Penny Lane returns home, starting a chain reaction that changes the lives of both Lanes and Morgendorffers.
Daria (and associated characters and locations) is copyright © 1997-2000 MTV Networks.
This story is copyright © 2002 by Bacner () and has been written for personal enjoyment. No infringement of the above rights is intended.
Daria and Jane were watching SSW on the TV. “The man’s wife a wildcat – literally! Zoophilia or the truth behind were-beasts? Next on SSW!”
“Is it just me,” Daria stated to Jane, “or has the theme of this show become rather explicit lately?”
“It’s the time, amiga, it’s time. Or something in the air, at least?”
“Smog and air pollution, you mean?”
“Greenhouse gases would be my guess. But it is weird greenhouse gases, the types that make the people need families and come to them.”
“Nah, my sister. Penny.”
“Penny?” Daria blinked and turned slightly more rigid. “Nah, couldn't be.”
“Couldn't be what?” Jane asked, but there was a knock on the door. “I think it’s her. You may or may not love her, I’m sure.”
Daria just continued to sit rigidly. Jane shrugged and opened the door.
“So Jane, what has happened while I was gone?” Penny asked. “And who’s your little friend?”
“Oh, that’s Daria, and now, she isn't Summer’s,” Jane said. “Daria, say hi to Penny!”
“Hi, Penny!” Daria jumped-up with almost Brittany-like perkiness.
“Daria!” Penny literally jumped over Jane and scooped Daria in a hug. “After over ten years, hi again!”
“What did I miss?” Jane stared as her older sister and her best friend danced around the room in each other’s arms, laughing from genuine joy. “You're not telling me stuff, people!”
“So you see, it went like this,” Penny and Daria were explaining to Jane later. “When I, i.e., Daria, was three, she and her family were about to move to Highland, Texas.”
“Where uranium was found in the drinking water,” Daria supplied.
“Anyways, Jake and Helen weren't the best of parents. And besides, Daria was special.”
“Look, it’s just that shaman’s rumblings!” Daria protested angrily.
“What shaman?” Jane asked, incredulously.
“Of the tribe me and mom were staying with. We were studying native culture, remember?”
“I was three at that time,” Jane grumbled.
“So was I,” Daria admitted. “Only I didn’t have any older siblings looking-up after me back then, and so, one day, when my parents were busy after something, I ran-away, chasing a swallowtail butterfly.”
“Excuse me? When mom and I ran into you, you were poking a rattler with a stick!”
“I was staying way out of the striking distance! And besides, I was three! I didn't think about the non-rattling end! I just thought that it made a cool noise!”
“And that’s why the shaman said you were special!”
“That man was over sixty if he was not immortal! He looked-like an owl, and had skin like old seasoned wood! He wore some sort of a plant for a hat!”
Jane stared. Apparently, the two have been arguing about this before – way before Daria met Jane. “Anyways,” she said, butting-in. “What did break-up this idyll?”
“Quinn. Well, sort of. Mom was pregnant with her, dad was driving her to the hospital, we chose that day to go and buy supplies, ran into each other – literally – and presto, it all got sorted out,” Daria said, looking a little bit glum.
“Gee, couldn't mom have adopted you or something?” Jane said, just a little bit curious.
“Ever heard the butterfly speech?” Penny and Daria said at the same time.
“Good point,” Jane sighed. She paused. “Daria, do you remember those times still?”
“Perfectly,” Daria admitted.
“Oh. Okay. So tell me, why mom and Penny are on tense terms?”
Daria smirked. “Poor, poor Jane. You really don’t know? Here goes: it’s because of my influence.”
“What?” Jane gasped.
“Her influence,” Penny nodded. “I was learning arts & crafts from mom, and they sucked. Compared to hers, I mean.”
“So Penny got really bummed, and I decided to cheer her up,” Daria explained. “The next time we went to town to buy supplies, I suckered some of the tourists there into buying some of Penny’s cast-offs as—“
“—Genuine NA Craft,” Penny finished with a flourish. “Made 56 bucks from it too.”
