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Letting Go

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My father has always emphasized the value of restraint.

Even when he exercised none himself, my sister and I had no such freedoms. That helplessness probably translated into Quinn as soon as I had rid myself of Lucy. It took no time transforming into ruthlessness and cruelty from my newfound access to power. Lucy, never knew power, Lucy only knew restraint. In my early years as Quinn power coursed through me like a turret, relentless in its attacks toward all who approached, but it was all a lie. Power fueled by fear isn’t real, it’s just loud, and all I knew was screaming. In my final months of high school I can definitely say that fear has subsided. Steadily replaced by virtues like wisdom and kindness, I can say that I’ve honestly never felt more at peace with who I am and where I stand.

There’s just a couple of complications I have left to deal with, both of them bringing me back to my familiarity with restraint. My whole life is now set before me: Yale, marriage, children, some quaint side job to keep me busy while my husband goes to “work” with some young secretary. It all seems almost perfect and yet I feel the impulsive urge to burn it all to the ground. So that’s my first problem, despite my peace with the present, my self-destructive impulses bite at my plans for the future. They spit at my figurative cheating husband and my obscenely large house in the suburbs and my inevitably spoiled children. They whisper about dreams of drama and spotlight, adventure and spontaneity, true, terrifying, and passionate love with a girl yearning for the same fate in a big city.

Leading me to my second complication: Rachel Berry. Like I’ve said before, I’m at peace with my current self, and that includes my fluid sexuality. I have no inner turmoil about my wild fantasy where one day she turns around in the middle of the hallway and asks me to go to New York with her. She tells me she’s scared and she knows that Finn isn’t going to be able to follow her. That she’s desperate for the city, but she’s never considered the reality that she will be alone. She says she’s always been so, but swimming in a pool isn’t the same as the ocean, and she’s wary of the unknowns of the deep, deep blue of New York. Even though I haven’t told a soul, she magically knows about my acceptance to Columbia’s Drama and Theatre Arts program, and she begs me to take it instead of Yale. To follow my dreams and pursue the life I’ve secretly wished for, but was too scared to fight for. In my fantasies, Rachel tells me I can be all I want and have all I want, even, somehow, including her.

In my fantasies Rachel breaks all of my restraint.

 

In early October was when I found out that Ms. Corcoran had accepted a teaching job at McKinley. At the time she seemed to have been taunting me with her happy home life with my perfect, perfect daughter. I teased the thought of sabotage and deceit to attempt to take Beth back, the solution to my dilemmas about the future all packaged into one tiny 1 year old. With my new perspective on everything now it might not have been Beth that I wanted, no matter how much I love her, but the idea of a plan after high school. A chance to throw my whole life away for a child that could do better than me in the future, an excuse to give up every dream that I had with the idea I needed to go straight to work to support her. That raising her together with Puck was the best situation and I was lucky to also have someone to help us both at the same time.

I’m ashamed of the girl I was in early October. Not because I thought of the plot to steal Beth back, but that when it came down to it, I wasn’t thinking of my daughter, I was only thinking of myself.

I never went through with any of my schemes. When Ms. Corcoran told me to drop the skank act I responded immediately even though the skanks weren’t happy about it, especially the Mack. I stopped hanging out with them, dyed my hair blonde, and got rid of the piercing; now the only relic from that summer is the occasional taste for hardcore music. I was always pretty used to someone screaming in my ear. I see Beth every other weekend now and Ms. Corcoran has recently started to trust me alone with her. It’s good that she thinks I won’t run away with her daughter, besides even if I did, I wouldn’t really have a place to go.

In February I almost died. I was in a coma for a week and in the hospital for a couple more. I remember the car crash like it was yesterday, and if I close my eyes for long enough and think just a bit about that highway it’s almost like I can feel my bones cracking under the pressure of that truck all over again. Santana hates it whenever I talk like that, she says for the first time in her life I was able to actually scare her when she heard the news. She says it would have been kind of funny if I wasn’t on my deathbed and all, but that’s just Santana and her screwed up defense mechanisms. When I woke up Brittany wouldn’t stop hugging me until the nurses told them both that visiting hours were over, but even then she just held tighter. I remember the nurses moving to pull her off of me before Santana pounced like the guardian she’s always been. They left as security was on their way.

