Chapter XXI

A/N: Hi, readers! I know it has been so very long since I've updated and I want you all to know that I appreciate your patience. I have received an incredible amount of kindness from you during these incredibly busy months that I've been having, and I can't thank you enough for it.

Of course, all of the gratitude to my beta orangeiguanas4 (formerly known as ckeller48).

Oh, and Happy Quinntana Week!

TW: Possible trigger for mentions of domestic violence.

Santana's POV

"Babe?" Puck raps softly - softly for him anyway - on my bathroom door.

I sink further into the tub, forgetting the bottle in my hand until it bobs under the water with me.

Quinn has lived beneath my skin for as long as I can remember, and now she's all over it as well. I can't bear to look down at the hickeys, the countless marks she's made on my skin.

For all of her claims of not knowing me, she definitely still knows how to push me to the breaking point. I don't know if I've ever lost control like that. Oh believe me, I was known for my temper growing up. I am my father's child, at least in that regard. In fact, it was a running joke in Glee Club that I often had to be held back by a group of people to prevent me from killing someone (usually Finn or Rachel or both).

Mom used to call my father and me "switches", as if we could be flipped on and off as easily as a light. But really, we're loaded shotguns. All we need is for someone to pull the trigger. You can't un-pull a trigger. You can't suck back a bullet. Shotguns are not tools used to manipulate light. With shotguns, shrouding a room in darkness does not undo damage done.

I remember the first time he hit her in front of me. I was excited about the new backpack that mom had let me pick out for my first day of kindergarten. I knew that Quinn would think it was really awesome too, and I couldn't wait to show her.

They weren't yelling. Not this time. Someone had come to the door, but I was occupied at the dining room table with trying to squish my new notebook inside of my bag. They had been smiling and laughing with the visitor, but dad stopped smiling shortly before the front door closed.

She went down. The most powerful woman I have ever met, was laid out with just one back hand. He had at least sixty pounds of muscle on her, hovering around six feet, when my mom would be lucky to be considered five.

He yelled at her for correcting him in front of the visitor, for embarrassing him. She looked stunned, but when she looked at me — remembered me — her face was pure terror. She picked me up without sparing another thought, and took me to my abuela's. We stayed there for a week.

I remember being upset that I wouldn't have my new backpack for my first day of school.

When the yelling would start, I would climb out of my bedroom window, either to run to Quinn's, or to hide under the porch. Mom never came looking for me. I think she trusted that I would always come home.

He wasn't a stupid man. Far from it. He knew that if ever hit me in front of her that we would be gone. He threatened her life and mine if I were to ever tell her. But when his usual target wasn't around, I was the only one there to pull his trigger.

My father taught me how to fight. My mother taught me how to run.

Maybe that's why I went down this fixer road. I've always feared my father's darkness within me. My temper feels anything but good. Control, however, is like a drug to me now; I cling to it desperately, and that's exactly what my work is about.

In high school, Quinn attempted to egg me into physical confrontations on more than one occasion, but with her, my anger was always so different. A dark, twisted brand of desire, I suppose. And today I baited her. I baited her in a way that I had never had the nerve or motivation to do before. And she did not disappoint.

It was suicide.

It was a sick sort of competition, one that I had lost before it had even begun. What was I trying to prove? That despite how disgusting she thinks I am, she still wants to fuck me?

How pathetic.

If it had been an actual fight, I had figuratively left my body wide open, arms down, neck exposed, vulnerable to any and every attack. I didn't stand a chance. I must have wanted to lose.

I was so fucking angry. But it was incredible how quickly that anger dissolved into something else entirely.

How could it not?

With Quinn it was always different. In high school, we were in a relationship, and we had already exchanged "I love you's" before the first time we had sex. I'd never done it like that before, and I haven't had it happen that way since.

"Making love" was never an accurate description for what we did. When you "make" something, it's an act of creation. It rings like we were supposed to be generating a force; a force whose existence was never determined by us to begin with.

More often than not I hear people say or lyrics sing "make love to you", not even "make love with you", which is strange in itself. As if love is an act that can somehow be done to someone else. As if you can somehow command it from another person with certain choreographed movements.

But the friction between two bodies does not create love as the rubbing of two stones together generates a spark. As powerful as one person can be, at best, they can merely construct an illusion of love, thoroughly convincing themselves or others of it.

Sex is at most an expression of love, or perhaps as tangible as such an intangible force can be.

But sex was not a requirement or a prerequisite for loving Quinn. I loved her long before the first time I made her come. Sex is not a meaningful act in itself. Love is not sex, and sex is not love. But sex with Quinn was never not.

I've had my share of genuinely meaningless sex, and as much as I've been shamed for that by others periodically throughout my life, it's been a very long time since I've allowed anyone to make me feel somehow dirty or lesser because of it. In high school, I did war with feeling like an object, or rather someone who could never be truly loved by someone else, and with the possibility that there was something wrong with me because my sex life did not require some greater meaning.

Yet, this is far worse than any shame or disconnect that I may have felt in years previous. It's as though my body is physically repulsed with itself. The faint but warped nausea alone would normally be enough for me to put the bottle away for the night. But I don't know how else to stop the foul crawl of my skin, and the prickling itch beneath my ribs.

"Santana?" Puck calls through the door again.

Fuck. I forgot he was out there.

"I'm taking a bath!" I answer.

It's a half-truth. The water is no longer hot, and I haven't even bothered applying body wash or shampoo.

What I'm really doing is chasing numbness, stalking it aggressively with every swallow from this bottle. I'm doing everything I can to zone out until I catch said numbness, mindlessly watching the shapes move on the television that Puck had installed in here for me.

I allow myself some luxuries, like this bathtub and this TV. I don't have school loans, or crazy credit card debt. Mom insisted when I moved out that I buy an apartment rather than throw my money away to rent. She helped me at first, but on my income and with Puck contributing his rent to the mortgage, I do more than fine. I have a savings account, stocks, a trust fund, a fancy bathtub and a multi-millionaire for a mother, all of which does nothing for this feeling. So I'll drown it.

"Ma said you looked sick when you got home earlier, so of course the crazy woman rushed to Andy's to get stuff to make her boiled chicken soup, and she wanted me to come tell you that it's almost ready," Puck explains.

I release a sigh so heavy that my breasts splash against the water. I'm irritated that he's there, that he's interrupting this. I'm irritated that I can't drink in my own fucking living room right now because his mother is here — his mother, who I love dearly, who treats me like I'm her own — and the last thing that I want, is to be taken care of right now.

