Finn tried to grope me again. I’ve told him a million times that I’m not okay with him touching without permission but he doesn’t get it. Luckily, my boyfriend isn’t the smartest guy in the world and only told me that I “felt funny” there. He told me that I wear really padded bras like it was the most fascinating thing in the world. I wonder how he would feel if he knew that the breasts under that padding were fake.
I can’t tell Finn. I try to convince myself that I can, only to be completely and utterly deflated. Nobody at McKinley, except for Kurt, knows that I’m transgendered. I know that coming out is an option and my fathers have both, at one time or another, encouraged me to do so but I just can’t. I prefer to keep what little social status I have left. I’ve been on hormone blockers since I was twelve and just started HRT. I pass. I pass pretty well, if I do say so myself. The only thing that coming out could get me is total humiliation.
The problem is, well, I love Finn. I’m also not against sex. I’m not one of those girls like Quinn who preaches abstinence. I want to have sex with Finn. I do. It isn’t like with Jesse, where I freaked out not only because of my body, but because I absolutely did not want to. I want to have sex with Finn Hudson because I’m madly in love with him. I’m just not ready to reveal, even to the boy I love, that his girlfriend has a penis.
I’m momentarily distracted by glee, thank God.
Sam Evans joined glee a few days ago. He’s an attractive boy with a good voice. He switched partners from Kurt to Quinn pretty quickly, so I suppose that my initial thoughts about him being gay were off base. I have a brilliant idea though, despite the fact that it’s really underhanded and sneaky.
“Finn,” I say excitedly. “We have got to let Quinn and Sam win the duets competition.”
Now, letting Sam and Quinn win goes against my belief in winning above everything else, but at the same time it will help New Directions out at Nationals. Sam is a new member and still very hesitant about being one of us. If he wins the competition it will give both Sam and the entire glee club the morale to get us to New York. It’s only obvious.
“Why?” Finn asks.
I explain to Finn exactly what I’m thinking and he definitely agrees with me. Finn usually agrees with me. Sometimes I worry that’s because I’m slightly overbearing but I try my best not to be. I love him and want to know what he’s thinking, I really do.
Things seem to go fine until the McKinley rumor mill reveals that Quinn and Sam have broken up their arrangement to sing. I immediately confront Quinn about it. Now Quinn is absolutely one of the most intimidating girls I ever met. She is beautiful, talented and popular. I do not deny the fact that I would kill to be her.
“Why does it matter so much to you?” she asks, turning around and looking at me. We discuss the matter in the girls’ bathroom, something that makes me nervous. Even though I pass completely, a few “man hands” jokes aside, I still do not go into the girls’ restroom at school. I usually do not use the restroom until school ends, if I can help it, or if I really have to go I visit the nurse, who is aware of my being transgendered. It just makes things easier and the girl’s bathroom is a near foreign place.
Once again, I feel like I’m being manipulative. One of the things that I hate the most about myself is that I am manipulative. I just have to be, though. Quinn quickly agrees to sing with Sam and everything is fine. Finn and I work out the most offensive duet that we can manage. It’s amazing. All the duets are as fantastic as ours is offensive. Santana and Mercedes, Tina and Mike, Sam and Quinn, Kurt…
I realize after the Duets competition ends that I overlooked the pain of my very closest friend, my confidant, my Kurt.
I talk to him after school. We sing an epic duet. It just doesn’t seem over, so we go to my house to hang out.
“I’m tired, Rachel,” he tells me when we get to my house. “I’m tired of being seen as a perverted queer for having a crush. I’m tired of being told that straight is the norm and I have problems for thinking that a boy might not be. I’m tired of being forced to give up something that I thought could be good, just so the boy I was attracted to could run into the arms of the pretty blonde. Maybe I do have to be alone.”
My heart breaks for him. I lead him into my bedroom. We sit down on the bed. “Kurt,” I say. “I’m so sorry for being so caught up in what was going on in glee, that I didn’t notice you were hurting.”
He puts on a strong face. It falters for a second before it goes up completely. “You’re not the only one Rachel,” he says. “It doesn’t matter anyway. I was wrong about Sam being gay and now I know that Finn sees me as an overbearing pervert that he should get a restraining order against.”
“Kurt, you don’t need a boy to make you happy,” I tell him. “We need to be closer friends. I mean, you’re everything to me. You’re the only person I know that knows all of me, the real me. That means more than you could ever know.”
He smiles at that. “Rachel,” he says, “just because I haven’t told your secrets, well, it doesn’t mean that I’m a good friend.”
“It’s as good as I have.” I know that my words sound absolutely, utterly depressing but they’re true. I have never really had good friends. I have been so focused on passing as a girl, working my hardest, becoming a star. There has never been room for friendships in the way that I want them. I have never had a friend that I could trust with my soul.
“Well, you’re not the best friend either,” he teases. I can tell that he’s teasing because his eyes are literally shining, but I still feel guilty. I ignored his pain all week because of my worries about glee club and I really messed up in the previous couple of weeks with his father’s illness. “Maybe we can start over and try to be really good friends, considering the fact that we’re all each other has?”
“How is your father doing?” I ask, choking on the words a little. I know that I really messed up in regards to his father’s illness. Poor Kurt, he’s been going through so much in the past couple of weeks. It’s a lot more than I could handle.
“Much better,” Kurt says, smiling just a little. “He’s irritated at his new health restrictions and he’s still weak, but he’s recovering quickly.”
“I’m sorry about-” I start, but Kurt cuts me off.
“It’s forgiven Rachel,” he says quickly. “How are you and Finn doing anyway? I may be upset at him but I have to admit that your performance was epic. To me, it was obvious what you were trying to pull, of course, but it was beyond amusing watching Mercedes and Quinn throw fits at that act of blasphemy.”
I am a little bit proud of what Finn and I did. “It was interesting,” I say. “We’re alright, Kurt…” I do not want to trouble him with my stupid problems, not right now. I know how to be respectful of others at least sometimes.
Kurt sees right through me. “Having trouble?” he asks.
“Not really trouble,” I say. “He just groped me the other day. If he wasn’t Finn, he probably would have figured out that there was something very wrong with my chest.”
Kurt nods, sagely. “Ah that kind of trouble,” he says, leaning back against the side of the bed. “Well, Rachel, I think that the time is coming that you need to tell Finn what’s going on. I mean, he’s an insensitive jerk, so maybe he does need a little training, but you do understand that time is coming soon, right? The more intimate the two of you become, the more likely he is to realize that you’re avoiding it for some reason other than the typical high school girl reasons.”
“The more likely he’ll find out his girlfriend has a penis,” I say sadly.
Kurt hugs me. It’s quick and impulsive. I don’t know everything about Kurt but I know for a fact that he doesn’t accept or give much physical comfort. He doesn’t hug. I hug back, thankful for what it means.
Things are definitely getting interesting at McKinley High School. Mr. Schuester, out of nowhere, declared that we were going to be performing the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s definitely an interesting choice and a potentially dangerous one, but Finn and I have been cast as Brad and Janet, so it’s also very awesome. I’m excited. I know that I can embrace the role and perform it perfectly.
Finn tells me that he’s never seen it before, so the day Mr. Schue announces our play, he and I watch Rocky Horror over at my house. His expression is dazed pretty much through the whole movie. He's unbelievably adorable when he doesn't understand something, which can be often. We snuggle up through the movie but thank God, he doesn't touch this time. I think he's too absorbed in the movie.
When it ends, he frowns.
"I seriously didn't get that," he mumbles, looking at me insecurely. "I mean, it didn't make a bit of sense."
"Just appreciate its oddity," I suggest. "I'll take you to a showing one day. It's really fun. My dads used to love going all the time when they were younger.”
"Guys dressed up as girls, sex, aliens...why does Schue want us to do this play? Aren't we going to get into trouble?"
I consider that. Rocky Horror is definitely a risqué play to put on in high school. I flinch as I think about it. “It could be a little bit dangerous but Mr. Schuester is giving us permission slips and stuff, right? We’re also going to cut out the explicitly sexual stuff.”
Finn nods. “Cool.” He seems satisfied but still keeps that cute little frown of frustration.
Practicing Rocky horror goes fantastic, of course. Finn and I sound excellent as Brad and Janet and even though Finn doesn’t understand the role, he does an amazing job with it. I am so crazy about him. He’s one of the most talented boys I know and he works so hard. Everything seems to be going perfectly, even though Mr. Schuester is acting weird, until Mike tells the club that he’s unable to play Frank. I even hear him mention to Sam and Quinn that his parents were appalled at the play. I know some traditional families could be against Rocky Horror, I guess, and it wouldn’t have hurt if the word “tranny” didn’t come into play. Yes, he actually said tranny.
“Mike, that term is very offensive,” I say, even though I usually let slurs like that go, because as much as I care about what’s right, I do not want to be outed without my consent. I do not want people to know the truth about me before I’m ready for them to know. “My gay dads have gone to many LGBT conferences in the past and you must be considerate of all people.”
Mike looks at me and shrugs. “That’s what my dad said when I asked him if I could do it,” he says, shrugging. “No kid of mine is going to play some tranny. I’m sorry Rachel.”
Mercedes takes over the role of Frank and she does it with skill and style that I could not imagine. She completely reinvents the role. I find a place for offense again though, when Mr. Schuester starts to work with her for the Sweet Transvestite number. I know that number very well and some of the edits were needed, but seriously, they remove the word transsexual from the lyrics. “Mr. Schue,” I say, still trying not to make a big deal about it. Mr. Schuester has never specifically mentioned it to me, but as a staff member and my Spanish teacher, he knows my legal sex. “Why is the word transsexual taken out of this song? I know that there are other parts we must let go for decency’s sake, but that doesn’t make sense…”
Mercedes rolls her eyes a little and I realize I shouldn’t have halted her practice. She already has enough reason to dislike me.
“Never mind,” I say, getting back into place for the number. “It’s just a silly word thing.”
It’s not just a silly word thing. It’s offensive and I hate it, but I just can’t deal with that fight. I need to keep performing and give the best Janet I possibly can. It’s the only thing I can do.
In the end, Mr. Schuester decides to cancel Rocky Horror. I don’t exactly get his motivations and honestly believe that the moral he’s trying to teach is flawed. I hate that I am not performing for an audience, since it is my calling, but the play has become an awkward mess of feelings and emotions anyway. I mean seriously. It’s also brought my boyfriend’s body insecurities into play which is not alright. We perform Rocky Horror for ourselves and it’s amazing. Maybe it’s much better for the insecurities that are going on.
After the play is over and done with and the final curtain has gone down, Finn and I talk about his body image issues. I mean, God, I was so focused on the play and my feelings but my boyfriend nearly got himself expelled walking down the hallway in his underwear. It makes me feel good that Finn has insecurities. Well, not good that he has insecurities but it reminds me that he’s just as human as I am. Everyone has things about their body that they wish they could change. My hatred of certain parts of my body may be extreme compared to my peers, but we’re teenagers, insecurity is a given.
“I dunno,” he says, when I ask him where the insecurity came from. “I mean, I saw Sam. He’s got this fantastic body and he’s just a sort of ideal. He’s starting to take over everything that I was in this school last year. I can keep up with him in most places, but I’m just not model hot like him. I don’t have a perfect body.”
“That’s not true,” I say, even though I know I’ve done the same thing many times. I mean, I compare myself daily to Quinn. I want to be a normal girl, not the girl that I am. “Finn, Sam is nice looking and all, but you can’t compare yourself to him. You guys are completely different. I find you very attractive just the way that you are.”
“Really, Rachel?” he asks and his smile is just overwhelming. He is so adorable. “I find you attractive just the way you are too. “
I stop and frown. “No, Finn, no you really don’t,” I say, quickly. I’m still wearing my costume from the play and now I’m on the verge of crying. He doesn’t. There’s no way that he’d find me attractive if he knew what was under the clothes I wear. I get up, overwhelmed by that depressing realization. “I have to go okay? I’ll talk to you later. I forgot that one of my dads asked me to be home by six tonight to eat dinner. I really, really, have to go. “
I know he doesn’t love me for me. I know that he can’t.
I get a text about an hour later, not from Finn, but from Kurt.
- Finn’s worried about you. What happened today?
I sigh and respond back.
- Can you come over?
Kurt comes over quickly. I have to admit that I like the way we’re becoming close. I never really had friends. I’ve always been so focused on my career and hiding the secret that is my life. I’ve never allowed myself to get closer to someone without an ulterior motive behind it. He’s a good friend now that we’re working out our differences and really talking. “Hey Kurt,” I say softly. “I just…I had a really bad moment I guess.”
He comes into my room and sits down on the end of my bed. “Finn said you freaked out when he said you were attractive the way you are,” he said softly. “Rachel…”
I sniff and shake my head. “It just hurts me, because I know that when Finn finds out the truth he’s not going to like me for who I am,” I admit. “He’s a nice guy but there’s absolutely no way he’s not going to find the fact that I still have a male body disgusting. He’s a straight guy. He likes girls. Natural girls, girls who were born girls.”
