Disclaimer: Daria and associated characters are owned by MTV. This is fan fiction written for entertainment only. No money or other negotiable currency or goods have been exchanged.
This is the third story in the Last Summer series.
Succeeding in Your World
After the mail carrier turned and walked away, Daria Morgendorffer closed the door with her foot. In her hands was a large box with a registered letter balanced on top. She quickly carried the stack to the sofa and set it down. She removed the letter and propped it on the coffee table to be easily seen. Turning her attention to the box, she cut the twine with a pen knife and slit through the tape closing the outer paper wrapping. "A package from Aunt Amy, this should be entertaining." With the outer paper removed, she read the printed label on the box:
"Amy Barksdale Dorm Survival Kit"
"Useful, and possibly quite deadly" Daria smiled as she unfolded the included letter.
On a separate sheet of paper, Daria read:
Congratulations on your graduation and the academic award. I wish I could've heard your speech, sounds like you got in some good ones. Nice to hear you've been able to concentrate on your writing this summer. Tell Quinn I said "Hi" and your mother that I will be thinking of her while I'm in the Bahamas. But, now it's time to look forward to sharing your personal space with a complete stranger who probably has the manners of an adolescent baboon, and possibly the hygiene to match. Let's not even think about her libido yet. Here's something to help you get through the trauma.
Dorm Survival Kit Contents:
"Why do I have a feeling that there is a story behind each item?" She mused going through the box contents. "Better get this up to my room before I leave for Jane's."
White noise generator ear covers
Sauce pan, lid and serving spoon
Table knife, fork and spoon
"1001 Dorm Recipes for Hot Plate, Microwave and Toaster Oven, Revised Edition"
2 Bath towels, 2 hand towels, 2 wash cloths
Single cup water heater
Box of English Breakfast tea
1 Gross No. 2 pencils
Electric pencil sharpener
Travel mug with lid
"Hello, anybody home?" Helen Morgendorffer called as she came in the door early that evening.
"I'm in the kitchen, Helen," Jake Morgendorffer called from the kitchen. Helen was concerned when she noticed his red apron when he poked his head around the corner and said, "Just fixing up some Curry Chicken for dinner."
Helen walked to the kitchen as she spoke. "Jake, where's the girls?"
"Daria's over at her friend's, Quinn went to the mall." Jake pointed to a couple of notes posted on the refrigerator. "Daria also left a note that you have a registered letter on the coffee table."
Helen walked back through the empty living room and picked up the letter. "State Bar Association? Dammit, what the hell did I do this time?"
The television in Jane's room blared, "They hitched a ride in a container of old tires. Insect Illegal Aliens, Next on Sick, Sad World."
The cordless phone resting on the television rang; Jane looked up from her painting, set the paint brush and palette down and picked up the phone. "Lane's Jail and Bail."
Helen shook her head slowly, "Hi Jane, may I speak with Daria please?"
"I'll see what I can do about prying her away from the laptop." Covering the mouthpiece as she passed the phone to Daria, she said, "The Mommadorffer requests your auditory presence."
Daria gave a subdued cringe at the pun before accepting the phone. "Hi Mom…Getting some writing done, don't worry, deadline's tomorrow…I was planning on having pizza with Jane tonight…Guess I can change plans, let me check."
Daria covered the handset and asked, "Mind if I take a raincheck on pizza tonight? Mom's called a mandatory dinner assembly for some kind of important announcement."
"With how excited your mom sounded, I think you better be there. Though based on prior experience, you're probably dreading the announcement as much as I am."
"You can say that again. Thanks Jane, I owe you one."
Into the telephone, Daria said, "Mom, I'm on my way home right after I save everything and shut down the computer."
Once Helen had the family settled (or as close as settled as they get), she held up the letter. "I have wonderful news."
Daria remarked, "The bar association is replacing all lawyers with robots?"
"Daria, even your sarcasm isn't going to bother me tonight." Helen was ecstatic and wasn't bothered by her daughters comment. "The State Bar Association requested that I present their Lifetime Achievement Award to Ms. Carol Murphey."
Interest piqued, Daria asked, "The same Ms. Murphey who has been one of the leading women's rights activists in the state for the last forty years?"
"Yes dear, that's her. This is a very important opportunity for me to make an impression before the entire Bar Association. This will also supply some nice outside pressure to the firm to make me a partner. The dinner is two weeks from tomorrow. It is very important to me to have my family in attendance." During the last sentence, she flashed slightly narrowed eyes at both Quinn and Daria.
