Hello my fellow Gleeks! I'm proud and scared to introduce my first Glee piece. It's been months since I've posted anything on here, so I'll be more than happy to hear what you think.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the Glee characters, or the title, which I've borrowed from the musical Spring Awakening.
Mama Who Bore Me
Mama Who Bore Me
An involuntary smile curls on her lips when she gets off the train. It's her last tedious journey to and from work. Well, officially, her last. She's taken the next few days off to complete the move, but she knows she'll make a few unexpected visits to work just to make sure everything is well there. She can't help it. She's a workaholic by nature, always has been.
By the time she gets home, she's exhausted. All those train rides back and forth from Manhattan are getting to her. She's constantly forgetting she isn't in her twenties anymore; nor is she in her thirties or her forties, for that matter. This observation upsets her more than she thought it would. The awful truth is that she's only a few months away from her fiftieth birthday. She shakes her head to send the unwanted thought away. It isn't an issue she likes to dwell on.
It's unbelievable to her, how time flies. It is as if only yesterday she was having second thoughts about going back to New York. Was it reasonable to go back there, after the bitter failure she'd experienced there the first time around? Could she trust her instincts after the twists and turns her life had undergone in recent months? Was it wise to drag her few months' old baby girl along with her, into a future of uncertainties, just because she'd been craving a change of atmosphere?
But it has been the right thing to do. She knows that now. Beth is now fifteen, and she's blossoming in New York. They both are, actually. This is why she's decided to resettle and move a bit closer to the heart of the city which has become their home. She works as a senior stage manager in one of the major theatres on Broadway. Although Beth's school is in the neighborhood where they live, she goes to Manhattan three times a week for her ballet lessons.
Beth has been dancing for nearly ten years now, and as in many other aspects in her life, she's taking it more seriously than any other girl her age. Both of them hope that when the time comes, she will be accepted into Juilliard, and maybe try out for the New York City Ballet. She's thrilled that her daughter shares her passion for the performing arts, and supports her with all her heart. This is why she's sending her to the best teacher in Manhattan rather than to the local teacher closer to home. It's time consuming and far more costly, but years back, she has made a conscious decision to deny her daughter nothing.
It's a compensation of sorts, of course. She's well aware of it. She's giving Beth everything she couldn't give Rachel. She laughs whenever the name comes to mind. When she was pregnant, she came up with a few girls' names she had liked. She knew it was futile, as she wasn't going to keep the baby, but at the time she couldn't help it. Beth's middle name, Julianna, is the one she's liked best. In this sense, Beth embodies both past and future: she's the daughter she could have had, and the daughter she's got. She is her everything; she can barely picture her life without her now.
For the past four years or so, she's been in constant touch with Rachel. Faithful to her dream, Rachel has found her way out of Ohio. Broadway embraced her. They met completely by accident when Rachel joined the ensemble of a musical in the theatre she'd worked at. They've been in touch ever since. In fact, Rachel is the one who has advised her to make that necessary step of finding a place in Manhattan.
She feels has no right to be proud of Rachel. She's never been there to celebrate her triumphs and comfort her at her failures, as a mother should. She has no part in her never-ending ambition or well deserved success. She can't give credits to genes, even though she wants to. She's making efforts to make up for lost time now. She was in the audience when Rachel had landed on her first leading role, and squealed like a teenager in front of the television when she had received her first Tony. Rachel's dads still live in Ohio, and although she's often expressed her concern that they might not approve of their tightening bond, Rachel assures her they actually think it's great. They're glad someone is taking care of their baby girl in the city that never sleeps.
Rachel is a grown woman of a bit over thirty now, which is another inconceivable fact. She has the exuberance of a teenager. She's feisty and vivacious. She remembers herself in that age, coaching one of the best show choirs in Ohio, leading them towards one success after another. She's been channeling her own ambitions hoping to inspire those kids, even though she's known that most of them would never break out of that dreary town, let alone the county. Rachel is different. Rachel does break free.
Their relationship is of a different sort now. Given the great amount of years they have spent apart, it's as though they're best friends now, rather than mother and daughter. Sometimes this fact upsets her, but she knows she can never see a daughter in Rachel. They have missed on too much. When she left Ohio fifteen years ago, she wasn't even sure they would ever meet again. Keeping that in mind, she's just glad to have Rachel back in her life.
She and Rachel have one more thing in common. They're both single. It doesn't bother her; she doesn't feel lonely. Between her job and raising Beth, she barely has time for anything else. Everyone around her make her being single seem so tragic, but she doesn't see it that way. She's had her shares in the highs and lows of love. She knows it's probably not the best example to set for Beth, who's only fifteen but already more subdued than most of her ditzy classmates, but she hopes that like Rachel, Beth will be wise enough to find her own way in life. Thinking of her little ballerina brings a smile to her weary face. She knows she'll shine her brightest.
The house is in chaos when she walks through the door. She shuts the front door and almost stumbles over a pile of boxes that's blocking the hallway. She holds back a sigh. Rachel is spending this weekend in Ohio, and so she and Beth have to complete the move by themselves. She looks around at the house that has served them to well for the past few years. It would be strange to leave behind such vast space and move into an apartment. She hopes they will be able to adjust.
