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.
A Simple Makeup Kit
Fourteen-year-old Daria flipped the light on in her room and shook her head at the worn, clown-face switch. Somewhere else in the house, her mother could be heard saying, "Jake, there you are! We're supposed to be a team at moments like this. Do you know how embarrassing that was to do by myself?"
"Embarrassing for you?" Daria said. "How do you think I feel about the idea that I'm here because of you and Dad doing…that?"
She could hear Jake say, "But Helen, I thought it would be easier if I wasn't around. You know, girl talk."
"Our daughter is becoming a woman and you can't keep hiding from it," Helen retorted.
"But I don't know how to talk about it! My old man just threw a porno magazine at me when I was home on summer break from military school and said to read up."
Closing the door, Daria said, "Soundproofing would be nice." Looking around her room didn't make her feel like she was becoming a woman. For the most part, her room was little different from what she'd always remembered. The biggest difference was that the toybox at the foot of her bed now contained books instead of toys and shelves had been added for even more books, including one of her prized possessions, a model of the human heart. She'd saved for weeks to buy it and sold it to her parents as "educational" by using it in a science presentation.
She dropped onto her bed and leaned back against the pillow. As little as Daria liked to admit it, her mother was right: she was changing. Her always slender frame had started to grow in different directions, to her sometime embarrassment. At times, she even felt different about boys, especially a new boy in school. However, either Beavis or Butthead usually managed to say or do something to quickly change her mind about the opposite sex.
"I need to read something," she said, taking the latest book she'd checked out from the library, I, Robot, from the pile on the floor next to her bed. "At least robots don't feel these kinds of things."
Much to her surprise, Daria didn't find the detachment in reading that she had desired and, after a few minutes, gave up. Her mother's talk kept coming back to her, along with the new feelings she had barely begun to understand. She stood, went to her dresser and repositioned a small, standing mirror before stepping back from it. Daria stared at her slender form, clad in a t-shirt and skirt, as well as the small, gentle curves of her changing body. Placing her hands on her hips accented her shape even more. "Life was a lot easier before you started changing on me."
Eighth-grade Social Studies was as dull as ever, but Daria sat still and, with well-honed skill, paid just enough attention to catch the occasional tidbits of new information hidden within the drone of things she'd learned long ago. Otherwise, she let her mind go from topic to topic as ideas came to her, writing down the interesting ones as they occurred.
"Mr. Phillips," the new student sitting near Daria said. "My dad was stationed in Germany at the time and he got a piece of the Berlin Wall. Do you want me to bring it in?"
She set aside her pencil and looked at the dark-haired boy. He had a trim build and the natural tan of someone who was regularly outdoors. He doesn't seem as brain-dead as regular Highland inhabitants and he's cute, too. Oh God, I didn't just think that. Daria felt a slight tingle on her cheeks and turned her attention back to her notebook. Yes, I did.
The teacher said, "That would be wonderful, Danny. We can all see and touch a piece of real history."
At home, Daria found herself looking into her small mirror again. "Danny is cute, and can at least answer a teacher's question without stumbling over the English language." She leaned a little closer to the mirror and tilted her head slightly. "Mom's right; it's natural for me to find certain boys, um, attractive and it's not like I'm only interested in his looks. There's more to him than that."
After scrutinizing her face for several more seconds, she stood and walked away. "But then, I doubt if he finds me attractive or even notices."
Hearing the haunting, flute-like theme music on the TV, Quinn came up behind Daria sitting on the sofa and said, "You're not watching that icky show again, are you?"
"I thought you were playing with your dress-up dolls," Daria said.
"Then go back to your room and leave me alone."
"Hearing that show creeps me out."
"Then close your door."
"Why do you even watch it? That guy looks like such a dork."
Daria gave Quinn an annoyed glare. "It's something you wouldn't understand: intelligent."
"No way!" Quinn said. "If the guy was so smart, he'd see how hot the girl looks."
"Mulder sees more to Scully than her looks. Like I said, you wouldn't understand."
Quinn shook her head. "You don't get it. When you look that hot, even a brain like you could get a guy."
"You're twelve; what would you know about getting a guy?"
"You gotta plan ahead, Daria."