Surgery, physical therapy, and a lot of medication later I was out of the hospital and on my feet. It’s a bit ironic, but Rachel was the first one I saw when I was discharged. I was walking along the driveway in front of the hospital and there she was with an outrageously sized bouquet in her tiny arms and a surprised look on her face. She smiled a grin that was made for the cameras and practically skipped in my direction to hand me the flowers.

“These are for you, Quinn. Santana told me you get discharged today and I wanted to be the first one to say my congratulations.” She looked proud to have done so and I couldn’t tell if it was because of me or because she knew she was first.

“Thank you, Rachel. I really appreciate it.” I remember mumbling to her through the petals.

I guess nothing about the encounter or the conversation was inherently ironic, unless you consider Santana talking to Rachel as irony, but that’s the way I choose to describe it now. Perhaps it was just that Rachel was the one I had wanted to see the most when I breathed in the crisp winter air that morning, and, for the first time since I had known about my feelings for her, she just so happened to be there when I really wanted her to be.

It’s the middle of March now and I have approximately 3 weeks before I have to send in a statement to enroll to either Yale or Columbia. Either way I’ll be studying what I love: theatre, film, acting, now my only question is where I want to do it. To everyone else, they already believe that I’ve chosen Yale, and it may not be just to them, but to myself as well. Yale is the obvious choice here, despite the prestige of Columbia it just doesn’t stack up to New Haven. At the same time, New Haven just doesn’t stack up to New York. New York just has something that New Haven will never have, yet it’s completely likely that that something is something I will never have either. Unless my wildest fantasy can miraculously come true in the next 20 days.

Then again, none of my fantasies have come true in the last 3 years.

 

It takes a lot of tolerance to not scream at Rachel whenever she talks about Finn. To not list every way that they are not right for each other, or how he’s not good enough for her, or every stupid mistake that he has made knowing that she will forgive him if he just keeps coming back looking sorry enough to be accepted. It takes a lot of waiting for Rachel to see how she’s been so caught up with this one boy for so long that she doesn’t actually try to see anyone else when she’s blinded by his hulking form. Furthermore, if it takes a great wealth of patience for any of those things to happen, waiting for Rachel to look at me as anything other than a rival, a friend, or some sort of perfect doll takes a spectacularly grand amount from every fiber of my being.

It almost makes me consider giving her some sort of clue toward my feelings for her. Or leaving a trail of breadcrumbs directly to a giant, flashing, neon sign displaying “I, LUCY QUINN FABRAY, LOVE RACHEL BARBARA BERRY!”, somehow written somewhere high in the sky where it can’t possibly be missed. I’m sure she’d appreciate the theatricality of it all, but, once again, my restraint won’t let me. It won’t let me do something as foolish and vulnerable as publicly declare my gay love for a girl who is currently dating my ex-boyfriend. Or to even do something as small as openly flirt, just once, with this girl that I was ready to accept giving up on when she was happily betrothed to that same boy. The sheer power that restraint holds on me and my actions is nearly unbreakable in its grip on mind, body, and soul. Somehow though, there is always a gap in the armor.

“I just heard Finn and Rachel broke up.” Santana remarks next to me in the middle of study hall while filing her already perfect nails.

I pause for a moment, but steel my expression. Santana has always suspected something was not-straight about me, I don’t need to validate her thoughts in the last months of high school.

“What happened?” Good. Safe and general curiosity.

“Apparently the dwarf found out about the giant’s daddy issues. He said he’s going to the army to make it right and she’s already accepted her letter to NYADA. They’re going separate ways and they both know it. Personally, I totally agree that they might as well not waste their time dragging a dead horse.”

She blows at her nails and I briefly ponder how she’s become so desensitized to matters that have little to do with herself. Finn’s father is definitely a touchy subject, and now he’s going off to the military? Also, Rachel honestly must feel heartbroken at the way everything has managed to crash all at once. My mind reels at the new information, and even though I know she has answers I refrain from asking Santana more questions.

“How do you know all this?” I settle for instead.

