"We're losing her!"
"Get a crash cart in here!"
The voices sound distant, but they're definitely out there. Quinn fights to open her eyes, but they feel so heavy, like she's still stuck between the dreaming and waking worlds.
She waits for the jolt, but there isn't one. It's also weird that she's expecting it. Should she even be able to process any of this?
"No response. Again!"
She still doesn't feel anything. Maybe it's because she's already dead and having some kind of out of body experience. But then wouldn't she be looking down at herself? Isn't that what they say happens?
She remembers the truck, the sound of glass shattering, the twisting pain in her back; it's clear in her mind.
Now, though, nothing hurts.
Maybe because she's already dead.
She makes another effort to pull open her eyelids and this time she has success. She's worried about what she might see. Is she bleeding? Are the doctors doing some kind of intense procedure on her? Oh god, what if she's in surgery and this is like that episode of Grey's Anatomy where that woman woke up from her anesthesia and they were elbow deep in her stomach.
She risks a look, anyway.
The room is dim and empty. The voices, the doctors she's been hearing are on a television mounted up near the ceiling. It looks like an old episode of ER, a really old one, because George Clooney is on the screen.
The curtain between her bed and the one next to her is pulled, but only halfway, so she can see that she has a roommate, but all she can tell is that they have legs. The door's open, but the hallway is fairly quiet.
She sits up and it's not until she's upright that she considers maybe she shouldn't, that maybe it will do more damage to her back, but there's no pain and both of her feet seem to be responding to the signal she sending to wiggle her toes. Maybe the accident wasn't so bad or maybe she's on really good drugs.
There are a few light bruises and scrapes on her arms and she can feel a bandage taped just above her left eyebrow, but that appears to be the extent of her injuries. She may not be a doctor, but her time serving as Cheerios captain meant she was certified in first aid, CPR, and some basic pharmacology. She knows how to assess trauma.
There's a moment where she closes her eyes and draws in a deep, lingering breath, then she pulls the blanket away from her legs, unsure of what to expect. Other than an embarrassingly short hospital gown, she's presented with her legs, intact and relatively unscathed.
She's fine. She's okay. She survived.
She also missed Rachel's wedding. Not that she was dying to see Rachel get married to Finn, but she wanted to show her support, to be there and be a good friend. Even if she thinks the whole thing is stupid.
Her chart's tucked into a plastic holder at the foot of the bed and she has no qualms about picking it up and looking it over. It's her damn information. The paperwork tells her she's at Lima General, which is where she gave birth to Beth. This wing looks different, though. Not as updated. Maternity must have a bigger budget or something.
The name on the chart says "Jane Doe" and Quinn figures that must be why no one's there, waiting for her to wake up. They don't even know she's in the hospital, let alone been in an accident. Her car must be totaled, then, if they weren't able to recover her cell phone or her purse or even the DMV registration in the glove compartment.
Great. Her mom's going to love this. Hopefully, they won't have any issues with the insurance company and the car will be replaced, because otherwise, it's going to be just another expense they don't really need.
She drops the chart on the bed and reaches over to pick up the telephone that sits on the nightstand next to the bed. It takes three tries to get a call actually dialed out, because has to figure out how to get an outside line. Then she has to try again, because a recording tells her the number she's dialed in not in service and it's completely possible that she isn't correctly remembering her mother's cell phone number, because it's always just been in her phone. After another failed attempt, she decides to try the house, because at the very least she can leave a message.
It's a woman's voice, but she doesn't sound at all like Judy Fabray. "Uh, I'm sorry. I think I dialed wrong."
"No problem, dear."
"Sorry," Quinn repeats. She hands up and redials, positive she's punching in the correct numbers, because this is her home freaking phone number and she's had it committed to memory for years.
Again, someone answers. It's the same woman. "Hello?"
Maybe her mother has company and she asked them to take the call because she's busy. "Yes, I'm looking for my mother. Judy Fabray?"
"No, there's no one here by that name."
"I've had this number since eighty-five and I don't know any Fabrays at all, I'm sorry."
