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Uncharted Territory

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Uncharted Territory

Part One

 

 

 

 

Burt’s tire shop is closed for the night. Finn’s pickup truck casts a long shadow in the fluorescent lights outside the garage doors. In the driver’s seat, May heat and humidity fogging the dashboard, Finn had stopped responding to Tina’s touch fifteen minutes ago. Tina is nothing if not persistent. This is how they always say sorry, midnight rendezvous in the garage’s lot, expressing their animosity. Frustration hardly leads to forgiveness, though.

 

“When are you going to stop fucking with me?”

 

Tina’s panties are still draped on the gearshift, where they've been for the last hour. Finn is soft inside her now. His hands still grip her thighs, which blanket his lap. He rolls his eyes at the question.

 

“I’m sorry,” Finn says. “I’m just really stressed out right now.”

 

Tina laughs. “I’m sorry. You're stressed? You’re not the one who got a perfect 5.0 GPA, never missed a day of school even when I was puking my brains out, took eight classes a semester this year, and got waitlisted at the only school I had time to apply for. You’re not the one in Lima limbo—”

 

“Tina, my whole life is Lima limbo—”

 

“I have done nothing but be good to you, nothing, but spend all the spare time I wasn’t bending over backwards trying to get into Brown trying to make you feel loved and appreciated, when, clearly,” she gestures to their current seating arrangement, “you don’t even love me back.”

 

“C'mon, don’t make this about the sex thing—"

 

“But it’s about ‘the sex thing,’ Finn. It’s about everything. It’s about your misogynistic obsession with stringing me along, dangling yourself between me and Quinn, telling me it's not me, but it's that Quinn did this or that in bed or you watched porn about this thing I'm not willing to do for you. It's about the fact that you lied to her about me. It's about that you don't ever text me first anymore, or call me first, or talk about me in any way to our friends that isn't about how annoying I am to you now. What the hell happened? You used to love me. You used to say I was your dream, your destiny. Even if you were always confused about your feelings, you didn't used to be mean.

 

Finn doesn’t respond right away, but he looks away from her. He knows she’s right. Tina stares at him, feeling tears sting her eyes. Finn’s face flushes, and she feels the growing twitch of him between her legs. This man has been her best friend and worst enemy somehow all at once for three years, the feeling of his hands on her, the way they were when they were sixteen and being in love was all-consuming, is this comfort she can’t ween herself from yet. Even though every hit she takes right now is from the ghost of it.

 

“Look,” Finn says, finally meeting her eyes, “I don’t wanna think about...big concepts like love, fame, and destiny anymore. Not right now. None of that stuff feels real when you realize you’ve hit your ceiling turning wrenches in Ohio. You know I love you, Tina, but you exhaust me. I can’t be all this stuff you want me to be, and you won’t accept that. Could you get off me, please?”

 

Now, they sit in awkward silence next to each other on the bench seat, still in front of Burt’s garage at three in the morning. Tina can't get out of the truck, because she knows the second she steps on the gravel, their relationship is over. It's been dead for months, for over a year, if she’s honest. Finn is right. Being alone terrifies her right now, though.

 

The moment she's alone with his words—we're breaking up, for real this time, I don't wanna see you—the sense of security and family she's had in him for what feels like so long will come crumbling down. It was the final comfort of her old life.

 

Tina can see it in his eyes, the shadows circling them, how tired he's become after working long shifts at the shop. Seasonal depression takes it's toll on him, and it's that season. She knows Finn has had dark thoughts. She doesn't want to let him go aimless, wandering in Ohio the way, two years ago, he would've done anything not to do. Kurt will take care of him, she's sure. She doesn't owe Finn her emotional labor anymore. Tina just doesn't know how to let go.

 

Tina Cohen-Chang knows that she’s a lot of things, but feeling loved has defined her amongst those things. The curse of girlhood.

 

 

 

 

 

 Like anyone would be,
I am flattered by your fascination with me.
X

 

 

 

 

Besides her Siamese cat Heirloom, Tina has only ever had one true love in her life: herself.

 

Her parents named her Seo-yun (서윤) when she was born in Seoul, South Korea, where she would spend most of the first seven years of her life. Beginning her trend of making her own way in the world, she demanded to be called Tina when she was eight, claiming the name came to her dream. They legally allowed her to change it to Tina when they perma-moved to America when she was ten. From then on, Tina fell in love with the power to chart her own life exactly as she wanted, make people listen to her and respect her mind.

 

Middle school saw Tina fed up with being picked on for being different--an immigrant, goth, a feminist living in deeply conservative Ohio--so instead of falling whim, she scared her would-be bullies away. And Artie's, too. Donning black and lacy gloves, pretending she was a witch, carrying voodoo dolls, fostering an unironic a love for the dead and vampiric from Dracula to, yes, Twilight. She enjoyed being weird, strange and off-putting. Her ass didn't fake that stutter in school for seven years for nothing. She liked having people look at her like she was a (hot) demon out of hell, she didn’t want to be “pretty.” She would've rather been important.

 

That’s how she once felt, anyway. Lately, during the depressing summer-turned-fall that has become her life post high school graduation, Tina has started to lose her usually strong sense of self. Senior year felt like a washing away and weakening of all she was at one point in her childhood. She doesn't quiet know how to get back there, though she has gone back to wearing all black, in mourning for her childhood self, on the outside.

 

This morning, which is becoming increasingly more afternoon than morning, Tina is buried in her bed, refusing to go outside. Heavy black drapes cover her windows; the Victorian, haunted mansion styled room would be dark if it weren't for the hundred electric candles she bought to perform Music Of The Night with Kurt, which cover every surface and shelf of the room. A thundering rain soundtrack broods from her record player.

 

Her hard copy of The SCUM Manifesto, written by controversial feminist Valerie Solanas, who shot Andy Warhol, pokes at her hip where it got tangled in her comforter last night. The only way she can fall asleep without her Finn-related grief settling in is to read the scathing messages of Solanas' work. Tina can't make time go any faster, can't not feel the bitter end of their relationship, on top of losing Nationals and her plans for college falling through hell's gates this May. There’s something terrifying about the way she feels today; Finn dumping her doesn’t make her want to go out guns blazing, proving him and the world wrong the way she has after any other person has crossed her.

 

Tina couldn’t stop crying for a month after it happened, and when the crying finally stopped, she just felt numb. Like she was watching herself outside of her body.

 

Tina's bedroom here at her mother's house is decorated with paintings, the largest of which is a life-size rendition of Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory.

