Disclaimer: I do not own Glee or Tuesdays with Morrie.
The Silence of Silence
Quinn Fabray pulled her bag up higher on her shoulder. Her pace was brisk. It was her first day, and she really didn't want to be late.
There were two cars that paused in their forward progression as she walked through the crosswalk. She waved politely at them, thankful that they had stopped so she didn't have to.
She entered the dark red double doors of the building and made her way to the office. It was the same office where she had first interviewed for the job position. They had loved everything about her – from her pristine university grade point and her perfectly styled blonde locks to her kind smile and her comprehensive knowledge of sign language.
Quinn Fabray was the perfect addition to the faculty of the Haverbrook School for the Deaf.
"Good morning," the secretary spoke as well as signed to Quinn.
With her lips lilting upward into a friendly smile, Quinn returned the greeting with her words and with her hands. "Good morning!"
There was something about the quietness as Quinn turned and headed towards her new classroom. Her sensible heels clicked methodically against the cool, hard tile underneath her feet and there was a slight rustle as her bag rubbed against the fabric of her skirt. And as she rounded the corner from the office and into one of the main hallways, there were also the sounds of a few of the students who had arrived to school early. But the noise they created consisted of scuffling shoes and closing lockers and not much else.
There most definitely was something about the quietness. But Quinn couldn't tell if it was eerie or comforting.
She stopped in front of the door with the plaque that read "Room 107" and took a deep breath in through her nose before turning the handle and walking inside. The smile that crossed her face was entirely involuntary, though welcome. Her classroom - which she had spent the previous afternoon in, putting up posters and finalizing lesson plans - felt homey enough to appease a handful of the nerves that were tugging violently at the insides of her stomach.
Quinn stepped smartly across the room to her desk where she deposited her bag. She pulled out her desk chair and took a seat, turning her computer on for the day. Opening the top right drawer of her desk, she pulled out her personal copy of the book, Tuesdays with Morrie. Reverently, her fingers skimmed over the cover.
She glanced at the clock. Her first class would begin in less than fifteen minutes. Quinn quickly stood and approached her bookshelf, picking up a stack of copies of the same book that was now stowed carefully back in her desk drawer. She had just begun placing a book on the surface of each desk in the U-shaped configuration in the center of her room when the door swung open.
"Good morning, Mrs. Fabray!"
Quinn turned her body towards the newcomer, and she immediately recognized Mr. Rumba, the choir director and history teacher from down the hall. They had run into each other the day previous, both preparing for the first day of school of the semester at Haverbrook.
"Good morning, Mr. Rumba. And actually, it's just 'Miss', not 'Missus'." The words left Quinn's lips with a smile.
"Ahh, of course. I must not have heard you properly yesterday! Scarlet fever when I was a child, you know. Completely deaf in this ear!" he yelled, pointing towards his left ear.
Quinn nodded. "Yes," she politely replied, her tone even and her smile kind. "I do remember that."
"Well," Mr. Rumba continued to speak quite loudly. "I just wanted to come by and wish you good luck with your first classes here at Haverbrook!"
Quinn smiled and thanked him before he turned and walked back out into the hallway. "More like my first classes ever," Quinn mumbled to herself under her breath when he was gone. She had student-taught for her last semester at Ohio State, sure. But this was different. This wasn't a test run or a trial with do-overs. This was the real deal. No turning back.
Quinn uncapped a red dry-erase marker and began to write her name on the whiteboard at the front of the classroom. Her strokes against the board were smooth and beautifully rounded and before long, the words "Miss Quinn Fabray" resided elegantly on its surface.
The handle of the door turned as Quinn finished writing "Senior English" underneath her name. She recapped her marker and turned to her first student. It was a tall boy with short hair and an adorable smile.
"Good morning," Quinn signed. But she also spoke the words. It was a habit from her childhood that was largely unnecessary in a setting such as this, a school for the deaf. But old habits die hard, and Quinn wasn't necessarily attempting to change this one.
Good morning, the student signed back. His eyes crinkled, his smile was so wide. You're very beautiful, he added.
