Disclaimer: This 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.
This is the sixth story in the Last Summer series.
It Was Your Idea
Daria sat at her desk, removing papers from the printer, while Jane continued her painting. Daria turned and spoke. "The trip was your idea, and I'm just making sure we're more comfortable during the process."
"Daria, you're picking up almost the entire tab for the weekend."
"I'm in a position to afford it, don't worry. There's still plenty in the Montana Cabin Fund. More recently known as the Pay Off The Visa Before Mom Sees The Bill Fund."
"You're making me feel guilty about this."
"Don't, you're my friend." Daria quietly added, "I told you that when we decided to make the trip."
"Okay, but don't forget the rest of the agreement, you will go to the beach - in a bathing suit - and try to relax for a while."
"Only as long as you're there with me, and similarly attired."
"With a camera." Jane gave a big grin.
"Do you want wasabi powder added to certain hygiene products?"
"Ouch. If you do that, your sister gets the negatives."
Daria walked out the front door wearing green shorts and an "Okay to Cry Corral" t-shirt that had a large red bullet hole and trickle of blood added to the character forehead. She carried a suitcase and a small travel bag in her hands, her laptop travel case slung by a strap over her shoulder. Daria opened the trunk of the new model, dark green Taurus she'd arranged for her mother to rent for the weekend and put her baggage inside. Beside her, Jake passed a beach umbrella, folding chair and cooler that he'd carried out. Daria put the first two in the trunk and the cooler on the floorboard of the back seat. She unslung the laptop and carefully placed it on the back seat.
Quinn and Helen followed behind, with Quinn complaining. "Mo-om, why won't you let me plan a weekend to the beach with my friends?"
"For the same reason I won't let you have a party at the house when we're not home."
"But you're letting Daria go."
"Your sister is an adult who'll be going off to college in only a couple weeks. We trust her."
"How about if you let me go shopping with the same amount of money she's getting for this?"
"Quinn, we're not paying for this. Daria is."
Quinn shot a look at her sister. "So where'd you get the money?"
Daria softly smiled. "You don't think I spent all that bribe money I got from Mom and Dad over the years? Before you look, the day I turned 18, all of it went in a private savings account."
Quinn sighed. "Okay, just promise me you won't wear that old bathing suit you had in Highland."
"As shocking as it may seem to you, I don't fit in that anymore."
Daria closed the trunk lid and moved to the driver's door. "Good bye, everybody."
Helen gave her a brief hug and said, "Please be careful."
Daria gave a slightly weary, "I will."
Jake gave a wave, "Have a great time, don't do anything I wouldn't do."
Quinn also hugged her. "Yes, I'm still jealous you're going. Please have fun, and find a cute guy to buy you dinner."
Daria rolled her eyes and climbed into the car. "I need to get going. See you on Sunday night."
"Hey, nice wheels." Jane called over her shoulder as she carried a battered pair of small suitcases out of the door. Daria followed with a folded easel and a stack of art supply boxes. Trent carried a folding chair and grocery bag of assorted travel munchies.
"Thanks. I got a good online deal for the weekend. No painting in the car; I want my damage deposit back."
"Something like this would be nice for you to get in Boston."
"Jane, have you gone mad? Can you imagine me trying to drive in Boston? Beside, Raft doesn't issue parking decals to freshmen; I'd have to park off-campus. Maybe next year I'll have totally gone insane. Then find something that I won't get upset about losing in a traffic circle."
"We can only hope. Too bad, BFAC won't allow freshman to have cars, either."
The three reached the car and started unloading. Trent continued the conversation. "So, will I have to head up to Boston to drive you two around?"
Daria smiled, "Good one, Trent."
Soon Jane's belongings were secured in the trunk and the travel munchies next to the cooler of drinks. Trent stepped back with a slightly off, vacant look.
"Hey, Trent, it's only for the weekend," Jane said as she sat down in the passenger seat.
"I know. But in a couple months, it won't be just for the weekend. I still think I need to get a puppy."
Jane shook her head and smiled. "Remember, you can eat out of the fridge if it's in a sealed box. Don't let the band near it; I want to eat when I get back. We'll talk about the puppy later."
