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. 2005.
This is the Thirty-First story in the Falling into College series.
The bright southern California sun shining through the window of her Pepperhill University dorm room created a glow around Quinn Morgendorffer. From a packed-to-the-limit closet and extra clothes rack, to her posters and cosmetic supplies, Quinn's side of the room was a bright explosion of popularity, just like her.
Using the full-length mirror on her closet door, she artfully examined the trendy clothes on her attractive figure. Satisfied all was precisely in place, she started combing her long, bright red hair and chirped, "I can't believe how many boys there are to choose from around here."
"Yeah, they're just falling all over themselves," muttered a small-framed young woman sitting cross-legged on the opposite bed. Her side of the room was a goth-like study in gray and black that matched the long, soft, black-brown hair that spilled out around her in a wide circle. Fran Lawrence held up a book. "Why do you think I read these bodice-rippers? Unless I find a nice blind man, it's about all I'm going to get."
Quinn turned to her roommate. "I'm sorry."
"Quinn, we've been through this before." Fran shook her head. "Don't let me stop you from having a good time. Living vicariously through your stories is as much fun as these books. I can listen to you for hours. But, I still reserve the right to bitch now and then."
Quinn felt a pang of guilt looking at the tiny, shapely girl with exotic gray eyes flanked by long lashes and perfectly arched brows. If not for the disfiguring scars that remained across the young woman's lower face after the miracles of corrective surgery, Quinn knew Fran would attract just as many boys as she did.
"It still isn't fair. We've been here for a month and a half. Even if you wear all that black goth stuff, you're one of the sweetest people I know. I'm getting you a date for tonight."
"Quinn, please." She finished off an energy bar and tossed the wrapper into a small trash can.
Quinn shivered at the thought of the scars that ran across the girl's stomach and the reason her friend had to almost constantly eat. "Fran, please let me try. Just this once. You could use the break."
Fran felt her defenses weaken. Quinn's so popular. Maybe she can find me a date. That would mean so much. Hopeful, she said, "Okay. If you can get me a date, I'll agree to go."
Quinn opened her cell phone and consulted a small planner. She found the name and entered the phone number. "Hi, Arnold. Look, do you have any nice pledge brothers that would like a date tonight?...This would really mean a lot to me…She's my roommate…Yeah…Dean?…okay, great…See both of you at six."
She closed the phone. "Okay, I've got you a date. I've met him, his name is Dean and he's one of my date's pledge brothers. He seems really nice. Now to get you properly ready."
"Quinn…I didn't hear you say anything…" Fran pointed to her face.
"I'm a Tri-Theta pledge and you'll be double dating with me. They're pledge brothers in an ally fraternity. Don't worry."
Quinn pointed to Fran's closet. "I know what you've got in there. You're almost as bad as my sister. We're going shopping to get you something decent to wear. When I'm done, you'll look so hot, nobody can resist you."
Worried, Fran said, "Are you sure?"
"Do I know clothes?"
"He doesn't know what it means." A familiar voice from behind mildly startled Raft University sophomore, Daria Morgendorffer, from her reading in the library. "He's got the speech memorized. Just enjoy the nice man's soothing voice."
Daria looked up from her Poetry I book to see her friend and roommate, Jane Lane, leaning over her shoulder. Daria asked, "What are you doing…"
"October fourteenth, four years ago. Happy anniversary, Amiga."
"Only you would remember something like that." The thought of how much her friend cared was always comforting. "Thanks. I wonder if students are still being subjected to that self-esteem class?"
Jane grinned. "Nope, Claire canned it."
"Students for years to come will rejoice that Ms. Defoe was appointed principal of Lawndale High, just for that one act."
"Mr. Barch wasn't happy about it."
Daria's face whitened and she swallowed hard. "The thought of those two actually married…"
"It gives me the willies, too." Jane suppressed a bad memory. "Be glad you didn't see them in the teacher's lounge."
Daria closed her eyes and muttered, "I refuse to allow any visuals to appear."
"On the bright side, Claire says that Mrs. Barch has backed off some this year and smiles occasionally. Though what those smiles are for…"
Daria closed her eyes tighter. "Cool thoughts...a river running to the ocean...no unwanted visuals appearing."
"Getting away from such unpleasantries, the two of us need to do something to celebrate. I know you have a date with your tame Y-chromosome tonight, but I think pizza and an afternoon of classic Sick, Sad World are in order." Jane grinned wider and pulled a package from her backpack. "I just got the complete Season One tape set. We can watch some of the classics from when we first got together."
