Mom’s daggers weren’t easing up. I started to feel like maybe I did do something wrong after all. “How was your day?” I asked, just to try and clear the air.

“Fine, fine,” she put her fork down and wiped her mouth with a cloth napkin. “Your father and I had a lovely time. He had to meet some new partners at the country club and he thought it would look better if he had his wife present, you know. It was a lovely afternoon.”

“That’s good,” I said and scooped up another forkful of lasagna.

“So I was thinking,” she started and I automatically thought I knew where it was going. I thought this was going to officially be the moment she asked me if I would mind Dad moving back in. I really thought that it was that time. I held my breath in preparation. “After your trip to Hershey — because you’ll be gone this Sunday — but maybe Sunday, I was thinking you and me could start going to church again.”

“Okay,” I exhaled and felt my stomach ease back up. I took the guard down and called off the rabid dogs I sent to protect myself. It was a false alarm. Dad wasn’t moving back in yet. “That’s fine, I’ll —“

“I love you, Quinn,” she nearly whispered and I felt like the corners of the rooms were tipping up at me. It was the moment before something happened, something that changed the entire context of the conversation and the entire mood. I didn’t know what that something was, but I knew it was coming. I felt that. “I love you so, so, so very much and I just want you to know that God is guiding you and —“

“Mom, what’s wrong?” I stopped eating mid-chew and didn’t swallow. It suddenly felt like I forgot how to. I studied her expression to see if maybe I could catch a little hint about what her issue might have been, but she was cold. Stoic. Icy. And stone. “Mom…? Mom, what —“

“Who’s Rachel?”

The corners of the room tipped up some more and almost made me fall. I felt like it was Alice In Wonderland and I was Alice and I had just taken the potion that made me grow. Suddenly, the room was too small and I was much too big and it didn’t matter where I went because I would never be able to hide. This would find me no matter where I was. Shame would find me anywhere.

It was all so clear to me so quickly, too. It all clicked at a moment’s notice. My phone wasn’t the way I left it and her voice was judgey and weird. She wanted me to go to church some more and she looked at me like she hated me. I knew what it was about and I knew that my best bet was to lie and lie good.

“W-What?” I asked, finally swallowing the food in my mouth.

“Who is Rachel? Is she the same one you skipped school and spent all day with? Is that the same girl?” Her tone was harsh and accusing and I wanted to crumble underneath it. Like how an ice cube melts as soon as you put it in the middle of warm liquid.

“Okay first of all,” I sipped my water to clear my throat. “That was a group thing. It was four of us who skipped, not just me and Rachel. And she’s my friend. One of my best friends, actually. And I would appreciate it if you—“

“‘I can’t help what I’m attracted to’...? ‘I’m satisfied with every part of you’...? That doesn’t sound very friendly to me, young lady.” Her voice raised an entire pitch and I felt... caught. Red handed. Only… I’m not sure if what I was doing was wrong because it felt good and I was so confused again.

“You went through my phone…” I mumbled.

“As a matter of fact, I did,” she sat back in her chair and looked at me as if she was better than me or something and I don’t know how else to explain how I felt except that I felt really low. “And I cannot believe what I read. ‘I know just the girl for you.’ Quinn… I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around —“

“You had NO right! No right at all! That’s my PHONE, Mom! That’s my —“

“I’m paying the bill for it, so let’s not discuss that. And I’m not paying the bill so you can share these… DISGUSTING —“

“That’s not fair!” I was so angry and for a lot of reasons. Obviously I was angry that she thought it was appropriate to go through my cell phone and read my text messages, but I was mostly angry at myself for not taking it upstairs with me. I didn’t want her to find out that way. I’m not sure how or when I would have told her about my feelings for Rachel but I didn’t want it to be like that and yet there it was. All out in the open for her to see and to judge. “That’s my phone, Mom! I deserve more privacy!”

“You lost the right to privacy when you tried to kill yourself, Quinn!” She screamed and I could sense how different this fight was because I didn’t have any fight in me this time. I usually had something quick to say back and I usually won the arguments, but I had nothing. I was clueless. “I forbid it.”

“You what?” I sat in my chair with my arms folded across my chest, trying not to cry.

“You are not to speak with her any longer, and I hope I’m making myself VERY clear. You know better than this, I taught you better than this and you were raised better than this. I’m not sure what phase you’re going through or what attention you’re trying to get by acting out this way, but I’m not having this. Not in my house. You will not speak to her any longer, you will start going to church again and you will delete every single piece of these messages or so help me, I will —“

“So you forbid what, Mom? You forbid what? Me being… gay?” The tears roll quietly down my cheeks and she shifts when I say the actual word. “Why? Because the Bible says not to be? Because the Bible says I’m going to hell? I can’t talk to Rachel anymore? Because God will hate me if I —“

“This is not about the Bible, Quinn, and this is not about God. You know that it’s not. This is about you and your incessant need to punish me. You and I both know that. You’ve had boyfriend after boyfriend since ninth grade, you had sex with a boy and got pregnant, you —“

“I was raped by a boy, Mom. There’s a difference.” I knew I had no fight left in me because I wasn’t being smart or sarcastic with my tone. My voice was just all cracked and broken from the tears but it had no emotion. I felt like a zombie.

“Whatever you want to call it, that’s beside my point. My point is I know you, you are my daughter. And this is not who you are. This is a phase that you are going through just to make me angry and rebel against me and everything you’ve been taught and I’m just not putting up with it, Quinn. I’m not. You’re not about to come into my house claiming that you are something you’re not after seventeen years. You —“

“No but see, Mom,” I wiped my tears. “There’s this thing. I’ve looked it up and it makes so much sense. It’s called ‘heteronormativity’ and it’s when you’re so conditioned to believe that a man and woman are supposed to be together that you —“

“Rachel…” she whispered to herself, completely ignoring anything that I was saying. “Rachel… Rachel Berry? That Rachel? Oh Jesus, Mary and Joseph, that explains everything.”

“Are you listening to me? I looked it up, I did. And it makes sense. I’ve been trying to make sense of it myself, Mommy. Because I just don’t understand how I could be one thing all my life and then another thing all of a sudden, but it makes sense. It says that I’m was just too ashamed to admit to myself because of this heteronormativity and —“

“This is all her fault,” she shook her head.

“You can’t blame Rachel… she had nothing to do with it.”

“Oh you’re damn right I’m blaming that girl for this. She’s bringing this all on you. I should’ve known. With her and homosexual fathers. I told your father I wanted you private schooled. I didn’t want you exposed to that lifestyle. But you insisted. You begged.”

It was like a switch went off when I heard her blaming Rachel. I wasn’t angry at first but it’s like some invisible hand reached up inside of me and turned the switch and I was instantly angry. The dangerous kind of angry, too. The kind of angry that consumes you and makes you do and say really irrational things. The kind of anger you look back on and are afraid of.

“It wouldn’t change a thing!” I slammed my fist down on the table and that’s when she really looked at me. “You could’ve sent me to every private school in the nation and it wouldn’t change the way I feel. I’m not… I’m not normal, Mom. And I’m sorry. I tried to be. I tried for so long to be normal like Frannie and I tried to like it. Even when he was… r-raping me I tried to like it just so I could be normal for you and Daddy but I’m not. I’m just not. And no amount of praying or forbidding me or yelling at me is going to change it. You just… need to get used to it.”

“I’m not having it in my house, Quinn. So you better fix it. You better fix it or —“

“Then I’ll leave,” I shrugged my shoulders and she got up.

She pushed her plate of lasagna away from her so hard that she knocked down the glass candlestick holders in the middle of the table and made them shatter, and that was another way I could feel how this time was different. I had never made my mother that angry before and for some reason, I kind of liked it. I liked how I could see that she was capable of it. For so long, I watched her sit back and take everything on the chin. My dad would hit her and she never hit back. She never got angry. She never said anything. I started to think that my mother couldn’t get angry. But there she stood in front of me, angry enough to break things. Maybe that’s why I followed her into the kitchen and kept it going a little further.

“It’s funny how you listen to the Bible now that it says I’m a sinner for being gay, but you don’t listen to it about anything else,” I stomped into the kitchen after her. “You know what else the Bible says? We should love our neighbors. So tell me why every winter Dad goes out and dumps all our shoveled snow into the Batemans’ yard. Bible also says to always tell the truth so let’s do that, Judy. Let’s tell the truth.”

“Stop it, Quinn,” she mumbled and started to clean the countertops like she always does when she’s stressed or under pressure.

“Do you love me more than Dad?!” I stood in front of her and demanded and I know now that it was a pretty asshole-ish thing for me to do, but I couldn’t help myself. “You have to tell the truth, Mom. Bible says so. So tell me. Do you love me and Frannie more than you love Dad?”

“I said stop it, Lucy!”

“Do you believe me? I told you I was raped and you seemed really supportive but just a second ago you contradicted yourself so I just gotta know. Do you believe that Noah Puckerman raped me?”

She kept her head down and scrubbed at the parts of the counter that were already clean, and I was just getting started.

“You know, the Bible also says that you shouldn’t cheat on your spouse but WHOOPS, Dad royally fucked that one up, didn’t he? But no, let’s just shake our heads and point our fingers at Quinn, shaming the good Christian family name by daring to kiss a girl. And I’m pretty sure Jesus frowns upon abortions, so you and Dad should probably repent about the one you paid for after he knocked up his mistress.”

I didn’t even see her swing when she did, I just felt it when it happened and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see it coming. Her hand collided with my cheek so fast and with so much force that I instantly tasted the blood in my mouth. I stumbled backwards because she hit me with so much force and my hand instantly went up to the spot where her ring cut my lip. She looked at me with tears lining the rims of her eyes and her whole body trembled like the anger was bubbling and begging to come out. I held my face, hand covered in the blood from my mouth, and I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry so fully that I’m not sure why I didn’t.

“Go to your room,” she said with the deep throaty part of her voice. It was like she was trying to exercise her authority over me for the first time but it didn’t feel scary. It felt awkward and misplaced.

I still wanted to cry because my cheek and my mouth were both throbbing, but I didn’t. Instead, I took one step toward her, put my hands down at my sides, and looked her into both her eyes when I said, “No.”

“You’re grounded. You can kiss the trip to Hershey goodbye. And give me your phone.”

“No.”

What she did next was what really sealed the deal for our relationship. She reached for my phone, which I slipped inside the pocket of the sweatpants I had on, and I pushed her away from me and said “Get away from me.”

I pushed her hard, too. I put my hands on her shoulders and shoved her so hard that she went staggering backwards and hit the countertop. And she looked let me like I was the devil reincarnated in the flesh. Her eyes were wide and alert and her mouth was in a permanent scowl. I saw a flicker of something inhuman in her eyes, something I’ve never seen before. It was like I could see the decision calculating in her mind before she actually did it and when it all came together, she took three steps toward me and went after my phone again.

I pushed her again, but she didn’t budge that time. That time, she grabbed both of my hands and pushed me backwards, which made me fall to the ground because I couldn’t steady myself with my arms. And I don’t know what came over me, but it felt like it was one of my friends on top of me and not my mother. I grabbed her hair as I fell and took her down with me and I felt her trying her hardest to grab my arms and restrain me, but I kept trying to get out of her grasp and her hands kept landing elsewhere. I curled my leg up into my chest and tried to kick her off of me, but she held my hands up over my head and when she did that, something else inside of me went off. It was almost like the switch that made me angry, but way worse.

Because I stopped seeing my mother when she held my arms up like that. And I stopped feeling my mother’s petite 5’6, 118 pound frame against my body.

I saw him hovering over me with my arms over my head again. And I felt his 6’2, 180 pound body crushing me. And my hands were over my head and he had a tight grip and I couldn’t move again. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t scream. All I could do was lay there as he tore away pieces of me and started taking from me like a thief in the night.

“GET OFF OF ME!” I screamed at her so loud that my voice felt unfamiliar when it came out. It felt like it didn’t belong to me. “GET OFF OF ME, NOW! GET OFF! GET OFF, I’M SERIOUS! GET THE HELL OFF OF ME! GET OFF! STOP IT, GET OFF! STOP IT, STOP IT! STOP IT!”

I tore out of her grasp and started swatting to get from underneath of her. I swatted and kicked and punched and slapped and a few of my hits connected. I knew a few of them connected because she tried to grab my hands again and kept missing and her hands kept hitting my face. She finally got the picture, I guess. Because she climbed off of me and crawled over to the stove where she could just watch me from a distance. Even though she was off of me, I still screamed and cried. And she cried as she watched me, too.

And she was still crying when I calmed down. After five minutes of catching my breath, I sat up and just looked at her and she was on the floor crying just as hard as I was when she was holding me down. She just cried and cried and cried and didn’t even try to stop me when I packed my yellow duffle bag and left.

Right out the front door.

“So… why did you tell Mercedes that you hit your mother first if that wasn’t the case?” Bailey finally asks after letting me tell the entire story without interrupting once. I can’t tell what she thinks of me hitting my mother and being so defiant. It’s not my finest hour, I’ll admit. And I’m not proud of the way I acted. But I wish I could get an idea of how Bailey at least thinks of it.

“I didn’t want her to get in trouble,” I sigh. “I thought that if I told her the real story and that my mother slapped the crap out of me, she’d tell her parents and her parents would tell people and then my mom would get into trouble. I didn’t want her to. Not after I hit her back.” I drum my fingers along the desk and look up at the clock. We don’t have much longer left. “...Do you think I’m horrible?”

“I think things got out of control for sure,” she nods her head. “I think you had a very visceral reaction because your mother’s reaction to you identifying as lesbian was extremely inappropriate and not what you needed. I think you were both very emotional. And you were triggered by her restraining you. And that activated a very… violent, fight-or-flight response from you. And I think that while staying with Mercedes and her family is not a permanent solution, it is a very good idea. Some people work better when they’re not together and I think you and your mother have to navigate that somehow.”

“So… no? You don’t think I’m horrible?”

“I think you’re a very sweet girl, Quinn. And I shouldn’t say this because it’s unprofessional, but I care about you a whole lot, maybe a bit more than some of my other patients, and I want to see you get better. I think you’re very broken and every adult in your life has failed you. But I think you’re fixable. I think you’re fixable and I’ve come to love you.”

