In case you missed it these are side stories to my fics Glimpse and Random Glimpses. If you haven't read them, please do.
Story 01: Ella in the Middle – Florida Universe (Ella age 5)
Aurora's cries greeted Ella as she walked into the kitchen, Brittany sat at the table trying her best to get the squalling baby to calm down. Her little sister had recently turned two and seemed determined to make a fuss about everything always all the time, and even moreso that day. It sucked, because Aurora seemed to require more attention now than ever before and before she required a lot.
Ella approached her mother and watched as she cooed and consoled the girl without so much as glancing at her. It made her frown a little, because her mama had always known when she was nearby and would pick her up and shower her with kisses. But ever since the baby had started to show in her belly she hadn't been picked up and though she still got kisses it wasn't the same, her mothers only really did that with Aurora anymore.
All she knew was at the moment she wanted attention, so she spoke up, "Mama?"
Ella frowned. The response was given over the shoulder and hadn't been focused on her at all, she wanted her mother to look at her, "Mama," she said again a little louder.
"Yes?" this time Brittany turned to look, but only then did Ella realize she had nothing to say, so she shrugged.
Brittany was about to say something, but Aurora let out a particularly piercing scream as she continued to cry her crocodile tears and just like that the attention was gone. Ella stood trying to think of something to need, something that would regain her mama's attention, when Violet came flying in the room, a large drawing in her hand that she immediately held in front of her to be viewed.
"Mama, look! It's a TigeRex! A T-Rex mixed with a tiger!" she exclaimed, hopping up and down.
Looking the artwork over Brittany smiled widely before taking the drawing, keeping it out of reach of Aurora's flailing arms, "That's amazing! You did such a good job," she said before giving Violet a big kiss on the cheek.
"You can have that one, I'm going to make another one of him eating a buffalo," Violet said proudly before running back the way she came.
Standing, Brittany scooped a still crying Aurora into her arms and went to the refrigerator to pin the picture up next to all of Violet's other ones. Ella followed slightly behind still trying to think of something that might get her mother's attention off of the baby, but she came up with nothing. And with the infant screaming even louder now she knew she wasn't going to just be noticed at random.
Dejected, she left the kitchen and went to the living room where Violet sat in the midst of piles of papers and crayons already working on the promised picture. It was difficult to pick through the clutter, but she finally made it to the center where the coffee table was and sat down. Picking up a blank sheet of paper she had the thought that maybe if she drew something her mother would pay attention to her, at least for a few minutes. With no better plans she picked up a blue crayon and started drawing only to have it plucked from her hands by Violet.
"No, you gotta use black crayons to draw with, you color it in with the other ones." She said replacing the blue with black.
Ella didn't particularly want to use black, but her sister knew more about drawing so she did. She did her best to draw her mama and even though the result didn't look exactly like her, she was proud of it. Then, since she still had room when she was done, she drew her mommy, because mama looked funny standing alone. When she had finished she colored them in, drew a sky, grass and their house. The project was pretty fun and when it was completely done she showed Violet.
Her sister's blue eyes narrowed in concentration as she looked it over, "It looks good, but you drew outside the lines a lot."
Ella's excitement to show her mother faded a little, "Oh."
"Don't feel bad, I said it looks good. Who are they anyway?" Violet asked leaning over the picture to try and figure it out.
Her face fell further and she crumpled the drawing before throwing it on the floor with Violet's discarded works.
"Why'd you do that?" Violet asked looking confused.
"'Cause I don't want it," she grumbled and walked away.
She had no idea where she was going, but as she walked she passed the half open door that went into Santana's office where she knew her mommy was currently working. Feeling a burst of hope she knocked on the door and to her complete delight Santana turned to look at her and smiled.
"Hey baby girl, what's up?"
Once again Ella had nothing to say or show, so she just shook her head. "Can I come in here with you?" she knew that she and her sisters weren't allowed to come in, but they did on occasion if someone was around to watch them.
"I'm still working right now, so you'll have to keep still."
Joyously Ella nodded and scrambled in and into Santana's lap, "I'll stay here."
And she did, but after a while it got really boring.
Worse yet she was back to where she started; her mommy was with her, but not really paying attention to her. Ella sighed a little, and again when her audible boredom went unnoticed as she looked around the room for something of interest to see. There were pictures of her parents when they were younger, some were just the two of them and others had them with a group of other people. The only two she recognized of the group were aunt Quinn and uncle Puck.
