Theatre kids are annoying.
Sure, Rachel’s heard that word used to describe herself more times in her life than the average person hears their own name (and of course this fact was born out of complete jealousy and a pedestrian, Midwestern inability to understand a performer’s nature), but she hadn’t truly understood its meaning outside of the textbook definition until now. Everything previously believed to be annoying -- her Dad’s “no TV after 9pm” rule or a youtube singer that relied entirely on runs having a higher ‘subscriber’ count than she -- were mild irritations at best.
NYADA is amazing, but being caught in the throes of a constant state of competition is annoying. Being surrounded by peers who live and breathe their talent is a godsend (this space is reserved for gifted people doing gifted things, mediocre dullards that loiter near Kwik Stop slush-o-matics are nowhere to be found), but Rachel has grown infinitely tired of meeting girls that consider Streisand, LuPone, and Garland to be the Holy Trinity (because that was her thing), and never hearing We’ve Got Magic to Do again is becoming a life goal very close to the top tier next to EGOTing (because no one really cares how good a high school production of Pippin was), and God she would give just about anything to not have to be on all the time because it’s all so annoying.
“Run your character by me one more time, Rach. I made some minor changes to my background, and I want to make sure we still mesh.”
Eyeliner positioned mere inches away from her lashes, Rachel slightly turns her head in the direction of the bathroom door where her roommate, Fi, leans against the frame.
Tonight Rachel Barbra Berry is Genevieve Pound of the Boston Pounds. She is the youngest daughter of Lilah and Eric Pound. Her oldest sister, CiCi, is an art dealer in Willamsburg that specializes in drivel molded from the blood, sweat, and tears of men with ironic mustaches. Zelda, the middle child, will graduate Stanford in the spring and carries a deep complex about her name (“It’s the twenty-first century; ‘Zelda’ does not say Jay Gatsby, it says ‘Hyrule’.”) Her father is a dentist that spends most of his time fixing teeth in third world countries and looking very serious. Her mother is an attorney and she knows Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” by heart, and when she was a little girl, Genny (a nickname she doesn’t much care for now) would request to hear it as a bedtime song. The Pounds spend their summers in Martha’s Vineyard. Winters at a little cabin up in Big Bear. They keep Kosher.
“Dad totally gave me disappointed face when I told him I’d picked philosophy as my major, but he’s a softie underneath the heavy brow. He just wants me to be happy,” Rachel finishes and sweeps her bangs to the side with her fingertips.
“It’s good, but…Genevieve?” Fi scrunches her face around the name. “Seriously?”
“What? It’s a classic with an air of ‘old money’.” Rachel scoffs.
“It’s a shut-in that lives on a hill and hoards cats,” Fi says.
Rachel frowns. “It’s stately and dignified - you have awful taste.”
“It’s litter box smell, Rachel. It’s ‘I scream at traffic and never put the trash out’.”
Rachel narrows her eyes before turning towards the mirror to give herself a final once over. She unties the knot in the sweater draped over her shoulder and tosses it aside - it felt like too much. “We are not doing Southie.”
“Oh come on!” Fi pouts and stomps her foot for exaggerated dramatic effect. “I watched Good Will Hunting like five times a day to get that accent down. I need to try it out like I need air.”
“You said I could pick,” Rachel says smugly. “This weekend is ‘old money’, next is ‘disenfranchised Catholic youth’. We can’t flip-flop on this, Fiona as I think it would be extremely beneficial for us to commit to our pre-selected roles. You wouldn’t tell Woody Allen, ‘Annie Hall is great, but I think she’d be even better if I played her as a north London factory worker’.” With a self-assured nod at her reflection, Rachel faced Fi. “Plus, I made a chart and I don’t want to scribble all over it.”
“Fine.” Fi sighed. “I’m going to grab my purse, ready when you are.”
