Disclaimer: I own nothing. All belongs to Glee writers and creators.
Why is she smiling at me?
That's all I can think as I see her swivel in her seat, clapping her hands together with the rest of the glee club, applauding me. I'm sure my chest would be swelling with pride, my eyes filling with tears—for I finally have the acceptance, the recognition, that I've always wanted from this room of people that mean so much to me—if she weren't consuming all of my attention. With that smile. But why? The sweet curve of her pink lips, that proud gleam in her fiery eyes—I don't recognize it. It's so foreign on her beautiful face, especially after the other day.
I didn't know what to expect when I marched into the auditorium, which was why it had taken me a full five minutes to arrive. I knew she would be expecting me, and that was all. She wouldn't be expecting my questions from what I witnessed in the hall the day before, nor would she be expecting me to focus on something other than the song we were so diligently working at together.
Every time glee was set to meet, we had the auditorium to ourselves, and we worked long past the time it would end. And then we would meet before school to practice warm-ups and scales, and at lunch I requested she meet me again to continue pounding things out in the basic melody we had going. It had surprised me at first, how willing she was to bend to what some would call my insane work ethic. I had to remind myself a couple of times that we weren't so dissimilar as we once thought.
Quinn is just as determined and ambitious as I am, and she seemed to truly want to help the glee club with this original song. And if she wanted it, like me, she was going to get it. No matter what it took.
I'd felt a kinship to her in those moments of realization that I never had before. I guess that's why I'd felt so betrayed when I found out she hadn't been totally honest with me, especially since I'd always tried to be honest with her. I decided to run with this train of thought when I arrived, because if I didn't, I feared I would just demand answers and ultimately put her on the defensive, and that's not what I wanted. I just wanted to talk. I wanted to settle things.
I almost lost my nerve when I saw her sitting at the piano, plunking out keys with her long, strong fingers. I was swept by a wave of awe just listening to the arbitrary melody she'd made in her head, much like the first time she played for me. And then a wave of sadness followed the awe, remembering how she'd laughed at my gob smacked appearance and abruptly started playing a rock and roll melody to loosen me up. And I remembered how I ultimately felt about her: betrayed.
Her gaze landed on me and I felt my step immediately falter. Her eyes do that to me, every time. I feel my confidence waver and my breaths shorten and my hair stand on end, and I always struggle to regain purchase on reality, but the other day I had a goal with her. It made it easier as I swallowed and approached the piano; it felt like every muscle in my body was quivering in anxiousness.
"You're late," she said simply. She sounded sad, but I brushed aside my concern, focusing on my real goal.
"We're friends, right?" I blurted. My voice shook. I was so scared of the answer.
Quinn looked nonplussed. "Yeah, I guess so," she said to the black and ivory keys.
I swallowed again, past the lump in my throat. I tried to reassure myself, continuing with, "I mean, like…everything that happened last year. You gave your baby to my mom, we kind of bonded over it, right?"
Why else would she have agreed to help me test Finn at the beginning of this year? We had gotten closer over the last year and the summer. I wasn't imagining it. I couldn't have been. She was nicer to me; it was real.
Her expression went steely then, hazel eyes flashing, because I had just poked at something she didn't want to discuss anymore. I bit my lip in apology.
"What's your point?" she asked, voice firm now, telling me to get to it. I did.
"My point is," I spoke louder, and fidgeted with my sleeves. Her gaze never wavered, and I hated how nervous I became under that cold look, "is that…I know we haven't spent a lot of time together this year, but…" I faltered again, but she remained silent, refusing to save me, "I thought that we were…close enough to be honest with each other."
I chickened out. I'd meant to say 'friends.' I'd meant to say 'close.' Instead I had to add that amendment, to save myself, because she didn't plan to. I could see it in her harsh gaze, filled with so much…determination, power. She set her jaw, took a bracing breath.
"Go ahead," she said, certainly. "Ask me."
