“It’s a better flavor than cherry,” Rachel said with a shrug. Not that it would matter to Quinn anyway, she thought. What did the other girl care what flavor of slushie she preferred to be hit with? She figured it was a strange thing, anyway, but no one realized that the more little things Rachel found that made it easier to deal with, the better. She’d stopped wishing a long time ago that she’d find Lucy in the bathroom after a slushie, ready to comfort her and do whatever she could to change things. That was the hardest thing to think about after Lucy had disappeared: the fact that she probably… just didn’t care about Rachel anymore.
They’d fallen into an awkward silence again; Rachel had stowed her soiled clothes and her other supplies away in her bag and was prepared to leave, but realized she should actually probably use the restroom for what it was intended, before she went to her next class. Still, Quinn was there and Rachel was a little worried about escaping the bathroom alive. Melodramatic, maybe, but it was Quinn Fabray, after all.
“Well,” Quinn said, suddenly struck by how awkward the whole situation was. The room wasn’t filled with the normal tension they usually had between them. The usual pressure weighing her down to say something horrible to Rachel, because a group of Cheerios were stood behind her, wasn’t there. They were alone and all that struck her was that they weren’t friends any more and so she had idea what to say. How do you leave a situation with someone that hates you?
“Well… bye, I guess,” she said finally, picking up her bag and putting the eyeliner away again. Her gaze caught Rachel’s and she stood for a moment, weight shifting from one foot to the other before she turned in the direction of the door and left. Their exchange was so awkward now, after a year of being Quinn already she thought she’d be used to it.
In the hall she found herself stopping outside the bathroom door long enough to take a deep breath and collect herself, before moving off to class.
“Whatever.” Of course that would her response. Rachel was just about to say something when Quinn dropped her eyeliner. She should have turned around, walked out and just left the girl to pick it up herself, but she stooped to get it anyway, straightening up and handing it to Quinn. Quinn took it, giving her a strange look, and Rachel shrugged, using the towel she had to finish drying her hair.
Just leave, she thought to herself. Just leave me alone, stop looking at me as if you’re so angry you want to shove me into a wall. Quinn’s face was red, and Rachel knew that usually spelled danger. She wondered what they’d come up with tomorrow. More jokes about her being a troll? Another slushie? Well, that was a given; maybe this time it’d come with a dumpster dive. She’d been lucky that that had only happened once, but she had a feeling her luck was about to run out.
“If only the slushies were grape,” she muttered to herself. “I could handle that at least.”
“Grape?” Quinn repeated. That’s what it had sounded like anyway. Rachel had a preference of slushie she’d rather be hit with? Quinn found it strange but made a note… not that she was going to follow her wishes or anything.
She let her gaze move down to her hand, twisting her eyeliner through her fingers before placing it back in her bag. That was probably the first time they’d touched in years, after spending every day holding hands. The change had been a lot for her to handle, she could only imagine what it had been like for Rachel with no idea where her best friend had gone.
No, she needed to stop that. She’d told herself she’d stop thinking about it. It was too late to change anything anyway. Not that she wanted to.
Rachel couldn’t help it; she laughed. Initiating all the slushie attacks against her was one thing, but lying about it? “Of course you don’t know,” she said, rolling her eyes and finally yanking her clean shirt over her head. “How could you possibly know? It isn’t as if you’re the head of the Cheerios. It isn’t as if every single mindless lackey in the school leaps as high as they can when you say jump.” She shook her head. “I’m not stupid, in fact my intelligence is almost as unparalleled as my talent. So I would appreciate if you wouldn’t insult it.”
She sounded braver than she felt, really; she knew that snapping at Quinn would just make things worse, but she was standing in a bathroom with the girl watching her and it just made Rachel… unsettled. There was something strange about the whole thing, like when a person is trying to remember a song lyric that is right on the tip of her tongue but she only remembers it hours later. (Not that that ever happened to Rachel.) But there was something… She shook her head again.
“I realize you’re proud of yourself, so let’s do ourselves a favor and stop pretending that you have no idea what goes on.”
