Disclaimer: Daria and associated characters are owned by MTV. This is fan fiction written for entertainment only. No money or other negotiable currency or goods have been exchanged.
Original characters and plot copyright Richard J. Lobinske. 2004.
This is the eleventh story in the Falling into College series.
Nasal, off-key, female singing filtered into Jane Lane's ears one fine Monday in January as she lay in the top bunk of her dorm room in Summerlin Hall, Boston Fine Arts College.
"Gold is for the mistress, silver for the maid,
Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade."
"Good!" said the Baron, sitting in his hall,
"But Iron, Cold Iron, is master of them all."
She pulled the pillow over her obsidian-haired head and groaned through the narrow gap between it and the mattress. "Congratulations, CC. That's scarier than hearing my brother sing first thing in the morning."
Jane's new roommate, CC, stopped singing and grinned at Jane. "Flattery is always encouraged." The young woman returned to combing her dark blue hair and humming the same tune. She wore a long, light grey nightshirt airbrushed with scenes that looked like they had been pulled from a half-dozen fantasy paperbacks.
Jane tossed the pillow against the wall and squinted at the alarm clock on the shelf just above her head. "Eight - ten. Ugh. Glad I only have to walk across the street for class." Half-rolling, she moved her lower body and legs to dangle off the side of the bed, before beginning a slow slide to the floor. Jane's dark maroon shirt pulled partway up her torso from the black shorts she wore. With a zombie-like shuffle, she made her way to the bathroom shared with the residents of the next room.
CC called to Jane, "Be careful, I think The Terror is in there."
"Happy, happy, joy, joy." Jane mumbled as a dense cloud of steam rolled out of the open door, accompanied with a lavender smell so heavy it was almost palpable.
Toweling off next to the shower was a medium height woman with short blond hair. Mary Kelsey waved. "Good morning, Jane."
Jane opened a single eye fully to face the one human on earth that owned and used more beauty products than the entire Former Fashion Club of Lawndale, combined. From the looks of the counter-top, she had most of it with her. Jane responded with "Uh, 'orning Mary," as she closed the toilet stall. She covered her face with toilet paper to cut down the stench of lavender.
The room was little larger than a common residential unit: one shower stall, one toilet stall and a sink/counter combination, in a long, narrow room. Doors in the middle of each long wall led directly to the adjoining rooms. Stalls to one side of the door divide, sink and counter to the other. Apparently, the architect decided adjacent rooms sharing a smaller bathroom would give a more home-like feel to the dorm.
Mary was blow-drying her hair as Jane emerged. Jane reluctantly made her way to the sink to wash her hands and brush her teeth. She worked as quickly as possible to extricate herself from the room before the lavender-induced nausea become overwhelming. Jane made a break back to her room and closed the door. Breathing deeply of fresher air, Jane wondered aloud, "What color is the sky on her planet?"
CC finished buttoning her jeans and tucked in a dark brown pullover shirt. "Willing to bet…it's purple."
Jane smirked and started digging through her clothes. Ten minutes later, she emerged from room 665 wearing a red, hooded sweatshirt and dark grey pants. Her well worn backpack was over her shoulder as she moved to the nearby elevator. Jane stepped in just as Mary's roommate, Nell Girard, came around the corner. Jane held a hand over the door sensor while the brunette girl carefully walked up using elbow crutches.
"Close one. Thanks, Jane."
"Nell. Escaping to fresh air?"
Nell rested against the wall of the elevator car as it headed down. "I'm convinced she doesn't use oxygen."
"Bad enough sharing the bathroom with her. You must be in agony."
"Some, but I look at it this way: at least she bathes."
"Nell, I'd rather smell my brother's week-old socks than those perfumes of hers."
"But, could you image those perfumes trying to cover up your brother's week-old socks?"
Jane looked queasy. "Nell, I haven't had breakfast yet."
The elevator doors opened and the two young women worked their way to the dorm cafeteria.
Jane grabbed an extra tray as Nell followed her. "Nothing but the finest institutional food."
Nell smiled. "Had worse."
Jane nodded. "Much worse."
The two worked through the line, each swiping a school-issued meal card at the register. Jane balanced both trays as they made their way to an empty table.
Nell said, "Might as well join me. I don't bite."
Jane sat down and placed trays on the table. "Are you sure?"
"I don't bite anything that isn't cooked at least medium-well."
"So I'm a little too rare for your taste?"
Nell smiled again. "Okay, I give."
Jane began to eat and pulled out her English Composition I textbook to read. She sighed as she thought of the coming day. Following English, she had College Mathematics and Life Science. Three of five classes with nothing to do with art. Three of five days of the week with no art classes. A least Tuesday and Thursday are a little better. Art History I is interesting, and Beginning Sculpture is real art.
Nell pulled out a notebook and began to rewrite sloppily written notes.
