She's ten years old the first time it happens. She overhears one of the girls in her gymnastics class say that you can tell if a girl is a lesbian by looking in her ear, and the next thing she knows she's vomiting in the far-right stall of the girls' restroom, gasping for breath and clutching at her chest like her heart might pound right out of it at any second. And yet, somehow she manages not to associate the rumor with her reaction. It's not about her; she's not that way.
But after that day, she can't help noticing all the differences between her and the other girls she knows. They're all so lithe and lean and just...undeniably girly. And she has no idea how to be that way. The whole reason she's even in gymnastics in the first place is that she's chubby and awkward, and this is her mother's last-ditch effort to rectify the situation that is Lucy Fabray.
All the girls she's grown up around suddenly seem so interested in boys, but what she's really interested in is them and how it is that they just know, intuitively, how girls are supposed to look and dress and behave. She starts studying them intensely for clues on how she might be able to modify herself. And after a while, it gets easier to pretend that's all she's doing.
She's twelve. It hasn't gone away, that nagging feeling that something in her wiring is defective. Sometimes the panic washes over her in waves so intense that she worries she might never break the surface again. Every once in a while she considers telling someone what's going on, but the kids at school are still calling her "Lucy Caboosey" on a daily basis, and that seems like enough to deal with without adding this other thing to it, whatever it is.
At thirteen, she quits gymnastics and takes up running. For a year it seems like all she does is run. Before school, after school, sometimes even in the middle of the night when she can manage to sneak out. She needs to be alone, away from other people, certainly away from other girls, so she can focus on trying to outpace this thing she knows is coming for her.
She also makes the conscious decision to give up eating, hoping that in the process of hollowing herself out she'll shed the thing inside of her that's been threatening to kill her since she was ten years old.
It doesn't work, not the way she intends. But what happens instead is equally as useful. By the end of eighth grade, she's slimmed down, filled out. And even though that thing, that defect, is still in there, the new body she's given herself has thrown people off the scent. Nobody looks at her like she's broken anymore, not her parents, and certainly not the other kids at school. Instead, for the first time in her life, people look at her like they're hungry. Like she has something they want. And that makes her other problem so much easier to hide.
She's definitely not Lucy Caboosey anymore, and when her parents move to Lima, she decides not to be Lucy Fabray either. That summer she tries out for the cheerleading squad at her new school under her new name: Quinn.