Lie! Lie! My Darling!
Jane waited for the knock on the door. A little voice in the back of her mind told her that she was fooling herself--that Daria wasn't coming today or ever again--but she ignored it. After her talk with Daria last night, Jane had decided her behavior was childish and she resolved to just trust her friend until or unless she was given a reason not to.
The knock on the door was nonetheless reassuring when it came. "Ready for another day of the horror and pathos that is Lawndale High?" she said as she opened the door.
"Sure," Daria said, looking unusually bleak, even for her.
Suspicion rose in Jane's mind, but she squashed it down. "The Blushathon really got you down, huh?"
For a moment, Jane thought Daria hadn't heard her, as Daria seemed to be staring at a point beyond her left shoulder. Then, Daria rolled her eyes, seeming to come back to herself. "I'll spare you the gory details of the Blushathon. Let's just get to school."
Daria grew progressively more normal on the walk to school, and by the time they got to there, she was in fine form, skewering their favorite targets with abandon.
"Good thing you're not still mad at Tom," Jane said with a chuckle.
"Yeah," Daria quirked a small smile. "After all, I don't think you'd want to listen to me abuse your boyfriend."
The suspicious part of Jane's mind whispered that Daria had frozen for a second, that something had been off about the conversation, but Jane again shoved it down, as they walked through the double doors into school. "See you after homeroom," she said, and the two parted.
They were reunited at frequent intervals during the day, of course, as they had classes together with Mr. DeMartino and Mr. O'Neill, as well as art and gym class. The day passed like any other--DeMartino screamed at Kevin, Barch abused Mack for being male, O'Neill spouted New Age BS, and Upchuck well, was Upchuck--but Jane had a growing sense of unease. When she tried to confide it to Daria, her friend was dismissive.
"It's just another Lawndale day, Jane."
"But what if it's not just another day?" She stopped, forcing Daria to stop alongside her. "After all, we went through some pretty heavy stuff this week."
Daria sighed. "Are we back to that, Jane? I told you then that I had no designs on Tom."
"I know," Jane said. "And I promised myself I would trust you. I do trust you. I just feel jumpy." She shrugged. "Maybe I'm still being emotional, like after a volcano erupts, sometimes there are smaller ones."
"Well, you certainly blew your stack," Daria deadpanned.
"Ha, ha," said Jane. "Hey, do you mind if I run?" she added. "I want to talk to Tom, you know, try and work things out." Not waiting for Daria's answer, she hurried home. Once there, she headed to her room, grabbed the phone, and dialed Tom's number. She got nothing but the dial tone.
Since Tom wasn't available, she turned to the next best thing, painting. A new canvas awaited her, and she regarded it, waiting for inspiration to strike. It didn't. In sheer frustration, she flung red paint at the canvas. Nothing stirred. Angrily, she began assaulting it with a riot of colors hurled carelessly. When her frenzy subsided, she regarded the canvas, hoping to find calm and order in the pattern of the paints. She found only chaos.
"I'm going to have to go over there," she said to herself.
When she got to Crewe Neck, a sudden desire to turn back crept over her, and overwhelming sensation that she would not like what she learned from this trip. She told herself she'd been trapped in her own head too much lately, and a nice chat with Tom would clear the air. By the time she reached Stately Sloane Manor (as she always mentally called it), a smile was pasted on her face.
"Hey," she said in a cheerful voice, as Tom opened the door. "No talkee on the phone?" He said nothing, but the bleak look in his eyes told her that something was very, very wrong. "Hey, what's up? Talk to me."
He looked down for a moment, before speaking in a dead tone. "I kissed your best friend."
"WHAT!" Jane's shriek tore the heavens.
"I kissed Daria. I didn't mean to," he said, finally meeting her eyes. "It just happened."
Without thinking, she slapped him hard. "I'm sorry," he said, absorbing the slap. She slapped him across the other cheek for good measure, but the tide of rage had receded. She felt cold inside and lost. Even though he'd been the focus of the rage, she turned to Tom as only lifeline there. "Now what?"
"I don't know," he said sadly and turned. She followed him into the house. He made no move to stop her. They ended up in his room, where he threw himself on the bed. "I'm a real idiot," he said, his first words since the doorway.
"Who's arguing?" She wasn't sure if the sarcasm was reflexive or meant to wound.
"I should have just talked to you. I should never have gotten Daria involved."
"What do you mean?"
He sighed heavily and sat up. "I don't know. I still like you, Jane. I still like you a lot, but we've been pulling apart so much lately. Daria was there, and I mean, I like her too, so I thought I'd go talk to her. We sat in the car, started arguing, and next thing I know, we're kissing."
Anger rose in Jane again. "So you wanted to bag us both?"
