Chapter 24 – The Facts of Life

“Arrested! Your Geoff?” Stevie gasps, turning to Quinn. “What the hell for?”

“Apparently, he beat the shit out of Terry.” Ellie touches Stevie’s arm gently. “Sorry, not, like this of course…”

“What for?” Stevie brushes off the comment.

“Jason didn’t know.”

“It’s probably better if it stays that way.” Quinn’s anger is at Geoff instead of Terry. She knows it’s unreasonable, but it’s still how she feels.

“You know?” Ellie leans across the bed and stares at her. “What’s going on, Quinn?”

“We should go.” She starts gathering her purse and jacket from the floor.

Both girls stare her, anxious for an answer.

“Well?” Stevie reaches for her hand. “Are you going to tell us?”

“Nope.” She leans over and kisses her girlfriend’s. “Sorry, hon, but that’s just the way it’s going to be right now. Call me if you find out when you get to go home. Let’s go, Ellie.” She marches out of the room without waiting, heading for the stairs instead of the elevator. Ellie’s breathing hard when she finally catches up to Quinn in the parking lot.

“I have got to stop smoking.” She breathes deeply.

“Uh, huh.” Quinn mumbles, distracted.

“What the hell is wrong with you, Quinn?” Ellie twists to face her. “What is going on!”

“Seriously, you don’t want to know. It’s… complicated.” She backs the car out of the stall.

“No kidding it’s complicated. One of our best friends is in jail for beating up one of our other best friends. We get the phone call while sitting in the hospital room of a cheerleader. Who has been beaten up for being gay. And let’s not forget that she’s your secret girlfriend. And the guy that just got beat up is your boyfriend, ex-boyfriend? I don’t know. So yeah, I’d say things have bungee jumped off the cliff of complicated and are bouncing around in fucked right up.”

“How about we let them stay that way.”

“Quinn. Didn’t we just go through this whole ‘don’t lie to your friends, it only messes things up worse’ ordeal. What the hell did Terry do? Did Geoff do? How are you involved?”

“Terry found out about Stevie.”

“And he freaked?”

“In a manner of speaking.” Quinn’s tone is flat. She keeps her eyes on the road.

“Did he try to hit you?” Ellie persists.

“Not exactly. More like he felt emasculated.” Quinn responds evasively, concentrating as hard as possible on driving.

“Come on, Quinn. Just tell me wha… wait.” Ellie turns towards her slowly. “Did he rape you?”

“No. No.” Quinn shutters “but he sorta tried.”

“The god damn motherfu…”

“See, I told you it would be better if you didn’t know.”

“Now? We’re going to play I told you so? After you tell me that one of my oldest friends tried to rape you? The guy I set you up with.”

“Jesus, I didn’t even think about that. This is so not your fault, Ellie. I was already dating Stevie when I started dating Terry. I only did it so people wouldn’t suspect anything. I knowingly did something totally awful. God, I knew that that whole situation was going to end with someone getting hurt. And it did. Terry was crushed when he found out about Stevie. So he freaked out.”

“Don’t try to validate what he did. He had no right. No right!”

“Can you really blame him? What would you do if you found out Jason was doing the same thing?”

“I would be livid. And I would probably do something completely stupid, but that doesn’t make it okay! Don’t try to justify what he did!”

“I’m not. I can just see…”

“Oh my god, Quinn, stop defending him!” Ellie’s voice reverberates off the walls of the jeep. “No matter how much you hurt his feelings. No matter how much damage you did to his ego. No one ever has any right to do try to rape to you. To rape you!” She crosses her arms over her chest and leans back into the seat, clearly too angry to say anything else. They drive the rest of the way to the police station in silence.

*****   *****   *****   *****

It doesn’t take long for Geoff to be released. Terry isn’t pressing charges. His dad doesn’t push the issue. Mr. Monroe can’t look in Quinn’s direction. That makes everything so much more confusing for her. No one seems to know what to do now. Jason’s hand on Ellie’s arm is for more than comfort. Geoff must have told him why this happened. Quinn waits for them to say something. For anyone to say anything. They all stand in silence in the lobby. A loose circle. Everyone looking at Terry. Waiting to see what is going to happen. Two officers stand beside the counter, ready to act if needed. They don’t know the details yet. They don’t know what might happen.

“How are we going to deal with this?” Geoff’s voice is calm, but his eyes betray his anger.

“I know how I plan to.” Ellie cracks her knuckles, but doesn’t move.

“Ellie.” Jason has taken on the unusual role of the voice of reason.

“I know. I know.” She sighs. “I can wait.”

“There’s no need.” Terry’s voice is clear, though he’s looking at the ground. His eye is swollen and his lip split.

“You think you’re just going to get away with what you did?” Ellie pulls against Jason’s grip. “With what you did to my best friend?” Eyes shift to Quinn and back to Terry.

“I’m leaving.” He jiggles his foot. A twitch Quinn knows means he’s anxious. Terry’s father stands stoically off to the side, watching the exchange.

“Clarify.” Geoff’s voice is clear and steady.

“I’m moving to Toronto to finish out my year there.”