“Whatever,” Quinn muttered, turning her attention back to the mirror in front of her. She should have known Rachel wouldn’t believe her, and why should she? It wasn’t a big deal, she wanted Rachel to hate her and be at a distance. The further they stayed away from friendship the further Quinn was from Lucy in Rachel’s mind, she’d never make the connection. It shouldn’t annoy her that Rachel couldn’t believe she wasn’t the cause of something bad in her life, it’s what she wanted. Then why did she feel like backing Rachel into the sink and holding her there until she’d explained how she had nothing to do with it?
She felt herself flush red at the thought and busied herself instead with fumbling through her bag for her eyeliner. There would be no backing Rachel into anything, she wasn’t that… creepy.
Rachel nodded. “Thank you,” she said, swiping quickly at her eyes and hoping that her nemesis wouldn’t notice. She’d told herself, the first time she’d ever been slushied, that she’d never let anyone see her cry, that she’d never let anyone - especially Quinn Fabray - see how hurt she was, how much it upset her.
She hadn’t been able to stick to that promise. It was too hard, too hard to cope with the fact that people hated her enough to throw things at her and that she didn’t have her best friend to help her deal with it.
“Good… good luck on the test tomorrow,” Rachel managed to say, noting that Quinn wasn’t looking at her; instead she was looking off into space, as if she was terribly, indescribably bored to be in the same presence as Rachel Barbra Berry. Rachel wasn’t even sure why she wished the girl luck, but there it was, and she hastily said a goodbye before grabbing the handle of her little rolling case and leaving WMHS behind.
“Well, yes,” Rachel said matter-of-factly, as if it was the most logical thing in the world. And to be honest, it was. She’d gotten used to a slushie a day; she had her clean up routine down to a science. Normally it only took about ten minutes to get herself cleaned up in time for her next class, but with Quinn standing there looking awkward and uncomfortable, Rachel had the idea that it might take longer this time. It was unsettling, stood in front of her with the Cheerio’s gaze fastened on her.
“That’s why I bring my pink case,” she said, referring to the little rolling case that she always brought with her - an endless source of amusement for her classmates. “It makes it much easier to carry my books, my sheet music, and the clothes I need for the week.” She caught Quinn’s eyes widening, and Rachel shrugged. “It isn’t as if you don’t know this, Quinn,” she said, but it wasn’t mean.
“You’re well aware of what your minions like to do to me every day.”
Quinn stood stunned, still staring wide eyed at Rachel. She carried a weeks worth of clothes with her? That was completely insane, how didn’t she know things were so bad already. This whole thing had escalated quickly. Every day. This happened every day.
“I didn’t know, actually,” Quinn admitted, quickly looking away as Rachel raised an eyebrow at her. She turned towards the mirror, pretending to concentrate more on herself. “Not that I’d change anything,” she added hastily, glancing sideways at Rachel. Every day. How hadn’t she snapped and slapped one of them by now? Rachel had always been the outspoken one, the one that stood up to the people that would bully Lucy, but when it came to herself it seemed she was just going to take it.
… it could get worse.
Great, Rachel thought, struggling to get her sweater up over her head. Of all the people she had to run into… For a moment she was so flustered she couldn’t seem to get her sweater off; finally pulling herself free she hugged it close to her body and found herself glaring at Quinn Fabray.
“Where else would you suggest I change out of these clothes?” she asked, not having the energy to snap. She felt tired, old. Lonely. “I still have three classes left and it’s not as if I can go to your locker room.” She snorted to herself, knowing that Quinn would call the bi…er, dogs on her if she even dared to set foot inside the Cheerios locker room. “Now please, if you don’t mind, I’d like to get cleaned up.” She turned her back on Quinn and started to rummage through the bag that held her emergency clothes.
How many more slushies could she take? Rachel wondered. She felt the beginnings of tears and she swallowed against them; she wouldn’t cry, not here, not in front of Quinn. She wouldn’t give her that satisfaction. She’d seen Quinn laugh at her more than once, she heard Quinn’s insults to her every day. But she was determined not to let them get to her. Once she was out of Lima, out of McKinley, once she was on stage accepting her Tony in New York City… Quinn Fabray would be nobody to her.