“Did it cheer you up?”
“Somewhat. It made me realise that just because something worked for mom didn't mean it would automatically work for me, too.”
“And so it went on. Until I returned to my family,” Daria said, scowling again.
It was when Trent breezed-in. “Hi Janey; hi Daria; hi Penny; got to go and practice; major gig tonight; bye!” he went basement. Soon, the sounds of a suffering guitar began to go reach upstairs.
“I think that’s our cue to leave, if we won't continue this conversation without straining our ears and throats over the noise,” Penny said.
Jane and Daria complied.
As the three girls settled-down in a booth in a Starbucks coffee-shop in the mall, Jane’s mood didn't improve any. Daria and Penny had so much to talk about, Jane was practically left out of conversation. And what could she add? For all the time that she could remember, she and Daria did things together, i.e., one and the same thing.
Then why did she feel like Daria was the one doing most of them, and she was just tagging along?
Gloomily, Jane looked outside and stared. There was Daria’s sister, Quinn, and the rest of the Fashion club, staring back.
Jane continued to stare, almost ignoring the conversation next to her, now.
“…so how old are you now?”
“21. I’m three years older than you, remember?”
“Right, so what are you doing now?”
“Same thing we’ve been doing before – selling my wares.”
“Third world to first world tourists.”
“How is the third world?”
“Giant rats, vermin better-off than people, pestilence, famine, starvation – just like the desert, remember? Only climate sometimes changes from hot and dry to hot and humid.”
“Cool. I miss you, and envy you, a little.”
“I miss you too. You were the one with the tongue in the mouth, remember? I made stuff, you made sure that it was sold.” A pause. “Care to go with me from here when I leave?”
“Leave? Not go to a university? Mom would have a cow.” Another pause. “Then she’ll get embroiled in some big lawsuit and forget all about it. I think you’ve got yerself a deal, pardner.”
“What?” Jane whirled around, as Daria and Penny laughed delightedly.
The Fashion Club just stared at the sight of Daria Morgendorffer, Quinn’s “cousin”, the Art Chick Jane Lane, and some stranger girl, three years older than the other two. At least she was stranger to Quinn, Tiffany and Stacy. Sandi was sure that she met them before. She racked-up her memory, and she did.
“Quinn!” she gasped. “You know how you tell that your sister is really your cousin?”
“Sandi! Daria is my—“
“Quinn, wait. I think you were lied-to.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I think your parents had your sister adopted.”
“Yes, Quinn?” Helen turned around. Her youngest daughter was staring at her in a way that Helen never saw her staring before.
“Mom, did you and dad adopt Daria?”
“What are you talking about, Quinn?!”
“Me and my friends ran into Daria and Jane and some other girl at the mall, and Sandi told us that Daria and that other girl had once sold her some knickknack in Texas over ten years ago, and they were together, and with an older woman that was not you. Mom, did you and dad adopt Daria or not?!”
The table phone rang in the Griffin residence. “Who is this?” asked Sandi. After Quinn freaked-out and ran away, Sandi, Tiffany and Stacy decided to go to their respective homes too.
“It's Helen Morgendorffer. Is this Cassandra Griffin?”
Ah-oh. Sandi has heard her mother use this tone of voice before, but only when she was pissed to the seventh degree and was about to rip somebody apart. And now Quinn’s mom was using it. And she was enquiring about her. “Yes, it is.”
“Good. Now listen-up, young lady. If you ever try again to spread malicious slanders about any members of my family, I'm going to sue your family to the last penny! Do I make myself clear?”
“Good. Now where’s your mother? I want to speak with her, too.”
Sandi sat in her room and thought things over. After the phone call from Quinn’s mother, things went directly from worse to worst. Sandi didn't knew what her mother has heard, but after Linda was finished to talking to Helen, she almost ripped Sandi apart, piece by piece, and licked the bones clean. Her message was similar to Helen’s, though; only instead of suing there was commitment.