“Rachel Berry,” Kurt scolds. “You are as much of a girl as any girl. I also think that maybe you need to give Finn Hudson a bit more credit. I know that he’s made some mistakes in the past when it comes to prejudice. Believe me, I know, but I don’t think that he would give you up for anything in the world. He may have to be educated, of course, because let’s be honest – most small town Ohio boys don’t even know that transgendered people exist, but I think he’ll come through.”
“Would you come with me if I told him?” I ask, terrified at even the thought.
Kurt is quiet for a minute and I’m almost afraid of what he’ll say. It’s a lot for me to ask of him. I don’t know if he’ll feel comfortable intruding on a moment like that either. After a second, where he is obviously thinking, he nods. “I undoubtedly will,” he says softly. He looks at me with a sympathetic smile on his face. He understands, I realize. He understands, even if not exactly. He’s had to tell people a devastating secret before.
“I’ll be able to tell Finn if you’re there,” I say, trying to let him know how much this means to me. “You’re one of the bravest people I know, really, Kurt.” He is. He has come out of the closet as gay in a town that’s anything but accepting. He walks down the halls of McKinley with pride in himself and who he is, despite the fact that it leads to him being bullied mercilessly.
“I’m not, Rachel,” he says seriously.
I shake my head. It’s hard to tell him how much I admire him but one day I am going to be able to really say so. “I hate how hard this is,” I finally manage, shaking my head from side to side. “I hate that I can’t be brave like you Kurt, but I swear one day I will.”
“Oh Rachel, I know you will.”
It takes me a really long time to get the courage up to talk to Finn. It’s almost two weeks after Kurt tells me he’ll be there to support me when I decide that I have to do it. I can’t expect him to love me and be true to me if he doesn’t know the entire truth. Before Mr. Schue arrives for our glee club meeting, I lean over to Kurt and tell him. “Kurt, I want to do it today,” I say. “Can we?”
He nods. He seems very tired, shaken up. “Of course Rachel,” he says. “I’m glad you’re ready.”
Mr. Schue arrives and announces yet another boys vs. girls competition. I swear, he is the most repetitive instructor in the universe. At least there will be no drugs involved this time around. I roll my eyes and look to the side to see Kurt get frustrated. He splits us up and immediately lectures Kurt about going with the boys. Ugh. I see red at this. Kurt is the one person supporting me and I need to stand up this time. I hate to do it but if I’m going to come out to Finn today about being transgendered, I need to stand up against the gender prejudices right in my face.
Kurt walks toward the boys with a look of defeat on his face. “Mr. Schue, with all due respect, I must object to this,” I say, standing up and trying my best to make a grand gesture. Santana mumbles something very rude and I catch Quinn rolling her eyes out of the corner of my eye. “You cannot tell Kurt that he can’t perform with the girls, because gender is merely a social construct. He may not be a girl but if he vocally or emotionally relates more to the girls than why not?”
“Rachel, please don’t step out of line,” Mr. Schue says but I can see him give me an uncomfortable look. He knows that I’m transgendered and he knows that my dads will help me fight him if I tell them to. I feel defiant, strong and angry.
“Kurt, why do you want to perform with the girls?” I ask, being as bold as I can manage. It’s kind of scary.
Kurt looks at me and smiles, a genuine smile. “I don’t feel comfortable with the boys, Mr. Schue,” he says cautiously. “They treat me like, because I’m gay, I don’t belong with them. They make jokes about me. It’s not okay.”
“Alright, alright,” he says. He gives in pretty quickly.
Kurt and I absolutely marvel over our victory. Planning the girls’ number (with Kurt) is absolutely exciting. The boys are pretty much self-obsessed jerks who are angry over our victory, even though we know very well exactly how they would have treated Kurt.
As we finish up our glee meeting, I tell Finn that I need to meet him after the rehearsal. “What for?” he asks.
“We just need to talk,” I say.
When the glee club meeting ends, Kurt and I step outside and wait for Finn to finish talking to Puck and Artie about their number. “I’m scared,” I tell Kurt. I have never been so nervous in my life. This could be the make or break moment that defines my relationship with Finn. Finn and I could be over. All of my dreams for our future could be completely taken away. I look at Kurt and I feel like I could cry at any second. He looks upset too, but holds my hand anyway.
“If he doesn’t love you for exactly who you are Rachel, then he’s not worth it,” Kurt says softly. “I think that he’ll understand though. Like I’ve told you, Finn has come a long, long way.”
Finn comes out of the choir room and I feel like I’m going to be sick. I look over to Kurt and then hold my breath. Finn looks so casual about everything. “Hey guys,” he says, giving a light wave. “What’s going on? What did you need to talk to me about?”
“Let’s go somewhere more private,” Kurt says. I realize that I am just staring, speechless at Finn. I’m not used to being unable to talk. I’m always talkative. I always have my voice. I look at Finn and then nod. Kurt leads us out to the middle of the campus, where things are quiet. School has been out for hours and it’s far enough from the athletic department that nobody will come and overhear.
“Finn,” I say, shaking my head a little. “I have to admit that there are things I haven’t been completely honest with you about. I always wanted to tell you but it’s been far too difficult and I was afraid of losing you. I never want to lose you because I love you and you’re the best thing to ever happen to me, it’s just…”
“Rachel, what is it?”
I take a deep breath. Kurt squeezes my hand. I start my story dramatically, because well, it’s the only way that’s ever worked for me. “Finn, I was born Ross Berry,” I mumble softly. “Everything else is still the same, I promise. My dads wanted to have a baby, so they hired Shelby to surrogate for them. The only difference is that Shelby gave birth to a boy. Ross. I was um, I lived as a boy for quite awhile. I knew that I wasn’t a boy though.”
Finn stares, looking naturally confused. “Rachel, are you trying to mess with me?” he asks, looking at Kurt, as if the other boy has all of his answers. “I seriously don’t understand. I mean, you’re a girl. If you’re trying to mess with my head then it’s really not funny. I know I’m easy to mess around with but it’s not like you, either of you.”
Kurt shakes his head. “Finn, just relax and listen to her,” he says. “I can assure you that nobody here is attempting to mess with you.”
“Then what are you trying to say?” he asks, glancing around as though he’s still waiting for someone to shout April Fools, even though it’s early November.
“Do you know what transgendered means?” I ask.
Finn nods a little but then stops. “Wait, is it kind of like Rocky Horror?” he asked. “Where a guy is sort of a girl?”
I sigh a little bit.
“Okay, mini lesson time,” I say. “Finn, being transgendered basically means that someone was born in the wrong body. When you have a baby who has male genitals, you pretty much assume that you’ve had a baby boy, right?”
“Well, most of the time that’s a fair assumption to make,” I say. “A transgendered individual is a person who was born with the wrong body. That baby boy might grow up and realize that it was meant to be a girl. “He” would be the inappropriate pronoun for that baby, because despite her genitalia, she is a girl.”
“What I’m trying to say,” I mumble, reaching down and grabbing Kurt’s hand even tighter, “is that I was born with male genitals. I am biologically male, but I am a girl. I told my dads in the fourth grade that I was a girl and then they got me onto hormone blockers, helped me change my name. They have been completely supportive of me. I started hormone replacement therapy this year. I just wanted to let you know because I love you and wanted you to know why I’ve been so averse to physical intimacy.”
Finn looked confused, disturbed and most of all was quiet. “So, you’re a boy Rachel?” he asks. “Or um, were a boy?”
I shake my head. This is going to be difficult.
Finn is slowly adjusting to finding out that I’m transgendered, but at the same time he’s starting to put a distance between us. I hope that it’s just because he needs time to process everything. After all, Finn is a very literal minded individual. He acted like he didn’t believe me until I showed him pictures of me as a child. The small child in those pictures definitely appeared to be a boy, even though she was a girl.
“This is really weird, and hard to deal with,” Finn told me. I have to agree with him on that one, even now. I can’t expect perfection right now but he hasn’t dumped me.
I have been focusing some of my energy onto Kurt, lately, because of the sadness I see in him. Something isn’t quite right with him. I think that he’s being bullied even worse than he was before. I sit him down after glee rehearsal to really talk about it, because whenever I bring it up in a more public venue, he freaks out and tries to get away from me.
"Bullying at McKinley is getting out of hand," I say, looking Kurt in the eye. He's shaky and his eyes are shimmer with tears at just the mention of bullying. I know the situation with Karofsky is worse than any of the bullying he'd experienced so far. I focus on Kurt's fear, pain and worry and it makes me stop worrying about Finn. I am giving Finn time. Kurt needs me. "I think that it's time that someone, meaning us, stood up and took a stand about it."
"What can we really do, Rachel?" Kurt asks. "I mean this school turns a blind eye to everything."
I know he's right.
“We can try and rally the students together,” I say, even though it seems like such a big task. “I know that the adults here are useless. Even Mr. Schuester doesn’t notice or seem to care when someone shoves you around or any of us get slushies to the face. We can’t really just keep sitting here and taking it.”
“You’re right Rachel,” Kurt says, taking my hand. “I’m scared.”
I know that Kurt doesn’t say that easily. I start making plans in my head, because well, Kurt is my best friend and I need to take care of him. I go home that night and start making a lot of plans. I plan exactly who we can involve in this and who will be our biggest oppositions. It’s hard to fight bullying when the cheerleading coach slams kids into lockers as much as the resident bully. I spend a lot of time in my room planning when there is a knock on the door. About five minutes later, I hear Finn’s voice and come downstairs, wondering why my dads didn’t tell me when Finn was there.
“Finn?” I ask, coming into the room.
“-and you’re a lucky boy to have my daughter in your life.”
Oh god. He’s lecturing Finn. I stop in front of my dad and shake my head. I almost regret telling them that I told Finn, but they were the ones who’d been encouraging me to tell my boyfriend for months. “Dad,” I say. “Finn doesn’t need to be lectured. He’s a very good person and a good boyfriend to me. H-he always has been.” I really worry whether or not Finn will stay with me now, but at the same time I have to respect Finn for all the things he’s done in the past. He’s been good to me.
“Rachel,” my dad says.
“It’s okay,” I say, kissing his cheek. “Can you leave Finn and I alone for just a moment? He obviously came here to talk about something.”
I convince my father to leave and then it is just the two of us. Finn looks at me nervously. “Rachel,” he says, “I-uh, I’ve really sucked for staying away from you the last few days. I was just confused and didn’t know how to think about this. Kurt put all of these websites in my computer bookmarks and I’ve been going through them as best as I can. I think that I’m starting to understand it now. It’s not like anything I’ve ever known before but I think I get it. I was being dumb. I still love you Rachel and I don’t care about something as…um…”
“Superficial?” I ask.
“Something as superficial as your body,” he says. “I really love you Rachel.”
I smile. This is everything that I’d hoped he would say. I lean up and press a kiss to his lips. He kisses me back and I literally want to squeal with delight. It’s romantic, it’s perfect and Finn’s not leaving me because of my stupid body.
He pulls back but his hand is still on my cheek. “I’m also sorry for pressuring you to do stuff,” Finn says quickly. “Kurt and I talked about that too and even if you weren’t transgendered then that’d still be pretty scummy.”
I smile at that.
“Thank you Finn,” I say. “Truth be told, I am very much ready psychologically. I love you. I’m just not quite there physically because of my issues with my body. I’m sorry.”
He hugs me close. I always love the way that hugging Finn makes me feel. “Don’t worry about it,” he says, leaning up against my shoulder. “Oh, Rachel, I also have some really good news to tell you. I just found out today that my mom and Burt are getting married.”
I smile as our hug breaks. “Finn, that’s fantastic!”
He nods. “It really is,” he says. “I was really weirded out by Burt and my mom getting together last year, but honestly, Mom’s found the guy for her, which is kind of awesome. Kurt’s absolutely crazy right now over wedding planning and stuff. I know that he’s going to handle the whole thing. We’re also going to be moving to a big house after the wedding.”
“That’s awesome Finn. I’m so happy for you guys.”
After Finn heads home, I call Kurt. I am surprised that I haven’t heard about the wedding from him first. It’s Kurt, the same Kurt who is the wedding planner for the event! “Kurt,” I say, the minute that he picks up the phone. “Finn was just here, being oh-so-incredibly sweet to me, and he told me about your parents’ wedding! That’s the most awesome thing ever.”
“I know, isn’t it Rachel?””
Kurt sounds excited but there is something beneath it. "I mean, I was a little scared of letting Dad go in that way but, well, Carole is good for him. She takes care of him and is so sweet and well, she's letting me play wedding planner, so I absolutely love her.”
"That's so cool, Kurt," I say. "I bet it'll be a beautiful wedding. They know what they're doing trusting in you."
"Yeah," he mumbles.
"Kurt," I say, "is something wrong?" I am working on being more sensitive. Kurt’s my best friend and there’s something wrong with him. I could tell for weeks now and I really just have to do something.
