Katie - I am glad you like this story. I am glad you found it too. I apologize for the delay in updating, My beta and I have a little bit of writers block and keep throwing around ideas of where to end the story but I am so glad people are still reading. Thanks for the review.
rizzlescalzonafic - Sugar was a good character on the show that was underused in my opinion. I am glad you like her in this story. Thanks for the review. And I am sorry your dog is looking at you funny now. I am sorry that even a small aspect of this happened to you and yes unfortunately it can and does affect you into adult life. I am glad you got the therapy and help you needed and I am so happy to hear people that have success stories when stuff like this happens. There is no time limit on feelings or emotions and that is what I am trying to portray - everyone is different and has different triggers and feelings, it's all how one handles them and I am trying to give the kids the coping skills they need to move forward. I don't even want to discuss Quinn's storyline in the show because the way the show handled it in my opinion was so very wrong. Thanks again for taking the time to read and review.
Pigiama- I know this update is painfully late. I apologize. Too much of real life and not having the time to write. Thanks for the review and sticking with the story.
MusicBaby1013 - Wow what a review. I am so sorry I broke your heart. Part of the reason that some of these chapters take longer to write is because they take my mind to a place that hurts - it gets emotional for me as the author as well. I appreciate you taking the time and writing detailed reviews. I am hoping you are going to enjoy these next couple of chapters and I am excited that you want a sequel. I do already have a lot planned for the sequel I just need to finish up this story first. Thank you for your support.
NayaFan - Thank you so much for your review. I always enjoy your stories as well. Santana is going to continue to struggle but she is making so much progress - its small but its there. I am glad you are still interested in the story because as an author I struggle sometimes and need to feel that people are still interested. All these characters are so near and dear to me. Thanks again for the review,
Guest - Sorry for the delay in updating. You will see the decision on whether this extended family gets another sibling or not. I hope it makes sense. Thanks for the review.
Guest - Corcoran was Leroy's last name. Berry is Shelby's maiden name. Hiram last name was Irving. Its kind of changed from the show - Shelby kept her married name because of the kids. She still loved Leroy and did not change back to Berry when they got a divorce. I hope this clears it up. Thanks for reviewing.
HannahWilliam33 - Never late in reviewing. I am late in updating. Sometimes life just gets in the way. Its not that this story is not near and dear to me because trust me, my beta and I always think of this story and how we can make it better and realistic. Thanks for reviewing and I hope you like the therapy we have planned.
1moredreamer - Well may you never lose your internet. My beta goes nuts when she doesnt have hers. Gretchen is a tough counselor but she is also the director of the program and oversees all of the therapy. She will be one of the therapists and they need her to be as tough as she can be. She knows that these kids are capable of coming out of these horrific circumstances and having wonderful productive lives but they need to be as tough as nails and have the coping skills to work through it because triggers will always happen for them. Also because they will have all different kinds of therapy they will be able to handle Gretchen. Thank you as always Ms. Brazil!
KC1991 - Well I am glad you enjoyed your birthday gift. I have explained what is going to happen with the foster kid in this chapter - I hope you like it and understand my reasons for it. Thanks for reviewing.
IMHO - Thank you so much in recapping what I want to show. They have been making so much progress but yet it never seems like enough. I want to show that they continue to grow and Shelby does have to change some of her ways and she has been hurt as well by this whole mess. As a mom she wants them to never be hurt again but she knows deep down that its time to let them go a little more so they can live freer. Thank you very much for your review.
Kimberlli - Thank you so much for your review. And thank you for recognizing my beta. She would tell you that she is not the best proof reader and she apologizes for all the typos but we work together on this story tirelessly. It has bonded us more than you will ever know.
Ryoko05 - I am so glad you see progress. It is slow and at times I ask myself am I being too slow. Shelby needed someone to look at this whole Corcoran clan objectively and I think that is why Gretchen's team will work so well. Boxing is only one of the sports that we are exploring for San - because trust me we do not want that pretty face of hers messed with - she will look at other team sports when she is in a better state of mind. Right now its more of a one on one thing for her. She has to trust herself before she can trust others. I am not much of a hockey fan but I do love ultimate Frisbee - I have played a little myself but since moving East there are not that many teams around here anymore. Thank you for your understanding in the delay in the updates. And as always I love and feed off the reviews.
PaoHalliwell - Late to the party is better than never to the party right. Thanks for the review. Unfortunately I do not think we will ever reveal who the foster kid is.
jadelouise - The links to the trailer are on my tumblr account. I am glad you were able to add this as a follow and I always try to do my best to get updates out the minute they are ready. I hope you enjoy this one. Thanks for reviewing.
Lolathe17th - Wow favorite chapter so far? Sugar is a pain in the butt but she means well. And who doesn't have one of those annoying people in the lives. The individual therapy and the group therapy are the hardest to write because I am not a trained therapist but I want to make it as realistic as possible. And these kids even though they have suffered similar trauma will not process it all the same way. Different things have happened and at different ages so all of the processing would be different. Thanks for reviewing.
lemon-rind - Slowly but surely is right. We are getting there and thanks for coming for the ride. Thank you for the review.
TommyH - Thank you !
Drunalove - I am glad you enjoyed. Thanks for reviewing! Quinn is my beta's favorite.
Gleegirl913 - I'm trying for more Rachel - it's just how it flows. Thanks for reviewing.
Guest - The other foster child is addressed in this chapter. I hope you understand. Thanks for reviewing.
I apologize so so much for the exhaustingly and terribly long delay. It's been hard to write lately and find the flow as well as the time and energy. I cannot apologize enough. I am still committed to these characters and this story. It is unquestionably a part of my life and my beta's life.
Thank you for staying as supportive of this story as you all have. It means more than you know. The fact that we've broken two thousand reviews and I continue to get followings and favorites every week or so. I am so grateful. Thank you and Thank you!
I am still committed to writing a sequel and this story will be completed first before I will begin that. I have so much written already and so much planned. I'm excited to begin to share it.
Rachel pulled her comforter up to the head of the bed and folded the top of the comforter down delicately. She smoothed it over with meticulous effort in an attempt to eliminate the wrinkles from the comforter. Her mother told all of them to clean their rooms, but she knew her mother just wanted them upstairs and occupied while she met with Holly and Gretchen. Rachel looked around her room with satisfaction before starting toward her door. She was already finished. Her mother had forgotten that Rachel's room was always clean. They were just going to have to meet with her present. She gave a nod. She was very good at sitting still quietly; it would be fine.
"Whoa, whoa, bug," Joey said as she intercepted Rachel in the hallway with two baskets stacked in front of her.
"You're doing laundry?" Rachel asked with a surprised frowned.
"I did raise two boys, Rach," Joey said as she set the baskets down. "I am capable."
"But…. you don't like doing that stuff," Rachel said with a tilt of her head. "You always get other people to do it for you."
Joey rolled her eyes. She didn't want to be shrunk to size again by her eleven year old niece. "What are you doing out of your room?" she asked changing the subject.
"Am I grounded?" Rachel countered as Joey led her back to her room.
"Sorta," Joey mumbled.
"Why?" Rachel asked as they reentered the room.
"Rach, let your siblings be," Joey said. "Lets figure out how we can clean up this room that's practically spotless."
