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.
Original characters and plot copyright Richard J. Lobinske 2004.

This is the first story in the Falling into College series.

Richard Lobinske

Boarding the Raft

Daria Morgendorffer felt a tingle of anticipation as she led her family out of the elevator and down the dorm hallway to the right. She was dressed in an ochre/orange t-shirt, black skirt, green jacket and black boots. Clothes she had worn, as much as possible, in her last three years of high school. After today, they would be retired with honor. A suitcase was carried in her left hand while she fished in a jacket pocket with the other. Daria noted the communal bathrooms were located on both sides of the central elevator shaft in the residence hall wing. She walked down the hall to the last door on the left.

"Three-Sixteen Fenderson Hall. Here we are. Figures, I'm in one of the cells farthest from the bathroom."

She removed a set of freshly-issued keys from her pocket and unlocked the door. She stepped in and looked around. Her father, Jake, followed behind with two more suitcases. He was dressed in a white polo shirt, blue shorts and loafers. Helen, her mother, followed next, dressed in a cream pullover top and khaki shorts, her attention was on a stack of papers. Lastly, her younger sister, Quinn, entered, empty handed. Her red halter top and white shorts had attracted the attention of almost every male in line-of-sight as they made their way to the residence hall.

Inside, the room was mirror-imaged along either side of the door. Against the walls next to the door were two work desks with gooseneck lights, and worn, wheeled swivel-chairs. Sturdy book shelves adorned the walls over the desks. An Ethernet jack was provided for a computer at each desk. A large ceiling light provided overall room illumination. Along the long side walls of the room were waist-high dressers with storage cabinets a couple feet above. Beyond were small closets, about four-feet across. After an open space of about four feet were single beds, placed in the far corners. A small light was situated on the wall next to each bed, covered to shine light directly down. A sash window was situated above each bed. Rolled up, institutional blinds were the officially provided privacy, though curtain racks were present. About six feet of space separated the two beds across the room center, with a telephone mounted on the wall between.

"First to arrive. I get to pick my side of the room." Daria walked in and dropped the suitcase on the right-hand bed. "Dad, just drop those in front of the dresser, please."

"Thanks, Daria. Those were starting to get heavy."

Quinn looked around at the cramped accommodations. "God, Daria. They expect you to live like this?"

"For my freshman year, at least. Then, I have the option of staying or providing my own housing. Besides, this is still larger than that room we shared in the Highland apartment."

Quinn shuddered at the memory. "We were a lot smaller then, too."

Daria waved toward the closet. "Just think of what you have to look forward to next year."

Quinn's eyes shot open with the realization that she too would have to live with such a small closet a year from now.

Daria spoke again. "Mom, why don't you take a seat and finish going through that paperwork. Dad and I will finish bringing up the rest of my stuff. Hopefully, with a little help from Quinn."

Her sister recovered from her shock. "Sure."

With a hand on each shoulder, Daria guided the two from the room.

"I hope this stuff holds properly."

Daria pressed a blob of mildly sticky, grey material onto one back corner of the skeleton print. She carefully stood on her bed and raised the print to shoulder height. Pressing against a blob in each corner, the poster was held in place over the bed.

"No nails, tacks, staples or other attachments that can damage the walls. Wouldn't it make more sense just to put up corkboards?" Daria complained at having to use the clay-like adhesive.

Daria was alone; boxes and suitcases lined the floor along the side of the room. Her family had left to check into a nearby hotel and get settled. She had placed her anatomical models and cheese wedge on the top shelf over the desk. She removed her Kafka poster from its shipping tube and gently flattened it against the floor. Repeating the process used for the other poster, she hung it next to her desk. She opened a suitcase on the bed and removed a sheet of plywood with a section of gray-fabric padding attached to one face. She'd cut the padding from her room in her old home in Lawndale just before leaving. Leftover from the previous owners, the room had housed an unstable person. Daria had found the padding a comfort and a protective barrier.

"That sticky clay isn't going to hold this up."

Looking around, she thought for a few minutes. She walked back to the desk, placed the padding on the left side, and leaned it against the wall. Daria sat at the chair and was pleased to notice that the padding and Kafka poster would both be within view when working at the desk. A comforting reminder.

Heavy-soled footsteps stopped outside and something was set down. Daria heard keys in the lock. She turned in the chair to face the door and said, "It's open."