I barely said ten words to Momma Puck when I got back from Quinn's earlier, but I couldn't muster anything more than that. I don't want her to see this darkness. I don't want her to stop caring for me like she does.

"Tell her that I'm sorry, but I'm not hungry." I squeeze my eyes shut as I say it, trying to normalize my voice as much as possible.

It works. Kudos to years of working to regulate it. Even a fourth of a bottle in, I still manage.

"Yeah, she ain't gonna accept that. So, you sick? Because I had a work thing that I wanted to talk to you about," Puck requests.

As one of the two managers at the shop, Puck had to go in today to cover part of a shift. Selfish as it is, I'm wishing that he had been stuck there longer.

"Not now, Puck," I bark.

I close my eyes, listening for him to walk away. Once I'm sure he has, I take another long pull from the bottle.

I don't know why he tolerates serving as my personal punching bag. I don't deserve him.

Ugh, shut the fuck up.

I curse myself, hitting the faucet with more force than necessary to start the water once again.

Something swims faintly behind my eyelids, as a splintering or a cracking noise - I'm not quite sure which, maybe both - calls me back to consciousness.

There's the soft rush of water running in my ears, while a cold, wet hand knocks against my cheek.

"I swear to god if you don't open your eyes in the next two seconds, I'm calling an ambulance. Wake up, San. Please, babe. Wake up," Puck begs.

It's cumbersome, but I force my eyes to open, registering his arm around my back. He's blurry, and his shirt looks wet.

The noise of the drain is way too loud for my head right now. This is the second time that I've been woken up today against my will.

"What do you want?" My voice sounds funny, like my mouth is full.

"Oh thank fuck. This is why I should have got this bathroom. You can't be passing out in a tub that's the size of a small swimming pool when you swim like a vertically challenged giraffe," he scolds.

I roll my eyes, well, I try anyway.

"I just fell asleep. You can get off me now," I urge.

I lean away from his arm, sitting up, bracing myself on the sides of the tub. I'm beyond woozy, and it hits me how fucking freezing I am.

"And you drained how much of this Jack before you fell asleep?" He lifts the bottle to punctuate his question without even glancing at it, as if he's hesitant to take his eyes off of me for even a second.

"Does it matter?" I snap.

I know that look, even in this state I know it. It's the look he had when I broke up with Quinn, it's the look he had when abuela died and I was banned from the funeral, it's the look he had when Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. It's the look of desperate, helpless fear; he gets it every time I use alcohol like this.

I hate it.

"You know it does. How could you not hear how hard I was knocking?" he reprimands.

Like a lethargic dog, my head turns at his reference. The wood of the door is cracked, scuffed significantly, and irreparably damaged.

Fucking moron.

"You broke my door," I observe, dumbly, a shiver coursing through me.

"Not my bad. You fucked with the lock and I couldn't get it open," Puck justifies.

Did I?

I find my footing, standing slowly under his watchful eye.

"Or you could mind your own fucking business for once and not go all barbarian on my shit. And if you're gonna break down a fucking door you need to kick it, not ram into it a hundred times," I criticize, splashing the water as I move towards the towels on the counter.

"I figured out the kick thing eventually. I'll put in a new door this weekend after ma leaves. Now who did this to you?" Puck demands angrily, focused on my nakedness.


The marks anyway. My current state, that's entirely my doing.

"Stop leering," I order, struggling to figure out exactly how I'm going to reach my towel.

"You know it ain't like that. You're hot normally, yeah, but I don't exactly get wood for wrinkly babes. Plus you're covered in…" Puck trails off gesturing to the hickeys and scratch marks.

"What don't you understand? What do I have to do to get you to leave me alone? I know you're dumb as fucking rock, but even dogs can be taught to sit and stay," I snarl as if I'm the dog.

He snatches the towel that I've been reaching for, handing it to me almost gingerly when I all but expect him to throw it.

"Wow that whiskey turned you into a mean werebitch," he comments.

I do my best to ignore him, stepping out of the tub, but I slip, grabbing at the counter, wall, anything that can keep me grounded. My body dips, crotch almost hitting the ceramic side of the tub, but he grabs me, holding me effortlessly, stopping me from catastrophe.

He guides the rest of the towel around me, helping me step forward, but as soon as my second foot hits tiled ground I push him back. It causes me to stumble, slipping, fuck, fuck -

"Let me help you, damn it, you're gonna fall! There's water everywhere," he urges, awkwardly catching me by my armpit before my jaw can violently connect with the bathroom counter.

I yank my arm back from him, opening my mouth to tell him that it's his fault that I slipped in the first place, because he broke into my bathroom, playing at being a firefighter because he's too fucking stupid to pass the written exam, raising my finger to tell him exactly that, but other words spill from my mouth instead.

"I don't need your help. Do you hear me? I don't fucking need you. I don't need you."

I repeat the sentiment at least a dozen times more after he hugs me, but I don't push him away. My face is wet with his shirt and my own tears by the fifth echo.

By the eighth, I can't even make out my own words amongst the hoarse sobs I make against his chest.

"I'll get rid of everything we have in the apartment as soon as ma goes to bed, okay?" he promises against my hair.

I nod weakly. He's right. Defeated, drained, and drunk, I know that he's right. This isn't an unfamiliar scene for either of us.

There's nothing left of my pride to argue; the alcohol has to go.

"Noah? Is everything alright? What's going on in there?" Momma Puck calls from the living room.

Did she not hear Puck break the door?

"Yeah, Ma. It's all good! Santana just fell asleep," Puck reassures her.

"That girl is gonna work herself to death, she works way too hard. You tell her to get her rest, and that I'll warm her soup when she wakes up tomorrow!" she insists, and my fists tighten in Puck's shirt at just the thought of having to eat anything tomorrow.

Quinn's POV

The stroke of Dani's hand on my hair is of very little comfort, but it's something.

"Thanks for coming," I mumble into my pillow.

I've stopped crying, so that's progress. But now my head hurts, and my body is weak all over. I haven't had a crying hangover like this in years.

Dani's still in her slacks and white button-up, having rushed here directly from her Bar Mitzvah videography gig. Part of her equipment is resting haphazardly against my living room wall next to the TV. I stare at it periodically, forcing myself to think about how we met, desperate for even the briefest of reprieves from my thoughts. It was my very first wedding gig in NYC; something about her reminded me of home, reminded me of the Midwest, and with her open attitude, and her teasing nature, we clicked instantly.

