"Fantastic work today guys! Make sure you bring that heat for the competition next Friday." Mr. Schuester claps his hands, grinning broadly, dismissing everyone. I bolt up from my seat and start for the door, Mike is beside me, chattering on about this new video game he wants to get. I smile up at him, and even though video games mean about as much to me as baseball (AKA, nothing) I'm still ridiculously giddy to see him smiling, talking with such enthusiasm. He walks the way my stepfather thinks that boys should walk- with their heads up, their shoulders straight, looking the world in the eye- I haven't introduced him to my parents yet but I know they'll love him. For one, he's the smartest kid at our high school (no joke; he has a 97.9% overall average) he'll be able to help me with math and science, and he'll do it without getting distracted. For another, he's Asian. It's not that my parents are racist or anything, they'd just prefer it if I went out with another Asian.
As I get to the auditorium door, still smiling up at Mike, the unthinkable happens: my oversized grey-and-black checkered satchel bag rips right down the middle, spilling its contents everywhere. Puck yelps, avoiding the few tampons that hit the floor almost underneath his feet, and Mercedes- who's still with him for some unknown reason. I guess the two of them do make a cute, if unlikely, couple- bends down to help me pick things up.
"I've got it," I assure her with a grateful smile. "Go have fun with your man." I smirk teasingly, Mercedes giggles but reserves comment, nodding and heading out the door after an impatient-looking Puck. Friday night, according to Kurt, is "Muck Night" (he doesn't like the fact that his wing woman is going out with Puck, which is why he combined their names to form the unflattering name of "Muck"), Puck and Mercedes always have a date night. She turns off her phone, and if someone phones Puck, he'll snap on them. They just want 'alone time'.
Mike is holding up the two pieces of my satchel, staring at them quizzically. "I could probably fix this over the weekend if you want." He tells me. I beam; Mike knows how to sew, which is another reason why my mother will adore him when she finally meets him.
"Thanks, sweetie." My cheeks flare red; I'm not exactly sure where the pet name comes from, but Mike doesn't seem to mind. He tucks a pink streak of hair behind my ear lovingly, it's all I can do not to turn into a big pile of mush right there. I bend down to begin picking stuff up, Mike starts to bend down too, but then stops.
"Oh shoot, I forgot. Dave was sick today, I have to go pick up his homework."
"Okay," I know if I smile anymore, I'll look like an absolute loon. Dave is Mike's little cousin; Mike lives with his aunt and uncle, since both of his parents died in a car wreck when he was nine. "You go ahead, I'll just finish picking things up and I'll meet you by the front doors." I insist, waving him away. He pecks my cheek in thanks and hurries away to collect Dave's homework. As I scoop up my feminine hygiene products, makeup, and a miniature bottle of Cocoberry perfume that I always keep on me, just in case, I stand up and head for the door. The hair on the back of my neck prickles. I can feel somebody watching me.
Even before I turn around, I know that it's you; who else would it be? Everyone else, including Mr. Schu, has left, to engage in their weekend plans but you don't exactly have a jumping social life. I wince; it's not my fault that you're reclusive, but I sort of feel responsible anyway. I take a deep breath and turn to face you, my heart speeds up and my palms get clammy. I notice you're pretending not to notice me through the corner of your eye as you shuffle some sheet music in your hands, a concentrated look on your face, blue eyes wide behind your glasses.
I'm about to turn and go- I can't be around you, even though we broke up- when my sweaty hands betray me, losing grip on my things. They tumble to the ground again with a clatter, and finally, you turn your head and look at me, straight on.
"S-s-sorry." I stumble over the word, feeling like I could kick myself for the revival of the stutter. Even though you forgave me for faking it, you never really let it go, I'm not sure if you ever will.
My biggest secret? I never will.
You shrug, a self-depreciating smile finding your handsome face. "Butter fingers," you say quietly, "happens to the best of us."
"Yeah." I shrug too, biting the tip of my tongue. You look disappointed for a millisecond, but then the disappointment turns to a look of wise sadness. Sadness that should be beyond your years. I feel my heart break, but not in the way it did when you first dumped me. It breaks dully, guiltily, because I kind of want it to break the way it did when you told me we couldn't see each other anymore. I want it to shatter, drop and keep falling. I want tears to pour out of my eyes with my emotions. I want to feel remorse for you, but as I stare, the only things I can feel are discomfiture and annoyance.
I tried so hard to fix you like you wanted to be fixed- even though I never thought you were broken to begin with. I tried so hard to be everything for you. I tried every trick in the book, and maybe I didn't know how to deal with your strange mood swings or all the aspects of your disability, but I was willing to try.
The only thing you ever tried to do was push me away.
At first it was intriguing, you know? You'd shut down and then I'd get you to open up, I'd break down the walls you built up, but only for a little while. You'd build new ones. I thought it was like a game that I could win. I could sweep you off your feet, pacify all of your doubts and insecurities, I kept playing. But eventually, it stopped being fun. It was so exhausting I couldn't play anymore.
We're still staring at each other and it's funny, because when I look at you I still feel connected. I still remember what I felt… but that's all. I only remember it, I don't have any residual feelings.