"Why can't I go help the others? You and I both know that they need help," Rachel said.
"Because you already asked them ten minutes ago if you could help them and they all told you no," Joey said with an arch of her brow. "Plus Sugar will be over soon." Joey rolled her eyes at the name.
Joey walked over to her shelf in the closet trying to find something to occupy the eleven year old.
"Aunt Joey, are you going to take the girl?" Rachel asked as she leaned back on her bed.
"What?" Joey asked perplexed. "What girl?"
"Last night, Mumma and all of us were talking about her. She said you're going to let her stay there," Rachel said. She sighed, barely noticing her aunt's look of shock. "Well….. she didn't say that….."
"What are you talking about?" Joey asked with a furrowed brow.
"The other girl," Rachel said as if that would provide Joey with clarification.
The woman sighed as she remembered the late night conversation the evening before. She sat down and pulled Rachel to her and into her lap, knowing her sister hadn't been able to successfully explain to Rachel that they weren't accepting her. She would attempt another approach.
"Rachel, remember when your Mumma took Quinn in?" Joey asked.
Rachel nodded. "She told us."
"However, before she told you she had a lot of conversations with other people too," Joey began. Rachel looked up at her curiously. "She talked to her family. We thought a lot about it."
"... Why can't you do that with the new girl?" Rachel asked after a few moments of hesitation. "I really think we can help her. I don't understand why we can't.
Joey looked at her. "Rachel, your mom thought long and hard about taking in Quinn even though she didn't have a lot of notice. Ultimately she knew she was going to. Right now, taking in this girl isn't something that we can handle."
"Handle?" Rachel asked. "We're a burden?"
"That's not what I said," Joey replied. "Kids take time and energy, Rachel. You know that. We want to do right by this girl. She's bounced from place to place and do you think she wants to come into a new household with four other kids?"
"We will be nice to her," Rachel replied.
"Of course you would. Rach, that's not the point. I have no doubt that we can provide her a good home and a safe home-" Joey started again
"So then why-"
Joey put her finger to her own lips indicating for Rachel to be quiet. "But the thing is, Rach, your mother is doing her very best to raise the four of you. She's committing 100% and bringing in a new child will take some of that away. That girl deserves better."
"But our worst is other families' best," Rachel argued. "Why can't we try? She's a senior and it'll only be for a little bit."
"Because, Rach, we can't. That girl deserves someone that can focus on her and her alone and someone who can be a long term resource. If she walks into this house and there are four other kids, what do you think she will think?"
"Man, I'm lucky...?" Rachel said with a tiny shrug. Joey gave her a side glare. The girl sighed. "Quinn came into our house when there were three of us."
"Quinn was different," Joey said quietly.
"In so many ways," she whispered. She looked at Rachel and gave her a weak smile. "We can't be there for everyone."
"Well, but what if we could," Rachel asked as she sat up. "What if we are passing up an opportunity to save her?"
"Rachel, we cannot. She doesn't have a place to sleep and she deserves better."
"Why can't you take her?"
"Because I'm not a foster parent," Joey said. "They haven't looked at my house and approved."
Rachel frowned and looked at her hands. "I'm scared she's going somewhere else that won't be good. You know?"
"She's going to be okay," Joey said.
"How do you know?"
"Jackie let us know that she's being placed in the area," Joey said gently. "They found another one, a better one."
"So she doesn't need a place with us anyway?" Rachel asked with disappointment.
"No, Rach, and even if she did, she wouldn't." She paused for a moment. "Why do you want this girl you don't know to live here so badly."
Rachel frowned. "Because…." she began but her voice faded. "I ….. I think I wanted something else to think about. And I think your life is made of these big and little moments and …. what if this is a big one and we miss it?"
Joey nodded. "There's no shame in wanting to think about something out. Sometimes we want things to distract us." She gave a sigh. "I'm sorry you're disappointed, but I think that you'll see someday why we can't take her in."
"You're sure that she's going to be okay?" Rachel asked.
"Who?" Joey asked.
"The girl," Rachel wondered.
"She will be," Joey said. "And so will we."
"How do you know?"
"Because I do," Joey whispered kissing her niece's forehead. "And I'm always right."
Rachel gave a soft smile. "Not always."
"Nope, always. I don't think we'll ever miss big moments, Rach." Joey looked around the room. "Now, your siblings have been trying to do some work in their rooms, but they keep being distracted."
"I can help," Rache said. "You have to admit that they're not the best at cleaning."
Joey chuckled. "Rachel, I think you could use some time for you before your little friend shows up."
"She's taller than me," she mutter indignantly.
"Either way," Joey said. She stood up. "Please stay here. I'm sure you can find something to reorganize." She held Rachel's gazed for a second. "I'm sorry that you're disappointed, Rach, but in your heart you know it's for the best."
"Doesn't make me want it any less," she said with little shrug.
Joey leaned forward and kissed her on the top of her head. "I know."
Rachel watched as her aunt exited the room. The more that she thought about the conversation that just offered the more that she felt like she wanted to be alone too. She couldn't articulate exactly why, but she knew that she needed to catch up with everyone else. Everyone else knew that and had accepted it. She needed some time to accept it. She looked around her room. She needed some time to do a lot of things.
She returned her attention to her tidy room once again. It wasn't as if it was dirty before, but it certainly needed to be straightened. She didn't remember taking all of the books out, but there they were on scattered in front of her floor. She knelt down at the low bookshelf and sat back on her heels as she put the books away. Every time she picked up one of the books she paused for a second and reminisced about her favorite parts in every story. She didn't want to think about the other things.
She was thinking about when baby spiders flew away in Charlotte's Web when a small knock interrupted her thoughts. She looked up with a deep set frown. Her mother had told her that she was coming over but she wasn't sure that this was the best idea that her family since they came back home. She knew they were also unsure of their choices based on how surprised they were when Rachel easily conceded to letting Sugar visit. However, it wasn't as if any of them had a choice. Her mother, Gretchen and Holly were meeting. Her siblings didn't like Sugar and had to clean up their own rooms, so Rachel was left to entertain the girl.
"Hi…." Rachel said as she turned back to her books, deciding to reorganize them out of alphabetical order by the author's last name and into ROYGBIV according to the book's binding. However, she was doing the task more to avoid conversation than for practical organizational purposes.
"My aunt said you shut down in the hospital," Sugar said, breaking the silence that only lasted a few seconds. "Did you do it like a computer or more like a circus ride?"
Rachel narrowed her eyes but didn't say anything or make eye contact with Sugar. She didn't want to talk about that and she especially didn't want to talk about it with her only faux-friend. She had decided that was what she viewed Sugar as. Kurt was her real friend and Sugar was her faux-friend. She wouldn't otherwise be friends with her if it weren't for their circumstances.
"I thought it was weird because you're like..." Sugar's face puckered up in thought. "... Like on all the time! Even when you're knocking over plates," Sugar said with a casual shrug. She looked around her bedroom. "Looks like you haven't broken anything yet."
Rachel followed her gaze around the room and then looked at Sugar. She wasn't sure what to say because she was right. She hadn't broken anything, but she had only refrained because she had forgotten it was an option. Also, she didn't need to.
"We're friends," Sugar said straightening. "You said so yourself. Remember?"
