Chapter 3




(Scene Twenty-Three: Casa Lane, a few hours later, Jane’s room. It’s now daylight, signaling the dawning of a new day)



Jane’s radio alarm clock on the end table beside her bed hit “6:00 a.m.”, and then suddenly beeped. From the lump under the bed cover, an arm stretched out, and calmly shut off the clock.


Jane, wearing her usual, converted-to night clothing of a red shirt and white shorts (which also occasionally doubled as a jogging outfit), slowly pulled the cover off, yawned, and then stretched. She quietly slipped out of her bed, gently rubbed her ribs, and lip-smacked her mouth as she yawned again.



JANE: (Thought v.o.: Boy, that was a good sleep, the best I’ve had in a while. Huh. Guess I was more tired than I thought. Going to bed at ten o’clock didn’t exactly hurt, either. I kinda figured I would be at least a little restless, since I thought I wouldn’t be able to sleep because of Darren coming in today. Oh, well. Time to get in a quick, little early-morning jog…)



Jane sat back on the edge of her bed, and laced on her running sneakers. After combing her hair, she left her bedroom just as Krystal, wearing a pink bathrobe and slippers, exited Penny’s old bedroom.



KRYSTAL: (Smirks, stops, speaks in a faux-sweet tone:) Good morning, Jane.


JANE: (Indifferent, gruff tone, waves her off:) Eh, ‘morning, Krystal. (Krystal gives her a bemused look as Jane walks by. After a moment, Jane stops, becomes wide-eyed, quickly turns back in shock:) KRYSTAL?! What-in-the-hell--?! (Pauses:) How’d you get into my house?! I thought you and Darren weren’t supposed to arrive until later this morning!


KRYSTAL: (Bemused chuckle:)  Darren decided to surprise his family by getting here a tad sooner. As for how I got in, Trent mailed me a key because he said you guys had changed the locks. (Pauses to Jane’s now-stoic expression:) Oh, he didn’t tell you--?


JANE: (Flat tone:) No. It seems that he kinda left out that little detail. (Thought v.o.: Which gives me hope. Once you start seeing that my brother has a lovably absentminded habit, you’ll have to think twice about seeing him.) What time did you and Darren get in this morning?


KRYSTAL: Around two a.m. He rented an SUV from the airport. Afterwards, we brought some groceries, and he dropped me off here. Henri’s been nagging at him to brush up on those budding culinary skills of his, so Darren's going to cook a surprise breakfast for his family this morning.


JANE: (Slight nod:) Yeah, I can see that. Darren’s told me that he’s gotten a little rusty in his cooking lately, and wanted to pick it up again. I’ve never tasted his cooking before, now that I think about it. (Pauses, realizes:) Uh, did you say “we” bought some groceries? Why’d you do that?


KRYSTAL: (Shrugs, slight smile:) Isn’t it obvious? I can handle a skillet or two, myself. In fact, I’m going to cook some breakfast this morning for you guys. (Jane’s eyebrows rise in surprise. Krystal smiles slightly:) I decided to follow Darren’s idea.


JANE: (Uneasy look:) Oh, um, you don’t really have to go to all of that trouble, you know. You’re a-- (pauses, strains to utter the word between her clenched teeth:) guest here.


KRYSTAL: (Knowing smirk:) Oh, nonsense, it’s no trouble at all! In fact, I insist!


JANE: (Looks off, uncomfortable expression:) Well, uh--


KRYSTAL: (Now shows a barely-sinister grin, teases:) Oh, come on now, don't tell me that you think I'd poison your food, Jane? (Thought v.o.: Which I probably would, if I thought I could get away with it...)


JANE: (Thought v.o. as she exhibits a phony smile: You probably would, if you thought you could get away with it...:) Of course not! It's just--that—-I--plan to go to the Morgendorffer's after I take a shower and change! (Nods, goes with that line of reasoning:) Yeah, I think I'll just skip my morning jog. I might as well chow down there, because like I said, I've never really tasted Darren's food, (quickly adds:) not that I think yours wouldn’t be tasty, either. (Pauses:) Tell you what: If you want, you can prepare tonight’s dinner, or maybe breakfast for tomorrow, and I'll try your food then, how's that?


KRYSTAL: (Pauses, shrugs, slight smirk:) Sure, why not? There's no hurry to decide either way right now. (Pauses:) Maybe I’ll do both. (Grins, which appears subtly cold to Jane:) Rest assured, though, I'll be sure to prepare a very special meal for either or both occasions.


JANE: (Thought v.o.: Yeah, that's what I'm afraid of...:) I'll--be looking forward to it.



The next instant, a tired and bare-chested Trent, wearing black boxers, dragged himself from his room while he rubbed his eyes.



TRENT: Janey, what's goin' on...? I thought heard some talking...



Krystal eyed him up and down, and then formed a lusty, slow smirk, while Jane mildly and briefly rolled her eyes.



KRYSTAL: (Huge grin:) Trent!


TRENT: (Shakes out of his sleep, suddenly becomes wide-eyed, returns the grin:) Krystal? Whoa, you're here already? (Suddenly alarmed:) Oh, man, what time is it? I overslept again?


JANE: (Low snort, thought v.o.: "Again?")



Krystal stole a mercurial glance in Jane's direction, then dramatically ran over to Trent, throwing her arms around his neck, and pulling him down for a deep, long kiss. Jane showed a hard stare at the sight, but kept her tongue, whereas Krystal seemed to put hers down Trent’s throat.


After a moment of staring, Jane actually began to show an almost Daria-like tiny smirk.


Krystal barely squinted her eyes open just long enough to gauge Jane's reaction to her kissing Trent, and then suddenly found herself wondering what the youngest Lane sibling was thinking.



JANE: (Thought v.o. as she keeps her smirk: Big mistake, missy. Trent's never been one to care about brushing his teeth before he goes to bed. I oughta know. When he was awake enough to speak in my face in the mornings, I could smell the skunk and onion-like odors that practically erupted from his mouth. After having enough, I kept my distance until he brushed his teeth. Either you've got a strong stomach, or your breath is as bad as my brother's, and both of yours cancel each other's out.)



Trent and Krystal finally stopped kissing, but held hands as they withdrew from one another. Krystal smiled.



KRYSTAL: (Glances up:) Hmmm...that was—the toothpaste with the mint and cherry flavor, right?


TRENT: (Grins, which incidentally shows his very clean teeth:) Yeah--that "Teeth Brite" stuff you told me about. My mouth does taste better when I brush before I go to bed. It keeps when I get up. Thanks for telling me about it.


JANE: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Huh? (Narrows eyes:) Waiiiiitasec. (Pauses:) Trent, are you now brushing your teeth before you go to bed?


TRENT: (Pauses, shrugs, uncomfortable look:) Uh, yeah, Janey. Ever since Krystal kinda--(pauses, glances at Krystal, embarrassed look for a moment. Krystal merely smirks at him:) uh, hinted that I should. I now do it like, about three times a day, and stuff. (Jane appears very surprised)


KRYSTAL: (Nods:) Good dental hygiene is very important, Trent. (Snuggles up to him, purrs:) A girl likes the clean mouth of a man, right, Jane? (Gives Trent a lusty expression:) Makes the kissing easier. (Trent returns the same expression. They kiss again briefly)


JANE: (After a moment, looks off, baffled:) Uh, yeah, it does at that...


KRYSTAL: (Sniffs his chest, smiles:) Ah, and is that the “Green Water” body lotion I smell? (Trent nods, smiling. She glances at Jane, smirks:) I brought that for Darren last year for a Christmas present, Jane. He loves it. You’ve probably smelled it on him, right?


JANE: (Pauses:) Ah, yeah, I guess I have. (Thought v.o.: Which I didn’t notice, of course, because he never mentioned it. [Pauses, realizes:] Stop it, Jane. Krystal’s trying to get into your head. [Pauses:] Still, I wonder how Stephanie felt about that--?)


TRENT: (Grins:) Thanks again for sending me a bottle. I put it on right after I showered before I sacked out last night. It really smells good. (Smells his arm:) Yeah, it keeps like the toothpaste, too.


JANE: (Thought v.o., narrowed eyes, realizes: Geez! Trent has paid more attention to his appearance lately, now when I think about it. He's taken more showers, worn cleaner tee shirts and jeans, and his goatee has been neatly clipped, the same for the hair on his head, which has been combed down more. What's she doing to him? Why didn't I notice all of this before?)


TRENT: (Looks down at her, smiles:) I guess you used the key I sent you, huh?


KRYSTAL: (Smiles back, nuzzles into his chest:) What do you think?


TRENT: You have any trouble finding your way around here?


KRYSTAL: Nah. I fumbled for a light switch or two, and then with Darren’s help, I quietly found your sister Penny's old room, last one on the left, just like you described. (Glances at Jane’s cocked eyebrow, smirks:) Darren didn’t want to wake you up, Jane, you understand.


JANE: (Small shrug:) Um, sure.


TRENT: (Concerned tone, look:) Man, I wish one of you would've done that, you know, so we could've helped you out with your stuff--?


JANE: (Mouth turns down slightly, thought v.o.: What’s this "we" crap he’s babbling about?)


KRYSTAL: (Lightly caresses Trent’s face. Inside, Jane moans with disgust:) Oh, it’s all right, sweetie, really. I took care of everything after Darren and I brought it all into the living room.


TRENT: (Slightly placated, nods:) Well, as long as Darren was there to help, it’s cool. So, uh, what do you think of our pad?


KRYSTAL: (Glances around, brief, bemused expression:) It’s quite a quaint little place you have here. (Adds after a moment as she tepidly feels the hallway’s wall, lightly dusts off her hands:) It’s very, uh, (pauses, looks for the right word:) tidy, too. (Trent appears relieved)


JANE: (Offended, slight sneer in her tone:) Oh, it’s not quite the castle like yours, of course, and we don’t have the necessary servants to accommodate our quaint little needs like you do, but we somehow still get on with our quaint little lives. You see, our house suits our needs, and in the end, that’s all that matters, right, Trent? (Krystal shows a faux smile)


TRENT: (Even he gets Jane’s subtle insult, cocks an eyebrow:) Uhhh, Janey--?


KRYSTAL: (Chuckles coolly, keeps her eyes on Jane:) Oh, it’s all right, Trent! I’m sure Jane was only joking! (Adds with her own sneer:) Remember, Jane gets her quaint little needs filled by Darren’s servants when she visits his castle too, right, Jane?


