Stacy woke up to yet another day. Another day of high school. Another day of surpressed thoughts. Another day of being one of the crowd. Another day... of being popular.
Being popular was the most important thing in Stacy’s life. Ever since she was five, her parents had stressed the value of friends. Intelligence, a good education, and depth were all good things, Mommy had said, but were useless if you had no one who would listen to you and value your opinion. So you must maintain your popularity, even if it meant sacrificing your identity.
Stacy showered and dressed in her best red skirt, matching leggings (it was still a little cold, but spring was just around the corner, and that meant shorts!) and a pink baby T. As she was braiding her hair, she spied one of her favorite movies, Heathers. Maybe I can find some way out of study hall and go watch it in the student lounge. With the movie stuffed in her book bag, she went downstairs for breakfast.
Mommy and Daddy were already at the breakfast table. "Sandi invited me to her sleepover tomorrow, and I have a date tonight," Stacy started in.
"That’s wonderful, sweetie," replied Mommy, "Who is he?"
"Rick Ferris. He’s a junior."
"What ever happened to Bret?" Mommy’s tone was a mixture of curiosity and accusation.
"Well, I don’t know. We went on the date, and then he just wouldn’t talk to me, anymore. When I tried to call him, he wasn’t at home."
"And what did you do to elicit this kind of response? You didn’t talk him to death, did you?"
"Well, I was just trying to make conversation," replied Stacy defensively.
"Dammit, Stacy! Who knows how far that might have gone? For all you know he could have been your future husband! Now I’ll never have any grandchildren, and you’ll grow up to be a spinster! Aren’t I right, John?"
Daddy looked up from his newspaper. "Huh... Oh, yeah Ellen, you’re absolutely correct," he said, looking at Stacy with a vapid gaze.
"Hey Stacy, wait up!"
Stacy looked back and saw Ted Dewitt-Clinton running to catch up with her and looked around. Good, no one was there. Then she smiled at him. "Hi, Ted!"
For a four-eyed geek, he sure could run. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Ted; quite the opposite, he was genuinely friendly, had a positive outlook on life, and was really smart. He could practically write books on things that she hadn’t even heard of yet. But if anyone caught them together, her popularity would go down the tubes, and that couldn’t happen.
"How’s the corn?" asked Stacy.
"We just planted a new batch. It was fun. You should try it sometime."
"Um... sure. Whatever, Ted." Oh, and he was weird, but she tried to forget that.
"Carry your book bag?" he offered.
"Thanks, Ted. I’ve got some gum in my purse."
"Well so much for Bret. He doesn’t return my calls, and he won’t even acknowledge my existence."
"Oh well, it could have been worse. He could have been one of those nice guys."
Stacy laughed. "Well it doesn’t matter because I’ve got a date tonight, and he’s got a corvette."
Ted frowned. "So that means you won’t be coming to the fencing lesson?" Ted had been teaching fencing in the Virtual Reality machine at the arcade ever since about a month after he started at Lawndale High. That was about as close to popular as he came.
"I’m afraid so. It’s not like I come anyway."
"Well, you’re always... wait a minute, Stacy. There’s a muddy spot in the sidewalk." He took off his jacket.
"Ted, what’re you... no don’t do that! Your jacket will get dirty."
Ted ignored her protests and lay the jacket on the mud hole. "The way is clear for you, m’lady," he said with a stately bow.
"I am not going to walk on your jacket!" she said, and walked around it. Ted forlornly picked up his slightly dirty jacket and threw it over his shoulder. Okay, so Ted wasn’t Joey, Jeffy, and Jamie; but Stacy wasn’t Quinn, either. Quinn deserved something like that, and Stacy refused to flatter herself by thinking that she was in the same league as her best friend.
They were getting close to the school now, and anytime she might run into her friends. "Well, I gotta go, Ted. See you in science. Bye!" She grabbed her book bag and left him holding a muddy jacket and some gum.
Out in the halls by the lockers, Stacy spied Sandi, Quinn, and Tiffany over by the lockers. They were all crowded over the latest issue of Waif like piglets to a sow. Stacy knew better than to mention her date to them while they were looking at their grail, their bible. For herself, Stacy preferred Seventeen or Teen People.
She went up to the other Fashion Club members. "Hi guys! What’s up?" she said in her perkiest voice.
"This is what’s up, Stacy," Sandi said pointing to the photo of a woman in a dress. "It’s the latest fashion. They say that this is the look that will take us into the new millennium or whatever. And I, for one, agree. It’s so revealing, yet at the same time tasteful, right Tiffany?"
"Yeah," said Tiffany.
"That’s what I said, Sandi," fumed Quinn. Stacy inwardly groaned. She had just walked into another Sandi/Quinn power trip.
