Carole Hudson had seen a lot in forty-one years of life.
After all, she'd been the one that had moved out of her parents home in Columbus, Ohio, to get a job in nearby Lima at the age of eighteen. She'd married the love of her life at the age of twenty and had given birth to her first and only child by the age of twenty-four, and by the age of twenty-six she was a widow.
Like I said, Carole Hudson had seen a lot of things in her life, but her most important thing was her son.
Finn. She had two sons now, yes, but it would always be Finn that would be the apple of her eye, and Kurt was Burt's, and that's the way it should be.
Carole always felt she had an exceptionally strong bond with Finn, stronger than usual. The lack of father figures in Finn's life (and no, Darren didn't count) made Carole become a father and a mother, and therefore she felt she had a doubly strong relationship with Finn. They could talk to each other about anything and everything and that was something she held dear to her heart.
It was always just the two of them. The Dynamic Duo, the Terrible Twosome. So many names that a younger, more innocent Finn had come up with. Carole had laughed at them all, kissing her son lovingly on the forehead.
She's aware that her son isn't the most ... brightest of buttons, shall we say. He's been like that since she can remember. She also knows anyone who truely loves him will see past the naiveity and the not-so-smart side of him and love him for who he is.
It was a pity it took a lot of tears and heartbreak to get there.
Quinn Fabray was blonde.
That's the first thing Carole noticed about her son's new girlfriend. She was blonde. And she was pretty, Carole had to hand it to her. But then she noticed she was a skinny as a rake, as well. Not just slim, but skinny.
Carole noticed she never accepted food when she visited Finn, no matter how many times Carole insisted she stay for dinner or offer her freshly baked suger cookies; she always refused, sometimes with a slightly disgusted look on her face, as though she daren't even look at the cookies in case they go straight to her hips. Eventually, Carole stopped asking her to stay.
And Carole never saw her wearing anything other than that ridicuously short cheerleading outfit, even at weekends.
Apart from that, she seemed okay. Finn seemed to like her, so Carole liked her too.
In the beginning, at least.
Then came the snid remarks that Finn often didn't hear. The mutterings of 'idiot' and 'dumbass' that came from under Quinn's breath when Finn didn't understand something, or said something that didn't make sense.
Then came the rolling of her eyes and the smacks on his shoulder.
Finn didn't seem to realise exactly what Quinn was doing, but Carole realised all to well. She knew it was wrong to be eavedropping on them, but really, she was only looking out for her son. Even if he didn't know that he was being wronged. He was only sixteen, after all, and that cheerleading skirt was clearly enough to keep him interested.
Carole prayed that someday Finn would grow up and out of it, and dump the pretty blonde girl back wherever he found and and find someone good for him.
Carole's heart nearly broke when she found out that Quinn was expecting Finn's baby. She knew that Finn wasn't the brightest bulb of the packet but surely he hadn't been that stupid? But then the hot tub story was flooding out of Finn's mouth like word vomit and Carole found the decency within herself to let Quinn stay with her.
Somewhere deep inside, she prayed that Quinn would prove her judgements wrong.
She did not.
She's embarrassed to admit this; this is one of her darkest secrets.
The first thing Carole felt when Finn told her that Quinn's baby wasn't his was absolute relief.
The second thing she felt was heartbreak for her son, heartbreak for the grandbaby she wouldn't have.
The third thing she felt was anger. Anger at Quinn for lying to her son, for making him believe for so long that he was going to be a father. For exploiting his naivety like that - she'd never seen someone do something so manipulative in all her life, and even more shocking it was sixteen year old girl. The kicker was, Carole had never seen Finn so devoted to anything in his life, and that devoted had been ripped from him by a pair of sixteen-year-old, perfectly manicured hands attached to a cheerleading outfit, a bad attitude and a cocky smirk. Oh, Carole was so, so angry at Quinn Fabray.
Especially when Finn told her that Puck was the true father of the baby.
Carole physically saw red at that. Not only did Quinn sleep with some other guy, but with Finn's best friend? His best friend since kindergarten?
She pushed it aside and held her son as he cried, as he cried like she'd never seen him cry before, as he cried for the baby he never truly had. She smoothed his hair and pressed kisses on his forehead and held him for hours and hours.
Later, she prayed she would never have to relive that horrible experience again.
The day Finn came home whistling was the day Carole thought would never come.
It was three thirty pm when she heard it, as Finn came through the front door. He walked through the house, tossed his books up on a kitchen counter, and kissed his mother's cheek as he raked through the fridge. Carole smacked him on the back of the head and told him to wait until dinner, but he raced out the kitchen with an apple anyway, chucking loudly all the way up to his room.