“If you ever want to keep things a secret, don’t tell Kurt or Mercedes.” she replies finally looking satisfied at her work.

 

That gap in the armor definitely left an opening to pierce straight through my left lung. Others might consider that my heart, however, because somehow I’m in front of Rachel’s locker at the end of the day. A diligent student like her always goes to their locker before leaving for home. There’s nothing I can say to her about her breakup, and anything I do say will probably be misunderstood as gloating about their relationship not woking according to plan. This was a stupid idea, a momentary show of weakness because of my desperation to decide my future, I should go.

“Hello, Quinn.”

The arrow seems to twist a bit in my chest and I resist the urge to spin on my heels toward the shorter girl. Without a glance I can tell she’s not happy, her voice quiet and withdrawn just as it was years ago during freshman year and I was scouting for easy targets. The voice doesn’t even sound like it belongs to the freshly confident senior Rachel Berry, just a husk of what she could be. It frustrates me beyond belief.

“Rachel.” I cut through her veil of grief in an instant and she looks up at me shocked by my biting tone.

“Is there something you want to discuss with me?” She asks clearly confused and slightly defensive. A sliver of a spark now ignited behind her big, brown eyes, manages to put my frustration at ease. My eyes soften.

“Not really, I was just on my way home.” I begin to brush past her, but she lightly stops me with her hand on my forearm.

She turns me around slowly and I can feel her grip on my right arm tightening ever so steadily. My eyes widen, and I race through thoughts arisen not two minutes ago, I shouldn’t have come here, anything I say will just be misunderstood, there’s no way that I can be able to make things better. All along, I never considered I would be the one to make her cry. Keeping her head down, her hold just gets tighter, but she seems reluctant to initiate any more contact without my approval.

My core rattles slightly.

Beliefs, practices, habits, everything, shakes in my gut, and screams to not make any rash decisions. To not be completely heartless, but to steady her with some distance between our bodies. It’s rehearsed in my head to grab both of her arms, make her look directly at me, and tell her that things will be alright, that they will get better, no matter how it may seem now. That she has her whole life ahead of her, without the weight of some boy to drag her down. That she’s a star, that she always has been, and New York is just going to force her to burn brighter than ever before. My stomach steels itself to follow in my traditional customs, to exercise that self-restraint so ingrained in my behavior and play the tough and honest friend that just wants the best for her.

I open my mouth to speak and begin to shift to the position, “Quinn…” she whispers. My lips snap shut and my left hand pauses mid-air. The crevice in that armor must have been five inches wide. That arrow must have severed the perfect amount of capillaries and sliced just the right combination of arteries and veins. It must have had a self-destruct feature that was set to explode at just this moment because suddenly I can’t feel my gut. Suddenly, the only feeling I can register is my heart pounding in my chest and an ache I haven’t allowed myself to understand in a long time. It cuts off any ideas about restraint.

“Rachel, come here.” My voice is shaking along with my hands, I move them hurriedly to the small of her back, before this feeling is gone and she gasps slightly at my quick movements. She’s surprised by the hug, but I’m absolutely astounded. I have rules for my hugs with Rachel: never too long, never too close, never too intimate. Basically, if it looks anything like Santana and Brittany’s hugs it’s out of the question. This contact blows every rule out of the water.

I feel my fingers wrap around her waist in a protective manner, desperately trying to grab at all of her sadness and hurt and absorb them into my body. My forearms squeeze her up and into me, closer than she’s ever been, and I can feel her hesitance as she lifts her arms up and around my neck. My biceps and shoulders flex in an attempt be bigger, to be enough for her to lean on and feel supported by, to be someone who she knows will lift her up. I hear a sharp intake of breath come from her lips, and I grasp just how close my face is to hers. I’m burrowed in the crook of her neck and have no way out of this position without ghosting my lips past her pulse point (a blasphemous thought in my mind). My chin brushes against her neck as I lift my head and I feel her tense underneath me. My brain is going haywire as her arms stay wrapped around my neck and our eyes meet as I am trying to let go.