In the eighth grade, Mitzie Huntzinger loudly announced that she could see the outline of Fi’s pad through her gym shorts when bent over during a mandatory game of volleyball. Through the magic of social networking some six years later, Fi pretended to not still be pissed off over this incident in order to up her friend count and spy on Mitzie’s bad life decisions. Mitzie’s profile picture revealed a blonde with a bright smile sitting in front of a giant gold margarita. Mitzie’s sombrero is festive, her friends work kissy faces that have surely been perfected through yeas and years of angled pictures mirrors. Mitzie is a big fan of E! and likes all of Ryan Seacrest’s status updates. Mitzie loves profound quotes such as “dance as if no one is watching” and “if you don’t love me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best”. Mitzie is a sophomore at Yale majoring in intoxicated social interaction with a minor in Political Science, and her page is a glutton of party invites so Fi thought it would be a great idea to take the train to New Haven in order to see Mitzie’s Freshman 15 in person (“think of it as a guerilla acting exercise if it makes you feel better.”)
Though the prospect of real world application excited Rachel (and she would have a detailed report for her scripting class come Monday), she truthfully only agreed to tag along to get out of another Saturday night of beers and stories about vocal ability coming before walking ability. Because bragging is immensely annoying when not being done in the sound of her own voice.
Before they leave the dorm, Rachel grabs her previously discarded sweater just in case New England turns out to resemble the 1986 Polo ad she pictures.
Rachel spots the auburn wig hiding Fi’s mousy curls just over Sweatervest’s shoulder. It is kind of rude, but she can’t remember his name, so she’s taken to referring to the boy in front of her that has one hand jammed in the pocket of his skinny jeans and hangs on her every word like secrets of the universe are spilling from her tongue by his attire in her mind.
Sweatervest nods at all of the appropriate intervals, is dimpled, blue-eyed, and has a pleasant timbre to his voice. He was neither lame (“Is that mirror in your pants? Because I can see myself in them”) nor snooze worthy (“So, uh you come here often?”) when he struck up a dialogue with her in front of the Natty Light cases. He has a name Rachel can’t quite remember, and an earnest look that makes her almost regret the load of bullshit she’s feeding him. Perhaps in a different time or a different place this encounter could’ve been something. As a sophomore, she is due for the great college romance of her life; someone thoroughly East Coast upper crust would make for a fantastic bookend to Finn’s All-American high school hero in her future Behind the Music episode. But, Rachel’s mentally filed away his reaction to the story about “Zelda” because her professor will be happy to know she pulled off a tale of familial resentment with a little more Igby Goes Down and a lot less Lifetime
Sweatervest calls her “Genny” and she tries not to cringe because he is just a bit player in the Rachel Berry Story, and she was very clear about that nickname being a childhood fancy Genevieve had left behind.
Rachel drums her fingers on the rim of her solo cup and inches forward to let a line of girls in sparkly tops scoot by (New Haven is not at all what she thought it would be, and her sweater now hung limply from the crook of her left arm.) “Dad totally gave me disappointed face when I told him I’d picked philosophy as my major, but he’s a softie underneath the heavy brow. He just wants me to be happy.”
Sweatervest’s smile takes up his whole face. “You’re a philosophy major?”
She nods enthusiastically. “Absolutely. If it wasn’t for my trust fund, I’d be training four years to wait tables.”
“So am I!” He swipes his thick, dark hair out of his face. “I’ve never seen you around campus.” His eyes give her the once over from head to toe. “I would’ve remembered.”
“Oh well, you know.” Rachel sips at her drink. “It’s a big campus, and I mostly like to sit in the back of the classroom.”
He nods. “Who’s your favorite philosopher?”
“Oh well, you know…” Another drink and she clears her throat to stall for time. “There’s just so many to choose from. Impossible really to pick a favorite…”
To her right, immediately after someone screams about having stepped in vomit, Rachel hears, “Leibniz” and a pit opens up in her stomach when recognition hits. She’s had nightmares like this - being caught by the perpetual cool kids pretending to be something she’s not. Back then the dreams always ended in bloodshed no matter how friendly glee practice had been that week.
“…When I brought this very subject up the other day, she couldn’t shut up about him. The girl loves her monads.”
Quinn Fabray looks strage. Not in a major physical change sort of way, but in that unexplainable air people get about them when not seen in a while. Quinn is still gorgeous, but not the seventeen kind of gorgeous. Quinn still appears aloof, but now it says ‘mysterious’ instead of ‘obnoxious’. Quinn looks settled, the planes of her face have grown deceptively mature, and they may have parted McKinley High on positive terms, but Quinn Fabray has just caught Rachel Berry in a potentially embarrassing situation, and there is a sliver of a memory of what a pain cherry slush stains are to get out of skin and clothes in the back of Rachel’s mind.
