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 seventeenth story in the Falling into College series.
Dr. Harrison Miller leaned back against his desk as he spoke to a young, auburn-haired woman with large, round glasses. "Daria, you've done an exemplary job in transcribing those interviews for me, it's going to save me a tremendous amount of time in getting my book together. I'm going to include you in the Acknowledgements. I wish I could keep you on, but the grant money was limited."
Daria Morgendorffer nodded. "I understand; we both knew this was a temporary position. But, I learned a lot. Finding out about my grandfather's experiences at the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War gave me a new attitude toward him. I think it may have helped my Dad, too. I've also been able to build up a good financial buffer to pay rent for the summer."
Dr. Miller rubbed his chin and held out a sheet of paper. "However, I know of an opening for a part-time proofreader at the Raft University Press. I bet if you asked, you could get a letter of recommendation."
Daria took the advertisement and read.
Raft University Press
Part-time (10-20 hours per week) for the electronic submissions office. Successful candidate must show a professional command of English and be able to work with multiple word processor programs. A proficiency exam will be a part of the application process. This is a 12-month technical support staff position.
Pay: $9.25 per hour
Human Resources Office
215 Founder's Hall
Daria looked up with a small smile. "Is this position a regular university employee?"
Daria smiled. "Staff parking. Thanks. I'll apply right away."
Daria exited the building in good spirits. "I can just make it over to pick up the application. That will give me the weekend to fill it out."
Daria walked through the early Friday evening to her dorm. "Finals are next week. My first year of college is almost done." She allowed herself a small smile.
The following Sunday afternoon, Daria was preparing to go out. Her roommate, Karen Myerson, finished a phone call and said, "Hey, our transportation problems are solved for next weekend when we go apartment hunting."
"My brother, Terry, is going to drive up. His wife is having some redecorating done to their house, and she doesn't want him around to help." Karen smirked. "The last time cost them an extra six hundred. Anyway, we can get around in his truck to look for apartments, and then use it to move our stuff. After everything is done, he's giving me a ride home to Georgia for the summer. He should be here late next Friday."
"Where's he going to stay?"
"I'm still working on that."
"You said truck. I can't see the four of us squeezing into one seat. Jane is going to want to come with."
"Daria, he has a three-quarter ton, four-door truck. There'll be plenty of room."
Daria nodded. "Sounds good. I have an idea. Do you think he'd be willing to drop Jane and me off in Lawndale on the way to back with you to Georgia?"
Karen smiled. "I'm sure he won't object. If he does…let's say I still have the duplicate negatives."
Daria nodded. "I'd appreciate it. So will Dad, if he doesn't have to make the trip to pick us up."
"No real problem. Are you off to see Michael?"
"Just for a little while, on the Commons. Then back to the old study grind."
Daria and Michael Fulton sat on a blanket in the Boston Common. The spring sun warmed both of them as they watched people go by.
Michael looked a little sad. "Well, I made my flight arrangements. I'll leave for Detroit next Saturday."
A hint of sadness also penetrated Daria's usual monotone. "Oh, boy; we get another goodbye at the airport."
"We're going to get attached to that eatery."
"Not unless they improve the food."
"I'm going to miss you."
"Are you sure there is no way you can stay for the summer session?"
"I promised Dad that I'd help this summer. It was part of the deal for me to come to Boston."
"I'm going to miss you, too. I'm still planning on going to see you for the Fourth of July weekend."
"Good luck finding an apartment. Make sure you send the addy as soon as possible."
"You think I'll forget?"
He laughed. "I guess not. Good luck going back to Lawndale for the rest of your stuff and finding a car."
Daria rolled her eyes. "And facing Mom's questions. Once you get back after summer, we will have to get you down there to meet my parents, or my Mom's head is going to burst."
"So, you're saying this is a bad thing?"
"Well, Dad would forget to clean the mess up, leaving it for me the next time I visit."
"Damn, got a point there. Okay, no exploding Mom heads."
Daria smiled and looked up at the sky. "I wish finals weren't starting tomorrow. If this were a communist country, we would have it off for May Day."
