As She Remembered It in the
Long Years After
©2005 The Angst Guy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Daria and associated characters are ©2005 MTV Networks
Feedback (good, bad, indifferent, just want to bother me, whatever) is appreciated. Please write to: email@example.com
Synopsis: A love that never spoke its name finally does . . . too late.
Author’s Notes: In April 2005, Richard Lobinske and I inadvertently became involved in a fanfic-writing competition on PPMB, overseen by Isa Yo-Jo. As part of the competition, one of the three judges, Brother Grimace, set the following guidelines for the second round:
Do a fic set in the summer between Daria’s first and second years at Raft, a la the ‘Falling Into College’ series. In this fic, which can only cover one hour, you are to do a Daria-Mack shipper where Daria and Mack would never betray Michael or Jodie, but acknowledge that there could have been something special between them... and that a part of each regrets not having taken a chance back at LHS. No length restrictions, but try to keep it short. Also, there can be no other characters shown.
This story was my entry. It was disqualified because it broke a rule (you can guess which one), it was slightly AU and OOC, and, yes, Richard’s story was a lot better, but here it is anyway for public consumption. Enjoy!
Acknowledgements: Isabelle Young-Johnson, Brother Grimace, and Richard Lobinske have my gratitude for forcing me into doing this story. Thank you!
She remembered it began while she was window-shopping in front of the Books by the Ton outlet at Cranberry Commons, not wanting any book she saw and having nothing else to do while her friend Jane was away with Trent on a sister-brother bonding experience at Alternapalooza, when someone spoke her name—Daria?—unsure if it was her, and she turned and there he was not three feet away. She knew him the moment she saw him; he hadn’t changed that much. There was the rushing of blood to her face and the sense that her feet were leaving the ground and suddenly she didn’t remember Jane and she feel lonely at all, except for that little eternal ache, and she said, Mack?
They grinned at each other and she felt she had to do something, so she put out a hand and then thought, This is so stupid, go for it, and she gave into her impulse and moved in and hugged him. And he hugged her back. His arms went around her as if he were a giant bear. My God, she thought, he’s enormous, he’s like a mountain, his chin is exactly on the level of the top of my head. My God, this feels good with his arms around me like this. This feels so good. And she held on for a moment more before she had to pull away, and something ached again when she did it, sharper than before, but she wanted to be noble. It was so important for her to be noble.
They couldn’t get the words out fast enough. He was in Lawndale visiting family for the weekend, he and Jodie, and she noticed that he added Jodie’s name after a hesitation as if he had not wanted to say that name in front of her. He had to, of course, since they were engaged. She’d heard about it already through the Internet grapevine, from Jodie herself, who said the wedding was going to have to wait until they both graduated from Turner U. That was Daria’s first hint that Mack had transferred colleges from Vance to Turner, and she knew why he’d done it, and that renewed the ache. It had almost gone away until now, with Mack right in front of her, and even as they talked and laughed and caught up on where they were in life, she shielded a part of her from him with all the strength she had, hid it behind the movements of her face and the motions of her head and the gestures of her hands. She shielded the ache and pretended she was on top of the world.
And in a way she was on top of the world, as high as she had ever been. It was just her and Mack, laughing over old times at Lawndale High, remembering the nutty faculty and fellow students and where were they now, is Brittany still at Great Prairie State? Where is Upchuck? Lost track of Andrea, hope she’s okay. That Ms. Li, I knew she’d get caught one day. I hope my sophomore year goes better than my freshman one did. They laughed and talked and her feet soared. This is my only flight, she thought, this is it. Put out your wings and go. And she went.
Mack suggested they get something to drink at a kiosk, and he paid for an orange-pineapple mix for her that tasted like it came from an island far away where only the two of them lived. They walked the length and breadth of the mall twice, talking and talking and talking, and always she had the knowledge that it wouldn’t last, it would be over soon, and she was angry that she couldn’t enjoy this moment in time, knowing it would be gone before she knew it. She would be back in front of the bookstore again, with nothing to do and no one to do it with, and the ache grew wide and dark. It grew until it was too big to hold, until it hurt her right through her heart, lancing it like a spear. Soon it would be over, this little flight of hers. She knew it, and it hurt all the way through.
