Prisoner of Hope
©2004 The Angst Guy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Daria and associated characters are ©2004 MTV Networks
Feedback (good, bad, indifferent, just want to bother me, whatever) is appreciated. Please write to: email@example.com
Synopsis: Daria’s sole fan from childhood is reunited with her heroine—and learns a bitter lesson in this continuation of the fifth-season episode “Camp Fear.”
Author’s Notes: In September 2003, Bower of Bliss (Tafka) issued an Iron Chef challenge on PPMB to write a story in which a minor “Daria” character has a major role, in canon, with Daria herself in a subplot. Amelia (the friendly camper from “Camp Fear”) was one of the minor characters offered. This story appeared on PPMB in March 2004—a bit late, but it is always better late than never where fanfic is concerned. Amelia is a peculiar fish, and discussions of her actual purpose in the show (e.g., did she represent “Daria” fans in general?) are interesting.
Acknowledgements: My thanks go out to Bower of Bliss for her intriguing Iron Chef challenge, which inspired this story.
When Roy picked up his little sister from the Camp Grizzly reunion that Sunday afternoon, he suspected something was wrong. She stood beside her duffle bag in the parking lot when he drove up, wearing her periwinkle tank top, beige cargo pants, and camel-colored boots, but she was missing the blue Camp Grizzly T-shirt she’d received when he’d dropped her off the day before at noon. She barely met his gaze when he waved to her, though she seemed relieved to see him. After she threw her duffle bag into the trunk of the car, she climbed into the back seat, slammed the door, picked up her CD player from the floor where she’d left it a day ago, took off her square-frame glasses, put on her earphones, and closed her eyes. With her arms folded across her chest, she slouched down as far as she could with a seat belt on.
“Amelia?” Roy asked, pronouncing her name meel-ya as he always did. He strained to turn around enough in the driver’s seat to see her. Her face was tight, and she did not respond. He knew the weekend had not gone well, then. Amelia had her moods, like any eighteen-year-old, and there was no point pressing her at the moment. He shrugged and drove off for home, four hours away.
One long, quiet hour down the Interstate later, somewhere in hilly country, Roy spotted a Pizza King near an off-ramp and made for it. When he pulled into a parking space and turned off the car, he heard Amelia stir in the back seat. “What are we doing here?” she asked.
“Dinner,” said Roy. “I told Dad we’d probably eat on the way back, and he said it was fine. We won’t get home until almost seven.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Come in anyway,” said Roy, getting out of the car. “Stretch and come sit with me for a little.”
Amelia grimaced, but she tossed aside her earphones and got out of the car. After a bathroom break and a chance to place their dinner order, Roy sat back in his seat in their booth and studied his sister. For a little sister she wasn’t very little, reaching five foot nine as a high-school senior, though Roy still had her by three inches. He watched as she swept her dark brown bangs behind her ears and rested her chin on her crossed arms on the tabletop, staring into space. The freckles on her face had darkened from the time she’d spent out in the sun.
He wondered what had gone wrong. In particular, he hoped she hadn’t been harassed or picked on or shut out of the group at camp, though it was likely she had.
“Did you see that girl you remembered from five years ago?” he asked. “D-something?” It was as good a place to start as any.
“Daria.” Amelia closed her eyes, took a breath, and let it out. “Yeah.”
“Things didn’t go so well anyway?”
Her face hardened. “Camp sucked.”
“I remember you told me it would suck, but you went because you were hoping that girl’d be there—”
“It didn’t work out.” Her mouth twitched. “I mean, it sorta did, but it didn’t.”
“Oh,” he sighed. Their drink orders came at that point. He left her alone for a couple of minutes. As he’d hoped, she began to talk again.