JANE: (Nods, faux smile:) You betcha. (Adds casually:) Though I generally do my own thing when I visit, and try not to rely on his servants to wipe my nose and ass like I’m sure other people do when they visit. I, for one, think that we should do as much as we can for ourselves. (Krystal’s mouth twitches ever-so slightly while she maintains her faux smile)


KRYSTAL: (Barely strained tone of control:) Why, I suppose I couldn’t agree with you more on that line of reasoning, Jane. How nice of you to point it out.


JANE: (Playful sneer and tone while keeping her faux-smile:) You’re quite welcome, Krystal. I’m always glad to be of service to my brother’s girlfriend, and to my boyfriend’s girl "friend".



There was a palpable silence in the air for a moment as the two young women struggled to maintain their phony appearance of civility. Trent glanced nervously between them for an instant, and then bravely plowed forward.



TRENT: (After a moment:) Ummm, hey, I gotta introduce our mom to you, Krystal. She wanted me to let her know as soon as you came in. I'll go to her room downstairs and--(turns to leave)


KRYSTAL: (Puts her hand gently on his shoulder, stops him:) Wait a moment, Trent. (Digs in her housecoat pocket, pulls out a folded slip of paper marked “Trent and Jane”:) I almost forgot about this. I found it under a magnet on your refrigerator when I put my groceries in there this morning, (Grins, "sweet" tone:) and after I fed and let out those delightful cats you told me about, “Zachary” and “Taylor”. I just love cats! In fact, I plan to get one when I go back home! (Jane does a mental eye roll. Krystal gives note to Trent. Jane crosses her arms, suspecting what the note will say)


TRENT: (Cocks an eyebrow, distracted for a moment:) You bought some groceries? (Pauses, actually awed:) Whoa. (Pauses:) Food.


KRYSTAL: (Slight frown, perplexed, while Jane knowingly shows an amused smirk:) Uh, yeah, Trent. (Pauses:) “Food”. Like I told Jane, I wanted to cook you both some meals, starting with breakfast while I’m here, (mock-wounded tone and pout, cuts eyes to Jane:) but Jane’s going to go to the Morgendorffer’s instead to eat some of Darren’s food. (Trent cocks an eyebrow at Jane)


JANE: (Thought v.o.: Oho! Trying to make me feel bad in front of my brother, and maybe get him to be a little annoyed at me for my bad manners, aren’t you? Think again…) (Phony smile, sighs:) Okay, you got me, Krystal. I really wanted you two to have some time alone together since you haven’t seen each other in awhile, that’s all. (Krystal says nothing, merely adds her own phony smile, indifferent)


TRENT: (Smiles:) That’s pretty cool of you, Janey. Thanks. (Unfolds, reads the note silently as Jane slightly smirks at a now-stoic Krystal:) Hmmm--mom suddenly left for Florida early this morning. (Looks up at both girls:) Something about an “Everglades pottery inspiration”. She writes that she’ll try and get back before you leave, Krystal.


JANE: (Snorts, rolls eyes:) Surprise, surprise...


TRENT: (Pauses, frowns slightly:) Yeah...


KRYSTAL: (After a moment:) Hm. I guess she must’ve left just before I arrived, or rose and left after I came in and hit the sack. Talk about bad timing. (Sighs, brightens:) Well, I wouldn't worry about it. I'm sure she'll be back before I leave, right?


TRENT: (Weak shrug:) Uh, I guess.


JANE: (Low, wry tone:) I wouldn't hold my breath, though. You'll pass out from lack of oxygen. (Krystal cocks an eyebrow at her)


KRYSTAL: (Pauses, forced smile:) Uh, what about your dad? It's possible he could pop up, right?


JANE: (Smirks:) Not unless he’s traveled around the world in a toaster will we see him anytime soon. (Trent chuckles. Krystal drops an odd eyebrow at her) Listen guys, I'm gonna take a quick shower and change, call and go over to Daria's, and on to what passes as high school. (In a brusque tone, particularly aimed at Krystal:) See you later. (Goes into bathroom, shuts door)


KRYSTAL: (Turns to Trent, smiles, hooks her arm with his, gently pulls him along as she speaks just loud enough for Jane to hear:) And in the meantime, after you and I change, I’ll fix you a humongous breakfast, and show you those new clothes I told you about that I bought for you and your band.


TRENT: (Turns a bit green, meekly protests:) Aww--Krystal...those clothes looked okay when we saw the picture on Janey's monitor, but they didn't seem like they were our style to me...


KRYSTAL: (Grins, mock-admonishing voice, purrs:) Hush, baby. Your friends loved them, and overruled you, if you'll recall. We'll then go out, (In a teasing, still-loud tone:) get that nasty ol' old car of yours that you also told me about traded in to that “Happy Herb’s” place, (Returns to her regular, still-loud tone:) and you can show me around town in your newer one. (Playfully pushes him into his room) See you in a few—-(Pauses, then pulls down, kisses him deeply again, whispers in his ear:) lover. (Releases Trent sensually, turns, goes into her room, her hips twisting. Trent looks after her, smiling, mesmerized for a moment, then slowly shuts his door)



In the bathroom, Jane, who had been listening (of course), turned and leaned back against the door with a stunned expression.



JANE: (Thought v.o.: Did I hear that right through all of that garbage she was spewing? Trent’s gonna ditch his old Plymouth? If the housecleaning bit didn't do it for me, this sure does! How’d she talk him into doing that? He's had that car since he was my age! There's no freaking way that Trent could--dammit, I oughta call out Krystal's crap right now--)



Jane sighed, and then slumped.



JANE: (Thought v.o.: Stop it, Janey. You can't prove anything at the moment. According to Daria, Krystal's dad gave her that alibi. We know Krystal's lying because of Sesame's saying that she met her, and Sesame spoke to Krystal over the phone all those times. Mr. McKinna's got to be covering for his "darling daughter".)



Jane was about to pull off her shirt when she paused, looking off into space.



JANE: (Thought v.o.: No. No, that's not quite on target, Janey, is it? Sesame never said she met or talked to Krystal, dammit, only that she met someone once named "Sty Lark", which also happens to be an anagram for "Krystal". On top of that, we can't find Sesame, who has conveniently vanished. Which, Daria thinks, Krystal had something to do with as well—-[Nervous mental chuckle:] though I’m sure Krystal didn’t exactly pay someone to off her so Sesame couldn’t squeal—-you hope. All we have is "circumstantial" evidence...)



Jane then scowled.



JANE: (Thought v.o.: Damn the circumstances. I told Krystal she'd better not hurt my brother, and I meant it. [Smirks, mentally chuckles again, this time more confidently:] Besides, why in the hell am I so worried about Trent trying to trade in what passes as his car? He’d have to pay Happy Herb to take that thing off of his hands!) (Just as Jane's about to pull her shirt off, we switch to the next scene. Sorry, no free shows!)






(Scene Twenty-Four: The Morgendorffer home, in the dining room, about 45 minutes later)



The now-fully dressed Morgendorffers, Jane, and Darren (who were sitting next to one another) were eating the breakfast Darren had just prepared. Daria, Jane, Helen, and Darren feasted on western omelets, Texas toast, bacon, orange juice, and coffee, whereas Jake ate a small, low-fat broccoli and egg quiche with his coffee. Quinn had an equally small, low-fat tomato and egg quiche, along with a ripe slice of honeydew melon, seedless red grapes, orange juice, and low fat milk to round out her breakfast.




HELEN: (With her mouth full:) Mmm! Oh, son! This omelet is delicious!


JANE: (Ditto:) She ain't kidding! This is the best damn omelet I've ever eaten, Darren, (adds:) other than Henri’s, that is--and that includes the ones from restaurants! (Swallows, grabs a bottle of hot sauce, shakes some more on her omelet)


QUINN: (Delighted look as she chews:) And my tomato quiche tastes great, Darren! (Eagerly takes another bite, savors:) Mmmm…


JAKE: (Jumps in, grins:) Yeah, and I just love my broccoli quiche, son! (Thought v.o. as his fork cuts his food, confused expression: Geez, Helen and Quinn sure love Darren’s cooking, don’t they? Even Jane’s gobbling it down like there’s no tomorrow! Can’t say that I blame them though, ‘cause this is delicious! [Pauses, slight frown of deep thought:] I wonder why none of them ever reacted to my food like that? Could it be they think—naaah!) (Continues eating blissfully)




After a moment, everyone glanced at Daria, who wordlessly chewed while she returned her own glance at them with her usual emotionless expression. Helen dropped a subtle eyebrow that suggested she say something positive (if that were possible). Jane merely smirked wordlessly at Daria while she continued to chew. Darren looked at his middle sister with a slightly twitching smile, trying not to anticipate laughing at the sarcasm he knew was headed his way.




DARIA: (Sighs, glances down at her food for an instant:) Eh. It's passable, I suppose. Give yourself a gold star, bro. (She takes another bite, chews. Jane grins while Darren finally laughs)


HELEN & JAKE: (Admonishing looks, while Quinn lightly rolls her eyes, not surprised:) Daria!


DARREN: (Holds up hands while still laughing:) It’s okay! (Glances wryly at Daria:) I think that’s her way of saying that she likes hers as well.


DARIA: (After a moment, shrugs:) Close enough. (Swallows, cuts her fork into another piece of the omelet. Thought v.o.: Dammit. This is the best omelet I’ve ever eaten, other than Henri’s, like Jane said. If I can compliment his cooking, shouldn’t it be easier for me to do the same for Darren’s? [Pauses, deadpan:] Oh, that’s right. I can’t do that because my family and Jane are around at the moment, and I can’t show them that I have a soft side for my brother, dammit. Best to wait until they’re in the next state before I tell Darren what I really think…)


JANE: (Once again, speaking with her mouth full, mocks as she shakes her head slowly:) Oh, Daria, Daria, Daria. With that attitude, you'll never make it in writing as a food critic, will you? This omelet is smo-kin'! (Swallows, drinks some orange juice, then shakes yet more hot sauce on her omelet, starts eating again)


DARIA: (Smirks:) It should be, Jane, since you keep drowning it in hot sauce. (Adds:) Careful not to burn up any more of that poor tongue of yours for when you need to use it to wrestle with my brother's as you make out with him. (Bites another piece)


QUINN: (Shudders, while Jane grins:) Ewwwww!


HELEN & JAKE: (Red-faced, while Darren laughs:) DARIA!


JANE: (Gives Darren a devilish expression:) Oh, I wouldn't worry about that anytime soon, Daria. My tongue's plenty long enough, right, Darren?


HELEN & JAKE: (Red-faced again, before a now red-faced Darren himself can speak:) JANE!


JANE: ("Innocent" expression as she chews:) What? (Pauses, shrugs:) What?