“I’m fine Rachel,” he says seriously, practically snapping it out at me. “I’m just under a lot of stress right now and I guess that can make me seem a little preoccupied.”
“Kurt, something changed,” I say softly, trying to make sure that I sound as gentle as I possibly can. “I think that in the last two weeks something changed. I can’t even begin to understand what, but I just want you to know that I’m here for you. Thanks to you, I was able to tell Finn something that has been plaguing me for the entire time we’ve been together and our relationship is going to work out. I would do anything for you.”
Kurt is quiet when he says, “Rachel, it’s really not a big deal. I shouldn’t.”
“You can trust me,” I say.
“You’re not very good at keeping secrets,” he points out. This is true, unfortunately. I have always been very bad at keeping people’s secrets. It is just a natural flair for drama and gossip, I suppose, but I am trying my best right now to become a new Rachel Berry, one who depends on and takes care of her friends.
“I’ll keep it, Kurt.”
Kurt’s breathing hitches a little. He sounds like he’s going to cry. “Rachel,” he says. “Swear to me you won’t tell anyone.”
“Karofsky was being himself, you know, shoving me into my locker when I lost it,” he says softly. “I got right in his face and asked him what his problem with me was. He’s worse than any other jerk at this school and I wanted to know why.”
“Oh my god Kurt,” I yell. Dave Karofsky is like twice Kurt’s size and dangerous. Why would Kurt think that doing such a thing was even near okay? “Kurt, you could have been absolutely brutalized with a jock that size, getting in his face and everything.”
“He kissed me Rachel.”
I can’t believe that Karofsky kissed him. I don’t even understand why. Then it hits me just how closeted LGBT youth can become. I’ve talked to my fathers about this before. There is so much pressure, especially in towns like this one, to hide yourself from the outside world. That is one of the many reasons why there are only a few people in my world who know that I’m transgendered. The consequences of coming out can be dire and there are so many reasons for fear of who you are.
“I’m coming over Kurt,” I say quickly. I know that Kurt is hurting. He’s never been kissed and the assault on his person must be devastating to him. I want to help him. I swore that I would be a good friend to Kurt and I am going to keep that promise to both Kurt and to myself.
“Rachel, you really don’t have to…” he starts.
I cut him off. “I am coming over Kurt Hummel,” I say boldly.
When I get to his house I can see that he’s a wreck. He immediately ushers me to his bedroom, so I am safe in assuming that he’s keeping this from his family. The house is a mess, boxes everywhere because of the family’s impending move into their new house. Kurt sits down at the end of his bed and looks at me. I immediately rush to his bed, sit down at his side and hug him tightly. “I’m so sorry Kurt,” I say softly. I don’t know what else to say.
“I don’t know what to do,” he admits softly. “He’s threatened me about keeping it a secret. Not that I would tell or anything, of course, but he scares me.”
“He threatened you?” I say, immediately incited to action. “Kurt, we need to tell someone right now. I feel very sorry for David, of course, as being closeted is never something easy to deal with, but that was no reason to bring threats against you. He knows that you are a good person and the closest thing to an ally one can get in this town.”
“I can’t and won’t tell,” Kurt says immediately. “I mean, how would you feel if I went out right now and told everyone your secret? I just can’t. I have to just ignore it and hope that it goes away. I’m just really not sure what I’m supposed to do next aside from that. I just…I’m tired Rachel, I don’t know.”
I wrap my arms around him again and hold him in a tight hug. It surprises me when he cries. I have never thought about Kurt as a person who could break or cry. I’ve seen him cry before, yes, during his performances and when his father was sick, but just to see him break in such an intimate two person situation makes me feel vaguely nauseous. Kurt is always so strong and never lets anyone take care of him, but he’s letting me, so I need to be selfless and take advantage of his trust and, and care for him!
“We’re going to continue our efforts to protest the bullying,” I promise him.
“We need to create a LGBT group,” Kurt mumbles, thinking about our plans again, momentarily distracted from what Karofsky has done. Get signatures, approvals, your dads can help us fight it if need be. This school is just one of the most unsafe places for kids who don’t fit into the regular norms.”
“It does,” I say, my mind running at about a mile a minute. I hug him. “I love you Kurt, okay?”
He smiles. “Okay.”
I am determined to get my plans into action so the next day I come with a neatly typed petition for club addition and a gigantic sandwich board, which I have written: “Join the fight for diversity! Stop bullying at WMHS!” in bright red lettering with rainbows and gold stars and wear around my neck. At lunch, I stand in the hall, just in front of the cafeteria, trying to collect signatures. I manage a few. Tina comes up to me, of course, and signs. Puck looks at me like I’m crazy and gearing to get myself killed, but signs all the same.
It goes alright until Azimio slushies me.
I groan and close my eyes as the cold red liquid bath splashes me in the face. It messes with my board but luckily I have colored the other side just in case. I turn my board on the other side and sit it by my side after I clean up, afraid that it would take the brunt of another slushie attack. I am unfortunately, approached by worse bullies, ones that masquerade as friends from time to time: Quinn and Santana.
“Do you really think that anything is going to end bullying here?” Quinn scoffs. “It never ends.”
“You’re not even gay, Berry,” Santana snaps. “Stop trying to get attention.”
“Do you two have any idea how badly people like Kurt are bullied?” I ask, infuriated. These girls are not only supposed to be my friends, but they’re supposed to be Kurt’s friends. Kurt, who they have to see being harassed mercilessly,. “Do you guys even give a damn about how much your friend suffers?”
“Shut it, Man Hands,” Quinn quips before the girls turn to walk off. I wince at the sting of their insults. The ones insinuating I’m masculine are always the worse, but usually I brush them off. They scare me, make me worry that I’m not passing as well as I could and they burn, they burn deep.
I turn around to see Finn standing beside us. He looks absolutely pissed off and my heart leaps in my throat when I realize that he is planning on defending my honor. “Rachel doesn’t deserve this crap,” he yells at Quinn. “She’s always up in front, doing the right thing and not caring what people think about her. I honestly, I honestly gotta admit that I’m not always brave enough to stop caring but that’s Rachel. She’s someone you should be looking up to for what a girl our age should act like.”
It dissolves pretty quickly, Santana and Quinn leaving and rolling their eyes, but I am so in love with Finn my heart hurts. I stare at him. “Finn,” I say softly. “I think that’s very possibly the sweetest thing that you’ve ever done for me.”
He shrugs a little bit, looking sheepish. “I know that it probably hurts for Quinn and people to say things like that,” he says delicately. He doesn’t really know how to express what he’s saying but I get it. It is hurtful when they make comments about me like that. I wrap my arms around Finn and hug him tightly. He blushes.
“It’s always hurt,” I admit, “when girls that look like that say that I’m masculine or have man hands or look like RuPaul or whatever. It’s like I failed trying to me who I am.”
He sighs and holds my hand. “So what is this all about?” he asks, looking at my poster, which is still a little red around the edges from the slushie, despite being turned around. “Is this something that you and Kurt are doing?”
I nod. “Kurt and I are staring a club on campus for LGBT teenagers,” I explain. “We want to do something kind of like a gay straight alliance, but without the restrictive title. We just want to do something about the bullying on campus. It’s horrible in general but it’s even worse for openly gay people like Kurt. He’s really having a hard time.”
“I sort of have started to notice that,” Finn said sadly. “I’d be glad to help you out Rachel.”
I smile and kiss his cheek. “You’re wonderful Finn. Start by signing here?” I hand him my sign-up sheet. He takes it and signs his name. It’s a start.
Over the next week and a half, Kurt and I make progress. It’s not that much progress, but it is progress all the same. I do something that is a little bit sexist, to be honest, and ask the boys to keep a watch out for Karofsky. Finn is hesitant, which irritates me to no end. He still has so much to learn about image. Even though Kurt has told me a lot about his bullying, I know he hasn’t told me the half of it. A few days after I tell them to do this, Sam winds up with a gigantic bruise. Violence is not the answer but Karofsky is obviously reacting with violence to his own pressures so what has to be done has to be done.
The Hummel-Hudson wedding is on a lovely Saturday afternoon and creeps up in no time at all.
I approach Finn, wearing the red dress I had prepared especially for the occasion. “You look beautiful,” he says, something that eases my fears immensely, considering that I feel vulnerable, masculine, not good enough when I wear clothing like this. Finn, although he makes mistakes, knows how to get to me.
Finn completely lifts my spirits and eases my fears. I feel beautiful when Finn says that I’m beautiful because he’s simply honest. Before the wedding, Burt calls Finn over. I am pretty close by, so I see just how nervous the man is. I can’t imagine getting married to the love of my life, honestly. I guess it’s a dream too far in the future for me, because there is so much that comes first, but I can see the nerves. Nerves, I understand.
“Good luck today, Mr. Hummel,” I say politely. “You look fantastic and are going to do awesome.”
He smiles. “Thank you very much, I appreciate that.”
Finn helps him fix himself up and I wait. I wait, knowing this event is huge in the lives of two of the most important people to me.
The wedding is wonderful. Burt and Carole asked the glee club to sing for their wedding and we all do a fantastic job. Everyone is so happy. Finn’s best man speech is one of the most heartwarming things that I’ve ever heard in my life. In it, he talks to his mother and thanks Kurt for becoming his brother. I can see that he’s really learned a lot by being so close to Kurt. I can relate to him there because I most definitely have learned a lot being close to Kurt myself.
After the wedding, Kurt and I spend a little time alone, as Finn seems nervous about something. I did see him hanging around Santana near the beginning of it, so I hope she hasn’t done anything to upset him. There is a little park just outside of the church where Burt and Carole were married so we go to the swings. “You did so well planning this,” I say.
“Thank you,” Kurt says, looking satisfied with the way everything wound up. “I’m really proud of myself. I’m also really proud of Finn. I never imagined that he would come through for me like that. I am really, really thankful.”
“Gosh, now we’re on to Sectionals,” I say. I know that it’s hard for me to talk about things not related to glee club and I probably shouldn’t have gone back to talking glee right after Kurt’s father’s wedding, but at the same time it’s something to talk about. He lights up at the words so thankfully I haven’t caused any offense. “This year is going by so fast. I know we’ll do fantastic this time.”
Kurt nods. “Of course,” he says.
Our sectionals competition indeed does come fast. The day after the wedding, Mr. Schuester assigns the songs. “This time, for sectionals, I want to change things up a little,” he says. I never realized exactly how different “different” could be. Mr. Schuester assigns the duet to Quinn and Sam, the solo number to Santana and a huge dance number during Santana’s solo to Mike and Brittany. He purposely avoids my eyes as he speaks.
I am horrified. I want to leave the room. I open my mouth to speak but Kurt cuts me off. “Santana’s voice will be lovely on that song,” he says, giving me a look that says not to do it. I am struggling but I keep my mouth shut. Ugh. It hurts. I don’t think that the glee club stands a chance without me on vocals! Or do we? I’m so conflicted. I don’t know what to do. It’s absolutely horrible.
Thanks to Kurt, I stay good. I don’t say a word even though my mind is screaming objections. I give Quinn helpful hints on how to strengthen her vocals, which of course, leads to her staring at me. It’s good advice. “Quinn,” I say, “there’s no way that we can win if your vocals aren’t up to par. You need to start rehearsing every day if the poor choice to have you and Sam sing is to be justified.”
After rehearsal, I have to leave. I have to be alone for awhile.
It doesn’t work that way as Kurt follows me outside. He wraps an arm around my shoulders. “I’m a little pissed off about being passed up myself,” he says. I have to admit that I didn’t even consider that another person might feel passed over. “It’s okay though Rachel. It’ll give us both time to relax and focus on the group meetings. Those are really important and are going to take some time and energy from us.”
I know he’s right.
We are fantastic at sectionals. I have to admit to that. The other groups don’t stand a chance. I go on despite my lack of attention. Then, through cruelties I won’t describe, I am hit with a bombshell far bigger than Sectionals to me, even though performance means everything to me. We win, well, we tie with a silly group of boys from a stupid private school, but it comes out.
Finn slept with Santana. I don't really know how to handle that. Yes, we weren't together but at the same time he lied to me. I lied too but I eventually came through and told him the truth. "Finn, how could you?" I ask and I know it's not the fact that he did it, but jealousy that breaks my heart. Santana, like Quinn, is pretty, perfect and has a vagina. It's something I can't give Finn, not now at least. He slept with a girl who could give him everything. "You lied..."
"You lied too, Rachel," he says.
"I was afraid, Finn, and I told you the truth eventually." I panic. I can’t handle this. Finn really belongs with a normal girl. He belongs with a normal girl that isn’t me. I can’t take it. I can’t believe that he did this to me. I can’t help the creeping feeling, even though I know it’s false, that I deserve it.
"You didn't tell me you used to be a guy."
