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 second story in the Falling into College series.

Richard Lobinske

Returning Nightmare

"I can't believe I'm doing this."

Jane Lane stood before the front doors of Lawndale High School. Short, black hair and bright blue eyes topped a lean figure wearing a red shirt tucked into black slacks over heavy boots. Scattered cars were visible in the parking lot, but otherwise the school looked oddly deserted. The hot late August sun shown down on Jane's back as she prepared herself to go in.

Raising her right hand, Jane shouted. "Morituri te salutant," and walked through the doors.

Angela Li's office looked the same as recent years. Ms. Li also looked the same in her power suit and square framed glasses.

"Have a seat, Ms. Lane."

Jane sat in one of the chairs, thinking of the times she sat there for being in some kind of trouble.

"Welcome to the Lawndale High School teaching staff. I know your Teaching Assistant appointment is only for the first half of the school year, but I like the idea of such an honored student as you returning to Lawndale High to help teach."

"Since when was I considered an honored student?"

"When I agreed to let Ms. Defoe hire you."

Jane placed a lidded, manila folder labeled, Lawndale High School Student Leaders Honor Society on the desk in front of Ms. Li.

"I'd wondered if this had anything to do with it. The school copy of the charter, our president requested that I deliver it to you."

During the summer, a prominent lawyer had offered to establish an honor society for recent LHS graduates. As expected, Ms. Li was more than happy to accommodate. The two star students of the last senior class were selected, Jodie Landon and Michael MacKenzie. Much to Ms. Li's horror, the other two students chosen to fill the inaugural membership were the young woman sitting in front of her, and her best friend, Daria Morgendorffer.

Jane slipped one hand into her pocket and grasped the cable release for the nonmetallic, miniature camera mounted as a shirt button. She thought, I don't want to know where Daria finds these toys, but the photos will be priceless.

Ms. Li opened the folder and read the cover letter. It was fairly much standard boilerplate, but when she read the president's signature, Ms. Li's eyes bulged into something more commonly seen on Anthony Demartino and she uttered a strangled, "What!"

"Is there a problem?"

"How did that misanthrope, Ms. Morgendorffer, become president?"

Jane clicked away at the shutter cable on the hidden camera. "Well, Jodie refused the position, so she, Mack, and I ganged up on Daria. She never stood a chance."

Ms. Li's mouth dropped open and she struggled to speak. Suddenly, she looked at Jane with a new respect. Jane, along with Jodie and Mack, had succeeded in getting Daria to join something and stay with it. A task she personally hadn't succeeded at.

"That can't be helped now. Thank you for delivering the charter. It will look good to have one of the members of this new society on hand to promote it to this year's senior class."

Jane thought, Oh. Great.

"Back to your business. Have you read the staff handbook?"


Ms. Li examined papers from a folder in front of her. "All your paperwork appears to be in order. We're done for now. Why don't we go meet your fellow teachers in the lounge?"

They walked down the deserted halls toward the faculty lounge. Jane paused at the door before opening it and entering.

Angela Li stalked into the room at a fast pace. "Welcome our newest assistant, Ms. Jane Lane. She will be working directly with Claire Defoe. She's one of our recent graduates; she's gone from Self-Esteem class outcast, to honor society member, and now to teaching staff. I think her fine example of perseverance will bring much glory to Lawndale High. Don't forget the staff policy review meeting will be in the auditorium today at ten. I want those first trimester lesson plans on my desk by noon tomorrow. Okay everybody. Back to work."

"Ms. Lane. What a pleasure to see you back so soon." Anthony Demartino's voice boomed from the other side of the room.

Jane cringed back a bit at the sound of her old history teacher.

Anthony walked across the room to her. His voice was slightly calmer than Jane was used to hearing. "It really is a pleasure to see a new face interested in such noble, but thankless, endeavor. Welcome aboard."

Claire Defoe also walked up to Jane. "I'm so happy you're here. I'm looking forward to working with you."

"Jane. I think it's wonderful when a strong young woman, such as you, decides to and teach." Janet Barch said as she stood from her chair.

Timothy O'Neill briefly consulted a note before looking toward Jane. "It's good to see one of our fine students return to share the love of learning instilled by Lawndale."

Jane fought back rolling her eyes at the almost predictable responses. One of the disadvantages of attending a small school like Lawndale, even low-key students like me are remembered by the faculty. These people were my teachers three months ago, and now they'll be my colleagues.

"Thanks everyone. To be honest, it feels a little strange being back here. I hope I don't embarrass myself too much."

Claire whispered to Jane, "Probably no more than we do."

A single thought rolled through Jane's mind like a mantra. Paying for BFAC.

The art classroom was mostly empty. Claire and Jane walked in from the supply room carrying a large box each.