Daria gave a slight wave, "Bye, Trent. Don't sleep too hard while we're gone."
As the car traveled down the interstate at 80 mph, Daria's head was nodding slightly to music. Jane's right hand gripped the overhead handle tightly, a look of worry in her eyes. Daria's head stopped nodding and she sighed slightly while the car decelerated to the speed limit. She removed a tape from the stereo and started to reach for another. Jane stopped her hand.
"I pick the next tape: you, Wagner overtures and interstate highways are too scary of a combination."
"Just exercising the better part of valor." She reached over the seat back and grabbed one of the art supply boxes, revealing it to contain a supply of cassettes. "We're heading for the beach; we need some appropriate music."
Jane slid a tape into the player. "Think you can live with some Jimmy Buffett?"
"If it will keep you in a better mood."
The two listened to the music quietly for a while, each engrossed in their own thoughts. After a couple songs, Jane turned the music down a little. A little sheepishly, she said to Daria. "I need some advice."
Daria gave her friend a sidelong glance, realizing that she was serious. "I'll help any way I can."
"What do you think of me teaching art?"
"I hadn't really thought about it before. I always pictured you in your own studio."
"That's the goal, but you know as well as I do that the odds of making a living doing that straight out of college are thin. I love Trent to death, but I don't want to live like him while I try to get my act together. I'm going to need a day job for at least a while."
"So, thinking about some art education courses at BFAC?"
"Something a little sooner. I saw an ad for an art teaching assistant at Lawndale High."
Daria looked directly at Jane, "We barely got away from there, and you're looking to make a return? Can you imagine having Ms. Li as your boss?"
"Technically, I would be working for Ms. Defoe, but I see your point. However, this would give me a good idea whether or not I'm cut out for teaching. Plus, I'd have more hours in than I can get at Gary's. Mom and Dad never thought that any of their kids would go to college, so they never planned for it. Mom agreed to raid part of their retirement fund to help, but otherwise Janey is on her own as usual."
"Jane, you made a logical case, but I'm worried. You and I have both seen firsthand what happens to teachers there."
"Ms. Defoe has weathered the storm better than most; I'm hoping to hide some behind her. Besides, it will only be for the fall semester, and then I'll be in Boston with you."
"If you can survive there, you could teach in the third circle of Hell."
"Only the third?"
"You help O'Neill or Demartino and you can go deeper."
"I'll pass, thank you very much."
"Jane, while we are bringing things up…"
"Okay, what's your deep, dark secret?"
"Except for holiday visits, I'm thinking of not returning to Lawndale at all. Raft has a fairly complete summer schedule. I might stay in Boston every summer for school."
"Why would you do that? We went to a lot of trouble to have time off this summer; why not during college?"
"Because I suspected that this would be the last summer I would have free like this. I've never had a summer as good as this one before. You are a big reason for that."
"Well, I'm enjoying things, too. Believe me, it's been a lot better than the art colony. But why go nuts once you hit Raft?"
"Jane, I enjoy learning. I'm looking forward to classes that force me to think and to study hard. I'm seriously looking at a double major, and still want to take extra classes. Taking three extra semesters will allow me to do that and still graduate on time. I know that makes me weird. I look forward to sitting in a serious class over the summer as much as you look forward to a blank canvas."
"Kid, I don't really understand, but with you that somehow makes sense. You're a learning junkie. So what am I going to do over the summers?"
"I can't say. Like we agreed, I want to get an apartment once we are free of the dorms. With me planning on staying year-round, we should be able to get a little better rent deal when I can sign for a twelve month lease instead of nine or six."
"I don't know if I can pull the money for that."
"Even if you can't, I did the math and think I could handle rent for three months alone if I take on some extra income. As a plus, I would get the place to myself for the summer if you do decide to return to Casa Lane and come back in the fall. You could also stay over the summer and play it by ear. Your choice."
"I don't know. Have you told your parents yet?"
"No. I don't know how much they will understand. Though they should have a good idea: once they started living in the commune, they never went back to live at home either. It's not like I will feel like I'm returning home. I've seen my Mom's plan to redo my room this fall; it'll be done before Thanksgiving."
"Bummer. I know you don't always get along with them, but don't cut them off. They're good people."