My stomach drops. He's really going to bring this into play now? He said he'd be okay with me being how I am. I shut my eyes. All of the self-doubt is something I have to force out, but it leaves when he says those words. That is not okay. I’ve worked too hard for everything that I have. I’ve struggled far too much for some boy to tell me that I used to be a guy. "Finn Hudson, I have never, not once in my life been a guy. I'm a girl. I'm always going to be a girl, even if I'm no Santana."
“Rachel, I didn’t mean…”
I don’t care. I walk off, right back onto our busses. I sit at the back, daring anyone to come sit next to me.
The only one brave enough is, of course, Kurt. He watched the explosion as I found out Finn’s secret, but not what followed. “Rachel, you and Finn weren’t together when he was with Santana,” he lectures gently. “As much as I find Finn’s choice to sleep with Santana distasteful, surely you understand that you were involved with Jesse at the time.”
I look up. I don’t want him to see me cry but frankly, it’s hard to care. “It’s not the fact that he slept with her,” I say, “or the fact that he lied to me and said he didn’t go through with it. It’s the fact that when I got mad at him for lying to me, he said that I lied to him, by never telling him that I ‘used to be a guy,’ Kurt.”
He opens his mouth but closes it again as he begins to understand what I’m saying to him. “Oh Rachel,” he says. “C’mon, let’s not think about Finn right now.” He looks up over my head and I know he’s probably looking at the very boy who broke my heart. “We just won Sectionals. Well, we tied but you know what I mean. Our petition has just about enough signatures and Coach Beiste has agreed to supervise the club. Everything is going perfect right now.”
He’s right, of course. It is perfect. Finn or no Finn.
The first meeting of the McKinley Alliance is on a Friday afternoon. Kurt and I had previously spent hours trying to figure out what to call it and we decided that was the most all-encompassing name we could come up with. “Oh god, nobody’s going to come,” Kurt says, looking from me to our advisor. Even though I’m still not speaking to Finn, I am thankful that he got Coach Beiste to advise our group. She is enthusiastic, trusting and a lot better than our other go to plan which would have been to get Mr. Schue to do it. I think that could have only ended in disaster.
“I’m sure that someone will come,” the woman says, giving us both an encouraging smile.
Tina and Mike come pretty quickly. I smile. I’m glad that they want to show their support. A few minutes later, Brittany and Artie arrive. I am a little sad to find out that this is going to be a glee kids’ event, but at the same time it shows that I know where my friends’ loyalties lie. They are good friends, something that I never imagined I would have.
Luckily there is one non-glee club member who arrives, a small freshman who introduces herself as Sandra. She smiles and waves, looking a little shy. I wonder if she’s seen the brutality of McKinley bullying yet. I hope not.
“It’s nice to see that someone started something like this,” she says quietly. “You’re very courageous to do so.”
I don’t know if I’m exactly courageous. The words make me wonder. I’m transgendered and yet I can’t open my mouth and tell this group of supportive people about it. If anyone’s courageous, it’s Kurt. We have to talk about something, so I open my mouth and start babbling about the trials and tribulations that my fathers have faced living in this area. It’s all hearsay and stories that I’ve heard a million times or more, but I know how to tell them, at least.
“There really is nothing,” I say, “that’s more terrifying to a little girl than to see the hate her daddies receive.” There’s also nothing scarier than telling already bullied and brutalized men that you weren’t their son but their daughter.
The meeting ends quickly because of the lack of things to do or say. Kurt seems discouraged so I put a hand on his shoulder. “For our first meeting, it could have been a whole lot worse,” I say sincerely. He smiles at me and I honestly know that things will be okay. This is a good start and is making some waves, even if they are only small ones.
Finn comes to me after a few days, absolutely begging for forgiveness. I expected the day would come but I wasn’t exactly prepared for the intensity. Finn has learned his drama well. “I never meant to sleep with Santana,” he says passionately. “It was a mistake and I absolutely regret every second of it. I also never meant to say those horrible things to you. I was angry and I didn’t want that secret to come out and I blurted it out in anger when I realized I was sunk. I am so sorry Rachel.”
It’s a nice apology and seems sincere, but I can’t accept it.
“I want nothing more than to forgive you Finn,” I say. “I just can’t find it within myself to do so yet.” I know that it’s cruel but I honestly can’t think about becoming involved with him again. He made a mistake, yes, and I will forgive him soon but I need time for myself. I need time to figure out what’s going on in my life. It’s stressful and I can’t handle the emotions that are involved. “I don’t mean to be cruel but I just can’t.”
I remember the day that I first told my fathers that I was a girl. It was a pretty calm day when I was about eight years old. They were so freaking scared. They were already harassed so much as a gay couple in small town Ohio. They were given so much hell just for existing and now their little boy announced that she was a girl. I felt so guilty. I was only eight and I just felt so guilty about every little thing.
My daddy was in denial at first, but my papa rose to the occasion. They took me to several therapists. Actually, one of the most horrifying memories I ever had was when one of the therapists called my parents abusive. She was under the impression that the two gay men had pushed the queer agenda on their son and made her think she was a girl.
They struggled so much for me. They took me to get all of the help I needed. They let me grow out my hair and dress as a girl. They went to my teachers and the administration of my school and had my name changed in their systems. They got me on hormone blockers when I was a little over eleven. My name was legally changed to Rachel when I was fourteen, even though I’d been using it for years. I started hormone replacement therapy when I was sixteen. They went through every legal, emotional and personal loop that they had to so that I could be me. My daddies are amazing.
Finn leaves, hurt. I hate to hurt the people I love. I do it enough.
The holiday break rolls around shortly after our first meeting. My daddies are excited for both Hanukah and Christmas, but I find my enthusiasm to be lacking, except in regards to being away from McKinley for a short period of time. I do enjoy the shopping that accompanies the holidays and I already have the perfect gifts set aside for the most important people, but my enthusiasm is limited.
On the last day of school, as I walk through the hallway, I hear low snickering. This is, unfortunately, not that unusual and has become more common since Kurt and I started the McKinley Alliance. I ignore it, holding my head high and getting through my day. Teachers are very lenient when they know that none of their students are paying attention with break more on their minds than anything else.
During lunch, Noah comes up to me. “Rachel,” he says in a low, cautious voice. He has become very protective of the other glee club members since his stint in juvie and I admire him for that. He is a very noble man. I admire who he has become. “Do you want me to send Jewfro on a trip to the dumpster for what he wrote about you?” He has been very low key about any trouble lately, so I don’t understand what he’s saying.
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“That shit in his blog,” Puck says earnestly. “It’s pretty low. Nobody believes it, but they’re still gonna give you hell.”
“Don’t be violent, Noah,” I say, dismissing him. “Whatever lies being spread aren’t worth it. I’ll check it out though.”
I do, however, go to the computer lab to check out Jacob’s blog. I haven’t paid mind to school gossip in quite some time. What I see makes me waver in my chair before hitting the floor, the headline “Glee club Berry not all ‘she’ seems,” burned onto the inside of my eyeballs.
I spend a lot of my Winter Break at Kurt's house or working on new material for glee. I know the rumors about me being a boy are floating around town, but I ignore them. If Noah's reaction is any indication, then people don't believe the "farfetched" claim about me anyway. I try to be calm even though the idea of people knowing makes me want to faint again. I also wonder if this is the time to come out about it. I could be inspiring. I could also lose everything.
It's always been my dream to succeed on Broadway, to become famous. I want other things, of course. I want to meet the person I love, have kids some day, be content, but my Broadway dreams are the most important. Will there ever be a Broadway diva with a penis? Will there ever be a place for me among the greats who were born women? I sit at Kurt's when my cell rings. I look at it. "It's Finn," I say.
"He hasn't been around the house much," Kurt speculates. "Are you going to answer it?"
I don't know if I can answer it. I stare at the phone for the longest time, but then I answer it quickly, making the decision as I act. "Hello Finn," I say.
"Rachel, I saw what Jacob posted about you," he says softly. "I just wanted to make sure that you were okay. I mean, is there anything I can do?"
I'm quiet for a moment.
"I don't think that anyone is going to believe it," I say quietly. "I also don't hold popularity quite as closely to my heart as you have in the past. It'll all turn out okay in the end." I look at Kurt, who heads to the kitchen out of politeness. "I'm at your house. Where are you?"
"I'm at school," he says. "Coach gave us a long practice and Puck and I were just hanging out."
"Oh," I say softly.
"I'm sorry Rachel," he says. It's a deep, meaningful apology. It touches me and I realize just how much I miss him."I really can't believe how long I've gone without seeing you. Do you think maybe we could meet up some time? I know you don't want to get back together but I miss you."
"I miss you too. Okay."
It doesn't take long for Finn and I to decide on a place and hang up. Kurt comes in seconds after I say goodbye. "So what's up?" he asks, sitting down beside me. "Are you going to forgive Finn? Is he going to stop moping around the house now, finally?"
"He's been moping?" I ask and Kurt nods. "I'm going to talk to him."
Kurt cuddles up to my side. "Good."
Finn and I meet at a coffee shop two days later. Finn smiles. He looks amazing. "Hi," he says softly. "I missed you. How are you doing?"
"I'm good," I say.
"Even with the rumors going around?"
"I'm good Finn," I assure, nodding. "I mean, I'm comfortable. I'm a little scared of what could happen when we go back to school but it'll be okay. I'm okay."
"I want to be close again," Finn mumbles. "I don't want anyone to hurt you."
It's a little bit over-the-top and so Finn-like but the words make me smile. "I don't think they will," I say optimistically. "I also don't want to talk about me and that horrible, horrible article. How did practice go? Please tell me the Titans plan on winning the big game. McKinley could use a championship."
"Oh we plan on it," Finn said. "Coach Beiste plans on killing us, but we plan on winning."
For awhile, we just discuss the championship game. It means a lot to Finn, so even though I've never been into football, I am into this discussion just because of the way that it makes his eyes light up. The McKinley football team never stood a chance in the past, but now they do. That means a lot to Finn. That means that he could potentially get a football scholarship and a number of other merits he wouldn't have been able to dream of without Coach Beiste. He reaches out and puts a hand on mine as we talk and I feel comforted. I'm not ready to jump into his arms again yet, but I really need Finn.
When I get back to school, there is a little bit of teasing over the "man" rumors, but it's really nothing like my fears. Most people find the rumor of a transgendered kid at McKinley too farfetched to believe and I'm pretty sure that Noah did something awful to Jacob, because he doesn't speak of it again. It's kind of disappointing in a way, because I'm not forced to out myself and I don't, and it stings because of the increased incidences of "manhands" and other masculinity related insults.
School isn't going as well for Kurt. He's being harassed by Dave Karofsky pretty frequently now. I've urged Kurt to go talk to Principal Figgins about it but he's hesitant. He doesn't want to stir up trouble as the gay kid and he doesn't want it to become a big deal. I hate to tell him that it's already becoming a big deal.
One of our first days back, I see Dave shove Kurt into a locker and walk past. I don't know where I find the courage but I follow after him until we're a good deal away from Kurt. I take a deep breath and open my mouth. I am going to get myself killed. "David," I say sharply, waiting for the big dumb jock to turn around. He does, staring at me with an incredulous expression. He plays stupid for the public, but it's obvious he's quicker than he acts.
"What the hell do you want, she-man?" he asks.
I roll my eyes at the insult. "David," I say again, firmly. "I must let you know that I am aware of what you did to Kurt. I feel very badly for you. I know that internalized homophobia leads to a very devastating mental state, but does not give you the right to hurt my best friend in this way. You must cease your bullying of him."
He stares at me. He doesn't even bother to pretend not to understand me. He lunges forward and I wince. I am headed to get the crap beat out of me but for a moment, I don't care. I don't know where the strength comes from but I don't give a care. He leans into my face, slamming a hand down on the locker. "Whatever the fag told you isn't true," he says. "You understand me, Berry? That fuckin' queer is making up rumors."
I realize that David has the social power to make Kurt's words seem like rumors, falsehoods, so I lie, quickly. "I have proof," I say. "So does Kurt. He didn't tell me either, David, so don't go running like a Neanderthal ready to stalk after its latest hunt. I know exactly how you feel."
He looks strangled. He believes me, I realize. I almost laugh, realizing that my acting ability has far surpassed where it was last. "You don't know anything."
"I know how it feels," I say softly. I take a breath and prepare myself to make a speech. "I know exactly where you're coming from. I know what it's like to hate everything about yourself, who you were born. I know what it's like to be terrified what would happen if anyone knew the truth. I still wonder to this day if I would lose the few friends I have, if they knew the true me. I have faith though that a true friend will stay true. I understand David, I do."
"How the hell do you-"
"Trust me, I just know," I whisper.
His eyes get wide. There is a lot of intelligence under them. He looks me over and his gaze lingers for a long time. "The rumors are true, aren't they?" he asks, his voice low. It wavers and he acts like he's in pain. I realize just how much he hurts and I catch my breath. It's the same pain that I've known all of my life. While the speech was just for show, every word of it was true. I know the pain that he's feeling, yet I've never lowered myself to react to it by bullying. "Are you that stupid that you'd tell me?" he asked, nearly barking out the words. "You know that I'm gonna give you hell for this Berry. I'm going to make your life miserable."