DARREN: (After a moment, grins at Jane:) You know, you're lucky I had brought enough "grub" last night to cover your suddenly being here. (Jane returns the grin as she chews) It's a good thing you called just before I started to cook to warn me of your pending arrival, or you would've been watching us eat. At least if you had eaten Krystal's cooking beforehand, you'd have a full stomach while doing so. (Jane chuckles, while Daria smirks slightly)


HELEN: (Admonishing tone of mild surprise, but slips in a chuckle of her own with Jake, while Quinn giggles:) Darren!


DARREN: (Returns chuckle:) Sorry, Helen, just kidding. But seriously, Jane, I sort of figured that you'd stay with Trent to try Krystal's food. She's a pretty good cook, having learned some from her grandmother, when Krystal and Rory stayed at her house over a few summers while her parents were out of the country on a business trip or two. (Jane cocks an eyebrow, and stops in mid-bite. Daria and Quinn also pause in mid-chewing, glance at each other, and then stare at Darren. Helen and Jake continue to eat, not noticing) Krystal told me that she hated to learn at first, but actually began to like it.


JANE: Oh, uh, really? (Pauses, glances at Daria, then at Quinn)


DARREN: (Shrugs, bites a forkful nonchalantly:) Yes. I've tasted her food before, though it's been quite awhile, before I met Stephanie, in fact. Krystal occasionally invited me over to her house and cooked a meal for me. (Jane wordlessly chews, a stoic look having covered her face. Daria and Quinn once again exchange glances)


Darren casually drank some juice for a moment, then continued.


DARREN: However, she surprised me by dropping off two huge baskets of food for our extra-long student council meeting last Monday night at Eastward College. (Adds as Daria, Jane, and Quinn stop and stare at him:) Curtis and I told her the previous week that we were going to present to the council an idea to challenge the school's policy of allowing extra class credits for students working on part-time jobs. We thought it wasn't enough, based on Curtis's own experiences, and a few other student's as well, and that Eastward needed to allot even more. We figured the meeting would go about an hour over because we needed to work on an effective strategy. (Chuckles:) Everyone loved Krystal's tuna on rye sandwiches, chocolate cake, and sodas. Good thing no one thought about ordering take-out beforehand...


HELEN: (Smiles:) Oh, that was very nice of her, son!


JAKE: (Grins, nods:) Yeah!


DARIA: (Pauses as she eyes Jane, who continues to look stoic as she's chewing:) Um, don't take this the wrong way, bro, but how do you know that Krystal actually made all of that food by herself? Did she say that she did? (Jane snaps out of her funk, shows a slight smirk at Daria. Darren cocks an eyebrow, stops in mid-bite) It just seems like it's a lot of food for one person to make, even with advance notice.


JANE: (Nods slowly:) Hey, yeeeah! Now that Daria's mentioned it, it does seem like Krystal would have to be a super girl to do all that, don't you think--?


QUINN: (Immediately jumps in, particularly when she notices Darren's about to say something:) --Yeah, Darren, uh, they're right! (Everyone, especially Daria and Jane, surprisingly eye her) I mean, she might've had her chef help her at least, you know--? How can you be so sure, and everything, (adds casually, shrugs as she bites another forkful of her quiche:) not that there's anything wrong with kinda stretching the truth at times--


DARIA: (Slight smirk:) On that last part, that's too easy to comment on concerning you of all people, Quinn. (Quinn swallows, licks out her tongue briefly at Daria. Helen gives both girls a brief frown of disapproval, but says nothing)


DARREN: (Pauses, takes in what they've all said, slight frown:) Well, uh, now that I think about it, I assumed that she did when she dropped those baskets off. (Pauses, ponders, narrows eyes:) In fact, she never did say that she made the food. I wonder how I could've thought that--?


DARIA: (As she throws a quick, knowing look at Jane, then, amazingly enough, at Quinn.) (Thought v.o. as both return their own, quick looks: It's pretty easy to think that, Darren. Krystal just wanted you and your friends to believe that she did it all by herself. She's quite nasty at that type of manipulation, isn't she...?)


HELEN: (Smiles at Darren, good-naturedly adds:) Well, it's her thought that counts, Darren, no matter who actually made that food. (Daria and Jane give her a brief, droll look) Anyway, I wished you’d woken us up to let us help you prepare all of this! Aren’t you the least bit tired, son? We didn’t know you’d get right back up after only two to three hours of sleep, and start cooking!


JAKE: (Nods frantically:) Yeah, Big Guy! (Points at himself with his thumb, grins:) I could've given you some of my cookin’ expertise, too, you know! (Daria, Helen, and Quinn stop eating for a moment to give him uneasy, alarmed expressions with Darren. Jane quickly drinks some orange juice to keep from chuckling)


DARREN: (Quickly speaks:) Er, no! (Pauses, calms down:) I mean, uh, no, it--wasn’t any problem, really. Besides, I slept some on the jet ride here with Krystal, and I feel fine. I can take a quick nap after I come back if I start feeling tired. I’ve done this at home while going to Eastward because I’ve had to sometimes study business into the early morning hours, (Grins at Daria and Jane:) something that I’m sure you'll both appreciate doing next year, Jane, sis.


JANE: (Returns the grin:) Hah! I'm used to staying up until the dawn working on my masterpieces! Bring it on! (Resumes eating)


DARIA: (Deadpan as she takes another bite:) Ah, the perils of college: stealing sleep between all of the studying, not to mention all of the eating. (Smirks as she glances at her mother while chewing:) I guess that means I won’t have any time to get into too many extracurricular college activities and meet other people, eh, Mom?


HELEN: (Returns smirk:) Don’t worry, sweetie. I still have a year to scheme something up, (Cuts eyes to Jane and Darren, playful tone:) plus I’m sure your brother and Jane will help me either way… (Drinks coffee)


JANE: (Swallows, grins:) I’ve already called the dragging-Daria-to-parties-against-her-own-will part! Though like I told her, Darren will probably host several under his roof, (shrugs:) so either way, she’s screwed. (Forks, bites another piece of omelet)


DARIA: (Reserved sigh, deadpan:) I can always rely on your absolute loyalty, soon-to-be-dead friend of mine. (Forks her piece of omelet, chews)


JANE: (Chuckles while chewing:) Hey, I’m just giving in to the inevitable, Daria. I say sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride to adulthood. (Swings fist:) Full speed ahead!


DARIA: (Swallows:) Any chance before you open it up, I can jump off beforehand and stay here in Teenageville forever? (Pauses:) No, wait, scratch that. That’ll mean I’d have to stay in high school, and even I don’t deserve that fate… (forks, bites another piece)


DARREN: (Chuckles with the others:) And since Jane’s covering Daria’s off-campus escapades, I guess that leaves me with her on-campus ones. (Wicked smirk:) Speaking of which, Daria, your buddy Dean Pierpoint wanted me to inform you that he’s looking forward to personally helping you enter the various writing clubs and other organizations when you arrive next year. (Adds, tries not to laugh, while Helen grins:) I'm only too happy to let you know.


DARIA: (Takes this in calmly, then in a deadpan tone as she eyes Darren:) Jane, I’m gonna veer our ride to adulthood slightly off the road so I can run over Darren and Dean Pierpoint, okay?


JANE: (Finishes her omelet, while chewing, waves fork at her:) Eh. As long as you don’t kill your brother and my boyfriend so he can cook for me some more, I say go for it. You can leave him a little crippled, I suppose. (Darren chuckles) As for your future dean, I’ll leave it up to you as to how hard you wanna ram him.


JAKE: (Stops eating, concerned expression:) Uh, ya know, Kiddo, Jane, I think you both can go to jail for hit and run, (To Helen:) isn’t that right, honey--?


HELEN: (Exasperated, sighs:) Jake! Daria and Jane were only joking!


JAKE: (Faux-chuckle, embarrassed:) Oh, uh, I knew that! HA! (Quickly resumes eating to cover himself. Everyone merely stares silently at him for a moment)


QUINN: (Breaks the silence:) Um, anyway, I’m glad you’re coming earlier to our school, Darren. (Grins, becomes excited:) That way you’ll see the flowers and the welcome banner we made for you even sooner! (Darren cocks an eyebrow)


DARIA: (Deadpan, steals a knowing glance at Jane, and vice-versa:) I’m sure Darren’s just aching to see the fruits of the Fashion Club’s labor, Quinn. (Finishes off the last piece of her omelet, stands:) That reminds me. I have to make a quick call. Excuse me. Be back in a few. (Leaves)



Everyone stared after Daria for a moment. Darren then spoke.



DARREN: (Pauses:) Ah, flowers and banners, Quinn? (Pauses:) For me?


QUINN: (Nods, drinks her milk, swallows:) Yeah! It was all Ms. Li’s idea, and stuff! She said she didn’t want to spare any expense in making the school look nice for you, and everything... (finishes the rest of her milk)


JANE: (Slight smirk as she eyes Darren’s now-forming brief frown:) Gee, that was awfully nice of her to do that, huh, Darren? (Pointed tone:) Going to all of that expense?


DARREN: (Eyes Jane, now-neutral expression:) Yeah, it was, Jane. (Pauses:) “Awfully” nice. (Pauses:) Uh, I know you don’t probably want to give too much away sis, but out of curiosity, how big is this banner? Is there more than one?


QUINN: (Shakes head, bites into a grape:) Nah, just one, bro, around five feet high, an’ about thirty feet long, I think. The letters are done in a royal blue, while the banner is a lemon yellow, you know, our school’s colors. (Smug expression:) The Fashion Club personally picked what we thought was the right blue and yellow, not some icky, dumb ol’ blue and yellow.


HELEN: (Raised eyebrows:) Oh, my! All of that for Darren, sweetie? (Quinn wordlessly nods, finishes eating her melon slice)


JAKE: (Ditto, grins to Darren:) Wow, Big Guy! It looks like Ms. Li’s pulled out all the stops for ya, hasn’t she?


DARREN: (After a moment, glances at a still-smirking Jane:) Umm-hmm, it seems like she has, Jake. (Pauses, returns glance to Quinn:) Sooo, did any students volunteer to do the poster and pick the flowers from some field, or something, Quinn? (Quinn cocks an eyebrow. Darren adds:) You, know, I’m just curious. I wouldn’t have wanted your principal or your fellow students and friends to go to all of that trouble just for me.


QUINN: (Shrugs, nonchalant tone, smiles:) Oh, it was no trouble, Darren. Ms. Li said that she had gotten some clothing company to sew the banner. It's a really fancy-looking cloth one, and stuff. (Darren's eyebrows rise very high at this, while Jane tries not to snicker) She had a florist provide the flowers. (Wipes her hands on a napkin, then checks her nails. Helen and Jake glance at each other)


DARREN: (Nods while Jane now shakes her head slowly:) I--see. (Pauses as if he’s mentally filing away what Quinn’s said, which he is. Adds in a stoic, mock-excited tone:) Well, uh, I sure can’t wait to see both, sis. (Jane silently snorts under her breath, finishes chugging down her orange juice)


HELEN: (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow:) Darren, it’s just occurred to me: How much were you planning to donate to the high school? You’ve never said, exactly...