Rachel paused as she traced the binding of the book in her hands. She glanced up at Sugar. She remembered that she said what the girl claimed she did and she remembered that she had truly meant it. She gave Sugar a tiny smile and the bubbly girl sat down next to her. Maybe she was more than a faux-friend…. maybe she was a real one.
"Well, I decided that because we're friends, I need to come and see you," Sugar stated. It was more of a declaration. Rachel watched her for a moment. For the first time since Rachel had known her, Sugar became visibly uncomfortable. "It's your turn to talk."
Rachel bit the inside of her cheek for a moment. "Thanks for coming," she finally whispered. She looked at her for a second.
"It's not like I had a choice," Sugar said as she rolled her eyes
She wasn't sure why she was shy but all she could think about was the fact that the only people she had been around for the past few weeks have been her family or her therapists. She kept hearing what her aunt had told her. They couldn't save everyone.
She turned to her friend and grinned. Her friend, she repeated in her head.
"You're right. You didn't choose to come, Sugar. Your aunt brought you because you're not old enough to stay home alone," Rachel said with a cheeky grin.
Sugar rolled her eyes with slight relief and shrugged. "No! I can stay home alone with my people. We're friends. Of course, I came. You're sick…. It's what friends do. They visit." Sugar's eyes lit up as if she remembered something. "I brought something for us."
Rachel arched her brow and watched as Sugar pull out a book. She tilted her head. It didn't have anything on the cover. For some reason, she expected Sugar to read something to an exciting picture on the cover.
"Aunt Holly reads out loud a lot to me. I told her before that I refused to do it with your crazy loud family and your scary sisters." She met Rachel's eyes. "You have to admit they're scary."
"They just do that because they need to control a situation," Rachel shrugged.
"Well, they're still scary," Sugar stated with a toss of her hair.
"You never really seemed scared of them," she frowned with suspicion.
"I can't let them know that. Never show weakness" Sugar shrugged. "Anyway! I read this book aloud a lot. It's my favorite."
"What is it?" Rachel asked looking at the old and non-descript cover.
Sugar rolled her eyes in slight frustration when she realized that Rachel couldn't tell what the coverless book was. "It's Winnie the Pooh of course."
Rachel gave a small smile. "I like Winnie the Pooh."
"Me too," Sugar said. "He's sensible and honest."
Rachel arched her brown. "Yeah?"
"And Christopher Robin never treats him like an idiot even though sometimes, Pooh feels like one because he's not as smart as Rabbit or Owl."
"Yeah," Rachel said with a nod. "Which is your favorite story?"
"I like them all of course," Sugar said.
Rachel gave a quiet grin. "Me too."
"I can read to you if you want me to," Sugar offered.
Rachel shook her head. "It's okay…." She saw the girl's disappointment as she deflated and she gave a small sigh. "Actually, could you read the one…. where they go look for the north pole?"
Sugar grinned and opened the book with pride as she began to read.
Santana looked around her room with a small sigh. She hadn't spent a lot of time in her room in ages. She used to spend at least fifty percent of her time in her room. She didn't remember exactly what she used to do in there, but she knew that her room felt more foreign than it did before. She slept in there, but she didn't stay in there alone. She gathered up her clothes and threw them into her hamper in her closet. She stared at the doorless room and visibly swallowed. She hated everything that her doorless closet stood for.
A gentle knock on the door pulled her from her thoughts.
"Here," Quinn said as she walked in with a basket of linens. "I think your sheets are in here too."
They had thrown in a load earlier and they apparently just finished drying. Santana sifted through the laundry basket and pulled out her sheets.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Quinn asked suddenly.
"What?"Santana asked as she stretched one corner of the fitted sheet on the bed.
"... I don't know…..Just stuff?"
Santana glared at her. "No….." she muttered and shook her head as she pulled the fitted sheet on the rest of the way. "Do you want to talk?"
Quinn shook her head. "Not really."
Santana snuck a glance at her sister and saw clearly that she wanted to speak. She and Quinn weren't the best at hashing out their feelings.
"Are you about done in your room?" Santana asked as she attempted to start a conversation.
Quinn shrugged. "For the most part." She watched Santana tuck the comforter onto her bed. "I'm sorry," she spit out suddenly.
"What for?" Santana asked not looking at her right away.
"I think …. I um… that I set the fire," she muttered.
"What?" she asked as she sat down on the bed. "Also, it wasn't a fire as much as it was a super reactive smoke alarm."
"I left my toast in the toaster," she mumbled. "I don't think I actually put it on the toaster setting."
Santana gave her a slight eye roll. "Quinn, it's not your fault." She gave a shrug. "You were supposed to be monitored. Clearly they didn't monitor you."
"You're not mad?" Quinn asked in disbelief.
"I'm mad," she responded without hesitation, causing the blonde to stumble slightly off balance. "Just not at you," she replied as she pulled Quinn to sit on her bed as she laid back on it. "I'm too exhausted to be mad at you." She turned her head toward her sister. "You're one of the only sane people left in my life."
Quinn chuckled as she leaned back on the bed next to Santana. "Ditto."
They stared up at the ceiling for a moment taking in the sounds. She could hear Rachel and Sugar giggling down the hallway.
"Why'd you do it?" Quinn asked as she continued to look at the ceiling.
"Do what?" Santana replied, not moving from her place.
"Run in front of the truck," the blonde answered back without faltering. She locked her eyes with her sister's, who looked away after a few beats.
"I didn't mean to," Santana said as she turned toward her sister.
"We all mean to, even if we say we don't," Quinn whispered. She looked at Santana. "I'll kill you if you leave me alone here."
The corners of Santana's lips curled slightly. "Wouldn't I already be dead?"
"I would resurrect you and kill you again," Quinn said as she sat up.
Santana chuckled. "Good to know."
"But seriously," Quinn said as she looked at her sister. "Talk to me."
"What do you want me to say?" Santana asked after a few moments of silent.
Quinn shrugged. "I don't know…. something that makes me not worry about you."
Santana scoffed. "You're worried about me?"
"No," Quinn smirked.
Santana rolled her eyes. "Totally are."
"Hey, do you guys have the Fabreeze?" Noah asked without knocking.
"Mom said to wash your sheets and not Fabreeze them," Santana groaned.
"She specifically said not to Fabreeze it," Quinn pointed out.
Noah rolled his eyes. "So is that a no?" he asked.
"Yes," they both responded.
Noah sighed and rolled his eyes as he left the room.
Quinn looked at Santana with a sigh as she leaned her head on her shoulder. "You look like you could use some Netflix."
Santana rolled her eyes and rested her head atop of Quinn's head. "That always cheers me up."
"We can even watch a new show," Quinn nudged.
Santana arched her brow. "Any show?"
"No porn, Santana," Quinn said dryly with a warning glare.
"Why do you think that's all I watch?" Santana asked annoyed.
"Isn't it?" Quinn asked as Santana grabbed their shared and recently ungrounded iPad that the four of them fought over.
Santana rolled her eyes and gently pushed Quinn off of the bed. "Shut it."
Shelby leaned back and looked at them. These next few weeks will be a bit … hectic to say the least.
"So where does this leave us?"
