Chapter Five: To Save Her
I was seriously starting to get pissed off as I stood off to the side at the café waiting for my damn drink order to be called. I mean, yeah, it was busy, but hell, I'd been waiting for over fifteen minutes and I had a whole damn day of job hunting that I needed to get to. These bitches were seriously getting on my last nerve, and Santana Lopez is certainly not known for her patience, but as soon as I saw the guy who had been behind me in line get his drink before me, I just lost it.
I stomped over to the counter right behind him and snapped my fingers at the curly-headed ginger kid in the dark green apron. I took a page from my girl Q's book and fashioned my best HBIC glare at the boy which had him quaking in his twenty-dollar Wal-Mart reeboks before I even had to utter a word, but when I did actually open my mouth, I was pretty sure the kid was on the verge of either crying or pissing his pants. Whatever…as long as I got my coffee, because God knows I can't start a day without my damn caffeine. Life would be better if someone could just pop a damn IV in my arm and spill that mocha goodness right into my veins, but I guess nobody can have it all.
"Listen Carrot Top!" I barked at him. "I'm sure it's difficult for you to make a cup of coffee with your oversized albino hands and while trying to see out from beneath that wild orange bush unfortunately attached to your head, and I'm also sure you'd rather be off somewhere counting your limitless freckles or contemplating the many benefits of hair dye, but some of us needs to get our coffee on. So, if there isn't a damn latte in my hand in about sixty seconds, shit is going to get really, really real."
I let my words linger in the air as I stared into his bright, wide green eyes with all the ferocity I could muster, but before the kid could move, an even more terrified blonde girl had rushed up beside him and pushed a nice, warm latte into my hand. I smiled brightly at the girl and sweetly said, "Thank you," which had brows furrowing and lips frowning. Hilarious! I walked out into the crisp New York air, laughing and sipping that hot deliciousness just as my phone started ringing.
Rachel Berry's freakishly wide smile beamed up at me from the caller ID as I glanced down at my phone before tapping the button to the accept the call and putting the phone to my ear as I strutted down the sidewalk. "Go for Snix," I said and could almost hear Berry's frown, which had me chuckling before she could even say anything.
"Santana, while I respect your right to answer your personal cellular phone however you see fit, surely a simple, polite 'Hello' would be more appropriate. What if I had been a potential employer calling to inquire about your credentials or to request an interview for possible employment?"
I rolled my eyes at the midget's long-windedness, because damn… What could be said in a sentence of five words or less always ended up as a damn Shakespearean soliloquy when talking to Rachel freaking Berry. That saying, you know, "Less is more," is like some form of blasphemy to her.
"Chill dwarf," I said, and though I heard her scoff, I knew she didn't take much offense to my name-calling anymore. I had long since moved on from saying shit like that to torment her, and now every little name was like my own strange form of affection for the people I considered friends. "That's what caller ID is for, and had you been calling me to offer employment, I'd have to decline anyway, because I refuse to work for anyone not tall enough to ride roller coasters. It's like child labor in reverse."
"Santana, you are hardly taller than me, and I assure that I am of adequate height to partake in such activities were I inclined to do so," she snapped, and I just laughed at that, smiling as I came to a stop at the corner and waited for the little digital stick figure to signal my turn to cross the street.
"Okay, okay, I got you," I replied. "What's up, Berry?"
"I was calling to inquire as to whether you would like to meet me for dinner this evening," she said, and I couldn't help but smile, because though I refused to say that shit out loud, I had become pretty fond of Berry in the few months we had been living together. Sure, I had warmed up to her a lot in the last two years of high school, but it was no secret that she had really come into her own after her move to the city and was so much more tolerable and considerably more attractive thanks to Lady Hummel's gay makeover and a pleasing change in wardrobe. So yeah, it made me smile that the dwarf actually wanted to hang with me. A few years ago, I would have gagged at the mere idea, but now, Rachel Berry—repeat, Rachel Freaking Gold-Star Berry—was one of my best friends.
"I have just received the most marvelous news that I would like to share with you," she continued, "and while I invited Kurt to join us, he has a prior engagement, so it would just be the two of us."
"Sure Berry, what time?" I asked.
"Would eight o'clock be acceptable?"
"Sounds good. Just text me the address," I told her, and she squealed that ridiculously high-pitched squeal of hers that signifies the transcendent excitement of her little dwarven soul, and while I winced as it spilled into my ear and threatened the survival of my ear drum, I couldn't help but smile and laugh. She agreed to text me the address before hanging up and letting me get back to my day. I smiled and shook my head as I made my way through the doors of a boutique to apply for a job.