Michael smirked. "Maybe we can get off for religious reasons? Want to celebrate Beltane?"
Daria narrowed her eyes and looked at him. "I am not jumping naked over a fire."
Daria felt good as she left the publications office in Founder's Hall, the main administration building of Raft. She'd aced the short proofreading proficiency test, even with her brain in a half-funk after the first day of final exams. "This job could really make life easier."
She put her hands in her jeans pockets for the walk to the men's dorm, Milton Hall. As she approached, she saw Michael's red-headed form waiting outside. He noticed and began to jog toward her with a broad grin on his face. "I've got some great news." He pulled Daria into a quick hug before directing them toward a bench well out on the Quad. "You might want to sit down for this." They took a seat on the bench
Michael turned and rapidly said, "Daria, I got into the Cerretti Undergraduate Archaeology Program in Rome. I'll fly there at the end of summer. It's a great advanced program, with a lot of field experience. I'll be a shoo-in for grad school. I've dreamed about getting into something like this for years."
Daria looked at him in surprise before saying, "And it didn't occur to you to mention this sooner?"
"I'd applied to back in September, and was put on the wait list back in January. I didn't mention it because nobody gets in from the wait list."
Daria glared at him. Go figure.
She felt her heart sag. "How long will you be there?"
"Until I finish my degree…three years."
"But what about…"
"I…I have a proposal."
Daria looked up as he held a dark blue ring box in front of her and opened it. Inside was a yellow gold band set with a marquis-cut emerald.
"P…please marry me?"
Daria stared at the ring, and then into Michael's eyes.
"Yes, it is. For you."
Daria sat back, stunned. She felt emotions crash together with a force she'd never before felt. After a long, thoughtful pause, she asked, "But, what will I do in Rome?"
Michael was running on enthusiasm, overcoming his usual hesitancy. "You'll be with me."
"I'd have to apply to colleges all over again. Even then, it's too late to get into someplace for fall classes."
"I'm sure you can get into a school. Don't worry about it."
Irritation began to set in for Daria. Just like Tom, making decisions for the two of us. "In English? Their English departments would be like our Italian, teaching as a second language. I'd have to change majors, or go without one."
"Then you can write. Imagine what you can do, with all of Rome to be your inspiration."
All her plans for Raft and grad school where colliding against the chance to go with him. "But…I want to continue school here. I fought hard to come to Raft. Writing is fun, but I don't want it to be my work…yet. Going to college like this has been one of my most important dreams."
A true daughter of Helen, she also began to think of the practical aspects. "How're we going to pay for everything? I'll probably have to find some kind of full-time job just to support us. I'd have to delay school until you're finished."
Michael slowed and noticed the deep concern in her eyes. "Daria…what's wrong? I thought…I thought you'd be happy."
Daria felt a single tear moving down her left cheek. "You want me to marry you, but to do that, I have to give up, or seriously delay, my dreams."
Michael slowly asked. "Do you want me to stay?"
"That's what I want…but that means you have to give up your dream." She shook her head. "I can't do that."
Michael looked down in silence.
Daria moved his chin up so she could look directly into his eyes. "Why did you ask me to marry you?"
"I love you. I want you to be there with me. I…I was hoping you would want to come with me."
Daria swallowed to steady her voice. "Did you ask because I am the one person you want to spend the rest of your life with?"
Michael hesitated several seconds. "I…I wanted you to come with me to Rome."
Daria quietly closed the box and gently pushed Michael's hand back. "Then you weren't asking for the right reason. I'm sorry."
Michael looked at the box. "I don't understand."
"You should be asking because you want to be with me for the rest of your life, not just the next three years."
"I guess I was kind of thinking…"
"No, you weren't. Either we go to Rome and give up my dreams, or we stay here and give up yours. I can't give up my dreams, they've been too important to me for too long. My conscience won't let met ask you to give up your dream."
"We recognize." Daria whispered. "We recognize that we've reached the end. We almost had what it took, but it wasn't quite enough. Circumstances intervened. Either route we take now will leave one of us resentful."
"It sounds like you want to break up."