"Well, unfortunately, we can't put these tests on hold for them. We've actually been putting them off, but the school district is now saying that we need to complete them. Ultimately, I think that it's best if they take them now," Holly said simply. "I would recommend figuring out how to get them back into school. Not necessarily McKinley but-"
Shelby shook her head. "The girls don't want to go back and I don't think I want them back either."
"To McKinley or back to school in general?" Gretchen asked.
"I just don't know if that's something they need right now," Shelby said. "There's too much going on."
"Shelby, we can work with the girls to get them tested… other tests, besides the state tests, to see if they qualify for an IEP, an individual education plan," Holly said. "While they most likely won't need it for academics, they may need it for socio-emotional support-"
"Rachel was tested for one of those a few years back and she was right on the fence. They tried to offer her services at her old school," Shelby shook her head as she trailed off. "Well, you all know how that turned out."
"I think unquestionably the schools have not been a good fit for the girls, but there should be some out there that might fit them better," Gretchen said. "With Holly and the school district they can assist in making sure that the girls are placed well."
"And plus you kinda have the school department by the balls now," Holly said.
"What?" Shelby asked shocked by the teacher's brass comment.
"Well," Shelby said looking between the women. "Will was a teacher who committed a heinous act against the kids. He especially hurt your kids. They will make every effort to do whatever you want."
Shelby leaned back in her chair. "I guess so." She leaned back in her chair. "I don't want to make the wrong choice with this."
"There will always be that fear," Gretchen pointed out.
"They girls will have Sue at school. I would hate to take that away from them," she said with a sigh. "But they don't want to go back there and I think they may benefit from a new start." She shook her head and looked at Gretchen. "They need stability and consistency. I want Santana out of that group."
"We've already discussed that. You know she won't be returning," Gretchen said calmly.
"I just want to remind you," Shelby frowned. "And I don't want him anywhere near my child."
Gretchen gave a small sigh. "Shelby, they won't be in the same groups but they may see each other at some points, but they will not have any interactions."
"They better not," Shelby mumbled. She took a breath. "Are they ready to take these tests?"
"They certainly are," Holly said but paused. "Academically. It's all the other stuff. We need to take things one step at a time."
"I'm sorry to interrupt, but you all keep saying that and we're still here," Joey interjected from the laundry room.
"Jo," Shelby said as the massaged her temples.
"I'm just saying we have to get things in order. We need to move forward for real instead of talking about it so much."
"Thank you, Jo" Shelby said dismissively.
"I can't help but agree," Holly said.
Shelby tried to contain her dragged glare.
"What I'm saying is that I can help if we establish goals. I understand that the girls don't want to return to school but
I think that they need to. These girls excelled at a public school. They were doing extra curriculars and both made honor roll."
"But there were playing a part," Shelby said with her arms crossed.
"Doesn't mean that we leave them out of school completely," Holly countered.
Shelby waved her hands. "Let's focus on having them finish their state exams and looking at other school options and weighing the pros and cons and we will revisit this in a month or two."
"We will begin again tomorrow. There is a smaller group that I think Santana may benefit from. Rachel and Quinn need to return to their cooking lessons. We know now to provide a great deal of supervision for the girls. We will revisit the school thing in a month or two, but the girls need to come to the center consistently for their appointments," Gretchen offered simply. "Something to certainly consider is how you're going to disclose the details of the trial to the kids."
Shelby shook her head. "What?"
"They're going to ask and you might as well have an answer ready for them."
Shelby met Gretchen's gaze. She was more right than she knew. Shelby gave a slow nod as her mind retraced the events of the last few days. It was so much. She needed an answer. She needed something.
Shelby wiped her hands dry on the kitchen towel with a yawn when there was a gentle knock at the door. She glanced at the clock. Right when she expected him, an hour late. She opened the door with a sigh.
"Hey," she said with a frown.
"I know, I'm late," Leroy said with a sheepish tilt of his head. "But I'm here."
He looked behind him and pulled in two trolleys with a total of six large boxes. He silently unloaded them into the living room.
"Do you think we over did it?" Shelby asked with her hands on her hips as they looked at the large boxes.
"Probably," he said with a shrug. "But you were the one that said you wanted this Christmas to be the best for them because it's the first Christmas that we're not all together."
"But you're still coming tomorrow morning for breakfast and gifts, right?" Shelby asked.
"Of course, I am," he said kindly. "But you know what I mean."
She gave a nod and reached for the first box and pulled out the instructions. She looked at them with a frown. "Why didn't we hire people to do this for us?" she frowned as she examined the paper. "Also why did we think it was a good idea to get our nine year old son a dirt bike? Who's idea was that? And we live in Manhattan. Where will he ride it?"
Leroy only shrugged. "I don't know. You bought our charming older daughter a Nerf gun."
"I'm one hundred perfect sure that was you," Shelby glared as she opened up another box. "Let's start with Rach's gift first. Fisher Price Cars can't be that hard to assemble."
Leroy sighed and conceded. "You're doing a good job, Shel. We didn't need to shower them with gifts."
"We didn't shower them," Shelby groaned as she looked at the multiple parts in the box. "I just this has been a tough on them. They're so confused."
"It's been tough on you too," Leroy whispered. "And I'm sorry about that."
Shelby shook her head rapidly. "I'm not doing this with you. I don't need your pity for being that person that would have been happy holding her best friend back from being the person that he was just so she could be happy." Her words came out jumbled and rushed. She took a breath. "Just don't. Okay? Let me learn to figure out how to be without you and I'll get after back to you."
"We can still be best friends," Leroy said quietly. "To me we still are."
"To me that's still the problem," she whispered. "I'm learning how to be happy without you and it's damn hard when you're not here anymore."
Leroy held his arms out at the boxes. "I'm totally here. We're still together and we're still friends."
"It's not the same thing," she whispered.
"Well, we need to figure out how we can make it better and be a new us."
Shelby just gave a weak nod. "Give me some time okay. There's not really a self help book, How To Get Over Your Celebrity Perfect Husband, Father of Your Children and Best Friend Leaves You for A Man While You're Still Inappropriately In Love With Him."
"I don't know if that would make New York Times Best Seller List. It's very long," Leroy grinned. He paused for a moment and licked his bottom lip. "You're not in love with me, Shel. We're just best friends who are dependent on each other who once thought they were in love."
"Really?" Shelby asked as she attempted to put together the roof of the Fisher Price Car. "That easy?"
Shelby looked at him with pause. He always made things simple when they were complicated.
"What are you doing!?" a tiny shriek asked from behind them.
Shelby looked at Leroy first who looked back at her like a deer in the headlights.
"I said," Santana said again. "What are you doing?"
Shelby tilted her brow as if to say, All you, pal.
"Sanny, what are you doing up?" Leroy asked as he stood up.
"That wasn't my question, Daddy," she said as her father scooped her into his arms.
"Santana, where are you supposed to be?" Leroy asked.
"Where are you supposed to be? You don't live here,"Santana countered.
"How old are you?" Leroy asked taken aback.
"I am seven years old, Daddy," she said with a roll of her eyes.
"What are you doing?" she asked again.
Shelby continued to look around with a frown. "Well, we're unpacking boxes."
"For what? On Christmas eve? Santa won't come if you're here like this."
"Santa won't come if you're awake," Leroy replied.