I slipped quickly into our apartment and all but ran over to the curtained-off section that was my make-shift room to change clothes, because my heels were killing me and I knew that Rachel wouldn't have enough time after her last class to change clothes before dinner anyway, so comfy clothes were definitely a must. I left my hair down but changed into some skinny jeans, a loose white v-neck tee, and a comfortable pair of kicks before grabbing my purse and heading back out.
I double-checked the information for the restaurant where I was supposed to meet Rachel for dinner and recognized the place. It was only a few blocks from our apartment, so I decided to walk, and while I made my way down the sidewalk, I called her to let her know that I was running a bit late but was on my way, because God knows how intense Rachel Berry could be about punctuality. Hopefully she'd be in a good enough mood, though, about whatever her "marvelous news" was that she would spare me the lecture just this once, but she didn't answer the phone. It just kept ringing and ringing and ringing, and eventually I got her overly perky voicemail, which I thought was odd, because surely she was already waiting for me at the restaurant. I tried again but only got the same result, so I shrugged it off and picked up my pace a bit. I was only about two blocks from the restaurant at that point anyway.
I had just turned the corner to come onto the last block when I got a text from Rachel saying she was running late as well, to which I was significantly shocked of course, because her instructor had held her after class to discuss an upcoming audition, but that she'd be there shortly and was only a few blocks away. Not a big deal, I figured, and made my way to the restaurant to wait for her.
About twenty minutes later, sitting at the restaurant by myself, I was starting to get seriously worried because Rachel still hadn't shown and hadn't called either. I dialed her number but received no answer and that's when I got a sick feeling in my stomach and the hairs on the back of my neck prickled and stood at attention. I tried again just to be sure and when she didn't answer the second time, I shot up from my seat and left the restaurant, heading off in the direction she would have been coming from after leaving NYADA. I didn't really have a clue as to what I was expecting, but I guess I was just hoping I would run into her and physically see that she was fine and was just dragging her ass, to which I would then bark some random insult and we would be on our merry way.
I only got about two blocks from the restaurant and was calling Rachel again when I heard it. "Don't tell me not to live, just sit and putter. Life's candy and the sun's a ball of butter." The opening lines of "Don't Rain on My Parade," spilled into the night, mingling with the sounds of traffic and heels clicking on the sidewalk, and having heard it a million times before, I knew it was Rachel's phone. Her ringtone was a recording of herself singing the damn song, and I'd recognize that voice anywhere.
As soon as I heard it, my stomach clenched painfully and I felt sick all over. I glanced around, looking for the short-stack, but I didn't see her anywhere and the ringtone had stopped as her voice spilled into my ear when her voicemail picked up. I immediately hung up and dialed again, and as soon as the song filtered into the air again, I followed the sound to the opening of an alley just a few feet in front of me, and there, screen cracked and flashing up a splintered picture of my own face from just beneath the edge of a dumpster was Rachel's phone. I wanted to just turn around and run, because I didn't even want to think about what that meant, but instead I bent and scooped up her phone before sprinting around the dumpster and into the alley. I instantly halted as I realized how dark the alley was and I was already on edge, so I lit up the flashlight on my phone and pulled a small pocketknife as well as a can of pepper spray from my bag before continuing forward.
I kept my mind on only positive things as I continually tried to comfort and reassure myself, because how in the hell could Rachel Berry of all people be attacked and someone not be alerted to what was going on. I mean, the girl had lungs for days. Her screams would have rung all the way back to Ohio, unless…Nope, no, I couldn't go there. I couldn't even fucking think about it.
"Rachel?" I called, but received no answer as I continued to make my way into the alley. It was a dead-end alley, and I could see the brick wall of the building it ended in just ahead where several more dumpsters were positioned. I rotated my phone left and right and down so that I could see where I was walking and keep a lookout for my friend, and that was when I noticed the shoe on the ground just to my left. It was one of Rachel's dance shoes, and I could feel the bile rising up my throat as I tried to hold it together and keep going, calling out to her only to continually receive no answer.
As I neared the end of the alley, I found more things that I recognized as Rachel's. Her purse, contents spilled onto the dirty pavement, wallet opened and empty, was littered not too far from her shoe, and at that point, I was just praying with every fucking inch of me that I was going to find her alive. I was only a few feet from the end of the alley now, and so I aimed my phone forward and down, and I instantly cried out loud, a sob wrenching up from my fucking soul, as the light from my phone spilled across the ground and illuminated a small, dirty, white foot peeking out from behind the nearest dumpster.
"Oh god," I whispered as I rushed forward and rounded the edge of the dumpster, and there, sprawled on the ground, naked but for the ripped tatters of her remaining clothes and covered in blood was Rachel Berry. I dropped to my knees as tears ripped from my eyes and great, heaving, guttural sobs soared up my throat and spilled from my lips. There was blood spilling across her exposed chest and stomach as well as running down her thighs as I shined my light on her. I felt my guts clench and my stomach churn, because she was naked, and in my head, that could only implicate one thing. There was a wadded rag stuffed in her mouth, which would explain why no one had heard her scream, and I carefully pulled it out before yanking her into my lap and slapping at her cheeks.