Daria put the book down. "Like Artie's first appearance?" She put a marker in the book and closed it. "I'm in. Let me get this book checked out. Did you drive over, or take the bus?"
"Bus. I didn't feel like fighting traffic today."
"My car's in the staff lot."
"I'll meet you there."
"That's it." Hands on hips, Quinn proudly stood in front of Fran, who was wearing a deep blue dress that fit almost as if tailored. The hem was diagonally cut from mid-calf on one side to about one quarter up her opposite thigh. A slender belt with a gold buckle accented her waist and a gold brooch rested on the center of her chest.
Fran said, "It's pretty."
"Pretty, nothing. It's a knockout."
"I don't know. This is an awful lot for one dress."
"It's an investment."
"It's so pretty." Fran looked in the mirror again. "Okay, you talked me into it."
"Great, now for shoes."
Daria held her hand over her mouth as she burped. "Jane, I didn't think it was possible to put that many different toppings on a pizza. How did you find that place?" Daria stopped to allow traffic to clear before turning left into the driveway of their place.
"Jed took me there last weekend."
"Jed…that was the guy with the Cthulhu nose stud."
"Yeah. He could also do some interesting things with that tongue stud of his."
"Not listening…not hearing." Daria spotted a white sedan parked in the driveway. "Whose car is that?"
Jane looked at the car again and noted the Virginia plates. She placed a hand on Daria's shoulder. "Um…that looks like your cousin Erin's car."
"Erin? I wonder what she's doing here?"
Jane sheepishly turned to her friend. "I…ah…kind of told her she could stay here a while if things hit the fan with Brian. I bet they did."
"Whoa, dude! If that brunette chick with Quinn is my date, you can set me up any time."
Quinn waved to the group of young men approaching from behind Fran and said, "Your date looks cute."
Fran lightly bit her lip. "I know you spent a lot of time on makeup to minimize my scars, but I'm still worried you didn't tell him."
Two of the men, both blond, separated from the others. One moved to Quinn, and said. "Heya, Quinn. Ready for a good time?"
The other walked around and turned to see Fran. Eyes open, he stepped back. "Freakin' hell! Arnold, what the hell kind of crap are you pullin' on me?"
Fran stood still, slightly shaking.
Arnold turned and winced. He said, "Quinn, that's really uncool. I thought you were setting Dean up with another pledge sister. Not some freak."
Quinn was speechless in disbelief.
Three other guys came up. Laughing, one said, "Hell dude, she's still got a hot body. Jus' put a bag on her an' things'll be fine."
A second said, "Or just make sure you stay behind her." He barked and broke into louder laughter.
Arnold stepped over to Dean. "Dude, man. I'm sorry. I was tricked. Let's ditch these two and find some real fun."
Dean nodded. "I'm with ya."
The third guy whooped, "Hell, I still wouldn't take the risk with double bags!" Laughing loudly, he motioned with his head and those three started down the sidewalk. Dean shoved his hands in his pocket and followed.
Arnold shrugged and said to Quinn, "Sorry, but that trick really wasn't funny. I thought Tri-Thetas were cooler than that." He turned and strutted away, catching up with the others.
Fran turned and buried her face against her roommate, sobbing loudly. "Quinn, I'm sorry."
Quinn smoldered at the departing group and unconsciously put an arm around the diminutive young woman. "You have nothing to apologize for. Those guys were Class A jerks."
"Thanks, but it's hopeless."
"You're a really nice girl that they shouldn't treat like that."
Fran pulled a napkin from her purse and wiped away the tears, smearing her makeup in the process. "I don't expect everyone to warm to me right away. I just wish they wouldn't be so mean."
"They need to be taught a lesson."
Quinn's eyes narrowed. "I don't know. But, I bet my sister might have an idea."
Daria and Jane entered the apartment to find the third resident, Karen Myerson, seated on the sofa, talking with Daria's cousin, Erin Chambers. Erin turned to face the opening door and said, "Daria, Jane. Hi."
Jane smiled and said, "Hi, Erin. What's shakin'?"
Daria said, "Hi. If you don't mind my asking, what brings you here?"
"I was in town and thought I would stop by and be a little sociable. Daria, I haven't seen you since the wedding. I'd met Jane at Gramdma's last summer, so I thought this would be nice."