"I know; I need to get a little distance to really appreciate that."
The bellboy moved their bags from the cart to the floor and turned with a broad smile. Daria tipped him and gave a perfunctory "Thank you" to usher him out. The hotel room had two queen-sized beds, a nice writing desk, easy chair, small refrigerator, coffee pot, and a microwave. As the two started dividing up their baggage and sorting items to drawers and closet, Jane said, "Nice room. Too bad about having a parking lot view, but hey, I can deal."
"Ocean view would have been nice, if they weren't booked up two months ago. I want to hit a shower after the drive."
"Sounds cool, that'll give me time to set up the easel. After I grab a shower, a pizza fix is in order."
Jane started setting up the easel, thinking back over the last three years. She'd been a friendless outcast with only her brother for support when she met Daria. Their friendship had grown strong, then almost crashed into nothing a year ago. The "Tom Thing" broke the illusion of Daria's perfect logic; she could make horrible mistakes, but could also show great sorrow and remorse at her actions. Jane found she could hurt more than she imagined, but was capable of immense understanding and forgiveness. Now, she was a confident woman with a goal and a solid plan to reach it, and a friendship to back her up that was stronger than ever before.
Daria emerged from the fog-filled bathroom in fresh clothes, carefully brushing her still damp hair. "All yours."
Jane moved swiftly by, "Don't worry, I won't be long. I'm starving."
Daria pulled her diary from the laptop case and sat down at the writing desk. She contemplated how she'd changed from the 15-year old-girl who held her attitude before her as a shield. She'd learned how shields can fail, and how much damage one mistake can cause. She'd learned to reach out, and learned to value the forgiveness of friends. In a way, she saw Nietzsche was right. The last year had not destroyed her, but made her stronger. However, if she'd been alone, she would've been destroyed.
Jane came out, stuffing her wallet in a pocket and tossing her old clothes on the bed. "I noticed a place called De Medici Pizza a couple blocks away. We have to check it out."
Daria placed the diary back in the case, closing it. As the two headed for the door, she stopped and locked both in the room safe, pocketing the key.
The restaurant interior was brown brick and medium dark stained wood. Jane was partway through her second slice, "First rate crust; excellent stability without being tough. Sauce has a tad too much oregano, excellent cheese and pepperoni density. Jane-Bob says check it out."
"I can definitely recommend the five-cheese fries."
"Second that," Jane said as she reached over and grabbed a couple more fries. "So, do we have a game plan for tomorrow?"
"The day is just packed. Sleep in, room service breakfast, hit the beach. Power lounging, reading, sketching, moron watching. Possible foray into the water. Late lunch, examine tacky tourist gift shops, lounge some more. Finally return to room, wash the accumulated sand from parts of our bodies we were not previously aware of."
"If we meet any interesting guys?"
"Are you plotting with Quinn? Okay, I'll keep my promise to be civil if they show any signs of higher brain function. I retain the right to run off anything lower on the evolutionary scale."
"Good. Remember, nothing fancy or involved. Just a little pleasant company and conversation. It'll do us both some good."
"Don't know if I think it'll do any good, but I'll cooperate. But if things go wrong, I know where you live."
Remains of room service breakfasts were scattered on the writing desk and around the easy chair. Two unmade beds and loose items about made the room look alive. Jane sat on one bed, wearing a modest 2 piece-suit with red lower and black upper garments, which displayed her sharply defined, muscled legs and lean runner's form. Mirrored aviator glasses rested on top of her black hair. She watched a slightly red-faced Daria exit the bathroom wearing a blue one-piece swimsuit that accented the soft, graceful curves of her small, slim frame. Instead of her regular glasses, she had on prescription sunglasses, in identical round frames.
"Daria, I thought we'd gotten you through this. You're allowed to look pretty on occasion."
"I feel half naked."
Jane looked down at her swimsuit. "Hey, I'm closer to three-quarters naked."
"Thank goodness I didn't agree to wear something like that."
"You'd look good, but I don't think it would be humanly possible to drag you out of the room if you did."
"Anyway. You look nice and that is modest enough that you shouldn't be so self-conscious.
"Thanks. I know you're right, I just have to build myself up to go out wearing this."