"Oh. Okay." She doesn't apologize, she just says, "Goodbye," and drops the receiver back onto the cradle.
This is weird.
"Tonight, at eleven, Steve Jobs announces his returns to Apple Computer. Is it a desperate attempt to save the fledgling company? And we meet up with director James Cameron for a glimpse at his highly anticipate holiday blockbuster, Titanic."
Quinn freezes. There's no way she heard that right. Or maybe is this one of those satellite channels that replays old broadcasts, complete with original commercials. Or she has a concussion.
She's in a coma. She's in one of those comatose worlds where everything looks and feels real, but she's really just unconscious with an IV pumping potassium or saline or morphine or whatever into her while her friends stand around and wait for her to wake up. Rachel probably wants to sing some stupid song that still sounds amazing, even if it's the cheesiest thing, ever.
Or she just hear the TV wrong. It's that simple.
The chart is right where she left it, so she picks it up and flips it back open. The date scrawled at the top ends with the numbers 97. As in nineteen ninety seven.
She would be four, right now. Or back then. This is confusing.
But, okay. If it were 1997, there wouldn't be a Judy Fabray at the number she called, because they didn't move to Lima until years later.
Quinn still remembers her old phone number.
So, she dials it.
It's another female voice. It's also definitely not her mother. "Hi," Quinn pushes out the greeting with a sigh of relief. "I think I probably have the wrong number, but," she has to ask, just to prove to herself that she let her imagination get the best of her, "I'm looking for Judy Fabray?"
"Oh, she's not here."
"I didn't think s-"
"This is the babysitter. She's out with her husband for the evening, but I can take a message, if you'd like?"
"Hello, who is this?" chirps a third voice through the line.
"Frannie, honey, you need to hang up and go bad to bed," the babysitter says. Justine. That's her name. Quinn knows because-
"Lucy won't stop singing that dumb baby song."
"You used to sing that same song a couple years ago."
"Well, Barney is stupid."
"Frannie, hang up the phone, please." There's a small whine of eight year-old anguish and then the click of the extra line being silenced. "I'm very sorry about that. Did you want to leave a message?"
Quinn's still trying to process everything she's just heard. "No, I... I'll just speak to her later. Thank you."
It feels like slow motion as she watches her hand place the phone back on the cradle. The room swims around her and the sound of the television dulls until it's muffled, as if she's listening from underwater.
She's having an aneurysm, a stroke brought on by the impact of the truck slamming into her tiny, eco-friendly car.
Except she's fine.
She forces herself to lie down and stare at the ceiling tiles. She can count. She can remember her name and who's president, both in 1997 and 2012. She can understand that what she seems to be experiencing is absolutely impossible.
And yet, it's her reality.
And she has nowhere to go.
She doesn't wait to be discharged. It's going to be too many questions and not enough answers and she can't handle any of that. She knows if she tries to explain anything or even try to prove she's unstuck in time, like some kind of Vonnegut character, it's only going to land her in the psych ward.
Instead, she relies on petty larceny as an escape plan.
The woman in the bed next to hers is at least twenty years older and sound asleep. There's an overnight bag sitting in the chair next to the bed and Quinn's quick to quietly rummage through it and acquire a pair of track pants and a purple scoop neck t-shirt. The side pocket contains a pair of soccer sandals and a cell phone that's practically the size of a Stephen King novel. She leaves the phone, but takes the apparel into the bathroom where she dresses and does the best to comb out her hair with her fingers.
She looks like shit. But at least she's wearing clothes.
There's a small bottle of Listerine sticking out of a purple zippered bag that sits on the side of the sink. It's still sealed, at least it is until she rips the plastic off and rinses out her mouth. It burns and tastes awful, but at least she's tackled the horrors of gingivitis and bad breath.
