©2004 The Angst Guy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Daria and associated characters are ©2004 MTV Networks
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Synopsis: What were Daria and Quinn really doing out late on a school night just before they were caught by their parents in the opening scene of “The Big House”? And who would dare to believe their answers?
Author’s Notes: This story was written in response to an Iron Chef contest on PPMB in early 2004, but it proved to be a little controversial. Here it is. Enjoy!
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Kara Wild, who thought this had some redeeming value. Thanks also to Outpost Daria (www.outpost-daria.com) for posting the transcript of the first-season episode, “The Big House,” the opening part of which is used in this story.
Quinn Morgendorffer, almost fifteen years old and nobody’s fool, made her ride let her out a full block away from her home that warm spring evening. She knew perfectly well that the sound of a car stopping in front of the house would tip off her parents that she was back at twelve minutes to eleven on a school night, when her date was supposed to have ended at nine-thirty.
Her cover story, however, was basically foolproof, and she reviewed its elements as she walked up the sidewalk along Glen Oaks Lane. She’d hidden a small makeup kit with built-in lights on the back patio next to a lawn chair. Silently, she would walk around to the backyard, turn on the makeup mirror, and knock on the patio doors for her parents to let her in. The chances were fair that her fuming mother would accept her excuse that she’d gotten home at nine-thirty, then spent over an hour out back trying on different types of makeup to see which one looked best in dim light. Her clueless father would buy any story, no matter how fantastic.
I’ll have to put some makeup on, first, of course, she thought with a nod. Otherwise, the story will be bogus and—
The sound of a car behind her spurred her into a run. She could not afford to be seen by one of her parents’ local friends, wandering around out front of her house where she wasn’t supposed to be. Quinn made it to the bushes near the front door and hid behind an evergreen shrub just as a canary-yellow sedan pulled up in front of the two-story suburban residence that the Morgendorffers called home.
To Quinn’s astonishment, her sixteen-year-old sister Daria got out of the front passenger side of the car. She’d thought Daria would be home by now, lying on her bed reading a book or doing something equally dull. For a second, Quinn wondered if Daria had been on a date—then mentally slapped herself. Talk about the impossible.
Even from a distance, Quinn heard Daria whisper, “Thanks!” to the unseen driver before she carefully shut the car door. The sedan then roared off toward the end of Glen Oaks. Quinn winced. Damn it! Mom and Dad are sure to hear that! And I can’t run around back now because Daria will see me! Her alibi was in grave danger of being sunk before it had even been launched.
But . . . what was Daria doing out so late? Quinn frowned, determined to get to the bottom of this.
As Daria tiptoed up the sidewalk to the front door, pulling a house key from a pocket of her green jacket, Quinn left the bushes. Her feet were soundless on the grass as she got behind her sister, ready to strike. “Hold it, young lady!” she said in her best imitation-Mom voice.
It was satisfying to see Daria flinch and freeze, then turn half around with a look of infinite disgust. “Funny,” her sister said in a very unfunny tone.
Gotcha! “What are you doing out so late?” Quinn asked. Her instincts said this secret might be good.
“What are you doing out so late?” her sister retorted with a glare.
Typical of Daria to dodge the issue by asked another question. “What do you mean?” said Quinn. “I’m always out so late.”
Daria nodded in agreement, her anger fading. “Then you can tell me how to sneak in,” she said blandly.
“Well, for one thing, stop tiptoeing around like a geek. Have a little dignity, Daria.”
Daria sniffed. “If I had any dignity, do you think I’d be letting you teach me how to be cool?”
Quinn rolled her eyes in annoyance. “What-ever.”
The conversation was interrupted at this point by the sound of a window opening on the second floor. Both girls looked up with the expressions they’d had as preschoolers when caught raiding an off-limits cookie can.
“What’s going on down there?” shouted their father.
“More threatening!” said their mother, farther back in their bedroom.
“Let me handle it!” snapped their father, looking behind him. He looked down at his daughters again. “Darn it, what’s going on down there?”
“Oh, you sound like such a geek,” grumbled their mother.
“No one here but us jewel thieves,” Daria called. “Go back to sleep.”
“Why aren’t you in your room?” their father yelled. “Were you and Quinn at the library all night?”
“Daa-ad!” yelled Quinn. “Puh-leeze!”
“Oh, sorry!” he called back, then looked stern again. “Your mother and I will be right down! We’ll get to the bottom of this!” Their father withdrew, but he banged his head on the window frame as he did. Colorful curses, mixed with the thumping of adult footsteps heading for the staircase, floated out from the open window.
