"Drum Fills in Our Hearts"
Chapter 1 - The Audition
Mike's Music Shop was perhaps the biggest attraction in Lima, Ohio. At the center of Broad Street, right in the middle of downtown Lima, it was flanked by a car insurance agency and a wholesale carpet store. It boasted the largest selection of musical equipment and sheet music in Allen County, Ohio.
Now, if you grew up in Columbus, like Quinn, Lima didn't even register on your list of big cities. Nevertheless, upon moving to Lima, Quinn couldn't complain about the percussion selection at Mike's. She'd picked up percussion early on, in elementary school. The clash of the cymbals and banging of the drums enabled her to hide her big secrets behind big noises. In her sophomore year, she'd used the money she'd earned from working at the deli to buy her first drum kit. After quitting soccer in the middle of sophomore year, she'd cleared a space in her mom's basement and played until she got home from work. Since moving to Lima, she'd stopped by Mike's at least once a week. Lately, she'd been eyeing a crash cymbal to add to her kit.
"You go to McKinley, right?" A voice from behind startled her. She turned to find a girl she recognized, but couldn't put a name to. Someone she'd seen in school, but then she'd seen so many new faces when she transferred that she would never know this girl's name.
"Transferred a month ago."
Quinn had never been very good at making small talk with anyone.
A small hand shot out to greet her. "Rachel Berry. I'm a senior. You?"
"Huh, and you transferred a few months from graduating high school?" The girl stared at her for a moment. "Sorry. Sorry, I'm prying. Do you play?" She nodded at the cymbal that Quinn's hand ran back and forth against.
"Yeah. Drums. Got a kit, just was looking to build it more."
Rachel nodded excitedly. Her hand nearly crumpled the paper she brought into Quinn's range. "I'm actually looking for a drummer. I want to do something really impressive for my NYADA audition, so my friend slash acquaintance Noah is going to get a few guys from the school's jazz band to help me, but we still don't have a drummer. I figured a big seven piece band would really make my audition memorable." Rachel took a deep breath and her skin flushed. "Sorry, I'm rambling. Do you have a band already?"
"No." Quinn looked down at Rachel's shoes, then dug the tip of her sneaker further into the carpet. "I don't."
"Are you any good?"
Quinn shyly raised her head and caught Rachel's eyes, nodding. "Mmhmm."
"Well how about I give you one of these fliers and you can come by my house at our first practice. I'm trying to find other drummers to try out, I'm not just going to give you the job, but I haven't found anyone yet. Can you bring your drumset, or is that too much?"
"I've got a truck, I'll bring it."
"Great. The flier has my address."
The kit took longer than she'd expected to pack up and then unpack at Rachel's house. She'd never expected to actually find someone who'd want to play with her though, so Quinn didn't mind. By the time that she'd unloaded everything, Quinn's white v-neck was translucent and her hair matted with sweat. She felt the onset of one of her dizziness spells, but the excitement of playing for an audience ran too deep to stop her.
Rachel stood behind a glittering microphone wearing the same short skirt she'd worn to school. In her basement hung a few pictures of famous Broadway stars, a picture of Rachel sitting between two men, and a smallish stage where she'd set up her kit.
"Everyone, this is Quinn. She's going to be playing drums." Quinn shyly looked up and waved. "Quinn, this is Noah, my friend. He plays the keyboard and the guitar. Not at the same time, of course. And he's brought along some of his friends from the jazz band."
"Nice to meet you," Quinn muttered to no one in particular.
"So my audition song is going to be a classic," Rachel explained to the group. "Is anyone familiar with the Barbra Streisand classic, 'Funny Girl'?" Eyebrows raised but no one answered. "Anyway, this song is called, 'Don't Rain on My Parade.' Everyone has sheet music, so we're going to take it from the top."
Quinn glanced at the sheet music sitting on a music stand in front of her kit. She hadn't noticed it until that moment. Clearly, Rachel knew little about percussion. She wouldn't be able to turn the sheets as the song played. Quinn quickly flipped through the sheets, doing her best to memorize some of the rhythms and breaks.
"Quinn? Are you going to count us off?" Quinn looked up to see everyone staring back.
"Sorry. I think...I need..." Quinn's heart beat faster.
"Rachel, we only have an hour before Mike's gotta get home for dinner. And I got a hot date tonight that I'm not trying to miss. Let's get this moving." Quinn had seen this guy at school before. With his mohawk, it was hard to miss him. She'd heard a lot of people call him Puck. She couldn't think about much more as her hands got clammier and the drumsticks loosened from her grasp.
