Chapter 1: The Return
She couldn't believe what she was doing. Why was she coming back here? What was here for her to come back to? What had changed? What hadn't? She tapped her fingers on the steering wheel impatiently as she stopped at a red light. Sighing, she leaned back as far as she could in the car seat. How many times had the same questions rattled around in her mind? Too many to count. Glancing over, she looked at her son Ryder. Smiling, she tousled his hair as she so often did.
He glanced up at her, a smile on his face as he stuffed a McDonald's french fry in his mouth. She usually didn't give him fast food, but they had been in a rush this morning, and she had no other option. She'd been on the road for a good two days now. From where she was living in New York City to Lima, Ohio was about a ten hour drive. Being cooped up in a car for that long wasn't good for Ryder, so she had made several stops, and had stopped for the night earlier than she would have if it had been herself.
She would normally have flown, but it was too risky to do so. This way, she could pay for everything via cash. She wouldn't be followed nearly as easily. Not that she made trips home very often. In fact, she hadn't been home once since she graduated McKinley High School. She hadn't been in contact with anyone from the Glee club.
"Mom, are we almost there?" Ryder asked, rubbing his brown eyes with the back of his hands.
Rachel smiled at him as she moved his dark brown hair out of his eyes and made a mental note to set him up with a hair appointment as soon as they got settled into their new home. "We're nearly there, sweetie. Five more minutes, okay?"
Ryder nodded and went back to eating his food before finding more pleasure in the toy than he did eating his food. Rachel smiled as the light turned green, and she was able to go again. Gripping the steering wheel as she entered Lima Ohio, she wondered what would await them.
The apartment complex was quaint, to say the least. It was the cheapest one she had been able to find. She didn't have much money, so anything bigger was too far out of her price range. Lima was a small town, especially when compared to New York City. It was going to take some getting used to again. Luckily, she was living in the down town area; hopefully she wouldn't be seeing many people that recognized her.
"Where's my room?" Ryder asked as they looked around the apartment. It was a one bedroom apartment with a single bathroom, a kitchen, and a living room. For a small fee, the landlord had left some of the furniture that the previous tenant had left behind. The catch was that the couch was stained and smelled of something sour. But Rachel hoped some fabreeze and a couch cover would be able to cover up the odor. The kitchen table was also a little wobbly, but she was hoping the screws could be tightened.
Rachel left her bags in the living room, picked up Ryder's suitcase and walked into the far room. "This one is yours, Ryder." It was small, smaller than his last room. But he didn't complain as he grabbed his plastic bags full of legos, beanie babies, dinosaurs, and other such toys and put them onto his bed. "Why don't you unpack your things in here, and I'll start in the kitchen, alright? Come on out when you're finished." She smiled as she headed back out of his room and back out to the car to grab a tote. She made a mental list to add picking up some toys bins for Ryder's things.
It didn't take very long to get everything carried in from the car and put away; they hadn't brought very many things, as not much had been able to fit in her car. She had been in a bit of hurry when they left, but she had been sure to grab most of Ryder's things and the essentials. She could go without, but she hadn't wanted Ryder to do so. This was her mistake, and she didn't want Ryder to pay for it.
Now, there was the manner of figuring out what to do with her stuff. None of her clothes would fit in Ryder's tiny closet. He had his own things. Opening the linen closet, Rachel decided that this would be where she kept her clothes. She'd be able to sleep on the couch and call it good.
The only expensive thing she was able to bring was her computer. She set it up in the living room on the table and turned it on. Heading back into Ryder's room, she decided to see how well the unpacking was going as the computer turned on. He was in the middle of his room, playing with his toys. Clothes were sticking out of the edges of his dresser drawers. Leaning on the door frame, Rachel couldn't help but laugh.
"Looks like you got a lot done," she said from the doorway. Pushing off of the door frame, Rachel grabbed his suitcase and finished unpacking for him, straightening up the clothes he had haphazardly already stuffed in the drawers. She had allowed him to bring the most amount of stuff since she hadn't liked the idea of uprooting him and dragging him along to some small town where he didn't know anyone. But, as much as she wanted to, she couldn't stay in New York anymore. She had to get away. It was what was best for Ryder, what was safest.
"Mom, can we go out and play?" Ryder asked, setting down his race car and looking up at her with pleading eyes that reminded her so much of his father.