When she exits the bathroom, the door automatically pulls itself shut and she's sure the loud click of the door is going to wake the woman in the bed and then she's going to want to know who the hell is standing in front of her, wearing her clothes, reeking of her Listerine. But she remains asleep and Quinn takes it as a sign to make one more pass through the bag, it would be stupid of her to walk out of here without some kind of money in her pocket, even if it's just five dollars. She should feel bad for the blatant stealing, but honestly, she's been karmically screwed over for the umpteenth time and universe should understand. She hopes.
There's a wallet in the bottom of the bag with three twenties stuffed in the cash slot. She takes two, folds the bills, and shoves them in her pocket.
It's now or never.
The hallway is much brighter than the room and she's self conscious about the fact that she looks like she just threw herself together in someone else's clothes. Then again, this is a hospital. People walk around looking like crap all the time. If anyone stops her, she's visiting a very sick aunt and she was lost on her way back from the cafeteria. "Grief can be incredibly disorienting," she'll say.
Except no one notices, so no one asks her anything, and she finds herself standing in the hospital parking lot on a humid evening. It feels like summer, which is weird, because it was February back in 2012. But if she can shuttle fifteen years back in time, then apparently she can land in a different month than the one she left.
She has forty bucks and no idea what to do. Eating something is probably a good idea, given that she has no idea how long it's been since her last meal. It's late, though, and this is Lima, which means just about everything is closed except the 7-11 down the block. She'd really rather skip out on the food especially if it's going to be some crappy frozen burrito, but she needs to minimize her disadvantages.
As usual, there are several high school kids standing around outside the convenience store, probably hoping to score some beer. Sure enough, when a college aged guy exits the 7-11, one of the boys approaches him, but the guy shakes his head. "Sorry, man. I already told you guys, when you turn twenty-one, you can get your own Zimas."
"Fuck you, Schuester," dismisses the kid. "Yeah, I remember you. You were a senior when I was a freshman. You suck."
Quinn can't believe she's looking at a younger Mr. Schue, but when the car horn honks on a blue sports car, she sees a twenty-one year old Terri impatiently waiting for her boyfriend. Or husband. She has no idea when they were married. Or will be. Whatever.
Will just shakes his head and offers some other, indecipherable words of wisdom before he joins Terri in the car, taking his six pack of Zima with him.
As she watches one of the teachers who ultimately changed her life peel out of the parking lot, Quinn realizes she might have one chance at getting help from someone.
It's insanity to just show up here, Quinn knows that. Especially at this hour. It's possible she might be shot or caught up in some kind of snare. But it's the only option she has.
The second she rings the bell, the door's already opening. "I told you people, I'm not taking any pamphlets because I already have a direct line to the pope due to my unique bubble car design."
"I'm not here to-" Quinn's so relieved to interact with someone familiar that she finds herself laughing.
"Laugh it up all you want, sister. But do it off my property."
"I'm, no... I'm sorry." She collects herself and looks up at the woman in the doorway. "I need help."
"I don't do compassion. Try that Sally Struthers charity."
"Co-" Quinn catches herself. "Ms. Sylvester, I'm here because I need... a new life. An ID and probably a birth certificate."
Sue narrows her eyes and looks past Quinn, as if she's expecting US Marshalls to swarm her home. Once she's satisfied that isn't the case, she pulls the door open and waves Quinn inside. "It's four thousand, up front."
It's no surprise that there's a set amount or that Sue is actually able to help her with this, but Quinn is still a little shocked that it's just that easy. Except for the part where she doesn't have four thousand dollars.
"Okay, here's the thing, I-"
Sue stops in her tracks. "If you're about to say you can't pay, turn right back around and walk out the door before I have a chance to turn around."
Quinn stands her ground and when she's faced, once again, with Sue, she continues. "I don't have any money. But-" she really hopes this works. "I have information."
"What? No... um... financial information." Sue isn't kicking her out, so Quinn keeps talking. "It won't pay off for a few years, but... if you give me an ID... you'll know who I am. And I know I'm just some stranger who showed up at your house in the middle of the night, but I know you don't take lightly to people taking advantage of you. I know that if what I tell you doesn't pay off, you'll find me and... well... I've read the Art of War six times. I know what to expect."
