Brittany knows it's a silly reason to cry, which is why she wants to stay quiet about it. She shuts her door and turns off her lights, then crawls into bed, pressing her face into her powder blue pillowcase, hoping to muffle the sound of her sobs, but even though she takes every precaution, fifteen minutes later, somehow her mom just knows.
(Brittany swears her mom must have supersonic hearing or something.)
"Honey?" Brittany's mom says, opening the door; Brittany sees light seep into her dark room from the hallway. Brittany can imagine her mom, one hand on the door handle, standing crooked in the doorframe, but she can't see her—just hear her voice, gentle and hesitant, like she's not sure quite what she's seeing. "Are you okay? It's seven o'clock. Why are your lights off, sweetie?"
Brittany doesn't say anything; she holds her breath. Maybe if she stays quiet, her mom will think she's asleep and won't realize that she's crying for such a weird reason.
"Britt, are you sick? Do you have a headache? Why are you in bed?"
Brittany tries to swallow the soft, wet gasps trembling low in her throat, but she can't quite do it; she's crying too hard. She keeps her mouth open, her breath humid between the pillow and her lips. She feels her shoulders rattle as she tries to suppress a full sob.
"Britt, are you crying, honey?"
She hears the soft shush of socks on carpet as her mom pads across the room from the door and then feels a hand on her shoulder, turning her over. Her mattress sags as her mom sits on the edge of the bed beside her. Brittany hurriedly tries to wipe her face, but it's no use; her mom sees her tears. Without meaning to do it, Brittany whimpers; she knows she sounds super sad. Her mom's eyebrows scrunch together.
"Brittany, honey, what's the matter?"
Brittany doesn't answer; she doesn't want to say. She knows it's a weird reason to cry—or at least that it isn't as serious as cancer or breaking up or not being able to have kids when you want to do that. She's not a baby and it shouldn't be this hard to stop crying over something so irrational.
(It doesn't feel irrational, though.)
Maybe if she just stays quiet for a few minutes, she'll be able to stop sobbing. Brittany bites her lip; her whole face feels like it might crumble.
"Brittany," her mom says slowly, "did something happen at school? Did someone say something mean to you?"
Brittany shakes her head no, because it isn't that. People have actually been pretty nice to her lately, ever since she became class president.
Her mom pauses, drawing a shaky breath. Brittany can see the edges of her face illuminated in the pale, browned light peeking in from the hallway, but her eyes and mouth look dark and deep. She rubs at Brittany's shoulder, sitting next to Brittany's head, half on Brittany's pillow and half on the mattress.
"Is it Santana?" she says hesitantly.
For a second, Brittany wonders how she should respond. In the end, she decides to tell the truth; she shakes her head yes, because, yeah, it is Santana.
Her mom looks relieved to have found a right answer, but nervous about her next question.
"Are you two fighting?" she says, raising her eyebrows up high. Her question ends on an upswing, like she really isn't sure if she asked the right thing—like she can't imagine them fighting over anything.
It's probably good that Brittany's mom can't imagine that, because she's right; Brittany shakes her head no super fast because she and Santana aren't fighting. They haven't fought since last year. They get along so, so well now, and it's not like they agree about everything in the world, but they agree about important things, and they talk about everything, and Santana just understands Brittany even when Brittany can't say exactly what she means, because Santana is just perfect—
Brittany's mom just says "Honey?" and Brittany knows she should probably explain, otherwise her mom will feel worried for no reason.
"You'll laugh at me," Brittany moans, turning her head to press her face into her pillow again. Her voice sounds fat from crying and her words muddle as she kisses into fabric. Her face feels tight in some places and stretched out of shape in others. She sobs again, and, god, it's all just weird, okay? Her cheeks are so hot. She doesn't want to say why she's crying because she knows her mom won't take her seriously if she does.
"I promise not to laugh, sweetie," Brittany's mom says solemnly, running her nails in little circles over Brittany's shoulder, soothing her. "Just tell me what's the matter. What's the deal with you and Santana?"
She sounds so sincere that Brittany can't help it; she looks up from the pillow to find her mom staring down at her, her expression soft and caring. She pouts her lips a little at Brittany, like she's already ready to feel sorry for her, and that's probably what makes Brittany talk, in the end.
"It's not fair!" Brittany says, a fresh sob breaking her throat.
Her mom looks worried to see Brittany cry so heavily. "What's not fair, honey?" she asks.
"It's not fair," Brittany cries, "that we can't just be together all the time because we love each other so much. I mean, I know some people who love each other can't be together because of like wars or family feuds or oceans or business trips or alien abductions and stuff, but there's no good reason with us. When she's not here, I miss her and it hurts a lot, even though I know I'll see her tomorrow. And I just don't understand why two people who love each other should have to be apart just because they're kids or something, because we're not even really kids; we're eighteen. And the kid thing shouldn't matter anyway, because we love each other more than anything."
She says all her words really fast and really close together and then sobs again. Her nose runs; she knows it isn't cute.
The corners of Brittany's mom's mouth twitch, but she doesn't laugh, because she promised she wouldn't. Instead, she puts on a bigger pout, just to show Brittany that she cares. "Oh, honey," she coos. "Even adults who love each other can't be together all the time. Dad goes to work every day and I go to work and sometimes we just have to be apart."
"But you get to spend your nights together. You don't have to be lonely when you sleep. Like, if Dad has a nightmare, you're there and you can hug him better. And you don't have to wake up not seeing him," Brittany says, because it's true. The heartbrokenness of her own voice surprises her; it sounds like a tragedy.
