Synopsis:Daria drops the bomb of her pregnancy on Tom, but her parents get caught in the blast as well. How will they react? Why is Amy taking this all so well? And how will Quinn cope with the situation?
Author’s Forward: I am rating the following story PG-13 for content. The subject matter deals with teen pregnancy. I am not an advocate of teen pregnancy, and firmly believe that common sense should prevail in such cases. However, real life being what it is, this is not always the case.
The following story was written for entertainment purposes only, and should not be taken as educational material. I do not claim that the “technical” aspects of my story are even remotely accurate. If you have any questions, go to a responsible adult knowledgeable in the appropriate areas.
Other Notes: The author assumes that the reader is familiar with “Daria” and the characters therein, and has read my previous three stories, “Empirical Evidence,” “Reflections and Revelations,” and “The Exposure of D.” This story takes place immediately following “Exposure,” and picks up with events immediately at the end of that story.
Legal Drek: Daria and her cohorts are property of MTV and Viacom.
This story is Copyright July 14, 2003.
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If Tom Sloane could have spared the brain power, he would have marveled at how radically one’s life could change in a few relatively short moments. He had known that something was bothering Daria, and that particular something involved him. She had gone over to his house and given him hell about not being able to make time to talk with her. About half an hour ago Daria had called him and, in her own way, told him that she had wanted to apologize. Had he known the magnitude of the bomb that she was about to drop on him that night, he would have hung up the telephone and hidden under his bed. Of course he probably would have done the same thing if he had fully realized what kind of mood Helen Morgendorffer was in, too.
“You know how I’ve been telling you how I’ve been fighting a flu bug all week?” Daria asked Tom as she hat at her desk.
“Yeah, your Mom said you picked it up at camp,” Tom replied with a curious look. “Why?”
“Well, it’s not really the flu,” Daria said as she picked up a manila envelope from her desk. “And I’ve had it for more than a week . . . Actually about eleven weeks.”
“Oooo-kay, what . . . ?” Tom was really starting to get confused. He began to get the feeling that whatever Daria was leading up to was not going to be especially pleasant.
“Okay.” Daria swallowed hard and appeared to force herself to continue. “Do you remember when you first met Jane, how you two went to Cluster Burger that night?”
“Yeah, I think so,” Tom said, trying to dredge up the memory. “Jane had a couple of Jumbo Burgers, I think.”
“Jane said that you bet her dinner that she wouldn’t go into the Men’s room and buy a condom out of the dispenser in there,” Daria said.
“Yeah, I remember now,” Tom said with a chuckle. “I had seen this drunk stagger in there like he was about to lose whatever he’d been drinking.”
“Jane didn’t mention the drunk,” Daria said. “What happened next?”
“She came out with the condom and I bought dinner.”
“What did you do with it?”
“I put it in my wallet when I got out the money for dinner,” Tom said with a confused frown. “Daria, where is this going?”
“Please bear with me for a second. Did this condom have a gold wrapper?”
“I don’t know. I guess.” Tom started to shrug, than stopped. “Wait . . .”
“The condom we used had a gold wrapper,” Daria said quietly. “And I suspect that it had been riding around in your wallet since that night.”
“Wait a minute, are you saying . . .”
“It probably had a leak in it that we couldn’t see,” Daria said as she took a couple of papers from the envelope. “Back before I went off to that stupid camp reunion, I told you that I had been a couple of days late for my period back then. I missed this one completely.”
“No. Wait, Daria, you can’t be sure that --”
“Aunt Amy took me to the clinic and I got tested,” Daria held the pages out to Tom. “These are the results.”
Tom snatched the papers out of Daria’s hand and held them up to his face, his eyes darting over the information. He took a hesitant step backwards and his foot came down on Daria’s microscope, then slipped out from underneath him. Tom landed on his rump with a thud just as Helen came in the door with a tray of something.
Time seemed to stop as Daria looked back and forth between her supine boyfriend and her mother, who was suddenly looking very pale. She also appeared to be losing her grip on the tray that she was carrying.
“Wh . . . what?” Helen’s voice was barely above a whisper.
Daria looked at her mother with a feeling cold terror rising from her stomach. She swallowed it back down and forced herself to say the words she didn’t want to say.
“I’m pregnant,” Daria whispered. “Almost three months.”
The snack tray slipped from Helen’s grip and crashed to the floor, sending rice cakes and soda cans scattering in a half a dozen directions. It also seemed that Helen managed to find her voice.
Helen fell back against the door, but didn’t slide to the floor because her knees had locked up and her heels were digging into the carpet. Her jaw was opening and closing as she tried to form some kind of words, but it just seemed to be giving her the appearance of a landed fish. Her eyes were wide and glassy as she was focused on something a thousand miles away.
“Puh . . . Puh . . .” She seemed to be whispering.
“Mom?” Daria asked quietly
“Helen! What happened?” Jake appeared out of their bedroom to see what all the commotion was about. Helen’s near catatonia brought him to a screeching halt at the door to Daria’s room “Oh my God! Helen, What’s wrong??”
“Puh . . . Duh . . .Puh,” Helen gasped as she started to slump down a little further.
Amy and Jane appeared almost on Jakes heels, both of them taking in the crowded scene with a look.
“Daria, what’s wrong with Helen?” Jake asked with a little desperation.
“Jake, maybe we’d better get Helen down stairs, hmm?” Amy said as she slipped into the room and took Helen’s right arm. “She looks like she needs a place to sit down and rest a bit. Right, sis?”
“Duh . . . Puh . . . Duh . . .” was Helen’s only response as her sister and her husband guided her back to her feet and slowly out into the hall.
“Jane, can you handle things up here?” Amy asked as the left.
“No problem,” Jane said, turning back to Tom and Daria.
“Is she okay?” Tom asked in a dull tone from his place on the floor.
“I don’t know. She should have went up like Mount Krakatoa,” Daria said as she and Jane went over to help him back to his feet. “Are you okay?”
“I, uh,” Tom looked back as the girls pulled him to his feet. He took a couple of uncertain steps as he turned around and looked back to where he had been sitting. He was speaking very slowly. “I think I broke your microscope. . . Sorry.”
“Tom, are you okay?” Jane asked slowly. “You look a little pale.”
“Um,” Tom looked down at the medical report clenched in his hand. “Is this for real? You’re really gonna have a baby?”
“Yes, Tom, it’s for real.” Daria slowly nodded.
“Congratulations . . . Dad,” Jane said with a smirk.
Tom looked blankly at Daria for a moment before his eyes rolled upwards in their sockets, and he slowly began to fall forward. The two girls managed to catch him by the arms as he fell, grunting under the suddenly dead weight of their unconscious friend.
“Whoof!!” Jane grunted as they lowered him to the floor, then she looked at Daria. “All things considered, I’d say he’s taking this rather well, wouldn’t you?”
“You’re no help at all. You know that, don‘t you?” Daria said dryly.
It took Jake and Amy a few moments to help Helen navigate the stairs, but they eventually got her settled on one of the sofa’s in the living room. Amy watched with moderate concern as Helen continued to do her imitation of a fish out of water, but wasn’t too worried because her gaze was becoming a little more focused. Jake, however, continued to flutter around like a nervous mother hen.
“Helen? Sweety?” Jake was sounding a little desperate. “Please, say something! What’s wrong?”
“Take it easy, Jake,” Amy said, trying to sound reassuring. “I think that she’ll be alright if we just give her a few minutes.”
“But what happened? Why is she like this?”
“She, um . . . got a bit of a shock. She’ll be okay once it’s had a chance to sink in.” Amy thought for a moment. “Look, Jake, you might want to prepare yourself for a shock too. I don’t want to haul both my sister and brother-in-law into the emergency room tonight.”
“Oh, okay. You think she’ll come out of it?” Jake asked, grasping at any offered shred of hope.
“Oh, yeah.” Amy nodded. Like a bat out of hell.
“Duh . . . Duh . . . Dah,” Helen mumbled.
“I think she’s trying to say something!” Jake exclaimed, grabbing Helen’s hand. “What is it, Helen?”
“Duh . . . Da . . . Dar,” Helen stammered.
“C’mon, honey, you can do it!”
“Uh, Jake, remember what I said about preparing yourself for a shock,” Amy warned.
“Dar . . . Daria . . .p-p-puh . . .”
“What about Daria, honey?” Jake asked, looking anxious.
“Are you sure you’re alright?” Jane’s voice drifted down the stairs as the three teens descended into view. “You were out cold there for a couple of minutes.”
“Yeah, I guess, all things considered,” Tom said slowly as they reached the bottom of the stairs. He was still carrying the pages that Daria had given him. “Sorry about your microscope, Daria.”
Helen’s head slowly turned towards the three at the sound of her daughter’s name.
“That’s okay. I’ve been meaning to get a new one anyway.” Daria replied as the three teenagers turned the corner at the foot of the stairs and looked upon the three adults sitting in the living room. Helen’s and Daria’s eyes locked for a split second. “Oh, crap.”
Helen’s stupor disappeared faster than a chocolate drop in a blast furnace, and she rocketed to her feet.
“DARIA ANNE MORGENDORFFER, WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU’RE PREGNANT!?!?”
“What??” Jake cried. “What are you talking about? Daria isn’t pregnant!”
“Steady, Helen. Stay calm.” Amy stood behind Helen and placed a hand on her shoulder. “This isn’t the time to go off the deep end.”
“Stay calm? Like hell!” Helen whirled on Amy. “I’m trying to protect my little girls’ innocence and walk in just as my oldest daughter announces she’s pregnant, and you stand there and tell me to stay calm!?”
“Wait a minute, Helen,” Jake put in as he also stood up. “Daria can’t be pregnant! She doesn’t . . . Well, I mean, we would know, wouldn’t we? They were probably . . . practicing for a play or something like that. Yeah, that’s it, isn’t it kiddo?”
Helen turned on Jake with a look of openmouthed disbelief that spoke volumes. She crossed the living room in a flash and snatched the papers that Tom was carrying out of his hand, giving him a look that promised a fate worse than any death he could conceive in the process. Helen confirmed that the papers were what she thought they were with a glance and crossed back over to Jake.
“These are lab results from the free clinic,” Helen snapped as she shoved the paperwork into her husbands hands. “I see almost as many of these as I do legal briefs from them! You tell me what that says! Tell me what that says!”
Jake looked over both of the pages, mumbling to himself as he read. He had seen the test results when Helen had been pregnant with the girls, in fact they were in an album in the attic if he remembered right. These weren’t too different from them, according to his fuzzy memory, so he had a very vague idea what he was looking for.
“. . . Pregnancy test results: Positive . . .” Jake looked over the papers again, then started chuckling, as he turned them back over to Helen. “Honey, look at the top. These aren’t Daria’s. They belong to that friend of Quinn’s. You know, the one with the pig tails?”
“Tiffany’s Asian, Dad,” Daria finally spoke up. “And they are mine. Look at the rest of it . . . Height, weight, hair . . .”
“B-b-b-b-- Why did you...? When did you...? How did you...?” Jake stammered as he helt the papers closer and looked over them again. Emotions played across his face with dangerous rapidity. He looked up and locked onto Tom and his fists clenched involuntarily, crumpling the pages in his grip as a look of rage set in. Jake tossed the reports on the sofa and started to advance on Tom with murder in his eyes. “You hormone driven little punk! You did this to my little Daria! I’m gonna kill you, you little bastard!”
“Wait, Mr. Morgendorffer, let me try and explain!” Tom stammered, not sure it would do any good.
“What’s to explain, ya little punk? Huh!?”
“Dad, calm down,” Daria said, stepping in between Tom and her father. “You’re going to give yourself a heart attack again.”
“JAKE! You stop right there this instant!” Helen barked, grabbing Jake by the forearm. “You’re not doing anything to anyone!”
“Helen, don’t you understand?” Jake practically shouted. “He’s stolen our daughter’s innocence! God knows what else he’s talked her into!”
“It wasn’t exactly ‘The Rape of Lucrecia,’ Dad,” Daria said dryly.
“HE WHAT...!?” Jake looked like he was going to have a stroke.
“Oh, that really helped,” Tom mumbled.
“Jake, for the love of God! He didn’t rape anyone! ” Helen was looking like she was about to have a stroke of her own as she speared Tom with her death glare again. “At least he better not have!”
“Daria just said that he -- he --” Jake couldn’t finish.