"Quinn, why don't you just go back to Fashionista Barbie and Eyecandy Ken and let me watch my show?"
Quinn spun around and stomped back to her room. "Then turn the TV down!"
"Fine," Daria snapped back while grabbing the remote to lower the volume. To the TV, she said, "I can believe my sister's an alien."
Partway through the show, Quinn's words came back to Daria, "When you look that hot, even a brain like you could get a guy." She settled further down on the sofa and continued to watch the image of Dana Scully on the screen. I wonder…
Helen rushed into the kitchen where her family was already seated for breakfast. "Sorry everyone, I have to run, big day at the office."
Between bites of her cereal, Daria said, "Mom, I'm going to stop by the library on the way home from school today."
"That's nice, sweetie," Helen said as she stopped at the coffee pot to fill a travel mug.
"Again, Daria?" Quinn said. "You were there a couple of days ago. Mom, if Daria can go to the library again, can I go to the mall?"
Helen didn't pause as she capped the mug and hurried back out of the kitchen. "Sure, honey. Be home by dinner time."
Quinn then turned to her father, who, as usual, was behind his newspaper. "Dad, I need some money to go to the mall."
"I thought you went the other day," Jake said.
"Mom said I could go today."
"Oh, in that case…" Jake took some cash from his wallet and gave it to Quinn.
"Thanks, Dad." Quinn quickly rose and started to make her exit. "Gotta go. Bye."
After her sister was gone, Daria said, "Dad, I need some money for, um, a project."
"That's great, kiddo," Jake said, handing over some more cash. "What is it this time? Science fair?"
"It's, uh, kind of a study in applied behavior." Daria finished her breakfast and put her bowl in the sink. "See you tonight, Dad."
"Have a good day." Jake folded the newspaper and looked inside his wallet. "Hey, now I need some money!"
Despite the often-lamented small size of the Highland Public Library, Daria found what she was after and deposited the books on the librarian's desk. "I'm ready."
The grandmotherly librarian raised an eyebrow at the books selected. "Cosmetology? Stage makeup? Are you interested in doing something at the Tumbleweed Theatre?"
For some reason, Daria didn't feel like evading that much, but was still nervous about explaining. "No, um, well, I’m in eighth grade now and I'm getting old enough, so I though I'd do some research."
"Only you would do that, Daria. Haven't you tried on your mother's makeup and asked her to help? That's how a lot of us learned."
"Mom's real busy."
"Others share with their friends." When Daria raised one eyebrow at her, the librarian said, "Or not."
"I like to learn on my own."
After stamping the return date in the books, the librarian said, "So you do. You might want to check some young women's magazines for more up-to-date information."
"I, uh, yeah, I'll do that."
"Good luck, Daria."
"Thanks." Daria put the books in her backpack and left the library.
The librarian watched and mused, "I wonder what counts as cute in boys these days?"
From the sidewalk, Daria spied the empty house and said, "Be home by dinner. Right." She unlocked the door and went inside, going directly to her room. She closed the door and opened her backpack to pull out the library books and a couple of magazines purchased on the way home, including a fan magazine for X-Files. She flipped through a couple of pages before saying, "This can work. Smart can be attractive and attractive doesn't have to be empty-headed."
Daria climbed onto the bed and stacked her new references close by. "How hard can this be?"
"Daria?!" Helen said, swinging the door open and seeing her daughter still sitting on the bed, reading. "Oh, there you are."
Not realizing how much time had passed, Daria closed the book and set it on the opposite side of the bed from her mother. "Sorry Mom, I was busy reading."
"Your dinner is ready."
"I'll be down in a minute."
After Helen closed the door, Daria looked down at the book. "This isn't as easy as I thought. I’m going to need some practice."
Wearing far too much makeup herself, the sales clerk at the cosmetics counter leaned over to look at Daria examining a lipstick color chart and asked with a strong twang, "Can I help you, honey?"
Daria compared a couple of samples to her skin color on the inside of her arm. "I think I found something." Reading the name, she said, "Roseate Luster."
"Oh, that's a good one," the clerk said, selecting a tube of lipstick from the rack. "Yeah, that'll go well with your skin color. You know what I think? Just a little bit of blush will look good and I've got just the thing, 'Spring Glow.'"
