New York was considered a playground for most people. No matter where you came from, if you got to New York, it was your oyster to do with as you wished. That was why everyone ended up congregating in New York at some point – rich or poor, young or old, whoever. New York was the catch-all for everyone who wanted anything and was willing to chase after it.
And there she was, feet touching the ground in New York for the first time. The day Rachel had waited on for what had seemed like forever had finally arrived, and she was overjoyed. The entire concept of going to New York excited her more than anything else she could ever remember being excited about. For as long as Rachel could remember, New York City was all she had ever wanted. When she was a little girl she dreamed about ending up in New York one day and seeing her name on a Broadway marquee, and all of this only made her feel as though she was one step closer to getting what she wanted.
She was going to be attending some prestigious private school on the Upper East Side of the city. It was her fathers' idea, really. Part of her convincing them to let her go to New York was by them deciding where she was to go to school to finish her senior year, and they had picked some stuffy boarding school that was populated with people her age who had parents that practically ran Wall Street and rubbed elbows with people like Steven Spielberg and Oprah and Jay Leno and whoever else was important in the grand scheme of things.
When it came down to it, Rachel didn't think that going to a prep school would be all that bad. Of course, the whole idea of having to wear a uniform didn't exactly sit well with her, but there really wasn't anything she would be able to do about it.
She was supposed to be meeting with someone after she had stepped off of the plane. Originally, it was supposed to be the girl she was going to end up rooming with, but something had come up with her and she was unable to meet her at the airport, so she was stuck waiting for the student body president, or something. Rachel wasn't exactly sure. She just knew who she was supposed to be looking for.
The longer her eyes scanned across the airport's terminal, the more she began to get worried that her escort hadn't shown up – or worse, her escort had already gotten one look at her and had decided to leave based on that opinion alone. Rachel didn't think that she looked absolutely horrible. She had fallen asleep during her flight and her skirt had wrinkled around the edges a bit, but other than that, she thought that she looked rather nice.
It was important to look nice during a first impression, anyway.
She looked around and tried to look busy as she clutched her carry-on bag tightly to her chest until she was able to notice a girl begin to walk up to her, a big, bright smile stuck to her face. The closer she got to her, the more Rachel began to realize that whoever the girl was, she was strikingly beautiful. She had golden blonde hair that was cut into a long bob that ended at her shoulders, side bangs falling in her eyes. She was wearing a pale green dress with a light, gray jacket that Rachel was sure cost more than all of the luggage she had brought with her to New York (and she wasn't the lightest of travelers).
"Rachel?" The blonde girl asked, her voice chipper. Rachel nodded. "I'm Quinn Fabray. The one who's supposed to bring you back to campus?"
Rachel smiled and her eyes lit up slightly as she looked at Quinn. She looked like a perfect, cardboard cut-out of whatever a student over in New York was supposed to look like.
The blonde girl's smile was devastatingly sweet and seemed like it was never going to let up. She looked like a life-sized Barbie doll to Rachel, who was afraid that her eyes had grown too wide while she was staring.
"Oh, um, yes," she stammered nervously, extending her hand for a handshake. "I'm Rachel. Rachel Berry." Quinn took her by the hand and shook it vigorously, the charms on her charm bracelet clamoring together as she shook Rachel's hand vigorously.
Rachel's eyes fell on Quinn's wrist, smiling brightly. "Wow, your bracelet is really… really pretty." The little silver and diamond-encrusted charms glimmered under the dull lights of the airport terminal. She watched as Quinn smiled, wondering if it was ever going to let up.
The blonde continued to bear her teeth, looking down at her down wrist. "Oh, thanks," she said. "It was my grandmother's." Rachel smiled and adjusted her bedazzled pink duffel bag over her shoulder.
Her hand absent-mindedly reached for the necklace that she wore, fingers brushing against the heart-shaped pendant that dropped down between her collarbone. It had been given to her by her dads for her fourteenth birthday, and she had worn it every day since. Although Rachel came from a well-to do family, the necklace that she wore was probably the most expensive thing she owned.