“ ‘The Rape of Lucrecia’ was a poem by Shakespeare, Jake,” Amy said dryly.
“There, you see?” Helen snapped.
“But still...!” Jake started.
“But nothing!!” Helen turned back on Daria. “And just exactly how long were you going to wait before letting us in on this little secret, young lady? When you couldn’t hide it any longer? When something went wrong? The day you went into labor, perhaps?”
“Uh,” Daria swallowed a lump in her throat. This was not going according to plan, not that there was one to begin with. She had seen her parents upset and angry, but never this beside themselves. Daria was somewhat prepared for emotions running high, but nothing could have prepared her for what she was witnessing now. She looked beseechingly at Amy for help.
”I’m waiting for an answer, Daria!”
“Daria didn’t tell you because she thought I ought to know first, Mrs. Morgendorffer,” Tom said, stepping out from behind Daria.
“She was also afraid of getting exactly this kind of reaction instead of something calm and rational.” Amy stepped up beside Helen. “Daria didn’t want you to find out by accident or from someone else. She wanted to sit the two of you down and break the news to you in a calm, adult discussion, not while the two of you were flipping your wigs.”
“Dammit, Amy, stay out of this!“ Helen dismissed her younger sister. Then the light dawned, and Helen turned back to Amy with a look of total shock. “You knew! You knew about this!”
“I’ve known for about a week,” Amy confirmed.
“A week?!” Helen shouted into her sister’s face, her breath making Amy pull back slightly. “You’ve known about this for a week and you keep it from me? I’m trying to raise a family here, and you have the gall to keep something like this a secret?” Helen turned and tossed her hands in the air. “Dammit all to hell, Amy, how could you do that!”
“I did it because Daria asked me too!” Amy responded. “Jeez, Helen, who the hell do you think took Daria to the clinic!”
“We’re her parents!” Jake shot back loudly. “You’re supposed to tell us these things!”
“Why, so you could have gone off the deep end a week earlier?” Amy put her hands on her hips. “For crying out loud, Jake, get a clue! Would you have reacted any differently then as opposed to now?”
“Amy, that’s not the stinkin’ point!” Now Jake was waving his arms around, too. “It’s hard enough raising two girls in a world like this! We need every advantage that we can get to protect them from something like this before it’s too late!”
“And you, Ms Lane!” Helen lashed out at her new target. “How long have you known about all of this? From day one, maybe?”
“Actually, I’ve known as long as Daria has. She was at my place when we, uh...” Jane cast an uncertain look at Daria.
“We suspected that something was wrong on the way back from the camp reunion,” Daria said hesitantly. “We bought a home pregnancy test and I took it over at Jane’s. Jane and I have known for about ten days.”
“Ten days!” Helen repeated, her exasperation and anger reaching the burnout point. She dropped down on the couch where she picked up the battered clinic papers and began waving them around. “You know Daria, I’ve known you to be close mouthed about a lot of things over the years, but this takes the freaking cake. I never, never would’ve thought that you’d go to your aunt about something like this before you’d come to me, not once in a million years.”
“Mom, I --” Daria started, but was cut off.
“No, Daria, not now,” Helen said, sounding very tired. “I need time to think, right now. Just . . . All of you, just go away for a few hours. I . . . I need some time to think.”
The room was tense and silent for a few moments as no one seemed to have the nerve to move and disturb the emotion laden air around them. Jane gave in first, and tapped Tom and Daria on the shoulders, making a ‘follow me’ motion and heading for the front door. Tom and Daria slowly followed, looking worriedly at Jake and Helen as they did so.
“Mom, we’ll be over at Jane’s . . .Uh, when you’re --” Daria started to say.
“Oh, no you don’t, young lady!” Jake snapped, taking two steps toward the retreating teens. “You’ll march right up to that room of yours and --”
“Oh, for Heaven’s sake, Jake, let them go!” Helen cut in tiredly. “All you’re doing is making this worse! Just . . . Shut up and let them go.”
“But, Helen!” Jake protested.
“And fix me a drink. Bourbon. A double.”
Jake stalked off towards the kitchen, mumbling to himself all the while. Meanwhile, the kids silently slipped out the front door.
“Helen, this isn’t --” Amy said as she started to sit by her sister.
“Amy, you too. “ Helen sighed. “Go with Daria or something, but just go away for a while, okay?”
“Okay,” Amy acquiesced quietly, standing up and heading for the front door.
By the time she walked out of the house, Jake had returned with a tumbler half full of transparent golden liquor. He handed it to Helen, who stared at it for a long moment.
“Isn‘t there some way that we can, I don‘t know, get this problem fixed?” Jake said quietly as he sat down opposite his wife. “I mean, nobody besides us knows right now and . . . Well . . .”
“Jacob Elias Morgendorffer, if you are even hinting at forcing Daria to have an abortion, I swear you’ll be living on the streets by dawn tomorrow,” Helen growled in an anger laden voice that Jake had heard only once before, before they were married.
Of course, the last time Rita had been the target, and not him.
Helen looked back into the glass of amber liquid for a long moment before tossing down the expensive bourbon in one slug.
Daria, Tom, and Jane were sitting on the front of Tom’s car looking down at their respective feet and trying to processes the events of the last half hour or so. All three looked thoroughly depressed, and Tom and Daria kept trying to look at each other, but looked away when the other noticed. Jane just looked like she wanted the ground to swallow her up.
“I suppose that could have gone better,” Daria said as Amy walked up.
“Maybe just a little,” Amy said, looking back at the house behind her.
“So, have I been disowned yet?” Daria asked as she put her heels on the car bumper and pulled her knees to her chest. “Will they give me time to pack?”
“That won’t happen, Daria.” Amy hooked her hip on the edge of the car. “Give your Mom a little time to cool down and let things sink in.”
“What about her Dad?” Tom looked up. “He was ready to kill me.”
“Yeah, he didn’t look like he was being very rational about this whole thing,” Jane said as she took her hands out of her pockets and crossed her arms. “Are you sure he’s going to be able to handle this?”
“I have a feeling you’ve earned a place on the Jake Morgendorffer Ravings Roster,” Daria said, looking at Tom. “Right below his father and one Corporal Ellenbogen.”
“Infamous company, I’m sure,” Tom looked at Daria. “I don’t think that my parents are going to react much better than your father did.”
“How about you two?” Amy asked, glancing at Tom and Daria. “How are you holding up?”
“Alright, I suppose. This wasn’t really what I expected to have happen tonight.” Tom shrugged, looking from Amy to Daria. “Are you okay, Daria?”
“Mmf. I guess,” Daria said with her chin on her knees. “I don’t know.”
Amy looked at Tom and Daria for a moment, then stood up.
“Jane, why don’t we take my car and head over to your place,” Amy said. “These two can follow along at their own pace. They look like they need a little more time to talk.”
“Thanks, Ms. Barksdale. That sounds like a good idea,” Tom said, looking worriedly at Daria.
“Just ‘Amy’ is fine, Tom. I think you’re entitled now,” Amy replied with her own version of Daria’s Mona Lisa smile.
“You okay with that, Daria?” Jane asked as she stood up. “You want we should do something else?”
“No, Jane, it’ll be okay.” The expression on Daria’s face indicated that she expected it to be anything but okay, however. “You guys go. We’ll walk.”
“If you say so.” Jane didn’t sound too sure about it, but she slowly started to walk towards Amy’s convertible.
Tom and Daria slipped off of the beat up Jag’s hood and started to walk in the general direction of Jane’s house in a very slow shuffle. Daria had her arms folded and Tom’s hands were shoved deeply into his pockets. Neither of them said anything until Amy’s convertible drove by, with Jane looking at Daria and Tom as they passed, worry plainly evident on Jane’s face.
“So,” Daria said without looking up. “Are you going to yell at me too?”
“No, I did enough of that last night.” Tom didn’t look up either. “I’m sorry about that.”
“It’s okay, I guess.”
They both walked in silence for a moment before Daria spoke up again.
“You think it’s my fault, don’t you?” Daria asked quietly.
“What, getting pregnant? I don’t think its anybody’s fault.” Tom shrugged. “We took what we thought were sufficient precautions at the time and . . . Well, they weren’t.”
“But you blame me, don’t you?”
“Daria, if I’m blaming anyone, I’m blaming me,” Tom said, looking over at her.
“Why? It wasn’t your idea to go up there and . . . “ Daria couldn’t finish.
“No, it wasn’t, but I was a willing participant,” Tom looked back at the sidewalk. “You just wanted to, well, experiment a little. See what all the ‘fuss‘ was about. It was my idea to go the rest of the way. I just didn‘t think about the condom being that, well . . .”
“Yeah. As I recall, both of us were pretty well past the thinking stage by the time we got to that.” Daria still hadn’t looked up.
“Yeah,” Tom mumbled. They walked on for another silent moment before he spoke again. “So, uh . . . What are you . . .What are we going to do now?”
“What do you mean ‘we?’ “ Daria finally looked up.
“I mean ‘we’ as in you and me,” Tom said with a small smile at Daria slightly confused look. “What, did you think I was going to say ‘tough luck’ and walk off?”
“Well, yeah . . . Maybe . . . I don’t know.“ Daria’s shoulders slumped as she came to a halt. “Are you?”
“No,” Tom said simply. “I couldn’t do that.”
The two of them just stood on the sidewalk and looked at each other for several long moments. Neither one could fathom what was going on in the other’s head.
“You . . . do want me around, don’t you?” Tom asked quietly.
“Um,” Daria hesitated. She hadn’t thought about that particular aspect of the situation all that much. Jane had asked her about it a couple of times in passing, and Daria had told her that she wasn’t sure. Settling down with Tom hadn’t even remotely been part of the plan for either of them in the beginning. But now it was a whole new ball game.
“Daria?” Tom prompted.
“Um, I don’t know?” Tom raised an eyebrow. “Look, things have just started happening entirely too fast, and I’m not ready for any of it. I don’t know if a permanent relationship is going to help or make things worse. I‘d like to think that I can take care of myself, but . . .”
“Fair enough, I guess,” Tom said as they two resumed walking. “I want to help, that’s all. I don’t want to make things harder. I‘d like to say I know how difficult this is going to be, but . . . ”
“I know,” Daria said. “I guess I’m still a little bowled over by they way Mom and Dad reacted.”
“Me too. You’re Aunt Amy seemed to be taking all of this pretty well.”
“Yes, she is, isn’t she?” Daria said, a small part of the back of her mind beginning to ponder that subject. “I told her a couple of days after I found out and she seemed genuinely happy for me.”
“I’m glad,” Tom said. “So, back to my original question, I guess. What do we do now?”
“I don’t know what to do,” Daria sighed.
“Me neither.” Tom moved a little closer and slipped his arm around Daria’s waist as they walked. “I’m going to have to tell my Mom and Dad when I get home. It’s not likely to be very pretty.”
“Can’t be worse than what we just went through.” Daria slipped her own arm around Tom, grateful for the support, both emotional and physical.
“I don’t know about that. My family has some rather . . . pointed ideas when it comes to this kind of thing,” Tom said with a sigh. “Station in life things, and that kind of stuff. Reads like a bad soap opera, some times.”
“Don’t want their son consorting with a middle class girl from the wrong side of the privacy fence?”
“No, it’s not that,” Tom said with a sigh. “They’ve never really cared who I went out with, just so long as I uphold the family name once I’m out in the world. I went out with a couple of girls for a while before I met Jane and you. My folks pretty much just tolerated them, didn’t expect much. Jane they were intrigued by, I think, what with her being an artist and their involvement in the museum and all.”
“What about me?” Daria was curious.
“You they really like,” Tom said with a smile. “My folks always used to nag me that the girls I went out with weren’t on the same level as I was so I quit talking about them. Now they keep asking me if I’m going to bring you along to whatever semi-formal event is next on the calendar that I can’t talk my way out of.”
“Is that why you never asked me to go anywhere?” Daria asked. “I might have said yes, you know. Just to shake us out of our rut.”
“Come on, Daria. Really?”
“Well . . . no. But you still could have asked. So, how do you think they’re going to react?”
“I honestly don’t know,” Tom said, trying to imagine his parents reaction to the news. “I think that it might be better if I told them by myself first. If it’s bad then, well, you don’t need to go through all that again from someone who you don’t really know.”
“You don’t think they’ll be pleased then,” Daria said.
Tom’s long silence was all the answer that she needed.
