You remember living in Lima Heights as a child. It was you, your mami and papi, your abuela, tío Alessandro and his third wife Maria, and your cousin Juan.
Your first memories are of your tío and his third wife yelling throughout the house in rapid, angry Spanish while your mami read you to sleep. Your papi was often at the hospital, finishing his residency. Your abuela would be in the kitchen cooking up a storm, while Juan sat in front of the television smoking. On weekends Juan would go out and come back reeking of what you later identify as cheap alcohol and marijuana. Papi would stay home on Sundays and the entire brood would go to church in the mornings. You were forced to wear an ugly old blue smock. The material was scratchy against your skin.
The church was small and the incense filled it to the ceiling with a smoky haze. The Father's voice drifted through the room, filling your ears with words of Jésus and his teachings. The other families that attended that church were the Rodriguez's, the Valdez's, and the Bautista's. A few drifters would join occasionally, but those were the family names you remembered. Your entire family would be at church, the tías and tíos you barely knew, the numerous cousins that seemed to barely recognise your existence. There was a boy your age, José Bautista, and he always wore the same old stained white button up shirt and worn out pair of black slacks.
When you were eight, Juan came home bleeding from a gun wound in his shoulder. You remember your abuela yelling at him for trailing blood on her carpet, your mother scrambling for your father's med kit. Your tío and his fourth wife Paloma were busy upstairs, their moans audible from the family room below. A tall man with a beard was standing in the doorway, the outline of a handgun visible under the thin material of the wife beater he wore, tucked into his waistband. He regarded the whole thing with cold eyes and his mouth stuck in an indifferent line. You heard a loud scream as your mami drenched Juan's wound in medicinal alcohol. She shushed him.
Abuela just shook her head at her foolish nieto. You curled up in an old armchair and watched the entire scene unfold before you. Juan stopped screaming, and his eyes slipped closed, your mami sighing and collapsing onto the couch. She muttered a prayer, and you felt your eyelids grow heavy. Your tío's screams of pleasure rang through the heavy air. Abuela made tea, and you fell asleep.
Strong arms were wrapped around you when you woke up, the familiar smell of your papi's cologne and antiseptic hospital smell smothered you as he carried you up to your bed. He laid you down on the lumpy mattress with the gentlest hands you remember feeling. He kissed your forehead, his stubble scratching your skin. You cracked your eyes open and were met with a loving smile.
Juan died two years later in a gunfight.
Your papi and mami moved your little family of three to Lima Heights Adjacent a few months after that episode. You were nervous - you were almost nine and would be starting at a new school. From what you'd seen of Lima Heights Adjacent, each house had it's own lawn and at least one and a half bathrooms. You had your own bedroom, and a bed that didn't stick into your back every time you shifted a little too much. It had taken your parents ages to save up for this house. Your papi had just gotten himself a fellowship at Lima General, and your mami had scored a job as a secretary at a dental office. They enrolled you in ballet classes, and took you clothes shopping for the new school year.
Your first day of fourth grade was terrifying. There were kids running through the halls and hugging, boys making farting noises at girls as they walked by, girls giggling with their friends. Your primary language at home had been Spanish with your Abuela and your papi, your mami being the only one who bothered to teach you English outside of school. Flurries of English passed through your ears and you clutched your books to your chest along with your red pencil case. You'd never had one before, but your mami had insisted that no expense be spared. She'd argued with your papi about it, until he gave in, letting the two of you go shopping. You were wearing a relatively nice dress, it was dark purple. The material was soft and it didn't scratch your skin.
You found your classroom and your desk that had your name written out neatly on a piece of laminated red paper. You're the first kid in the class, and the teacher is a pretty young woman with kind eyes and a nice smile. She greets you and asks you your name.
"Santana Lopez, ma'am," you answer her timidly. She shakes your offered hand with an amused smile.