Quinn whined, "Mo-om, I have dates then. Don't you want me to follow through on my commitments?"
"Quinn, ordinarily I would agree, but this is a very special event for me, please ask your young friends to reschedule. Make sure you do it quickly, that will make things a little easier. I won't take no for answer."
"Ohhh. You know how much this could damage my popularity?" Quinn left the table and stalked up the stairs. Time to control the damage and not argue. When Mom gets that voice, you just can't win. I can't believe I'm starting to take clues from Daria, Quinn thought as she entered her room.
Daria was staring into the infinity beyond the kitchen wall. Helen's attention was next turned toward her. "I suppose you have something planned, also?"
Daria shook her head slightly as she exited her contemplation. "Um, no. I want to go."
"Oh, really?" Helen said, with a note of distrust.
"I admire Ms. Murphey's writings and she has an interesting view on life. I want to meet her."
"Oh Honey, that's wonderful. I'll make sure you have a chance to see her. Since you didn't go to your prom, it'll also be nice to see you in a formal gown for a change. Go ahead and use your new credit card and I will cover the cost."
"Formal gown?" was Daria's weak reply.
Later that evening, Quinn faced her sister in the hall between their rooms, hands in the air in frustration. "Daria, I want to help you."
"I know you do, and you don't intend any malice over it. But if I let you help, everything will be your decision. I just can't do that."
"Why not? You would look good, and even you might learn something about being fashionable."
"Can't I have little pride?"
"What do you mean?"
"Last summer, I watched you maneuver Mom into getting you a tutor. Smooth trick by the way. You worked hard all summer to learn from David, and you kept at it to bring your grades up last school year."
"So what does that have to do with me helping you shop for some decent clothes?"
Daria sighed, "You went from your world of fashion and appearance and successfully charged straight into my world of learning. You did that on your own with no more than a couple of books and a little advice from me. Now, it's kind of a matter of pride to me to see if I can successfully go into your world, if only for a brief appearance."
Quinn let a slightly smug smile, "So, you're jealous. I've done something you haven't been able to do."
Daria gave a resigned glare. "As much as I hate to admit it, you're right. I also need to learn how to make myself presentable for some occasions. There are times when Lenny Bruce was right. 'Time to grow up and sell out.' I'll learn that a lot better if I make the choices."
Quinn dropped the smirk and continued seriously, "At least you're finally learning that. You're right though, if I go with, it will be my vision for what you should look like, and not yours. Just please let me at give you some starting advice."
"Deal. I'm never going to like shopping much, so I want something that I can use for a long time."
Quinn smiled broadly and spoke rapidly. "Daria, that's a good idea. You're never going to be able to keep up with current fashion, so we'll go with the classics. That'll look best for you anyway. So, first thing we do is avoid Cashman's; they focus on breaking fashion. Besides, you might run into somebody I know there. We need to get you to a proper boutique for a tailored gown. I know just the place downtown." Quinn continued on as a look of impending doom spread across Daria's face.
The next morning, a sleepy-eyed Jane mumbled at the forbidding, backlit shape standing in the threshold, "Hmmmrph?"
"Good morning, oh Artist Extraordinaire," Daria chirped using her "Quinn" voice.
"I'm still dreaming." Jane squinted and leaned forward in confusion. "Or is it a nightmare?"
Returning to her normal voice, "I bring offerings of liquid caffeine." Pushing a six-pack of Bolt Cola into Jane's hand, Daria deadpanned, "You're going to need it."
A short time later, two empties sat on the kitchen table. Jane was attacking a cinnamon roll with great enthusiasm and chasing with a third can. "Now, what brings you over so early, and why were you channeling the Duchess of Doubtful Taste?"
"I need your help."
"Hmm, so what else is new?"
"To go clothes shopping."
Jane glared and downed the remaining cola, grabbed a fourth can, pulled the tab and started on it.
"For a formal gown."
Jane suddenly coughed, but refrained from loosing any of the precious caffeine. She backed away with a frightened look and said, "Daria, you're scaring me."
"Mom is presenting at an awards ceremony for the State Bar Association, attendance has been declared mandatory, and the dress code is formal."
"And you couldn't find some way to avoid it?"
"I didn't really try."
By then, Jane had backed to the kitchen counter and rested her hand on a knife handle.
Seeing Jane's distress, Daria slowly raised her hands and said, "Please move away from the knife, I have not been replaced by a pod and there are no electrodes, to my knowledge, implanted in any part of my anatomy. Mom is presenting a Lifetime Achievement Award to Carol Murphey. I like her writings and want to meet her. This looks like the best chance I will ever have."