That, and her collection of Barbra Streisand records. She had decided to bring those along with her, just in case she happened to run into someone who shared the same interests as she did.
She pushed her hair over her shoulder and looked at Quinn, almost envying her off-handedly. If the rest of the people at the school she was going to all dressed like Quinn and looked like Quinn, she didn't know how she was supposed to fit in or look like everyone else.
Quinn's eyes raked over Rachel and she smiled again, exhaling curtly. "Well, we should probably get going," she said, crossing her arms over her chest. "Why don't we go get your bags and I'll show you your dorm."
Rachel looked at Quinn and worried her lip between her teeth. "Oh, um, I have a lot of bags," she started. She clicked the heels of her Mary Janes together. "You know, I just thought it would be important to bring everything with me."
The blonde smirked and turned around on her heel, snapping her fingers slightly. Rachel tipped her head up and her eyes lit up, following after Quinn dutifully.
"Oh, that's fine." She stopped and turned around on her heel, her smile returning but not as strong as it once had been. "I brought some help with me."
Rachel ended up getting more distracted by the sights of Grand Central Station than she did anything else. She didn't want to make Quinn upset by trailing behind, but when she did the blonde simply responded with a quick snap of her fingers and a smile, which made Rachel feel as though she was doing something right.
She wanted to know who it was that Quinn had brought along with her and spoke so highly of. She wondered if it was one of her friends, who she expected to be nothing short of what Quinn was herself; beautiful, graceful and popular, she was sure. Maybe Quinn liked her and she would be able to become friends with her and whoever she was bringing with her. Rachel was never one to actually care about how unwanted she was, but she figured that she could always try and make a new name for herself at the new school was attending.
She could completely reinvent herself if she really wanted to. Chances were though, that was never going to happen.
"Alright," Quinn said, walking up to the luggage carousel. "I'm assuming that your bags matches your carry-on, so we'll just look for the-" She stopped, her eyes scanning the baggage claim area. She threw her hands up in the air and ran a hand through her hair, rolling her eyes. She held up a finger and groaned. "Hold on."
Rachel watched as Quinn approached a tall man who appeared to be too busy checking out some blonde girl who was looking at flight times. She couldn't help but laugh as she watched Quinn swat him on the back and directed him back to where she was standing. Rachel bit down on her lip and blushed as Quinn returned back to her, grabbing on to the arm of whatever tall man she had dragged over from the opposite corner of the terminal.
"Rachel, I have someone I'd like you to meet," Quinn said, pride in her voice. She stood to the boy's side and Rachel looked at him, smiling gently. "This is Finn Hudson," she said sweetly, letting go of his arm. "He's… one of my best friends."
Rachel had to tip her head up to get a real look at him, smiling as her blush didn't seem to disappear. He was probably a foot taller than she was, and he was really good-looking. Not in a conventional way, or anything, but neither was she, so she didn't really have the right to complain.
There really wasn't much of a reason to think he was attractive, though. Whoever this Finn person was had been described by Quinn as one of her 'best friends,' so she only assumed that they were boyfriend and girlfriend, or something along those lines.
"Hi," she said, giving him a small wave. He looked down at her and she could feel her cheeks redden the longer she looked at him. "I'm Rachel," she said, smoothing her skirt down over her legs nervously. She watched as Quinn looked at her with a knowing look in her eye. "Um, you're Quinn's…"
"Friend," he told her, running a hand through his hair. "Quinn and I have known each other since we were like, six." Rachel looked up at him and swung back and forth on her feet, trying to fill the holes in their conversation with something.
He smiled at her and she felt like Quinn wasn't even there, causing her to blush even more than she already was, if that was possible. "She never told me that she was going to be picking up such a pretty girl, though."