"But what are you doing?"
"You can't tell anyone," Leroy said with a quiet wink as if he were sharing a top secret secret. "There is a great storm in the Arctic and Santa is a bit behind schedule. He can us a call and asked if we could help him."
"You?" Santana asked.
Leroy nodded. "No, parents can only do so much. We do the prep work."
"Like the elves?"
"Yes," Leroy said with a straight face. "We get the grunt work done so that Santa can put his magic in the toys."
Santana narrowed her eyes. "How do I know you're not lying?"
"Would I lie to you?"
"Yes," she giggled.
"Well, do you believe me? Would I lie about Christmas?" Leroy asked.
"No," she said seriously.
"So you should go to bed, huh?"
Santana nodded. "I came for a glass of water."
"Liar," he grinned. "You came looking for Santa."
Santana nodded. "Caught me," she said throwing her hands around his neck.
"You better go to bed and let us do elf work."
Santana sighed and walked back down the hallway of her mother's apartment. She stopped and turned to her parents. She opened her mouth but her father cut her off.
"Don't tell your brother and sister," he warned.
"Goodnight, sweetheart," Shelby called.
"Night, Mumma," she called back. "Make sure that Daddy isn't a bad elf."
"Will do." Shelby grinned a she looked at her husband with surprise. They sat in silence assembling for about thirty minutes until Shelby went and checked on Santana to find her snoring in her bed.
She returned and looked at her husband in surprise. "How did you-"
Leroy shrugged. "They're going to ask and you might as well have an answer ready for them."
"You had that answer prepared?"
Leroy shrugged casually. "Santana's always asking questions. She's completely your daughter."
Shelby scoffed. "She reminds me more of my sister."
Leroy chuckled. "Sure, she does." He looked at her and offered another smile. "We're doing okay, Shel."
Shelby signed and looked at him. "What if Santana has questions and I don't know how to answer them?"
He scoffed. "You'll always have an answer. You just have to trust your gut."
SHelby rolled her eyes. "Everything is so easy with you."
"Because it always is," he grinned. "Now help me put together this stuff. If it's not perfect, you know who Santana will blame."
Shelby laughed. "Yeah, you."
Shelby looked at the two women with a tiny nod. "Okay." She sat down at the table heavily and looked at them. She leaned back in her chair and folded her arms over her chest as she attempted to figure out what to say. "I know my children." The statement came out more of declaration than anything.
"Okay," Holly said slowly.
"Tomorrow is the final part of the trial and Santana needs to go," her words came out simply once again. "She should go. She needs this…."
They were silent as they were unsure how to respond to the abrupt announcement.
"What changed your mind?" Gretchen asked.
Shelby frowned. "I just know her." She looked at them. "She always has questions and if we don't provide her with an answer, she'll go looking for her own."
"I agree," Gretchen agreed. "And you and I both know that there is only so much that we can prepare ourselves and particularly Santana for this. I want want to hear what you have to think about this."
Shelby folded her arms tightly across her chest and leaned back in her chair and looked around the room as she attempted to gather her thoughts. She honestly didn't know. Her eyes fell on a picture of the four kids from Christmas. She chewed on the inside of her lip.
"Tomorrow is the verdict." She looked out the window. "Her father and I disagreed on how to raise her a lot. I always wanted to protect her, but Leroy …. If Santana said she was going to fly, instead of telling her she couldn't, Leroy would figure out a way how." Shelby shook her head. "But honestly, over the past nine years….." She shook her head. "I don't know what he would have done if he had been here. I imagine but….." She continued to shake her head. "I don't know."
"Well, none of us do," Gretchen said. "And we never will."
Shelby gave a small sigh. "I want her to be there because she believes that she needs to be there." She gave a tiny smile, that was barely a smile but only enough for her lips to curl up on the sides. "Quinn won't want to be there and Noah will just…." She shrugged. "It will depend where he's needed. And Rachel won't want to be there but I think she won't know how to admit it, but San will want to be there. She will struggle but we'll need to be there together. I will need to be with her."
Gretchen nodded. "Well, we should talk to her."
"Give her the option," Shelby agreed out loud. "Give them all the option." She took a deep breath. "Will we have that conversation now?"
"Do you have any further questions for me?" Holly asked. "I left the kids' work on the counter. Everything is organized. I can get Sugar and we can go."
Shelby pulled her body up the stairs as she led Holly to her niece. She wasn't sure how she was going to say this. She didn't know where to begin with this but she knew she had to start be getting the kids downstairs.
"Thank you for letting her come," Holly said quietly as they approached Rachel's room.
Shelby waved her off. "Not a problem."
However, she paused when she heard the giggles coming from Rachel's room. She leaned against the door frame and watched as Rachel read aloud with a grin. She couldn't remember the last time she saw her daughter look so relaxed.
"Wow," Holly whispered as she watched them. "How are they and where are our girls?"
Shelby gave her a side smile before she turned back to the girls.
Rachel sat with her legs crossed on her bed, poised as she did the voices.
"Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind,"Pooh?" he whispered.
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's hand. "I just wanted to be sure of you."
Rachel smiled and Sugar giggled. Rachel opened her mouth to continue when Shelby knocked gently on the door.
"Is it time to go?" Sugar asked.
"Yes-" Holly started.
"Actually," Shelby said. "I just want to let you know that we're going to still be meeting for a bit longer."
"Okay," Sugar shrugged.
"You sure?" Holly asked as Shelby pulled the door shut most of the way.
Shelby nodded. "I haven't seen her like this in so long.
"I haven't seen Sugar like that ever," Holly grinned. "I can come back and get her. I have to run some errands anyway."
"Thank you," Shelby said. "That sounds perfect."
"Good luck," Holly said as she walked down the hallway.
Shelby sighed and knocked on Noah's door just as it opened.
"Ma!" he said with surprise. "What's up?"
Shelby peeked around her son and looked at the messy room. "How's it going in here?"
"It's going," he said with slow nod. "I think I've made some progress."
She arched her brow when she saw the bottle of Fabreze in his hand. "Laundry, Noah. Not Fabreze. I thought I made that clear."
He shrugged. "I don't know…. I don't think it's that bad."
Shelby shook her head. "We are not negotiating, but you can take a break. I want to speak with you as well as San and Quinn."
"What about Rach?"
"I think I want to talk with her one on one about this later," Shelby said as she turned toward Quinn and Santana's set of rooms. "Head downstairs please."
Noah sighed and tossed the bottle of Fabreze back on his bed.
"I saw that," Shelby said without turning around. "Pick it up and put it on your dresser. It'll spill if you leave it like that."
"How do you know?"
Shelby scoffed as if he were joking. "I know," she replied simply.
She reached up and knocked on Santana's doors. In every quiet moment, she remembered how at odds the two girls used to be. She felt a happy feeling deep down in her heart knowing how much they needed each other now. She opened the door and saw that they both were facing away from her both with earbuds in their ears through a split jack connected to the iPad. She arched her eyebrow. Clearly this wasn't cleaning.
"How do you think he keeps it so clean?" Quinn asked rather loudly. "Wouldn't he drop blood somewhere? Spill it I mean?"
"He uses plastic," Santana practically yelled back.
"But, plastic can overlap, he has to spill some blood sometime," Quinn countered still with a raised voice.
