Synopsis:Daria deals with the issue of how to inform Tom that she is going to have a baby, while Sandi lords what she had overheard in Pizza King over Quinn’s head. How will our heroes deal?
Author’s Forward: I am rating the following story PG-13 for content. The subject matter deals with teen pregnancy. I am not an advocate of teen pregnancy, and firmly believe that common sense should prevail in such cases. However, real life being what it is, this is not always the case.
The following story was written for entertainment purposes only, and should not be taken as educational material. I do not claim that the “technical” aspects of my story are even remotely accurate. If you have any questions, go to a responsible adult knowledgeable in the appropriate areas.
Other Notes: The author assumes that the reader is familiar with “Daria” and the characters therein, and has read my previous two stories, “Empirical Evidence,” and “Reflections and Revelations.” This story takes place over the week following “Reflections and Revelations,” and concurrent with most of the events portrayed in the episode “The Story of D.”
Legal Drek: Daria and her cohorts are property of MTV and Viacom.
This story is Copyright June 7, 2003.
The exposure of d
~~~~~~ ~~~~~~ ~~~~~~
“Let’s get the hell out of here.”
Amy Barksdale looked up from her year old magazine as a young figure in a pink t-shirt and blue jeans flashed by her on the way to the main entrance of the Lawndale Free Clinic. She quickly tossed it aside as she stood up and hurried to catch up with the figure. The clinic’s automatic doors opened to allow their escape from the tacky colors and faulty air conditioning of the waiting room. Amy had to hustle to catch up to the young girl with the single French braid who was covering the ground with a space devouring stride.
“Hey, slow down there, speedy,” Amy said as she caught up to her niece who, she noted, was also carrying a large manila envelope.
“How, exactly, did I let you talk me into this?“ Daria asked as she and Amy walked out of the Cedars of Lawndale Doctors Clinic. “You know Mom does pro bono work for this place at least once a month.”
“Daria, it was the best thing that we could do,” Amy explained. “We needed to see a professional and this was the only way to do it without a paper trail that a blind lawyer could follow. Besides, you used a different name and there’s no way anyone would recognize you dressed like that.”
“Well, you’re right about that. No one would believe it, that’s for sure,” Daria said as she looked down at her clothes. She wore the cut off pink T-shirt and jeans outfit that she had used to sucker Quinn into going back to normal (for her) back when she was on her “Brains Morgendorffer” kick last year. Her hair was pulled back into a long braid that Amy had helped her with, and she wore soft contact lenses so her eyes wouldn’t tear up every two minutes.
“I still think you look cute,” Amy said with a smirk, trying to get Daria’s mind off the visit enough so that she could relax.
“I still don’t believe that I hadn’t burned this shirt,” Daria said as she reached back and scratched the back of her head where the braid started. She wasn't used to braids and it was becoming uncomfortable. “I’m definitely going to burn it tonight, that’s for damn sure.”
“Not before I take a picture,” Amy said, happy to see that Daria was starting to return to normal.
“You are the only other person on the face of the earth to see me in this outfit,“ Daria fired back with faux hostility. “And if you take one picture, aunt or no, I will dismember you in the street and bury your remains in six different states.”
“Pity I left my camera back at your house,” Amy finished cordially, not missing a beat. “So, what did the doctor say?”
“Wait till we get on the road,” Daria said as they walked up to Amy’s sports car.
“If you say so,” Amy said as the two of them climbed into the car.
As they pulled out into the traffic flow on the avenue, Daria opened the envelope, pulled out a couple of pages, and began to go over them again. Amy tried to glance over at them while keeping her eyes on the road at the same time. She quickly decided that wasn’t going to work very well, so she made do with watching Daria’s reactions to the information she was reading.
“So, what’s up?”
“Well, the home test was right, I’m definitely pregnant,” Daria said sourly. “The doctor ran her own tests and confirmed it. She figures that I’m about ten or eleven weeks along, which kind of fits.”
“I suppose it would,” Amy said with a nod as she expertly slid them past an enormous black pickup truck. “What else did the doctor tell you?”
“Well, she said that I can pretty much keep to my old routines for the next three or four weeks, or so. She told me to get started on some pre-natal vitamins and an iron supplement. We can get what we need at Drugs ‘N’ Stuff, by the way,” Daria finished and stuffed the papers back in the envelope. “She also gave me the names of a couple of OB/GYNs over at Cedars. One of whom just so happens to be my mother’s.”
Daria sat and watched the buildings go by for a long moment while Amy glanced back and forth between her and the road.
“So, what else?” Amy finally asked.
“What do you mean ‘what else?’ “ Daria said without looking over.
“I mean what about the baby? What did the doctor tell you? The suspense is killing me over here!”
“The baby is perfectly healthy, as far as she can tell. Beyond that, I didn’t ask,” Daria replied, finally looking over.
“So is it a boy or a girl?”
“I don’t know,” Daria said, turning back to the window. “I didn’t ask and don’t particularly want to know.”
“Wanted to be surprised, huh?” Amy asked.
Wanted to be not pregnant, Daria thought, but didn’t say it out loud. “I don’t know. I just . . . didn’t want to know. That would make this just a little too real than I want to deal with right now.”
“Daria, a professional of the Lawndale medical community, such as it is, has confirmed that you are indeed going to have a baby,” Amy said reasonably. “It doesn’t get any more real than that.”
“Speaking of real,” Amy continued. “Have you decided what you’re going to do about Tom and your parents?”
“I have a few ideas about Tom, but most of them are felonies in a lot of places,” Daria said dryly, then sighed. “I have to tell Tom first, there’s no way around that. Then I guess we’ll just set both sets of parents down someplace and break the news to them all at once.”
“Quick and painless,” Amy commented.
“Like the electric chair,” Daria mumbled. “Can we go someplace where I can get out of this ridiculous outfit before we go home? I need a long shower.”
“Sure thing,” Amy said, glancing at the envelope as Daria put it on the seat between them. “One thing, though.”
“Where did you come up with the name ‘Tiffany Blum-Deckler?’ “
The Fashion Club had gathered in the Morgendorffer living room that night for a special meeting that just happened to coincide with Fashion Vision’s Humanitarian Awards. Sandi, Stacy, and Tiffany watched in rapt attention as rail thin model after rail thin model was presented with an Ivory Angel. Quinn, however, was having a hard time paying attention to the program. She was slumped against the back of the sofa she was sitting on and looked as if she had other things on her mind.
“Watching the Fashion Vision Humanitarian Awards instead of going out tonight was such a good idea, Sandi,” Quinn said distractedly as the supermodel Vendela was called up to accept her Ivory Angel. Never mind the fact that I’d give my zipper boots to be doing something that’d keep my mind on something other than the possibility Daria might be . . . Ugh.
“They’re donating a tenth of a cent for every household tuned in. We’re really doing something worth while,” Stacy gushed from her spot on the floor next to the coffee table.
“Sandi, you’ve made us into contributors,” Tiffany drawled, unaware that she was now associated with a general description of Quinn at the Free Clinic.
“Thank you all,” Sandi said, graciously accepting the adulation and giving Quinn a sidelong look. “I try.”
Quinn ignored Sandi’s look and tried to concentrate on the television, spacing out Vendela’s acceptance speech as well as the commercial that started afterwards. The process would have been easier if her mother hadn’t chosen to walk through the living room for the third time that night with the telephone. Her conversation with Aunt Rita had been going on for nearly a half an hour now, and Helen was prowling the house like an anxious lioness ever since she picked up the phone.
“But Rita, if Erin never loved him, why’d she marry him in the first place?“ Helen was saying. “Once he gave her herpes she didn‘t think anyone else would want her??”
The four girls exchanged slightly disgusted glances as Helen prowled. Quinn glanced up at her mother and, despite the fact that her own mind was occupied with other things at the moment, she could see her mother’s mind immediately toggle over into full Mother Mode.
“Oh lord, Rita! It’s a new millennium! When will people get rid of these outmoded ideas about sex?” Helen proclaimed with a wave of her arm. God, I wish she‘d wake up and smell the coffee! It’s not like when we were kids!
Helen glanced at Quinn and her mind drifted, for just an instant, to some of the things that she had done at that age. Her face dropped just before she took the phone from her ear and turned fully to Quinn in almost half a panic.
Click, Quinn thought.
“Quinn! Where’s your sister??” Helen asked, sounding upset.
“In her room, I guess,” Quinn said with a shrug.