 

 dali

 

Tina considers herself a musician now, but oil on canvas was her first love. She can’t paint herself, at least, not well, anymore, but she has continued to be a staunch observer of the medium. Especially the surrealists. Especially Dali. Her parents took her to the MoMA in New York when she was eight. Their legend has it that she stood before The Persistence for over an hour, staring into it as if she had been transported there. It has had magical pull on her ever since. The heat, the mirage-y clocks, that melting face, those downturned lashes. They’re especially how she feels right now.

 

Just weeks before her departure to Rhode Island for a final campus visit, she got the e-mail from Brown University stating that they were delaying her acceptance, due to heavy impaction. That got her on the waiting list for the winter quarter, but she read the horror stories from kids who waited months or years, sometimes to no end, to slowly inch their way up long Ivy League waiting lists. The next update announcing candidates for winter was in November. She was not told her position on the list. If this cohort only loses a couple students in the fall, she’ll have to wait for spring, possibly summer.

 

A year in Lima, one more time. Back and forth between her parents' houses the way she has ever since the divorce. Tina doesn’t think she’ll be able to stomach it. She could enroll in school locally while waiting to apply to schools for spring, but she's too ashamed of what people will think. How does perfect attendance 5.0 girl, "that really smart Chinese girl," end up going to Lima community college? Three months since graduation, too anxious to look for a job in a town where so many people recognize her, she’s realizing that she worked so hard on her high school resume that her personal self and mental health have fallen to the wayside.

 

There’s an open letter on the desk next to her bed, amongst a pile of other letters. Written from her childhood best friend Shiro, who still lives in Gyeonggi Province, South Korea, there are twenty letters at least, unanswered in almost a year. Tina wants to write something back. She will. She just doesn't know what to say.

 

She can't lie to Shiro, has never been able to. She doesn't want to share how lost she feels right now.

 

She also can't be in love with someone who lives 7,000 miles away. Who's married at 19. Shiro doesn't mention him in the letters.

 

Tina knows she hasn't responded because of what she's always known about the way she felt about Shiro, too young to understand it at the time. Shiro always felt the same way, she's learning now. Tina's obvious bisexuality--obvious to everyone really who knows her, anyway, even when she plays at denying it out loud--is not something she's fully allowed herself to access since Finn came into the picture. Besides the other night at that gay bar with Santana and Brittany, which she's trying not to think about. That still seems like a fantasy, like something that couldn't've happened to her. Still, she would never admit it to Glee club, not even Kurt or Santana, that she's scared of being outcast in that way. Of having one more thing--disliking men to the point that she eschews them entirely--piled unto her list of un-American qualities. Tina has always sexually seen herself through the eyes of her boyfriends, too. Anything else has no road map, no charted territory.

 

Lately, she's bold in thought, but not in action.

 

The latest letter from Shiro to her reads:

 

" 남양주시 Namyangju-si

2012 9 30 17:46

 

Dear Tina, Seo-yun 서윤 ,

Today, I took mother to the botanical gardens. She hates her wheelchair more than ever right now. She calls me a bad wheelchair driver!  I remember that you also drive a wheelchair badly sometimes. Your friend Artie, who I see on Facebook. I still have that photo you sent from the middle school dance of you and him, matching outfits. He is very cute. (: I hope he is doing well in his recovery.

Remember that day when we were ten, when we got lost at the gardens that summer? Our parents were so angry, but fuck did we want to be gone from them! It was hours. We had plans to sleep in that oak tree trunk, that security and the groundskeepers would never stumble upon us! I thought, we would give up on primary school, chores, become tree fairies instead. It seemed to have no limit, what we would have in our life together, Tina-Seo-yun.

My male coworker, the one I've told you about, is finally getting arrested for filming the women’s restrooms at our firm. But, not fired. He's the office hero with the male associates. He will probably be at work soon as he's out of jail.  Our misogynist boss will probably give him a pay raise >.<

I wonder if Finn is so misogynistic. Someday, I hope to hear you talk about him. Whenever you are ready. As for my confession, do not worry. As I've told you, I understand. I am patient. I just love you.

 

To be born a woman has been to be born
within in allotted and confined space,
into the keeping of men.

The social presence of women has developed
as a result of their ingenuity in living under such tutelage
within such a limited space.

But this has been at the cost of a woman’s self being split into two.
A woman must continually watch herself.
She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself.

Whilst she is walking across a room or
whilst she is weeping the death of her father,
she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping.

- John Berger

 

With care, 

Shiro  시로 "

 

On her phone, still in bed, Tina peruses Snapchat to distract her: Quinn at Yale, Santana in Kentucky, Mike at the Joffrey, and Kurt an hour away at Ohio State. She misses her New Directions, even if she still lives next to half of them. The only person from Glee she’s not too embarrassed to see on a regular basis is Artie, who’s still a senior at McKinley. He was never not her best friend even if they did lose track of each other for a while when Tina was with Finn, and he was with Brittany, or Santana, or both. But Tina and Artie have known each other most of their lives and probably, they believe, in some past life. They’d been two peas in an outcast pod since Tina started attending school in Lima instead of Seoul. Being in a chair, Artie stuck out at school, but somehow, she always stuck out more than he did with her garish fashion.

 

His Snapchat story today consists of him editing footage from his short film “Rags, The Homeless Clown” at McKinley. The only time she does leave the house most days to walk three doors down to his house and let herself in through Artie’s bedroom window. Tonight, he’s trying to convince her to leave the house for a party at Rick The Stick’s. She can think of other things she'd rather do with Artie.

 

Normally, these days, they do nothing; she bothers him while he works and he smokes her out. The sexual pact, their arrangement, as they would put it, is something they’re blaming on circumstance; Tina probably shouldn’t think of him as her boyfriend, because in almost every way, he isn’t—it's Artie, and they are agreeing on calling it an "open relationship" in lieu of better terms. But Tina is still so deeply insecure about Finn leaving her, replacing him, what it'll look like if she hasn't moved on.

 

Afraid she’ll run out of time to be loved. Artie understands that, too. They get each other off, take care of each other. It's comfortable for Tina. If lazy.

 

Artie’s story fades into Santana’s, a set of risque selfies of her in a red dress taken here in Lima two weeks ago. The last time Santana was home visiting Brittany and family, she asked if Tina wanted to tag along with her and Brittany to their favorite/the only lesbian dive bar in Dayton. Tina sorely regretted leaving the house, until they actually got there. She’s still more than shell shocked by the experience. They were welcomed with open arms--no cards--because Brittany knows the woman who owns the place somehow. Tina hadn't seen a packed room entirely full of women, from bartenders to bouncers to patrons, well, ever, she realized at that moment.

