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. 2009.
The 16-year-old girl didn't give them a glance as she snapped, "Darn, and I wouldn't have been able to resist your manly good looks."
The boys looked confused for a moment before hurrying away with one saying, "Man, she's weird."
The girl saw her ride in the high school parking lot and made her way to the waiting red MGB GT. She climbed into the cramped back seat because the front passenger seat was filled with a large purse. She tiredly said, "Let's go."
An older teen, clearly the girl's sister, started the car, saying, "It's about time, Helen. I don't have all day and now we're running late."
"Sorry, Rita," Helen snapped. "I dropped off some extra credit work for history."
"Do you know how many times I have to hear about your extra credit from our teachers? You can deal with Amy when we pick her up. I need to think about who I want to take me to the Fall Senior Dance."
Helen snorted, "Have to remember what's important."
Without another word, Rita drove out of the parking lot and headed for the elementary school.
Ten minutes later, 11-year-old Amy squeezed in. "Dammit, this back seat is a joke."
"Hey, I don't like this, either," Rita said. "But Dad says I have to give both of you a ride home from school until Helen gets a car."
Amy turned to Helen. "So, when is Dad going to buy you a car so that we don't have to be abused by miss prom queen?"
"Any day now…I hope."
"Mom, we're home," Helen called as she and Amy entered their house.
From the kitchen, Tess Barksdale said, "How was your day?"
"I finished that extra credit report for Mr. Crocker and turned it in," Helen said while going to the kitchen. "At first glance, he was sure I'd get an A+ on it."
Amy followed, seeking a snack and saying, "When are you going to get Helen a car so we can get out of that miserable back seat in Rita's?"
"Amy," Tess scolded. "We bought Rita the hatchback because it has a back seat for two. There's nothing wrong with it."
"A seat for two eight-year olds," Amy grumbled.
"You should be glad that your sister gives you a ride so that you don't have to take the bus."
"I'd rather take the bus," Amy said under her breath.
Helen said, "Mom, Rita only gives us a ride because you told her to. It wouldn't be so bad except she makes both of us sit in the back while she keeps her damn purse in the front."
"Don't you use that language with me, young lady!" Tess harshly said.
"Sorry, Mom," Helen said. "I'm only asking to be treated the same. You bought that car for Rita when she was my age."
"Rita shows a lot more respect than you do. But now that you bring it up, I suppose that I should reward Rita for driving you around so much by buying you a car so that you can take over with Amy and give Rita more free time after school."
Helen held back a sharp retort and instead said, "Deal."
Chin resting on her hand, Helen sat in her neat room and looked out the second story window at the yard. She'd finished washing dishes after dinner and her homework was done. Not wanting to stare at her parents' choice of television shows, she opted for a quiet night in her room. "I work hard and try to improve myself and what happens? I'm ignored. Again. Rita focuses on being pretty and who will take her to the next dance and she's praised. Meanwhile, Amy uses me and Rita for cover and does what she pleases." Feeling bitter, Helen straightened her back and imitated her mother. "Rita, Helen, why don't you two stop fighting and look after your little sister? She's so young and needs your help."
Helen leaned forward and looked side to side down the sleepy street of her Virginia hometown. "Two more years and I'll be out of here. Two more years."
About a week later, the three sisters saw a strange car parked in the driveway when they came home from school. Rita said, "Eww, who drives a Dodge Dart?"
Helen ignored her sister and instead concentrated on the cover of a textbook. Amy craned her neck, saw that there was a car in the garage and said, "I wonder why Dad's home?"
"The car must belong to a friend of Dad," Helen said.
Rita parked behind the strange car. "Everyone out."
To the girls' surprise, their parents opened the door and stepped out as if they'd been waiting and their father Simon said, "Helen, you're just in time."
"Dad?" she said, confused.
Simon Barksdale walked over to the Dart and held out a set of keys. "Just in time to see your new car."
Helen stammered out of shock, "My…my car?"
"It sure is," he proudly said. "And we learned from the mistakes we made buying your sister's car. It's a four-door so that there will be plenty of room for Amy and her friends."
"Thanks, Dad," Helen was barely able to say. "Amy's friends?"
"We talked to Danielle and Wendy's parents and they agreed to let you drive them home after school, too. Thank you for being such a practical girl."
As Rita walked away, she whispered to Helen, "Don't even think of parking that thing next to my car at school."
Helen glanced at Rita, then at Amy, who was smirking, and finally at her father. The disappointment at the drab family car felt like a lump in her stomach. "Sure thing, Dad."
Glad to finally be home after dropping off Amy's two friends from school, Helen said, "Go on in, Amy, and tell Mom that I'm going driving for a while."
"She's going to say…"
"Right now, I don't care what she's going to say. Rita gets to go out driving on her own; now it's my turn. Tell Mom I'll be home by dinner time."
"Okay," Amy said. "It's your neck, not mine."
It wasn't long before Helen found her way going toward Washington D. C. The AM radio in the car played well and she enjoyed the music as she drove. Ahead, she saw a small building with a sign out front that said, "Coffeehouse." Curious about what one was actually like, she pulled in and stopped in the unpaved parking lot.
The interior was dim and was accompanied by several different smoky smells on top of the coffee aroma. Helen found a seat and started listening to a small amateur band that was playing tolerable music, mostly Beatles and Rolling Stones covers.
The coffee the waitress had brought over was strong but flavorful and the cream was fresh. Slowly nursing her drink, Helen watched the people on display, intrigued by the open display of the counterculture that she'd only read about before, such as the poet reading aloud on stage. Feeling more relaxed than she had in a long time when she joined a discussion of the poetry, Helen sat back and enjoyed the atmosphere.
A couple hours later, Helen left the coffeehouse and got into her car. She had to hurry home to avoid being late and incurring her mother's anger. Nothing had really changed, but she knew that she would survive high school, that there was life waiting for her out there, somewhere in the world, and that she would do her best to raise her children differently.
Helen asked Jake, "So what's the bad news this month?"
After a fast recheck of the credit card statements spread on the dining table, Jake said, "Quinn spent $184.56 on clothing and makeup."
Helen nodded. "And Daria?"
"$147.68 for books and $55.92 on an anatomical replica of a penguin skull for a total of $203.60. Do you think it's fair that Daria usually outspends Quinn?"
Helen shrugged. "Can you really say no to things that encourage her learning?"
"I guess not." Jake then laughed and said, "At least she doesn't want a car."
"Thank goodness for small favors." Helen yawned and said, "I'm tired, so I'll see you upstairs."
"Sure, honey. I'll only be a few more minutes."
Helen went up the stairs and stopped at the landing. Faintly smiling, she went down the hall, cracking open a door and letting a sliver of light fall upon her sleeping daughter's face. "I know I swore not to have a favorite child, but I can't help it, Daria. You are."
Thanks to Louise Lobinske and Kristen Bealer for beta reading