I... really have no excuse for this. I think I'm possibly going insane. I'd also like to point out I am no history buff whatsoever, so please excuse my ignorance. Now then, read at your own risk.
She could hide in the darkest part of the universe and he would still find her.
Boston, Massachusetts – 1774
She's not exactly sure what the point of a tea lesson is.
Are there really so many ways to sip from a cup?
But she's smart enough to know that you never question these sort of things, so when her instructor bows her head graciously, Quinn raises the exquisite china to her lips without any sort of disputing inquisition. She takes a delicate gulp before putting the cup down, placing her spoon across it, and turning the spout towards the hostess. Her instructor then smiles in approval and moves onto the next student, who repeats Quinn's actions (albeit a shade clumsier).
She sees him when she walks by the blacksmiths. His skin glistens under the fabric of his loose white shirt tucked into his breeches, and it surprises her so much that she has to stop in her tracks. A gust of wind tackles her from behind and a hand flies up to steady her straw sun hat, and suddenly, it's as if that small movement gives away her presence. He looks up, and two pairs of green eyes lock instantly.
"Hello." The words come out of her mouth before she even hears them.
There is a short silence before he drops his tool with a clang. "Ms. Fabray," he nods and licks his lips.
A small smile twitches her perfectly pink pout. He notices and grins lightly.
"Quinnie!" She turns and sees her sister Frannie standing impatiently by the door. Without any hint of a goodbye, she turns and retreats to her sister's side.
They walk down the cobblestone path, and she feels Frannie's fiery glare burn the side of her face. "He works at the stable where they keep Daddy's horse," she begins awkwardly. "I was just asking about it. With the looming war and all, I'm sure he would like to put her to use."
"You think poorly of my intelligence," Frannie quips, and they walk the rest of the way in silence.
"Those patriots," her father practically spits. "What a disgrace to human morality. Do they have no sense of loyalty?"
Quinn flicks a piece of imaginary lint off her light yellow gown. Glancing around to make sure no one's looking, she quickly snakes a hand up to her head and adjusts her dainty pinner cap. She catches her reflection in the mirror across the hall and smiles back satisfied with her appearance.
"They'll have it coming to them, Russell," her mother adds airily. "Just wait. They'll regret the day they've separated from the King."
One of their servants come bustling in, an elaborately engraved tea caddy in hand.
Quinn suddenly feels sluggish.
One, two, three. One, two, three.
She floats and twirls across the ballroom floor in her emerald green gown. Her pretty laughter catches the attention of several men, and they all line up and request a dance with the youngest and loveliest Fabray.
She's stuck in a tea cup, spinning and spinning and spinning until there's no more tea left.
He nods at her like he does everyday she passes by the blacksmiths. It's a sign of respect for the higher class, but his smirk says something else. They do nothing more than that. For as long as she could remember, it's been nothing more than that.
It starts when she's nine years old and her father brings her along for business. He's still an apprentice and she's forever curious, so she leans in as he tries to make a horseshoe and babbles "Hello."
He jumps in his seat and stares at her with the most startled expression. She can tell he wants her to leave, but his mentor soon walks in and frantically introduces them. "Noah, this is Ms. Fabray."
There is a hint of warning in his voice, and the boy gives Quinn a brief look over before nodding graciously. "Ms. Fabray."
Since then, she's been that coveted figure that's always been too far to touch. Too distant, too ethereal.
But today she is alone. It's a bright Monday, and she's all alone. No father, no mother, no Frannie, no mentor. None of her giggly friends or obnoxious courters. She doesn't budge a single muscle, and he takes note. Slowly, he moves towards her, a worn towel in one hand and a chisel in another. She closes the door behind them and takes one generous step closer inside the shop. He hovers over her all too soon, and she keeps down the hiccup in her chest.
"You can call me Quinn," she says finally and fiddles with the rosettes on her dress. He puts down the chisel and towel on the stool nearby and smiles.
"Girls don't go to college," her mother dictates gently.
Quinn takes a sip of tea.
She's laughing. She will not ride that horse, she scolds him, but her smile gives everything away. He knows, in the end, he will convince her to, and she giggles as his coarse hands entrap her near a corner of the stable.
The world outside their own is breaking apart, but here, it's so simple. It's her and him and nothing about tea or dancing or loyalists or taffeta. And while she's known from the start that he's not as dangerous as he appears, the way he grips her heart may be.
Quinn smiles against his mouth, and his kiss warms up every inch of her body.
She wonders if this is love, to want every piece of someone.
Her father instructs a handmaiden to accompany her where ever she goes now.
By no means is she allowed to stop by the blacksmiths.
