We are remembered more for what we destroy than what we create.
But I have created and destroyed myself so often that I have lost track of how many Quinn Fabrays I've been since I gave away Lucy only to reveal the dark prescence lurking underneath my skin. I added drug addict to my never-ending list of labels (teen mom, HBIC, manic-depressive, temporary paraplegic), and for some reason, sitting in this dusty rehab dorm room, this one feels like the worst one yet. I couldn't control this Quinn, couldn't keep her under wraps, and she ended up letting her poison out into the world where everyone could see.
I thought the pills would help numb the loneliness, but that's not why I took them, no matter what Santana thinks. I hoped they would help push aside the fear that coils like a snake in the pit of my belly. The fear that I don't have a name. That I have too many names. That I don't know my name. That if I stripped down, moved my mind to the side, peeled back the layers of scarred skin I have accumulated over the years... I would find a serpent's head staring back at me, smiling, and she would eat me whole.
Jump to me, sitting cross legged on my bedroom floor in a white sundress, surrounded by an assortment of painkillers hoping that if I took enough of them I would look at myself in the mirror and love what I saw. But Santana came barreling in, holding two coffees and babbling about the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy. Dark eyes wavered and danced down to my hands, clutching little blue miracles.
Pill bottles were scattered around me. Santana did the math. One-two-three-six. Too many.
I cried and I cried and I cried. I don't remember how much time I spent on that carpet, sobbing my eyes out. Santana's arms wrapped themselves around my torso and I fell against her body. I didn't look into her eyes. I was afraid that if I did, the serpent would latch onto her and destroy her, too.
Jump to me, standing in rehab-issued leggings and an ugly grey cardigan with no buttons waiting for my roommate to come barreling through the door. S. Hastings, the paper said. I imagine twenty lives for S. Hastings. In one she is a ballerina named Sara who fell through the cracks and buckled under the pressure of beauty. In another she is a rebel named Salma who was destined to be in this place since she came out of the womb. In many she is both and neither; just like me, a girl with many names.
She comes barreling through the door, with the body of a ballerina but lacking the grace. Her head falls against the door of the room when she shuts it and she takes a deep breath. I feel like I'm intruding, bearing witness to something I'm not supposed to. I clear my throat.
Her head turns, eyes rabid.
"Who the hell are you?"
"My name is Quinn Fabray," I answer, tilting my head at the way her eyes look panicked.
She narrows her eyes at me, "Are you lying?"
"Maybe, but I don't know any other answer I can give you right now that would be any more true."
"I'm not in the mood for games."
"Good," I tell her, "Because I'm not playing any."
Her breathing slows down some, but not enough to calm my nerves. She asks, "Where are you from?"
"Far enough from Rosewood. Do you know Alison Dilaurentis?"
I tilt my head, "Who?"
"Nobody important. I'm Spencer Hastings."
Jump to a week later. Spencer and I have barely spoken besides cordialities, but we have banded together due to need more than anything else. She doesn't seem to speak to any of the other paitients. So I sit with her at breakfast, and we partner up for group therapy, but we don't talk. I think it calms her to know I'm not eager to ask many questions.
A girl moves in next door. Her name is Angela, and she's a mute. Or at least I think she is, because she hasn't said a word to anyone since she came in. Spencer doesn't seem all too happy about it.
I catch her at night with her ear pressed to the wall separating our rooms.
"Spencer? What are you doing?"
"Shh," Spencer says, and puts her ear flat against the wall once again.
"You know Angela's mute, right? If you're trying to get secrets out of her you'd probably have more luck looking through her room. For a diary or something."
"She's not a mute." Spencer's eyes dance wildly around the room as if she's let out something she wasn't supposed to.
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"She is pretending to be a mute. Spying on me. She's letting someone on the outside know everything about my life." Spencer's voice shakes and she finally detaches her ear from the wall and slides her back down until she's sitting on the floor.
"Why would she do that?"
"I don't know, Quinn. She just is. I can feel it." She takes a shaky breath and sniffles, "I thought in here I would finally be away from all this. From her. But she follows me here too."
I get out of bed and slide down next to her. A few tears have slipped out of the corners of her eyes and her breathing is shaky, but she isn't crying yet. It breaks my heart to know that she wants to.
