After about twenty minutes on the road, her stomach gets the better of her and she pulls into a McDonald's Drive-Thru for a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit. This whole daily repetition thing makes her a little less cautious about what she eats, because it won't be sticking to her hips.
She makes a call from the car and knows it's short notice, but it's not like she can plan ahead, at this point.
Even after the phone call, Quinn spends an extra ten minutes sitting in the car once she reaches her final destination. Sitting on the passenger seat is a small gift bag and it seems far too insignificant, like it's too little, too late. But all she has right now is time. Kind of.
She closes her eyes and takes one last slow, deep breath before picking up the bag and exiting the Volkswagen.
"Quinn, I have to say this is a big surprise."
"I'm sorry. I would have called to ask earlier if you thought it was a good idea, but it's been a very weird week for me and I just... I just got in the car and drove out here."
"Well, we were just about to have lunch, so go ahead and come in."
"Thank you." Quinn exhales a huge sigh of relief as she steps inside Shelby's apartment. Beth isn't anywhere to be seen, but there's a banging sound coming from just around the corner and as she follows Shelby the short distance from the front door to the kitchen, she sees the source of the clatter.
In the highchair is the blonde ten month old, who babbles as she slaps her tiny hands against the plastic tray in front of her.
"I know, I know," Shelby says, smoothing her hand over Beth's hair. She places a slice of cheese and some shredded pieces of turkey in front of the little girl. "Let's show Quinn how well you're doing with finger foods, kiddo."
Quinn's seen plenty of pictures, but she still isn't prepared for the sudden pull of emotion she feels. She's frozen in the doorway until she realizes she's just been standing there, staring. "She's... so big."
Shelby nods. "She's meeting all her growth and development goals. Very chatty, but she only seems to have latched on to one grown-up word, so far-"
"Nonono," Beth interjects.
"That's the one."
Quinn smiles at Beth, because she can't help herself. "I just needed to see her."
"I've always said I'm open to you and Noah getting to know her. Though, I assumed we'd discuss it first."
"I'm sorry," Quinn says, again. "I..." Her eyes shift down toward the small silver bag she's still clutching. "I brought this for her." She reaches into the gift bag and pulls out a Cheerios teddy bear, one that's been sitting in her room since her squad won Nationals freshman year.
Beth's eyes light up at the sight of the toy and she holds her hands out, suggesting in baby talk that she's very pleased with the offering.
"Teddy's more interesting than turkey, right now. I can tell." Shelby wipes off Beth's fingers then lifts the girl out of the high chair. "Beth, I want you to meet Quinn. She's... she's someone you should know."
And just like that, Beth's being pressed into Quinn's arms and suddenly Quinn isn't sure if she can juggle a toddler and a teddy bear, but she has to figure it out, right now, because she's holding one of each. Beth squirms because she wants the bear, so Quinn holds it up until it's gripped in little hands.
"I know you don't remember me, but I remember you." Quinn has to clear her throat, before she continues. "And if your... if your mommy agrees, I'd like to visit you sometimes." She risks a glance at Shelby who offers a nod. "Maybe I can even get your... well... my friend, Pu- Noah, to come with me."
"Nono," Beth says as she tugs at the bear's red and white skirt.
"Don't take it personally. I'm pretty sure she's agreeing with you," Shelby says. "And we'd very much like to have you and Noah here for her birthday."
Quinn has a feeling Puck won't need much convincing to join her. Beth has always been their one, unwavering connection.
She spends a couple hours with the Corcorans before she decides it's time to leave without wearing out her welcome. For so long, she's been avoiding this, avoiding Beth and Shelby because she had no idea how she was expected to interact with either of them. It turns out, she could have been doing this all year, she could have been experiencing milestones in person instead of through a quarterly email. From now on, though, she plans to be there, she plans to write, she plans to send letters. She wants to know Beth and she wants Beth to know her.
This has to be what this entire thing is about. It's not about a stupid song. It's not about cheerleading. It's about her family, her life, her choices.
When she gets home, she breezes through her homework (she's already worked out the answers), watches some tv, and falls into a content sleep.
When she wakes up to the Supremes and sees the teddy bear in the red and white Cheerios uniform still sitting on her desk, she feels like she's about to throw up.
It's kind of like the day, the other today, the one where she stayed in bed. Except around eleven, she opens her mother's liquor cabinet. Just because it has a lock doesn't mean she can't get in.
After an hour and few slugs of Glenlivet 12, she fumbles with her phone until she manages to send a text message to Puck: u shld com ovr
She knows there should be more letters than that, but who cares?
Her phone quickly buzzes with a reply: wher r u ? Which gets the response: my hous
Puck shows up in less than fifteen minutes, probably because he was already cutting class. "Q?" he calls out as he knocks on the door. "You okay? Did you fall in the shower or something?"
Quinn groans as she stumbles toward the front door, grabs the handle, and yanks it open before turning right back around and depositing herself on the living room sofa. "I'm fine."
"You just always get on my case about texting with whole words and you never ditch class, so I-" He pauses as he pushes the door shut. "Holy shit, you smell like a brewery. Are you- Quinn are you drunk?"
She laughs at him from her spot on the couch. "Jealous?"
"It's the middle of Wednesday. Fuck yes, I'm jealous." He's cautious as he rounds the arm of the couch to look at her. "And a little worried because this isn't like you."
"Oh, like you even know me."
"I know you enough."
"You want a drink or not?"
"I... fuck, yeah, why the hell not?" He sits down a full cushion away from her and takes a drink from the bottle. "Damn, this is the fancy shit."
"Mom only does the fancy shit." Whatever personal space buffer Puck left between them is already gone, because Quinn's pawing at his jacket. "Take this off, it's too hot in here."
"Q- Hey." He puts his hands over hers and stops her from pulling at his coat. "What's going on?"
"Nothing," Quinn replies. Her eyes are fixed on his lips and she's suddenly thinking about how, even though he's something of an idiot and he has a stupid haircut, he's a really good kisser. And then she stops thinking about it because she's actually kissing him and, yep, her memory was absolutely right, as logged in single malt whiskey as it is.
But then he's pulling back and saying, "-whoa. We can't-"
"We can. We can do this. We made a beautiful, perfect baby girl. We can do it, again. Just-" Quinn presses her mouth to his one more time, but he jerks away.
"Quinn. Okay, you're hot and I've thought about this happening again plenty of times, but Lauren will kick my ass if I cheat on her and I really don't want that to happen. Even if I didn't think she'd kick my ass, I really dig her and I don't want to screw it up."
Quinn's the one to withdraw, now. "You can't be serious. You can have me. You've wanted me this whole time. I broke up with you and you're supposed to want me back because I'm the one people are supposed to want."
"You're drunk and you need-"
"I don't need anything. Get out."
The door slams, but she doesn't hear his truck start up. She doesn't care. She just lies on the couch and falls asleep until her mother comes home and wakes her up.
Judy grounds her.
Quinn laughs in her face.
No one can do anything to her.
Puck's gone ahead and proved that.