Her anguish takes in the form of tears when she walks briskly by the little shop. The sound of hammer against metal has never sounded so angry.
He goes back to worshipping her from afar.
One, two, three. One, two, three.
Quinn picks at the rosettes on her dress and thinks of the sweet pine smell of the stable across town.
"May I have the next dance, Ms. Fabray?" She looks up at the handsome gentleman with the handsome smile. She doesn't like the way he says her name – clipped – but she obliges as the band strikes up a new tune. She's spinning and spinning and spinning.
There is a pretty rose and a small envelope waiting for her outside the blacksmith shop.
She swears she doesn't give a damn when her handmaiden reprimands her picking it up. She tears the letter open and reads it with hungry eyes, divulging in the rough handwriting and carefully-chosen words. Quinn makes it through the first seven sentences before realizing too much. She suddenly collapses onto the ground and feels her body tremble with fear.
The rose tumbles out of her hands and lands write next to the words "... I have joined the Patriots in the war against the unlawful British..."
It takes her a good while to collect herself. She walks home, letter and rose stashed under her petticoat, and marches up the stairs without so much as a hello or goodbye.
He never comes back for her, as his poor hero fate would allow it, and her life becomes one monotonous tea lesson after another.
She looks at the dead rose from time to time and realizes it's not about what he left her with – it's what he took with him.
Savannah, Georgia – 1856
Quinn fans herself religiously against the miserable heat. It should be against the law, she thinks, for it to be this hot. Would God show any mercy if He thought otherwise? She feels a fresh bead of sweat forming right above her temple, and she pulsates the fan faster to prevent it from dripping.
"Darlin', you're going to break your wrist," her mother calls from the other side of the parlor. A servant strolls by and refills their cups of Mint Julep. "No gentleman caller wants a wife with an imperfect wrist."
Quinn stifles her frown and slows down her pace. "Yes, Mama."
The heat becomes unbearable almost instantly.
She stands outside on the field, closes her eyes, and tilts her head to the sky. Quinn could spend all her days like this if she could. Nothing separates her from the rest of the world but thin air, and she ponders whimsically if life should really be like this. She likes the feeling of sweet breeze humming through her tight curls, playing and whispering through her wispy stands.
"Miss Quinn!" Her nurse calls out for her from the porch. Quinn sways a bit under the gentle moonlight. "Miss Quinn, it's almost dinnertime!"
She whispers goodbye to the stars and promises she'll be back soon.
It's a Tuesday. The sun stabs the sky like a blazing blade.
She's supposed to be writing a letter to one of her potential beaus when she hears a mysterious rustling noise from outside her window. Curious, Quinn slyly darts out of the house, her frosty pink dress and parasol steady in her hands.
She wanders further through the plantation, her pristine white manor shriveling into the distance as she retreats behind the barn. She pauses and squints her eyes in search of the noise, and as if on cue, the rustling starts up again and she turns the corner towards the source.
"Oh!" she squeals and nearly tosses her parasol in the air. She looks down at the crumpled figure on the floor, and very reluctantly, she bends down towards its level.
A young man finally gazes back, a hint of annoyance in his eyes. But as he takes in the wholesome image of the Southern belle before him, his face subtly softens. "My leg," he gestures sparsely. Her eyes divert from his features and towards the said appendage he has been cradling. It's then she notices the very bloody gash craving its way up his leg. "I got into... an accident."
She blinks once and stands up again. "You're trespassing," she blurts out. The bluntness in her voice physically takes him back, but he smirks soon after.
"No kidding," he mumbles to himself. "This is your plantation?"
She doesn't hide her pride as she beams vainly. "Of course."
"The Fabray Plantation..." he trails off. "You're Frannie Fabray?"
"Quinn Fabray," she corrects irritably. "My sister got married a few months ago."
"Send her my congratulations," he smiles bitterly at her. She furrows her brows and glances back at his wound. She wonders fleetingly about what kind of accident he got himself into, but soon enough, she takes a few steps back and turns away from him.
"I'll send a servant for you," she brushes off airily. "They'll clean up your injury and you can be on your way."
"Appreciate the kindness," he murmurs sharply, and she hides her smile at his tone.
"Mama always said hospitality is the core of any young woman."
"Don't move." His voice is sudden, rough, and impatient.
Quinn frowns and begins to turn around. "Excuse me - "
"Don't. Move." And suddenly, a shot rings out all through the plantation, and she shrieks.
Noah Puckerman saves her life that Tuesday. He pulls out the small revolver hidden in his pocket and aims at the poisonous rattle snake inches from striking Quinn's right calf. Upon hearing the incident, her father quickly deems him a hero and gives him a job at the plantation to show his true gratitude for rescuing his youngest daughter from an impending death.
