Santana had expected the curious look her mother gave her when she told her there would be another person for their late dinner, but it was really the stunned, wide-eyed look when she told her who it was that she was waiting for.
"…Rachel…?" Maribel's lips pursed for a second, cheeks lightly puffing out as her jaw slightly dropped, "Little Rachel?"
Looking anywhere except at her mother, Santana shrugged, nodding. It wasn't like she wasn't aware of the strangeness of this revelation.
"But you haven't had Rachel over since… Well, when you started high school." Setting down the spatula she'd been holding, Maribel really looked at her daughter. "This isn't a cruel joke, is it?"
"No," Santana responded tightly, crossing her arms and moving her gaze to glare at the cupboard doors to her mother's left. She couldn't say she didn't almost wish it was a joke. "Rachel's here."
And she's a big 'ol ball of emotions and crying and so annoying and needy and I don't know how to get rid of her, she wanted to say. Instead, her glare sharpened. "But I don't know how much conversation you'll get out of her," was what she managed.
But Santana was already turning away. Her job was done. Now she could go slip into the shower and wash off… Everything of that night, and let her mother deal with the girl who had steadily made Santana more and more uncomfortable with each passing second. It was almost like Rachel had never stopped being able to read her.
And that… Santana didn't like that. Just what else did she know about her? Or think she knew about her?
"What?" Santana snapped, spinning around at the sound of her mother dropping her dishcloth to follow after her; pushing her arms out, she shrugged again, melodramatically, "What do you want me to say? Why she's here?"
Maribel leveled her stare at Santana. "That would be a good start."
Dropping her arms, Santana kept her mouth closed. Her mother would only keep her longer if she talked back to her.
But Maribel, knowing her daughter too well, Santana internally grimaced, only crossed her arms and raised her eyebrows in response. However, when Santana still hadn't answered in more than thirty seconds, her gaze softened, looking as if, somehow, Santana's attitude had just gotten through to her. "Santí? Why are you so upset?"
Santana's jaw flexed. "Maybe because I want to take a shower and you're making me stop and talk?"
"It's more than that."
No shit is it more than that. Santana couldn't hold back a snort. "Yeah, cool, great. Are you going to let me, please, take my shower? Or not?"
Sighing, Maribel looked away, shaking her head. "Santí…" Taking a closing step forward, she reached out, placing her hand onto Santana's arm; ignoring Santana's instinctual flinch at the touch, she gently stroked her thumb along the bone in her forearm. "What's bothering you so much? Is it Rachel? Did something happen between you two?" Seeing Santana's jaw flex again, she curled her fingers around her wrist, gently tugging her to the kitchen table. "C'mon. Come here."
Oh no. No no no no no. "I'm fine," Santana snapped, her heart thundering wildly in her chest. There was no way in hell this was going to happen. She dug her heels into the floor. "And you're cooking. You should do that, you know? Cook."
Maribel's gaze was too piercing as she expertly corralled Santana's stiff muscles into one of the chairs, taking the one kitty-corner to it. "It'll keep." She leaned forward in her seat, searching her face.
Santana stubbornly glared into the space behind her right shoulder. No no no no no no no no. This was not. Happening. She was not going to get stripped bare again, and definitely not to her mother. "Are you sure? I smell something burning."
"Yes, hija. I hadn't even turned on the burner yet."
Dammit. Santana grit back a violent eyeroll.
Placing her hands onto the tabletop and lacing them in as nonthreateningly way as possible, Maribel studied Santana. "Santí," she started gently, "It's been almost three years, and suddenly you're bringing Rachel around. You two used to be best friends, and then…" Maribel took a deep breath, "You told me you weren't friends with her anymore, and that was that. Now, I admit I didn't pry as much as I could have, but it seemed to me you were serious about that."
"She's in glee. You knew that," Santana accused.
"Yes, but did you see me asking you about that?"
"We share classes together," Santana continued stubbornly.
Maribel nodded. "I'd expected that much, too."
"Then, fuck, maybe she's over here for a project!" Santana abruptly exploded, physically shoving herself back in her chair, the legs knocking back against the floor, "Or a song for glee! Okay? Okay? Now just let me go take a damn shower."
Ringing silence followed her outburst. Wincing at her misstep of cursing in front of her mother, Santana knew she was doing a terrible, terrible job of not reacting.
And, god, now she felt worse.
Her mother's expression sharpened. "Then which is it?" she clipped out.
Automatically opening her mouth to lie, Santana snapped it shut, dropped back, and sagged in her chair instead, her shoulders dropping. She didn't answer.
Done. She was done. Absolutely, utterly, done. No matter how angry or persistent her mother got. Couldn't her mother see how done she was?
Maribel stared at her for countless ringing, vibrating seconds. Santana kept her eyes sullenly on the table, willing for the burning in her eyes to not mutate. Finally, sighing and taking a few seconds to compose herself with her eyes closed, her mouth pursing, Maribel glanced at the kitchen clock, then turned back to Santana. She inhaled deeply. "Fine," she stated like it was pulling teeth, "I can see now's not a good time."
"Your papí will be home soon, and with an extra guest, I should get started." Standing and leaning momentarily on her palms on the tabletop, Maribel shook her head, giving Santana a reproachful look, "I swear sometimes, talking to you is like pulling a mouse out of a filthy-mouthed cat's teeth. And. Santana. We will talk about what's bothering you later."
Yeah, good luck with that. "Finally. Can I go now?" Waiting for a nod before shoving herself up and turning on her heel, Santana only made it a couple of steps before her mother called after her.
"Do you think if she'd mind if I went up to see her?"
Santana's heart squeezed. She'd willfully forgotten how much Maribel had loved Rachel, and her voice came out more harshly than she'd meant it to, sour as it left her throat, "Don't know." Don't care. "She could be asleep, for all I know." And she escaped.
Turning the water on and mechanically removing her clothes, her hands only pausing when she brushed along the fading scars of her boob job, Santana somehow kept the tears, hot and bruising behind her eyes, from falling until she was under the spray. Water cascaded over her forehead, her shoulders hunched to keep from suffocating, and even as it scalded her skin, her insides continuously curdled in on themselves, frozen.
She'd hated Rachel Berry. She'd made herself hate Rachel Berry. She'd even made herself forget about Rachel Berry.
Rachel Berry, who was in her bedroom.
All the bad feelings and hurt suddenly had no outlet, only space to grow and multiply, crowding and so loud in her head. Santana had fortified herself, years ago. Only now her foundation was in tatters, it having been yanked away.
The worst part of it was it was because of her.
She'd answered the phone.
She'd promised to rescue Rachel.
And she'd been the one to make the decision to bring her home and hold and open old wounds and tear out her heart and pretend like nothing was going to change now.
Because, fuck it, it was going to change.
An image of Rachel, so crumpled and devastated, crying on her bed, flitted through her mind, and she sagged, pressing her forehead to the wall tile.
It was all going to change.