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 sixteenth story in the Falling into College series.
A Daze at the Races
Quinn Morgendorffer entered her home after another Monday afternoon tutoring session with Kevin Thompson, former star quarterback for the Lawndale Lions. "April…Only seven more weeks and we're done. At least he's behaving himself these days."
She set her backpack on the coffee table and began to sort the day's mail. One envelope caught her attention; she opened it with a mixture of eagerness and dread.
Dear Ms. Quinn Morgendorffer,
Congratulations. We are pleased to accept you at Pepperhill University as an incoming freshman of the Class of 2004. We eagerly await the attendance of such an upstanding scholar as you.
Your orientation and registration packet will be arriving within the next week. Please follow all instructions carefully and fully to avoid any delays when you arrive in August.
She jumped and pumped her fist in the air. "Yes!"
The yell reverberated through an empty house. A hint of sadness touched her eyes before she rushed to the kitchen phone and keyed in a number.
Michael Fulton pushed his glasses up and eyed the ringing telephone. He rose from the desk chair and walked to it at the opposite end of his girlfriend's dorm room. "Hello."
Quinn rolled her eyes. "Michael?"
"Is Daria somewhere around?"
"She's down the hall, in the bathroom."
"I could always run down the hall to tell her to hurry."
"No, don't do that."
"Is there a problem?"
"Oh…um…no. I'm just excited."
"I hadn't noticed."
Quinn felt a minor irritation at him. "Daria would have to find somebody as sarcastic as she is."
"Some things you just can't resist."
"You do realize that you're contributing to my folks' flakiness about Daria."
"Seems like the least I can do."
Quinn's lips formed a sincere smile. "Don't say anything to her, but I'm glad she has someone like you around. You do make her happy."
"Uh…thanks, Quinn. Your secret's safe."
Daria entered the room and looked over. "Who's that?"
"She's probably calling with her birthday wish list. I told her it would be easier to email, but she likes that personal touch."
Daria took the phone. "Hi, Quinn, what's up?"
"I got in! I'm going to Pepperhill!"
"You did? Congratulations. I bet Mom and Dad are thrilled."
"Um…they're not home yet. You're the first I've told."
"I hope they get home soon. I know you must be excited."
"I am! Just think of all the cute boys I can find in southern California."
"We must keep our priorities."
"Oh, Daria! You are so right, just think of all the great new Hollywood fashions I can get!"
"Just don't let all that pesky school work get in the way."
"Don't worry, that's my ticket to stay there. Talk about motivation."
Daria gave a light laugh. "Only from you would that make complete sense, and actually comfort me."
"Thanks Daria, I appreciate the confidence."
"Besides the great news, how are you doing?"
"Busy. Getting ready for the prom and still tutoring Tiffany and Kevin. The grade-fixing scandal is really going crazy. The police carted off Ms. Li's computer a couple days ago. Coach Gibson was suspended."
"It couldn't happen to nicer people."
"They had to cancel the end of spring football season because too many players were put on probation."
"Wait. You must be smack in the middle of this, what with you tutoring Kevin."
"Mom's keeping a close eye on things."
"One time I'm glad she's a lawyer."
"I heard some interesting news about you and Michael…"
Daria narrowed her eyes. "Yesss?"
"Did he really say it?"
Daria smiled at Michael. "He did."
"That is one way to put it."
"What did you say back?"
"Quinn, don't pry."
"I'm only showing a little sisterly concern. After hearing about you two sleeping together at Jane's party and now saying he loves you, I wanted to know if I needed to worry about finding a bridesmaid's dress any time soon."
Daria did pleasantly remember her and Michael sleeping next to each other in Jane's room when they were stuck overnight by a winter storm, along with Jane, her roommate CC, and CC's boyfriend. Michael's inadvertent admission of his feelings a little over a week earlier had been a wonderful and frightening surprise.
However, Daria glared in irritation at her sister's suggestions. "Quinn…I don't know how you heard…but to put it bluntly, no. Nothing happened between us, and nothing like the other…subject…is even remotely in the consideration stages. Put the catalogs away."
