Heart of Glass
There are moments that haunt you in your weakest moments. The memory of you hurriedly throwing clothes into a suitcase in the middle of the afternoon, and feeling strangely outside of yourself because this isn't the Rachel Berry way. There is no strict folding pattern, and you neglect to arrange your socks in delicate rows and use garment bags for your dresses to ensure they don't wrinkle on the trip. You move like a tempest, like a beast, snatching and clawing at essentials while your vision blurs under hot tears. Quinn sits in the car. You stop to catch your breath and picture her drumming her fingers against the steering wheel; her golden hair bundled messily in a half bun, fidgeting with the stereo as she tries to find an appropriate song. You wonder what the right song for 'I'm kicking you out because I can't do this anymore' is. And then there is a sound echoing off the walls that no longer feel secure to you. You realise that it's your nervous laughter, rushing up from your throat that is both dry and tight. You sit down on the edge of the bed you used to share with the woman who used to love you.
"Rachel, baby," a voice calls to you. "Are you okay? You've been staring into that box for ten minutes." A pair of arms encircles you, rescuing you from the dark passages of your past. The embrace is filled with loyalty and patience, and you wonder how it is you got so lucky, how someone could love this broken thing. You run your hands up and down her arms, they are warm and tanned and filled with promises of building a new future together. She bends her head down to brush her lips against your neck, stopping to whisper in your ear. And even though the words are a familiar tattoo on your heart now, you feel your pulse quicken and your breath catch. "I love you. Let me help."
"I'm okay Santana, I just lost myself," you say distantly. And it's an aching scar you wish you could bury, but the history of another life paints the flesh in indelible ink that no one can see but you. You feel her arms tighten momentarily before she remembers that you love her, that you're hers. She kisses your shoulder and replies, "Well, I've got you."
You turn around and press your lips to hers, and instinctually she dips her head into your reach. And there is love and passion and promise as you try to climb inside of her, back to where it's safe. And in the warm afternoon sun on the recently unpacked rug spread out on the hardwood floor, among boxes of a life yet to begin, you forget about unpacking and make love to the woman who loves you.
You were young and stupid once. And she was the only woman you ever saw. Tall, blond and so beautiful that you're sure angels must've wept at her birth. And you had so much history; your lives were already so entangled even before you started loving each other. Together you placed stones on the path you travelled. She was your best friend and your lover; you were her shooting star and the magic in her heart. Blinded by love, that's what people used to say. But neither of you cared about what anyone had to say. You were in love and you were happy, all you needed was each other.
You contrast this inexplicable bliss to the painful moment of a cold Tuesday night where you lay in bed waiting anxiously for the sound of the key in the door announcing Quinn's arrival. She walks in wordlessly and you stare at the red digits of the clock on your nightstand. You've been sick with worry, not over her safety in the early hours of the morning, but plagued with thoughts of all the faceless people she could possibly be with. The hickeys on her neck are no longer discreet and you know it wasn't you who left them there; you haven't had sex in months. She looks at you with tired eyes, sighing with tension as she rolls her shoulders, obviously annoyed that you're still awake. You feel the muscles in your body set rigidly and you shut your eyes as you roll over to face the other direction so she won't see your weakness in the tears you spill. You feel so small, so helpless and worthless. She doesn't even respect you enough to keep her cheating a secret. You replay every argument you've had over the past few months, hoping to find your mistake so you can fix this mess you're in. But each word is like the lash of a whip and soon you're whimpering and sobbing out of control. You feel her hand on your shoulder and look up to find her seated on the edge of the bed. Her eyes tell you how much it hurts to have to touch you and you pull away from her because you feel disgusting.
"Please don't," she says softly, years of fatigue reflecting in her voice and you still don't know how it got that way. "You're always crying."
"Why do you stay if it's over?" you choke out, trying to gain control of your messy emotions, trying not to sound like the child you feel you are.
"Can we not do this, not tonight Rachel, please?"
She smells like a distillery and her clothes are dishevelled. You wonder what else is on her and in her besides the alcohol. You cringe at the thought and fight the urge to be sick.
"Of course, you must be tired after your long night. Did you enjoy yourself?" you spit poison into your words like you wish you could spit in her face.
"Yeah, I did actually," she replies tiredly, not bothering to look at you anymore.