 

No where else before had she felt one hundred percent safe, and she'd only just been there a couple minutes. Within those minutes, a woman named Allison, older than her, butch, confident, slicked-backed hair, was asking her about herself. Shane from The L Word hot. Offering to buy her a drink, dancing with her for eight songs. Taking her into the bathroom, making out with her, fingering her under her skirts. Tina came in two minutes, Allison's rough voice hot against her neck, Allison's calloused hand covering her mouth.

 

She still hasn’t told Kurt. Artie knows, but he knows it all. Santana noticed that she disappeared, gave her a look that said wanky when she came out of the bathroom, but didn't ask for details. It didn't even look like she told Britt. She thought Santana might say something to Kurt, but he would’ve called her about it by now.

 

Kurt's other half, Blaine’s Snapchat story is next, but instead of seeing his sparkling brown eyes with Sam at McKinley as usual, he's skipping this afternoon to be with Kurt at Ohio State. Kurt looks really good, happy. She misses him.

 

“Oh my god, Kurt." Her voice is raspy from disuse as she calls him, spur of things. She should probably socialize with someone who isn't Artie this week. "I’m so jealous Blaine is there. He didn’t tell me he was ditching to come and be with you. I wanna be invited.”

 

Well, you should totally drive your emo self out here and stop hiding in the dark with your misandrist literature and sad Imogen Heap records." Kurt knows her well. "I know you’re a vampire, but the sun loves your beautiful face.”

 

“Hey, I know you said that you’re never gonna go to another party where there’s alcohol involved, or another party thrown by someone from our high school, but I think that’s pretty impossible because Artie’s trying to drag me to Rick the Stick’s party tonight, and I can't suffer through that nightmare without you.”

 

God, Tina, we can’t be those alumni who go back to all the parties with the teeny-boppers.”

 

She sighs. “You’re right. I love Artie, but his new ‘friends’ make me want to put bullets in my brain.”

 

It’s no secret to either of them why she's ever gone to a McKinley jock house party. It’s not uncommon for supposed college freshmen who still hang around town (or the ones who didn’t graduate like Puck) to crash or even host these parties. Part of her hopes Finn will pop up at one of them this month. Perhaps the mortification of being seen at one of those things at this stage would be worth the chance to just get closure. The last conversation they had was less conversation and more talking at each other. She doesn't know how she'll stop being angry if he doesn't apologize. Of course, the odds of him being at Rick's tonight are slim; ever since Burt left for D.C., in September, Finn’s been working full time and over time. They haven’t so much as texted.

 

Well, let’s do something tonight anyway," Kurt says, and his voice in her ear reminds her of all the time she's spent with both of them, more than a welcome guest in their house. Part of the Hudmel clan. "Why don’t you meet me and Blaine here on campus and we’ll figure something out? I’ll pay for your gas.”

 

“You don’t have to do that.”

 

Nonsense. Artie can come too, if you can drag him out of jock hell.”

 

“Probably not. He ran as student body vice president on Rick’s ticket, and won, so now he says he has to make a ‘political appearance.’ I think that just means that he wants to buy weed from him.”

 

Kurt had another call on his line, so Tina finally got out of bed while he put her on old. Maybe leaving the coven wasn't going to be so bad today. She stood at the full-length mirror and planned her outfit for tonight as Heirloom mewed and rubbed across her shins. Tina looks comfortable and badass again when she does go out, donning her dramatic black, billowing skirts and intricate chokers, witch-like and outrageous instead of senior year's bland headbands and sundresses, which she can admit were inspired by Quinn’s sense of fashion.  She chooses for tonight an elaborate hoop skirt, long-sleeve bodice, and studded choker that says ‘bite me.’ Her hair is long and pin-straight, streaked with purple at the moment.

 

"Am I gonna die alone you think?" Tina says casually when Kurt clicks back over.

 

Can’t talk. Though I hope you feel better and I’ll buy you all the peach flavored ice cream you want when you get here. But I have to go. Sebastian is getting coffee with Blaine, in places. How dare he, again, you know?”

 

“Ugh, that bitch.”

 

A few hours later Tina's driving towards Columbus, back on the phone with Kurt.

 

How are you feeling? I joke about your sad misandry, but—“ Kurt sighs. “I know this must be tough right now.”

 

Because Kurt knows exactly why Tina worries about Finn. Tina feels her throat welling up.

 

“I just wanna know how he’s doing,” she manages. “How is he?”

 

Well, you know he wouldn’t want me to tell you, but he should know that my allegiance lies with a lady before it ever lies with him—he’s better, I’d imagine. You know school was never his thing, so he’s glad that he doesn’t have to pretend anymore.”

 

“Yeah. Not with me, either.”

 

He misses you. Don’t take that to heart. I know he pretty much constantly has a foot in his mouth and he’ll just disappear on you, but in his way, he’s doing this because he loves you. He wants you to leave Lima. To move on.”

 

Tina is welcomed in by Kurt and Blaine at the dorms with hugs and warm conversation. Kurt got invited to a house party tonight, so they get ready together, FaceTiming Artie until they head out. In Kurt's car on the way, Blaine has brought his personalized flask to pre-game; Kurt drives as Tina and Blaine pass the tin full of vodka to each other from the front to the back seat.

 

They get inside the hot apartment where the party is held. There's probably a hundred people in the a cramped space. Kurt, Tina and Blaine are offered a tray of green Jell-O shots by a guy with bunny ears and suspenders on. Blaine takes two and gives his thanks, handing one to Tina.

 

"I haven't had one of these in forever," says Blaine.

 

“The last time I did these," says Tina, "I made out with Mike Chang at Brittany S. Pierce’s surprise party, and I thought everyone was staring because I lifted up his shirt and let everyone see his abs, so Finn would get jealous, but it turns out everyone was staring because they thought we were related.”

 

On the longest wall, facing them as they turn the corner into the living room, is none other than a framed copy of Dali's The Persistence of Memory. Tina stalls before she's had a moment to take in much else, staring into its deep color, thinking it must be some kind of sign.

 

Soon enough, a girl walks in front of the painting, stands partially covering it, her small torso swathed in a black turtleneck. Her legs are accented by a very short plaid skirt, and long, white, girlish socks, and she's little, all perfectly proportioned.

 

Thick brown hair shines around her face. Her eyelashes are downturned as she talks and smiles into the cellphone pressed to her ear.