“Is Tom up there with her?” Helen asked. Sandi glanced over at Quinn with a strange look when Helen asked that.
“Mo-oom, I’m not J. Edger Winter!” Quinn exclaimed with a roll of her eyes.
“Here, talk to your aunt!” Helen shoved the telephone into Quinn’s hands before heading for the stairs at a run. Quinn put the phone to her ear as Helen charged upstairs.
“Hello? It’s Quinn, Aunt Rita,” she said, then listened to her aunt prattle for a moment. “Well, of course she should divorce him, he’s short!”
“Yeah, it’s not like he got her pregnant or anything,” Sandi coldly said to Quinn with a reptilian look.
Quinn just silently glared back.
Upstairs, Helen was running down the hallway like she had heard someone screaming bloody murder. Various scenarios were playing through her mind at warp speeds, most of which involved images of Daria and Tom in a tangle of arms, legs, and sheets. These images spurred her on even faster as she hit the door to Daria's room and shoved it open. Helen rapidly scanned the room as she spoke with the speed of an auctioneer.
“Daria! Why don’t -- “
The bed was empty and unwrinkled. Thank God!
“ -- you two come --”
Opposite corner of the room was empty. Where could they be?!
“ -- down stairs and . . .”
Daria was sitting at her desk and giving her mother the strangest look.
“Um, Tom’s not here?” Helen asked, slowly realizing that she must be looking like a total ass.
“Not unless you have him secreted somewhere on your person,” Daria said, looking her mother up and down before switching to a faux-knowing tone. “You do, don’t you?”
“Oh, well, um, all right then,” Helen said with a nervous giggle as she left the room.
Daria shook her head and went back to her typing, trying to pick up the train of thought before she lost it completely. The doctor from the clinic had advised her to try and relax a little, and writing had always worked for her in the past. It also gave her a way to plan out her conversation with Tom, but several of the scenarios that she had written were not very encouraging. In fact, this one wasn’t working out very well either, Daria decided as she typed another half a line before her phone rang. She picked it up and turned away from her computer, grateful for the interruption.
“Okay, the movie’s just started and you’re still in the comfort of your own home,” Jane’s voice said into Daria’s ear. “So, I’d say that you’re not going to make it. What would you say?”
The movie’s just started? Daria looked wide-eyed at her watch. She wasn’t supposed to meet Jane until . . . Twenty minutes ago.
“Crap.” She had forgotten completely.
A couple of hours later, Daria and Jane walked out onto the sidewalk in front of the Cineplex, followed by the rest of the denizens of the theater. They had missed the movie that they had initially made plans, and their second choice definitely hadn’t been worth the price of the tickets, never mind the film it was printed on.
“Gee, whoda thunk it,” Jane said with a well-faked sense of awe. “It turns out that alien super intelligence is no match for our earthly can-do spunk.”
“And beautiful twenty-year old astrophysicists are really looking for a nice middle-aged street cop to fall in love with,” Daria said, recalling the only plot point of the movie that she could remember.
“Yeah, didn’t see that one coming.”
“I wish I hadn’t seen it at all,” Daria said dryly.
“Well, if you’d been on time, we’d be deconstructing that comedy from Croatia instead of ‘It Came From Planet Stupid.’ What were you doing that was so important anyway?”
“Um, working on something,” Daria said quietly.
“Oh, I’m satisfied,” Jane said, coming to a halt. She crossed her arms and gave Daria a look that definitely said otherwise. “Come on. Out with it, Morgendorffer.”
“Okay, I was working on how to tell Tom about my visit to the clinic today,” Daria said as she turned to face Jane. “I was kind of writing out scenarios of what might happen when I told him.”
“Oh, that explains why you were so distant in the theater,” Jane said as her look softened. “I take it that you’re still a little nervous about the prospect of having that conversation with him?”
“Try a little very scared to death,” Daria said. “Nothing that I’ve thought about saying looks even remotely like it will turn out well.”
“You want me to tell him for you?” Jane asked. “I mean, after all, what else are Best Friends for than to drop life changing pronouncements in boyfriends laps.”
“Thanks a heap,” Daria said as they resumed walking.
“I’m sorry,” Jane said as she fell in step. “Seriously, how about I come over and see what you’ve come up with. Maybe I can help?”
“That’s okay. Mom seems to be on an overprotection kick. She burst into my room right before you called thinking Tom was in there.”
“So if she came in on us discussing how you’re going to tell Tom that he’s going to be a daddy, it would be safe to assume that her reaction would be less than stellar?”
“Thank you for understanding.”
“You never did tell me if you wanted me around when you broke the news to him,” Jane said. “Did you want me there?”
“Well,” Daria replied slowly. “Aunt Amy will be back in a day or two, so she’ll be there when I tell him. I guess having a little extra moral support can’t hurt.”
“And afterwards, the four of us can figure out how to slip your folks a Mickey so we can tie them to their chairs before we tell them.”
“Only way I’d do it,” Daria said with a smirk. It may be the way I have to do it.
Quinn was doing her best to block out Sandi and pretend to pay attention to the television as she turned over the events of the last couple of days over in her head. First and foremost, there was that bombshell that Sandi had dropped on Quinn in the middle of the week -- that Daria had told Aunt Amy that she was pregnant while they were at Pizza King. Then Aunt Amy shows up at their house that same night with a story that she had some work in Lawndale that’s going to keep her there for a few weeks and was the guest room free? Added to that, Daria had come home when Aunt Amy had shown up and was even whiter than normal for her, claiming to have been fighting a “flu bug” for the past week. Then there was the time a couple of weeks ago she had caught Daria eating carrots and chocolate ice cream, Quinn remembered with a shudder.
Taken separately, they didn’t add up to all that much. In fact, if it weren’t for Sandi’s little revelation, Quinn would never have paid any attention to any of it. There was also the fact that Daria hadn’t been seen in school since lunch and had spent most of the day since hiding in that so-called room of hers, until she’d left to meet Jane. What was weirder still was that Aunt Amy was heading back home to pack for a longer stay and was supposed to be back in a day or two.
“Quinn, are you listening?” Sandi’s pseudo-valley girl voice sliced into her thoughts.
“Huh?” Quinn shook herself back to the present. She noticed that the show was over and the credits were rolling. “I’m sorry, Sandi. I was, uh, thinking how unselfish those models were. What were you saying?”
“Kuh-winn, we were discussing how the Fashion Club, as a prominent extracurricular organization at Lawndale High, could lend it’s name to a worthy cause for the people,” Sandi repeated with a scowl.
“Oh, uh,” Quinn thought furiously for a moment. “Like the girls’ soccer team and their adopt a highway sign?”
“Eww. Picking up trash on the side of the road?” Tiffany looked nauseous at the thought.
“Quinn, I haven’t been convicted of anything. Have you?” Sandi asked with a dirty look. “Besides, why have a sign, when you can have a plaque.”
“Wow! A plaque?” Stacy nearly squeaked.
“Exactly! Mounted on something appropriate for our beatification image, like . . . a park bench!”
“But then, wouldn’t people be putting their butts on us?” Tiffany asked.
“Ew,” Stacy commented, wrinkling her nose.
“How about a new mirror in the girls bathroom?” Quinn suggested, slowly warming to the subject. “You know, to replace the one that adds at least two pounds.”
“I hate that mirror,” Stacy said.
“It haunts me,” Tiffany chimed in, ever concerned about her outward appearance.
“That’s a good idea, Quinn. Some girls around school might just need a mirror that subtracts a little weight in a few months,” Sandi said, cocking her eyebrow at Quinn. “And besides, donating a new mirror will reflect well on us.”
“Reflect well on us?” Sandi repeated.
“Ohh,” Quinn commented, getting the joke and wishing she hadn’t.
The reaction from the rest was lukewarm to say the least.
Daria and Jane had decided to skip their usual after school pizza the next day, mostly because Daria’s stomach was becoming more and more sensitive to it, and walked a roundabout path home. Daria’s main reason, however, was that she desperately needed some kind of strategy for broaching the subject of her condition with Tom. She had shown Jane some of the scenarios she had thought through the night before. Jane was trying to be helpful, coming up with ways of trying to open the subject for discussion, but none of what either of the girls had come up with looked like it would end in anything but a disaster.
“Just admit it,” Daria said after they finished going over their twentieth ‘what if.’ “You think I’m a coward for not coming right out and saying it.”
“Why do you say that?”
“You increasingly obvious attempts to get me to just go up to him and say it,” Daria said. “Jump in with both feet and all that.”
