When she turned seven, Quinn asked her mother why God lived in the clouds.
A youthful, emergent Judy Fabray at just thirty responded with a saccharine smile. A smile that reached her eyes back then.
"Oh sweetheart," she sighed. Her thin, elegant fingers curled around Quinn's braided hair, carefully undoing it, "He's living up there so He can see everyone. So He can see you."
Quinn understood the appeal of such a reality. A nice man living in the sky, highly attentive, ever-supportive, why not speak about Him like He's some God? He certainly sounds like one.
At just seven, Quinn found solace in Him. She memorized every hymn, adopted a cross pennant around her neck and took diligent notes with purple crayon during every Sunday service. She was devoted; God played a leading role in her life now and Quinn was beginning to rely on Him much more than her actual father.
It broke Quinn's heart that God did not intervene when her mother sank to her knees and pleaded, negotiated with Him. “Help restore Russell's faithfulness, help alleviate his crassness, his narcissism, oh Lord. He knows not what he does." Judy gave it all to God through prayer, a trusting yet somber expression etched on her face. Quinn didn't understand why the prayers weren't working.
The day her faith wavers is the day her father leaves, (the day her mother takes her first swig of Irish scotch, the day her older sister leaves to college) just a week before Quinn's fourteenth birthday. It's to be expected. And God is no longer a source of anything but mystery to Quinn. Still, she doesn't remove the cross hanging from her neck.
Her sloppy life transpired hurriedly after her father's departure, as if God had decided to finish one of His abandoned paintings and then grew irritated halfway through, completely wrecking it, throwing His massive fist through the canvas.
She doesn't feel it at first, the pain that follows the breaking of skin.
It's the first week of Sophomore year, a balmy Tuesday in August, and Cheerios practice ensures three agonizing miles around the oval running track. Quinn is at the top of the social pyramid and has begun cultivating elaborate plans for herself this year. And the Cheerios is just a give in, it’s something required of her, just like everything else.
She's rounding the perimeter of the football field, completing the final lap of her second mile when she feels her heart itching its way up her throat. Her ears are carrying out a rhythm which does not match that of her heart, and she can feel sweat hurrying into her eyes, burning, biting at her vision.
It's then that she plummets to the ground, immediately feels the branding and carving of the rubber track into the soft skin of her knees. The sting of significant discomfort spikes, demands a vocal admission of agony from Quinn. "God," she chokes out, and quickly apprehends the severity of the blow to her chin, her mouth. She nearly begins murmuring a word of prayer for her teeth. The muscles atop her shoulders tighten, tense, and she pushes herself up and off the ground with her calloused hands. Warmth pricks at her nose, thickening and coating her throat enough to make breathing a chore.
She lifts her hand to her mouth, particularly wary of the searing pain residing there. She brushes the back of her hand over her lips and winces, then retracts, observing a smear of red on the pale skin of her hand.
As expected, Coach Sylvester yells at her through her megaphone, assuring loudly, "You can turn in your pom-pom's if you're going to act as a distraction to the rest of the squad with your pathetic flailing, Q."
Sue's words hurt Quinn more than her aching feet, more than the burn in her chest and the silence in her throat.
It escapes her attention how she's made it here, but she's certain she's arrived at the nurses office, somehow knows she's sitting on that gray bench that she's witnessed Puck bleed onto.
There’s a voice aimed in her general direction, but the pain she’s experiencing demands every ounce of her attention. Her vision is impaired, unclear and indistinct, so she closes her eyes and counts to ten before reopening them.
She’s bestowed with sight is suddenly mindful of a stranger sat to her left on the bench. A girl. A girl whose dark eyes sparkle vehemently.
Warm, brown orbs find pain-stricken green. "It's good you landed on your chin instead of your nose," the girl says solicitously, her voice like silk. "Your complexion is exceptionally pale and I'd surmise that because Miss Sylvester works each of you to the point of exhaustion, you're not eating enough to maintain a healthful diet while undergoing those strenuous daily workouts. From what I gather, you're dehydrated, and you haven't eaten in at least eight hours."
Quinn is positive she's hallucinating, is all the more amazed when the girl lifts her hand to Quinn's face.
Quinn's heart is a warm, beating hammer in her throat.
She nods, doesn't understand why.
When the girl mildly, tenderly dabs Quinn's chin with a cotton ball drenched in hydrogen peroxide, Quinn watches with a kind of hypnotic wonder, feels alternately hot and cold, discovers relief in the idea of not having to speak.
She doesn't immediately believe in (or even understand) God, doesn't experience a magnificent epiphany, but rather, finally perceives an inkling of what it is she wants, what it is she needs.