 

And Tina's done this before. Stared at other women distantly longing, knowing they're straight, knowing she wouldn't do shit anyway. She'd had a similar reaction, you could call it slightly obsessed, to Quinn Fabray in that Cheerios uniform freshman year. Before Glee club. Before Finn.

 

When the girl in front of The Persistence hangs up the phone, she looks right at Tina.

 

Tina lets her gaze fly elsewhere, her face burning hot as the girl comes towards her. Kurt, who Tina temporarily forgot about, steps forward to greet the girl, calling her Rachel, giving her a hug.

 

Tina trains her ears to the music’s lyrics as they talk, trying not to eavesdrop.

 

“What was your name?”

 

But Rachel speaks to her directly. She looks even more like a painting, a work of art, up close, her nose is stunning. God, she’s something.

 

“Tina. Cohen-Chang.” Tina’s had too much vodka from Blaine's flask to handle this the way she probably should, but it is Ohio. People can be racist off the bat. “I know Chang sounds Chinese, but I’m Korean, and I will get pissed if you get the two mixed up.”

 

“Oh,” Rachel says to Tina, pleasant, “okay. Is it hyphenated because you’re mixed race?”

 

“You can’t just ask people if they’re mixed race.”

 

“I didn’t mean to offend you, I—“

 

“It’s Cohen because my parents are divorced, and I decided to take both their names. Wanna paint each others’ nails, talk about it?”

 

Tina takes that moment to grab Blaine’s hand and return to their mission of finding the bar.

 

Tina comes to find out, however, that Kurt’s friend Rachel is nothing if not persistent. Blaine and Rachel met hours before, that's Rachel's onus to stick around, keep looking at Tina as they rotate the drinking game tables around the living room.

 

Rachel stares while not saying anything, eyeing Tina up and down as Blaine speaks into her ear, as they wait for their turn in beer pong. Tina’s too drunk to say anything that probably won’t scare this girl off, that’s for sure, and her inclination to mouthiness is not so much the ‘being mean because I like you’ thing from grade school as it is that she wants people to know how intense she is off the bat. If they can hang, she’ll bite.

 

She's not really that drunk. Nervous, more like. On fire. She watches the two of them play in silence.

 

Moments after their game is finished, Blaine drifts back over to Kurt where he sits on a couch abstaining from booze, and Rachel lingers; stands in front of Tina like she knows they’re going to talk.

 

Like she knows Tina's been looking. Like she knows she wants.

 

“So you go to school with Kurt,” Tina starts.

 

“Rachel Berry. He and I have a class together. He’s a theater major, too. You’re so lucky to have a best friend like him, I would’ve killed for a fairy gay mother in high school who truly understood my dreams of Broadway stardom.”

 

“Yeah, he and I met in the sort-of-theater club at our school.” Rachel’s really, really pretty. “It was a glee club, the New—”

 

“Directions. I know. We had a glee club at Fairbrook but we were never as formidable or as motivated as you were. I practically carried the team every year just to get us to sectionals, where we lost, every time. I meticulously watched every video on your YouTube channel after I found out that you faced off with Vocal Adrenaline and that heartbreaker Jesse St. James.”

 

“So you’ve seen the one of me sucking face at Nationals, then.”

 

“Oh, was that you?”

 

Rachel’s blushing now, glancing at the ceiling all eyelashes fluttering and damn, does Tina want to tell her, that she can’t possibly know what she looks like. She also feels strangely like she knows this girl from somewhere.

 

“Anyway, I wasn’t in a cool YouTube-famous singing troupe like you, but I know in my gut that I’m meant to go to New York, NYADA specifically. There’s a rumor on student chatrooms that a revival of Funny Girl is happening next year and I have to get into that room. Me playing that role, it’s not just the biggest dream of my life. It’s an inevitability.”

 

“You’re that good?”

 

“Exceptional.” Rachel shies a touch. “It’s not that I don’t have the voice, I’ve just always lacked, well, the—confidence to really own a stage. I was supposed to be going to NYADA this year, but I choked at my audition the minute the stakes were higher than me singing into the mic in my bedroom. So, for now, I’m here. In my first major role in a production—granted as a second understudy—but I understand what I need to do and where I’m going to be. Roots before branches, as they say.”

 

Tina finds Rachel odd, very particular and apparently comfortable sharing details of her hopes and dreams with someone she doesn't know at all. There’s something beautiful about all that openness; Rachel’s voice is meticulously articulate, and she looks at you soul-searchingly and on purpose as she monologues. For all that she says she doesn’t own a stage. Tina could probably ask her anything and she’d be honest.

 

“Why are you telling me all this?” Tina says.

 

Rachel smiles, shrugs. “I don’t know. It just feels like I should. Don't you think?”

 

Blaine returns from talking with Kurt, and he signs all three of them up for a team in a game of flip cup. They win the game. Tina opens herself, friendly with Rachel back; receptive to Rachel taking her hand as they move through the teeming crowd of people in the room. Rachel seems to know everyone here; has a bodacious laugh, infectious, kind of snorts, when people say things into her ear in passing...

 

...and then Rachel is dragging Tina by the hand down a hallway, “Come with me, I just need some air,” and closing the door behind them in a bedroom. Two fluorescent pink paper lanterns on the other side of the room illuminate their bodies and faces to each other.

 

Tina paces the room, her heartbeat loud in her ears as Rachel stands against the wall, looking at her that way again. God, is this what's happening? Is that what this is? Maybe Tina doesn't know, has it all wrong—

 

“Sometimes I think that my talents are wasted on this town but it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who enjoys mindlessly drinking to pass the time while they’re in career limbo—”

 

“Are you hitting on me?" Tina blurts. "Or what?”

 

Tina moves closer, watching Rachel’s reaction to her words bloom across her face.

 

Rachel exhales, shaky, when Tina comes to stand next to her along the wall.

 

“I do think that you’re a very beautiful girl, Tina, but I. I-I’ve never done anything with a woman before.”

 

Tina's heart skips beats. “No?”

 

“I just think that I’m too young to diverge in that direction so soon—n-not that there’s anything wrong with a little sexual exploration—I’m just not sure that I want something so brazen or controversial marking me to the world before the world has even gotten to know m-me—”

 

Tina slides her hand across Rachel’s abdomen, confidence surging through her from a place she did not know she had. Rachel’s breath catches. The brunette watches Tina’s hand slip beneath her sweater, past the bands of her skirt and underwear, and slide a finger between her legs, along her soaking clit. No intention to bring her to completion, no sudden movements. Just holds it there, to know she’s right.

 

“You are such a liar, Rachel Berry," Tina says. "You are so wet right now.”

