"Never make your home in a place. Make a home for yourself inside your own head. You'll find what you need to furnish it – memory, friends you can trust, love of learning, and other such things. That way it will go with you wherever you journey." – Tad Williams
A quiet stillness settles once everyone has left for the night and I feel such a huge rush of relief flood through me that it's hard to describe. I let my body relax into the plush of the couch and curl my feet up underneath me, my eyes closing gently. My mind wanders as I try and catalogue everything I have learned about myself and the people around me. It's a lot to take in.
Noah shifts on the couch beside me before pushing himself up and moving out of the room. I open my eyes and watch him walk away trying to imagine what he's going through. As much as I try though, I can't. I'm beginning to get this picture in my mind of what we were like and the way our relationship worked and my heart aches for him and the loss he must be feeling. It's strange knowing that I'm both the cause and solution to his pain. If only I could remember.
I'm still awake enough that I make my way back into the office, closing the door gently behind me. A journal still sits in the middle of the desk, my place saved by the black pen I shoved inside of it. My glass of water rests on the edge of the wood next to my bottle of pills. It's a familiar sight to me now, one that eases the tension growing in my neck and back. I grab the journal and bypass sitting in the office chair, instead lounging in a small reading chair in the corner. It's comfier, I'm able to curl up a bit more, and in no time I find myself lost in the past.
I wake the next morning to find Noah tiptoeing around the kitchen, soft classical music playing in the background. He smiles softly when he sees me and sets down a cup of coffee on the bar in front of me before attending to the griddle by the stove. The smell of pancakes and syrup fill the room and I watch him flip and twirl the pancakes with his spatula almost amazed by his dexterity.
He glances at me for just a moment as he sets a plate of food down next to my cup before gesturing to the bar stools shoved under the counter. "So yesterday was overwhelming," he murmurs as he plops down on his own stool with a sigh. "I was kind of afraid it was too much for you to take in." I think of all the new faces and names and shrug offhandedly not really sure how to respond. He takes a bite, his head nodding softly, and I can sense his hesitance. "Listen about Santana," he mumbles, "she's a bitch and you really shouldn't take anything she says to heart."
My mind instantly shifts as I think about the casual way she spoke of my worst fears and I pick up my cup of coffee as I try to formulate a response. "It was just a hard thing to hear someone else say," I reply softly, "especially about something so personal." I take a small bite of my food before continuing. "What if she's right?" I question softly, "What if I don't get my memory back?" Speaking the words out loud make me feel vulnerable and instead of looking at him to see his response I look out the small window over the kitchen sink.
"If," he murmurs, "if you don't get your memories back, it won't be because Santana thinks this is all just a waste of our time." He pauses and I listen to the clank of his fork and the sound of him clearing his throat. "Memories or no memories you are still my Rachel and I'm not going to give up on you or leave you just because you can't remember the first time we met." He gets this small smile on his face and then continues. "It'd probably be better if you didn't remember the first time we met, actually."
A small laugh bubbles past my lips and I shake my head, finally meeting his eyes. "Thank you," I whisper, "I know that this can't be easy for you and you've been so supportive." My voice cracks and I pause for just a second to clear my throat. "Just thank you."
It's too nice of a day to spend inside reading journals, so after Noah and I have both cleaned up we make the eight block trek to a small area of wooded trails. There's a large map at the entrance showing the different routes, I glance at it for just a moment before passing it completely. We have no set destination in mind and I'm not really in any hurry. The trails are buzzing with people walking and bikes whizzing past but there is almost a kind of peacefulness in feeling like you're away from it all. For awhile I let myself forget everything I'm missing, for awhile we're just Rachel and Noah.
On Monday Noah heads back to work and I'm left alone in our apartment for the first time. Not having to worry about someone looking over my shoulder, I take the time to really explore the place. I start in the living room, my eyes roaming the accumulation of our combined lives. It looks homey, well lived, and I stop for a minute to peruse the titles of magazines and books shoved in a small basket next to the couch before moving on. Next to the fireplace is an acoustic guitar and I pick it up, my fingers plucking at the keys, as I look at the pictures lining the mantle studying each one.
The first and the largest is a picture of the two of us on our wedding day. My dress is classic, white, and trimmed in an antique looking lace; Noah's suit a classic black tux with a black tie. My head is thrown back in laughter, hand resting against my stomach and Noah's face is covered with a thick smearing of cake and frosting but his smile is shining through. I let my fingers rest against the glass for a moment trying to touch the memories I long for. When nothing comes to me, I move on.
The second picture I look at is smaller, just a snapshot taken from a camera late at night. I'm sitting on a plastic lawn chair my Dad on one side and my Daddy on the other. My arms are wrapped around both of their necks and we're all looking at something off in the distance. It's a grainy photo and I pick it up looking for any clues as to what we were doing. I can't find anything though, so I put it back down and move to the next picture.
It's a group shot, the Glee gang I'm assuming, and we're all huddled together in front of a hotel. You can sense a nervous tension in our pose and in the tightness of our smiles and I wonder, momentarily, if this was taken before a competition of some kind. I search Noah and myself out in the photo, unsurprised to find the two of us standing next to each other. I am surprised, though, that another boy, Finn I believe, stands to my right, arm wrapped around my shoulder while Noah's arm is wrapped around Santana. I catalogue this fact into my mind and promise myself to ask about it later. Next to it is a small picture of Noah, his sister Abby sitting in his lap, and his Mom standing behind the two of them with her arms wrapped around Noah's neck. It's cheesy, posed, and for some reason I absolutely adore it.
