The sky has been humming a blackberry stain for awhile now; stars slipping through the cracks to light your way back home. The drive from your mother's house seems to take even longer tonight – as if these empty back-roads have stretched out like the elastic waist of those jeans you wore for a good chunk of your pre-teen years before anyone ever taught you the key to looking good is carrying your body like a skeleton.
Normally you'd be halfway through one of your driving playlists. Tonight you relish the silence.
Dinner with your mother has always been a bit of a challenge. Since your teen years, when she tried to smooth out the wrinkle of your unwanted pregnancy with ignorance, you've had to force yourself to chew through your words like smiling at her didn't tear a grimace across your face. She's not a strong woman; never been a strong woman. She's lonely.
Maybe you're not supposed to admit these things – at home, no doubt folded in your sheets with a good book, your husband awaits your return the same way you once waited for the mailman to bring you good news. People stop writing letters. It's easy to lose patience. His lips are always bitter when you kiss him goodnight.
It would be easy to say this isn't what you expected from your life. Most girls assume they'll fall in love and everything will fall into place; you learned early on to expect the mundane, because anything more than that would be wasted on a girl like you.
In all honesty, you did expect something more. Maybe children; maybe a husband whose passive aggression found its way into your soul through muttered verbal assaults; maybe a reason to leave. The man whose name you refused to take has given you no more than a comfortable (albeit dreary) life.
He loves you. You gave up on love when you sent your daughter home in someone else's arms. You stay because it's the right thing to do.
You visit your mother every other Sunday night because it's the right thing to do.
You've taken so many wrong turns in the past that at this point, it's imperative you stick to the right.
The usual fork in the road approaches and as you slow to turn the corner, something flickers in the distance. Your blinker beats right; the far-off light hums left. It's the quickest choice you'll never understand why you take but instead of heading home, you chase after the distant flickering.
"There's a light in the sky," you say in a hush.
"Baby, what are you talking about?"
"A light," you repeat, staring up at the glowing mass. You're leaning against the front of your car, phone pressed to your ear; neck at an angle that would hurt if you weren't so mesmerized by what floats in the sky. "It's coming closer."
"Quinn-" he tries.
His voice has that edge like when you forget to rinse the plates before putting them in the dishwasher because even though you've learned over the years that perfection doesn't touch people like you, he still has expectations.
"Just come home," he says with a sigh.
You imagine his fingers pinching the bridge of his nose as he lifts his dark-framed glasses to rub at the soft skin under his eyes.
"It's coming closer," you say again.
He uses words that have long since lost their effect and his I love you slips away into static as you drop your phone onto the gravel road. The light blinks at you; you blink back.
It's an airplane.
It dips down from its path in the sky and you've seen these things a thousand times before, but this one is different. This one tells you it's time to go.
The sound of tires crunching gravel and then later hitting asphalt is all that sings to you as you advance through the weary night. On the freeway, you slip past towns without notice. Across the state line, streetlights take hold of your car and pass you along to the next one like a soft assembly line.
You tell yourself you don't know where you're going – that this is a journey into the satiny folds of the unknown. You explain this to the stars; to the streetlights; to a stop sign as you make your way into a residential neighborhood.
The houses are quiet here. They line up along the edges of neatly-trimmed lawns, standing proud like protestors grabbing hands in a circle around something fragile.
The cul-de-sac welcomes you like each dark window was expecting you.
To the left, like a beacon, the flickering glow of a porch light hums under the weight of darkness. Your car slips into the driveway as quietly and surely as a hand once slipped into your own. The porch light blinks at you; you blink back.
You neglect to knock.
The door opens regardless.
Clad in a violet satin robe, dark hair mussed from being in bed, your old friend silently invites you into her home. You slip off your shoes by the door and follow her to the kitchen where she pours you coffee and the clock boasts 4:06 like you haven't been driving all night.
"You grew out your hair," she murmurs after an eternity, hips resting against the edge of the counter.
You duck your head so she can run her fingers through your long blonde tresses.
"It looks good," she says. "You look good."
Her fingers wrap around a steaming mug the way ribbons of your love desperately want to wrap around her heart – you want to pull her close; whisper nothing; feel her pulse with your lips.
This is what you had, once. She promised you could call her home and come back if you ever wanted to sort out your life. You laughed and asked if she'd have her label-maker at the ready. She smiled.