“First of all, I don’t think that you’re a coward, you’re just scared. And justifiably so,” Jane said. “Second, I just think that this is something that the two of you will have to sit down and talk about outright.”
“It’s all right if you think that these are bad ideas you know. In fact, I don’t even like any of them,” Daria sighed. “This whole idea stinks. How the hell am I supposed to tell him that he’s going to be a . . .That I’m . . .”
“Just like that,” Jane said. “Look, I’m not the one that you need to be talking to about this. I already know, so you’re comfortable talking about it around me. Your Aunt Amy, so far, has been the one person who’s reacted positively to this whole situation, so you’re pretty comfortable about talking to her about it. There is one person that doesn’t know and that you have to get comfortable talking about it around, and that’s Tom.”
“Jane, I’ve tried,” Daria said. “I’ve picked up the phone a hundred times over the past few days. Every time I start to dial the number, I get to thinking about how going up there was my idea and how he’s going to blame me for screwing up the rest of his life.”
“It’s not just his life that’s being affected here, Daria,” Jane pointed out. “Whatever his reaction’s gonna be, he needs to take responsibility for what happens, and that means taking care of the two of you.”
“Look, Jane, I told you before that I’m not sure I want him taking care of us. I can do that well enough on my own,” Daria said, not believing a word she was saying.
“Uh huh.” Jane didn’t believe it either.
Daria sighed as she spied her house in the distance.
“I need to take a break from this, okay? I’ll see you in school tomorrow,” Daria said as she split off from her friend. She looked back at Jane, who was looking a little distressed after her. “It’s all right, Jane. It’s not you. I just need some time to think. Okay?”
“Okay, You’ll call me later?”
Daria just shrugged as she walked off.
Daria trudged into the living room and sat down on the sofa facing the television. She knew “Sick, Sad World” was starting soon, but couldn't muster the interest to track down the remote control. Instead, she sat there, closed her eyes, and tried to imaging how she would bring up the subject of her pregnancy with Tom. Daria hadn’t exactly told the whole truth to Jane. She’d actually written a couple of ‘what ifs’ that had turned out pretty well. She just didn’t feel like they actually rang true to what she knew of Tom. He’d freak, she was sure of it. Beyond that, the possibilities ran the gamut from his accusing her of planning the whole thing and deliberately getting pregnant, to Tom’s simply walking out and never looking back.
Actually, that might be the easiest one to deal with, Daria thought. There’d be one more option open to me. All I would have to do is make one more trip down to that clinic and . . .
And I’d never be able to look myself in the face again. Daria’s face fell. What carries the greater stigma? Being an eighteen-year-old mother, or being an eighteen-year-old mother who terminated her pregnancy? There’s always adoption, but . . . Daria sighed. I guess I’m screwed whatever I do.
Daria’s train of thought was derailed by her father entering the living room. He had one of his work shirts and was fumbling around with a needle and thread. As she watched, Jake squinted at his work and tried four times to thread the needle, each time missing by a mile. Daria knew he was nearsighted, and silently wished he’d just swallow his pride and get his eyes checked, get some glasses, and get it over with. But she knew full well that Jake would turn it into a rant about something his father had done in the past, and Daria didn’t want to deal with that right now at all.
“Dammit! Why do they have to make the eye of the needle so darn small?” Jake grumbled loudly and he sat down next to Daria.
“I guess to piss off the camel,” Daria said, reaching out.
“Thanks, kiddo,” Jake said. He handed the needle and thread to Daria and she got it in the first shot.
“Just happy to find something that I can do,” Daria said as she handed the now threaded needle back. “Unlike talking to Tom.”
“Good for you kiddo!” Jake said, looking around for something. “Now, where the hell did I do with that button?” Then Daria’s statement filtered past the immediate subject. “Huh? Why can’t you talk to Tom?”
“It’s not important. Forget I mentioned it. I don’t want to talk about it.” At least not without putting you under some very heavy sedation first. “It’s just that . . . There something that’s really important that I have to talk to Tom about, but every time I try and bring it up, something happens and we don’t get to talk about it.”
“I bet it was someone like that busybody teacher Corporal Ellenbogen who kept butting in,” Jake said with a frown. “Every time you want to have a conversation, he’s right there sticking his own two damn cents in!”
“ ‘You didn’t come here to be another Gilbert and Sullivan, soldier! Now get that foxhole dug! The school play will take care of itself!’ “ Jake went off. “ ‘What the hell you standing around gabbing for, soldier! That latrine needs to be scrubbed!’ “
“Dad, that’s not quite what . . .”
“You can’t just sit in the mess hall and shoot the breeze like normal people! Oh, no! One word of casual conversation leaks out and there’s Ellenbogen telling you that you have to scrub the barracks with your brand new toothbrush! I mean, I barely used it twice and bang I‘m polishing the floor with it! He wouldn’t even let me get a new one from the PX before lights out!”
Daria sighed, stood up and made for the solitude of her bedroom. That was definitely not the way she wanted that conversation to go. But she figured that talking to Tom couldn’t get any worse.
“Alright,” Sandi was saying to the members of the Fashion Club assembled in her bedroom. “Now that we’ve agreed to donate a new girls room mirror, the next order of business is to figure out how to pay for it.”
“Oh, yeah,” Tiffany said from her seat on Sandi‘s bed. She really hadn’t thought about that.
“We could hold a yard sale,” Stacy suggested after a moment.
“Stacy, are you suggesting that we sit at a card table and haggle?” Sandi said in a voice that dripped disgust as she cocked an eyebrow at the club secretary.
“Oh, God, what’s wrong with me?” Stacy whimpered.
“Why don’t we do what we do best?” Quinn asked as she straightened up from where she was leaning on the wall.
“Quinn, no one is going to pay to watch us eat carrot sticks,” Sandi said dryly. “However I am pleased that you are paying more attention at this meeting than the last one.”
“I mean, tell people what’s wrong with their outfits.“ Quinn frowned briefly.
“Buuut, we do that all day for free,” Tiffany pointed out. “That’s why everyone likes us.”
“Well, we could put it down on paper. Sell our own newsletter offering advice to fashion victims,” Quinn suggested. “And we could predict fashion trends. People would actually save money buying our newsletter by not getting things in the wrong fabric or belt width.”
“A commendable idea, Quinn. All in favor?” Sandi looked over the gathering and saw that all hands were raised. “Then I guess we should decide which topics to cover.”
“Boy, this volunteering is going to be a lot of work!” Stacy said.
“Yeah, some should really pay us for it,” Tiffany observed.
“The floor is open for suggestions,” Sandi said.
“Huh?” Tiffany looked at the floor between her feet.
“Skirt lengths are getting longer. Maybe we should do an article on that?” Stacy asked meekly.
“Yeah, and with spring coming up, people are going to be looking to coordinate their makeup with the new fashions that will be coming out,” Quinn put in.
“Perhaps something on the colors best appropriate for the early spring party seasons,” Sandi said.
“Yeah!” Stacy said writing furiously on her notepad.
“We could do an article on contouring your eyes the right way,” Tiffany said.
“Perhaps we should do a piece on moral fashionability also,” Sandi said. She looked thoughtful, but the glance she cast at Quinn said otherwise. “As a prominent publication for the school community, we would have certain responsibilities as well.”
“Huh?” Tiffany tilted her head.
“What do you mean?” Stacy stopped writing and said.
Quinn, however, had a sick feeling that she knew exactly what Sandi was talking about.
“Perhaps a piece on how to avoid certain types of behavior that would lower one’s social standing unacceptably,” Sandi suggested.
“Such as?” Quinn asked with a cocked eyebrow.
“Such as piercing in inappropriate places, distasteful or controversial tattoos,” Sandi paused and twisted the knife a little more. “Certain activities that might lead to certain conditions that last for nine months.”
“What’s wrong with conditioners?” Tiffany asked, missing the point.
“Eww,” Stacy said, making more notes. She got it. “Who would, uh. . . be in that condition?”
“Sandi, ix-nay!” Quinn whispered through a clenched jaw. It was just loud enough for Sandi to look up at her.
“I am sorry, I am not permitted to say. I was approached in secrecy about this issue, and may have said too much already,” Sandi said, putting her nose up in the air and shot Quinn another evil look before quickly masking it. “Besides, I’m not even sure that any of her relatives know for sure, yet, and I have no wish to start unsubstantiated rumors.”