 

Rachel’s hand clings to Tina’s forearm, and Tina goes lightheaded as Rachel whispers against her lips,

 

“Do that again.”

 

Rachel's plaid skirt is, soon, on the floor; Tina's down on her knees with her hoop skirt pooling her, one hand holding Rachel's lavender panties aside and the other two fingers deep, slowly thrusting. She's always known vaginas were beautiful, objectively, she hasn't been beyond looking at her own, sitting atop the counter in the bathroom, but it's something else entirely seeing it on another woman; Rachel's folds are perfect, bronze and slick, tufts of hair. 

 

Rachel somewhat sings, standing above her; her moans become more orchestrated, louder, and Tina can tell at least that Rachel's got great pitch. She didn't know that women actually sounded like this, she's always been quiet herself, biting her own lip, asking Finn to hold her mouth shut. She's horny as hell just from Rachel's music alone, if not as well from Rachel's golden hips, her skin so soft and sweet and smooth—did she ever like boys? Nothing compares to this—

 

"Oh, god, please." Rachel's eyes close, her hands tentatively stroke Tina's head, her hips stutter forward. Tina's jolted awake by the feeling of Rachel squeezing around her, really fucking tight, she feels so much power—

 

"Please, what?"

 

Rachel whimpers in response, fingers tangling through Tina's hair. "I'm gonna come, I'm gonna come, oh, oh—"

 

Tina's own legs are trembling, clit steadily throbbing between her thighs beneath the billow of her skirts, as Rachel's fists tighten at her roots, and her thighs clench together, and she leans against the wall with her throat tilted skyward, and Tina feels the hot stream of her, flowing around her fingers.

 

"Okay," Rachel exhales, matter of fact, her legs still trembling, patting Tina's head. "Okay. I'm good. Okay."

 

Tina laughs. "Are you sure?"

 

"Yes." Rachel watches as Tina removes her fingers. "Are younot that I'm sure that I'd know what I'm doing, and your skirt looks very complicated, but. I can return, if you"

 

Tina stands up and sucks the moisture from her digits by habit, which makes Rachel stop talking, her mouth hanging open. Tina can't deny that she could probably use an orgasm herself right now, but the thought hadn't occurred during her actual work. Turns out, with women, she's content with only giving.

 

"It's cool, I'm good."

 

Afterwards, they're back out in the living room; Tina notices Rachel’s friends totally giving her looks, big, goofy grins and thumbs ups, as she and Tina very obviously left the bedroom more sated than they were when they entered it. Tina continues to feel flustered as Rachel continues to stick by her side. Electricity thrums through her, bone deep. Everything happened so fast, she can’t believe she went for it and it’s going well, whereas that with that woman from the bar that night, it had been clear that she didn't want Tina following after.

 

Tina and Rachel are together for the next half hour; they watch the ongoing beer pong tournament, fingers brushing along each other's slightly. Tina doesn't know what she should say the whole time, but luckily, Rachel's voice is in her ear soon enough:

 

“Okay, I can't help it.  We should go back, because I can’t stop thinking about your fingers.”

 

Tina feels heat flooding her face. "Thought you didn’t want something so controversial tainting your image.”

 

“I thought I didn’t, but—" Rachel tangles their fingers together. "Life’s short, you’re single, I’m single, we should just take this.”

 

Tina pauses, then, reality coming back to flood hear head. Artie. He said you're supposed to tell the other people when something like what they have is going on. He's right. Tina won't let herself be Finn.

 

“Couldn’t agree more," Tina says. "But...I’m not exactly single.”

 

Rachel rips her hand away from Tina's.

 

"What? W-why didn't you say something?"

 

"Look, I'm sorry." Oh, God, Rachel is a crier too. "I got caught up, and you're really pretty, and my best friend, he's not exactly my boyfriend but he's kind of my boyfriend right now, we're in an open r—"

 

"You mean to tell me—all that stuff, in there,” Rachel jabs her finger furiously towards bedroom door, “and you have a boyfriend?”

 

Oh, Tina wishes she hadn't drank earlier. It makes her head feel thick, makes her unable to connect with her sadder emotions. Foot in fucking mouth all the way. “Artie knows I want to experiment, he does it too—"

 

“Oh my god—"

 

“We’ve actually been trying to get Kurt to let Blaine make out with Artie for years

 

“Tina?” Kurt's suddenly in front of them, urgent, flushed. “As much as I and everyone love hearing you talk about how free-spirited and boundary-less your budding relationship is, we’ve got a code green. Blaine is sloppy.”

 

“I love him, but when isn’t he sloppy.”

 

Tina is silently grateful for the emergency exit that is Kurt pulling her by the arm across the room towards the front door. She can go and try not to think about the fact that she just butchered this, with her lingering obsession over what a man thinks.

 

“Wait!”

 

But Rachel calls after them before they've stepped outside the door. She runs up to Tina, grabs her by the arm, and pulls her close so they can kiss, open mouth, tongue. Tina's entire body shudders; she's totally aware of Kurt staring motionless between them, his fingers squeezing hers.

 

 

“Call me," Rachel says.

 

 

 

 

 


"
남양주시 Namyangju-si

2012 10 15 15:43

 

Dear Tina, Seo-yun 서윤 ,

I write this letter to you during Typhoon Mangkhut. Schools, job, and cafes have closed for inclement weather. I do not wish to go back to work. I hate my male co-workers more with each passing day.

The feminist protests in Seoul 서울특별시 about the pornography sites and spycams are gaining attention in the national media. 10,000 women were in the square before the storm hit Saturday. You should look at photos of the posters! Men everywhere are hating it. It is so hypocritcal. They would kill us if we did to them what they do to us!  Either that, or jerk off to it. Gross.

As for my confession: I think now that maybe you did not feel the same way when we were little girls. I am sorry. We are thousands of miles away, and you love Finn Hudson from Facebook. It's been eight years since I have seen your face in life. Still, I think of you every single day, Tina Seo-yun Cohen-Chang.

Writing these letters is also like writing to myself, too. So, thank you for still helping me from so far away. Peace and love.

 

To be a woman,
She constantly bathes in gravel,
and is asked to lie that it feels like
coating the skin with milk and honey.

To be a woman,
She always lays on a bed of thorns,
and she is asked to deem it the equivalent
of laying on cotton.

To be a woman,
She learns the skill of halvening herself,
because Earth forbid,
this world does not hold enough room
for every woman to be whole.

- Acquelline K.