I sit back and let that sink in. Bailey loves me… and I believe her, actually. I don’t think she’s lying or making it up or trying to be nice. She actually cares about me.

“What happens when I’m done? With therapy, I mean. What happens when I’m done? Do I just… stop seeing you one day? And that’s it?” I ask her.

“It’s a little more complicated than that. When I feel that you’re ready to be discharged, I’ll start cutting our sessions down less and less. Kinda like weaning you off. I’ll give you the big “seal of approval” and yeah. I’ll send you on your way. Out there into the world. With all the tools I’m teaching you.”

“And then what? I never see you again?”

“We’re a long way from that, okay? Don’t worry about that. But… after six months of being discharged, it’s legal for us to be Facebook friends… so. Add me,” she grins and winks at me. I laugh softly to myself and she looks up at the clock. “Looks like we’re outta time. And I can’t keep you because you have to sing at the assembly, right? That’s today, isn’t it? It’s Friday?”

“Yeah,” I nod and gather up my stuff. “We’re singing ‘Hear You Me’. You know? By Jimmy Eat World?”

“I’m familiar.”

“We’re singing that, so. Wish me luck?”

“Good luck,” she gathers her own stuff up too. “Oh, and just so we’re clear, I won’t see you until next Saturday… got it?”

“Yeah, I got it. Next Saturday.”

“Because you’re gone for Hershey this weekend, then Tuesday you see the psychiatrist instead of me.”

“Right.”

“So we’ll discuss all this next Saturday and hopefully next week we’ll get back on our schedule. I know this week was a little bit crazy with you missing school on Tuesday and me being out sick yesterday. Hopefully this is the last friday session we’ll need. Hopefully we’ll get back to Tuesdays and Saturdays.”

“Yep, Tuesdays and Saturdays.”

“And I’ll get in contact with your mom to see about setting up a family session with you and her, capiche?”

“Capiche.”

“Alright kiddo, get outta here,” she waves me off. “Good luck at the competition this weekend.”

“Thank you,” I drape my cardigan over my shoulders and adjust the grip on my notebook. And before leaving, I feel like I should say this to her… “And Bailey?”

“Yep?” She looks up from putting things neatly back into her briefcase.

“...I’ve grown to love you, too.”


“I’m telling you, even Coach Sylvester was going to cry,” I say as the two of us glance down the street to make sure nothing is coming when we cross. “When Beiste strung up his jersey as Blaine was singing that really high part? I saw her. She had tears in her eyes.”

“And I’m telling you that you’re full of it,” Mercedes nudges me.

The two of us are silent for a few moments and the only sound is the steps that are feet take as we trample down the sidewalk and crunch the dead leaves. I’m trying not to sound bratty or like a spoiled rich girl, but I really my car. I haven’t had to walk home from the bus stop in literally… well… never, actually. It’s not that bad because Mercedes doesn’t live that far away from the bus stop, but I’m freezing and I’m not used to dressing like I have to ride the bus and walk to and from the stops. I’m used to getting into a warm car that I started with the remote all the way from my bedroom.

“Where do you think we go?” Mercedes is the first to break the silence.

“What do you mean?” I step up onto the sidewalk and look down as I walk.

“When we die. Where do you think we go?”

“I don’t know,” I shrug. “I guess… I guess I think that we go everywhere. I mean I was raised to believe in heaven and hell but… but I don’t know what I believe in anymore, really. I don’t think heaven and hell exist. I think when we die, we go… everywhere. Pieces of us go everywhere. Like confetti.”

“You think he heard us today? You think that wherever Karofsky ended up — heaven, hell, everywhere — you think he heard us? And knew that we were singing for him?”

“I hope so… I hope that he knows we all cared even if he didn’t feel like we did while he was here.”

“I care about you, Quinn,” she says really low and really softly. “I know it’s supposed to be all about Karofsky because he’s the one that’s dead but I think about how it could have been you, and… and I just don’t know if I would have recovered from that. And I’m really sorry if you didn’t feel like you could talk to me back then. I’m really sorry if you felt like nobody was listening. But I’m really glad you didn’t succeed.”

Talk to her. She’s dying for you to open up to her. She needs to know that you’re okay now. That you’re not going to do it again…

“You know, sometimes I do wish that it would’ve worked. I wish that my mom didn’t stick her fingers down my throat and make me throw up…” I feel her energy shift as soon as I say that. It’s like she wants to ask me for more details about my mom making me throw up, but she won’t. “Sometimes I do wish that it would’ve just ended it. But I’ve been staying with you guys since Wednesday and… and it’s only Friday and not much time at all, but it’s something… ever since I started staying with you guys, I don’t wish that anymore. There hasn’t been one single day where I wished that. And I’d be lying if I said you weren’t part of that.”

Instead of saying anything back and risking ruining the moment, she just wraps her arm around my shoulders and pulls me a little closer to her. And we walk like that for the rest of the way. The only time she lets me go is when we round the corner to get to her house and we see her dad outside on a ladder, dragging a paintbrush across the shutters.

“Hey ladies,” he calls over his shoulder. “Great day for painting, huh?”

“If by great you mean 30 degrees and perfect weather for freezing your butt off, then yeah. It’s perfect,” Mercedes mumbles. “Dad, the shutters can wait until spring. Nobody cares about the way the house looks.”

“You hush on up. If I want to paint my house and freeze while I’m doing it, I’m gonna paint my house and freeze while I’m doing it. Ain’t that right, Quinn-tessential?”

I let out a slight laugh at the name-pun. He’s great at coming up with new ones. “You do whatever you want, Mr. Jones. Your house, your rules.”

“See, ‘Cedes? Take notes from Harley Quinn.”

“Sure dad, whatever you say,” Mercedes walks up the porch steps and I follow her.

Mr. Jones stops painting for a second just to look at us. “Your mama went to the store and picked up a few groceries. She’s making some gumbo for dinner tonight.”

“Sounds good,” I remark and follow Mercedes inside.

Both of us take our shoes off by the door and put our backpacks where they always are, on the recliner chair in the living room. We’re leaving super early tomorrow morning. Mr. Schue said that we have to be at the school by no later than 4:30 in the morning so we can be on the bus and ready to pull out at 5:00 on the dot. Me and Mercedes plan to be in bed and asleep by 9:30, but we want to practice before we go to sleep, and we don’t want to miss a single minute. I still think Mr. Schue is insane for not having practice today. I mean I get it. He wanted us to go home and relax after Karofsky’s assembly, because it was a super heavy thing to perform at, and he didn’t want to keep us until late tonight because we have to go to bed early, but still. It’s the day before sectionals and he didn’t hold a practice. If we lose, I say we blame him.

Anyway, Mercedes and I start heading for the steps so we can hole up in her bedroom and start rehearsing, but her mom cranes her neck to see into the hallway. “Mercedes? Quinn? Come in this here kitchen for a minute,” she calls us. “Come empty these bags from the store and put this food away, you two.”

Mercedes and I both start emptying the bags as quickly as we possibly can so we can start rehearsing already. Mercedes opens the fridge and I hand her a can of Pillsbury biscuits, blueberry bagels, a tub of Blue Bonnet butter, package of bacon, sausage links and a bag of grapes to put away.

“I want you two going to sleep at a decent time tonight, you hear?” she talks to us with her back turned because she’s too busy peeling the tails off a bag of frozen shrimp. “Got an early morning ahead of you and ain’t no good singin’ gonna come outta you if you’re tired.”

“Okay muh,” Mercedes mumbles and moves on to the pantry. “Muh, can I have my friends over tonight? Just Rachel and Tina. We need to practice.”

“I don’t care, ‘Cedes. But they gotta be gone by eight at the latest. I want you girls to sleep tonight. I mean that.”

“Okay,” Mercedes says.

“Yes ma’am,” I say as I hand her two bags of Doritos, a box of mini chocolate chip muffins, two cans of corn, a can of green beans, a bag of sugar, a bag of four, a container of Kool-Aid mix, a bag of egg noodles and three boxes of Minute rice.

“And I want you two to eat real good tonight, too. I want you going to bed with full bellies. You ain’t gonna have nothing homecooked out there in Pennsylvania for a couple days, I wanna send my girls off right. Quinn, you like Gumbo, don’t you?” she asks, now cutting pieces of smoked sausage into tiny circles.

“I like anything you make,” I shrug and start handing Mercedes things for the freezer next. Two packages of chicken, two packages of steak, two packages of porkchops, one package of ground meat, a box of Eggos, a box of frozen pancakes and a box of frozen macaroni and cheese. The kind from Stouffer’s. She asked me yesterday what my mother usually buys for me to eat and I mentioned Stouffer’s macaroni. She bought that just for me. I know she did. Because Mercedes’ family doesn’t eat many things that are frozen. They make their stuff homemade. I want to cry because she actually thought of me today in the store.

“Anything else?” Mercedes gathers up all the plastic bags and stuffs them inside the one giant plastic bag hanging on the hook just inside the basement door. “We really need to go rehearse.”

“Yeah, one more thing,” Mrs. Jones uses her teeth to open a bag of green peppers. “Quinn, look inside that bag sitting there on the table and grab that phone inside of it.”

I rummage through the white and red Verizon bag and pull out the shiny new purple iPhone. Starting next month, Mom is going to start asking me what I want for Christmas and I was already going to ask for a new phone because I saw that they came out with a purple one and I wanted it. Seeing it in the flesh just made me even more sure that it’s what I want for Christmas. If Mom even gets me anything for Christmas… She’ll probably still hate me by then…

“Here you go,” I put it on the counter next to Mrs. Jones because she’s busy chopping up onions and peppers now.

“Don’t hand that to me, sugar. You keep that. That’s yours.”

What?! No. Absolutely not. Ab. So. Lutely. Not.

“Oh no, Mrs. Jones, that’s okay. Really, it’s okay. It’s fine. I have a phone. Thank you so much for the gesture, but it’s seriously okay. I don’t need it. I have one.” I shake my head and keep trying to hand it to her. “You can get your money back.”

“Ain’t your mama turn your phone off? Ain’t you running around only able to use it when you’re connected to internet? Cause your mama cut you off the bill?” Scrapes the cutting board full of peppers, celery and onions into a pot.

“Yeah, but it’s fine. I’m perfectly fine. Everyone I text has iPhones anyway so we use iMessage and it works around WiFi. It’s fine, I swear.”

“Well long as you’re living in this house I’mma need a way to get in touch with you. And you’s getting ready to go to Pennsylvania for the weekend. You ain’t living in my house going to Pennsylvania with no phone. No ma’am. Take that phone. Charger and the box is still in that bag. I put my number in there already.”

“Are you… are you sure? That’s a big undertaking and I really —“

“You’re keeping that phone, girl. Now I don’t wanna hear no more about it. I gotta have a way to get in touch with you. I wouldn’t let ‘Cedes go to another state with no phone and I ain’t gonna let you,” she adds the shrimp and sausage to the pot next. “‘Cedes told me you’d want the purple one.”

I turn around fast and look at Mercedes. “You knew she was going to get me one?! And you didn’t stop her?!”

“It was like twenty bucks to add you to the family plan, it was no big deal,” Mercedes shrugs and opens up a package of fruit snacks.

“There’s some other things we need to talk about,” Mrs. Jones is still talking with her back towards us. She’s too busy fixing the food but she is also so completely into the conversation. I wish I could multitask like that. “Last time you was staying here it was no big deal ‘cause you wasn’t trying to do nothing with that baby up in you. But it’s different now so we gotta lay down some rules.”

“Okay,” I sit down in a chair and open up my brand new phone. It's so pretty and purple...

“Curfew on school nights is at nine. Maybe nine thirty if you’re at a movie or something and it runs a little late, but no later than that. On weekends it’s midnight. If I lock these doors at midnight and you ain’t in this house then that’s just too bad. You locked out.”

“Okay, midnight. Got it.”

“When you are outside of this house, that phone stays on. At all times. No exceptions. If you’re out and it dies and I’m tryna call you and can’t get ahold of you then you grounded because you had every opportunity to text or call me before it dies. You ain’t about to have me up in this house worrying about you for no reason just ‘cause your phone dead. Alright?”

“Okay, phone battery gets low, text you to let you know it might die. Got it.”

“Nightwork gets done as soon as you step foot in this house and you don’t do nothing else until your nightwork gets done. I ain’t real big on chores but if you see something needs done, just do it. Don’t make me fuss and holler at you for not washing a sink full of dishes and don’t make me fuss and holler at you for not cleaning the tub if you see it’s dirty. I do laundry every Sunday so make sure your stuff is in a basket and left outside the door. I’ll wash it up for you but you gotta put it away.”

“Okay, sounds easy enough,” I nod and listen to her intently.

“And Quinn?”

“Yes ma’am?”

“Be a kid while you’re here. Okay? You still just a baby yourself, that don’t change just because you had a baby. Be a kid.”


I felt it all come back to me as soon as she put it back and I’ve been trying to swallow it and act like it’s not there anymore, but it clearly is and I can’t ignore it anymore.

I felt it come back as soon as she asked me who Rachel was, and I didn’t want to tell her. It dawned on me in that moment that I was so hesitant to tell her who Rachel was because I still knew that our relationship was wrong. She asked me, flat out. We sat across from each other with lasagna on our plates and she asked me who Rachel was and I didn’t want to tell her and ever since then, it’s been back.

Shame is heavy and gray and I wear it on me like an ugly old sweater that I just can’t bear to part with. Even as it wears me down.

“I just feel like I’m going to forget right in the middle of everybody and I’m going to freeze like a deer in headlights and everyone is going to laugh and boo us off the stage and we’ll lose and never be invited back to Hershey and it’s all because Quinn Fabray couldn’t keep up with Brittany Pierce and I totally screwed over everybody and what we worked hard for,” I ramble as I look up at the ceiling.

“Would you stop it?!” Mercedes swats me with a pillow, so I sit up and sigh. “You are fine. Mr. Schue wouldn’t have put you in that dance if he didn’t think you could do it.”

“And you’ve been nailing it in rehearsals,” Rachel says. As soon as I sit up, she lays her head on my lap and watches as Tina scrolls through Instagram. There’s three of us on the bed while Mercedes sits in her chair and starts painting her fingernails. There’s a lot of room on this bed… but she is choosing to lay on me… “You killed it yesterday.”