Mercedes was, naturally, my first call. I'm sure she's sick of this, and tired of catching me every time I fall because of Santana. She doesn't show it, but I can't imagine how she couldn't be fed up at this point. Worrywart that she is, she insisted that I call someone who could actually be here with me. I promised that I would, half because I felt guilty and half because I knew that she was probably right.

Dani was the best choice. She doesn't know Santana, and I knew she wouldn't pry. She's met Santana only once, one day when Santana and I were out shopping for software and shoes — our SS day, Santana had called it. Dani was rushing to a client meeting when she ran into us, so it was just a quick introduction, but she teased me about having such a hot ex-girlfriend for a friend the next time we had coffee together. Since reconnecting with everyone, I've spent less time with other friends like Dani, but she didn't so much as hesitate when I asked her if she would come over.

She's probably the least judgmental person that I know (although I do get the feeling that she thinks it's a little strange that I'm still friends with so many people from high school). And while she doesn't know everything, because I've only ever given her parts of our story, she does know that Santana is significant to me.

"Oh you know I'm here for you anytime, girl. You've been there for my drama for three and half break ups already, so this is like an insignificant little drop in the friendship bucket," Dani dismisses.

She's right. She commits so quickly and so easily to the girls that she dates, that I'm not surprised if she tells me about a girl she met on Monday that they're girlfriends by Sunday. Fortunately for her, she moves on quickly when the relationships don't work out.

"It's sad that I know exactly which one was the half break-up." I attempt a smile, but fail.

"We can call this a half one for you," she offers, taking a sip from her water bottle.

"I don't care what we call it. I just don't want to feel anything anymore," I confess.

"I know, sweetie," she comforts with a frown, pushing some of my hair away from my eyes.

I don't expect her to have anything to say to magically make me feel better, and I certainly don't expect her to have the answers.

She turns up the volume on whatever dance/cheerleading reality show that she had put on in hopes of distracting me. My interests have strayed so far from cheerleading in recent years, however, that it's not exactly holding my interest. It doesn't really matter though, because I can't think of anything better to do or watch, and Dani's commentary is vaguely entertaining.

I close my eyes, nuzzling the top of my head into her thigh, fighting to get comfortable on this not-so-supportive pull-out couch mattress. It's the third time I've ever used it myself, and I think I was too intoxicated the other two times to recognize how uneven it is. Still, it's better than my actual bed. We didn't do anything on this couch. It's the safest place in this apartment right now. My bed is off limits, not just because I made lov- had sex with Santana there, but because of what I did when I got out of the shower.

Who's the monster now?

Bed aside, the bedroom isn't any kind of safe haven. Even a room away, the shadowbox feels too close, too real, too heavy on my chest. Dani would flip if she saw it in its current state. She's admired it, from an artistic and personal perspective, every time she's been in my room. I know she would feel driven to clean up, to "fix" it. But I couldn't handle that right now.

I can't live the lie that is the well-calculated, perfectly organized, mindfully preserved box, anymore. I don't want her or anyone else to clean up the mess that I've deliberately, blindly, chosen to make.

Exhausted from crying, I finally begin to drift away from the world that I so desperately need to escape from.

An arm on my shoulder shakes me insistently, uninvitedly dragging me away from sleep. With blurry vision, I squint up to see a concerned Dani's face, listening as something, sounding much like a purse or a bag, plops down on the floor.

"Whoo! It smells like sex in here!" A voice, unbefitting for the current mood, announces itself without warning, and I hear my front door shut.

Did I lock the door after Dani got here?

Dani glances down at me in alarm, shifting to crane her head around to view the visitor.

"Brittany?" I ask unnecessarily in my groggy state; I know, full well, whose voice that is.

She saunters around the pull-out couch bed, positively grinning, her eyes "covered" with one hand, although her fingers are clearly spread to enable her to see out of one eye.

"I would have called to tell you that I left my phone here but I didn't have my phone, so…wait, you're not Santana," Brittany observes, dropping her hand, staring at Dani in confusion.

"Nope," Dani answers needlessly.

I rub my left eye, debating on whether I should at least make a show of trying to sit up, or if I should try and offer some explanation for something. For what, I have no idea.

Brittany is in sweatpants, and she's wearing one of those messy buns that were popular when we were in high school. I wonder if she came from home or from the hospital. I realize that I have no concept of what time it is.

"Why are you sad?" Britt asks when my eyes eventually focus steadily on her.

I don't have the energy to lie.

"I had a really horrible fight with Santana," I respond.

"After you had sex?" She questions, clearly confused.

I don't know whether I would laugh under normal circumstances, say if Brittany was making these assumptions about someone else. There is something humorous in how matter-of-fact she is about it, I suppose.

"No. Mostly before," I admit.

"Oh. Makes sense," Brittany says quietly, accepting it without judgment, as if she somehow understands.

Without another word, she crawls onto the bed, and it creaks immediately under the new weight. I don't argue when she pushes me gently onto my side, wrapping her slender arm around my waist.

Two moments pass, maybe, before she exhales impatiently into my hair.

"Okay, lady friend, roll over. I have to be the biggest spoon. Don't worry; I've perfected threeway cuddling," Britt orders, gesturing impatiently at Dani.

Dani offers me an incredulous look, but ever the woman to go with the flow, she slides down the back cushions of the couch, and rolls over to position her back to me.

Britt's calloused hand immediately guides mine to Dani's hip.

"Dani, this is Brittany. Brittany, this is my friend, Dani," I introduce dryly against my friend's back.

"You're really pretty," Brittany compliments Dani while she nuzzles into me.

"Thanks. You are, too, I guess," Dani chuckles good-naturedly.

"Oh I love this show!" I hear Brittany exclaim a few minutes later, and I'm honestly surprised at how quickly I'm able to start falling asleep once again.

Santana's POV

"This is so fucking lame," Sadie bitches, complaining through a mouth full of hot dog.

"Shh, jesus Sadie there are kids right there," I reprimand.

She rolls her eyes dramatically, wiggling in a pointless attempt to make the bleacher more comfortable.

"I'm sure those ankle-biters have cable. Cable that I'd much rather be watching right now than this," she argues, waving her hand forward to gesture to the football field.

"You didn't have to come," I remind her automatically, my focus concentrated on the email that I'm drafting on my phone.

"Bullshit," she contends, and I scowl at her language. "Bull-poop? Bull-crapola? Bull-doo-doo? Bull-dump? Bull-buttnut?"

"Stop," I order.

"Fine. Whatever. If I have to sit on cold bleachers, eating an overcooked hot dog, watching man-boys aimlessly knock into each other in order to see you, I guess that's what I have to do," Sadie remarks passively-aggressively.