“Yeah, that kind of thing just isn’t nice,” Tiffany said,
Finally, she puts two and two together and comes up with something other than three and a half, Quinn thought with an inward sigh of relief, her jaw relaxing slightly.
“I wonder who it could be?” Tiffany asked, wide eyed.
And maybe she doesn‘t. Quinn’s jaw tightened up again.
“It’s got to be that girl with the frosted dye job in our math class,” Stacy said, looking as if she were ready to burst. “You know what I heard about her? I heard that she . . .”
Quinn tuned Stacy out as she went on and on. As Sandi and Tiffany sat and listened to Stacy, none of them noticed the look that Quinn was giving their club president.
It could have shattered concrete.
Helen had come home after a long day at work and had found Jake in the living room, sitting in the dark with a martini in his hand and mumbling a string of epithets. They seemed to be directed at Corporal Ellenbogen, an old teacher of his from military school who occasionally replaced his father as the target of Jake’s ravings. Helen had to wonder what had set him off this time.
So hard to tell what will set Jake off these days, Helen thought. Probably something he read in the paper, or maybe saw on television. Hmph. Sometimes even the off hand remarks that the girls make . . .The girls!
“Jake?” Helen called out as she walked into the room and turned on the lights. “Jake!”
“Where are the girls?” Helen asked hotly. Almost nine p.m., and he’s sitting alone in the dark with no clue what his daughters are doing! Typical!
“Uh, Quinn’s, um, somewhere,” Jake said, slowly coming back to the present. “And, um, Daria’s up in her room with, uh, with Tom!”
“Jake, how long have they been up there?” Helen asked, her imagination going into overdrive again.
“Helen, have we ever just sat down and talked?” Jake asked. “You know, just shot the breeze about nothing?”
“If I say I don’t want them in there alone, I might give them ideas,” Helen said, wracking her brain for a plausible excuse to keep an eye on them. “I know! Snacks!”
Jake polished off the last of his drink as Helen headed of to gather some snacks for Tom and Daria, ostensibly. Meanwhile, Jake had returned to his own little world.
“You know, it’s just a great day to sit out her and converse. Looks a little cloudy, think it’s going to rain?” Jake went on, his voice getting harder and angrier. “Maybe if it does, that damn Corporal Ellenbogen’ll get struck by lightning!!”
Up in Daria’s room, She a Tom were sitting in a tense silence. Daria sat cross-legged on the floor, idly turning a box of pencils over in her hands, while Tom sat in the desk chair facing her a little ways away. She had asked Tom over to try and talk about their situation, but now that he was here, she was having a hard time talking to him at all.
“So, Daria,” Tom finally asked. “Is something on your mind?”
“Um, why do you ask?” Daria looked nervous.
“Well, we’ve been sitting here for ten minutes and all you’ve done is turn that box in your hands around and around about a dozen times.” Tom leaned forward in the chair. “Would this have anything to do with what you wanted to talk about earlier this week?”
“Um, yeah, actually, it, uh,” Daria stammered and decided to change her approach to the subject slightly. “Tom, how come you couldn't come and see me last weekend?”
“That? Mom and Dad decided that it was time to suck up to some dean form Bromwell University,” Tom explained with a shrug. “It seems that it’s a Sloane tradition to go to Bromwell. Personally I couldn’t care less where I go to college, but I guess you’ve gotta go someplace.”
“Yeah, someplace,” Daria said, her own half formed plans for college briefly rising to the forefront of her mind. “So, why couldn’t you get out of it?”
“Well, Mom wouldn’t hear of it, for one thing,” Tom replied. “She can be a pretty stubborn person when she gets those kinds of ideas in her head.”
“Oh, Tom! I didn’t know you were here!” Helen said with faux surprise as she opened the door to Daria’s room.
Speak of the devil, Daria thought.
“Are you two hungry?” Helen asked, talking a little faster than was normal for her. “I could get you some chackers and creese -- uh, crackers and cheese! And crackers! I’ll be right back!”
As Helen walked back out of the room, pointedly leaving the door open, Daria rolled her eyes and shook her head. It was like she was telling her father, every time she tried to have this conversation, something or someone reared their ugly head right in the middle of things.
“Anyway,” Tom said with an almost concealed eye roll of his own. “Dad had pretty much told me that there was no way out of it when you called to talk the first time. But I figured that I could talk my way out of it somehow once we got through most of the dinner. I did call, you know.”
“Yeah, you did,” Daria looked down at the box. “Thanks for trying, by the way.”
“You’re welcome. Sorry I couldn’t have succeeded,” Tom said quietly. “Did you want to talk about it now?”
“Uh, yes, I do, but, um . . .” Daria started to say. Come on, mouth! Just say “Tom, I’m pregnant, and being as you’re the only person that I’ve ever had sex with and you used a condom that had leaked, you’re the father.” Do it all in one breath and it’s over with!
“Daria, are you okay?” Tom asked, noticing the somewhat panicked expression on Daria’s face. “Whatever it is you want to say to me, it‘s alright.”
“Tom . . . what, um,” Daria swallowed. “What kind of plans did you have for after college?”
“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “I thought I’d figure it out when I got there.”
“Nothing that you really had your sights set on doing?” Daria asked. “Not going to work with your father or something like that?”
“I don’t know. Once I’m out of college, I’ll be pretty much on my own. I’m sure that Dad would like it if I joined the firm, but I was never really planning on it.” Tom cocked an eyebrow. “What, you were worried about our lives after college?”
“Well, sort of,” Daria said. “You see, I really hadn’t thought too much about college until recently and --”
“Tom, Daria!” Helen said as she came back into the room with a tray of crackers and hastily cut chunks of cheese. “Here you go!”
Dammit!! You couldn’t have taken five more freaking minutes!? Daria thought, then mentally suppressed a string of curses that would have gotten her grounded till graduation if she said them out loud.
“So, did I hear you kids talking about college?” Helen asked as she set the tray on Daria’s bed.
“Actually we were having a discussion on how ill timed parental interruptions make it impossible to have a coherent conversation like two normal young adults,” Daria said with a scowl.
“Well, I, um . . .” Helen started to say.
“Uh, thanks for the snacks, Mrs. Morgendorffer,” Tom said, trying to defuse the suddenly tense mood
“You’re welcome, Tom,” Helen said as she slowly backed out of the room. “I’ll just be going over some paperwork in the bedroom if you need anything.”
Daria got up and made a point of shutting the bedroom door loudly as her mother walked down the hall. She stood there for a moment and counted to ten before hauling her right leg back and kicking the door as hard as she could swing her boot. The impact elicited a startled “Eep!” from Helen, just on the other side of the door. Daria waited until she heard Helen walk down the hall before turning back to Tom.
“What’s with your Mom?” Tom asked, genuinely worried for Daria.
“I don’t know. She’s been on this kick ever since she heard that my cousin Erin and her husband were having problems,” Daria said with a sigh, her shoulders slumping. “Tom, I know I asked you over here to talk, but . . . Can we just watch television or something instead?”
“Sure,” Tom said, standing up and walking over to the bed.
Tom slid onto the bed and leaned up against the padding on the wall as Daria collected the remote. She slid up beside him and started flipping through channels, with no real destination in mind. Finally she settled on one of the classic movie channels and leaned back next to Tom to try to relax. Tom raised an eyebrow when Daria and put her head on his shoulder and leaned heavily on him. Tom put his arm around Daria’s shoulder and lay his cheek on the top of her head, offering what comfort he could.
I wish you would talk to me, Daria, Tom thought, looking worried. Whatever it is that‘s bothering you, I’m beginning to think that I’m the cause. I would have liked to have thought that I had a little more of your confidence, all things considered. But I guess that kind of intimacy takes time, too.
The next day at school, Daria and Jane watched as the Fashion Club debuted their newsletter that they had been working on all weekend. Daria had snuck a look at a completed copy of what they were calling the Fashion Forecast, and had to grudgingly admit that they had done a pretty good job. Now it was simply a matter of seeing how well it would sell to the crowd that consisted mostly of boys who were gathering around the table. Daria figured that the guys were schlepping for a date with Quinn, most likely, rather than having any interest in what was being sold. She and Jane managed to ignore the crowd and collect some stuff for from their lockers for the next class until Joey, Jamie, and Jeffy came by eyeing their purchases with varying degrees of confusion and disdain.
“An Ode to Aubergine?” Joey said in confusion.
“Good Pluck?” Jamie said, equally stymied.
“Please Remember to Blush?” Jeffy sounded somewhat disgusted.