Quinn retires to her room soon after the event and takes a nap.
The heat dwindles down.
She runs her white silky gloves against the suited attire of her gentleman caller. He whisks her across the room at one of the countless cotillions of that year, and she forgets him almost instantly when another takes her hand.
Quinn wonders what other use handkerchiefs have besides being tossed on the floor.
She likes to watch him from her window.
He's a hard worker.
But that's not the only thing she's noticed.
She takes a spill one day, and he's there to catch her. She thanks him kindly, batting her long buttery lashes, and he holds her a second too long. "You didn't fall, you jumped," he tells her. There's a difference, and they both know it.
He breaks something in her that day, she's sure of it. Or maybe he set something free.
She's really starting to hate cotillions. A girl can only wear so many white dresses.
"What are you doing?" He offers her no respectable title. No Miss Quinn or Miss Fabray. It's just a simple question on a simple night, and if anybody was looking in, they would be caught aghast by his improper casualties.
But Quinn finds it strangely refreshing.
"I think there's a star out there for every single person." Her voice is barely above a whisper. He takes a secret moment to glance at her. "Isn't that such a lovely thought?"
They dwindle together and gaze up at the sky, picking two out of the brightest ones to call their own.
They stargaze every night. She sits quietly under the magnolia tree with her lace parasol over her right shoulder while he slumps ungracefully against the trunk. They make up stories for each star and tell tales of their lives. "She's a precious one," Quinn would point a gloved finger towards the sky. "Quite the darlin' sweetheart." He would counter and point to the one across from it. "He's an awful one. Reeks of trouble."
She gasps and shakes her head miserably. "Don't make him like that! He's too close to her."
He side-glances at her. "Yeah. He'll ruin her."
She powders her face and looks directly in the mirror. Something is different.
She pretends she knows what.
"I'm leaving," he tells her one day. He's got his pack ready and nothing else.
She knows what he's going to say, but she already shakes her head in defense. "I'm not coming with you." She's a Fabray until the very end, and boy or no boy, she will live on this plantation for as long as the Reaper would allow. It's the testimony of family heritage, and she's sworn to Jesus Christ himself that blood runs thicker than water.
This angers him, and she sees the treachery light his eyes. "There's nothing for you here," he quips suddenly.
"Now, that's not fair!" she scolds. Her eyes quickly soften, and she plants a small, stolen kiss on his soft cheek. "You can't run away from everything, Noah Puckerman."
She would be lying if she said she never waited for him. She wonders if betrayal is in her nature, but it's not herself she's betrayed this time.
She stays by that bedroom window until her last day.
Custer, South Dakota – 1878
She's got nothing but the scarlet red dress on her back.
She's a lost pup on a rainy day, and anybody who's got some sense knows to never let wet stray dogs inside the house. She's been beaten down, tossed aside, and kicked around.
And does it ever show.
It's in the newspapers the next day, headlining in bold letters: FAMOUS FABRAY FAMILY OF YANKTON LOOTED AND MURDERED.
They won't find her body, she thinks bitterly. But the memories of that night are horrifying, and she rather remain fleeting than sentimental. The road beckons her, and she follows it.
It's filthy. Quinn feels filthy. She fidgets under the heavily corseted dress and balances the ruby feather tucked in her golden locks. The saloon is so loud, she can't even hear her own thoughts swimming in her head. So she decides not to think – it's so much simpler that way – then maybe she'll forget God is watching her. The thundering beat of her heart rings in her ears, and she twirls a bit and there's hooting and howling throughout the crowd.
And she'll deny, deny, deny, but her heart twitches with atonement. The world is not too kind to girls like her, so she swallows her pride and dips herself into a gathering of drunken cowboys.
She needs to feel something. Something to tell her that she's still real, and that she still has her life to fight for.
So when she sees a pair of dangerously green eyes stare at her, she stares back. And when he buys her a drink, she lets him. And when he places a hand on her knee, she lets him. And later, when his hand slips further under her dress and his mouth clings onto her neck, she lets him.
But after it's all over and he blows out the candle and everything goes black, Quinn feels like she's hit rock bottom.
"Every girl's got to have their motto," one of the girls laughs playfully to her and adjusts her cleavage. "You reel 'em in like fishes, Miss Quinn."
She smiles absently and avoids her reflection in the mirror.
The noise grows louder outside.
Seeing him for the second time is like pouring hot water on cold hands. She doesn't even bother to hide her shock as she marches defiantly towards him, shiny black heels clicking under her feet. His mouth twists into something of a smirk, and he tips his hat as she approaches.
"I'm afraid introductions were lost yesterday," he says wryly. He takes a short sip of his drink, plops it down, and extends his right hand. "Puck."