“Yeah, but I’m just scared because if I mess up on one count, then the whole thing is off because there’s no words to get me back on track. Like usually if I’m early on something I can figure out which word I’m supposed to match up with so I can slow down or speed up if I need to, but there’s no lyrics in Trashin’ The Camp.”

“There’s lyrics! If there weren’t lyrics, then what would we sing?” Mercedes comments.

“Not actual ones! How am I supposed to figure out which gibberish word I’m supposed to kick on if it’s all gibberish words repeating?”

“She’s got a point,” Tina looks up from her phone for one second just to agree with me and I appreciate that. “I’m so nervous that I’m gonna actually throw up on the stage because nobody is going to do what we’re doing.”

“Now I can relate to that,” Mercedes nods. “Everybody is going to go super mainstream and then there’s us.”

“A bunch of teenagers singing Disney mashups,” I mumble. “Creepy.”

“Will you guys stop it?” Rachel takes her head off my lap and looks at the three of us. “Why are you being like this? Tomorrow is going to be awesome because we are going to kill it and everybody is going to literally wish they were us.” We all just kinda stare at her… I hate it when she’s trying to be all sweet and encouraging because it makes me love her even more and I hate that. She’s so cute. “It doesn’t matter if everyone else is going to sing something super mainstream. And Quinn, it doesn’t matter if you mess up. Because my solos are going to epic and —“

“I so want to punch you in the face right now,” I mumble and look away from her and it’s true. I do want to punch her but not because I’m annoyed. It’s more because she’s so freaking cute when she does this and gets all self-absorbed.

“I will never underestimate your ability to somehow turn everything back around on you,” Mercedes says.

“How do you not get nervous?” Tina asks. “I mean that seriously. How do you not get nervous about performing in front of hundreds of people?”

“Well, I’m a star. And stars don’t get stage fright,” she shrugs and puts her head back down on my lap.

It’s like my hands have a mind of their own because I’m not thinking about it when my fingers start to run through the lengths of her silky hair. Her hair is so straight and so smooth that my fingers just glide through it like I’m running them through fresh blades of grass. My fingernails graze her scalp then travel all the way down to the ends of her hair. I keep going and going and her eyes eventually flutter shut.

Mrs. Jones agreed to let them spend the night, by the way. She agreed to let Rachel and Tina sleep in the spare room that is now my room, and I’ll sleep with Mercedes. She’ll drop us off at the school tomorrow morning but we have to go to bed early. I won’t lie, when she agreed to let them stay the night, I was super happy because I felt like I cheated the group out of a sleepover by fighting with my mom. But it’s coming true anyway so now I don’t feel as bad anymore.

For a second, I start to think that she fell asleep, because her eyes are closed and she’s not moving a muscle. But just as I start to think that, she curls her fingers against my kneecap and starts stroking and caressing my leg. She runs her fingernails across my legs quickly at first, but then she slows down… and eventually, she is matching the same pace I’m stroking her hair at. Her eyes are still closed, but I’m just staring at her like it’s my favorite thing to do because it kind of us. Her eyebrows are perfect… her skin is smooth… god she is just so… beautiful...

Then I’m suddenly aware again that we’re not the only two in the room, because from the corner of my eye, I see Tina and Mercedes exchange a look.

“What?” I ask them, and Rachel’s eyes flutter open.

“You two need to kiss already,” Tina laughs like it’s the funniest thing she’s ever said.

“Like, for real,” Mercedes laughs too.

Rachel wrinkles her eyebrows, then plasters an easy smile on her face. “How do you know we haven’t?” I feel nauseous when she says that…

“Well have you?” Tina asks.

“We don’t kiss and tell,” she snickers and closes her eyes again. “Do we, Quinn?”

“I already know you two kissed,” Mercedes blows on her fingernails and leans back in her chair. “Quinn told me.”

“I um… I…” ... can’t even form a sentence, clearly. Do you speak English? You’re such a freaking spazz.

“I don’t believe that for one second,” Tina shakes her head. “You’re lying. You’re both too scared to kiss each other, you expect me to believe you already have?”

“We have!” Rachel sits up and runs her own fingers through her hair to fix it. I just nod my head in agreeance. “The night of Puck’s party. Didn’t we, Quinn?”

“Mmm-hmmm,” I nod and keep my lips closed very tight because I might puke if I open them.

“Do it again then,” Mercedes dares. I feel my eyes widen…

“Yeah,” Tina challenges us too. “Do it again then. With. Tongue. I dare you.”

“We already did, so it’s not that big of a deal,” Rachel shrugs and licks her lips. Oh god, her lips… She inches closer and closer to me… closing the space between us…

And god I want to kiss her, god I do… I forgot the way her lips feel against mine. I forgot what she tastes like. I forgot how it feels to have her breath beating down on mine and how it feels to have her tongue smashed against mine. I missed her scent. I missed her body. I missed —

“Quinn, Mercedes?” Mrs. Jones calls, following a knock at the door. 

Both me and Rachel open our eyes at the same time, the look of disappointment hitting us both simultaneously. I un-tilt my head and sigh, letting it all sink in. “Yes?”

“What, muh?” Mercedes jumps up, trying to disperse the sexual tension between me and Rachel into the air like smoke.

Mrs. Jones opens the door and sticks her head inside. “Quinn, your parents are here. I can send them away if you want…”

“My parents?”

“Your parents.

Chapter Text



When my mom used to wake me and Frannie up in the mornings when we were still in elementary school, she would kneel beside our beds and stroke her fingers across our cheeks. In those hazy moments between sleep and consciousness, she would whisper soft things in our ears as our eyelashes would flutter open, and I only remember one thing from the dozens that she used to repeat.

One morning, when I was maybe seven, she climbed into the small twin-sized bed next to me and rested her head on my pink and white Barbie pillow. I could feel her presence beside me, so I didn’t have to open my eyes. I blindly felt my way over to her and nestled my head in the crook of her neck. She ran her fingers through my tangly blonde locks, put her lips to my ear and said, “The sun’s awake, my little Lu. Time to get up.”

Ever since she said that to me, I’ve always looked outside my window to make sure the sun was awake before I was awake. If it was still dark outside, I would jump back into my bed, pull the blankets up to my neck, and give myself back to sleep until the sun decided to wake up.

Well, the sun is not awake right now, the sun is nowhere to be found, and I really am starting to question if it was necessary to even be functioning at this hour.

Mr. Schue walks up the aisle with his index finger perched and pointing. He silently mumbles numbers to himself as he counts each person in every seat, and I look around. I’m in the very back, where nobody can see me and nobody can sit behind me. Tina, in sweatpants and a baggy sweatshirt, is across the aisle and two seats up, but I can still see her from where I’m sitting. After Mr. Schue counts her, she curls up in her seat and puts her head on Mike’s lap, who is sitting beside her. Mercedes is directly in front of me and even though she has her neck pillow around herself and her headphones plugged into her ears, Sam shuffles down the aisle and takes a seat beside her. Santana sits three rows ahead of Mercedes and Sam, and Brittany takes the seat in the row above her so they can talk if they need to, but it doesn’t seem like they’ll be doing much talking because Artie actually ends up sitting in the handicap aisle right next to Brittany. Puck and Finn take the two empty seats at the front of the bus, right behind Miss Pillsbury and Mr. Schue. Then Lauren and Sugar take two seats behind Puck and Finn. Then Rachel is the last one to come on the bus and I don’t know why, because she came with me and the girls, but she stopped and called her dads before we got on and I guess that kept her a little bit behind.

Everyone has either a blanket or a pillow and seems to be settling in for a long nap on this nearly eight hour bus ride, and I feel myself relax a bit because I’m actually not the only one wearing pajama pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt.

When my alarm went off along with everyone else’s, I got up and acted like a typical Quinn Fabray. I put on a dress and a pair of tights and plugged in the curling iron to do my hair even though I could barely keep my eyes open. Rachel, Tina and Mercedes all looked at me strangely when they came into the bathroom. Mercedes made a good point when she asked me if I was going to be comfortable in what I was wearing and then I looked at all the things they were wearing. Tina with her sweatshirt and sweatpants. Mercedes with her yoga pants and oversized sweater. Then Rachel with her leggings and summer camp hoodie. I went back into my bedroom and found my favorite pair of flannel pajama pants and the t-shirt I bought three years ago when me and Frannie saw Ed Sheeran in concert. Of course I put my UGGs on because my feet are cold and maybe I look like a rich snob in my polar white Northface. But I wasn’t sure how cold or hot the bus was going to be, so I wanted to be prepared.

Mr. Schue walks up and down the aisle one last time and as soon as he gives the bus driver a “thumbs up,” I fold my fluffy pillow in half as best as I can and put it against the window so I can lay my head down and go to sleep. But as soon as I close my eyes, I hear a throat clearly very softly right next to me, so I open them back up.

She curls her toes inside of her fuzzy silver slippers, and holds her big brown fleece blanket against her chest. Her ponytail is lazy as it hangs over her left shoulder, but I think she looks beautiful with the way little pieces of her hair are left out of it. She glances down at the empty space on the seat beside me, then looks at me again. Asking. And I really didn’t think she would want to sit next to me, after the night we had. Because it’s kind of our thing to ignore each other after something major happens between us.

But I’m breaking the cycle, because I scoot over a little closer to the window and make room so she can sit with me if she wants to.

She slides into the seat with me and spreads her blanket out so it covers both of us. And I have my pillow to keep my head comfortable and now she gave me her blanket to keep myself warm, so I lean towards her a little more and offer her my shoulder. And it’s like we have our own little unspoken language between us, because she lays her head on my shoulder without missing a beat and pulls her blanket way up to her neck. I put my pillow against the window and close my eyes again. But then her hand starts shuffling underneath the blanket like it’s searching for something, so I give her mine because I just have a feeling that it’s what she’s searching for. And it is. She locks her fingers inside of mine and the two of us breathe in tune with each other, linked.

The driver turns the lights out and the entire bus is pitch dark because at four in the morning, the sun is not awake and we shouldn’t be either.

The engine of the bus roars to life, but me and Rachel are fast asleep.


I didn’t think that I was super excited for sectionals, but I guess I am because I cannot fall asleep. I have that feeling in my chest, like a kid on Christmas Eve. I want to close my eyes and go to sleep because I want tomorrow to come as quickly as it possibly can. But when I close my eyes to actually do it, I just end up laying there really still for several moments until I give up and acknowledge the fact that I cannot fall asleep. Then I toss and turn. I put one arm under the pillow, then both arms under the pillow. I put one foot outside my blankets, then both feet. I lay on my stomach, then on my side. Then on my back. I raise one leg, then both legs. Then I sigh and grit my teeth and get angry and reach over for my phone to check the time.

It’s that kind of routine over and over and over again.

Last time I checked, it was midnight. Rachel, Tina, Mercedes and I decided to officially part ways and go to bed at nine, so I’ve been tossing and turning in bed next to Mercedes for three hours. She sleeps like a log and she hasn’t moved a single muscle since she fell asleep at a quarter after nine. I don’t understand how sleep came so naturally to her. Not when tomorrow is going to be the best day of our lives.

I roll onto my side again and grab my phone for another time check. It’s 12:15 now. Great. Another fifteen minutes of no sleep just wasted.

I wonder… because the only person that would be just as excited as me and therefore unable to sleep would be…

I unlock my phone and scroll to her contact. I tap the “message” icon underneath her name and my thumbs hover over the keyboard as I try to think of what to say. The last time I texted her, I got into a world of trouble…

 

iMessage

Saturday, October 26

12:17 a.m.

 

ME: are you awake? i can’t sleep :/

 

12:18 a.m.

 

RACHEL: Me either. Tina is out like a light but I’m just staring at the walls. I’m going to be so tired in the morning :(

 

ME: hopefully we can sleep on the bus. mercedes is out too. my mind is just sooo full to sleep… 

 

RACHEL: Are you okay? If you want to talk about it we can…

 

ME: what do you mean???

 

RACHEL: Your parents just showing up like that. That wasn’t cool.

RACHEL: You handled it well though!

 

ME: oh idc about that. i’m just not thinking about it. i’m thinking about other stuff. like sectionals.

 

RACHEL: Thought you were gonna say you were thinking about me :b

 

ME: i mean obviously

ME: lol.

ME: i’m thinking about you alright.

ME: as i’m sure you’re thinking about me.

 

RACHEL: I’m always thinking about you…

 

ME: always?

 

RACHEL: Pretty much yeah lol

 

ME: what do you think about?

 

RACHEL: What you’re doing mostly.

RACHEL: Whar you’re thinking.

RACHEL: *what

RACHEL: And other stuff……..

 

ME: what other stuff?

 

RACHEL: I think you already know.

 

ME: hmm i don’t think i do

ME: wanna enlighten me a bit…? :)

 

RACHEL: How about you come across the hall if you want me to enlighten you so much. Then I can show you exxxxxactly what I think about ;)

RACHEL: ….Lol

 

ME: are you threatening me?

 

RACHEL: Depends on how you’d feel about it if I was.

 

ME: i’d be flattered

ME: and a bit turned on…

 

RACHEL: Guess I’m threatening you then.

 

ME: i think you’re all talk. no action.

 

RACHEL: Just come to your room.

RACHEL: Only one way to find out.

 

ME: threat?

 

RACHEL: Promise.

 

I lock my phone and hold it against my chest. My heart is beating a thousand miles a minute and I can hear it in my ears again. And I’m so glad that Mercedes is asleep, because the smile on my face is so wide that I’m sure she’d be able to see it even though the darkness. She wants me to go over there. Tina is sleeping and so is Mercedes and I’m pretty sure everyone else in the house are sleeping too. So it’s just us. And she wants me to go over there…

Oh my god, what do I do? What do I say? What do I text back? DO I text back? What do I do if I go over there? What if I kiss her? What if she kisses me? What if something else happens? Something more? Do I want something more…? Oh god, I don’t know what I’m doing! I’ve never actually ...done things! With a girl! I’ve barely done things with boys! Let alone girls! What if I don’t know what I’m doing? What if I’m bad at it?

Oh god no, she’s going to think that I don’t want to see her. If I sit here and wait, she’s going to think that my silence means something different than that I’m just nervous and I’m going to blow it.