Jane started pushing Daria toward the door, "Just like cold water, it's best to jump right in and get it over with."
Daria carried the small cooler and a light backpack, Jane a sketch pad, her camera, and a small satchel. Beach towels were draped around both girls' necks. The two moved down to the parking lot to meet the late morning.
Daria looked up from the open trunk and began handing beach gear to Jane. "Looks like this is going to take two trips."
Two vacationing college students watched Jane and Daria unloading their car. One sported brown hair, blue and white striped swim trunks, and a plain grey tank top. The other was blond, had wire-framed glasses, and wore cut-off jeans and a faded red t-shirt marked with a white bull's-eye. After a few minutes, the brown-haired student nodded and led the other toward the two women.
Jane noticed their approach and nudged Daria. "Hey, two guys are coming over."
"Great, all we need is an audience."
"Hey. Maybe we can get them to help."
Daria rolled her eyes in frustration. "We haven't even reached the beach yet and we're about to be accosted."
"They look nice; maybe it won't be that bad."
"No. It could be worse. I'm really not up to dealing with come-ons this early in the day."
Jane was getting annoyed. "Daria. You promised to at least be civil. Give them a chance to make asses of themselves before you blow them off."
Daria looked at Jane and was about to give a sharp retort before remembering her promise. She sighed and said, "I'll be civil."
"Good. They're almost here. Now play nice."
The brown-haired young man asked. "Um, would you two like some help with all that?"
Jane said, "I guess a strong back and weak mind or two wouldn't hurt."
The blond pointed his thumb at his associate. "Greg's the weak back." Then shifted the thumb toward himself. "I'm Will, the strong mind."
Daria raised an eyebrow and paused as if mentally debating something. "Hi."
"I'm Jane, this is Daria." Jane gave an exaggerated bow, indicating herself and Daria as she did. Upon rising, she started handing off supplies to the two young men.
The two women sat next to each other in folding lounge chairs, umbrellas above to provide shade. Beside them were their other personal belongings: cooler, satchel, and backpack. Two beach towels were set on the sand nearby, as well as a large cooler and boom box. Daria quietly wrote in a notebook while Jane sketched the dolphins playing in the surf, her sunglass now down over her eyes. She turned to her friend and gave her a lopsided grin.
"You and Will seem to be getting along well."
"Their suave and sophisticated approach provided some doubts, but I must admit he's been interesting to talk to. Your game of Frisbee with Greg seemed to go well, though I think he was more interested in watching you jump for that thing than in the actual throwing."
"Daria, he's a guy, of course he was more interested in that."
"That didn't bother you?"
"I was a bit weird, but it was also fun. Kind of nice being the center of attention."
"Just as long as you don't become the faculty sponsor of the Club Formerly Known as Fashion if you take that job at Lawndale High."
"Never, never make that kind of suggestion again, or I will kill you."
"That's more like the Jane I know. I'll stop looking for sea pods."
"Besides, he was only interested and not leering."
"If you say so."
Jane decided to change the subject. "How about a swim before the boys come back with lunch?"
"I could stand to cool down a bit, sure." Daria closed the notebook and put it in the backpack. She removed her glasses and placed them in a hard case. She stood and set it on the backpack, then moved both to her seat. "Please let me know if I'm about to run over somebody on the way."
Jane stood, placed her sunglasses on the sketchpad, and dropped her towel on top of the satchel. Mindful of Daria's poor vision, she fell in step close by and was ready to give a gentle tug to keep her out of harm's way. Giving a sideways glance and a smirk, she said, "Once these suits get wet, they'll cling tighter. I'm sure the boys will appreciate that."
Daria shivered. "I don't want them looking at me like that."
"Daria, it won't hurt anything. The wet suits won't show any detail, just show your curves more clearly."
"This is supposed to make me feel more comfortable?"
"Will has already shown he's interested in more that how you look."
"I despise you."
Trudging through the soft, dry sand of the upper beach, Gregg carried a makeshift tray made from a cardboard box. Barely contained on it was a selection of hot dogs, ketchup, several different mustards, sauerkraut, onion, relishes, chili, and cheese. Will carried a similar tray of cold drinks, fries, onion rings, plates, napkins and plastic utensils.