"No, you said, ‘it looks so five years ago’," replied Sandi.
"But what I meant was that it looked retro, but in a futuristic way."
"Why don’t we ask Stacy about it, hmm?"
Another swallowed wince. No one ever asked her opinion unless they were sure she agreed. Which she always did, outwardly.
She took a look at the photo. "It looks so rad!" she squealed. Rules of the Conformist number one: agree now, offer insightful thoughts later. "Hey guess what! I got a date with Rick Ferris!" Rules of the Conformist number two: in times of conflict, change the subject.
Quinn gasped, "That is so great, Stacy. He is such a great guy. With a great car, too." Trust Quinn to stick to the priorities.
Sandi blanched. "Oh? If he’s such a great guy, then how come you dumped him last week, Kuh-winn?"
Quinn’s face turned into a shade of red so bright that it would have made a red delicious apple turn green with envy.
First Period for Stacy was English, and Mr. O’Neill. Quinn sat next to her as usual, but instead of discussing the latest fashion, Quinn evidently decided to explain herself.
"It’s not as if I dated him because I wanted to. But my cousin, you know, she was dating him, only she had to study or something, and she asked me to fill in."
Could you be a worse liar, Quinn? Stacy wondered to herself. Instead she said, "Oh, that’s alright, Quinn. And that was just so nice of you to do that for your cousin. How were you supposed to know that you were sent there to dump him? It was pretty spineless of her." Rules of the Conformist number three: never question people more popular than you are.
At the front of the class, Mr. O’Neill was teaching the lesson, "Now when we write, we must endear ourselves to the reader! We must put our best qualities, as a writer, onto that piece of paper, in the form of a statement. Now, can someone tell me what we are writing the about? Ted?"
From the front row, Ted piped up. "We’re writing about ourselves. For example, when we write an essay on the protest of gasoline as our main fuel source for cars, we’re telling our readers that we’re concerned about the environment and that there are things we can do about it."
"Very good, Ted!" Mr. O’Neill replied enthusiastically. "Now, would someone care to comment on why we write? Stacy?"
To call the reader to action, was what Stacy would have said, if Quinn wasn’t there. Instead she said vapidly, "To get a good grade?" getting a general chuckle out of the class.
"Um... That’s not exactly what I had in mind, Stacy. Could someone help her out? Melissa?"
"To call the reader to action," said the bleached blonde girl.
"That’s better, Melissa."
Damn! I’d have been right, too!
"Now class, for your assignment, I want you to write a rough draft on who you are and what you believe in."
Stacy momentarily panicked.
"Do we...?" she yelped.
Mr. O’Neill sighed. "No, Stacy. You don’t have to recite it in front of the class."
"Whew!" said Stacy.
Next period was a real study of contrasts, as second period was History with Mr. DeMartino. Stacy lamented the fact that Sandi invariably sat next to her and had to chat, because it didn’t allow her to concentrate on her favorite subject. Especially with Mr. DeMartino teaching it. He always had a way of bringing it all to life in his lectures.
"Today’s SUBJECT is the World War II era in Germany. Now I’m SURE that I don’t need to EXPLAIN the atrocities that the nazi party COMMITED during this time, as you all have conscientious PARENTS who have explained it to you anyway."
"...so, like our sponsor pulled out on us, and we need some dough," explained Sandi. It was a good thing for Stacy that she could keep half an ear on DeMartino and half on Sandi, and still understand what was going on with both people.
"Boy, I’ll say," Ted said to Mr. DeMartino. "I just wonder how a group as awful as the Nazis could get into power in the first place."
"Ah, now THERE is a good QUESTION, Theodore," said Mr. DeMartino. "Until you REMEMBER that the great DEPRESSION was worldwide. The people of Germany would have done ANYTHING to get out of the miserable FUNK that their economy had LEFT for them.
"ENTER Adolf Hitler. The NEW Adolf Hitler, who went around delivering speeches, ATTENDING meetings, shaking hands, and kissing BABIES. As opposed to the OLD Hitler, a beer hall revolutionary FANATIC!"
"So I was thinking, why don’t we take up a collection from the semi-popular masses? We can start by trying to identify with them and taking an interest in what they like."
"That’s great! You’re so smart, Sandi." By now, Stacy had put her mouth on autopilot, and it was just putting out random "Sandi is great" quotes.
"Hitler was a master speechwriter, and he would let loose his talents on the most DOWNTRODDEN of the German people. In his speeches, Hitler offered encouragement, but little ELSE."
"We could let them think that they could be more popular if they helped us, and let them hang out with us and stuff."
