Chapter 6: A Better Person
Quinn slumped down in her seat and huffed out a sigh of exasperation before she propped her binder up on her lap so that it leaned against the edge of her desk in the perfect position to hide the pocket paperback she then pulled out of her bag. She knew she should have been in a more advanced math class – she had completed the worksheet, which was meant to take them the entire class period, within twenty minutes – but her friends were in this class, and she knew that only geeks and upperclassmen took the accelerated courses. So rather than swallowing her pride and living up to her academic potential, she spent every sixth period geometry class either staring at the clock or reading a book under the table.
Her current book of choice was The Catcher in the Rye. It was her favorite. Ever since she first read it in the seventh grade, she couldn't seem to go longer than a year without going back to it. There was just something about Holden Caulfield and the way he viewed people and the world that constantly drew her in.
Her copy of the text was by then rather battered, and its pages were positively covered in ink where she had gone through and underlined her favorite parts and made innumerable notes in the margins. She wondered vaguely how long it would be before there would be so much writing over the originally printed words that she wouldn't be able to read the story any longer.
The year before, Quinn's sister had seen her, pouring through the worn pages for the nth time, and she had commented that the book looked beaten up and old. She'd said that Quinn would have been better off just tossing the shabby thing and buying herself a new copy. Quinn had shaken her head at that. Franny didn't understand. The owned, threadbare quality of the book was half of what she loved so much about it. The used state of the soft cover was what gave it character. Plus, Quinn loved the smell of old books. New books were always nice, and they did have their own pleasantly crisp scent, but they were nothing next to the mustiness of books that have had a place on the shelf for years and years. The older books got, the long they were kept, the more history they would gather; with passing time, the books passed through many hands, and more and more came to know their stories, and made their own stories with the books. That was the loveliest thing about books: the more one read them, went back to them, and shared them, the greater they were loved.
Needless to say, Quinn cared very deeply for her books.
She was just settling in to read yet again, with a tiny smile on her face, about how Holden, once in New York, decided to call up an "acquaintance" of a guy he met once, and the delightfully awkward conversation that came of it, (being a generally smooth speaker herself, she always inexplicably enjoyed other people's lack of verbal dexterity,) when the entire class fell silent at the sound of a particularly frustrated sounding growl. She looked up from her book, marking her place with a finger, and raised an eyebrow. Everyone's gaze landed on a decidedly red in the face Rachel Berry. Quinn wasn't sure whether to be amused or only slightly shocked by the outburst. The rest of the students seemed split on their choices between the two.
It wasn't often that Rachel's voice was heard at all in geometry, as out of character for her as it might have been – the occasional long-winded, would-be-a-paragraph-if-written-down question aside. Rachel was one of those over achieving students who always felt that they needed A's in everything or they were a failure, and seeing as math was not one of her stronger subjects, she tended to focus her energies on paying as close attention as possible to everything the teacher said instead of spreading her social butterfly wings and talking a mile a minute for forever like she did in all of the other classes she shared with Quinn.
Rachel momentarily buried her face in her hands before she grabbed fistfuls of her own hair and rested her elbows on the table to that her head was propped up and she could stare at the textbook below with a classic air of having absolutely no idea what to do. The frail, older woman who taught the class approached her gingerly and asked with caution, "Is there something I can help you with, Ms. Berry?"
Rachel slapped her hands down on the desk on either side of her textbook. Quinn hoped no one noticed when she flinched. "I don't understand this at all! I really just do not comprehend how I'm supposed to find these solutions. I have been paying diligent attention to every lesson you've taught, and it all made perfect sense when you were explaining it, but I simply cannot make sense of the problems you've given us to work out ourselves."
"Oh dear, it's really not that difficult. Have you looked at the theorems in the book?"
Quinn hid a frown. If she were a better person, she might have offered to help, but out of the corner of her eye, she could see Santana smirking openly. She stayed put.
The bell finally rang, and Rachel was the first to rush out the door. Quinn watched her go with a twinge of something that resembled sympathy. She heaved a breath, letting her cheeks puff out in the process, and began leisurely packing her things into her bag.
She made her way into the hallway, Brittany and Santana flanking her left and right, herself and the latter chortling when the taller blonde said, "But I still don't get it. If they're called apothems, why don't they always hang upside down like opossums? Aren't they cousins?"
Santana patted her on the arm and said gently, "I'll explain it again later, okay?"
Quinn allowed a soft smile to grace her lips before she turned to face forward again and halted abruptly; Santana narrowly avoided crashing into her, while Brittany, who had the unfortunate tendency to stare at her own feet when she was walking, knocked right into her shoulder.
The blonde at the head of the trio was unfazed by the collision. She had an icy glare fixed on a pair just in front of her. "What exactly is going on here?"