"What are you trying to get away from?"
"Rosewood. Myself. A."
"A?" I ask.
"My friend Alison was murdered. After her death someone started threatening me and my friends. Sending texts. Leaving weird packages. Trapping us in remote places. Everything was signed A. I think it drove me crazy, trying to solve it. I can't tell what's real and what isn't anymore."
"I'm sorry," I say, because it seems more appropriate than goddamn, although that also correctly describes how I'm feeling.
"Yeah, me too."
"The curtain is blue," I say.
"The curtain is blue. Nurse Raymond is crazier than we are. The chicken that they serve us is definitely not chicken. You look cuter in those rehab clothes than I even thought possible."
Spencer scoffs and tilts her head, "What are you talking about?"
"These are all things that are real. And you know what else is real?" I wrap an arm around her shoulders in a friendly gesture. "Angela is a little damaged, but she is not trying to kill you. She is five feet tall, so even if she was, I could take her."
Spencer laughs, and it is the most beautiful sound I have ever heard. "You'd do that for me?"
"No, I'd do it for myself. I haven't gotten in a good old catfight in a while, so it would be a good release." I nudge her shoulder with mine. "Of course I'd do it for you. That's what friends do."
Jump to group therapy. Five of us are sitting around a table and Doctor Ramirez is trying to get us to talk about what's going on in our lives. Kevin has been talking for a few minutes now. He's here trying to kick a heroin addiction.
"What about you, Quinn? Why are you here?" Dr. Ramirez asks, tilting her head at me in that way only therapists know how to do.
"I was in a car accident. I got addicted to the painkillers."
"Thank you, Quinn." Dr. Ramirez sits back in her chair. "Anyone else?"
"I was the top of my class in school. I took Adderall to stay awake and got addicted to it," Spencer says this to the group but looks directly at me.
My heart pounds.
Jump to Spencer and I sitting cross legged on my bed at 1:08 AM. Spencer had a nightmare and woke up sweating, so she climbed into my bed. I rub the sleep out of my eyes and turn to her. The moonlight is streaming in through the window and her ghastly pale skin looks translucent. The purple, crescent moon shapes under her eyes contrast against her skin.
"What's your favorite color?" Spencer asks.
"Yellow," I say, without waiting or hesitating. It was the color of Beth's hair when she was born, when I pressed my nose into the center of her little head. Yellow. Sunshine. Happiness. All the things that I want Beth to have even if I never got to touch them. "What's yours?"
"I don't have one." Spencer shrugs. "But if I had to pick, I think I'd pick lavender. Calming lavender. That's what I wish my life was like. Why is your favorite color yellow?"
"I had a baby at sixteen and I gave her away. Now she's a big gaping wound in my chest that I don't know how to fill. Her hair was bright blonde when she was born."
"I'm sorry," Spencer says, "Is that why you're here?"
"The painkiller thing was true. That car crash got me hooked. But maybe. My life has been a jump from tragedy to tragedy and God hasn't given me any room to breathe." I wring my hands in front of me.
"I'm here because of the Adderall, but I'm also here because of what happened to Alison. I drove myself insane trying to figure everything out."
"I have bipolar disorder," I admit.
"I am afraid of my own shadow." Spencer offers, "I want to be anyone but me, but nobody else is showing up to take my place."
"I ache to be myself but I have no idea who that is."
"I think I'm in here because I wanted to be perfect."
"I think I'm in here because I wanted to be loved." I hear my voice waver but I don't stop myself from crying. It doesn't seem important right now.
Spencer takes my hand.
We lie back against the bed and Spencer lays her head on my chest. The top of her head smells like lemons and I don't know why, but it's enough to make me start sobbing. Spencer holds me tighter against her.
She never lets go of my hand.
Jump to me sitting in a plastic chair in a visiting room waiting for my mom to arrive. Instead, I see Santana waltz in. Even in a place like this, her presence somwhow commands attention.
"Sup, Lucy Q?" Santana obnoxiously says as she plops down across from me.
"Where's my mom?" I ask.
"Geez, Q, I thought you'd be a little happier to see me."
"She didn't want to come, did she?" I look into Santana's eyes and I see her waver.