"Greg, looks like you ran into somebody who can keep up with you, and even play bad Frisbee without getting offended."
"What can I say, I like a well-toned woman. Speaking of which, Daria seems to be able to keep up with your geek speak."
"Dude, she has a brain that could slice you into ribbons."
"I hope you've at least noticed how cute she is."
Greg, that's what the glasses are for, so I won't be blind."
Crossing onto firmer, damp sand, their speed increased and they quickly reached the abandoned beach setting. Greg slid Jane's sketchpad out of the way and set his tray down. Will noticed the glasses case on the backpack and set his tray down next to it, careful to not disturb them. Curious, they looked around. Will pointed to the surf line.
"There they are, just having a swim. Why don't we surprise them and get things set up before they get back?"
Greg walked over to their larger cooler and picked it up. "That was actually a reasonably romantic idea; I guess you're not hopeless after all." He set the cooler down between the two chairs. "Let's get to work."
Jane smiled at seeing Greg and Will seated on beach towels near the lounge chairs, lunch spread on top of the large cooler in the middle. "Isn't that sweet. I think they like us."
"Please tell me they haven't done something over-the-top."
"No, they just set up lunch around our chairs."
"Good, I want a nice simple lunch."
"Ah, yes. A simple lunch will be good. The boys will appreciate fewer distractions from how your swimsuit clings."
Daria blushed and looked down. She was able to focus well enough to see that Jane was right. "Forget the knife, just twist the chainsaw counterclockwise."
Will noted the slower, careful movements of Daria as she approached. He recognized the squint as she moved toward the chair, negotiating the relocated items. He leaned over and picked up the glasses case he'd noticed earlier. He opened it and presented it to Daria, "Be careful, here are your glasses."
Daria's hand moved in a slow sweep until she touched the case, then carefully grasped it and removed the glasses, placing them on in one practiced motion. She smiled and said, "Um, thanks, Will."
Jane sat down and hungrily eyed the spread. "Processed mystery meats in casings backed up with a plethora of strange and/or artificial toppings. You guys certainly know how to make a girl feel special."
Greg sipped his drink and smiled. "We aim to please."
Daria quipped back, "Or at least to pander."
Jane had noted the covert stares from the boys; they were pleased with the wet swimsuits. She thought, At least Daria got distracted with her glasses and forgot about that. I'll have to remind her later.
Will crawled over to the cooler. "Now that our guests have arrived, can we eat now?"
Greg shook his head and covered his eyes. "The bottomless pit lives. Please keep your hands and feet clear until the danger has passed."
"Come on, Greg, I'm still trying to recover from last year's dorm food and need to pack on reserves." Will piled kraut, chili and cheese onto a pair of hot dogs before retiring to his towel.
In the late afternoon, the four wandered through a beachside gift shop. Daria had her beach towel around her waist like a skirt; Jane carried hers like a shawl.
Jane imitated the Sick Sad World reporter. "He we are, the tackiest place on the planet Earth." She held a vaguely human shaped shell sculpture toward Daria like a microphone. "Tell me miss, what horrible event carried you to this god-forsaken edifice of human tastelessness?"
"The irresistible urge of neon pink and lime green polyester."
Will moved up beside Daria. "The artistic mastery of shell sculpture."
Daria added, "Peanut Log Rolls."
Will fired back, "Driftwood centerpieces."
"Towels by the kilo."
"Rose petal marmalade."
Greg whispered to Jane, "He can keep that up for hours."
Jane glanced at Daria and Will and saw that they weren't paying attention to her. She whispered back to Greg, "So can Daria. We could sit back and see who holds out longest."
"But I doubt if we would live long enough to find out whom."
"Hmm, point taken. We better put a stop to this." She pulled the shell sculpture back, "Thank you very much."
Daria and Will startled slightly, recovered, and looked at Jane with slightly disappointed frowns.
Greg put his arm around Will's shoulder and held his hand out toward the two women. "Would you two care for a nice dinner? Our treat."
Will looked confused, then nodded in agreement.
"Lady Jane accepts the kind invitation of Mr. Greg and Mr. Will, and I'm sure Lady Daria will, too." Jane raised an eyebrow and shifted her eyes from Daria to the boys.