DARREN: That’s because I’ve still not settled on a set amount, Helen. It’ll all depend on Ms. Li’s—-(pauses, looks for the right word, glances at a smiling Jane:) “cooperation” in helping me to decide. (To Helen and Jake’s dropped eyebrows:) Uh, we just have to work out certain financial “kinks”, you might say. I’ve also decided to donate some money to the entire Lawndale County school system, not just to the high school. No need to make it look as if I’m favoring just the high school level. I believe education has to be fully funded throughout, from preschool to college.


HELEN: (Smiles, delighted:) Well, I think that’s just wonderful, sweetie!


JAKE: (Ditto:) It sure is, Big Guy! (Thumbs up:) I’m proud of you!


QUINN: (Nods:) Yeah, so am I! We can get more stuff for our school, like full-length mirrors in the bathrooms for girls to see themselves better! (Jane chuckles under her breath. Helen gives Quinn a disapproving look)


JAKE: (Grins:) Good for you, Princess! I’m proud of you, too! (Darren grins)


HELEN: (Annoyed:) Jake! Now, Quinn, there are more important things to school than just larger mirrors—


QUINN: (Nods:) --Yeah, Mom, you’re right, like eventually maybe some personal make-up rooms for the female students all over the school to try out blushes, eye liners, and lipstick between classes, too. But this is just a start. (Darren laughs with Jane)


HELEN: Quinn--! (Sighs, puts it out of her head, smiles at her son:) With all of the nasty budget cuts our state and federal legislators are making these days, especially in education, it’s great to see someone do something about it, son.


DARREN: (Shrugs, glances at Jane:) I have plenty of money. I might as well put it to good use.


JANE: If that’s the case, then maybe you can buy some of our teachers a new personality, like offering a dollar to them for each encouraging smile and comment they give to a student during class. (The others chuckle)




Daria re-entered the dining room with a glass of water, and took her seat at the table.




HELEN:  (While drinking her coffee, curious tone:) Who did you call, Daria?


DARIA: (Pauses, glances at Jane:) Um, Brittany Taylor, for a confirmation of sorts. (Jane forms a brief look of realization, but keeps silent. Helen, Jake, and especially Quinn gives her an odd look, waiting for an explanation. Daria quickly adds:) I, uh, wanted to make sure that a science homework assignment we’re both working on in Ms. Barch’s class was due today, which it is. Brittany and I share the same table. (The others then appear to look satisfied with her explanation, save for Jane, who silently eyes Daria, as if she's waiting for more. Daria merely shows her a wry, quick smile)


DARREN: (Pauses, contemplates:) Brittany Taylor--? Isn’t she that blonde, pony-tailed cheerleader who, (Glances at Jane uneasily for an instant, then continues:) uh, tried to come onto me earlier this summer at that “Pizza King” place? (Helen and Jake look at each other)


QUINN: (Giggles, nods:) That’s her, Darren!


DARIA: Ditto, unfortunately. (Drinks her glass of water)


JANE: (Grins at Darren’s uneasiness, glances at Daria, mock-offended tone:) Why haven’t I heard of this? Aren’t you the lover-boy?


DARREN: (Returns grin as he sees she’s obviously not serious:) Don’t get any funny ideas, Jane. That little incident happened before I met you, and I’m definitely not interested in that "Brittany" girl. Besides, she’s going with that “Kevin” guy, right? (Takes a bite of the final piece of his omelet)


DARIA: (Smirks at Jane, nonchalant tone:) Oh, yeah, speaking of Kevin, Brittany also told me that right after school yesterday, Ms. Barch nearly beat the hell out of him in the hallway. (Daria casually drinks her glass of water again. Everyone, save for a now-disappointed Jane, gasps. Daria swallows, continues:) Apparently, he tried to knock her down for some reason, and she set herself upon the poor male lad. (Exaggerated sigh:) I guess Kevin finally decided that life wasn’t worth living anymore…


DARREN: (Wide-eyed:) I’ll say! I don’t care if that “Barch” woman did know martial arts like me, I’m glad she didn’t catch me that day she was chasing me! I’d hate to have gotten into a scuffle with her! That lady’s nuts!


JANE: (Smirks, reaches over, pats his hand mock-assuredly:) Then I guess you don't want to see her any time soon, huh? I heard Ms. Barch say that she wanted to see you again for some reason. (Daria shows a small smirk)


DARREN: (Keeps his now even-wider-eyed expression, looks between Daria and Jane:) She does? (Pauses:) What, so she can finish the job?


JANE: (Laughs:) I dunno, but it sure sounded pretty important, "Darry".


DARREN: (Sits back:) Uh, well, maybe we'll see, Jane, perhaps while you guys are in class, and after I finish speaking to Ms. Li. (Thought v.o., inwardly shudders: Not...:) I’ll need to keep myself busy between classes, anyway…


HELEN: (Shakes head slowly:) What in the world was that Kevin boy thinking, Daria, attacking your science teacher like that?


QUINN: (Rolls her eyes:) Muh—om! “Thinking” and “Kevin” do not go in the same sentence! (Frowns:) I can’t believe I actually liked that jerk once!


JAKE: (Frowns, slams fists on table, which startles everyone and rattles the dishes:) Well, crap! And to think that I liked that jerk, too! (Everyone gives him an odd look, to which Jake quickly adds, panicked:) I mean, not like that! It was when he came over that time to work with you on some school project, Daria, remember? We bonded while watching the Pigskin Channel!


DARIA: (Small smile:) I remember, Dad, (Adds, cuts a wry eye to her sister:) though he didn’t exactly “work” with me as well as he did with Quinn


QUINN: (Glares:) Oh, that’s really funny, Daria! I just told you that I liked him once! I don’t like guys like Kevin anymore, as a matter of fact, (throws her hair back, waves her off:) I’m way past him and guys like him! (Glances at her nails again)


DARIA: (Thought v.o., somber: Yeah, I know, especially since you’re into guys like David, now.)  (Notices Darren giving Quinn a subtle, concerned stare, with Jane cocking her own, curious eyebrow at him. Jane then glances briefly at Daria herself) (Thought v.o.: And apparently, I’m not the only one who’s come to this conclusion…)


DARREN: (Stops staring at Quinn when he notices Jane, glances at his wristwatch, turns to Helen and Jake, small smile:) Uhh, hey, aren't you two going to be late for work? (Begins to stand:) Here, I'll start to clean up--


HELEN: (Mild frown as she gently reaches over and grabs his arm:) You'll do no such thing, young man! After cooking this delicious breakfast, there's no way I'm going to allow you to do any more extra housework this morning! I'll clean up the dishes. I'm taking a few days off from the firm while you're here, anyway.



Daria and Quinn looked briefly shocked, along with Jake. Despite their all noticing that Helen was indeed doing far less work these days at the firm because of her new partnership, none of them figured that she would take off the entire time for Darren’s visit.



HELEN: (Not noticing their expressions, continues:) Taking off will also give me time to decide whether or not to recommend to the other litigants that we should renew our lawsuit against those Weekly Blabber bastards. (Frowns:) How dare they and the FBI team up to hide the fact that you were innocent over killing that Bowman man just before settling with us, Darren?


DARREN: (Slight smile:) Like I said, Helen, I’m just happy that the FBI cleared me. (Pauses, adds:) When you think about it further, it’s not as if the FBI and Bowman’s conglomerate “teamed up” to do this. The FBI simply found out after investigating that I had an ironclad alibi, and told the Blabber, which decided to quickly settle with you and those psychologists so they wouldn’t have to pay any more money.


HELEN: (Cocks eyebrow:) Don’t tell me that you actually agree with what they, particularly the Blabber did, son?


DARREN: No, not from a personal standpoint, but from a purely business one, yes. Looking at it from a financial perspective, they were watching out for their bottom line.


DARIA: Don't you mean, watching out for their bottoms, Darren? (Helen, for once, smirks at one of Daria's cracks)


DARREN: (Small, brief grin:) Good one, sis. (Takes on a serious expression, to Helen:) Look, if you want to pursue reopening the lawsuit with the others, then it's your call, and I'll definitely support you. But, you and the others also have $100,000 and an apology, and as you know, legally, this could end up taking years in the courts, with Bowman's company endlessly filing appeals. Is that what you want?


HELEN: (Pensive expression, sighs:) I--don't know, son. I do know that although we signed an agreement not to sue Bowman’s company in the future again after we settled, I’m of the opinion that this development does change things legally, and can be challenged. (Ponders, turns:) Jake, Daria, Quinn, what do you all think? Should I try to reopen the lawsuit? I'm sure the psychologists would follow whatever I decide, since they deferred all of the legal matters in this case to me.


JAKE: Gee, honey, maybe we should just drop it? I mean, Darren's got a point. Why go through all that legal hassle?


QUINN: (Brightens, gasps:) But it could even mean more money, and everything, Mom! (Daria mouths, "It figures", to herself) You can really get that company but good!


HELEN: One for, one against. What do you think, Daria?


DARIA: (Pauses, considers:) This is like Let's Make A Deal, where you already have a nice prize, but then you're offered a chance at an even better one if you exchange what you have for what’s behind door number three, but it incurs risk because it could turn out you could win something useless, like, oh, a year’s supply of  pore refiner—


QUINN: (Mildly offended, frowns:) --Hey! Speak for yourself, Daria!


DARIA: (Small Mona Lisa smile, while the others chuckle:) I’m not, Quinn. I’m speaking for you. I don’t need the stuff. (Quinn rolls her eyes. Daria grows serious:) Financially, and I might add, ironically, you and the others would have to spend the settlement money to help your case, Mom, not to mention taking up time from your jobs in court, and it still wouldn't guarantee that you'd win, even if you pooled your resources. On the other hand, you could expect a kick-ass windfall for your troubles if you all do win, and it would've been worth it, sooo… (Pauses, grows silent, ponders)


HELEN:  (After a moment of waiting with everyone else:) Sooo…?

DARIA: (Sighs:) Bluntly, I think you should sit on what you have, Mom, so you can come out ahead. Why gamble if you don't have to? (Quinn mouths, "It figures", to Darren. Daria notices this, adds:) It's not like we need the money, though I'm sure Quinn really was looking forward to that second home on the Riviera... (Quinn snorts. Jane chuckles with Darren)


HELEN: (Nods slowly:) You've all made very good points, especially you, sweetie. I suppose I really don't need the extra money, or waste the time to reopen this lawsuit. But, out of common courtesy, I'll still contact the others who might want to go after Mr. Bowman's company on their own. I'll tell them that I've decided to drop out, though.


