ENTITLED: She Hid Around Corners
SETTING: Spans junior year to several years post graduation.
DISCLAIMER: You know who should come with a disclaimer? Sam. Like, "NOTICE TO VIEWERS: REAL BOYS ARE NOT LIKE THIS."
NOTES: Except the whole part about having a guy singing to you in the hallways? Not romantic. It is actually super embarrassing.
NOTES2: Can you spell, "social commentary"?
SUMMARY: Sometimes I miss you even when you're right in front of me. — SamQuinn
When about a year of her forgiveness has passed and his siblings are done with high school and Sam's mustered the nerve to even entertain the idea of asking, he bikes over to her house and knocks a ring against her front door.
He hides it when she answers.
"Do you still want to run away with me?" he asks, and something in her face freezes.
"What are you talking about?"
He gets on one knee, and looks up into her eyes, and it's all so easy because he'd done this before, years and years ago, back when he believed that maybe things would just work out. "Would you marry me?"
Quinn's mouth presses into a straight, fine line.
"I could take care of us."
"What would you know?" she whispers, lovely face frozen with rage. Wide-eyes and stiff-jawed. Her fingers clench into the fabric of her skirt before she remembers herself and pushes down the snarl. He remembers, then, the press of that mouth against the underside of his jaw. The measured happiness of her eyes.
"I love you," he says, and for a second he really does think she's going to hit him. But she spins instead, striding a quick three paces before rounding back. He's reminded of something caged.
"Let me tell you something, Sam Evans," she spits his name, "I'm getting bored of breaking your heart, so here it is: I don't care. I don't care about you. I don't love you, and I will never marry you, because I know exactly what happens next.
"I get pregnant. I get fat. And I've been pregnant, I've—I'm sure you've heard. Slutty, spread-'em Fabray. And you would think that maybe, hey, maybe even if getting enormous and miserable and losing everything was bad—at least there's a baby."
She swallows, "But that's even worse."
A hurt thing, a caged thing.
"You care," he says, quietly.
He doesn't know what she means when she looks at him like that.
"What do I have to say to make you give up on me?" she asks, and pushes roughly past him, starts up her car, and blazes down the street. He runs after her anyways, even though it's hopeless. He's had enough practice.
"Quinn!" he shouts after her, "I've been in love with you since the first time I saw you. You were singing and I don't think I've ever seen you look half that happy. Don't you remember?"
He keeps up with her until she hits the interstate, shouting all the way. Maybe he's an exceptionally quick runner. Maybe she hadn't been going all that fast.
Absurdly, perhaps, he expects her to do something. To come up with some mad, ballsy scheme that only a practiced bitch and head cheerleader could successfully pull off.
But nothing changes. Quinn goes to college and he still wakes up in the morning and everything is so ordinary, so expected, and Sam starts trying to grow a goatee from a combination of boredom and a general appreciation for villainous facial hair.
But not even a year passes before Quinn's moved back in with her mother. He doesn't hear about it until she's been in town for nearly a month, and even then, takes a week to prepare himself.
But she doesn't look surprised to see him standing on her porch, gripping a bouquet of daisies as a paltry shield. Her lips turn up, "Come to laugh at my failure?" she asks, with a real and poorly hidden rage tucked into her soft, crooning voice. Sam shifts his weight, stammers, remembers his flowers and thrusts them at her. She inspects them just long enough to let him know that she doesn't think much of it—that she's fully aware that daisies are the cheapest sort of flower, dyed pink or no.
"Is everything alright?" he asks, as her cool hand brush against his. Something flickers low in her eyes, but her smile never wavers.
"Of course not, you idiot," she says pleasantly, "If everything was alright I wouldn't be here, and you wouldn't either. If everything was alright we wouldn't be doomed to a life of servitude to a generation less talented than we are."
He just stares at her. Quinn breaths in through her nose.
"I ran out of money," she says lightly, "Did you know that, for the first time in American history, the present generation will be less educated than their parents?"
He does know that, actually. That and a number of other things, including government wired phone lines and the lynching that had happened four years back, in this very town, that no one liked to talk about. Sam's big on conspiracy theories.
"And now," Quinn continues, "My mother wants to retire. And I keep telling her, with what money, mom? With the money I can't make because there aren't any jobs because your generation takes too long in dying?"
Instinctively, he hugs her. For a second she goes hard, and angular, and then her brittle chin turns down and her cheek softens the growing bruise on his chest. "It isn't fair," she says, and he has nothing to comfort her with except, "I know."
After a second she pulls away, eyes bright. "Sam. Sam, let's leave."
"You and me. Let's just go somewhere. Let's go to New York. I hate this stupid town."
"You can't honestly expect me to believe that you want to be a waiter for the rest of your life," she laughs throatily, tilting her face up, showing all her good angles. God, she's gorgeous.
"I can't leave."
"Yes, you can."
"No," he repeats, more strongly than he'd thought he was capable of, "I can't."
She keeps still for a moment, eyes flicking across his face as though searching for some crack, some weak point to exploit. Then she shoves him off. "Damn it, Sam," she snaps, "Why do you have to be so goddamn nice about everything?"
"You didn't really mean it," he pleads, weaker now. Sam's not that great at getting angry. He gets hurt, sure, and he's alright with making that known, but he isn't cutting or lethal like Quinn is.
Her eyes flash, "Of course I meant it. And if you won't go with me, then I guess I'll just have to do it by myself."
But he knows her, he realizes now. He knows her secret vulnerability, her inability to do anything without support.
So he looks to the side, and knows that it will cost him to call her on it but does it anyway, "You would never dare."