Daria tensed momentarily, consciously relaxed, and then played along with Jane. "The Lady Daria accepts the kind gentlemen's invitation to dine."
Greg smiled broadly, "Wonderful. Why don't we pick you up by your car at six? That'll give everyone time to clean up and give our guests a chance to pick a restaurant."
Jane reached and shook Greg's hand. "Deal, we'll see you at six."
Daria rested on the bed reading the local restaurant guide, wearing a green skirt and black short-sleeved shirt.
Jane called from the shower, "Arrgh! You were right. I'm finding sand in places I didn't know I had on my body!"
"That's what you get for sitting for two hours making sand sculptures."
"Hey, never fear a new medium."
"Or the chance to freak a new audience. I like the effect you had on the lifeguard when you made the severed leg."
"When art makes people react, you know you did something right. I'm glad the jiffy store across the street had the red food coloring."
Daria heard the shower cut off. "Do we know what we're doing?"
A wet Jane poked her head out from the door. "They've been well behaved all day, so I think they'll stay that way. If not, I know you carry that bear-strength pepper spray, and I also have a can of regular strength. Plus the dirty tricks from Barch's 'Take Back the Night' class."
"I hope we never need to use those moves. Some of them still make me queasy."
Jane leaned against the rental car, wearing jeans and a red blouse. Daria nervously sat on the car trunk.
Jane turned toward her friend. "Don't be so nervous. It's just dinner with a couple of nice guys."
"Do you realize that I'm actively taking one of Quinn's suggestions? She told me to have a cute guy buy me dinner."
"So, you think Will is cute?"
Daria quietly grumbled before saying, "Yes, if you insist."
Jane laughed and made pulling motions with her hands, "Kicking and screaming, you are being dragged into something like the human race. Though hearing you two discuss what could have happened if Bismarck had seen a high school cafeteria kitchen instead of just sausage makers makes me doubt the full human part."
A dusty gunmetal Camaro drove up, probably five years old or more but reasonably maintained. Will briefly stepped out, pulled the passenger seat forward, and crawled into the back seat behind Greg, motioning for Daria to follow.
After Daria was settled, Jane put the seat back and grinned. "Oh yeah, I get shotgun."
Greg turned to Jane. "Have you ladies made a choice about where we'll eat?"
Jane held the restaurant guide open and pointed. "Seafood seems to be just the ticket. Why come all the way to the ocean if you don't want to eat dead fish?"
Daria directed toward Jane, "Keep your dead fish; I have my eye on some prime crustacean."
Greg nodded. "Sounds good to me, and Will back there will even eat cut bait, so I'm sure he's happy."
Jane and Daria looked at Will, who responded, "It was good, fresh mullet, buying it as bait let me get a good price on it." The two looked a little relieved, but not completely.
Greg looked at the guide, then to a local road map, muttered a few moments, and traced his finger on the map. "Okay, I've got it."
Will leaned between the front seats and whispered to Jane, "Keep an eye on the map. Without a navigator, he gets lost going off-campus."
Despite Will's dire warnings, the restaurant proved to be easy to find. The décor could be best described as Mid-Atlantic Nautical Standard. As the four walked to the door, Daria pulled Jane slightly aside and whispered, "Do you realize that was the first time we've been called ladies that I didn't want to throw up or try to kick somebody's scrotum through their nostrils?"
"Daria, have you considered the chance that they think we're nice?"
"I suppose you're right. I not used to that. Am I getting soft?"
Jane shook her head and nudged Daria forward back toward their dates.
The room was mostly filled, so the hostess led them through a maze of filled tables to reach theirs. They quickly seated themselves and silently began reading menus. A waitress arrived minutes later with water glasses, asking, "May I take your drink order to start off with?"
Greg: "Ultra Cola."
Jane: .Cola Blast."
Will: "Coffee, cream and sugar."
Daria: "Hot tea, Darjeeling if you have it."
They quietly went back to their menus, with occasional glances at the person they had spent the day with. A few minutes later, the waitress was back with drinks and to take their dinner order.
Greg: "Steamed clams"
Jane: "Blackened mahi mahi."
Will: "Jumbo sampler platter."