“They’ll want to know what we intend to do about the situation,“ Tom said after a moment, looking rather uncomfortable. “Daria, I don’t want to ask this, but I’ve got to. . .Um, what . . . What do you intend to do about . . . Well . . .”
“Do you intent do have the baby or . . .” Tom looked disgusted, but tried to continue.
“Do I intend to abort?” Daria finished for him.
“I’m sorry. I wish I could have, well, done that a little better.”
“It’s all right,” Daria sighed. “Actually, I don’t know what I want to do. I mean it would be easy enough abort, then there’d only be one more rumor floating around, and I could live with that. But I’d have to live with myself afterwards. Normally I don’t much care what people do to themselves, but it isn’t just up to me anymore, you know?”
“I guess,” Tom said, trying to stay as clinical as he could. “What about adoption? If you decide to have the baby, that is.”
“I don’t know,” Daria sighed. “I’ve read stories about people that have decided to put their babies up for adoption before they were born, then changed their minds afterwards. All that does is cause legal problems and get confusing for the baby. It doesn’t do any good for the adults involved either. Then there‘s the possibility of the child looking for it‘s real parents after it‘s grown up. After a while, that becomes a real possibility.”
“Yeah, I suppose it does,” Tom said. “What if you decided to keep the baby?”
“Then my life gets put on indefinite hold,” Daria said simply. “I won’t get to do the things that I wanted to do. At least, not the way I wanted to do them.”
“I know. But, sometimes, things have a strange way of working out for the best.“ Tom said, looking at Daria as they walked.
“How do you figure?”
“Well, I was in a grunge club a while back. There, I met someone that I started going out with, and her Best Friend,” Tom said with a smile. “We broke up, but are still good friends, and a little wiser because of it, and I got to know her Best Friend over the course of it all. It was a little rocky at first, but she and I got to know each other, and we started going out. Now, she’s pretty special to me, and I’d hate to see her do something that she’d regret just because I couldn’t keep my hormones under control.”
“You rat!” Daria said with a smirk. “You’re talking about Jane and me.”
“I know.” Tom smirked back. “You are very special to me, Daria. And I want to be here for you through this. Not just because I want to take responsibility for my actions, but because I want to be there for you, too. And the baby.”
Daria tried to say something in response, but found that it wouldn’t come out past the lump that had formed in her throat. Instead, she settled for kissing Tom on the cheek and holding him tightly around the waist as they walked.
Quinn came home to a very tense and quiet house that evening, but she had several indications that something was up even before she got out of Sandi’s car. She noticed immediately that the battered luxury car that Daria’s boyfriend Tom drove was parked out front, while Aunt Amy’s convertible was missing from the driveway. Quinn suspected that Amy was out doing whatever it was that she did, and that Tom and Daria were up in her room talking about some weird book like they usually did.
Quinn walked in to find her mother sitting on the living room sofa in the semi-darkness and looking somewhat bleary, which immediately struck Quinn as odd. She had a glass in her hand that appeared to have a sizeable dose of something in it resembling a rather dark apple juice. The liquor bottle on the table in front of Helen quickly gave lie to the apple juice theory. Usually it was her father that was doing that kind of thing with a martini pitcher, and usually after something had gone badly, but this time Jake was nowhere to be seen.
Blanching slightly, Quinn started to head upstairs hoping to keep her distance from her mother. Helen would have immediately noticed that her breath smelled of the cigarette that she had gotten from Andrea that evening. Sandi hadn’t noticed, but that was because she had the top of her convertible down, and the wind from driving kept her from getting a whiff. Quinn made a mental note to use some mouthwash as soon as she got upstairs.
“Hi, Mom!” Quinn said brightly, keeping up the act as she headed upstairs. “I won’t be here for dinner, Skyler’s supposed to pick me up in an hour.”
“Fine,” Helen said without looking up from her glass. “Be home by nine.”
“Wha --? Nine?” Quinn was flabbergasted. “But that’s barely time to go to dinner! And we were gonna see a movie!”
“Quinn, I’m in no mood for an argument.” Helen’s voice was suddenly hard. “Nine p.m. One second later than that and you’ll be grounded for two weeks.”
“Two weeks??” Just what the heck happened before she got home?
“And we’re going to have a little discussion about your dating practices in the very, very near future.”
The argument was interrupted by Helen’s cell phone ringing in her pocket. She pulled it out and turned it on in one smooth motion, then held it up to here ear.
“What?” Helen was cold as ice. “Eric, whatever it is will wait until morning. Good night.”
“Muh-oooom, that’s not fair!” Quinn gripped the banister as Helen put the phone on the table. “I’ve never had any problems --”
“No arguments or you’re two weeks starts tonight,” Helen said flatly just before taking a large sip from her drink.
Quinn ground her teeth together as she stormed up the stairs. This had to have something to do with Daria, Quinn was positive of it, and was going to find out what the hell was going on. She practically ran down the hall to Daria’s room and shoved the door open with out knocking.
“Daria, just what --” Quinn started to say, but stopped when she saw that the room was empty. She noticed that Daria’s microscope was broken and it’s pieces were sitting on the bed. “ -- is wrong with this picture?”
Quinn looked at the empty room for a moment, then went down to the guestroom and confirmed that Aunt Amy’s luggage was still there. As she left the guest room, she glanced into her parents bedroom, and saw Jake sitting on the bed. He was surrounded with pictures of Daria and Quinn, looking more like he was staring past them than actually looking at any of them. Quinn could tell that there were pictures from the days they were born all the way up to the most recent snap shots that had been snuck when they weren’t looking.
Okay, now this is getting a little weird, Quinn thought as she went back to her bedroom. Mom’s getting drunk and turning into instant Hitler while Dad’s mooning over old pictures? What’s going on around here? It’s like some freaky movie!
Quinn silently slipped back to her room and closed the door behind her before she sat down on the bed and tried to think. She was better at accessorizing than analyzing, but something was going on here. Jake and Helen were acting completely out of character, Helen more so, due to the fact that she basically just told her boss to go stuff it.
Aunt Amy, Tom, and Daria are gone too, not that I blame them with Mom and Dad acting like this. Quinn thought. Figures that they’d leave me alone here with this going on. I wonder where they could have gone too?
The answer to that became obvious about as soon as she completed the thought. Quinn pulled out her day runner and looked up Jane’s phone number, written in under “Emergency,” before picking up her phone and dialing. She thought that this definitely qualified. The phone rang on the other end about a dozen times before anyone picked it up. Quinn knew to be patient when calling the Lane’s house.
“Yo?” Quinn heard Jane say as she picked up the phone.
“Jane? It’s Quinn. Are Daria and Tom over there?” Quinn asked hopefully.
“Yeah, they just walked in.”
“Can I talk to Daria? It’s really important.”
“Sure, just a sec,” Jane said. It sounded like there was a little muffled conversation before Daria spoke up.
“Daria, what’s going on?” Quinn asked worriedly. “Mom and Dad are acting really weird. Dad’s in their room and he’s got our pictures spread all over the place and Mom’s downstairs drinking like she’d just gone ten rounds with Aunt Rita! Aunt Amy’s not here, but her clothes and stuff are, and Tom’s car is still out front. What’s this all about?”
“It’s . . . kind of hard to explain, Quinn,” Daria said.
“Daria, is it because of what Sandi’s been saying?” Quinn asked. There was a long silence on the other end of the line. “It is, isn’t it?”
“It’s not just that, it’s . . . Well, it’s difficult,” Daria said hesitantly.
“I’ll say. And you’re not making it any easier!” Quinn sat down on the floor next to her telephone. “Is Aunt Amy over there with you?”
“Yeah, did you want to talk to her?”
“Is she going to give me a straight answer?”
“Okay, look,” Daria sighed. “There’s a couple of pieces of paperwork that Mom has downstairs. You’ll probably have to sneak them away from her. They’re from the Lawndale Clinic and have Tiffany’s name on them. Get them and come over here. I’ll explain it then.”
“Tiffany? What?” Quinn was really confused now. “Never mind. I’m going to have to cancel my date with Skyler anyway because Mom cut my curfew back to nine o’clock.“ She was silent for a moment. “This has to do with you, doesn‘t it?”
“It probably does,” Daria said. “Sorry.”
“If Mom’s got those papers, I’ll be risking my life getting to them, you know. She’s really worked up over something.”
“Yeah,” Daria said, suddenly sounding more depressed than usual. “Tell me about it.”
“Okay, I’ll be over as soon as I can,” Quinn said as she stood up. “This better be one hell of an explanation.”
“Oh, it will be memorable, all right,” Daria said. “Do me a favor and grab my pajamas and toothbrush? I may be spending the night here.”
Right after she hung up the phone, Quinn made a quick call to Skyler and broke their date, giving some flimsy excuse about not being able to go out while her aunt was in town. Then she collected her backpack and headed for the bathroom to gather Daria’s toothbrush and sleepwear. She took an extra moment to get her own stuff too, just in case. If this was as heavy as Daria was hinting at, Quinn figured she might just not want to be around the house for a while either.
Moving as stealthily as she could, Quinn descended the stairs. Helen was still down there, but she had moved off of the sofa and was standing at the glass doors that led into the back yard. If she heard Quinn, or saw her in the glass, she gave no indication of it. In fact, she didn’t look like she was seeing much of anything as she stared off into space.
Quinn quickly spotted the two papers that she thought Daria was talking about sitting on the coffee table next to the bottle. She noticed that about half of the bottle’s contents were gone as she picked up the papers, which explained a lot about her Mom‘s current mood. As silently as she could, Quinn folded them in half and slipped them into her hip pocket as she started to back up towards the door. Helen chose that moment to turn around.
“Quinn, where are you gong?” Helen asked in a tone that was not quite as harsh as she had used before.
“I’m going to wait for Skyler outside,” Quinn improvised quickly.
“Remember, be home by nine p.m. or else,” Helen said as she turned back to the sliding door.
“Right, nine, gotcha,” Quinn said as she quickly backed up to the door and opened it. “See you then.”
As soon as the door was closed, Quinn walked as fast as she could in the direction of Jane’s house. She looked back over her shoulder as she went, expecting to see her mother following her when it was discovered that she wasn’t out front, or that Skyler wasn’t coming. She picked up the pace in order to put some distance between her and home.
Leaned against a street lamp a half a block away from the house in order to catch her breath, Quinn reached around and took the papers out of her pocket. They were looking a little the worse for wear, but were still intact.
In the light of the street lamp, Quinn looked over the sheets, finding Tiffany’s name right at the top, but knew immediately that they weren’t Tiffany’s. She could recognize Daria’s handwriting in an instant, as well as the physical stats that she had had to put on them. The first sheet was basic physical information, so Quinn went to the second, which was a lab report, and took a little longer to get through. By the time she did, her heart was in her throat, and not from the physical exertion.
Positive!?! Quinn’s shocked mind thought as her eyes got wider. Sandi was right? That mean’s . . .
“No way,” Quinn breathed. “No freaking way.”
Amy settled into the old easy chair in the Lane living room as Tom and Daria made themselves comfortable on the abused sofa. The two kids had been decidedly quiet when they had arrived, having taken a fair while to make the trip from the Morgendorffer homestead. The telephone had rang a few moments after they had walked in. Evidently the rift between Daria and Quinn wasn’t so wide that Quinn didn’t know where her sister might have headed off to.
“Quinn’s on her way over,” Daria said as she turned the Lane’s cordless over in her hands. “Apparently she walked right into the fallout from my little announcement.”
“You mean they didn’t board her up in her room? I’m surprised she managed to escape.” Jane asked as she walked back into the room from upstairs and stood off to one side. “Trent’s got a gig playing at some kind of party tonight, so we’ve got the place to ourselves. What else did the Princess of Pleather have to say?”
“Mom and Dad apparently have other things on their minds other than Quinn.” Daria looked at her friend. “Mom’s in the process of getting smashed and Dad’s trying to lose himself in old pictures of his daughters.”
“Give them a little time, Daria, they’ll accept it,” Amy said.
“Jane, can I stay over here? I don’t think I really want to deal with them in their current states tonight,” Daria said.
“I kind of figured,” Jane said as she sat down on the sofa next to Daria. “I’ll put you in Penny’s room again, if that’s okay.”
“Should I be planning on accommodating any other errant members of your extended family tonight?” Jane asked Amy.
“No, thanks,” Amy replied. “I’ll head back after a while. Give them some time to calm down.”
“She’s staying,” Daria deadpanned.