Daria and Quinn looked at each other in defeat. “Like rats in a trap,” said Daria, shoulders drooping.
“Eww!” said her sister with distaste. “You, maybe, but I’m more of a chinchilla kind of person.”
Daria could not suppress the image of how chinchillas were turned into fur coats: fifty thousand volts up the butt. She wondered what an electric charge like that would do to Quinn’s long red hair. “So, what were you really doing out this late at night?” she asked, having nothing else to say before they were captured and punished.
Quinn raised her chin and looked her sister in the eye. “I was at Dawn’s house studying algebra,” she said flatly.
Daria had to admire Quinn’s cheek. She didn’t know which part of the lie was worse—that Quinn had been studying algebra, that Quinn had been studying at all, or that Quinn had given up a perfectly good dating night to visit an overweight, unfashionable, and only mildly popular girl from Daria’s sophomore class. I wish I could lie like that, she said to herself with a touch of envy. I’d be President of the United States in no time.
She thinks I’m lying, thought Quinn in relief. Having lived with Daria all her life, she could read her sister’s minimalist expressions with masterful ease. All the better that no one ever know the truth—that Quinn, the queen of popularity and cuteness, really had been at Dawn’s house studying algebra, because when Dawn took off her CD-player earphones and interacted with the real world, she knew algebra as thoroughly as Quinn knew fashion.
That had been the nature of the tradeoff, in fact. In exchange for secret, last-minute tutoring, Quinn gave Dawn a small bottle of one of her favorite perfumes and copious advice on what sorts of jewelry would go best with the math whiz’s blue eyes and light brown hair. Quinn was now sure to pass the big math test on Friday, saving herself from repeating ninth grade and losing bazillions of popularity points. Thankfully, algebra was forgettable once the test was done—and Dawn would never tell. She had been pleased that someone as popular as Quinn needed her help and had rewarded her so well. Quinn vowed to never speak ill of Dawn again. It was a promise she thought she might even keep.
Life, which for Quinn only sucked once in a while, got a little bit better.
“Your turn,” said Quinn icily. “Spill it. The Inquisition is almost here.”
Daria stared back at her sister. Her right cheek twitched. “I was at that sex-toys shop just off Interstate Nine, picking out a vibrator,” she said in the deadest of deadpans.
Quinn’s face was overwhelmed with horror and revulsion. “Eww! Why do I even talk to you?” she yelled, stamping her foot. “You never do anything other than go to the library and read perverted books so you can make up perverted stories like that that just make you look so totally . . . perverted!”
The front door of the Morgendorffers’ home opened at this point and their angry parents came out, mercifully ending the conversation. A half-hour later, after the expected lectures and promises of horrible punishments to come, Daria checked her bedroom door to be sure it was locked, then turned off the lights and got into bed.
She left her newly purchased vibrator in her jacket in the closet, though. It made a buzzing noise that she feared would attract the attention of either Quinn or her parents down the hall, and she was dead determined that no one ever find out what she’d done—anyone other than her best friend Jane Lane, of course, who had driven them to the sex-toys shop in her sister Summer’s old yellow Mazda. With eighty dollars riding on an impulsive dare, Jane had coolly bought two small vibrators at the shop, one for herself and one for Daria. Each had hidden her vibrator inside her jacket before they got back on the Interstate and headed home—and promptly got caught in a long traffic snarl resulting from a truck accident.
When the traffic unsnarled, they were over an hour late. Jane, who answered to no one at her house, was in the clear. Daria was not.
To Daria, losing eighty dollars to Jane and getting in trouble with her parents were insignificant compared to the terrifying knowledge that she had hidden an actual, real vibrator in her room. If anyone ever found it, she would then have to run away to Cambodia.
I’ll throw it out tomorrow morning, she thought, lying in bed with the covers up to her nose. She was so rattled that she hadn’t yet realized her glasses were still on. Or maybe I can put it in that space over my closet door where they didn’t finish the wallboard. Or I can unzip my mattress and hide it in there. No one will ever find it, no one. And, thank God, Jane will never tell—if she knows what’s good for her.
It was another twenty minutes before the sleepless Daria realized that, properly muffled with a pillow and blankets, the vibrator might not make any sound at all.
And life, which for Daria usually sucked, got a whole lot better.
Original: 01/31/04, modified 11/21/04