Daria continued into the apartment. "So, what brings you to Boston?"
Erin looked a little embarrassed. "My boss needed some papers hand-carried to the Boston branch office this weekend. I volunteered to bring them up. I guess I should have called ahead, but I wanted to surprise you."
"Oh. Well, it is a surprise, and so far, a pleasant one."
Jane came over and sat on the sofa arm. "Anything else? Like, finally tired of your POS husband?"
Erin's smile faded. "I used the trip to drop off my resume at some places that are open on the weekend, and to mail a few more." She looked at Daria. "Jane and I have been emailing ever since she unveiled that portrait. She's made a good griping board for me to talk about Brian."
Daria looked at Jane. "She is good at that. So, it sounds like you and Brian are on the way out."
"You don't need to panic, I won't call your mother to handle the legal work. I don't want any premature word getting out."
Daria pulled up one of the folding chairs and had a seat. "Okay, it sounds like you're laying the groundwork before leaving him and want to keep it quiet."
"Yes. Jane said I could stay here if I really needed to. I'll only need tonight."
Daria acquiesced. "Jane and I have some leftover pizza, are you hungry?"
Karen perked up and said, "Pizza?"
Erin said, "Thanks." She looked at Daria. "I really should have called. I hope I haven't spoiled any plans."
Daria sensed the need in Erin. "Nothing that you can't join."
Jane went to the television and put in a tape. "Do you like Sick, Sad World?"
That evening, Daria leaned into the gentle embrace of her boyfriend, Michael Fulton as they watched a movie. She frowned, pulled a vibrating cell phone from her belt and whispered to Michael. "I better check this. Quinn or my folks would only call late if it's important."
He kissed her forehead. "I'll save your seat."
She kissed his cheek and quickly slipped outside of the auditorium. She opened the phone and quietly answered, "Hello."
Quinn blurted out, "Daria! I need your help!"
"Okay, calm down. What kind of emergency is it?"
"My roommate's date blew her off! Mine got mad at me over it and they both left."
Daria signed as tension released. "Quinn…that doesn't sound like an emergency. Can this wait? I'm in the middle of something."
"Daria! They were completely mean to Fran. She's really hurt."
"Okay, something more than a simple blow-off. But, was anyone injured?"
"No, but Fran's really upset."
"Are you in any immediate danger?"
"Okay, this isn't an emergency. Take care of Fran; I'll call back in a couple hours so we can talk about it. Okay?"
"Look, I'll cut things short tonight with Michael and I'll call you as soon as I get home."
"Michael? Oh, yeah. It must be almost ten in Boston."
"It is. I know this is important to you, that's why I'll call you back."
"Okay. Remember, please."
"I promise to call."
"You keep your promises. I'll wait."
"Bye." Daria closed the phone and turned back to the auditorium. Pausing at the door, she thought, something bad happened or Quinn wouldn't have called me.
Inside, she sat back down next to Michael and whispered as he put his arm around her. "That was Quinn. Do you mind if we tie things up early tonight?"
"Is she in some kind of trouble?"
"I don't think so, but something's going on that's serious enough for her to call me on a Saturday night."
Michael kissed Daria's temple. "You're right; something must be going on. I can get a bus home tonight if you don't want to drop me off."
"Thanks. The more I think about this, the more I'm worried. I'm going to take you up on the offer."
"Even if she's a pain, I worry about my little sister, too. I hope you can help."
Quinn closed the phone and went over to sit next to Fran, still in her dress and half-curled on the bed. "My sister will call back later."
"Thanks." Fran sat up. "But, what can she do?"
"She's smart. She'll come up with something."
"I can handle people being shocked. I know it's natural to be scared, but it still hurts when they get angry."
Quinn thought some of the ways she and her high school friends had behaved toward others. It really was the same thing, just aimed in a different direction.
Fran blew her nose in a tissue. and crawled across the bed to a box of snack bars. She opened one and started on it. "Dammit, all this and I haven't eaten lately. I'm starving."
Quinn continued thinking. Scared. In a way, I think we were scared in the Fashion Club. Scared of anything different, scared of anything that threatened our position. Scared of anything that might affect…our looks.
