A/N: Thanks everyone for reading! Super glad that you've all enjoyed the first chapter, I hope this story continues to live up to all of your expectations. On to Chapter two!
Chapter Two —
I Found It In a Bookshop:
When Quinn resurfaces from the floor where she's unceremoniously fallen, her head and lower back ache dully. Her feet are tangled beneath her, and for the briefest of moments she has no recollection as to why she's suddenly woken up in this strange position against the cold hardwood flooring.
It is when she turns her neck slowly to find T.K.'s solemn face staring back at her expectantly that she remembers the book. The inscriptions. The hidden messages. Her name. And much too suddenly, the impending blackness.
She groans as a hand comes up to grip her forehead, as the images assault her once more. She can remember the mapping of birthmarks on a tan cheek as if cartographed by her own hand. The smells of that summer, five years lost, ring against her nostrils almost as if she's there. And she feels like crying.
She is crying.
Because she remembers.
The lump in her throat rises from her chest and as the grainy pressure behind her eyeballs builds up, she has no power over the tear ducts that begin to work valiantly against her emotions. It's quite wonderful what five years, and a heady talent for stowing away painful emotions can do in the realm of forgetting. But what no one told Quinn Fabray is that the longer that things are hidden away in secret – the worse the memories are when they finally come fighting back.
And things like this, memories like Rachel Berry – they always find a way to break the binds that hold them stowed.
Quinn wipes at her ruined cheeks and reddened eyes and rises slowly from the floor. Shaking away her disorientation with a fierce resoluteness as she grabs for the small book and her even smaller journal. Both still resting precariously on top of the bed, just as she'd left them. She grabs for Peter and Wendy By: J.M. Barrie first, closing the cover, and gripping it tightly between whitened knuckles. She pauses as she stares at the open pages of her notebook and the letters that bleed in blue ink from the lined paper. T.K. jumps up onto the comforter and walks around her hand, dancing and weaving between the sheets. He finally stops, his front paws landing directly on top of her opened notebook, and he stares at her expectantly. Meowing quietly at her as she waits.
"I know T… I've got a Neverland to find…"
She shoos him off, and grabs for her little notebook, tucking it carefully into her satchel along with the old book. She re-settles herself into her leather jacket, and she dons a knit scarf to go with her cap. Her metro card weighs lightly in her pocket as she once again exits her apartment, walking out into a New York City afternoon with very much on her brain.
New York City afternoons are in essence, very remarkably different from New York City mornings. Quinn's pace is set as she emerges from the Subway station along Broadway. And what her eyes settle upon is a much different atmosphere than the one she walked into earlier in the day.
The street vendors are aplenty, and their lines are long – the children she saw earlier are no longer running too and fro, but they are younger, sleepier, and carried swiftly between two wheels and a stroller by indifferent nannies. The smog burns deliciously, and the air isn't quite so crisp as she stumbles her way through the bustling mid-afternoon crowds towards 66th and Broadway.
When she arrives at the familiar bookstore, she opens the door quickly, grimacing at the jingling of the bell as she searches for familiar brown curly waves. She can hear shuffling towards the very back by the stacks, and Andie's familiar voice rings out softly from the darkness.
"Hello…be with you in a moment!"
Quinn follows the direction of said voice and finds Andie re-stocking books by the Mystery section. Her glasses have slipped down to the tip of her nose, and Quinn can smell the dust on the brunette's fingers, and before Andie can turn her head to whomever is standing directly in her light, Quinn is thrusting the copy of Peter and Wendy into her working hands.
"I said I'll be with you in a mome – what…is this?"
Those light brown eyes peek up curiously before her free hand pushes the bridge of her lenses back up to rest on her freckled face. Quinn is staring back expectantly, and Andie can see the tearstains that the blonde failed to hide away. She can see the red puffiness under hazel eyes, and she has the sudden urge to pull her into a crushing embrace – even though she is a vendor, and Quinn, although revered, is nothing more than a familiar acquaintance and a client.
"Quinn…? What are you doing back here so soon? You can't have left more than a few hours ago."
Quinn bites her lip and nods quickly, pushing Andie's words to the recesses of her mind as the images of Rachel Berry refuse to surrender. She grips her eyelids painfully and inhales deeply – collecting dust into her nostrils as they flare.
"A-Are you alright…?"
Quinn opens her eyes again, and they're bright and glistening with the light film of tears – the kind that have yet to spill over and cause a scene of sadness – but taunt you all the same.