 

 

With care, 

Shiro  시로 "

 

 

 

Like any hot-blooded woman,
I have simply wanted an object to crave.
-  X

 

 

 

In the weeks the follow, Tina guiltily searches for Rachel online. She'd said to call, but here Tina sits with no number.

 

Rachel’s Instagram is fairly popular, more than Tina expected, at ten thousand followers. The account mostly consists of videos of Rachel singing alone in her bedroom every night. She starts each clip off the same, simply stating "Hi, my name is Rachel Berry" and the name of the song. The most recent one is her rendition by Uninvited by Alanis Morisette, and Tina goes boneless in her desk chair; how did the universe know that that's her favorite song?

 

Tina gets chills listening to Rachel blow. How on earth does a voice like that come from someone so tiny? Especially towards the end of the song, as music swells, when her voices goes scratchy-throaty with the power of her belt, a single tear falling down her cheek. Rachel keeps her eyes closed and/or looks down at herself the entire song, dressed in all black as if in mourning. Tina is so fucked. Rachel is lovely.

 

Tina is too embarrassed, thinks Rachel probably hates her too much for running out after the party to add her as a friend. But two weeks later, Kurt tells her, the next time they talk, “Rachel won’t stop talking about you, by the way.”

 

So, Tina adds her on the 'gram, after which Rachel adds her back and does the same on Snapchat. The Snapchat is more informal than the Instagram, and Tina ponders Rachel inside the screen of her phone, itching with distant, probably facetious wanting: her big, cheery house in Beavercreek; how special and showered in love she is by her two dads; all the minutes of videos of herself singing softly at the train station; her pictures of her and all her college classmates, her videos of Barbara Streisand, photos of her various New York vacations.

 

Tina finally works up the courage to respond to one of her Snapchats, one day, and the response is better than she anticipated. Rachel replies with a long answer and smiley faces, talking about her classes and rehearsals for Urinetown, a musical Tina isn't actually familiar with. She promises, flimsily, to come and check it out when it opens.

 

Their conversation continues for a few days, mostly Rachel sends her clips of her practicing her numbers, but Tina doesn't know how or if to ask if they should see each other. Doesn't Rachel not want anything to do with her, in person, again, if Artie's in her life?

 

She's afraid to take this plunge, submerge herself in that dark part of her, that would love too much, hurt too deep, the one that's just now starting to re-surface weak from drowning for months over Finn. If she felt that broken up about him, with him having a man's body and not even being that good, how could she stand the fallout of getting her heart broken by a woman? Of falling in love with Rachel Berry specifically?

 

No, it would be too much, she’s always known.

 

 

 

 

The morning after her night at the dive bar, Tina woke up with a pounding headache to Artie calling her.  She didn’t realize until two weeks into her breakup with Finn that she and Artie hadn't properly caught up in months, realized how long it had been since they’d hung out alone. She decided, the rest of this year while they both still live in Ohio, no excuses. Tina will be leaving, eventually, and then he'll be gone, too. They need to soak each other up while they can, no holding back.

 

Anyway, you should bring that ass on,” Artie was saying to her morning after her fling, “Rick just got me this dank quarter of gorilla glue and I just got a new rig to go with it.”

 

“I don’t know what any of that means.”

 

An hour later, they were high as kites; Tina was sitting on top of his hips where he couldn't feel her weight, Artie out of his chair and lying on the floor, his shirt off and just wearing basketball shorts. Tina had kissed him a while ago after they both took hits from the bong; they'd kissed one other time, at Sadie Hawkins in sixth grade, but both had decided it grossed them out and felt awkward, laughed about it later on. Today, it doesn't feel like that. Today, it feels like Artie has grown into a man, like the stubble along his jaw does things to her, like she loves the sinewy strength in his arms; like she knows he doesn't really have sex, not the way most men do, and that could be advantageous for her and for him, given what she knows about her sexuality today. She knows it's hard for Artie to find someone, too, who gets it.

 

They're talking about how crazy it is that spiders can regrow limbs, in between lazy, soft make-outs as Tina rolls a joint, when Tina pauses, stares at him wonderingly. She really loves him so much.

 

“What?” Artie says.

 

“I love you,” Tina says.

 

“I know this."

 

Tina hits him in the chest; they struggle, her tickling him, a losing battle.

 

“I love you too,” he says then, as she settles down and he swings an arm around her waist. “And, you know, you can always get up on this.”

 

“I mean, you’re my best friend. Who else would let me climb through their window at any hour and crash for three days with Heirloom?”

 

“My mom misses that old girl. Is her eye still doing that thing?”

 

“Cross-eye thing? The other one, too. But, I don’t know. As much as I want Finn to watch me move on and get up on someone else—on you, since he knows you, make him hate himself with jealousy and the regret of letting me go—I don't know if I want, like—a thing. With a boy. Man. Not even you, who’s like, perfect for me. I just. I need my own life. I wanna travel. Did you know I thought about turning down going with my dad back to Seoul in December just because of Finn? I get so afraid of being alone that I put on all these costumes and wear all these masks. Finn was this tall, comforting, goofy mask.”

 

“Well, I feel you on that. I like you as much as I've ever liked anyone and I’d be crazy if I didn’t wanna hit that, frankly, but. I’m more than on track to get into USC Film School; I’m there already, in my head. And after a while, you get fed up letting people mess with you, and dress you, and all that stuff. I know you love Finn and I love Brittany and Santana, but they changed us. Remember? We didn’t used to care about what anyone at school thought of us.”

 

Damn him for being so close all her life, for the universe throwing them together and for him not feeling like one of those straight guys, ever, and why not have a friend with benefits, just for now? She's so horny from Allison last night, just thinking about it. She needs to put out all that energy somewhere, before it turns self-destructive.

 

“Did I just say all of that out loud?”

 

“Well, Santana told me about your soirée. We were Snapping last night when you were whisked into the gay bar bathroom of no return. Honestly, I’m shocked that it took you so long, but if you meet a girl you like while we’re doing our thing, if you want, you have my full support to go out and seize the day.”

 

Tina feels relief flood through her. She snorts. “My, have things changed since your Brittany days.”

 

Artie chuckles. “Well, I have been dabbling in a little. Same sex, myself, these days.”

 

“No.” She punches him in the shoulder. “You bitch! Why didn't you tell me? With who?”

 

“He doesn’t want anyone to know, okay? But, Riley. Glee club Riley.”

 

“Glee club Riley? Good job.”

 

“You telling me. But, I don't know. Santana and Brittany have really opened my eyes the last two years. At first I was jilted, and jealous, but—I was kinda homophobic, before meeting them. Seeing them together made me realize that I had always been afraid of the exact same thing Santana was. Anyway, I ended up telling them one night, after we were all friends, and they encouraged me to go for it.”