Carole beamed to herself as she made dinner. Ever since what had been termed 'babygate', Finn had been an unpredictable person to be around. Sometimes he'd be absolutely fine and almost back to his usual cheery self, but then he'd see a diaper commerical or someone with a stroller walking by and he'd slip back into this deep funk that he'd gone into after babygate had happened. It had taken a good few months for him to snap out of it, and he still had days when he didn't want to get out of bed for school, but then he'd mutter about a girl called Rachel and glee club and he'd get up anyway.
Carole regularly thanks God for that glee club, because without it, she thinks Finn might have been a hell of a lot worse. It seemed to take his mind of things, singing. (And he was good at it too. Got that from his father.) It kept Finn somewhat happy, although still in a deep funk.
He used to whistle all the time; she hadn't heard him whistling since before he even started dating Quinn. Carole beamed at him and ruffled his hair as she served him dinner, asking how his day at school had been. Finn had swallowed three whole mouthfuls before he'd grinned and launched into a tale about glee and how he'd sang a solo for the whole class. His face had lit up like a christmas tree and Carole had found herself not listening to what he was saying, not out of disinterest but because she was too busy staring at her son's face, her son's face which looked more alive than it had in several long months.
The day Carole met Rachel Berry was the day after regionals.
The day before, Finn had come home from regionals with such a beaming smile on his face that Carole had been convinced they had won. She had watched him from an upstairs window as he parked his car (half an hour later than he had said) and literally bounced up the pavement and he had opened the door with such enthusiam that Carole thought he'd taken the door of the hinges.
"Hey, honey! Did you win? Did you get a trophy?" Carole asked excitedly, as Finn was loosing his gold tie (he was still in his costume; black slacks, black shirt, gold tie). She hadn't been able to attend; she'd gotten a new job two weeks ago, a better-paying job than her last, and she simply hadn't been able to take the time of work. Finn had reassured her that it was fine, he'd fill her in on all the details.
"Um, not quite ... we came third," Finn said sheepishly, but with a grin plastered across his face.
Carole frowned. "Weren't there only three teams completing?"
"So you came last then?"
Finn nodded again, but then broke into an even wider smile. "But it's okay. We gave it our best shot and that's what counts, yeah? And it was so freakin' awesome being up on that stage and singing with Rachel but then Quinn went into labour and then we all had to go to hospital and she had a little girl, by the way!" Finn had a smile across his face as he said that.
Carole was stunned. "Oh, okay. Did ... did you go to the hospital too?"
"Yeah! We all did. Apart from Rachel because if the whole team left we would automatically be disqualified so she nominated herself to stay behind," Finn said, his face glowing.
"That's ... nice," Carole said, still stunned. She never thought she'd see the day when her son would be in front of her, talking about Quinn having her baby as though he had nothing to do with babygate - and with a large smile on his face to boot.
Finn was heading up the stairs, cell phone in hand, when he called back to his mother.
"Oh! By the way, there is someone I want you to meet tomorrow. She's coming over for lunch, is that okay? She's vegan, though, so I don't think we have any food for her so I'll go shopping tomorrow!"
He thundered up the rest of the stairs, leaving Carole once again speechless at the bottom of them.
She's coming to lunch?
Carole suddenly knew why Finn had such a large grin on his face, and an identical one had blossomed on her own before something he'd said stopped her in her tracks.
Did he just say he'd go shopping?
Rachel Berry was small.
That's the first thing Carole noticed about her son's new girlfriend. She was small. The top of her brunette head barely came to Finn's shoulder. And she was wearing an argyle jumper with knee-high socks and a short skirt, all tied together with a beaming white smile.
"Hi, Mrs Hudson, I'm Rachel, Rachel Berry," the girl said, sticking out her hand for Carole to shake, which she did. Rachel waved a tupperware box that she had in her hand. "Thank you very much for inviting me to lunch. I really appreciate it and I really would like to get to know you. I brought vegan burgers, just in case you didn't have anything," she contiuned, smiling confidently.
Carole was struck dumb once again. Rachel wanted to get to know her better? And brought food along? She smiled.
"It's fine, honey, Finn told me you were vegan so I popped out to the store and got some vegan burgers earlier. Finn's supposed to be cooking -"
The screech of the smoke alarm, followed by a string of curses that was clearing coming from Finn, issued from the kitchen.