Before Daria was fully aware of what was happening, the clerk had a brush out and was gently dusting the powder onto Daria's cheeks. "How's that?"
Daria checked in the mirror and based on what she'd read in the last week, the accent on her cheeks would compliment the lipstick. "Okay."
The cashier placed a flat, round canister of blush on the counter along with a makeup brush. "Anything else?"
Daria looked at another display and pointed. "That mascara."
"'Tigress.' An excellent choice. You know your makeup, honey."
The cashier next placed a small, zippered bag on the counter. "We're featuring a free makeup case with every purchase of three items or more. Anything else?"
"Some makeup remover."
"Moisturizing or non-moisturizing?"
"Non-moisturizing, I guess."
"Yeah, you've got young skin. Let me ring this up for you."
Daria patiently waited and then paid the clerk, who smiled and cheerfully said, "Have a good day!"
"I'll try," she said, leaving the store and stepping out into the dry, Texas air. "Mom's going to want to bond with me if she sees me trying on makeup and Quinn will…I don't want to think about it. Now, how can I practice putting this on without them knowing?"
In the crush of students trying to squeeze into the classroom door before the bell rang, Daria found herself directly behind Danny and the close proximity seemed to cause her to feel unusual warmth on her cheeks. The clot broke up and Daria made it to her seat while stealing several glances at the boy.
Mr. Phillips said, "Daria, are you okay?"
"Hmm?" she mumbled, turning suddenly to look at the teacher.
"Your cheeks are flushed."
"Yes, they are. Do you have a fever?"
"No, not that I'm aware of."
"Well, I guess it's a bit hot out there today."
"You better go to the school nurse anyway. Just to be safe."
"I feel fine, Mr. Phillips."
He frowned for a second and then said. "Okay, but if you feel anything more, I'm sending you to the nurse."
Daria sank a couple inches into her seat.
Daria hurried away from school that afternoon. "I can't believe I was blushing just from being close to Danny." She allowed a slight smile as she thought about the boy. "I guess it could've been worse."
Along the way home, Daria walked by the town's small, barely surviving community theater, the Tumbleweed. In faded letters on the marquee was, "Backstage volunteers wanted." Daria remembered the librarian's comment and changed her path to enter the building. "It's worth a try."
A pleasantly plump woman with her long hair tied into a pony tail was seated at a table inside. "Can I help you?" she asked.
Daria looked over her shoulder in the direction of the marquee. "Uh, what kind of backstage help are you looking for?"
"All kinds. Do you have something you'd like to do?"
"My mom's always onto me about finding an outside activity and I was thinking about learning stage makeup."
"Well, darling, I think we have an opening for you."
While her mother was setting the table for dinner, Daria walked into the kitchen with a sheet of paper in her hand. "Mom, can you sign this?"
"What is it, Daria?"
"A permission slip."
"Permission for what?"
"To volunteer at the Tumbleweed Theater. You're always onto me about finding an extracurricular activity."
"You're going to be in a play?" Helen happily exclaimed.
Jake ran in from the living room. "Daria's in a play?"
"Like I was saying…" Daria tried to explain.
"Daria? No way," Quinn said, following her father into the kitchen.
Daria held up her hands. "I'm not going to be in the play, I'm only going to be helping backstage."
"But nobody will see you," Helen said.
"True, but the stage crew is just as important as the cast. I thought you'd be happy I'm doing something."
Helen grabbed the paper and scribbled her signature on the bottom as if racing to complete the form before Daria changed her mind. "I'm happy, Daria, really."
"Yeah!" Jake said. "Happy. Say, what's the play?"
"Annie Get Your Gun. I'll need to be there after school three days a week for the next couple of weeks. Will that be okay?"
"Of course, kiddo," Jake said. "You know, I was in a play in college."
Helen elbowed him in the ribs. "Not now, honey."
Feeling a little braver after a couple weeks, though still hesitant, Daria carried her lunch tray to the table where Danny was seated and asked, "Do you mind if I sit here?"
"No," the boy said. "You're Daria, right?"
"Yeah, Daria," she said, sitting down.
