the art of boxes (chapter 7)
[bonjour. here’s another update. this chapter is a lot to take in (and to write), even if it’s a little shorter. i hope you like it.
title from "the give" by thao with the get down stay down. it’s a lovely song so you can just listen to that.
you can read this here, on my lj, or at ffn.]
part 1. part 2. part 3. part 4. part 5. part 6.
seven. oh, sweet girl, remember this (of course i love you a little bit, that does more than i can do)
"I’ll just be a minute," Quinn promises as Judy parks the SUV in the Berry’s driveway.
"Take your time, sweetie," Judy says.
Quinn gets opens the door with a small smile and climbs down. Her chest still aches and she has the worst cough she’s ever experienced and she’s tired, but she’s certainly feeling better than a few days ago.
It’s cold, and Quinn watches her breath puff in the air as she walks towards the Berry’s door. It’s late morning, and all of the leaves on the trees have fallen off, scattered around on the ground. Quinn doesn’t even make it to the doorbell before Rachel’s opening the door, hugging Quinn gently before stepping back and taking her in.
"I brought you a card," Rachel says with a laugh, "so my dads wouldn’t think I was being impolite."
Quinn takes it. “That was unnecessarily nice.”
"Well, it’s Thanksgiving."
"That it is." Quinn motions to Rachel’s burnt orange dress. "You’re already festive."
"I like this holliday." Rachel brings her hand up to cup Quinn’s cheek, and Quinn imagines Judy watching them from the car. She doesn’t shrink away, though, because Rachel says, "I just had to see you for myself. Make sure you weren’t lying when you said you were okay."
Quinn twirls around once. “Here I am.”
Rachel smiles. “Here you are.”
"Happy Thanksgiving. Say hello to your dads for me."
"I will. They hope you feel better, by the way," Rachel says. "Give Judy my love."
"I’ll call you tomorrow afterward," Quinn says, and she’s serious.
Rachel nods. “Love you.”
"Love you, too, Rach."
Rachel brings her arms around Quinn again, and Quinn hugs her back, and she imagines Judy realizing that her daughter had found someone who fits perfectly.
Quinn walks back to the car and Rachel waves, and when Quinn climbs in and shuts the door, Judy smiles at her.
"They wanted to give us a card," Quinn says, showing the little dark green envelope to Judy. "And Rachel’s dads wish you a happy Thanksgiving."
"I’ll have to send them a thank you note," Judy says, then takes Quinn’s hand.
Hope suddenly blooms in Quinn’s chest, rooted in soil and wrapping around her ribs, shattering glass and slaying ghosts Quinn never even knew existed.
Quinn takes one step inside Santana’s front door before she sees blond hair and a sweater with turkeys on it for exactly a second before Brittany is squeezing her and saying, “I missed you so much, Quinn! And Santana told me you were sick so I wasn’t supposed to hug you too hard—am I, because San would be mad if I hurt you and Lord Tubbington would never forgive me and—”
"Hi, Britt," Quinn says, laughing.
Brittany backs up and looks Quinn up and down. “You look hot, Quinn. Sorry, Judy,” she adds, stepping forward and helping an amused Judy and a laughing Santana with the pies. “My mom told me I was supposed to help you bring these in before I did anything else but I missed Quinn too much.”
"It’s okay, sweetie," Judy says, squeezing Brittany’s forearm gently before she smiles at Quinn. "Quinn’s a very missable person, after all."
Brittany’s brows knit together, and she looks to Quinn with shock. “They made you into a missile at Yale? But I though you were against the war.”
Santana laughs and tugs on Brittany’s hand, and Quinn shakes her head. “I missed you too, Britt.”
They walk to the kitchen to put down the pies and Quinn greets Santana’s father, who’s working on mashed potatoes, with a hug. Brittany’s little sister runs up and animatedly tells Quinn about how she was almost old enough to start cheer.
Maribel walks in from the pantry with Susan, Brittany’s mom, and they kiss Quinn’s cheeks and squeeze her hands and give her soft hugs, and then they start talking to Judy about their book club, and they send Santana and Brittany and Quinn off to plan the evening entertainment.
Quinn almost cries because she has a home and a family. Mostly because, although she’s done nothing to deserve it, she belongs to these people.
She curls up with Brittany on Santana’s bed as Santana searches through her iTunes library, and Brittany runs her fingers through Quinn’s hair and kisses her forehead.
Santana smiles gently and says, “I’d be jealous, but I know you’re not half as good a kisser as I am, Q.”
Brittany says, “Quinn’s not a bad kisser.”
"Quinn has pneumonia. I bet she tastes disgusting."
Brittany says, “San, you know you don’t need to be mean or feel jealous, right? I thought last night—”
"—Do I need to leave?" Quinn asks.
Santana laughs. “I suppose you can stay. For now.”
Brittany kisses Quinn’s forehead again. “Lord Tubbington would be sad if you left so soon.”
"Well, I can’t live with making Lord Tubbington sad," Quinn says.
Santana says, “I can’t argue with Lord Tubbington.”
Brittany shrugs. “No one can. He’s a genius.”