"Noah, I understand that." Rachel turned back to her. "Quinn, you were saying? What do you need?"
The drumsticks dropped from her hand, crashing against the snare drum and ricocheting off of the bass drum on their way down. Quinn's bones revolted against her as she slid out of her stool and onto the floor.
"Quinn?" Rachel gasped, as she rushed to her side. Quinn's eyes were cloudy. Rachel's voice garbled in the back of her mind.
"Puck get her some water!" Rachel shouted, worried. "Mike, call 911." Quinn heard that.
"No," she said, too soft at first and and sure Rachel hadn't heard her. "No," she said, a little more forcefully.
Once, a teammate from her soccer team called 911. That was the beginning of the end. She'd smashed her head against the goalpost assisting on a game winning goal. An ER doctor examined her. Not her doctor. Her mother had had to call her doctor in the middle of the night to come down and explain her unusual anatomy to the ER doctor. It wasn't an easy explanation and the night actually ended in the early morning with the ER doctor signing a special contract and Quinn's mother's pocket book a few hundred dollars lighter. Quinn's mother forced her to give up contact sports following that hospital visit. The more she could avoid medical emergencies, the easier her life would be.
"What do you need, Quinn?" Rachel's hand pushed her matted hair out of her eyes. "You want to go lie down somewhere more comfortable? Mike, come help me get her up to my bed."
Quinn felt strong hands pull her up and drape her across broad shoulders. Rachel's outline followed closely behind. When she was propped up in a soft place in an impossibly pink room, she heard voices.
"We'll go get the song down from our end of things, Rachel. Probably do it at jazz band rehearsal tomorrow. As for her, I don't know how she'll get it. I have confidence that you'll do great, but if you want, stop by our rehearsal tomorrow."
"Ok, Mike. Thanks." Mike's broad shoulders disappeared out of the room, only to be replaced by a mohawk. "Oh Noah, the water. Thank you." Quinn felt cool water against her lips. She opened her mouth.
"She said not to call 911. I'll sit with her and make sure everything's alright." She felt Rachel pull the glass away. Quinn's upper lip was moist with water but she was too tired to wipe it off.
"Ok, then I'm gonna head out with Mike. He tell you the plan?"
"Don't know how she's gonna get it."
"I'll figure something out. See you tomorrow." Rachel's voice was calm, but underneath was a layer of disappointment.
While Quinn slept Rachel quietly pored over the sheet music for her audition, tapping out rhythms and humming to herself. She sat on her pink comforter at the foot of the bed the entire time, glancing frequently in Quinn's direction. She'd seen Quinn around school, but the girl wasn't in any of her classes. She took the time to study her features: shoulder-length brownish blonde hair, long lashes, flushed cheeks with high cheekbones. She'd often seen Quinn in jeans and t-shirts at school, a more tomboyish look.
Rachel was still alternating between her and the sheet music when Quinn woke up.
"Hmm, how long was I asleep?" She asked, her eyes fluttering open.
Rachel turned from her music to look into Quinn's hazel eyes. "About an hour. Do you need anything? Some water? More aspirin? How do you feel now?"
The side of Quinn's mouth quirked into a smile as she was bombarded with Rachel's questions. "No. Fine."
"Don't smile at me, this isn't funny!" Rachel huffed, angrily. "I was really worried about you. We were going to call 911 and have you taken to the hospital and now you're acting like this is a joke. Plus, that was the one good practice time I had to rehearse for my audition. I had everyone in the room together and...and..." Rachel stopped as she felt tears spring to her eyes.
Quinn sat up. "Sorry. It's not a joke. It happens to me sometimes. This medicine I'm on makes me dizzy and sometimes I pass out."
She'd been on the medicine since she'd turned thirteen. Quinn's doctor in Columbus had prescribed it. One spring morning, she'd woken up with an erection. The entire day, she'd refused to leave the house until her mother took her back to her doctor to make it stop. Her mother had never been the type to be sympathetic about Quinn's anomalies. But, Quinn figured, she was better than her father, who had left before Quinn's first birthday, too confused, disgusted, and angry to care about her any more. The next day, Quinn sat in her doctor's office and cried harder than she'd ever cried in her life to that point.
"I just want to chop it off," she'd cried. "It doesn't belong there. And now...now someone might know about it if it happens again. It didn't just go away, it took hours to go away. What if that happens again?"