She knew what I wanted to know and it scared me that I was that transparent to her. I know I'm not exactly the subtlest person, but I hadn't even mentioned Finn yet. Somehow she still saw it, with those all-knowing, judging eyes. And she was so certain in saying it this time. I knew she would be honest, not evasive like all those celibacy club meetings. I was frightened of asking, and of not asking, and of her.
So my voice was harsher when I blurted, "Fine. Are you and Finn together?"
She met my eyes dead on.
"Yes." No hesitation.
My stomach clenched and tears were already starting to burn at the back of my eyelids, but I refused to let them make an appearance just yet. I asked for it. I asked for her honesty, and she gave it freely. But I still felt betrayed; not by Finn, but her. Hearing the confirmation right from her perfect lips hurt more than I thought it would.
"It's been a couple of weeks," she added unnecessarily, probably just to keep me from asking more questions, and then she let out a laugh that wasn't. "It's like Groundhog's Day with you, Rachel. How many times do you have to make the same mistake to realize it's not gonna work out?"
Some part of me was incensed by the barb, by the way she casually tossed aside everything I had with Finn, like it never even happened. I guess last year really didn't, for her.
Despite the simmering anger, I still sounded heartbroken as I held back tears and replied, "Well, thank you for being honest with me, Quinn, an-and I'm happy for you and Finn—" I knew I just sounded like I was convincing myself of this, and I know it didn't work "—but don't go and try to rewrite history, okay? It was real between us. He chose me over you."
I was desperate for her to see what I was trying to say. It was real. Finn chose me, no one, over Quinn. Didn't she see what a once in a lifetime kind of love that was? For Finn to choose the biggest social leper at our school over Quinn? She, who is so…perfect. She's everything anyone could want, and he chose me. It had to be real.
She just smirked, that twisted look of hers that made my stomach clench up.
"And how long did that last for?" she prompted, belittling what I had with him yet again, and I was at a loss.
Betrayed. That was all I could feel as I looked into hazel eyes that held no warmth. Just cold, empty things. I could feel her judging me and my pitiful tears, mocking them on the inside. I remembered that flicker of warmth in them when she played that rock and roll song for me, when I was laughing. I knew she didn't want me to know, because she looked away instantly, but I saw it. That was the moment I realized we were friends. Or…I thought we were.
I struggled to keep myself from breaking down. "Why are you being so mean?"
It didn't make any sense. Not with the Quinn who defended me, who wanted to write a song with me.
She nodded with an air of resignation, and I watched her ease to her feet, silently envying her gracefulness, but as soon as I noticed her destination, I folded my arms tight to my body and angled it away. I couldn't let her see up close how much she was hurting me, not if she was going to be like this. She stopped, pale hand resting on the black wood of the piano, and I glimpsed a toss of her golden head in my peripheral vision. I reluctantly glanced her way as she took a breath, and her voice was only a soft lullaby when she finally spoke. Such a contrast to her harshness that I was instantly drawn back in, gazing into a hazel abyss of sadness. My breath caught in my throat.
"Do you wanna know how the story plays out?" I didn't answer, but she didn't care. She continued, monotonously, like she had this memorized, or etched into her arm for a test she hadn't studied for. "I get Finn, you get heartbroken." Her voice cracked and I was caught again, realizing the sudden sheen in her eyes wasn't from the dim auditorium lights at all. "And then Finn and I stay here and start a family." I looked away then, stomach wrenching painfully at the image. Because it wasn't supposed to be her and Finn. It was supposed to be— "I'll become a successful real estate agent, a-and Finn will take over Kurt's dad's tire shop." I met her eyes again, almost involuntarily, like she was drawing me back in again, and I was so surprised and pained by the desperation in her eyes. The depth of the sorrow she was displaying to me, almost without realizing it. And I realized…Quinn Fabray was broken. "You don't belong here, Rachel. And you can't hate me for helping to send you on your way."