“We’ll put you in my brother Trent’s room,” Jane said with a smirk. “When he gets back from tonight’s gig, he’ll think he went through a time warp.”
“Huh?” Amy looked a little confused.
“I’ll tell you later,” Daria said as she shot Jane a nasty look. “Right after I figure out where to dispose of an obnoxious friend’s lifeless body.”
“Alright, okay! I’m sorry!” Jane said under Daria’s glare. “No more matchmaker jokes for a while. I promise.”
“So, did you kids get anything worked out on the way over?” Amy asked, shifting the subject back to something a little more serious.
“A little, I guess,” Tom said. “The next step is going to be telling my Mom and Dad, and I kind of want to do that on my own. I was telling Daria as we were walking up that I don’t think that their reactions are going to be any different from Jake and Helen. In fact, it might be worse in some respects.”
“So, what are you going to do?”
“Well, we were talking a little about that too,” Daria started.
The ringing doorbell interrupted Daria’s train of thought, and four sets of eyes turned towards the door.
“That’s probably Quinn,” she said as Jane got up and went to answer it.
“That didn’t take long.” Amy looked at her watch. “Does she drive?”
“Better than I do, but she only has a learner’s permit.”
“She must have run,” Jane said as she opened the door.
Quinn was leaning on the frame of the door, her hand on her chest and breathing in ragged gasps. Perspiration covered her face and tears were running down her cheeks from the exertion and hyperventilation. She staggered through the opened door, past a surprised looking Jane, and collapsed against the stairway banister.
“Yep, she ran,” Jane said, closing the door.
“Water,” Quinn gasped, having no luck catching her breath.
“Not until you catch your breath, FloJo,” Jane said as she headed for the kitchen. “I’ll be right back.”
Quinn staggered around the banister and sat down hard on the bottom step, her head hanging between her knees and continued to pant. Jane returned after a moment with a large water glass and a damp rolled up washcloth. She put the rag on the back of Quinn’s neck behind her hair and held it there. Some of the cold water was squeezed out and ran down her back, making her sit up from the weird feeling it gave her.
”Deep breaths, breath slowly,” Jane advised as she watched Quinn’s reactions. “Hold this here.”
“How -- huuuhhh -- do you -- huuuhhh -- do this crap?” Quinn gasped out.
“I’ve been running since I was ten, Red,” Jane said as Quinn reached back to hold the rag. “I can go from your house to mine and back, in my boots, without breaking a sweat. You’re idea of exercise is fighting your way through the crowd on half off day at Cashman’s.”
“Very freakin’ funny,” Quinn said holding out her free hand at the water glass and wiggling her fingers. “Gimmie the water.”
“Slowly,” Jane admonished, handing over the glass.
Quinn started chugging down the water, ignoring Jane’s advice, but broke into a spluttering cough. She decided that slower was better, and finished at a more sedate rate.
“I warned you,” Jane said as she took the glass and the rag back.
“Yeah, whatever.” Quinn stood back up on shaky legs and walked over to the sofa. “Daria what the hell is going on? First Sandi starts acting all weird and comes up with this wild story about you and dropping these goofy hints all week, then Aunt Amy shows up with some story about getting work or something, then Mom and Dad go totally nuts!” Quinn pulled the paperwork from her back pocket and handed it to Daria. “And what’s with this stuff? I read it, but I can’t really believe . .. I mean, you’re not really . . .”
“Quinn, how do you feel about being an aunt at seventeen?” Daria asked her sister.
Quinn’s jaw dropped to her chest.
“You mean it’s true!?” She asked in astonishment after a moment of stunned silence. “You’re gonna have a baby! I can’t believe it!”
“Believe it,” Jane said.
Quinn dropped onto the sofa next to Daria and looked between her and Tom with pure shock on her face.
“That means you and Tom . . . Eewww!” Quinn shuddered at the image her mind came up with. “Well, did you at least do it somewhere romantic? Like by the lake or a picnic in the woods or something like that?”
Tom and Daria exchange a look. Daria just shrugged. Again it wasn’t the kind of reaction that they were expecting, but it was better than the one they had gotten from Jake and Helen.
“Well, actually, we were in Daria’s room,” Tom said simply.
“You mean you did it in a room with padded walls?! Guh-ross!!” Quinn looked positively disgusted.
“Actually, the pads made it easier to get into some pretty interesting positions,” Daria said with a deadpan, then smirked. “That reminds me, you should have Dad tighten up your bed frame. It really squeaks.”
“My bed--!?! Gawd Daria!!” Quinn gave an allover shudder that made her look like she was about to go into convulsions. “I’m gonna need a new bed!”
Amy couldn’t stand it anymore and burst out laughing. This drew a look of pure murder from Quinn and expressions of amusement or bemusement from the other three. After a few moments, Quinn’s expression softened as Amy‘s laughter subsided slowly. Quinn also noticed that the mood in the room had lightened considerably from the time she arrived, so she didn’t feel too angry about the harassment.
“The fact that I’m going to have to burn most of the furnishings in my room aside,” Quinn said, slowly turning back towards Tom and Daria. “I would have thought that someone would have been smart enough to have supplied some kind of protection for the occasions in question.”
“Actually, um, I did,” Tom said slowly.
“Okay, now I’m confused. If you guys used protection, how come Daria’s pregnant?”
Daria started to say something, but stopped and looked rather sullen. Tom was looking at his shoes, and even Jane looked a little guilty.
“You mean you had a condom and didn’t use it?” Quinn asked into the heavy silence. “Jeez! I thought you people were supposed to be smart!”
“Well, we did use a condom,” Tom explained slowly, uncomfortable with the subject. “Every time, but, uh . . .”
“The one we used the first time apparently had a hole in it that we couldn’t see,” Daria finished.
“So, you got pregnant the very first time you . . .” Quinn’s face dropped as she put her hand to her lips. “Oh, Daria!”
Amy watched the look that Daria and Quinn exchanged. It looked like Quinn wanted to hug her sister, but couldn’t quite bring herself to do it. Daria just looked back at her boots.
“Well, what are you going to do?” Quinn asked quietly. “Are you going to have the baby, or get an abortion, or what?”
“Actually, we were just starting to talk about that,” Daria said. “Right this very moment, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
“I gotta say, Quinn, you’re taking this a lot better than Jake and Helen seemed to,” Jane said as she sat on the arm of the sofa next to Quinn. “They went through the roof.”
“To say the least,” Amy put in.
“Well, how am I supposed to take it?” Quinn asked, looking between Jane and Amy. “God, no wonder Mom and Dad were acting weird when I got home! I wouldn’t have wanted to be there when they went up.”
“I wished we weren’t either. Somehow I have a feeling that I won‘t be for much longer,” Daria said as a thought struck her. She looked at Amy. “That reminds me, you seem to be taking this awfully well, too. What gives?”
“Yeah,” Quinn put in. “The way you and Daria get along, I would have thought that you would be helping Mom empty that bourbon bottle tonight.”
“Actually, Quinn, I knew last Saturday,” Amy explained. “Daria told me at the pizza place, and I was the one who took her down to get tested on Monday.”
“That still doesn’t explain why you took it so well when I told you then.” Daria shifted in her seat.
“Well, “ Amy started absently tracing a pattern on the arm of the chair with her finger. Her expression was sad and wistful at the same time. “I guess the reason that I’m so happy that you’re having a baby is because I . . . Well, I can’t.”
That made all four of them sit up.
“What?” Daria whispered.
“Amy, I’m so sorry,” Tom said.
“Aw, man!” Jane said.
“Oh, Aunt Amy!” Quinn nearly sobbed.
Amy just looked at her finger and continued tracing on the arm of the chair as the silence dragged out.
“What . . . I mean . . .” Daria started to say.
“Why can’t I have children?” Amy finished for her niece, looking up with just her eyes. At Daria’s nod, she continued. “Well, this was long before you were born. Your Mom was coming to the end of her hippie days and had started college about a year or so before. I was twenty and had met this guy while I was looking for colleges, and we got serious. Well, without going into the gory details, one night we got a little too serious and . . . I believe the word he used afterwards was ‘oops.’ We didn’t think too much of it at the time, but a couple weeks later I started showing oddball symptoms and went to the doctor. That’s when I found out I was pregnant.”
“So we’ve got another cousin out there someplace?” Quinn asked.
“No, I’m afraid that you don’t.” Amy stopped tracing on the arm of her chair. Her gaze was focused on something a thousand miles away. “I went and told the guy the next day. He dumped me like a sack of dirty laundry and disappeared. Said the last thing he needed was a ’rug rat’ screwing things up.”
“That son of a . . .” Tom whispered, then put his hand to his chin and bit his index finger.
“Tell me about it,” Jane said in an icy tone.
“Well, I fell apart for about three days, and got very, very drunk,” Amy continued. “Back then, abortions weren’t really talked about in polite company. But I managed to find a doctor who would do it and went to him the next day. I made him take me in that very day. He did the procedure and I went home. After about a month I started getting extremely sick and went back to the hospital, where I found out that he . . . screwed up.” Amy looked wistfully off into the distance for a moment.
“I got it fixed. But there’s too much scar tissue built up for anything to ever work right if I wanted to get pregnant. So the chance of my having a child is effectively nil.” Amy concluded. She looked at her niece a little guiltily. “I guess I thought it would be a chance to live vicariously through you. Sorry.”
The heavy silence that followed Amy’s story was broken only by the occasional sniff from the sofa. Tom looked like he was ready to hunt somebody down and do them in with his bare hands. Daria had taken off her glasses and was wiping her eyes, as was Quinn. Jane just looked pissed, but she was a little dewy eyed as well.
“Does Mom know about you?” Quinn asked.
“She found out a couple of years later,” Amy said, then looked at her oldest niece. “Look, Daria. I don’t want you to think that you have to do this just because of what I went through way back when.”
“I know,” Daria said, replacing her glasses. “When we were at the clinic and I got the results back, they gave me some information on, um . . . terminating the pregnancy, if that’s what I decided to do.”
“And?” Quinn asked.
“And the short version of it is that there’s every chance that I should be able to have a baby in the future if I decide to have the procedure done. They said that, if I chose to, I could go through them and they could set me up with someone at Cedars of Lawndale. The whole thing would be kept under wraps, for what that’s worth, and that would be that. It’s still an option for a while yet.”
“You’re not going to, are you?” Quinn asked.
“Quinn, I don’t know.” Daria looked at her sister, then at her boots. “I honestly can’t think of one logical reason not too. I’m not remotely ready to be a mother, I don’t have any way to support a child -- no offence, Tom-- I’m still in high school, there’s no way I’d be able to get through college in a normal amount of time, I could go on and on. Then there’s Mom and Dad.”
“What about them?”
“Quinn, you didn’t see them tonight. And I’m glad you didn’t.” She shook her head, trying no to think about home for the moment. “You wouldn’t have recognized them.”
“Oh, yeah.” Quinn was silent for a moment as well. “Well, I can think of one reason to have the baby.”
“I want to see what my niece or nephew looks like,” Quinn said simply, looking Daria in the eye.
“I’d be kind of curious to see what my son or daughter looks like, too,” Tom said.
“You guys are a big help,” Daria said.
“Look, Daria, Lord knows that we can’t force you to go through with this,” Amy said, leaning forward in her chair. “Ultimately, the decision has to be yours. There’s still time yet if you want to think about it, and no one will blame you if you want to change your mind.”
“What ever you decide to do, amiga, we’re all here for you,” Jane said from the arm of the couch. She reached past Quinn and squeezed Daria’s shoulder. “Nothing’s going to change that.”
Daria looked at the ardent faces of the four people surrounding her. She would have never thought that she would have to go through something like this so soon. She had to wonder how long it would be before her parents came around, if they ever did. It was nice to know that she had her friends supporting her, even Quinn, which Daria found a little surprising.
“Well, I think I just came to a decision,” Daria said, standing up. She looked over at Tom, who returned her look and nodded, then back at Amy. “Make that we’ve come to a decision. Aunt Amy, how do you feel about becoming ‘Great Aunt Amy?’ “
Amy’s smile was all the answer she needed.
Helen woke up in bed the next morning, and immediately wished that she hadn’t. Every sound in the otherwise empty room was seemingly intensified a thousand-fold before being pumped directly into her hung over brain. She felt like the inside of her mouth it had a layer of mildewed burlap tacked to it and her face weighed five pounds. As she laboriously pulled herself upright, she tried to remember how she wound up in bed. Her last quasi-clear memory seemed to be Quinn and Amy returning home at the same time. Helen thought she should have been angry at them for something at the time, but couldn’t remember what it was.