DARREN: (Also nods:) I think that's a wise choice, Helen. (Pauses, smiles:) Now, getting back to those dishes, are you sure you don't--


HELEN: (Returns smile, firm tone:) --Yes, I am, son. Don't worry about them. Besides, you don't want to be late coming in early to the high school, do you, hmm? (Pauses to the confused stares of everyone, confused frown herself:) Wait a minute...


DARIA: (Immediately reaches into her pocket, pulls out her trusty pad and pencil, scribbles:) "Late coming in early". Mom, as much as it kills me to say this, that was an absolutely brilliant and ironic quote. I have got to use that in a story sometime. (Pauses, adds:) I call first dibs.


JANE: (Swings fist, mock frown:) Curse you, Morgendorffer! I coulda made a ton of money using that quote in my art!


DARIA: (Small smile:) Let’s pretend I'm one of Darren's omelets and bite me, Jane. (Darren laughs with Jane)


HELEN: (Rolls her eyes with Quinn, who shakes her head:) Oh, for the love of--(sighs:) never mind, you two. (Notices Jake drinking coffee:) Honey, aren't you going to be late for work? You said you wanted to get as much done as possible today before you took tomorrow off…


JAKE: (Puts down his cup:) Huh? (Goofy grin, remembers:) Oh, yeah! I’ve decided that I'm takin' a few days off myself, starting today!


HELEN: (Surprised look with Daria and Quinn:) You are? Why didn't you tell me? What about Agnes? Is she off, too?


JAKE: (Waves her off:) Nahh! See, I've gotten Agnes to catch up on some paperwork that I fallen behind on. (Shrugs:) You know, mundane stuff, and she'll take care of any messages to give to me when I get back. Or, she'll call me on the phone if it’s a real emergency! (Frowns, realizes:) Besides, why do I have to say anything in advance about getting a few days off, especially to see my son? You didn't! (Gestures wildly with his arms:) I'm my own boss and man, dammit, and if I wanna take off, I'll take off! (Looks up, frowns again, shakes fist:) You got that, Old Man?! I’m taking off! (Jane and Darren glance at each other, uncomfortable)


DARIA: (Thought v.o.: You're taking off all right, Dad. Final call for flight J-A-K-E, now boarding for parts unknown...)


QUINN: (Hard sigh, frowns:) Daddy! Like, calm down, okay?


HELEN: (Exasperated expression:) Yes, Jake, will you get a grip? I'm sorry for even bringing it up in the first place! If you want to take some days off, starting today, then that's fine!


JAKE: (Immediately calms down:) Oh, uh, okay, then. (Hopeful look to Darren:) Hey, Big Guy! What’re you doing after you come back from school? I was hoping we could hang out a little before we play that golf game with Angier Sloane tomorrow! (Crafty expression, narrows eyes, grins:) You know, maybe go out to the club for our own golf match beforehand, so we can get a little jump on him--?


DARREN: (Pauses, hesitates, looks at Daria and Jane:) Oh, sorry, Jake. I have plans to go out with Jane and Daria. (Jake tries to keep an understanding smile, but it’s forced) We probably won’t be getting back until early evening as well, especially if I’m not tired from getting up early. (Adds:) Daria, you said Tom's going to join us at that “Pizza King” place--?


DARIA: (Mona Lisa smile at Jane:) –-Yeah, where Jane's volunteered to buy us all a super large pizza with the works, save for those damn anchovies, right, Jane? (Darren looks between them, surprised)


JANE: (Mock-glares:) Ohhh yeah, Daria. Thanks ever-so-much for reminding me…


DARIA: (Keeps her smile:) Don’t mention it.


JANE: (Returns smile:) I already did.


DARIA: (Mock-utters in a low tone:) Lousy, non-precognitive senses…


DARREN: Jane, you don't really have to buy--


JANE: (Leans over, puts her finger on his lips:) --Ah-ah, dear boy! I do have the moolah these days to do such a thing, you know. Why should you have all the fun in buying everything for everybody? Learn to mooch off of others like everyone else, and stop being so damn nice and generous for a change! (Removes her finger)


DARREN: (Chuckles:) You’re going to regret uttering those words. Just for that, I’m going to deliberately build up an enormous appetite this afternoon.


JANE: (Evil grin:) Heh, draw up your accursed appetite plans and make them as fancy as you want, “Darry”! I can cover anything you, Daria, and Tom can eat at me! (Shakes fist:) Let the challenge begin! Let the pepperoni pizzas whiz by! I have plenty of money to throw around at you fools!


QUINN: (Wide-eyed:) Throwing pizzas? (Frowns, disgusted, shudders:) Ewwww! Gross! Why would you guys want to do that with your food?! (Daria, Jane, and Helen roll their eyes, while Darren laughs at Quinn’s crack. Quinn rolls on, not noticing:) It’s like, bad enough to eat all of that icky, fat-soaked, cheese, meat, and sauce and everything that’s on the pizzas, but to have them spilled all over an expensive and beautiful, say, Gilaviniani dress after some dumb ol’ food fight is too much—


DARIA: (Deadpan:) --As opposed to your nonfat, no-cheese-and-meat, paper-thin pizzas that barely are above being classified as “cardboard”, but hey, at least your “Gilacrappy” dress will survive, clean as a whistle. To hell with these things called “bibs”, or “napkins”. (Quinn playfully sticks her tongue out again at Daria. The others chuckle, though Helen gives Daria an admonishing, but playful eyebrow drop)


DARREN: (Cocks an eyebrow, pauses:) Does that mean you’re not going to be able to join us, Quinn--?


QUINN: Huh? Oh, uh, no, Darren. Sorry. I’m—(Pauses:) um, going to be doing some fashion stuff with Sandi and Tiffany after school. (Quickly smiles:) But we’ll spend some time together later, right?


DARREN: (Returns smile:) Sure. (Chuckles, jokes:) I’ll try to “squeeze” you in with everyone else while I'm here, somehow. (Jane pauses, appears to want to say something, but decides to stay silent)


HELEN: (Raised eyebrows, now realizes:) Oh my! Jane, how successful have you been with selling your art?


JANE: (Shrugs, looks at her hands, turning them over as if she’s examining them, blows on them, smiles:) We—ell, Mrs. Morgendorffer, I don’t wanna brag—


DARIA: (Smirks:) Yes, you do—


JANE: (Wild grin, jumps in, looks around at everyone, excited:) You’re right, Daria, I do! See, I’m doing pretty well locally with my artwork and sculptures. I’ve just sold two paintings and a sculpture a couple of days ago for a nice wad of cash. It’s been like that for a while, now. (Thought v.o., glumly tempered: Well, ever since I first met Darren, that is…:) I figured that you knew. In fact, I’ve had a write-up about my work in the latest local art magazine Art & Sculpture Right Now. (Reaches over and down into her book bag under the table, takes out the magazine, glances at Darren:) I was planning to surprise you later today by telling you about it. Trent and Daria already know, by the way. (Gives magazine to Darren)


DARREN: (Smiles, delighted as he takes the magazine:) That’s great, Jane! Congratulations! (The others, save for Daria, also add their own congratulations, though Jake, still down from not being able to spend any time with his son today, is less enthused. As for Daria, she simply shows a tiny smile of pride in her friend)


JANE: (Returns smile:) Thanks, Darren, everybody. (Quickly adds nonchalantly:) The article’s on page ten, by the way. The review on my work was all positive and enthusiastic as well, (Counts on her fingers:) and it’s twelve paragraphs long, spanning three pages, has a stunningly beautiful and gorgeous picture of me and some of my art— (Darren chuckles, opens the magazine to page ten. Helen, Quinn, and a still less than excited Jake rise, go around the table, and gather to read over his shoulder)


DARIA: (Playful eye roll, smirks, in a deadpan, droning tone:) –Containing approximately 10,997 words, of which such phrases as “promising, new, hip, and deep artist” occupy every 100th word of said article, (Curves her right hand to the form of a mouth, moves her thumb and fingers:) yadda, yadda, yadda—


JANE: (Mock-annoyed look and tone at Daria, returns smirk, continues on:) –Annnd I’ve sent a copy of the magazine to Tess Donovan, you know, the head chancellor of the New York City Art School, where I’m going next year--? She was pretty happy for me as well.


DARIA: --Speaking of copies, did I also mention that you brought ten additional ones for yourself?


JANE: (Wry tone and smile:) Not until just now. Thanks loads for pointing that out.


DARIA: Don’t mention it. (Smirks:) Again.


JANE: I just did. (Smirks in return:) Again.


DARREN: (Playful, sneering tone as he looks up from reading:) Gee, it’s a good thing all of this isn’t going to your head, Jane.


JANE: (Returns the same tone, smiles:) Oh, but it is, “Darry”. (Holds both sides of her head, shakes it gently from side to side:) My head’s so big now, it’s practically about to explode with ego! (Darren laughs)


DARIA: (Deadpan:) No question about humility here…


QUINN: (She shudders as she sits back in her seat. Helen and Jake also return to theirs:) Ew! Jane! Don’t say that!


JANE: (Chuckles with Darren:) Sorry, Quinn. I didn’t mean to gross you out too much.


DARIA: Yes, you did.


JANE: (Smiles sweetly at Quinn:) Okay, I did, but not too much, really. (Quinn snorts briefly, shakes her head)


HELEN: (Brightens:) Perhaps I’ll buy a piece or two of your art while I’m off, Jane--? (Jane looks quite surprised. Daria cocks an eyebrow) I look at that family portrait in the living room, and I love it every time I lay my eyes on it! Do you have many other works that you’ve done recently? (Daria gives her mother a brief look that practically screams, "You're kidding, right? She's an artist!")


JANE: (Notices Daria's glance at Helen, keeps herself from grinning:) Uh, sure, Mrs. Morgendorffer. I have several works of my paintings and sculptures in a gallery here in town, in addition to some others in and around the area. (Reaches into her jacket pocket, pulls out a card, which she gives to Helen:) That’s to a place called “Gary’s Gallery”, just off of Forman Drive. I know the owner. He’s okay. Just tell him you know me, and he’ll give you a discount.