"No you're not," I say, internally realizing that I'm taking quite the risk, and also realizing that maybe I want to take the risk. "You won't say a word because I have proof you kissed Kurt. I would never out you without provocation though. You wouldn't do it to me either."
I don't know exactly what I'm doing but I forged a bond neither of us were expecting.
With that encounter, I made a deal with Dave Karofsky to keep quiet about his secret, as long as he kept quiet about mine. I realized only moments after leaving his side that I need some kind of fabricated proof. Dave is a sad, tortured guy and all but he's also a huge risk. There is no saying that once he realizes I'm lying about having proof that he won't back out of our arrangement. I need to find some way to make him believe there were witnesses, evidence, something.
I go to Kurt for help, which is not that great of an idea because his first reaction is to get pissed off at me. "Rachel!" he yells, eyes getting big as I tell him about confronting Dave. "Are you stupid or something? He could have hit you. He could have done something horrible to you and it would have been my fault. In case you haven't noticed he isn't exactly stable!"
I am surprised he cares. I know we're friends but it's still hard to understand that I have friends who care about me. I never really had to deal with that before. "It was an impulsive choice that I made in the heat of the moment," I tell him tensely. "I saw him bullying you and felt like I should do something to stop it. He may be suffering but that's no reason for him to hurt my best friend."
That softens him. He looks at me in shock, so I keep talking.
"Kurt, this is a good thing," I say. "If you and I can find some way to solidify that I had proof of his kissing you, then we can keep you safe and save a closeted boy from a horrendous life."
"How the hell are we going to find proof?" Kurt asks, shaking his head at me as we walk to class. We have this period together so we sit down at our respective desks. His is in the row behind mine. I turn myself around to talk to him. "We're going to need Finn or someone from glee who's also on the football team," he decides out loud.
"If we can convince him Finn saw the altercation…" I say as the bell rings and we are called to attention by our teacher. If we can convince Dave that Finn played witness to his assault and kiss on Kurt then we can keep this up.
We approach Finn after school. He's tense, because the football team has been rather uncomfortable and there have been many altercations. He looks up. He's quiet until Kurt lays onto him the story of the kiss. He then shoots up and yells out loud. "I am going to kill him!" he yells. I have never seen Finn so infuriated and so protective. I put a hand over my chest, trying to quell the quick beating of my heart. "Kurt, why didn't you tell me?"
"You didn't quite care when he was shoving me into lockers," Kurt quipped, "Why would you care about him kissing me?"
Finn softens at that. It's a low blow but it's kind of true. I understand Kurt's reasoning for using it. "That's all beside the point," I say, trying to calm any possible fight between the pair of step-siblings. "We have a way to get David to leave Kurt alone, without outing him or further bothering his already conflicted state of mind. If he believes that you played witness to his kiss but at the same time you are keeping quiet about it at Kurt's request, that may be enough to manipulate him into leaving Kurt alone."
"And perhaps it might help him become a better person," Kurt mumbles, shrugging.
Finn nods. "What do I have to do guys?"
We gave him instructions, creating an airtight defense that he was in the locker room. It may have been easier to use Mike or Sam, but I figured that Finn would want to be part of this arrangement. A few days later, Finn comes back to us and tells us that our efforts with Dave are going to be hard. "Beiste is having the football guys join glee for the week leading up to our big game," Finn warned us before it happened. "There's been a lot of glee bashing and conflicts and yeah…"
"Well this is going to be interesting," Kurt says, completely unnerved.
It's the first day that the jocks join glee when they start making fun. I insist that David keep his fellow players under control. "David, Finn played witness to a certain incident," I whisper near his ear. "You can help me keep these goons under control for a week, right?"
He looks at me. "Yeah I can do that."
It doesn't go quite that bad after I control things. We do a few numbers with the boys there and Coach Beiste monitors everything. Some of the football jocks are absolutely insufferable, but surprisingly I find that Dave Karofsky isn't one of them. He's actually got some degree of skill, something that we realize when we get scheduled to perform for the halftime show of the big game and we get those jocks dancing with us.
We work pretty hard and I keep close to Dave. It's weird. He kind of fascinates me. I guess we're sort of kindred spirits in that way. He stays after even Mike has left and really tries. The effort fascinates me. "When did you realize that you weren't…you know…a dude?" he whispers impulsively, as he walks over to his bag to grab a water bottle. He pulls it out and I look around to make sure that we're alone.
"I was pretty young," I say softly. "I realized that what they were expecting me to be wasn't what I was. I realized that I didn't fit in with boys my age. If you're asking what I think you're asking, Dave, then I can say yes it terrified me. I realized at an age when most kids are playing on the playground that I was in for a hell of an adult life."
"It'd suck if it got out," he whispers and I'm not sure if he's talking about my identity or his own. "Nobody would trust you and everything they did know about you would be put into question. They'd feel like they'd been lied to."
I shrug and sit down by him.
"I'm trying to get the courage to come out," I say. "If my friends abandoned me for coming out then I guess they wouldn't be my friends anymore."
"You have a lot of confidence," he mumbles. I'm surprised when I see the slightest hint of tears in his eyes. "This is the worst thing in the world. You have gay dads for fuck's sake. I come out and I lose everything."
I wince at his words and then reach over and pat him on the back. "You'll have friends here to support you," I promise. I know to a degree David is right however. Not everyone has the wonderful support that I had when I came out as transgendered to my family and not everyone lives what I do.
The game comes fast and that, as well as the halftime show, is fantastic. I have never been so proud of the glee club. We actually went out there, did amazing and had fantastic reception. After the football game is over and McKinley wins, I run and wrap my arms around Finn. He leans down, exhilarated and drawn into the moment. He presses his lips to mine and kisses me in front of the whole crowd.
I let go for a moment then cling a little tighter and kiss him again. "I take it this means we're okay?" he asks.
"We're definitely okay," I say.
Our next assignment in glee is to do love songs, as it slowly approaches Valentines' Day. This excites me and gets me pumped up to do a song for Finn since we're back together and going strong. It doesn't really have the same effect on Kurt who's never had a love interest and is quite lonely. I feel bad for him the moment I turn to him and realize that he's less than pleased with what we've been assigned.
"This assignment is stupid," he mutters under his breath as the club chatters furiously about the new job at the end of our meeting. I lean over and put a hand on his shoulder. He shrugs away. He doesn't like to be touched, especially when he's upset. I realize that, but it was the only thing I could think of to do in that specific situation.
"It is biased," I say. "Maybe you can talk to Mr. Schue about it. He's awfully insensitive at times…"
He shrugs and gets up to leave. I let him be since the meeting is technically over. I know that sometimes I have to let Kurt be. I get up and leave, as not many people like to talk to me about music related things. I suppose that it's jealousy.
At the next meeting of the McKinley Alliance, we find a strange addition. We have been gathering some extras from time to time but I never expected David Karofsky to actually come. "I need to talk to her, privately," he said gruffly, looking at me. He is purposefully avoiding the eyes of both Kurt and his football coach. He is so scared that it breaks my heart. There is nothing about that boy that doesn't scream fear.
"Can you please take over Kurt?" I ask, immediately leaving into the hallway with David. I have made him my pet project, I suppose. I want to help him.
"If I tell people that I am - that I might be -"
"Gay," I say quickly. I know the stage he's in. I was unable to say the words girl and transgendered for a long time. I could not physically make myself force those words out. "Say it. It doesn't have that much power. It's just a word."
"They'd kill me," he said dismissively. "This school..."
"Have you thought that maybe you need to come out at home first?" I ask. "It might help. It'd be easier if you started by speaking to your parents. I know they're not as experienced with prejudice as mine but you are their child."
He looks at me and shrugs. I don't think he knows how his parents will react. "I'm not supposed to be like that," he mutters, once again not using the word gay. "I mean with guys like Kurt you expect it. I don't look that way."
"Come on," I say. "My dad was a college athlete and my daddy defies tons of stereotypes. Not every gay man is a walking stereotype."
He frowns and sighs. "I don't know how they'll..."
"You never know until you try," I promise him. "Kurt thought his dad would never accept him because he was such a stereotypical man's man. Kurt came out and Mr. Hummel turned around and gave his son unconditional love, learning how to break the cycle of prejudice he lived in."
"They're not exactly homophobic..." he relents."I mean, not hatefully."
"Good start," I praise. We go back in before long, although I think David wants to run. We come back in the middle of one of Kurt's speeches.
"I can't really describe the things that I've been through at this school because I'm gay," Kurt says, looking at the others. Coach Beiste is nearly crying. "I just want to make this school a place where people can be safe, regardless of their sexual orientation or popularity. Everyone deserves a chance to really feel safe at school and I think that the McKinley alliance can illustrate the bullying problem better than anyone else can. I've felt like giving up so many times."
I look over at Dave. He looks positively nauseous. "You can come visit my dads some time," I say gently. "That might help." He nods and then walks off leaving me with a lot of questions.
Finn and I go on a date on Valentines' Day.
I am really nervous at first. We go to one of my favorite restaurants, one of the few places in the area that serves vegan food. "You look really pretty today," he says, "not that you don't always look pretty, but you know what I mean." He laughs nervously. I know what he means. I dressed up special today because I wanted the date to go well.
We sit down and order our drinks. He reaches over and touches my hand. "You know, Rachel, I really admire you for all that you've been doing with glee and that alliance club and everything," he says. "Kurt's been a lot happier because of that club and the setlist plans for Regionals are fantastic. You're amazing."
I blush and roll my eyes. "Thanks Finn, but I haven't been doing those things alone," I say. "Kurt has done a lot for the club and we've really worked together on everything. You know, Finn, both of us would really like to see you at a meeting. Your social status in the school is particularly high since the football team won and it would get our upcoming fundraiser some much deserved attention."
He nods. I notice that he doesn't hesitate, which makes me so proud. "I'll come to the next one," he promises me. I love that he doesn't pause or look insecure. He really does want to grow and change, even though sometimes that is a difficult task for Finn.
"Thank you," I say, hoping that he sees the gratitude I have. I lean over and he kisses me, catching me off guard and totally taking my breath away. I hold onto him and realize that I love him. I completely love him.
After my date with Finn, I change and then lead to The Lima Bean where I swore I'd meet Kurt for a cup of coffee. He's still pretty mopey over Valentines' Day, but he agreed to meet me and gives me a half smile when I arrive. "How was the big date with Finn?" he asks. I reach over and give him a hug. Sometimes I can restrain myself enough to respect Kurt's boundaries but sometimes I give into my urge to just hug the heck out of him.
"It went fantastic," I say. "He's coming to our next meeting of the Alliance and all is well. It was super-romantic and he's trying hard."
"Fantastic," he said. We go up to the counter and order our usual. We wait for our coffee and I turn toward him.
"Kurt, I just wanted to thank you again for being the best friend I could ever ask for." He really, truly is. I am thankful for all I have. I have an amazing boyfriend and the perfect best friend. Things aren't too bad.
I have been working on some songs for Regionals, even though the glee club shot down my idea to use them at Regionals. I have always wanted to be a songwriter, even though it falls short of my other dreams, but I am finding it very difficult. All of my songs are either extremely shallow (I tried to write a song about a headband, for real) or they reveal a part of me that I'm not sure I could share with the glee club anyway.
I wrote a really good song called "Being Me" that I love, but I don't think I could ever share it with the glee club because it essentially outs me as transgendered and is also deeply personal. I did share it with Kurt though. He stared at me through teary eyes and told me it was the most beautiful song he had ever heard. He told me that it showed the person that exists beneath all of my defenses. That's big from Kurt.
I have been contemplating coming out lately. I feel like I can't be a good role model while living a lie. I always imagined coming out to my close personal acquaintances first and I am already out to my best friend and my boyfriend. I think that the glee club will be the place that I come out, but I am also afraid. Who is to say that people like Quinn and Santana wouldn't take the confession as a way to torture me? They could always confirm it to the crowd that still whispers a little bit about Jacob's stupid rumors. I have to admit that coming out could lead to my identity being revealed to a larger crowd.
My parents always said I was blessed that I passed so well. My daddy reminds me sometimes when I feel insecure that most transgendered young people don't have the luxuries I do. My fathers both supported me and helped me transition young. I'm naturally of small stature and nobody has ever doubted me as female. I get that. If I am outed then the protections of passing go out the window.
My phone buzzes with a text message as I am completely lost in thought. It is from an unknown number.
Hey. It's Dave.
I blink and pause. I gave Dave Karofsky my phone number in case he needed some kind of help. I calm down and quickly answer his text with a "what's up?" wondering why exactly he was texting me.
I did it. It was ok. Can we meet up?
Now that is surprising. I hate to admit that I thought he would be the type to stay silent. It's pretty inspiring. If a guy like Dave Karofsky can come out to his parents then maybe I can come out to my close friends about my less-than-typical identity. I agree to meet him at the coffee shop despite the fact that doing so makes me nervous. He seems like he's very distressed so I guess that it's the least I can do.
