Disclaimer: Unfortunately I do not own Glee. If I did, all of my student loans would be paid off and, well, I'd be a happy, happy girl. I also do not own the song Pretty Girl by Sugarcult that inspired this story.
Author's Note: I've been reading Glee fics for quite some time now and the wait until April is killing me. Writing does help. Please excuse any grammatical mistakes. I do not have a beta so all mistakes are my own. Other than that, I do hope you all enjoy...
Chapter One – Pretty Girl Is Suffering
What happened to you? You were on your way to becoming a shining star, if not the star, on The Great White Way. Now look at you – nothing more than a sad nobody, living in what could be considered squalor. All those years of hard work – the numerous dance lessons, the rigorous vocal training, the slushie facials (Think of all of those dry cleaning bills!) – all were for naught.
Rachel Barbara Berry stared forlornly at the young woman in the Windex streaked mirror of the dilapidated vanity. She felt exactly how she looked, and how she looked was nothing short of frail and pathetic. New York had been anything but kind to the aspiring starlet, crushing her big dreams of sweet, sweet fame. Soon after graduation, her bags were packed and her pockets were still full of miracles. Dad and Daddy understood their daughter's hasty departure out of the sleepy Ohio town. Life in Lima was not for their Rachel, not for a girl with dreams – a talent – as big as hers. So when the day came for them to say goodbye, they did so without much protest. After all, their daughter was very capable of taking care of herself and had a plan (She typically did.) all mapped out. However, both men were still parents and made Rachel promise to phone in every weekend to ease their minds. (That and they presented her with her very own stun gun and an extra-large bottle of mace.)
The first year in the Big Apple wasn't so bad. Juilliard was wonderful. The institution was littered with many a Mr. Schuester, kind-hearted mentors helping in the cultivation of the very promising futures of their bright-eyed pupils, with hardly any Sue Sylvester doppelgangers in sight, which relieved the ingénue immeasurably. She had made friends who liked her for who she was – intensity and all – and not merely for her talent. Speaking of talent, Rachel had the opportunity, one which all Vocal Arts students had, to sing in a fully-staged opera. Surely, she thought, surely this performance will be my calling card, the metaphorical foot in the door (Everybody knew what Rachel Berry thought of metaphors.), my ticket to Broadway. It was such a blow to her ego when she arrived to rehearsals only to find out that she, Rachel Barbara Berry, was a chorus member (Chorus!) and not a lead. However, it was uplifting to know that she was the only first-year Juilliard student that was invited to participate in the production. Yes, the first year in the Big Apple wasn't so bad for the girl from Lima, Ohio. She was on her way.
Unfortunately, the picture fell apart a year later. It fell apart when he stumbled (Literally!) into her life. He was the reason why she was feeling all sorts of miserable at the moment. He was the reason why she felt like offing herself every time she caught her reflection. And he was currently asleep – passed out was probably a more accurate description – in the living room with his ever present companions Johnny Walker and Jack Daniels nearby. Her entire body stiffened when a mangled snore reached her ears. Don't wake up, she silently prayed, don't wake up. Seconds later, when Rachel realized he didn't wake from his alcohol-induced slumber, a relieved sigh escaped her soft lips.
The clock on the wall indicated that it was nearly time for her to leave for work. The small hand was on the nine – inching towards ten – while the big hand was in between the numbers seven and eight. If Rachel didn't leave the apartment soon, there would be a rather sticky situation with her boss that she wanted to avoid entirely. She didn't need another warning on record. Any more and she could get fired. Correction, she would get fired. Money, she needed it. She was barely getting by – reduced to living meager paycheck-to-paycheck – and he was doing not a goddamn thing to help out.
She left the apartment without giving the passed out freeloader a second glance, slamming the door as she made her exit. Even years after matriculating from high school, Rachel Berry still had it – nobody could ever quite storm out of a room the way she did. Besides, he was so deep in his drunken stupor that he could sleep through two atomic bombs and then some.
"Hello Mrs. Davis, Walter," she addressed her neighbor and her cute mutt of a dog as she bound down the stoop.
The cool autumn's night air made the young woman hug her own body tighter who suddenly wished she had worn a heavier coat. There was no time for her to go back, walk up the five flights of stairs, and grab a much more decent alternative if she wanted to avoid being berated for an hour by the angry little Guido of a man that was her employer, Leo. No, she'd have to stick it out for five New York City blocks – five long New York City blocks. Normally Rachel would have taken the bus or even the subway to work, but she had a nagging feeling that since Johnny and Jack made a sudden reappearance in her home (Ha! If she could even call it that...) she had no money for fare – even for one ride's worth – left in her wallet. It was a Saturday evening and the city was only beginning to come to life. Saturday nights were always good for business. And good too, she needed the cash. The cupboards and refrigerator were bare. She needed something a little more substantial than a six-pack of Pabst and the container of who-knows-how-old Chinese takeout.