Quinn toyed with the edge of a sheet. "I'm sorry, I thought I could get them to focus on the rest of you and that they'd be nice, like Tau-Psi pledges are supposed to be toward us. I didn't think I'd need to tell them anything"
Suddenly angry, Fran looked at Quinn. "And you shouldn't. Even if my looks surprised them, they could at least have remembered that I'm a person with feelings." After a few more bites on her snack, she settled down and said, "In some ways, that's why I started hanging around with the goths. They thought it was cool that I could scare people. That was fun for a while, but now it's old."
Quinn tried some humor. "At least you didn't get a bunch of piercings."
Fran's hand went to the scars on her stomach and she quickly shut down the memory of jagged metal driven through her in the accident that also scarred her face. "Trust me, the concept of intentionally running metal objects through any part of my body has zero appeal."
Daria read the note left on the dining table.
Erin and I are going out to frighten the local villagers. Don't wait up for us (as if you ever do). If any mobs with torches show up, you can pretend they're birthday candles for you to blow out.
"Boston, beware," Daria muttered as she went to her room. "I'd often pictured Jane and me doing things like that. I must admit a part of me wanted to. Funny how our lives change."
Daria sat at her computer desk and kicked off her boots while it booted up. She opened the cell phone and hit Quinn's speed-dial number.
Quinn didn't allow the first ring to finish. "Hello!"
"Hi, it's me."
"Take it slowly and remember to breathe. Tell me what's going on."
Daria was glad she was seated while listening to the story. Dean and Arnold had sounded worse than those two idiot boys that had tormented her for years in Highland. She thought of many ways she had faced her appearance, both good and bad. Through middle school and high school, Daria had felt unpopular and like an outcast, but she had never really been subjected to such direct insults.
Daria also remembered the highly unorthodox experiment that Mrs. Barch had performed for the class in high school. She had the super-popular quarterback, Kevin Thompson, dressed up in an 'ugly' disguise and report back on how people reacted differently. However, this was a case of real life, and Fran couldn't remove the makeup.
Daria said, "Quinn, those guys were incredibly jerky. They do need a lesson."
"That's why I called you. You were always so good at getting even."
"I don't want you or Fran getting into any trouble over this. Idiots like that aren't worth it."
"Daria, uh…this has made me think about some of the ways I used to act in high school. I'm sorry."
"Quinn…thanks. But, don't worry about that now."
"I'll try not to." Quinn looked out the window toward some of the Sorority houses. She would be moving to the Theta-Theta-Theta house next year. "I can't believe that brothers from an ally fraternity would treat a pledge and her friend like that. It's all part of the togetherness thing that the guys were supposed to treat us nice."
Daria's eyes opened. "Quinn, I may have an idea. You're a sorority pledge in good standing, right?"
"I think you need to get your sisters to help."
"What can they do?"
"Stand with you. Have any of your classes assigned the ancient Greek play, Lysistrata, for you to read?
"No, what's that got to do with this?"
"A method the women used to convince the men of something."
The next morning, Daria followed her nose out into the kitchen. Karen was cleaning up from her breakfast, which always smelled good.
"Hey," Karen said as Daria entered the room.
"Hmmm." Daria pulled bread from a package and put it in the toaster. "What's Erin's condition out there?"
"Pretty good. It looks like Jane kept her out of trouble."
Daria removed a jar of jelly from the refrigerator and opened it. "Yesterday was the most time I've ever spent with her. I thought growing up with one Barksdale was bad; having two close-by must've been a nightmare."
"I hope she can find a way out."
Daria fumbled for a butter knife from a drawer. "When Erin and Brian got married, Amy and I ditched the reception and headed to a bowling alley for cheese fries. Brian got there ahead of us and was already well into a beer."
"Which would be about the time of the brawl Amy told me about."
"I feel sorry for her. Stuck in a marriage with someone like that. It must be awful."
"Same here. It sure seems to be the weekend for dealing with jerk guys."
Karen looked at Daria, perplexed. "Michael do something?"
"What?" Daria shook her head. "No. I got a call from Quinn. A bunch of idiots from an ally frat really insulted and hurt her roommate over how she looks."
"I think this is the first time Quinn's been at the receiving end of that kind of hostility, even if just the shrapnel."
"And she called you for advice on getting back at them."
"I'd be worried, but, well, Quinn doesn't have the same…talents…as you do."
"That's why I suggested something more suited for her, that I could never pull off."
"Do we know what we're doing?" Fran, almost on the edge of panic, asked Quinn as they walked along a sidewalk toward the Tri-Theta house.
"I think so."
