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, the whole bit. 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 and promises to never return) just a week before Quinn's fourteenth birthday. It's almost predictable. God is no longer a source of anything but mystery to Quinn, but she doesn't remove the cross hanging from her neck.
Then it's all suddenly very clear. God is something people contemplate and confide in when really they need something else entirely. A replacement meal. The power of belief is like the power of wanting to feel skinny, accepted, (arguably of course.) Quinn knows what that's like, knows that analogy is convoluted, doesn't know what she needs.
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. Then again, she never really has allowed herself to.
It's the inaugural week of her Sophomore year, a balmy Tuesday in August, and Cheerios practice ensures three agonizing miles around the oval running track. Quinn is on top of the social pyramid and has began cultivating elaborate plans for herself this year. The Cheerios is just a give in, something required of her, 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. Quinn wants desperately to cry, but has long since deemed crying as a futile device in achieving respect. Crying is a tool restricted to obtaining one's desires and if Quinn were to cry now everyone would label her as weak (a terrible truth she cannot afford to publicize) and ultimately unworthy of head cheerleader.
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, more than her reserving her tears for later, when she's curled up in bed.
She doesn't remember making it to the nurse, she's still severely lightheaded, and the hole of hunger in her stomach has quadrupled in size. 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 infamous gray bench that she's physically witnessed Puck bleed onto. Quinn thinks he's been in at least a dozen fist fights since high school began, which she thinks is some kind of record.
Quinn also thinks she can distinguish a voice aimed in her general direction.
Her vision is impaired, unclear and indistinct, so she closes her eyes and counts to ten before reopening them.
Quinn, bestowed with the ability of 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 ten hours."
Quinn is positive she's hallucinating and is all the more amazed when the girl lifts her hand to Quinn's face to examine the gash in her chin.
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 instantaneously 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.