Rachel's legs swiftly carried her to her destination, narrowly escaping death by crazy cab driver a few times on the way as she crossed a few streets on red. Ricardo – the guy who detailed the front of the building – shook his head with a smirk on his face. Cuttin' it close, Rach, he commented as she practically bulldozed her way in. The brunette merely waved her hand in acknowledgment of the large man, scurrying towards the back room to clock-in. She did not need to be told twice that she was in fact cutting it rather close. All that mattered was that she managed to arrive before the clock struck ten. Who cared that she arrived a whole minute earlier before her shift started? She made it, didn't she?
Rachel, not having much time to neatly fold her trench coat, carelessly threw the offending article of clothing into her rusting metal locker. The hardware vibrated as it slammed shut. She would worry about wrinkles later. Right now, she needed to get out of the poorly lit back room and to the awaiting public. People tended to get unruly if kept waiting for too long.
"Oh good, you're here," sighed Maxine – a co-worker of Rachel's – in relief, wiping her forehead free of the non-existent sweat beads. "I have to get Nicky from the babysitter's and I can't afford to pay her overtime if I'm late again. She means serious business when it comes to getting paid overtime."
Rachel smiled understandingly. "I have it under control," she said, taking over what Maxine was doing. "Please tell Nicky hello for me?"
With a curt nod, her fellow brunette slipped out, leaving Rachel with the masses. Generally speaking, it was not easy being the bartender of a popular joint. Patrons requesting their orders left and right, all wanting service immediately without giving much thought to how many others there were, never acknowledging how stressful it was for the bartender to be both patient and attentive with all the noise. Instant gratification and superb service – that was what customers wanted. In New York City, it was something that they demanded. Thankfully, Rachel wasn't the only bartender on staff (There was a total of three bar stations in the vicinity and all three were open tonight.) and would have the help of Abigail and Paige along with the waiting girls who brought drinks to the seated customers and to private rooms. It was somewhat coping to know that she wasn't going through this alone.
The night was progressing rather well in her opinion. None of her customers made her want to gouge her eyes out – or stab the doomed party – with the corkscrew or the ice pick yet. (The operative word in that statement being the word yet...) Tips were steadily pouring her way and it went without saying it wasn't chump's change, not with the clientele Lady Madonna raked in. No drinks were spilled messily over the countertop nor were any drinks given to the wrong person. An added bonus, there were hardly any drunken idiots hitting on her or giving her any grief tonight. (She didn't need to deal with any more of those, thank you very much. The one at home was quite enough for the petite brunette.) Yes, the night was progressing rather well.
As portrayed in the movies and a number of shows on cable, the twenty-two year old busied herself meticulously wiping glasses with a clean rag when times didn't make her want to kill herself for taking this whirlwind of a gig as bartender. In the distance, she spotted the top of familiar honey golden brown hair zigzagging all over the place. There was an irritated look on the young woman's face as she barreled through the number of people that had crowded the area in front of Rachel's station.
"Paige," she greeted, surprised. "To what do I owe this visit from across the floor?"
The Asian expelled a loud breath and pinched the bridge of her nose. "Could you do me a favor and check if you have an extra bottle of 151 on hand?" Paige asked with great exhaustion. "Some goofball thought it'd be funny to throw his shotglass back at me and it hit the bottle and well... I'm sure you can imagine."
So much for the night progressing well, Rachel thought as she set the glass in hand down on the counter, didn't even last the hour...
"Of course," she replied before disappearing from view.
"Hey, can I get two beers?" Rachel heard a deep voice request from above the counter she currently was searching under. "Don't really care what."
"I'll be with you in a minute, promise."
She rummaged – carefully of course – through the clutter, clank-clanging a bottle or two here and there as she went down along the neatly stacked rows and checked unopened cardboard boxes. Paige also joined in on the search, opting to check in the cabinet beneath the display of all the varieties of hard liquor Lady Madonna served instead. The soft "Aha" from behind signaled Rachel that her friend had found what she was looking for and that she didn't have to stay hunched over any longer.
"Sorry about that. You said two be..."
It was in that moment that brown met hazel.
I know that this is slightly AU and perhaps a little OOC, but I promise it will get better with time.
Reviews would be lovely.