"You don't seem like everyone else in this burg. What do you do to keep from being bored out of your skull?"
"I read a lot. Even the Highland Library can get Interlibrary Loan."
"That's good to know. Anything else? Go out anywhere? Do anything?"
"I've been helping backstage at the little theater in town."
"There's a theater in town? Oh, cool. What are they showing?"
Daria said, "You have to remember that they need to do stuff that has local interest."
"Annie Get Your Gun. It opens Friday and runs through the weekend."
"Classic musical with country music and shooting. I can see that being popular around here."
Almost before Daria knew it, she blurted out, "Would you like to see it?"
"Um, sure. I've got stuff to do Friday and Saturday. Do they have anything on Sunday?"
"That's the last performance. It starts at six. All the stuff I have to do is before the show; I can meet you then."
"Hey, that'll be cool. See you then."
Standing on a stool to reach, Daria applied eye liner to one of the play's actresses seated in a makeup chair. The woman Daria had first talked to at the theater examined the work and said, "Very nice."
"Thanks, Mrs. Branson," Daria said.
"You've learned a lot in the last couple of weeks. Are you ready for this weekend?"
"Ready," Daria said, stepping off the stool, "And you're ready, too," she then told the actress.
"Thank you," the young woman said, rising. "I'd better get to the green room."
Daria waved her hand at the makeup station and mirror. "Do you mind?"
"Go ahead, dear. Practice makes perfect."
After Mrs. Branson left the room, Daria looked at her face carefully in the mirror and then opened her personal makeup kit. "And I want this to be perfect."
Daria looked down at the nicely coordinated skirt and blouse she was wearing and thought that her mother was right; it had an attractive, professional look. The ensemble had been purchased at the beginning of the school year and had languished in Daria's closet ever since. She gave her image in the mirror a smirk and said, "Maybe you should consider a job with the FBI."
Daria packed her small wallet and makeup kit into an equally unused, matching purse. "If Danny wants to go out with me, I hope it means that he sees something as interesting in me as I see in him." Going down the hallway, she slowly cupped her hand, imagining Danny holding it as they walked together. For the first time in a very long while, Daria felt like she could reach out to someone and she liked it.
Despite Daria's hopes, Quinn was in the living room when she tried to leave. Startled at what her sister was wearing, Quinn said, "Wow, what's up with you?"
Trying to remain calm, Daria said, "What do you mean?"
"Come on, you never wear that stuff."
Daria shrugged and said, "We're doing the cast photo thing after the show."
"You never dress up for photos."
"Oh, Daria, you look so lovely," Helen said upon seeing her.
"Are you ready to take me to the theater?" Daria asked, taking advantage of the distraction.
"Then let's go," Daria said, hurrying out of the door and away from her sister.
Quinn said, "She's up to something."
"Oh, Quinn," Helen said. "Your sister's just growing up a little and I'm glad to see her expanding her horizons."
Quinn shook her head in disbelief. "Daria?"
Inside the car, Helen said, "I'm proud of you, Daria. Volunteering to help with the play and now trying out some new clothes."
"Um, yeah, thanks, Mom."
"Now, what are you up to?"
"Like I told Quinn, they're doing cast photos today."
"Daria, you tried to wear a burlap sack for your last school photos."
Daria thought fast to avoid admitting her real reason. She sighed and said, "I figured we could have a little quid pro quo…extracurricular activity and a little dress-up on my part in exchange for no or reduced encouragement for more extracurriculars over a to-be-negotiated period of time on your part."
Helen looked at Daria. "I've got to stop talking about work at home."
After the flash, the photographer rose from behind the camera tripod and said, "That's great, thanks."
The director stepped forward from the cast and crew gathered on the stage and clapped his hands. "Places everyone, curtain in five minutes!"
The stage and backstage area became a den of activity as people moved to their assigned locations. Daria weaved her way through to the green room and stopped to check herself in the mirror. Mrs. Branson stopped next to her and said, "Nice makeup; you look very pretty today."
Daria smiled. "Thanks. Um, will you be able to handle any touchups for the cast today? I'm, um, meeting someone for the show."
With a broad smile, Mrs. Branson said, "Go ahead, dear. I'll hold down the fort."