"He's a professional," Santana said with a roll of her eyes.
Quinn took an ear bud out and turned to Santana. "Whatever," she mumbled. "I wish we had someone like him."
"Me too," Santana said quietly with a tiny visible gulp. Her face hardened. "He's just cleaning up. Plus…. Some people deserve it. Like this guy."
Shelby peached over the girls shoulder just as a red-headed character lowered a power tool onto what looked like a bound man's neck. Shelby snatched the iPad, causing both of the girls to jump.
"What are you watching?" Shelby asked as she looked at the iPad and then looked over at her girls.
"Dexter," Santana said with a shrug. "It's about a serial killer who kills people that deserve to die."
Shelby arched her brow and looked over at Quinn, who only shrugged.
"It's a good show, Mom," the blonde mumbled.
"And what exactly is he doing here?" Shelby asked looking at the paused scene.
"He is chopping up the body so he can fit it into garbage bags to go into the ocean," Santana said as she sat up in bed.
Shelby looked at the girls in disbelief. This was too real for her to hear about a fictional show because it was too much of a reality in their lives. How were they watching a show about it?
"Mom, you're not mad are you?" Santana asked. "It's just a show…. even though, I think we would be better off if -"
"Don't finish that." Shelby ordered. "Let's all talk downstairs please."
"But Mom," Santana started.
"Don't," Quinn said as she stood with a sigh.
"Why?" Santana asked.
"Because I'm pretty sure we're already in trouble," Quinn said with a roll of her eye.
"Because for a brief moment we weren't," Quinn replied as they made their way downstairs.
Shelby sighed and watched the girls walk down stairs. She was too flabbergasted to interject with the girls' conversation.
"Mumma," a little voice asked behind her. Shelby looked down at her youngest. "Can we use that?"
"Rachel, I thought you and Sugar were reading," Shelby said as she set the iPad she was still holding on the hall table.
"We were, but we want to watch a show now," Rachel declared. "Now that Sanny and Quinn are done. It's my turn."
"Oh, is it?" Shelby asked with a quirk of her brow. "I'm pretty sure that you and Sugar have plenty of work that Miss Holly can give you."
Rachel narrowed her eyes and tilted her head. "Don't you want me to enhance my social skills?"
Shelby mirrored her look back and shook her head with a smirk after a few moments. Her daughter was certainly one of a kind. "What exactly do you want to watch?"
Shelby needed some clarification after what she had seen her older two girls watch.
Rachel shrugged. "I don't know. Sugar and I have already read a lot of Pooh. She wants to watch something."
"There are other books you can read," Shelby offered.
"But we want to watch something, Mama Corcoran," Sugar said as she stepped into the hallway. She paused when she saw Shelby's look. "Should I call you something else?"
Shelby looked at the girl again. She wasn't going to start a power struggle with this child.
"That's fine," she said with a grimace. "Rachel, you remember your profile password on the iPad?"
Rachel gave a steady nod. "One hour girls," Shelby began.
"We want to watch a movie, Mumma," Rachel said. She gave a single shrug. "I'm getting over not having another sibling."
Shelby frowned and looked at Sugar before turning back to Rachel with a confused tilt of her head. She sighed. "And what movie is going to help you, Rach?"
Rachel looked at Sugar and straightened proudly. "The Incredibles."
Shelby chuckled. "Okay, why don't you watch in my room on the television in my room instead, okay?"
"Okay," Sugar said as she took Rachel's hand and dragged Rachel toward Shelby's room, leaving the woman wondering how Sugar knew the layout of their home.
"I think we should maybe get her another friend," Shelby heard her sister's voice behind her.
Shelby turned and swatted her. "Stop."
Quinn looked around the room. They had been asked to come downstairs and now they were here and no one was talking. Finally, she thought, as Shelby emerged from the back stairwell.
"Why are we here? And what do you have to tell us that you don't want Rachel here for?" Santana asked bluntly.
Quinn arched her eyebrow at her mother.
"Maybe Mom just wants Rachel to hang out with Sugar and get to be better friends because they were actually acting normal," Noah said as he folded his arms.
Quinn rolled her eyes. "But seriously why are we here."
"Firstly, I'm sorry," Shelby said as she stood. "Gretchen, can I ask you a question in private for a moment?"
Gretchen gave a nod and stood.
"Mom, is this about Dexter?" Santana asked with an eye roll.
"Who's Dexter?" Nana asked walking in from the living room.
"The show?" Noah asked. "What season are you on?"
"Excuse you?" Shelby asked in horror.
"Just season one," Santana shrugged.
"Just wait," Noah said with a grin.
"Whoa, whoa!" Shelby said. "Clearly, those parental controls don't work."
"They do," Santana replied.
"It's your passwords that suck," Noah interjected.
Quinn nodded. "It's our birthdays backwards….. And I'm new to the family."
"How am I supposed to remember who's is who?" Shelby muttered to herself.
"Shel, we can easily redo the passwords," Joey called from the laundry room.
"But that's not the issue, is it?" Gretchen asked as she looked between the kids and the mother.
Shelby sighed. "It's the content. You're not bothered by it at all?"
Santana gave a single shrug. "I don't know. Not really. People are terrible everyday…. Why not watch something about a guy who brings them to justice? It's not a big deal mom."
Shelby gave a slight scoff. "I dont know what to say. Please help me, Gretchen. They cant think this is right."
"They know it's not. They know that killing is terribly wrong," Gretchen said. "But I too have seen some episodes of Dexter and I think that's what's so interesting about it. He struggles with the ambiguity of right and wrong."
"But at the same time, he makes it simple," Quinn interjected. She shrugged. "It's a strange comfort knowing that there's a balance out there."
"But it's not real," Shelby said.
"We know," Santana muttered. "Mom, we just needed to focus on someone else's problems. We needed to focus on Dexter's."
"But it's just not appropriate," Shelby said laughing at the absurdity of the conversation.
"That may be true," Gretchen said. "But they're watching it. So watch it with them and then talk about why they like it."
"You're going to watch Dexter with us?" Santana deadpanned.
"You're going to watch a show with us about a serial killer who has a sister who swears more than Santana on a bad day?" Quinn asked.
"We will see," Shelby said still unsure of how they arrived at this point. She looked at the therapist. She wants to hash this out more with her later without her children as their audience. "I'm not sure about it."
Santana shrugged. "So watch it with us," she offered. "Just…. Rachel can't watch it. So… we'll have to find those rare moments when she's preoccupied with something."
Shelby nodded. She didn't want to watch it but the words Gretchen had told her so many times echoed through her head. She said that she was too protective of her children. She had said that there had been no compromise from her part. She chewed her lip. Her children would watch what they wanted and do what they wanted. She knew that. She needed to start breaking more of her own rules before it broke them all.
"Okay, we will talk more and sort out the logistics. I'm worried that you guys will be triggered by it," Shelby admitted.
"There will always be things out there that might trigger us," Santana said, causing her mother and Gretchen to look at her in surprise.
Shelby recovered after a moment. "That's true." She nodded at her kids.
"That's it?" Quinn asked as she looked at her mother.
Shelby gave a little sigh. "It's not, but it's enough."
A moment of silence settled upon them.