"Okay for now, but I'll be keeping an eye on you."
The two friends found the recommended boutique without much difficulty. Daria was dressed in a grey t-shirt and green shorts, Jane followed in one of her black v-necks and red shorts, sans the black tights in deference to the summer heat. After a brief discussion of what Daria was in need of, the well-dressed fortyish seamstress led Daria behind a screen to a small pedestal. "Please step up." Turning to Jane, she said, "Please wait on the other side of the screen."
Daria stood on the platform, while Jane sat on the other side of a screen, sketching an image of Daria as Scarlet O'Hara.
"Miss, you seem a little nervous, ever have a fitting before?" The seamstress said, while taking measurements and recording them in a small notepad.
"Only when I was a bridesmaid a couple years ago. Not one of my favorite experiences, a burlap sack probably would have fit better. Hopefully I've added a little more to my 'feminine attributes' since then to make a better fit."
Jane laughed and said, "That way you won't have to put up with cracks about not having any hips."
The seamstress looked toward the screen Jane was behind, "What kind of idiot would say that? This young lady has the graceful, slim hips that a lot of models would kill for."
Daria looked down in shock at the compliment; then added, "Just the old hag that fitted me for that bridesmaid gown."
The seamstress shook her head, "It takes a more subtle hand to get a good fit to hips like yours, only a hack would try to blame your hips for her lack of skill.
"A model's hips huh?" Jane quipped.
"I will grind up your body and sell it to the high school cafeteria."
The seamstress blanched at the suggestion.
Hours later, a fatigued Daria and still bemused Jane exited the store. Daria looked to her friend and said, "I didn't know the human body could be measured so many ways. I also can't believe the price. Sure glad Mom is picking up the bill on this one; I wouldn't want to have to be paying for it through my senior year of college."
"Just think, now all we have left is to find you some shoes and some jewelry. I take it Axl's and the Funky Doodle are out the question?" Jane's speed and reflexes paid off when Daria's backhand sailed harmlessly over her head.
After two days of shopping and one week of waiting for the alterations to be complete, everything was together, though the distraction required some deft negotiations for a special commission to avoid being late on submitting her next story.
Daria waited until the night of the dinner before she hazarded to put the entire set together. Looking into the small mirror in her closet, Daria thought, "I guess it looks okay." She went to the door and stopped to build up courage to step out. Hearing Quinn moving the hall, Daria took a deep breath, closed her eyes and pulled the door.
Opening her eyes, she saw her sister in a delicately detailed, fashionable sleeveless blue gown with a moderately low cut neckline and matching shoes. She had perfectly styled and set hair, set off with gold earrings, bracelet and necklace. Daria had to admit that her sister looked like a young princess.
Quinn took a couple moments to realize that it was her sister in the doorway. Daria wore a black silk gown with clean, flowing lines that accented a slim, petite and graceful figure. Over the gown was a small, open, black velvet jacket with long sleeves closed by small silver buttons. Roses were embroidered on the jacket in black-green and appeared as fleeting, shadowy shapes with changing light. The only jewelry was a slim, silver necklace that rested just above the modest, round neckline of the gown. From the center of the necklace, a single black star sapphire glinted. The tips of soft leather, low heeled boots appeared under the edge of the gown. Though recently trimmed and a bit more carefully brushed, her familiar auburn hair looked perfect with the gown, along with her glasses. Quinn quickly recovered her composure and said, "Wow, Daria. You really do clean up well."
"Thanks, your enthusiasm is overwhelming," Daria said, self-consciously comparing of her simple ensemble to Quinn's complex attire.
"Really Daria, you do look great. Don't take my word for it, let's go downstairs. You make an entrance and see." Quinn motioned for Daria to go first, and then followed several seconds behind. When Daria reached the bottom of the stairs, Quinn called, "Dad, how does Daria look?"
Jake stood up and turned to look at Daria, "Hey Kiddo, the new…" his face went ashen and he slumped back to the sofa behind him.
"Dad? Are you all right?" Daria said with concern as she rushed to Jake.
"Daddy?" Quinn added as she followed Daria.
Jake stirred and looked at Daria with a note of sadness in his eyes. "Don't worry Kid…." he paused and swallowed before continuing, "Uh, Daria. I'm okay; just realized that my little girl isn't a girl anymore.
