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The Past that Suits You Best

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Title: The Past that Suits You Best
Author: Sulkygeek
Rating: R
Length: 53700
Spoilers: Spoilers for most of Season2, but NOT ‘Born This Way’ or anything after that because I started this story before that aired
Summary: AU. Shelby kidnapped Rachel as a young child, but dies. Rachel is brought back to Lima. Angst Meter: Low-Medium

--


 

And yet, here she was.

“It’ll be okay,” Rob whispered to her. He squeezed her hand. “Don’t be scared, little one. I won’t let anything worse happen to you. I promise.”

She looked at him skeptically. “You can’t promise that.”

Her beloved stepfather flinched and looked away. “I know. I’m sorry.”

That was another thing. After twelve years of one shitty boyfriend after another, her mother finally sorted her shit out and met a nice guy. And instead of fleeing from the nice guy like her mother always did, when she actually managed to meet a nice guy, her mother finally did the right thing and held onto the nice guy and married him. The past three years were the happiest Rachel could remember and now it was all over.

She wanted to hate her mother, but her mother was sort of a stickler for the ‘honor thy mother’ part that every religion seemed to emphasize, even if Rachel had been raised with no particular religious affiliation. Rachel still just respected her mother too much to hate her. And anyway, despite her mother’s propensity to pick shitty boyfriends before she married Rob and her tendency be a little overprotective and overinvolved in her daughter’s life, Rachel knew her mother was a good mom.

So it made this whole thing that much more unbelievable.

Rob swore he’d let nothing worse happen to her, but he just dropped her off in a hellhole town and walked away from her. She knew he didn’t have a choice-- there was a cop standing by making sure he did exactly that. But that didn’t help her feel any better seeing his back to her, walking away from her.

It was just too unbelievable.

She wanted to scream, “Dad, please don’t leave me here,” and run after him, but she couldn’t do that because she already had two fathers standing to her left, ready to take her to a place she was supposed to learn to call home.

--

‘My mother stole me,’ Rachel thought to herself, because she knew it was true. But it seemed so damned unbelievable, she had to think it, though she did not believe she could ever speak it. ‘My mother stole me,’ she repeated to herself.

The police report was right there in black-and-white, dated January 10, 1999 which meant she’d turned four the month before.

Rachel took a deep breath and read it again.

‘On January 10, 1999, I, officer Zaralta, serial number 456321 with my partner, Reed, serial number 567892, responded to Faurot Park in response to a report of a missing child. When we responded to the scene, minor’s parents, Ronald Berry and Michael Kirkpatrick were interviewed. Child has no legal mother. Berry and Kirkpatrick identified the minor as Rachel Grace Berry (DOB 12/18/1994), age four years, 3 weeks. She is approximately 33 inches in height and 30 pounds (as listed in minor’s last well child exam on January 3, 1999). Child Berry is considered small for her age, but otherwise has no medical conditions. Child’s development is considered to be within normal limits. When last seen, child was wearing blue denim jeans, a long-sleeve white shirt, decorated with pumpkins and gold stars, a purple scarf and a black jacket. Minor has identifying characteristics of a freckle on her left cheek and a scar located on her upper forehead, near the hair line [see attached picture]. Officer Reed and I searched the park grounds with the parents and several other unrelated bystanders. When the minor was not found within ten minutes, I summoned additional officers. Officers Fitzgerald, serial number 345876 and Micheals, serial number 345321 responded and the area was again searched to no avail. A larger-scale search was launched in the areas surrounding the park, but the child was not discovered.

Upon speaking to the parents, it appeared the child was left unattended for approximately one hour. Berry brought the child to the park and met with Kirkpatrick. They each left the park believing the other parent had the child in his custody. Berry and Kirkpatrick explained that Berry did errands while Kirkpatrick returned to the family home. When Berry arrived at the home without the child, Berry and Kirkpatrick discovered the miscommunication and returned to the park but did not find the child. They called for police assistance at that time. Berry and Kirkpatrick were distraught and displayed affect congruent with the circumstances. Berry and Fitzpatrick admitted they had an argument prior to separating at the park and this likely contributed to the miscommunication.