Quinn grinned at her sister's discomfort. "Okay Daria, if you say so."
"Just remember, Sis; you will get involved with somebody, eventually. I will have satisfaction."
"I'm sure you will. By the way, did you get my shopping list?"
"We only just got in, let me check." Daria went to her computer and opened her email. After a few moments, she said, "Got it. Gee, Quinn, you're getting soft in your old age."
"Well…I did trim the list to things from stores you will actually go into."
"Um…thanks. I shouldn't have any problems overnighting your present to you before Saturday."
"Daria, be glad your birthday falls on a normal day of the year."
"That is one thing you always did get short-changed on. But, look at it this way: your future husband will never forget the date."
Quinn rolled her eyes and was about to respond when she heard the front door open. "Somebody's home, I want to go tell them. Talk to you later."
Jake Morgendorffer was blindsided by Quinn running up and hugging him. She excitedly said, "Daddy, I'm going to Pepperhill! I made it!"
Jake returned the hug and looked confused. "Huh?"
"Pepperhill! College! They accepted me!"
"Oh! That's great Quinn. We need to celebrate. How about if I call and have a cheeseless pizza delivered for tonight?"
"Now, if we get your mother home…"
"Gaaahhhhhh! Where'd that stupid calculator get off to this time?" Jake yelled to nobody in particular. He scanned and shuffled through the paperwork heaped on the coffee table. Income tax forms stared up at him like the Pits of Hell. "What a way to ruin a perfectly good Saturday!"
Helen Morgendorffer sat down next to Jake and sifted through part of the accumulated paper. Jake turned to her, "Have you seen…" He stopped when she pulled the offending instrument from its hiding place and handed it to him.
She smiled and said, "Here, Jake."
He looked at it sheepishly. "Thanks, Honey."
She patted his leg. "We'll get through this, together, like we do every year."
"I always kind of feel bad that we never get this done earlier. I mean, it is so unfair to Quinn."
"You're right. We really shouldn't wait until the last day to get this done."
Quinn quietly watched from halfway down the stairs. It seems like I've heard that for as long as I can remember. After today, it won't matter. She put on a happier face and continued down the stairs. "Good morning."
Her parents turned to face her and said in unison, "Happy birthday!"
Smiling, Quinn said, "Thanks." If I ever find out who made April 15 the due day for income tax…I'll get Daria to come up with something horrible to do to them.
Helen tapped Jake's shoulder. "Now." Jake got up and headed toward the closet under the stairs. Helen turned to Quinn. "Sweetie, I'm sorry, but once again…" Helen looked at the tax paperwork.
"This time, we are not going to make you wait." Helen went into the kitchen, returning with a small cake as Jake emerged from the closet with two gifts. Jake and Helen said, "Happy birthday, Quinn."
Quinn smiled at the effort and blew out the eighteen candles. "Thanks."
Jake handed the larger package over. "From your sister."
Inside, Quinn found a black, silk dress that had been on the wish list she'd sent Daria. A last entry she never thought Daria would actually want, or afford, to buy. Also inside was a note:
I've never been good at finding things like this. That green sweater you gave me last year has become one of my favorites. I hope you enjoy this as much.
P.S. Happy Legality.
Helen looked on in utter surprise as Quinn slowly drew the dress from the box. "That's beautiful."
Quinn looked it over approvingly. "Well, I did give her the idea. But, I never thought she would buy something like this." Thanks, Sis.
Jake looked on in confusion. "Quinn, who's that from? I though you were opening Daria's present."
Helen looked at him in frustration. "Jake...that is Daria's gift."
Jake looked sidelong at Helen, and then back at the dress. "But…it's a dress…for Quinn."
Helen nodded. "Yes."
"But…she's never bought Quinn clothes…"
Helen placed a hand on his knee. "This time, she made a special effort. Our children are beginning to show signs of tolerating each other."
Quinn moved over next to him. "Don't be upset Daddy. I was surprised, too." Quinn whispered in his ear, "I think she secretly likes me."