"Rachel!" I screamed, my slaps growing in intensity as I begged for her to wake up. "Rachel, come on! Please, please, don't be dead. Don't be dead. Come on; come back to me, Rachel." I tried to rub some of the blood away to find the source of it and that's when I noticed the knife wounds, at least two to her abdomen and one in her shoulder. My stomach only bottomed out again, and I couldn't fucking think. I didn't know what I was doing or what I was supposed to do. My senses were on overdrive, everything assaulting me at once, and I had to force myself to stay conscious, because my vision had gone blurry and black and my head was spinning.
I took several deep breaths to try and calm myself, and my head cleared just enough to think that I should call 911, but just then I realized where we were. I knew we were less than a block from the nearest hospital (how fucking rich is that), and at the rate Rachel was bleeding, I was afraid that waiting for an ambulance in this traffic would take too long and I absolutely refused to let Rachel freaking Berry die in my arms. So in a split-second decision, I tugged Rachel's naked, bloodied body into my arms and dragged myself up to my feet, and just as I did, I felt her fist clench into my shirt. I looked down and was met with wide, terrified eyes that I could only just make out in the dark since I'd stuffed my phone back into my pocket before lifting her. She gripped me tightly and I heard her say my name, just my name, and how she knew it was me, I'll never know, but somehow she did. Maybe she could see better in the dark than I could or maybe she had heard me yelling at her somehow, but in that moment, I didn't fucking care, because all I really wanted was for her to know that I was there and that there was no way in hell that I was going to let her die.
"It's gonna be okay, Rachel," I said quickly as I took off, tearing down the alley with her in my arms and sprinting harder than I'd ever sprinted in my life, because it was the only thing I could do…to save her. I felt her tug my shirt again before her grip slackened entirely and I knew she was gone again. I ran as hard and as fast as I could, shouting at people to get the fuck out of my way, and strangely enough, all I could think was how grateful I was for Sue Sylvester and her ridiculously torturous cheerleading conditioning, because even though my thighs and calves and arms were all screaming in protest, that conditioning was the reason I could do this, and it would be the reason that Rachel Berry didn't die tonight.
I heard people's gasps and their "oh gods" as I weaved in and out of the sidewalk traffic, but I didn't spare a single one of them a glance or a word except to yell for them to move, and before I even realized how far I'd gone, I was stumbling through the sliding doors of Bellevue's Emergency Room, screaming my fucking lungs out.
"Help me!" I shouted, my voice cracking as tears carved heavy rivers down my cheeks and Rachel's blood soaked straight through my clothes and washed over my skin. "Somebody, please, fucking help me!"
"And that was when the doctors took her?" the detective asked, and I could do nothing but nod as I raised a bloodied but dry hand up to wipe the tears from my cheeks. Quinn was as rigid as a statue at my side and her fingernails dug painfully in my palm and forearm. I glanced over at her and saw that her face was just as wet as my own and her chest was heaving, rising and falling so rapidly that I was afraid she might hyperventilate, but she said nothing, only clutching onto me to keep herself grounded, and I could only hold onto her as well as my heart ached in my chest. It was as if someone had wrapped an iron fist around the muscle and was attempting to squeeze it into dust, and all I could do was hurt and hurt and hurt.
"Alright, Santana, that's good. Thank you. I know that was incredibly difficult for you," the detective said softly and I turned to look at her again. "Listen, I should prepare you. It isn't uncommon for victims of rape to cling to the first person of comfort they encounter after an attack such as the one your friend suffered, and in this instance, that person would be you. I'm not sure if you too are very close, but just be prepared for that. She might cling to you or turn to you for comfort or strength, and the best you can do is just to try and be there for her as much as possible or assist her in seeking outside help such as support groups or one-on-one therapy. It's going to be a difficult process to recovery for her, and she will need a strong support system. Okay?"
"Okay," I whispered quietly, my voice cracking as I said it. I watched then as she shifted in her chair before moving to kneel right in front of me. She reached out and rested a hand on me knee and looked me right in the eye before saying, "As scary as this is and as horrible as you feel right now, you need to know, Santana, that you are a hero. You saved Rachel's life, okay? You're a hero."
At that, I lost it, and to my surprise, so did Quinn. I felt Quinn's hand come up to cup around my cheek, and she pulled me into her, my head dropping to her chest as we sobbed heavily into one another. The detective patted my knee affectionately before rising from the floor. I felt Quinn reach a hand out to take the detective's card as the woman told us she'd be in touch before leaving, and just like that, we were alone; just two girls holding fiercely onto one another and desperately trying not to fall apart.