HELEN: (Smiles:) Thank you, Jane. (Stares at card, slight frown:) Hmm. “Gary’s Gallery”. I think I’ve heard of this place in passing, somewhere... (pockets card)


QUINN: (Looks at her pink wristwatch, reaches down, grabs her book bag, stands:) Well, uh, we’d better get to school, and stuff. (Grins:) We are gonna ride in the Escalade, right, Darren? (Daria and Jane glance at each other as they grab their own book bags, and stand with Darren)


DARREN: (Returns grin:) Of course, sis. I promised that we would.


QUINN: (Tepidly adds:) Um, you don’t mind if you pick up my friends at their houses on the way to school, do you? I called Sandi and Tiffany just before we ate, and told them that you would—


DARIA: (Cuts her off:) --I knew there was a catch when you asked our brother to get that thing. You just have to show off Darren’s fancy land cruiser to the rest of the fashion horde, don’t you?


HELEN: (Dropped eyebrow:) Now, Daria, I--


QUINN: (Frowns, interrupts:) --Hey! For your information, I’ve ridden in luxury SUV’s before, like the rest of the Fashion Club—


DARIA: (Returns the interruption:)  --Oh, I don’t doubt that. I know that you’ve all had (finger quote:) "certain" standards of being seen with (finger quote:) "certain" boyfriends in (finger quote:) "certain" vehicles during (finger quote:) "certain" times of the day and month in the past. (Quinn glares. Daria sighs, exasperated:) Quinn, I just want to quietly travel to school this morning without what I anticipate will be your friend’s usual prattling over being impressed by a GPS system, CD changer, DVD/ TV, and whatever other fancy bells and whistles Darren has in his SUV.


DARREN: (Glances at Jane, who merely shrugs indifferently:) Look, I don’t think--


QUINN: (Keeping her glare, interrupts:) --Then why don’t you just walk to school, Daria? That way, you don’t haveta worry about hearing that “prattling” stuff you think Sandi, Tiffany, and I would be saying about the SUV’s G.P.A., and everything! Nobody’s asking you to ride, anyway!


HELEN: (Frowns, suddenly stands, commanding tone:) Girls! That’s enough! (Startled at her tone, Daria and Quinn stop. Helen sighs:) Quinn, you should’ve let Darren know earlier about Sandi and Tiffany before putting your brother on the spot like that— (Quinn gasps in shock, while Daria slightly smirks)


DARREN: (Raised eyebrows:) Huh? But it’s really no prob--


HELEN: (Plows on before Darren can continue:) –And that being said, Daria, I don’t think there’s any harm in riding to school with Quinn’s friends in Darren’s rental. It’s not so far that you couldn’t put up with a little talking, at least. (This time, it’s Quinn’s turn to smirk. Daria’s mouth turns down slightly in disapproval) From what I’ve seen, it’s quite a nice vehicle, and I couldn’t blame your sister or her friends for wanting to talk about it. (Hesitates:) Er, in fact, if you’re receptive, son, I’d like to ride in it myself, since I’ve never ridden in an Escalade before, (Adds tepidly, in her falsetto tone, forced smile:) um, perhaps when you and I visit where I work--? Eric and my other partners want to meet with you again, dear. (Daria cocks an eyebrow, but remains silent)


DARREN: (Pauses, shrugs:) Sure, no problem, and of course I‘m receptive, Helen. In fact, I have an extended, named, nonowner liability insurance that covers any immediate family members if they want to drive it, (Quinn brightens up in delight. Darren notices, grins, adds:) except you, of course, sis. You don’t even have your learner’s permit, yet. (Quinn’s face drops in disappointment. Darren adds:) However, when you get it, I’ll put you on next time as well, as long as somebody from the family’s riding with you, that is.


QUINN: (Smiles:) Okay, Darren, I can wait! I’ll be getting my learner’s permit later this year, anyway.


HELEN: (Nods, satisfied:) Good. That’s settled. (Pauses, realizes:) Wait. Quinn, don’t you have another little friend with Sandi and Tiffany, too? What’s her name--?


QUINN: (Scowls briefly, annoyed that her mother would forget so easily, sighs:)  “Stacy”, Mom. She’s staying out of school today to get ready for that Bliss Cosmetics interview thingy in Baltimore I told you about last night, remember?


HELEN: Oh, yes, “Stacy”… (Notices Jake, who seems sad and has a faraway expression:)  Jake--? Is something wrong? (The others look at Jake)


JAKE: (In his own little world, stares ahead, thought v.o.: Gee, maybe I should’ve gone into work so I’d have something to do. I wonder if Helen’s gonna be busy after she calls those shrinks? Crap! Why can’t Andrew, Steve, and Calvin be off today like me?! I'll tell you why, Jake! It's because they don't like you, except to use you through your son! It's not fair, dammit! Maybe I’ll just play with my train set, or something…)


HELEN: (Cocks an eyebrow, nervously glances at the others, a bit louder in tone:) Er, Jake--?


JAKE: (Snaps out of his trance, goofy grin:) Huh? Oh, uh, sorry, honey, everybody. I was just thinking about what I could do with my spare time today. (Sighs, slumps, looks off into space, mutters just loud enough:) Guess I’ll just play with myself ‘till you guys get back—


QUINN: (Wide-eyed, stunned:) DADDY! Ewwww! (As she runs out from the dining room, disgusted look:) If I didn’t have to go to school, I’d take another shower! Ewwww! Ewwww! (Disappears around the corner)


HELEN: (Same expression as Quinn:) QUINN! No, wait! Your father didn't mean it like-- (Turns, red-faced at the [obviously unintentional] inference, frowns, hard sigh:) DAMMIT, JAKE!


JAKE: (Completely baffled as he looks after Quinn:) Huh? What’d I say?


HELEN: (Quickly turns to a very widely-smirking Daria and Jane, points to the way out:) DARIA! JANE! DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT SAYING A DAMN THING! JUST FOLLOW QUINN, AND GET TO SCHOOL THIS INSTANT! GO! (Both girls briefly glance at each other while fighting the urge to laugh [yes, even and especially Daria], and quickly leave)





Darren, who had been laughing hard all during this time, had fallen down to his knees on the dining room floor, holding his stomach, red-faced, and howling. His eyes started to water, and he was unable to speak, much less even to think, coherently.


Helen, still red-faced and embarrassed, briefly glanced down at her laughing son. She thought about saying something to him, but gave up, sighed, slumped back into her chair, and put her head on the table after she gently pushed her now-empty plate aside.


Jake looked between his wife and son, and scratched his head, utterly confused.








(Scene Twenty-five: The Lawndale High parking lot, about fifteen minutes later. Darren’s rental SUV rolls into a parking space. A few students walking by in the background stop and stare. Darren, holding what appears to be a computer notebook, gets out with a smiling and chattering Quinn, who had been riding shotgun. Sandi and Tiffany, both of whom had been in the second row, and are also smiling and chattering, follow, as does Daria and Jane, who were in the third row. The remaining FC’ers gather around Darren for a moment, talking)



DARIA: (As she and Jane get out, low voice:) Actually, as much as I hate to admit it, the ride here wasn’t half-bad, (Jane smirks. Daria frowns:) and no, I’m not talking about the quietness and comfort of the Escalade, or those damn rear headset TVs we all had—(Adds tepidly:) tempting as it was. I’m referring to Quinn’s not being able to go on about the leather upholstery like she really wanted because of Darren’s questions to Sandi on how she was doing with, well, you know…


JANE: Those sessions with her “shrink”? (Nods:) Yeah, I admit I was rather curious, too. It’s not as if Sandi’s announcing how she’s doing to the world…


DARIA: Would you? In fact, Quinn’s said that as far as the rest of the school’s concerned, they don’t know about her little secret trips, not even Ms. Li.


JANE: (Frowns, realizes:) Hold it. I seemed to recall that our fellow students suspected that Sandi was seeing someone, right--? (Daria shows a quick nod) For a day or two, even Sandi was unpopular with the male horde, here. (Hesitates, adds:) I, uh, even felt a little sorry for her. (Daria says nothing. Jane narrows eyes, looks off:) That suddenly passed away completely a few days later because they were around her again in the hallways. (Pauses:) I wonder why…?


DARIA: One name: Quinn. I'd asked her if she knew what the deal was. She said Sandi’s brothers admitted being responsible for blabbing it out because they were pissed that Sandi wasn’t “totally” their sister.


JANE: (Frowns, stunned:) You have got to be kidding me.


DARIA: Nope. Anyway, Quinn said that she had “addressed” the problem, and that Sandi’s sibs were gonna recant their story. (As she stares at Sandi and the others talking to Darren:) I suspect Quinn used her usual feminine charms on Sandi’s younger brothers to change their minds.


JANE: (Staring as well at Sandi:) Yeah. Quinn does have that gift, doesn’t she? (Pauses, slightly uncomfortable look as Sandi chuckles at Darren with the others:) Uh, Daria, I’m really, really, really okay with Darren’s concerns about Sandi over what happened that night in the warehouse, but do you really think Sandi’s over Darren--


DARIA: (Slight frown as she continues her own stare, interrupts:) –No. (Jane turns to her, surprised. Daria looks back:) She told you that herself on our way up to Darren’s, remember? Sandi knows that Darren will only see her as a casual acquaintance, though, maybe even as a friend, and that’s all, nothing more. I'm pretty sure of that. (Hesitates:) Uh, in a way, that sorta impressed me that she’d accept him like that, similar to that night when she put your hand on Darren’s in that warehouse... (Jane grins. Daria frowns, mock-warning tone:) Shut the hell up, Jane…


JANE: (Keeps her now-wider grin, gentle tone:) Relax, amiga, I’m not gonna tease you about “softening up” on Sandi, really. You didn’t with me when I felt sorry for her. (Sighs as she eyes Sandi again:) I just wish I could say the same about you-know-who not wanting Darren…


DARIA: (After a moment, in what she hopes to be an encouraging tone:) Krystal will slip up, Jane, no matter how much she claims to like Trent just to piss you off. Darren has eyes only for you, so keep that in mind. Otherwise, outside of the “Sty Lark” thing that we will prove, the only way they’ll break up after her seeing Darren’s still with you is that Krystal will--drop—(Pauses, catches herself, winces:) dammit. Insert foot in mouth, now…


JANE: (Smirks:) Go on, you know you wanna say it, Daria. (Daria forms a tiny, pained expression) That she’ll eventually get tired of my brother, and of his (finger quote:) “ways”, thus hurting him in the process.


DARIA: (Looks off, uncomfortable:) Well, since you’ve done the dirty work for me, I’ll just leave my grateful tip, and walk off, now… (starts to leave)


JANE: (Small chuckle, puts her hand on Daria’s shoulder, stops her:) Not so fast, amiga. (Daria turns back. Jane removes her hand) We’re stuck together on this, so where you go, I go. Don’t worry. I’m not angry at you for helping me to point out Trent’s shortcomings. I knew them long before I met you, anyway. (Daria appears to look relieved) I know, though, that he cares for me, and I care for him, and we’re there for each other. That's why I'm trying to be here for him. (Slumps, sighs at the irony:) Thing is, though, Krystal’s actually having a positive effect on him.