Sandi kicked her bed. She has been only trying to help! Life was unfair! And she wanted to do something about this!
Helen stopped her car at the Lawndale Mall, and looked around. Where could Daria and her friends be? Quinn stood next to her, as well.
“Mom, what are we doing here?” she asked.
“Searching for Daria.”
“Why? She isn't in trouble; in fact, when we saw her with her older friend, she downright acting as a normal person, chatting and laughing. Laughing, mom! She barely even grins at home!”
Helen took-off like crazy, leaving Quinn gasping. “What the hell is going-on?” she wondered.
“Hello, Mrs. M! You look as flustered as I am down!”
“Ow, hello, eh, Jane?”
“Yup, that’s me!”
“Where are Daria and your sister?”
“Around here. Somewhere. Talking about the future.”
“What about the future?”
“I think Daria is going to leave with Penny later,” Jane shrugged.
“Hey, they did that when they were young, why can’t they do it now, now that they are older? And they seem to be so happy together, too.”
“How can you tell?” Helen said, weakly.
“’Cause they’re right behind us?”
Helen whirled around. Sure enough, there was Daria and an older girl, both laughing and having time of their life. Like normal girls. Not like typical Da-ri-an attitude in a shopping place. “Daria?” Helen finally found her voice and spoke.
“Mom.” Now Daria was looking at her in her typical manner. “What are you doing here?”
“What are you doing? Who’s she?”
“Mom, that’s Penny. The one I've been a friend with when I got lost? Amanda’s daughter and Jane’s older sister?”
Helen just stared. She remembered Penny. Before Daria was re-taken in by her and Jake, she and Penny were holding hands like real siblings, and in the moment of good-bye, both were sobbing their eyes out.
The silence stretched. “Uh, you’re going to say something, Mrs. M, or you not?” Jane asked.
Helen finally found her voice. “Daria, what’s that I hear about you leaving with her?”
“Exactly that. I'm thinking signing-up as Penny’s assistant and going ‘round the world selling artefacts.”
“You can’t be serious!”
“I forbid you!”
“Because of what reason?”
“Daria! I don’t want you to throw your future away! I want you to become a fully-functioning member of society!”
Uh-oh, Jane said, now that struck a nerve. Daria got steamed-up, and whenever she got in that state, she was going to distribute unhappiness with a big, big shovel.
“You mean like you?” Daria snarled. “Become a businessperson, who is, like, home, around six hours out of twenty-four, and whose family share consists of frozen lasagne and some cut-offs of a conversation, interrupted by a lengthy discussion on the phone?! Is that whom you want me to be, mom? A copy of yourself?”
Helen bent in two, like from a blow, and began to uncontrollably sob. People began to stare.
“I don’t know yet what is going-on here,” Quinn said, finally appearing on the scene, “but let’s get mom out of here quick, pronto!”
Once they got back to Morgendorffers’ home (Penny drove), and got Helen to drink some of the coffee, Helen’s emotions subsided and the conversation re-started (Jane filled Quinn in).
Quinn’s eyes grew very round. “Whoa!” she said. Then she looked at Jane: “Are you jealous?”
While Jane was trying to think of a reply, Helen returned to Daria. “Daria,” she said, “is this how you feel about me?”
“Mom,” Daria said. “Let’s get things straight. Dad may be usually clueless, but at least he genuinely cares about what’s going-on in here. You, on the other hand, make half-hearted attempts at conversation, then jump onto the next phone-call from your boss. Not a good impression. And besides,” Daria’s voice grew low, “I don’t think you have ever searched for me.”
“That’s not true!” Helen jumped-up vehemently. “We did, we did search for you as hard and as long as we could. But did you forget? We lived in this place without a name, a railroad town, and a step below Highland! And this was Texas at its’ hottest! You were three! We thought that you have died!” Helen broke down again and re-started to sob. “I'm sorry that you thought we’ve abandoned you!”