"Quinn, this will make me the center of attention."
"I know, isn't it great?"
"No. I'm scared stiff."
"Don't be, I'm with you."
"That helps, a little. But, I'd rather hide."
Quinn stopped just outside the house. "I know. But, my sister's right. That will only let those jerks get away with it."
Fran looked up the steps of the imposing building. "Let's get this over with, before I run away."
While the sorority president introduced her, Quinn rapidly scanned her clothes, making sure everything was perfect. Inspection over, she approached the podium to address the gathered sisterhood. "Many of you have met my friend and roommate, Fran Lawrence." She gestured to her at the back of the room.
Fran managed to maintain a smile and not hide her face. I can't believe this is all for me.
Murmurs of approval came from the gathering before Quinn said, "We had a double-date last night with two Tau-Psi brothers."
Quinn recounted the events of the night before, naming all five men involved. As the story unfolded, the gathering became restless and whispers abounded. Quinn looked at the crowd reaction. Daria, you may act clueless about popularity, but this was a great idea.
"If they insult a sweet girl like Fran…" Quinn paused and looked at her roommate. "…Then we should stand by her. We know who they are. Ask your friends to help. Until they apologize, no dates."
The crowd rose in unison, clapping.
Quinn was mobbed as she stepped down. Ideas, suggestions and opinions on additional punishments were offered. Frighteningly, there were some that even Quinn's man-hating high school science teacher, Mrs. Barch, would consider too extreme. Several visitors said that they would pass the word on to their sororities, for them to pass the word onto all of their friends.
The initial applause almost caused Fran to run from the room. After, she was speechless as girls swarmed around her. Her discomfort at the attention was ameliorated some by the sense of support and compassion around her.
With an overnight bag slung on her shoulder, Erin prepared to leave while Daria, Jane and Karen gathered at the door to see her off. She looked at the three independent women with envy. The prior afternoon spent watching and commenting on Sick, Sad World, or just life around them, had been enlightening. Watching the young women being themselves had driven home how much Erin had become an appeaser, just like her mother, Rita.
She said, "This trip started out as an attempt to be independent; you three gave me the inspiration to finish the job."
Daria smiled. "If watching us make snide comments at Sick, Sad World is an inspiration, I think we should be worried."
Jane lightly backhanded Daria's shoulder. "Hey, I don't get called an inspiration often." She smiled at Erin. "Go on, I can listen to more."
Karen leaned against the stair rail. "Yeah, Jane's usually called a bad influence."
Jane grinned back. "Funny how inspiration feels about the same."
Erin laughed. "Just what I mean, and what I needed. Thanks for letting me stay."
Daria nodded. "No problem, if you didn't mind the sofa."
"And I'll remember to call next time," Erin said.
Soberly, Jane said, "Erin, be careful with everything. With some of the places my brother has played, I know drunks can get real irrational."
"Trust me, I know. That's why I'm doing things this way. Once I'm prepared, I only plan on seeing him in court."
"What about Grandma and Aunt Rita?" Daria asked.
"I don't know. Grandma will be furious, Mom will be relieved. She never liked Brian. As a warning, when I fall out of favor, Grandma will probably start eying you more closely."
Daria was surprised. "Me? I'd figure she'd target Quinn."
Erin started down the stairs. "I really need to get going. It'll be after dark by the time I get home."
All three waved and watched Erin drive away. Daria looked at her friends. "You are now deeply involved in the Barksdale women's eternal feuding. None of the participants are signatories of the Geneva Convention, so no tactic is considered off-limits. Body armor is recommended."
Daria stayed outside for a few extra moments. I wonder if Grandma suspects? She has called me twice to just talk since Jane made that trip down there.
Monday morning, Fran held her bed sheet over her head. "I don't want to go out there."
Quinn started rolling up the sheet from Fran's feet. "It won't work if you hide."
Fran sat up and dropped the sheet. "The girls were great last night…but I don't know if I can face the whole school today."
Quinn looked straight in her eyes. "You can, just like you face it any other day."
"It's not the same."
Quinn held her friend's shaking hand. "No, it's better."
After the 'date boycott' story ran in that morning's edition of The Peppermill, neither Quinn nor Fran could go anywhere without a small crowd of supporters. With Quinn's support, Fran very slowly became less agitated amid all the activity. Every time Fran smiled, Quinn could see a tiny bit more of the shy girl come out of hiding.