She doesn't take it, and he laughs.
He's there everyday. He watches her against the dim light, and she wonders if he thinks she belongs there, with her gold curls, red lips, and tangled boa.
"If I buy you a drink, will you tell me your name?"
She teases him a bit and shrugs. It's business, the words melt on her lips; however, the warmth of their bodies say a little more.
Her heart flutters as he unravels the the elaborate ribbons of her dress, planting soft kisses on her bare shoulder. It's him who calmly pins her down, and she spreads her legs a little wider, letting him move between them. When he thrusts into her, she moans and gasps and clutches the sheets tightly in her hands. His weight on top of her feels familiar and strangely soothing, and she crashes her mouth into his and tastes gin and cinnamon.
They pant; his hand traces circles on her hips, and she gasps again as he eases back inside her.
"Puck," she murmurs against his mouth, and she feels him smiling against her. He kisses her stomach, his tongue dipping into her naval as he licks his way down to her hips. He lifts her and lowers himself, again and again and again, and she drags her mouth away from his lips and tries to find her lungs. "Puck." She says it over and over again, as if she's reminding him, as if he's forgotten.
And there, in heated darkness, she knows he remembers.
Jealousy wrangles both of them.
He makes sure he's there every night so no one else can steal her away.
She always loiters around his area so no other girl claims him.
It becomes so routine that they are lost in their own world, and hardly anyone notices either of them anymore.
It's a Wednesday when she tells him her name.
He knows it the moment she saunters briskly up to him. The fringe of her skirt brushes against his leg, and she bites back a smile.
"Quinn," she says, her voice thin like air.
And that's it. She walks away instantly and joins the rest of the saloon girls up near the piano. The chatter and hollering grows louder as the girls giggle and dance, and her wide smile sparkles under the candlelight. Their eyes cling to each other, and he slowly lifts his glass and toasts to her, his elusive princess.
It's her turn to help clean the tables tonight. She can vaguely hear the sound of gunshots sing through the air in the distance. The crowds are dispersing slowly, and she busies herself by dissecting the drunk ramblings of one of the customers.
He's watching her from across the bar, and she purposely moves slower just to bug him.
But when she finally wanders over to his seat, he hands over a very familiar newspaper.
"Ask me to leave this place," she snuggles deeper into his chest.
He sighs. "Will you?"
"You have to say it first." The words don't taste right on either of their tongues.
He's a cowboy. She's a saloon girl.
It's too easy.
She's the gun, and he's got his hand wrapped firmly around the trigger. But they're both too selfish, too broken to think about fixing anyone but themselves. He's abandoned and she's an orphan, but in the midst of all of it, she pulls him aside and her fingers brush roughly against his holster. She whispers to him their new secret, and neither of them move for a long time.
Finally, finally, he looks at her. "Are you sure?"
She purses her lips and looks genuinely insulted. Slowly, his hands glide over her stomach and he kisses it softly.
The saloon doesn't care much about this thing, so she'll be back to work as soon as possible.
That's when he says it: "Leave this place."
She muses whimsically. "You should have been a sheriff."
Beth. They call her Beth.
She's their enigma. A perfect creature out of two flawed beings. They marvel and marvel and marvel and now, they have a reason to fix each other.
There's a new newspaper the next day: LOCAL SALOON BURNED DOWN; NO SURVIVORS.
Manhattan, New York – 1903
As a child, her laughter was like second nature to everyone in the Fabray mansion. They knew her not of her airy voice, but by the tinkling bells that escaped her little throat.
These days, one would be lucky to even extract a single chuckle from her. She's traded her giggles for icy glares; Quinn simply looks on with old, tired eyes. Eyes that have loved and lived and lost and had stopped trying. She weaves in and out the rooms like she's got the world on a string.
And quite frankly, she does.
She sits in the parlor with her sister and her mother, sifting breezily through morning calling cards.
Quinn wonders about the upper class of Manhattan sometimes. They filter through the cities, each one distracted by something, but their lives are just a shallow lull between ballrooms and tea parties. She's bitter just for the hell of it. There's really nothing else to do, she settles dully, and her mother sends for a potential gentleman to cater her this afternoon.
She sinks deeper into her wicker chair and cradles the glass of pink lemonade in her left hand. Yes, Quinn thinks. People are quite dull.
She sweeps through the room with the lightness of an angel, her feet barely touching the floor. The ballroom smells of money and red wine – rich and precarious – and she darts pass a group of her peers and sneaks into one of the powder rooms.
She's not one for being rescued, by the light-hearted chatter and silky music is too much for her right now. It's ironic, her mind whimpers, and she quickly charges out of the room and everyone notices the incoming hurricane.