Sue's arms are crossed over her chest as she contemplates the offer. "What the name?"
"For the credentials."
"Oh, um..." Quinn has to choose quickly. The idea that she's about to bank her own safety and security on the ability to know the immediate future makes her feel a little like some kind of figure from mythology. "Cassandra," is what comes out. She needs a last name, so she follows with, "July," since it's her favorite month of the year.
"Sounds like a stripper's name. Come back tomorrow at noon. Have all of your information prepared."
"Now, get out of my house."
In exchange for stock tips and advice about the upcoming real estate market, Quinn's handed a birth certificate, driver's license, and a credit card with a ten thousand dollar limit, all confirming that she's Cassandra July of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
She needs to get out of Ohio, because it's all too weird and confusing. She doesn't want to risk running into baby versions of her friends, because they won't know her. She just needs to disappear and start over. She's done it before.
She's about to do it, again.
She uses the credit card to buy a duffel bag and some new clothes, then withdraws a cash advance from the ATM outside the Lima Bean. As she waits for her coffee order, she notices a flyer on the bulletin board looking for "a fun and energetic someone with a driver's license who digs 80's mix cds and 70's rock, to take turns driving from Ohio to New York City."
She rips the flyer off the board and dials the number from the payphone, but someone taps her on the shoulder.
"Nobody's going to answer, because that's mine and I'm here." When Quinn turns around, she's standing next to a leggy blonde in a Union Jack belly shirt, mini skirt, and knee high boots. "Holly Holliday. And I really only have one question for you."
Seriously? Quinn can't believe this is happening. "Uh, okay?"
"Are you an ax murderer? Because driving that far with someone who has violent homicidal tendencies, while very exciting, is probably also very dangerous."
"Great. I was hoping to leave tonight. Does that work for you?"
"It actually really does."
Holly's talkative as they set out on their drive and even though she asks a lot of questions, it doesn't feel invasive. Maybe it's because Quinn knows she can make up all of her answers and no one will ever know.
"So, I'll be shacking up with this guy, Rob, at least at first. I met him in this America Online chatroom, which I know... seems creepy, but we've talked on the phone and sent pictures back and forth and I think this internet thing is actually pretty cool."
Quinn nods. "It's... yeah."
"And I just figure I'll busk in the subways and get a day job and see where the day takes me. At least for now." Holly passes a big rig and waves as the trucker honks at her. "What about you? What's driving you out of Ohio into the dog eat dog world of New York?"
She answers with the first thing that pops into her head. "Dance... dancing. I love dancing. Can't get enough."
"Ooo, sexy." Holly slaps the steering wheel. "I have a friend who's dating a guy who goes to the Ailey School. I'll hook you two up. This is going to be just like Fame."
Another nod from Quinn. She's been awake since the hospital and now that she's permanently en route away from Lima for the first time in her life, she feels like she can relax. "I'm going to take a nap? Just so I'm fresh for when we switch later."
"Sure. Is the radio going to bother you? Because I got Dennis Rodman's audiobook and I'm dying to listen to it."
"It's fine," Quinn assures her as she reclines the seat back. "Wake me up if you need anything."
She dreams of bridesmaid dresses and trophies, of Puck and Beth, of the locker room and the football field. She dreams of her family, the one she was born into. She dreams of the friends she'd grown closer to than her own sister. She dreams of her life as Quinn Fabray, the person she made herself into when she grew tired and disgusted of Lucy.
When she wakes up at a Pennsylvania gas station, she accepts that all of that, everything she used to be, is gone.
Cassie July takes no prisoners. She's a whirlwind of energy, a force with which to be reckoned. She's smart with her money, always a step ahead. She finds success, she doesn't wait for it.
By 2002, she's respected, she's in demand, she's on her way.
Until some dumbass can't remember to set his Nokia to silent and she loses her shit.
As well as her entire future.
Even if her future, right now, is still the past.
Everything is so fucked up.
As much as she's closed the door on her future-past, there are occasional moments when she reaches out to it.