"He began these speeches in slow, hesitant tones; gradually raising in pitch and volume; AND THEN, HIS VOICE WOULD EXPLODE IN A CLIMAX OF FRENZIED ANGER! But as far as substance went, he offered vague promises while avoiding details, simple catchphrases, over and OVER and OVER AGAIN!"
"We could start out slowly with the freshmen class, gradually work up to the whole school, and then the whole town."
"His party was deliberately inclusive, taking in the unemployed, failed businessmen, industry, the armed forces, and idealistic young STUDENTS such as yourselves. He claimed that he would restore Germany to its former GLORY tear up the Treaty of VERSAILLES, put down MARXISM, and deal harshly with the JEWS."
"We’ll talk to everybody except those loser brain geeks. In fact, if anybody asks, our sponsor pulled out because of them. I’ll think of the details of that later."
"I wished I had thought of that Sandi," said Stacy.
"So it was the disgruntled MASSES yearning for a better GERMANY that led the Nazi Party to a majority party in 1930 Germany and subsequently, to World War II. Can anyone name one of the foreign heroes of the ERA? Stacy?"
Hannah Senesh, Anne Franke. "Um… Norman Schwartzkopf?" was her answer.
"No, Stacy, Schwartzkopf was about FIFTY years later. And he was AMERICAN as well, Unless you THINK you’re in ZIMBOBWE!"
"Uh…" Stacy started.
"SEE ME AFTER CLASS, STACY!" said Mr. DeMartino.
"Bummer," said Sandi.
"WOULD YOU CARE TO JOIN HER, MISS GRIFFIN?" bellowed Mr. DeMartino.
"No," replied Sandi coolly.
"THEN SHUT UP AND PAY ATTENTION!"
After class, Stacy approached Mr. DeMartino’s desk. "Y-y-you wanted to see me, sir?" she asked meekly.
"Ah yes, Stacy. I have here your score from the last quiz on the World War II era. Would you CARE to tell me what the grade on it is?"
Stacy read the grade, "Um… ninety-three. An A minus."
"Very good, Stacy. Here’s question number two: What was your grade on the exam on the Great Depression?"
"Uh… eighty-nine, with the bonus question; a B plus."
"Excellent, Stacy," said Mr. DeMartino sarcastically. "Now let’s try three for three. What is your class participation and ORAL grade?"
"Um… a twenty, an F."
"Why is that, Stacy? Is it because you are actually a SPY for the MIDDLE-EASTERN conglomerate whose hope is to ONE DAY overthrow this government? Or is just that you hope to MAINTAIN a so called STANDARD of popularity by PRETENDING to be a total IDIOT?"
"The latter," answered Stacy quickly.
"Stacy, I’m not supposed to discuss other students, but have you heard, pray tell, of JODIE LANDON and DARIA MORGENDORFFER?"
"I know Jodie a little."
"Well, then you should know that they are BOTH very popular and very intelligent, although DARIA would never admit her POPULARITY, which is the smartest thing ABOUT her. In fact, both of them are SERIOUSLY being considered for VALADICTORIAN. I wonder what those friends you have in that so called FASHION CLUB would say if they knew that!"
When Stacy didn’t have a response, Mr. DeMartino continued. "Since you no doubt are as intelligent as these TWO young ladies, I’m going to do something I don’t usually do with the STUDENTS that I have to BABYSIT. I’m going to give you a CHANCE to bring up your participation GRADE with a WRITTEN ASSIGNMENT."
"What is it?" asked Stacy.
"Write a two page REPORT comparing and contrasting your FASHION CLUB to the NAZI PARTY during World War II. You’re dismissed."
As Stacy passed through the hall, she found it harder and harder to surpress her thoughts. Compare her three best friends to the Nazi Party? This was the most difficult assignment she had ever faced. Granted they could be a little closed-minded on certain issues, but Nazis? How could Mr. DeMartino be so mean?
And then there was the girl he had mentioned. Daria Morgendorffer. Stacy had never heard of her before. She wondered if she was related to Quinn. But someone who was popular, but didn’t want to be? Stacy just didn’t get it.
Sure, there were plenty of smart, popular people at Lawndale High. But they weren’t as popular as Quinn and Sandi, were they? Stacy looked over and saw Jodie with Brittany Taylor, the most popular girl in the sophomore class. She waved to them. Jodie waved back; Brittany gave her a dirty look. As she walked off, she heard Jodie say, "What was that for?"
"I thought I saw her looking at my Kevie last week. Besides, she’s a freshman."
"What about that freshman guy I saw you with yesterday?"
"Eep! Uhhhhhhhhhhh…" said Brittany as her brain shut down.
