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 plot copyright Richard J. Lobinske. 2007.
This story occurs after Boxing Daria and before the end of Is It College Yet?
Lying on the floor of the cardboard box playhouse in her room, six-year-old Daria concentrated intently on the letters she was slowly writing. They had to be the best she could do; nothing less was acceptable. Faint rattles and bangs in the kitchen, punctuated by her daddy's stifled shouts, told her that time was running out to finish her project. It was a situation that frustrated the precocious little girl, since she would've had plenty of time to finish at school if her teacher hadn't insisted that she make a card much like those of the other first graders.
Like the other children's mommies, Daria's was happy with the flower and heart shaped card, though the young girl wanted something more. She wanted something that truly pictured her mommy and how Daria felt.
Sitting in bed, Helen found the silence even more frightening than the previous half an hour of random kitchen noise. Jake's previous attempts at preparing a Mother's Day breakfast-in-bed had been less than successful, at best. She yawned and smiled at her husband as he entered the room with their two daughters.
"Happy Mother's Day!" Jake announced. "Breakfast in bed, a la Jake."
"Oh, honey, you shouldn't have," Helen said as she looked at the tray Jake placed in front of her. Flecks of black and brown were scattered through eggs that were probably meant to be prepared "over easy" but ended up scrambled instead. Somehow, the bacon looked to be burnt on one end and near-raw on the other and Helen desperately hoped that the jelly on the toast was apple and not Jake's co-worker's home-made jalapeño concoction. She sipped from the glass of orange juice, reasonably sure that something poured directly from a carton was safe.
"For you, Helen," Jake said, taking a small, wrapped box from his pocket.
"Jakey," she said, accepting the gift and opening it to find a tricolor rose brooch. "That's wonderful, thank you."
"Enjoy your breakfast and some peace and quiet. I'll be in the living room if you need me," Jake said, backing away to make room for the children before leaving.
Quinn jumped forward and thrust a folded paper card at her mother. "We made these in school."
The red and purple crayon flower drawn in her youngest daughter's kindergarten class made Helen smile even more. "Oh, Quinn. Thank you, that's so pretty."
Quinn squealed with happiness as Helen hugged the little girl. Once free, Quinn bounced out of the room after her father. Holding back for a couple moments, Daria stepped forward and held up the new card. "Mommy..."
"Yes, sweetie?" Helen asked, inwardly grateful for the continued excuse not to try the breakfast yet.
"I made this for you."
Helen took the card, asking, "What happened to the card you made for me in school?"
"I wanted to do this," the girl explained, "but the teacher wouldn't let me."
Opening the folded craft paper, Helen sighed in rare delight at what was inside. "Daria, that's beautiful."
Words on the computer screen melted into a meaningless blur as Daria stared at them. Looking away and rubbing her eyes with both hands, she said, "Crap, this isn't working. I need a break." The teen rolled her chair back and stood, stretching as she looked around the gray padding of her room. Her eyes stopped on one of the windows, so she went to it and looked out over the back yard. A squirrel bounded across the grass, stopping from time to time to look and listen.
"Don't let Dad see you," Daria told it. "Or he'll get the live trap out again. You don't want to ride in the same car with him."
She watched as it searched the yard more before stopping to chew on an acorn. Daria asked it, "So, what are you doing for your mother tomorrow?"
Startled by something, the squirrel sprinted to a nearby tree and disappeared into the leafy canopy. Daria turned away from the window and said, "Hiding is not an option for me."
Reclining on his bed, Tom gazed over his feet toward the television while he talked on the phone. On the screen, a woman wearing black grinned to show long fangs while the announcer said, "Don't try to sneak in late at night with her around. Momma was a vampire! Next, on Sick, Sad World!"
Tom said, "I don't have to do a whole lot of thinking about it. Dad has breakfast catered in for Mom and our cards are done by a professional calligrapher. All Elsie and I really have to do is show up and look almost awake. After that, Dad takes her out for the day. Sorry."
Seated on her desk chair, Daria sighed into the phone and said, "Thanks. If that's your family tradition, it's your family tradition. I can't say that ours is really much different, except that a catered breakfast is safer to eat than some of those my dad's made over the years."
"Maybe Jane has some ideas," Tom suggested.
"I doubt it; Jane's mother hasn't been home on Mother's Day in living memory, so Jane thinks the whole holiday is a myth or a giant joke that the rest of the world has been pulling on her."
"What about your Aunt Amy? Maybe she has some insight that might help."