Frustrated that they were persona non grata among a large number of women on campus, the five young men went to their fraternity brothers for support. In what became known in Pepperhill lore as "The Great Bonehead Ad," the fraternity bought a quarter page in the Tuesday edition of The Peppermill.
We stand with our pledges through thick and thin. We will not tolerate this sexual extortion to force unnecessary apologies from our brothers. If these girls can't tolerate a little joke after being dishonest themselves, they should just grow up.
The Brothers of Tau-Psi
Fran sat on a bench in Hill Plaza. She read the ad over and over, trying to believe it. She quietly said, "Maybe the whole lot of you needs to grow up."
Fran still felt the hurt as strongly as that night. But now, she no longer felt lost and the anger had burned down to determination. The doubt was gone. With firmness in her eyes, she stood up and showed her paper to several nearby women. After a few quick words, they nodded and walked away, to talk to others. Soon, they separated to talk to more. Fran walked around the Plaza, speaking to every young woman she saw, and several young men who seemed supportive.
As the day progressed, the brothers of Tau-Psi began to hear either directly or by answering machine:
"I have to cancel tonight. I can't do a thing with my attitude."
"I'm going to spend the next week washing my hair."
"Why don't you just put a paper bag on one of your brothers?"
"Forget it, pig."
"The interior of your car clashes with my self-esteem."
"If you want a girl interested in you, try a phone sex number."
"When you talk your buddies into behaving in a civilized manner; I'll talk to you."
"I hope you enjoy nights of brotherhood, because you won't with me."
However, a few were different:
"So, I hear you're suddenly available."
"I think we can show you and your buddies a good time."
These were relatively scarce and drew frowns from the Tri-Thetas.
Sitting at her work desk early that evening, Fran closed her cell phone and sat back in her chair with a pleasant surprise on her face.
Quinn looked over from her desk and lightly smiled. "That sounded promising."
"That was a guy I met on the Plaza today. He asked me out for dinner tomorrow night."
"That's good. What's he like?"
Fran looked down slightly. "He's kind of cute. Was very polite, didn't flinch and didn't try to pretend my scars didn't exist. Said he liked girls who could stand up for themselves."
"Sounds like a good possibility. What kind of car does he drive?"
"I don't know."
Quinn gave a friendly sigh. "One thing at a time."
Quinn read the next morning's Peppermill with satisfaction.
Fraternity Non Grata
In response to Tau-Psi's advertisement in yesterday's paper, the entire fraternity has found itself subject to the 'date boycott' originally targeted at 5 members (Don't ask, our legal advisor still says don't mention their names). When asked about the expanded boycott, organizer and Tri-Theta pledge Quinn Morgendorffer said, "Well, duh. If they think those guys were right; then a lot of girls around won't want to go out with them."
Inter-Fraternity Council President Wilbur Cline told us, "We have been very disturbed by these allegations against Tau-Psi. These kinds of behaviors are not encouraged among the fraternity community. If true, we strongly encourage the parties to offer the young lady a sincere apology."
A spokesman for Tau-Psi said, "Bite me."
She gazed across the common room of the dorm building. Fran was sitting amid several young women in a discussion. She's really starting to come out of her shell. I'm glad. Although, I wish it hadn't happened like this.
Quinn walked over to hear Fran say, "I only wanted an apology. I never expected anything like this. It's almost been overwhelming." She looked up and smiled at Quinn. "And I have her to thank."
The girls turned as Quinn said, "It was my older sister's idea."
One of the young women said, "I thought you brought it up, not one of the upperclassmen."
Quinn shook her head. "No, my real sister. She's in Boston. It was her idea."
Another said, "She must really be cool."
"In her way, she is."
The first said, "I bet you must have made a great team in high school."
"Uh…yeah. At times."
The group looked a little confused. Quinn more quietly said, "We also didn't always get along. But in the end, we learned to appreciate each other."
A third chuckled and said, "Been there, done that. With two older sisters. Welcome to the club."
Neither Quinn nor Fran went anywhere alone that day. Well-wishers and supporters flowed to and fro around them. Quinn reveled in the attention, while Fran cycled through joy, surprise and alarm. As they came back to their dorm after classes, Quinn shooed everyone away and let Fran get inside alone. She caught up with her friend and said, "I know you don't want a crowd around your date tonight."
"Thanks. I'm nervous enough as it is. I've enjoyed the company, but all the crowds have also been scary. I'm not used to that kind of attention."