Daria barely nodded. "I'm afraid so." She closed her eyes and braced herself. "It'll be better to stop now, before we make a bigger mess…that will hurt even more." With her jaw held tight against trembling, she whispered, Good bye, Michael."
Daria rose from her seat, and walked away at a slow, even pace; her face an iron mask of control.
Michael sat still as he watched her leave. "Damn you." He struck his leg with his fist. "You can't…" He opened the ring box and looked in. "…Can't you see how important you are?" He closed the box and shoved it into his pocket. "Be that way. Keep on thinking about yourself." He walked back to his dorm. Quietly, he sung in his very rarely used, clear tenor:
et tunc curat
ludo mentis aciem,
dissolvit ut glaciem.
rota tu volubilis,
michi quoque niteris;
nunc per ludum
fero tui sceleris.
michi nunc contraria,
semper in angaria.
Hac in hora
corde pulsum tangite;
quod per sortem
mecum omnes plangite!
Karen Myerson wearily trudged down the hall toward her room. "Only the first day? Oh, man. At this rate, I'm not going to survive the week." She opened the door and found Daria sitting on her bed, surrounded by diary volumes. "Hey, you don't look so good."
Daria looked up with moist eyes. "I broke up with Michael."
Karen waved her hands in front of her chest. "Repeat that. That sounded like you broke up with Michael."
"You heard right." Daria gave a rueful laugh. "Finals week seems to be the time for breakups. I broke up with Tom during finals. Remind me to skip this part next year."
"What in the flying hell happened?"
"He accepted an internship to study archeology in Rome."
"Where did that crap come from?"
"Something he applied for before he knew me. He'd been wait-listed, and forgot about it."
"But he got in anyway."
"Just my luck."
"And he wanted to break up with you to go?"
"No." Daria looked down at her folded hands. "He wanted to marry me."
Karen's face lit up momentarily. "Oh, My God!" Then, her face clouded and her eyes dropped. "You said no."
Daria gently nodded. "What would I do in Rome?"
Karen looked surprised. "What would you do in Rome?" After a moment of thought, she continued, quieter, "Uh…yeah. What would you do? You'd need to find a new school…damn."
"That's a good word for the situation."
"Did you talk about a long-distance relationship?"
"How could it work?"
"I don't know, but you could at least try."
"Why? He is still going away. This is clearly a big dream of his. I couldn't ask him to give it up. But, I can't just drop my dreams here, either. If either of us gave up a dream, they would resent the other. I never want to resent Michael; he has been much too good a gentleman for that. And…I hope he never resents me. What else was there to do?"
"Not give up?"
"Seeing each other a couple times a year, at best? It just wouldn't work."
"I don't think you should be quitting so easily."
Daria pointedly returned her attention to writing in her diary.
Jane Lane knocked on the door of Daria's room. It was pulled open without comment. She looked in to see Daria seated at her work desk. The first thing to catch Jane's notice was the absence of a green pendant around her best friend's neck. A gift from Michael that Daria hadn't been without for almost five months. "Daria, how're you holding up? I heard what happened yesterday."
Daria tiredly rolled her eyes. "Sometimes, friends can be pesky."
"That is just what you need."
Daria snorted. "Thanks."
"When you have a serious problem, you still try to bottle everything up."
"I know." Jane pulled the other chair up and sat near Daria. "I don't have a clue of what to say. But I'm here to at least listen."
Daria pulled a slice of pizza from a box on her dresser. "Help yourself."
Jane grabbed a slice and took a bite. Speaking around it, she mumbled, "Thanks."
Daria continued to study for another five minutes, taking tiny nibbles from the slice of pizza. Finally, she turned toward Jane and softly said, "What hurt the most was that he decided without talking to me first."
"Yes. He decided to go, and then tried to come up with a way to get me to go with him."
Jane nodded. "One hell of a way to try to get you to go."
Daria nodded and looked at Jane in dead seriousness. "I almost said yes."
"But…I just couldn't. I would be so lost and useless there. You know how I can get; I'd be at his throat inside a year."