People toss glances at her from all kinds of directions, and Quinn moves closer towards the center. They all wonder separately if they had something to do with it, they all like to think they did, but truthfully, they are all following her.
She smiles, sparsely, at a group of well-dress acquaintances, and her mother floats by with an empty flute in her hand. "Are you doing all right?" Her tone is neither here nor there.
"Of course, mother," Quinn whispers back. "I'm surrounded by people."
They were more than this many moons ago. She specifically remembers exchanging secrets under her favorite maple tree every Thursday night. She would sneak up iced tea, and they would lie on the grass and just talk.
Now, they walk by each other in the house, brushing shoulders with only hollow recognition.
Sometimes, she still catches glimpses of him. He's got the same green eyes, that same intolerable smirk, but his stature is bit different. Worn, she thinks, is the right word. But he moves around the house like a ghost, indifferent and almost frustrated by his position. Sometimes, she goes out of her way to find little moments to torment him. "I need a bath prepared. See to it that Noah fixes it for me." Or "I'm going into the city. Tell Noah I need a coachman." Or "Is Noah asleep? The horses need to be fed and cleaned. Why haven't they be fed and cleaned? Wake him up and make sure he attends to his chores."
She tugs her string on the world and it bobbles up and down.
Young, pretty socialites don't marry poor servant boys.
It's a Thursday when she wants to do some shopping at Lord and Taylor; she informs her maid to have Noah Puckerman ready the carriage for her.
He opens the door, and she glides in, lifting her peach skirt off the ground. As she slides inside, he slams the door rather loudly and she jumps a bit in her seat. Her eyes burn holes through the back of his head as she imagines the smug look spreading across his matured features.
The ride doesn't take that long, but when she hops out of the carriage and takes his hand, she holds their position a lot longer than normal and gazes at him very intently. Without words, she reminds him of his place, and begrudgingly, he waits for outside the store.
They've wasted these last few years, she knows, absolutely squandered them.
Every Thursday now, she forces him to take her into the city. He does so without verbal dispute, but his eyes tell another story entirely.
He waits for one night, outside the Waldorf Astoria, and she hobbles inside the carriage and drags her violet dress closer towards her knees. She makes a lot of ruckus in the back, and out of sheer temptation, he gives the side door a small knock and hollers, "You all right in there?"
And to her surprise, her standard reply is not applicable here. She is surrounded by no one but him, and she feels her spine tense as loose blond tendrils fall defeatedly around her face. Her eyes dart towards the empty streets, and the words slip out of her mouth before they even enter her mind. "Central Park, please."
He glances back at her and turns the corner.
It's funny how years of silence do nothing for them.
She can tell how much he loves this, how easily he can rattle her. His smile catches her off guard, and it rushes through her like a gust of wind in a mighty oak tree. He sits in the front of the carriage and she sits in the back, and nothing is happening but everything is happening.
"Manhattan needs more nights like this," she says it all too loudly.
He whistles. "Yeah." He doesn't say much else, but she kind of remembers what it's like to feel needed.
"Lord and Taylor." The words barely leave her lips, and they are off.
She sits by the piano and slams her whole fist into the keys. There's no one else home but herself and the servants, so she slams her fists harder and harder into the keys until they completely mask her sobs.
"What the fuck are you doing?"
She stands up from her stool and gets in one more jab.
A bundle of blonde hair whips around, falling to her shoulders like spilt honey. "Don't you dare," she warns, but her face is a puddle and her lip is trembling. He walks towards her, and she shakes fervently. "Don't you dare."
"Quinn." It's not a statement or a question. It's a command. She blinks at him and bites the inside of her cheek. She wants him to say it again. She wants him to say her name again, the way he says it. Because when he says it – in whatever tone that is – she feels like a completely different person.
His breath skims over her lips, and she bats her eyelashes against his cheek like an anxious butterfly. "I've missed you," she finally releases. And all those chores, all those demeaning tasks suddenly make sense.
"Quinn." It sounds so, so bittersweet, and the house suddenly awakens as she giggles into his lips.
"Women's suffrage," her father spits. "Preposterous."
Quinn takes a bite of her petit four and lets the sweetness melt into her mouth.
She's a little twisted.
She wants some kind of evidence of him to be visible on her person. Some sort of mark – a bite even – something for people to take notice so that she would have to make up an elaborate lie to cover it up with her sweetest of smiles. Something to release her from the conundrum of innocence.
A dry gasp falls from her lips as he thrusts into her, one hand fisted in her hair. Their hearts rumble as the warmth of their skin bleed deep into their bones.
Young, pretty socialites don't marry poor servant boys.
But disowned, pregnant daughters have just become fair game.