Maybe there’s more to life than being popular after all. But then, what is being popular? Brittany, Sandi, Tiffany, and Quinn were popular; they hung out in cliques and snubbed everyone who didn’t meet their standards. Jodie was popular; she was outgoing toward everyone, never said anything negative about anyone (at least to her), was dating the captain of the football team, and was involved in a slew of extracurricular activities, including a sports team.
And what about this… this Daria Morgendorffer that Mr. DeMartino mentioned? What kind of popular was she?
It was with this in mind that she entered Miss Barch’s Intro to Biology course. Stacy liked this course, for no other reason than that no one in the Fashion Club could be there to distract her, and she had a lot of pondering to do.
Ted walked in and sat down next to Stacy. "Hi Stacy."
"Hi, Ted," Stacy mumbled.
"Something the matter?"
"No. I was just thinking about this assignment Mr. DeMartino gave me."
"Gee, I hope he wasn’t too rough on you. I know he can be a bit brusque."
"No, he just wanted to point my participation grade out to me, that’s all." Hmm… I wonder if… No. But Maybe… No, he’s too unpopular… I’ll ask anyway. "Say, do you know Daria Morgendorffer?"
"Do I! We once went out for pizza and to the arcade! I think it was a date, but I’m not sure, because it was really my first, and I haven’t had one since then. Why?"
"Um… no reason." She can’t be popular if she went out with Ted! Or, is Ted more popular than I know? Say something, Stacy, say something! "I heard her name being dropped a few places, and just wondered how popular she was."
"Well, I’m no expert on these things, but I’d say she’s pretty popular. She’s a bit stuck up, like those three girls you like to hang around, but at the same time, almost all of the popular people in the sophomore class seem to like her. In fact, she sort of reminds me of…"
"Now what are you trying to do, you man," a raspy female voice drawled like The Wicked Witch of the West from behind them. Miss Barch had arrived. "Are you trying to pick up girls again? This is a classroom, not a bar, you disgusting, Y-chromosome carrying lower life form!"
"Miss Barch, I just asked him a question," Stacy intervened. She knew that anything Ted said would just land him in even more hot water.
Miss Barch paused uncertainly. "Well… pipe down, now, because I’m about to start class.
"Listen up class, I have here the partners list for your science project. I’m only going to say these once: Graham and Robert, Melissa and Brooke, Stacy and Ted," she scowled at them and continued to rattle off the student pairs.
"Together again, huh?" said Ted in his best Han Solo voice, starting the private joke. One of the few times Ted had come over Stacy’s house, Stacy had introduced him to popcorn and The Star Wars Trilogy. Stacy had confessed a crush on Harrison Ford, and had gotten jealous in Ted’s overwhelming attention to Carrie Fisher.
"Wouldn’t miss it," replied Stacy
"How’re we doing?"
"Same as always."
"That bad, huh?"
Stacy and Ted exchanged a quick smile as Miss Barch began to explain the assignment.
After class, Stacy went up to Miss Barch. "Miss Barch…"
"Oh, let me guess. You’re here to tell me that not all males are evil, that your little boyfriend that you talk to during my class period isn’t going to take all of your money, spend all of his time at the bar and the track, and ruin the best twenty years of your life. And when you finally get up enough nerve to tell him to turn off those damn Broncos and get a real job, he just walks out on you. Well, wake up sister…"
"Ted isn’t my boyfriend," Stacy cut her off.
"What? I mean, good. Okay, not good," said Miss Barch. "Look, if you ever tell anyone I said this, I’ll deny it, but Ted isn’t so bad, for a male. In fact, I might just give him a C minus on this next project, since he almost reminds me of Mr. O’Neill." She smiled devilishly. "The point is, better him than those other male troglodytes you and your friends seem to like to hang around with."
Ted? No way! I’d be ruined if I was even seen with him, much less going out with him! "Well, I’m glad we had this little talk, Miss Barch."
"Oh yes, Stacy, and I’ll certainly take what you said into consideration."
On her way to lunch, Stacy ran into Tiffany. "Ready for the meeting?"
"Huh? What meeting?" asked Stacy
"Sandi called an emergency meeting of the Fashion Club. It must be important."
"What makes you say that?"
Tiffany looked at her like she had lobsters crawling out of her ears. "Isn’t it always?"
Stacy suddenly realized the impact of what she had just said. Dumb, dumb, dumb! You think too much, Stacy! "I mean... uh, what makes you think that its more important than usual?"
"Well, for starters, Quinn and Sandi have called a truce. Does this make me look fat?" she gestured to her shirt.
Stacy breathed a sigh of relief. That was too close. "No, Tiffany. You look just fine. Maybe I can borrow it sometime?" Her tongue tripped over itself trying to get the words out.
"Sure," said Tiffany, oblivious to any change in Stacy’s attitude.