Quinn laughed. "Thank you," she replied. "You're very sweet. What's your name?"
Patrick. And then he ducked his head cutely before taking a seat in a desk near Quinn's own.
Soon, her entire first period class - consisting of twelve students - was seated and all eyes were astutely trained on the young teacher. Quinn glanced up at the clock and began her introductions as soon as the clock struck 8:25.
"Good morning everyone," she began. "I am Miss Fabray, and I'm going to be your senior English teacher this year. I would like to go around the room and have each of us introduce ourselves since I'm new here." There were nods around the circle. "First, I'll tell you a little bit about myself. I recently graduated from Ohio State University where I studied education, English, and history. I have a minor in music. I love reading and sharing my passion for great books with as many people as I can, and my favorite color is yellow."
Quinn smiled encouragingly at Patrick - the closest student to her - and soon he was introducing himself as well. This trend continued around the circle until Quinn had met all of her students.
"Great," she continued to smile brightly through her words. "Now, I'd like to get started on a project that we are going to work on all semester long. There's this great book called Tuesdays with Morrie, and what I'd like to do is this..."
Quinn was ecstatic. Sure, she had spent the past five years of her life preparing to be a teacher. She had taken the classes and learned the material; she had suffered through the exams and the studies that had seemed irrelevant at the time. But here Quinn was - getting ready for her fourth class on her first day of teaching - and she felt as if not a single second of those previous five years was wasted in the slightest.
It was a euphoric feeling, really, to communicate with her students and to teach them and to ignite within them a passion for learning. She was teaching English here at Haverbrook even though she was technically qualified to teach a variety of subjects. But something about teaching English was kind of a relief for Quinn - because she had always loved English most of all, and there really was something exciting about sharing great books with others.
Quinn felt like a total nerd.
She began placing another set of books out on the desks as the next class of students made their way into her room. There were fewer students in her fourth hour; only six. And before long, five of the six had made their way into desks. They were all smiling politely or grinning shyly towards Quinn as she waved kindly to each of them in turn.
Finally, the clock rolled around to 11:09 - one minute before class was to begin - when the door opened and Quinn's final student walked hastily inside.
Quinn looked back down at the form she had previously been filling in at her desk. Her eyebrows furrowed, and she couldn't really explain to herself why. But there was something about the girl who had just walked in - and it wasn't her shorter than average skirt, her meticulously tucked in shirt, or her long flowing brown tresses... It was her eyes. As soon as the girl had stepped into the room, her eyes had locked with Quinn's for the briefest of moments before shifting away as she moved to an unoccupied desk.
The clock turned over to 11:10, and Quinn stood up, smoothing out her pencil skirt as she made her way to the front of her classroom. She introduced herself again, as she had with her other classes, before asking each of the students in turn to introduce themselves as well. And when she finally came to the girl who had walked in last - who was curiously sitting a good distance away from any of the other students in the room - Quinn paid astute attention. Sure, she had watched as all of her other students had introduced themselves all morning long (hell, she had already memorized everyone's names so far). But she found herself hanging on every movement of this girl's hands.
My name is Rachel Berry, she signed. And while the other seniors in the room had mentioned sports they liked to play or their favorite movies or books of all time, this Rachel girl left it at that. Just her name. And then she immediately opened up her notebook and looked expectantly at Quinn, prepared to learn.
There was no simple way for Quinn to hide her surprise at the girl's succinctness. Quinn liked to think that the enthusiasm she felt and thusly displayed while teaching was contagious for her students; in fact, this had been the case so far with her first three classes - everyone had become so involved with wanting to know more about everything Quinn said that great discussions had taken place. But Rachel didn't seem interested in sharing facts about herself in the slightest.
So while Quinn may not have been able to fully hide her moment of surprise at coming up empty handed in the department of learning more about this girl - this girl to whom Quinn felt an inexplicable pull - she carried on as usual.
Quinn explained what the book Tuesdays with Morrie was about. "It's this great story about a young man who reunited with one of his professors from college years after having graduated. They hadn't talked to each other in almost two decades. And when they met again, the student found out that his professor was dying from Lou Gehrig's disease..."