"Not very exciting, but having you prepare supplies for each class is going to be relief."

"No problem. Out of curiosity, how were you able to pry the money from Ms. Li to hire help this year?"

They set the boxed down in front of two chairs.

"I didn't. I got a grant from the State Teachers Association."

"That I believe more than Li giving up money. So, what do you have to do for them to get the money?"

Claire began removing bulk paint containers from her box, checking against an inventory as she did.

"Helping to write the new state standards for high school art education."

Jane was removing paint brushes, wrapped in groups in newspaper. She unwrapped each bundle and checked them off on another inventory sheet.

"Cool. What else besides doing the supply prep will I be doing?"

"You will work with me during class to help with student projects."

"I was hoping. Let's see if I have what it takes to teach."

"It's not as easy as it looks. Follow my lead."

The Lawndale faculty performed a display of unsynchronized yawns as they exited the auditorium a little before noon. To an outside observer, a herd instinct appeared to control the group as it amorphously moved to the lounge.

Jane gave Claire a pleading look. "Are all of the meetings like that?"

"That's the first-of-the-year shocker. Ms. Li uses it as a threat to keep all subsequent meetings under control."

"So it works?"

"Do you want to go through that again?"

"It works."

The staff filed into the lounge and scattered to various locations, chairs, tables, refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker. Jane made a direct run for the coffee. Several instructors had cups they clearly kept on hand, while others used styrofoam. She poured a foam cup, added real milk from a nearby carton and a bit of sugar.

"Whoa. This is very good coffee."

"It is one of the few pleasures we have to get us through the day. So, Timothy donates the stuff Ms. Li buys to a shelter, and we buy our own. This week is Kenya AA." Anthony poured coffee into a dark blue mug. "Donation's a dollar a week. We started last year to celebrate our successful strike."

Diane Bennett brought over a carton of half-and-half from the refrigerator. "We also provide our own supplies; otherwise, the alternative is that." She pointed to a small, quarter operated gumball dispenser with non-dairy creamer inside.

Jane shook her head as she retrieved her lunch and located a vacant chair. Halfway through her sandwich, an irritating voice cut the air from one side.

"Well, well. Jane Lane. I wonder how long you are going to last at this before you quit."

Jane turned to see Ms. Morris. "My contract is through the winter break, so expect to see me darkening the door here until then."

"Ha. You won't last a month. You're a Lane and will slack off long before you're done. Just like you and your sisters have always done."

"I can't help the grudge you've held for two years. I have my reasons to be here and intend to stay. Why don't we just avoid each other to prevent any more of this warm conversation?"

Jane stood and walked away.

"Why does that woman still get to me?" Jane complained to the empty bedroom.

A long run and hot shower after work hadn't relieved all of the frustration at her old track coach and PE teacher. She was stretched out on her bed in black shorts and v-neck shirt. A towel was draped over the stacked pillows to keep her damp hair from soaking them.

"Flies with a nefarious way to smuggle themselves into the county. You've got me under your skin. Next on Sick, Sad World."

"Grrgh. Repeat."

Jane picked up the remote and started channel surfing. "Crap...No way...That's still on?...Ugh."

The ringing telephone stopped her. "Saved by the bell." She answered with, "Lawndale Sausage Factory. You don't want to know what kind of critters go in our fritters."

Daria Morgendorffer replied without missing a beat, "I bet you use everything but the 'Eap'."

"Daria! Great to hear from you. How's the indoctrination coming?"

"About as well as can be expected. At least they didn't hit us with any psychological tests the first day."

"Yeah. Wouldn't want you meeting a new best friend."

"You can't get rid of me that easily."

"Not that I haven't tried."

"You're just trying. How was your first day of indoctrination?"

"Scary. You thought Ms. Li's student assemblies were boring. Her staff assemblies are worse."

"I didn't think it was possible."

"Sorry to say, it is."

"Speaking of the devil, how did the handover of the charter go?"

"I still have the download the pictures to my computer, but the look on her face was something to be seen."

"I can't wait."

"After the initial shock, she gave me the weirdest look. If I didn't know any better, I'd say it was respect."

"You're obviously hallucinating."

"I wish I was in the teacher's lounge. Mr. Demartino was nice to me. Barch and O'Neill making eyes at each other, eww. That reminds me. Want to hear what they were up to behind the podium during your graduation speech?"

"No. I don't want to burn my ears off."


"Some things mankind was never meant to know."

"I wish I didn't."

"Anything else exciting?"

"Morris is still a first-class bitch; had a pleasant run-in with her during lunch."

"That's one person I never want to see again."

"You and me both. But I don't have a choice. Speaking of no choice, what kind of weirdo do you have as a roommate?"

