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Observations of beauty

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You didn't like Lucy Fabray. Nobody had liked Lucy Fabray.

There was a reason you dyed your hair and lost the weight and changed your name; Lucy Fabray wasn't a happy little girl. You have to admit, however, that Quinn Fabray is not a particularly happy young adult. You stopped being happy a long time ago. You think it might have been some time between the first time you threw a slushie and the day you felt fat and let Puck get you drunk on wine coolers.

You have already lamented all the things you lost your sophomore year of high school. They've been listed and they don't really need to be said again; it'd just be another painful reminder of who you are and who you aren’t — who you’ve become because of it all. You know your past better than anybody else, which is why your world seems to break that much more when it isn't your name announced for Prom Queen.

Everything fractures, and you’re not sure if your world is really crumbling or if it's the mixture of tears and mascara muddling your eyesight. Either way, nothing is right and everything is ruined. But you’re Quinn Fabray and nobody seems to see the sadness in your eyes, so you excuse yourself to the bathroom and you clean yourself up. Nobody can say that Quinn Fabray doesn't know how to save face.

You smile a smile that doesn't quite reach your eyes when you hook your arm around Finn's. You stay that way for rest of the night even though your heart breaks a little more every time you see the crown that isn't atop your own head. Finn doesn’t notice and you don’t expect him to, but it's okay because you have a plan.

At the end of the dance, you step into the warm spring night with Finn at your side and Santana and Brittany just a few steps behind. You’re happy for your best friends; at least the two of them will wake up tomorrow with life a little brighter than yesterday. The four of you stand in the parking lot for a moment before realizing that limo is gone. A quick text message to Puck reveals that he commandeered your wheels for the night to take Zizes out on the town.

Sam sees you and gives his best (worst) Sean Connery impression before offering rides home. It's just a little awkward, you think, but Finn is oblivious and Brittany and Santana are too enamored with each other to care, so you’ll endure it this one time. Sam drops Finn off first, which eases some of the tension, but then both of you are trying to ignore the smacking sounds and uncomfortably loud moans that escape from the back seat. Sam makes bad jokes in an attempt to break the ice, and you just smile that same smile some more.

The car rolls to a stop at your house next, and when you look out the window at the mansion that's not a home, you have to swallow back the pain that makes you want to cry out and grab hold of the nearest body for strength and comfort. You smiles a fake smile again, and Sam looks at you curiously because he can see right through it but seems to dismiss it. You wish he wouldn’t; you wish he would take your hand and ask you if you’re okay but he doesn’t. Nobody does. So you take your keys from your clutch and climb out of the car. The gentle clack of heels on paving stones resonates through the darkness as you approach the front door, unlock it, and slip inside.

The lights are off and you know your mother isn't home. You don’t bother flipping any switches as you pass through the foyer and up the stairs to the bathroom attached to the bedroom that doesn't feel like yours anymore. You slide your feet out of your shoes and kick them into a corner, closing the door and locking it behind you with a deafening ‘ click ’.

The tile is cool and refreshing against your tired feet and you take a moment to revel in the sensation before you step onto the warmer bath mat and reach for the knobs in the shower. You crank the hot water up all the way, and the small enclosed space quickly fills with steam and heat. The mirror fogs and you wipe it clean with a single swipe of your palm, and you take one good look at your reflection before you turn away.

You don’t bother taking off your prom dress as you step beneath the beating stream of hot water. You don’t feel its scalding sting as you lower herself in tub. You reach for your shaving razor and it takes a prolonged second to pop the removable head from the handle with shaking hands. You’ve never done this before, and you cut herself as you try to remove one of the single blades. You almost decide to turn back, but then one of them comes free and you hold the sliver of metal between your thumb and forefinger. You’re not sure how to do this, but you’ve heard stories and jokes so you have some idea.

You catch your bottom lip between your teeth and bite down as you press the blade against your flesh and draw it from hand to elbow in one long gash. It hurts more than you thought it would, but there's already so much blood that you’re sure you did it right. It's harder to hold the blade in your left hand and you’re starting to feel a little dizzy, but you manage to repeat the action on your right arm but the line is a little less straight and a little less clean. It's done, you think, as you drop the blood-stained blade over the side of the tub and then let your arms fall tiredly at your side.