She seems frozen, with her lips slightly parted and her brown eyes staring into me with a look I’ve never seen before. It takes feeling her hot breathe directly on my lips to snap back to where we are, and who could be there, and perhaps most importantly, who I am, and who I’ve always been. Her eyes are clearly puffy and red, her face flushed from her tears, and I finally find it in myself to completely let her go. She follows suit, flustered and no longer crying, just licking her lips and facing slightly away from me.

“Sorry.” she whispers in a new voice. Not sad, angry, or even confused. Just new. The uncertainty already begins to drive me insane, so I decide to test just how long my armor has been broken for.

I grab her hand and begin to walk to my car.

 

If she has objections she doesn’t make them known as I lead her to the parking lot. Every time I reconsider what I’m doing I firmly tighten my grip in Rachel’s hand, reassuring myself that if not now then never. If we’re being completely honest this is my last shot; if I go to Yale I could potentially never see this girl again. If I ignore the calls from the other singing wannabes and make excuses about my sorority or my coursework piling up, I’m sure I can go years without setting eyes on the small girl shuffling behind me. Until one day, as I’m on the arm of some rich wall street businessman, we’ll pass by a flashing sign. Bold lights will illuminate with Rachel Berry in the center and I will think back to this moment. The moment where I let go of my fantasies, where I let my doubts get the best of me, where I let Rachel’s hand slip from mine.

I interlock my fingers with hers. I don’t need another regret on my list.

Finally, we reach my car, she seems unsure of what is supposed to happen now and I mirror her expression for a moment before fully facing her, our hands still locked.

“Rachel.” I start, probably a tad too close for comfort. I take a conscious half-step back, “I want to help.” I pause. “In fact there’s nothing else I’d rather do.” At that her eyes furrow in confusion and meet mine, questions pouring from them. I ignore them in favor of continuing, “There’s a place I would like to take you, but it’s a bit far, and we might not be back until later tonight. Is that okay?”

She analyzes me for a moment, maybe wondering if this is some trick or if I’ve suddenly been replaced by someone much more caring and soft. Which is rude because I’ve always cared for Rachel…in my own way.

Her nod is slow and hesitant, eyes toward the ground once again. I think about if she just wants to get away. Enough so that she’s willing to follow her self-proclaimed enemy to some unknown destination. Maybe just anyone and anywhere will do because she’s kind of desperate for things to be different than the truth. I stare on silently for a blink before I open the passenger door for her. My hand doesn't leave hers until she’s fully settled in before I reluctantly let go and shut the door. My entire body feels colder without the link, and then I think I understand Rachel’s desperation for change a bit more clearly.

 

I’ve been driving for around an hour with only the faint sound of drums and guitars for background noise, the volume too low to hear any actual lyrics. Rachel hasn’t said a word, she simply watches out the window as we drive north on the freeway for the past 60 or so miles. I could be taking her someplace to murder her, and I don’t think she’d notice. Probably just keep staring out that window. It’s not until the music blares, at least in comparison with the other songs, that something startles me out of the haze that has settled in the car.

I move to turn down the volume, if only for this track, “Sorry, this song is always louder than the others.” She either ignores me or doesn’t hear me because as the next words come out I hear her hum lightly with the music.

She sounds perfect, but what else would I expect from her? It’s more than that though, it seems like she knows it too well, like she’s sung it before.

“Do you like this song?” I blurt out before I can stop myself. God, I sound like I’m speaking to a fragile child. Though in my defense, I might not be too wrong about the fragile part.

She nods slightly, but just continues humming and staring out the window.

I want to know more though. It’s not to her normal taste, although it’s not exactly too farfetched considering its a soft, acoustic melody. I want to know about why she knows it, and where she first heard it, and if she’s ever performed it before. I want to ask her a million questions about everything about her, because for some reason I feel like I actually can. I feel so liberated in this whole experience, like I’ve been living with a blanket over my head for so long, and now I finally get to taste what fresh air is like. I know Rachel is suffering, and every pulse in my body is ready to skip at the thought of hurting her further, but I’ve never felt this way before. I allow myself to relish in the newfound feeling for a moment before refocusing on the road.

The music has now changed and it’s much too quiet in the car so I reach to turn the volume back up.

“Do you have more from them?” she mutters quietly.