Berry and Kirkpatrick indicated that as a gay couple, they’d received numerous threats from both Berry and Kirkpatrick’s parents (child’s grandparents) to remove the child, ‘one way or the other.’ Kirkpatrick’s parents attempted to file for guardianship of the child without Berry and Kirkpatrick knowing (Case number: LF 234283) which was dismissed. Kirkpatrick’s parents were informed they were not to attempt to remove custody in Family Law Court, but the option of filing for custody in Probate court was still presented to them. Berry’s parents attempted to file for custody of the child in Probate Court (Case number: LQ 223144) but were denied.

Berry’s parents reside in Lima while Kirkpatrick’s parents have relocated to Mansfield. Officers Tilden, serial number 234325 and Thomas, serial number 654345 conducted a thorough search of the Berry grandparents’ home. Child was not discovered. Officers requested a courtesy check from the Mansfield Police Department to search the home of the Kirkpatrick grandparents, but child was not discovered. Berry and Kirkpatrick’s respective parents indicated they were no longer interested in custody of the child and denied involvement with child’s disappearance.

Berry and Kirkpatrick indicated they’d seen the child’s biological mother, Shelby Corcoran, who typically resides in New York City, NY, at a local grocery store approximately ten days prior. I located Corcoran who was still in Lima. I interviewed Corcoran who indicated she’d returned to Lima to attend funerals for her parents who were both recently killed in a traffic accident (see DR report 10-63430922). She expressed concern for the circumstances but indicated she was merely a surrogate for Berry and Kirkpatrick and she’d had no contact with the child since the child’s birth. Corcoran granted consent to search the premises and there was no discovery of the child. Corcoran indicated she would stay in Lima for several days, but she planned to return to New York City once she settled her parents’ estates.

Berry and Kirkpatrick indicated they’d also experienced problems with neighbors vandalizing their home (see DR reports 10-12310843, 10-23452945, 10-23428236, 10-3242342, 10-3436633, 10-4534536, et al). Berry and Kirkpatrick indicated neighbors have also made comments that the child would be ‘better off’ not in their care.

By January 17, 1999, there was no discovery of the child. Initial suspects Berry and Kirkpatrick grandparents in addition to Corcoran and other neighbors have been cooperative and there is no evidence of the child. Berry and Kirkpatrick each denied harming the child and submitted to polygraphs which they each passed.

As of the writing of this report, the child has not been found. This investigation is being transferred to the juvenile detectives as an active case.’

That ended that particular police report. There were other ones, but that was the one she came back to over and over again because it was the only one that mentioned her mother.

At first, she tried to tell herself it wasn’t her mother. After all, her mother’s last name wasn’t Corcoran-- it was Davies. Her mother was Shelby Davies. She was Rachel Davies. But then Davies turned out to be a fake surname, and really she’d only been groping for frail hope.

What she didn’t know is how her mother managed to conceal her back then with the police looking for her. She was desperate for answers, but now she knew she’d never get any.

She really couldn’t remember that day, no matter how much people asked. When she was younger, she had foggy memories of loving, but slightly spacey fathers and other kids she used to play with but didn’t see anymore. But when she brought it up to her mother, her mother always told her it was just a dream.

“You’ve always been mine,” her mother used to tell her. “It’ll always be you and me, baby. What would you want with someone else when you have me?”

In retrospect, it was a little screwed up. Rachel could recognize her mother seemed intent on making her completely dependent on her. Sometimes, her mother even seemed jealous of the friendships she had with other kids, and her mother was definitely jealous if she got close to a parent of one of her friends, even if she’d never said so. She had her best friend, Claire, who her mother adored, but other than that, her mother didn’t encourage her to have a lot of friends. It was like her mother was jealous of the time she spent away from her.