There were other pictures of Brittany dressed like a cat that were pretty cool, she remembered seeing a video of her mama dancing in the outfit and it had been inspiring. Watching Santana type super fast on a computer while reading a bunch of papers at the same time was amazing, too. Ella didn't really understand all of it, but she sort of understood that her mommy owned a lot of things because she was really smart and good with money. It seemed like everyone in their family had special skills but her.
Looking at the stacks of paper still left to go through she wondered if maybe she could be of some help, then not only would her parents start to pay her more attention, but she might find that she was good at it. Eagerly she reached out to try and straighten the stacks of papers and hurry to hand the next one over before Santana could reach for it, but in her haste she nearly knocked another stack over.
Lightning fast reflexes were the only thing that saved the day as Santana caught it before it fell. Ella pulled her hands away quickly, but was well aware that she had overstayed her welcome.
"Listen, I'll be done in a little while, why don't you go play for a bit and I'll come join you soon, okay?" Santana said tensely.
Without a word Ella slid off her lap and went straight to her room; she wasn't in the mood to play, but it was the only activity really left to her at the moment. Brittany didn't allow her or Violet into the basement without her there to supervise them and she felt even less like dancing than playing, so she dropped to the floor and picked up her dolls to half heartedly make them go out for a picnic.
The plastic family had barely gotten to dessert when she heard her mommy saying something down the hall as she emerged from her office. Excitedly Ella tossed her dolls aside and ran out to meet her mother, but saw she had gone straight for the kitchen where she joined Brittany in fawning over an inexplicably still crying Aurora.
The baby was past inconsolable as she screamed at the top of her lungs, even when Santana took her from her wife and tried to quiet her. Ella could feel envy boiling in her stomach at the sight so she averted her eyes, stomped back to the living room and flopped on the couch watching as Violet put the finishing touches on her drawing. Her sister rose, ready to fly into the kitchen to show off her new masterpiece, but then stopped.
Ella knew why before she even turned around as Aurora's screams indicated that their parents had entered the room.
"Alright girls, we're going to pack some overnight bags, because you two are staying with uncle Puck tonight."
"Sweet!" Violet cheered.
Ella didn't know why, but her anger only flared. She loved Puck, Quinn, Joseph, Caleb and even little Aaron, but the thought of being sent away so they could have more time with the baby made her furious.
"Why do we have to go?" she growled, surprising herself and both her parents.
"Because Aurora needs to go to a doctor and it's almost your bedtime," Brittany explained kindly.
Ella didn't complain. She only got up and went to her room - not that she was needed, her parents would pack her bag with or without her.
-As always when Quinn wasn't home, the Puckerman house was alive with noise. Ella stood in the doorway feeling annoyed that her mama hadn't bothered to walk them inside, she just passed her and Violet off to Puck before driving away to rejoin Santana. For a brief moment Ella figured she might get a moment of Puck's time, but Aaron was gurgling happily in his arms and she gave up on that.
She knew it wasn't nice to think, but she hated babies.
They were herded into the tv room where they were allowed to watch Power Ranger reruns until they fell asleep. Ella was the first one out, not because she didn't like the show, actually unbeknownst to anyone she liked it the most, but because she wanted the day and every feeling she had felt in it to be over.
Unfortunately, when she woke in the middle of the night she found they hadn't gone anywhere.
Her eyes adjusted to the darkness to find that she and all the other children had all been moved to the giant bed in the guest bedroom. She grimaced at the way her heart hurt, because no one had tucked her in or given her a kiss goodnight. She had merely been shoved into the same bed as everyone else without another thought. Turning over she searched for Violet, but found she was next to Caleb and her sister was on the far side by Joseph; her eyes prickled a little, because that made her sad. Violet always slept next to her when they weren't at home, but in all fairness this place really was just an extension of their own house. They were over all the time and this wouldn't have been the first occasion where Puck put them all in the guest room since it was close, easy and fit all of them. It wasn't even the first time Violet had fallen asleep away from her at the Puckerman's though usually they were together. But all the same it upset her.
Quietly she got out of bed and walked around to the other side, crawling back in behind Violet. There was very little room and Violet had her back turned, but Ella curled into it anyway. Violet might not have needed her, but Ella sure needed her sister.
After a while she was able to go back to sleep, finally finding peace in the familiarity of Violet's warmth. In the morning she supposed it was the lack of that warmth that woke her up.