“When?”

“Tomorrow.”

“So you just get to run away? Flee the scene of the crime?”

“Trust me, he’s not getting away with this. He’s heading to a school for troubled youth and he’ll be getting counseling.” Terry’s father interjects. “I am so ashamed of what has happened. This isn’t running away. This is punishment.”

Quinn doesn’t hear the rest of the conversation. While everyone is listening to her minister, she backs towards the door, lets herself out, and hurries to her jeep. Once she’s home, she trudges through the snow up to the front door, feeling the cold against the skin at her ankles. Pushing the door open, she throws her stuff on the floor in the foyer.

“Quinn, hang your things up.” A voice carries from over the banister.

“Mom?” Quinn picks up her stuff. “What are you doing home? I thought you were supposed to be gone until Wednesday.”

“I was, but some kind of weird weather thing is heading towards where I was. It’s supposed to last for a couple of weeks, so I came home early. I got most of what I needed.”

“Was it a good trip?”

“Sure. I found a great little market.” She reaches beside her chair. “I got you something.” Her mother hands over a flat box. Inside, Quinn finds a hand woven messenger bag made of deep blue fabric.

“Mom! It’s so pretty.” Quinn holds it up in front of her. Before she knows what’s happening, the pressure of the day reaches capacity and the tears come before she can do anything to stop them.

“Quinn? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” She brushes the tears away. “I’m just tired.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. It’s been a rotten few days.” She sniffs and wipes her nose on her sleeve.

“Quinn!” Her mother tilts her head towards the Kleenex box.

“Mom!” She laughs, rolling her eyes as she pulls out a tissue to wipe her nose. “Did you get anything for Taylor?”

“Yeah, would you like to see it?”

Quinn nods and follows her down the hall. In her bedroom, her mom sifts through her suitcase until she finds a square yellow box. She hands it to Quinn who opens it to see a thick silver cuff bracelet with some kind of marbleized rock embedded in it.

“This is sweet.”

“Do you think she’ll like it?”

“I’m not sure where she can wear it, but yes. And if she doesn’t, I’ll take it.” Quinn puts the lid back on and hands the box back to her mother. As she starts to get up, Taylor sticks her head through the doorway.

“Oh, hey Mom. You’re home early.”

Quinn leaves them alone. Letting them have one of the rare moments where they get along. She heads to the kitchen and checks the coffee pot. It’s still hot. She pours a cup and heads into the living room to see her father pulling into the driveway. She knows that this is it. The right time.

When they finish supper, Quinn settles in the living room with her parents. Taylor has already hurried to the basement to watch tv. They sit and chat for a little while. Quinn’s mom tells them a little more about her trip. Her father tells them about knocking over a pyramid of oranges at the grocery store at lunch. Then it’s Quinn’s turn.

“I kind of need to talk to you guys.”

“About what, honey?” Her mother searches distractedly through her purse.

“Well, you might not know, Mom, but Dad you do, about the girl in my class that was attacked.”

“What?” Her mother snaps to attention.

“Stevie Frances. It happened on Wednesday.”

“That’s horrible. Have they caught the person that did it?”

“They haven’t arrested anyone yet.” Quinn controls her anger.

“Was she badly hurt?”

“Yeah, she’s in the hospital. She’s slowly getting better.”

“Oh? I didn’t think you guys were friends.” Her father looks at her quizzically.

“Well, that’s kind of the thing…” Quinn stops. She doesn’t know if she can do this. Neither of them says anything. Neither does she.

“Quinn. What’s going on?” Her mother finally asks.

“I don’t want you guys to be mad.”

“Honey, what is it? Did you have something to do with what happened to this girl?”

“Linda!” Quinn’s father shoots a look at his wife. “You can’t think she was involved in this.”

“You think I did this! No. Absolutely not!” Quinn insists. “I could never, ever do something like that.”

“Then what could we be mad about?”

“Well, see, Stevie was attacked because she’s… because she’s gay.” She pauses for a second, and then it all comes pouring out. “Well, see she’s such a nice person, and we started hanging out last year for school. And then, we started hanging out again this summer. And well, we’re dating. She’s my girlfriend. Stevie is my girlfriend.” She stops. Waits for her parents to react. For them to yell at her. To tell her she’s going to hell. Or to surprise her and tell her that they’re okay with it. Instead, nothing happens. They sit in silence. Her father’s coffee cup frozen in midair, halfway to his mouth. Her mother finally breaks the silence.

“Quinn, you should go to your room.”

“To my room?”

“Yes.” Her mother nods. Her father still hasn’t moved.

“You’re sending me to me room?”

“Yes.”

“Like a toddler who broke a toy?”

“Just go, Quinlyn.”

Stunned, Quinn stands, heads to the kitchen to fill her coffee cup, and heads downstairs. In her room, she grabs Taylor’s bag of cookies from the top of her closet. She pulls open the bag and begins eating as she stares out the window. Before she realizes it, she’s eaten an entire row. Tossing the bag aside, she runs her fingers through her hair, leans her head back against the wall and waits.

Chapter 25

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