I'm in no mood for a guilt trip. I know I haven't been around. I know I'm more distant than ever. I know that I cancel more plans than I make because of work.

"You told him to burn your popcorn; he probably assumed you liked your hotdog the same," I deflect, jokingly.

"I'm much pickier about my meat than I am my popcorn." She winks at me.

"Since when?" I challenge.

"Since now," she asserts, and my eyes narrow.

"Sadie Brooks, do you have a boyfriend?" I tease.

Only one of her long-term relationships has been with a man. I wasn't convinced that she'd ever end up with one again.

"No, but I am doing the dating thing with someone. We aren't fucki-dancing yet, but I'm not fu-dancing with anyone else either," she stumbles, catching her language twice.

"Why are you being vague?" I question with a roll of my eyes at her half-ass attempt to censor herself.

It must be someone that she's at least somewhat serious about if they're not fucking.

"We're working things out between us before we involve others. I just wanted to share my happy shit with my friend, isn't that what we're supposed to do?" she explains.

Sadie isn't the type to keep secrets. Not from me, anyway; she's certainly kept secrets for me.

"Yeah, it is. I'm happy for you," I offer genuinely.

I am happy for her. I am also tempted to shoot a text off to Kurt to get the scoop on this mystery person. But I, of all people, should respect her privacy.

For awhile there, I was beginning to think that there was something going on between her and Rachel (at least on Sadie's end of things). But I honestly haven't been around the two of them at the same time in so long that I can't even guess at their dynamic at this point.

"So, is this the extent of your happy shit? Playing surrogate mom to some kid who has yet to get off the bench?" she accuses.

"He's the kicker. He only goes on the field when it's time for him to kick," I inform her flatly.

"Oh my god, so you're saying that we're sitting here this whole time to maybe watch Jaden Smith kick a ball or two? He couldn't just send you a video when this yawnfest was over?" she gasps.

"It's his first game playing on the Varsity team. He's always been good enough, but he missed too many practices on JV to move up before now. It's important," I defend.

"Okay?" she says, unconvinced.

"Just eat your hotdog," I direct.

"Bitch, I will, but you're still gonna talk to me. I want to know what your deal is. You don't come out with us when I'm in town, you haven't played with the band in months, and you've all but dropped the "Best Woman" ball. So is this just it? Do you just work, and babysit some kid you met on the street? Is that all there is to your life?" Sadie presses.

"Just because I don't go to your lame wedding team parties - which are really just an excuse for you to get drunk off of all of Jesse's wine anyway - does not mean that I haven't done anything. I'm not going to waste my time-" I argue.

"Waste your time? Is that how you look at hanging out with your friends now? Are we inconvenient for you?"

"No. Although you're a pain in my ass." I snap back.

"Oh really? Well if you think everyone doesn't know that Quinn is the reason that you never come, then you're an idiot," she calls me out.

"Of course I know that everyone knows," I say, a little too loudly given our current lack of privacy.

"Then why don't you just ask Britt…" Sadie inquires, her tone softening.

"No, I'm not going to ask her, or you, or anyone else to choose," I assert.

"So you're making the choice for us instead? Because that fucking sucks," she leans in as she says it, emphasizing her point.

I take a deep breath, adjusting the ring volume on my phone, before tucking it into my purse. She's shaking her head in frustration by the time I turn to face her again.

"Don't you ever tire of these conversations? Santana, I'm worried about you; Santana, you've changed; Santana, why aren't you happy? Because I know I do. Do you ever think that could have something to do with why I'm not eager to see you guys? I know you're far from an expert in subtlety but you could really benefit from learning how to take a fucking hint," I mock.

I'm so done with these conversations. So fucking done.

She smiles with another shake of her head, and I'm baffled by its genuinity.

"You know, I didn't attach myself to you music dorks just because I was trying to get into your designer jeans," she states randomly, smiling in her lopsided way, just widely enough for the creases to begin to form at the corners of her eyes.

"What are you even talking about?" I sigh.

"My hot ass, as you know, wasn't short on friends, and while I wasn't captain of the pom pom shakers, I was like totally popular. But those friendships were about as deep as a fucking kiddie pool. I worked my ass off to make my red hair work for me, and to be more than the kid with the grandparents for parents, but when I got exactly what I wanted it felt cheap. Like I had earned something that should just be. And then I discovered your little group of weirdos," she introduces.

Guilt washes over me at Sadie's mention of her parents. The weekend before last was the two year anniversary of her mom's death. Where was I? I was in fucking Canada.

That's the kind of "friend" that I've become.

"Your dorky, damaged, overdramatic, incestuous group. These aren't the friends you want to have if you don't want people in your business, if you don't want people who will question your direction, and if you don't want people who will get concerned about you when you're acting a mess. They're friends you fight like hell with, because you love them," she stresses.

I swallow before taking an embarrassingly shaky breath.

"I don't think I'm that person anymore. That person who belongs with friends like that," I confess quietly.

I know that I didn't have to say it for her to know that I've been thinking it.

This all feels really fucking surreal. There's a half-consumed hot dog on Sadie's lap, and the periodic too-loud, but garbled voice of an announcer that continually threatens to overpower our conversation.

Could we have picked a stranger place to have this discussion?

"No. Fuck your wanna-be-martyr bullshit. You can't expect me to just watch you disappear from our lives, from my life. I don't get it. I don't get you lately. Do you want to prove Quinn right? Have you given up on being anything other than what she said you were? Is that what you're doing?" Her voice doesn't betray it, but her eyes do, and the almost undetectably slight tremble of her hand as she gestures at me; she's afraid. Not of me. But of how far her candidness could push me this time.

Sadie Brooks, anxious about her own bluntness. That realization, makes me feel anything but good.

I don't have an answer for her. I stare out at the field, instead. It's nice, you know? To have Tyler. I never thought that I'd get so much out of hanging with a 16-year-old kid. But I don't exactly live a life ripe with opportunities to meet new friends, friends who didn't have to take turns "watching" me for two days straight to make sure that I didn't drink myself into an accident.

Then again, without the aid of alcohol, I wouldn't have anyone who knows what happened - unless Quinn was telling people, which I haven't allowed myself to think too much about. And yes, maybe I would prefer it that way, but a part of me feels like it's better that they know, better that they have a clearer image of who they trust with so much.

Embarrassingly enough, I don't even know how much Sadie knows. She came the next morning, when I was still drunk - Puck had to leave me to take his mother to the Statue of Liberty. He had finally given into her constant nagging, and had agreed that this trip, we would finally go with her. I think that's the first time I've ever broken a promise to Momma Puck, but I was in no state to accompany them.