Rachel felt her eyes get bigger as he complimented her. She was sure that her face was redder than it had ever been before by the way he was talking to her.
Quinn laughed nervously, swatting Finn on the arm. "Oh, you," she said through clenched teeth. "Rachel is rather pretty, though." She walked up to the brunette and fingered a lock of her hair, sending a chill down Rachel's spine. She lowered her voice and moved her hands up to Rachel's shoulders, adjusting her sweater and tugging it down over her chest as she spoke. "She'll end up being quite the catch over at school."
Rachel pulled her sweater back up and noticed Finn staring at her over Quinn's shoulder. She didn't feel herself anymore.
"You know, Rachel, I have to go use the bathroom." Quinn gave Rachel's arm a squeeze before walking between her and Finn and away from the two of them. "But Finn can help you get your bags and carry them out to the taxi, okay?" She smirked towards her and turned over her shoulder towards the bathroom, leaving her alone with Finn.
She watched him as he looked at her and began to shuffle nervously over to the baggage claim. "Ever since I've gotten here, all you've done is stare at me," she told him as bluntly as she could. "Is anything wrong with me?"
He rolled his eyes and scoffed, laughing slightly to himself. "I wouldn't exactly say that," he told her, picking up one of the pink suitcases that spun around on the carousel and assuming it belonged to her. "This one's yours, right?"
Rachel crossed her arms over her chest and looked down at the suitcase Finn had picked up. "Yes," she told him, fixing her hair nervously. "So, should I be worried about going back your school?" She looked up at him, feeling close to terrified. She did worry about it. Living with people she didn't know and who probably wouldn't like her all too much. No one really liked her back in Ohio, so why would anyone like her in New York?
"Well, that kind of depends," he told her, continuing to laugh. "I mean, someone like you… probably not."
Rachel narrowed her eyes and turned around to look at him. "Someone like me?"
Finn looked at her and smiled. "You don't think much of yourself, do you, Rebecca?"
"It's Rachel," she reminded him. "And no, I think just fine of myself." She chewed on her bottom lip once more, nerves fraying. "Why, do confident people not fare well at your school?"
Finn looked at her, finding it hard to hold back the smile that he felt consume him when he looked at her. She was a pretty girl; it wasn't hard to see why Quinn had brought him along. It was almost distracting the way she walked and spoke around him. He knew as well as Quinn did that she would be glommed onto by practically every guy at their school.
Well, she would if she stopped talking. She already seemed like she spoke way too much.
"No, you're just… you're different than most of the girls I go to school with."
Rachel leaned against the carousel and tipped her head up to look at Finn, a surge of confidence coursing through her veins. "I'm different?"
He rubbed the back of his neck and clucked his tongue, rolling his eyes at her. "You should just be careful, that's all I'm saying."
She tossed her hair over her shoulder and spun around, bending over to pick up another one of her suitcases. "Well, I think that I'll do just fine here," she told him. She wasn't completely lying to him. Part of her actually felt good about coming to New York on her own and seeing how she felt in the city.
Of course, being in the city and being in the city on the Upper East Side were two completely different things.
"I think I'll surprise you," she told him before turning around to face him. "What, do you think I'm just some little girl who won't be able to make her way around your school?"
Finn rolled his eyes and grabbed Rachel's bag from her before she was able to put it down. "Look, Rachel, all of the girls that go to my school drink and smoke and have sex with whoever wants them to. That's how they get by, and that's why people like them. And you don't look like you'd be willing to do any of those things."
Rachel cocked a brow at him. "Those aren't necessarily the greatest attributes to have." She leaned against her suitcase and tipped her head up to look at Finn. "Maybe the best part about a girl is what she's actually like, instead of… you know. What she's like in bed or whatever."
"And what makes you think I don't weigh that when I date girls as well?" She looked at him incredulously and scoffed. "I mean, sure, guys date girls based on how hot they are, but I'm not going to date you just because of your boobs or something."