Considering this is the most she’s spoken to me the whole drive, I’m taken off guard, but I nod and move to unlock my phone before handing it to her, “I have all their albums, you can play whatever you would like.”

She nods and turns her attention to the phone. I’m pretty sure she’s done talking for the rest of the ride, but a smile comes to my lips as the next song filters through the system. She's taken to humming the next few tracks and I can’t help but admire her voice even in this subdued form. Even when everything is so wrong, I can’t resist the nagging urge in the back of my head telling me that this is right. That this freeway and this drive and this haze and this moment is absolutely perfect. It’s probably the unfamiliarity with this liberation that spurs me on, or maybe it’s Rachel’s perfect humming from my passenger seat that blurs my thoughts, but I reach my right hand over to her left placed in her lap.

She turns her head to me and I feel myself give a light smile with warm eyes back. They’re gentle eyes I’ve only given her from a safe distances before, and I can see a spark light in her own before the corners of her lips lift for a moment. Only a moment, before her thoughts seem to catch up to her again and she remembers that nothing is right, right now and she’s not supposed to be happy.

I release her hand and refocus on the pavement.

 

Once we’re parked and have managed to walk to the main expanse before the river I take a deep nostalgic breathe, the scent taking me back to my childhood with my family, then to my pregnancy days, then to the summer that just passed. I’ve spent a lot of time here both with my family and alone, but this is the first time I’ve brought someone out to this spot specifically. This was the one place that I’ve always ran away to; much too far from home for anyone from school to find me, too obscure and forgotten for my mother or my sister to look for me, since they were the only ones who ever tried. An hour and a half out from home, I’d drive and forget about everything that seemed so far behind in the rearview mirror. This was the only place that made sense to take Rachel, who seemed to want to get away as much as I did.

She stands next to me before sitting down while still staring out at the river. I follow suit. “Where are we?” she asks.

“This is Shoreland, right on the border of Ohio and Michigan, with an excellent view of the Ottawa River. An incredibly obscure place where my father used to dump my family off at whenever he had business in Toledo.” I start in a matter-of-fact voice, “Fran used to complain about not getting to explore the city and being stuck in some town by a river, not even the lake.” I scoff lightly at the memory, “She never was one for nature and simplicity, but for some reason this place stuck with me, even if we are trespassing in someone’s backyard now that my father no longer owns the property.”

She nods and stares out into the river. Admittedly, it’s not impressive, in fact if I wanted to see water I could probably just find a lake within fifteen minutes of Mckinley, but that wasn’t what I wanted.

“Why did you want to bring me here?” she asks cautiously, probably not wanting to offend my choice of getaway.

My sense of restraint begs to be acknowledged once again as I consider exactly what to say. Do I let her know that this is a very secret part of me, one that I run away to, and I honestly just wanted to share it with her so that maybe we could run to the same place together? That maybe if I show her a part of me aches to share our presence in the same location she’ll see where else we could be together? That it’s customary to show people that you love places that are special to you?

“I wanted to show you a place that’s far away from Lima. Somewhere that no one knows your name and there are endless possibilities to start over. I’ve come here so many times during good times and bad, and this place has never remained the same to me. I’ve always felt like I was starting over whenever I come here, or that I was a different person than the last visit.” I turn to face her completely and reach out with both my hands. She slowly takes them and my body warms from her touch. Her small hands are unfamiliar in mine still and I gaze at them for a moment before squeezing and growing accustomed to their fit.

I can tell she’s fascinated by how many times we’ve touched in the past few hours. She watches my hands like they may suddenly combust and moves them with a hesitance as I shift them in mine. Little does she know every movement makes me feel like my heart might explode.

“I took you here because this place represents a new beginning for me, and I honestly believe that a new beginning is exactly what you need.”

Her eyes darken and she lightly squeezes my hands signaling that she’s going to let go. My pulse skips and I’m afraid that I’ve done it, that I’ve said the wrong words, and now it just sounds like I’m saying I told you so, or that I’ve only hurt her further. I force my expression into stone before panic can reveal itself.