I spent most of that day sleeping and throwing up, but apparently I didn't keep my all of my thoughts to myself.

I drew the line the day after when Puck tried to insist on walking me to work. I couldn't tolerate having a babysitter for one second longer.

"If this job is making you hate yourself, then why don't you just quit?" Sadie interrupts my thoughts.

"It isn't the kind of job where you can just give your two weeks notice, and walk away," I remind her with a scoff.

"Is it her, San? Are you that desperate to be close to her because you think she's the only family you have? We are your family. And we're not leaving, we're not going anywhere, no matter how screwed up things get," Sadie says with such vigor that she knocks the remainder of her hot dog off of her lap.

I almost crack a smile when she groans at the loss.

"I think sometimes that maybe you should," I confess.

"Too bad, Toots." She smirks, pushing the abandoned hot dog away from her with her heel.

I know it's a waste of time to try and convince her to change her mind.

"You're the biggest sap I know. Total softie," I tease.

"I'm not soft. You know, Fabray was this close to seeing just how not soft my fist was the first time I saw her after you two had your WWII of a bangfest," she relays, illustrating with her forefinger and thumb.

"Don't be dumb," I scold half-heartedly.

"It's true. I've tried to stay the only level headed HBIC in this drama, but that girl needed someone to let her know that her shit was fucked up. I told her that she was the psycho, and that I regretted ever standing up for her. And do you know what she said?" she asks rhetorically.

I don't bother to guess. I'm grateful that Sadie's no longer handling me with kid gloves, and that she's no longer stopping herself every time she thinks of mentioning Quinn. That doesn't stop me from drifting away at the slightest whisper of her. It's not deliberate. I can't be fully present. I have to keep my head above the water or else I'll drown again.

"She said that she would understand if our friendship was over. Like, bitch, please. What is it with you two thinking that friends are so dispensable?" She pushes my thigh playfully.

A tentative hush goes over our section of the bleachers, and I'm so fucking grateful for it, because without it, I think I would have missed Tyler's entrance onto the field.

I smack Sadie lightly on the stomach with the back of my hand when she tries to speak again, my ass literally on the edge of my seat.

I have butterflies. They're not unlike those that I felt before show choir Nationals, or before our most important cheer competitions. They're not unlike those I felt before putting on that show for Quinn during halftime of that football game senior year. They're not identical, however. They're panicked, helpless flutters, because I'm not a leader, not even a participant, and I have absolutely no control over what happens on the field right now.

"C'mon, Ty, c'mon," I mutter under my breath.

He positions himself, fidgeting with his own helmet before he drops his hands down to his sides. With one step, he begins his approach to the ball, and my breath catches somewhere in my chest.

He kicks.

Oh shit.

It's too wide, it isn't going to…

The ball is so close that it almost seems to skim the right post. But it's good.

"It's good!" I yell, leaping up from my seat, cheering much louder than any of the parents in our vicinity.

I yank Sadie up to cheer with me.

"Sports!" she cheers, sarcastically.

But I don't care. Tyler's helmet is off, receiving back clap after back clap as he leaves the field, and I can practically see the white of his bashful but pumped smile when he does so.

Sadie whistles loudly next to me as I shout Tyler's name far more enthusiastically than I ever did for any of the football players in high school. To be fair, they all sucked.

"This isn't a bar. Don't they know that? It's too bad they'll let anyone into these games," a woman, wearing a puffy red marshmallow coat, comments rudely to who I assume is her husband in front of us.

"How about you shut the fuck up, Kmart?" I snap without losing my grin.

Sadie claps louder, smiling at me proudly.

We eventually quiet, and Tyler twists around on the bench to wave at me as we sit back down.

"After this riveting game is over, I need to talk to you about Britt. I got the feeling that you aren't exactly up to speed," Sadie requests.

"Is she okay? She called me the other day, but I haven't had a chance to call her back," I ask, waving back at my young friend.

"Yeah, we just need to have a chat about it," Sadie responds vaguely.


Two hot dogs for Sadie and about a half an hour later, I find that work is not at the forefront of my mind for once. It's a good feeling.

"I remember this being far more entertaining in high school," Sadie groans beside me, kicking her heels up onto the bleacher in front of her.

"That's because you spent the games perving on the cheerleaders," I remind her.

"You and your friends were fucking hot, and those skirts-" Sadie whistles appreciatively.

Marshmallow coat shifts around in her seat to glare at us in disgust.

"Oh turn around with that dumbass expression lady. Just go ahead and go back to thinking about how much you're dreading tonight's scheduled bi-monthly missionary sex that you feel obligated to have with the Chris Farley looking mother fucker next to you," Sadie insults brilliantly.

The woman snatches her purse with an indignant gasp, demanding to Chris Farley that they find "more appropriate" seats.

"Oh I never," Sadie mocks the woman, clapping her hand to her chest with a gasp of her own.

Even after the woman is well out of sight, I'm still laughing.

Quinn's POV

The slow overcasting of the sky is gradually casting a dark shadow over my already somber mood. Sadie's been trying all afternoon, she really has, but her crass jokes only serve as passing distractions. It's better than being alone though.

It's one of those days where I can't stop myself from thinking about Santana. It's not that I miss her - although inevitably I do - but she's practically disappeared since the day the Midwestern fixers came to my apartment. I haven't caught a single glimpse of her since then. I should be elated, or at the very least, relieved.

Isn't this what I asked for? Isn't it what I demanded?

I want nothing to do with you.

I tried to call her the next day. Twice. I've tried a handful of times since then, usually when my apartment is too quiet, and my thoughts are too loud at the end of a day spent with friends. Her utter absence in their lives is as tangible as any real presence. It's my fault, but I can't bring myself to apologize to them before I have spoken to her.

I have no explanation for why I keep dialing; I don't expect to get any other message save for the one telling me that Santana's phone is "not receiving calls from this number at this time." I wonder what message my friends were greeted with after I changed my number. Whatever it was, I hope it never made them feel anything close to this.

Worse, is knowing that I disappeared for myself, but Santana...Santana is disappearing for them, because of me.

She wounded me in such an indescribably devastating way. I can't say that we should be friends again. I can't say that I could ever trust her again. I can't say that I will ever forgive her enough to allow her into my heart again.

If she ever unblocks my number and answers, I won't say any of that. I can't. I will say that I'm so deeply sorry for intentionally hurting her. I will say that although I know that she intentionally kept something unbelievably hurtful from me, that I don't believe that she did it to hurt me.

I have to tell her that she's not helping them by backing away.