 

Tina finishes rolling the joint, licking the edge of the paper, and then hands it to him to spark.

 

“I haven’t been a good friend at all," she says, sighing. "I bet you’ve tried to tell me about this a hundred times and I’ve totally tuned you out because Finn was in the building.”

 

“Yeah, pretty much.”

 

“I am proud of you though. Really, I am.”

 

They take a couple hits, and then, Tina wants.

 

“So," she says, grinning mischievously.

 

“So?”

 

“Tell me about what that was like. To be with Riley...”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tina isn’t sure why Rachel invited her tonight. The Halloween street fair party on Fraternity Row at Ohio State is set to be a big blowout, outrageous, and she was going to go with Artie when invited by Kurt, anyway. But then, Rachel texts her—they've graduated to texting—asking her to come through. 

 

Rachel: It would be lovely to see you again.

Rachel: I've thought about that night, you know.

Tina: Have you?

Rachel: Yes. I'd never been with a woman before. Or, well, anyone.

Rachel: I'm a virgin.

 

Tina's chest swells with something wanton, at that. The thought of deflowering a virgin; Rachel specifically, for all she is. It's certainly always been one of her kinks, Finn had been a virgin, too, as well as her last two middle school boyfriends.

 

Tina thinks Rachel is out of her league, though. Part of this has something to do with the fact that she knows Finn would’ve been in love with this girl, had they met. She doesn't even know if Rachel is bi, like herself. She sure does talk about her celebrity crush on Jesse St. James.

 

Rachel: Part of me thinks I shouldn't be holding out. I've just always wanted my first time to be special.

Rachel: My dads say never to marry your first, because then you don't know what you're missing out the world. But I just don't want to give up on my fantasy, of only being in love with person, ever. It's very romantic.

Tina: It's a nice thought, to be sure. Still, don't cave into peer pressure if you don't want. You should save it.

Rachel: Hmm...

Rachel: Are you *sure* you want me to save it, Tina?

Rachel: I can think of a couple ways that you could ruin me.

Rachel: Hard.

 

Tina almost drops her phone on the floor. 

 

Tina: For someone who's never had sex, you certainly talk the talk, Rachel Berry.

Rachel: I may be a virgin, but I have thoughts. Sex toys. Et cetera.

Rachel: Confidence to pursue such perilous, wonderful-sounding things in the real world is lacking, but.

Rachel: Maybe it's time to let go.

Rachel: Maybe with you.

 

Tina's all for the thought, but. Rachel had cried when she mentioned Artie. She hasn't forgotten that. Thinks about it almost every night.

 

Rachel: I know you said you have an arrangement, with your best friend. I've always considered being with two people at once to be cheating. But, I'm an adult now, and I think that modern times call for a little more nuance with these things.

Rachel: As long as you tell him what we're up to, I guess.

Rachel: I don't mind if we do it again.

Rachel: Maybe I should meet him first.

 

Tina meets up with Artie that afternoon, before the party, covering her face in pasty white make-up in his bathroom mirror (they're going as "racist white face" Edward and Bella from Twilight, cheap gold contacts, fangs, and hoodies with jeans). She's thought about what Artie said weeks ago, about them really existing in this place without any jealousy, and she thinks it works for Artie so much because she's Artie’s only one woman exception. The thought of that Cheerio Kitty sitting in his lap and jumping him makes some jealousy flare in her, but the thought of him and Riley didn’t do a thing of that nature. She'd wanted to watch.

 

"So are you really gonna do this?" Artie says from the bedroom, unseen. "With Rachel? Can I come?"

 

Tine laughs. "I don't think she'd like that. She freaked just at me mentioning you that night."

 

"I wouldn't be me if I ain't try."

 

"Today, though, she sort of sounds like she's okay with us, being how we are. But. I'll have to see. When I see her."

 

Tina and Artie arrived at the pin Kurt had sent them in their group chat about a quarter mile before the street fair would begin. The sun sets over their heads as they wait for Blaine to come, too. Tina has a game of Angry Birds open on her phone, to mitigate the anxiety she's feeling about tonight.

 

“So when we are gonna meet this Rachel little bitty?” Artie was saying to Kurt.

 

“She says she’ll be getting here around ten,” Kurt answered. “But just to warn you, I really don’t know how she’s going to feel. About seeing both of you, together.”

 

Tina swallows, at that. How much does Rachel talk about her to Kurt?

 

“I thought she told Tee that she’s okay with it,” Artie says.

 

“Sure, that’s what she said,” Kurt says, “but it’s another thing entirely to actually see it.”

 

“Well, I for one think it is a bangin’ ass idea, and I’m not just saying that because I might get to see it go down. Literally.”

 

Kurt chuckles. “Don’t count on that.”

 

“I don’t know if I should go for it, you guys,” Tina says now, putting her phone back in her pocket. “I mean, she’s a virgin—”

 

“To the shock and awe of no one,” Kurt says. "Have you seen how she dresses?"

 

“I’m sorry, that’s all the more reason you should be doing this,” Artie says.

  

Tina keeps her drinking to a minimum, this time, pretty much nonexistent as the street fair picks up in full, loud swing through the early evening. Something seems off about Kurt and Blaine, with whom she and Artie jump from frat house to frat house, though she can't put her finger on what it is exactly. She can't ask Kurt, not now that Blaine's here, not with all this noise. She does know there was a particularly ugly argument between Kurt and Sebastian in their room sometime before they got here. But when isn't there one of those?

 

Personally, Tina has hated Sebastian ever since he popped up in Blaine's life last year surrounding West Side Story. She hated seeing Kurt go through the stressing agony of wondering if your significant other is cheating, why they would, what it is that's wrong with you. Kurt has since bolstered his confidence after a senior year of avoiding Sebastian's interventions on he and Blaine's life together, but Tina knows the long term damage that does, the tension that develops between you and the other person vying for your lover. Like Tina and Quinn. Kurt seems to be looking around tonight, suspiciously, checking his surroundings. Checking for Sebastian.

 

“What?" Around ten, Kurt's answering his phone, shouting over the music blaring through the frat house; Tina is sitting in Artie's lap, taking a break from dancing, absently touching his hair."I don’t know where you are, but we’re at Phi Lambda Lambda, and you—oh, there you are!”

 

Rachel suddenly appears in the crowd, dressed as Dorothy of Oz, complete with glittery red slippers and a basket with a Toto doll. She looks at Tina, who's still in Artie's lap, and her head tilts a bit. Tina suddenly feels mortified for a reason she can't place. Also, Rachel's legs look killer. She's a knockout.