"Nice to meet you Santana Lopez, I'm Miss Sanders," she introduces herself. "Is this your first year at Lima Elementary?" You nod and when she asks you where you came from, you reply hesitantly, "Jasper Avenue Public School." She seems to see that as an acceptable answer. Her smile widens and she notices your meagre collection of notebooks. Your mami had restricted you to two, one blue and one red. She tells you to take a seat, and she gives you three more notebooks. They're all the same pale yellow colour, but they're all twice as big as your own and you thank her quietly. You watch as she changes some nametags around, and watch as she replaces Finn Hudson from beside you with Brittany S. Pierce.
"I think Brittany will be a more suitable match for you, Santana," Miss Sanders says with another kind smile. You smile and busy yourself with straightening out the notebooks on your desk. Suddenly a loud ringing sounds, making you jump in your seat. Even more sudden is the rush of kids who come rushing into the classroom. They're talking and laughing, their shoes squeaking on the linoleum tile floor. You watch with awe as they all find their seats quickly and sit down, still chatting. A tall blonde girl practically collapses into the seat next to yours. She plops her backpack on her desk, and something heavy clunks in the bottom (you'd later learn it was her Disney princess lunchbox). The girl cringes at the sound and turns to you. Her smile is huge. It practically stretches from ear to ear, and you find your own lips twitching into a small smile.
"Hi!" She exclaims. "I'm Brittany!" Her voice is dripping with energy and enthusiasm, and it must be contagious, because you sit up a little straighter and smile at her.
"My name is Santana," you reply. Brittany's eyes widen.
"That is a super cool name," she gushes, "are you a princess?" You're shocked and shake your head. "Well, you should be," Brittany continues. "Santana is such a princess name. Princess Santana from a magical kingdom far, far away."
"Actually, I'm just from Lima Heights," you shrug. Brittany rolls her eyes at you.
"Jeez, Santana, use your imagination," Brittany chastises you, although her smile never falters. You blush and tuck your chin to your chest.
"Sorry," you say quietly. Brittany frowns at you and nudges you with her shoulder.
"Don't apologise, Santana," she says with a small laugh, "it just means we'll have to work on it." She smiles her friendly smile and then offers you a page of unicorn stickers. "Friends?" You take the stickers with a hesitant hand and smile.
You spend the portion of class before first recess getting to know your classmates. There's Finn Hudson, a tall, dopey boy with an awful shaggy haircut. His best friend Noah Puckerman has an even dumber haircut. It looks like someone taped road kill to his head. There's Mike Chang, a skinny little Asian boy, Kurt Hummel who wears a fabulous bowtie, and Matt Rutherford who just squeaks out his name. Brittany introduces herself as 'firm unicorn enthusiast and middle child' while you just say your name and that you can speak Spanish when Miss Sanders prompts you to say something about yourself. There's also Mercedes Jones, and this extremely annoying Jewish girl Rachel Berry who makes you want to light yourself on fire. She talks about herself for almost five whole minutes before Miss Sanders politely asks her to sit down so the rest of the class can have a chance to talk. David Karofsky strikes you as a bit of a doofus, and that was where you stopped listening to the introductions.
At the end of the day you're feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. School in the Heights was much less intense, the kids there never listened to the teachers and the teachers didn't seem to care. You start walking home, and you nearly jump out of your skin when someone taps your shoulder. It's Brittany, and she smiles at you. You smile back.
"Are you walking home?" She asks you. You nod. "Wanna walk together? We just have to wait for my sisters. Riley is in senior kindergarten, and Audrey is in seventh grade so she has to walk us home even though I'm not gonna get lost. I got lost once, actually. That's why my mom makes me wait for Audrey. My oldest sister, Kennedy, is in ninth grade. My baby sister is only two, so she doesn't even go to school." You blink with wide eyes at her after her spiel. Brittany doesn't seem to notice your stunned silence, and keeps talking. "My dad is a plant scientist. There's a more specific word for it, but I always get words mixed up and I'm not sure if it's bomb-nest or potnist. My mom is an herbalist. What about you?"
You shrug. It's not that you're embarrassed by any part of your family, but Brittany's family sounds really cool. "I don't have any siblings," you start, "I used to live with my abuela, tío, and cousin, but we moved because Lima Heights was scary. My papi is a doctor and my mami is a secretary." You stop there, and notice Brittany's brow furrowed in what you think is confusion.
