(from the Iron Chef Everyone Loves a Naked Daria)
Daria checked her phone and pulled up the GPS app. She knew she shouldn't be doing that and driving, but it was a country road on a dark night and no one else seemed to be out because of the rain. The place was still a couple of miles ahead, and the feeling of dread that had come over her since her mother's phone call sat at the pit of her stomach. She had driven for ten hours straight and come to what looked like the middle of nowhere. The road was cut through a forest, or so it seemed in the dark, and it felt endless. Finally she came across a large wooden fence that looked like it came out of the nineteenth century only it had a modern call box and keypad on the left side. She rolled down the window, pushed a button, and said, "Hi. I'm Daria Morgendorffer. I'm a guest of Helen Morgendorffer." After a few moments she heard a voice say, "Enjoy your stay" and then a buzzing sound as the entryway slid open.
Rolling along, she scanned for her mother's SUV and her sister's minivan. She tried to remember the number of the cabin… 23 or was it 32? It was late and she hadn't slept well the night before, so she couldn't be certain. Finally she saw the large, expensive, but now old SUV that her mother drove and parked her Volvo station wagon next to it.
The rain was still pouring as she popped the hatchback and pulled out her bags. Luckily the lights had been left on in the small cabin and she could see the path to the door easily. She knocked on the door and waited. It was late and she hoped that they were still awake. She knocked again and then the door opened. Daria saw her sister Quinn standing there, in a garish bathrobe, with a look of disappointment on her face. "Glad you could finally make it," she said, as she stood aside for Daria to come in.
"Traffic was horrible, especially with the rain."
"Well, Mom already went to bed. She got tired of waiting up for you and I said I would let you in."
With a monotone that still dripped with sarcasm, Daria said, "Thanks, Sis. That means a lot to me."
Quinn sighed and said, "I'll show you to your room."
As Daria followed her out of the corner of her eye she saw a small urn on a shelf, the one she knew held the ashes of her father. It was the first time she had seen it in its resting place. The ache in her stomach stabbed at her, but she tried to be quiet as she followed Quinn down a hallway.
Quinn showed her where the bathroom was and then pointed to a door and whispered, "Here. There's leftover lasagna in the fridge if you're hungry. I'm tired. See you in the morning."
Daria whispered, "Yeah, whatever. Good night." She went inside the bedroom and put her small suitcase and duffel bag on the bed. Lot of luggage for just a weekend, she thought. After going to the bathroom and changing into a Raft Alumni T-shirt and shorts, she slipped under the covers and fell asleep instantly.
The sun was shining in Daria's face but it was a knock on the door that awoke her. She heard her mother's voice from the other side say, "Daria, I'm going to have breakfast with some friends. There's food in the fridge, make yourself at home. I'll see you later."
All Daria could manage was a groan. She blinked her eyes and then searched for her glasses. They were on the nightstand, where she had left them, next to the alarm clock which read 7:30. She groaned again, wishing she could have had another thirty minutes of sleep at least, and then threw the covers off the bed. Smelling toast burning, she opened the door and turned her head towards the kitchen. Quinn was there in her bathrobe getting the charred bread out of the toaster.
"Um, I think you need to put the butter on after you put the bread in the toaster, Quinn."
"Ha ha, very funny." She put two fresh slices into the toaster and turned a knob down. "So, what are you going to have for breakfast, Daria?"
"Just scrape off some of that black stuff and leave it for me. I'm on a diet."
"No coffee?" Quinn smirked and then said, "Oops, need to make a fresh pot."
Daria stared daggers at her sister and said, "It better be ready when I get out of the shower." She went into the bathroom and after her morning rituals came out in her own bathrobe with a towel wrapped around her head. Quinn was there finishing up a cup of coffee and the last morsel of a slice of toast with jam. Daria walked to the kitchen and put a slice of bread into the toaster and then poured herself a cup of coffee.
"So, what are you going to wear today?" Quinn asked.
"Real funny…. Just my old swimsuit. With a towel wrapped around me."
Quinn smirked again. "Nuh uh. It's nice out. That means you have to be dressed like everyone else."
"I thought this place had optional in its name."
"You heard wrong. If you're going to be outside, you've gotta lose the suit."
Daria's mouth opened in shock. After a few seconds, she finally said, "But Mom didn't say anything about that."
"I don't know what she told you, but that's what she said when I got here."
"But you're wearing a bathrobe…"
Quinn opened her robe and let it fall on the floor. She was wearing nothing underneath. "Well, time to go out, I guess." She went to her room, put on her flip flops and got a towel, and came back. Daria noticed that, even after three kids, she was still in good shape. As she reached for the door, Quinn turned her head and said, "And remember to sit on a towel, Daria!"