Even though I know Mercedes won’t wake up, I clutch my phone tightly and roll out of bed as quietly as I can. I fix the shorts and t-shirt that I’m sleeping in, and even smooth my hair back. And before I open the door to go across the hall to my room, I shove my hand underneath my shirt and use my cloth-covered index finger to wipe my teeth and tongue. I brushed them before I went to bed, of course. But I still don’t want there to be any plaque or bad tastes on my breath. Just in case I do actually kiss her tonight or something.

I glance over my shoulder just to make sure Mercedes is actually sleeping, then pull open her door very slowly. And I look both ways down the hallway just to make sure the coast is clear. Then I tiptoe across the hall and a few feet down to the door beside the bathroom. My door. She and Tina are sleeping in my room.

I hold my breath as I turn the knob, don’t exhale as I push the door open…

And once I’m inside, it takes my eyes a moment to adjust to the darkness. I can tell where she is, because the light from her phone glows in the corner of my bed, and she suddenly locks it when she notices that I actually came. And she laughs softly to herself, snorting through her nose. The mattress creaks a little as she climbs out of the bed.

 

“You actually came,” she whispers quietly, but loud enough so I can hear her. “My God.”

“I can’t believe you thought I wouldn’t,” my tone matches hers. It’s quiet, but loud enough for us to hear.

I feel my way through the darkness and over to the edge of my bed, opposite the side that Tina is sleeping on. I press my legs up against the frame of my bed so I know where I am in relation to it, then slide down until I’m eventually sitting on my butt with my back against my bed. I can’t see Rachel moving beside me, but I can tell when she sits down next to me because I feel the warmth radiating off her body. And her elbow brushed against mine. And my stomach is turning backflips inside of me.

Now what? I don’t think either of us planned on getting this far. I don’t think either of us thought about what would happen if we got this far. I don’t think either of us know what to do…

Do I just lean in and start kissing her? No, that would be weird. And plus, she can’t see me and I can’t see her. So I might end up kissing her ear and thinking that it’s her mouth. Do I ask her if I can kiss her first? Consent is everything. I don’t want to just start randomly making out with her when I don’t know if that’s what she wants. Maybe I should just hug her. Yeah, that’s it. I’ll just wrap my arm around her. Let her know that I’m all in if she’s all in. Maybe from there, the hug will lead into something more. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll just lightly drape my arm around her and hope that she leans in.

“So… you can’t sleep?” She whispers, softer than what we’ve been talking like. Nervous, maybe. Or embarrassed, slightly.

“No,” I shake my head. “I think I’m too excited to sleep.”

“Yeah,” she sighs.

And we’re right back to being quiet. Sitting side by side, saying nothing. Just letting the air circulate between us. I sigh too, because this really isn’t what I wanted it to be. How can both of us be too scared to make the first move?

The light from her phone starts glowing again, and when I look over at her, her thumbs are flying across her keyboard. And I’m instantly a little mad about that because who could she possibly be texting this late at night? And I try to swallow that anger quickly because I know it’s misdirected and unfair. I don’t own Rachel, she is not my property. But still… I don’t want her texting anyone else at this hour...

Maybe she’s like me and unsure if she should make the first move or not. Maybe she doesn’t know if I want to kiss her or not. Maybe she’s just very unclear. And maybe she’s just tweeting, too. Maybe she’s not texting anyone. Maybe she —

As soon as she locks her phone again and it stops glowing, mine buzzes in my hand. I look around to make sure Tina is still sleeping, then open it up.

 

New iMessage

Saturday, October 26

12:43 a.m.

 

RACHEL: Still want to find out what I think about?

 

My face-eating smile returns and so do the butterflies in my stomach. I want to squeal, but she’s right next to me so I wipe the smile off my face and adjust my composure.



12:43 a.m.

 

ME: you’re all talk. no action.

 

RACHEL: You want action?

 

ME: hell yeah but you won’t do anything. lol.

 

RACHEL: What if I told you that the one time we did kiss is all I ever think about…

RACHEL: ???

 

ME: i would say that you’re not alone.

ME: and i would tell you that there’s more where that came from.

 

RACHEL: What if I put my phone down right now and kissed you?

 

ME: you would find out just how bad i’ve been wanting that…

ME: what if i kissed you back and put my hands on your waist because i’ve wanted to do that again since the last time?

 

RACHEL: I would take your shirt off since it’s thin and you don’t need it anyway. Because I didn’t appreciate the opportunity the first time. I didn’t take it for all it was worth.

RACHEL: What if I told you I never wanted to kiss somebody so badly before?

 

ME: i would tell you that i’ve never wanted anyone the way i want you…

ME: what if i dared you to kiss me? right now.

 

RACHEL: What if I dared you?

 

Just do it, Quinn. She wants it and you want it and you better not chicken out because you’ve been wanting to do this for so long. She’s giving you the opportunity right now and she said she wants it herself. Just do it. Just freaking do it. Don’t be a coward. Don’t be a chicken. Make the first move. Let her know you’re interested. Do it. Do it. Do it.

I toss my phone to the side like it’s a mere inconvenience that I want to get out of my way, and I don’t know how I can see through the darkness or if I just know in my heart where her lips will be, but I find them with ease. I find them and I smash my lips against hers and unlike the first time, there is no hesitation between us.

As soon as our lips meet, hers open and so do mine and our tongues meet each other somewhere in the middle with electricity between them. It’s like they’ve been long lost and this is the first time they’ve been reunited. I explore her mouth with my tongue, each and every corner. It’s a mouth that I want to get to know because I sure do plan on kissing it a whole lot. Our lips open and close in perfect rhythm with each other and her breath is bitter, like the aftertaste of mint toothpaste on her tongue. It’s bitter, but I crave more.

And again, it’s like I can’t get enough of her. Her tongue is tangled up in mine and my hands are gripping and cupping and clawing at her waist because I want more of her. I want every single inch of her body and too close is not close enough. Her head tilts to the side to allow my tongue deeper inside of her mouth, but I’m dizzy over the feeling of her hands tangling up in my hair. She pulls my ponytail out and shakes my hair between her hands, but never breaks the kiss.

It starts rising up in the back of my throat like bile again. That heavy, thick, gray sludge of shame. I think about my mother’s words and the Bible’s teaching. I think about hell and how my ticket there is surely punched after this. I think about Beth and my mother and my sister and father, the people I love who will be in heaven while I’m below, burning for eternal damnation. I think about all of that just washing away, like a shell getting carried off to sea by the tide. Or the way a rope burns quick, all the way up to the top as soon as you expose it to flame. I think about all of that going away just for this one moment of bliss. This moment of Rachel having me and me having her.

I don’t think it’s wrong because it feels so right.

Her hands slip under my t-shirt and the tips of her thumbs brush against the burning hot skin of my abdomen. A tingle arches across my scalp. Her touch is electric, it brings me to life. Her thumbs drag all the way up to my chest and I only remember that I’m not wearing a bra when her fingers graze my bare boobs. I pull away from the sheer shock of it, but her touch is gentle. She rests her hands just on the sides of my boobs, as if she’s asking permission to touch me there.

And I don’t have to verbally say yes to let her know that it’s okay. I let her know just by the way my lips go hungrily to her throat. I take the soft skin of her neck between my two lips and suck on it slightly. She stops kneading my chest for a split second so a low, satisfied groan can escape from her lips. And it’s kind of beautiful, actually. The sound of a woman being turned on by something you’re doing to her. It’s like a drug to me because the moment I hear her moan and realize that yes, this is me, and I CAN make her moan, I want to do it more and more. My tongue prods her neck, all the way up to her earlobe.

And I’m eager to see what this is doing to her, because I know it’s doing something. It’s like waiting to see the results of something you’ve just did. Like submitting the application to a credit card. The circle in the middle of your browser is going around and around and around and when it stops, you’ll either see a “congratulations!” or an “I’m sorry.” That’s what it’s like. I’m kissing and gnawing all over her neck, which I think is her spot. And her breath keeps catching in her throat. And I’m doing something, I know I am. The browser stopped thinking and the circle stopped spinning. And now, I get to see my result…

My thumb pulls the elastic waistband of her shorts away from her skin. I meet the cotton of her underwear next, but I peel that layer back too.

My four fingers slide into her underwear, but I stop them on her way lower stomach and the tips of my fingers brush against a tuft of very fine hair. I’m so eager to go further, eager to know if my neck kissing paid off and my hands will get wet, but I wait. I want to give her the opportunity to stop me if she wants it.

But then, the stupid fucking mattress creaks. And the blankets rustle. And her hands are out from underneath my shirt just as quickly as mine are out of her underwear. And we both duck.

And I’m really fucking mad at Tina even though she didn’t actually wake up. I’m mad at her for stirring and ruining the moment. Because even though Rachel tries to start kissing me again when the blankets settle and we’re in the clear, it’s not the same. The tension between us isn’t the same. The anticipation isn’t burning anymore. And the kisses don’t feel the same. The mood doesn’t feel the same for either one of us.

So we stop. And I quietly stood up and Rachel looked up at me from where she still sat on the floor. And I mouth the word “goodnight” to her and she smiles at me.

I go back to Mercedes’ room and plug my phone into the charger again.

And I’m fully expecting to climb back into the bed with Mercedes and feel that cold shame cover my body again. I’m expecting to lie down and cry until my head hurts and I can’t keep my eyes open anymore.

But when my phone lights up on the nightstand just as I’m pulling the blankets back over me, I open it up.

 

New iMessage

Saturday, October 26

1:27 a.m.

 

RACHEL: Goodnight. See you in the morning.

 

I roll over and go to sleep happy instead of going to sleep ashamed.


As my eyelids slowly decide that they want to open, my eyebrows wrinkle as they adjust to the sudden light. It’s still not completely daytime outside and the sun still hasn’t fully come up yet, but it is considerably lighter than it was when I fell asleep, so I assume that I’ve been asleep for a while now and that we’re pretty deep into our drive.

I blink slowly and my start to water whenever I open my mouth and yawn, and then I feel the weight on my shoulder all at once. It’s like as soon as my body fully woke up, I became aware of my surroundings and that included becoming aware of the ten pound weight holding my shoulder down. I want to yawn again, loudly this time, and stretch my arms up over my head. But I glance down and see that she’s still fast asleep against my shoulder and I realize in that moment that I would stay still for the rest of my life if it meant that she would be comfortable.

So sooner than I’ve adjusted to the light of being awake, the bus makes a turn and then sputters to a stop, and the lights slowly flicker on again. I watch as all the heads that were once down all pop back up and mumble half-asleep nothings. Mr. Schue stands up and stretches and clears his throat loud enough for everyone to hear him.

Against my shoulder, Rachel stirs and I accidentally put my lips to her forehead to settle her. I realize the mistake I made pretty quickly though, and I don’t think anyone saw me. She grumbles a little bit, then picks her head up and looks around.

“We… stopped?” she asks, still halfway unconscious.

“Looks like,” I reply.

“How are we gonna get there in time if we make a bunch of stops?” she asks as she rubs her eyes, voice raised an entire pitch because she’s talking through a yawn.

“We’ll be fine,” I assure her and look at Mr. Schue, who is now standing in the middle of the bus.

“We’re gonna camp out here at the truck stop for a second, guys. You’re free to go inside and use the bathrooms if you need to and there’s a couple restaurants inside that you can go and get some food from. Just be back at the bus in TWENTY minutes, okay? We’re on a pretty tight schedule.”

A few aisles up, Kurt rises and slips his eye-mask up just enough for us to see his eyes. “Are we halfway there yet?”

“We’re not even out of Ohio yet. We’re only in Youngstown, guys.”

Mercedes yawns and stands up from her seat, turning around so she can face me. She leans back and stretches out as she starts talking to me.

“If you’re hungry,” she groans through the stretch. “My dad gave me some money for the both of us to spend. I’m gonna go in and see what kind of food they have.”

“I have my own money. My mom transferred me some before she left last night, so.” I stand up and wait for Rachel to shuffle out of the seat. I roll her blanket up and rest it on the seat so it doesn’t get dirty on the floor, and set my pillow on top of it.

All of us file off the bus and disperse inside the truck stop.


“Quinn?!” The little redheaded barista calls my name as she snaps the lid on my drink. I stand up from the table that me, Mercedes, Rachel and Tina decided to sit at while we wait and walk through the velvet roped lines to grab it. “Have a good morning!” she chirps as she hands it to me.

“Thank you,” I reply as I stuff a straw inside. I’m not a big Starbucks fan, but I wasn’t about to come here with everybody else and not order something, so I got my usual order. It’s not an iced coffee or anything, but I find their strawberry açaí lemonade refreshers to be… well… refreshing.

“Okay,” Mercedes starts as everyone starts standing up. “Just Rachel left? Then we can head back to the bus?”

“Yeah, seems like,” I mumble and look through the line across the way at Dunkin’ to see if I can find her. 

Before we went to Starbucks, we stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts to get breakfast food because the line wasn’t long, but Rachel stopped to call her dads again and got split up with us in line because Finn, Mike and Puck were being assholes and wouldn’t let her cut them to stay with us. So while she waited behind them, we just got drinks from Starbucks but she’s still not out of line yet. I don’t want her to be alone, so I leave my Dunkin’ bag with Mercedes and Tina and walk the few hundred feet over to where she’s standing in line.

“Whatcha getting good?” I ask her as I stand beside her.

“I dunno yet,” she ponders as she looks up at the menu. “I’m thinking…”

“Can I help you?” The guy standing behind the register asks her.

“Yes, can I have a… um… a large iced coffee, no cream, just five sugars, a… sausage, egg and cheese bagel but no cheese on that, please. And a… two blueberry donuts,” she orders with her nicest fake polite voice ever and I know some people find her annoying but they just don’t know her like I do.

“So I’ve got a large iced coffee, black with five sugars, a sausage and egg bagel, and two blueberry glazed donuts?” He repeats her order back and she nods her head. “That’ll be $15.62.”

“Thank you,” Rachel mumbles as she rummages through her wallet.

As she’s rummaging, I just reach into the pocket of my pajama pants and hand the cashier my red and silver Bank of America card.

“Debit or credit?” He asks me, which makes Rachel’s head pop up.