Rachel rolled her eyes and turned her back against her luggage. "You're not dating me period." She crossed her arms over her chest and sighed, blowing her bangs out of her eyes. "Are you always this charming with girls you meet for the first time?" She asked him sarcastically, looking down at her shoes. She watched as he picked up another one of her bags and set it down by her feet.
"No," he told her, leaning on the bag towards her. "I'm just telling you the truth. That's what you want to hear, right? The truth?" She rolled her eyes and tried her best not to look at him, but he was hard. No matter how much a douchebag he came across as, it didn't take away from the fact that she thought he was good-looking, because he was.
She tapped her feet on the ground and looked around, hoping that Quinn would come back soon. "I think that being honest and being blunt are two completely different things," she told him, suppressing an eye roll. "Besides, I already know your type."
Finn crossed his own arms over his chest, looking at her with a grin. "And what's my type?"
"Oh, you know. Confident, cocky, sleeps with a different girl each weekend." She sighed and continued not to look at him. There were guys just like him at her old school, only she could only imagine that the ones here were much different than the ones back where she was from. They had more money and had nicer houses and probably knew how to be more charming than the boys in Ohio. Offering a girl a dinner at some expensive restaurant was probably a hell of a lot more enticing than an offer to go cow tipping.
He laughed and got up so he could walk in front of her. "That's not true at all," he told her, laughing to himself. "I think you'll be surprised when you get to campus."
"And why is that?"
"Because you'll realize that I'm not that kind of person," he told her. "Besides, someone like you?" He scoffed and laughed to himself once more. "You'll get to know those kinds of pricks all too well once classes start."
Rachel flicked her eyes up to look at him, not bothering to smile. "And what's that supposed to mean?"
He shrugged and shoved his hands in his pockets. "Oh, nothing. It's just what Quinn said. You're a pretty girl who's new to the school and who doesn't go out and get completely trashed at parties and stuff." Rachel sighed and pushed her hair out of her eyes nervously. "That, and when they find out that you're-" He stopped, laughing to himself.
Rachel looked up at him, furrowing her brow. "When they find out that I'm what?"
He shook his head and looked down at his feet. "Nothing. Pretend I didn't say anything."
Rachel opened her mouth to ask him another question, but before she could, Quinn walked back between them, clasping her hands together in front of her.
"Sorry that took so long," she said, reaching into her coat pockets for her gloves. She looked down and noticed Rachel's luggage at their feet. "Well, I see that you've gotten all of your bags," she said with a smile. "Finn, why don't you bring those out to the taxi, hmm? We should get back before we're late for dinner."
Rachel looked at Finn nervously before he picked up her things and started walking them towards the door, taking the last one in her own hand and wheeling it with her as she and Quinn trailed after him.
She wanted to know more about him, whoever he was. He seemed too mysterious for her not to.
Rachel had moved in to her dorm but hadn't done much unpacking yet. Quinn had told her that her roommate hadn't arrived yet and she didn't want to start unpacking until whoever it was that she was living with was there, just so they would be able to establish which side of the room belonged to who and Rachel wouldn't end up feeling like she had taken up all of the room.
(The rooms were much bigger than she had expected, anyway. She wrote it off as something that came with going to a prestigious school in New York.)
Quinn had invited her to her dorm for the night because her own roommate had yet to move in. Her own room seemed much nicer than Rachel's. The walls were a light pink and pictures hung from everywhere, her sheets matching the lampshades and everything in between. Quinn seemed like the type that had everything figured out, so Rachel thought it would be a good idea to do whatever it was that she told her to do. She was the student body president, after all.
"So, Rachel, what do you think of the place?" Quinn asked her, sitting cross-legged on her bed. She was busy painting her toenails, dressed in a skimpy set of pajamas that looked really good on her. Rachel was wearing pink polka-dot flannels, her hair in a French braid down her back. She certainly didn't feel as sexy as she was sure Quinn did.