The door opened outward and a feminine voice replied, "Thanks."

Moments later, a tall girl with darkish blond hair walked in. She had a large backpack on; two heavy satchels were slung over her shoulders, the straps crossing in the center of her chest. In each hand was a suitcase. Though straining some, it was clear she carried the burden with little difficulty.

"Well, looks like this is my side of the room." The newcomer said with a clear, southern accent.

Dropping the suitcases and peeling off the attached luggage revealed a young woman about six inches taller than Daria, with a solid body frame, wide hips, and somewhat larger bust line than Daria's. She wore patched blue jeans, round-toed cowboy boots and a short-sleeved plaid shirt.

"Hi. Karen Myerson." She extended her hand to Daria.

Daria rose and accepted the handshake. "Daria Morgendorffer."

The two looked at each other for a few minutes, searching for something more to say.

Daria finally said, "Are your parents bringing up the rest of your stuff?"

"Nah. This is it, for now. My folks couldn't afford the trip, sent me here by Greyhound. I shipped my books and some other stuff by UPS, should be here by Tuesday."

Daria looked at the amount of stuff she brought with and felt self-conscious. "Um. My family will be back from checking into their hotel soon. We're going out to dinner. Would you like to come along?"

"Thank you, much. "I've been on buses or in stations since yesterday morning. The only real meal I've had was this morning, during a layover in D. C."

"You must be starving by now."

"I've been worse. Let me get some of this unpacked and run down the hall for a quick shower. I've been in these clothes the whole trip and really want to get in something clean."

"Go ahead. If my parents get back before you do, I'll have them wait."

The Morgendorffers were unpacking more of Daria's things. Quinn was hanging clothes in the closet. Helen unpacked the compact appliances, coffee maker, microwave, and hotplate. Jake was transferring books to the shelf over Daria's head, as she worked to connect her computer components.

Karen walked in toweling her hair. She had changed to a pair of olive colored, cargo pant shorts, a blue t-shirt with "Owen Farm Supply" in white letters on the front, and grey sneakers.

"Oh, hi everybody."

Daria turned and tugged on Jake's sleeve to get his attention. "This is Karen...Karen; this is my father, Jake; my mother, Helen; and my alleged sister, Quinn."

Karen nodded to each, who in turn responded with kind. "If you will excuse me." She went to her closet and opened the door to reveal the modest mirror built in. She started combing her hair.

Jake rubbed his hands together. "Daria told us she invited you with to dinner, as soon as you're ready, let's go. I'm starving."

Karen smiled. "Give me a minute."

How could I be so stupid? Daria thought as Jake rambled on about his father. Exposing somebody I just met to this.

Daria, her family, and her new roommate, Karen, were seated in a buffet restaurant near the Raft campus. The campus-based décor and general wear on the tables indicated that the place was popular with students. The food was simple, cheap, flavorful, and plentiful.

Jake waved his fist in the air. "Oh, no! It was bad enough that he couldn't get me to go straight into the Marines, but to have me say no to ROTC at Middleton. I thought he was going to blow a vein that night."

Daria leaned over toward Karen and whispered. "I plead temporary insanity. Nobody should be introduced to my dad like this without prior warning."

Karen watched Jake with a stunned look on her face. She whispered back to Daria, "I'm sure you just meant to be polite. My uncle Steve gets like this sometimes. But, you usually need to prime him with a fifth of Jack."

Jake dropped his head low to the table and almost growled. "Said going to Vietnam would make a man out of me, like Korea did for him. 'Course, he never mentioned that he was only there four months."

Helen placed a hand firmly on his shoulder and sternly said, "Jake." When he turned to face her, she softened her voice and said, "I think that's enough for now. Why don't we let our guest tell a little about herself?"

Jake calmed. "Oh. Yeah."

Helen turned toward Karen. "So, where are you from?"

"A little town in south Georgia."

"What do your parents do?"

"Farming. Mostly vegetable crops: onion, sweet corn, and tomatoes."

"Both of them?"

"Yeah, it's the family business. They're fourth generation on the land. My older brother will hopefully be the fifth."

"So what brings you to Raft?"

"The Pre-Vet program. I worked a couple summers for one of the local veterinarians and caught the bug. He was willing to put in a letter of recommendation to his Alma Mater, so here I am."