She’d always thought it was weird how she’d had distinct memories of calling two men ‘daddy,’ but her mother strenuously told her that her father just wasn’t involved any time Rachel brought it up. She’d always believed her mother. And well, considering her mother’s track record when it came to men, it didn’t seem so unusual to Rachel that she would have called multiple men ‘Daddy’ when she was growing up. After a while, the memories of these men started to fade and she never even thought about them again-- she just assumed they were two separate men her mother dated when she was younger and she’d just called both of them Daddy and somehow managed to associate the two of them together. And anyway, after the age of six, she stopped asking about her father. She was curious, of course, because who wouldn’t be? But she didn’t want to hurt her mother’s feelings, so she just never brought it up again.

The last time she ever brought up the idea of having a father, she’d been six years old and had no one to make a Father’s Day card for.

“You don’t need a dad, you have me,” her mother told her. “You can make one for me, baby. It’s always just been me and you against everyone. We don’t need anyone else.”

After that day, she’d always just made her mother a card on Father’s Day until she was twelve when her mother married Rob.

But now Rachel knew the truth. She was always supposed to have two fathers. It was her mother she wasn’t supposed to have.

--

Rachel was furious, but she couldn’t even be that furious with her mother because her mother had to go and die on her and it was a futile and terrible thing to be angry with the dead. And the truth was, as furious as she was with her mother, she would have given up anything to have her back.

She’d been driving with her mother, arguing about something inconsequential, when her mother let out a little moan. Rachel really hadn’t been that upset, they were always arguing with one another, to the point that one of her mother’s coworkers scolded her for treating Rachel more as a spouse than a child. Her mother was pestering her about staying up too late texting with Claire and Ray, so Rachel had been utterly exasperated with her mother. She had a really snippy rejoinder prepared when her mother let out that little moan, but it died in her throat. She knew instantly that she had something to be worried about.

“Mom? Momma?”

“I don’t feel well.”

Then her mother slumped over the steering wheel. Rachel grabbed the wheel, pulled the car over and pulled up the emergency brake.

“Momma?”

Her mother didn’t respond.

She called 911 immediately and tried to resuscitate her mother, but by the time the ambulance came, Rachel was already pretty certain her mother was gone. She was right. Her mother was dead on arrival at the hospital.

For the next month, she tried to make her life return to normal. She lived with her stepfather and they tried to carry on without her mother, as difficult as that was. Her mother had clearly been dead-set on being the centre of Rachel’s world, because once she was gone, Rachel was uncertain about her ability to carry on without her mother. She fantasized about what it would have been like if she hadn’t grabbed the wheel and just let the car take her to a fiery death.

Somehow she managed, although just barely. It took a month for her to even begin to accept that her mother was gone. She spent an entire month stealing from her mother’s wardrobe, expecting to get caught, but she never did. After the first month, she started to finally believe her mother was never coming back and that somehow the world carried on without her.

Then the police came knocking on their door.

--

Rachel still wasn’t entirely sure how the discovery was made. Children’s Services left her in the care of her stepfather since her mother and Rob were legally married, even if he hadn’t formally adopted her. They deemed Rob was a suitable guardian and Rachel really thought the whole thing was over. As far as Rachel knew up until then, there was no biological father who cared about her, so there was no one to call to announce ‘take custody of your kid!’ No father other than Rob had ever been involved in her life, not as far as she could really remember.

She never even stopped to consider she had a father who might care about her, let alone two fathers. She’d used to ask her mother ‘did my father leave because of me?’ and her mother used to assure her with ‘your father left me and never even knew about you, but there was no way I could find him. He really wanted to leave me.’ And even though a part of her wondered if maybe this father would want a relationship with her even if he didn’t want one with her mother, Rachel didn’t want a relationship with anyone who didn’t want one with her mother. So she just never wanted her dad,

And then it turned out that not only did she have one father who desperately wanted involvement in her life, she actually had two of them.