Helen peered around the corner from the kitchen. Quinn looked like a teen model. Beside her was a timeless and elegant lady that she realized was Daria. Helen sighed in agreement with her husband. "Daria, you look wonderful."
Daria quietly said, "Thanks," as she tried to understand the looks on her parent's faces.
Catching herself, Helen looked toward her other daughter, "Quinn that is such a pretty dress you have, too."
"Thanks Mom. See Daria, you do look great in that dress." Quinn continued under her breath, "I don't believe it, what can't you do?"
The ceremony had all the appeal of a carefully catered event that had no thought given to the people who would actually attend. Daria whispered to her sister, "Quinn, I think I would rather have Dad's 'Kitchen Sink Stew' than this fiberglass salmon."
"Ewww. Can't I just skip both and have some carrot sticks instead?" Quinn whispered back.
"Much to my surprise, I may have to agree with you on that."
The association president, in a slightly oversized tuxedo, announced, "To present our Lifetime Achievement Award, the senior associate of Vitale, Davis, Horowitz, Riordan, Schrecter & Schrecter; Mrs. Helen Morgendorffer."
Helen approached the podium, adjusted the microphone and began, "Thank you Mr. President. It is my great privilege to discuss a woman who has provided this association with forty years of leadership in civil and women's rights."
While the speech continued, Daria watched the reactions of the crowd focused on her mother. Quinn was toying with some indescribable object on her plate while maintaining eye contact with the teenage boy at the next table. Jake sat upright with a look of pride and pleasure on his face. Expectedly, most of the younger attendees were showing boredom and restlessness, but a large majority of the adults listed intently to the presentation.
A distinguished woman in her seventies, Carol Murphey accepted the plaque from Helen and stepped to the podium. "I will keep this brief so you can go back to your synthetic salmon and plastic potatoes. Thank you Mrs. Morgendorffer for that wonderful introduction. My thanks also to the State Bar for this recognition. Though the recognition should go more to those clients I represented. They are the ones the courage to ask to be treated right. I only provided the path to follow. Now, a couple of thoughts that helped to keep me going over the years. Keep true to your ideals and true to yourself. Finally, if your new clothes feel drafty, you shouldn't have bought them from the emperor."
After the presentation, there was a steady stream of visitors congratulating Helen on the speech and making various comments about her not being a partner. Jake was happily mingling with any and all who would shake his hand. Not surprising, Quinn had vanished into a gaggle of teenage boys brought along by their parents.
Daria was embarrassed to find herself the center of attention among a group of college age and older men. To one unsteady young man, she was directing, "For some reason, I don't find your offer to be appealing. Perhaps it is your deeply sincere face, overabundance of charm and alluring cologne, but I just don't' think a midnight boat tour is for me."
A hand was placed on Daria's shoulder and she heard an older, feminine voice, "Cynicism and Sarcasm, not just a philosophy, a way of life."
She turned to see Carol Murphey standing behind with a gentle smirk on her face. With eyes widened in a plea for help, Daria angled her eyes back and slightly nodded her head toward the small crowd of loose Y chromosomes. Carol placed her arm over Daria's shoulder and gave a cool, "Please excuse us boys, we have much to talk about," to dismiss the waiting crowd. As they walked away, she said to Daria, "Helen tells me that you were her speechwriter."
Helen slightly chuckled to herself as she watched one of the matrons of the law profession and her eldest deep in conversation. "With their attitudes, I just knew the two of them would get along." She gently shook her head and quietly said, "If only I could get her into law school."
"Sandi, I am so glad you're home. Could you look at something with me quickly?" Linda Griffin put a videotape marked 'Bar Assoc. Award Ceremon. Cam. 2' in the VCR and pressed play. The playback showed Helen Morgendorffer walking away from the podium to her table. "The reporter said that Helen was there with her family, I recognize Jake and your friend Quinn, but who is the lady in black, the notes say its Helen's daughter, but I've never seen her before." Linda turned to put away her purse while her daughter looked at the video.
Sandi scrutinized the screen closely, her jaw slowly dropping as recognition dawned on her. Linda heard a muffled 'thud', and turned back to see her daughter lying on the carpet.
Thanks to uzurpator, Lawndale Stalker, Steven Galloway, Greystar, Mahna Mahna, Brother Grimace, Ranger Thorne, Kristen Bealer, and Hiergargo at PPMB for comments and suggestions. Thanks for all the ideas for the survival kit, but if I included all of them, Amy would have to ship the box FOB.
Revised January 2005