Quinn perked up at her comments. "Veterinarian. That is so cool. Getting to work with puppies and kittens all the time."

Karen smirked a little. "Actually, I'll probably end up as a large animal vet, like cows and pigs."

Quinn's face scrunched. "Ewww." After a moment though, her eyes brightened. "Hey, that would also include horses."

"There is that."

Daria's interest was also piqued. "I heard that's one of the tougher programs to get into."

"Fortunately, I was always considered the brain of the family, so my grades helped. So did the summer work and that letter. I'm very lucky to get here."

Daria relaxed a little. It looked like she had a roommate with a reasonable intelligence.

Karen continued talking to Daria. "So, what's your major?"

"English and Education"

"Major and minor?"

"Double major."

"You've got guts. Let me guess, you want to be a writer, but want the teaching credentials to keep food on the table."

"I like food on the table."

Helen interjected. "Daria will have one of her short stories published in the October issue of Literature in Action."

"Cool. I'll have to read it when it comes out."

Jake attempted to join the conversation. "Are you two ready to stand in line for class registration?"

Karen tilted her head to the left, and Daria rolled her eyes before saying, "Dad. I pre-registered online a couple months ago. All incoming freshman did, or used the telephone registration. The only people who will be in line at the registrar's office tomorrow will be those who want to add/drop classes and have to turn in permission slips. Even regular add/drop is online. However, I hear the line at financial aid is legendary."

"You mean you won't have to fight for three days to get all the classes you want?"

"No, Dad."

"Then why did they make you arrive so early?"

"To get everything ready before classes start a week from Tuesday. Orientation is on Monday. I have an appointment Tuesday to get my computers configured and hooked up to the campus network. Library orientation is on Wednesday. Student life workshops are on Thursday and campus safety on Friday. Sometime in there, I want to comparison shop between the campus bookstore and the local independents, to get the best price on used textbooks."

Karen nodded along with Daria as she reviewed the week. "Plus, give some of us time to deal with that legendary financial aid line."

Helen asked, "Karen, I didn't see a computer for you. That's not part of what you shipped, was it?"

"No. We only had one computer at home. Mom and Dad need it for the business more. Once I get my financial aid, I'm hoping to get a good, local-made Frankenstein. Until then, I'll be using the library computers.

Helen quietly said, "Oh."

Daria looked down at her plate in silence.

After breakfast the next day, the Morgendorffers headed off for a guided tour of campus. They were lead by a young man in a polo shirt, who mumbled his own name so badly that it was unrecognizable. The campus was arranged around a large quadrangle, the original resident halls along the north side for men, south side for women. The east side held the administrative offices and some of the teaching halls. The west perimeter was lined by more of the teaching halls. Later additions to the school radiated out from these reference points, following the same pattern. The sorority houses fell away to the south from the quad, fraternities to the north. The newer teaching buildings and the library were to the west, as well as the small stadium and gymnasium. The cafeteria was next to the south side of main admin building, promising to nauseate staff as well as students. The bookstore was to the opposite side of admin. Glimpsed, but not explored were the student-centered businesses that arise around campuses: copier services, bookstores, bars, restaurants, music, video, convenience stores and coffee houses.

The guides speech was dull, canned and could have been omitted for anyone capable of reading the large signs in front of each building. The Morgendorffers made small talk among themselves, with Helen, Jake, and Quinn taking turns quietly talking to Daria.

The young man in the polo shirt gave a friendly wave to the Morgendorffers. "Good bye. I hope you enjoyed the Raft tour." He turned and jogged off across the quad, lit by the noon-day sun.

Daria stood, with her family, next to the SUV. In place of her old clothes, she had on blue jeans and a black Mystik Spiral t-shirt.

"Well everybody, you've seen where I'll be spending the next four years. You probably want to get going so you can be back in Lawndale at a reasonable time."

Jake looked downcast. "You're right. We do need to get going."

Helen added, "Good thing we checked out early and loaded up. Gave us a little more time with our girl."

Quinn hugged Daria and spoke into her ear. "Please call often. I don't know how I'm going to deal with them by myself."

"Be brave. I promise I'll call regularly. They probably won't let me do to the other students what I used to do to you." Daria returned to Quinn's ear.