Soon, Quinn launched into the outline for the project that each student would be completing by the end of the semester. "You're each going to write your own version of Tuesdays with Morrie. You're going to choose someone inspirational in your own life - a teacher, a family member, a best friend. Someone who you look up to and respect, someone who has made you who you are today..."
Her hands moved quickly with her explanation. Her words tumbled from her lips as her enthusiasm took over. As she spoke, her eyes would flit from one student's face to the next.
And every other time her eyes landed on Rachel, confusion would settle heavily in Quinn's chest. Because while most of the students stared intently at Quinn and her gracefully moving hands, Rachel was almost always looking down at her notebook, scribbling away, her chestnut locks falling into her face. Quinn watched as her delicate hand gently tucked some hair back behind her ear. She never stopped writing.
Quinn had a hunch. She wasn't particularly slow, after all. But she was teaching at a school for the deaf. So she had to handle the situation as delicately as she could.
So as the clock turned to 12:00, Quinn dismissed her class and immediately turned to the whiteboard, starting to erase all of the information she had written there. Her students were putting away their pens and notebooks and placing their bags over their shoulders, preparing to leave, when Quinn simply said, "Rachel, stay behind a moment if you don't mind, please." She was nervous as she said the words, and she was relieved when her voice didn't waver.
Quinn placed the eraser back in the tray and turned back to the classroom at large, waving goodbye to the students who were leaving, before leveling her gaze on Rachel.
And the girl was staring back at her with an indiscernible expression on her face. Quinn lowered her gaze respectfully before crossing the room and sitting on the edge of a desk next to the one Rachel was still firmly planted in. Quinn had already let out a breath of relief at the realization that her assumption was correct.
"You can hear," Quinn said simply. So she asked the next logical question in her mind. "Can you speak?"
Rachel looked down at her closed notebook, tracing one of her fingers down the metal rings on the outside of it. When she looked back up, Quinn was taken aback by the hostility she saw in Rachel's eyes. Don't you think that's a pretty insensitive question? Rachel signed furiously, attitude lacing every movement of her hands. Her sharply raised eyebrow and simmering brown eyes were indicative of her annoyance. But Quinn wasn't sure if it was annoyance that Rachel's ability to hear had been found out or annoyance that Quinn really had been so insensitive as to ask in the first place.
Quinn bit her lip and placed her fingertips to her chin as she contemplated Rachel's response. "You're right," Quinn said while simultaneously signing the words again. "It was insensitive of me. I apologize."
Rachel reached down and picked up her bag. She slipped her notebook inside and stood up. Quinn stood up as well, and she noted that Rachel was quite a bit shorter than her - the top of her head barely coming up in front of Quinn's line of sight. Rachel smoothed out her own skirt, mimicking Quinn's action from earlier, before nodding in Quinn's direction and heading towards the door.
But before she left the room, she turned on her heel back towards Quinn with a bashful expression on her face. Quinn almost let out a sigh of relief that Rachel no longer seemed angry or frustrated with her. Which was silly, right? Rachel was the student here, after all, not Quinn. Rachel bit her lip before signing the words, That was rude of me. You asked a legitimate question.
The surprises this girl was full of were probably bad for Quinn's rapidly beating heart. She was opening her mouth to disagree with Rachel, but the girl cut her off as she began to sign again.
Yes, Rachel said. I can speak. She paused, working her lip roughly between her teeth before quickly adding, But silence is a friend who will never betray.
And before the information could properly process in Quinn's mind, Rachel was gone.
Quinn's mouth was parted slightly and her head was tilted to the side in confusion as she found herself alone in her classroom. So Rachel could hear; that much, Quinn had figured out on her own. And she could also speak; that much, she had told Quinn herself. As Quinn walked over to her desk, she simply couldn't ignore the pounding of her heart in her chest and the inexplicable desire to learn more about Rachel Berry.
And as Quinn sat at her desk throughout her planning period with her head resting on her open palm and her pen drumming against her desktop calendar, one question was resounding loudly - over and over again - in her mind:
If she can speak, why does she choose not to?
Quinn was determined to find out.