At lunch, Sandi called the emergency meeting to order as Stacy took out her notebook. Out of the corner of her eye she caught Ted and some of the more geeky kids at school.
"Like, as some of you already know, Stacy, our sponsors have pulled out. We face a major, like, I don’t know, money crisis thingy."
Suddenly, Stacy had a flashback from Westerburg. "Is that that thing you were blabbering to me about over the phone last night, Heather?" asked Veronica Stacy. She stopped taking notes and just began doodling horses.
"So like we need some ideas as to what were going to do for cash. Does anyone have any suggestions?"
"Well, I think we need a new sponsor. Axl’s Piercing Pagoda said it needs the ads," said Quinn.
"Oh yeah, right, Kuh-winn," said Sandi sarcastically. "High Schoolers aren’t even old enough to get pierced. What makes you think they’d want to sponsor us?"
Humility, Sandi? From you? thought Stacy sourly. She gazed at Ted as she absently started to doodle dresses.
"So what do you say, chess lessons for fencing?" Ted was saying to another guy at his table. "I’ve always wanted to learn chess, except my Mom thinks it’s too close of a metaphor for war."
"Well, you can look at it that way, I..." he started choking as he saw Stacy staring at the table.
"Heather Stacy just looked right at me!" cried the geek.
Stacy’s head whipped back forward. The Fashion Club hadn’t even noticed that she wasn’t listening.
"I suppose you have a better idea, Sandi," said Quinn.
"Yeah," egged Tiffany.
"As a matter of fact, I do," replied Sandi.
"Wow!" egged Tiffany.
"I was thinking..."
To hell with it, thought Stacy. "Isn’t this a little premature?" she asked.
Silence. All eyes were on her.
Omigod. What have I done?
"Go on," said Sandi softly.
Stacy swallowed. These are my best friends, and I’m afraid to talk to them! "Well, I was wondering, Tiffany, how much money do we have in the treasury?"
Tiffany frowned and got out some oversized accounting books. "Uh... let’s see... carry the five... what’s two plus two?"
"Four," they all said at once.
"Sorry. I forgot. It looks like we have six hundred on account, with fifty dollars petty cash."
"There, you see?" said Stacy.
"No, I don’t," replied Sandi.
"Well, if we cut a few corners, Quinn should be able to find a new sponsor before that runs out. Or use Sandi’s idea."
Sandi blanched. This wasn’t what she wanted. "Good thinking, Stacy." Her emphasis on the word made her wince. As Stacy turned back to her lunch, Sandi whispered something into Tiffany’s ear.
"Yeah," Tiffany laughed.
Quinn scowled at them from across the table.
Later, as Stacy was walking to Ms. Defoe’s Basic Drawing class, Quinn approached her. "That was really great what you did in the cafeteria today."
"What? Getting under Sandi’s skin?" Stacy blurted defensively.
"No. You used your brains for the good of the club. Sandi and I were way too busy trying to get at each others’ throats instead of trying to find an answer or even wondering if there was a problem. I guess Daria’s right sometimes, after all."
Bell’s rang and sirens went off in Stacy’s head. "Daria? Daria who?" she asked.
"Did I say Daria? I meant Jodie. Jodie Landon. You know Jodie, right?"
"Yes. Did you mean Daria Morgendorffer?" Stacy asked a little too anxiously.
Quinn stopped, turned, and looked her straight in the eye. "I’ve never heard of any such person. Neither have you. She doesn’t exist. Understand?"
"She. Doesn’t. Exist. Understand?"
"Sure thing, Quinn. Whatever you say!"
"Today class, we’re going to talk about creating the illusion of depth in your drawings." Ms. Defoe began the class. Stacy and Quinn sat on one side of the classroom while Sandi and Tiffany sat on the other, taking turns whispering in each others’ ear and laughing. The Fashion Club was thoroughly divided. At least, for the day.
Veronica Stacy regarded Heather Sandi in the stairwell with shock and anger. "Dammit, Heather, why can’t you just be a friend? Why are you always such a mega-bitch?"
"Because I can be," replied Heather smugly.
"Now, can anyone give an example of the way we can create such illusions? Quinn?"
"We can draw smaller objects higher up on the paper, so that, like, it looks further away than the larger objects."
"Excellent, Quinn!" Ms. Defoe said, genuinely surprised.
"Careful, Tiffany, Stacy’s brainyness is catching," Sandi whispered loudly.
Stacy’s jaw dropped. No one had ever called her a brain before. She felt a lump in her throat and her sight started to blur. Then a warm arm was around her shoulder in the form of a brief hug from Quinn. Stacy didn’t know whether this was out of open defiance to Sandi or out of genuine concern for her, but it still made her feel better. It was the first warm gesture from her best friend she had ever had.
