©2003 Roger E. Moore (email@example.com)
Feedback (good, bad, indifferent, just want to bother me, whatever) is appreciated. Please write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Synopsis: Jane and Daria meet a new Tom in this shameless Mary Sue.
Author’s Notes: The first half of this story was actually written some months earlier but left incomplete. The story didn’t work, and I could not figure out why. WacoKid then began an Iron Chef contest on PPMB in late May 2003 for “Mary Sue” stories, and I suddenly realized the fragment I had was a Mary Sue. Thus prepared, I finished the story and left it a Mary Sue, and here it is. It takes place after Is It College Yet? Enjoy.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to WacoKid for the contest!
The two-story house was sun-bleached yellow and in need of minor maintenance. Overgrown grass, a cracked windowpane, a rusting metal sculpture by the front door, loose siding—it was the perfect model of benign neglect. LANE said the mailbox, though the N now hung at an angle. A big family lived here, he guessed, or it once did. He saw no toys left out in the yard; the kids must have grown up. He left his rental car at the curb and walked to the front door, glad for an unseasonably cool breeze on a late morning in late July in the ‘burbs. It cleared his mind for the business to come.
He rang the doorbell and waited about half a minute, nervous but ready, before he rang it a second time. He waited another half minute, then reached into the inner pocket of his suit jacket to get a pen and paper, planning to leave a note stuck in the mailbox.
A floorboard creaked on the other side of the door. The doorknob rattled, a lock popped, and the door opened.
He saw her silken, anthracite bangs, her lanky frame, her bright red lips and red jacket, but when she stopped blinking at the sunlight, he fell into her bluer-than-blue eyes and he was gone.
He started to say something, but he’d completely forgotten why he was there. Lights flashed in the back of his mind as the word JACKPOT blinked on and off.
“Yo,” she said, taking him in. Her voice was pleasantly deep.
“Uh,” he said, jarred into action. “Hi! I’m looking for Trent Lott. Is he here?”
Her bright red lips curved up in amusement. “Trent Lott?” she repeated.
“Trent Lane!” he said in horror. “I meant Lane! I’m very sorry! Is he here?
She leaned against the doorframe. She wore her open red jacket over a black t-shirt, with black pants and ash-gray boots. Her clothing was slightly wrinkled, as if she’d been sleeping in it. Rainbow-hued spots of paint decorated her jacket arms. She crossed her arms as she looked into his eyes with a smile. “Not at the moment. Can I help you . . . whatever your name is?”
“Oh!” he said, getting up to speed. “Sure. My name is Tom, Tom Andrews.”
For some reason, her smile faded and she sighed. Did she hear something bad about me? he wondered. He pulled a business card from his shirt pocket and gave it to her. “I’m an agent with Excelsior Music, in Nashville. Mr. Lane sent us a demo tape about two weeks ago. I thought I might be able to speak with him about it.”
“I didn’t know he sent in a tape.”
“Well,” he said, grinning nervously, “I hope it wasn’t meant to be a secret. It was a solo audition tape. Maybe I should . . . see him about the details.”
“You flew in from Nashville because of Trent’s demo tape? It must have been pretty good.”
“Ah, actually, yeah, it was. Will he be back soon?”
She looked him over slowly, still smiling. “I didn’t check his room, but if he’s not in from his gig last night downtown, he should be back soon.” Her head tilted. “Care to come inside and wait?”
“Sure, thanks, if it wouldn’t be any trouble.” He winced and put out his hand. “I’m sorry, I’m just a little slow. It’s the jet lag. You would be . . . ?”
“His sister.” She took his hand with a firm grip. She held on longer than necessary. “I’m Jane. Jane Lane.”
“Ja—Jane, good to meet you.” He recovered. His ex-girlfriend’s name was Jane, now run off to Los Angeles with his former best friend. Figured. It was such a small world. “Pleased to meet you.”
Jane turned and led him into the house. “It’s the maid’s day off,” she said, waving a careless hand at the living room. “Forgive the condition of the palace. We like the lived-in look.”
Tom grinned. His apartment was far messier than this. “Not a problem. I apologize for barging in on you. I just flew in an hour ago to the airport here. Haven’t even gotten my hotel room yet.”
Jane turned to look at him, one eyebrow raised. “That must have really been some demo tape.”
“It was pretty good,” he admitted. He looked around the room. “Mind if I sit?”
“Sure,” said Jane. She dropped onto the sofa facing him, sprawled out like a cat, and waved him into an overstuffed chair. “Are you from Nashville originally?”
“No, no. Uh, I’m based on the east coast, but all my assignments and business come from Nashville. Music capital. In Elvis we trust.”
“So, Trent stayed awake long enough to send you a demo tape. He’s part of a band here, you know.”