Jane set the book down. "Come to an arts college, and hardly get to do any art. Not quite what I had in mind. Did you get as frustrated, your first semester?"
Nell looked up. "That doesn't even start to describe it. They hit you hard first semester so you can focus on the General Ed stuff without getting distracted by your art. You're kind of lucky to start in spring; you can play in the Boston Ice Tea Party if you want to work off some creativity."
Jane raised an eyebrow. "Ice Tea Party?"
Nell grinned. "One of the great art competitions around here. The rules are simple: you have to produce an ice sculpture for judging. Any size, format or style."
Jane glared warily. "Where's the ice tea come in?"
"Oh, yeah. You have to use frozen tea for the ice."
Jane grinned. "Please tell me you're not kidding."
"I'm not. Ice sculptures out of frozen tea. The contest is the last weekend of January. Gives you a little under a week to come up with an idea. You have to register this week; can't start until Saturday. Prize is a thousand bucks."
"Jane grinned wider. "I'm in."
Saturday morning, Karen Myerson reclined on her bed and glanced over at Daria Morgendorffer, doing the same in a bed across their dorm room at Raft University. "Why is she here again?"
"They won't even let students have a coffee machine in her dorm," Daria replied.
"But we're going to have enough tea to float the hall."
"Or enough to keep us awake for weeks."
Jane looked over from near Daria's dresser top. The usual array of small appliances was pushed aside, leaving only the coffee machine making hot water, and a one-cup immersion heater doing the same. Scattered across the rest of the surface were clear plastic cups containing tea, each with a small label attached. Boxes containing different types of tea were also scattered around the countertop, plus a healthy number of spent bags in the trash. "Don't let anyone fool you. Art requires work."
Daria shook her head. "Looking for a job as a mad English maid?"
"Funny, Morgendorffer. I'm freezing them, trying to get an ice that looks exactly like amber."
Karen looked up. "Going to put bugs in it?"
"The old panels in St. Petersburg didn't, but, it could add a little interesting spice." Jane developed a shifty-looking smile. "I'm sure you can find some cool looking bugs at the zoo."
Daria peered curiously at Jane. "You're not."
Jane smirked back. "Try me."
Karen looked between the two. "Glad to be of service. I'm sure I can find a few interesting things at work. The insectary usually has some nifty stuff."
Daria cringed. "Amber-like panels, with bugs, and Austrian royal motifs. You are so sick, I'm glad to call you friend."
Karen looked confused. "Yeah, yeah, your roomie's an art moron. Besides the bugs, what the hell are you two going on about?"
Jane rubbed her hands together. "The Amber Room."
Silence. Karen raised her hands in supplication. "This tells me?"
Daria turned to Karen. "The Czarist palace in St. Petersburg had a room decorated with amber friezes. The original disappeared during the German occupation in World War Two. Though, Jane clearly doesn't have time to do the whole thing, and I'm sure she will add her own particular slant to the project."
"Well, more of a concept piece off the original idea. I'm aiming for a small corner of panels, with more Lane royal family motifs."
Karen pulled herself up to sit cross-legged on the bed. "How are you going to freeze it? There has to be a bunch of people entering, where do they have room?"
"It's winter in Boston. We freeze them in the main courtyard of BFAC. Set the containers out overnight and let Mother Nature do the rest."
Daria got up from the bed and wandered over to the tea array. "Do you have any idea of how to hang the panels in an open courtyard?"
Jane crossed her arms and looked pleased. "Already taken care of. I'll have two portable support frames from the gallery to use."
"You're starting to sound pretty sure of yourself."
"I'm the Artist Extraordinaire. Of course I'm sure of myself."
Daria raised an eyebrow.
"If I wasn't, the other students would eat me alive out there. Competitive art is rough."
Karen smirked. "Though you might let some of the cuter guys nibble some."
Daria opened the small refrigerator and removed a bottle of barbeque sauce. "Think this will help me find her a date?"
Karen shook her head. "Doesn't quite go right." Karen thought for a moment; then waved her finger. "I bet a good curry would work better."
Daria rubbed her chin. "I think you're right. We clearly need a superior spice level to go with Jane."
Jane looked between the two. "Um…guys. When was the last time you ate?"
Daria looked at Jane, and then back toward Karen. "A good merlot might work."
Karen slapped her leg. "Oooh. No. That Hungarian red wine you used last week for the goulash."
Jane started rapidly putting cups in the freezer. "That's it. We are going out for pizza."
Karen shrugged. "Seems a little early for lunch."
Jane finished storing the cups. "Sounds like you two haven't been fed lately."
Daria grinned. "We're fine. Just making advanced plans." Daria reached for her wallet.
Karen rose and grabbed her purse. "You know. We'll need some kind of slow cooking process. With all the running she does…"
Daria put on her heavy coat. "Damn. You're right. The meat's going to be stringy. That means we need a good marinade."