“She didn’t want me around,” Amelia said, putting down her Ultra-Cola. She sat back in her seat, looking down at the tabletop. “I tried all day yesterday to get her to talk to me, but she kept trying to read a book and wouldn’t say much.” She made a face. “Then, this morning, she really told me off. She didn’t want anyone around her. She didn’t want to be at the camp any more than I did, but she didn’t want to do anything else, either. Not a people person. I knew she was like that, but not that much.”
“So, she turned out to be a jerk.”
Amelia shook her head, but only for a moment. “She wasn’t a jerk. Well, she was, sort of, but she . . . it’s sort of complicated. It was sort of my fault, too.”
“Your fault? How?”
Amelia spread her hands. “I kept bugging her. I didn’t want to be around the rest of those dorks, I just wanted to spend some time with her, but . . . it . . . she just wasn’t in the mood. She was mad about being there. She didn’t take part in any of the events, she ignored that asshole Skip when he tried to bully everyone around and make them do this stupid camp crap. She just did her own thing as usual, and I got in her way. She told me later she went to the reunion just to avoid helping her parents clean out the garage.”
Roy snorted, amused. “She sounds like a jerk.”
Amelia played with the straw in her drink. “Maybe she is, sort of.” She was silent for a long moment. “I still liked her. I wish she’d . . . that we’d . . . eh.”
Roy looked sadly at his sister. She had never been able to join the cliques at any school she’d attended. Their family had moved around too much. When their father finally retired from the Air Force two years ago, it was too late. Amelia had already learned to keep her own company when she wasn’t with family. As far as Roy knew, she had no female friends at all, except for a cousin she rarely saw. She liked hanging out with guys, who were easy to get along with, but not so much girls. The connections were always getting broken or weren’t getting made. She never fit in.
“I started a riot just before you got there,” Amelia added. “About noon, just before lunch.”
“What?” Roy blinked and leaned forward. “I missed that. What’d you say?”
“I tried to start a riot. Daria said I was just following the crowd, like everyone else, which was also why she didn’t want me to be around her. I guess it was like I was a cow in a herd, even when I was trying to make her the herd I was following, and . . . I had to go think about it.”
This last phrase, Roy knew, was a code for: I got really upset and depressed and everything went to hell. This Daria character sounded like more of an asshole than this Skip guy that Amelia had always hated. Roy didn’t like it that Daria had decided to sandpaper his sister’s feelings, no matter what was going on. “What happened with the riot?” he asked, staying cool.
“Oh, Skip was doing something stupid, trying to get everyone to do something stupid with him, and I went up and took his microphone away, and I told everyone I was sick of it all. I wasn’t going to be pushed around anymore, I hated camp, and I was going to be more like Daria and stop kissing Skip’s butt. I threw my T-shirt at him and went off to do what I wanted to do.”
Roy stared at Amelia in mild surprise. He knew she was capable of this, as she’d had similar but smaller explosions like that in the past, but only while reacting in typical teenage fashion to their parents. Her connection to Daria, though, threw him off. “I thought you told me once it was better to be a team player than a loner, even if you were sick of your team,” he said. “And you just told me Daria was a jerk, so why’d you want to be like her?”
His sister fidgeted, looking uncomfortable. “Some teams aren’t worth being a part of,” she said. “And Daria might be a jerk, but at least she did what she had to do to get through a bad situation.”
“She went to camp just to blow off her folks, you said.”
“Yeah, but . . .” Amelia sighed, looking down at her lap. “She was right anyway.”
“Right in what way?”
“To use her right not to be a part of a stupid crowd. Just because everyone does something stupid doesn’t mean you have to do it, too.”
“You’re not stupid.”
“I can be stupid sometimes.”
Not like Daria’s being stupid, Roy thought. You’re one of the smartest people who ever went through your high school, smarter even than me, but you had the bad luck to try to make an antisocial bitch your best friend. He hoped his sister wasn’t going to use this incident and Daria’s loner philosophy as an excuse to fight with their parents more than she already was. “So, what’d they do to you when you tried to start this riot?”
