A Loss Of Perspective

 

Helen looked up from her legal notes, and rubbed her forehead. Staring at notes all the time really did give her a headache after a while. Better take some aspirin now, and take the sting off it before it got any worse. She got up, and walked over to the nightstand, got out a bottle of Excedrin, and took two. Washing them down with the glass of water she had beside the bed, she closed her eyes for a minute.

A stray thought took her, and she opened her eyes, and walked over to the door. It was slightly ajar, and she pushed it open, and walked out into the hallway. From downstairs, she could hear the sounds of the game (she didnít even know which sport, to tell the truth) and Jake yelling in either excitement or disappointment. She frowned a little. It was a good job that sound didnít carry very well in the Morgendorffer house, or she might have trouble concentrating on her work. Jake wouldnít see it that way, of course, and if she brought the matter up to him, he would no doubt launch into a tirade about his father.

He always did, no matter how tenuous the connection between his father and the situation at hand. Helen shook her head. That was a matter she didnít want to think about for the time being.

She stopped briefly outside Quinnís room. She could hear something playing softly on the CD player. No doubt one of those desperately untalented boy bands Quinn seemed to like so much. Helen smiled. She had to be careful, otherwise sheíd start raving to people about how much better music was in the olden days, and not listening to anything recorded after 1975. Over the noise of the CD player, she could hear Quinn turning the pages of a book.

Helen shook her head. If you had asked her two years ago about Quinn reading willingly, and devoting herself to her studies, she would have laughed. Now, though, it was almost taken for granted. Quinn was starting to excel in school, after years of middling grades. Helen couldnít be prouder.

She walked past Quinnís room, and stopped at the last door. She sighed, and took a deep breath, then she pushed open the door and walked inside. It hadnít changed that much, not really. Most of the personal touches were gone, but the furniture remained, and of course the padded walls werenít going anywhere.

Helen walked inside, and ran her hands over the walls lightly. She had always wondered what it must be like to spend all your time in a padded cell. An actual one, rather than the metaphorical one everyone feels like being in sometimes. It had to be disturbing. Also, the sawed-off bars on the window didnít help much either. It was not a particularly inviting room, but it had served as Dariaís refuge for the past three years.

And now she was gone.

Helen shook her head. Now she was just getting maudlin. The way she had just been thinking, anyone would have thought Daria was dead, not just off at college.

Helen sat on the bed, and looked around the room. Daria didnít like admitting it, but she liked having things in her life she could rely on. Her friends, few though they were. Her room, her refuge. Helen smiled slightly. And maybe for the last little bit of living at home, her Mom.

She thought about how things had changed for the two of them over the years. For years, Helen had felt like there was an invisible wall between her children and her. That they didnít really understand each other. That they didnít really click as a family. Worse still, that they didnít want to click as a family. It had seemed like each of them had been more than happy to go off and do their own thing, and simply get together for the occasional dinner. There had been the odd instance, like Quinnís fashion show, or the trip to the wilderness, but they had generally not gone terribly well.

Jake had not exactly helped with that. He had always been happy with that arrangement. Helen had thought that he didnít really know the girls at all. She had asked him once how old Quinn was, and he had gotten it wrong by almost five years. That was serious.

And then things had begun to get better. Her kids had started to open up to her more. She had always thought that if any of them were going to make an effort to get closer, it would have been Quinn, but to her surprise it had been Daria.

She had written that touching story about her hoped-for future, and that had surprised Helen so much she cried. She hadnít really known - she had hoped, but she hadnít known how much Daria wanted to be close to her parents. She still had a copy of that story in her nightstand, a copy no-one knew anything about.

Then, after that, she and Daria had grown closer. She had even begun asking Helen for advice, which she had never done before. Helen was only too happy to help.

Of course, things still werenít all wine and roses. That time at the retreat still left a nasty taste in her mouth when she thought about it. Especially what Jake had said, but that was another story. Daria had returned her advice on that occasion, helping her. Helen had been very grateful for that.

Helenís eyes moved across the empty room. There was still one picture left on the desk, of Daria and Jane. It was from the summer before last, when Daria had gone to visit Jane at the art colony. That had been a rough time for her. Helen had been surprised, and delighted that Daria had gone to her for help, and Helen had tried her best to help her.

Some of Dariaís decisions wouldnít have been her choice, but she had given all the help she could. She was glad that Daria had found someone to connect with. She had been such a lonely girl all of her life, and then Jane had come into it. Jane was good for her. The two girls complimented each other so well.

That thing with Tom Sloane had thrown them both for a loop, but Helen had suspected that they would work things out anyway. They were too close. Sometimes, actually, Helen thought they seemed a little too close for friends, and she couldnít help but wonder sometimes...

Helen shrugged. If that happened, it happened. There were worse partners for Daria in this world.

She sat back on the bed, and took a last look around the room. Sometimes she wished that they had connected earlier in life, so that they would have had more time before she went off to college. But at least they had a close relationship now. Daria was being very diligent in keeping in touch, and Helen knew that they had a bond. They would be close for the rest of their lives.