Daria and Jane indifferently watched the three football players walk by.
“There must be a lot going on in the boys room that we don’t know about,” Jane said dryly and with a slight shake of her head.
“And really, isn’t that as it should be?” Daria replied, looking over at the crowd that was buying up their own copies of the Fashion Forecast.
“So, how did your conversation with Tom go?” Jane asked as the two started walking.
“It didn’t,” Daria sighed. “We started to try and talk around the subject, but I just couldn’t talk about it directly. I think we would have gotten to it eventually, but Mom decided that she needed to stick her nose in where it didn’t belong under the guise of delivering snacks. If that wasn’t enough to shatter my resolve completely, every time we left the room for anything, there was Mom ducking back into her bedroom. I felt like she was listening at the door with a stethoscope half the night.”
“Yeah, that would do it,” Jane said, glancing back over her shoulder. “Have you thought about getting Quinn to help you by keeping your mom busy . . . Never mind. Bad idea.”
“No kidding. I’d have to explain why, and then the whole school would know. It would be quicker to take out a full page ad in the paper and skip the middle-man,” Daria frowned. “Besides, it would require her to think about someone besides herself for a change.”
“Perish that thought,“ Jane said, wishing she could do more. “When’s your Aunt due back?”
“Another day or so. She told Mom that she had some work with the museum that would keep her in Lawndale for a few weeks, now she has to actually come up with something that looks legitimate.”
Along their way down the corridor they had to pass by the Fashion Club’s table. Most of the guys just out for a date had either done or saw what they came to hand had disappeared back into the wood work. This had left several girls looking over the newsletter and conversing with the fashionistas over the content of the publication. Most notable in the gathering was Jodie Landon, as well as Niki and Angie from the cheerleading squad.
“Say, Quinn,” Sandi said in a voice that was just slightly too loud. “Maybe your little relative or whatever could use a free copy of our newsletter, what with her condition and all -- OW! Quinn!”
“I’m sorry, Sandi, I didn’t see your foot there!”
Daria and Jane tried their best to ignore Sandi’s statement. However, when Jane looked at Daria, it seemed that her Best Friend looked as if she wanted to throw up from something other than morning sickness.
All through Language Arts, Daria’s stress level was slowly climbing as she pondered Sandi’s remark. She inexorably had come to the conclusion that Sandi knew something, but couldn’t figure out where she would have gotten her information. It wasn’t until after class that Daria had an actual chance to vent her frustration over what Sandi had said to Jane.
“Look, Daria, I‘m sure Sandi said that just to be Sandi,” Jane was saying as she took a book from her locker and put in her backpack. “She’s probably blowing smoke up your skirt just to see if she gets a reaction.”
“I wish it were that easy to dismiss,” Daria said, leaning on the locker bank. “But I know Sandi knows something. Quinn knows something too, or she wouldn’t have stepped on Sandi’s foot back there. This only presents the questions of who found out what, when, and who told whom?”
“Hey, Daria,” Jodie said as she walked up. “You might want to know that Sandi’s little announcement back there has started some people talking.”
“Sounds like evolution has caught up to the football team,” Daria said dryly. “The Neanderthal's had better watch out.”
“They better, ‘cuz the Lions are gonna kick their butts!” Kevin crowed defiantly as he and Brittany walked up to the little gathering.
“Yeah! Go team!” Brittany squeaked, then looked at Kevin. “Uh, babe? I didn’t know we had a game.”
“Oh brother,” Daria muttered.
“Oh, hey Daria, I was gonna ask you something,” Kevin said, scratching the back of his head with his ever-present football. “When did you get your, you know, condition?”
“My what?” Daria asked in a voice so cold that it could have cracked Plexiglas.
“Yeah,” Brittany put in. “Did you guys, like, get into it and forget to use a, well . . . you know. Because there’s things that you can do afterwards if you forget.”
“Yeah,” Kevin chuckled, elbowing Jodie. “I guess even a brain can get caught up in the heat of the minute when the blood gets a-pumpin’ and the bodies start a-bumpin’, huh Jodie?”
“Kevin,” Jodie sighed, rolling her eyes in exasperation.
“You know something, Kevin, I never thought it was possible, but you have just managed to sink beneath even the lowest possible opinion anyone’s ever had for you.” Daria snapped off her words like a burst from a fifty-caliber machine gun, fists clenched at her sides. “You don’t bother to think. You don’t even try to show any semblance of tact. You just open your big mouth and display your ignorance to the rest of the world. So why don’t you just get the hell out of my face and go play with something shiny for a while. I hear that there’s a nickel in the middle of the freeway.”
Daria stormed off, a wide eyed Jane in tow, leaving behind an equally flatfooted Jodie and Brittany. Kevin, as usual, had no clue just how close he had come to getting his front teeth handed to him
“Whoa! Guess her ‘condition’ is that time of the month!” Kevin exclaimed.
“God, Kevin, you are such a jerk!” Brittany said, then turned to Jodie. “What’s gotten into her? I‘ve never seen her that mad.”
“You got me,” Jodie said as she watched Daria and Jane disappear down the corridor. “But I’m not sure that this would be exactly the right time to ask her.”
The run-in with Kevin, combined with Sandi’s semi-public attempt to humiliate Daria had served to ruin the rest of her day. She and Jane had gotten together for their usual after school slice to commiserate and plot their revenge. One slice had turned into two and then into a full blown pizza binge, which had left Daria with a hell of a case of heartburn that did nothing for her temper.
She had managed to arrive home about five minutes before the Fashion Club had arrived and began to set up shop in the living room. After a quick trip to the upstairs bathroom for some antacids, Daria headed back in the general direction of her bedroom to start on her homework. She hadn’t really been able to concentrate that afternoon, and hopefully she could get the lion’s share of it done before dinner.
As she walked out of the bathroom, she stopped and briefly glanced into her parents’ room when she heard her father mumbling something that had to be a string of epithets. Jake was sitting on the bed with several cars from his model train set spread out around him. He was working on a replica of a passenger carriage, alternately holding it almost up to his nose and at full arms length. She was about to go in and help her father when the doorbell rang.
“Daria! Aunt Amy’s here!” Quinn’s voice echoed through the house.
Daria figured that her father could be best left to his own devices and headed downstairs to greet her aunt. As she headed down the stairs, she saw that Amy had brought a couple of very large suitcases in with her and was eyeing the gathering of the Fashion Club with a measure of disdain.
“Hi Amy,” Daria said as she descended the stairs.
“Hey Daria,” Amy replied, nodding her head towards Quinn and company. “What’s all this about?”
“The Fashion Club is making a foray into newsletter publications and they want to see what fabrics go well with printers ink,” Daria said. “Let’s head into the kitchen.”
“Sure thing, I --”
“Oh no!!” Quinn’s cry cut off Amy’s words.
“Okay, I’ll bite,” Amy said as she and Daria exchanged a glance. “What’s wrong?”
“Look at this! All out fashion predictions were completely wrong!” Quinn moaned as she read from the latest issue of Waif. “Hems hike up, heels fall down, tweezing isn’t pleasing, and dark colors like aubergine are over!”
“Who would have thought that brightly comic tones like peach and lemon would suddenly come into vogue!” Sandi grieved, reading over Quinn’s shoulder. Sandi got up and walked over to the front window, hanging her head. “I need to be alone.”
“This is sooo saaad,” Tiffany drawled as she reached for a tissue.
“Why does everything always happen to us?” Stacy nearly wailed, grabbing a tissue of her own. She was oblivious to the dark look that Daria was giving her from behind.
“Okay, I know I’m really going to regret asking this, but what’s going on?” Amy asked as she walked up behind the girls.
“They just found out that the ‘Wide World of Wool’ is going to be preempted by a state of the union address,” Daria said.
“Even worse! We’d just put out our own newsletter, and now Waif’s ‘What’s Hot and What’s Rot’ issue just came out and what we thought was out and in is not and not and now our careers as fashion prognosticators are over!” Quinn sobbed.
Amy turned to Daria with an ‘is she kidding?’ look on her face.
“We’d better go lower the flag to half staff,” Daria said. “Think you can play taps on the kazoo?”
“Oh please!” Sandi said from over by the window. “Just because the two of you don’t care how you’re seen by the rest of the public is no reason for you to trash those of us who do.”
“What are you talking about?” Amy asked.
“Oh, like you don’t already know what you’re little niece or whatever has been up to,” Sandi said with a knowing look at Daria.
“Sandi!” Quinn whispered harshly from the sofa.