"She was drunk wasn't she?" Santana doesn't answer but her face tells me everything I need to know. "Perfect. She's so in love with her fucking gin that she can't come and visit her junkie daughter. Judy never ceases to amaze me."
"I'm sorry, Quinn. I know you wish she could be here."
Guilt seeps into my chest and I smile at Santana even though I feel like crying. "It's okay. You're more of a family to me than she has ever been."
Santana smiles, "So, how is it being in here?"
I think of Spencer first.
"It's not as bad as I thought it would be. The food sucks. Withdrawal sucks. I have no idea what's going on outside of this place. But... I made a friend."
"Am I being replaced?" Santana puts a hand over her heart, pretending to be offended.
I laugh, "Never."
"So... who is he?" Santana raises a perfectly shaped eyebrow.
I tilt my head. "What makes you think it's a he?"
"Your eyes are twinkling in that way they only twinkle when you're interested in someone. So, what's his name?"
For some reason I don't correct her. Maybe I don't feel like arguing with her or maybe I just know that she's right. Spencer has a spell on me that I don't know how to break. "Spencer."
"Like the one from iCarly? Iconic."
"Shut up, San." I nudge her hand with mine.
"So how did you two meet?"
"They roomed you with a boy? This place should really not do that considering your history. I'd rather not come back and see you sporting a new bump if you know what I mean."
"Spencer is a girl."
Santana's eyes widen and she raises an eyebrow, "Oh? That's... new."
"Yeah. She's... wonderful. Beautiful like she came straight from a 1950s movie, smarter than anyone I've ever met, and so, so brave."
Santana laughs, "Q, you do realize you just described yourself, right?"
"No." I smile sadly, "She's a much, much, better person than I am."
She grabs my hand and squeezes my fingers softly, "You are the most corageous person I've ever met, Quinn. And the way you're describing this girl, she is just as crazy as you are. Spencer would be lucky to have you. It doesn't hurt to give it a shot."
I smile, "Thanks, San. I knew you had a heart."
"Don't tell anyone, Q. I've got a reputation to upkeep, and between you and Britt nobody is going to be scared of me anymore." She pouts.
"I'm not going to tell anyone, you big baby."
Santana's eyes grow serious all of a sudden, "I'm really glad you're okay, Quinn."
"Yeah, me too."
Jump to me in the cafeteria sitting next to Spencer. She looks better. The crescent moon shapes under her eyes are almost gone and her smile is sparkling. She is ethereal. Other paitients bustle around us but the only thing I can focus on is her. Part of me thinks that it's wrong to feel like this, the part that still cowers at the thought of God and Russell, who might as well be God with the way he punished me for my sins. But a larger part of me thinks that even if what I feel for Spencer is a sin, it doesn't come close to all the other shit I've done, so screw it.
"What are you looking at?" Spencer says, smiling.
"What about me?"
"You look better. Happy. Healthier."
Spencer shrugs, "I feel better. Not as scared all the time. This is a good place to get away from things, away from all the noise."
"You look better too, Quinn. You had something about you when I first met you. Like you were afraid of what people might think about you. But I don't see that as much now."
"I was afraid. Of what people would think about me. I'm a Fabray. Images are everything in my family. It doesn't matter if you're happy as long as other people think that you are. My dad... he... he wasn't a nice man. All Christian and self-righteous, but he hated everyone who was different from us. He acted super moralistic but behind closed doors he was a monster. He conditioned me and my sister to be afraid of screwing up, of pissing God off."
Spencer touches my knee under the table, "I'm sorry. You're speaking in past tense, though, is he..."
"No, but he may as well be. He abandoned us when I had Beth. I haven't heard from him since. I don't want to, either."
Spencer takes a deep breath, "My family was always cold. My parents are both lawyers. They aren't very religious, but they've always cared about keeping up appearances. My older sister and I have been competetive for as long as I can remember. She's always been the favorite child, living up to the Hastings name. I grew up in her shadow. At sixteen I found out that my dad had cheated on my mom with the neighbor, Alison's mom, and had a baby. I had a half-brother I didn't know about. When I confronted my dad about it, he refused to talk about it. He wanted to sweep it under the rug like all of our secrets in this family."
"You understand me more than anyone I've ever known," I confess.
Spencer smiles, "I feel the same way."