She knew she must look like a mess: hair dripping with melting ice and corn syrup and a stained sweater. But she didn’t care. It’s what Quinn wanted, right? For a moment Rachel thought of Lucy; it gave her a little bit of satisfaction knowing that if Lucy were there, maybe, maybe she’d let her cousin have it for her treatment of her best friend. Rachel allowed herself to fantasize about it every now and then, how perhaps Quinn would be nice to her if Lucy was around. But Lucy wasn’t around, and Rachel wished more than anything the girl behind her slushie attacks would just… leave.
“Sor- right.” Quinn stopped herself short of sorry and reminding herself that wasn’t something she could say any more. It was a hard habit to break, but she was getting better. Rachel used to joke it was her favorite word, she’d say it so much. Lucy was sorry for everything. Sorry for sitting in a seat someone else decided they wanted, even though she was there first. Sorry someone failed because she wouldn’t let them cheat off of her. She even said sorry when Rachel tripped over once, but that actually made her laugh and stopped her from crying, so she didn’t mind that one. Quinn smiled a little at the memory, before remembering where she was and forcing herself to stop.
Silence had fallen between them. Quinn knew she should just leave but she found herself stood in place, watching Rachel who seemed awkward under her gaze. Her clothes were clearly ruined and Rachel looked away to the replacements. “You bring extra clothes,” she mumbled, the comment more to herself than to Rachel. Were the slushies really that out of control? She hadn’t thought it happened often enough that Rachel would decide it was worth while to start bringing more clothing to school with her. Did that mean it happened daily?
This is it, she thought, staring at the sign up sheet posted on the wall. A couple names were already there, but none of them would ever be as important as hers. She knew this was her year, the year that everything would change. She’d be a part of something special, she’d have friends, she’d be able to hone her talents and it would be the first step towards a life of inevitable stardom.
Rachel signed her name on the sheet advertising glee and affixed a gold star next to her signature. She stepped back to look at it and smiled triumphantly. Get ready, McKinley, she thought to herself, and turned around.
The shock of the ice made her gasp; she tasted the tartness of the slushie and made a face. Cherry. She hated cherry. But what’s more she hated the feeling of the ice in her ears, in her hair, sliding down over her face and into her shirt - another shirt ruined. She heard the sound of his laughter - Noah Puckerman - heard the distinct slap of a high five, and she rolled her eyes. That was Finn Hudson, no doubt, Noah’s partner in crime.
Going to her locker, ignoring the giggles of the other students around her, Rachel pulled out her emergency slushie kit and stowed away her books, then made her way to the bathroom. Someone was already there and Rachel sighed; she’d rather be alone during her cleanup routine, especially since the white shoes of the person in the last stall told her that it was a Cheerio. But she didn’t want to go back out to the hall, so she took a deep breath and pulled out her clean clothes.
It certainly couldn’t get any worse.
The sound of the door flying open made Quinn jump, the marker she had against the wall of her stall squeaking as she accidentally drew a line straight out from her drawing. She’d come to get away from the Cheerios, to have five minutes alone where she wouldn’t have to put on some act for the eyes watching her. Her five minutes were up, it seemed.
The fact she could only relax now by hiding out in the bathrooms said a lot. Even in class she hardly felt like herself, mostly because Finn spent half the time trying to grope her under the table. The quarterback was her boyfriend, it was still so surreal. Three years ago a boy like that wouldn’t have even spoken to her unless they were stealing her lunch, now he and and half the other boys on his team spent all of last year trying to get a date with her.
Quinn took the pen away from the wall, finally back from her thoughts. She capped the pen with a click and her eyes widened as she took in exactly what she’d doodled as her mind wandered. She was staring at a strikingly accurate naked woman and she- oh god that was Rachel. She’d drawn Rachel naked.
She jumped to her feet without a second thought, grabbing her bag up off of the floor and yanking open the stall door, almost scared to be in the same stall as that drawing. Someone would see her leaving and they’d know, they’d just know she drew it. She had to leave. She shot out of the stall, only to be stopped short of her escape by the sight of Rachel Berry, arms over her head as she pulled herself free of her sweater.
“You can’t get naked in here!”
I just came home and ate a whole pint of ice cream. That girl sat crying with ice cream in the movies? Yeah, that’s me. I’m that much of a cliché.
I feel disgusting.