“Credit’s fine,” I shrug. “Don’t worry about it,” I nudge Rachel with my elbow.

“Let me at least give you the money back for it,” she files through a few loose five dollar bills. “You didn’t have to do that, I have it, I just have to find my card in this mess. I just want to save my cash just in case I want to get a t-shirt in Hershey or something.”

“I said don’t worry about it,” I mumble under my breath. “I wanted to do that for you. Chivalry isn’t… dead or whatever.”

As we move on through the line, Finn is the last of their bunch to get his food and instead of heading out the door like the rest of his friends did when they got their food, he circles around for some reason. And he stands right beside me and Rachel, but he directs his attention to Rachel. I’m annoyed before he even speaks.

“You didn’t get any dairy, did you?” he asks her and Rachel looks like she’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. Her face is blank, like she’s trying to keep it together between the both of us. She shakes her head very slowly, carefully choosing not to show emotion. “Good. You know that stuff coats your throat. No dairy before performing.”

He puts his hands on her shoulders and caresses them really gently and lovingly and I wait for her to shrug him off, but she doesn’t. And I feel rage bubbling up inside of me, about to spill over.

“You didn’t need me to pay for your food, did you, babe? I’m sorry I forgot to ask,” he’s all chattery with her now that his friends are gone and I am so. Furious.

Babe? Why are you calling her babe? She’s not your babe.

“No, Quinn got it,” Rachel says softly.

Right. Now tell him not to call you babe. And tell him not to touch you…

But she doesn’t. She doesn’t shrug him off or correct him and I’m trying not to be mad at her because I know this is a process that you have to work through, but I can’t help it.

I just walk away from the two of them and head back for the bus.


I was one of the first people on the bus again, so I get to watch everyone slowly pile back on. And between small bites of my breakfast burrito and picking through the box of donut holes I intended to share with Rachel, I just watch as everyone and their other halves all take their seats.

Sam and Mercedes pile back into their same seat, and Sam offers Mercedes a bite of his chocolate croissant. Mike steals sips of Tina’s Starbucks drink. Kurt wipes Blaine’s mouth with a napkin. Miss Pillsbury pulls Mr. Schue’s sleeves up while he eats a piece of sausage. Artie picks bacon out of his breakfast bowl and lets Brittany eat the pieces he doesn’t want. Even Puck breaks off half of his donut and shares it with Lauren.

And for a second I have to really convince myself that crying wouldn’t solve anything, because I really just want to cry.

Why can’t I have that…? I’ll probably never have that. At least not with Rachel…

Rachel and Finn are the last ones to shuffle back onto the bus and I keep my head down when Rachel makes her way back to me. She stops at my seat again and I want to let her sit by me again, I really do. But I think I might get too sad when I think about the way she didn’t correct him or shrug him off. I think it might hurt too much. Even though I know that she’s just as confused as I am and I won’t be mad forever, I just need a second to let the hurt fade.

So I toss her blanket into the seat across from me and put my feet up on my seat so she can’t sit down.

Chapter Text

New iMessage

Saturday, October 26

8:17 a.m.

 

RACHEL: I’m thinking about you.

 

ME: i’m thinking about you too.

 

RACHEL: Can’t believe we’re going to have a hotel room to ourselves for an entire night…

 

ME: does that excite you?

 

RACHEL: YOU excite me.

 

ME: oh do i? ;)

ME: how much do i excite you?

 

RACHEL: I’ll show you when we get there.

 

ME: i’m holding you to that.

ME: so you think we’re going to do something?

 

RACHEL: I think it’ll be hard for me to keep my hands off you if we’re in a room together all night with no supervision.

 

ME: i don’t want your hands off of me anyway.

 

RACHEL: Good, then we’re on the same page :)

 

ME: if we were in the room right now, what would you do?

 

RACHEL: Depends.

 

ME: on…?

 

RACHEL: What you’re wearing, first off all.

RACHEL: And how explicit I’m allowed to be.

RACHEL: Lol.

 

ME: as explicit as you possibly can be…

 

RACHEL : I’ll just leave it up to your imagination and we’ll see if i surprise you or not.

 

ME: i can still taste your lips from last night if i try hard enough.

 

RACHEL: Me too.

 

ME: of course, i’d like to taste other things…

ME: hehe ;)

 

RACHEL: Patience is a virtue. :b

 

ME: rachel?

 

RACHEL: Yes?

 

ME: … i don’t want you to talk to anyone else. and especially not finn.

 

RACHEL: Wait…

RACHEL: Who is this?

RACHEL: This isn’t Finn?!

RACHEL: Omg!

RACHEL: Quinn I am so sorry I thought I was texting Finn! I didn’t mean to… omg this is such a huge misunderstanding…

 

ME: what?

 

RACHEL: I am so sorry. So sorry. I should have doubled checked the names as I was texting. We can’t text anymore. I’m so sorry. I’m in love with Finn and he’s who I want. I was just confused last night but I’m not now. So sorry Quinn. But this has to be goodbye.

 

ME: wait, rachel…

ME: what the hell?

ME: we should talk about this…

 

*You have been blocked from sending iMessages to this user*

 

My eyes snap open in one split second and my heart jumps up into my throat as I startle myself awake. My pillow falls onto the floor because I picked my head up from it so suddenly, and my eyes instantly start to burn as they adjust to suddenly being thrust into consciousness. 

I look around the bus to make sure nobody saw me jump like that, and scoop my pillow off the floor in one motion. Almost everybody is asleep again, and those who aren’t are busy playing on their phones or listening to music. They’re not paying any attention to me.

Tina’s head is on Mike’s shoulder and she’s fast asleep and Mercedes’ head is against the window while Sam’s head is in her lap and they’re both asleep. I try to talk myself out of looking across the aisle in the seat right across from mine. I try to convince myself that I’m still mad at her and I don’t care if she’s sleeping or if she’s awake, but it’s a battle between my head and my heart and my heart is set to win. My head loses the battle and my heart allows me to glance over at her for just a moment.

Her legs are stretched out onto the seat as her back is against the wall, and instead of covering herself with the blanket, she has it rolled and stuffed behind her lead like a makeshift pillow. Her arms are draped loosely across her chest and her shoulders move up and down in rhythm with her breathing.

Everyone is asleep and I think I was, too. Just a dream? I grab my phone from the pocket of my backpack that I shoved it inside and open it up as fast as I can. When I open the text message thread between me and Rachel, an overwhelming sense of relief washes over me when I see that there’s nothing new. Just the text messages from last night. Nothing about her thinking that I am actually Finn and nothing about her blocking my number. More like a freaking nightmare! That was awful!

As I lock my phone up again and stuff it back inside my backpack, my eyes can’t help but wander over her way again. She’s sleeping so soundly and she looks so beautiful. Staring at her is one of my favorite things to do and she is sleeping, so I can do it freely. And I just can’t help but think of all the things I would be doing if I wasn’t so mad at her. If wasn’t so mad at her for what she did (or didn’t do) back at Dunkin’, I would get into that seat with her and grab her gently by the arms. She would stir a little bit from behind woken up like that, but I would just tell her to “shh” real softly and make her lie her head on my shoulder so her neck doesn’t get a bad cramp. We’re far enough in the back of the bus that nobody can see us, so I would kiss her forehead and wrap her blanket around her because it’s cold and drafty on this bus and I don’t want her to freeze. I would wrap my arm around her so she felt secure and safe, and I would let her sleep until we got to Hershey.

But this is real life, and I am actually still a bit mad at her for not correcting Finn and letting him call her pet names, so I keep my butt in my seat and watch her sleep from a distance.

I kinda wish she was awake so we can talk about why I’m mad at her. Maybe we can clear it up…

The bus makes a turn like it did the last time we pulled into a truck stop and I feel it slow down, but when I look out my window, we’re not in a truck stop again. It’s more of a gas station this time, so I’m not surprised when Mr. Schue stands up but doesn’t make the driver turn the lights on or anything. He just stands up, stretches for a second, and starts to speak softly like he’s trying not to wake up those who are still sleeping.

“We’re at a gas station, guys. If you need to use the bathroom or want to go get a drink, be my guest but be back here in five. We’re not here long. Just stopping for gas.”

I look around at everyone still sleeping, and I’m not surprised that nobody gets up to get off.  Nobody even stands up except for Santana, and she only stands up to stretch, it seems. I’m not sure how far from Hershey we are, but I know that it’s almost nine in the morning, which means we’ve been driving a little over four hours now, so logically we should have about four left. I can easily get through four more hours on the bus by sleeping, so I fluff my pillow up and put it back against the window so I can settle in.

But as soon as I’m ready to close my eyes, I feel the seat sink in beside me and I lift my head to see who suddenly took it upon themselves to sit beside me uninvited, and I’m a little surprised but mostly annoyed to find that it’s Santana, of all people.

Can I help you?” I grumble at her and almost snatch my hand away when she randomly decides she wants to hold it. “Excuse you…?“

“Just pretend that we like each other and are happy for five minutes,” she says to me through clenched, smiling teeth and I think for a moment that she’d make a really convincing ventriloquist. Her eyes are dead set, staring at the front of the bus but her smile is big, bright and fake. Fake, fake, fake.

“Santana,” I sigh, trying to pull my hand out of her grasp. She only squeezes it tighter, though. “Let go of me. It’s too early in the morning and —“

“Q, seriously.” She loosens her grip on my hand just enough for it to stop being uncomfortable for me, and hangs her head like she’s trying to whisper to me. “Just for one second. Please?”

Now that her head is down and she’s not looking anymore, I lift mine and try to guess what it was she was looking at. It doesn’t take me long to figure it out, though. All I have to do is look up to where Brittany is sitting and I can clearly see that she is holding Artie’s hand and laughing. They make such an odd couple that I find it hard to believe Brittany is with him for anything more than just a one-sided joke, but it seems like she really likes him. I mean, I’ve never seen anyone make Brittany smile like that. Not even Santana. Well… maybe Santana, but only once or twice. She seems… happy with him. Not like it’s forced. Like she actually maybe even likes him.

And while a part of me is happy for the Brittany that I used to be best friends with when I was a Cheerio, a bigger part of me aches for Santana. That part of me hangs my head, too. Because bearing witness to somebody else making Brittany laugh and smile the way I know Santana wants to make her laugh and smile makes me feel guilty. Like I’m complicit and a part of making Santana feel so terrible just by watching her with Artie and being happy for her. The part of me that aches for Santana laces my fingers inside of hers. Because if there’s anything I can do to make her feel a little less pain than what I think she’s feeling right now, I’m willing to do just about that. I know, I know I should still be kind of mad at her for sharing my secret with the entire school, but I’m not. At least not fully. And I think it’s because I understand her, and I understand that hurt people hurt people because I was like that once. I was a hurt person and I hurt others because I was hurt and hurt people hurt people. I just want Santana to stop hurting.

Santana starts to lift her head back up, but I nudge her with my elbow so that she knows to keep her head down and it’s not safe to look yet.

“She’s still holding his hand,” I mumble to her, trying to soften the blow as I’m actually watching Brittany kiss Artie and not holding his hand.

“Thanks,” her voice cracks but I see no tears and I’m proud of her for not crying because if it were me, I would surely be crying by now.

I’m not sure if she knows… maybe she’s already used her “gaydar” and figured it out by now because I’m not all that good at hiding it anymore. But even if she didn’t sniff it out and even if she doesn’t know yet, I have a feeling deep inside of me that she won’t judge. I have a feeling that she will listen and understand and this will be something that the two of us can bond over. So it’s not that big of a deal. You can tell her…

“...Finn called Rachel his ‘babe’ back at the truck stop. He offered to pay for her food, called her ‘babe’, and I almost lost my mind,” I say in my best, toughest, most “Quinn Fabray” voice possible. She slowly lifts her head and looks at me and our eyes meet for a second. She asks me with her eyes, and I just nod my head. “Know how you feel.”

For a while, Santana doesn’t say anything. The bus starts moving again and both of us stare out the window until the trees we’re passing on the highway turn into blobs of brown, orange and red.

This is my favorite time of the year, by the way. When the trees are all a blur of brown, orange, red and yellow — the best kind of mess — the kaleidoscope explosion of trees that have always comforted me. I really like the leaves, there’s something neat about them.

Leaves don’t linger. They come in the springtime and stick around for the summer and do exactly what they need to do. They don’t stick around. When the temperature drops, the sun hides and life becomes unsustainable, they let go and flutter to uncertainty. They don’t hold on, hoping that things will get better and life will go back to normal. Everything changes and they fall to the ground, not knowing what may be at the bottom for them, and not caring.

“Do you ever think that she might not love you back?” she finally breaks the silence between us, but her voice sounds dead. There’s no life inside of it, no life inside of her. And it’s funny, because I never thought I’d say this… but I see a lot of myself in Santana Lopez.

“Huh?” I heard her… I just don’t know how to respond.

“Rachel,” she starts again. “You ever think that she might not ever love you back?”

“I do,” I mumble and bite my lip to silently chastise myself for daring to admit to something so bold. “And it’s… absolutely terrifying.”

“Tell me about it,” she swallows hard and I see the glossy tears lining her eyes. “...I’m sorry for doing that to you in rehearsal the other day. It wasn’t my place and you didn’t deserve it.”

“It’s okay,” I whisper. I mean really, it’s not okay. The entire school knows I was locked up in a psych ward because of her and it’s not okay. But it seems like she’s already punishing herself enough. I don’t need to add to it. “You were just —“

“Being a bitch?” she laughs when she says that but I know she doesn’t actually think anything is funny because her tears fall when she laughs. “I just… needed a minute. I needed one single minute of the focus not being on me. Just one. So I put it on you,” she shrugs. “And it wasn’t okay. I’m just… so tired of living under this microscope.”

“Santana, I get it,” I hand her the napkins from the breakfast burrito that I was too angry at Rachel to eat earlier. “It’s me you’re talking to. I get what you mean. It’s… it’s exhausting to constantly hide what you are to live up to what everyone thinks you should be. It makes you do shitty things. I get it.”

She wipes her tears with the napkins and sighs. “...Sorry for kissing you at Puck’s party, too. I shouldn’t have done that without asking you or whatever. Sorry for —“

“You don’t have to apologize for any of that,” I stop her before she gets ahead. “I’m not mad and I didn’t feel… like… ‘sexually harassed’ or anything like that. If anything, it made me see clearer. I kinda liked it,” I shrug my shoulders.