Daria stared. “Mom, did you and dad miss me?”
“Yes,” Helen sobbed. “Then, when we ran into you, Amanda, and Penny… we almost turned religious. And Quinn soon appeared on the scene, too.”
“And you began to lavish your attention on her,” Daria said flatly.
“We didn’t! Honey, you barely spoke to us until you turned seven! I practically had to talk your father out of believing that you were possessed by some native spirit!”
“Actually, this shaman did say that Daria was special, somehow,” Penny said. “It came from the fact that she was poking a rattler with a stick and it just tolerated her.”
Helen swooned, but fortunately, she didn't faint. Daria glared at Penny. “Leave this be, already!” she said.
“Honey,” Helen finally re-found her voice once again. “Listen, honey. I’m sorry about… all of that, really. But it is not too late to make amends, I hope. What do you say that we’ll give each other another try.”
“I don't know,” Daria admitted reluctantly. “Part of me wants to, but another part wants to hang-out with Penny. We did miss each other a lot.”
“Can't Penny stay in Lawndale for a while, instead?” Helen said hopefully.
“Well,” Penny said sheepishly, “before I re-met Daria, I did plan to settle down here and maybe open my own small shop.”
“Do you have any starter capital?” Helen asked, her professional interest getting the better of her.
“Well, yeah,” Penny nodded, opening the case she’d been dragging along all morning. Inside of it were fifteen thousand dollars.
Everybody gaped. “And you said that you needed mine marketing skills?” Daria said wryly.
“Daria! How much did we make together in a single day?”
“$40,” Daria admitted.
“Well, alone, I made 23. In a week. Daria, compared to you, I suck at selling my wares.”
“Say,” Helen said with a rather crafty look in her eyes. “Maybe, if you settle here Daria can help you run the shop, or something.”
“Mom, you’re doing it again!” Daria stated.
“Turning to bribery to solve family problems!”
“Daria,” Helen exhaled. “Let’s finish the resolving-the-past issues once and for all. Your childhood sucked, if that’s the correct phrase, I believe. There was uranium in the drinking water, after all. But!: my childhood wasn't smooth and easy either. When I was your age, women were still considered inferiour and sometimes weren't even allowed to have an education. If I didn’t learn to fight for myself, I may would’ve ended-up as Rita, having no skills at all but how to throw myself at men!”
Helen got-up with a look that was rather similar to Jake’s, when he was talking about his father. “I was constantly trying to prove to society that I was a human being with my own identity, instead of just Jake’s better half! I too had ideals once, you know, and I tried to preserve them as much as possible, and install them into you as much as possible, and you can’t even cut me some slack!”
“Mom, please! You look like Mr. DeMartino!” Quinn said.
Daria just looked at Helen and said, somewhat quietly. “I guess I was kind of unfair to you two. Sorry.” She turned to Penny. “Maybe we could compromise with my mom, what do you think?”
Penny nodded. “Why not indeed? As homey and familiar Third World countries are, they also have a military downside, if you know what I'm talking about. You’ve got yourself a deal.”
Daria nodded. “Okay mom, it’s a deal.”
Helen hugged Daria.
“Guess the show’s over, folks,” Jane said rather dryly, and moved towards the exit.
“One last thing,” Quinn spoke-up suddenly. “Daria, and, ah, Penny, I think that Jane is kind of jealous of you two.”
“I am not jealous!” Jane protested.
“I don’t know,” Daria said thoughtfully. “You were being kind of quiet today. Something is bugging you. Let it out. It’s kind of appropriate for now.”
Jane exhaled. “Very well. I guess I am jealous. Petty, huh? But look at it this way. I'm stuck most of the time with no other family member except for Trent, who’s not a great conversationalist to begin with, and when finally another one of my siblings opts to return, she has much more bonding with my only friend than me. And it springs on me completely unawares. I mean, Daria, weren't there enough hints to realize that we were related?”