I guess I should be going, he said. She fought her way back up to be noble. They were by the entrance to the mall and it was time. They had talked for almost an hour and it had been like nothing, like the snap of a finger. In a moment, he would be gone.
Okay, she said. I’ll miss you. And that wasn’t at all what she had meant to say but it was out and gone and the ache was wild inside her, everywhere she turned.
He had started to say something but he stopped and looked at her oddly, the half-smile on his face starting to fade, and when the smile was gone he said, I’ll miss you, too, Daria, and he stepped closer and like that, they were one. Her glasses were mashed into his chest, so she took them off and pressed herself close and lost herself in him completely. She could feel his heart beating against her face. She could feel his roaring body heat, smell the sweat and cologne on his shirt, hear him breathe slow and long, but her eyes were closed because she could see him better that way, see him as he was, see them both as they could have been. She lay buried in his arms and she felt his face against the top of her head, he was so huge, and he turned his face and she felt him kiss her once on her hair, and she pulled back slightly and turned her face up and his mouth came down and met hers and the sun blew up.
It was the best kiss ever. She knew it when it happened, that it would be the best kiss ever, and nothing would ever touch it. It sent a charge down through her like nothing else ever had, as all the power in the world had gone through her, as if no one else in the history of the world had ever kissed like that except the two of them, and no one would ever kiss like that again.
It held for an eternity.
And then it was over. Their lips broke apart, and they looked at each other and realized what they had done. He looked as stunned as she.
I have to go, she whispered, pulling free. She tried to raise a hand to wave, but she could not. Goodbye, Mack. And she turned and pushed through the glass doors and the second set of glass doors and she was outside and hurrying through the blurry parking lot, trying to get away, and she ran down the longest row of cars she could find until she was at the end and no one could see the tears running down her face in rivers or hear her cries of agony because her heart was gone and it hurt like nothing had ever hurt before. It hurt until she couldn’t move or think or do anything but lean on a sapling at the most distant end of the parking lot, where no cars were and no one came.
She howled for him, but he did not follow her. She knew why.
We should have done something, she thought as she wept against the sapling at the most distant end of the parking lot. We should have risked it when we were in school. Why didn’t we do it? Was it because he was black and I was white, or is that too simple? He was dating Jodie and was so unhappy, and I was being my cynical sarcastic get-away-from-me self, and neither of us tried to get beyond those boundaries even when we saw the paradise beyond. Is any excuse good enough to forgive a failure such as ours? We had the keys in our hands, we saw the doorways before us into our most secret of dreams, but we didn’t move and we let the time go by and now here we are, the realization hitting us in our faces, that we had a chance to win everything and we let it drop away because we were afraid. There is no forgiveness for that. There is no forgiveness, only damnation, and I can cry to the heavens to save me from this horror and make it all right again, but it was me who left me here, not someone else. It was me, and him, and we blew it, and that’s all there is to say.
By long degrees, she realized she was making a spectacle of herself. She found her glasses in a jacket pocket and wiped them off and put them on, wiped her face on her sleeves, sniffed back a few times and regretted having no handkerchief. It was over. It was all over and done, forever.
She remembered a time then, back in high school, when she and Jodie had worked on an economics project together. She remembered how they had struggled over it and argued over it and finally made up, how she came to respect and care about Jodie more than she ever had, but she also remembered how all the time she was with Jodie, she could only think, Why you and not me? Why are you with him and not me?
Because I was afraid, she said aloud. I was afraid, and she got the reward of a life with the best man Lawndale High ever turned out, and I did not. I had the chance and I let it go. And that’s how life is, isn’t it?
It was so fitting an epitaph, she could think of nothing else to add, so she took a deep breath and began her long walk back to her parents’ house, thinking of an excuse for her red eyes and face. Allergies, that always works. It’s just allergies and the August sun and the knowledge I am damned to remember this day always. And she always did.