“Uh, no, I didn’t know. He didn’t mention anything about a band.” Tom shrugged. “Like I said, I hope it wasn’t supposed to be a secret.”
“Hey, I’m his sister. He doesn’t keep anything from me. Except, of course, this tape. And I’m not in the band, so don’t worry about a jealousy thing. I’d love it if he’d hit it big. And I won’t tell, even if they try to torture me by playing something.”
“What band is this?”
“Mystik Spiral. You won’t have heard of it. Local only, but they have dreams of playing outside the county someday.” She tilted her head. “You’re, what, twenty-five?”
He wasn’t expecting that. “Uh, twenty-four. That was a pretty good guess. I’m new at Excelsior, the low man on the totem pole. On the good side, that means I do all the legwork, which I like. Travel broadens the mind, and . . . everything.” He was having trouble focusing on the purpose of his visit. Jane’s eyes were fantastic, blue worlds unto themselves. He almost lost the thread of what he was saying as he was going on about broadening the mind. “Do you work in town?”
Her smile deepened. “No, I’ve escaped the curse of the regular paycheck. I’m heading for college in Boston in a few weeks.”
“Boston?” His heart actually jumped. “Where in Boston?”
“Boston Fine Arts College. Oh, do you live there?”
He could not keep from laughing, half from relief and half from surprise. “BFAC’s one block from my apartment!” he said, calling her college bee-fak. “That’s incredible. Small world.”
Did her eyes light up when he said this? “Sure is,” she said. “I don’t start classes until January, but I’m moving there early with a friend of mine.”
His emotions teetered on the edge of collapse. Her boyfriend? “He’s starting college next month, too?”
“She,” said Jane. “My best friend. She’ll be at Raft, and I’ll be at BFAC.”
Relief flooded through him. “That’s excellent! Maybe after you move in, I can take you around and show you some of the sights. Boston’s a great city.”
“I’d like that,” she said with a slightly wicked smile. “Maybe you could help me move in, too, if you have some free time.”
“Uh, sure, if my schedule’s clear.” He made a mental note to clear his schedule, no matter what he was doing, the day she showed up in town.
The doorbell rang.
“Is that Trent?” asked Tom, starting to get up.
Jane waved him back into his seat and got up instead with easy grace. “Trent would never ring the doorbell,” she said, walking to the front door and opening it.
Tom craned his neck. On the front step was an auburn-haired girl wearing large round glasses, dressed in a green jacket, black skirt, and black Doc Martens. “Didn’t think you’d be up and alert so early,” the girl said. “New medication?”
“Oh, there you are, paperboy!” said Jane loudly, reaching in a pocket of her red jacket. “About time you came around, too.”
“What?” said the auburn-haired girl in confusion. “I was thought I was kidding about the new medication.”
Jane pulled a pen and scrap of paper from her pocket and scribbled out a note. “Here you go, paperboy, an IOU for the last six months of paper delivery. You’ve done an excellent job, so I’ve included a tip.”
The brunette took the note and squinted at it. “What do you mean, I’m not getting this one?” The girl looked past Jane into the house—and locked eyes with Tom.
“Whoa!” gasped the new girl, eyes widening. “A hottie! Holy shi—”
“Bye!” said Jane, and shut the door and slid the deadbolt in with a snap. “Kids these days,” she said, walking back to her seat on the sofa. Knocking came from the door, but Jane ignored it. “Care for some coffee?”
“I don’t drink coffee, but if you have tea, sure,” said Tom. He glanced at the front door, where the knocking had become more insistent. The doorknob rattled madly.
“Come on back into the kitchen, then.” Jane led the way through the house, stepping over old clothing and pizza boxes, until they reached the kitchen and minutes later were seated at the table, drinking steaming liquids from cracked mugs and laughing at the stories Jane told about her artwork, and stories Tom told about music personalities he’d met since he began work with Excelsior. Jane closed the window shades after noticing the auburn-haired girl jumping up and down outside, trying to peer in.
Jane sighed contentedly and sipped her coffee. Her crossed legs were inches from Tom’s, her pose relaxed. Her eyes were on him alone, and his eyes on her. “I was never a fan of country music,” she said, “but I’ll give that new group you mentioned a try.”
“I’d love to see some of your art,” said Tom. “If you don’t mind.”
“Sure, for what it’s worth,” she said, fingering her mug. She was looking at his chest. “I’ve got plenty of etchings in my room that you can look at.”
“I love art.”
“I love people who love art.”
“Did you always know you were going to be an artist?”
She smiled and nodded. “Always. From the day I got my first crayon and a wall to draw on.”
“I love your eyes.” It came out of him just like that. He jumped, shocked at what he’d said. “I’m sorry!” he said, his face flushing. “I just . . . anyway, sorry about that.”
“No, please.” Her voice deepened. “Go on.”