Like the gift subscription to Italian Vogue that arrives for Mercedes Jones on her twelfth birthday. Or the comic of the month club membership that begins for Sam Evans, that same year.
Like the complete Celine Dion discography and video collection that shows up on the Berry doorstep when Rachel comes home from her first day of middle school, the paperwork inside says she's won a contest.
Like the rum that finds its way into her smoothies, the same way the vodka used to end up in her mother's coffee cup.
She's fortunate for chance meeting with Carmen Tibideaux, one night when she's out with Edmund, the boyfriend of a Holly's friend, the one who attended the Ailey School. Edmund was actually one of her first friends in the city. He's always reminded her of a little of Blaine and Santana's love child, a precursor-hipster kid from Harlem who says what's on his mind.
They're at a piano bar in the west village, because she likes to sing and Edmund likes the bartender.
She has no idea why Edmund is suddenly gesturing her to move closer and even when he says, "Don't look now, but Carmen Tibideaux is sitting behind you." When she turns to look, he pinches her. "I said don't."
"It's probably not her." She knows who Madame Tibideaux is, anyone in the performing arts circle does, given that, in addition to her stage credits, she oversees a very selective and prestigious academy in midtown.
"Be casual," Edmund warns, then releases his hold on her arm.
"Oh my god. Carmen Tibideaux is here!" someone screeches from behind her. "Are you here scouting talent? Oh my god, I was going to sing something, but knowing you're here... I just couldn't... but are you? Scouting?"
Before she can stop herself, she's spinning on the barstool to face whatever idiot is making a fool of themselves. "Yeah, she's casting for her new production, 'Tales of an Annoying Drama Queen in Ugly Shoes' and you're the best she's seen all week. So, go home, drink yourself to sleep, and the cast list will be posted tomorrow. Buy-bye." She turns back to the bar without even bothering to watch the storm-out and resumes sipping on her vodka and lime.
There's a chuckle from the seat next to her. "I come here, because they have the best pomegranate martini this side of Central Park."
She snaps at the bartender. "Pomegranate martini for my friend over here." It's only now that she actually looks at the woman sitting beside her. It's Carmen Tibideaux. "Wow, it... really is you."
"And I'm really having a drink with the Cassie July."
"You... know who I am?"
"They're calling you The Biggest Trainwreck in Broadway History. It's difficult not to know who you are."
"Well, now you have your watercooler story for lunchtime back at the old academy."
"What are you doing now?"
"Drinking. Wallowing. Repeating."
"I meant," Carmen accepts her drink from the bartender. "What are you doing, professionally?"
"Is that a joke? No one will cast me. They take one look at Crazy July and it's over."
"Have you ever considered starting over? Doing something new?"
"You have no idea."
Her first collection of students is combination of cutthroat prima donnas and overenthusiastic small town amateurs who'll never last when it comes to real competition. So is every subsequent group of kids who show up in her class, each year.
She isn't nice. There's no room for it. If they want to succeed, they need to know how to soldier on, how to handle pressure. It's the same tactic she learned in Cheerios, it's the same lesson she's learned from life.
Adapt. Persist. Never surrender.
In June of 2010, she cashes out a few of her Apple shares and mails a cashier's check to Beth Corcoran, care of her mother, Shelby.
During the summer of 2011, she makes a mistake. She tries too hard to change things, because she knows time is running out.
The email she sends to herself is supposed to be motivational, but she remembers, now, how it felt creepy, as if someone out there was watching her. That was the summer she dyed her hair, got a tattoo, and joined the skanks. All because she'd been told to "embrace the now" by someone who claimed to be an old friend of the family.
She knows Quinn, the one in Ohio, will think about stealing a baby. She also knows she won't get away with it, thanks to Puck, of all people, being finally observant enough to notice she isn't okay.
She knows that Rachel Berry will be engaged to Finn Hudson. She knows that truck will come out of nowhere.
She knows she can't change a damn thing.
She stops looking up things about Ohio.
She's in a lunch meeting, discussing the upcoming summer program, when Carmen's phone rings.
"Excuse me," Carmen says, checking the screen before she dismisses the call.