"I think you'll be fine, but be careful."
Fran patted a can of pepper spray in her purse. "Loaded and ready. I hope he's not out to cause problems. I'm not that good at reading guys."
Quinn got home early from her date that night and waited for Fran. A decent date would do a world of good for her friend; a date intended to intimidate or embarrass her could be devastating. Feeling nervous, a stray memory crossed Quinn's mind of her mother saying, "Someday, you'll be waiting up for someone to come home from a date. You'll understand then." She was still trying to put down the sudden realization that she had a maternal streak when the door opened and Fran entered.
She was in the same dress that Quinn had helped her find and had a gentle smile on her face. She said to Quinn, "Okay, no love at first sight, but I had a nice time. Even if we were heckled." She hugged Quinn. "Thanks."
Quinn emerged from her inner thoughts. "That's the idea. Having a nice time."
Fran released her. "I don't think I could ever juggle two or three dates a night like you."
Quinn smiled. "It takes practice to get that right."
"I'll be happy with only every once in a while." She sat down and smiled. "Tonight, I felt like a lady, instead of a freak."
"You are a lady, and never forget that."
Fran nodded. "Thanks." She looked seriously at Quinn. "Can I get your sister's phone number? I'd like to talk to her."
"Sure, but don't call now. She gets really cranky if you wake her at one in the morning."
Fran sat under a tree in the Plaza and carefully punched in Daria's number. She waited patiently as the phone rang. Finally a faintly monotone voice answered, "Hello."
Fran inhaled slightly, "Hi, Daria?"
Daria frowned slightly as she rode home for lunch in the passenger seat of Karen's truck. "Yes, who is this?"
"Hi…um…this is Fran, Quinn's roommate."
"Fran? Is Quinn okay?"
"What? Oh, yes. She's fine. I wanted to talk to you."
Daria relaxed a little. "I'm not doing the driving, we can talk."
"I wanted to thank you for helping us."
"Welcome. I understand what it's like to be targeted. How are things going?"
"They, um, grew a little more than expected. Most girls stopped dating the entire frat."
Daria's eyes opened a little. "That was a little closer to the play than I anticipated."
"Well…the frat brothers banded together and a lot of people banded around me. The regular couples have mostly ignored what's going on, and some girls have decided this opened up new territory for them. But overall, I've met a lot of good people that I never would have met otherwise. I never knew…never imagined something like this."
"Sounds like things have been positive for you."
"Mostly good, some bad, like some guys threw tomatoes at me today. This…is going to sound strange. Even though what those boys did hurt me more than anything; what's happened since has made the pain worth it. With all I've gained in the last few days…I can't seem to stay mad at them enough to continue. Did that make sense?"
"Actually, yes it did." Daria glanced at Karen. "It sounds like my sister has also found an exceptional roommate. I don't think…no, I know I couldn't be that forgiving. You're a lot bigger person than I am if you can. There is a simple way to end it."
The Friday Peppermill carried a letter:
The last few days have brought to me more true wealth of friendship and happiness than I had ever expected. The kind and generous support of the Pepperhill community has touched me deeply. So deeply, that I feel the experiences of the last week have done me much greater good than the events that sparked this caused me harm.
With deep gratitude to all for their honest support, I now respectfully ask to end this boycott. I no longer hold any animosity toward those that harmed me and I sincerely hope that they have learned how much what seems a simple jest can hurt another. In good conscience, I can no longer ask for punishment when I have gained so much from everyone else. I cannot yet say I can truly forgive. But, I think I am on my way.
My thanks to all those who stood up for a frightened girl. You have changed my life more than many of you will ever know. The memory of the support I've felt this week will always be cherished and will burn bright long after the shadows of pain have faded.
Frances Lawrence 1-Arts&Sciences
Just before reaching her dorm, Fran saw Dean waiting by the steps, and cautiously approached. He raised a hand while she was still about five feet away. "I'm sorry, I was an asshole."
Without allowing her to say a word, Dean spun and rapidly walked away. Fran leaned against the stair rail and watched him. The status quo really hasn't changed. But maybe, a few of us have learned something.
Thanks to Angelinhel, Kristen Bealer, The Angst Guy, Sleepless, Isa Yo-Jo, Brother Grimace for valuable comments at PPMB.
Thanks to Kristen Bealer, Ipswichfan and Mr. Orange for beta reading.