Brittany uttered that she didn't know before her dark haired partner in crime led her away from the scene. Santana could tell things were about to get testy, and as much as she wanted to stay and see the outcome, she didn't want to be around if things got out of hand; she was already about a toe away from a detention with more than half of the teachers at the school as it was.
Finn's head snapped up at the sound of his girlfriend's angry voice. His eyes bulged slightly in fear, and he stepped quickly out of the embrace of the tiny girl beside him, who turned to face her with wide eyes as well. His voice came out much hoarser than he would have liked. "Quinn! Um, hey. Rachel and I were just-"
"Hugging?" Quinn planted her hands on her hips and adopted the most accusatory look she could come up with. "So I saw."
Rachel, sensing the quarrel that was rapidly preparing to unfurl, tried to interject. "Quinn, I promise there isn't any need to get upset. Finn and I were merely-"
"I don't think I was talking to you, Treasure Trail. Would you mind butting out for just a minute?" She regretted the words the moment they left her mouth as Rachel's face reflected the sting in the words, but there was no taking them back once they were out there, so she pushed the guilt away and steeled her face in a look of contempt. "And by the way, in case you haven't noticed yet because you're too busy singing into a hairbrush in front of a mirror," Rachel bowed her head and kept her eyes trailed on the floor tiles, "Finn is my boyfriend. We're together. Do us all a favor and keep your man hands to yourself."
She adjusted the strap of her bag on her shoulder so it sat a bit higher and more comfortably and stalked off down the gawking hallway, her emotions churning inside her. She was mad at Finn for hugging that stupid Rachel Berry, she hated Rachel Berry for however many reasons, and even more than all of that she was mad at herself. She was never usually cold enough to put anyone down that way; she may have been the figurehead for the group of popular girls in her class, but she had never before stepped up to truly take on the Head Bitch In Charge role. She didn't like they way that her words had cut Rachel so deeply and quickly. Even more than that, she was seriously frustrated with herself for caring that she'd hurt the girl at all. Then she envisioned the way Rachel and Finn had looked at each other and became angry at the both of them all over again.
She had lost all sense of who she wanted to direct her anger at, so she turned at the end of the hallway, stomped passed a gaggle of giggling girls, and sat with a huff on the top step of the stairs. She heard heavy, almost clunky footsteps come up beside her, and before she knew it, a familiar, stupidly tall body was seated next to her. Finn didn't look all that happy either.
"You don't have to be like that, you know." His eyes squinted somewhat, as if he were scolding her, and Quinn wasn't sure if she wanted to outwardly scoff or not. All of a sudden the many insulting nicknames Santana had given her boyfriend seemed rather apt to her.
"You had your arms around another girl, Finn. How was I supposed to react?"
"I don't know, but better than you did. She was upset over some math assignment, so I was comforting her. As a friend. Because that's all we are… Friends."
"Yeah, she looked real torn up. That's why she was all happy and cozy-ed up to you."
"What? Well, that's probably just because I was telling her about an idea I had for a song for glee club. She seemed to really like it."
"Yeah, glee. Uh… Quinn? What, why do you have that scary serial killer look in your eye?"
"Wait, wait, hold up, Q. You want us to do what? No. No way."
"I think it could be a good idea."
"Thank you, Britt," Quinn turned back to Santana. "See, Brittany'll do it with me. Come on. You know you want to…" She pouted her lip and poked her stubborn friend in the side.
Santana batted her hand away and simultaneously rolled her eyes. "Yeah. I heard her. But she's Brittany. She's that kid who'd wander off and get in the big white van of the guy who offered her free pixie stix if I'm- if someone isn't there to hold her hand. She's also the type to go along with whatever you say because you're her friend and she loves you. Personally, I think this is actually the worst idea I've ever been presented with. And that's counting the time your boy Finnept told me he thought he should invent spray-on peanut butter."
"Great. Now I'm hungry," Brittany said, bending over to watch her own stomach.
"B, you just ate, like, five minutes ago."
"Oh. Yeah. I'm not hungry anymore."
"Guys. Can we stay on topic for just a second? Please, just, will you consider it?" Quinn did her best to keep the desperation out of her voice, without much success.
"I'm in. I think it'll be fun." Brittany smiled her classic, delighted-by-life smile.
Quinn nodded gratefully at her friend before she turned fully to the third member of their party, whose arms were crossed and was staring menacingly at her fair haired comrades. Quinn raised her eyebrows somewhat anxiously in anticipation. "S? What do you say?"
Santana pursed her lips for a beat before she sighed and answered, "Look, you know if Britt's got her heart set on it, then I'm gonna come along for the ride, but don't expect me to like it. And I'm gonna say right now that I am not a supporter of your newfound crazy."
Brittany clapped her hands and positively beamed. Quinn let a grin slide onto her face, accepting the snarky words without comment. She took a couple steps forward and pulled her two best friends into a triangular hug.
Her plan was a go.