Moving very slowly, Helen worked her way over to the master bathroom and managed to get to the counter without stumbling. Squinting to focus on the mirror, she examined her reflection. Her hair was a complete and total disaster, and her eyes were thoroughly bloodshot and felt like they were full of gravel. Dark rings underneath her eyes faded into her cheeks and, to her fuzzy mind, reminded her of a raccoon. Evidently, she’d slept in her clothes, as her blouse and skirt were both wrinkled messes and the blouse was missing a button. Her blazer, she saw in the mirror, had been tossed on the floor at the foot of the bed.
Helen shook her head slowly and started to run some cold water, wincing at the sound. The last time that she had come close to getting as drunk as she had last night was her niece Erin’s wedding. The hangover after that one wasn’t nearly enough to erase the debacle that the reception had turned into. The hangover that she had now wasn’t nearly enough to erase the disaster that last night had turned into either.
Helen leaned over the sink and ladled a double handful of frigid water onto her face. She hadn’t wanted to admit it to herself, but she had imagined such great things for her little girl. It had never really entered her conscious mind until she had read Daria’s story of what she would have liked to have seen for the future. Sure, it was only an assignment for Language Arts, but it still told Helen that her daughter thought she had so much more to offer. Helen covered her emotions by ladling another double handful of water onto her face, then looked back up in the mirror as she turned off the water.
You had a hard enough time finishing up law school with Daria, Helen thought at her wet faced reflection. How is she supposed to finish high school, never mind going to college? You tried to encourage her to take a more active role, to try to make a difference like you tried to, to try to make better decisions than you did. When the hell did she get it into her head to...
Helen shook her head slowly and put a hand to the side of her face. There was no way that she was going to be able to think clearly about this with the headache she had. She wondered why she thought a bottle of expensive bourbon would have helped her think last night. Then she realized that she hadn’t wanted to think. She had only wanted to drown her disappointment in her daughter. And herself.
Helen sighed and began to remove her sleep-wrinkled clothes as she went in search of something to change into before going downstairs. She needed a hot shower, coffee, and lots of aspirin.
About thirty minutes later, Helen had pulled on her bumble-bee pajamas, located the extra strength aspirin, and was slowly making her way to the kitchen. As she came to the bottom of the stairs, she could make out Amy and Quinn’s voices in the kitchen.
“So, where’s Jake this morning?” Amy’s voice was heard to ask.
“Dad said something about a conference and brunch,” Quinn replied. “He didn’t look like he was going to be paying much attention to it, though.”
“No surprise there.”
“Aunt Amy, what do you think is going to happen?” Helen heard Quinn ask. “The last time Mom got like this was Erin’s wedding. She’s not going to be like this all the time, is she?”
“I doubt it. Rita and your mom have been locking horns since they were kids. The still work through it, up to a point. Getting plowed was just part of the process, sometimes,” Amy said. “Helen got a real shock last night and needs to get through it. I don’t think that she’s on the path to rampant alcoholism.”
Helen turned the corner at that point and squinted in the bright sunshine that was streaming in through the windows. With her eyes half closed, her hand on the countertop for guidance and balance, she followed the smell of fresh coffee around the counter. Quinn and Amy were at the table, with a bowl of cereal and coffee, respectively.
“Speak of the devil,” Amy said when she spied Helen entering the room. “Sleep well, sis?”
“Gnarfiglobel, fnarbadarb,” Helen muttered. At least, that’s what it sounded like.
“And a pleasant good morning to you, too,” Amy said as Helen poured herself a cup, then started shuffling towards the table. “Interest you in some breakfast?”
“Mmff.” Helen shook her head as she sat down in Quinn’s usual place. She took the bottle of aspirin out of her shirt pocket and began struggling with the lid. After a few moments the lid popped off and Helen poured out four of the little red and yellow capsules into her hand. Without hesitation, she immediately popped them into her mouth and washed them down with a slug of coffee, wincing at the heat.
“Now that you’ve had your breakfast, do you feel up to a little conversation?” Amy asked, sipping her own coffee.
“Amy, can’t this wait?” Helen said quietly, holding her head in her hands and glancing at Quinn with bloodshot eyes. “This isn’t the best time, or place.”
“Daria told me about everything last night, Mom. I canceled on Skyler and went over to Jane’s,” Quinn said. “Not that we would have gotten more than half way through dinner before I would have had to leave, anyway.”
“Hmph,” Helen cocked an eyebrow at her daughter as she took another sip of her coffee.
“Helen, we need to talk about what happened last night,” Amy said.
“There’s nothing to discuss.” Helen looked into her mug. “Daria is going to have a baby and there seems to have been a conspiracy of silence to keep it a secret from her parents.”
“Daria told me that she wanted to tell Tom first, and then they were going to tell you, Daddy, and Tom’s family next,” Quinn said as she stirred her cereal. “You barged in when she was telling Tom. I mean, what was so wrong with Daria wanting him to know first?”
“What’s so wrong with that is that she shouldn’t have to have told him anything! If I’d have gone ‘barging in’ three month’s ago, as you so quaintly put it, young lady, then none of this would be happening in the first place!” Helen glowered down at her mug. “Daria’s still a child, for Heaven sakes! She should be concentrating on her studies, getting into a good college, figuring out what her career will be! Not planning for the birth of a child!”
“Oh give me a break!” Quinn grumbled.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Helen looked up with a frown.
“I mean that you’re always bugging Daria that she should be meeting people, doing extra curricular stuff, dating guys,” Quinn said. “Now you’re saying that she should have stayed in her room with her nose buried in a book and no friends.”
“That’s not what I mean at all, Quinn. I want Daria to have friends and I want her to socialize with others! I didn’t want her to--to--to . . . go out and do something so irresponsible! I mean, what’s she supposed to do about college, never mind the rest of high school? Daria’s supposed to be smarter than that.” Helen sighed. “Where did I fail my little girl?”
“You haven’t failed anyone,” Amy said from behind her mug. “And don’t be so fast to jump on Daria‘s case. When you were that age, you did your share of stupid things, too.”
“Really.” Quinn looked mischievously between her aunt and her mother.
“Amy, I had a normal, healthy social life for the times,” Helen sat back in her chair, and looked at Quinn. “Yes, I dated a lot, but you have to understand that things were different then than they are now. I never set out to . . . get pregnant.”
“Neither did Daria.” Amy put her mug down.
“Maybe not, but that’s what happened,” Helen leaned forward again. “She didn’t stop for one second to consider the consequences. She didn’t think about what it’s going to do to her chances for college. Or what this is going to do to her parents -- I can’t take care of another baby while she’s in college! She didn’t even think to use a damn condom, for God’s sake! She had all this potential and she just threw it away like it was nothing!”
“You want Daria to feel stupid? Well, guess what, Helen, she does,” Amy said, pushing her mug off to the side. “You want her to be worried about her future? News flash -- she is. Thanks to your little display last night, Daria feels like she‘s about to be thrown out on her butt. And for your information, according to Tom and Daria, they did use a condom.”
“Then why the hell is she pregnant?”
“It didn’t work,” Quinn said, drawing a look from her mother. “I told you that she told me everything last night.”
“What do you mean, it didn’t work?” Helen looked confused. “How could it not work?”
“It had a hole in it or something,” Quinn said as she stirred the remains of her cereal.
“You mean . . . “ Helen started, but stammered. “But, if it really was accidental, then why didn’t she come and talk to me!”
“Think about that one for one second, Helen. Exactly what would you have done?” Amy asked.
“Uh, I, well I would have been understanding! And supportive! And -- “ She stammered for a moment.
“And you would gone through the roof, just like you did last night, and they’d be lucky to find enough DNA to identify Tom,” Amy said. “Then you’d sue his parents right into the poor house.”
“I still intend to do that!” Helen said darkly. “How dare that Tom Sloane talk my daughter into doing something like this.”
“Helen, I seem to recall a certain someone that didn’t have to talk very fast to get you to do something like that,” Amy said with a shake of her head. “I’d be a little more careful before you start throwing that accusation around.”
“What?” Quinn looked from her cereal.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Helen finished off her coffee and slowly rose to get a refill.
“Two words, Helen,” Amy said flatly. “Skeeter Dog.”
“Amy!” Helen spun around, swaying slightly. “That’s not remotely the same situation!”
“Eeww! Who or what is that supposed be?” Quinn asked looking disgusted.
“Motorcycle stunt rider who was you Mom’s first when she was about your age. I was about ten and she made me promise not to say anything at the time. Gave me a pretty decent bribe, for that decade, anyway.” Amy looked Helen right in the eye as she spoke. “Your Mom used to bring home a different boyfriend every other night. Eventually one of them talked her into running off and joining that commune, or whatever it was they called it. That’s where she eventually met Jake. The rest is history.”
“Wait a second.” Quinn speared her mother with a harsh glare. “A different boy every other night? And you want to talk to me about how and who I date? Is that what it’s supposed to be? Do whatever I tell you and not like I showed you? That’s the exact same thing that you just said you weren’t doing to Daria! It’s a . . .a . . .double standoff!” Quinn got up and walked out of the kitchen. “I might date a lot of guys, but at least I have my standards!”
“Quinn, wait! It was a different time!” Helen called after her daughter. “It wasn’t like that back then! Let me explain!”
“I don’t want to hear it!” Quinn shouted right before the front door slammed.
“Dammit, Amy! Why the hell are you trying to make me the bad guy here?” Helen spun unsteadily on her sister, her headache pounding in her ears.
“I’m not trying to make you the bad guy, and I’m sorry if it seems like that. But I am trying to get you to wake up and see what’s going on around you.” Amy said reasonably. “You played a hell of a game of Russian roulette when you were sixteen and seventeen years old, and we both know that you managed to dodge that particular bullet I don’t know how many times. You could have been in Daria’s shoes in a heartbeat back then. Easier, probably. Your daughter and that boy Tom are in that position now. That they took all the precautions any reasonable person could have been expected to take, and they still didn‘t work.”
“It doesn‘t matter what precautions they took, it’s a position that they shouldn’t have to be in,” Helen said as she walked over to the coffee maker and refilled her mug.
“No, it‘s not, Helen, but they are.” Amy stood up and went over to stand beside her sister. “You guys are reacting almost the same way that Mom and Dad would have back then. Yes, you’re angry at Daria, and you have a right to be, I‘m not going to dispute that. But that isn’t going to help Daria and Tom, or you and Jake. She’s going to need all the support she can get in order to make it through this, because about a week after graduation, you’re daughter is going to give birth to your first grandchild.”
“So she decided to have the baby?” Helen looked at her sister. “When did she do this?”
“Last night, over at Jane’s,” Amy said. “They still have to tell Tom’s parents, and he’s not expecting a ringing approval either, from what he told me. In fact, he thinks it may be worse than what he saw happen over here.”
Helen looked down at her mug feeling totally ashamed of herself. The sick feeling that was forming in her stomach didn’t have as much to do with her hangover as she wished it did.
“So, does she go through this alone or with the support of her family?”
Helen picked up her coffee and walked back to the table, where she sat back down.
“I guess I have been behaving like Mom would have, haven’t I?” Helen asked sullenly.
“Oh, yeah,” Amy said as she sat back down. “I really hadn’t wanted to say anything, but ...”
“God, I feel like such a hypocrite.“ Helen smirked tiredly at Amy. “You’re enjoying this far too much, you know.”
“Maybe.” Amy smirked back.
“That wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that you can’t have children yourself, would it?”
“Yeah, it does, actually,” Amy said, swirling her coffee around. “That kind of came up last night, too. Daria had asked me why I hadn’t gone through the roof when she told me last week, and I gave her the Reader’s Digest Condensed version.”
“That’s not the only reason she’s decided to have the baby is it?” Helen asked. “Because if it is, it’s damned well the wrong reason.”
“No, it’s not the only one. We talked a little bit about that. I think that she has reasons for doing it that she hasn’t admitted to herself yet. Sooner or later, though.”
“I’m going to have to have a long talk with Jake about this. I really don’t think that he’s taking it very well,” Helen said as she lifted her mug. “After you left, he wanted to take Daria back down to the clinic and . . .’Fix the problem,’ he said.”
“Quinn said that he was out at some kind of brunch. You don’t suppose that he’s out trying to do something stupid, do you?”
