Santana peers over her shoulder as she power-walks through the neighborhood. The breeze hits her bare arms, but it’s the end of summer so it’s not nearly enough to make her feel cold. Besides, she’s a straight up bitch; she’s always cold. The stereo rattles a little bit at every step Santana takes, and she curses under her breath at the annoying piece of technology. Soon enough, she reaches her car; a black Camry, parked in the shade of a big red maple tree, almost invisible in the night. Santana quietly opens the trunk, dumps the stereo in it, along with the jewelry that had been stuffed in the loose pockets of her sweatpants. It’s not really burglary attire, but the black tank over the black pants make her inconspicuous enough.
Once the loot is hidden beneath a blanket, Santana closes the trunk, sits behind the steering wheel and drives away, all as silently as she possibly can. She leaves West Lima and drives south, across the train tracks that cut through the city like a border, entering Lima’s most notorious neighborhood, Lima Heights. Santana pushes the gas pedal down a little further as she passes the older houses and cluttered front yards. The light from the streetlights bathes the world in yellow and black; transforming this road that Santana drives on near daily into something out of another universe.
Soon enough, Santana drives past the public pool, and into what she lovingly calls ‘Lima Heights Adjacent’. Despite the area, Adjacent—which is actually called Fairview, or Pill Hill among Lima natives, because of the number of doctors living there—is one of the best neighborhoods in town. It’s ironic, Santana supposes, that she lives here. She has all the makings of a Heights girl: she steals, curses and fights her way through life, but at the end of the day daddy is still a general practitioner with an above average income.
Her proximity to Lima Heights has allowed her to keep in touch with her friends there, though. Santana’s partner in literal crime is Puck, a by all means stupid kid, but he’s been sticking up for her since preschool and that means something, regardless of where you’re from. Santana’s other best friend is Quinn, her neighbor in Fairview. They met on their first day at McKinley High, during Cheerios tryouts. Quinn had been as amazing as Santana doing her cartwheels, arabians and somersaults, and a mutual respect had solidified between the two of them pretty quickly. Santana glances out the window when she passes Quinn’s house. The lights are all off, which makes sense; Quinn is nothing if not a stickler for discipline and rules. Santana, on the other hand, just doesn’t really care. About a lot of things, really.
Eventually, she reaches her own house and tries to park her car in such a way that it seems like it had never left the driveway. Santana exits her car silently and sneaks into the house, and up to her room. The stereo and the jewelry are fine where they are, she decides. Puck can come by and get them tomorrow. The clock reads 4 am when Santana finally slips under the covers and closes her eyes.
Burglary is not only morally bad, Santana thinks when she enters the school at 8 am sharp, it’s also completely ruining her sleeping schedule. The bags under her eyes are meticulously hidden away beneath a layer of concealer, but she can still feel the tiredness in her limbs despite having downed two cups of coffee this morning. Cheerios practice this afternoon is going to be literal hell on earth.
Santana makes her way into the geography classroom five minutes late, rolls her eyes at Mrs. Hagberg when she berates her for being late and takes her seat in the back of the class. She sits down and, with a deep sigh, pulls her geography book out of her backpack. Mrs. Hagberg—or as Santana calls her, the Hag—is rattling off about volcanos and tectonic plates, and it’s not until she starts droning on about basalt that Santana notices she’s not sitting alone. To her right, in the seat that’s normally reserved for Santana’s backpack, is a blonde girl. Jesus, Santana thinks, I must be really out of it today, I didn’t notice her at all.
One of the things Santana prides herself on is knowing everyone in school. At least, everyone who is somebody important, or attractive. The girl next to her certainly is the latter, with her bright blue eyes and hair styled carefully into a tight ponytail. She’s also wearing the same Cheerios uniform that Santana is, which, what the hell? Santana knows every cheerleader on the squad, and this girl isn’t one. At least, not before today.
“Sorry, but who are you?” Santana whispers bluntly. The girl spins around with wide eyes, clearly not having expected Santana to start talking to her.
“Oh, I’m Brittany,” she whispers back. “I’m new.”
“How the hell did you make the squad on your first day?” Santana hisses incredulously, ignoring the looks that the Hag is sending them and instead staring at the WMHS that’s emblazoned on the front of Brittany’s uniform. Brittany’s expression turns a little sheepish.
“I, uh, actually transferred here to join the Cheerios. Coach Silvester saw me at my old school, I guess she was impressed,” she answers in a whisper.
That makes sense. Santana lets her eyes wander over Brittany’s posture. She’s muscular, not to mention pretty; and if Sue let her transfer here in the middle of the school year, she must be the real deal. She shoots the new girl a grin. “I’ll see you at practice, then.”
Apart from Sue’s hawk eyes on the slightest sluggishness to her movements during their routines, Cheerios practice is uneventful. Santana spends most of it thinking about meeting up with Puck after, making sure to tell him to sell the gold at a high price, maybe making out with him a little bit. When she’s not thinking about that particular extracurricular, Santana lets her eyes find Brittany, who moves like she was born to fly around in the air, twisting through it like an Olympian. Their eyes meet, Brittany smiles, and Santana thinks it must be her exhaustion when she suddenly feels somewhat lightheaded.