Now that Daria was gone, Helen was making an effort to do the same with Quinn. So far, it had been going well.

Jake was another story. He was becoming even more disconnected from the rest of the family now, if that was possible. Everyone was growing closer but him. He never seemed to want to make the effort, and she worried he never would. But, at least, she and her children finally had the relationship she had always wanted.

She smiled, and lay back, happy memories flooding through her head.

 

Jakeís team made another shot, and he whooped in anticipation. Naturally, they missed. Jake finished the whoop in a kind of half-hearted way, and then proceeded to yell at the TV for the next few minutes, hoping perhaps that his loud shouts might affect his team for the better.

They didnít.

Jake frowned, and sat back in his chair. The game was going terribly, as usual. Why were his team such losers all the time? He always picked losers as teams. Right back to when he was a kid. It was all because of his father. He had always made...

Jake stopped, and looked around. There was no-one in hearing range to hear his rant. That made the whole thing kind of pointless, so he frowned, and sat back in his chair.

The house did seem kind of empty. He knew Helen was upstairs doing some legal work, and Quinn was in her room, doing...something. Whatever it was that Quinn did. Of course, Daria was off at college, so she wasnít around.

Jake thought about that. It made a difference when Daria wasnít here, didnít it? It was...quieter. There werenít any cutting remarks, no biting satirical comments on the newspaper, no running commentary for bad movies. Jake missed it in a way. He didnít know why, but he did. He and Daria had never been what you could call close, but he still missed her. He wondered why they had never really been close. he wondered why they hadnít really bonded, even on that trip to the seminar. That had been the perfect opportunity, but they still hadnít managed it. He wondered why.

Of course, everyone else in the house had managed to improve their relations with her. She and Quinn had finally been acting like sisters for the last few months she was here, and of course she and Helen had become closer. Naturally. This was just going to be another one those things that Helen held over his head.

ďYou didnít spend enough time with your daughters, Jake! Now theyíre gone, and you missed your chance, Jake! You canít do anything right, can you, Jake?Ē

Jake could feel his bile rising, as usual, and he calmed himself down. No point in going off if no-one was around to see it. He took a deep breath. Helen hadnít actually said any of that stuff, had she?

No. She hadnít. She might not even be thinking it. The problem was that Jake was thinking it. That was the reason he was so upset about Daria leaving. He was upset, because he had never really gotten a chance to know her, and now she was gone. Oh, she would be back to visit, but she probably would never live in the house again. She had her own life now. And it was a lot more difficult to get to know someone well if you only saw them once every six months or so.

Jake thought about what had just run through his mind. He had thought that he had never really gotten a chance to get to know Daria. That wasnít quite true, was it? He had gotten every possible chance to get to know her, right down to that stupid seminar last year. He had just never taken the chance. He had never really even tried.

Well, he had made that half-assed attempt. But Daria had probably sensed his reticence, and told him he didnít really need to bother. There! It wasnít his fault! Heíd tried, but she hadnít wanted to!

Jake sank back in his chair. Was that really true? Had Daria really not wanted to get to know him? Is that why she had said that? That couldnít be true, could it?

No. It couldnít.

Could it?

Daria had grown closer to the others in the house, but not him. Was it him? Had he really been that bad of a father? No, that couldnít be it. She knew he loved her. And she loved him.

Of course, now that he thought about it, he couldnít actually remember a time when they had told each other that. Ever.

She definitely knew, he reasoned. People know these things. They donít need to be told. She knew, and he wasnít a bad father. They just werenít that close. That was normal.

And Quinn. Maybe he didnít know the minutiae of her life, but they were kind of close, werenít they?

But the others...

Donít think about the others, he thought. They have their relationships, you have yours. Perfectly normal. You were close in your own way, of course. Definitely. For sure.

Jake sat back in his chair, cheerfully ignoring the voices at the back of his mind. He knew that they were close. He didnít need anyone else to tell him how to bond with his daughters. Daria and he had been close, in a way, and he and Quinn would be close. He still had plenty of time to be with her. She wouldnít be moving out for years yet. Helen would dispute that reasoning, of course, but she always tried to bring him down for no reason. Just like his Dad!

No she doesnít, said a quiet voice, but Jake ignored it.

The game was drawing to a close. Jake picked up the TV remote, and flicked through the stations, but he couldnít find anything else on to watch. Maybe he could take advantage of his close relationships with his daughters. He could go upstairs, and talk to Quinn, see how she was doing in school, and life. SheĎd probably like that. Did she have a boyfriend? He thought she did, but he didnít quite know. She was doing well in school, wasnít she? Probably.

His eyes fell on the phone beside his chair. You know, if he was missing Daria so much, he could always just call her. He would bet that she would be surprised to get a phone call from her dear old Dad. They could talk for hours, just shooting the breeze. They could have a lot of fun. He and Daria, or he and Quinn.

Jake shook his head, and sat back in his chair. Heíd better not. There was probably something good on TV. Daria and Quinn could wait until tomorrow.