Someone must have looked her up at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website or something, because there she was on their website, her four year old self smiling back at her. And she wasn’t Rachel Davies like she thought she was. She was Rachel Berry, and though she wanted to believe it was all a mistake, after all, the names didn’t fit, the photograph on the website was unmistakably her.

Her presence on that website was enough to bring the police to her doorstep again.

Within 72 hours after the discovery was made, her life completely changed again. It wasn’t enough that her mother was dead and she was still reeling from that. No. Her mother wasn’t her mother anymore-- she was a kidnapper.

Rachel was dragged to the police station where she had to await the arrival of two men she didn’t recognize, but who grabbed her into ferocious hugs and wouldn’t let her go. And she had to hear her mother’s name disparaged and dragged through the mud. Her mother was a kidnapper and her poor stepfather was arrested and interrogated as an accomplice, even though he hadn’t even known them back then.

By the end of it, she was dragged away from the only hometown she’d ever known in San Diego to some hillbilly town inOhio.

She couldn’t believe this was her life.

--

She got dragged to Ohio in the middle of summer and spent the rest of the summer before her junior year holed up in her bedroom.

When she first walked into it after her fathers brought her home, she was appalled they expected her to live in this room. It was clearly meant for a toddler. But then she realized that the last time she’d slept in that room, she actually had been a toddler. Nothing had been changed in it-- there were even still toddler clothes in the drawers and closets and the yellow walls were decorated with alphabet letters and numbers in addition to posters from Broadway musicals. Clearly, it’d been a shrine for the past eleven years and she felt a little bit of pity for those poor men who looked at her with over-earnest eyes. There was a picture of the three of them--- she was maybe two or three in the photograph, set on the desk in her room and they just looked so happy in the picture.

She realized that was the girl they must have been holding onto all these years. But she wasn’t that girl. She wished she could be different to make them happy, but she just wasn’t that little girl in the photograph.

They were so earnest.

“You can decorate it however you want!”

“We’ll go shopping for clothes!”

She just plastered a smile to her face because she didn’t want to hurt their feelings, but it weirded her out how they couldn’t keep their hands off her. They kept touching her face, stroking her hair and pulling her into hugs. She knew it was just normal parental affection, but she didn’t know them. It was creepy.

And she knew they weren’t creeps-- San Diego CPS asked Allen County CPS to do a courtesy visit to assess the home and run criminal background checks on her fathers before officially releasing her into their custody, even if they were her parents. They were clean, not even so much as a parking ticket between them in the intervening eleven years she’d been gone.

Before she actually met them, she’d really thought they had to be creeps if her mother took her from them. She thought her mother must have had her reasons. But then she met them and she just didn’t get a feeling like that from them. They seemed really nice and they looked like a happy little family in those old photographs. It completely messed with her head because she had no idea what her mother had been thinking eleven years ago. It was just so obvious now that her mother had taken her from her fathers for selfish reasons, but well-intentioned ones.

Her dads weren’t creeps, but she still didn’t want to be in Lima.

A few days later when she dutifully followed them around a shopping mall, it was clear they still thought of her as a little girl. The stuff they wanted her to try on-- animal sweaters, argyle sweaters and plaid skirts were the sort of things a little girl would wear. The more suspicious part of her mind whispered nagging doubts about child molesters and pedophiles-- what sort of men liked teenaged girls dressed up as little kids? But the more animated they got, the more she realized they just wanted their little girl back-- they clearly had no idea how to deal with a teenager. They were trying to dress her the way they used to when they were still picking out her clothes and once Rachel figured it out, it was kind of sweet.