"You can take it."
"It's a prospective student. Former prospective student."
"Begging for another chance?"
"They all think they're special. This is the one who choked twice in her audition."
"So she wants a third chance?"
Carmen nods. "And now she's left at least half a dozen messages, trying to plead her case. Her show choir is performing in Chicago and she insists it would be worth my time to see her."
"She must think she's something special."
"She's persistent, I'll give her that. I know I'll never forget the name Rachel Berry."
There's a pause before she lifts her bloody mary off the table. "Maybe she is an exception."
When Rachel steps into her classroom, she isn't exceptional. She's timid, she's holding back, she's not the Rachel Berry Quinn remembers and she's certainly not strong enough to endure Cassandra's class.
So, Quinn and Cassie both do what they do best. Encouragement through discouragement.
She calls her names and zeroes in on one of Rachel's biggest insecurities, her nose. She calls her Little Miss David Schwimmer. She makes fun of Ohio. She can, because she knows how much it blows to actually live in Lima. She's critical of Rachel's technique, because it's honestly a little sloppy.
She flat out tells her she sucks.
Because she knows that Rachel can take it, that she's going to go home and cry about it while she sings some pop hit single, and then she's going to rise above, beyond, and make Cassandra July eat her words.
Quinn's counting on it.
Because if she isn't here to make sure Rachel Berry turns her dream into reality, what's the fucking point?
It's been a long time, so she's kind of forgotten how aggravating Rachel can be. Particularly when she pulls her little goodie two shoes act and tries to call out the fact that Cassandra's been drinking.
She hasn't pulled her shit together for the last fifteen years just to be called a drunk, like her mother.
Quinn Fabray was a decent dancer. Cassie July can dance circles around her. And Rachel. And anyone else in her damn class. That's why she's the fucking teacher.
Maybe it's a little showy, a little seductive, but she wants to show Rachel what she's capable of, to prove she's not just some bitch with a cane, talking people down because she can't perform.
Her performance is fucking spectacular.
She knows it, because Rachel has this wide-eyed look on her face, one that says she's impressed. And maybe a little turned on.
She's still got it. All of it.
Rachel already shows improvement by the end of the first week and insists she's going to be the best Cassandra's ever seen.
Quinn doesn't doubt it.
Cassandra insists she's going to delight in making her life a living hell.
It's all going fine the way she has things lined up. Some light torture, a little beratement, a backhanded compliment here and there. Rachel responds well to pressure, she always has.
And then she decides to show up and prove to Cassandra that she's sexy. All because of the stupid tango.
The thing is, Quinn knows Rachel can be sexy. She's seen her perform in glee club, she's seen her let go and be in the moment.
That still doesn't quite prepare her for the smoky, sultry Britney Spears number that Rachel presents as her Ode to Sexiness. It's not the most brilliant choreography, but it's certainly provocative.
She still dismisses Rachel as having a lack of sex appeal, only to have her own past, her more recent past, thrown back in her face. She's never living down her encounter with that idiot and his cell phone.
She's also apparently never going to shake that feeling Rachel gives her, that dull ache between her legs that isn't going to go away until she actually does something about it.
In this case, she drinks until she falls asleep in her office.
When Rachel shows up to apologize, it's a day later and Cassandra is sober. They bond, sort of. She decides Rachel needs to know why she's so hard on her, that it's because the rest of the showbusiness world won't be so nice, that there are no second chances.
Even though both of them are here because someone didn't give up on them after the first time.
It's when she feels Rachel's awkward hand on her back, half-heartedly pushing her down into a stretch that she realizes she's the one not taking a chance. She's hiding behind her new life, behind the booze, behind the ruins of a career that failed before it launched.
Before she lets herself dwell too much on it, she puts Rachel on dance belt duty and sends her on her way.
Rachel's persistent. She's so fucking persistent.
Because she's been relegated to the bare minimum of Cassandra's class, she has the audacity to ask for private practice time in the studio.