Her voice was breaking just as she was before me, and I felt like she was trying to tell me something, but all I could get from it was this quiet agony she'd been stuffing away. My heart ached for her, but I didn't know what to say, except that she was wrong about me and Finn. We would be together. He didn't have to stay in Lima, and neither did Quinn. She was too…she just didn't belong stuck in Lima. I couldn't imagine that world, even shaking my head rapidly at the thought, rejecting it. I started to tell her that, from the beginning.
"I'm not giving up on Finn. It's not over betw—"
"YES, it is!" she roared, and the tension in my body tripled at the ferociousness in her expression. Her eyes were bright with fury and tears, and I felt my own spurred on despite my best attempts to fight it. The force of her proclamation astounded me, and frightened me. I wanted to run, but I was anchored to the spot where she was verbally striking me. "You're so frustrating! And that is why you can't write a good song, because you live in this little schoolgirl fantasy of life. Rachel, if you keep looking for that happy ending, then you are never gonna get it right!"
Her breaths had gone short and her eyes were ablaze and she looked so…wild, like she was trying to rein herself in, and I shuddered at the thought that there was more anger buried in there for me, grateful that she was tying it back down. Myself, I couldn't stop the building of tears, and yet my entire body was standing at attention, lit on fire: muscles rigid, hair standing on end, and I was ready to run again, but I couldn't. I don't know why, but I just couldn't.
"So we're done with that—"
"No, we're really not," I blurted, and I wanted to kick myself as soon as I did, because it tripped that control she had been using. And without it, she was rushing toward me with a swiftness and intensity I'd only ever seen in her cheerleading routines before, and I panicked. Her wild eyes were on me and she was encroaching on my space, shoving her face too close to mine, and I saw her moving to grab me or-or something and I just reacted. I shoved at her shoulders, yelping, "What the hell are you doing?"
She rocked back into the piano and I was instantly sorry, and scared. I was terrified I had hurt her, and I cupped my own mouth with a gasp as she stumbled and steadied herself on the piano, and then I was the one lurching forward a step, sobbing, "Oh, my God, are you okay? I'm so sorry!"
Quinn stayed against the piano, leaning her elbows on it, and at first there was no reaction to my words. Just the silence ringing around us, and then…she started to laugh. I didn't know what to do with that, so I stared. And she threw her head back and cackled at the ceiling, and I saw…I saw tears streaming down her cheeks, and a hiccup shook her body and I realized she was laughing and crying at once just as it took on this maniacal, almost hysterical sound that chilled me to the bone.
Again, I found I couldn't move, only able to watch as she let sobs and laughter wrack her body, a spectator to her breakdown. I didn't know what to do. Her knees buckled as she sank to the floor, still giggling, but tears were starting to overpower her apparent amusement, and I stepped cautiously closer.
"Quinn?" My voice shook wildly. "Are you okay?"
She snickered, and it sent a shiver down my spine, and as she looked up at me with such venom in her gaze, I was blown another two steps backward. "Peachy keen, jelly bean." She shoved herself to her feet, rocking against the piano again, and I watched, unnerved, as she sneered at me. "So why don't we just get back to work, little gold star?" It didn't sound sweet. It sounded sick. "Maybe today we can write a song about clogs. It would fit your style well enough, wouldn't it, star?"
She was making me feel sick with betrayal, and worried for her sanity, and suddenly I found I could move. I almost sobbed with relief, and I inched backward, away from the source of my terror and confusion and the tears threatening to burst over, and all I said before I swept away and gave over to those tears was, "No. I think it would be better if I wrote this song on my own."
I did stop in Mr. Schuester's office to ask him to check on her later. He told me she had been doing her math homework when he found her, and nothing seemed amiss. At the time, all I could think was 'figures.'
Now, as she smiles at me with a sweetness that's such a contrast to the power, the passion, the venom, and the desperation in her eyes that day, I wonder if I'll ever understand this beautiful mystery of a girl.