Rachel had to admit she used to have an inexplicable affinity for animal sweaters until relatively recently herself, but her mother used to gently mock her for it, and so animal sweaters just weren’t her thing anymore. Rachel wondered if maybe her fathers had instilled a love of animal sweaters in her or something and that’s why she liked them until relatively recently. She really didn’t want to wear them anymore, but she found herself agreeing to an owl sweater just to appease her fathers. She loved the skirts though, even if her fathers clucked their tongues about the length. She knew her legs were one of her best traits, and she felt no shame in flaunting them. She actually had plenty of skirts in her wardrobe already, which her mother hated because she thought it was too ‘slutty school uniform.’

She knew her fathers were just trying to make her happy, but really, she just wanted to be left alone. She wanted desperately to connect with them, but all she could think about was how much she wished they’d just left her with her stepfather. She wanted to just love them and feel an instant connection with them, but it just wasn’t happening. She wanted to hate her mother for it-- how could her mother do this to them? To her? But she just missed her mother too much to resent her. Even though she knew most of her life thus far had been a lie, it didn’t feel like one. All that love her mother gave her didn’t feel like a lie.

When she’d unpacked her clothes and mementos from her former life, all she could think was ‘I want to go home.’

That first night in her fathers’ house, she pulled out the picture of her and her mother, taken only recently on her mother’s last birthday. She and her mother looked so much alike, there was no way her mother could have ever denied the relationship. Rachel wondered if that was how her mother was able to fly under the radar so easily-- there was no way anyone would doubt her mother when she claimed her as her daughter.

In that picture, she could only see the mother that she adored-- not some kidnapper the way everyone claimed she was. Her mother was imperfect and frequently annoying, but Rachel adored her and in this photograph, her mother was positioned behind her, arms wrapped around her waist. The support Rachel always had, even when she didn’t want it. She’d always felt safe with her mother. Even when bad things happened to them, and they’d had a lot of bad luck over the years, she always felt like her mother would protect her. Now she didn’t know what to think.

She’d been a Mama’s girl, through-and-through. She was never ashamed about how close she was to her mother or how important their relationship was to her.

Looking back on it, maybe there was a certain amount of pathology in her mother, even without the whole federal offence/kidnapping thing. Her mother practically forced them to be close.

Her mother was a career waitress who tended to get paid under the table. It never made sense to her why her talented mother who was clearly intelligent never strove for anything better, but it all clicked into place now. Of course her mother couldn’t use that college degree that was earned under a different name. Her mother was even using a fake social security number. Her mother made some extra cash by giving piano and voice lessons and Rachel always supplemented the family income by doing some odd jobs like babysitting and dogwalking.

It was always just the two of them against the world until her mother met Rob and before her mother agreed to marry him, she’d made it very clear that “my kid will always be more important than you. If you can’t handle it, you can leave now. We don’t need you. We’d just like you to be in our lives.” That was the way her mother often spoke-- we this and we that. Rachel had to admit she’d kind of adopted that, too.

But now when Rachel thought about all the planning that her mother must have done to make all of this happen, she just couldn’t reconcile this criminal mastermind who used fake social security numbers and doctored up a fake birth certificate with the mother who used to take her shopping and accompany her to concerts. She just couldn’t make that connection.

Some of her friends back home used to make fun of her that she genuinely liked spending time with her mother. But she really did. Sundays were always mother-daughter time and it was always the highlight of Rachel’s week.

People were calling her mother a kidnapper and making horrible comments about how her mother fully deserved that heart attack at the age of thirty seven, but what people didn’t know was that her mother was a great mom. Like, Rachel knew the mothers of some of her friends were the type to choose their boyfriends over their kids, but her mother wasn’t like that.

Sure, her mother had horrible taste in men. But when her mother came home from a double shift at the restaurant when Rachel was seven and found a large, fist-sized bruise on Rachel’s stomach and one under her eye from Shelby’s boyfriend-at-the-time, Steve, Steve got a rude awakening in the form of a flashlight crashing down on his balls.