“No, I made it perfectly clear to him last night what would happen if he tried to force Daria into doing something like that. I’m sure that he’s really at the at brunch, as Quinn said.” Helen got a look of long sufferance on her face. “But he’s probably draining the first porta-bar he came across.”
Quinn strode down the street with no particular destination in mind when she left the house. She simply wanted to put some distance between herself and her mother for a while.
She still couldn’t believe the nerve of her mother. True, she did have some reasons to be upset with Daria, and Quinn figured that she could understand that. What she couldn’t understand was why Helen suddenly felt like she had to restrict how Quinn dated when she had done the exact same thing at her age, and younger!
Except the sex thing with the biker. Ew! Quinn suppressed a shudder at the thought. Does she think that I’m going to do something like that? I don’t even slow dance till after the fifth date!
Quinn also wondered what the repercussions would be once the truth of the situation hit Lawndale High. Sandi had already started certain tidbits floating through the school population. Although she didn’t know it, Daria’s blowing her stack at Kevin Thompson hadn’t helped her case any. In fact it had probably served as confirmation for a couple of the more malicious rumor mongers of the school. Quinn could still do what she could to keep Sandi from spreading it, but she would find out the truth from someone. Then Sandi would have one more weapon to use against Quinn, other than the knowledge that Daria was her sister.
Of course that’s probably the worst kept secret of all time around here, she thought. But it’s not going to help her reputation or mine.
Wait a second, why am I worried about Daria’s rep? Quinn frowned to herself. She’s never cared what anyone’s thought about her before, except for maybe Jane. And Tom. And maybe that Trent guy once or twice. But she’s the one that’s got to deal with all that crap and I can tell ’em to freaking lay off and that would be that.
But, she is my sister, Quinn thought, rubbing her left temple in frustration. She’s going to have a hard enough time dealing with Mom and Dad. School’s going to be a whole different problem.
Quinn shook her head at herself. If this kind of thing had happened last year, she would have let Daria get trashed by the rumor mill, not to mention public opinion, without batting an eyelash. Now she was actually worried about her. When did that happen?
Mom and Dad are going to be stressed out beyond belief, Quinn thought with a sigh. And I just know that they’re going to be watching me like a couple of hawks. Sandi’s going to be impossible. Once the rest of the school finds out, my social status will be shot, and Sandi’ll take advantage of that.
Quinn tried to turn her mind to thinking of some way to turn the situation to her advantage when it came to dealing with Sandi but found that she couldn’t concentrate. Unless she found a way to calm down and deal with the situation, her popularity and prestige around the school was going to go down the tubes.
Stopping at a corner for a moment, she glanced both ways and started to cross the street. Her eye caught the sun reflecting off of the front window of a convenience store in the general direction of the mall. Maybe that a couple of hours of window shopping would help her deal with the situation.
As the thought passed through her head, Quinn remembered the short conversation that she had the day before everything got turned upside down with Andrea in the girls room. She had asked why Andrea smoked, and had actually gotten a straight answer.
“Helps me deal,” Quinn muttered, remembering Andrea‘s answer. After that, she had asked for her first cigarette.
Quinn reached around for her backpack, which she had grabbed off of the sofa on her way out. Her wallet was in there, along with a phony I.D. that she had finagled out of a guy that she had been dating. She pulled it out and looked over the picture quickly, deciding that it still looked like her enough to be of use. Once again, a more rational part of her mind started whispering that this was a bad idea.
Ignoring the whisper, Quinn walked into the store. Five minutes later, she walked out with a pack of slim cigarettes and a sky blue, disposable lighter. After walking a few dozen feet, she stopped, opened the pack, and removed a cigarette. She put to her lips, lit it, and took a puff, before continuing on towards the mall, blowing the smoke out in to the morning breeze.
Tom stood at the foot of the stairs and looked across their living room and into the main dining room where his parents were sitting and enjoying a late breakfast. Angier was looking over the Financial section of the Sun-Herald, while Kay was talking on the phone with the Arts section open in front of her. A large platter of fruit and pastries set on the table between them. All in all, a normal Saturday for the Sloane family. Tom really could have thought of better conversations to have over breakfast.
Just keep reminding yourself that they can’t react any worse than Daria’s parents did, Tom thought, taking a steadying breath. No matter how much you don’t believe it.
Tom took a deep breath, steadied himself, and headed across the living room and in to the dining room. Kay and Angier looked up as Tom walked in. Despite the day-to-day familiarity of the situation, Tom felt like he was walking into the lion’s den.
“Good morning, Tom,” Angier said quietly as Kay just smiled.
“Morning, Dad,” Tom said as he nonchalantly waved at his mother, who continued her telephone conversation.
“Well, we have a independent appraiser coming in this afternoon to go over the whole collection through the next couple of weeks. By the time they’re done, we should have this whole issue settled. . . Yes, I know. I’ll see you this afternoon. Good-bye, Mils.” Kay turned off the phone and put it down on the table. “One would think that people had better things to do than quibble over details.”
“I know how you feel. I’ve got too many clients like that,” Angier said.
“Good morning Tom.” Kay turned toward Tom. “Any plans for today?”
“Actually, I was hoping that we could talk about something,” Tom said as he sat down across from his father.
“Of course we can, son.” Angier put his paper down. “What’s on your mind?”
“Well, you know that I’ve been seeing Daria for about eight months or so now,” Tom said.
“Yes, that Daria is such a smart young lady. She has such a bright future ahead of her,” Kay said with a smile, then looked at Tom. “You two aren’t having problems, are you?”
”Well, I don’t know if you’d really classify it as a ‘problem,’ as such,” Tom said, then took a deep breath and plunged ahead. God, I can’t believe I’m saying this! “About ten or eleven weeks ago our relationship turned more . . . sexual and . . . Well, it was her first time . . . “
“You were a gentleman about it, I trust,” Kay sad with a cocked eyebrow.
“Mom! Of course I was! That’s not what I’m talking about!” Tom turned beet red.
“What, you’re afraid you’ll have to marry her now?” Angier said with a chuckle as he picked up his coffee mug.
“Angie, that’s not funny,” Kay said with a quick glance at her husband. “Tom, are you having concerns that she’s not being monogamous?”
“No, that’s not it,” Tom said with a shake of his head. “And before either of you ask, we did use protection. The first time and every time since.”
“Well, then what’s the problem? Are you having second thoughts about the relationship?” Angier asked as he put his mug back down.
“Maybe I ought to just say this right out,” Tom said slowly as a rock formed in his belly.
“Say what, Tom?” Kay asked.
“Daria is eleven weeks pregnant.”
There was a long, charged pause that hung in the air after Tom’s pronouncement. Kay and Angier exchanged looks that were completely unreadable to Tom, who simply sat and waited for a reaction.
“Once more, with clarity,” Angier said as he leaned on the table, a slight frown on evident on his brow.
“Yes, Tom. You said that the two of you used protection every time and that you had no concerns of her sleeping around,” Kay said, a more concerned look on her face. “Yet you say she’s pregnant?”
“We think what happened was that the condom that we used the first time had a leak in it that we couldn’t see,” Tom said slowly. He wisely decided to leave the little fact that it had spent a year in his wallet out. “It was accidental, really. We --”
“I don’t believe this!” Angier leaned back in his chair and glared at Tom. “How the hell could you let something like this happen?”
“While I don’t agree with your father’s temperament on the subject, I have to agree that this is extremely inconvenient.” Kay was shaking her head.
“It’s not exactly like we planned this whole thing,” Tom started to explain.
“It doesn’t matter if it was planned or not! It was damned careless!” Angier looked off to the side and angrily stroked his chin. “I suppose now that she’s figured out that she’s pregnant she wants us to pay to get it taken care of. It‘s just a matter of how much.”
“Well, there will be medical bills down the road,” Tom said, thinking that this was going a little better than he had initially thought it would. “There’ll have to be some prenatal examinations and --”
“That is not quite what I’m talking about, Thomas,“ Angier said, turning to face his son. “I mean ‘how much’ to make this problem go away permanently? The last thing that you need right now is a rug rat running around and screwing things up.” He looked back off into the distance. “At least it’s not that Jane girl you were seeing before. They’re so broke they’d try to wring us for everything they could.”
“What?” If Tom had been a cat, his ears would have pivoted forward at his father’s words, but rampant shock quickly overtook his feeling of deja vu.
“Really, Tom. Daria is nice and all, and more intellectually suited to you than most of the girls you’ve seen,” Kay said. “But did you really think that she was our kind of people?”
“Not our kind of people? What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Now, it’s not that I have anything against Daria personally,” Kay explained calmly. “But there are plenty of nice young women going to your school who are more suited to what your station in life will be.”
“So you’re not upset that Daria is pregnant, you’re upset because she doesn’t come with a seven figure trust fund tied to her name. Is that it?” Tom asked icily.
“That’s not what I meant,” Kay started to say somewhat condescendingly.
“But it does make things a little easier,” Angier said. “Her mother works for that bunch over at Schrecter, right? I haven’t met anyone over there yet that didn’t have a price.”
“So you’ll just bribe them silly?”
“That’s about it.”
Tom looked from one parent to the other, completely speechless. If he had thought that he was unprepared for the reaction from the Morgendorffers last night, his parent’s reactions to the news had come completely out of left field. He had expected them to be somewhat upset at the situation, but he had expected better of his parents. They were talking as if it didn’t matter.
“I don’t believe I’m hearing this!” Tom finally found his voice. “I just told you that Daria is going to have your grandchild! You’re talking about her like she’s a toaster that you can send in to be repaired when it gives you problems!”
“Give it a rest, Tom!” Angier snapped, looking back at his son. “You’ve flung your little fling. Now let’s fix this problem and concentrate on more important matters: graduating from Fielding and getting you into Bromwell University at the beginning of next year.”
“I hate to break this to you, Dad, but Daria has decided to have the baby,” Tom said in an equally hard tone, as he stood up. “Congratulations ‘Grandpa.’ “
“She’s decided to have the baby?” Kay asked, somewhat surprised.
“What the hell do you mean she’s decided to have the kid?” Angier snapped at almost the same instant as Kay.
“Angie, please!” Kay said crossly, then turned back to Tom. “Now, Tom, are you sure Daria’s serious about keeping this baby? She would be going through her pregnancy over the course of the remaining school year. High school students are not the most tolerant of such things. There’s also medical appointments to keep, classes in child bearing -- it’s not a responsibility to be taken lightly.”
“We spent most of last evening discussing those very subjects, Mom,” Tom said. “Daria’s aunt assures us she is going to be here for the duration. There’s also Jane, her brother, me --”
“Now I don’t know about that,” Angier sat up slightly.
“What do you mean? You have something against my taking responsibility for the situation?”
“You want to take responsibility for the situation, then fine. The money to fix this snafu can come out of your college funds,” Angier said flatly. “You can drive her to the clinic. You can drive her home. Your responsibility ends after that. Hell, you don’t even know if it’s your kid!”
“Excuse me?” Tom asked in disbelief.
“You’re not with her every minute of the day. How do you know what she’s doing when you’re not around?” Angier asked as he snatched his mug from the table.
“Yes, Tom, be logical about this,” Kay said. “A paternity test is a good idea. How can you be sure that this baby is even yours?”
“I’m the only one she’s ever had sex with, Mom.” Tom said as he turned and walked out of the room. “How the hell to you think?”
Tom stalked angrily out of the dining room, leaving his parents in his wake. He had never known his parents to react that indifferently to a situation than he had just witnessed. He may as well have told them that he had totaled his dad’s brand new Vexer for the reaction he had just gotten. Tom felt that their reactions would have been more heartfelt if that were the case.
As Tom exited the living room, he looked up and saw Elsie at the foot of the stairs. She was leaning on the banister and giving him a look that said she had heard everything that had just gone on.
“Well, looks like things aren’t exactly working out for you, now are they, big brother?” Elsie said as Tom walked up.
“I’m guessing that you heard everything,” Tom said with a scowl.
“Every word.” Elsie’s smirk deepened. “You’re gonna be a daddy. Isn’t that cute?”
“You I expect it from. It’s them I can’t believe.” Tom looked back towards the dining room, seeing their parents were leaning in close to each other and locked in ardent conversation. “Okay, I can see where this kind of thing would come as a shock. You yell, you get upset, but you don’t offer to ‘take care of the problem’ by paying for an abortion for God’s sake!”