“I just don't understand.” She huddles herself around her knees and turns back to the river. I impatiently wait for her to elaborate. “Everything fell apart so quickly. I can’t believe Finn would just blindside me like that, then refuse to discuss it. I honestly feel like we could have worked something out, but right now I just hate him for doing that to me. I hate him because I love him enough to try to find someway to work this out, but it’s like he doesn’t even want to try.” She squeezes her knees tighter and buries her head further into them. “It’s like he doesn’t love me enough to even try, and I think that makes me want to give up on him more than anything else.”

I stare in her direction. I can tell she’s distraught by her incoherent voice, her mumbling into her knees, and the rambling without her usual concise and efficient sentences. She’s repeating herself and her head is down, and it’s so unlike Rachel that I feel my frustration rise to the surface again, but this time I hold my tongue. She’s finally saying something about the matter at hand, and if I attack her her walls will be much higher than before, I let her continue with my silence.

She seems lost in her thoughts for a moment before she shakes her head, “I know he has his motives, but it’s like he hasn't even taken me into account. He just cut me out of the picture completely as soon as he’s found something he wants to do.” Fists clench at my side, and I bite my lip to keep from spewing out my thoughts. It’s ridiculous that Finn didn’t even go over the situation in his feeble mind to consider that Rachel could help him with his goals, or that she would want to figure something out with him. It’s incredibly narrow-minded and one-track and it sounds exactly like him. “I need to at least say my side of the story.” That gets my attention out of my mental lashing of Finn.

“I won’t leave it like this, I haven’t even had a chance to get my point across. I need to talk to Finn at least once before I let this go.” She pauses with much more determined eyes than desperate, and my heart sinks at the possibility of this being my last chance to ever say something to Rachel. To finally tell her something that is completely outrageous and passionate about how I’ve actually been feeling these past few years. How much it hurts to watch her pine after a guy who doesn’t even deserve her.

I keep my mouth shut.

“And Quinn,” she turns to face me and for the first time all day her eyes are fully lit up as she bores into mine, “I need to thank you.” She smiles, and I give a weak one back. “Although I’m not sure I want to start a new beginning just yet, I think I can understand and accept it if it does happen to lead in that direction. And I don’t think I would have been able to accept that as easily without you bringing me to this place that obviously means a lot to you.”

That makes me feel better as we stare out at the river. I’ve let the armor I’ve had on for so long allow an arrow through and it lead to a few explosions in my heart. I’ve done a lot more than I ever thought I would let myself do for Rachel, and it’s what I always wanted to do, just take her away to a place where only we exist for a moment. I tell myself this as we stare out for the next hour and make light chat about my childhood memories here. I smile at her and she laughs at my old, childish antics, and for awhile I’m okay with this.

It’s when her back is to me and she’s walking back to the car that my armor starts to crumble again and I grab at her wrist. She turns around slightly startled, but still smiling until she sees the stress I feel scrunching my forehead.

“Is there something wrong?” she asks lightly and I know for sure that my self-restraint has always been impenetrable. Rachel’s a very smart girl, if she couldn’t tell that I loved her I’m sure no one could, at least not for sure. My grip on her arm tightens and I take a step forward into her personal space.

She looks up at me alert, but refuses to back away for reasons that could be endless. As I stare down at her I wonder if I’m making this obvious enough. How much I want to say something, but even with everything broken down it’s still too hard to let slip past my lips. So I stare and try to write into her mind how much I want to at least try before I give it all up, how I just want her to know that I think of her too often and can’t stand the thought of never telling her how I feel. She gazes directly into mine before I think I imagine a flicker of recognition. A tiny flick of the light switch and I think she begins to understand why I can’t seem to let go, why I’m staring at her like I’ll never see her again.

Then again it was probably just my wishful thinking. She smiles and cocks her head to the side slightly, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you speechless. It’s an unsettling thought.”

I scoff and grin down and to the side, it was probably just another fantasy, “Well I do tend to always know just what I have to say.” I respond hiding every inch of irony in my speech. It’s definitely wishful thinking.

I take her home with the music turned up a little louder and much more talking about anything and everything. It’s perfect and just what I want, only it’s not perfect or what I want.

I decide to let restraint drag me the rest of the way home.

END OF PART 1