“It’s . . .” He looked up and her eyes washed over him. “That color of blue, in your eyes, it’s like the earth in space. It’s like your eyes are little worlds, like—” He couldn’t go on. He was way over his head and needed to stop at once. This was not at all the reason why he’d come here.
Jane gently put down her mug of coffee and pushed it aside. She leaned toward him. Her leg brushed against his.
Tom suddenly did not care why he’d come here. He cared only that she was here and he was here and he wanted her more than he wanted life itself.
A floorboard creaked in the ceiling, followed by the sound of shuffling footsteps. Tom froze, looking upward.
Jane’s eyes rolled up to the ceiling, and her breath came out in a long sigh. “Trent,” she said in mild annoyance. “Of course.”
“I thought you said he was out.”
“I thought so, too, but I didn’t check his room when I got up. Damn.” Jane stood, as did Tom. The footsteps came down the stairs and headed for the kitchen. “Better not be that paperboy breaking into the house,” Jane mumbled.
A tall, thin, twenty-something man with uncombed black hair, multiple earrings, blue tattoos, and a goatee shuffled into the kitchen. He slowed down when he spotted Tom, squinting at him as if trying to place him.
“Tom,” said Tom, holding out a hand. “Tom Andrews, with Excelsior Music. You’re Trent Lott?” Tom winced and gritted his teeth a moment later.
“Lane,” said the young man, shaking Tom’s hand. “Excelsior? Oh, yeah, the tape. I forgot about it.”
“Yes, the tape,” said Tom, red-faced. “God, I’m sorry about messing up your name. It’s the jet lag, screws with my head all the time.”
“I know what you mean,” said Trent slowly. “I usually don’t get up till three.”
“Why are you up now?” asked Jane.
“Someone was throwing rocks at my window,” said Trent, frowning. “Trying to get me up, I guess. Was that you?”
“Nope,” said Jane. “Damn neighborhood kids.”
“Wasn’t me, either,” said Tom. “Listen, Trent, I flew all the way out here to ask if you’d come to Nashville with me for a week.”
“You’re flying Trent to Nashville?” Jane asked, her blue eyes widening.
“If he wants to go,” said Tom. He looked at Trent. “That was a fantastic demo. All sorts of people want to hear you, if you’ve got the time.”
Trent appeared to consider this as he scratched his chest through his t-shirt and grimaced. He dropped his hand and his face relaxed. “Cool,” he said. “When?”
“We can leave tomorrow morning,” said Tom. He looked at Jane. “I’ve got two tickets, with an option for a third. Wanna see the Grand Ole’ Opry?”
“Me?” said Jane, startled. “Why me?”
Tom thought fast. “You’re an artist, right?” he said. “Well, we have an art department. You could look around, give us some ideas. Consult with us. And you’re his sister, too. We make allowances for family members—for support, you know.”
Jane raised an eyebrow at him. “You don’t actually need me there in Nashville.”
“No,” said Tom quickly, “that’s not true. I do need you.” He flinched. “We, I mean—we need you. In Nashville. With Trent, so he can make another demo. Of course.”
“C’mon, Janey,” said Trent, ambling to the refrigerator to peer inside. “Why not?”
Jane looked from Trent to Tom, smiling. “Sure,” she said, looking into Tom’s eyes. “Why not? I’m over eighteen, I can go places without a note.” Her eyes drifted down to Tom’s chest again. “See the world, broaden my mind.”
“Janey?” asked Trent, peering around a window shade, “is that Daria outside?”
“Who?” said Jane, blinking as she turned. “Daria? What do you mean?”
“She’s got a ladder,” said Trent, frowning. A soft thump went through the house, from the second floor on the outside wall. “Looks like she’s climbing up to your bedroom window. Why’s she doing that?”
Jane shrugged. “Crazy paperboys these days.” She turned to Tom. “How about we go out for brunch now, and I show you the sights of Lawndale?”
“Sure,” said Tom. “Trent, my treat for brunch. Anything you want.”
Trent scratched his chest. “Cool. Lemme get my shoes.”
“You’re wearing them,” said Jane, looking down. “I think you wore them to bed.”
“Like, do I have to shower before we go?” asked Trent with mild concern.
They heard the sound of glass breaking on the second floor. “No time,” said Jane. She took Trent and Tom by the arms and guided them out of the kitchen and toward the front door. “Tom, you mind driving? Like, real fast?”
“Not at all,” he said amiably. “Name the place, and we’re there.”
Jane opened the front door, peeked outside, then pushed the two men out and shut the door behind her. “Let’s get out of here before those damn neighborhood kids come back,” she said, “and maybe we’ll have some real fun. And broaden our minds, and everything else.”
And they did.
Mary Sue, comedy, shipper (Jane/Tom Andrews (new character, “Mary Sue”))