I'm not angry with her anymore. It's come in flashes since that day, but it's strikingly fleeting. The crushingly despondent blanket of anguish that invariably follows, is much worse than anger. I see now, more clearly than ever that my anger, much like Santana's always was, is just thinly shrouded cowardice.

Without anger, it's sadness that I'm left with. Sadness and regret, and guilt. So much fucking guilt.

I have watched Sadie, Kurt, Brittany, and fuck, even Rachel recognize what Santana is doing. I'm watching them lose her, and I'm not an innocent witness to the event. We all feel helpless, but the character of my helplessness is undeniably distinct.

I shift the paper grocery bag to my other arm, as Sadie lethargically punches in the code for her building. I try to focus on thinking about cooking dinner tonight, contemplating whether I should have asked Sadie if she had a grater before we left downtown - wait, she lives with Kurt.

Sadie reaches out but the door pushes open before she even touches the handle. I recognize the overly layered torso first and the smug smile second.


Sadie catches the quickly closing door with her foot; Sebastian obviously has no intention of holding it for us.

"Ginger Spice. Baby Spice." He nods in a gesture of feigned respect to each of us.

"Sebastard," we both address him simultaneously.

He saunters past us without another word and Sadie throws the entrance door open so forcefully that it knocks against the wall of the building.

"That's the second time he's been here this week. Can you fucking believe it? I want to take his slimy, twinky little neck in my hands and-" Sadie makes an enthusiastic choking motion with her hands as we begin the climb to her apartment.

"Are he and Kurt...?" I ask, grimacing.

"Friends, supposedly." I don't need to see Sadie's face to know that she's rolling her eyes. "It's disgusting. I can practically feel his scaly residue all over the apartment after he's been here."

It seems as if we've all been some version of "on edge" recently. Everyone is seemingly concerned about everyone in our strange little group. We're concerned about Kurt because of Sebastian. Sadie because of the anniversary of her mother's death. Brittany because of her wedding; her family told her recently that they wouldn't be able to attend, and now she wants to cancel the whole thing. Puck because he was fired - apparently for missing too many days of work (Sadie is convinced that Puck is hiding that fact from Santana).

Rachel's problems are Rachel problems. She's finally attempting to return to Broadway thanks to the Funny Girl revival; she's a wreck over the possibility of getting her dream role.

And everyone is worried about me and Santana, well and Santana.

Given the terrible acoustics of the stairwell, I can only hear Sadie's following rant in parts, but when we reach her door, her voice rings clear.

"-and you know, it's like the most hypocritical thing ever. Kurt acts like he's the fucking morality police, but really he's just as weak as the rest of us-"

Once again, a door swings open without any action on Sadie's part, but this time, a pissed off Kurt stands in the doorway.

"Did you just call me a hypocrite?" he confronts.

"On your way out to go chasing after Voldemort?" Sadie retorts.

"My patience with your attitude is wearing very thin. He's not that bad, and even if he was, if you have noticed, I live here too," Kurt asserts.

Sadie moves past him into the apartment, and I follow, veering off in favor of the kitchen to begin prepping for dinner; I've had enough fighting to last me a lifetime, and the last thing I want is to get involved in an argument that isn't my business.

"Because I let you! And I sure as hell didn't know then that I'd be playing hostess to your scummy quarter life crisis, too," Sadie says cooly.

"You're the hypocrite. Santana's okay, but Sebastian's not? Okay, that makes complete sense," Kurt remarks sarcastically.

I inhale sharply at the mention of her name, staring blankly at the bottom of the drawer I opened.

"Sebastian is a dick, Kurt Elizabeth. He's got a black hole for a soul. I'm not talking about what he does. As a person, as a pseudo friend, as whatever. He is a dick," Sadie emphasizes.

All very true.

"A lot of people think that you're classless, uncultured, slutty and rude, but I'm still your friend," Kurt verbally hits back.

"Kurt!" I scold.

"What, those snobs you work with? I don't give a fuck what those fake, pretentious, fucktwats-with-penises-small-enough-to-rock-skinny-jeans think," Sadie proclaims.

"It's not just them. You're embarrassing!" Kurt admits, and the living room goes quiet.

The empty bowl I was holding drops onto the counter with a clang.

No. Oh god no, Kurt.

Without a second of hesitation, I walk around the kitchen island. I'm pissed at Kurt, yes, but my attention is on Sadie.

Her eyes are definitely glistening with the threat of tears, and it breaks my heart. It still stuns me on occasion, how far our friendship has come.

She shakes her head at him as blotchiness begins to spot the skin of her neck and chest with red.

"Maybe I am, but you know what, Hummel? At least I've never been ashamed of my friends. I'd rather be an embarrassing, classless slut, than a judgmental, hypocritical prick," Sadie says, her voice shaking.

I can hear Kurt shift and swallow behind me as I immediately move to hug her. She pushes me back lightly before my arms can reach around her waist.

"Sorry, hot stuff, but I gotta grab a minute to myself," she apologizes, striding purposefully in the direction of her bedroom, holding her hand over her mouth.

"You need to apologize," I direct to Kurt as soon as Sadie's bedroom door has closed.

"She'll get over it. She always does," he dismisses with a flippant motion of his hand.

I want to yell at him, but I take a breath instead. I refuse to submit to even a fraction of the ugliness that I surrendered completely to just a few short weeks ago.

"I remember the Kurt who was afraid to be himself because of what others may think. Why would you ever want her to feel that way?" I question levelly.

"She never would. It's Sadie. She's shameless and proud of it," Kurt scoffs.

"That doesn't make her a punching bag. She may not care what the average person on the street thinks but she cares about us. You're not better than she is," I remind him.

Kurt waves his hand again, crossing the room to his sewing table.

"Do you see this? I have kept this in perfect condition for 15 years, not a scratch on it, and now it is stained with some syrup and sloppy joe monstrosity, and the most permanent nail polish to ever exist on any continent," Kurt complains, pointing to the surface.

I don't bother to get close enough to see. I know what he's doing. Sadie is messy and loud and just Sadie, but obviously Kurt knew that when he chose to live with her.

"Kurt, come on. This isn't about your sewing table, and you know that. You're defensive, because you know that there's truth to what she said," I offer.

He crosses the room again. Anxious, he fluffs and adjusts the pillows on the couch - pillows that I'm sure he insisted on having. I wait patiently.

"If I like him, and she's right about him, what does that say about me?" he questions quietly, his movements slowing, lifting one pillow to squeeze it in front of his chest.

"I don't know, honey," I say, smiling sadly, sympathetically, in response.