Quinn smiles at Rachel, and it’s warm but mostly strange. “I hate to be that girl, but I was hoping to pick your brain about my essay topic.” She sweetly tilts her head at Sweatervest and wraps her fingers around Rachel’s wrist. “I’ll only keep her away for the length of a cigarette. Cross my heart.”
Rachel has time to form her lips around “oh” before she is dragged towards the door. She’s had nightmares about Quinn Fabray yanking her away from boys - even the ones she has no interest in. Quinn’s grip is firm, she doesn’t utter another word or bother to glance back as she steers them both through the crowd. An army of bouncing, evil pony-tails is missing, and Quinn did willingly receive several hugs before and after their high school graduation, but Rachel’s half sure there will be blood. After all they haven’t seen each other in two years and for all she knew, Inner!Peace Quinn could be gone. There could have been another accidental pregnancy and borderline-personality disorder style identity crises in that time.
Once they’ve made it to the back porch, Rachel takes in a lungful of cold air and watches anxiously as Quinn pads the pockets of her jacket.
(If a girl screams for her life while dubstep is playing does everyone just assume they’re hearing a new Skrillex song?)
“Of all the parties in all the world…” Quinn says around the cigarette now dangling from her mouth.
“I came with a friend - my roommate as a matter of fact. She’s incredible at holding a grudge, and she wanted to prove a girl she went to high school with photoshops the acne out of her Facebook pictures, and I won’t be staying very long…”
“I’m sure Fi - my roommate - will be ready to go at any minute, and besides, I don’t plan on coming up to New Haven ever again; the whole last row of the train smelled like moth balls…”
“I mean, that’s why I told Sweatervest - uh, that guy - I’m a student here. You see, Quinn, I’ve always wanted to be dreamy and elusive to someone and since I’m never coming back I figured there’d be no harm in a false identity…”
“I didn’t know you smoked - uh forget it, that’s none of my business, and I’ll pray that you don’t get premature wrinkles or cancer…”
“I’m just gonna head back inside and grab my friend and we’ll be on our way so you won’t have to worry about me cramping your style or anything. I didn’t know you’d be here, I mean, I knew you went to Yale - I congratulated you on your acceptance more than once as a matter of fact - I didn’t know you’d be here, but I turned around and there you were! How long had you been standing there anyway? No-no, don’t answer that. This is your school and it’s a free country, you can stand anywhere you’d like. It was nice seeing you, Quinn…”
“Rachel!” Quinn chuckles and the smoke from the Marlboro between her fingertips forms a giant cloud with the visible evidence of her breath against the night sky. “How are you?”
“Fine,” Rachel tells her with a sheepish smile. “Great, actually. NYADA is proving to be very fulfilling, and how long had you been standing there?”
Quinn shrugs. “Not long,” she says. “Genevieve is a cat lady name by the way.”
“It’s dignified.” Rachel frowns.
“Well it certainly doesn’t have that old-timey staying power like ‘Quinn’ for instance, but it carries a quiet yet strong sort of elegance that I think is integral for a character with Genevieve’s background.”
“Are you seriously arguing about your fake name right now?” Quinn says taking another pull from her cigarette.
Rachel huffs. “A lot of thought went into that name.”
Quinn quietly finishes and flicks the butt into a nearby bush. “The train is gross and disturbing, but you should come back to New Haven sometime. Is your number still the same?”
“It is,” Rachel answers after an embarrassingly long pause. “I couldn’t bear to part with the Lima area code. Isn’t that silly? After all that time I spent dreaming about getting out when I finally do I still want to be connected.”
Quinn smiles. “It’s not that silly. I’ll give you a call sometime.” She trudges very carefully over the worn patch of slushed snow, puts a hand on the doorknob, and glances over her shoulder. “My number’s changed,” she says.
On the way back to New York, Rachel half listens to Fi talk about Mitzie’s pockmarks and Googles the New Haven area code so that when Quinn calls, she won’t answer the phone with a suspicious tone.