He's glad that he can't see her face. His teeth grind together, just in case she punches him, slaps him, high-kicks him in the jaw.
But instead she drops his flowers at his feet, snaps the door closed behind her, and doesn't speak to him for the next five years.
Come September, Quinn leaves. Sam knows. Sam knows she's leaving. Her broken family isn't terribly well-off after her father'd disowned Quinn, but she'd gotten enough money to get through at least the first year, and she's good at a lot of things. Such a bright future, the teachers were always saying. Used to be, they'd say it about Sam, too.
But she comes to see him before she leaves.
He never knows what she means when she does something nice. What her angle is. Once upon a time, he might have thought that there was no angle—that Quinn was just being Quinn and Sam was just Sam and they were about the same age and so hey, why not him?
"Do you ever stop working?" she asks, ankles tucked away behind the leg of one chair. Sam scrapes the back of his hand across his brow, suddenly conscious of how clean she looks, and how sweaty he is.
"Not really," he admits. She raises her eyebrows.
"And you'll just...stay here. Killing yourself. So that things that were never your responsibility will have a brighter future."
"Those things are my younger siblings."
Quinn frowns. He can't tell if this means she's actually upset. "I don't see why you should be the sacrificial lamb."
"Nobody's sacrificing me," he flips open his notepad, "Can I take your order?"
She gets a coolly stubborn look, "I care about you, Sam."
It still makes his heart lurch. He pretends that it doesn't. "Coffee to start? No problem."
"You could be so much more than this. Come on. This isn't right. You've worked too hard to just let things turn out like this. It isn't fair."
"Then what do you suggest I do, Quinn? Should I just abandon my family to the mercy of social security and government aid programs?"
She doesn't answer that, but nor does she look away, cowed. Absurdly, he feels almost guilty for snapping at her.
"I'll have a small side-salad," she says icily, and he takes the hint to switch sections.
They're in the same row at graduation. Evans and Fabray. If it weren't for Dennis Ewe he could have held her hand, maybe. Though of course she wouldn't have let him.
Once, Sam would have gone to college. He wasn't a bad student, and he'd gotten scholarship money for glee club and football—but not enough. Not a full-ride. And even then, he wouldn't have been able to go.
He'd thought about asking if he could, in the first few seconds after he'd opened the envelop with his acceptance letter. He'd thought about—about walking up to his mom, laying it down, saying something like, You can't sell my future.
But then he imagines her response, wild-eyed and bitter, Go on then, leave like your father did.
So instead, he gets another job. Construction pays better than fast food and anyway, it wasn't like he'd really have gone anywhere with football, or singing, and being an astronaut was kind of stupid, actually.
His hands blister. Some of the men he works with take a morbid delight in this, but assure him that they'll scar over, toughen up.
His dad takes off for a week during the winter vacation of his senior year. Two weeks, actually. Three.
"He isn't coming back," Sam's mother tells him, her voice hollowed out. He stares at her for a moment, and wonders what she expects him to do about it. When he doesn't reply, his mother moves to the far side of the trailer and pulls the blankets over her head. The only walls they could afford.
Sam stares at the wall. No way. Not his dad. Not his dad.
"Dad's coming back," one of the kids says in the background, "You're wrong. He's going to Denver and then he's coming back and he's taking me to buy a hotdog. He promised."
When his mother doesn't reply, the kids begin to scream. Sam lurches to his feet. "Hey. Hey. Jesus, calm down, he's coming back. Who wants to go to the park?"
They both want to go to the park. Catastrophe is at least temporarily stalled. Sam watches his siblings from a bench at the edge of the park, growing older. His mother wasn't working, and his dad was out, and he'd been stupid to waste his money applying for college. So stupid.
He gets a job waiting tables four hours later, and practices smiling in the mirror, so maybe his tips will be fifty cents higher, and he tells himself, so what, loads of kids don't go to college. Most of them. Most of them didn't have cars, either.
Fine. Everything's fine.
Quinn never talks about the baby, and he doesn't know how to ask. It must hurt her. She must think about it, no matter how unconcerned she might appear. Sam knows her. He's seen how her face draws in when she's sleeping, how unhappy she looks.
But she never says a word. She never hesitates.
Except for once, of course. Just once.
Just the one time, he catches her paused before the hallway mirror, smoothing a hand down the front of her shirt, eyeing her stomach from the side. When she sees him, her hand jerks immediately to her face, to smooth back a perfect blond hair.
He needs to say something. "Quinn?"
She turns away, looking half-way towards him, toward the wall, toward nothing. "Sam? Do you think I'm pretty?"
"Yes," he says immediately, and then fumbles. His face heats up with the inadequacy of his answer, but too late, and now even later, and gone. After a second, she turns back to the mirror, and touches up her lipstick. It bruises in the left corner of her mouth.
What a pitiful little word; yes. So entirely inadequate.
Of course: Quinn.
But before Quinn, just, that girl. That girl who's dancing on his lunch table, singing, so out of character, looking him in the eye and meaning it when she says, anything, with a mouth made for kissing, for lying.
He misses her already.
On the first day of junior year, he bikes.
He tells himself it isn't a big deal. So he doesn't have a car, so what? Loads of kids don't have cars. Loads of kids don't have food. When he hadn't gotten the promised Mustang for his birthday he'd stayed quiet, figuring it would magically appear in the next few months, to mark the start of a new school year.
But the car hadn't come, and he hadn't counted on the necessity of ground transportation, and so he finds himself staggering ten minutes late into first period, panting through his introduction to the class, and probably looking like a deranged sex maniac.
But, hey. Things can only go up from here.