Quinn backed away and lightly punched her sister. "Daria."

Daria smiled at Quinn. "Remember to give as well as you get."

Quinn nodded.

Jake and Helen both moved in and hugged Daria.

Helen's voice choked with emotion. "Please don't forget to call us from time to time. We're going to miss you."

Jake said, "We'll always be there for you."

Daria couldn't resist. "Or at least the answering machine will."

Jake missed the sarcasm. "It sure will be, just leave a message and we'll call back right away."

Helen sighed, but recognized the truth behind the sarcasm. "But you know I keep my cell phone with me. Don't be afraid to call there."

"I won't, Mom."

Jake and Helen embraced Daria again, and both said, "Good bye."

"Good bye. Mom, Dad, Quinn. Please drive safe. I'll call later."

The three settled into the SUV and waved back to Daria as they drove away.

Daria absentmindedly said hello to her various neighbors in the dorm hall. Names were beginning to coalesce with faces, but none were comfortable yet. She reached her door and set down the small laundry basket she carried. Inside, she faintly heard Karen's voice.

"Her family was kind of out there, but she seems to be okay...At least I got a good meal out of it...Crazy kid's a double major, English and Education...Leave it to my brother to ask...She's petite and really cute."

Daria found herself compelled to listen in as she thought. She can't be talking about me.

"Auburn hair, slim build, round glasses...I'd kill to have her hips instead of this bus bumper I got from Mom."

You're kidding. You want my hips?

Yeah. That's about right...The main thing I'm afraid of is that there will be a herd of boys following her around."

She's afraid I'll have a string of boys through here? She can't be confusing me with Quinn. Daria was dumbfounded

Karen's voiced changed to one of good-natured humor. "It was bad enough fielding calls from all the girls you used to date...Yes, it was that bad...Don't give me any of that crap...I still have all my notes...I thought that'd get your attention...She'd love to hear about some of those winners...I thought you'd see things my way...Anyway, I hope I don't end up dealing with a continuous series of guys asking her out or whatever."

Daria grinned. No worries there.

Karen continued to talk. "Thanks, brother. I'll try to keep myself out of trouble...At least better than you did at Georgia Tech...Okay...You take care, too...Good night."

Daria stood still, staring at the door for a good minute before she shook her head and opened it.

"Hi, Karen. Finally finished the parent tour and they're on the way home. Do you mind if I just veg around here a while?"

"Go ahead. I just finished talking with my brother and want to get some fresh air."

"See you later."

Karen left and Daria sat on her bed. She felt a lump by the pillow and pulled out a wrapped package.

I'm going to miss you. You'd better enjoy college for putting me through this. You won't be able to wear it now, but you should enjoy it this fall.


Daria opened the package to find a dark green sweater inside. The color matched her old jacket perfectly. Daria felt the delicate softness of the fabric as she removed it from the box. She read the label.

"Cashmere. Just like you, Quinn. This must have been expensive; I hope you used your employee discount to buy it at Cashman's. Not what I would have chosen, but thanks."

Daria folded the sweater and placed it in one of her dresser drawers. She went to the basket and withdrew her clothes from the day before. She went to her closet and pulled out a tiny ironing board and clothes iron. She lightly pressed each item as needed. She clipped the black skirt to the lower edge of a wooden hanger. She slid a second hanger through the neck of the ochre t-shirt and placed the jacket over that. She zipped up the jacket, placed the two hangers together and fitted a garment bag around them. She closed the bag and gently hung it in the closet.

"Thank you. You have served me well and earned your respected retirement. Now rest."

Daria closed the closet door, walked to her bed and sat. She rested her arm on the window sill and stared out into the residence hall's inner quad. A couple students were lying on beach towels, sun-bathing. Some were throwing frisbees around. Others were talking, getting to know each other. A contented smile spread on her face.

"I made it. I'm a college student. I'm in a world that is dedicated to learning and not just paying lip service to it." Daria yawned and shook her head to clear it. "I hope my roommate doesn't keep waking up at six in the morning."

Thanks to: Lawndale Stalker, Roger E. Moore, Mike Nassour, and SteveBlumDeckler at PPMB for commentary and encouragement.

Special thanks to Kristen Bealer and Robert Nowell for beta reading and detailed editorial suggestions.

July 2004
Revised January 2005