Daria looked angrily from one girl to the other before she whirled and stormed off in to the kitchen. Amy turned and followed Daria, looking over her shoulder at the gathered girls. She had a pretty good idea of what just happened, and hoped that it could be dealt with before it got out of control. Amy caught up with Daria as she stood by the kitchen sliding doors. Her arms were crossed in front of her and she had the look of a person at the end of her rope.
“Daria?” Amy asked.
“Sandi knows,” Daria said.
“I don’t know. I don’t even know how she could have found out,” Daria said. “Quinn might suspect, but she seems to be trying to keep it quiet for her own popularity’s sake.”
“You want me to talk to them?”
“No, I . . .” Daria paused for a moment, then pulled the sliding door open. “I need some air.”
Amy stood there and watched her niece walk out across the yard and towards the front of the house, crossing her arms against the sudden breeze that invaded the house.
Daria walked through the streets of Lawndale without really seeing where she was going. Her mind kept going around in circles as she tried to deal with what had just happened. She kept going back and forth between Sandi and Quinn and what they knew or didn’t know. It was only a matter of time before Sandi’s little pronouncement got the rumor mills spinning at full speed. It was obvious that Quinn knew, or at least suspected something, the way she kept trying to keep Sandi quiet.
Regardless of who had known what first, it was sure that Sandi had said just enough at the right time to get the mills moving. Sooner or later, it would jump schools from Lawndale to Fielding Prep, as rumors of that nature were want to do. In fact, Daria had heard a few of them through Tom, and she also knew that students from both schools freely mixed all over town. Eventually a Lawndale student would tell a friend at Fielding that ol’ Tom Sloane’s girlfriend was knocked up and trying to keep it a secret. That tidbit would find Tom, and Tom would find Daria. She glowered to herself as that particular scenario played through her head, knowing that it would end worse than badly. She would have to tell him, and tell him soon.
Daria looked up finally and saw that her wanderings had taken her past Crewe Neck and up to the private drive that lead to the Sloane’s house. Tom certainly knew by now that there was something bothering Daria, but had made no real attempts to find out what that was, Daria concluded.
What the hell is up with that? Daria thought as she walked up the path to their door. Mustering her frustration, she mashed the doorbell button with her thumb. It was only a moment or two before the door opened to reveal Tom.
“Daria! Come in,” Tom said as he gestured with his arm. When Daria just stood there glaring at him, he switched tracks. “Is everything okay?”
“No, everything’s not okay,” Daria folded her arms and looked at the toes of her boots with a frown.
“What’s wrong?” Tom asked after Daria was silent for a moment.
“I’ve been trying to talk to you all week about something important and every time I try something comes up and we never get to have that conversation.” Daria looked up with a glare that dripped ice. “If it’s not my mother and her overwhelming need to make sure that there’s two feet of daylight between us, you’re off someplace kissing up to some college dean even though you’re a shoe-in to be accepted!”
“Huh?” Tom blinked in surprise. “Hold on a second. I know something’s been upsetting you the last few days. I figured that you’d tell me about it in your own way when you were ready.”
“What do you think I’ve been trying to do??” Daria snapped. “Every time I try and give you an opening to ask ‘What’s wrong, Daria?’ you refuse to take the opportunity. God, you’re insensitive!”
“Daria, you’re not getting it.” Tom tried to explain reasonably, but was slowly losing his cool. “You could have told me twice on the telephone and again when I was over at your house a couple of days ago, but you didn’t. And I’m not being insensitive, I’m trying to be supportive and I’m trying to be patient, but you’re not making it any easier.”
“How can I make it easier if you won’t at least try to meet me halfway?” Daria turned and started to walk away. “You never wanted to know what was bothering me to begin with, so why the hell should I tell you now? See ya.”
“Dammit, Daria! Why don’t you just grow up?” Tom snapped, his temper finally slipping. Daria didn’t even bother to turn around. “Or not.”
Tom closed the door behind him, barely able to keep himself from slamming it. He leaned on the door for a moment and took a couple of deep breaths before he straightened up and headed for the stairs.
Dammit, Tom, you really screwed the pooch on that one, Tom thought as he began climbing the stairs. You’ll be lucky if she ever talks to you again after this.
When he got to the top of the stairs, he saw his sister Elsie leaning on the doorframe outside her bedroom. He could see by the look on her face that she had heard every word of Tom and Daria’s argument.
“What’s the matter, big brother,” Elsie asked with a smirk. “Lovers’ quarrel?”
“Oh . . . shut up,” Tom said as he turned into his own bedroom and locked the door behind him.
“Yep,” Elsie said to herself as she heard the lock click into place. “Lovers’ quarrel.”
With the demise of the Fashion Forecast, and the subsequent refunding of almost all of the money that they had raised for their new mirror, the Fashion Club was relegated to trash duty on what little remained of their lunch hour. That meant Quinn, Stacy, and Tiffany got to carry out the bundles of newsletters to the trash bins behind the school while Sandi supervised. Donning yellow rubber gloves, the three other members began tossing the bundles into the dumpster.
“These dumpsters are guh-ross!” Tiffany groaned as she passed a bundle to Stacy, who, under Sandi's watchful glare, hiked it up and into the bin where it landed with a wet thump.
Stacy peeked over the edge of the bin, curiosity winning out over disgust, to see what had made the noise.
“What do you think this stuff is that looks like vomit?” Stacy asked before she realized she had said it out loud.
“Eeww! Stacy!” Quinn exclaimed.
“Probably just that,” Sandi said with a glance at Quinn. “Maybe your little relative or whatever made a stop back here before school.”
“Sandi, that‘s not funny!” Quinn glared, her fists on her hips.
“Well, isn’t that what people in her condition do in the morning?” Sandi said with a look that defied Quinn to balk.
“What do you...” Stacy started to say, but stopped when Sandi turned that glare on her. “Eep! Sorry!”
“At any rate,” Quinn said in a hard tone, taking back control of the subject of the conversation. “It doesn’t look like we’re going to make our fundraising goal.”
“It’s just so unfair that you have to do something to get a plaque,” Stacy said, looking disappointed.
Sandi’s glare turned into a thoughtful expression as what Stacy had said sank in. Who said that they had to actually do something anyway?
“Hmm.” Sandi cocked an eyebrow as an idea began forming in her mind.
Daria sat at her usual place at the kitchen table, staring into a glass of lemonade that had long ago warmed to room temperature. Her fight with Tom yesterday had left a huge emotional wound and now she wasn’t sure that she would be able to look him in the eye again. And the worst part of it was that Tom hadn’t done anything to deserve the roasting that Daria had given him the night before -- and she knew it.
“Hey, Daria,” Amy said as she walked into the kitchen with her laptop computer under her arm. “You’re usually not home this early, are you? Don’t you usually hang out with Jane after school?”
“Mmm,” Daria shrugged. “I needed to be by myself for a while.”
“What happened?” Amy asked as she sat down in Helen’s usual spot.
“Aunt Amy, I think I really screwed things up between me and Tom yesterday.“ Daria looked at Amy with barely disguised confusion and sorrow. “Last night when I went out walking, I wound up over at Tom’s. I basically read him a riot act and told him that it was all his fault that we haven’t had the chance to talk.”
“Oh boy,” Amy said with raised eyebrows.
“How am I supposed to tell him now?” Daria looked back into her glass. “I didn’t know what he was going to think of me before, so what’s he going to think of me now? I might as well forget it and just go through all of this alone anyway.”
“You’re not going through all of this alone,” Amy said with a comforting hand on Daria’s shoulder.
“Feels like it.”
“Well, you’re not. Meanwhile, the first thing that you have to do is pick up that phone and get Tom over here. Then you tell him why you went off on him and apologize. Then you tell him about . . . you.”
“What about Mom?” Daria asked. “Every time Tom’s been over here she’s on us like a starving cheetah on a wounded antelope.”
“You let me worry about your Mom,” Amy said with half a smile. “If it makes you feel any better, call Jane over too. That way there’ll be two of us to sit on my tightly wound sister.”
“I guess.” Daria stood up listlessly. “I’m going to go up and make this call from my room.”
“I’ll keep an eye out on Helen when she shows up,” Amy said as Daria started to walk out. “Don’t worry. Everything will work out.”
“Let’s hope,” Daria said as she turned the corner and disappeared form sight.
With a sigh, Amy leaned heavily on the kitchen table.
Yeah, she thought. Let’s hope.