"Oh god, I'm sorry, Quinn. I didn't think about how highly insensitive asking you that question would be given -" he stumbles.

I step towards him, placing my hands on the patches over his elbows.

"It's okay. I'm fine. Though, I'm probably the last person who would have a good answer for you," I reassure him.

I'm fine.

Not exactly accurate. What I meant to say was that he didn't do any damage. I could hear about her all day, I could talk about her all day, and it wouldn't hurt any more or less than it already does. It's so beyond that.

He sighs, leaning into me, tilting his head into his own shoulder.

Before either of us can say another word, Barbra Streisand's version of "Send In The Clowns" rings out from Kurt's phone on the coffee table.

"Uh oh." His eyes widen in alarm.

"Don't look at me." I hold up my hands.

"She'll just keep calling if I don't answer. By bedtime I'll have two emails, a Twitter DM, and probably a singing telegram on the way to perform a compelling version of Mean by Miss Taylor Swift," Kurt purses his lips.

He's right. Rachel's relentless in these situations...months ago, I don't doubt that Santana would have been Sadie's call. I hope that the change is due to her obvious entanglement with Rachel rather than Santana's withdrawal.

Kurt groans, lifting his phone just as it stops ringing. He takes advantage of the momentary silence.

"Sadie! My favorite roomie! I apologize deeply and sincerely for what I said!" Kurt yells down the hallway, cupping his hand around his mouth.

"I figure if I can tell her in good faith that I've already apologized, it may reduce the scolding that I receive by an optimistic third," he explains just as "Send In The Clowns" begins sounding again.

He answers it on the second ring this time.

"Good luck," I mouth to him, turning without debate to seek out my wounded friend.

The volume of her crying increases with each step I take towards her bedroom door, and I try to keep myself from wincing at the noise.

She sounds pretty disgusting when she cries, like, like a…

goat/donkey hybrid.

I smile listlessly at the accuracy.

I've never heard Sadie full-on cry before. I only witnessed a hint of this about a month ago, when the pressing dread of the impending anniversary of her mother's death threatened to overwhelm her.

But Santana had described it that way while we were having dinner at Tyler's house. She then, at Ms. Wallace's behest, proceeded to imitate it. Tyler's mom had been teasing Tyler about his inability to watch "scary" movies, and in an effort to alleviate Tyler's embarrassment, Santana told a story about "her adult friend" crying throughout the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney.

I laughed so hard at her impression. I thought "what an adorable, hilarious sweetheart."

"Quinn," Kurt calls gently from behind me.

I find that I've been standing outside of Sadie's door, staring at it.

Kurt moves beside me, very close to me, but not touching. I don't search for an explanation or excuse to give him as to why I've just been standing here for so long.

"Rachel let you off the hook?" I ask instead.

"For now, although I had to agree to a short list of conditions first," he says, reaching for the knob of the door. "Together?"

He looks at me without judgment, and with an understanding that I'm unaccustomed to seeing from him. He's not the most intuitive person. He's not an uncaring person. He's by no means a bad person. And yes, he's hypocritical, but so what? We all are. Including our upset friend inside the door. There isn't one of us who holds everyone to the exact same set of standards. We vary our standards for different people, including ourselves. If we were still in Glee and if I had any songwriting abilities, I would sing "we're living in a hypocritical world, and I am a hypocritical girl" to the tune of Madonna's "Material Girl".

Kurt's not a bad guy. But this sense of understanding is strange to me, because he doesn't have the ability to see like some of the people surrounding him does.

Is it because I'm that obvious? Or is he beginning to realize something about himself?

"Together," I echo with a nod.

"Thank you so much for letting me come over on such short notice," Marley expresses as soon as she steps into my apartment.

"You asked me over eight hours ago, that's hardly short notice, but you're more than welcome," I reassure her.

She smiles, fumbling with the stack of containers in her hands. I move to take them from her before any of them can fall. I can't believe that she carried these all the way from Park Slope. There are so many brownies, cupcakes, cookies, and other baked goods that I can't name. Are those cronuts?

"These are for you. My kitchen is overflowing with food right now. When I'm stressed, I can't stop, and even Brittany can't keep up with it all. I wanted to thank you anyway, for all of the work that you've done for the wedding. I know it doesn't begin to make up for how many hours you've put into it now that it may not happen at all, but I thought that you could share it with your students, not that you shouldn't eat - " Marley claps her jaw shut to stop herself from rambling further.

I know that there's been a healthy eating movement going throughout the schools, and a disturbing anti-birthday cake trend with that as well, so I hope I'll be allowed to distribute all of this to the kids. I'll figure out something, either way.

"This is great. The kids will really love it," I assure her, clumsily setting the containers down on my dining room table.

I force a smile, my mind on her comment about Brittany; Brittany has a habit of overeating when she's upset.

"Good. That's good," she repeats herself, nodding slightly.

Because of how often Britt talks about her, I feel as though I know Marley well, despite how briefly I've actually known her. She's an incredibly empathetic person, and she loves Brittany deeply. With as bright as Brittany normally shines for Marley, I'm sure Britt's sadness feels much like a solar eclipse would to a flower. Marley's wilting and it's heartbreaking to witness.

"How is she doing?" I ask the obvious question.

Really, I think I have a good idea of how Britt is; I check on her almost every day. But I get the sense that Marley needs someone to talk to. She probably hasn't had the opportunity to talk to someone outside of their triad who gets Britt like I do.

"I keep expecting, waiting, hoping for her to bounce back, but there are times that I worry that she's only getting worse. Jesse had to basically drag her to practice this morning. She hadn't danced in three days," Marley admits.

"Is her contract in jeopardy?" I swallow.

"I imagine so, but while it's not a good time for us to lose the money, but I'm much more concerned for her spirit than I am her contract," Marley stresses.

I know that it'll take longer for Britt to snap back from this if she loses her contract. She worked extremely hard to get it.

"I don't understand why they waited so long to tell her. Her family has always seemed really supportive to me," I offer.

The truth is, I don't think they took her seriously. I think it took them receiving the invitations for them to understand that Britt was actually getting married to an already married couple.

"And they are. I know they want to be, and they're all we have besides my mom and sister. Jesse's family didn't even think I was good enough for him, when we told them about Brittany…" she sniffles.

I hug her, my hand briefly catching in one of her too-flowy sleeves.

"Shh, it'll be okay," I comfort, noting that she, unsurprisingly, smells like a mixture of flour and chocolate.