Cassandra agrees, but makes Rachel spend fifteen minutes just helping her stretch. The silence is awkward, so she decides to bite the bullet and ask, "Do you have a boyfriend?"
Rachel seems startled by the question. "I... oh. Well..."
"It's not a difficult question, you either have one or you don't. Unless," she cranes her head to look at Rachel over her shoulder. "Girlfriend?"
There's a blush and a shake of the head. "My boyfriend broke up with me before I moved out here. He's in the army... I thought we might get back together but..." After a moment of silence, Rachel adds, "I've never dated a girl, though one of my good friends from back home is a lesbian."
She has to resist the urge to roll her eyes and point out that Santana would probably never admit they were friends. "Well, you're at a performing arts academy, so I'm sure the opportunity will present itself, if you're interested." She pushes herself upright. "It sounds cliche, I know, but it's a cliche for a reason. Just don't let your L Word drama interfere with my class."
"I wasn't planning on... I'm not opposed..." Rachel seems to be struggling to find the right words, which is interesting. "I have two gay dads."
"My point," she interjects, before Rachel derails into some kind of speech about GLAAD or something, "is that you should make sure you have a good support network. People who give a crap. Because the friends you make here, chances are, they'll sell you out for role an ensemble role faster than you can say Spamalot."
"I have Kurt. And Brody."
"One McGay and one McDreamy. That's not enough."
"I have my family."
"They're all the way in Lima."
If Rachel wonders how she knows, she doesn't show it. "They're very supportive."
"Why are you even asking me this? You don't even like me."
"Contrary to popular belief, I actually do want my better students to succeed."
"You think I'm one of your better st-"
"I think you don't give up. But if you don't have a people around you who believe in you, you're going to get very tired, very quickly, and you'll end up working at that diner in Times Square with the singing waitstaff. Who else?"
Rachel considers it while Cassandra shifts her position and gestures for pressure on her leg as she raises it over her head. "Quinn was always very supportive."
"Quinn." The name sounds odd to say out loud after all this time. "She's not... anymore?" This is it. This is the ugly truth about her own demise.
"We haven't seen each other in a while."
She has to brace herself against the hardwood floor, because that's not what she's expecting. "Yale?"
"Yes, she's in the drama program. She's quite talented. I think she would have liked to pursue musical theater, but she was in an accident earlier this year and dancing is still difficult for her."
She's alive. She's alive and at Yale. As in the university. It's too much. She's abruptly on her feet, leaving Rachel on the floor, looking up at her. "You have twenty minutes until the next class comes in," she says, briskly moving for the hall. "Your piqués still need work."
She locks herself in the bathroom and cries for ten minutes, spends five reapplying her eye makeup, then returns to the studio to find Rachel studying her turns in front of the mirror.
"Better." Then, "You should call your friend. Take a trip up to the Ivy League for the weekend."
"I didn't want to bother her while she's settling in. Though, she did get us MetroNorth passes for graduation."
"Then you're an idiot if you don't go." Rachel's face falls and there's this ridiculous urge to make her feel better. "Look, she's in a different talent pool, so she's not going to knock you out of the running for anything. She's not a hunky dreamboat who could potentially knock you up."
"Brody and I aren't even-"
"My point is, you have someone. Other people don't. Take advantage of that." There's so much more she could say. But she won't. She can't. Crazy July already has a reputation for her anger management problems, she doesn't need give anyone else any fodder.
Rachel nods. "You're right. Thank you."
The students for her next class are beginning to arrive, so she rolls her eyes and waves Rachel away. "Just remember what I said about the relationship drama."
"I don't think that will be a problem," Rachel assures her.
"Enough chatter. Get out of here and get on a damn train. If I see you on campus at all before Monday, you're handwashing the crotches on all the leotards."
Rachel mumbles a, "Thank you, Ms. July," and gathers her things before scurrying out the door.
Cassandra glides over to the stereo system and presses down on the play button. She has no idea what she's just set in motion, but she can only hope it's progress toward something bigger, better, brighter.
Otherwise, what's the point?
"Five, six, seven, eight!"