“Well, how did you expect them to react?” Elsie asked with a roll of her eyes. “These are our parents, here. They’ve got big plans for us that involve heaping more money into the family fortune. Those plans don’t include you going out and complicating things.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Tom, you may be smart, but you can be blind as a bat at times.” Elsie shook her head. “Why do you thing my friend Melinda acts the way she does, chasing guys and partying her ass off? As soon as she gets out of college, her parents practically have her life all mapped out for her. They‘ve told her as much, and she’s told me all about it more times than I can count.”
“And you’re saying that Mom and Dad have the same thing in mind for us.” Tom frowned.
“Duh,” Elsie said, mockingly. “They’ve probably already got a list of spoiled little rich brats picked out for you. Your getting Daria pregnant seriously derails their little plans for the rest of your life. Can’t have you tarnishing the Sloane family name with your dalliances, now can they? I can see where they’re coming from, though. This isn‘t the kind of thing that you can simply not talk about at the dinner table, you know.”
“Hold it, are you saying that you agree with them?” Tom asked in surprise.
“Hell no, I don’t agree with them!” Elsie turned and headed back up the stairs. “But you tell me, big brother, just what are we supposed to do about it in the meantime?”
Tom didn’t have an answer to that one.
When the doorbell at Jane’s rang, Daria was the one to answer it, having seen Tom pull up to the curb a few moments before. She could tell by the way he carried himself as he walked that his encounter with his parents had not gone well. The look on Tom’s face when she opened the door confirmed it.
“Hey,” Tom said sullenly.
“Hi. I take it your parents were about as thrilled as mine were?” Daria asked.
“At least your parents showed some emotion when they found out,” Tom said as he walked in. “I swear, if I didn’t know better, I’d think I was adopted.”
“Remember all that stuff I said about my folks having some off the wall ideas about this kind of thing? Well they just confirmed it for me. In spades.”
“What do you mean?” Daria asked. “What happened?”
“Is Jane awake?” Tom asked, looking around and stalling a little. “I really don’t want to have to tell this anymore than I have to.”
“Yeah, she’s in the kitchen making coffee. Come on.” Daria lead the way towards the kitchen.
Upon entering the kitchen they both saw Jane sitting at the table in the red shirt and shorts she usually slept in, her head propped up on her hands and elbows. Her eyes were closed, making at apparent that she had drifted off while listening to the beat up, old coffee maker on the counter gurgle to itself.
“She’s up early,” Tom said when she saw Jane.
“Yeah, she really is more of a night person.” Daria reached out and shook her friend’s shoulder. “Jane, wake up. Tom’s here.”
“Hunh?” Jane blinked a few times as she came back to the world of the living. “Oh, hey. Want some coffee? It’s almost ready.”
“No thanks, I’d rather preserve my stomach lining,” Tom said as he took a seat. “You make it way too strong for my taste. Besides, the last thing that I need now is caffeine.”
“Oh? How come?” Jane yawned as she stood up and went over to the pot, which had ended its cycle.
“I told my folks about Daria this morning,” Tom said as Jane poured two mugs.
“Evidently it didn’t go any better with his parents than it had with mine,” Daria said.
“That would be an understatement,” Tom sighed as Jane sat down with the coffee, passing a mug to Daria. “Um, should you really be having coffee?”
“This is my limit for the day, trust me,” Daria said. “Go on with what you were saying.”
“Oh, yeah. Anyway, the gist of their reaction was that this was extremely inconvenient in regards to their plans for my future. My father then, and rather blatantly, asked how much it would take to, and I quote, ‘make this problem go away.’ Mom began to imply that the situation may have been more tolerable if Daria had been our kind of people, whatever the hell that crack was supposed to mean, or had gone to Fielding.” He looked at Daria’s stricken face. “She even had the gall to accuse you of sleeping around and said that we should have a paternity test. That was when I walked out.”
“They what?” Daria whispered, horrified.
“They ask if Daria’s been sleeping around and how much it’ll take to get her to have an abortion??” Jane was the picture of pure shock. “Jesus, Tom, your parents are a couple of cold hearted mother--”
Jane never had a chance to finish her sentence as Daria suddenly shoved her chair back and bolted from the room.
“Hey!” Jane exclaimed, stumbling to her own feet.
“Daria, what is it?” Tom twisted in his chair as Daria fled, then looked back at Jane. “What’s going on? Morning sickness?”
“Somehow I don’t think so. Come on.”
The two followed the sounds of Daria’s footsteps up stairs and to Penny’s room. There they found the door locked and the muffled sounds of someone in tears emanating from the other side. Upon hearing that, Tom and Jane exchanged a worried look.
“Okay, this is new,” Tom said quietly.
“Not really,” Jane said, just as quietly. “I heard her crying like this last night, but I didn’t say anything. She’s been awfully emotional ever since she found out she was pregnant. In fact, I think it’s been getting worse over the last week or so. She practically tore Kevin Thompson’s head off a couple of days ago when he made some stupid crack about what Sandi had said.”
“Wow,” Tom said, looking surprised. “I guess it’s a good thing that she wasn’t around when my parents went off, then.”
“Yeah, I’d have hated to see what kind of an effect that would have had on her.” Jane knocked on the door twice. “Daria?”
There was no answer.
“C’mon, Daria, open the door,” Tom said.
“Go away,” Daria’s voice filtered through the door.
“Maybe we should...” Tom whispered, but was silenced by a look and head-shake from Jane.
“No,” Jane said. “We’re you’re friends and we’re not going anywhere.”
“I’m not unlocking the door, so you may as well just go away,” Daria said.
“Daria, I can pick almost every lock in this house, and I have a power drill for the one’s I can’t,” Jane said, glancing at Tom. “You might as well open up.”
It took a moment, but finally the door lock clicked open and the knob was turned form the inside. The door drifted open a crack, and the sounds of footsteps walking back to the bed were heard. Jane slowly pushed the door open, and she and Tom entered as Daria climbed back onto the bed and lay down with her back to them. The sounds of a telephone or two ringing drifted through the door as Jane sat on the edge of the bed and Tom took the desk chair.
“Don’t you think that you ought to get that?” Daria asked without rolling over.
“Nah, the machine will get it,” Jane said with a wave of her hand towards the open door. “We’re more interested in making sure that you’re okay. You don’t normally act like this.”
“I don’t usually get accused of being a slut who sleeps around, either,” Daria said with a sniff.
“Daria, my mother didn’t mean it,” Tom said. “She just doesn’t know you like we do. It’s . . . I don’t know how to explain it. It’s a ‘class’ thing that my mother buys into sometimes. It doesn’t mean anything. Not to me.”
“You can’t tell me you didn’t think about it when she mentioned it,” Daria said, curling up slightly. “For all you know I could have been sleeping with half the football team after that first night because I enjoyed it so damn much.”
“Daria, I didn’t think about it at all,” Tom said flatly.
“Oh, great, thanks.” Daria shot a look over her shoulder at Tom, revealing that her eyes were red and a little swollen. “So I’m not good enough for a bunch of low IQ jocks, but I make a good plaything for the spoiled rich kid from the other side of the tracks? Freaking swell.”
“Hey!” Tom looked hurt.
“Daria, that wasn’t necessary,” Jane said sadly. “Look, we know you’re upset about the whole thing. Hell, I would be too. I am, as a matter of fact. But this isn’t like you. You’ve got us both a little worried, kid.”
“How do you know what’s like me and what’s not?” Daria rolled over and sat up. “How do you know I won’t take the biggest offer Tom’s father can come up with and go laughing all the way to the abortionist?”
“Daria, we know you’re not like that,” Tom said. “We’re your friends. Neither one of us has any illusions about how hard it was for you to let us in when you met either one of us. Yes, you and Jane have had more time to build on your relationship, and I know that our relationship was pretty antagonistic when I first came into the picture. But you did let us in, and let us get to know you. And we know that you’re not like that.”
“I’m sorry, you guys,” Daria said as she calmed down a little. She took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. “The point I’m trying to make is that you don’t know. You don’t know what I’m doing when neither one of you are around. The fact that your mother made the suggestion, Tom, just brings up one more nagging little doubt that you’ll have now instead of later. As soon as it‘s feasible, I‘ll have a paternity test done if you want.”
Tom got up and walked over to the bed, where he sat down on opposite Jane so that Daria was between them. He put his hand on her shoulder as she turned to face him.
“Daria, I believe you when you say that the baby’s mine,” Tom said. “That’s enough for me.”
“Hey, you guys. What’s goin’ on?” A familiar voice suddenly asked.
All three teenagers turned to see Trent standing in the doorway, holding his guitar case in one hand and one of the mugs of coffee from the kitchen in the other. His clothes looked even more rumpled than usual, and several dark rings were present under his eyes.
“Trent, how long have you been standing there?” Jane asked warily.
“I just walked in a second ago,” Trent said taking a sip of the coffee he was carrying. “Hey, Daria. You’re Mom left a message on the machine. You’ll probably want to call her back or something.”
Trent took another long sip form the mug as he turned and walked off in the general direction of his own room a couple of doors down.
“Wonderful,” Daria mumbled, burying her face in her hands.
“Relax, Daria, I don’t even think he was awake,” Jane said, patting her friend on the back. “That party Mystik Spiral was playing must have been one hell of a blow out. Trust me, he’s running on pure autopilot.”
“Great, now I just have to hope he really is as oblivious as he looks.” Daria stood up and started walking out. “I’d better go and call Mom back. Do you mind if we work up the rental agreement this afternoon? I think I’ll be in better shape to deal with it then.”
“I’ll go with her,” Tom said as he followed Daria out.
“I’ll be down in a few minutes. I need to check on the Mystik zombie first,” Jane said as she stood up and followed then other two for a moment before she ducked into Trent’s room.
Trent was sitting on his bead with his guitar laid out in front of him. Several of the strings were broken and Trent was slowly going through the motions of replacing them with a new set. Jane still wasn’t sure if he was awake.
“Hey, Trent,” Jane said.
“Hey, Janey,” Trent replied as he fixed a new string to the guitar‘s tailpiece. “You should have come with us to the gig last night. Man, that was the wildest party we’ve played in a hell of a while, man.”
“Sorry I couldn’t make it, but I had to be over at Daria’s for something,” Jane said, looking her brother over carefully. “Trent, I have to ask this. How much did you hear in Penny’s room?”
“Private conversation and all?” Trent said as he threaded the string through the tuning machinery at the head of the guitar. "I didn’t hear anything, really. I just came up to tell Daria that she had a message.”
“How did you know Daria was here?”
“Why else would her Mom leave a message with us?” Trent began to tighten down the new A string. “They having a fight or something?”
“Trent, I’m going to tell you something. This is something that Daria would never tell you on her own, so you have to treat this very carefully when you talk to her. Okay?”
“Sure, Janey,” Trent said, not really paying attention and striking the string with his thumb as he tightened the tuning knob. “What is it?”
Trent looked up at Jane, completely awake.
“What the hell do you mean ‘Daria’s pregnant?’ “ Trent asked, ignoring the newly broken string hanging from his guitar.
“I mean Daria’s going to have a baby,” Jane repeated.
“Daria’s really pregnant?” Trent asked. “How could she be pregnant?”
“Well, Trent,” Jane said, rolling her eyes. “I really think that Mom and Dad would have told you about this stuff a long time ago. You see, guys have this thing between their legs called a --”
“No, you knot head!” Trent said, exasperatedly putting his guitar on the bed and standing up. “I’m pretty sure I can figure out the ‘how’ how! I mean ‘who’ how?”
“Tom,” Jane said simply.
“Aw, man!” Trent looked at the open door. “I mean, they’re still in high school! And he broke it off with you when . . . Aw, man!”
“Trent, chill.” Jane put her hands on her brother’s shoulders and gently made him sit back down. “Look, Daria’s going to need all the support that she can get from all of us, okay? Her folks found out last night and went totally ballistic. Tom’s folks didn’t take too kindly to the news either. Apparently they think that they can bribe Daria into getting an abortion or something like that.”
“I don’t know all the details of that conversation, but that’s close enough for now.” Jane turned even more serious. “This is already hell on Daria, and I don’t know if that call from her Mom means it’s going to get worse or not. Whatever it means, Daria’s going to need you on her side for this. She admires you a lot, even though she’d never admit it, and having your support is going to mean a lot to her.”
