Good (insert part day you're experiencing) everyone! Here's my attempt at a Funk fic. It was just going to be a one-shot but I decided to break it up into three parts instead when I noticed how long it was getting. It goes along with my other two fics (This Hell I'm Living and So Different Now from What It Seemed) but you might have noticed the title doesn't match up with the others; that's because this is a midquel of sorts and the real conclusion to Shelby's story has yet to be written. Until then, please enjoy this and let me know what you think!
It was proving to be one hell of a week.
Despite that, Shelby Corcoran had been looking forward to this particular afternoon. Since she had let some of her seniors convince her to cancel practice so they could go to a concert in Columbus, she had been anticipating taking some time for herself. She had left Carmel a few minutes before and was almost home; she was planning to change into some jeans and a comfortable top, throw her hair up in a scrunchie, and drive over to the other side of town where her favorite music store was. Milano's Music had been there since she was a child, and not only did it sell some of the nicest instruments in town, it had one of the largest and best selections of sheet music in Lima. She had been frequenting the store for so many years that the owner knew her by name, and for once, it wasn't because she was an award-winning show-choir coach. There, she was just Shelby: music enthusiast. An escape there was just the break she needed.
Part of her knew better than to let her kids off the hook so close to Regionals, but they had been working hard the last couple weeks in preparation for the big competition and she felt they needed some time to have fun. She was even more hesitant after that stunt they pulled the week before in McKinley's choir room, but after their tires got slashed she felt as though they got their retribution. In the end, however, it was Shelby who had to deal with McKinley and its students for their crime, arrange for new tires for her squad, and placate her own students who were in various degrees of hysterics because of the state of their transportation. Add that to her irritation about Vocal Adrenaline's own juvenile prank plus the regular stress she felt in making sure her glee club was worthy of their three previous national titles and she was ready for an afternoon off.
As she pulled into her driveway, she sighed in annoyance when saw her neighbor out front spraying weed-killer around his yard. The peaceful afternoon she had in mind did not include Philip Norlington. As she climbed out of her car, she estimated what the likelihood would be that she could make it in her house and back out again without him noticing her.
"Good afternoon Neighbor!"
She cringed and sighed. She hadn't even closed the door to her SUV yet. She straightened up and waved to him over the hood of her car, plastering a pleasant smile on her face just like she always did.
The Norlingtons strived to be the textbook suburban family, but having grown up in a household in which perfection was perfected, Shelby didn't view them as highly as they viewed themselves. They had been her neighbors for almost a decade, ever since she moved onto the street from the apartment she had rented after coming back from New York, and Phil and his wife had always been friendly. Too friendly. Shelby had worked on Broadway for years and she could spot an act from the real thing a mile away and because of that, she knew better than to assume that they wouldn't turn around and talk about her behind her back. But Shelby stopped caring about that sort of stuff years ago. She was too busy with other things to be bothered about what her neighbors talked about or how they acted.
She locked her car and made her way up to her house. It was late April and the weather had just begun to turn hot in the afternoon hours; the sun was beating down on her black pantsuit and her dark brunette hair, making her uncomfortably warm. She looked forward to the air conditioning that lay just beyond her front door as she fiddled with her keys, trying to find the one she would need to enter her home. Just as she located the right key, a body clad in a patterned polo shirt and khaki shorts stepped in her way.
"You're home early!" Phil said to her, and it was with slight impatience that she turned her gaze up to the unnecessarily large mustache over white, imperfect teeth at her eye level. "Usually we don't see you before nightfall!"
"Yep, I lucked out today." She didn't feel lucky as she tried to figure out a way around him, because he clearly wasn't going to move on his own.
"I'm actually glad to see you. Been meaning to have a chat."
"There's no time like the present!"
Shelby barely hid her sigh and she crossed her arms in front of her, preparing herself for whatever he wanted to complain about. Was it her neglected bushes? The gardener only came by twice a month but they would get trimmed next week. Did he want to complain again that when she had put out her trash that morning that it had touched his property line? Just two weeks before he claimed that her cats had been leaving presents all over his lawn, but she's never had a cat in her life. (At the time she hadn't been sure if she ought to have taken offense at his assumption that she must have a bunch of felines running around her house; just because she lived alone didn't make her some sort of cat collector.) She eyed the bottle of plant-killer in his hand and pondered that perhaps she had some sort of mutant weed running rampant in his daisies, causing complete mayhem that would be the end of the world as they knew it if she didn't get down on her hands and knees and pull them up herself at this exact moment.