Her doctor had known Quinn since birth. When the obstetrician had informed her mother about a possible defect, Quinn's doctor was assigned. Until the age of 13, she only saw the doctor once a month, sometimes twice a month. The doctor functioned just as much like a therapist as a medical doctor. They'd talk about things Quinn was thinking, how she was feeling about herself, and changes to her body.
"I'm going to give you this experimental medicine they're using for gender reassignment surgeries, Quinn. Your mother has signed off on it, if you want it. Basically, it will repress the testosterone in your body and reduce the amount of blood flowing to you penis. Any other changes someone might go through with puberty will be avoided, and you won't have any more erections. Is that what you want?"
"No, I want it to go away," Quinn had felt her heart grow a little lighter in that moment.
"Well, that's not an option for you right now. Not without your mother's consent and certainly not at your age."
Quinn had never been able to have a conversation with her mother about the issue. Her mother barely talked to her about day-to-day things, like what was for dinner and when she'd be home that night. "Fine, then I'll take the medicine."
"There are some things we need to talk about if you're going to go on this medicine, though, Quinn. First, very little is known about the side effects of this drug. You'll need to see me more often. Once a week is preferable. Second, you must take this medicine every day. If you don't, it won't work. Finally, you will not be able to have intercourse while you're using this medication and we don't know the long-term effects of this drug on reproduction."
"I don't want to have sex with anyone, boys or girls, and I'm never having children. I don't want them to be like me." Quinn's voice had quieted at the end.
She and her mother left the doctor's office that day with a special prescription and a standing appointment to see the doctor every Wednesday at 5:30.
Quinn knew upon waking up in Rachel's bed that she'd have to tell her doctor about this episode at her next Wednesday appointment. Even after moving to Lima, dropping her doctor could not happen. Her mother had helped her buy her pickup truck so that she could make the 2 hour drive right after school every Wednesday.
Rachel was staring at her, still seething a little. "Do you want me to drive you home?"
"No, I'm good now," Quinn pushed a strand of hair out of her eyes and flipped her feet off of the bed. "I'll still be your drummer, if you want me to. Let me take the sheet music home and I'll also listen to a recording of the song. I promise I'll be good."
"Well," Rachel began defeatedly, "You're the only option I have. There's no saying no now."
Rachel watched her pack up her kit and silently waved goodbye as she saw Quinn to her car.
By the end of the audition, sweat pored off of Quinn's forehead and she was seeing stars. The beginning was shaky. Just before Rachel came onto the stage, she saw black spots on the backs of her eyelids and felt her hands get clammy. Soon enough, though, Rachel was standing at center stage and Quinn was counting off and then Quinn was doing her own fills on the breaks and then Rachel was hugging her.
"That was amazing! How did you learn that without practicing?"
Quinn smiled shyly, too shocked by Rachel's hug to answer. She dug her foot into a creaky wooden floorboard on the stage and pushed it around.
"I can't pay you, though I wish I could. Dads won't let me get a job. It would interfere with my practice time, anyway. But, I want to do something. Is there something I can do to repay you for helping me?" Rachel's hands grasped her own tightly and Quinn couldn't tear her eyes away from where their skin met.
"There is something." She met Rachel's eyes.
"What? Anything I can do, I promise." Rachel's bright smile nearly rendered her speechless.
"I've been looking to be in a band. A real one. With a guitar and a lead singer. I'd be the drummer, of course. Do you think you'd like to be in a band? I mean, I know it's not Broadway. I know that's where you want to be, but you're a great singer."
Rachel looked around the auditorium as the jazz band members cleared the stage. "Oh, Noah, come here."
"Ladies," Puck always had a lecherous way about him. "What can I do for you two? Great job, by the way, Rachel. You nailed it."
"Quinn here was just talking about getting together a little band. Her on drums, me on vocals. How would you feel about keyboard or guitar?"
"Most definitely. Another way to pick up the chicks, so I am most certainly in."
"What do you say, Quinn? You, me, and Puck?"
Quinn was shocked at how quickly her dream had come together. For the entire summer of sophomore year and all of junior year she wailed away on the drums in her basement and dreamed about practicing in someone's garage, writing songs with a couple of other musicians, and hearing the applause of an audience. "Perfect."
"How about we practice in my basement a couple times a week?" Rachel's basement already had much of what they needed, mainly soundproofing and lax parents. "We'll start tomorrow."
"Not tomorrow," Quinn jumped in. "Not Wednesday. Start Thursday."
"Thursday it is." Puck nodded his head and all three smiled at the start of something new.