Jane grabbed her jacket. "For that one, you're buying."
Karen finished with her jacket. "Sounds like a plan to me. Daria's buying."
Daria scowled at the two of them. "Later…sometime in the dead of night…you two will regret that."
Jane looked out of her room window at the light snow falling across the street on the BFAC campus. Saturday night, and she was alone with her sketches. Jane had insisted Daria keep her date with Michael. The whole third wheel thing was just too weird to repeat. Jane hadn't seen her roommate, CC, all day. Not something uncommon; CC tended to keep unique hours.
"Damn, Daria. I was kind of hoping you weren't kidding about playing matchmaker. Old Janey's been kind of lonely the last few months."
She picked up the sketchpad and went back to work. New designs for the ice panels flowed from the pencil with practiced ease. Jane smiled as the composition came together under her careful guidance.
Jane used the covered walk over the street to pass from the dorm to campus. She made a direct line to Young Hall and the college galleries. Just inside the courtyard doors was a pair of steel-framed support stands, with signs taped to each. "Reserved for Jane Lane". Propping the doors open, she moved the stands into the courtyard. At least twenty other students, all bundled tightly against the winter chill, were busy at designated display/work stations around the courtyard. Scattered around the students were buckets, drums, boxes and a wide range of other containers containing frozen, or freezing, tea.
Jane located her station and put the stands in place. She checked the table and several shallow pans already in place. Jane hurried back inside and went to the empty gallery closest to the courtyard doors. Placed on tables inside were four large coffee urns of hot water. Along the tables were a dozen or more buckets. Jane grabbed three buckets and filled them with hot water. Opening her backpack, she counted out tea bags for each bucket and placed them inside. She checked the time on her watch and leaned back to wait. After ten minutes, she carried the buckets out to her table and carefully filled pans. Once the liquid settled, Jane carefully placed selected, Karen-supplied, insects within. Three repeats of the process had the four pans filled. Jane stretched her stiff fingers.
"These buckets are getting heavy," Jane muttered. She looked at her hands, the pans, and the frames. "Crap. I better start figuring out just how much this grand idea is going to weigh."
Daria looked up from her quick calculations. "Assuming that each of your eighteen by thirty-six inch panels are a little over two inches thick. Roughly, that's close to fifty pounds. Six panels per frame will be around three hundred."
Jane nodded. "Hmmm. Better come up with something a little tougher than twine to hold them up and together."
"That would be a safe bet. Good thing you thought of this now."
Jane looked upward. "Having a sculpture fall on top of a judge would probably do bad things to my score."
Daria leaned back from the workbench chair in Jane's dorm room and smiled. "That's something I really missed."
"Watching you obsess over a project."
"I'm not obsessed, I'm focused."
"You missed that?"
"You provide hours of amusement."
Jane wagged her finger at Daria. "Just you wait, Missy. I know just how to deal with such impudence."
"Hey, how about some of that high-strength monofilament line the off-shore anglers use?"
"Cool. Won't be as obvious either. Your impudence is forgiven. This time."
"Why, thank you for the noble gesture."
"Don't ask me where this came from, but I just remembered. Where did you get that wine you used in that goulash? You're underage."
"Michael's roommate. He's legal age. From what I've seen of that sleazeball, he probably thought Michael was going to get me drunk for some nefarious purpose."
"So, is Michael's room as bad as he makes it sound?"
"It would make Dante crap his pants."
Jane grimaced. "Yuck."
"My thoughts, too."
Jane rubbed her hands together and smirked. "So…have you and Michael been getting…nefarious?"
"Jane…I know where you live."
"That, I'll take as a no."
Jane worked, as free time permitted, through the week, freezing, chipping, sawing, and smoothing ice. One by one, the panels took shape. Complex designs of music, guitars, pottery, Mesoamerican gods, and Sick, Sad World filled the surfaces. The insects showing through the ice were blended into the overlying pattern.
While the various sculptures were covered when the artists were away, Jane was able to see the other pieces as they were being worked on. The talent filling the space was something she had never imagined. Immediately to her right rose an eight foot Egyptian obelisk, the surface slowly being covered with hieroglyphs, a hint of milk added to the tea to give an opacity that looked like worn sandstone. Three down to the left was a lone tree stump, different tones of tea blended together to give the bark and wood. Across the courtyard, a phoenix rose in flames. Regularly, Jane thought, This is the big league. Do I even know what I'm doing here?
Jane was also amazed at the trust shown. There was an air around the courtyard that held each sculpture sacred. The creativity was razor-edged and impressive. The competition was determined and intimidating. But, nobody would dare to sabotage another work. Jane felt a sense of community that she hadn't felt at Ashfield Art Colony a year and a half ago. The excitement continued to build within her.