Jake turned in surprise. "Of course she likes you, you're her sister!"
"Yes, Daddy, but she tries to keep quiet about it."
"Oh, yeah. She has to stay cool about things. I understand."
Quinn smiled at her father and opened the smaller, somewhat familiar-looking box. She removed a one-thousand dollar CD, with a maturation date in less than a month. "Wow, money for down payment on a car, thanks."
Helen asked, "Would you mind going with us next month with Daria? We can look for cars for both of you at the same time."
Quinn smiled at her mother. "Sure, that way, we can make sure Daria doesn't get something dreadful."
"Quinn! You are each going to choose your own car, within your budget. You will not try to influence Daria's choice."
"Okay. But Mom, even your parents outright bought cars for their children, why are you going through all this with us?"
Helen looked a little sad. "Because I don't want to make the mistake my parents made in choosing cars for their children. Even though mine did last longer than Rita's. We don't want you to take your cars for granted, the way Rita and I did. Plus, this way will get both of you set up well to build your own good credit."
"I figured it would be something like that." Quinn grinned. "But, I had to try."
Helen gave her a brief glare. "How many of your classmates with cars really appreciate them?"
"Well, Stacy does…but she only drives it on the track…and she helped her dad build it."
"Are you still going to see her this afternoon?"
"Of course. Somebody has to look good at the race track. And, she got us infield passes this time so we don't have to sit in those smelly bleachers."
"I worry about her. Racing is such a dangerous sport."
"She's as safe as possible, Mom. Her dad has her in all the best safety equipment and we made sure it was all properly color coordinated."
"You would not believe how hard it was to get a fire-proof suit made that didn't look…brrr." Quinn shuddered in horror. "Plus, we have her in one of those full helmets, so Stacy doesn't have to wear those…goggles…or get all that…grime-stuff…on her face. It really couldn't have been good for her pores."
Helen said, "Uh…that's nice, Sweetie."
"But, that neck-brace thingy. It's new, supposed to keep her head from moving around too much in a crash." Quinn rolled her eyes. "God, it looks like it was made by a color-blind engineer. We're still trying to figure out how to make it look decent. We may have to bring in some outside, professional help."
Helen pulled some money from her purse. "Here, take your friends out to dinner to celebrate your birthday, on me."
"Who's going with you today?"
"Just Tiffany. Lindy has to work and couldn't get someone to cover for her."
"Are you still not talking to Sandi?"
"I've tried, but she isn't talking to any of us."
Tiffany Blum-Decker wrinkled her nose. "Stacy…this place smells like…gasoline."
Stacy Rowe was double-checking the arm and leg closures on her protective suit. "Of course it smells like gasoline. This is the pit area."
Quinn leaned against Tiffany. "Just pretend it's the smells in the girl's locker room."
Quinn tapped her temple. "And ignore it."
"Oh…yeah. Good idea."
Dennis Rowe was a tall man with hair the same shade as his daughter's, also pulled into a single pony-tail. He approached the three and said, "Hi, girls."
Tiffany and Quinn both said, "Hi, Mr. Rowe."
Stacy gave him a brief hug. "Daddy."
He looked at her. "How are things coming?"
Stacy giggled a little as she pulled a hood over her head and tucked it inside the neck of her suit. After smoothing it, she replied, "Fine, almost there." She looked toward Quinn and Tiffany. "Guys, could you please grab my gloves and helmet?"
Quinn picked up the full-face helmet and handed it to Stacy; she pulled it down and fastened the strap. Tiffany helped her with the gloves. Her muffled voiced said, "Time to go."
She slid into the driver's seat of her blue car and buckled in. Her father reached in and fitted the HANS device around her neck and secured it properly. "Go get'em."
Stacy started the car and pulled out toward the forming racers on the track.
Mr. Rowe watched with a smile, and then turned to his daughter's friends. "Stacy tells me you're eighteen today. Congratulations."
Quinn smiled. "Thanks, Mr. Rowe."