Your eyes begin to flutter closed, and you catch a glimpse of crimson seeping into your once-beautiful-now-ruined prom dress and you thinks it's symbolic of all the bad creeping into your once-wonderful life. Marring it. Staining it. Ruining it. Your mind is growing fuzzy when you hear somebody on the other side of the door, and you think it might be Santana. You hear a clipped version of, "Bitch, you left your phone in Sam's car and I don't want to see the pathetic attempt at sexting Finessa makes."   You don’t respond, and then there's a knock on the door which turns into pounding and then shouting but you’re too tired to care. You’re so, so tired.

You hear the door break open, crashing against the wall, and then there's screaming and crying and the beating of the water on your face is gone and somebody's wrapping something soft around your arms. You struggle to open your eyes, to tell Santana to go away, but you feel strong arms lift you out of the tub and then you’re resting on the bathroom mat and Sam and Brittany are hovering over you and you see Santana in your bedroom swearing loudly into a phone.

You try to shake your head, violently, to tell them no, but you can't muster the strength. You want to close your eyes and fall back into the world of light-headedness and non-feeling, but you can't go back to sleep with the knowledge of the haunted look that painted Brittany's face, so you try to stay awake for them, to listen to them.

You aren’t sure how much time has passed when men in uniforms arrive, but it takes a police officer to hold Santana back when she tries to jump into the back of the ambulance. They let Sam ride instead, and later on you’ll wonder if they thought he was your brother.

You lose consciousness before you reach the hospital, and when you wake up, all there is to greet you is the steady blips and beeps of machines attached to you, and you think you’re back where you started.

Alone.

 


 

 

Your mother doesn't want you to go to a psychiatric facility, even a temporary one, for which you’re grateful. Instead the nurses hover carefully near your private room, but you think this is much better than the alternative. You aren’t crazy; you’re just sad and maybe a little broken.

When you open your eyes again, you expect to see your mother with quiet tears in her eyes but instead you’re met with an angry glare that doesn't belong to Judy Fabray. You turn your head away to break the eye contact and are met with an audible growl.

"No, you don't get to pull a stunt like that and look away from me, Fabray," Santana growls, and she marches to the other side of the room to try to catch your hazel eyes again. "You don't get to slash your wrists and try to take the easy way out. You don't get to—" You watch her stony facade crack with every word until it breaks and there are tears and pain and you want to look away again but can't.

Santana's on her knees beside the bed now, shaking hands gripping at the sheets as she sobs. Suddenly, Brittany is there too with wet eyes, and you feel sympathy at first, but then there’s anger coming on like a flash and you’re shouting at Santana. You don’t remember the hateful words that leave your mouth, but you do remember the sight of her shocked and staring at you until a nurse comes in and ushers her and Brittany away. She gives you something to calm you down and so you drift back into a haze not dissimilar to the one you caused yourself on prom night.

When you open your eyes again, Puck is at your side sans Lauren and you’re thankful. You might have something akin to respect for Lauren's own self-respect but it doesn't mean you like the girl anymore; Zizes still has a bad attitude in a way that you never did.

You don’t really want to talk to him and he seems to understand, so you sit in silence because maybe he understands you better than anybody else. He lost his daughter, too, and even if that is only one piece of the wobbling Jenga tower that is your life, it's a piece you share. He leaves when you start to fall back into dreamland again.

Mike and Tina are in the room when you wake up again, and you’re not sure what day it is or even what time it is, but you’re still feeling detached from the world. They tell you how sorry they are and offer what feel like fake sentiments even if they aren't, and you want to yell at them, too, but they leave before you can.

When Kurt visits, he brings the Prom Queen crown for you and sets it in your lap. You burst into tears and he leaves in a hurry. You push the torc off your lap and fall asleep with tear stains on your cheeks and a broken tiara on the floor beside your bed.

The next time you open your eyes, Sam is sitting in a chair beside your bed. His hand is resting near yours, but he seems hesitant to take it, and you want to be angry at him, too. You don’t scream at him like you did Santana; instead, you glare at him until he sighs and stands. He reaches for something in his backpack before he leaves, and you recognize it from your room. He flips it open and sets in your lap.

"I told Finn not to come. If you're not going to let any of us help, maybe you can let her," he says sadly, but you barely hear him because your eyes are focusing and un-focusing on the open sketchbook in front of you.

You wonder how he found it, why he might have been going through your things, but then you realize that people like answers and you created a really big freaking question when you tried to take your own life.

Why?

(Sometimes there just aren’t answers. Sometimes they don’t deserve them; you wish they wouldn’t look so hard. There’s only shattered, ugly things to find.)