She found the bed totally empty causing that, now common, twist of pain to come back. Hadn't anyone even noticed she wasn't awake? How had they all gotten up without her hearing?
Mumbling unhappily she made her way to the kitchen where she saw the answer to half her questions: Quinn was home.
In stark contrast to how things were when Puck was in charge, Quinn demanded peace, quiet and calm. The table only held the sounds of polite conversation and utensils scraping plates.
"Morning Ella, would you like eggs and bacon or cereal?" Quinn asked as she grabbed a cup to pour some juice.
The question was automatic and she, like everyone else, didn't even look at her, though when Ella failed to answer sharp hazel eyes met hers.
"How come no one woke me up?" she asked.
Violet was the one who spoke up, "We tried but you didn't move, so I told everybody to let you sleep."
For some reason that answer didn't make her feel any better.
"Don't worry there is still plenty left to eat, so what'll it be?" Quinn asked, her voice softer than before.
"I'm not hungry," Ella answered and turned to leave the kitchen and go back to bed.
Crawling under the covers and hiding her face, she hoped to block the world out and everything it made her feel, but of course her covers were pulled back by Quinn who was looking at her worriedly.
"Hey, are you feeling alright?" she asked in a tone gentler than Ella had ever heard from her.
"M'fine," she mumbled into the covers.
"Aurora's going to be okay, if that's what you're worried about. I talked to Santana an hour ago and she said it was an earache and that they've taken care of it. She's all better now."
Ella nodded, remembering the whole reason they were there was because her sister had been sick. "Kay," was all she said, feeling a little bad that she had forgotten.
She kind of wanted to talk to Quinn, to ask what to do to get her parents to pay attention to her again, but she didn't know how to say what was in her head, so she said nothing.
Quinn stayed for a while longer before leaving Ella to stew under the covers until a few minutes later her parents came and it was time to get dressed and go.
Violet hugged everyone goodbye, but Ella just stood by the car door. She waited in slight impatience as the adults spoke and silently wished to be old enough to drive away herself. Quinn seemed to be taking extra long saying goodbye and for a moment she suspected that the conversation was about her, but suddenly it broke up and she was packed into the car with everyone else.
The whole ride home she stared out the window rather than watch how Violet played with Aurora in her car seat. She could still remember a time when her sister would play with her like that but apparently that was all over; she wasn't a baby, she wasn't the youngest and she didn't do anything special… when put that way even she couldn't think of a reason to pay attention to her.
Home was no better once they got back.
Ella had assumed that with Aurora done constantly crying maybe she wouldn't be ignored as much but that turned out to be completely false. For the week after the hospital scare, both her mothers were extra attentive to the baby and at least one of them was near her always, leaving the other to watch her and Violet and handle all the chores in the house. And between that and school and her sister's ability to talk nonstop for hours there was never much time left for her.
Even her once favorite pastime of dancing was ruined. The one activity where her mama would give her and Violet equal attention turned into her only helping Violet, because she couldn't get the steps right. Worse yet, because Ella had gotten them on the first try, it felt like being punished for getting it right. Brittany had shown her the next set of steps before returning to Violet to help her catch up, and even when Ella faked having trouble she was told to wait a moment.
A moment never came.
Soon enough practice was over and when they left the basement Brittany's attention went straight to Aurora, and Santana was there, but constantly on the phone with someone, either to talk or text.
It wasn't unusual, she had always been busy, but now it felt like her mommy was doing it less for work and more because she thought her daughter was boring. Especially because she always listened to Violet's never ending tales.
Which may have been why Ella went off one Saturday morning when she went into the kitchen and saw her mommy put up another one of Violet's drawings while congratulating her. It may have been, but she wasn't sure, because nothing she felt made sense to even her. For some reason it made her angry to watch her mommy smiling at Violet as her mama did as well while holding Aurora. She felt left out, useless and a bunch of other things that were just plain confusing as she marched over to the refrigerator, yanked the picture down and ripped it in half.
The action itself felt good. In fact, it felt great. It relieved some of the building pressure in her chest and made her calm again, but then, when she looked around at all the shocked faces, it didn't feel so good anymore.
Violet was the first one to react by making a move like she was going to hit her, and maybe she was, but she didn't get close enough for Ella to find out, because Santana grabbed hold of the older girl and pulled her away.
"Why'd you do that, Ella?" Violet snapped.
And just like that the small girl felt worse, because she had somehow managed to anger her sister. Violet never got angry, not at her, not once in her whole life could she think of a time anyone had shouted at her like that.