Her heart racing, Daria put down her cup of coffee and her toast. They can't be serious, right? They can't force you to strip, right? Maybe Mom heard wrong. Maybe Quinn's playing a joke on me. She decided to wear her swimsuit and see what would happen. Daria threw the uneaten toast in the trash and then took a swig of coffee before dumping that in the sink.
Daria walked out of the cabin with a tote bag containing a couple of towels, a book, her cell phone, and a bottle of sunscreen. She wore her red one-piece swimsuit along with some flip flops, and she looked up to see that the sky was now clear. There were large puddles showing that the rain had kept on through the night, but all of the clouds were gone. Daria walked down the lane and saw that in the light this place was much nicer than she imagined. The woods were nearby but this was a clearing with little cabins all along one side and maybe a quarter mile away a small trailer park. She saw a small building and a pool in front of it, and in the distance she saw some tennis courts and a basketball court. There weren't many people out yet, and for that she was grateful. As she walked towards the pool to sun herself a little, an older man came up to her, completely nude. She tried to look away from his genitals but failed.
"Miss… Miss… I'm sorry, but I can't let you wear that out here."
Daria finally looked at his face and found something familiar about it. "Coyote?"
"Daria? Man, Helen said you were coming by, but you've changed!" He then got close and gave her a hug. She squirmed, but eventually she put one arm around him lightly and he backed off. "I'm glad you're here!"
"Um, yeah. I thought this place was clothing optional."
"Sorry. Most places you can wear what you want except in the pool where nudity's required. Here, it's all nude all the time! Weather permitting, of course."
Daria felt herself start to blush. "Can you maybe make an exception? Just this once?"
"Sorry. It wouldn't be fair." He then thought a second and said, "This is your first time, isn't it?"
Sheepishly, she said, "Yeah."
"Oh. Well, maybe I can let you keep your towel on for a little while. 'Til you get used to the place. But no swimwear."
"Oh alright." She stood there for a moment and said, "I'm not taking it off here…"
"Okay. Well, see ya around!" He smiled and walked off towards the pool and Daria turned around and headed back towards the cabin.
A couple of minutes later, Daria emerged again, this time with a towel wrapped around her midsection but not over a swimsuit. She felt breezes where she had never felt them before. Every step was deliberate, and she hoped that her towel wouldn't choose to fall off in the middle of the street. People were starting to come out of their cabins and trailers, and all of a sudden it was Penispalooza. She tried to keep her eyes above men's waists, but she caught herself sneaking quick looks down below. Sizes and shapes she couldn't previously imagine were in front of her, and it fascinated her in a sick sad way. The people smiled at her and said "Hi!" but she just grumbled back at them. She looked at the other visitors and they were also in all shapes and sizes, some skinny, some fat, some tall, some short. Well, most of them could stand to lose a couple of pounds, but oddly she didn't find them grotesque like she might if they were wearing clothes. She then noticed that the skinny people, the ones who looked like they might look good on a runway, looked kind of odd here. Some of the thinner people just looked ill instead of glamorous.
Scanning around the pool, Daria finally found Quinn. She was talking to someone, a man maybe a couple of years older than them, who was standing while she was lying in a beach chair. Daria put her bag down and sat on the chair next to Quinn's and finally the man said, "Hi."
"Oh, Daria. You remember Ethan, don't you?"
"Ethan?" She looked up and saw that the laconic young man she remembered was now more open, more animated than the last time she had seen him. "Um… hi."
"He was just telling me about how much Mom likes it here."
Ethan said, "Yeah, she says she's going to stay here full time. Which is cool, except the winters suck."
"I guess so," Quinn said. Daria looked at him and then thought, no tan lines… Well, duh.
"Well, I gotta go. I'll see you around, okay? Maybe you won't be cottontails much longer."
Quinn laughed and said, "Bye…."
Daria stared at her sister and said, "Do I have to remind you that you're married and have three children?"
"Oh Daria, it's just a little harmless flirting. You should try it sometime."
"I don't think Bill would like it."
Quinn turned onto her front and said, "How is he by the way?"
"Still in Pakistan for the Times."
"Oh. When does he get back?"
"Not until next month." Daria sighed. She missed Bill and wished he didn't have to spend so much time overseas. But that was part of what attracted him to her, so she had to accept it. "What did Ethan mean by cottontails?"
"It's what some nudists call people who are new. See?" She pointed at her own behind and Daria noticed that where a bikini bottom would usually be there was only a patch of pale untanned skin.
"Ugh." Daria made sure her towel was snug around her and got out her book. She tried to read but was distracted. She turned back towards Quinn and said, "Do you have any idea what news Mom has for us?"
"Why couldn't she just tell us over the phone?"
"I don't know." She turned over and sunned her front while grinning.
Daria said, "I just don't get it."
"How someone as obsessed with clothes as you can be so open to… not wearing any. In public."