Jane stepped off the elevator in Fenderson Hall and headed down the hall to Daria's room. She stopped short upon noticing Karen sitting in the hall next to their door, quietly reading a chemistry textbook and sipping a soda.
"Whoa, what's up? Daria have a hot date and kick you out?"
Karen shook her head. "Bet she wishes. She's on the phone with her some of her family. Last two days have been real Twilight Zone for her."
"Twilight Zone and her family always go together."
Karen shook her head and didn't smile. "No, this is really creepy stuff. Yesterday, she was at her transcription job, when she found a recording of her grandfather."
Jane's hand went to her mouth. "Mad Dog?"
"Yeah. She stayed late tonight to see if there were any others. She found a second one."
"From what I've heard of him, this can't be good."
"Daria gave me a brief outline. It sounds like her grandfather endured some stuff that nobody should ever experience. Daria really felt sorry for him. She wanted to talk to her grandmother and father. So, I'm giving her some space."
Jane slid down on the floor next to Karen. "It made Daria feel sorry for her grandfather? I don't think I ever want to know the details."
"She could use a few ears when she's done. Mind staying to provide an extra pair?"
"That's what we're here for." Jane sat beside Karen. Certainly beats sitting around my dorm feeling like an amateur artist.
Jane waited nervously through the Saturday afternoon. She'd shelled out for a new pair of black jeans to wear, her boots were polished, and her bright red coat had been dry cleaned. The courtyard of finished sculptures was a wonderland of bold and imaginative imagery. Three figures trudged up: Daria in her heavy green winter coat, holding hands with Michael, in camo. Behind them was Karen in her brown coat.
"Hey everybody. Good to see you. Karen, no Derek today?"
"National Guard weekend."
Daria and Michael examined the sculpture. Twelve panels were in place with the frames, forming a corner. About one inch of space separated each. With clear monofilament line for support, they seemed to float in the air. Afternoon sunlight shining through them produced a dazzling backlight.
Michael separated from Daria and examined Jane's sculpture closely. "Wow. Daria, no wonder you've picked up such intolerance for bad art. You've been hanging around stuff like this."
Jane nudged in beside Daria and whispered. "You have him well trained."
Daria smiled. "He came that way."
Jane spoke to Michael. "Thank you. I was just complimenting Mistress Daria on how well behaved you are."
Michael gave Jane a brief wink. "You know how she is when she brings the whip out."
Daria glared at Michael.
Karen stopped her examination of the work at one particular bug, and its position relative to one of the carved figures. "That's just wrong…wrong and sick…and perverted. I like it."
Jane chuckled. "Those two sure are."
Karen looked up, confused. "Huh?"
Daria, Jane and Michael laughed.
Karen pouted and put fists on her hips. "What?"
Jane grinned and shook her head. "Karen, you don't want to know. Why don't you three wander around some? I have to stay here, but you really should see the other entries. Oh, somebody grab me some coffee on the way back, please?"
Daria and Michael wandered off in one direction, Karen in another. Jane patiently waited around her station, occasionally talking with visitors about herself or her work.
Twenty minutes later, a tall, lanky young man with black hair approached. He wore a black snowmobile jacket with a red stripe down each sleeve. He carried two cups of coffee with him. "Jane Lane?"
Jane eyed him suspiciously.
"Daria Morgendorffer asked me to bring a cup out to you. She and her boyfriend are inside."
Jane accepted the offered coffee, wrapping her hands around it for warmth. "Thanks."
"She also said to tell you, 'I owed you one'."
Jane eyed him from head to toe. "She did, did she? You have a name?"
Jane grabbed his hand and shook it. "Nice to meet you, Al. By any chance, has she told you any stories about me?"
"A couple. Makes you sound like you've led an interesting life. Did you really fix a van with a hot glue gun?"
Jane grinned. "Oh, she told you that one. Now let me tell you about what else happened on that trip."
Jane walked away from the small podium holding a plaque. "Award of Merit. That's pretty cool." She joined up with Daria, Michael, Karen and Al.
Daria looked a little sad. "Sorry you didn't do better."
Jane placed one hand on her hip and gave a sly grin. "Daria, I was beaten by better artists. They were more creative, more imaginative, and more technically skilled." Jane waved her other hand around the courtyard. "This is a real world of art. Look at the vision and genius shown here. I'm a novice looking upon giants." She momentarily looked uncertain, and then developed a bright gleam in her blue eyes. "But some day, I will be among them. And it's all your doing." Jane quickly lunged and hugged Daria.
Jane released her friend. "Thanks, Amiga."
Cold Iron by Rudyard Kipling (musical arrangement by Leslie Fish)
Thanks to the denizens of PPMB for comments and suggestions: Steven Galloway, Ranger Thorne, Roger E. Moore, Decelaraptor, Kristen Bealer, and Parker-man.