It's not how it starts; it's how it ends.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – 1941
Fall is her favorite season, she thinks, because it's three months out of the year that the world changes color on its own. She bikes through town, grabs an ice cream cone, and lets the sun beam through her golden hair.
A few familiar faces wave to her as she passes by, and she waves back. "Hi Quinn!" they call out to her, their voices pretty and airy.
But most of all, it's about walking down the street, and knowing that these trees are alive, too.
She's listening to The Green Hornet in the living room with her family when it happens.
"We interrupt this program to bring you a special news bulletin. This morning, Japanese planes attacked the American military base in Pearl Harbor."
A part of her she didn't know existed starts to ache.
Quinn lets her cheek rest on the crook of her wrist and does her best to pay attention to what her professor is writing on the board. The room is filled with girls in pretty school dresses, and they giggle and smile and pretend that their boyfriends or fiancees or husbands aren't currently being bombed on the other side of the world.
She twirls a pencil in her right hand, and when it drops to the floor, she goes to retrieve it and sort of wishes she would be in a different world when she comes back up.
But her professor's lecture only sounds louder, and Quinn starts to tap her nails against the desk.
Her heart slams against her rib cage like a bird dying to break free.
She shifts uncomfortably in her snow white nurse outfit. There are men with no arms. Men with no legs. Broken men. Bloody men. Broken hearts. She dives head first, straight into the pile of disaster. She mends and fixes and heals, but she doesn't realize she's got her own heart to worry about.
"I would like to take you dancing."
Quinn laughs miserably at the thought, and she adjusts his pillow so that his neck won't cramp. "You've got a sprained ankle," she counters gently.
"I won't forever," he doesn't a miss a beat.
He's got bandages wrapped almost every inch of his body, but his green eyes are piercing through her so intently that she wonders what he looks like underneath all of this. "Even if that's so," she says, tossing a quilt over his body, "I have a fiance."
"Well, I have broken rib cage." She gives him a quizzical look. "Oh, I'm sorry. I thought we were talking about things that don't matter?"
She laughs before she walks away, her left hand glittering in the distance.
She doesn't ask him what happened, and he doesn't tell her.
They talk about everything but the obvious.
It's when she checks his chart one morning that she feels the rug being pulled from underneath her. Noah Puckerman, it says. Jewish.
He catches her look almost instantly, and his lips bend into a frown. "I don't break easily," he assures her, and she hears an entire lifetime in his words. They leave it at that.
There is a clock on the wall of the hospital, and the hands are stuck at 3:12.
At least it's right two times a day, she thinks.
The bandages come off slowly, and every day, more and more of him is exposed to her. And every day, more and more of themselves do they expose to each other.
She drives her little red car up and down the street, repeatedly, and thinks maybe, she'll find the right road someday. Eventually, it gets too late, and she drives off the path and thinks tomorrow.
When she comes home, she smells the familiar scent of sweet apple pie and gazes at her mother with an expectant look. It doesn't surprise her when her mother shakes her head back shamefully, tossing aside the gingham apron. "No letter today, honey."
Quinn gives her a brief smile and nods understandingly. It terrifies her how much she doesn't care.
All the bandages are off, and he's a brand new person. And she's looking. She's looking.
"So," he begins as Quinn walks to his bed. "I hope you didn't forget about that dance you owe me."
She giggles and hands him his tray of medicine. He sits up in his bed and fluffs the pillow from behind his back, a tedious look in his eyes before popping the pills in his mouth. "I didn't know the offer still stands," she perks up. She says it with such defiance, as if she wanted him to forget where they were at that very moment.
He notices and grins broadly. "Is that a yes?"
"I have a fiance," she repeats, but that small mantra that plays over and over in her head is more of a reminder for herself than anyone else. Quinn passes him his glass of water, but he quickly discards it and places her hand in his. His single touch envelopes her whole body, and she shakes with such conviction that she draws herself closer and closer, like a helpless moth to a flame.
She kisses him first.
But that doesn't matter.
"You look beautiful! You have to get this one."
"Flawless, like an angel. Really Quinn."
"It's like it was made for you!"
She avoids the glare of the four mirrors, her arms hanging dully at her sides. She doesn't want to see a pretty girl with pretty blonde hair and pretty green eyes in a pretty white wedding dress. They all giggle happily at her, and eventually, she giggles too, thinking if she does, maybe she could let herself believe it really was as simple as that.
When she finally looks in the mirror, the white is blinding, but all she sees is the nurse uniform and the blood. There's so much blood.
He gets called back for duty. Quinn gives him a sad smile, but she clings onto him like a child who's lost and alone. "Will you come back?" she whispers into his chest, and he kisses her temple.