"What's an..an…a-well-a?" She asks you.
"Oh," you say. You realise now that not everybody speaks Spanish, and you feel stupid, knowing you should have known that before. "Sorry, that was dumb. Abuela is Spanish for grandmother." Brittany takes your hand and looks you in the eye.
"That wasn't dumb," she says seriously. You're taken aback by how serious she sounds. "It's actually super cool." She smiles. You smile.
You get walked to your door by Brittany and her sisters. Audrey seems dreamy, like she's not really there with the rest of you. Riley is a ball of energy, running ahead of you and waiting at each corner. Brittany talks aimlessly the whole time, and all you have to do is listen. Somehow you end up with her pinky wrapped around yours. Your linked fingers swing between your bodies. You hold you books with your other hand. When Brittany finds out you're left handed she gushes about how "super cool" it is. When you reach your house, you're in stitches over the story Brittany told you about her cat Charity and the vacuum cleaner.
"Do you want to come over?" Brittany asks you, sounding shy for the first time since you met her. You hesitate. Your mom might say yes, but you barely know Brittany. Even though you feel like you've been given her life story on the walk home, you've just met her. She doesn't feel like a stranger anymore, she never felt like a stranger.
"I'll ask my mami, if you can wait here for a few minutes?" You ask. Brittany agrees eagerly. You run inside and find your mami at the kitchen table with some paperwork. "Mami! I made a friend and she wants me to go to her house now and I really, really, really want to go please!" You rush the words out in one breath and wrap your arms around your mami. She laughs at your enthusiasm.
"If you promise to call me when you get there and give me the address, I'll pick you up at seven. But only if you are invited to stay for dinner – don't go inviting yourself. And make sure you say thank you and please, and please mija, if they feed you something you don't like –"
"Eat it anyways," you finish for her, grinning at her toothily. She laughs again and kisses your cheek.
"Have fun, chica," she says. You run outside and screech to a halt beside Brittany, who is inspecting your flowerbeds.
"I can come over!" You exclaim. You realise how loud you were and squeeze your lips together. Brittany Jumps up and lifts her hand for a high five. You laugh and slap your hand to hers. She links your pinkies again and the two of you follow Audrey and Riley. Brittany's house is a fifteen-minute walk from yours, and it's beautiful. Those fifteen minutes took you into a completely different neighbourhood. The houses are bigger, the gardens more extravagant, and the lawns greener. Brittany's house is beautiful with its sky-blue siding and front porch with a swing seat. Their garage is done to match, and you wonder if they have a fancy car. Their entrance hallway has a staircase and bright yellow walls. Through one doorway is a kitchen, and through another you can see a television. Brittany shows you where to kick off your shoes, and leads you into the kitchen. A blonde lady is at the counter cutting up fruit. She sees you and smiles. She has the same friendly smile that Brittany does.
"Hi mommy," Brittany says, going over and hugging her mother. Riley is already wrapped around one of her legs, and Audrey just waves from where she's going up the stairs.
"Hey B," her mom greets her, kissing the top of her head. "Who did you bring home? It's rude to not introduce your friends." Brittany gasps and rushes back to your side, her face apologetic.
"This is Santana," she introduces you, "she speaks Spanish and is left-handed." Brittany smiles, proud of her little biography on you. "Santana, this is my mom."
"It's very nice to meet you, Mrs. Pierce," you say, scuffing your toes on the light hardwood floor.
"It's lovely to meet you too, Santana," she says warmly. "Brittany, you two can take a plate of this up to your room if you want." She hands her daughter a plate of assorted fruit slices. Brittany cheers, "Super duper cool! Come on, San!" You follow her upstairs and smile.
As far as friends go, you think Brittany Pierce makes a pretty good one so far.
A/N: My most recent obsession. Brittana. It's contagious. I don't know how it happened, but it seems to be sticking around.
This is a sort of preview. I hope you all liked it, please let me know if you did! It would mean a lot! There's much more where this came from.
And I do not own anything related to Glee. Or Glee. You've just been disclaimed.