Veronica Quinn sat on the floor with Heather Stacy, sleeping pills littering the bathroom.
"If you were happy all of the time, you wouldn’t be a human being, you’d be a game show host," stated Veronica gently.
The bell signaling the end of class rang, and in her rush to get out of her seat, Stacy accidentally dropped her notebook. Papers spilled out onto the floor. "Klutz!" snorted Tiffany as she went out the door.
Quinn stooped to help pick up the papers.
"That’s okay, Quinn. I’ve got it," protested Stacy.
"Nonsense," insisted Quinn. She picked up the papers and gasped. "Stacy, these are beautiful." She held up a drawing of a dress.
Ms. Defoe came over and looked at the drawing. "These are exquisite. Stacy, are you sure that you should be in this class?"
"Well..." Stacy sighed. "I’m just taking this for the credit. I’ve been drawing these dresses since seventh grade. Fashion Design. It’s what I’m going to do."
"But do you want to do it?" asked Ms. Defoe.
"Of course she wants to do it. I would," said Quinn. "Don’t you, Stacy?"
This morning, if something like this had happened, then Quinn would have just been waiting confidently for a "Yes, Quinn" from Stacy. And Stacy would have given it to her. But Quinn now seemed to honestly think that Stacy really wanted to do this, and expected an honest response.
"I don’t know," said Stacy softly.
Stacy declined Quinn’s offers to walk her to Ms. Morris’ gym class. She needed to be alone to sort out her thoughts. Quinn seemed to mean well, but for all Stacy knew this could all have been done to spite Sandi.
She spied two loser girls hanging around the lockers. She took a good hard look at them. So this was the crowd she would soon be joining. Still... both of them just seemed like makeover candidates to her. Nothing in their personalities to turn her off. Of course, they hadn’t said anything yet. She decided to do some constructive eavesdropping, and positioned herself about ten feet away from them. Then she gasped.
Two guys, about college age just walked up to them! One was sort of cute, with short black hair and a goatee and sort of thin; but the other was so hot! He had long, brown hair, dreamy blue eyes, and no shirt at all! Just a leather vest! Stacy would have squealed with delight if she weren’t eavesdropping. She strained her ears to hear over the din.
"Yo, Trent!" the loser with the bad makeup greeted the skinny one.
Trent wordlessly hugged the loser with the bad makeup, and then went to the one with the glasses. The hot one did the same.
"Hey, Daria," said Trent.
No, this couldn’t be... but wait! Popular, but didn’t want to admit it. Maybe it is!
"What was that all about?" asked Daria.
"Everyone in the band was having a bad day, and we couldn’t take it out on the equipment because we’re broke, so we decided to name today, ‘Give a hug day.’ And we all hugged each other. It made us feel a lot better. Right, Jesse?"
"Peachy," said Jesse.
Omigod. Jesse? His name is Jesse? Stacy’s heart began to pound as she surpressed another squeal.
"Sounds great. Maybe you should give Daria another one, Trent. Right Jesse?" said the loser.
"Peachy," Jesse repeated vapidly.
"Couldn’t you have found a better word for the day?" asked the loser.
"So, what are you guys doing here?" asked Daria.
"Jesse here was hoping to get his academic transcripts. He’s thinking about applying to this music school down in New York. That way when he comes back, he can teach me open D tuning."
"Well, aren’t you scared it might compromise your nap schedule?" asked Daria. The other three laughed.
"Good one, Daria."
Stacy’s eyes bulged. Daria had just insulted that beefcake of a musician, and he had just laughed at it, right along with everyone else.
"You’re sure you don’t want another hug?" egged the loser.
"You’re sure that you want to live to see another day?" replied Daria with feigned menace.
"Why Daria Morgendorffer, I do believe you’re in love." Trent and Jesse just stood there like stumps.
Stacy gasped. It is her. She must be popular. She’s practically got those two guys on their knees!
The loser—Daria’s friend, Stacy amended—turned to Daria. "Captain, we’re being watched," she said in an impression of Mr. Spock. Then she pointed at Stacy.
"Uh... um... that is uh..." Stacy took two steps back and then bolted.
Omigod! They’re throwing things at me!
Stacy ran faster. Her breaths were coming shorter and faster now. "Wait!" Daria’s friend called. Stacy ran faster.
She turned the corner and ran straight into Ted Dewitt-Clinton. "Ooph!" he said. "Ow!" she said.
"Are you all right, Stacy?" asked Ted.
Stacy couldn’t tell if she was just out of breath, or hyperventilating, or both. "Girls... guys... chasing... throwing... stuff... at me!"