When I walk into the coffee shop a half hour later, he's already there. He looks at me with exhausted eyes. "Hi," he says softly. "I – uh – I took your advice. I told my parents that I thought I might be – you know – gay. They took it pretty well, I guess, but they looked really, really surprised by it."
"They weren't angry at all?" I ask, making sure that everything is alright before I start celebrating for the no longer closeted teenager.
"No, they weren't angry at all," he said quickly. "My mom looked honestly confused and my dad said that it was okay, as long as I was happy. They gave me a little lecture about how I needed to make sure that I was happy with whatever I chose. I think that I blindsided them though because my mom left the house a few minutes later and my dad went to his room."
"It probably means that they're trying to process it," I assure him. It is a big deal for a parent to find out that their child is anything outside of the cultural norm, especially when it comes to gender and sexuality. My dads, both gay men, were devastated to find out that I was transgendered because of all the hate they'd received through their life. They didn't want that for their daughter and I'm sure David's parents feel the same about him.
He looks absolutely exhausted. He looks at me and sighs. "I don't know what to do now," he says.
"Take it one day at a time," I say.
I have to take it one day at a time as well. I keep writing, but I don't find any songs within myself that don't reveal the true me. I also keep working with New Directions and the McKinley Alliance. Finn comes to our next Alliance meeting, as does Dave. Things seem to be changing for the better. My reputation, however, is still suffering. I am not a reputation-seeker like Finn or anything but still, it sucks being labeled as boring, stuffy and all of the things I am.
The party happens on a Friday. It started with me inviting a few people over from glee and the alliance while my fathers are both out. I even invite Dave (with Kurt's permission!) because I know just how tough it is. He has a lot of friends but he knows that those friends won't stay loyal when he comes out of the closet at school. The party is simple and boring, until Noah breaks out a little bit of alcohol.
I've never drank before and I have to admit the first drink I taste is absolutely repulsive. It reminds me of drinking a coconut flavored version of Nyquil, honestly. I finish it very quickly though and it starts to taste a lot better. Yes, I quickly find myself in a room of intoxicated teenagers and I like it. Finn looks at me with worry as I saunter up to him, but I don't know why. I wrap my arms around him.
"Everyone's getting a little tipsy," he mumbles under his breath. "I think Santana just did a shot off of Brittany actually…"
"So, who cares?" I say. "Dance with me Finn."
Dancing with Finn is a blur. I wrap my arms around him and press myself close. Before this I was a little cautious about such close contact with Finn because I never knew what would happen. If I was to become aroused, that would have opened up a whole world of awkwardness. Now that he knows my body is biologically male it hardly seems like it'd be an issue though. I laugh and kiss him as we dance around.
After lots and lots of dancing, spin the bottle happens. It's pretty amusing, with such gems as Brittany kissing Sam and Santana glaring daggers at the couple (I often wonder if she's interested in Brittany) and Kurt awkwardly laying a kiss on Quinn's cheek. I spin the bottle, however, and it lands on an awkward David, who is trying not to look anyone in the eye. "C'mon K'rofsky," Sam slurs, laughing and leaning up against Mike. "Show us all you're 'smuch of a stud as you keep saying."
I see Dave's nerves, but it's just a game so I lean over and peck him on the lips before sitting back down. I realize that I'm definitely a little drunk. The idea makes me burst into giggles. I'm drunk. I'm drunk for the very first time.
"What the heck is so funny Rachel?" Finn asks, wrapping his arm around me particularly tight. I am enjoying my night.
"I have no clue!" I declare. "It's karaoke time!"
The renditions of popular songs that are performed at my party are interesting to say the least. I find that I can giggle and enjoy them, rather than critiquing them, so the alcohol has had its effect. I sing with almost everyone, but once I tire my voice out, Sam and Puck start into a barely recognizable version of Bohemian Rhapsody. That song always makes me sad, because it reminds me of Jesse. Jesse never knew any of my secrets, so I guess our relationship was very shallow, but I still regret the way it ended. He hurt me badly.
I sit with Dave Karofsky as they sing. "That's god awful," he says, looking up at Sam and Puck and shaking his head. "Like, really, really bad."
I nod. "It is, but how are you enjoying yourself David?" I really want him to enjoy himself. He should see that we're an awesome, supportive group of people, even if we sing horrible karaoke songs when we're a little drunk. I look at him and he seems so sad.
"I'm fine," he mumbles.
I lean up against his side and sigh happily. He's cuddly. He always looks so scary when he's walking down the McKinley halls but he's absolutely one of the best cuddly teddy bears ever. I wrap my arms around him and smile. "You know that you're a cuddly guy right?" I say, tilting my head to the side.
Finn walks over a few minutes later. "Rachel, what's going on?" he asks and I realize he's jealous.
"David doesn't like me," I laugh. "Don't worry about that." I almost say that he's gay but stop myself. I know that alcohol is very dangerous but I know that there are certain secrets I cannot spill at any cost. David looks alarmed but quickly moves me over toward Finn. I cling to him. I feel like clinging to any and everyone.
"I think she's had a bit too much," Dave offers to Finn. Finn nods.
"I won't spill your secrets Davey," I say, finding that the words just keep pouring out of my mouth. "I mean, I can't. I also won't tell everyone here that I have a penis because it would make them scared."
They look at each other over my head. It doesn't matter cause they both know, right?
I lay down on the couch for awhile, staring up at the two boys. I imagine coming out to the whole group of drunk teenagers here. The image in my head is kind of interesting. I don't think that any of them would understand, at least right now. I also think that I couldn't tell people right now, because I couldn't verbalize it the way that I want. It can't happen tonight but it really needs to happen soon.
"Did you know that you're a very good guy?" I ask Dave. Finn has left and I wonder how long I've just been lying on the couch, staring at the ceiling. I just have a lot of thoughts I guess. "You're going to be a good guy soon. When you come out you'll make someone an awesome boyfriend, a cuddly one too. If I was a boy then I'd want to date you, but with all my gender issues that'd just make your head spin or something."
"You're a funny girl, Berry," he manages quietly. He smiles though. It's a nice smile. "I admire what you're doing. These kids aren't so bad. You should eventually tell them all of this. Not today though, because they're all in various states of drunk. That would be a disaster."
I nod. He's smart.
When I wake up, my head is pounding. There is a dull throb that just spreads from my forehead all the way around. I turn around and see that Finn is right next to me. "Finn?" I ask, leaning back and looking into his beautiful eyes. "What happened? Where did everyone go? Isn't the party still going on?"
He laughs and brushes my hair back. "Rachel," he says. "You fell asleep awhile ago. Everyone's cleared out, except for Kurt, me and Karofsky. We're trying to clean things up."
"I was drunk," I say. I remember most of the night, but don't think I revealed anything dangerous. I sit up and groan as my back cracks. "David's still here?"
Finn gestured over to where Kurt and Dave were working on cleaning up a mess that included what appeared to be Brittany's bra. "I don't really know why we're all suddenly friends after he bullied Kurt so badly," Finn admitted. "I asked him why he was suddenly so friendly with all of us and he said it was your doing. He said that you made it happen."
I smile when I realize that I've had that kind of effect on someone. It makes my heart jump. "He's working hard to become a better person," I say. "I didn't know I had that much of an effect on him but I'm glad I did."
"He knows, right?"
I nod. He knows. He knows and someone that's helped him along the way. I get up and immediately start helping my boyfriend clean, hoping that there isn't any evidence that I can't get rid of. My fathers would be furious if they knew that I held a party while they were away. I try my best to cover everything up. "Finn," I say, as I begin to clean. "I'm considering coming out. I think it's time."
He seems a little unnerved, looking over at me and smiling gently. I wonder why he's worried. If it's something about his popularity I will literally scream. This is one of the biggest things I've ever done in my life. "I'm scared for you Rachel," he says, and my growing anger melts instantly. "I just…you're so brave…I support you okay? I totally support you."
Even though she is the favored substitute teacher at McKinley High School, I cannot stand Ms. Holliday. It's even worse now that she's acting as a sex education teacher. Now, I'm aware that small towns like this one tend to lack proper sex education but the woman is about as qualified to teach us as Mrs. Schuester was to be a nurse. Also, the fact that he's attracted to her means that Mr. Schue has enlisted her to teach us glee kids about sex and sexuality.
She is so offensive it hurts. She implies that sexual urges in high school are natural, as is acting on those urges, which I agree with, but then she goes on to imply that those who choose not to have sex are frigid and do not have their reasons. Everyone seems to be hanging off of her every word too, but I notice a few things. Mercedes, who has not had a real, steady boyfriend, seems a little upset, even though she hangs onto the words just as tightly as anyone else. Kurt shifts in his seat and rolls his eyes. Quinn looks aghast.
After she leaves, I cannot keep my mouth shut. "While I do agree that sex is natural and abstinence only sex education is dangerous," I say, "Ms. Holliday failed to acknowledge the fact that some young people, or well, people of any age, have reasons for not having sex. There are those who have been traumatized by some sort of sexual activity or assault, there are those who are not ready and have not met the right person, there are asexual individuals…" I take a deep breath, hoping that they don't think this is another one of my soapboxes. "There are also those with gender issues who are made incredibly insecure by their bodies."
I look at Mr. Schue and feel like I'm going to cry. "Mr. Schue," I say, "I would like this opportunity to perform for the glee club. It's an original song that I prepared while writing songs for the club."
I sing my song. It's hard to get the words out, as I am crying, but I sing everyone from my heart. This is me. This is the struggle that I've endured my entire life. This is the story of the little boy who knew in his heart from a young age that he wasn't a he at all. This means a lot to me and I want them all to know it. I let it out freely. I almost can't finish but the show must go on so I end my song.
"What are you saying, exactly?" Santana asks.
"Spit it out, Berry," Quinn mutters.
I take a breath. Here it goes. "A little boy was born," I say. "His name was Ross. He was a normal boy on the outside but it didn't take him long to realize that he was wrong. He was a girl. He felt like a girl and he knew he was a girl. He told his fathers and they helped him transition and become the girl she is today." I play with my gender pronouns a little, hoping that it helps ease them into what I'm really saying. "I took the name Rachel when I established my girl identity, so that way my dads could keep up with their Friends theme naming."
The club stands in front of me in shocked silence. Kurt looks around him, stands up, and applauds, nudging Finn to join him. They both clap but it doesn't exactly kill the silence all around us. "I know it was a lame segue from Ms. Holiday's 'presentation' to my song, but I figured it worked," I say.
"Wait, so Rachel's a boy?" Brittany asks. "Or she, uh, was a boy?"
I sit down and close my eyes. I hear Finn and Quinn talk beside me. "You knew about that?" Quinn asks. "Finn that's so disgusting." I shut her out. I shut everything out. I'm just trying to deal with what I just did.
"Yeah I know," I hear Finn say, despite my blocking everything out. "Just, leave her alone okay? She's an amazing, perfect girl and you don’t get it. There's nothing disgusting about it at all."
"I feel betrayed," Mercedes mumbles.
"Does she have a penis?" Brittany asks Santana.
I have to keep closing them out. I feel Kurt's arm around me but other than the people I know are on my side, I have to close everything out. After awhile, Mr. Schue finally gets his act together. "Rachel," he says. "That was a fantastic song and I definitely think it should be the highlight of our Regionals performance."
I blink and nod, leaning on Kurt's shoulder.
After the rehearsal ends, Finn comforts me. He takes me outside and holds my hand. "I really, really love you Rachel," he tells me in that breathless voice that lets me know he means it. He stares into my eyes and I find that I can finally make eye contact with someone again. I hold his gaze, because it feels safe and makes me feel less like I'm on the verge of a mental breakdown. I keep his eyes in view. "That was one of the bravest things that I've ever witnessed in my whole life."
"I'm scared," I tell Finn. "I'm scared of the consequences of doing what I just did. It could be a disaster."
"It was time for your song to be sung, I think," he says, gently.
I guess it is time for my song to be sung. Our Regionals competition is a week and a half later. I wait, nervous, before New Directions is slated to go on. It makes me flash back to the previous year. Quinn actually seems nervous, which is fair considering the fact that she went into labor the last time we performed at Regionals, but the way she's treated me since she found out I was transgendered, I can't help her.
We go on.
Our first numbers are fabulous. Everyone is strong and we're better as a group than we ever, ever have been. Our final number is my song. I can hardly hold myself together as I sing. I feel like I'm screaming, well, not literally, but metaphorically at least. I'm letting out things that have been festering, boiling up inside of my chest. They come out screaming. I need Kurt and Finn to practically guide me off the stage when I'm done. I've never been in a music trance like that.
I stop in my tracks when I hear an unfamiliar voice. It's a soft, sweet voice. I notice that the voice is from an Aural Intensity boy. He has a soft feminine face and a nice smile. He looks at me nervously, shifting around and looking down at his feet. "Hi?" I say, unsure why my competition is talking to me.