Daria: "Broiled shrimp in carbonara sauce."
With the menus taken away by the waitress, hiding was impossible.
Greg broke the silence. "Daria. Will mentioned that you sold a short story. That's pretty cool."
Daria smiled a little. 'Thanks. Jane here is becoming the darling of the local art society."
"I've been able to sell a couple paintings at the local gallery. Must admit I like the cash."
Will's shoulders slumped a little. "Wow, you two are really something, already off to a good start with your careers. Makes me wonder why you'd want to hang around with a couple of nobodies like us."
Greg shook his head. "Will has these delusions of mediocrity."
Daria hesitated, and then lightly touched Will's hand. "You're right, we wouldn't want to hang around with a couple of nobodies, so instead we spent the day with a couple of intelligent, interesting gentlemen."
Jane leaned over toward Will. "What was Greg telling me about you being a National Merit Scholar in Chemistry?"
Will blushed slightly. "Um, yeah, glad I got it. The scholarship that goes with it has been the only way I could afford school. My parents don't have a lot."
Greg tapped his glass with a spoon. "Okay all you fruit loops and outcasts, we're gathered here for a good time and a meal, so let's keep things strictly on the matters at hand."
Jane flicked a piece of ice from her drink at him. "Sounds good to me."
Daria looked at Greg. "Only if you count yourself as one of us. Will mentioned your invite to that conference at Taliesin West."
Greg squirmed a little and thought about how this talk made him and his friend self-conscious. He sought another distraction and motioned toward the approaching waitress. "Hey, dinner has arrived."
The four stood near the rental car, a slight sense of awkwardness all around, more so for Will and Daria.
Jane made the first move, playfully wrapping her arms around Greg's neck and giving him a kiss. "Thank you for such a wonderful day and night."
Greg returned the kiss and responded, "The pleasure has been mine. Please have a safe trip home and my best wishes, always."
Daria's left hand was in Will's right. She watched Jane and thought, Now he's going to expect the same. What the hell. He's been kind and polite, and a nice guy to talk to. She leaned upward onto her toes, placed her right hand on his shoulder, and gave him a light kiss. "Thank you, I had fun today."
Will looked stunned for a moment. Recovering, he looked straight at Daria. "Uhhh, you're welcome."
"Daria stepped back a little. "Good bye and good luck on the studies."
"Good bye. Thank you too for being such good company." Will turned and started walking back to the car. Greg gave Jane a brief hand squeeze and followed.
As the two men reached the Camaro, Greg gave Will a friendly push on the shoulder. "There, you goof. I said you could have a good time without embarrassing yourself."
Will smiled, "I guess I didn't. Thanks for dragging me out. I can't believe a girl that brilliant and pretty would even bother to give me the time of day."
"Like I said, give yourself a chance occasionally. You're not a loser."
"I yield, you win." Will's smile faded. "Too bad we'll never see them again. I doubt if I'll ever meet someone like her."
"Somehow I have the feeling they're going to make it, so we might just hear about them some time in the future."
Daria and Jane had changed into their typical nightwear of t-shirts and shorts. Daria was at the writing desk with her diary and Jane was sketching the lifeguard's reaction to her sand sculpture on a canvas placed on the easel.
Daria looked up. "Jane thanks for not letting me run away this morning. I had a good time and the boys made the day more interesting."
"What are friends for?"
"You're usually good for a swift kick."
"You enjoy it too much. But," Daria paused in thought, "because you gave me that swift kick, I feel different about myself after today. It was obvious the boys were enjoying our appearance, that still creeps me out, but I could deal with you there. More importantly, they thought who we were was enjoyable and attractive. I liked that."
You've had guys treat you like that before.
"Only after they had known me for a while. This was different. They wanted to know us right from the start, even though they'd only see us for one day."
"Not everyone's a bastard or a lecherous pervert."
"Today proved that to me."
"You are getting soft."
"Maybe a little, but if any hands had gone astray, they would have been sucking bear repellent."
Jane smiled at that and returned to penciling.
"Jane, I hope you don't mind if I bring up one more thing."
"Today put an end to my last regrets about breaking up with Tom. I know there are good men out there and one will be right for me. I can stop worrying that I left the only guy who could stand being with me."