 

“Damn, you weren’t lying,” Artie says in Tina's ear. “She is cute as a kitten.

 

“Artie, Rachel, Rachel, Artie!” Tina announces with a quick sweep of her hand, dispelling the nerves building up in her body.

 

“Are you two supposed to be mimes?” Rachel asks them.

 

“Nah, we’re racist Twilight!” Artie says.

 

Tina glances over at Kurt, feeling her heart need some reprieve; he stands beside his boyfriend proud, tall and out in this place full of potentially homophobic straight men. He's inredibly strong; Tina's lucky to have him. He looks at her right now with wide eyes and a gesture towards Rachel as if to say what are you waiting for?? Get up and go get 'er! so Tina does stand up, suddenly. Gets close enough to Rachel to take both of her hands, watches as Rachel's smile shyly spread across her face.

 

“You look amazing,” Tina says, “come dance with me.”

 

They dance, talk in shouting voices over the music, for almost an hour. At first, they goofily dance, Tina teaching Rachel the salsa even as hip-hop and trap music blare on above them. Slower, more sexual songs come into play, and Tina is modest at first, but Rachel takes her hands and puts them right where she wants them, up her thighs beneath the blue skirt.

 

Tina has Rachel in her arms, head tucked over Rachel's shoulder, when notices Kurt alone along the furthest back wall, leaning up against the bar counter. She wonders if she should go and ask him what's up, but then, someone comes to stand next to him. Sebastian. They speak without looking at each other, and then suddenly, they're close. Whatever they're talking about, it has Kurt all worked up. Suddenly Tina knows what's wrong with Kurt and Blaine. She knows Kurt; Kurt would never lie to Blaine or cheat on him. But god, that's sexual tension if she's ever seen it.

 

Sometimes people want the wrong thing.

 

Rachel turns around to see at what Tina's watching; she squeezes her hands where they grip Tina's waist, leans in close to speak in her ear:

 

"They're kind of hot, right? I know Kurt is with Blaine, but I think Sebastian has a crush on him."

 

"You think?"

 

"Yes."

 

Right as Tina's about to go in the for the kiss--Rachel moves from her ear to just before her face, staring at her lips, and oh, Tina wants--the sound of a bullet shatters momentum and all of a sudden, everyone in the room is running, stomping, rushing towards the house doors. Tina loses track of Rachel immediately as she vanishes into the crowd, looking for Artie and Blaine and Kurt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It appeared to be some kind of alteraction between fraternities; one org brought a gun, brandished it to prove a point, didn't actually shoot at anyone, but rather shot in the air. Still, the entire street fair was shut down early because of Ohio State's security protocols; Tina stands with Blaine, Kurt and Artie outside the frat house.

 

In a panicked rush of events, Tina found Blaine and Artie first and got out of the house, called Kurt and Rachel several times with no answer, and then saw Kurt came out of the house after several minutes, accompanied by a paramedic. After talking with her a moment, seeing if he was fine, he came to his friends, and Blaine scooped him up in a long embrace. As it occurred, Tina saw Sebastian walking out of the house behind them.

 

“Did you guys even see what happened?” Tina says.

 

“I didn’t,” Blaine says, “Artie and I were pretty far from it too, just got the worst of the trampling as people tried to leave.” Blaine looks over at Kurt, who's still silent. “Kurt?”

 

“No, I—I didn’t see anything either. Luckily, I was by the bar, and I—he, somebody, warned me in time, and I got down.”

 

Tina wonders why Kurt won't say Sebastian's name.

 

“I’m just really, really glad that we’re all okay,” Blaine announces.

 

Tina's phone finally buzzes with a call back from Rachel.

 

"Hey, are you okay?"

 

"Okay as I can be, hearing a gun go off so close. I booked it as fast as I could across campus, made it all the way to the dorm and back in my room. H-how is everything there? Are you still at the street?"

 

"Yeah, we're here. Police got the shooter right away. Some drunk frat guy messing around. They're still assessing the situation in the house, but we're free to go. I guess we'll go home, since the party's over."

 

"Tina?"

 

Hearing Rachel say her name so suddenly gave her chills. She paused in silence for a moment.

 

"Yes?"

 

"I um--I have a lot of trouble sleeping at night, when I get scared like this. Could you--would you come sleep with me?"

 

Tina's hairs still stand up on end and she finishes the call, with her answer, and drops into Artie's lap, nervous, needing him to tell her what to do.

 

“What's up with Rachel?" Artie brushes some of Tina’s hair out of her face, sweet, comforting. "She a’ight?”

 

“Yeah. She managed to run out so fast she got all the way back to her dorm room without anybody seeing her. But she says she’s really scared. She asked me to come over, actually. Doesn’t wanna sleep alone.”

 

“So, go get it, girl.”

 

“Really? But we agreed that—not that anything is gonna happen now, but—”

 

“Yeah, but that was only if she agreed to it. I think she liked me and all as a person but, I don’t think she’s ready for this jelly.”

 

“You are such a dork.”

 

“I’m serious, yo. Go. Call me tomorrow. Don’t forget the photos.”

 

“Shut up.”

 

“Kidding, I’m kidding. But seriously, if she lets you, don’t forget the photos.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Tina shows up, Rachel’s still in her costume, sans the glittery slippers. She hugs Tina so tight at the doorway, Tina almost feels the wind knocked out of her. Rachel doesn't let go for what feels a like a minute.

 

“Man, that really scared you, didn’t it?” Tina chuckles when Rachel finally releases her, letting her into her vibrant, pink-tinted dorm, shutting the door behind them.

 

“I guess it just made me realize," Rachel says, "that life is short. That at any moment, all of this could end. Everything we think is important, all our potential.”

 

Tina looks around the room to dispel how heavy and real Rachel's statement just made her feel; peeks into her open closet full of plaid, animal sweaters; takes in all the framed certificates and mood boards, golden star trimmed bulletin boards, trophy cases, lacy bedding. Her various shrines.

 

“You have a lot of photos of Barbara Streissand," Tina says. "Like, a stalker-y amount. ”

 

“Thank you.”

 

Rachel goes to sit on her bed.

 

“No one died, did they?” she asks Tina again.

 

“Nope. Not even the gunman. Everyone’s safe now.”

 

Rachel nods, her expression calms; she smiles a little, somber, then in one fell swoop, she scoops her blue dress over her head, leaving her stark naked.

 

"Tina?"

 

"Yes."

 

"Come get me."