"I was just wondering," he says, hesitating as he speaks, "was the song you sang…did it have anything to do with being transgendered? I mean, it could be me just reading far too deeply into the song."
I almost lie but then realize that I have absolutely nothing to lose. I think I suspect why he is asking and I take a risk. "Yes, it was," I say, "of course, it can be implied as being about any situation where you don't feel safe and comfortable in your own skin. I think it's relatable to all people, not just those of us who are trans."
The boy smiles. It's a lovely smile. "That's awesome," he says. "I'm transgendered too um, female-to-male and it really inspired me. Thank you."
I'm still reeling from that when they call us on stage.
I walk on stage, blinded by the shimmering stage lights and my own reeling head. I inspired someone with my music. I wait.
"And the winner for the 2011 season is the McKinley High New Directions!"
I stare blankly. We won. My team won. My team won with a song that I wrote about my problems. I scream and clap with my friends but at the same time I feel like I won beforehand. I won when I inspired. "Rachel, we're going to New York," Finn says, leaning into my shoulder. It hits me like a bullet. We're going to New York.
Our dreams have come true and they came true while I found myself.
After Regionals, self doubt starts kicking in. I am harassed immediately after the competition. Someone told. I don't know who but I suspect Santana, Brittany or Quinn. I don't put it above a single one of them. I'm stressed.
A group of football boys approaches me. I try and ignore them when Mark Fischer yells out "tranny!" It's easy to ignore him and his slurs. It isn't easy to ignore the slushie to the face. It hits me like a cold jolt back to reality. For the first time in a long time grape and watermelon slush burns and makes me cry.
What do you jerks want?" I ask shrilly. "I may not be the average girl but I'm proud of who I am and what makes me different." I pull on strength that my friendship with Kurt has given me.
"Fuckin' tranny freak," Ritter says, shaking his head and patting Azimio's shoulder.
Azimio scoffs. "I am so sick of this school bein' overrun by little queers and lady dudes."
I stare and turn as he gets in my face. I shut my eyes and just miss him being yanked away from me. "Get the fuck off of her. We don't mess with girls," Dave says, looking furious. "She's a girl, okay? No matter what her junk says, she's a girl. Also, for your information, this big queer is tired of us messin' with little queers."
I gape at him. Dave just came out and defended the transgendered freak.
I watch, astonished, as Dave Karofsky comes out to his friends in front of me and to protect me. I stare at him and pull him away from what could be a brutal confrontation. "David, they're not worth the time," I say, linking my arm with his. He looks emotional and dangerous, eyes watering. We walk along and when we get to the bathrooms he punches the wall.
"Dave!" I yell, terrified.
He looks at me and I watch him shatter. Tears gush from the corners of his eyes and he gasps for breath. "I just c-came out to them," he whispers. "Over you." He looks infuriated. I feel sorry. It's my fault. I...I don't know what to do."
"I'm just done..."
I take him to the slushie cleanup bathroom. Well, it's actually an old staff bathroom by the choir room. We used it a lot. I clean myself up expertly, dabbing at my wet face. "David, I found what you did very valiant and courageous," I say cautiously. "You're a very nice guy under your bullying exterior."
He rolls his eyes. He takes up the cloth and helps me attempt to get the stain out of my clothes. "Sorry, I'm not so good at this stuff," he mumbles. "I may be queer but I'm not Hummel or anything."
I roll my eyes. "You'll be okay," I say, "you just came out to protect me."
"Please, I'm trying my best not to think about that," he mumbles low. He looks so hurt. "I'm tired, Berry. I'm so tired that I can't even get myself to care about what I just did. I can't get myself to give a fuck."
I wrap my arms around him in a big hug. He hugs me back and sighs a little. "If I wasn’t…you know then Hudson would have some competition," he says under his breath. It's a joke but I understand why he's joking. He's trying not to think about the devastating implications of what he's done. "I just don't know what to do right now. You don't understand. I just gave up everything."
I hesitate, before saying, "you're more than welcome to join us in glee club." I know that it's misplaced but he's already lost everything that created his fake world. I have to say something comforting and let him know that he's not alone in the world. Despite the past tensions he's had with the glee club, they are beginning to realize that he's as much of an outcast as we are and well, they'll understand.
"I'll think about it," he says glumly. It's as much as I can ask.
We part ways shortly after. I am worried about him. I go to glee club that evening and Mr. Schue has a new assignment for us. He brings in Ms. Pillsbury, who is wearing a shirt with the word Ginger written across the front. He says that he wants us all to make t-shirts with similar slogans, about things that are a part of us and have caused us shame and embarrassment. It's arguable whether or not the guidance counselors' shirt is accurate and Mr. Schue seems uncomfortable with it, but we will go for it. We're going to perform Gaga again so Kurt is ecstatic.
"I know it's probably extremely clichéd," he says, leaning over into my side, "but I am going to put Likes Boys on mine. It is what people have given me hell over and I was born that way, right?"
"I agree," I say. "I'm going with Girl."
Everyone seems really eager for the assignment. Like most glee club related things, the date of the actual assignment comes pretty quickly. Kurt and I proudly display our shirts but a lot of the other club members are anxious. Artie is the first to reveal his, a shirt revealing the word: Depressed. It kind of shocks the rest of us, but he shrugs a little. "I was originally planning on doing something about my glasses," he admits, "but I heard Kurt and Rachel talking about what they wanted to do and I figured I'd be honest. I've had problems with depression since I was eight. It's a part of my history and it's embarrassing."
I am so shocked that I rush over to him and hug him. I feel like an idiot. I've known the original members of glee my entire time at McKinley and I never had an idea. Shortly after Artie reveals his shirt, a few more bombshells are dropped. Tina's says Anxiety, Puck's says Bad Reputation, Mercedes says Black Girl etc. I have to admit though that Quinn's affects me the most profoundly. Her shirt reads Fake.
She looks at me as she shrugs and speaks. "I didn't want to do this stupid assignment," she admits out loud. "Rachel, when I first found out that you were born a boy, I was disgusted. I ramped up the bullying and I didn't bat an eye when Santana and I accidentally let it slip. I started making fun of you for faking your gender. It was Brittany who called me out on my behavior though. She said 'everything about you is fake,' and I realized that it is. I had a nose job the moment I was allowed to, I spend hours on my appearance, I make friends with people I don't really like. I'm fake as anything."
She then sits down, avoiding all eye contact.
We perform our number and all I can think about is Quinn, until Dave appears in the auditorium. He asks Mr. Schue quietly if he would let him auditon for glee club. Mr. Schue says yes and casually asks him in typical Schuester fashion, "Well, what would your shirt say if you were involved in this assignment?"
Dave blinks and looks at Kurt. "It'd say, I liked him."
I am so excited for prom. Finn and I…well, actually I have made most of our plans. He let me because well, he's like most guys when it comes to dance stuff. He doesn't really know how to do any of it and I don't think he really wants to. To everyone's surprise, Kurt is going with David. They're still very tentative with each other, given their past, but Kurt's eyes got all big and he got all excited when he realized he and Dave could stick it to the homophobes who are getting scary when it comes to the former bully.
"He's scared," Kurt tells me, sitting down across from me at the lunch table. "I don't really blame him, honestly. He's not only dealing with homophobia, but the people who act like he's betrayed them."
"I've gotten that a few times lately," I admit. "As if people give all of their secrets away to the people they meet in passing at school."
He shrugs. "I'm still so excited for prom."
We get ready hours before the event itself. I know that Kurt wouldn't have it any other way. He looks fantastic and has decided to wear a kilt as a further fashion statement. I have chosen a dress that Kurt assures me is lovely. "You look beautiful, Rachel," he says, helping me do my hair. "I will bet you my life savings that Finn's jaw hits the floor the moment that he sees you. He's going to flip."
I shrug and look at myself in the mirror. I am proud of what I see. "I don't know about that Kurt, but thank you."
"Did you hear the rumors that Finn's going to make Prom King?" Kurt asks, looking at me curiously. "How would you feel to be dating royalty?"
I laugh at that. "I dunno," I say. I'm not big on stuff like Prom King and Queen. It doesn't appeal to me because even though it would give a nice boost in popularity, it is also extremely shallow. "I'll be proud of him if he makes king, of course, but it doesn't matter. Is it stupid of me to say that I hope Quinn doesn’t get queen though? I know it is."
"Not really," he says. "I think that level of jealousy is natural."
I don't know if it's jealousy, exactly. Well, yes it is. As fake as she claims to be, Quinn has always been this image of the perfect girl for me. I can't help hope that someone else gets the position if my boyfriend is elected king. Not Quinn, the unobtainable girl.
When Finn arrives, his reaction is similar to what Kurt describes. He stands in front of me, looking handsome his tuxedo. He smiles, looks me up and down and his jaw does drop a little. "Rachel," he says, "you look absolutely beautiful." My heart jumps up and down in my chest but I try to keep it under control. I smile at him and he takes my hand, before giving me my corsage. It matches my dress perfectly, so I am under the assumption that Kurt helped.
"Do you mean that?" I ask, before I can stop myself. I know that sometimes I come off to Finn as very insecure but I can't help myself. These things just come out before I can handle them logically. I take a deep breath. I look away, embarrassed.
He kisses me, which is a better answer than a simple yes. I kiss him back and look into his sincere eyes. You can see so much looking into someone's eyes and Finn is incredibly gentle inside. I hug him tightly and we head out to go to our junior prom. It's more than I can ask for and yes, I am so happy.
The prom is beautiful, even if it is in the gym. I can't help smile the moment that Finn and I enter. It is cheesy, using every eighties movie cliché, but it's perfect. I hold onto Finn's arm and walk around until we find some of our friends at a table. Dave and Kurt are there. Dave looks pale and a little mortified, but I'm sure that Kurt's presence is calming. Kurt is good at that. "How are you guys doing?" I ask.
"Not bad," Kurt says. "Did his jaw drop?"
Finn laughs at Kurt's words. "Yes, yes it did," he says, looking at me with a smile that can only be described as adoring.
"How are you doing Dave?" I ask.
The boy nods slowly, an awkward expression on his face. "I'm fine Rachel," he tells me. "Nervous, but it's okay."
We have so much fun. Finn and I dance several times and he doesn't even step on my feet. Figgins invited the glee club to sing a few songs, so we provide a little bit of entertainment as well. We are surprisingly well received, which leads me to believe that people are too far caught up in their prom to hate on us. I don't think anything is as amazing as dancing with my arms around Finn, caught up in him.
I am not too caught up to notice David and Kurt dancing, which I find adorable. "He's pretty good," I mouth at Kurt over Finn's shoulder. Kurt nods. David is one of those people who is going to continuously surprise us, I think.
The prom announcements come at eleven-thirty. I watch good-naturedly. Figgins looks disturbed as he reads the card in his hands to himself. He looks cornered, like he does not know what to do. "I'm afraid the King and Queen ballots have been inexplicably gender reversed," he says. "Your Prom King is Miss Rachel Berry and your Prom Queen is Mr. Kurt Hummel."
I pause and stare. Finn looks at me like he expects me to react. It is obviously a prank and the ballot box was obviously stuffed in a take that to the McKinley Alliance. I look over at Kurt, who is shaking his head into Dave's shoulder like they're best friends, rather than hesitant prom dates. He looks close to tears. "This is ridiculous," I say, loud enough for everyone to hear. "It is obviously a prank against the McKinley Alliance." I hold my breath so that I do not cry, but I feel the tears threatening to prick through.
I walk over to where Kurt and Dave are standing and grab Kurt's hand. I look around me, enraged. "Whoever pulled this prank, own up to it. Principal Figgins, I assure you that someone competent like Coach Beiste can help you recount the votes. Meanwhile, Kurt and I are going to take the next dance because you all suck. The McKinley Alliance is the only hope of equality in this stupid town."
The Principal looks shocked at my outburst. Coach Beiste is already running up to his side. I know that I won't get in trouble. I grab Kurt and put my arms around his waist. Tina, bless her soul, who was slated to sing the next number, starts into it with the band. I dance with Kurt, unafraid of anything. I can't be afraid of anything.
Quinn and Finn are announced as the "real" Prom King and Queen later on, but I cling to Kurt, feeling that even if it was negative our club has made a difference.
The McKinley Alliance tops its membership shortly after prom with twelve members. It seems that Kurt and I have made a difference, even if it's not gigantic. I take them all in with so much pride. Sure, the majority of our members are still glee kids, but c'mon, we got Santana after prom and Dave. That's a big deal. There are also two more girls, Sara and Melissa. People are focusing and trying to make a difference. I am proud.
Sandra, the freshman who has been around since day one, approaches me shyly the moment that I enter the room. "Rachel," she says. "I think that I know who pulled the prank on you and Kurt during the junior prom. I overheard them saying it but they didn't pay me any attention because I'm just a nobody freshman. It was a group of girls. I think that most of them were on the Cheerios."