Jane raised a grim, half-smile. "The sad thing is...you're right."
"And he has such good…that ring was gorgeous."
"He already had a ring? Damn, he was serious."
"I noticed you don't have the necklace on."
Daria shook her head. "It hurt too much."
Jane frowned in sympathy. "I guess I should have seen that."
"I miss it."
Daria rubbed her eyes. "Much more than what I felt when I saw Trent go out with Monique, or when I last saw Tom. Those hurt; this…is pain."
Jane put an arm around Daria's shoulder. "Damn. I'm sorry."
Daria looked down at her lap and barely whispered, "Or if his reason had not been to get me to go to Rome."
"What was that?"
Daria looked at her desk. "Hmm? Oh, not much. I'm talking to myself again."
Daria turned to Jane. "Nothing much. Glad to have a friend watching out for me."
"Hey, that's what I'm here for."
Daria gave her a brief smile.
"Although, you may want to try to talk to him again."
"The reason being?"
"I bet he's hurting as much as you are. Give yourselves another chance."
"I don't see how it would work. But, thanks for trying. If you don't mind, I do need to keep studying. My concentration hasn't been the best lately."
Dr. Lester Killarny sat with his hands clasped in front, looking across his desk at Daria, who was clad in a pressed, green dress shirt and a long black skirt. He said, "I'm glad Dr. Miller pointed you in our direction. With this position only funded for part-time, we've had a devil of a time finding someone."
Daria asked in a quiet deadpan. "I'm surprised you haven't had more students apply."
He weakly smiled. "We have, but none have had your level of proficiency on the test."
He narrowed his eyes. "If you don't mind my asking, you don't seem overly enthused about this position. Why did you apply?"
Daria roused briefly. "Oh, I am interested. It's…that I have some personal issues distracting me."
He nodded. "Think they will be cleared up enough for you to start next week?"
"I'm going to be pretty busy with apartment hunting and moving, finding a car, and bringing stuff from my parent's house in Lawndale. I should be available at the beginning of the following week, though."
"Very good. I'll see you then."
It suddenly dawned on Daria. "I'm hired?"
Dr. Killarny raised an eyebrow. "Yes. You really are distracted."
Daria looked down. "Um…yeah. I do seem to be." She looked up. "Thanks. I should be thinking more clearly by then."
He extended a hand. "Glad to have you on the team."
By Thursday, the room had all the appearance of a disaster, just as it had at the end of fall finals. Food boxes, bottles, cans and cups were haphazardly strewn about. A scattering of clothing along the floor looked every bit like some amoeba-like creature crawling out of the laundry basket in Daria's closet. Faintly looking like a part of the disaster, she sat on her bed attempting to study for her last final.
The telephone ringing brought an angry look, and she pulled it off the cradle in frustration. "Yeah."
Tom Sloane jumped at the abrupt greeting. "Daria, Tom. Did I call at a bad time?"
Daria's eyes blazed in frustration. "You can say that. Right now you are prob…"
"Should I try again later?"
Daria closed her eyes and felt her shoulders fall. "No. On second thought, you might be just the person to talk to right now."
"Something's up. I'm all ears."
Daria sighed deeply. "Though from your perspective, you may not want to hear about it."
"I may not, but I'm willing. For a good friend."
Daria sighed. "You remember I told you I was seeing someone?"
"Um…yeah. This doesn't sound good."
"I broke up with him Monday."
Daria tapped her hand on her knee. "After he asked me to marry him."
There was several seconds of silence, followed by a low whistle. "I think you may need to fill me in a bit more on this."
Daria inhaled deeply. "It started when he got accepted to a school in Europe." Daria produced a sad laugh. "Some people do get in from the wait list."
The irony certainly was not missed by Tom. "Damn."
Daria gave him a detailed account of Monday, and how she had felt since. As she recounted the story, she gradually leaned over to lie on the bed, pulling into a loose fetal position.
"So that's it. I haven't seen, nor heard from him since."
"I'll admit; he did pull something like my stupid moves…although, on a grander scale."
"I didn't mean it that way," was her quiet response.