"So…. Why are we here?" Quinn asked.
"I want to talk to you about tomorrow," Shelby began .
"What's tomorrow?" Quinn asked absently.
"The sentencing," Santana muttered.
"We missed them telling the verdict?" Quinn asked.
Santana looked at her with a frown. "You wanted to go?"
Quinn shrugged. "I just wanted to know."
"He wasn't on trial for everything at once right?" Noah asked.
"That's right," Shelby said. "Um… well, he was on trial for rape and attempted rape against…" She trailed off as she looked at Quinn who was staring at the floor as her other two siblings were trying to subtly stare at her. " …...Quinn and Rach….and kidnapping of Rachel." She sighed. "He was already found guilty three counts aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a loaded weapon, two counts of harassment of a minor, violating probation and child pornography. Kidnapping was already part of the plea because he admitted that in his confession. He only took the plea so that he wouldn't have to face life without parole. He is hoping to get out and we are hoping that if he ever got out of prison he would be a very old man."
"You remember a lot, ma," Noah said quietly.
"That I do," Shelby winked. She sighed and sat across from the kids and looked at them as they attempted to avoid her eyes. "I wanted to ask you three if you wanted to go to the sentencing tomorrow."
"Isn't this a little last minute notice?" quinn muttered.
"You didn't say what the verdict was," Santana said quietly meeting her mother's eyes daringly.
"He was found guilty of all charges," Shelby said as she reached and put her hand on Quinn and santana's hands and looked over at Noah.
Santana felt her eyes sting and her vision became blurry as she looked at her mother. "What does this mean?"
"It means he will be sentenced tomorrow and then this will be over," Shelby said.
"It will never be over," Quinn mumbled.
"Why do you say that, Quinn?" Gretchen asked.
Quinn shrugged. "Because it's true. It'll be better, but…. it won't fix what happened." She bit her lip. "I don't want to go tomorrow. It won't make a difference for me."
She blonde shook her head and leaned back on the couch.
"Quinn," Shelby asked with a frown.
"Mom, I'm fine," she muttered as she closed her eyes, causing her mother unexpectedly to frozen with concern.
Santana glanced at her sister, confused.
"I don't know if I want to see him," Noah muttered. "I just don't know."
"You don't have to," Shelby offered.
"What about Rach?" Noah asked.
"I will worry about Rachel. I'm going to talk to her." She paused and looked between her silent daughters, one of whom was clearly shutdown with her eyes closed and the other was quietly staring at the ground. "You don't even have to make a choice now. You can think about it," their mother said softly.
"I don't want to think about it," Noah said honestly. He licked his lips and looked over at Santana.
"I'll do whatever Santana wants," he said finally. "I know Rachel won't want to. For a moment she'll think she'll will but when the reality comes to mind, she won't want to." He paused for a moment. "San?"
"I need to go, mom," Santana said after a few moments.
"Okay," Shelby said squeezing Santana's hand a little more. "Okay."
Santana nodded. "Yeah," she whispered as she looked down at her hands. "I have to be there."
"Can I ask why Santana?"
"Because Rachel can't," Santana replied without hesitation.
"Without thinking about her, Santana," Gretchen began. "Why do you want to go?"
"I can't not think about her," Santana said. "I don't understand."
"I'm sorry. I wasn't clear," Gretchen said.
Before she could continue, Santana interrupted her. "I need to go to know that I don't have to worry about him being around the corner." She chewed her lip. "I just …. he made everything that I made myself forget come back. And I …. I need him to pay for that. I have to go."
Gretchen opened her mouth to say something but Santana spoke up. "I need to go. I have to. You don't understand-"
"Hold on," Gretchen said. "I'm sorry to interrupt, Santana, but you need to give your mother a chance to answer. Why do you think she would say no?"
"Because she always does. She didn't let see ….. She didn't let me go to New York, I mean," Santana mumbled. She shrugged. "I don't know. She just usually tells me no."
"Well, I'm not," Shelby said. "I'll be with you but, I wanted to give you guys a choice and I am going to support that choice."
Santana looked between her mother and Gretchen. "What?"
Shelby gave a small grin. "Yeah."
Shelby watched as the look of confusion washed over her daughter. She could see that Santana wasn't sure about the feelings that she felt. The look of shock on Santana's face caused Shelby to believe that Santana had been ready to put up a fight.
"You can change your mind, San," Shelby assured her.
She frowned. "I won't," she mumbled.
"Well, if you do," Shelby said. "That goes for all of you." She looked at Quinn, whose eyes were still closed. "Quinn?" Quinn's eyes remained closed. "Quinn, I know you don't want to listen to me right now and you don't have to answer, but I want you to talk with you." Shelby frowned. "Quinn?"
"Ma," Noah started.
"She's asleep, Mom," Santana said with disbelief and a grin.
"No, she's not," Shelby said immediately Her daughter was stressed and as a result she was shutting down and closed her eyes to block her out…. or at least that was what Shelby had convinced herself had happened.
"She is," Santana laughed. "She's legit snoring. Trust me. She fakes it all the time with Rachel because Rachel won't stop talking at night unless she thinks Quinn's asleep… Unlike me where she just keeps whispering in my ear whether I respond or not… but this is Quinn for real asleep. If she were faking, I would know."
Shelby gave a half scoff. "Quinn, sweetheart, wake up," she said with a nervous smile. This was ridiculous. Quinn shifted and leaned into Santana and continued to snore softly. "Quinn," Shelby said more loudly.
"This might be a good thing," Gretchen said behind them.
"I'm sorry?" Shelby asked. She shook her head. "Santana, can you check on Rachel and Sugar please? Noah, follow her and make sure she doesn't make Sugar cry. If they're still playing nicely, come back downstairs please. If they're not bring them downstairs with you. Either way, come back."
Santana shrugged and started toward the stairs with Noah behind her. She turned and looked at her mother. "Mumma don't worry so much about Quinn. She just….. She's not giving up…. she's not … she's not worse… she just …. she moved on. She's good like that. So much stuff has happened to her that she doesn't hold onto her anger like me…. or even Noah…. Just….." She looked at Gretchen for a moment and then her mother. "Don't over analyze her passing out on you. She's tired. That's it."
"Thank you, sweetheart," Shelby said with a soft smile. The mother waited until the kids disappeared up the stairs when she turned to Gretchen and led her away from Quinn's sleeping form and into the kitchen. "This is okay?" she asked with confusion. "I can think of all the of reasons why it's not…."
"We don't know what Quinn is thinking," Gretchen began. "But either way, she's not ready to discuss it. I think just from my short time with Quinn that she not only separates herself from her trauma, but she does it in a way that's almost strangely healthier than other kids that dissociate. Quinn doesn't suffocate it as much as she steps away from it and forces herself to be removed from the situation. …. this is the tactic that she's had to use her entire life. She never dwelled on it because she knew she would drown if she had to. Some kids in her situation struggle and every kid is different, but she really had dealt with it in the most healthy way she could. Long story short… I think this is a good sign."
Shelby sighed. "Is it?"
"I think maybe," Gretchen said gently. "We will talk with her more if she's up to it, but she might not be. She might may very well not go. And we will get through that."
Shelby nodded. "I guess we will," she mumbled to herself as she looked back at her sleeping daughter.