But for some reason she couldn't apologize, a voice inside her said it was a bad idea, that she shouldn't back down because she had done the right thing.
"You have too many anyway!" she shouted back.
"What's gotten into you?" Santana asked like she'd never seen her before and Ella felt absolutely horrible because she was making her already dire situation worse.
It wasn't until Brittany pulled the paper out of her clenched fist that Ella realized she still had the drawing in her hands. Quickly she let go and her mama collected both halves handing them and Aurora over to Santana.
Her mommy took them and after a quick look from Brittany guided Violet out of the kitchen, suggesting they go look for some tape.
Alone in the room with her mama, suddenly she didn't want the attention she had been craving for so long anymore.
"Ella," she said.
Her voice wasn't angry, but it was very stern, making the small girl turn to face her, "Yeah?" she responded dropping her eyes to her feet.
"Why did you rip her drawing?"
Ella answered honestly and shrugged.
"It couldn't have been for no reason, I know you wouldn't have done that without having some idea."
She tried to figure out how to say it, how to communicate what was bubbling inside her even now, but she didn't know the words to accurately describe what she felt. Instead she said the only thing she knew she could explain.
"You like Aurora and Violet better than me," she said quietly; it was the best she could do.
And when she saw how it made her mama's face fall, she wished she hadn't said anything.
"What makes you think that?"
"You don't spend time with me anymore, just them."
"Ella we're together all the time-"
"But you're always with one of them too." She knew she wasn't being fair, because she really did love her sisters being around her, but it was the best way she had to tell her mother that she didn't always like it.
"Sweetheart, we have a big family, that means we can't give you all my attention all the time."
"But you give Violet and Aurora lots more than me."
Brittany frowned, "Is this about when she was sick? Sweetie, your sister needed extra attention, she was better when she came home, but she could have easily become sick again so we had to watch her very closely to make sure she was alright."
Ella blinked back tears, because she didn't want to be a crybaby, but this was too hard and she didn't know what to say to defend herself. How would she tell the woman in front of her that she felt the time spent between them all was disproportionate between both parents?
"I know," she said sadly, giving up hope that she would ever find the right words.
"Ella look at me," Brittany said softly and she did, "So what you're saying is, though I spend a lot of time with you girls, you feel I don't spend enough time with you. Why do you feel that way?" Her question was gently curious as she reached forward and rubbed Ella's back.
"You spend the most time with her when we dance."
Brittany nodded, "Because she needs help the most and we both know I don't only work with her. Even so I still find it hard to believe that you decided to rip up her drawing, because she needs more help than you when dancing."
"I'm mad," she said, picking one identifiable feeling from the jumble and hoping her mother could figure it out somehow.
"At who? Why?"
"I don't know!" Ella cried and tried to stomp away but Brittany had a firm hold on the back of her shirt and pulled her back.
"You're mad," she said, clarifying, "And you're clearly very sad, but you don't know why."
Ella nodded wiping angrily at her tears. "I'm scared too," she admitted, a little happy to have identified three of the emotions that made up the storm cloud in her head.
"Scared of what?" Brittany asked gently.
"Violet's a good drawer and Aurora's a baby so everybody likes her, but I don't have anything special."
"You're very special Ella," her mother said brightly, "You dance so well, you're smart, pretty and a joy to be around."
"You still love them more," she said, because that's how she felt.
The smile on Brittany's face evaporated again, leaving her with a blank look that Ella was sure was hiding hurt, "You really feel that way?"
She nodded meekly, "You and mommy are always busy or listening to Violet or taking care of Aurora."
The tall woman seemed to consider this for a long time before she offered a small smile and nodded, "Okay, well first off you owe your sister an apology, a big one, complete with a hug," she said and Ella nodded her understanding. "Next, I want you to understand something. Your mommy and I love you so very much, there is nothing you could do or not do that would change that. We know you are incredibly special and exceptionally talented, even if you don't see it, but if somehow you were boring and didn't have a single talent it wouldn't change how much we love you at all."
Ella had always known that on some level, but at the moment it was hard to see, not when everyone was cooing over the baby and the refrigerator was covered in Violet's work.
Brittany brought her to find her sister, who surprisingly had decided that the rip was a good thing and had shredded it into several more pieces. She had taped them back together in a different order making a weird mishmash of the creature that had been on the page before. Seeing them enter, she leapt up to show her mama, but stopped when her eyes fell on Ella and she hid it behind her back.