Time and time again, Shelby always chose Rachel over everyone and anyone else and Rachel just wanted to hold onto a good scrap of her mother’s memory.

Rachel wanted to put up that picture on her nightstand, next to her bed. But she was afraid of offending her fathers. They were tight-lipped about her mother, but she could tell they hated her.

She didn’t know how she was going to survive this.

She knew her fathers were in the right and what her mother did was totally indefensible. But she just wished she could have her mother back and her fathers would go away. She felt like such a horrible person because what decent person would choose a lying kidnapper over sweet, affectionate fathers who clearly loved her? She was clearly a horrible person and she was dreading the day her fathers figured out that they never should have bothered praying for her return because she wasn’t anything they should want. But at the same time, she was hoping they’d realize she wasn’t anything they wanted and just let her go back to her old life.

--

The hours of each day seemed to pass so slowly, but the summer itself passed way too quickly.

--

She walked into the halls of McKinley and wished she could be anywhere else.

As she walked in, she got a text message from her best friend, Claire, still back home.
She hadn’t talked to anyone from back home other than Rob since she got to Lima. She just didn’t want to deal with anyone, and predictably enough, nearly everyone gave up trying to contact her after she ignored them long enough. But Claire was her best friend, and therefore, persistent. Rachel felt bad about it, but she just couldn’t talk to Claire. She just couldn’t have reminders of her old life. It would make this unbelievable thing way too real. As it was, she was still half-convinced it was all a dream.

She had two cell phones now-- she had one from back home for which her stepfather was footing the bill and her fathers didn’t know about and the cell phone her fathers bought for her with a Lima number.

Even though she didn’t respond to any of the text messages or phone calls still coming into her old phone, she kept it on anyway.

She read Claire’s text.

Friend! Happy first day of school. You’re going to rock it. P.S. It still hurts my feelings you aren’t talking to me, but I’m here when you’re ready. Love you.

Rachel bit her lower lip. She and Claire were so close, they were practically sisters although not everything they did together was particularly sororal. She really hoped Claire would forgive her one day. But then she wondered how Claire knew today was McKinley’s first day of school-- her old school started last week.

She and Claire always had a scarily psychic connection, because the moment she had that thought, her phone buzzed again in her hand and there was another text message waiting for her. Again, from Claire.

I checked the Allen County School District website to find out when your school started. You better appreciate how early I got up just to wish you good luck, bitch. Love you. Miss you. Talk to me.

Rachel couldn’t help grin. Of all the ways to start her day, this was the least sucky way to start.

--

The entire school, from students, teachers, administrators, cafeteria ladies, security and the janitor knew her story. At least, the news headlines stuff. Most people gave her a wide berth, which is exactly what she wanted. She didn’t want to talk. She didn’t want to socialize. She just wanted to put her brave face on and get through all this. She was fifteen, but a junior and if she played her cards right, she could get out of this town for college before she turned eighteen.

She’d always been set on UCLA because it was far enough that she’d have to move into a dorm, but still close enough to her mother. She was still sort of set on UCLA because she wanted to be close to her stepfather, but without her mother, she didn’t think he’d be that interested in her. She knew he loved her, but love tended to dissipate and he probably wanted to move on with his life. How could he move on with his dead wife’s stolen daughter getting in his way? Rachel was certain that given enough time, he’d lose interest in her and he’d shut off her phone with her San Diego number. When that happened, she’d get the message. She wouldn’t try to fight, wouldn’t try to hold onto someone who didn’t want her.

Now that her mother was dead, she had no particular attachment to UCLA and was thinking about NYU or Julliard. Anything to make her stardom dreams come true. It was all she had now. Her story got a little bit of media attention, but between her fathers and her stepfather, they managed to squash most of the media attention, which was a relief because she wanted to be famous for the right reasons. There was a huge difference between desired and undesired attention, and in her mind, there really was such a thing as bad publicity.

It was, however, a big news story both in her town in San Diego and in her new town of Lima.