“You liked it?”

“Yeah, a little.”

“So… why didn’t you do it back?”

“I did kiss you back, don’t you remember?”

“Not the kiss… the… other thing…”

“What other thing?” All we did was kiss, right? I know I was still going on an acid trip when you kissed me but I remember that night plain as day and all we did was kiss. I got a little contact high off the weed, I went on an acid trip, I laid down, I tripped some more, you came in, found me in the room and you kissed me. You stuffed your hand up — OH! OH! THAT OTHER THING! OH! “Oh, you’re talking about… oh! Oh… okay… yeah, wow. I don’t know how I could forget that, but —“

“Yeah, why didn’t you do it back if you liked it so much?”

“I… don’t know…” I put my head down and start picking at the hangnail I’ve been trying to pull off my left thumb for the last two days. “It just… wasn’t… I don’t know…

Wait,” she turns in the seat so that she’s completely facing me and has a smug, amused look on her face. “You’ve never done anything like that before, have you?”

“Yes I have!” I’ve had sex before! Yeah, it was only that one time when Puck… yeah but I’ve done it. And I’ve been felt up before. Back when I was dating Finn, he used to feel me up all the time. I’ve done things! I’m not a prude! I’m not a baby!

“You totally haven’t! You’ve totally never been with a girl before…”

“Shh! Keep it down!” I swat her in the arm and look around to make sure nobody else is looking or listening to us. “And… so? The only girl I’ve ever really liked besides Hilary Duff is Rachel. And we haven’t done anything…”

“So that was your first time being with a girl? I was your first time?”

“Shut up, Santana,” I roll my eyes and turn away from her.

“Look, I’m not shaming you or anything! I’m just surprised!”

“Whatever.”

“Look, I’ll tell you something…” she pokes her head up and looks around, too. And then she turns so she’s not facing me anymore and she gets all quiet so I know she’s about to get serious. “...That was my first time too.”

Wait, what?! I thought you and Brittany…?”

“Up until that point, all we did was kiss,” she sighs. “We didn’t actually… do anything until last week sometime. And she basically told me she didn’t want to do it again after we did it because she felt bad for cheating on Artie.”

“So… you and Brittany have had… it?”

“Just once,” she mumbles. “Look, I’m gonna go back to my seat, okay? But if you’re worried about it… like… about being… good when you and Rachel finally… just don’t worry about it, okay? When the moment comes, you’ll know what to do. It just… kicks in. Like muscle memory or something.”

I’m guessing that we just had too much of a deep conversation for the great and powerful and shallow Santana to handle, because she gets up pretty quickly and heads up the aisle, back to where she was sitting. She leaves too fast for me to thank her, and too fast for me to really ask questions about what she meant by “I’ll know what to do when the moment comes.”

Like I was going to do before she came over and interrupted me, I put my pillow back against the window so I can try and sleep for the last few hours on this bus.

And as I’m falling asleep, I promise myself that when we get back home, I’m going to ask Mercedes about adding Santana to our friend group.


 

I thought I was okay.

When Mrs. Jones came into the room and told me that my parents were here, I did feel like somebody opened up the back of my shirt and poured an entire gallon of ice water down the back of it. I froze for a moment and couldn’t even remember how to think. It kind of felt like that moment in the movies where the main character gets some bad news and everything freezes while they stumble and hold onto the wall and process it.

Mrs. Jones told me that she would send my parents away if I wanted her to, and she asked me if I wanted her too. For a second, I thought I was going to nod my head and ask her to send them away but the good little girl still buried somewhere deep inside of me opened my mouth and croaked out the word “no.” I got off the bed and told the girls that I would be right back. I smoothed my hair back because it was a little messed up and I wanted to look presentable for my parents. I smoothed out my shirt, too. Not because it was wrinkled but because I had Rachel all over it and I felt like somehow they would be able to smell her on me.

Now, as I stand here at the top of the steps trying to find it within myself to come down them, I’m starting to wish that I had told Mrs. Jones to send them away.

What will they think? Will they be angry? Will they know that Rachel is here? Will they yell at me? Will they drag me out of here by my hair? Is Mom mad? Is Dad mad? He hasn’t seen me in… I don’t know how long. It’s been a long time. A really long time. Did he come to yell at me? Why are both of them here? Is something wrong? Is Frannie okay? Or Grammy? I haven’t seen Grammy since last Christmas but I still don’t want her to be sick or anything.

“She’ll be right on down. She upstairs gabbing away with her friends.” I hear Mrs. Jones say from my place up on the steps and it suddenly becomes real to me. Like maybe I didn’t think that they were actually here inside Mercedes’ house and now they must be because her mom is talking to them.

I thought bad things couldn’t touch me here.

I know that is a very juvenile way of thinking and it makes me seem more immature than I actually am, but it’s the truth. I felt like the Joneses house is the one place in the world that doesn’t let the outside in. Between these walls, it is warm. I am safe. I am cared about. I am loved. And when Mr. Jones shuts and locks the doors for the night, nothing bad can come in. The outside world doesn’t come inside of here.

My legs wobble like gelatin as I take one step down. I swallow a knot in my throat and knock it all the way down to my stomach. I take another step. I close my eyes. Take a third. Take a deep breath, there goes a fourth. I grip the railing for the fifth step, look up at the ceiling for the sixth. Silently pray to God for the seventheighthnineth. Then… for the tenth step… I have to find my strength.

They’re in the living room, I can see them from where I stand. Mom’s hair is all pulled back into a really elegant looking bun and she’s wearing the light brown mink that Dad bought her last Christmas. Her heels are sinking into the carpet and she has a run in the back of her stockings that she would go absolutely nuts about if someone told her.

And then there’s Dad…

Some little screwed up part of my brain kind of missed him.

He stands a foot or so taller than my mother, and his arm is wrapped around her back. He wears a deep black trenchcoat and black suit pants. Everything about him is black and menacing and I feel a little bit of that fear coming back to life. I’m just as afraid of him as I’ve ever been.

“M-Mom…? D-Dad?” I keep my hand on the bannister and stay close to the steps when I call their names.

Mom turns around first and her makeup is done up really pretty too, so I think they probably just came from dinner or a country club meeting or a fancy yacht outing or something. Mom’s eyes fill up with tears when she sees me and she clutches her hands against her chest like she’s holding her heart very dramatically.

“Quinnie,” she calls my name in a sing-songy voice and takes a few steps toward me. She stops when she notices that I’m taking a few steps back. “Oh, sweetheart…”

“Lucy,” Dad nods his head at me as his form of hello. Well hey, dad. I missed you too. I’m great, thanks for asking. It’s been a whirlwind since I’ve seen you last.

“W-What are you guys doing here? H-How… how did you find me?” I look both of them in their eyes, just hoping that maybe they’ll notice how happy I am here. I hope maybe that they’ll care.

“I knew this was where you’d go,” Mom rushes over to me before I have a chance to duck or dodge her, and she pulls me into the most awkward and painful hug I’ve ever been involved in. Her perfume fills my nostrils and makes my nose burn, but I lazily lift my arms up and hug her back because she’s my mommy and did kind of miss her. Just a little. “I just knew this was where you went.”

“Yeah, I’ve… kinda been saying here,” my voice is real low and shaky like I’m unsure of everything I say. Like there’s a right answer and a wrong answer to the things I say and I’m not sure which is which.

“Well you need to go upstairs and pack your things,” Dad’s voice is the same ironclad, businesslike tone it’s always been. He points to the steps. “You’re going home with your mother.”

“No,” I shake my head and I know it’s bratty and disrespectful to tell your parents no, but I swear I didn’t say that disrespectfully. I was nice and my tone was gentle. “I mean… I mean I would like to stay...stay here.”

“Lucy, lets go. We don’t have time for your shenanigans tonight. Your mother and I have a very important dinner we need to get to and you are not to be freeloading here anymore. Now enough’s enough. It’s time to go. You have a house — a very nice one at that — and you’re not the parent. You don’t get to decide where you live. Your mother wants you home with her and that’s the way it’s going to be.” To my surprise, he’s not yelling or being mean about the way he’s talking to me. He’s being very reasonable. But I’m still not going…

“I’m gonna stay here.”

“Dammit Quinn,” he drops the whole “Lucy” charade so I can tell he’s getting a little frustrated. “Now I said go pack your things. Now, before I pack them for you.”

“But Dad, I —“

From the corner of my eye, I see Mrs. Jones slowly walk into the hallway. She has her arms folded across her chest and her head tilted to the side and Mr. Jones stands behind her like he has her back… literally.

“Everything good in here now?” Mrs. Jones asks.

“We’re fine, my daughter was just packing her things so she can leave with us,” Dad waves his hand at her like she’s unimportant and it makes me mad when he does that. “Quinn, NOW.”

“Sounds to me like she don’t wanna leave,” Mrs. Jones steps a little closer to me. “And she don’t gotta leave if she don’t want to. I don’t want no problems here, but we’re happy to have your girl at the house.”

Mrs. Jones puts her hand in the middle of my back and gives me a really light rub as if she’s silently telling me that it’s okay. And when she does that, I start to actually believe that it’s really going to be okay…

“Your Quinn here is an exceptional baby girl, and she’s no trouble at all. We love having her. Don’t we, baby?” She looks over her shoulder.

“That’s right,” Mr. Jones nods.

“I’m glad you think my daughter is great. We raised her to be great and she knows that she is to be nothing less,” Dad shoots daggers at me. “But she needs to be home with my wife and this is none of you people’s concern.” He glances down at his watch then looks at me again.

“You have ten minutes to get your things.”

“I’m not going!” I shake my head and the tears start rolling down my cheeks. “I’m not going! I’m not going!”

I hear a few thunderous footsteps on the stairs as Mercedes runs down them as soon as she hears me crying. She runs down the steps and throws her arms around me as if she can protect me or something and it just makes me cry harder. 

“Come on,” she mumbles to me. “Let’s go back upstairs, we can go back upstairs.”

“YOU ARE LEAVING THIS HOUSE TONIGHT, LUCY. IF I HAVE TO DRAG YOU OUT OF HERE, I WILL. YOUR MOTHER WANTS YOU HOME WITH HER, SO LET’S GO.” Alas, Dad’s angry and domineering voice is back and it’s so loud that the walls vibrate. “I WILL DRAG YOU OUT OF HERE. I WILL BREAK EVERY BONE IN YOUR DAMN BODY IF I HAVE TO.”

“I’m staying! Daddy, please! I wanna stay! They don’t care! They like me! They wanna keep me! I don’t wanna go! Why do I have to go?! Please! I’m happy!” For the first time in a really long time… I am actually afraid. Because I know my dad means it when he says that he will drag me out of here. And he will hurt me. And I just don’t want to go… I don’t want to go back home… I wanna stay…

Dad takes a step toward me and I take a step back. “SO HELP ME QUINN, I —“

“You’re not gonna touch that child in my house,” Mrs. Jones steps between the two of us. “You want her outta here, then fine. But you ain’t gonna drag her nowhere. Not in my house.”

“You need to give these people their phone back,” he demands, completely ignoring the tears streaming down my cheeks. “You are not freeloading here, mooching off these people, accepting all their handouts. They said they got you a phone, great. Now give it back. You don’t take anything they offer you, these people —“

“I’m gonna need you to chill with all that,” Mr. Jones steps in front of Mrs. Jones and pushes her behind him as if he’s protecting her from my father. “You’re not going to come into our home and disrespect us. We have names. And those names are not ‘these people.’ This is our home. And you will respect it.”

Dad shoots Mom a look, as if he’s telling her to do something by just glaring at her, and of course, Mom knows exactly what that something is. God, they must have rehearsed this or something.

“Quinnie,” Mom sighs, completely clueless on how to handle the confrontation. “I’m your mother and I want you to come home with me. You are coming home with me. And that’s final. Okay?”

Dad, with a totally different attitude and tone, turns to Mr. and Mrs. Jones, “We’ll pay you for all the trouble but our daughter has a home.”

“We don’t need your money,” Mrs. Jones shakes her head. “My husband’s a doctor. A dentist, actually.”

“And he makes enough so that my mother doesn’t have to do anything but keep the books down at the library,” Mercedes snaps at him. “So I know what you’re thinking about us. I know what kind of ideas you have in your head. But we can take care of Quinn ourselves. So don’t ever insinuate that we can’t handle her financially.”

“‘Cedes, hush your mouth. You don’t speak to no adult that way,” Mrs. Jones gives her a look and Mercedes backs way down. Mrs. Jones turns to my mom and starts, “Look ma’am, I —“

“Judy,” Mom says her name so softly that we could hardly hear her.

“Okay, Judy. Look… I don’t know how you run your house. I don’t know what kinda mother you is and I don’t judge much because I’m not perfect myself. But your baby is the one who came to me. You hear? She came through my door for the second time. She came to me with a face bruised to hell and a spirit broke enough to match it. Now we don’t mind taking care of Quinn. She’s in some good hands right here. Believe that. And if you love her like you come up in here claiming like you do? You’d go on and keep her right here. ‘Least til she’s good and ready to come home.”

Mom looks at Mrs. Jones with tears in her eyes for a really long time. The two of them lock eyes and hold each other’s gaze and it’s weird because it’s like they’re communicating telepathically or something. It’s like one mother to another. They’re speaking their own language and they understand. Finally, my mom looks away first. And she stands on her tiptoes and whispers something into my dad’s ear.

My dad nods, then says in a very low, gruff voice, “I’ll go bring the car around.” And he leaves. Just like that. He doesn’t say goodbye to me or that he loves me or that he missed me. He says nothing, actually. Nothing at all. He just… leaves. And the door closes behind him and that’s the end of it.

“Did I lose you, Quinnie?” Mom asks me, jaw trembling like she can’t control it. “Did I lose you? The same way I lost Frannie?”

“No,” I say softly, shaking my head just as soft. I shrug out of Mercedes’ hold and walk the two or three steps over to her. “But I can’t come home. Not right now.”