"Good. You finally realized that. Tom was basically a good guy, just...."
"Not right for either of us."
"Exactly. So, will I have an easier time dragging you to parties in Boston?"
Jane gave her a conspiratorial grin. "We'll see."
"Damn fine trip. Thanks Amiga." Jane was behind the wheel of the Taurus, pacing traffic flow.
"Hey, it was your idea. I just made sure we had a good hotel and didn't break down on the side of the road trying to take Trent's car."
"Like I said, thanks. If we'd taken off with my half-baked plans, this weekend would've been a disaster."
"Like a Mystik Spiral road trip?"
"Maybe they can hire you as their manager."
"Not a chance. I like Trent and the band too much."
"So you do still like him?"
Daria put her hand to her eyes and thought, "Here we go again," before replying, "Yes."
Jane looked sidelong at Daria and chuckled, "Just kidding. I'm not trying to get you two together."
Jane glanced again at Daria, thinking, "But what is up with the two of them?"
Daria was on the phone at the Lane residence. "Trent gave us a hand, so Jane's stuff has been unloaded. I'll meet you at the rental agency in thirty minutes. Okay, see you then, bye."
Daria could hear Jane talking to Trent. "I burned through three rolls of film; I should have plenty of stuff to work on for months. Even got a few of Daria in her swim suit."
"She didn't try to gouge your eyes out for that?"
"She threatened a bit, but I think she's getting a little soft, or at least comfortable with herself."
Daria marched into the room. "Maybe a little of both. But if you paint anything embarrassing, I still have the wasabi powder."
"At least you're not threatening to make sushi out of me. Don't forget, though, if you try anything, Quinn will get a duplicate set of negatives."
Daria smirked and shook her head. "I have to get going, meeting Mom to drop off the car. Thanks for helping us unload, Trent. Thanks for a fun weekend, Jane."
"You too. Think of how much you can freak Jake when you tell him we spent the day with a couple of college guys."
Trent added, "You're welcome, Daria. Have a safe trip home."
Helen held the front door of the Morgendorffer home open as Daria maneuvered her suitcases into the house. "Don't worry about the rest; I'll have your father bring it in later."
Jake looked up from where he sat on the sofa, watching television. "Hey Daria, have a good time?"
"Actually, yes I did."
"Are you sure you went to the beach? You don't look sunburned."
"Jane and I met a couple of nice young men who were happy apply to plenty of SPF 45."
"What! You let….oh, that's a good one, Daria."
Helen placed her hands on her hips, remembering Daria telling her about the two nice college students they spent the day with. "Jake."
"One was a chemistry student and the other architecture. They were very polite and did make sure we had on enough sunscreen without letting their fingers do the walking."
Jake made a visible effort to calm down while he mentally reminded himself that his eldest was a responsible adult that wasn't groped, nor was she joking. "I'm sure you and Jane kept them on their best behavior."
Quinn peered down from the mid-point of the stairs. "Well, were they at least cute?"
"Yes, Dad, but we didn't need to. You can relax. Yes, Quinn, they were cute. And yes, you may gloat, they bought dinner for us."
Quinn continued down the stairs. "Oh Daria, I just knew you had it in you!"
Daria raised one eyebrow and stared momentarily at her sister's sarcasm. "Good delivery, I knew you had it in you, too. We found a great seafood place. I'll give you the details so you can find it if you make a trip next year."
"Oh, that would be so great, thanks."
"If you're nice, I'll throw in a few tips on picking up guys at the beach."
"Get real. Sit back and watch a pro, Grasshopper."
Helen watched her daughters banter as they ascended the stairs, heartened at how they were now getting along and avoiding the habits she fell into with her sisters. The two were rubbing off on each other: Quinn becoming a little more sarcastic and Daria a little more social. She wryly thought, They'll make a scary team if they decide to cooperate. I pity the fool who stands against them.
Thanks to Isa Yo Jo, Steven Galloway, Mahna Mahna, brooklyn33, Parker-man, Ranger Thorne, Decelaraptor, MrMagnum, and Roger E. Moore for commentary.
Thanks to Kristen Bealer, Robert Nowall for beta reading and detailed commentary.
Revised January 2005