"I'm sorry I ripped it," Ella said meekly, opening her arms to offer a hug. One she didn't know how badly she wanted until that moment.
Violet looked back to Santana who encouraged her to move forward. After placing her drawing safely out of reach her sister, Violet embraced her and Ella hugged back with all her might.
"I'm really sorry," she repeated, because she was. Although everything was still askew within her, she didn't want Violet to hate her.
"It's okay, it looks better this way… but don't rip up the rest, okay?"
Ella nodded and held on tight until Violet pulled away and once again she felt alone.
The day passed with no change; she still danced with her mama and Violet, but her sister as usual had difficulties that needed all the attention she desperately wanted. Santana was the same as well, either carrying Aurora around, working or listening to one of Violet's long-winded explanations of her newest artistic creation.
When she went to bed, she was tucked in and kissed goodnight by both her mothers and that provided a small comfort as she fell asleep.
Ella woke to the sensation of being shaken slightly, sleepily she turned over and saw blonde hair and blue eyes fill her vision. Frowning a little, she wondered what Violet was doing up so early, but when her vision cleared she saw that it was actually Brittany standing over her.
"Hey, come on get up," she said tugging her out of bed.
"What's going on?"
"Get dressed, we have somewhere to be."
Blearily she crawled out of bed and saw that Violet was still asleep, she moved to wake her, but Brittany stopped her, "It's just us today."
Ella frowned, the confusion of being up so early keeping her from comprehending what that meant, but once she was dressed and in the car she started to get that it meant that they were going somewhere. Just the two of them.
They drove out to pick up breakfast at a small café Ella had recently learned she loved and for the first time that she could remember she saw the sun rise over the hills with her mama at her side.
With her eyes fixated on the view in the distance, she was a little surprised when Brittany spoke, "Ella, I know that you did what you did yesterday, because you didn't know how else to express yourself. But taking out your anger or fear on others is never acceptable and I don't want you thinking that the next time you get upset and do something to hurt your sister I'll take you out for breakfast."
Ella nodded, nibbling on her bagel with a small frown, "I know," she mumbled.
"In this case however, I think you may have a point. Your mommy and I couldn't love you more if we tried, but I can understand how you're feeling pushed aside and we don't want any of you girls to feel that way. So what do you say? Want to make this a regular thing? Maybe once a month mommy and I do something with you?"
The child's face exploded into a smile, "Just us?"
"Yeah, I talked to her about it and she promises no talking or texting, it'll just be you and her and another week it'll be you and me. We'll do the same for Violet if she agrees, and Aurora when she's older."
"I want to!" she said excitedly.
Her mama smiled and kissed her softly on the head, "I thought you might."
Kicking her feet happily, Ella returned to her meal appreciating the day even more, eager to think of all the things she could do with her parents on their special days.
"Ella?" Brittany questioned, causing the girl to turn to her again. "You do know I love you, don't you? I know I told you, but you do feel it, right?"
She smiled brilliantly, "Yeah, I'm your little storm baby," Ella said, recalling the temporary nickname from when her mama had told her the story of when she was born.
Brittany smiled back and gave her another kiss, "That's right, don't ever forget it."
True to their word, her parents did stop every few weeks and dedicated an entire day to their daughters in turn. Ella didn't know what Violet got out of the trips, but for her it was everything she could have dreamed of. When she was with her mama they went out for breakfast and often they would go to Pop n' Lock to dance together. Sure, the basement was still there, but it was a place away from everyone else where there were no interruptions. Some days they would play together in the park by the house or simply sit in the grass and talk.
Her mommy would turn her phone off when they went out and they would spend hours talking and laughing without her checking once to see if someone had called. They went to movies together and sometimes just drove along the coast, taking in the scenery while sitting in a comfortable silence that was rarely interrupted with words.
With both her parents giving her such close attention she had to conclude that they didn't love her any less than her sisters. Even though she still didn't have a talent she was particularly proud of or anything overly interesting to say, both of her mothers assured her that she was a joy to be around and kept stressing that she was an exceptional dancer. She didn't see it, but with them spending whole days with her without getting bored she couldn't argue the point and just had to accept that she was pretty special.
A/N: Feedback is appreciated. Since this follows no grand bigger picture and is just random looks into the characters lives I will entertain suggestions for one shots no promises but if I can swing it I'll write it so far I plan to have four.
As always I'm trying to use one universe to explain the other.