DARIA: (Stunned, deadpan:) Stop lying to me, Jane. (Jane grins) I could see the Lane housecleaning yesterday, since I actually did see it, but now, you’re starting to freak me out.


JANE: (Rolls eyes playfully:) Then you’re gonna absolutely have a conniption after I tell you the things she’s got him doing now. (Pauses for effect:) She's going to have him get rid of his prized blue clunker today for a newer clunker. (Daria’s eyes grow wide in shock) I know Trent’s gotten a pretty good stash saved up from the group’s little summer tour, but still, he’d need a miracle to work out a reasonable deal for Happy Herb to give him something in return.


DARIA: (Closes her eyes, shakes her head slowly:) This is not happening. (Pauses:) Trent’s really going to get rid of his Plymouth? (Adds:) Seriously?


JANE: (Nods quickly, then suddenly snorts:) Oops. Silly me. He wishes he could get rid of it. I’m sure he’ll still have it when I return home. (Grins evilly:) I hope on their way back from being turned down by Happy Herb that Krystal will have to push it back to the house, like Monique’s had to do on occasion.


DARIA: (Small smile, not Mona Lisa:) This thing we know as "hope" supposedly springs eternal, so it could happen. (Jane chuckles) What other things have Krystal mesmerized Trent into doing?


JANE: (Glances at watch:) Hm. I’d tell you right now, but the day lasts only 24 hours. Seriously, I’ll spring the rest on you later. We gotta fill in our spare time in and around classes while your brother’s castigating Li.


DARIA: All too true, I suppose. (Pauses:) I’m curious, Jane. (Pauses:) Um, why did you allow Quinn to sit up front with Darren? (Glances off briefly, uncomfortable expression:) I’d figure that you’d want to—well…


JANE: (Pauses:) To be honest, other than deferring to her when she literally was hugging the front passenger door after we ran out of your home, I think it was to let your sister spend some personal time with Darren. I don’t mind sharing him with you guys on occasion while he visits here, (Adds in a quieter tone:) and that goes for your folks, too. I have plenty of him when I visit him by myself, you know. (Small smile:) You gotta catch up on those missing 20 years somehow, right?


DARIA: (Stunned expression, clearly touched, for Daria:) Jane--? I—well, you don’t have to do—(Pauses, glances off, frowns, low tone:) dammit…


JANE: (Grins:) Wow. Daria Morgendorffer, tongue-tied and emotional. Who’d have thunk it? (Daria glares. Jane smiles, undeterred, shrugs:) Hey, if you want, I’ll let you ride up front when we leave school today, you know, so you guys can converse.


DARIA: (Quickly recovers from her shock, small smirk:) Funny. I’ll admit you caught me off-guard, there, Jane. Nice joke.


JANE: (Smirks back for a brief instant, adds:) Oh, I’m sorry, Daria. Did I sound as if I were joking?



Daria turned to Jane with a surprised look as Darren, who was putting what appeared to be a small slip of paper into his shirt pocket, came over with Quinn and the others.



DARREN: Thanks again for your dad’s number, Sandi. (Daria and Jane glance at each other, then at Sandi)


SANDI: (Shrugs, glances at Jane and Daria, in her usual cool tone:) Like, it’s no problem, Darren. I’m sure my father will eagerly accept your offer. He's complained about business being kind of down where he works, anyway.


JANE: (Inquisitive look with Daria, cocks an eyebrow:) "Offer"--? Ah, what’s up--? 



Darren was about to answer when Brittany and her fellow cheerleaders suddenly appeared from behind the building that led to the parking lot, drawing the group’s attention. They were dressed as usual in their familiar pep uniforms, holding pom-poms.


Brittany spotted them as well, showed a brief, dreamy expression when she eyed Darren, quickly shook it off, and turned to the other cheerleaders, who were now also eyeing Darren dreamily.


Jane couldn’t help but to show an amused (but also smug) smile at the girls ogling her boyfriend, whereas Daria merely rolled her eyes in disdain. Quinn frowned, confused with the rest of the Fashion Club. Darren simply cocked an inquisitive eyebrow.



QUINN: Hey, what’s going on?


DARIA: (Now smirks with Jane, feigns ignorance:) Beats the hell out of me, sis. Let’s wait and see.


BRITTANY: (Points via her right pom-pom:) Okay, girls, there he is, like Daria said! Let’s give him our rousing welcome cheer! (Heads toward them)


GIRL: (Shakes out of her Darren-inspired reverie. It’s Angie, in case you’re interested:) Huh? Oh, yeah, Brittany, okay! C’mon, girls! (The others also shake out of their own Darren-inspired reveries, follow her over. Several students notice, and decide to follow)



Brittany and her fellow cheerleaders stopped in front of them, and began to wave their pom-poms while cheering and high-stepping in remarkably precise movements:



Darren! Darren!

He's our man!

If he can't give us mon-ey,

No one can!

Mon-ey! Mon-ey!

Mon-ey, mon-ey!

Yaaaaay, Darren!

Woo! Wooo!



The cheerleaders finished their chant, stopped, and stared expectantly (And dreamily yet again) at Darren, waiting eagerly for a response, whereas Daria and Jane silently smirked at each other, and the remaining Fashion Clubbers merely stared, baffled, first at each other, then at the cheerleaders, and finally at Darren. After a moment, a tongue-tied and confused Darren realized he should say something. Before he could, however, Quinn beat him to the punch while glaring at her sister.



QUINN: Oh, I see, Daria! You put Brittany up to this because of what I teased you and Jane about yesterday, huh? You called her this morning, and asked her to do this, didn't you?


BRITTANY: (Looks at her fellow cheerleaders, and vice-versa:) Huh? I don't get it!


DARREN: (Confused like Sandi and Tiffany, glances at his sisters, and at a grinning Jane:) That makes several of us...


DARIA: (Mona Lisa smile:) Sorry, Quinn, but the cheer was indeed all Brittany's idea. Right, Brittany?


BRITTANY: (Nods, enthused, grins:) Uh-huh! I told Daria and Jane about it yesterday after school!


JANE: (Smirks:) See? You're quite the psychic chick, Quinn.


QUINN: (Shudders as Sandi and Tiffany look at her:) Ugh! It was all just a coincidence, honest, guys! I don't look in crystal balls, and stuff--(Adds:) unless it's to look at my reflection, or something. Only those old, ugly, Gypsies with those huge, unfashionable earrings do that!


SANDI: (Actually catches onto the duo’s teasing, shows a tiny smirk to Jane, who eyes her back:) If you, like, say so, Quinn… (Jane returns the smirk)


DARIA: (Deadpan:) Good of you to straighten that out, sis. I admit that I sort of fibbed a little about the science assignment this morning. I just called Brittany to prepare her and her preppy cohorts for Darren's early arrival.


JANE: (Smiles, hooks her arm with Darren's, in her mock-motherly tone:) And what are we supposed to say when someone does something really nice for us without wanting something in return, "Darry"?


DARREN: (Returns the smile, uneasy shrug:) Ah, "sucker"--? (Jane chuckles while Daria smirks) Seriously, Brittany, everyone, er, thanks for the, uh, “welcome”?


BRITTANY: (Resumes her dreamy look with the other cheerleaders, brief, girlish giggle and dreamy tone:) It was our pleasure, Darren... (Jane tries not to laugh. Darren looks off, a little red-faced, and uncomfortable)



At the same instant, Ms. Li, speaking on her cell phone, exited the front doors of the school, and stopped after a few steps.



MS. LI: (Scowls:) Iiiiiii don’t care what you thought of my policies, Mr. Breeck! I was completely within my rights as youuur superior in stopping you from openly asking your students about what they thought of historic dictatorships in the world, which you reportedly then compared to my efficient running of this school! (Pauses, sneers:) Oh, so it wasn’t like that, you say? Well, take it up with my lawyer, if you wish! You’ll lose! In the meantime, perhaps your “temporary vacation” will clear your mind of such, shall we say, impure thoughts! Goodbye!



Ms. Li quickly clicked off her phone, and happened to glance off in the direction of the parking lot. She noticed a crowd of students, and narrowed her eyes suspiciously.



MS. LI: And what’s this? Students gathering in the school’s parking lot? Trouble brewing, perhaps? We’ll see about that! (Storms off in that direction)




Brittany once again shook out of her Darren-inspired reverie, and then suddenly scowled.



BRITTANY: Hey! I almost forgot, Darren! You owe me! (Daria and Jane glance at each other tensely, showing surprised looks also)


DARREN: (Cocks an eyebrow, glances at Daria and Jane, perplexed expression:) Pardon me? “Owe” you--? I--don't understand...


DARIA: (Cuts in, beginning to dread what Brittany's leading up to:) Um, Brittany, maybe this can wait until--


BRITTANY: (Nods her head rapidly, interrupts, puts her hands on her hips:) --Uh-huh! “Owe” me! Thanks to you, my poor Kevie’s going to be out of school today, and he probably won’t be able to go to my party, which is gonna be tomorrow night by the way, either! I don’t care what he signed on that paper, I didn’t, and I want recomprehension, or something! (Quinn and the others look at each other, confused, like Darren. Brittany narrows her eyes at him:) I’ll need a date to replace him, and I thought--


JANE: (Alarmed, quickly interjects as she literally puts an iron grip on Darren’s free arm. Darren winces briefly, cocks an eyebrow at her:) --Uh, Brittany, Darren will be there with me, Daria, “Tim”, and the rest of the Lawndale teen universe, right, Darren? (Gives him a pointed look. Daria cocks an eyebrow in surprise)


DARREN: (Gives Jane an odd look for a moment:) We will?  (Jane squeezes his arm again, so Darren winces again:) Ah! Uhhh, riiight--I'll--be there, (adds, glances at Jane oddly again:) I guess...


BRITTANY: (Giggles, delighted, claps her hands:) Oh, goody! (Turns to her preppy cohorts, grins:) And we’ll all be wanting to dance with you, too, right, girls? (Jane suddenly turns pale. Daria sighs)


GIRLS: (Giggling and grinning as they eye Darren and nod:) Yeah! That’s right! Make sure you play some slow-dancing CD’s, too! (Darren gives Jane a look that screams, “What in the world have you gotten me into?”)


JANE: (Ignores Darren’s expression for the moment, narrows eyes, pointed tone:) And then we’ll be even, right, Brittany?