“Believe me, Janey, she’s got it,” Trent said, standing back up and taking Jane’s hands from his shoulders. “You better go down and see what’s going on. I, uh, I gotta go and get another A-string. This one’s broke and I don’t have any left.”
“Okay, I’ll catch you later, then,” Jane said as she started to walk out. “Remember what I said.”
“No problem, Janey.”
Trent stood there for a moment to give Jane a bit of a head start, then headed out himself. He checked his pocket for his car keys as he got to the top of the stairs. From below, he heard Daria’s voice, and stopped. He looked down the stairs and saw the three kids standing there.
“I just finished talking to my Mom,” Daria was saying. “Aunt Amy’s gone off to the museum, and Mom wants us to come back to the house. All three of us.”
“Did she say what for?” Jane asked.
“No, she didn’t.” Daria looked down at her boots. “She probably wants you to help move my stuff out. Do you think that Penny would notice she had a room mate if she came back?”
“Daria, I really don’t think that’s going to happen,” Tom said. “Your parents had a gut reaction to some very surprising news. They’ll get used to it. So will mine, eventually.”
Trent’s eyebrows dipped slightly at the sound of Tom’s voice.
“Let’s hope,” Daria said, looking back up. “Come on, let’s get this over with.”
The three kids walked out in silence. Trent waited at the top of the stairs until he heard the front door close, then descended, and walked to the living room window. He watched as the three climbed into Tom’s old car and drive off. He stood there looking after them for a long moment with a slowly deepening frown on his face.
Helen was sitting on one of the living room sofas when Tom, Daria, and Jane walked in. She was still in her pajamas and nursing her fourth or fifth cup of coffee that morning. Daria took some small, sadistic, comfort in the fact that it looked like her mother had not had a good night at all and was now paying for it. Helen tried to read the looks on the teenagers faces, and figured that they were all expecting the worst, maybe even a replay of the previous night. Helen definitely couldn’t blame them for it.
“Hello, everyone,” Helen said, slowly standing up. “Please, come in and have a seat.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier if we just went up and started packing my stuff?” Daria asked, not moving from her spot by the door.
“What are you talking about, honey?” Helen cocked her eyebrow.
“You’re throwing me out, aren’t you?” Daria said quietly. “I’d at least like to take a couple changes of clothes with me, if that’s okay. I don’t need the other stuff, really.”
“Daria, don’t be silly. We certainly are not throwing you out,” Helen said with a sad shake of her head. “How could you even think of such a thing? Now come over here and sit down, all of you. I want to talk to you.”
The three kids walked across the room as Helen slowly lowered herself back onto the sofa. Daria made it a point to sit as far away from her mother as she could as they all found seats. Helen looked over the three kids for a moment, noticing that Daria kept looking at the floor.
“I really wish Quinn were here for this too, but she went out this morning and doesn’t seem to be answering her cellular,” Helen said as she took a sip of coffee. “I guess the best way to say this is straight to the point. I want to apologize for the way that Jake and I acted last night. With the load I’ve been getting at work and Rita on the phone about Erin and Brian twice a day, it was all just too much to handle at once.” Helen looked at the three kids again. “I didn’t have the right to say the things that I had said to any of you. Jake didn’t really have to react the way he did either, but, well, you know how your father can be some times. But, that still doesn’t make it right.
“Daria, I’m sorry,” Helen said, looking her daughter in the eye from across the coffee table. “I never meant to get angry, and I never wanted you to think that we would throw you out of the house or be anything less than supportive of whatever decision that you make. In that regard, Amy told me that you decided to have the baby. I don’t want you deciding to go through with this just because of her. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my sister, but I don’t want you going through another six months of pregnancy just because you think that it will make Amy happy.“
“What if I change my mind?” Daria asked, getting a look from Tom.
“I really hope that won’t be the case, honey,” Helen took a sip of her coffee. “If you think that you might have to, though, I hope you come to me before you go to your aunt.”
“I don’t see Dad here to echo the sentiment,” Daria said quietly. “Are you sure he’s going to go along with all of this?”
“You’re father went to some kind of business brunch. I’ll talk to him when he gets home,” Helen said just as the front door opened again. She turned and looked as Jake entered. His jacket was open and his tie was undone and hanging around his neck.
“Speak of the devil.” Daria looked at her father, than the floor.
“Daria, you came back!” Jake said as he walked in. Then his eyes landed on Tom and his expression darkened. “You little punk! You’ve got some nerve showing up around here after what you’ve done to my little girl!”
“Jake, I asked him to come over,” Helen said, trying to calm her husband. “I wasn’t expecting you home from the brunch for another couple of hours.”
“Actually, I skipped it.” Jake closed the door behind him and walked in. “I spent most of the morning just walking around town, trying to do some thinking.”
“About what, Jake?”
“About yesterday,” Jake said as he stood next to Helen. “I don’t know where you got it in your head to do something like this, Daria. If someone had done this to my old man, he would have thrown them out on their ears. But I’m not going to be like he was.“ Jake looked at the ceiling and shook his fist skyward. “You hear that, old man! I’m not going to be like you were! I‘m not gonna screw up my kid’s life!”
“Jake, calm down,” Helen said, standing up and lowering her husband’s outstretched fist.
“Huh? Oh yeah. “Jake seemed to settle down a little, but gave Tom another black look before he went on. “Look, I can’t say that I’m exactly happy with the situation right now. I didn’t expect to be a grandfather until I was retired and had gray hair. Daria, I can’t promise that I’ll do any better than my old man would have, or that I won’t make mistakes, but . . . I’ll try and be there for you what ever decision you decide to make.”
“Uh, thanks dad,” Daria said. Why am I worried about this?
“Thanks, Mr. Morgendorffer,” Tom said quietly.
“Yeah, well . . .” Jake glared at Tom again, then turned to go. “You’re welcome, Daria. I’m gonna go and find some lunch.”
The four of them watched as Jake walked into the kitchen, mumbling something about military school and rich kids. They were quiet until they heard him start rummaging around in the refrigerator.
“Okay, now that’s new,” Jane said, looking at Tom.
“You got that right,” Daria said. “Mom, what’s wrong with Dad?”
“I don’t know, honey, but I’ll have a talk with him later.” Helen turned back to the three teens as she sat back down. “There’s one other thing, though, Daria. I went up to your room earlier and found the envelope that you brought home from the clinic. I was looking at the list of doctors that they had recommended to you. I’d really feel better if you went and saw Dr. Portenza Monday after school.”
“Your OB/GYN?” Daria asked.
“Yes. It’s not like I don’t trust the clinic’s physicians, but you need to see someone who is a specialist.” Helen looked down at her coffee for a moment. “I’d really feel better if you could deal with someone on a one on one basis.”
“But she’s your doctor,” Daria pointed out.
“Yes, she is. Daria, I want you to understand something -- things are going to have to change around here because of all of this. You are going to see a doctor on a regular basis. If you aren’t comfortable with Dr. Portenza, than you can make arrangements to see someone else -- after your examination on Monday. It’s already set up.” Daria opened her mouth to say something, but Helen cut her off. “Don’t even try to talk your way out of or around this, Daria. I am not negotiating on any of it. Your diet is going to have to change also, so no more pizza or cheese fries for a while. Don’t worry, though, there’s no way I’m letting Jake do the cooking. And I’m sorry to have to do this, but no more sleeping over at Jane’s. You’ll need all the rest that you can get for what’s to come, and I’m going to make sure that you get it.”
“So, basically I’m grounded until I go into labor, is that it?” Daria asked with a slight frown.
“Not at all, but you are going to start coming home at a decent hour,” Helen said. “I won’t institute a curfew unless you prove that you need one.”
“I’ve never needed a curfew before.”
“You’ve never been pregnant before. You’ve also never gone over my head like this, either, by going to your aunt instead of immediately coming to myself or your father with this.” Helen took a deep breath and let out a sigh. “Although I can honestly see why you did it, I am very disappointed that you chose to do things this way. From this moment on, however, we will be consulted where you and this child are concerned. Am I making myself clear?”
“Crystal. I’m to have no say in any of this.” Daria crossed her arms and gave her mother a hard look.
“No, you’ll have just as much say as any mother would over the course of her pregnancy. However, you will keep your father and I very well informed.” Helen turned and looked at Tom, her features hardening. “As for you, Tom --”
“Mrs. Morgendorffer, I think that I already know where you’re going to be heading,” Tom said, holding up a hand to forestall Helen a little. “I already have access to a couple of savings accounts that are in my name. They’re Daria’s if she wants them, and they’ll help pay off a fairly large portion of the medical bills that are going to be coming.”
“That’s all well and good, but you still live under your parents roof and they are still, for the moment, responsible for you and your actions,” Helen said. “I intend to have long conversation with them on Monday morning concerning child support. If they’re agreeable to what I propose, then we’ll be able to keep this out of court.”
“Daria and I talked about this some last night,” Tom said. “I’m not going to try and make things any harder than they already are. I know that this is going to be hard on everyone involved, and I want to help. I want to take responsibility for what’s happening.”
“I understand, Tom. And you will.”
“May I say something?” Daria asked.
“Of course, dear,” Helen said.
“I understand that I’m pretty well screwed as far as my credibility is concerned around here, and I understand that you are doing what you think you have to do. But I need you to understand something, too. Last night I could have just as easily decided to have the pregnancy . . . terminated.” Daria winced at the word. “But I didn’t, and not just because of what Aunt Amy told us. I am, sort of, doing this for her. But I’m also doing this for myself. And, as corny as it sounds, I’m also doing this for the baby. This child didn’t ask to start out this way. The least I can do is make sure that it gets the best start that it can, circumstances permitting.”
“That’s what I want too, Daria,” Helen said.
“Good, I‘m glad we agree on that. Now I need you to understand something else: You are not the one who is going to be having this baby -- I am.“ Daria looked her mother in the eye, much in the same way as Helen had earlier. “I am not going to march around like some kind of perambulating incubator, following every little directive that comes down from on high. I am going to try and live my life with as much of a degree of normalcy as I can, what little there is of that already. That is going to be the only way that I’m going to get through this with as much of my sanity intact as possible. I need to be able to do that. If you can understand that, than maybe this won’t be as hard as either of us think it will be.”
Helen and Daria exchanged a long look and, after a moment, both of them smiled slightly to each other. It was going to be a long road ahead for all of them as the year progressed, but right at the moment, it didn’t look as though it was going to be quite as rough as they had originally thought.
To Be Continued
As always, I must give thanks where it is due, to those who have Beta read for me: Steven Galloway, Kara Wild, Roger E. Moore, Ben Breeck, The Crusading Saint, Betting on Delusions (This was her first beta, and if I may say, she did a fantastic job!), Robert Nowall, Angleinhel, and RedlegRick. Several of you have been beta-ing this since part one, a tip of the hat to you for your fortitude in putting up with me through this endeavor.
Now, on to the other stuff . . .
Oh, where to begin with this one? It would seem that I have opened Pandora’s Box with this installment. Trying to cover all angles equally has been interesting, and a bit of a headache at times. The public dissection that this installment has received on the new PPMB was definitely unexpected, and a little heated in places. While that wasn’t my intention, I’m glad that I was able to write something that kept people’s attention.
The first thing I think I should cover is the abortion issue that caused such a conflict. I’m not trying to come across and pro- or anti- anything. It is a situation in the story that was brought up over the course of events, and I hope that I have covered it adequately. If not, well, try not to burn me to badly. Other aspects of the issue may or may not come up as the story progresses, or I’ll update things if necessary to keep the continuity up.
Regarding Amy -- she seems to be taking this rather well, isn’t she? Well, without spoiling things, let’s just say that Amy has issues that will come out as the story moves along.
Regarding Jacob Elias Morgendorffer -- why Elias? Well, why not? There’s no hard evidence that I’ve come across as to what Jake’s middle name is anyway. When I was writing that scene, it just seemed to roll of the tongue right, so I thought ‘what the heck.’
I suppose that I should also make some comment on why it looks like the Sloane parents are being made the bad guys. Well, every story needs a bad guy . . . Okay, not really, but, like Amy, this story will developed as things go on. There’s no real hard background on any of them, or evidence as to how they would react to the situation. None of the Sloane family have any real screen time through the last two seasons of Daria, the exception being Kay, whose time was minimal at best.
I hope that answers some questions, though I know I haven’t even remotely answered all of them. Feel free to drop a line if you wish.
As always, an open invitation for any fan art is out!
Send ‘em to Greystar@Hotmail.com