"Don’t worry. I have a black belt in Tae Kwon Do," said Ted. He turned the corner. "There doesn’t seem to be anybody there. Where’s your next class? I’ll walk you."
"Thanks, Ted." For once Stacy didn’t care who saw her with Ted, or that he was a mild mannered little geek. "So what school did you get your belt from?"
"The Dragon-Chi clan dojo over in Japan. My parents sent me there for a year and..." he chatted merrily with her all the way to the gym.
Stacy still didn’t feel very well when she arrived at the gymnasium, so she asked Miss Morris if she could walk the track. "Oh fine, go ahead! You just don’t get points for participation today!"
When she got out to the track, she heard a familiar, menacing voice. "Well look who it is, our little fashion spy!" Daria’s friend came walking over. Stacy looked for a means of escape. There wasn’t any. Daria’s friend reached into her shirt.
She’s got a gun! I’m gonna die! I’m gonna d- "You dropped this," Daria’s friend’s voice cut into her panicked thoughts.
Stacy looked what she was holding out to her. It was her copy of Heathers that she had brought from home, and completely forgotten about. She reached for it just as Daria’s friend snatched it back.
"Not so fast," she said. Then she read the back of the cover. " ‘Meet The Heathers, Westerburg’s most powerful clique. Anyone would die to get into it. On the other hand, Veronica Sawyer would kill to get out of it. But what happens when her new boyfriend decides to do exactly that? Find out in this screamingly funny and controversial comedy about teen angst and homicidal tendencies.’
"Sounds like my kind of movie. But what would a fashion fiend like you see in it?"
"I just think it’s funny," replied Stacy, no longer quite as afraid but still ill at ease. "So where is...?"
"Daria? Officially, she’s feeling a little athletic today, and is with the rest of the class. Unofficially, she’s a little pissed at me for trying to play yenta with her and my brother again. Why?"
Stacy lowered her voice to a whisper. "She’s really popular, isn’t she?"
Daria’s friend snorted and started laughing. Hard. Stacy blushed.
"So, you’ve finally found out, huh? And I suppose you’re going to go running to your fashion club and spread the news. ‘Hey, there’s a brain in the sophomore class, and she’s really popular!’ What’ll we do? I wonder how you’d break the news to Daria."
"How would you tell Daria that she’s popular?"
"I don’t get it."
Daria’s friend looked down on her and sighed. "Look, she’s been popular for a long time. She just doesn’t know it. I only just found out about it myself a few months ago." She began to walk around to track. Stacy walked beside her.
"I had just come home from school and I received a phone call from Daria. She had this rash and was in the hospital. So I decided to come visit her.
"A few minutes after I arrived, just about every bigwig in the school came in. Jodie Landon, Michael Jordan MacKenzie, Brittany Taylor, Kevin Thompson, even her sister Quinn Morgendorffer."
Stacy’s jaw dropped again. Daria’s friend looked her and smiled. "I bet you didn’t know that, did you? I’m not surprised. You fashion fanatics are always the last to know about anything. Everyone knows how popular Daria is, except Daria herself and you."
"You don’t have to get snotty," said Stacy defensively. Who was she to speak about the Fashion Club like that?
"Oh yes. You’re probably thinking, ‘who am I to speak about the Fashion Club like that?’ Well maybe you don’t remember who I am."
Stacy squinted at her as Daria’s friend put her hair back with a rubber band. She did look familiar...
Omigod! No way! "Jane Lane?" she guessed.
"In the spandex," she quipped.
"Omigod! You were so popular! You were just the fastest runner on the face of the earth. Of course, Sandi always called you a jock queen, but it was like you just became popular overnight. But then, you just, like, disappeared!"
"Yeah. I was a real clique-hold word across Lawndale," deadpanned Jane. "But I didn’t like being popular. I was alienating my friends—the ones who had stuck by me when I wasn’t Miss Teen Track, buying into a system that rewards athleticism and beauty over intelligence and compassion, and, most of all, compromising my beliefs. And that bothers me, because I don’t have any beliefs, except that I wanted to actually learn something in High School."
"Well, you can still be smart and popular, right? I mean, Jodie does it."
"Yeah, but how often do you talk to Jodie? She’s pushed to the breaking point most of the time. I don’t want to work that hard. No, I’m happy with two friends, artwork and the television. Of course, I guess it’s still possible. Why? Do you think that you could pull it off?"
"Maybe. I think I might be smart enough."
"Well, if you’re ever smart enough to zip up your backpack before a run, I think you might just do it. Mind if I borrow this?" Jane gestured to the videocassette.
"Thanks. I didn’t catch your name."
"Well thanks for letting me borrow the tape, Stacy."