"It's not in public, Daria. And everyone's equally undressed." She opened her eyes and looked at Daria and said, "Well, almost."
"But you were always so obsessed with fashion. What changed?"
"Nothing's changed. I still love clothes and dressing up. This is just like a vacation from all that."
Daria nodded. "Yeah. And the kids. And Steve."
"Exactly. Actually, it's not so bad. Mom got me to undress right after I got here and it was weird for a little while but now I like it."
"Well, I don't know if I'll like it. If I end up doing it."
"You don't want to get kicked out now, do you?"
Daria stood up. "No, but maybe I should just go back to the cabin and put something on."
Quinn's head snapped up. "But Daria, Mom wants us to meet her out here for lunch. She won't like it if you stay inside."
Standing there for a little while, Daria decided to stay outside and catch some sun. Whether she would finally lose the towel she didn't know, but for now she would make an effort to understand what had captivated both her mother and her sister.
"So, tell me what else is going on in New York."
Daria felt her unease return. "Well, apart from the usual."
"Uh-huh." Quinn's voice trailed off.
"I think I might get laid off from work."
"What? Oh no! Why?"
"The house is focusing more on e-books than the traditional kind, and I don't know if I'll get transferred to editing those instead or just fired."
"But that's not all."
Quinn looked Daria in the eye. "It's not?"
"No." She looked around and then said, "Can you keep a secret?"
Quinn paused and said, "Okay."
"Before Bill left he asked me to marry him."
"That's great! What did you say?"
"I said I didn't know." Daria frowned and looked away from her sister.
"Oh Daria… "
"I mean, I want to marry him, but he's always in these bad parts of the world. I don't know what I would do if something happened to him…"
Quinn put her hand on Daria's shoulder and said, "Daria, that's just the price you pay when you let someone into your life. It doesn't matter if they're a journalist going all over the world like Iraq or Iran or Indiana…"
"…or if they're at home. There's always a risk, and you have to figure out if he's worth risking getting hurt over."
Daria thought for a moment and said, "Yeah, I guess you're right. It doesn't make things easier, but…."
"I'm going to get something to drink." And with that Quinn jumped up and left.
"Great." Daria finally felt like talking to someone and she left. Oh well… She decided that maybe it was late enough to call someone she actually liked talking to, so she grabbed her cell phone and dialed a familiar number. It rang a couple of times and then she heard, "Yo."
"Jane. Did I wake you up?"
"No. I'm almost done with the dishes. So, what's up?"
"You won't believe where I am."
"Let me guess. In a slaughterhouse. Covered in blood, tied up with a bunch of beetles waiting to rip the flesh off your corpse."
"Close. I'm at a nudist resort."
"No way. That's cool!"
What the hell happened to these people? Daria thought. "I'm here with Quinn and my mom."
"That's even better. I say, Daria, you're surprising me more and more."
"But why did you say it was cool?"
"Aw, come on. Alain took me to hot springs and nude beaches after I moved out here. We've been to all of the few remaining legal places in California. Let me know the next time we're in town and I can bring him and Joey along."
A bit nervously, she said, "Alright."
"So, what else did you want to talk about?"
"Um, nothing. Can I call you back later tonight?"
With a toddler's wail in the background, Jane said, "Alright. Talk to you later, amiga."
"Goodbye." Daria hung up her phone and wondered about who her friends and family really were. Jane's openness to it all, well, that made sense. But Quinn? She couldn't believe it. Daria put her book and phone back into her bag and lay back. She closed her eyes wondering what news her mother had for her and why she wanted to tell her in person. That was never a good sign.
Daria felt something poking at her. She looked up and saw Quinn there, her finger extended, and she said, "Daria, it's time to go meet Mom for lunch."
"You were asleep for more than two hours."
She got up with a start and then looked around her. She looked down and saw that she still had her towel on, but everyone else was still nude. "I thought this was a bad dream and that I'd wake up from it. I guess it's a bad dream that has no end…"
"Oh, you're such a drama queen. Come on, she's over here."
Daria stumbled over to a table with a large umbrella stuck in the center and saw a few chairs there, one of which had a towel laid down on it. Her mother was nowhere to be seen.
"Daria! What on earth are you wearing?" It was Helen Morgendorffer's voice, but somehow the words she said didn't make sense to Daria. Helen then appeared from behind Daria with a tray with a few drinks.
"Um, a towel."
"I know it's a towel. Why are you wearing it?"
"Because if I don't the angels will cry."
Helen sat down and said, "That's silly. Now sit down and let's talk."
Daria sat down and watched Quinn put her own towel down before sitting. The customs were strange to her and she hoped that she wouldn't have to spend too long at this place.
"Oh, could you just undo that towel already? Jeez…"
"Please, Daria. It's not like you have anything different from anyone else."
"I'm just… I just…"
"Will you do it for me?"
