The assignment is to write about your biggest mistake.
At 5:00, the television still plays Christ Crusaders, but the days of sitting around and waiting for Finn to call are gone. She turns it off and stares at the blank paper in front of her. Biggest regret. This is easy.
She turns the TV back on and tries to go back to that time. Before she fooled around with Puck, before she let him touch her. Back to that time.
She ruled the whole world and never had to lift a finger.
But Puck dragged his hands underneath her skirt and he whispered, "Do you want to?" and she did, and she said yes, and everything was fucked.
Anyway, she doesn't write the paper and she sits in her bed, counting the stretch-marks like a secret language written in her skin.
"I need space," she told him. To breathe, she told him. The summer was suffocating her and he was all around her and inside of her and on her until all she could smell as him, and it was some sort of sin that she created for herself.
It was a hot day, boiling hot. His tongue traced the braille marks on her stomach as she cracked an ice-cube between her teeth.
"They're going away," he told her.
She laughed at him. "Fuck you."
So he did. It was always easier to get her to listen when she was screaming his name.
"They're going away," he told her with her back arching against the sheets and her hair in a disarray on the pillow.
They weren't, but he was always so good at lying to her.
That was the last time. The day went on as normal and the sun stayed hot until it melted into the earth, and even long after he was gone, she cracked ice-cubes between her teeth and brushed her fingertips along her stomach, wondering if there was something to be read in the little bumps.
"I need space," she breathed.
She didn't answer him and that seemed to be answer enough.
"You're free to go," the nurses said.
Quinn tore him away from the window and dragged him away from trying to preserve what wasn't theirs to keep. He signed the papers with numb hands, his fingers twitching and trembling as he handed back the pen. He looked at her with the worst kind of resentment.
But in the hallway — in that last moment before the spell was broken — he took her hand.
He said, "I love you."
She hummed a little. Even with a heart made of stone, there was a song inside of her that fluttered and wished to be free. "You love me," she echoed.
In the parking lot, in the rain, as they were walking away, he started to cry. He cried and cried until he began to scream, strangling himself in his own regret.
She said, "You signed the papers."
And suddenly, he hated her.
Your biggest regret.
Quinn rubbed her belly and thought spitefully about the stretch-marks that ruined her body, like mangled wounds that never seemed to heal.
On the other side of the world, there was a child that was half Quinn, half Puck. She'd probably have green eyes. Puck's nose. But she'd look like Quinn. She wouldn't belong to them but that didn't matter.
The point was that there was half of Quinn living inside of a bundle of pink. Half of Puck.
"My biggest regret," Quinn wrote, "is giving up half of me."
"Tell me something."
Puck glanced at her. "What?"
She smiled a little, perhaps bitterly. "Do you hate me?"
She already knew, but it was so nice to ask him, to talk to him at least. The loss of prom queen is already far away. She knelt against the lockers with her own defeat ringing in her ears.
Puck sucked in a breath. There was a pause, then, quietly: "Yes."
Quinn counted the stretch-marks once again, through the flimsy fabric of her dress. "How much?" She wondered if there was a stretch-mark for all the reasons why he hated her. She counted twelve.
He shrugged a little. "I don't see why it matters." He didn't look quite at her, his eyes meeting the floor.
He was right. It didn't matter at all.
But at 5:00, Christ Crusaders still played, and Quinn still waited for Finn to call, and nothing really changed. She ended up tearing up her assignment and stomping on the remains, like she was burying her past and that half of her that left with her daughter.
"Do you feel like," she began carefully, "half of you is missing?"
Puck slid down the wall to sit next to her. He didn't answer, which was kind of an answer all its own.