"Yeah," he insists, but she hears the uncertainty in his voice.
She doesn't want to be alone, but she has to. Because as he strokes her hair and chants "I'll come back to you," she'll eventually believe him. She'll believe him, and she'll believe that this is the right path and that her life before was parched before him. She'll believe that all that driving her has lead her to this and that nothing will ever change. That she'll never change.
She knows it. She doesn't need any confirmation. She can feel it.
It's a Friday, and she walks down the street and watches the leaves change.
Quinn walks down the aisle with her pretty blond hair, pretty green eyes, and pretty, pretty wedding gown. She makes a promise inside a church and honors the man in front of her. He wears his uniform with pride and decorates it with his handsome smile, and the whole audience swoons because don't they make the loveliest couple?
But when he leans into kiss her, she doesn't kiss him back. Maybe it's revenge.
Maybe it's inevitable.
Or maybe she realizes it that it takes a broken man to love a broken woman.
Brentwood, California – 1962
Her mother always says, "When you have everything, there isn't much left to crave."
Quinn sits quietly in the kitchen and counts the tasks in her head: laundry, dishes, shopping, dinner. She feels a little limp when she stands from her seat, and there's a rush of nausea in her head and she wonders if it's because she moved to quickly. But she maneuvers towards the laundry room, her navy and white dress swishing at her knees, and thinks nothing of it.
She wanders down each aisle and occasionally forgets what she's doing there. The shopping cart feels like ice against her hands, but she pretends it doesn't bother her and she moves a little quicker.
And when she reaches for the gallon of milk, her eyes catch the sparkle of her left hand, and the feeling in her stomach squirms all the way to her heart. She blinks twice and remembers what she's trying to grab, and when she places it in her cart, she moves on like it was all pretend.
But it scares her how quickly it fell apart. A few missed dinners, some bitter words, and kisses that are so quick that they hardly touch and she forgets they even happened. Her grip on her husband slips, but her ring still sparkles like nothing's the matter, and she believes it so.
They're both married, she reminds herself. They're both married.
It hits her like a brick wall every time.
The dinner smells good.
She eats it by herself and thinks about taking up smoking.
The party flows like liquid, and she moves around gracefully like a fallen leaf on a streaming river. She moves in a little closer, following the ebb of the crowd, but in reality, it's following her. She laughs and raises her wine glass in the air several times, and it feels a little more daunting than it does nostalgic.
It's then Quinn sees him across the room, and she tries to catch his eyes but doesn't, she never can, so she settles near the couch and waits for him to approach her. Finally, he throws a glance in her directions and slowly looms in.
And it's when he standing right next to her that she wonders if he can smell her perfume and remember the way it used to cling onto him.
Everyone always wonders what he's doing there. He's doesn't quite fit in her social circle, but she invites him every time and he comes every time. Part of her thinks he only comes for her, but the other part hangs with doubt when his wife accompanies him.
"You've got another success under your belt," he tells her shortly, and they look around at the crowd of people.
She smiles and shrugs like it's no big deal. "I'm glad you came, Noah." And her eyes cut through him and she thinks back to several years ago when they spent their nights under tangled sheets, drawing lines and crossing them.
That's the thing about break-ups; they're broken.
Her husband tells her he won't make it to dinner tonight on one of their dwindling phone calls. He slips it in somewhere between discussion about the weather and how he's sorry he's been working so much. She doesn't even realize she tells him it's fine until he says "great" because it's become second nature to her.
This is how they communicate now. It's disjointed and rushed, and his voice sounds so stretched and worn out that she's forgotten what he really sounds like. It's like they don't know how to love each other anymore, like they keep trying to add up the equation but it never turns out right. 1 + 1 = 3.
"Beth, stop that. What did I say about playing with the TV? Go upstairs," Quinn sighs, and she watches as a small bundle of blond hair marches frustratedly up the stairs.
Quinn lifts her feet onto the couch, a flute of champagne in her hands as she stares after her daughter.
She looks like him. She's surprised that no one's noticed.
The next time she sees him, it's a Saturday night. Another party, dinner or dancing, she doesn't really remember. Her husband isn't with her, so she tumbles through the room with a glass of wine in her hand she's not really enjoying.
She spots him almost instantly, and soon they're drawn together. It's when the crowd is too drunk to notice them that she leans and whispers in his ear "he's not home tonight."
Most of the time, it's not what she says. It's how she wants him to react to it.
They disappear around a corner and his fingers curl around her neck. She closes her eyes like shutters, and the breath before the kiss is like the calm before the storm. He licks her neck like there's something under it he wants to get.
All women like to show off. Wealth, status, etc, anything to steal attention and keep it with them.