Stacy and Jane turned toward the school and saw Daria walking toward them. "Volleyball sucks," she said to Jane without a preamble. "Miss Morris said that I may as well go out here if all I’m gonna do is lift my hand."
"Payback’s an eternal bitch, baby," said Jane. "So, Trent told me you two have a little date."
Daria muttered something unintelligible.
"What was that?"
"I said, ‘we’re just going to see about some guitar strings.’ I see you’ve picked up an apprentice."
"Oh. Daria, this is Stacy. Stacy, this is Daria."
"You’re not upset about some boy again, are you?"
"No," replied Stacy. How did she know about that? "Well, now that you mention it, I once heard that you went out with Ted Dewitt-Clinton…"
"We did not go out!"
"You didn’t? Damn. I was wondering about taking him out," Stacy replied, much to her own surprise as Daria’s.
"He’s that popular?"
Stacy smiled. "I don’t know." She shot a meaningful look at Jane. "I’ve never been an expert on these things."
When Stacy got home from school, the first thing she did was call someone that she very rarely called.
"Yeah. Is there still room for me in the VR?"
"I’m not teaching in the VR tonight. I was lucky enough to get a teacher to supervise for a room at the school. It’s novice night, you know."
"Oh. Who’s the teacher?"
"Miss Barch, of all people. Maybe she isn’t as bad as the males think. Did you want to come?"
"Yes. That’s the reason I was calling. And maybe we can get some pizza afterward?"
"Sure. That sound’s awesome! But what about your date tonight?"
"Oh, don’t worry about it. I’ll get someone to fill in. See you then. Bye!"
It was getting late, but Ellen and John never worried about curfew. It had started to snow while she and Ted walked home. After fencing, she and Ted had gone for pizza, and then to a movie. The movie was the weirdest experience she had ever had. All through it she had half expected that Ted would put the moves on her like every other guy that had taken her there. But he didn’t. Trust Ted not to act like other guys. She sort of found it refreshing.
"I don’t know about you, Ted, but I had a really good time. It was really very."
"Me too. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a movie before," said Ted. "It’s a lot like television, huh?"
Stacy giggled. "Yeah. A bit."
"Only, if it comes out on video, why pay seven dollars to go? Do you understand that, Stacy?"
"No. It must be because I’m dumb or something."
"I don’t think so. You know a lot about these things. Uh...Stacy? Why are we holding hands?"
"We are not!"
"Yes we are."
"Well, you’re holding my hand. I’m not holding yours."
Ted laughed. "Yes you are."
"It must be because my hand is cold."
"It’s actually pretty warm."
"Ted, shut up!" she laughed. "If only there were more snow on the ground."
They approached Stacy’s house. "Well, here we are," said Ted.
"Yeah. Here we are."
"See you in school, tomorrow."
"Yeah. See you in school tomorrow."
"Why are you copying everything I say word for word?"
"Yeah. Why are you copying everything I say word for word?" Stacy laughed.
Ted started laughing, too. "You’re nuts," he said. "I gotta go. See you later." He started to walk back to the sidewalk.
"Go home, Ted!" Stacy laughed.
He stopped. "Oh. I almost forgot to ask. What does ‘really very’ mean?"
"You’re going to get pelted tomorrow!" said Stacy.
Ted smiled and walked away. Stacy blew him a kiss when his back was turned.
That night, before bed, Stacy wrote in her diary.
Diary, March 5, 1999:
Found out that the most popular girl in the Sophomore class is a brain. She’s a weird kind of popular. She isn’t quite as friendly as Jodie Landon, but she isn’t quite as stuck up as Sandi or Quinn. She probably has the most exclusive clique in the whole
schooltown. I hope that I can be in it someday.
Sandi and Quinn had one of their spats that escalated into a potential civil war. I’m considering resigning as Secretary. They don’t appreciate my opinions or my ideas, and I’m sure that there are other clubs which would be more than happy to have me as a member. The History club comes to mind. What Mr. DeMartino would have to say about that! Or maybe even the Tennis Team, since Jodie is on it.
Had my first date with Ted today. I think that I’ll take it slow with him. He’s pretty inexperienced with this sort of thing, after all. Anyway, I won’t tell him we’re dating until after the science project. That way he won’t have too many things on his mind. This is sort of new for me, too. I can’t remember ever having a steady boyfriend. All I know is that if he doesn’t try to kiss me in the near future, I’ll probably have to go for it. It looks like I’ll have to do a lot of hen-pecking to get this relationship underway.
Weather Report: Temp.35 degrees F (2 degrees C). Light snow, expected to get heavier as the night progresses. We’ll probably have a couple of inches. Expect a one hour delay at school tomorrow, plenty of time for a good snowball fight!
That’s all for now. Until tomorrow!