"When I was little I would hide in the closet and pretend I was anyone else. Sometimes I would be a city girl, doing acting. Sometimes I lived on a farm and wore overalls. Sometimes I was a princess from a far away land. It was my way of escaping. But I knew that when I came out of that closet I would only get to pick one life to live, and that was the hardest desicion I would ever have to make."
Spencer's hand moves under the table until it finds mine.
"I ran away when I was seven. Melissa, my sister, and I had an argument and my parents took her side. So I made a tuna sandwich and decided to leave."
"Where did you go?" I squeeze her hand.
Spencer laughs, "The movies."
"Yeah. But eventually I figured out that I had nowhere else to go. So I ate my tuna sandwich, and I went home."
"Were your parents worried?"
Spencer looks at me, "They hadn't even noticed I was gone."
"Just stick with me," I say, "And you'll never feel the need to run away again."
Jump to a few hours later, when Spencer and I are sitting in our room and she turns to me, "That girl that came to visit you. The one with the black hair. Is she your girlfriend?"
My head whips towards Spencer faster than I thought was humanly possible. "What? No!"
"Oh. Sorry. I assumed."
"Her name is Santana. She's my best friend and I love her more than anyone, but I don't love her love her. She's the one that found me when I was about to overdose."
Spencer sighs, "It must be nice having a friend like that. I don't have anyone left."
"What about the girls in the photo? The one by your bed."
Spencer smiles, "Aria, Hanna, and Emily. They were my best friends before I went nuts. But I screwed that up, big time."
"I think Aria, Emily, and Hanna would be happy to hear from you."
"They are the people that I hurt the absolute most."
I squeeze Spencer's hand, "Call them. They will forgive you for the ways that you've tried to kill your sadness."
Jump to the next day, when Spencer comes barreling through the door sporting her lottery-winning smile.
"They want to come see me. The girls."
I throw my arms around her shoulders, "Congratulations, Spence."
"Do you think they'll forgive me?" Spencer bites her lip.
"I think they already have." I squeeze Spencer's shoulder and give her what I hope looks like a reassuring smile.
"I still want to apologize. I feel like I should."
"If that's what you need to forgive yourself."
"Will you come with me? To meet them?" Spencer asks nervously.
"Of course. I'll go with you to the ends of the earth if that's where you need me."
Jump to the Sunday after, where Spencer is pacing the length of our room for the forty-second time. Yes, I counted. Forty-three. Forty-four. Forty- okay, that's enough.
"Spence." I grab her shoulders and guide her towards the bed in an effort to still her.
"Sorry, it's just... I'm nervous."
"I know, but you'll be fine. Those girls love you, okay? And they will be here any minute."
"Are you sure? What if they changed their minds? What if they don't want to see me because they think I'm a terrible person? What if-" Spencer is cut off by the loudspeaker.
"Spencer Hastings and Quinn Fabray please report to visitation. Spencer Hastings and Quinn Fabray please report to visitation."
I smile at Spencer, "See, babe? Nothing to worry about."
"Babe?" Spencer raises an eyebrow in a manner which oddly makes me proud.
She stills my shaking hands, "No. It's okay. I like it."
We walk together to visitation and I see Spencer growing visibly shakier as we near the room, so I intertwine my fingers with hers.
"Stay strong, Spence. You'll be fine." I say, and Spencer only smiles in return.
When we enter the room I catch sight of the three girls I see on Spencer's bedside table. I let go of Spencer's hand and she smiles at the girls. Her eyes brighten in a way I haven't seen before. Soon enough she is enveloped in a group hug with the girls and they are all crying. I wish I had a camera to capture this moment.
When they let go the tall one that looks like Santana turns to me and says, "You must be Quinn. It's nice to meet you. I'm Emily."
I shake her hand politely and smile, "Hi."
The blonde next to her smiles and says, "You're prettier than Spencer mentioned. You don't look crazy at all."
The little brunette gives the blonde an elbow in the ribs and turns to me, smiling apologetically, "I'm Aria, and I'm sorry about Hanna. She lacks a filter."
I laugh, "It's okay, don't worry about it, my best friend is the same way."
I sit next to Spencer across from the three girls and I feel special because I get to bear witness to the connection that they have. Spencer was stupid to think that they had ever stopped loving her.