As Daria topped the stairs and began to head for her bedroom, she heard the sound of her father grumbling to himself coming from the master bedroom. She was about to keep on walking when . . .
“Dammit, I give up!!” Jake shouted. “Why the hell do they have to make these things so small!”
Daria stopped and sighed. She knew she’d never get any peace for this particular call if she didn’t deal with her father first. She turned and stepped in to the master bedroom to see Jake standing over several cars from his train set, spread out across the bed. The passenger carriage that he had been working on yesterday was in several dozen pieces. He was trying to do some work with a fine screwdriver but, as Daria watched, he only managed to poke himself in the hand.
“Ouch! Dammit!” Jake looked at the floor as a wheel dropped from his grip. “Where the hell . . .?”
Daria walked in and picked up the errant wheel from the floor next to Jake’s shoe before he had a chance to step on it.
“Here you go, Dad,” she said as she handed him the part.
“Thanks, kiddo,” Jake said with a grateful smile. “They’re making these things smaller and smaller every day.”
“Um, yeah,” Daria said as she saw her father go back to work on the wheel assembly, holding it only a few inches from the end of his nose. “Dad? Did you ever think that it might not be the item that’s getting smaller, but that you’re just not seeing it all that well?”
“What do you mean?” Jake looked over at his oldest daughter.
“Well, you keep holding everything either at arms length or right in front of your eyes like I did when I was a kid,” Daria pointed out. “It’s like when you tried to make lasagna that time and didn’t read the instructions right. Or when you start reading the back of the cereal box some mornings.”
“They just print those things so damn small,” Jake said as he put down the parts he was working on. “And the lasagna thing wasn’t my fault. The label was smeared!”
“Dad, there’s nothing wrong with admitting that you’re having vision problems,” Daria said. “Things like that happen, and there’s no shame in talking to someone about it.”
“You know, you’re right kiddo,” Jake said quietly as he sat down on the bed, careful not to crush anything. “It’s just that, well, it’s one of the things that says that you’re getting older. And I really don’t need any more reminders of that.”
“Nobody needs to be reminded of that. Besides, it’s like when Mom kept bugging me about getting contacts. I will admit, grudgingly, that there are times that they have their uses,” Daria said, remembering her little trip to the clinic a few days ago. “There‘s nothing wrong with having glasses, just like there’s nothing wrong with wearing contacts.”
Jake looked at his daughter for a long moment, considering what she had said. He remembered hearing Helen tell of all the problems that she had convincing Daria to even go in and get fitted for the contacts. Once the bugs were ironed out with her prescription, she even wore them once in a while, at lease when practicality dictated that her glasses would be more of a hindrance than a help.
“You know what, kiddo, you’re right,” Jake said, straightening up. “It took a lot of guts for you to go in and get those contacts, even though you didn’t want ‘em. And it takes a lot of guts to tell someone something that they really don’t want to hear, even though it’s for their own good. The least I can do is have the guts to go in and see if I need ‘em. And if I do, then I’m in pretty good company, then.”
“Thanks, Dad,” Daria said with a slight smirk/smile.
“Y’know, Daria, I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of stuff around here without your help.” Jake stood up. “There’s an optometrist in my office building who just happens to be one of my clients. I think I’m gonna give him a call. Now where’d I put his number?”
Daria watched her father walk out of the bedroom. She knew that he hadn’t wanted to deal with the fact that he might need glasses someday, but he had handled that conversation better than she thought he would have.
Now to find out if Tom takes his news as well, Daria thought as she headed for her bedroom.
Quinn stood and looked at her reflection in the mirror for a long moment after Sandi, Stacy, and Tiffany had left. She cast a glance at the plaque that Sandi had affixed to the wall.
‘We Mean Well,’ Quinn silently read the inscription. Yeah, right!. If you meant well, Sandi, you’d have kept quiet about Daria when I asked you to.
Stacy and Tiffany knew now, Quinn was sure. Neither one of them was so completely stupid to have missed it by now. She wasn’t sure how far it had gotten through the school, but sooner or later it would get back to Daria. After that, it was only a matter of time before she came to Quinn. She could only hope that Daria believed her when she said that Sandi had started that particular rumor flying.
‘It’s the thought that counts,’ Quinn remembered Sandi saying. Well, if it’s the thought that counts, then I guess I know what you really think, huh, Sandi?
Quinn turned at the sound of someone leaving one of the stalls to see Andrea turning the corner towards the mirror. She was in the process of pulling a cigarette from a slightly battered pack with two fingers. The two girls looked at each other for a moment before Quinn looked back at her reflection in the mirror. Andrea looked on for a moment more before shrugging and putting the cigarette between her lips and lighting it with an expensive Zippo lighter.
Quinn watched Andrea take a drag off of the cigarette and blow a long jet of smoke towards the air return vent in the ceiling. Andrea didn’t seem to notice, or was pointedly ignoring Quinn, as she took another drag.
“Why do you do that?” Quinn asked.
Andrea cocked her head slightly and looked at Quinn from under her long bangs. She blew another jet of smoke at the vent without turning her head. She detected nothing accusatory about Quinn’s tone, nor the disgust that she’d come to expect. Just simple curiosity.
“Do what?” Andrea asked, turning her head a little more so that she could look Quinn in the eye, via the mirror.
“Why do you smoke?” Quinn asked again.
“I dunno,” Andrea shrugged, facing away from Quinn again. “Something to do. Helps me deal.”
“Oh,” Quinn said as she turned around and leaned on the sink. She stood there and watched Andrea take another drag off of her cigarette. “Can I have one?”
Andrea looked at Quinn, her Horus-eye makeup slightly distorted under here severely cocked eyebrow.
“I thought that this wasn’t something that fashionable little girls did,” Andrea said levelly.
“Well, it isn’t,” Quinn said, flinching a little under Andrea’s gaze. “But I need something to help me deal, too.”
Andrea pondered this for a moment before taking the cigarette pack out of her dress pocket. She held out the pack to Quinn, who awkwardly took a cigarette out of the pack. She held the paper tube between the knuckles of her first two fingers, like she had seen other women do outside of school, and regarded it for a moment. Part of her was saying that this was a bad idea, but the rest of her didn’t care.
Andrea held up her opened Zippo and struck the flint with her thumb. Quinn looked at it for a second before she put the cigarette to her lips and leaned in towards the lighter, putting the end into the flame. She took a dainty puff off the cigarette, it’s end glowing red. She coughed a couple of times on the acrid smoke as it burned her throat, but it wasn’t as bad as some of the stuff she’d drank at parties in the name of popularity. After she caught her breath for a moment, she took a slightly heartier second drag on her cigarette, managing not to cough.
“Thanks,” Quinn said, blowing her own smoke out and leaning back on the sink.
“Any time,” Andrea shrugged, and took a drag on her own cigarette.
“Uh, hi,” Daria said slowly, fighting the urge to hang up the telephone. “Um, I’m cooking up a delicious juicy crow tonight and thought that you might like to come over for a drum stick.”
“Oh, I’m not hungry,” Tom said from his end of the connection.
Daria’s face fell as she waited for the connection to be cut.
“. . . But I’ll watch you eat,” he finished.
“Um, okay,” Daria said slowly. “About twenty minutes then?”
“Sure, see you then,” Tom said just before he hung up.
Daria looked at the receiver and took a deep breath in an attempt to calm her nerves. Once he arrived, there was no turning back.
There can’t be any turning back, Daria thought as she dialed in another number from memory.
“Yo,” Jane answered.
“It’s me,” Daria said.“ Tom’s on his way over.”
“You want me to be there?”
“I need you to help my aunt hog tie my mother so Tom and I can have some time to talk,” Daria said. “I don’t know how long this is going to take, but I’m going to tell him.”
“I just got back from my run,” Jane said. “Give me a couple of minutes to jump in the shower and I’ll be over as quick as I can.”
“Fast as I can, amiga,” Jane said. “See ya in a few.”
“Later,” Daria hung up the phone and sighed. “Nothing to do now but wait.”
She got up and went downstairs to meet her boyfriend when he arrived.
Fifteen minutes later, Tom showed up at the door, making a big deal of sniffing the air as he walked in.
“Mmm, that crow smells good,” Tom said as he entered. Then he saw Amy standing by the sofa. “Oh, hello. I’m sorry, if I’d have known you had company . . .”
“Tom, I’d like you to meet my Aunt Amy,” Daria introduced. “Amy, this is my hopefully still boyfriend, Tom Sloane.”