"No!" Tom raised his hands, almost warding off an attack. "I wanted to figure out what was going on in my head. I figured Daria could help. But all I found out is that I'm an idiot." He looked away, clearly suffering.
Something clicked in Jane's brain beneath the hurt. "Wait a minute. You talked in the car? Did you pick her up on the way home?"
"No," he said, puzzled. "This was last night. I waited outside because Daria's sister and her friends were doing some sort of weird makeup ritual. I think Daria called it the Blushasomething."
Jane didn't hear him. Her hands had clenched and she'd half stood. "She lied to me," hissed out between clenched teeth.
"What?" Tom said, suddenly nervous.
"Thank you, Tom," Jane said, suddenly cold again. "I'm disappointed that you kissed my friend, but I'm glad that you told me the truth. I only wish other people were so honest."
He looked as if he wanted to say something, but the ice in her eyes froze him. "I'll let myself out," she said and left.
"I can't imagine how I could have hurt Jane more," Daria said, voice heavy.
Her mother, sitting across from her, sighed. "It's a lousy situation, Daria. Buy you didn't set out to hurt anyone." They were seated across from each other in a booth at a bar and grill near her mother's office called, appropriately enough, The Settlement.
"All caveats about roads, intentions, and unpleasant afterlives apply," Daria said with a wry look. Normally, she would have gone to Jane if she had a problem like this, but since this problem involved Jane, her mother was a good second option, even if she did have to interrupt Helen at work.
Her mother quirked a half-smile at Daria's comment. "What about Tom?" she asked.
"I'm not thinking about Tom," Daria snapped. With a sigh she added, "You know, I had everything more or less under control. I'm not saying it was great, but I could deal with school, I could deal with home, and now nothing's under control."
"It never is, Daria. We just tell ourselves that so we can function." Her daughter shot her a black look. "Daria, I'm just being honest, the way I think you want to me. And speaking of that, were you honest with Jane?"
Daria looked away for a long moment. "Not yet," she mumbled. "I didn't want to hurt her."
"I didn't want to hurt her, okay!" Daria said, voice taut with anger. Her mother said nothing, leaving Daria to deflate. "In other words, I showed her no respect. I treated her the same way Quinn treats her friends and her dates."
"I didn't say that," her mother said softly.
"You didn't have to." Daria said. "You just had to let me realize it." She slid out of the booth.
"Where are you going?"
"To try to fix things." She sighed heavily. "Even though it's probably too late. And Mom? Thank you." Leaving the restaurant, she missed her mother's tender smile.
Fortunately, The Settlement was across the street from her mother's office, and she'd been able to borrow her Dad's car, so she was on the way home within five minutes. She grudged the time, but her father had said he might need it for dinner with a client, so she headed home instead of going directly to Jane's.
Walking in, she saw her father, and handed him the keys with mumbled thanks and headed upstairs, his "You're welcome, kiddo," ignored behind her. She intended to grab her backpack and head for Jane's, but sudden fear stopped her. Telling the truth was the moral thing to do, but she might lose her only friend. She wrestled with the problem for what seemed like an eternity before her better angels won out. "I have to talk to Jane," she said as she walked downstairs.
Her father must have gone to his dinner meeting, since he was nowhere in evidence, and Quinn and the Fashion Fiends weren't back yet for the Blushathon, so she made sure she had her keys. Before she could open the door to go, the bell rang.
Jane was framed in the doorway, a fake smile pasted on her face.
"Oh, hi!" Daria said uncertainly.
"Oh, hi!" Jane returned mockingly, before snapping. "Go to hell!" she barked and shoved Daria to the floor.
"Stop! Jane, stop!"
"How could you!" Jane raged.
"I didn't mean to! It just happened." Daria tried to drag herself back to her feet, but Jane pushed her down with a booted foot.
"And you didn't tell me!"
"I was going to! I was on my way to tell you right now!" Daria was near tears.
"You had your chance," Jane spat. "It happened last night. Tom told me. And you lied to me this morning. You lied, Daria!"
"I didn't want to hurt you!"
"Maybe you should have thought of that before you kissed my boyfriend!"
"I didn't mean it," Daria said finally regaining her feet. "I didn't mean for any of it to happen."
"That's the problem with you, Daria." Jane sounded almost sad. "You don't mean anything. You just congratulate yourself for your high moral standards, but when it comes down to it, they're just words you say. You're as bad as Quinn! Worse, because she doesn't pretend to be anything else."
The words cut into Daria like knives. She tried to deny them, but Jane was right. Underneath it all, she was just another Quinn--just another teen girl on the make, looking out for number one--and all her pretty philosophy didn't hide that fact. She tried to apologize, but no words came. Jane spared her another contemptuous glance before walking out the door and out of Daria's life.
Quinn and the Fashion Club found her an hour later sitting on the couch, staring at the blank TV. "Daria," Quinn trilled, trying to sound friendly, "don't you think you'd be more comfortable upstairs?"