Quinn gets to her feet and moves towards the door, "I'm going to sleep on the couch."
Your tiny body trembles with a rage so magnificent you fear the bed will collapse beneath you, that the anger radiating off your skin will melt the paint off the walls. But none of that happens; you're simply alone in the bed with your unbridled emotions, so exhausted from lack of sleep, suckling sustenance from your hatred like a hungry baby.
You fly out of bed and wrench open the door, storming into the living room like a hurricane. You're screaming words that don't even make sense to you, demanding answers from questions you never thought you'd say aloud. But Quinn's hazel eyes remain impassive and cold; she barely stirs from her position on the couch where she's been spending most nights. You just wish things could go back to the way they were. You wish she would love you, take you in her arms like something precious and hold you until dawn breaks through the clouds.
"Answer me!" you yell, and she sits up and rubs her eyes.
"What do you want me to say?" she asks, barely above a whisper.
"Tell me why you don't want me anymore," you beg, "Tell me what I did wrong."
A soft sigh as the words resound like a record player left on repeat, and she doesn't seem to register any emotion at all.
"You didn't do anything wrong. How many times do I have to tell you?"
But you feel so wrong, so miserably wrong. She never looks at you, or touches you and the house feels like death's embrace. You can't breathe.
"Why don't you feel anything? You just sit there like… like I never meant a goddamn thing to you, Quinn. You treat me like trash."
Another deep sigh is all you get as your reply and something animalistic snaps inside of you. There is a darkness as thick as tar spreading all through your soul and you want to hurt her the way she's hurting you. Your small hands are clenched into tight fists, nails digging into your palm, and you hope you're drawing blood because something needs to bleed.
"Let's go to bed baby, come on you're exhausted." She rises from the couch and moves to take your arm but you pull it back and there's a sharp, sickening crack as your hand connects with her face. She stumbles back clutching her cheek. Finally there's some life in her eyes, fear. You drink it in, feed on it, and then choke back the bile rising in your throat as your actions register in your brain.
"Oh God, oh Quinn, I'm sorry," you apologize pathetically, moving to ascertain the damage you've just done. She steps back, staring at you warily as she puts her free hand out in front of her to ward you off.
"I didn't mean it, baby. I'm sorry. I just… I lost it. I'm so sorry," you plead.
There is darkness inside of you. There always has been. And tonight it seems the darkness has won.
There are moments when you're aware that you're happy. Then the guilt settles in like an anchor on your chest. You don't deserve happiness and you don't deserve her.
You think back to that fall day when you were walking briskly through the park, relishing the sound of crunchy leaves beneath your boots, your head downcast. It takes you a while, but you repair most of your fractured self. You still feel scarred and ugly, but you are no longer chained to an existence of abject depression. You finally learn that you can live without Quinn Fabray. You accept that you'd spent much of your life with her hurting each other, tearing away pieces and destroying one another. It wasn't love, no matter how well it had started out. You start off at a slow crawl, but now you can walk. You think these same thoughts everyday like a mantra.
You glance up to see the red and yellow leaves on the changing trees and lose yourself in the beauty of the season. Things die and fall away so they can bloom renewed. You laugh at your melodrama, but find the metaphor inspiring. You're still learning to love yourself.
You collide with a warm body because you're not paying attention.
"Watch it you-" the stranger starts, but drops her sentence abruptly when she sees you. She's not a stranger after all, but a tall Latina with dark hair and dark eyes. Her name is Santana Lopez and you remember attending high school with her. "Rachel Berry?" she asks.
"Hello Santana. This is a surprise. I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention."
She's looking at you with something in her eyes that you can't place, or don't want to place, but when she asks you to have coffee with her across the street you don't hesitate to accept. And each day for three weeks you have coffee and talk. You haven't felt this alive in years and it scares you. But the first touch of her lips on yours erases every trace of history. It's you and her in that moment together, feeling gravity shift.
It takes you a while to open up to her; the past is a vile animal you would rather keep secreted away. But she is patient and kind and so unlike the person you thought she was in high school. Occasionally you feel an unmistakable click as another piece of yourself is righted to working order just because she's there, or listens to you or holds you. You think you're falling in love with her and you want to run. But she's everything you want and everything you need and you know you'll never get far.
The heart is there to break and heal, and every look of adoration and love she sends you reassures you that she will keep this heart of glass and treasure it forever.