She calls out her daughter's name, and gets a vague reply from upstairs. Beth is sitting on the landing between their rooms and the attic in front of a few carton boxes which are upside down. Her daughter's erect posture is the first thing that strikes her, as always. She maintains her dancer's grace even while idle, all the way to her toes, each in a neat pointé.
"What are you doing?"
"I was looking for my old books in the attic and these just fell off one of the shelves and nearly crushed me!" her daughter explains a little breathlessly.
She knows she's supposed to scold her daughter for climbing onto the attic while home alone, but she can't bring herself to. She's never raised her voice on Beth, not once, a fact which unnerves her sometimes. She never has to be strict with her, simply because her daughter doesn't give her reasons to. Beth is what she likes to call a grownup child. It's so easy to forget she's only fifteen sometimes.
She sits down on the top stair, taking her shoes off in the process. There are photos and brochures scattered all across the landing, so she drops the shoes a few stairs bellow her. "What are these?"
"Old Playbills and stuff. I guess they're yours because I've never seen these."
She reaches out for one of the brochures at random. The title is bright orange on a scarlet background. It reads 2008 Show Choir National Championship. The sound she lets out is half nostalgic, half bitter. She can't believe she's kept it. She opens the brochure and lets her finger trace the familiar name. "Vocal Adrenaline. I've never realized what a silly name it is."
Beth laughs; it deepens that cute dimple on her chin. "Did you sing there?"
"No. I was their coach for a while, before I left Ohio."
She reaches for another program and smiles when she recognizes it. "The 2010 Show Choir Midwest Regional Championship. We won this one. We competed against New Directions. Rachel was in that group."
"You were competing against each other?"
She can't help but smirk when she's reminded of the way the McKinley kids were spying on her group. Subtlety wasn't their strongest suit. "Pretty much."
"Was Auntie Rachel as good as she is now?"
"She was phenomenal. I guess you could say she was their soloist."
It amuses her whenever Beth refers to her as Auntie Rachel. It's a habit she's made to herself when Rachel has stormed into their lives, and has never been able to kick out of. It's funny to think that in some twisted way, they're sisters. One wouldn't think that from just looking at them. One would barely think of her as Beth's mother. No, as far as coloring goes, Beth takes after her mother. Her real mother, that is.
"Hey, that's cool. It has my birthday date on it," Beth's remark pulls her out of her reverie. The memory of a pretty golden-haired girl is quickly dissipating. She blinks. Beth is now observing the program with interest. "Down to the year and everything."
Of course it does. She can't help the smile that's curling on her lips. To think it's happened years ago. Time does fly. "Yeah, it does have your birthday date on it. You were born shortly after this performance."
"Get out! For real?"
Beth knows bits and pieces of her story, because she's made a conscious choice not to reveal too much to her as a child. She's learned her lesson with Rachel and she isn't going to repeat her mistake. She has every intention of telling Beth everything when she's old enough to understand the seriousness of the situation. She doesn't mean to hide things from her, so she answers the questions she asks her from time to time.
"Wait. 'Shortly after'? How do you know that?"
That's the thing about Beth, though. She tends to ask all the right questions – or all the wrong ones. "Your mom… well, both your parents participated in that performance. They went to school with Rachel."
Beth's eyes widen with awe. They're filled with unasked questions. She doesn't need to utter any of them. A soft laughter escapes her. All of a sudden, she's nervous, but she continues.
"They were part of the New Directions. Your mother went into labor right when they got offstage."
"Very dramatic," Beth is laughing too. She seems giddy. Their eyes meet, and she searches her daughter gaze anxiously. She's scared of what she might find, but there's no anger or there, or sadness; just pure curiosity. "Who was she?"
She realizes now that she doesn't think about Quinn Fabray much these days. At first she used to see her in Beth, in an occasional smile, a roll of her eyes, a wrinkle in her forehead. Then, slowly, the memory dimmed. When she had mentioned the name to Rachel in one of her earliest conversations, she said she hadn't heard from Quinn since graduation. She lost touch with many of her classmates, especially after she'd left Lima.
Then a while later she was leafing through a magazine in the waiting room at her dentist's office and it was as though the name screamed out of the page for her. She nearly dropped the magazine when she noticed it, as if each of the letters was burning through the paper into her flesh. Then, forcing herself to get a grip, she looked at it more closely. It was a coverage article about new outstanding photographers. It featured introduction profiles of each photographer as well as a printed selection of their works. She snatched the magazine and stuffed it in her bag on an impulse. Later, with her bedroom door securely shut behind her, she read it until she had the entire thing memorized.
There was no photo, but the details all matched. Quinn would be Rachel's age, give or take a year. The profile article didn't specify her current location, but like Rachel, it was possible she'd found her way out of Ohio. The use of her maiden name was confusing to her. Was she calling herself that for professional purposes, wishing to keep her personal life away from the audience's interest, or was there a different story altogether?