Brittany misses Santana on the nights when they can't sleep together—the shape and the soft and the quiet breathing of her. When Brittany has to go to sleep alone, it feels like someone stole something out of Brittany's chest. Not having Santana there makes it so hard to sleep and even harder to have good dreams. Her body knows that Santana is missing and curls into itself so that Brittany spends the night in a tight ball.
As stupid as it is to cry over something like this, it's even stupider that Santana and Brittany can't just be together at night. It's not like they always even do stuff, anyway; Brittany just misses dreaming with Santana whenever Santana is away.
"Oh, Britt," Brittany's mom says. "Baby," she pauses. It seems like she wants to say one thing, but then switches halfway to say something else. When she speaks again, she uses her this-means-business voice. "Here's the deal: You can have Santana sleep over tonight if her parents say that it's okay, but you had better go straight to sleep and remember that this is a one time thing. I don't want you to get used to having sleepovers on school nights. You can make it a few more months, sweetie. Once you graduate…," her sentence trails away and now she's the one who sounds sort of sad.
It's the first time Brittany's mom has talked about what will happen between Brittany and Santana after graduation with Brittany, really. The fact that she knows that Brittany wants to move in with Santana after graduation—like it's not even a question of if, just when—makes Brittany feel respected, somehow. Brittany wishes Santana could have heard her mom say that.
What Brittany's mom just said dawns on Brittany. She shoots up, sitting beside her mom, and starts wiping the tears from her face. Instantly, the waterworks in her eyes shut down. She feels so, so happy, like a blooming flower.
"I can call her?" she asks, just to make sure.
Her mom nods, seeming a little surprised with herself. "I'll tell your dad she's coming over." She laughs at something, but Brittany isn't quite sure what, and leans over to kiss Brittany's hair. She wipes a tear from under Brittany's eye and gives Brittany one last back scratch before standing up off the bed. "Remember: one time thing," she warns, emphasizing each word as she says it, but Brittany doesn't care. It feels like Brittany just won a giant prize, like the Ohio State Powerball or something. Brittany's mom disappears into the hallway; she leaves the door open so that Brittany has light.
Brittany reaches over and snatches her phone up off her nightstand. She only has to wait one ring before Santana picks up.
Santana has this new thing where whenever she answers the phone when Brittany calls, she rattles off a bunch of really quick compliments to Brittany in Spanish. Usually Brittany only catches a few of them because Santana talks so fast that all her words jam together, like sprinters coming down a racetrack in a pack, but the fact that Santana does it still makes Brittany smile, even though she doesn't understand everything Santana says.
"¡Hola, mi chica brilliante! Tú eres el sol en mi cielo y la luz de mi mundo! Te amo tanto que no puedo soportarlo a veces. ¡Te amo cantidades estúpides! ¿Qué pasa, chula? ¿Cómo está mi chica bonita, maravillosa, la genia?"
Brittany laughs. "¡Hola, my Spanish-speaking auctioneer!" she says back. Suddenly, it's like she wasn't even crying before; now everything feels light and perfect.
Santana snickers into the phone. "Okay, that is so not as romantic as what I said," she teases. "What's up, babe?"
Brittany can hear Santana chewing something, so she imagines Santana in the kitchen, trying to scrape the last peanut butter out of the jar with a long knife; Brittany knows that's probably not what Santana is doing, but she likes thinking of Santana with the phone pressed up to her ear, leaning gracefully back against her counter.
"You should come over," Brittany says breathlessly.
"Okay," Santana replies automatically. Then, "Should I bring my calc stuff? It's not due until Friday."
"No," says Brittany. "No math; just you. My mom said that you could sleep over, if you wanted."
"Seriously?" Now there's a smile in Santana's voice. "No way! It's a school night." She isn't chewing anything anymore. Brittany imagines Santana holding still, hovering next to the sink, about to wash off the knife.
Brittany shrugs, even though Santana can't see her. "I may have talked her into it," she says, using her sneaky voice. She isn't exactly lying, but she isn't going to mention the silly crying part, either. It's not like Brittany thought that crying would get her anything anyway. She just felt sad and started randomly crying about it; she can't help it if her mom overheard her or if her mom is just super nice and really gets things sometimes.
(Brittany guesses that her mom told her she could have Santana come over because her mom loves her dad so much that she knows how bad it sucks to have to be away from the person you love.)
"Really?" Now Santana sounds like she won the Powerball, too. "Um, okay. Let me ask my mom. Oh god, what if she says yes?" says Santana, giddy. Brittany feels a little bit giddy, too. A lot giddy, actually.
For a second, Santana goes quiet and all Brittany can hear on the line is her breathing, quick and nervous, but excited. She hears some percussion and imagines Santana running up the stairs. More breathing, then a rapping sound.
"Mom?" Santana says, far away from the phone. "Can I sleep over at Brittany's house tonight? Her mom says it's okay."
Brittany hears Santana's mom say something, but Brittany can't understand it. Maybe she says it in Spanish or maybe she's just too far away from the phone for Brittany to catch what she says. Brittany holds her breath. Oh please, oh please, oh please. Santana's mom talks for a long time, then Santana starts talking, too, sort of over the top of her.
"Yes," Santana says. "Yes. Promise. I won't. Yeah."
Her mom says something else.
"Yes!" Santana cheers. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" The phone rattles and suddenly Santana seems closer than she did before. "I'll be right over, BrittBritt."
Her voice sounds like a grin.