BRITTANY: (Pauses, takes note of Jane’s tone:) Ummmm, sure, Jane! (Holds hand up:) Even Steven!


JANE: (Through clenched teeth, looks off:) Fine…



Before anyone (particularly Quinn and Darren) could say another word, Ms. Li forced her way through the small crowd.



MS. LI: (In an admonishing tone:) Whaaaat is going on here, students? You knooow I don’t condone any—(Pauses in shock as she sees Darren, gasps:) Mr. Appleton? You’re here already?


DARREN: (Slight smirk, switches his computer notebook to his other hand after releasing Jane, holds out his free right hand:) Yes, and you must be Ms. Li, the school principal. Please, call me “Darren”. I decided to come in a little earlier to get our, (Pauses, looks for the right word:) “transaction” out of the way. I hope that’s not a problem.


MS. LI: (Recovers quickly, smiles, shakes his hand:) Oh, of coooourse not! (Adds, almost falling all over herself:) And please, call me “Angela”. (Snorts, actually delighted) Oh, this is so exciting!


DARIA: (Thought v.o., disgusted look with Jane, deadpan: And call me "ill" from listening to Li's sucking up to Darren. I'd swear that if he bent over right now, she'd probably be kissing his ass--[Pauses:] along with Brittany and the rest of her Bimbo Brigade, who I'm sure wouldn't stop there...)


DARREN: (Slight, unconfortable smile:) Uh, sure. I first need to make a quick, personal phone call, then I'll meet you in your office in a few minutes, all right?


MS. LI: (Grinning like crazy:) But of course, Mr. Ap--Darren! Take your time! (Suddenly turns serious, waves to students:) Leeeet's disperse, everyone! Classes will be starting in a few minutes! Run along, now! (Some students begin to turn away, the same for Ms. Li)


QUINN: (Steps up, concerned look:) But, Ms. Li! (Ms. Li stops, turns) What about the flowers and the welcome banner? (Darren's mouth flattens in seriousness as he eyes Li, which Daria and Jane notice) We wanted to show my brother!


SANDI: (Ditto, with Tiffany:) Yes, like, we worked quite hard on that!


TIFFANY: get...the right...yellow and match...the hallways...


DARIA: (Deadpan:) Time which was well-spent, obviously. Those hallways are vitally important, as we all well know. (Quinn, for once, catches her sarcasm, frowns. Jane tries not to snicker with Darren)


SANDI: (Curt nod in agreement, totally missing the sarcasm:) Daria is quite correct, Ms. Li. Surely, Darren should see the end results of our labor!


DARREN: (Before Ms. Li can speak, smiles [Or tries not to laugh, take your pick]:) It's okay, Quinn, everyone. I'll have plenty of time between classes to see them both after I speak to Ms. Li, I promise.


MS. LI: (Slaps hands together:) Well! If that's all, I'm going to clear my schedule, and prepare my office--


JANE: (Smirks, very low tone to Daria:) --She means "interrogation room"--


MS. LI: --for your arrival! I'll see you in a few minutes, Darren! (Leaves in a giddy manner)


QUINN: (Turns to Sandi and Tiffany:) Um, you guys go on ahead, okay? (Narrows eyes:) I need to speak to Daria and Jane.


SANDI: (Pauses, glances between them all:) Uh, very well, Quinn. We'll, like, save a spot for you at the restroom mirror. Come on, Tiffany... (she and Tiffany leave)



Quinn watched her friends leave, then turned to her siblings and Jane.



QUINN: (Cocks an eyebrow:) What was that all about with Brittany? What's going on?


DARREN: (As he dubiously eyes at Daria and Jane:) Just what I was thinking...


JANE: (Gives Darren her best "puppy-dog" look as she begins to back off:) Uh, look, guys, we promise to you that we will reveal all later--


DARIA: (Steals a curious look at Jane, but takes it up:) --But, um, Jane and I really should go in and prepare for our teacher's usual attempts at mind-wiping us today... (begins to leave with Jane)


QUINN: (Frowns, holds arms out:) But--


JOEY: (Suddenly arriving from the side with his fellow J-sters, grinning like an idiot:) Hi, Quinn! (Quickly adds:) Uh, hi, Darren! (Both Daria and Jane stop, watch for an instant)


JEFFREY: Hey, Quinn! (Ditto:) Hey, Darren!


JAMIE: (Yes, on both:) Hey, Quinn and Darren!


QUINN: (Distracted:) Huh? (Smiles:) Oh, hiiii, guys!


DARREN: (Narrows eyes, pauses:) Uhh, hello, "Joey", "Jeffrey", annnnnd "Jenkins", right?


JAMIE: (Heartbroken expression:) Nooo! It's "Jamie", Darren! "Jamie"!


DARREN: (Slowly grins. Inside, he knows it's "Jamie":) Sorry, Jamie, just kidding you.


JAMIE: (Quickly recovers, grins:) Oh! I knew that!


QUINN: (With her feminine ego meter running high:) So, what's going on, guys--? (The Three J's immediately blabber flattering gibberish at the same time to her. Darren appears amused at the three's antics, crosses his arms, shakes his head)



Daria and Jane, forgotten, and for once grateful to the Three J's for their timely arrival, resumed their departure.


However, while walking with Daria, Jane began to warily eye Brittany and the other cheerleaders, who were ogling Darren dreamily once more as they were about to walk in the school, giggling and talking amongst themselves.


After a moment, Jane developed a wicked smirk, then wordlessly sauntered back toward Darren, leaving Daria, who stopped, dropped a curious eyebrow, and watched. She then noticed Brittany and the other cheerleader's dreamy expressions, and immediately surmised what Jane was planning.



JANE: (Keeping her smirk, brushes by them all, breaks in:) 'Scuse me, guys. I forgot to give my boyfriend a little something before I left. (Suddenly pulls Darren down to her, and gives him a very deep kiss, wrapping her arms around his neck. The Three J's stare at the scene, wide-eyed with several more students watching nearby as well, along with Quinn. Daria simply stares with her "expressionless expression", while Brittany and her friends jealously frown at the scene for a moment, then wordlessly storm into the school)



Ten seconds later, Jane allowed Darren to come up for air, and wordlessly turned away from them all to return to Daria, leaving Darren in an apparent swoon. Quinn merely rolled her eyes and crossed her arms at Jane's impertinence over suddenly kissing her brother, while the Three J's continued to stare in awe between the retreating Jane and Darren, their mouths now dropped in shock. Quinn then glanced at her swooning brother, sighed, then walked up to him, and began rapidly snapping her fingers in his face, shaking him out of his reverie. Darren stared down at his sister for an instant, and then at the back of his girlfriend, forming a wry smirk of appreciation.


Jane walked over to Daria, and the two resumed walking towards the school. Other students wordlessly watched them, mumbling amongst themselves.



DARIA: (In a low voice:) Let me confirm--you were marking your territory?


JANE: (Grins, ditto with her voice:) Damn straight, amiga, (Adds, shrugs:) although I didn't exactly lift my leg while doing it--


DARIA: (Smirks:) --Don't you mean "squat" in our case?


JANE: (Returns smirk:) I stand corrected. Anyway, I wanted to drive home the point to Brittany and her friends that Darren's my boy. They may get him for a few hours at her party for a dance or two, but that's all they'll get.


DARIA: Speaking of "getting", why'd you let Brittany sink her claws into getting my brother for that party? You could've told her to take a hike, you know.


JANE: (As they walk inside:) Could I, Daria? Think about it. Imagine Brittany bitching and moaning all day over how her "Kevie" was somehow "shortchanged" by Darren, and demanding her "recomprehension" fee. Take the way most of our fellow students are brain wise, her popularity, and before you know it, she'd have them riding us as well.


DARIA: (Slight nod:) Points taken. I think we underestimated Brittany's determination, in addition to her brain. It's a tad more functional than Kevin's in comparison.


JANE: All too true. It's like comparing a worm's brain to an amoeba's. (Pauses, sighs:) Ah, well. Besides, like I said, it's only for a few hours, and we'll be there as well to enjoy the party, and to insure no hanky-panky on Brittany and her friends' parts with Darren.


DARIA: (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow:) Um, what's this "we" stuff?


JANE: (Raised eyebrows:) Huh? What do you mean? (Smiles:) You, me, Darren, and that "Tim" guy you're going with. (Daria gives a droll look) What's the problem?


DARIA: Well, if you'll remember, I never said outright that I'd go when Brittany made that offer yesterday, only that it was up to Darren, and I certainly can't speak for Tim--(slight scowl:) I mean, Tom. He might be busy doing something else, or for that matter, we might be on our own that night, or I'll just stay at home if he is. (Slight smirk:) Looks as if you'll have to work overtime to keep my poor brother out of those vixen's hands, but that shouldn't be a problem, should it, since you said you didn't mind sharing Darren--? (Jane narrows an eye at her. Daria's smirk grows a bit wider, adds:) Hey, maybe Quinn'll help you out, since she'll probably go to it. You could get her to dance some with Darren.



Both stopped in front of Daria's locker. Daria unlocked and opened it to place some of her books in from her bookbag. Jane leaned against the locker beside Daria's, and crossed her arms, forming a slight, wry, smirk.



JANE: You know, when I think about it, most of this is your fault, amiga.


DARIA: (Surprised look:) Excuse me? How is it mostly my fault? (Shuts her locker and locks it)


JANE: You were the one who came up with the "invisibility" joke about Darren to Kevin and Brittany in the Pizza King, starting Kevin's obsession with it. You were the one who yesterday made up the story about Darren coming up with a final experimental "invisibility formula"--


DARIA: (Interrupts:) --Which, if I recall, you went along with--


JANE: (Ditto:) --True, hence my tiny share of the blame, which I accept wholeheartedly, since I said it was "mostly" your fault, but when I compare it to your share--


DARIA: (Sighs, concedes, places her forehead on the locker:) --Okay, okay, fine. (Pauses:) You're right. I suppose I should come with you tomorrow night, huh?


JANE: (Grins. She and Daria begin walking:) No "supposin' " about it. We'll both suffer, along with Darren, and maybe "Tim", if, like you said, he has nothing to do.


DARIA: Misery loves company. (Pauses, mild, miserable expression:) And it'll be a company of misery, I think, at that party for me.


JANE: (Chuckles:) Cheer up, Daria, it'll be fun. It's not as if you haven't been at Brittany's for a party before, and you can get in some practice for next year's festivities in college.


DARIA: (Deadpan:) I'd rather practice that next year, thank you very much, preferably at the last second. Cramming is a tried and true time-tested approach to anything to do with college, or so I've heard... (both walk into Mr. O'Neill's classroom)


Continued in Chapter 4