Brave New World
©2005 The Angst Guy (email@example.com)
Daria and associated characters are ©2005 MTV Networks
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Synopsis: The only thing worse than waking up without remembering where you are, who you’re with, or how you got there . . . is remembering.
Author's Notes: This story began in mid-October 2005 with Mike Xeno’s Iron Chef calling for stories in which a Daria character awakens confused and naked in bed with someone else. Gregor Samsa then posted a note asking if it was possible to have a “morning after” fanfic without the actual sex. And that was all it took.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Mike Xeno and Gregor Samsa for the push.
She awoke woozy and thick-headed, and when she realized she was almost naked she thought she had gotten drunk again and done something stupid. What city was she in? Was she with someone? She felt a presence under the blankets behind her back, and she froze. Who was it? Would someone punch her or pull a gun if she woke him or her up? How would she get out of here and get home in one piece?
Sensing light, she slowly turned her head to one side. Pale numerals glowed two feet away in the darkness: 6:28 A.M. In the dim light of the clock-phone she also saw a small candle on a saucer by the clock, with a box of matches, a pencil stub, and a photo in a simple plastic frame, all atop a bedside table. And she knew: she was in her bedroom in her apartment at the Lord Lawndale East complex by the Eichler-Lynn Parkway. It was Monday, mid-October, 2005. The alarm would buzz in two minutes to get her up for morning classes at Lawndale State, then came her part-time job teaching girls’ sports at the high school. She was not back in time again, flunking out of Great Prairie State University or treading water in Los Angeles, searching for her mother and a bit part in a movie between bad jobs and worse boyfriends. Or drinking.
And the presence behind her was (she reached back with a trembling hand) . . . a pillow.
She closed her eyes and said a thank-you prayer to a Higher Power, then swung her legs off the bed and sat up to hit the alarm before it went off. It was cool in the room, raising goose bumps everywhere on her skin. She wore only panties, with short athletic socks to warm her feet. Blinking, she recalled the thread of her morning ritual and picked up the matchbox, removing a single match. The match flared into yellow light, gave the candle wick a quiet flame. It was a lilac candle, one of her favorites. The yellow light fell on the plastic picture frame, illuminated the four young faces grinning at the photographer, four teenage girls arm-in-arm in front of a brick college dormitory in late summer outfits, ready for the world. Cheerleaders, best friends forever, five years ago.
Five years ago. Then Angie got pregnant and dropped out to work at a convenience store. Nikki got married, moved away, got divorced, and vanished. Lisa and her boyfriend died in a head-on collision after a football game.
And the only one left dropped out before the end of her freshman year, drinking like a fish.
She ran her tongue around her mouth and over her dry lips. It occurred to her that a drink would be welcome to ease her transition into the day—a light beer maybe, or something stronger with a little vodka in it. That would be great. One to get her started, that was all.
But no. The Antabuse would have her hurling into the toilet within minutes.
She eyed the telephone. She could call her stepmother if it got bad and she wanted to drink anyway. Ashley was always there. Ashley knew exactly what she was going through. She had been there, too, the poster icon of a famous beer distillery who sampled the product once too often.
No one else could help. Her father had moved to New York after his second divorce, disappearing just as her mother had so long ago. Her younger brother Brian was in a special school for violent children, in another state. Her closest friends were gone. Now, it was just her and Ashley-Amber and twice-weekly meetings with a drug-and-alcohol counselor.
And the impulse to drink.
She had not awakened alone after all.
She took a deep breath and got off the bed and padded into the bathroom to get ready for the day. She would call Ashley later. Maybe they could see a movie and have dinner together. They would keep each other safe in this brave new world.
What else was a family for?
The underwear and socks went into the laundry basket. She turned her face into the shower’s hot spray and tried for a few moments to pretend she was eighteen again and the whole world lay open before her.
It almost worked.