Things were weird. Actually, things were terrible. Rachel had been avoiding Quinn for days. Charlie was in a raging bad mood that appeared endless, taking it out on anyone who happened to cross her path. Quinn was at a complete loss, not knowing what was wrong with either of them.
She tried to confront her sister in school, which didn’t go over well. Charlie practically bit her head off before flying out of the empty classroom. She just didn’t know what to do anymore.
Mulling around in the classroom for a bit, she tried to puzzle out her sister’s behavior, not to mention what it is she did to make Rachel upset before finally picking up her things and reluctantly heading to lunch. Lunch, where her girlfriend would not be, as she had taken to skipping the cafeteria too just to stay away from her. Before Quinn made it to the door, she saw Charlie sitting on the bench in the hall through the classroom window. Then Rachel walked up. She watched as Charlie looked up her with such sadness and her heart crept into her throat.
“Hey,” Rachel said softly and Charlie looked up at her reluctantly. “Mind if I sit here?”
“Why can’t you just leave me alone?” she said miserably.
There was none of the usual ire.
Rachel settled in beside her carefully.
“I’m sorry,” she murmured. “I needed to tell you that. I’m sorry for what I asked of you. I had no right. I-I’m just so confused. I don’t know what to do.”
Charlie didn’t say anything for a minute, then she lowered her head, staring at her hands in her lap.
“No, it’s not okay, I shouldn’t have-“
“Rachel,” she said sternly, looking at her. “It’s okay.”
The brunette relented on that point, but she shifted in her seat, obviously needing to say more. Charlie just waited for it.
“I know the responsibility you feel for Quinn,” she said at last. “The guilt you carry.”
“I don’t know wh-”
“You think I don’t know you after all this time? That I haven’t seen it? You loved cheerleading. You were the best. Better than Quinn even. I saw the way you would look when you got out on the field. There was nothing that made you happier or more proud. You have such a natural affinity for leadership, not to mention for the sport itself. I have never seen you smile as brilliantly and wonderfully as when you finished one of those crazy spinning vaulty things at the end of a routine.”
Charlie rolled her eyes.
“But then you realized how much Quinn loved it too. How badly she wanted it. You’re not as subtle as you believe.”
Charlie tried not to look at her. She could feel the tears coming on and she just didn’t know what to do. So much running. Something in what Rachel was saying held her frozen to the spot.
“You quit freshman year so that Quinn could take Captain. You knew there was no way Coach Sylvester would make her Head Cheerio over you and so you didn’t give her the choice. You’ve been doing the same thing ever since.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You’ve been sacrificing your own happiness for your sister’s. Charlotte, I know you how much you love her and care about her, but the way your parents treat Quinn is not your fault.”
“Rachel, stop,” her voice wavered.
But she wouldn’t.
“You don’t need to keep denying yourself what you want for Quinn’s sake. It’s not your responsibility. Love and support, that’s what you should offer her, but don’t make her happiness more important than your own because one day you will resent her and the damage will be beyond repair. I can’t bear to see that happen to you.”
“My parents, Rach…” she croaked, “they treat her like second best.”
“But she’s not.”
“I didn’t realize it when we were younger. I was…cruel. I-I used my advantages, but I have to make up for that now. Quinn deserves her chance.”
“You gave it to her and she knows that.”
“She’s your sister, she knows.”
“I want to do the right thing. I want to make sure she’s okay, because our Mom and Dad won’t…”
“You are doing it. More than that. But you cannot continue to do it at the expense of yourself. Quinn doesn’t want that.”
“For this, she does.”
Rachel looked away tremulously. “T-then I guess you have to decide how much you want it.”
Charlie tried to remember how to breathe. Was Rachel really saying what she thought she was saying?
“It’ll hurt her,” she choked out.
“But you’ll always love each other,” she countered. “I’m the expendable one here. Quinn will be there the rest of your life…whether you two like it or not.”
Charlie had to smile at that.
“You could never be expendable.”The brunette swallowed thickly and gave her a tight lipped smile before walking away, leaving Charlie alone on the bench and Quinn in a nightmare.