"Speaking from a guy point of view, go and give him another chance."
"Why, he hasn't made any attempt to talk to me this week either."
"Daria, you emotionally kicked him where it hurts most."
"Daria, you gave me a lot of second chances. I may have blown all of them, but don't hold it against this guy."
"Does he have a track record of screw-ups like I did?"
"I know he made up a lot of ground in the bad move department with this, but I still think you should…at least talk to him."
"That sounds like you agree with me."
"I guess it would take an expert at relationship gaffs and who knows me rather well, to point that out."
"At your service."
"Okay then. It's unanimous. Karen, Jane, and you all agree I should try to talk to Michael again."
"Sounds like I'm in good company. What are you going to do about it?"
"Head over after my last final. Which, starts in twenty minutes."
"I better let you go."
"I guess. Tom?"
"You're welcome. Good luck."
Daria uncurled and hung up the phone. She gathered her exam materials and headed out of the room.
The RA looked up from his desk. "He moved out this morning."
Daria stared, incredulous. "No."
"He had everything already packed when he got back from his last final. Grabbed a couple of spare hands and carried it down to a cab in about fifteen minutes. Said he was able to get an earlier flight home," the RA looked at his watch, "Should be leaving about now."
Her stomach dropped. "Damn."
Daria noticed a medium-height, somewhat overweight blond man approach, whom she recognized as Michael's roommate. She asked, "Ken, did Michael say anything before he left?"
Ken glared at Daria with unrestrained malice. "Way to go. I hope he at least passed his finals. You screwed with his brain real good. I've never actually seen somebody puke over breaking up with a girl before. Congratulations." He turned and walked away before she could respond.
Daria stared at his retreating form in horrified silence. Finally, she walked outside and looked up toward the northeast, to see a westbound airliner rising from Logan Airport. Daria remembered a song from a tape Trent had played when he drove Jane and her up to Boston in January.
Maybe I'll see you again baby
And maybe I won't
Maybe you've bought your ticket
Gone back to Detroit
Airplanes make strangers of us all
Give us distance
Much too easily.
Jim says some destinies
Should not be delivered
But you and I seen now baby
That still they are
Winning it makes losers of us all
'cause the dice roll
Well, I'll wrap myself in cities I travel
I'll wrap myself in dreams
I'll wrap myself in solitude
But I wish I could wrap myself
Tonight it's hot, without you
Tomorrow'll be cold
Winter will come along
Driven by snow
Love it makes strangers of us all
When we part
Oh so thoughtlessly
Well, I'll wrap myself in cities I travel
I'll wrap myself in dreams
I'll wrap myself in solitude
But I wish I could wrap myself
Once we breathed the breath
Of sweet surrender
Pure, pure arab air filled our
But pride it makes stars of us all
Until we fall
For everyone to see.
She stopped and closed her eyes as she worked to control her emotions. After suppressing the remainder of the song, she continued across the Quad toward her dorm.
O Fortuna, from Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi in the Songs From Benedictbeuern. Set to music by Carl Orff as Carmina Burana. Translated as:
as the moon
always dost thou
wax and wane.
first dost thou mistreat us,
and then, whimsically,
thou heedest our desires.
As the sun melts the ice
so dost thou dissolve
both poverty and power
and empty fate,
Thou, turning wheel
good health at thy will
thou dost attack
To thy cruel pleasure
I bare my back.
my health and virtue
my emotion and weakness with torture.
At this hour,
therefore, let us
pluck the strings without delay
Let us mourn
for fate crushes the brave.
In Thee By A. Lanier, performed by Blue Oyster Cult - copyright Sony Music
Thanks to comments and suggestions from: Kristen Bealer, Isa Yo-Jo, Mahna Mahna, Steven Galloway, Ranchoth, Mike Nassour, Decelaraptor, milderbeast, The Angst Guy, Greystar, Ranger Thorne, Hiergargo, and renfield1969 at PPMB
Thanks to Ipswichfan, Deref, Mike Nassour, Mr. Orange and Cheshire Cat for beta reading and additional commentary.
Revised February 2005