"So..." Hanna starts, "How's rehab, Spence? Are you done being a speed freak?"
Aria and Emily simultaneously turn to the blonde and say, "Hanna!"
Spencer just chuckles, "It's okay. And yes, I am done being a speed freak, thank God."
"Seriously, though, Spence... How have you been? We've been worried sick ever since you got sent away," Aria asks.
"I... I've been..." Spencer visibly grows nervous, so I reach under the table and intertwine our fingers. She squeezes my hand and takes a deep breath. "I've been better, obviously. But... I'm okay. I'm better now that you guys are here. I've really missed you."
Emily smiles, "We've really missed you too."
Hanna's blue eyes dance down to our joined hands and she does a double take, "What is... that?"
"What?" Spencer asks, startled. I glance down to our hands and Spencer catches on, quickly dropping my hand.
"Oh my God!" Hanna squeals, "You two are totally doing it!"
"What? Hanna, no, we are not 'doing it.' We are under watch 24/7 by like twenty different nurses."
"Okay, maybe not 'it', but you're definitely doing something. Why else would you bring your roommate along, no matter how pretty she is? And I thought Emily was supposed to be the gay one."
Emily scoffs, "Shut up, Hanna."
"No, they're totally together, right? You should see it, right Em? With your special gay radar?"
"Shut up, Hanna."
Hanna raises her hands in surrender, "Okay, okay, whatever, geez. So, how have you really been, Spence?"
I take that as my cue to leave, as it seems that my necessity as a buffer is done. "Hold on, before you answer that, babe, I'll go and leave you and your friends with some time to catch up."
Hanna squeals again, "Babe?"
I wink at her and make my exit.
Jump to that night when I hold Spencer in my arms while we lie in bed. It's gotten so I don't remember which bed is mine and which is hers because we so often share our space. She is warm against me and the smell of lemons fills my nostrils. I turn to her,
"Remember how I told you the day we met that I wasn't sure if there was a truer name for me?"
Spencer turns so she is looking me right in the eyes, "Yeah."
"My birth name is Lucy. But Lucy was fat, and she had pimples, and nobody liked her. So the summer before freshman year I reinvented myself. But I miss her. The girl I was before the rest of the world ruined her. Nobody knows anything about me but the walls."
"If they could talk, what would they say?"
"They'd ask me when I lost myself but I'd tell them that I don't remember. They'd ask me to retrace by steps but I'd tell them that I don't think the girl I was before wants to come back to me. My brain is poison to her."
"Why can't you be her again?"
"Nobody loved Lucy. But nobody loves Quinn either so at this point I'm not sure which name I should take. Or if it even matters." I don't know why I'm telling Spencer fears that I've never said aloud to anyone else, but in her arms I feel safe. Protected. And more dangerously, loved.
"Plenty of people love you, Quinn."
"How can they? I don't even have it in me to love myself."
"I love you, Quinn. Santana loves you and your friends from glee club love you and it may not be a lot of people but we adore you." My heart jumps at the first three words she says.
"I don't know how to believe that you love me when I can't see what you say you see."
Spencer brushes her nose against mine, "You're wonderful, Quinn."
"I think I didn't know who to hate for everything that happened to me, so I started hating myself. It was easier that way."
"I didn't want to accept the blame for what happened to me, so I pushed everyone that loved me away. It made everything so much harder." My heart aches for Spencer, and I try to close the already minimal space between us, as if that could make things better.
"Then why did you do it?"
"I felt it was what I deserved."
I look into Spencer's eyes, and before I know it I'm leaning forward. My hand is on the base of her neck. I see her eyes flicker towards my lips. It's enough to make me come forward and press my lips to hers. Our lips dance against each other and her tongue brushes against mine. The world doesn't stop spinning on it's axis but for a few seconds everything feels calm.
If Spencer is going to take me to hell then it's never tasted this sweet.
"It's not what you deserved, Spence. You deserve the world and more."
Spencer pulls away just enough so she can look into my eyes, "Are you sure you want to do this, Quinn? I'm disaster."
"If you're a catastrophe then you're the most beautiful one I've ever seen."
Spencer's lips graze mine, "God, I can't wait to reinvent myself with you."