"Cooking them right now," Carole finished, sighing as herself and Rachel made their way into the smoky kitchen, and spied the charcoaled burgers in the frying pan.
"Finn!" she sighed, as she ran over to open some windows wide open to get the smoke to clear as Finn easily reached up to turn the smoke alarm off.
"Sorry! I was ... well, one minute they were going okay, I turn around to make some salad, and next thing I know there is smoke everywhere and they were black!"
Rachel was looking at the cremated burgers in the pan. "Good thing I brought spares," she said, biting her lip as Finn and Carole laughed. Carole put the burgers in the bin and went to grab a clean pan but Rachel stopped her.
"Here, let me do it. I'll teach Finn how to cook, so you'll get it right next time, yeah?" Rachel beamed, looking up at her boyfriend.
Carole beamed also. "Perfect. I'm gonna go get the Febreeze," she said, going through to the lounge as she heard Rachel explain to Finn how to cook the burgers.
Rachel's reaction to Finn's mishap had given Carole a unique insight into their relationship. Not once did Rachel mutter any derogitery terms at Finn, or roll her eyes, or hit him. She just calmly showed him how to do it properly. And that meant Carole knew one thing for certain.
This girl was no Quinn Fabray.
It was sometime later, with one burnt frying pan, two times alarms and three meals gone, that Carole really respected Rachel. The girl was smart, into music, and knew where she wanted to go in life. She really was the exact opposite of Quinn Fabray and that was why Carole gave Rachel her final test.
"Rachel?" Carole called, crossing over to the cupboard and taking out a tupperware box. "Would you like a sugar cookie?"
Rachel's eyes lit up. "Oh, yes please!" she said, taking a star-shaped one eagerly. "Mmm, Mrs Hudson, these cookies are nothing short of divine! I bake for my fathers all the time at home, but your cookies are much better than mine, I do have to admit," she said, smiling.
Carole beamed. "Call me Carole, honey," she said, and in that moment she knew that she really, really liked Rachel.
Carole Hudson-Hummel was sitting at her new kitchen table when her son came home from school with such a depressed, downtrodden look on his face that Carole almost thought time had gone back to that whole babygate scandal once more.
He ran straight upstairs to his bedroom and Carole followed, frowing as she took in Finn's figure as he lay curled up on his bed, arms around his knees.
Carole instantly wrapped her arms around her son and asked, gently, what was wrong.
It only took a moment before the floodgates opened and the whole tale came pouring out his mouth like word vomit; the whole sex thing with Santana, then Santana telling Rachel, Rachel going off with Puck for revenge, and then Finn breaking it off with Rachel.
Finn cried and cried like he had never cried over Quinn, and Carole held her son as he sobbed his heart out. She had prayed that she'd never have to do this again, but here she was, for the second time in a year, holding her son as he cried over a girl.
Eventually Finn's tears ran dry, but Carole still held him. She needed to talk to him. And so they talked. Finn and Carole talked for hours and hours about Rachel, about Puck, about Santana, about the kiss when they were out trying to find a christmas tree, about the whole damn thing. They talked about the situation from all angles and from all sides, both Finn and Rachel's.
When Carole finally left Finn's bedroom at one am, she left him with one piece of advice that Finn had mulled over until the sun had risen the next morning.
Sometimes, she had told him, we forgive people not because it's the easiest thing to do, but because it's the right thing to do.
One week later, Carole was standing at the kitchen counter reading a magazine when her son came in from school. He was whistling.
"Hey, Mom! I'm back!" he said, and she hear the thump of his school books landing on the coffee table.
"Hi, Mrs Hudson! Oh, wait, is your mom 'Hudson' or 'Hudson-Hummel', or just 'Hummel' now?"
Rachel's voice floated through from the living room, causing Carole to halt in her magazine flicking, her fingers holding a page. She dropped the magazine and headed towards the living room, where Rachel was sitting on the sofa and chiding Finn for putting his feet up on the coffee table.
"Hi ... Rachel," Carole said, and Rachel smiled widely as she settled herself under Finn's arm as he turned on the TV. Carole's eyebrows were raised as Finn turned around in his seat to look at her.
"Thank you," he mouthed, pointing to Rachel's head with the hand that was slung across her shoulders.
Carole beamed. "No problem," she mouthed to him, and smiled as he turned back to his girlfriend, who was asking him what he was planning on getting Kurt for Christmas next week.
Carole smiled at the couple, overjoyed for her son's happiness for a moment, before she rushed to the kitchen and returned with a familiar tupperware box.
"Rachel, honey, would you like a sugar cookie?"