Thanksgiving dinner, which they eat around three in the afternoon, is loud and full of laughter. Quinn sits between Santana and Judy, and when Brittany announces that they all have to go around the room and say what they’re grateful for, and Judy says, “I’m thankful that Quinn’s home,” Quinn wants to stop time.
She wishes she could freeze the seconds, stop them from evaporating or fading like waves against sand, washing up and shaping the shore until the tide rolls out and all that’s left are remnants: slimy seaweed and rough driftwood, sea glass sparkling and worn from years of endless tumbling, a dusting of salt like snow.
Maribel puts a gentle hand along Quinn’s back. “Honey, you know you don’t have to help with this. We’ll get it later.” The other adults are relaxing in the Lopez’s large, comfortable living room.
Quinn nods, drying her hands from the warm, soapy water in the Lopez’s kitchen sink. “Santana and Brittany were—They get a little overwhelming sometimes, and I figured the least I could do for you having us over is help a bit.”
"We love having you over, but I understand about Santana and Brittany."
Quinn laughs. “I’m sure you do.”
"Well, if you insist on doing these, I’ll help you dry." Maribel gets out a fresh dish towel.
Maribel asks comfortable questions about school and Quinn’s classes and roommates and friends, and how Quinn’s feeling.
And then Quinn says, “You knew about Santana, huh? Before she came out?”
"For a long time, yes."
"You—you saw Santana and me kissing. You know, right?"
Maribel puts down the towel and turns to face Quinn. “I know, sweetie.”
Quinn nods. “I—um, I’m going to tell my mom tomorrow.”
Maribel smiles gently. “I think that’s wonderful, Quinn.”
"I don’t know what she’ll say but I’m out at Yale and it just feels so good to be honest, and, I just—” Quinn fights tears, looking up at the ceiling.
Maribel squeezes her soapy hand. “From what Santana’s told me, I understand that it must be so much better to be open about it. And, no matter what your mom says, you have a home with us. You know that, right? You’re always welcome here.”
"Thank you," Quinn says, and she cries when Maribel pulls her in for a hug.
That night, Quinn dreams she slices open her skin and peels back her ribcage to reveal clear, perfectly symmetrical glass boxes. Each of her lungs is encased, as well as her heart, and they’re held together by little floating electrical wires, green and red and black.
Then Quinn’s thumb inches towards a little tiny red button, and she stands on some beach. When she pushes the button, the smooth, generic plastic of it pressing into the pad of her finger, the boxes in her chest detonate, explode everywhere, and her organs are shredded, masses of blood.
The only thing Quinn can think when she snaps awake and tries to catch her breath in the dark is that she hadn’t fallen this time. She’d chosen: she’d been the oneto push the button.
Before they go out for breakfast the next morning, Judy checks Quinn’s temperature to make sure she doesn’t have a fever—which she doesn’t—and it makes Quinn smile.
Judy drives a few miles under the speed limit and then suggests that they watch a movie when they get home, in case Quinn is feeling tired. Breakfast is simple and fun and light, and Judy looks at Quinn like Quinn has always wanted: She seems proud and she seems like Quinn is one of the most important people in the world to her.
And then they get home and they start watching Walk the Line and Quinn feels her thumb inching its way towards a red button.
She makes it halfway through the film before she sits up. She’s already near tears, and she takes a second to remember how wonderful these past few days have been, the simple pleasure in belonging. In not imagining.
She closes her eyes and sees her sealed chest. “Mom,” Quinn says, and Judy pauses the DVD, sitting up a little on the couch and looking at Quinn concernedly.
"Do you feel okay?"
Quinn shakes her head and looks down. She hears the ocean in her ears, waves pounding away. “I want to tell you something, and it’s because I want you to know me and be a part of my life.”
Judy takes a deep breath and nods.
"I love you so much," Quinn says, and she doesn’t try not to cry now. Judy’s eyes immediately water. "I’m so proud of how far we’ve come, and I’m so proud to be your daughter."
Quinn takes Judy’s hands and squeezes. “Please just let me—I need to—”
"I tried so hard not to be," Quinn says, "but I’m gay."
Quinn closes her eyes, but then Judy’s arms are around her shoulders and Quinn’s thumb slides away from the trigger as Judy gently removes the glass boxes all on her own, because as Quinn sobs, Judy whispers, “Oh, Quinn, it’s okay. I love you. It’s okay, it’s okay.”
A few hours later, after Quinn takes a nap, she pads into the kitchen where Judy is making macaroni and cheese for dinner. Quinn sits down at the counter on a tall stool, puts her chin in her hands.
"I hadn’t planned on crying that much earlier."
Quinn shakes her head. “I know. I, um, I had planned on—you probably have some questions, and I—I’ll be honest and everything.”
"I do have a few things to ask you."
"The floor is yours," Quinn says, gesturing with her arm to the kitchen.
"I’m not really sure how to—"
"Just mumble through it."
Judy smiles. “Well, um. You’re sure?”
"So you’ve—you and another woman have—"
"I’ve been with other girls, yes. And boys. So I’m sure."
Judy nods, spooning the now-finished pasta into two bowls. “Lots of other girls?”