"I also appreciate the two of you taking her out for her birthday a couple weeks ago. You have been very good friends for her. Anyway, I set up a place on top of the box van. The ladder is on the back. I'll be trackside by the pits if you need anything. Have fun, girls."
The box van had "Rowe Custom Automotive" on the side. The two women climbed on top, to find two folding chairs placed under a folding umbrella set into a fitting on the roof. A small cooler of diet sodas were also in place. Quinn and Tiffany applied sunscreen and adjusted their sun hats against the afternoon glare. They smiled at each other as various males in the vicinity stumbled into things as they looked up at the two.
Stacy scanned the cars around her. I hate starting in the middle of the field. She felt exhilaration as the last turn cleared and she saw the start line. A green flag dropped with the lead car's approach. As an almost organic whole, the pack of cars began to accelerate. Stacy did the same, then backed off for a half-second and drifted to the right, allowing a small gap to open as the next car maneuvered clear of her. She sped into the gap to gain a little position in the pack before reaching Turn One.
Quinn pointed to Stacy gaining in the pack. "I still cannot believe Stacy's doing something like that. I'd be a basket case."
Tiffany nodded. "You know…when we were little...Stacy was a tom-boy."
Quinn looked at her friend. "No!"
"Yeah…until middle school."
"She…didn't seem shy then…hmm."
Quinn twisted in frustration to keep the blue car in sight. We need swivel chairs for this. Next time. "I wonder…was that about the time she started hanging out with Sandi?"
"Yeah. Sandi always was…good at fashion."
The car in front of her broke into a partial skid entering a corner. Stacy eased off the accelerator slightly to reduce speed and eased past to the inside, clearing the incident, but costing her position. She hit the gas hard as she moved back up and scanned for an opening.
Tiffany sipped from her diet soda. "Stacy asked me and Sandi…to help her dress…more like a girl. Eighth grade."
Quinn looked thoughtful. "Uh huh."
"Sandi…really worked hard…Stacy had so…much to learn."
"I think…Sandi got frustrated…Stacy was never that…sure about what to wear."
"Tell me about it." But that explains a few things.
Well into the race, Stacy was relieved at the looser pack of cars. She eyed ahead and gently drifted to take a position to get ahead of the next car as they entered the curve. She kept her father's advice in mind, Firm and safe. You have to finish to win.
Tiffany tapped the arm of her chair impatiently. "I wish there was something to eat around here."
Quinn waved a hand. "I know. What is it with all those hamburgers, hot dogs and fries? I mean...blech. Is it so hard to sell carrot sticks?"
"They don't even have diet sodas. I'm glad Stacy brought some."
Quinn looked down at the cooler. "We should probably save a couple for her."
Seventy-five miles and three quarters done. Stacy allowed a little smile. She was doing well: ninth in a race of twenty-five. She was able to keep her position, but was not gaining on the lead cars. She pushed down a little harder, but there was nothing more for the engine to give. Three cars ahead, two racers tapped corners, driving both cars into spins.
Stacy let out an "Eep!" and felt every muscle in her body tighten. She slipped her car in directly behind the car in front and followed it past the spins. Just as she thought she was clear, she felt a sickening crunch and the car jerked to the side.
The car began to spin as she remembered her father taking her out onto that old wet clay road. He said, "Turn into the spin to gain control," as he locked the brakes and threw the car into a spin, and then recovered. "Your turn." Stacy completed one spin and felt control returning. She had lost time, but regained speed and continued back into the pack.
Tiffany stared wide-eyed at the track. "Oh…my God."
Quinn's hands went to her face. "Stacy!"
Both slumped back in visible relief as Stacy recovered and continued, albeit with a horribly mangled rear quarter-panel.
Quinn looked over at Tiffany. "We're getting too old for this."
Tiffany cocked her head. "But…huh?"
Only three laps, Stacy told herself as she began to smell burnt rubber from the back of the car. She also heard scraping and thumping of the damaged car body as it shook in the slipstream. Driving a little more carefully, Stacy had still moved back to eleventh place. The slight shake in the steering wheel kept her from pushing the car any harder.