Maybe she was overreacting. He probably received some of her mail and had set it aside for her or something equally mundane.
"What's going on, Phil?" she asked calmly.
"Well, Shelby, the water from your sprinklers is coming onto my yard and making some of my grass grow faster than the rest. It's becoming quite a problem."
She openly gaped at him. He seemed completely serious so she wondered if maybe she misunderstood. "My sprinklers are…making your grass grow?"
Her afternoon of relaxation was apparently being delayed by the most ridiculous thing she could have never have thought up. She tucked some of her sun-baked hair behind her ear and thought about how she could possibly respond without becoming Enemy No. 1 on Syosset Street, but in the end she simply had no patience for stupid people. She couldn't even fake concern when she dryly asked what she knew was obvious, "Can't you just mow the lawn? Won't that—" She waved her hand parallel to the ground dramatically, her bracelets clinking together as she did so. "—even it out?"
"Well yes," Phil sighed exaggeratedly, appearing distressed. "But I already pay my son to mow the lawn once a week. We're in a recession here! I can't—"
A muffled ringing interrupted him and they both looked down at Shelby's leather case she still had gripped in one hand. She uncrossed her arms and stuck a hand into it, more excited to answer a phone call than usual, and pulled out her ringing phone with a slight frown at the unknown number.
"I'm sure you won't mind if I see who this is," she said, and before Phil could object, she connected the call and answered curtly, "Shelby Corcoran."
"Hey Shelby, it's Will— Will Schuester."
She wasn't sure why he was calling. She had thought that everything was pretty well settled between their clubs following the tire-slashing incident, but perhaps the boys hadn't found jobs yet. Or maybe they had figured out that it would be impossible to pay off over 20 grand in only a month, which she had already calculated and adjusted her Glee budget to accommodate. Whatever it was, as long as those boys promised to work it off and Schuester supervised their efforts, she trusted it would be taken care of.
But perhaps this call didn't have to do with Glee. When they had seen each other the few days before, it had been brief and as soon as she walked out of the administration office at McKinley she left for Carmel. Not only did she not possess the time to stay on the other side of town all afternoon to chat, she had no desire to talk to Will yet following the meeting that took place in his office regarding Rachel. She wasn't used to not having the power in a situation, and the moment his judgments became about her personal life – a rocky bay she avoided drifting into – she had lost her bearing and consequently, her control. In McKinley's principal's office, she acted completely professional, as if she had never experienced emotional turmoil in front of him or anyone for that matter, but she could tell he didn't buy it. But in the grand scheme of things, what he thought meant very little.
Nonetheless, she did want to know what he needed, so she asked, "Is everything okay, Will?"
"Ah…no. Not really. And I'm not really sure how to tell you this because it affects you both as a coach as well as…uh…"
"What's going on?" Shelby was starting to become worried, and it didn't help that Phil was glaring at her with narrowed eyes. She held up a finger and stepped away from her ornery neighbor, her heart pounding as a hundred new scenarios popped into her head that Will could possibly have called to tell her. She just hoped that none of them had to do with a certain someone she and Will both knew and cared about.
"Look, first let me tell you this isn't an attack on you. I called you not just because you're their coach but because I'm your friend. But some of your students came by our campus today. And it wasn't to try and make up for earlier problems." He paused, probably to be fair and give her a chance to rebut the implication that her students ought to apologize for their antics, but she had no interest in debating such a thing. She was becoming on edge in suspense, however, and it was with bated breath she waited for him to continue. "A group of about eight or nine of your Vocal Adrenaline kids…" She heard him sigh, evidently frustrated and reluctant about what he was about to tell her. "…egged…one of my students in our parking lot this afternoon."