She was valedictorian – after graduation, she pulled you into the girls' washroom and kissed you.
If she expected you to run, it never showed.
You told her that night, holding her close to your chest, how her star in the sky would light the way for millions of scared little girls who always dreamed of being more. She said yours would do the same; you shook your head and kissed her and when she was quiet, you whispered into her hair how you'd settle into a life that didn't want you either.
When she moved to New York, you didn't follow. She didn't expect you to.
She doesn't ask how you are or why you're here. She doesn't offer her guest bedroom or a number for a good hotel. You sip your coffee and she sips hers, and as the far away sun breathes warmth into the sky she watches you as fondly as she once did from her spot in your bed.
"You won an award," you inform her as she smiles in return with a glint in her eye. "I saw you on TV."
"Quinn Fabray watches TV?"
Your fingers itch to tuck a loose curl of hair behind her ear. "Quinn Fabray watches a certain star's career."
She's grown up since you last saw her; she wears her confidence like a favorite jacket and her lips merely curl up in a half-smirk each time your gaze meets hers. She's not the girl who left you behind. You're no longer the woman who told her not to wait.
Morning spills honeydew onto the luscious lawn outside and drips through the kitchen window to light her hair with tendrils of gold. She's moved to sit next to you on one of the tall barstools, legs crossed at the ankles and angled towards you, and you both watch as her hand bumps against yours.
"I thought you weren't going to come home," she admits in the voice of a girl who once wiped flecks of mascara off your cheeks after you slapped her. "I waited."
"I told you not to wait," you reply.
She shakes her head. "You wanted me to."
"I wanted you to do great things," you explain as her fingers curl around yours. "I wanted you to do better than me."
"Fine," she says. "You needed me to."
She made you waffles and bacon the morning after you nearly drank yourself into a coma, trying to forget. It wasn't a peace offering or an apology; she wasn't trying to tell you things would be okay. On a scrap of paper, folded messily and half tucked under the plate, she scribbled: Why did the mushroom go to the party? Because he was a fun guy.
"I left my husband," you tell her.
She nods at the information and traces something onto your palm. "He'll be all right."
It's a star.
She doesn't tell you that you can sleep on the couch. She doesn't hand you a pillow or blanket; doesn't say there's a quaint bed-and-breakfast a few blocks from here. The sun shouts from its position up in the sky and she cradles your hand in hers as she leads you upstairs to her room.
"I sleep on the left," she says; she pulls you close and delicately removes your shirt. "You get the right."
You sleep for what seems like days and in your dreams you feel her body pressed close to yours, like that's how it was meant to be all along. When you wake that afternoon, the sheets are cold and her half of the bed is made up nicely like a magazine spread.
The sun hangs its head outside the window; casts a shadow across your chest.
Something creaks out in the hall and she walks in with a tray that fills the air with the warm scent of syrup and bacon. A flower sits in a small vase and she sits next to you on the bed, balancing the tray on your knees.
Folded into a sloppy triangle, half tucked under the plate, a tiny scrap of paper calls to you.
Why did the Berry go to the party? Because she's in love with Quinn Fabray.
One day you're going to bring her breakfast in bed and arrange the vegan eggs into a smile on her plate because she makes your heart smile, and it's cheesy, but you'll tell her anyway because she appreciates a little cheese on the side.
You'll write her a note as well.
You'll write her many notes: tape them to the lunch you'll make for her; draw them on the mirror while she showers; text them to her while she's off shining brighter than all of Cassiopeia on a stage that will never learn to capture her beauty the way the sun does as it runs its fingers soft through her dark hair in the morning.
One day she'll invite your mother over for Sunday dinner and your cheeks will hurt from smiling as the two of them gang up on you for the meticulous way you rinse the dishes before sticking them in the dishwasher.
"That's why we have it," she'll tell you, "to wash dishes."
You'll kiss her in front of your mother; dip her slightly like in the movies. "I just want everything to be perfect for you."
"It already is," she'll say. "You already are."
As the two of you fall asleep that night, her leaving you to the right side of the bed, you trace a note onto the glowing skin of her bare back.
"What's it say?" she asks. She's fighting sleep but she does it for you, so you let her.
"I love you Berry much."
It's cheesy but she lights up like the star you always knew she was and her smile warms your heart the same way it did the day she pulled you into the girls' washroom and you kissed her back.