Rachel could never say no when he gave her those puppy dog eyes. "Sure. Let's go to the park. You'd like that, right? Get to know the neighborhood a little," she suggested.
"Ya!" Ryder jumped up, grabbing his shoes, and before she knew it, they were out the door and walking down the street.
As they walked, Rachel took note of their surroundings. Nothing had changed in the six years she had been gone. Everything was the same. Same brick house on the corner, same cracked sidewalks, same broken street sign. New York was always and forever changing. It was surreal being back in Lima where things seemed to stand still.
The park came into view, and Ryder took off running towards it. Rachel smiled as she watched him climb the ladder to the tallest slide. There were a few other kids playing in the sand, and it wouldn't take long for him to go introduce himself and begin playing with them. He was an extrovert, something he got from his mom.
She always told him to say what he felt and to never stop fighting for his dreams, for the things he wanted. He seemed to understand what she meant for the most part, but that didn't mean that he would go a little too far and throw a fit when he didn't get the things Mom said he couldn't have. Like the expensive train set at Walmart. But mom, it's my dream to own a train set like this one, he'd plead with her, and she had to smile, but she wouldn't cave. He was learning quickly the fights he could win.
Taking a seat at the nearest swing, she pumped her legs back and forth. It felt good to be back; better than she thought it would. She had missed the small town more than she cared to admit. It was nice to know that this place would always be here for her, the same as it always had been. Safe, a bit boring for her tastes, but safe. It would be a good place to raise a family, to raise Ryder.
She hadn't lived up her dreams on Broadway a she had told everyone she would. Having had Ryder right out of high school had robbed her of going to Julliard. She had gone for a year, but she couldn't keep up with the homework, and so she was forced to drop out and focus on a life with Ryder. She regretted nothing, though. Ryder was the best thing that had ever happened to her.
"Rachel?" a voice from behind her caught her attention.
Whipping her head around, she was surprised. She hadn't expected to run into anyone this soon. "Kurt," she breathed, glad it was him and not someone else. She jumped off of her perch and greeted him with a hug. "What are you doing here?" she asked him. Blaine was right behind Kurt, and she hugged him as well.
"I think I should be the one asking you that," Kurt countered, giving her a surprised look, but he returned the hug with sincerity.
Rachel grabbed a chunk of her hair and began playing with it. She cast a glance behind her towards Ryder, and saw him playing with a little girl. Turning her attention back to the two boys in front of her, she wasn't sure how she was going to answer them.
"I've just moved back for awhile. I'm not sure how long, yet," she replied nervously. She didn't want them to ask too many questions about why she had left to begin with. She didn't want them to judge her. They were her friends, and she should be able to tell them anything, and she would. At the right time.
"Does anyone even know you are here?" Kurt asked her suspiciously.
"No," she shook her head. "And, I want to keep it that way for awhile. If people find out, I want it to be because I told them." She needed to keep a handle on who all knew she was back. She knew she'd eventually have to talk to everyone, but was it so bad to want to stay anonymous for awhile more?
Kurt nodded. "Fine, but you better tell them soon. They'll want to know. We've all missed you, you know!" Kurt hugged her again. "If you'd have called ahead of time, or at all, really, we could have given you a proper welcome home."
Rachel smiled up at her former best friend, "It was sort of a last minute decision. But I'm glad I ran into you, Kurt. It's really good to see you. Both of you," she looked at Blaine.
"Kurt, we have to go; your parents are waiting for us," Blaine said, grabbing Kurt's arm, giving Rachel an apologetic look. "It was nice seeing you again, Rachel. We'll have to catch up sometime, okay?"
"Oh, we are definitely catching up. Soon. What's your number?" Kurt asked as he pulled his phone out of his back pocket and handed it to her. Rachel hesitantly punched in her number to his phone. "Great. So I'll text you, okay?"
Rachel nodded. "That'd be great." She waved as they left.
Sighing, she turned around, wondering how long she could keep out of sight before the rest of the Glee members found out she was back in town. It wasn't that she was avoiding them. More like just one person, but the more members she ran into, the more likely she was to run into someone else.
"Rachel?" another voice caught her attention.
She silently cursed this park. Why did everyone visit this park at this particular time? Turning around, she was pleasantly surprised with who waving at her from down the sidewalk. "Jesse?"