Two laps. The smell was getting stronger. Stacy worriedly looked back, but could see nothing amiss. Keeping a steady pace, she managed to slide below the next car and gain position in the next corner.
One lap. It seemed like a fine, pale cloud was forming behind her. Stacy wished the cloud away as she worked to maintain her place. As the last curve passed, she held her breath and gave a little extra until she passed the finish line. Exhaling in relief, she quickly moved toward the inside and slowed, rolling into the pit. Forty feet shy of her station; she felt the right rear tire blow and the back of the car shake hard as she rolled to a stop.
A small trail of smoke rose from the wheel well as Dennis jumped over the rail. Another pit crewman ran to the car with a fire extinguisher and began to spray the wheel area. Dennis reached the car and began to help unbuckle Stacy, pulling her through the window as soon as she was clear. He held her close as they quickly moved away and sternly said, "Why didn't you pull in earlier? A tire blowing like that could have sent you into a wall!"
Stacy looked startled. "But…but I was so close."
"No buts. You also have to think of the other drivers. Going out of control could have taken a couple other cars out, too."
Stacy looked down. "Oh." She looked up sadly. "Sorry."
Dennis softened at his daughter's contrition. "I'm glad you didn't get hurt out there. Go get changed; I'll take care of the car."
Still quiet, she said, "Okay."
Stacy met up with her friends after changing into her normal clothes. "Hi, guys."
Quinn turned. "Stacy, you had us scared for a minute there."
Tiffany blinked. "Really scared."
"Sorry guys. I wanted to finish so bad, I ignored the smoke."
Quinn glared. "Smoke? I was talking about the car that hit you."
Stacy weakly smiled. "Something rubbed against a tire and it started to smoke."
"It blew as I pulled in."
Quinn's face dropped into shock. "Stacy!"
Stacy looked down again. "I know. My Dad already talked to me. I'm sorry."
Quinn gave her a reassuring smile. "Don't let it happen again."
Quinn smiled more broadly and put her hands on her hips. "Great, now we all go out to dinner, on my Mom."
Tiffany said, "Quinn…Your Mom is so cool."
Quinn turned slightly so Tiffany wouldn't see her rolled eyes.
Stacy cheered up. "Oh, thanks, Quinn."
"I thought I would find the three of you here. Not the most fashionable place to be hanging out," Sandi Griffin said from where she stood near Jake's Lexus.
Quinn smiled. "Sandi, how nice to see you."
Tiffany said, "Hi…Sandi."
Stacy remained quiet.
Sandi shuffled her feet. "Well…um…But then, this is such a place in need of a good example. I'm sure the fashion sense of everyone here went up from your fine example."
Quinn nodded. "Thanks, Sandi. We were about to go out for dinner, on my Mom's treat. Care to join us?"
Sandi smiled, and her voice slightly cracked. "Oh. Thank you, Quinn."
"You're welcome. We were going to meet at Governor's Park in two hours. Any problem with that?"
Sandi hugged Quinn. "No, not at all."
Quinn eyed Sandi with a hint of distrust.
Helen looked up from the tax paperwork as Quinn descended the stairs wearing her gift from Daria. Helen brightened and said, "Quinn, you look lovely. It is nice to see you in your sister's gift."
Quinn waggled her head slightly. "Mo-om. Of course I'm going to wear it. And I'm going to make sure everyone knows she bought it for me."
"That is so sweet."
Quinn flashed Helen a wicked grin. "She'll never live it down."
"Quinn!" Helen belted as her daughter disappeared out the door.
Tiffany's eyes were wide. "No…Your sister?"
Stacy raised her eyebrows. "Daria?"
Sandi appraised the dress. "I must say, Quinn; you have done an admirable job in training her to find fashionable clothes."
Quinn half-smiled at Sandi. "So, how have you been lately? We hardly get to see you."
"Oh, I've been around. I have been quite busy."
Stacy held her hands together. "Any chance of getting your teen fashion show going again at your Mom's television station?"