Santana looks livid and leans over and whispers something to Brittany. "We'll take care of them, Berry," she mumbles after Brittany says something in a scolding tone. Brittany is good for Santana. She rounds her out or something.
"It doesn't really matter," I promise Sandra. "The prank was cruel and was trying to mess with Kurt and I for our identities, but it also brought attention to the club that Figgins would have never let us get anyway. It let people know that people are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and a million other identities. Nothing is straight and narrow and maybe for once McKinley has something right."
"Maybe you're right," she says gentle.
The rest of the meeting is eventful. We discuss fundraisers because we have absolutely no money and getting a club field trip to a small pride event in Columbus. Kurt and I are going anyway so we're going to try and find a means to get our whole club there. I am inspired and feeling good. I am who I am and it's pretty damned awesome. I'm excited for the club's future.
That afternoon after our meeting, I end up talking to Dave and Kurt. They decide that they want to go on a real date, but are both nervous. "Would you and Finn want to um, double up?" Kurt asks. He looks insanely insecure but I am more than eager to agree for both myself and my boyfriend. I know that double dates seem a little cheesy to someone like Kurt but it seems to me like it will take the pressure off.
After school, Kurt and I go to the mall. I am usually very hesitant to go to the mall when Kurt Hummel is involved but I am taking the risk today. It is not very crowded because of the time of day and the fact that it is a weekday. We walk through shops and do the usual things. I even let Kurt pick an outfit for me under the condition that his choice not be too extravagant or too expensive.
"I don't know about this," I say, holding up a black dress. It seems a little bit revealing compared to what I am used to. Big sweaters and loose skirts usually work to conceal things a little better than this particular tight-fitting number.
"Trust me Rachel," he says, and I do.
I come out of the dressing room, wearing what Kurt has suggested. His jaw drops as he claps. "Oh my goodness Rachel," he says, looking me up and down with bright eyes. "You look absolutely beautiful. You have got to wear that on our double date. I demand it of you. You look stunning, marvelous, perfect."
I smile as he goes on and on. "Okay, okay," I relent, knowing that Kurt has never been the type to let it go easily.
We talk a little bit at the mall too. I ask him how he feels about our date. "I really like Dave," he admits. "It's way too early to jump into a relationship with him, because, well, up until a few weeks ago he was my worst bully. I do like that we have a friendship going on and I'm learning so much about his personality. We don't have a lot in common, exactly, but we have a lot to alk about if that makes sense."
"That makes sense," I say brightly. It's kind of like Finn and me. We don't have a ton of interests in common but we can always hold a conversation and we just click. I hope the best for Dave and Kurt in the future and I can't wait for the date.
The date is that Saturday and like most Lima dates we end up going to Breadstix. Finn stares at me for the longest time as I enter the restaurant wearing my new dress. Kurt, who is already there as well, leans back and crosses his arms, nodding at me in that know-it-all manner that is both infuriating and endearing. "Rachel, you look beautiful," he says, just as Dave arrives and gives Kurt a friendly hug. He's still terrified, but my focus is more on my man for a moment.
"Kurt picked it out," I say, giving credit where credit is due.
The date goes surprisingly well. Finn and Dave talk a little about football and Kurt and I listen as intently as we can. It is surprising to hear how much the McKinley Titans have changed. We talk about Nationals for glee and I remind Dave that even though he's new, we'd totally love it if he came along to New York. He promises to talk to his parents about it. I know financially it's not always an option and well, not everyone has been saving for Nationals all year like me.
The time passes by very quickly. I realize how easy it is to underestimate people as a stereotype and not realize all the good in them. I realize, for example, that though David likes video games and football like the typical jock, he also really enjoys classic films like Kurt and I. Kurt, fashion diva that he is, defies many stereotypes when he starts rambling about fixing Dave's beat up truck before it dies. We're not stereotypes, we're people. We also all get along on what is a very, very successful double date.
"What are you guys thinking as far as a Nationals set list?" Mr. Schue asks and, of course, I'm prepared to answer.
I stand up and can literally hear an audible sigh. I turn to glare back at Quinn. We've evolved lately from rivals, to friendly rivals. I smile. "We need a group number that highlights and focuses on each of our individual strengths. Most of our opponents at Nationals are going to center around a strong singer but we need to center around all of our strong singers."
Mr. Schue looks impressed. He stares. "Rachel, that's different," he says. I know it is. I have realized that I will not abandon my goal of stardom for anything but I am also here for my friends. A good star is only as good as their team. It's hard to do this but I keep my head high and force it. "I've noticed a huge change in you."
"This whole choir is skilled," I say calmly. "We'll do great highlighting a unique sound."
We spend the rest of the rehearsal session brainstorming numbers that would accurately showcase all of the talent we have. It's not easy. I find that I am learning a lot about myself in the last couple of weeks. It makes me happy. I think for the first time in a long time, I am very pleased with myself and who I have become. I'm also happy about New Directions and how far we've come as a group. Nationals is going to be fantastic.
It also comes faster than any of us were prepared for.
On the plane, I sit and watch the interaction between my friends but I do not take much part in it. I have Defying Gravity playing on my ipod, reminding me of all the goals that I've held for myself and how nothing is going to stop me from getting them. I watch as Puck and Lauren flirt loudly in the row behind me and roll my eyes, turning to look at everyone else. Kurt is ranting to Mercedes about something, arms flailing and eyes wide. Finn and Mike are getting restless because they're starting to shove each other in their messing around.
I can't believe its happening. I wanted this so badly for so long. New York is my favorite place in the whole world and now New Directions are hitting up New York. We're going to show all the other show choirs exactly what we're made of.
We land in the early evening. I look around me as we go to college our luggage and something just hits me. I stop and there are tears streaming down my face. Finn catches up with me and puts his arms around me. "Rachel, you're crying," he says. He always makes me feel so small, but at the same time so loved and protected. I look up at him and smile, nodding a little.
"I am," I admit. "We made it Finn."
We get to our hotel after that. We only booked two hotel rooms so the boys are stuffed in one and the girls in another. Mr. Schue is probably the most ridiculous excuse for an educator ever and leaves us. Kurt and I take it as our golden opportunity. It is Kurt's idea. He sits cross-legged in a chair in the girls room and his eyes light up; they positively sparkle with energy. "Rachel," he said. "The Gershwin Theater isn't far from here. Mr. Schue has left the building. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
It's dangerous, potentially stupid and not the best idea ever but I take the golden opportunity and nod. Kurt and I take off down the New York streets maybe fifteen minutes later. I hold his hand most of the time, nervous about the crowds. I have always admired New York's buzz and activity but at the same time I'm a Lima girl. It intimidates me. I know I'll have to get used to it but that doesn't mean it's comfortable yet.
By an act of God and a forgiving security guard, we are able to sneak in the theater. I can't even accurately describe what we saw. There it was, in all its glory, the set of one of the best present day musicals to exist. Standing on that stage, I could feel the rush of energy that must come from the crowd when Elphaba makes her gravity defying flight. I stand there in the middle of the stage and all of the desire I have floods through, coupled with the emotions that are just attached to this scenery.
"You feel the same way I do, seeing this," Kurt whispers, looking at me. I can see the faintest traces of tears in his pretty eyes. Kurt is the only person I have ever met who can understand what something like this means to me. I look around and don't speak. All I can do is nod at his statement. He knows it. He feels it too. He shares my dreams. We both stare at that big clock and we feel it. "You know that we can't get through this without singing, right Rachel?" he asks. "Your voice deserves to be heard."
We sing "For Good" and it's the perfect choice. It describes our friendship. It is who we are. We're two people who are painfully alike and who have experienced a real up and down relationship. I love Kurt. He's changed me for the better and I know that. He's brought me from a selfish girl who couldn't see beyond her own dreams to who I am today. I love him so much. We both have a lot to apologize for, actions in our past toward each other that have absolutely sucked, but we're also best friends, for now and forever.
"We're going to be friends for the rest of our lives, right Kurt?" I ask. I used to say that friendship didn't mean a thing to me, not compared to my dreams, but Kurt's friendship is more important than any other relationship that I've ever had.
He hugs me. He actually initiates the hug. "For good, even though that is probably the cheesiest thing I have ever said."
I have to say that the Nationals competition at least makes the taunting and teasing I receive different. Instead of being called a man a hundred times daily, girls from Vocal Adrenaline walk by and make snide remarks about eggs. I don't think I'll ever forget Jesse's betrayal, but at the same time it doesn't sting anymore, which makes their remarks useless. Jesse St. James isn't a part of my life anymore. Preparing to perform is terrifying. These are the best show choirs in the whole country, after all. With choirs from big places like Los Angeles, New York City itself and everywhere else, the changes of a small town Ohio choir doing any damage is minimal. The other choirs also have many other Nationals level competitions under their belts while we do not. Still, I have to think on the bright side. Maybe we will be able to defy the expectations of us.
"Are you scared?" Finn asks. I wonder if my fear is obvious. I think I'm the person who's the most afraid here. It's because I want the success so damned much. I turn to him and try my best to manage a smile. I don't think it comes out the way I want it to, because Finn makes a face that is slightly awkward.
"A little," I say, forcing out the words that downplay my terror. "I mean, this is a big deal to me, Finn."
"I know it is," he says, wrapping both arms around me and hugging me tightly. God, he always makes me feel so tiny. I smile and hug him back, feeling genuinely better even though my good attitude is a little on he forced side. "We're going to do fantastic Rachel. Even if we don't come out on top, the fact that we made it here is a big deal. I was looking at the program and a lot of the choirs are from places like LA, Seattle, Chicago, here…nobody expected us to make it. We're awesome."
I love how he always knows exactly what to say. We've had our ups and downs and a rough time with some things, but he is most definitely the one for me. I squeeze him tight and then look at the clock. "I'm going to go fix myself up. My god, Finn, it's almost time for us to go on!"
Running high on adrenaline, I rush to one of the women's rooms. When I arrive, I find a person that I do not expect. It makes me more nervous than public restrooms normally do on a daily basis, honestly. Sunshine was a new student at McKinley in September. Overcome by jealousy of the dainty, feminine girl with a powerhouse of a voice, I did something that was completely unforgivable for her. "Uh hi," I mumble, fixing my hair in the mirror. "Good luck out there today. Everyone's saying that Vocal Adrenaline is…bound to take their next consecutive Nationals title. We're still going to fight hard though."
The anxious girl looks at me. "Why are you talking to me?" she asks. "I haven't forgiven you. I'm not a bitter person Rachel, but I did allow myself to be quite amused at my friend's jokes at your expense."
I blink. Well at least she's bluntly honest. Now is not a good time for an emotional overflow but I let it out. "I'm sorry for what I did to you earlier this year," I say. "If Vocal Adrenaline crushes us again, it will be my fault and I'll deserve it. There was no amount of jealousy that made that okay. You were just so amazing and I didn't want you to take from me what I'd worked so hard to make my own. It was wrong and now I know that every person deserves a chance to shine. Jealousy will only get you so far and the only things that actually worked for me this year were those moments when I was unashamedly myself without hurting others."
She turns to me. She blinks and laughs some.
"You've changed in nine months," she says plainly. "I totally accept your apology Rachel. You know, one of my American born cousins goes to McKinley still. I know what went down. I can see why that would contribute to your obsessive, jealous behavior. You should know that a lot of the Vocal Adrenaline girls make fun of you out of jealousy too. You're beautiful and talented. We're going to win anyway, of course, but we'll have quite a fight with your choir."
She walks out of the bathroom with a lot less anxiety and more confidence. I am still reeling at that. I have hurt people like Sunshine, Quinn, Santana, purely out of the fact that I wanted to be more like them. The truth is though, I like me. I like being me. I finish dressing and cleaning by myself and then it's time to go on. We are flawless. We do three numbers, all which are balanced and showcase the variety and power of our choir. I can't help reflect, just as we finish, about what a beautiful variety we have. There is not one generic voice. We have soul singers, sweet, pure voices, rock and r&b sounds, basically, we have everything the other groups are offering and more. We are as perfect as we can be. The other choirs, of course, are fantastic too.
"Oh dear God," Puck whispers from his seat next to mine, watching as Sunshine leads Vocal Adrenaline in an amazing number. Quinn looks at Santana and both girls look like they're going to throw up when a local choir performs a number with more choreography than we could manage if we were all as good as Mike and Brittany.
When we go to check the rankings, Mr. Schue gathers us all together. "Remember guys," he says, "winning isn't everything. This is our first shot at a Nationals competition and you guys did amazing. I am so proud of you." We do place in the top ten, which is miraculous. I don't think I've ever cried so hard and I just may have broken Kurt by squeezing him so tightly. Unfortunately, when the final judging occurs, we place in seventh.
"That's awesome guys," I say, hugging anyone I can get a hold of. "This was just our first try. Some of us are seniors next year, so we'll try harder than ever. We'll win next year." I know, without a doubt, that next year is ours. I have learned so much this year about who I am, about being myself and I know that this is ours.