“Actually,” Daria said sheepishly, “I never knew that Penny and Amanda were Lanes. Or that they were your relatives. You look different from them, you know?”
“Oh, yeah. Good ol’ Lane genetic stock – you never know who’ll pop-out next,” Jane said sarcastically.
“ANYWAYS,” continued Daria. “I guess you do have the right to feel jealous towards mine and Penny’s friendship.”
“Friendship?” Jane goggled. “Today she treated you like you were her sister and I was just a friend of yours! That’s not fair! On top of it, I learn that you spent three straight years in her company, while I never got two weeks at one go!”
“So? How many times did you spend with Trent?”
“That’s not the same! I mean, I can’t talk girl-like stuff with Trent.”
“Sure you can. Just pick-up the time when he’s snoring.”
“Ha-ha. I’m having in mind a two-way conversation, you know? If I wanted one-way, I’d just stand before a mirror and talk to my reflection.”
“We still have a mirror?” Penny said, surprised. “At least one that isn't buried under dust? I remember us having one in the bathroom – but Wind accidentally stuck too many Band-Aids onto it.”
“Yeah, I have one. A pocket-one,” Jane glared, daring anybody else to comment on it.
“Cool!” said Penny. “Lately I had to do with a puddle.”
“Where’d you find puddles?” Daria asked. “There aren't many puddles in desert climate, not if you count the rainy season.”
“My latest gigs were in Guyana,” Penny explained. “It means ‘the land of water’ in a native language.”
“How was it?” Daria asked.
“Cool! I saw a giant anteater, and an iguana, and a sloth—”
“Uh, Penny?” Daria hurriedly said. “Why won’t you tell it to Jane first? Then maybe you’ll later re-tell it to all of us?”
Penny nodded. “Sounds fair. Jane, you game?”
Jane nodded. “Sure!” There was a twinkle in the eye that wasn't there before.
“You can use our upstairs,” Helen thoughtfully said. “I'm sure that Quinn will refrain from using the phone for a while.”
“Sure,” Quinn readily agreed.
Jane and Penny left. Helen looked at her own daughters. “What should we do?”
“Why won’t we also bond and you tell us about your childhood?” Daria suggested.
“Yeah,” Quinn agreed.
Helen brushed-away another tear. “Aw, isn’t this sweet! Come on girls, give me another hug!”
Sandi put down the phone receiver in something between disgust and despair. Quinn wasn't responding to her calls. Naturally. And she was genuinely trying to help. Being helping sucked. ‘Course, being selfish wasn’t exactly perky, either. Bored, Sandi started to surf the Internet on random. “Brutal Mercenary Magazine site. Do you have what it takes to become a mercenary soldier in today’s world of geopolitical violence? Bo-ring. But I don’t have anything else to do, so…”
Sandi read-on. Eventually, she didn’t think that this site was so boring at all.
Jake returned home. “Honey, I’m home! Where are the girls?”
“Hush! Jake! Do you know what time it is?”
Jake sighed. “I know I'm a bit late, Helen, but it is because—”
“Nevermind!” Helen snapped. “You wake-up the girls!”
“Oh! Sorry! Are they all asleep? And… why are so many plates on the table?”
“Oh, the Lane sisters are sleeping-over tonight.”
“Penny and Jane Lane, Jake! Try to pay attention for once, please?”
“Sorry. Penny, Penny… why does it sound familiar?”
“She took care of Daria before we came to Highland.”
“Oh! Oh! Oh! Is everything okay?”
“It is now, but you should’ve seen the afternoon,” Helen sighed. “However, I and the girls did more bonding in the evening today than we ever did before.”
“I see,” Jake nodded glumly. Apparently, he missed the biggest even of this month, at least. As usual.
“Oh Jake, let’s just go to sleep.”
“Yes,” nodded Jake gloomily, “let’s.”
The town of Lawndale eventually fell asleep under the onrush of the night. And under the night’s cover, things changed. Seriously changed. And quite a lot of the changes, were for good.