"Tina," you sigh, your voice cracks. "I know it doesn't matter to you now… I know it won't ever matter to you, probably. But I want you to know that-"
"What?" I interrupt you because I don't want to be put down. You never debased me in our relationship but now that we're broken up, who knows? You have the biggest smile and the warmest heart in glee club, but you also have the sharpest, most poisonous tongue when you need it. It almost makes me smile, because I remember the time we went on a date to the movies, and Emily Worth, a senior was there with her boyfriend, Patrick Linet. Emily was making fun of me for wearing my green-and-black striped beanie (out of all of my hats, the green-and-black striped one is your favourite) and Patrick was muttering something about Asians. I ducked my head down, reaching to remove my beanie, but you grabbed my hand.
"Gee," you said casually, and way too loudly, "I wonder when Patrick Linet will find out that his girlfriend's been getting it on with Coach Tanaka in the boys' locker room. I thought she wore a purity ring. Oh well, I guess it's not that bad when you consider what he's doing, carrying on a relationship with Alan Briggs. Everyone knows they're cross-dressers. Those stripper heels he wears are da bomb. You should try on something like that, Tee, I bet they'd look better on your legs than Patrick's."
Emily stopped talking, slapped Patrick across the face, and Patrick began yelling at her (a high-pitched, squeaky yell) about how she never put out for him. By the time we'd gotten our tickets to go see the show, the couple had left, Emily chucking her cute silver purity ring into the garbage.
I don't know how you found out about Coach Tanaka or Alan Briggs, but both stories were true. And that's not the worst of what I know you can do, that was you being nice.
You take a deep breath and I'm brought back to the present. "I want you to know that I'm sorry. I'm sorry I was never good enough for you… and I'm glad you found what you wanted. I hope you'll always find what you want, and what you need."
This is so unexpected that I just stare in shock. I have an epiphany right then (I had a lot of those when I was with you) that it was never that I wasn't good enough for you. You always thought that you were never good enough for me. You've never been good enough for yourself.
It makes me want to cry, but I blink back tears and stare at you, long and hard, trying… to what? Muster up residual feelings, I guess. I still want to be what you need… but as I stare and nothing happens, I realize I can't.
Once upon a time you meant so much to me, but I look at you now and struggle to evoke the butterflies, or something similar. I remember exactly why I loved you, but I don't love you anymore. And I'm sorry.
I remember back when I was little, and my biological parents were still married.
When I was five-years-old, every night before I went to bed, I'd carry my big book of fairytales into the living room and hop onto my father's lap. He'd turn off the TV, and ask me, "Is it time for a story, Princess Tina?" When I was five, I wore a paper crown on my head everywhere, convinced that I was royalty.
"Yes," I'd say, opening the big book up to the table of contents. Dad (Ethan Cohen, my mother dropped his last name when they divorced, but I never did. It still bugs her that I never took on my stepfather's last name) would run his index finger down the list of story titles, reading them out like we were in a real castle, and they were royal mandates. When he got to the story I wanted (usually it was Rapunzel or Cinderella, or something to do with princesses) I'd clap and squeal, and he'd turn the page and begin. Dad would put on voices for each of the characters, making me laugh so hard I'd snort. When he carried me up to bed and tucked me in, I'd clutch my teddy bear (Dad got it for me when I was born) and dream about finding true love.
I grew out of the 'fairytales-and-true-love' thing soon after my parents split up when I was six. I still don't understand why they did, really, there are a lot of things that I don't understand. You're pretty high on that list. If I didn't know you, I'd think that you were dark, borderline suicidal. Sometimes I still think that, I'm not going to lie. But I see you smiling all the time, and I'm relieved; you'd never stoop to self-harm. Your parents would go nuts.
Mike bounds back in just then, toting a plastic bag with him to carry all my stuff. A smile forms on my face and I thank him, picking up my fallen-again items and dumping them into the bag. He takes my hand to tug me out of the room, you're glancing at me from the corner of your eye again.
"Artie," I call, before I can be pulled from the room. "Don't worry about it." Don't worry about it? Don't worry about it? How lame! I want to cringe at how pathetic that sounds, but I keep my expression neutral. I allow Mike to lead me from the auditorium, keeping my eyes locked on you, though you're trying not to look back. And I feel something then, for just one second. It starts off as a tiny sliver but then it turns into a rushing wave: regret. I'm so sorry. We could've been something. You and me and the fairytale that never happened.
Here's a big secret about most females I know (and probably most of the ones I don't, but forgive the generalization if it doesn't apply): every girl wants her Prince Charming- whether he's the ultimate cliché of a perfect man or a goofball who rides in on the back of a donkey- it's too bad you weren't mine.
A new, slightly angsty Artina oneshot for you guys :) I know it's been awhile since I've posted something, but feedback would be greatly appreciated (pleasee :)). Has anyone else heard the news that Puck and Artie have to battle it out for a spot in the glee club? If it came down to it, who would you want to see stay? Click the review button, pretty please with sprinkles on top. Honest opinions about the story, as well as the Puck/Artie news, are MORE than welcome.