It took only a second for quite a few things to click in place in Shelby's sharp mind. Her Glee kids had convinced her to cancel practice, which she did last minute to allow them some time off. Some of her seniors even persuaded her to let them leave early so they could make their concert in Columbus; she didn't even ask who was performing at the show, and she vaguely wondered if they would have been able to answer her. And the fact that Will refused to explain how his call was more than just a work-related matter was particularly significant.
"Who was it?"
She was afraid that she knew the answer. She was afraid that she was to blame. She was afraid that she had lost any right to be concerned weeks before and now couldn't do anything to fix this.
"Shelby, I don't think—"
"Will! Who was it? Which student?" She was yelling at this point, much to her surprise as well as Phil's, who was watching impatiently with raised eyebrows. She scowled at him and walked down her driveway so she was out of his earshot, but she was too mentally overwhelmed to completely control her building anger, especially when Will hesitated again. "Was it Rachel?"
"Shelby…" he sighed but didn't say anything. He didn't need to; his tone answered her question.
Images filled her mind of Rachel, her beautiful face anguished and her body covered with the remnants of a malicious practical joke. Her Vocal Adrenaline kids pointing and laughing as she stood humiliated in front of them all. Their faces as they sweetly acquired her permission for them to leave and attack her only child.
She felt like she was imploding: her insides were disintegrating and her outside was nothing more than a crumbling structure that could fall with the slightest movement.
"Where is she? Is she still with you?"
"Her dads came to pick her up almost an hour ago. She was really upset, Shelby. Apparently Jesse was there."
"What? I'll kill him. I'll fucking kill him!"
"Shelby…" he said again in that cautious way that in her current ire only inflamed her emotions. "Maybe I shouldn't have told you this because of your relationship with her. But you're their coach and you needed to know. Don't worry about Rachel, she's a tough kid. She'll be fine."
Will's voice, an echo from weeks before, filled her mind, contradicting the lie he had just told her: "She's not hard like you. She's fragile, overemotional." Then a horrible thought occurred to her, leaving her completely speechless— Rachel was vegan, and the eggs she was pelted with went against the sensitive lifestyle she chose to live. Shelby could hardly think of a worse thing to do to vegans short of killing an animal right in front of them. She couldn't say anything as she steadied her breathing, and after nearly a minute Will called out her name to make sure the line didn't disconnect.
"Thank you for calling me," she replied, her voice colder and more composed than she felt inside. "I'll take care of it." With that, she hung up the phone and stared at the picture of the night sky she kept as her home screen, her mind as far away as the stars as she thought about Rachel. She had no idea what to do.
"Excuse me!" she heard someone say in an annoyed voice, and as she turned to look at the speaker she was a little dazed to see Phil still standing there, the hand not holding the weed spray on his hip irritably while the other pointed at the property line. "What are you going to do about this?"
"Uh," Shelby muttered and brought her fingers to her forehead as she tried to comprehend the situation once more. "I'll deal with later when I have time."
"You obviously have time now," he retorted, raising an eyebrow as if to challenge her.
She shook her head. "No, I have to go, my kids—"
"'Kids'? Ha! You have no idea what it's like to have real kids."
There were some ways that Shelby would never lose control, but if someone pushed her too far then the inhibition that held back her darkest, most ruthless thoughts would disappear and that foolhardy person would be at her mercy. It was with shame that she would look back on that moment with Phil and realized that she had indeed snapped.
"You know what, Phil? I don't give a damn about your grass. If you're concerned about paying Kyle, why don't you just mow it yourself? It would probably be for the best considering he's spending his money on cigarettes anyway. He's dropping the butts down into my yard and quite frankly I'm sick of it."
"Kyle... h-he doesn't smoke."
"Wanna bet?" Shelby asked insensitively. "And your daughter constantly sneaks out of her bedroom window late at night, and once or twice she's brought someone back with her. So do me a favor and get off your high horse because you clearly have no influence over them. Ever since I moved here, you've been pointing out how I don't have any kids and I'm done listening to you. Fuck you."
She was breathing heavy and her nostrils were flaring with rage even as she turned and walked away, leaving Phil frozen in place from shock. Right as she opened the door to her car he had apparently gathered his wits enough to ask shakily, "W-where are you going?"
"To see my daughter," she answered bitterly. "Have a good afternoon, Phil."