Your body still feels like somebody pumped your limbs with lead so it takes a little effort to rest your hand on top of the sketchbook. You struggle to trace the lines you once drew in pen (the doctor said you nicked a nerve and may have suffered a minor loss of motor function in your right hand), and you turn your head away so tears won't fall onto the drawing. You want to throw it across the room, pretend it doesn't exist, but even if you had the physical strength to do so, you’re not sure you’ve ever had the emotional will to do it.

You fall asleep crying softly to yourself.

When you open your eyes again, you’re met with the face you fell asleep looking at on paper. You panic and try to grab at the sketchbook to close it but realizes it's no longer in your lap. You spot it, closed, in the hands of your visitor and you sink deeper into the bed upon this realization.

"Hi, Quinn," meets your ears, musical as ever.

You don’t answer, and instead you focus on the tiles of the ceiling. You think if you counts them all that maybe Rachel Berry will disappear and this will all be a bad dream, but when you reach thirty-six and have run out of tiles to count, you know this isn't a bad dream but a bad life and you sigh in resignation.

"Please look at me?" Rachel asks quietly.

You aren’t sure if you can deny her or if you want to deny her because that pain you swallowed down is back and you’re ready to reach out and grab the nearest body for strength and comfort; it doesn't seem like that big a deal anymore that it's Rachel Berry or even that you want it to be Rachel Berry. You don’t reach out, though, because you’re finally, just admitting this to yourself and you’re not ready to make a show of it. Not ready to accept what it might mean. How much you’re feeling in this moment. You turn to look at Rachel with as much indifference as you can muster as a compromise.

"These are really beautiful drawings. May I keep them?"

You want to shake your head, to hold out your hand to take the sketchbook back. You don’t do anything. No shake of your head but no nodding either. "Why are you here?" you ask instead, and your voice is raspy from disuse aside from shouting; you hate the way it sounds.

"Because believe it or not, Quinn, I do care about you. A lot of people care about you, and a lot of those people were hurt by what you tried to do. I, myself, am a little bit angry with you."

You want to draw your hands into fists and swing them at that big nose that was only just recently broken and healed, but then you don’t and you force yourself to relax. You want to say something mean and spiteful, something to push away the only constantly nice person in your life but you find an overwhelming sadness bubbling up from your stomach and through your chest and out your mouth with choked words.

"It hurts," you whisper. Whimper.

Rachel moves closer, taking one of your bandaged arms in her hands as she sits on the bed. "I know," she whispers just as her lips graze the gauze and cloth swathing scarred alabaster skin. And then there are more tears and more choked sobs and cries, and all through it Rachel stays with you, crying with you, sharing your pain, and when it's all over and a nurse comes in to guide Rachel away, you feel your heart a little bit lighter and a little bit put back together. And you believe, maybe, you can be whole again some day.

 


 

 

After a week in the hospital, you leave on a Tuesday. Finn is waiting at your front door with flowers and a box of chocolate as the car pulls into the drive. He is smiling that goofy smile and it wrenches your heart while also making you want to vomit. You approach him slowly, tugging at the sleeves of your jacket to self-consciously cover your forearms. He greets you happily as if nothing bad has happened and when he leans down to kiss you, you turn your head so his lips meet your cheek. He straightens up, confused. Your voice cracks when you tell him that you can't do this anymore, that you can't be with him, that you don’t want him. He's entirely baffled as you step inside your house and Judy Fabray offers him a look of condolence before she follows her daughter and shuts the door quietly.

You want to be disappointed that Rachel isn't there to greet you when you get home, but you stop herself when you acknowledge that being disappointed that Rachel Berry isn't at her your might be one step too fast. You can't stop the soft smile, however, when you spot a brand new sketchbook and pens wrapped in red ribbon resting on your bedspread. There's a gold star sticker in the upper right-hand corner of the first page, and you get to work at filling it with observations of beauty.

It's a goal you made in the hospital, that Rachel suggested to you. To keep your eyes open, to be willing to see all of life's beauty, even in the ugly and the painful things. You want so badly to be able to touch the optimism that Rachel seems to exhibit daily, and so you agreed. You trace your fingertips along the edges of the gold star. This is Rachel's way of helping you reach that goal.

You start by drawing the most beautiful thing that comes to mind, and you make another goal, a promise to yourself that you will stop holding herself back from the things that might bring you love and joy and happiness. When you were Lucy Fabray, you took charge and fought for change. You’re Quinn Fabray, now, but maybe it's not a bad idea to follow the path your younger self took.

You didn't like Quinn Fabray for a long time, but you think you might be ready to learn to love yourself again. And maybe, you think, one day you’ll be ready to learn to love another person that you believe so readily deserves it.