"No," Quinn says. "Two. Santana—" Judy doesn’t even blink as she gets out forks from the drawer— "and Abigail. I met her last summer at the mall and we slept together a few times. She’s a junior at Ohio State."
Judy sets down Quinn’s bowl in front of her and hands her a fork. “Are you with Abigail now?”
"Nope. It didn’t really mean much, honestly."
Judy sits down on the stool next to Quinn’s. “Are you with someone else?”
Quinn shakes her head. “But—” Quinn takes a bite of pasta.
Judy grins. “You like someone?”
"I do," Quinn says. "And I’m pretty sure they like me back."
Judy nudges Quinn’s arm excitedly.
"No offense, mom, but it’s weirding me out a little bit that you’re being so cool about this."
Judy puts down her fork and tucks a strand of hair behind Quinn’s ear. “I caught you kissing Santana a few times, so it’s not really that out of the blue, honey.”
Quinn bites her bottom lip.
"Plus," Judy says, "when you were in your accident, and they didn’t know—I can’t lose you again, Quinn.”
"Mom," Quinn whispers.
Judy shakes her head. “So I’m really going to try. I might not always be comfortable with the idea of you being with other women, but I want you to be happy. And I’m so proud of you for telling me, and I will never stop loving you.”
Quinn smiles, then takes another bite. “I love your mac ‘n cheese.”
"I know you do," Judy says. She ruffles Quinn’s hair and then looks at Quinn seriously. She asks, "Is it Rachel?"
"Do you like Rachel?"
"Yeah," Quinn says, "I like Rachel."
"She’s wonderful, Quinn."
"Tell me about it."
Judy smiles. “Oh, I’m sure she has no chance against you.”
"Because I’m so smart and funny and successful and talented and beautiful?"
"My greatest quality."
Judy laughs. “Ever since you were little, when you wanted something, you got it eventually.”
"Except my letter from Hogwarts."
Judy rolls her eyes good-naturedly.
They eat quietly for a few minutes, and then Judy asks, “Quinn?”
"When you and Rachel start, well—"
"Dating. Yes. Would you like to have her over here for dinner? Maybe over winter break if you’re together by then."
Quinn hugs Judy. “I’d love that, Mom.”
Rachel murmurs, “I’m so happy for you,” and hugs her so tightly the next morning in the foyer of the Berry’s house that Quinn starts to cough, and it’s painful and loud and she’s pretty sure she can hear the fluid moving around in her lung.
Rachel grasps Quinn’s upper arm and Quinn holds up a hand. “I’m okay,” she wheezes.
Rachel’s brows are raised. “You don’t sound okay.”
"You were hugging me too tight," Quinn says, smiling.
Rachel rolls her eyes and leads them to the comfortable couch in their living room. “Let’s watch a movie. Invalids like those, don’t they?”
"I’m not an invalid." Quinn crosses her arms.
Rachel laughs. “How come it took four years to find out how funny you are?”
"You grew into my sense of humour?" Quinn suggests.
Rachel tosses a pillow at her. “You’re an idiot.”
"You love me."
"I do," Rachel says, and her breath catches. Quinn’s eyes get big and her hands feel shaky.
"What movie are we going to watch, oh wise one?" she asks in a rush.
Rachel holds up Sunshine Cleaners. “I know you like Emily Blunt.”
Rachel puts the disc into the player and then sits next to Quinn. When Quinn starts coughing again at the beginning of the film, Rachel frowns, then pats her lap.
Quinn curls up on her right side and rests her head against Rachel’s legs, and Rachel’s fingers start running through her hair. Her eyelids are heavy and she allows them to droop, and she hears Rachel say, “She has pneumonia,” in response to one of her dads’ gentle footsteps.
When Quinn falls asleep, the boxes in her chest explode again and for a minute she has no lungs and no heart, but then a new heart blooms, bloody and slick and smooth, sea glass made shiny and beautiful from years of being tossed by waves, sharp edges worn away.
She and Rachel drive to get vegan pizza after Quinn wakes up a few minutes after the movie ends. When Rachel slides in the same side of the booth as Quinn and smiles at her, Quinn takes Rachel’s hand.
It’s simple, the way they go together, and Rachel teases Quinn about her messy hair and her glasses and Quinn teases Rachel about her ability to ramble about anything.
Quinn asks, “Do you think you’ll ever want to be with Finn again?”
"I don’t think so," Rachel says.
Quinn nods, staring at her menu.
Quinn snaps her head up to look at Rachel. “Unless what?”
Rachel laughs lightly. “Calm down, Quinn. I was going to say unless you stop—”
Rachel shrugs. “Letting me hold you when you sleep.”
Then Quinn smiles. “I think I can handle that. You’re pretty much the same size as my stuffed animals anyway.”
Rachel elbows her and Quinn laughs. It starts to snow outside, the silent remains of salt on the beach during low tide. When they walk to Rachel’s car, they leave footsteps, proof that they’re no longer ghosts at all.
references. walk the line, which is one of the most beautiful films ever. also, sunshine cleaning, which is just wonderful.