Daria took the side hallway from the green room to reach the theater lobby. After a short search, she found Danny waiting near one of the auditorium doors with his hands in his pockets. She stepped over and said, "Hi, Danny."
"Hi, Daria. I guess we better find a seat."
"Yeah, curtain is only a couple of minutes away."
Faintly disappointed that he didn't seem to notice how much effort she'd made, Daria followed Danny into the auditorium. Maybe he'll say something after we've found a seat.
As the show ended, Daria thought, Annie throws the contest to protect Frank's stupid ego. Let's hear it for nineteenth century values.
Danny said, "A bit rough, but okay for a local show."
"You've seen bigger shows?"
"Yeah, when my family lived in New York."
Danny didn't seem to hear Daria as his eyes followed an attractive woman walking past.
He doesn't seem to have a problem noticing her. Daria nudged his arm. "Danny."
"What?" he said, turning back to face her.
"Never mind. Look, there's a cast party in the green room after the cast gets out of costume and makeup. Do you want to hang around for that?"
"Sure. The longer I can avoid my little brother, the better. That reminds me, thanks for giving me an excuse to get out of babysitting him today. I really appreciate it."
Trying to ignore the hurt growing within, Daria said, "You're welcome."
"Danny?" Daria said to the boy as he stared at the lead actress, who at this point was wearing a form-fitting tank top. So much for intelligent conversation. Giving up, she walked away from him and went to the farthest makeup station, straining to keep her hurt from showing. Daria almost chocked up before she sat down and began to mechanically to clean the makeup from her face as she kept it frozen in a neutral expression. Without noticing, the rest of the cast and crew continued to celebrate a successful show.
Danny didn't want to go out with me; he only wanted an excuse to get out of babysitting. He hasn't even seen me at all, but he's gotten a good look at almost every other woman here.
Controlling the urge to hurry up and run away, Daria deliberately removed the lipstick, blush and mascara that she had so carefully applied only a couple hours earlier.
Who was I trying to fool? Dana Scully is a character, not a person. In the real world, you can't do both looks and brains, so I'd better stick to what I do best.
After placing the used cotton balls and tissue in the trash, Daria took a last look around before quietly slipping away for the long walk home.
Mrs. Branson searched through the crowd and finally found Danny. She tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention and said, "Where's Daria? I haven't seen her in a while."
Danny gave the room a fast scan and said. "Dunno. She was here a little while ago. Did you check the restroom?"
"Yes, I did," she replied. Knowing that he would be of no help, Mrs. Branson muttered, "Silly hormonal boys," and continued her search.
Helen answered the telephone. "Hello. Oh, hi Mrs. Branson. Yes, Daria came home about ten minutes ago. She walked. Yes, yes, she's fine. She's in her room right now. Okay, I'll ask her. Oh, and thanks for calling. Good-bye."
Curious, Helen went to Daria's room and slowly opened the door. "Daria, that was Mrs. Branson. She was worried about you. Nobody knew that you'd left the theater."
Daria finished hanging the skirt and blouse in the deepest reaches of her closet and stepped back. "They were so busy with the party; I didn't want to disturb them."
"I should've guessed. You need to be more considerate of others in the future."
"I'll remember that, Mom."
"Mrs. Branson also asked if you would be interested in helping with their next show."
"I think I'll pass," Daria said. She nodded to her stack of library books and said, "I've fallen behind on my reading."
Helen sighed and said, "If you change your mind, let me know."
Helen backed out of the room and gently closed the door.
Relieved to be alone again, Daria picked up her seldom-used purse and removed the makeup kit. She moved to throw it away, but something stayed her hand. Biting her lower lip, Daria looked at the small case in her hand for a minute, and then went to her dresser. She opened the top drawer, and then closed it after a short pause. She then knelt down and opened the bottom drawer. After briefly picturing herself as she had looked in the mirror wearing the makeup, she mentally brushed the image aside and slipped the makeup kit into a space in the back of the drawer.
Feeling like she had just set a section of her life aside, Daria sat on her bed and picked up the top book from her library stack and started reading.
Thanks to Louise Lobinske, Kristen Bealer, Ipswichfan and Mr.Orange for beta reading.