Daria sighed and undid her towel. It wasn't as though she was showing that much since she was sitting down anyway, but she still felt a blush come over her.
"Good. Oh, I wish your father could have been here to see this."
"Oh, Daria, I didn't mean it like that and you know it. It's just, when we first met, clothing didn't mean anything to us. We skinny dipped in lakes, we went nude in hot tubs. Even at the commune we could go days without putting anything on."
Daria grimaced and said, "Eww…" again.
"Don't talk like that, Daria. When you were little you loved to run around the apartment nude."
"Yes, it's true. And your father and I didn't wear anything either. But I read a book by Dr. Spock that said that it was wrong to do that, and I made us stop. I regret that."
Daria tried to remember if that was true or not. She did remember seeing Quinn parade around in her birthday suit when they were tiny, but she couldn't recall if she did the same thing.
"Now, I'm glad you're both here and not only because I have some important news. Your father and I always wanted you to come here, but with you two all grown up, I know it was hard."
Daria wanted to ask what the news was when Ethan came by with their lunch. He put down their plates and said, "Have a nice meal," and left.
"Mom, what is this news?"
Quinn said, "Yeah, mom. I'm starting to worry."
"Oh, it's nothing to worry about. I'll tell you after we eat."
For the duration of the meal, all that was said was small talk. Helen seemed more gregarious to Daria, and she went on about the Komfort Korner Nudist Resort and how Willow and Coyote, old friends of theirs, had taken it over from the previous owners. She talked about how she and Jake had gone there after trying to find other places to relax in their retirement. Daria took each bite of her lunch carefully, waiting for the other shoe to drop, but she did find that the butterflies in her stomach had succumbed, maybe due to the fact that she hadn't eaten well in over a day.
Pushing her plate away, Helen said, "Alright, now I guess we can go over the big news. Now don't overreact when I tell you. From what the doctors say, it's still early…"
Quinn said, "Doctors?"
"Yes, Quinn. Last week I found a lump. Here…" She pointed at the side of her left breast. "I do monthly self-exams, and this time I found something that didn't feel right."
Daria said, "Mom?" The butterflies had returned.
"I'm going in for a biopsy on Tuesday, and I should have the results a few days after that. But I don't want you two to worry. I'm just glad I had some warning unlike your father with his stroke."
The table started to spin in front of Daria. Here she was completely nude, in front of everyone, and her own mother was sick possibly with cancer.
"But that's not why I wanted you to come here. I've decided to change my will. But I wanted you to know some things first."
"Oh, what now?" Daria's voice was annoyed but that was just hiding her shock.
"Well, when your father and I started coming here, Willow and Coyote were having trouble running the place. They're good people but horrible at business. They needed money to keep Komfort Korner open so we bought a share of the place."
Quinn said, "How big a share?"
"Let's just say they should call this place Morgendorffer Park. But we put every last cent we had into keeping this place and there's nothing left. I mean, Quinn, the trusts we set up for your kids' educations are still there but they're not going to get much bigger. So don't expect any other inheritance if something does happen."
"Wait." Daria took a breath and said, "You bought a nudist colony with your 401k's?"
"It's not a nudist colony. It's a nude resort. Or campground. But yes, we did, and I wanted to know if something did happen to me if you would just sell it and close up the place or keep it running."
Quinn said, "I want to keep it open. Don't you, Daria?"
"I don't know… I'll have to think about it."
Helen said, "There's plenty of time. I really just wanted the both of you to come here and see if you liked it. I've decided… that if the time does come, I want to die here, and I was hoping that both of you could come and see me off."
Quinn started to cry. "Oh Mom…"
"It's alright. I doubt anything will happen, but I still wanted the both of you to know, before it's too late, that I love you."
"I love you too Mom…" Quinn grabbed her napkin and dried her eyes. Daria just sat there in shock.
"Now, I hope that's the most shocking news of the day. If it isn't, I'd like to hear it." Helen took a drink from her glass and chuckled.
Quinn blurted out, "Daria's engaged!"
Helen almost did a spit take and said, "What!?"
"I'm not engaged, Mom. But Bill did ask me to marry him."
"That's wonderful, sweetie. Why didn't you tell me?"
Daria wondered just why she hadn't told Helen. She thought for a second and said, "I guess I didn't want to get your hopes up in case things fell through."
"Oh, you don't have to worry. No matter what happens I'm happy for both of you." Helen looked around and said, "Ethan! Where is that boy? We need champagne to celebrate this." She got up and walked off in search of something to celebrate the news.
Daria sighed then looked at Quinn. "Wow."
Quinn dried her eyes and said, "Yeah."
"I'm sure everything will be alright."
"Yeah. I know it will."
Daria grinned and then she chuckled. "I just realized something."
"I don't care anymore that I'm bare ass naked."
September 22, 2011