She looks at me and her tears roll down her cheeks the same way mine do and I want to hug her so badly. I want to hug her and tell her that I’m sorry for hitting her and sorry for freaking out and for ruining our family and making her life miserable and making her life hard but I’m not going to. God, I want to revert back to my old ways and take the blame just so maybe our family can go back to the way it was but that’s not progress, okay?! That’s not progress and that’s not changing. So I look my mother in her eye and take her tears in stride.

“I can’t heal in the same environment that broke me. I can’t heal at home, Mom. I can’t. And until I’m better, I have to stay here… right where I’m at.” I take a deep breath. Then look over my shoulder to make sure Mr. and Mrs. Jones are still here. “...They’ll take care of me. And I’ll come home to see you sometimes, I’m only across town. But for now, this is my home.”

“Oh baby,” she whispers and pulls me into another hug. Her tears make my hair damp and I have to take a really deep breath to keep myself from crying. “I am so sorry. I love you so much.”

“I know you do, Mom. I know you love me the best way you know how.”

She lets me go after a few moments and reaches down deep into her pocket. “You’re um…” she sniffs and wipes her tears to get herself back to the same put together Judy Fabray I’ve always known. “You’re going to Pennsylvania tomorrow, right? For your choir — I mean Glee — club?”

“Yeah,” I nod. “To Hershey.”

“Okay well here,” she sniffs again and hands me six crisp twenty dollar bills. “I want you to be comfortable out there. And there will be more in your account when you wake up tomorrow, I’ll transfer you some. And your car… I’ll bring it by sometime this weekend. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“I love you?”

“I love you too, Mom.”

She nods a few times like she’s trying to hold back tears again, then heads for the door. With her hand on the knob, she turns back to look at Mr. and Mrs. Jones and her voice is steady as a rock when she tells them what she tells them next.

“Make sure she’s okay. Please. Make sure she’s okay and she’s going to therapy and make sure she’s happy. Please.”

“We’ll take good care of her, Judy. We promise,” Mr. Jones assures her as he puts his arm around his wife.


“Okay guys,” Mr. Schue’s voice is loud when it wakes me. As soon as I lift my head, I notice that the bus isn’t moving anymore. “We’re here. We’re at the hotel.”

I watch as everyone’s heads pop up just like mine. Mr. Shue stands at the front of the bus and looks at us with a goofy grin. Then he looks at all of us, opens his mouth and screams:

“Here comes the New Directions!”

 

Chapter Text

“Hands, Quinn.”

As soon as she says that and reminds me, I pull my index finger out of my mouth and swallow the piece of my fingernail I managed to bite off in the short amount of time it took her to notice I was biting them. I wipe my wet finger on the knee of my sweatpants and fold my hands in my lap just to keep them steady. Today’s the first day that we’ve decided to try having a session without a puzzle or a stack of paper or a fidget spinner to keep my hands busy. She’s supposedly trying to break me from the habit I have of biting my nails, but I think it’s going to be tougher than she thinks.

“Sorry,” I mumble under my breath.

“Would you like the fidget spinner?” She stretches to the far corner of her desk, reaching for the cup full of her fidget devices. “Or the cube?”

“No,” I shake my head. “Actually, can I be excused from therapy today? I have a… monster headache. And cramps from hell. It’s a period… my period. I’m… on my period.”

Jessica furrows her blonde eyebrows and tilts her head slightly to the side like she’s examining me or trying to read me for the truth. She blinks at me twice, then looks up at the clock, then back at me.

“No, you may not,” she says.

“What?” I furrow my eyebrows the same way she did just a second ago. “What do you mean no? I have three passes I haven’t even used yet! I’ve been here every single day since I got here, I’ve sat here and listened to you day in and day out. Most people use their personal passes up in one week! I’ve been here six and I haven’t missed one session! Isn’t this what the personal passes or for? When you’re not feeling well?!”

“It’s at my discretion if I think you can use one. You’re my patient, Quinn. Everything you do gets cleared through me and if I want to deny your use of a personal pass, it’s my prerogative and I’m denying you.”

“This is child abuse,” I say and it’s a simple sentence to say. Four words, sixteen letters. But the way I say it is venomous. I say it with hatred in my voice, fire in my stomach. Jessica looks at me like I’m a new species.

“You feeling abused?” She mocks me which only makes me madder.

“I’m leaving,” I stand up and head for the door and I think she knew what she was doing when she set up her office. She put her desk by the door instead of opposite the door and I’m willing to bet that she did that because of times like these. Times where I want to get up and storm out but I can’t because all she has to do is stand up and block the door. “Let me go!”

“Sit down, Quinn.”

“You can’t keep me here against my will, I don’t want to have therapy with you today, I want to go back to my room. You can’t keep me here.” I reach for the doorknob but she pushes my hand away. “Stop it!”

“Sit down! Right now!”

“You’re not my mom!”

“You’re right, I’m not. If I was, you would’ve been here a long time ago, now sit! Right now or I’ll call  Pokey and tell her that you’re being insubordinate and your privileges need to be revoked.”

“You can’t do that!”

“Watch me!”

I’m toe-to-toe with her, literally. My feet are touching hers and our eyes are fixed on each other, both of us too stubborn and unwilling to look away. Her jaw is clenched and she is steady. I am shaking. And it seems like she is not going to give up on this, so I bite my lip just to let her know how badly I want to punch her in the face. Then I sit back down because clearly I have no choice.

“I’m not letting you skip out on today, Quinn. No way. You may think that you have this all figured out and you’re outsmarting me, but you’re not. I see right through you and your deflection techniques,” she sits back down in her chair too, and lightly tosses my favorite yellow stress ball over to me. “You angry?”

I let the ball sit in my lap where it landed and don’t even bother to try and stop my arms from trembling. I want to get up and hit her so badly. I want to get up, walk over to her, take the phone cord and strangle her with it. How dare she imply that she knows anything about me? She’s known me all of six weeks and most of those weeks she spent just talking to me. I only just recently started talking back. She doesn’t know a damn thing! She thinks that just because I broke down in her arms yesterday that she has some sort of right over me? She thinks she has the right to access me at all times? Well guess what? She is —

“I said, ‘are you angry?’ Answer me.”

“Yes,” I say through clenched teeth.

“Good,” she nods her head. “Take it out on that ball.” I put the ball in the palm of my left hand and squeeze so tight that it disappears. “I’m sorry that you’re angry. I’m sorry that you have to actually sit down and allow yourself to feel your feelings.”

I squeeze the ball so tight that my hand shakes. I don’t make eye contact with her.

“I’m not letting you run from your feelings, Quinn. You’ve done that enough. No more swallowing things and pushing them aside just because it’s easier to deal with. No more ignoring your feelings. If you’re angry, good. That means you’re feeling something,” she sighs and I can tell that she’s starting to feel sorry for what she just did to me. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t starting to understand why she did it. “Look… Q, I know yesterday was rough. It was our toughest session yet and I know where your head is at. I know you’re still… coming to terms with it in your head and that’s scary because what happened to you was extremely traumatic. You compartmentalized just to cope and that worked, it did. But that wasn’t healthy. And it’s my job to unpack that suitcase you put it inside of and help you deal with it emotionally. I can’t do that if you’re suddenly trying to skip the session because you don’t want to talk about it… because you don’t want to feel it.”

“You just told me I was raped, how am I supposed to feel?” The second I stop squeezing the ball, the tears roll down my cheeks.

“I’m not here to tell you how to feel, Quinn. I’m just here to tell you that you should. You should feel. Every emotion you pushed aside and swallowed, every feeling, every memory. You should feel all of it. Even the hard stuff.”

“Why are you looking at me like that?” I sniff and wipe my eyes. “Stop looking at me like that.”

“I’m not looking at you like anything,” she nudges the box of tissues across the desk at me.

“You are. You’re looking at me like…” I grab a tissue and dab my eyes with it. “Like you’re waiting for me to go crazy and cry in your arms like yesterday.”

“If I’m looking at you special, I’m sorry. I’m not trying to, but I can’t change it. Not anymore.”

“Why?”

“Because… because you can’t go back from what you see, okay?”

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“Seeing someone while they’re in pieces is like seeing them naked. You can’t go back from that. You just look at them differently after.”


I hold the door open for Santana as we walk in through the double doors and I’m instantly annoyed because cold air smacks me in the face instead of the warm air I was hoping to walk into. I know that hotel thermostats are set to make people as comfortable as possible, but a little heat in the middle of fall wouldn’t hurt anyone.

Santana mumbles a “thank you” to me under her breath, but she won’t look at me. I kind of understand it, though. She doesn’t have to look at me if she doesn’t want to because in all honesty, I don’t want to look at her. I know we’re friends and all after the conversation we had on the bus, but there’s still a heavy brokenness between the two of us that would undoubtedly escape through my eyes. 

Because seeing someone in pieces is like seeing them naked and you can’t go back from that. You just look at them differently from there on.

As Mr. Schue hands the concierge his debit card to pay for the rooms, I lean my back against a brown cobblestone pillar and look around at the place we’ll all call home for the next 48 hours. It’s not very big, and the front desk only takes up about half the room, but it smells very clean. The carpets are still plush and fluffy, there aren’t any stains anywhere. The walls all have the same dark and light brown wallpaper on them and I think it’s fitting since Hershey means chocolate.

I’ve been in a lot of hotels — most of them five star ones — but I’ve never been inside a hotel like this one before. Since moving in with the Joneses, I’ve been trying to stop thinking like the spoiled rich girl I grew up as, and start thinking like a normal functioning teenager. It’s not a five star hotel, and I probably won’t have a bed that adjusts to different settings on each side like the ones always did when I had to share them with Frannie. But it’s a nice hotel nonetheless and I’m sure we’ll all be comfortable here.

I stop looking around when I hear the concierge tell Mr. Schue, “Thank you for staying at the Inn At Chocolate Avenue, sir. Hope you and your students have a lovely stay, and good luck at your competition.” I pick my backpack up from where I dropped it at my feet and tune in as Mr. Schue stands in the middle of us and shuffles through the room keys. 

“Okay guys,” he finally gets them all organized and looks up at us. “So our rooms are split into suites. Two people per room, four people per suite. The suite connects by the bathrooms, alright? So it’s room, bathroom in the middle, other room. Like a sandwich. I’m gonna hand out assignments, so listen up.”

I still haven’t figured out what I’m going to say to Rachel. Maybe I just won’t say anything at all. After all, sectionals is supposed to be all about the club. Maybe if I don’t say anything then nothing will be ruined. I can swallow my irritation and pain. So what if Finn called her his “babe?” I can handle that. If I have to fight for Rachel, I guess I will. But not until we get back. Hershey is all about the club. Sectionals is the focus here. Not Rachel.

“Quinn,” he calls my name as soon as I stop thinking and I take that as a sign. Mr. Schue holds up the room key as he looks down at a wrinkled up piece of paper with chickenscratch handwriting on it. “Your roommate is Rachel and your suitemates will be… Brittany and Santana.”

Oh that’s ironic. That’s ironic, God. Really. It is. Are you still actively trying to punish me, God? Or are you trying to throw me a bone with this one? Sure, why not? Why not let the four gay girls be suitemates. While you’re feeling so generous, make sure Kurt and Blaine are our neighbors. Nothing like having a big gay powwow right before sectionals.

“Mr. Schue, do you care if we switch?” Mercedes steps up to ask. She’s glancing at me through the corner of her eye and I’m usually pretty good at knowing what Mercedes means just by one look, but I’m at a loss here. “It’s just that me and Tina wanted to be Rachel and Quinn’s suitemate. I don’t think Lauren and Sugar would care.”

“If you guys wanna swap rooms, that’s fine with me,” Mr. Schue shrugs and continues reading off names. “Puck and Finn, your suitemates are Artie and Sam.”

“Okay so yeah,” Tina starts as she and Mercedes walk up to me and check behind themselves for Rachel, who’s standing off by the elevator. I’ve been avoiding eye contact with her… “Rachel! Over here!”

“We’re just gonna switch with Sugar and Zizes so we can be suitemates.” Mercedes says.

“Actually,” I clear my throat as Rachel starts walking up to us. “We don’t have to switch. We can be suitemates with Santana and Brittany, it’s not a big deal. Is it?”

“No,” Rachel shakes her head. “I don’t care about it.”

“And me either. Santana and me had a conversation on the bus. Everything’s fine now,” I shrug.

“O…Kay? Mercedes tilts her head all confused so I decide to try and clean it up a bit.

“Maybe we can get rooms across the hall from each other or something,” I suggest and Mercedes just kind of nods so I can tell she’s a little confused by my refusal of switching suitemates.

I don’t really know why I don’t want to switch myself. I mean yeah, it’d be a lot easier to just have Tina and Mercedes be our suitemates because we’re all already comfortable around each other. We’ll be sharing a bathroom so I guess it would be smarter to share one with two girls that we already get along with and are already content with. But for some reason, I don’t care about that.

For some reason, I really want to be suitemates with Brittany and Santana.


I claimed the bed by the window and she claimed the one by the door, and somehow we were able to do all of that without even talking. Even now as I unpack my backpack and put all my soaps and lotions and stuff on the tiny desk beside the empty dresser, we still don’t speak. She folds all her clothes into neat little piles and stuffs them inside the drawers to the dresser and I don’t even know why I’m surprised that she is the type of person to actually use dressers in a hotel.

I guess I could start by telling her that I missed her on the bus, because that wouldn’t be a lie. I did miss her on the bus and when we were about an hour away from actually being here, I started to wish that I hadn’t been so rash at Dunkin’ and allowed her to sit with me. I debated on asking her to sit beside me about ten times before I just decided to drop the subject entirely. But I can’t go this long without talking to her. It’s driving me insane.

She pulls her hairbrush from the tiny carry-on suitcase she used to pack her things, sits on the edge of her bed, and starts coming it through her hair. I have to fight the urge to grab the brush and start combing it for her. Her hair is so beautiful and so long and so thick. It’s so much better than my thin, wispy blonde. I could spend all day just dragging my fingers through it. I could spend all day feeling it’s perfection weave between them.

When she’s done brushing her hair, she puts her brush down and stands back up, shrugging her shoulders out of her jacket. She catches me watching her movements for a split second, but I look away as quickly as she caught me. I pick up my phone like something inside of it is really interesting and pay her no attention.

She sighs hard and then, “Is this really how this is going to be?”