Rachel rested her chin on the pillow most snuggly as she continued to be engrossed in the movie.
"Can I say something?" Sugar asked.
"No," Rachel said. "We're watching the movie."
"We can pause it," Sugar said with an eye roll.
"No," Rachel said, not breaking contact. "I like this."
"Can I say something?" Sugar asked again.
"No," Rachel laughed. "Let's watch."
"I just wanted to say that I noticed your mom and I have the same singing talent because we both love the same song."
Rachel nodded idly, but continued to watch the movie, entranced.
"I don't want to watch this anymore," Sugar announced.
"You don't?" Rachel asked as she turned her head slightly from the screen but kept her eyes focused on the movie.
"Nope," Sugar said. "Let's watch something on the iPad."
"My mom took it," Rachel said.
Sugar rolled her eyes. "I have mine, silly." Sugar reached over and turned off the television in the middle of the movie, much to Rachel's flabbergasted look.
"Why did we have to ask for mine then?" Rachel wondered out loud.
"I didn't want to use mine then," Sugar replied as she pulled hers out of her bag. The girl straightened and looked Rachel with a satisfied and boastful grin. "I know something you don't know."
"I doubt it," Rachel said with a side glance.
"I do," Sugar said.
"What?" Rachel asked with a roll of her eyes.
"I know what your mom's favorite song as a girl was," she said proudly.
"You don't," Rachel said turning to look at Sugar completely. She didn't want to admit that the more she thought about it, she didn't know the answer.
" I do," Sugar proclaimed with her nose in the air.
"Nuh uh," Rachel replied.
"You wouldn't be arguing with me unless you DIDN'T know!" Sugar retorted.
Rachel huffed and tried to conceal her vulnerability. She didn't know because she couldn't remember the last time her mother sang to her.
"I'll prove it!" Sugar said as she opened an application on her iPad.
Rachel wasn't sure when they went from enjoying The Incredibles to competing again over who was right and who was wrong. Friendship confused her terribly.
Sugar pressed things on her iPad and finally put it in front of her face. "Watch."
Rachel frowned as she watched her mother's face come into view on the Youtube screen. She was younger, but not unrecognizable. Her mother opened her mouth to sing, the song flowed from her effortlessly, almost like it was apart of her. It was as if she were sharing a piece of her that you always knew but were never privy to. She would close her eyes and smile as the music exploded from her. Rachel felt like her mother singing to her.
Her eyes filled with tears are her mother sang a heartfelt, jazz version of a red-headed orphan's hopes. Her mother was telling her to hang on one more day. She couldn't remember when she heard her mother sing this song. She had never seen her mother sing like she did in the concert.
"You gotta hang on-You gotta hang on 'til tomorrow- Come what may," her mother sang in the video. Rachel felt her heart beat faster.
She grabbed the iPad from Sugar's hands.
Rachel pushed past her siblings as they walked up the steps.
She bolted down the steps with the iPad in hand as it continued to play. As the song reached its height and her mother's voice echoed down the stairwell, Rachel leapt down the back stairwell and into the kitchen right as she ran into her mother.
"Rach," Shelby asked as she knelt down in front of her. "What's going on?"
"I …. I …." Rachel looked down at the iPad in her hand. "Um…." Her fingers grazed the edge of her mother's now frozen image.
"Rachel, what is this, bug?" Shelby looked down at the iPad. She frowned deeply when she recognized herself. "Is this me?"
Gretchen peaked over her shoulder. Shelby looked at the screen. It had been the last concert she had done before she went to London. She was singing her favorite childhood song, "Tomorrow." Her heart seemed to burst in her chest over the irony of the song.
"Will…. Will you ….." Rachel began quietly. "Will you….sing this for me?"
Shelby looked at her, stunned.
Rachel looked up at her with tears in her eyes. "I just….. When you sing it like that…. I believed it would be okay. You made me feel better. Can you ….. can you sing it for me, Mumma? We….. we're stuck with a day that's always gray…. you can fix it if you sing your song." She looked at Gretchen. "You have to listen. She will make you feel better." Rachel's gaze shifted hopefully to her aunt. "Remember, Aunt Joey? When Mumma sings, she can make you feel better. Sugar showed me this and …. I felt better instantly."
Shelby looked down at her daughter with unshed tears. She had pushed that concert out of her mind. She let that song drain from her memory. It all had hurt too much and now it was just unbearable. Rachel was asking her to sing about the hope for tomorrow when so much of her was filled with anxious dread and anxiety about it. Shelby didn't even know how Rachel would handle what she had told the older three now that she had an ideal … a song even…. about hope for the following day. Had Shelby been wrong? Should she remember the piece of her that believed in the words she sung? Her heart had felt so heavy when she sang that song. She was preparing to leave her children and she was still accepting that her husband wasn't ever returning home to her. And then her daughter who had been against singing for months was not begging her to sing again … was begging to be a part of the music again.
It all hurt too much.
She reached out and took the iPad.
Rachel offered it to her as her other carefully pulled it from her hands. "Want to watch you with me? Do you not remember the lyrics? I … I can help you…."
Rachel's brow furrowed as Shelby gave a tearful shake of her head. Shelby pulled Rachel into her arms and cradled the back of Rachel's head with her hand as she held her tight to her. Noah and Santana leaned against the door frame as they watched with slight confusion. Santana reached over the counter and took the iPad and pressed play.
Noah visibly swallowed and chewed his lip to hold back tears as he remembered that his mother used to sing that song to them as kids. His father would sing to them frequently, but this was a song that had been stored away so deep inside them because it was too painful to unpack.
Santana's features melted into themselves onto her face as the memories flooded back to her. She couldn't remember the last time she had heard her mother sing this song. She felt a hand slip into hers and she looked over her shoulder and Quinn had woken up. She leaned onto Santana and together, the two of them watched the video of their mother telling them to hang on.
"When I'm stuck …..with a day " Rachel whispered in her mother's ear. "That's gray …. and lonely."
Rachel stopped speaking the lyrics as her mother held her closer.
Shelby looked up at the kids and held Rachel closer. She had stopped doing the thing that she loved that made her feel to the end of her fingertips because it hurt too much. She had stopped so long ago that she had forgotten what it had felt like to feel that way. Seeing her perform like that and to see her feel the music so deeply in pit of her heart made her want to learn to soar again. She hated that she couldn't remember when she last sang and she hated that she had become the stereotype that had removed that. Music had always been a part of her but for almost the last decade it had become a dormant neighbor instead of the active lover it once was. She hadn't realized how much she had pushed it away and how empty she had been without it. People forget to tell you that it's more complicated than missing things once they're gone. Instead, Shelby knew at that moment, as she sat on the kitchen floor surrounded by her children, that she had let the piece of her slowly melt away as she forced herself to need it less and less. She forced that piece of her to become an accessory instead of a necessity as it always had been.
Shelby look at her other three children.
She had forgotten how music allows her to feel weightless and full all at once. She forgot how it allowed her to let her heart explode and her brain drain. She forgot its solace.
"Come what may," she whispered.
I know it's not as long as they used to be. I really will try to be better. I strongly encourage you all to watch Idina Menzel's performance of Tomorrow at the Barefoot at the Symphony concert.
Please let me know what you think.