The final image is in a thick wood frame, the edges rough and rustic. It's a picture of Noah and me sitting on a beach looking out over the water. We've both got hooded sweatshirts on, the hoods up over our hair, my head rests on Noah's shoulder and his hand was wrapped with mine in my lap. I can tell just by looking at it that it was taken at sunset on a cold and windy day. The colors are beautiful and I find myself wondering where we were and when it was taken. I wonder if I will ever remember.
I set the guitar back on its stand and move into our bedroom, which for the time being is just my bedroom. The walls are painted a warm brown and it contrasts nicely with the thick cream comforter folded at the edge of the bed. I let my hand run over the material as my eyes take in the two separate nightstands. Noah's is made of a dark wood, almost black, and the top is cluttered with items just thrown on top. Mine is a bit lighter, and most of the top is taken up by a tall reading lamp and a small stack of books. There is a shelf underneath the table top, though, and on it sets a small black box that I hadn't noticed before. I pick it up and make my way to the bed, setting down and holding it in my lap.
As I dig through it, I find its contents are varied. There are a few Playbills from some of the shows I've been in, some signed by the whole cast. A few dry pressed flowers, each a different type, and each with a small sticker with a date attached. A photo strip of Noah and me, taken in a photo booth somewhere, which had a 7-11 slushy straw wrapper that had yellowed with age stuck to the back of it. There is also a small plastic film canister and when I open it, I find it filled with powder thin sand. I snap the lid back on and reach in pulling out the last few items; a small black rock, a ticket to a Yankees game a few years prior, hand written sheet music, a napkin with a small doodle drawing on it, a swatch of pink sequined material, and an acceptance letter to Julliard.
The items fan out around me on the bed and I look them over carefully, trying to gleam some personal significance from them. The Playbills and the acceptance letter I understand, so I lay them gently in the bottom of the box as I look over the rest in confusion. When I realize that I'm not going to learn anything by staring I place the items back into the box and let out a small sigh. There's more for me to explore and I'd like to read some more of my journals before Noah gets home from work. Frustrated, and a bit upset, I shove the box back on the shelf and force myself to forget about it for the time being.
Our guest bedroom, currently Noah's room, is the last room I decide to explore for the day. The walls are a dark grey and the bedspread black with grey flowers stitched onto it. It's not nearly as neat as the room I'm staying in; the bed is unmade, there is a stack of dirty close next to a fairly empty closet, the nightstand is cluttered with change and wrappers, and the floor next to the bed is lined with sheets of crumpled papers. I resist the urge to tidy up and instead set on the edge of the bed looking around. It's more formal and less homey, I decide after running my hand along the stiff material of the bedspread. For some reason, the thought makes me sad.
By the time Noah makes it home from work I've almost finished another journal. He knocks on the office door before entering and I shove a pen in between the pages to keep my place before acknowledging him. He looks worn out, tired, and rubs his hand along the scruff of his cheek for a moment before speaking. "I'm beat tonight so I think I'm going to just head to bed," his voice is soft, laced with fatigue, and I feel bad that he worked so hard while I sat home and snooped around the house.
"You haven't even eaten dinner," I murmur, pushing myself out of the office chair. "You need to eat and then you can go to bed. Why don't you rest on the couch and I'll cook us both something." He follows me silently, his body dropping onto one of the barstools with a loud plop. I'm not sure what he likes or even if there's something he can't eat and I can feel the frustration bubbling up inside of me.
"Anything's fine Rach," he mumbles after watching me for a moment, "the only thing I'm allergic to is mushrooms and you stopped buying them when we started living together years ago. Other than that I'll eat just about anything." He lets his head rest against his hand as I dig through the fridge and pull out the ingredients for Quesadillas. I put the pan on the stove and pour a little oil in it, neither of us saying a word.
"You can tell me about it," I whisper, feeling my face flush red. "About your day," I continue, stumbling over the words, "Only if you want to of course." I peek over to see him sitting up on the stool, surprise and something else lining his features. At first he doesn't say anything and just when I'm getting ready to change the subject, he speaks.
"It wasn't so much a bad day," he answers, "I just didn't sleep all that well last night." I set one of the tortilla shells in the oil and turn to look at him, watching as he runs his hand along the back of his neck. He lets out a loud yawn and rolls his shoulders before continuing. "I was up late working on some music and once I started I couldn't put it down. It's my own fault, because I knew I was heading back in today."
"That explains all the balls of paper," I mutter as I drop some cheese into the pan and start cutting up a tomato. Once I realize exactly what I've said, I turn to look at him with a sheepish smile on my face. "Not that I was snooping or anything." I continue, "I spent the morning walking around this place just kind of looking at everything and taking it all in." I drop the tomatoes into the pan and listen to the sound of the grease sizzling and crackling as I think everything over. "I've actually got some questions about a few of the things I noticed," I continue, "but I won't bug you with them tonight."
"Whenever you're ready to ask them," He shrugs his shoulders, "I'll be here to answer them." I use the spatula to flip the shell over and then slide it onto a plate and set it in front of him. "Thanks," he garbles due to his mouth full of food, "for taking care of me." He shoots me a wink and I shake my head as my cheeks flush. I set another tortilla in the pan and start to make my own dinner.
I know it took me awhile to get this up and I appologize. Real Life got pretty hectic there for awhile and something had to get dropped. I promise it won't be as long of a wait next time for an update. When I was going over the chapter and editing before posting I noticed that there is a small throwback in this chapter that relates to one of my Puckleberry one-shots posted on this site. I'm curious to see if any of you guys catch it, so the first person to figure it out and drop me a line by PM or review gets the next chapter dedicated to them!