“A pleasure,” Tom said as the two of them shook hands.
“Amy’s here to run interference with my Mom while we talk up in my room,” Daria said.
“I suspect that we’ll be getting to know each other later,” Amy said.
“I’m looking forward to it. See you later.,” Tom said as Daria started heading up the stairs. Tom followed and kept his peace till they were at the top of the stairs. “You know, it’s amazing how much you two look alike.”
“Yeah, we haven’t been mistaken for mother and daughter, yet, but I suppose that’s only a matter of time,” Daria said as they entered her room and she shut the door behind them. She walked over to her desk chair and looked at the manila envelope that was laying on its surface. “Well, we both know why I asked you here.”
“Not me,” Tom said with deliberately cheerful cluelessness. “No idea. None whatsoever.”
You don’t know how right you are, Daria thought as she sat down. “Okay, fine, I deserved that. Look, I‘m . . . sorry. You were trying to be patient and supportive. I was the one acting like a total . . . you know.”
“Come on, you can do it.” Tom was enjoying this far too much. “Rhymes with ‘witch?’ ”
“Oh, shut up.” Daria gave Tom a cross look, which immediately softened. “I guess I deserved that, too. So, forgiveness and whatnot?”
“Eh, you’ve suffered enough,” Tom said. “For today.”
The door to Daria’s room opened at that point to admit Helen’s semi-surreptitious glance into the room. When she spotted the two teens, her poorly disguised attempt at secrecy went right out the window.
“Tom! Daria!” Helen said with slightly forced cheeriness. “Can I get you anything?”
“I’ll have a big glass of human growth hormone,” Daria said flatly, hoping that would dissuade her mother and wondering how the hell she had gotten by Amy.
“Coming right up! -- I mean I’ll be back with some snacks,” Helen said as she slowly walked out of Daria’s room.
“I’d better talk fast, she’s been doing speed drills,” Daria said, sounding very tired. “It seems that every time I try and talk to you about this, something comes up.”
“Well, your Aunt’s downstairs and she’ll keep your Mom busy. So what is it that you wanted to talk to me about?” Tom asked. “You’ve been acting distant for the last week. I know something’s bothering you that you’ve been very reluctant to talk about. Whatever it is, I want you to know that you can talk to me about it and I’ll keep it in the strictest of confidence.”
“That’s the problem. It’s not anything that can be kept in any kind of confidence.” Daria sighed. “At least not for very long.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” Daria started off slowly. “You obviously remember the first time that we, well . . .”
“Were intimate?” Tom said softly. “Of course I do.”
“Yeah, I, uh -- “
“Daria, we’re out of cheese!” Helen called from below. “Would you like pretzels?”
“Daria, are you still worried about whether I’m in this relationship for the sex?” Tom asked gently. He spoke softly, knowing Helen’s radar was on extra high. “I’ve told you before, that’s not the only reason that I’m with you. I’m with you because you’re smart and sweet and pretty and have a wonderful sense of humor when you choose to show it. It’s not just because of what we do in bed.” Tom tilted his head and cocked an eyebrow. “Though that’s nice, too.”
“Just nice? What about the back seat of your car?” Daria asked with a dirty look.
“I have to admit, that was fun too,” Tom smiled slightly. In the back of his head he was wondering what the hell was going on. “Look, I’m becoming a little confused here, Daria. What exactly are you working up to?”
“How about some pineapple chunks?” Helen hollered again. “In their own juice or heavy syrup! You decide!”
Daria bit back the urge to scream at her mother to shut the hell up and decided that she had best hurry up and get it over with.
“You know how I’ve been telling you that I’ve been fighting a flu bug all week?” Daria asked rhetorically.
“Yeah, your mom said that you picked it up at camp,” Tom said with a curious look. “Why?”
“Well, it’s not really the flu,” Daria said as she picked up the manila envelope from her desk. “And I’ve had it for more than a week. . . Actually about eleven weeks.”
“Oooo-kay, what . . ?” Tom started looking really confused.
“Okay.” Daria swallowed once, remembering five eternally long minutes that passed a week ago. “Do you remember when you first met Jane how you two went to Cluster Burger that night?”
Amy watched from the foot of the stairs as Helen came out of the kitchen with four big cans of pineapple on a tray. Helen has slipped in while Amy had made a quick trip to the downstairs bathroom, and now she had to make up for Helen’s additional momentum. She had already been upstairs once, and obviously hadn’t walked in on anything major. Now Amy just had to keep her downstairs, but she was having a hell of a time just keeping her form interrupting the kids by hollering up the stairs.
“Look, Helen, do you really think that they’re actually going to buy that?” Amy asked as she cut her sister off on the way to the stairs. She looked down at the contents of the tray and back up to her sister.
“You’re right, Amy. What was I thinking?” Helen said, looking at the tray. “They’re not going to believe this!”
“Exactly. Now just give those kids a few minutes to talk and -- “
“Rice cakes!” Helen interrupted Amy as the doorbell rang. She turn and sprinted back into the kitchen. “Answer that, will you?”
“Oh, brother, what a night this is going to turn into,” Amy mumbled with an eye roll as she turned to open the door.
“Hey, Jane,” Amy said to the doorbell ringer.
“Yo,” Jane said as she walked in. “I saw Tom’s car. They’re upstairs, I take it?”
“Yep,” Amy said. “And Helen’s downstairs, which is where I intend to keep her until those two have had a chance to talk.”
“Good luck,” Jane said darkly.
“Oh, hello Jane, good to see you,” Helen said quickly as she came scampering around the corner from the kitchen, a pile of rice cakes stacked on her tray with a couple of cans of soda. “I was just heading upstairs with some snacks for Daria and Tom. Why don’t we head on up right now, hmm?”
“Actually, Mrs. Morgendorffer,” Jane said with a glance at Amy. “I’m really not in all that big a hurry. Why don’t we all just sit down here in the living room and chat. I’m sure you’ve got all kinds of stories about your sister here that Daria’s never told me.”
“Yeah, sis, here’s you chance to get me back for fifteen-odd years of torture,” Amy said brightly. “I’d love to see what you come up with!”
Helen, however, was not even remotely paying attention to the two ladies in front of her. She was busy casting worried looks up the stairs and trying to hear what was going on above.
“It’s too quiet up there,” Helen said worriedly before turning back to the girls. “You know that really sounds like a lot of fun, girls, but Daria and Tom are waiting for their snacks and I have to get them up there before they start doing God knows what -- I mean wondering where their food is.”
“Uh, Helen, wait a sec --” Amy tried to stall a little longer as her sister pushed past her and headed up the stairs.
“Yeah, Mrs. M,” Jane said quickly. “I need you to take a case in criminal court -- it seems my brother got caught selling dope while driving drunk and speeding!”
“That’s nice, Jane,” Helen called back over her shoulder, not hearing a word. “Tell me later!”
“Naked!” Jane almost shouted, but Helen had disappeared around the corner. “Damn.”
“Well, we can’t say we didn’t try,” Amy said with a sigh. “We better get up there.”
“Yeah,” Jane said as Amy started up the stairs. She had barely lifted her foot up to the second step when they heard the telltale thud of a body hitting the floor. The two women came to a stunned halt and looked wide-eyed up the stairs. Then there was silence for a long moment.
“Oh crap,” Jane said worriedly.
“Oh no,” Amy whispered with a sinking feeling in her colon.
Suddenly they heard the sound of a tray full of rice cakes and soda pop crashing to the floor. Almost immediately after, the voice of an overworked, overstressed, middle-aged woman lawyer who had just found out the hard way that she was going to be a grandmother was heard echoing through the house.
to be continued
What, you thought it was going to be all worked out here?
Anyway...First off, and in no particular order, I have to thank those who Beta Read this story: Kara Wild, Ben Breeck, Steven Galloway, The Waco Kid, Deref, Roger E. Moore, The Crusading Saint, Robert Nowall, and Angleinhel. You’re comments and kind suggestions have made this a better story that it could be on its own. I know I’ve said that on my notes for the last two parts, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
I realize that I’ve been dragging the story out some. Rest assured that the pace should pick up some in and after part four. In the meantime, the actual completion of part four may be delayed some as I have several projects that I will be working on over the next few weeks, probably simultaneously. I hope that everyone can bare with me for a while.
Well, with that, Thank You for reading my story.
Questions? Comments? Even better - a route to Lawndale??
As always, an open invitation for any fan art is out!
Send ‘em to Greystar@Hotmail.com