Why did you have to talk to me, Rachel? This is hard enough already, but it’s going to be unbearable if you keep cornering me about Lucy. All because of that keychain… I should have gotten rid of it. No, I couldn’t do that. I should have left it at home. It used to make you smile so much when I’d make it roar for you. I liked being the one to make you feel better, now I’m the one making your life hell.
Coach is going to kill me for this, I’m meant to be on a strict diet. I’m head cheerleader now. I have to set an example. Unfortunately that example seems to be not eating anything but lettuce. So congratulations me, I’m everything I use to hate.
I need more ice cream.
What did she want to tell her? Rachel considered this. She thought about the days and weeks trying to contact Lucy, of trying to figure out where she’d gone, why she hadn’t told Rachel she was leaving. Crying at night because something would happen during the day that she’d think “I have to tell Lucy!” and then remembering there was no Lucy to tell. Retracing all of their conversations in the week before Lucy had left, trying to figure out if something she’d said, something she’d did… Rachel knew Lucy probably hadn’t left because of her, but to just cut her off completely… she didn’t understand.
Though Quinn no longer seemed angry, Rachel still spoke carefully. She was Lucy’s cousin, after all, not to mention the one with all the power. “Would you please tell Lucy,” she said, “That I- that I miss her, and that whatever I did, whatever made her angry or whatever I said that hurt her, I’m sorry. Tell her I said ‘I’m so sorry, Lucy. I’m sorry. I’d give anything to take it back.’”
She took a deep breath and looked away, fighting the tears that threatened to spill over.
Quinn’s jaw clenched again, she could feel herself fighting back the tears. Why had she asked, why did she have to ask? She knew she wasn’t going to like it, whatever it was, she’d end up angry or crying. It had turned out to be the latter.
She’d always wondered what Rachel thought about her and her family just vanishing, and why she hadn’t said anything about it. She wondered if Rachel ever noticed how strange she’d acted that last day they’d spent together. She’d been so in her head, knowing this was the last day they’d see each other but that she couldn’t say goodbye or Rachel would know something was wrong. She’d cried so much that night.
“Y-yeah, I’ll tell her,” she managed to stutter out, her gaze on the floor so Rachel couldn’t tell her eyes were beginning to water. “I have to go.”
Rachel nodded, hugging her books closer to her chest. “I was actually stating that I knew you’d be ready for it,” she said, “but of course I can realize how it might be misunderstood.”
She didn’t know much about Quinn Fabray, really. She knew that her best friends were Santana Lopez and Brittany Pierce, that she was the head Cheerio, that she was dating the star quarterback of the Titans. She knew that she was Lucy’s cousin. They’d had homeroom together, and Rachel remembered how her head had snapped up when she’d heard that last name. Fabray. Maybe it hadn’t been the best idea, to corner Quinn after class and present her with a barrage of questions about her cousin, but Rachel had been desperate to learn anything she could of her missing best friend. Quinn had stared at her as if she’d lost her mind, then told her in no uncertain terms that she wouldn’t be giving Rachel any information, that it wasn’t her business.
And while she didn’t know much about Quinn Fabray, Rachel figured the girl was smart. She did always seem to be buried in a book. It was kind of strange to Rachel. She’d thought that someone that well-read wouldn’t be so… mean. After all, Lucy loved to read, and she was about as different from Quinn as a person could be.
Rachel nodded again, then attempted one more time. “Quinn?” She said carefully. “Could you tell Lucy…” Seeing the girl’s face harden even more, Rachel sighed. “Never mind.”
Even now Rachel was asking about Lucy. Rachel hadn’t seen her for over two years now, or at least she didn’t think she had. ’She hasn’t,’ Quinn reminded herself, ‘you’re not Lucy any more.’
Still, she couldn’t help the curiosity. What did Rachel want to tell Lucy after so long? She’d just up and left, Rachel had no idea she was going to wake up one day with no best friend. Maybe she hated Lucy now. No, she knew that wasn’t true, Quinn saw the way Rachel’s face fell any time she dared to bring her up and Quinn shot her down. That look almost hurt more than the time Rachel had rushed crying into the bathroom she was using. Almost.
Quinn knew her features had softened, that she’d stopped glaring at the girl as she battled with her own curiosity. She let out a deep breath, knowing she was probably going to regret what she was about to ask.
“What do want me to tell her?”