But this is different. This show is for him. Everything, the dress, the shoes, the hair, the smile. It's all for him.
He leans back and takes her all in, and in a second, his running a hand down her inner thigh. Their lips meet, and it's like a messy dance - they miss step and then another until they lose it all together. His hand slips in between her legs and she gasps so hard her cheeks are red and breath shallow. And he kneels at the edge of the mattress and drags her hips with him, and when he tastes her, she arches her back and releases a sound that drives him crazy. It's a sound so delicate that it's like she might fly away, so he pins her down with his hipbone and slides in, and she comes so hard she feels a tremor in her bones.
Quinn doesn't do this to hurt anybody. She doesn't do this to hurt her husband or his wife. She just still has that piece of him, that piece that tethers to him forever.
She never tells him about Beth and never plans to.
Because even though she's playing a dangerous game, she knows what could make this fatal.
Quinn walks down the aisles of the grocery and wonders "when did all the colors get so bright?" For a second, she doesn't think she's safe, and she pushes her cart faster and faster along the glossy floor until she almost bangs into a display of canned soup.
"Miss, are you all right?" She turns her head and spots a young teenage boy gazing at her, his held tilted in concern. A few people are staring, people she knows, and she gazes at the boy like this is all his fault.
"I'm fine," she mumbles sharply. Quinn walks out the store without buying anything.
"How was your day?" He asks her from across the dinner table.
She puts a piece of asparagus in her mouth to stall her from talking. After a horrendous gulp, she smiles pleasantly. "Fine. Yours?"
"Good." She hears Beth kicking her chair from under the table, and Quinn strikes her an irritated glare. "Beth, stop that."
In a heated array, Beth angrily folds her arm across her chest, knocking over a plate in the process. The scattered clash echoes the household, and Quinn quickly stands up. "Now look what you've done!" she hisses and marches over to the counter. Her hands grip the sink as she watches as her knuckles go white. "You never listen, Beth. You just don't listen!" Quinn glances at her husband expectedly. "Well? Do something."
Her husband wipes his mouth with a napkin and gradually sighs. "Beth, go upstairs."
Quinn should pull away, but she doesn't. She never does.
There's a ceremony to it now. She reveals herself to him, piece by piece. Garment after garment until there's only skin left, and she smiles that coy smile that she's perfected after all those years. That same smile that he can recognize from anywhere, and it's almost convincing. Almost.
Because at the end of the day, they go their separate ways, and no matter what she does, she knows that he puts family first.
If only he knew.
It will only take one more moment like this, one more spark, and it will ignite a fire neither of them can stop.
The truth is eroding inside her like rust. He has the look of a man with a gun and one bullet and has no idea what to do with it. She licks her lips and punctually coifs the ringlets of her hair.
"Is she mine?" he asks her again, and Quinn bites back the bullet.
"No," she breathes. "Don't be silly." Just like her smile, it's almost convincing. Almost.
Nobody divorces. It's just the way it is. People would rather get caught in an affair than divorce.
And that's exactly what happens.
But she doesn't understand the word affair as everyone else does. Affair implies that she's doing something wrong.
Quinn pushes her shopping cart down the aisle and tries to ignore the stares. Later, she'll look back on this and try and find a sign. Any kind of sign, anything that would have warned her that she was falling.
It's what he does to her. He makes her want to be a better person, and then he shows her she can't be.
They keep it a secret and everyone brushes it under the rug like it's no bother.
Lima, Ohio – 2010
She sees him watch her, intent and amused, and every time she tries to deflect his stare, she gets sucked back in. That's not how it starts.
She lets his hand travel up her cheerleading skirt and whispers things she hopes are true. That's not how it starts.
She's got a boyfriend, and he doesn't care. He doesn't have a girlfriend, but that never stops him. That's not how it starts.
She has his daughter, and they watch her through the glass window. That's not how it starts.
Because their eyes will always meet from across a room, any room. She could hide in the darkest part of the universe and he would still find her. It's like a sick game, but they play it every time.
They don't believe in a lot of things, but they do believe in fate. And it's in that moment, when their limbs and hearts intertwine, that the word rings in their ears: soulmate.
It's when they're older and the damage is done that they find themselves in buried in the corner, bridging the gap between them with their fingers. And they'll kiss, a kiss so familiar that it's like hearing an old song on the radio, and then they'll remember everything. He'll lean down and kiss his way up her knee and she'll place a hand on his head. And now, they can finally have each other, no distractions and no heartbreak. Just them and nothing else, like how it was always supposed to be.
That's how it starts.
It's a Sunday.
Possibly the most out-of-control piece I've ever written. I... don't even know. Anyways, please review if you have the time!