Daria said nothing, as Quinn frowned and the rest of the Fashion Club looked on. After a moment, Quinn tried again. "It's the Blushathon finals, Daria. You probably don't want to be here for this."
She could hear her sister's voice, and what sounded like Sandi chucking, but she just didn't care. Jane had shown her that her whole existence was a lie, that she was just as willing to betray her principles or whore herself out to a guy as anyone else.
This time, there was real anger in Quinn's voice. "Daria, if you're not going to get out of the living room, I'm going to make you freaking model for us!"
Why not? Daria thought. I'm already a whore. Might as well be a painted one. Aloud to Quinn, she added, "Okay. Just tell me what you need to me do."
Identical expressions of shock crossed the faces of the four Clubbies. Daria didn't care, as long as they could make it so she never had to be herself again.
At first, Quinn was thrilled at the change in Daria. Her brainy sister was finally relating to her on a level she could understand. Once Quinn got over her fear that Daria was playing a prank on her, the makeover went marvelously well. Daria even thanked Quinn when it was over.
On the Monday following the end of the Blushathon, Quinn was woken by a knock on her door. She was close to exploding, until she saw her sister's apologetic face peek through the doorway. "Sorry, Quinn." Daria said, monotone flatter than usual.
"Daria!" Seeing her sister's pleading expression, Quinn didn't have to fake enthusiasm. "What can I help you with?"
"I, uh, was hoping you could help me choose an outfit for today." For just a second Quinn though she heard disgust in her sister's voice, but it quickly disappeared. "I want to make sure I look fashionable to match my makeover."
"Sure, Daria," Quinn said, and the two started fishing for clothes that would suit Daria. They eventually settled on a tight black skirt and a cream-colored top. With the right makeup, Quinn felt, the ensemble would make her sister a knockout, so she set about making sure Daria had the right makeup. By the time they were ready for school, Quinn thought she might have Fashion Club material on her hands.
Her suspicions were confirmed by the number of heads Daria turned when they arrived at school. She felt satisfaction at seeing her sister blossom under her tutelage, and dismissed concerns that Daria might end up a rival as more of Sandi's usual paranoia.
Despite her self-satisfaction, Quinn did notice some strangeness. For one thing, Daria never spoke to or mentioned Jane, which was unusual, since Jane had been her only friend. She also started talking to football players other than Mack, and even had a couple of dates that week. But it wasn't until Friday that the weirdness meter jumped into the red.
Quinn was standing at her locker before lunch, when a blubbering Brittany ran past her. The pigtailed blonde stopped to look back at Quinn. For a moment, she seemed like she was about to say something, but then she ran off, crying all the harder. Quinn had hardly turned back to her locker when Jodie strode up and fixed her with a hate-filled stare.
"I suppose you're pleased with yourself," the dark skinned girl snapped. Too shocked to answer, Quinn could only stand as Jodie threw her arms in the air. "Oh, what's the use! It's like talking to a wall!" She shot Quinn another angry look, and took off after Brittany.
For once, Quinn's lines into the rumor mill were empty, so she had to wait until that night to find out what was going on. She was in her room doing a wardrobe check when the doorbell rang. Crap, she thought. He's not supposed to be here for a half-hour yet. She heard her father's voice calling up, "Quinn, your date is here." Before she could respond, another familiar voice, Kevin's voice, replied, "Uh, sorry, Mr. M. I'm here for Daria."
Without even thinking, she found herself in the doorway, waiting for her sister to pass, which Daria did a moment later, wearing a dark green skirt a pink blouse, both cut to emphasize her figure. Quinn couldn't help but note that the combination looked good on Daria, but that wasn't why she was there.
"Uh, Daria," she said, "are you going out with Kevin tonight?"
"Oh, hey Quinn," her sister responded, in a breezy tone unlike her anything Quinn had ever heard from her before. "Yeah, I've had a couple of dates this week, but Kevin said I should keep Friday free for him."
"Don't you think Brittany will mind?" Quinn asked.
Daria shrugged. "I guess, but it's no big deal. Kevin sees other girls all the time. Brittany does the same thing with guys. They'll be back together by Monday."
"Doesn't that bother you?
"It used to." Quinn's voice took on a worried tone.
"That was a different me." Daria's voice grew harsh. "A bitchy, self-righteous me who blamed everyone else for her inability to meet her own standards."
"Uh, sure," Quinn said.
"Now, if you'll excuse me, sis," Daria said with a bitter half-smile, "my date awaits. I'll tell you all about it when I get back."
Daria didn't keep her promise, mostly avoiding Quinn over the weekend. And when Quinn tried to point out the change in behavior to her parents, they ignored her.