People stared at her and whispered as she walked through the hallway, but she kept her face as neutral as possible. Her mother always taught her to smile even when she didn’t feel like it, but she just couldn’t muster enough energy to actually smile. She could not put on her show face, despite all the years of her mother drilling that into her. The most she could muster was her brave face which was just blank and devoid of emotion. But that seemed to be the better option because her brave face was the thing keeping people away. She was pretty sure if she was smiling with her show face, people would try to talk to her and she just wanted to be left alone.

She didn’t have much of an appetite, so she skipped lunch. She thought about hiding out in a stall in the bathroom, but that seemed too pathetic, though she could admit to herself she’d likely have to resort to it eventually. She thought about being slightly less pathetic and just walking around the school, but she just wanted to stay out of sight. In the one stroke of good luck all day, she found the choir room and sat at the piano.

She was just mindlessly playing some chords, arpeggios and scales-- simple sort of warm-up stuff her mother used to do with kids before starting a lesson.

She didn’t even hear the door to the choir room open.

“Hi.”

Rachel jumped and she turned around to stare at a blonde she’d seen in her pre-lunch classes.

“Hi.” Rachel frowned. The other girl was familiar to her, and not just because Rachel had seen her around in her classes. In fact, in her classes, she’d studiously kept her gaze on her desk. No, up close, this girl, was definitely familiar. “Quinn?” she blurted. It just came out before she could stop herself.

The blonde smiled. “Do you remember me?”

Rachel paused. She didn’t actually. And she couldn’t recall ever hearing the name associated with the blonde. But the blonde was so familiar and her mind was tickled by memories she couldn’t quite reach.

“I…no,” Rachel admitted. She wanted to give a rambling explanation-- she was prone to that sort of thing. But she managed to stop herself.

The blonde looked disappointed, but she moved to sit down next to Rachel on the piano bench. Rachel scooted over to make space.

“We played together the day you disappeared,” Quinn told her. “On the swings. But then my mom and I left. We used to go to the same pre-school, too.”

Rachel raised an eyebrow and she continued to play scales. She couldn’t look at the blonde. She couldn’t remember the last time she made eye contact with anyone. She was just trying to get through life.

“It was so long ago, you still remember that?”

“I’ve had to tell the police all about it a lot,” Quinn said wryly. “You still look the same, you know. You’re not even that much taller.”

Rachel turned to look at the other girl in exasperation, but saw that Quinn was smiling. Rachel turned her attention back to the keys, staring down at her hands moving over the ivory. She’d played piano for as long as she could remember, and she really didn’t have to look down to play, but she couldn’t look at this other girl.

“I don’t remember much,” Rachel softly confessed. “Every time I’d try to talk to my mom about stuff I’d remember…she’d tell me it was a dream. I don’t even know what’s real anymore.” It was the most she’d said to anyone about her mother since the truth was discovered and she didn’t know why she told this girl about it. But she did.

“I’m sorry,” Quinn said sympathetically. She put her hand over Rachel’s left hand, stilling it. “Welcome back, Rachel,” she said softly. She gave Rachel’s hand a gentle squeeze, got up and left.

Rachel was grateful Quinn said “welcome back” instead of “welcome home” like everyone else. Because this wasn’t home.

--

The rest of her day was preoccupied by thoughts of Quinn. The blonde was familiar to her, and once Quinn said it, Rachel started to remember that day a little more clearly and she really did remember playing with Quinn on the swings. She remembered other things, too, but only vaguely and obliquely. But she wondered if maybe her mind was creating false memories. As hard as she tried she couldn’t remember how her mother got her to follow.

She was walking down the hall after her last class when some chimpanzee in a letterman jacket threw a Slushie in her face. She was so shocked, she just froze for a moment. Stuff like this didn’t happen at her other school. She couldn’t believe the guy had the nerve to do it in front of a teacher. Her Spanish teacher, Mr. Schuester was standing right there-- the chimp in the letterman jacket had to have seen him. And even worse, that teacher didn’t even doing anything, Rachel locked eyes with him and expected him to step in and take disciplinary action. But he didn’t.