“What are you talking about?” I lock my phone and toss it on my pillow just to give her my eye contact. “Is this how what is going to be?”

“This whole trip. You ignoring me, acting like I don’t exist. Is this how it’s going to be?” She sits down on her bed again but this time she is facing me. I bite the inside of my cheek and look away. “Look Quinn, whatever I did to upset you, I’m —“

“It’s not what you did, Rachel,” I sigh too. “It’s what you didn’t do.”

“How is any of that my fault?!” She raises her voice a little, so I sit up just in case I have to do the same but I really hope I don’t because I don’t want anyone else to hear the two of us having a lover’s quarrel. If it’s even that… “You’re acting like I asked him to do that. I didn’t ask him! I didn’t ask him to offer to pay for my food, I didn’t ask him to call me pet names, all I did was —“

“But you didn’t stop him, either! You never once stopped any of it! You let him touch all over you and rub your arms and your shoulders and call you ‘babe’ and stuff and what kind of message do you think that sends him? It tells him that you’re still interested in him and I —“

“You’re acting insane, whoa! What did you want me to do?! What did you want me to say?! I’m sorry Quinn, but I just —“

“You could’ve told me it didn’t mean anything,” my voice breaks a little when I say that, so I look up at the ceiling. “You could have followed me and said… anything. Anything to make me stop feeling like somebody just punched me…”

“How could I when you wouldn’t even let me sit with you again? Don’t you think I would’ve sat with him if I wanted him? But I didn’t. I came back. I came back to YOU. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”

“I don’t want him touching you, okay?! That’s not okay with me, Rachel! That makes me feel horrible when he touches you and I —“

“You think I want Santana touching you?!” She stands up and stomps her foot and all of a sudden I remember that I’m arguing with the queen of dramatics.

“Rachel —“

“No! I saw you! You’re yelling at me for something but it’s the same thing! You might have thought I was sleeping but you did it right in front of me. You held her hand, Quinn. And you liked it. I know you did.”

“You don’t know anything, how could you possibly know that?”

“You looked at her the same way you looked at me when you were kissing me last night,” she walks over to the window and stares out of it even though our view is mostly of the highway and it’s not that great. “Do you know how that makes me feel?” She whispers.

“Rachel…” I call her name softly and follow her over to the window. She plays with the charm on her necklace and holds back a round of fresh tears. “That was nothing. That was…” I feel like I’m betraying Santana if I tell her but I don’t tell her then she’ll think I have a thing with Santana when I really don’t… what do I do? “That was Santana needing a friend. Someone who understands her in a way only I do. It’s nothing. Nothing compared to the way I feel when… when I’m holding your hand.”

She pauses for a minute and it starts to feel like we’re in a movie and I know that it’s probably just because that’s how she is. Dramatic and calculated. Everything she does is done for dramatic effect. After her pause, she slowly turns toward me and our eyes lock. I want to look away because I don’t feel like I’m… worthy of her looking at me like that. But I hold steady because my god her eyes are what coming home feels like.

“I just didn’t know what to say when Finn did that, okay?” she reaches into the empty space between us and grabs onto my hand. “I wanted to tell him not to. I wanted to tell him that he and I couldn’t date anymore or mess around or do whatever it was that we’re doing. I wanted to tell him that I like you now and I’m just trying so hard to roll with it. I wanted to tell him to stop it, Quinn. I really did, but… I got scared,” she shrugs. “Scared of what everyone would think if they knew.”

“It’s okay,” I whisper and tuck a piece of her beautiful brown hair behind her ear. “It’s okay if you need more time. I.. I need more time, too.”

“I’m just not sure what I want,” she whispers, about to let her emotions win and her tears fall. “I used to know exactly what I want and now I don’t know…”

“Hey…” I wipe her tears with my thumb. “It’s okay. It’s okay.”

“I know that I want you, though,” she sniffles. “I want you. But I’m just not sure how to make that work yet.”

“We’ll figure it out together.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” I nod my head and as soon as I start to tilt my head, she tilts hers too. And it’s like we’re on the same wavelength or something because I was thinking about kissing those beautiful lips the second she started to cry and I think she could sense that.

Our lips brush against each other and when our mouths open, I feel her breathing into my mouth. I’m about to shove my tongue inside of hers, but as soon as it crosses the barrier of my lips, three loud knocks on the door make the both of us freeze dead in our tracks. For a moment I think that we’re just gonna ignore the knocks and continue to kiss, but the knocks come again and we both just pull away. Moment ruined. Again.

“I’ll get it,” she mumbles and jogs to the door while I rummage through my Dunkin’ Donuts bag for the donut holes that I didn’t eat.

I have one glazed donut hole to my lips when I hear Rachel, with her Oscar-winning surprised voice, gasp and say, “I didn’t think you would actually come.”

And I take one measly bite of that donut hole and want to spit it out as soon as I hear what I hear next.

“Oh, of course we came,” I’m not looking but I can tell by the change in pitch of her voice that they are currently embraced in a big hug. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world!

...Shelby says.




“It’s time to let her go now, sweetie,” Mom’s voice is that low gentle type of voice; the voice she only uses whenever she’s trying to comfort me and Frannie without actually comforting us. There’s no hand on my back or no warm hug I’m being pulled into. There’s just her voice, ringing in my ears, telling me what I need to do, while my eyes are completely dry and my head is level.

I’m strangely calm, which I didn’t think that I would be. I thought that today I’d be a blubbering, snotty, sweaty, crying mess. But I’m the exact opposite.

The nurse let me take a shower today because my stitches looked good I guess, and I washed my hair. I don’t know why, but I thought that I should look nice and decent for today, so I brushed it up into a neat ponytail and wore jeans even though my core is still a little too sore for them. 

They gave Beth a bath too, actually. I didn’t actually do it myself because I was still groggy from the pain pills they gave me but I did watch and help while the nurse scrubbed her hair. She was content, too. She laid there in the nurse’s arms all wrapped up in her bath towel and kept her eyes closed while we scrubbed away the parts of me that remained on her body. And I got a little sad when I saw the water get all pink and cloudy because that was my blood, you know? It was the last thing she’d have to remember me by and I know she couldn’t stay all bloody and gross like that forever, but I did want her to remember what I felt like.

“Was it a long drive for you?” Rachel’s voice is a little muffled through the door, but I can still hear her clear enough to make out what she’s saying.

I lean against the door and rub my eyes hard, like maybe if I rub them hard enough all the memories will leave me alone at least until we’re back home in Lima.

“No, actually, we flew,” Shelby’s perfect-pitch voice replies to Rachel and my heart starts to pound. 

It’s loud and fast and heavy and I feel like I’m in one of those old animated cartoons where they actually show an animal’s heart beating outside of their chest. I feel like that. I feel a heaviness inside of my chest. Like someone is sitting on me or something. Back against the bathroom door, I slide down it until I’m sitting on the floor and Jessica taught me that whenever I’m having chest pains like this, that I should put my head between my knees so that’s what I do. I breathe in, breathe out.

But that’s not enough to keep my thoughts at bay.

I picked out her outfit today. Shelby left a couple hours ago so she could go buy a car seat, but she left a bag with three or four outfits on the rocking chair because she didn’t know which size would fit her tiny but chubby body. She told me that I could pick her going home outfit, and I got a little excited when she said that because it felt like the first real thing I was doing with my baby.

After her bath, the nurse gave me a diaper and I put it on her real careful that I didn’t make the straps too tight and she cried when I did that. But the craziest thing is that I picked her up when she cried and held her against my chest. She just had on the diaper and the rest of her was bare but it was like the second I held her and she felt her skin pressed up against mine, she stopped. Like she realized I was her mommy or something. I held her like that for a few minutes and cried because I suddenly remembered that picking out her outfit to go home in was probably the first and only real thing I was ever going to do with her.

I put her inside the black and white polka dotted sleeper and did all the buttons gentle. And it seemed like it was only a few short minutes that I got to hold her like that, but it must have been about an hour because suddenly Shelby was back and I was being discharged.

“Yeah, me and my girlfriend decided to make it into something like a mini vacation. She and her husband live out this way and she claims that Hershey Park is a real treat around Halloween. So we flew into Philadelphia and just drove here. We’re actually staying in the hotel across the street.” I hear Shelby continuing on about the travel here as I take my head from between my knees and eyeball the sink.

I need to get up and splash down water on my face so I can try to calm down, but I feel like I can’t move. I feel like I’m stuck here sitting on the cold tile bathroom floor with my heart beating out of my chest and my ears feeling all hot and tingly. I can’t breathe, either. It’s like someone handed me a straw and told me to breathe through that straw and I’m sucking in some air, but it’s not enough air and I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.

“So you brought Beth?” Rachel asks the question that I’ve been dying to know the answer to, but not really wanting to know the answer to. Please say no. Please say you didn’t…

“I did,” Shelby says and I can tell she’s probably nodding her head out there. Oh no… “She’s back at the hotel with my friend. I didn’t want to just pop up with her, you know.” She kind of whispers that last part, probably because she knows I’m inside the bathroom and she’s trying to keep me from hearing her but it’s too late. I already heard it.

Beth is here…? She’s here…

I stand up from the wheelchair the nurse rolled me outside in, sure to keep my arm level so I can support her head. Shelby walked beside us the entire way through the hospital, into the elevator and through the lobby. She stands beside me just staring down at Beth, wanting to take her but not really knowing how to. My mom glances at the adoption counselor and makes a face, so the adoption counselor takes one step toward me.

“Quinn,” she starts. “Remember what we talked about? About how there’s a remarkable hello inside the hospital room?”

“Mhm,” I nod. I do remember. The nurse on duty tried to let Beth sleep inside my room the night she was born but I refused. She wheeled that plastic cradle right beside my bed and I looked at her and told her to take Beth to the nursery to sleep because I didn’t want to sleep beside her. That would have been entirely too much for me to handle.

They sent the adoption counselor to my room after that, which kind of made me mad. She came up into my room, sat down on the edge of my bed and started explaining to me about how holding and bonding with my baby is a remarkable chance to say hello before I have to say my goodbyes. I’ll be honest when I say that the whole experience just made me cry a whole lot, but I know it’s just because I’m hormonal because I also wanted to kick her off the side of my bed, so.

“Well now is the time for that goodbye we talked about. It’s time for the hand-off, okay?” She keeps talking but it’s almost like I can’t hear her or something. Nothing she is saying is actually registering to me.

“Okay,” I mumble, still staring at Beth, still holding her the way the nurses showed me how. Her tiny little pink lip is poked out while she sleeps, and her hands are up by her face. She sleeps like me. I sleep just like that. She really is mine. She’s my baby…

“Quinnie, it’s time to let her go now,” Mom finally puts her hand in the middle of my back and rubs. “It’s not goodbye, though. She’s just not going home with us, that’s all.”

“Yeah,” I mumble again. Oh my goodness, she’s so perfect. How did I make something so perfect? Her skin is so smooth, her complexion is so even. Her hair is silky and her cheeks are so chubby. And her nose is whistling, just like mine does when I’m asleep. She’s mine… she came from me. She belongs to me.

I can’t believe Puck is missing this. I can’t believe he’s missing her. He said that he supports me for wanting to do this, but also isn’t strong enough to watch it all go down and he said his goodbyes to her yesterday but I can’t believe he’s missing this. He should see her in the daylight. She’s so much more beautiful in the sun. Something about those fluorescent hospital lights just doesn’t do her any justice.

“It’s time, Quinn,” the counselor says again, but this time she actually wraps her arms around my baby. I mean she did it gently, but I’ll still KILL her… I don’t think she understands that I will kill her. I snatch my baby away from her because how dare she try to take her from me?

“You can definitely come over to my hotel after the competition later if you want to see her,” Shelby tells Rachel. “Or I could bring her here if that ends up being okay with Puck and Quinn.”

Suddenly, my entire body gets hot. And beads of sweat form at the temple of my head. My body is burning up, like it’s trying to boil the contents of my stomach, so I spring up off the floor and stop leaning against the door that leads to Santana and Brittany’s room. And I think that I’m headed for the toilet because I really have to throw up, I feel it rising up inside of me and making me more and more nauseous as the time goes by. But my legs don’t take me to the toilet.

My hand reaches for the doorknob that leads to me and Rachel’s room and before I can stop it, I’m turning the knob and yanking it open.

Rachel sits on the edge of her bed with her legs crossed and she looks up at Shelby, standing beside her and lightly brushing her bangs back like any mother would do for their child. They both startle and look at me when I open the door, though.

“Can you go get her?” My hand is shaking like a leaf on a tree when a gust of wind blows and I feel like I have so much of everything built up inside of me that I’m busting open at the seams. “P-Please?” I’m desperate…. I’m so desperate. And I’m about to start crying so everybody just ignore that, thanks.

“Hi, Quinn,” she smiles at me like she’s extending some sort of olive branch and stops stroking Rachel’s hair. “I wanted to talk to you earlier but you ran into the bathroom so quickly… are you okay?”

“I’m fine, I just… I wanna see her? If that’s… possible?” Jessica would kill me if she could see me now, but I can’t help the way my thumb goes up to my mouth and I start to chew on my nail. “Please.”

“I can definitely go and get her, if that’s what you want,” she picks her keys up off the dresser she set them on, then pauses. “Only if that’s what you want, though.”

“I want to see her,” I nod my head so fast and it’s like I have no control over my body anymore. What am I doing? What am I agreeing to? I want to say no! Say no! I don’t want to see Beth! I don’t want to see how well she’s doing without me as her mother! What am I doing?! “I’m sure I want to.”

“Okay,” she pulls her jacket over her arms. “What time are you guys going to start rehearsing?”

“Probably around two,” Rachel stands up and hands Shelby her phone so she doesn’t forget it lying on the bed. “The competition starts at five, so we’ll probably be rehearsing around two.”

“Great,” Shelby heads for the door. “That gives me about fifteen minutes to get her ready. I’ll be right back. I’ll be back in fifteen minutes.”

“Just knock when you get back, we’ll probably still be in here,” Rachel follows her to the door and locks it behind her and I just… sit.

I sit down on the bed. And think about what the hell I just did…

I’m not ready for this… why did I do this to myself?

The last time I saw her, everything got so twisted after. Karofsky died and I threw up so much that I made myself bleed. Then