“Nothing.” Amelia took another sip of her cola. “Everyone else took off their camp shirts and threw them on the ground or threw them at Skip, and we ate lunch and just sat around and talked or did whatever.”
“Is someone going to call Dad or Mom and tell them about this, to get you in trouble?”
Amelia shook her head. “Nah, I don’t think so. I don’t care, anyway. Mr. Potts, the guy in charge, he didn’t care. He was sick of Skip, too, I think.”
Roy rubbed his chin. “Man, you really know how to stir things up.”
“I don’t care. I’m sick of following everyone around, trying to fit in. To hell with them. I just want to do what I want to do.”
“Yeah. Sort of.”
The pizza arrived. Roy was glad for the chance to take a rest from the subject. They killed off a medium Carnivore Lovers pan pizza and some breadsticks, played a few videogames, and were back on the road right after that. Amelia sat in the front seat this time, with her earphones on. She slept off and on during the long, dull drive.
Somewhere about halfway home, Roy tapped the dashboard in front of his sister’s face while she was awake. She pulled off the earphones and looked over. “What?”
“So, you didn’t tell me how things ended with Daria,” he asked.
“Oh.” She was silent for a moment. “We talked a little afterward. She said she was sorry she got up my butt about stuff. She just didn’t want to be there, she hated the other campers, and it got her in a bad mood. She didn’t like fan clubs, either, by which she meant me, I guess. I said it was okay. We talked a little about stuff, and then her friends came to pick her up, and I hung out until you came.”
“Friends? Daria has friends?”
“Yeah.” The word came out in a sad way. “Her best friend and best friend’s brother came to pick her up. Jane, that was her name, her best friend. She likes teasing Daria, and she said something that got Daria’s underwear in a knot, so she walked off. Jane thought it was funny.”
The silence lasted a few seconds more.
“I talked to Jane before they left. We couldn’t talk much because they had to drive back to Lawndale, several hours away. I asked Jane if she was Daria’s friend, and she said yeah, and she asked me if I was Daria’s friend, too.” Another pause. “I said I didn’t know, I kinda doubted it, but I admired her.” Amelia sighed, her voice low. “And then I said to Jane that I envied her, that she was Daria’s friend. Maybe she’s Daria’s only friend, but I envied her.” Another pause. “She looked at me kind of funny then, and she said something weird. She said I should be careful what I wish for.”
Roy thought about that. “Was she mad that you said that?”
“No. No, she looked . . .” Amelia looked out the window at the passing trees. “I think she was saying that being Daria’s friend wasn’t paradise. I can imagine, after what she said to me earlier. I guess Jane’s gotten the short end of the stick more than a few times, but she still hangs with her.” He voice grew soft. “I wonder why.”
Roy made a face. “You just said yourself that you admire Daria, though I’d never figure out in a million years why.”
“It’s not the same as being her friend. I wanted that more than anything when I went there. I wanted to find Daria and be her friend, and we’d write or call or send e-mails, but . . .” Her voice drifted away.
Roy could tell it would take his sister some time to get over whatever had happened with Daria. Good riddance to bad trash, Roy thought, feeling angry but knowing it was pointless. “Some people can have only one friend,” he said aloud. “I never thought it was possible, but I met some people at college like that. They can’t handle anything more for long. No room in their lives for anything outside themselves.”
Amelia made a little noise to indicate she’d heard, but nothing else.
His sister nodded, and he believed her. It didn’t surprise him. She’d always be okay. She’d tried to reach for a way out of her loneliness, and it hadn’t worked, but she’d make it. At least she had family and the guys who were her friends. Maybe someday she’d find a best friend. He hoped she would.
And maybe someday, Roy thought with a little hope, Daria would get hers for being such a jerk.
After a minute, Amelia put her earphones on again, turned on her CD player, and slouched back in the passenger seat, staring out the window. When her brother checked next, her eyes were closed and she was asleep.
Original: 03/02/04, modified 10/28/04