Sandi shook her head in anger. "I'm not working there any more. My mother pinned the blame on me for some news videotape that came up missing." She went into a frighteningly accurate imitation of her mother, Linda Griffin. "'Sacrificing your job makes so much more sense than sacrificing mine. Besides, I brought that tape home for you to see; you should have kept track of it.'"
Tiffany looked on in sympathy. "Sandi…bummer."
Stacy looked down a little. "From your own mother? I can't imagine."
Quinn shook her head. "I never thought she would have sunk so low."
Sandi shook her fist in frustration. "Even after I found the damn thing in my stupid brother's room."
Quinn questioned, "Then why didn't you just give it back?"
Sandi got a disgusted look. "My icky brother had given it to Upchuck to get some dirty movies copied onto it."
Tiffany and Stacy both went, "Ewww!"
Quinn closed here eyes and shivered. "Gross!"
"I burned the miserable little thing."
Stacy winced. "I don't blame you. Yuck!"
Sandi ground her teeth. "What really gets me is that she brought it home because she couldn't figure out it was Quinn's sister on the tape."
Quinn raised her eyebrows. "What was Daria doing on a news tape?"
"It was that stupid award dinner your Mom did last year."
"Oh." Quinn thought of what Upchuck potentially had taped over the story. "Eww!"
Sandi felt a little uncomfortable. Upchuck had used a screen capture from the tape in what looked like a stalker's website of Daria. The network's legal department had a fit when they discovered the image used on the website was from copyrighted material that was never broadcast. Such an image could only have come from a station copy, potentially making the station and network liable. Pressure was applied, and someone had to be held responsible.
Tiffany looked at her water glass. "Can we…change the subject?"
Quinn quickly nodded. "Yes, we do need to change the subject. How is everyone doing getting ready for the prom? It's only three weeks away."
Tiffany smiled. "I get the final…fitting for my dress…next week. I found something that…doesn't make me look…fat."
Stacy looked a little downcast. "I still haven't found anything."
Sandi looked over. "Do you want some help? I think I can fit you in."
"Oh, Sandi. Thank you."
"Bye, now." Quinn waved to Stacy exiting the restaurant. She turned to the one person remaining with her at the table. "Okay, Sandi. What is going on?"
"What do you mean, Quinn?"
"You haven't spoken to us in five months. Suddenly, you act like you've just returned from a long vacation."
"Can't someone get back in touch with their friends?"
"That's what I wonder. Are we your friends?"
Sandi looked down at her check. "I hope so."
"You three are the only friends I had."
"We tried to talk to you."
"I know. I was too mad."
"I kind of guess I was, too."
"I've missed all of you."
"We missed you."
Sandi looked up pleadingly. "Friends?"
Quinn smiled. "Friends."
Quinn parked the Lexus and checked her watch: 11:20. She cautiously approached the front door and listened. Muffled sounds of her parents at a near panic could be heard. Quinn closed her eyes, smiled and shook her head. Some things you can always depend on. Patiently, she stood near the corner of the garage.
Within a couple of minutes, Jake burst forth from the front door, a large envelope in hand and madness in his eyes. He sprinted toward Helen's red SUV and slammed into it full-force when the locked door failed to open. "Gahhh! Dammit!" On the third try, he got the key in the lock and opened it. He tossed the envelope on the dashboard and started the engine. With the door still closing, he barked the tires as he backed down the driveway.
As the vehicle reached the road, Quinn yelled, "Daddy, turn your lights on!"
Jake turned in surprise, looked down and sheepishly turned the lights on. He waved at Quinn and sped away at high speed.
Quinn smiled at her father and went into the house.
Thanks to readers at PPMB for comments, suggestions and support: Mike Nassour, mman, The Angst Guy, Greystar, Isa Yo-Jo, Kristen Bealer, gearhead, Decelaraptor, DJW, Staren, A.J., Ranger Thorne, and renfield1969.
Thanks to Kristen Bealer for Beta reading.
Revised February 2005