"I mean, I'm sure it's nothing like you're used to in Idaho, but I like to think it's nice," she said, screwing the top back onto her bottle of nail polish.
Rachel looked up from the end of her braid that she had between her fingers and cleared her throat. "I'm, um, from Ohio, actually." She looked at Quinn and smiled slightly. She was so much prettier than she thought she was, with her blonde hair and blue eyes and smile that seemed to light up whatever room she was in.
There was a beat of silence between them, Rachel looking up at Quinn from the floor before she mustered up the courage to speak. "So how long have you known Finn?" She asked, dropping her hair from her hands once more. "And you're… you're not really friends, are you? I mean, I completely understand if you're something more, I was… I was just curious."
Quinn laughed to herself, tipping her head back with a smile. "No, Rachel, Finn and I aren't anything," she told her, her grin staying to her face. "We've known each other forever. It would be too weird if we were to do anything… together." Rachel nodded and looked down into her lap, beginning to play with the hem of her pants. Quinn laughed and pushed her hair from her eyes, scrambling down from off of the bed.
"Why, do you like him or something?" Rachel's eyes got bigger and Quinn grinned, sitting down in front of her. "Oh, my God, Rachel, you like him." Rachel shook her head and stood up nervously to escape Quinn's smile.
"No, I don't, really," she said, playing with her hair again. "He seems like a real jerk, that's all." Quinn cocked her head to the side, doing her best to hide her smile.
"Oh, he's really not all that bad. He just probably thought you were hot, that's all." Rachel's eyes widened and she shook her head, biting down on her bottom lip. Quinn looked at her, a wolfish grin appearing on her face. "What, do you not think you're hot or something?"
Rachel looked at Quinn nervously and began playing with her hair once more. "No," she said, looking around the room. "I mean, it's not that I don't think I'm pretty, it's just-" She stopped, rolling her eyes. "I'm not interested in Finn, believe me."
Quinn giggled and rolled her eyes. "Look at me, Rachel." The brunette turned to face Quinn, who was busy getting up from the floor and placing herself behind Rachel. "You're going to be getting your uniform in a few days, which is fine, but until then, you should let me help you with your clothes and stuff," she said, pulling the elastic from the long braid that fell down her back. Rachel turned over her shoulder to look at Quinn, who was busy running her hands through her hair.
"Like that sweater you were wearing today? It was adorable, but you just need to learn how to dress like a New Yorker instead of… like you're from Indiana."
"Ohio," Rachel said again, Quinn walking in front of her. She didn't want to start dressing like the girls in music videos or anything like that now that she had moved here. "Quinn, I don't-"
"Just stop talking and leave everything up to me," she said, her voice becoming slightly harsher than it had been before. Her fingers trailed down her shoulders until they reached the buttons of her pajama top, undoing the first two. Rachel felt her pulse quicken and she felt her face get hotter, trying to hide everything from Quinn so as not seem like she was nervous.
"You have a really pretty neckline," Quinn muttered, pushing Rachel's hair off of her shoulders. Rachel's eyes widened and she looked at Quinn over her shoulder, confused. "And that's a really pretty necklace," she said with a smile. "You should wear your shirts all unbuttoned like this all the time." Rachel smiled nervously and turned to look at Quinn.
"I don't know," she said, fastening one of the buttons that Quinn had undone moments earlier. "I don't want to seem like…"
"Like a slut?" Quinn laughed and played with the pendant on her necklace. "Rachel, you're not going to look like a slut. But if you want boys to like you… you're going to have to dress a little differently."
Rachel looked at Quinn and sighed, playing with her hair nervously. "You really think so?"
Quinn smiled. "Oh, I know so. If you just do what I tell you, Rachel, everything will be great for you."
Rachel just looked at Quinn and smiled, hoping that she couldn't tell how nervous she was. The way she saw it, she actually would be able to go out in New York and make it on her own.