"Where did you say you received this book?"
"I didn't say."
"Let me rephrase then. Where did this book come from? You said you've only had it for a few weeks, was it donated?"
"I-I… I'm not sure if that information is even particularly necessary."
Quinn sighs lightly and opens the cover from between Andie's outstretched hand. She trails her shaking finger down the cover page to land lightly on the timeworn impression on the page. Her nail skids down the name, K.L. Goldberg, and she raises her eyelashes determinedly to bore them into russet pupils.
"Again. Where did you get this book from? Was it donated by someone? Did someone drop it off here?"
"I honestly don't remember Quinn…I couldn't tell you. I can check our record log if it makes you feel any better though….can I ask you something?"
Quinn's eyes lock on Andie's and she nods patiently.
"There is obviously something wrong here. You've been coming in here for five years, and I've never seen you so wired…and it's not finals season. So, what about this book has you demanding answers regarding its origin?"
"Turn the page."
Andie does as she is told and her eyes land on the new inscription. Quinn watches her eyebrows raise in slightly piqued confusion.
"Well…obviously this little note is new. I'm not a paleography-head but that definitely looks like the work of a ballpoint pen. But again, why is this important?"
"Follow the underlines..."
And Andie agrees, sighing tiredly as she pushes her glasses back onto her nose. She's sure that what she'll find will be insignificant, and Quinn can see the disbelieving waves etched into her face, and in the way she exhales impatient breaths through her nose as she re-scans the page.
"Alright, let's see…H…I, I think that's a comma. Q…U…I…N…N…what does that mean? H, I, pause. Q, U, I, N, N."
And Quinn watches Andie's freckled face widen in shock. Her eyebrows scrunch up as her mouth rounds around the air she's just expelled.
It's a faint whisper and Quinn has to strain to hear her, but she does. And suddenly the older brunette understands the desperation in the blonde's demeanor and tone of voice.
"Well Quinn, you can't possibly just assume that this is you…you aren't the only Quinn in the world, it's probably just a simple coincidence. You're most likely freaking out over nothing."
And Quinn has to laugh this time. It's an empty hollow attempt at mirth – but her lips quirk up nonetheless, before quickly falling into a complacent frown. She brings her hand up to scratch at the back of her neck as she pauses, and catches the tag of her leather jacket on a finger. She pulls away and gasps – remembering something so faint that her heart aches at the loss. She pulls off her jacket quickly, and scans the name on the tag – her eyes focusing in on what she's realized has followed her all along.
"Neverland Thrifts & Goods
843 Goodman Road
Lima, OH 43554"
Andie stares at her intently, and now Quinn knows she has no choice but to continue.
"You see this tag on my jacket?"
Andie nods curiously.
"Neverland Thrifts and Goods. It's a small thrift store in Ohio, the town that I grew up in. I'm not even sure if the place still even exists…"
"I'm sorry Quinn, but what does this have to do with the book. I'm trying to connect the dots here but I've got nothing."
"My girlfriend bought this jacket for me… I was only seventeen. It was an early birthday present. I can remember the day as if It happened a couple of hours ago – I had been obsessing over this motor bike I found at a garage sale, and I convinced myself that I could teach myself how to ride it. I studied my ass off for the driver's test, and…I drove away out of the BMV parking lot a few hours later with a temporary license, a shitty motorbike, and a ridiculously proud girlfriend perched behind me, and gripping onto my waist as she laughed into my ear…"
Quinn pauses her speech, her hands gripped tightly into the worn leather.
"And you see…when I came into your shop this morning I hadn't thought about that girlfriend for at least five years. I still wear this goddamn jacket, and it doesn't even cross my mind that she used to steal it from me and wear it to school and smile when I would catch her in it during first period…I hadn't even thought about Rachel Berry until you placed this book into my hands. And you're telling me, that it's a coincidence? I don't think so. Now let me ask you one more time before I break down into an emotional train wreck on your beautifully cluttered carpeted floor. Where did you find this book?"
And Andie nods, perhaps she finally understands the magnitude of the dilemma, or perhaps she's been awakened to the magnitude of Quinn's curious plight. She carefully sets down the things currently occupying her hands save for the mysterious copy of Peter and Wendy. And her eyes are wide and calculating as she looks up one last time, her jaw working quietly as her lips steady into a fine line.
"I'll see what I can do…give me fifteen minutes."