She took a long moment to observe her works. They were extraordinary. Rachel thought so too when she showed her the spread a few days later. It was one of those times she was grateful to have Rachel in her life. She couldn't figure out what to do about the magazine. Beth was thirteen, and she couldn't decide whether it was her obligation to say something to her, or her right to keep it hidden for a better time. Rachel thought it was completely up to her. When time was right to tell her, you'd know, she said.
Looking into her daughter's imploring eyes, she thinks she knows now.
"Her name was… is Quinn." She thinks it's more appropriate to use present tense. "She went to school with Rachel, as I said. She was head cheerleader, and one of the most popular girls in school. You got her colors. Your dad was darker."
"Was he good looking?" There's teasing in Beth's voice, but she's clearly desperate for information, as if the queries have been simmering just below the surface all this time, waiting for the right moment to erupt.
"He was, actually, and a bit of a troublemaker. He's the one who told me your name was Beth."
Beth is silent for a moment, as if she needs a while to absorb all this. When she looks up again, her expression is not as cheerful. There's a shadow in those glimmering brown eyes, one which she isn't used to seeing. "They didn't want me?"
"It's not that, honey," she replies, but soon falters, because it sounds fake and sort of lame, like a line from a cheesy soap opera. "They were kids, both a little older than you are now." A chill runs through her when this thought hits her. Quinn was about a year older than Beth when she got pregnant. It's almost unimaginable. "They couldn't raise a child. They both loved you. I know it's not comforting in any way, but they did love you."
"How can you love a child and give it up?"
It's a difficult question, and there's so much pain hidden behind each word, as though it has been building inside her for fifteen years. The intensity of it catches her off guard for a moment, but she's prepared. She has been prepared for years.
"You can't help loving what's becoming a part of you, but sometimes you just don't have any other choice." She means every word, having been there herself, but she isn't sure Beth will detect the dual meaning of the statement. "Can you imagine yourself right now, at your age, raising a baby?"
Beth shakes her head almost instantly. Her eyes are wide again, and she can see the idea horrifies her.
"This is what it would have been like for her if she kept you. I know it's difficult, to live with the thought someone has given up on you, but try to remember it isn't easy being on the other side, being the one who gives up."
She doesn't refer to Quinn anymore, and Beth seems to realize it now. She nods, but says nothing.
"And sometimes, if fate is kind, life will grant you a second chance."
"This is how it was for you and Auntie Rachel?"
"Exactly." The tension has dropped considerably; it feels safe to smile. "And in a way, meeting Rachel in the first place has led me to you. So it's all worked out better than I hoped."
"Do you think that maybe, when I'm older, we could try and find her?"
"If this is what you want, of course."
She remembers her vow. She would deny Beth nothing. But deep down, some primal instinct is coming to life, and this is the one thing she wishes she could deny her. Because who knows how life has treated Quinn Fabray? She doesn't want Beth to hunt down this stranger. She doesn't want her frail, inexperienced daughter to get hurt by whatever she might find. She wants her to be satisfied with the love she's provided her with. More than anything, she doesn't want to share her with anyone. She knows it's a selfish wish, but the impulse is stronger than her.
A softer, smaller hand is covering hers. The touch startles her, and she gasps. Beth's eyes are intent on hers; it's as though she can decipher her every thought. Heat rushes to her cheeks because she knows her daughter guesses what she's been thinking of. She doesn't want Beth to resent her for the way she feels. She knows this one thought has the power to destroy everything she's struggled to build for fifteen years. She can't read the expression on her daughter's face, so she's just sitting there, fearing the worst.
But when Beth is ready to respond, she squeezes her hand lightly and a smile breaks on her lips. "She may be my mother, but she's not my mom."
Her heart skips a beat because the words are familiar. They have been her words once. She recognizes the tightness in her throat and wraps her arms around Beth just before the tears swell in her eyes. "That's right," she whispers. She knows that despite her efforts, Beth has sensed the storm the words have stirred. The small arms tighten around her ever so slightly.
As they sit there holding one another, she tries to put herself in Quinn's place. It will be dishonest of her to preach Beth on second chances, and then deny one from Quinn just because she dreads the consequences. She had been in Quinn's place once, and she was raging when Rachel's dads denied her the right to know her daughter. She'd been so much more than a portable womb, she used to complain to whoever was willing to listen. If it hadn't been for her…
And this is when she realizes. Quinn has given Beth life. If it wasn't for Quinn, she wouldn't have the one thing she'd been yearning for – a chance at family. She doesn't know where Quinn is right now. She doesn't know if she's left this thing behind her, or whether, like her, she longs for her daughter to find her. She must allow Beth to search for her biological mother if she wants, not just because it's her right to do so, but because it's the least she owes Quinn.
Slowly, resolutely, she loosens her grip on her daughter. Beth looks up at her; her eyes are moist as well. She smiles through tears; she's no longer ashamed for crying. "I think I know where we could start."
She gets up and offers Beth her hand. Beth looks puzzled, but she takes the offered hand and stands up. For the next few hours, the work of packing is forgotten as they lay on her bed with the magazine open between them. It may end up at being nothing at all, but it is their first step in tracing the whereabouts of Quinn Fabray.