Rachel clenched her jaw and then clenched her fists at her side. Her mother had always scrimped to make the ends meet. But her mother traded free piano lessons for some guy’s kid so that Rachel could get free krav maga lessons. Rachel was a pacifist, and she hated confrontation. Her mother discouraged her from confrontations, if feasible, but her mother also wanted her to be prepared for any contingency. And this? This was exactly the sort of situation her mother taught her not to let stand.

The chimpanzee was walking away, laughing. He even tossed his cup on the floor. Somehow the fact that he littered made her even angrier. She and her mother were living green long before it became hip.

“HEY!” she screamed.

He turned to look at her and smirked. “What?” he asked belligerently. He grabbed his crotch. “Suck it, bitch,” he said with a laugh. He turned to walk away.

She ran to catch up to him and tackled him to the ground. He landed on his knees and dropped to his beer gut, but she rolled him over. He was on his back as she beat her fists into him. One of his Neanderthal friends grabbed her around the waist, but she wriggled away and slammed her fists into his chest. He hunched over, wheezing. Another one of his Neanderthal friends tried to grab her but she grabbed his wrist the moment he grabbed her arm and wrenched it away. She twisted the guy’s arm behind his back and shoved him away. She turned her attention back to the chimpanzee, who was staggering to his feet, and kicked him in the groin.

“What is the matter with you?! Who the hell are you? I don’t even know you!”

“That’s Karofsky,” some bystander called out to her.

Rachel clenched her jaw and crouched down next to him where he was curled fetal, bleeding, coughing and crying. “If you ever do that again, I’ll kill you!”

She was tempted to kick him again, but her mother taught her not to kick a person when they were down.

“That goes for all of you!” she shouted at the other bystanders, who’d laughed when that chimp threw that drink in her face. Now they were all just staring at her like she was the crazy preson. She glared at her Spanish teacher as she passed him. “No teacher at my other school would have just stood there! What internet-based teaching credential did you earn?!” she snapped at him. She wiped Slushie off her face and stomped toward the bathroom.

She hated this stupid school. All she wanted was to be left alone. She was just minding her own business, trying to stay out of everyone’s way and even then, someone came after her. And she just stood up for herself, but somehow she was the one people looked at like she was crazy.

--

She tried to fight back tears as she got a lecture from her fathers for the fight at school. Somehow it was perfectly okay for this Karofsky kid to throw a beverage in her face, but she couldn’t defend herself? Her mother would have rained down shit all over these people

“Your mother was a kidnapper,” one of her fathers told her, when she told them so. He couldn’t conceal the venom in his voice and he didn’t apologize for speaking ill of her mother the way they usually did when they allowed their resentment of her mother to slip out.

She couldn’t fight back tears after that. The honeymoon period with her fathers was clearly over and it was never that great to begin with.

Her fathers looked so alarmed, like she was this sick thing they let into their home and once the adrenaline rushed out of her body, she really did start to feel guilty. She wasn’t someone who liked to resort to fisticuffs-- she’d always taken pride in her verbal ability. She really should have stood up to the guy without resorting to violence, but something in her just snapped.

She knew her mother did a bad thing. Hell, before her mother died, Rachel had plenty of days when she hated her mother. Her mother had a tendency to make some pretty terrible decisions and she could be overbearing and stifling. But she was still her mother. Rachel just couldn’t think of her mother as “that woman” or “the kidnapper” or “Corcoran.”

Not that long ago, she wanted all kinds of things-- an iPhone, sudden (but well-earned) fame, a career on Broadway, for Scott Sheridan to ask her out…and now all she wanted was to feel a little better. She wanted her life to have some sense of normalcy again. But that was the thing that seemed most out of reach.