"I know it will be. But, for now, she's heartbroken, and not only because her family isn't coming, but because they didn't believe that she was really going to marry us until they received the invitations. I don't know how to snap her out of this," Marley confirms my suspicions, drawing back from my hug.

"We've lost a lot of money by cancelling or postponing or whatever we're doing with this wedding, but when our deposits were returned without any argument, I thought that maybe if we took out a loan that we could fly a portion of her family here. But she has six siblings, and three of them have children already, and then there are her aunts and uncles and cousins, and her grandparents…"

I'm not sure what is worse; to have a family that doesn't accept you for who you love? or to have one that would accept you if only they believed you?

Brittany's family has always supported her once they've understood her. They're an "odd" group in their own right, but they aren't all different from the norm in the same ways. One thing that they do have in common though, about 95% of them settle down permanently in Ohio.

"That's an option," I agree, hopefully.

"It's not. Jesse hates the loan idea. He said that it would be very irresponsible to do when we're planning for a family. He's right. Brittany's income is unpredictable, and our investment into my business is just beginning to pay off. We still have bills from our wedding. Jesse makes good money, but it isn't enough to support this," Marley states, defeated.

I don't know what to say. I think about suggesting that Rachel or Santana (or Santana's mother) could help. I'm sure they'd all be willing to foot the plane ticket bill. But, Marley isn't someone who is afraid to ask for help, which leads me to believe that she would have asked if that was something she was willing to accept.

"She doesn't want to do it anymore, and I understand. This was for her. What's the point if her family isn't there? Jesse and I had our day," she continues, sadly.

Marley clearly wanted this wedding. She wanted it for Brittany.

"What about doing it in Ohio?" I raise.

"Your group of friends are definitely the most successful of her friends. Most of her other friends are struggling artists. They can't afford…" she trails off.

She's right again. I wouldn't put myself in the "struggling artist" category, but even I would have to stretch to cover a plane ticket right now.

"I'm very sorry for unloading on you like this," she apologizes after I fail to respond to her.

"No no. It's okay," I assert.

She replies with a placating smile, obviously not quite convinced. I offer her a drink from the kitchen, returning with water upon her request.

"Are these all yours?" she inquires, gesturing with her eyes to the artwork on my walls as I hand her the glass.

"Not all. Those three are, and the photographs above the TV, and the prints over here," I point out for her.

"They're beautiful. Brittany shows your website to everyone any chance she gets. It would probably be smart of you to give her a stack of business cards to hand out," she jokes.

"She's become my best cheerleader, thank you," I say genuinely.

I'm proud of myself for keeping the shyness from my tone. It took me a long time to get to the point where I don't deflect or diminish compliments related to my work.

"I can see why she is. From your website, I found the photos to be especially captivating. Oddly enough, it's funny that I should feel that way; I used to hate photography, er well - photos," Marley confesses, sipping her water, crossing the room to get a better look at one of my photographs.

"Why?" I ask, leaning against the counter while I observe her.

"Oh, because kids are mean. When I was a sophomore in high school, my mom got a job there as a - food service assistant - a lunch lady, in impolite layman's terms. She is, and was then, a heavy woman, and the kids there, they were so very cruel to her. Even those who I thought were my friends. I couldn't stand it, I had to tell them that she was my mom and that they needed to stop treating her like that," Marley explains.

I frown as Marley pauses to take a breath. I could have easily been one of those kids had I gone to Marley's school.

"After that, I became the target. They'd tell me that I was going to end up like her, and played tricks on me to make me think that I was gaining weight. We didn't have a scale at home, so when they tampered with the one in the locker room, and tampered with my uniforms...long story short, I developed a combination of eating disorders."

"And you became a pastry chef?" I conclude incredulously.

"Yes, I got better, but needless to say, back then I didn't like pictures. In pictures of myself, I only saw flaws, and pictures of others made me miserable to look at because I thought I would never have their beauty, their confidence," she continues.

"I saw perfect moments. I didn't see the context of those moments, or what the people were thinking in them. I didn't see what happened to them just before the picture was taken, or what the rest of their day was like, or how they treated their neighbors on their way to school that morning. I didn't see their fears or insecurities or anything but that beautifully frozen moment," she elaborates.

I make a noise to indicate that I'm listening, but I otherwise say nothing.

"Months of therapy later, I realized that pictures aren't the whole story. We use them to mean what we want them to mean, but they're merely a blink, a literal snapshot in time. I think they can be beautiful, if you understand them for what they are. Life can't be captured in a photograph."

I can't decide if I should be offended or not, but then I think about how I felt about mirrors growing up. For years, I could only see my imperfections. Santana sincerely helped me to understand that what I saw in the mirror wasn't an true reflection of me. It wasn't who I was, especially when I was examining with such an obviously distorted lense.

"No, it can't," I agree.

My gaze drifts to the wall adjacent to my bedroom door. My shadowbox hangs just on the other side of it.

"I hope I didn't insult you, Quinn. I think what you do is powerful, and not all that different from what I do. I produce moments to give to people. You capture them," she characterizes.

Something vibrates within me; it's a shake rather than an outright shift, but it''s...significant.

I change the subject, tearing my eyes from the wall.

My fingers hover over the keys of my laptop, the cursor flickering in the blank email that I've opened. Marley left over five hours ago and I haven't been able to stop thinking about what she said.

Uneasily, I begin to type.


I'll be shocked if you actually read this, but I hope you do. This email isn't for me. Maybe knowing that will somehow persuade you to read it.

Your friends miss you. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that. If I somehow contributed to convincing you that the alternative to them missing you is worse, I beg that you reconsider. They need you, and you're good for them. It was awful and senseless and plain idiotic for me to say otherwise. Obviously, I wasn't of the right-mind that day.

Perhaps your absence is entirely unrelated to that day, but without other information I can't help but wonder if your distance is related to the horrible things that I said to you. I shouldn't have slapped you. I shouldn't have been so intentionally cruel. I don't have an excuse for that behavior, and I'm not asking for your forgiveness. I am asking that you don't continue to distance yourself from them because of me. You aren't protecting them like you may think you are. No matter what I said, you aren't undeserving of them.

They need you.


I can't allow myself the chance to rethink or overanalyze it. I send it the instant I finish typing my name.

I don't believe that the email will make a difference, but I had to try. I can only pray to a God that I lost my belief in a long time ago that she'll listen.

The only true control I have here is over myself. I never could control her. I never could make her into exactly who I thought I wanted her to be, despite all of my efforts, despite the shadowbox facing me, currently confronting me on my wall.


It's the last thought I have before my body forces my mind to finally surrender to sleep.