"She's coming out of her shell," Helen had said. When Jake added, "Yeah, don't be jealous of your sister, Quinn," she decided to let the matter rest. After all, Daria was much more popular.
The next few weeks seemed okay, but something felt off to Quinn. Daria had proved right about Kevin and Brittany--they were back together that Monday and Kevin showed no more interest in Daria beyond the odd leer--so Jodie had no reason not to accept her on the Lowdown, where Daria wrote soaring paeans to Lawndale school spirit. Daria also dated frequently, though not as frequently as Quinn, and even sat in on some Fashion Club meetings, where she was always attentive to Sandi, and polite to Stacy and Tiffany.
In fact, Daria had turned into something like Quinn's ideal sister. Only she didn't seem like Daria anymore. They used to speak infrequently, but about important things. Now they talked constantly about superficial crap. Quinn felt like she had even less idea of what went on in Daria's head than she had before. And then there were the rumors.
Quinn was strictly a 'cuddle and a peck on the cheek' sort of girl. All the Clubbies were, but Quinn, who had decided long ago that she wasn't going to give to up to anyone in High School, carried it to extremes. Daria, it was whispered, wasn't nearly so squeamish about contact, and she'd been notched on at least a couple of bedposts in the last few weeks.
It wasn't until the night she found Bret Strand on the doorstep waiting for Daria that Quinn decided to act, though. She waited until they were gone, ignoring the dead look in Daria's eyes and the leer in Bret's before calling Jane.
But if she thought help was coming from that quarter, she was sorely mistaken. Her first two calls ended in immediate dial tones. Jane actually spoke to her on the third try, because Trent was tired of being woken by the noise, but she had nothing helpful to say.
"I have nothing to say to any Morgendorffers," Jane snarled. "I'm no longer speaking to your sister, and since your sister and I are no longer interacting, I have no reason to interact with you. So I would appreciate if you would lose this phone number so I don't have to get it changed."
"But Jane--" The angry voice cut her off quickly.
"You don't get it. I'm done with Daria. Finished. Kaput. I don't like her anymore, and I've never liked you, so I see no reason to talk to you. Now stop bothering me before I call the police." The click of a dial tone filled Quinn's ears again. No help there. I guess I'll have to go to the source for answers.
She blew off her own date and stayed around the house, taking over the living room when Jake and Helen went to bed. It was after 1 when the creak of the slowly opened door startled her awake. The first thing she focused on was Daria's eyes, strangely luminous in the darkened room. Has she been crying?
"Hi, sis," she said, pitching her voice low enough to get Daria's attention without waking their parents. A glare was her reward, but Daria did jerk her head in the direction of the stairs, which Quinn took as an invitation.
When she reached the top floor, the door to her sister's room was open only a crack--hardly a glowing invite, but Quinn took what she could get. Easing the door open, she found the room lit by a lamp and Daria spread on the bed with arms outstretched, her favorite crack-counting position. "Bret Strand?" she asked without preamble.
Daria's shoulders moved in a barely perceptible shrug. "You dated him."
"Once," Quinn said. "And I had to burn the clothes I wore because the thin trail of slime he leaves wherever he goes wouldn't wash out."
"Fine," Daria said. "I'll leave my clothes outside and you can launder them. Use a little starch and a lot of lighter fluid."
The remark was so Daria that Quinn had to bite back a laugh. But it also made her worry--if the sister she knew was still somewhere inside this new Daria, why didn't she come out more? The redhead decided to try to wheedle some more information out of her sister. "Come on, Daria. I'm trying to look out for you."
"I should slam the door on you. Then you could look out for that, instead."
"Well, at least you sound like yourself again, even if yourself doesn't usually run around with guys like Bret Strand."
Daria boiled to her feet, and Quinn found herself nose-to-nose with her very angry sister. "I don't want to sound like the old me," Daria raged, the pain in her eyes evident. "The old me was a filthy liar. If sleeping with guys like Bret Strand makes me a whore, so be it. At least I'm honest about it."
"But Daria," Quinn said, now frightened at her sister's intensity.
"No!" Daria said. "No buts! The old me is gone, Quinn! So get used to me like this, because it's not changing! Now," she added in a much calmer voice, "if you'll excuse me, I need my beauty rest."
Disturbed, Quinn retreated to her room, and went to bed. Sleep was difficult to find with her mind awhirl about the change in Daria. When she did doze, it was fitful, shot through with disturbing dreams, as if her subconscious was trying to tell her something. When she finally woke, blotchy faced and sunken-eyed, as if she hadn't slept at all, realization flooded her. Her sister--the sister she loved, even if she tried not to admit it--was gone, and was never coming back.
Disclaimer: Some dialogue taken from "Die! Die! My Darling!" by Glenn Eichler. Daria and all characters are copyright MTV 1997-2002. I own nothing and am merely along for the ride.