"Considering she gets along with Grandma worse than Mom, I don't think that would work."
Apologetic, Tom said, "Sorry, I was only thinking out loud."
"What kind of evil genius are you, anyway?"
"One that's not very good at sentimental stuff; you should know that."
Daria nodded to herself. "That's right."
"Since that was a bust, is there anything else I can apply my evil intellect to tonight?"
"Not that I can think of. I'm going to try to get some ideas online. Talk to you later."
"No problem. Later, Daria."
She turned the phone off and stared at her computer screen. "Haven't I seen you somewhere before?"
Slowly lifting her face from the keyboard, Daria struggled to focus on the display, finally recognizing a failure-to-load-properly error on her web browser, and then a line of nonsense in the address bar. The side of her face felt odd and after rubbing it, she noticed her reflection and the checkerboard pattern of keys pressed into her skin. "Great, what time is it?"
There was a knock on her bedroom door and her father said, "Daria? Are you awake? Your mother's breakfast is ready. Quinn and I are waiting."
"Dammit," she muttered before saying aloud, "Just a minute, Dad."
Hurried, she opened her closet door and checked the mirror while combing the overnight tangle from her hair and massaged her face to clear the keyboard marks. I know I've been lame before, but I don't even have a card this time. Dammit, and after that whole box incident, I wanted to do something better. But what?
Quinn called, "Daria! Hurry up; Dad can't hold this tray all morning!"
Still groggy, Daria desperately looked around her room, hoping for an idea. After several moments, she had the beginnings of a plan and called, "Sorry, Dad. Overslept."
"No problem, kiddo," Jake said, turning around. "Time to make your mother's day."
Quinn closed her eyes and massaged her temples, whispering, "Why does he have to say that every year?"
"For the same reason he says the next line in the script: tradition," was Daria's reply as she came out of her room.
At the master bedroom door, Jake pushed the door open with his hip and cheerfully said, "Happy Mother's Day! Breakfast in bed, a la Jake."
Quinn whispered, "And then Mom says…"
"Oh, honey, you shouldn't have." Helen managed a smile as Jake set the tray over her lap. She picked up the small jewelry box from the tray, removed the ribbon and started to open it. "Oh, Jake," she said, putting on a white gold mother's ring set with a golden topaz and a diamond.
"Something to remind us of our little girls," Jake said. Backing up, he said, "Enjoy your breakfast and some peace and quiet. I'll be downstairs."
Once he was gone, Quinn came forward with a large, deep red envelope closed with a gold foil seal. "Happy Mother's Day, Mom."
Helen carefully opened the envelope and took out an ornate card decorated with an elaborate floral pattern of roses. After reading the poem and Quinn's comments, Helen hugged her daughter and said, "Beautiful, as always, Quinn. Thank you."
Returning the hug, Quinn said, "Enjoy," before following her father downstairs.
Nervous, Daria held back for several seconds before sitting on the edge of the bed, opening her notebook. "Mom, I wanted to do something special for you today, but…I drew a blank until a couple minutes ago. Something you've asked me for many times: one of my stories for you to read."
Helen looked at the questionable breakfast and slid over to make room for Daria. "Would you care to read it for me?"
Wondering what she'd gotten herself into, Daria replied, "Um, sure."
Helen experimentally drank some juice. "Whenever you're ready."
"'Moonlight slipped through the broken clouds like silver-gray search beams to cast islands of soft illumination on the bracken covered ground. Melinda stopped in one of those islands of light to look up, whispering, "I'm on my way."'"
Helen used the breakfast napkin to gently wipe tears from her eyes. "Thank you, sweetie."
Surprised such a simple story once again caused her mother to cry, Daria said curiously, "You're welcome."
Giving her daughter an unusual smile, Helen said, "You probably think your mother has turned into an emotional basket case."
"Daria, look in the top drawer of my nightstand. Don't worry; nothing will bite you."
The young woman did as requested and found an aged, folded sheet of craft paper. "What's this?"
"I always look at it before your father brings my breakfast. Don't you recognize it?"
Inside was a child's crayon drawing of an red/brown-haired woman reading to a child wearing glasses. In a child's block letters, they were identified as "Mommy" and "Daria." It took the teen several moments to remember. To remember what she most wanted to thank her mother for…the gift of reading.
Helen placed her hand on Daria's and said, "Now that you've returned the gift, keep it."
"Someday, I hope you share it with your daughter."
Thanks to Kristen Bealer, Ipswichfan and Mr. Orange for beta reading.