After all, they always did...

 

Quinn finished the chapter, and put down the book. It was pretty hard going, and she wasnít keen on the idea of finishing it. She had gotten though two hundred pages already, and nothing had happened. She remembered someone saying once ďIf nothingís happened in the first hundred pages, nothingís going to happen.Ē
She was starting to think that this was going to be a book that proved that maxim.

Putting away the book, mentally filing it in the ídonít pick up againí part of her brain, she turned the CD player up, and lay back on the bed, and smiled. She and Daria might have grown a lot closer over the past year, but they were still worlds apart in matters of taste. This was definitely the type of book that Daria loved.

Thinking about Daria made her sigh, and she flipped forward onto her stomach, pulling out her diary, the one that no-one knew, or would ever know, that she kept.

She opened it, and began to read over the entries from the past few years. She went back a little too far, and grimaced. Had she really been that self-absorbed just a few years back? No, not really. She had been insecure, that was the thing. Too insecure to really be herself, and content just to pretend to be a self-obsessed fashion princess. She read through a few more of the entries, and smiled reflectively. That quality had shone through, though, even back then. She raised an eyebrow. If Sandi had known about this book just last year, she would have paid any price in the universe to get hold of it.

Of course, things had changed. She found the entries from the last year., and began to read. She had finally begun to accept her brains, and not to be ashamed of them any more. Her friendships had become deeper, she hoped. The Fashion Club was dead, but the four of them were still close, Sandi especially. Who would have seen that happen? She had Lindy, too. They had stayed friends, and Quinn was trying to help her, although she felt so impotent sometimes, powerless to help her.

That didnít mean she was going to give up, though.

Last year, sheíd also had her heart broken for the first time. She didnít want to dwell on that part, though.

And, of course, she had become closer to her sister. After years of being practically enemies, of her denying Dariaís very existence, they had defied the odds, and grown closer. Even...sisterly. If you had asked her two years ago if that was going to happen, Quinn would have laughed at you. Then asked you to get a soda for her.

But they had. Daria had encouraged her to use her brains, to discover who she really was under the fashion facade...

Facade. She hadnít even know what that meant last year.

Of course, she hadnít always been sweetness and light about it, but that was Daria for you. She wasnít one to sugarcoat things. But sheíd been right, Quinn was an intelligent girl. Deep down, Quinn had always known that. And she had taken the first steps, but Daria had helped. Sheíd offered encouragement, which was something Quinn couldnít have gotten from her other friends at the time.

Quinn sighed. She missed Daria. She might be abrasive, arrogant, self-righteous, and too many other things to mention, but she had a lot of positive qualities too, qualities that Quinn missed at the moment.

It wasnít easy to practically re-invent yourself. There were bound to be stumbling blocks along the way. Quinn had to find ways to integrate her old life with her new life. Just because she was smart didnít mean she was going to stop caring about fashion. After all, it was a gift.

She figured Daria might be able to help her in that regard. Plus she missed conversations with her. Her friends here were not ones to have very intellectual conversations, and Quinn found that she wanted that these days. Daria would have been able to do that with her.

Quinn sighed. Maybe, just maybe, she was drifting away from her friends. Maybe they didnít have a lot in common anymore. Quinn didnít want that. Sometimes, though, she felt a little lonely, as if there was no-one she could really talk to.

She was glad Daria was staying in touch. They talked on the phone pretty regularly, and barely a day went by without some sort of e-mail. Neither of them wanted to drift apart. Now that they had this closeness, neither of them wanted to lose it. Quinn suspected that Daria had always wanted them to be closer, but had just never said anything. She had certainly taken the opportunity to improve their relationship when the chance arose.

Quinn smiled, and glanced at the book she had discarded. It didnít mean that her book recommendations didnít suck, though.

The main thing she wished for was that they had had more time together. It had seemed that no sooner than they had gotten really close, she was gone. Life was unfair like that, sometimes, like when bad fashion happens to good people. She knew her Mom felt the same. Ever since Daria had left, Helen had made an effort to be closer to Quinn too. It was like now that they both realized how nice a close family was, they wanted to do everything possible to get it that way, and keep it there.

The only stumbling block was her Dad. He always seemed to be the same as usual, the same clueless, out-there person. Quinn hoped that one day he would take the time to get to know her, but she didnít think it would happen. Every time she tried to talk to him, he was involved with his trains, or something, and blew her off. He didnít mean it, but it still hurt. She knew Helen felt the same about him, but neither of them knew what to do. All they could do was enjoy each otherís company, and hope he made the effort someday.

She knew Daria had wanted more with him, too, but it hadnít happened. She was beginning to think it never would.

On a whim, she walked over to her computer, and booted it up. Dialing up the internet, she logged onto her e-mail account, hoping...

There was. There was a letter there from Daria.

Quinn smiled, and began to read it.

 

The End

 

End Notes:

Thanks to my wife.

Thanks to MTV.

Thanks to my beta-readers, Roger Moore, Robert Nowall, Thea-Zara, Lawndale Stalker and Deref.