"Nothing glaringly obvious. Karen seems like a reasonably serious student so far. Her southern accent sounds really out of place in Boston though. Didn't react badly to my posters, hasn't hung any herself yet. Shows no signs yet of being a neat-freak or a pig. Polite, but not overly friendly."

"Sounds like the two alpha females are calmly studying each other before the fight for dominance."

"Could be."

"Remember. You can't kill your roommate. They probably frown on maiming also."

"Then I'll just have to save up all the frustration for when you arrive."

"A warm thought for me as always."

A crashing guitar cord reverberated through the house.

"Sounds like the Spiral is downstairs."

"Must be about to crank up practice. Talk to you later when I don't have to yell."

"Give Trent my regards. Talk to you later."

Claire stood at the front of the room. "Good morning, everyone. I am Ms. Defoe and this is room A-12. Please check your schedules to make sure you're in the right place. First period class will be Senior Art. I would like to introduce my assistant for the first half of the year. Ms. Lane, will you please come up front?"

"Oh, God." Jane quietly said to herself. She self-consciously checked her clothes, a bright red long-sleeve shirt rolled to the elbows, knee length black skirt, black leggings, and her boots.

She stepped out from the storeroom into class and walked to the front of the room. She vaguely recognized a few of the students looking at her, but for the most part they were a blur. One goofy, wide grin under a cap of black hair stood out from the crowd. The figure looked odd in a pale blue t-shirt and blue jeans, but there was no mistaking Kevin Thompson.

"Jane! How're you doing, babe."

Claire developed a very cross expression at his outburst. "Kevin! You will address her as Ms. Lane. You will not use her first name. You will not use 'babe'."

"Um. Sorry."

"Please tell us a little about yourself, Ms. Lane."

Jane reached the front near Claire. "Hi. Some of you recognize me as a recent graduate of Lawndale. I will be assisting Ms. Defoe during the first half of the year before leaving for Boston Fine Arts College in January. To use the words of a good friend: I hope to get out of here unscathed."

The dissonant roar of the school cafeteria assaulted Jane's ears as she sat down at a table reserved for staff.

"Great. Bottom of the pecking order, so I get the jobs nobody else wants. Now I have to watch the students eat instead of ignore them."

Jane's view of the room was abruptly blocked by Kevin sitting down across the table from her. This close, she noticed that he had a considerably darker tan than normal and wondered if his dad had put him to work over the summer in his construction company.

"You know, Jane, with Brittany away at Great Prairie State, I have an opening for a new babe."

"Kevin. You're starting to have as much appeal as Upchuck."


"Read my lips. I like humans."


Jane rose from her seat and barked in a loud voice, "You'll address me as Ms. Lane. This table is for school staff only. Get up and sit at one of the student tables. Now!"

"Yes, Ms. Lane."

Kevin walked over and started to sit with the football team. They spread out enough to prevent him from sitting, so he wandered from table to table, only to be rejected at each. Finally, he sat at an empty table. Jane recognized it well; she sat there for four years.

Returning from lunch, Jane was about to enter the art room when she heard voices.

"Claire, I know you like her. But, that family is a bunch of complete losers and quitters. What are you going to do when she up and leaves in a month or so?"

"She won't."

"Don't bet on it."

"This is what she loves. She won't leave it easily."

"She also liked running, but quit that easily enough. Or that poster contest."

Ms. Morris, we both have class soon. I think you need to get over to yours."

"Okay. But don't say I didn't warn you. That girl hasn't amounted to a hill of beans in her entire life. Just like her sisters. She spent four years here and has nothing to show for it but a piece of paper."

Jane stepped to the side so that the opening door blocked her from Ms. Morris's view. Jane's anger smoldered at Ms. Morris's comments. Jane thought, Nothing to show for it? I think we can fix that.

Once Ms. Morris was down the hall, Jane entered the classroom.

"Sorry about that. Ms. Morris has had a bone to pick with me ever since I was a freshman. My short track team career didn't help any either."

"Choosing between the team and a friend. I understand."

"How'd you know?"

"I'm an artist. I observe. Especially my favorite students."

Jane smiled. "I'll have to be careful around you. Doesn't she know about the honor society last summer?"

"I don't think so."

"I think we need to educate her. Do you mind if I make a brief stop before we leave today?"

"Jane. You're not going to do something rash, are you?"

"Me. Rash?"


"No. But I am going to do something I've never consciously done before." Jane imitated Ms. Li. "Bring honor and glory to Lawndale High."

She smiled and looked thoughtful for a moment. "And get a friend some recognition she deserves."

"Yep. Bottom of the pecking order. Study hall overseer. I guess it means Claire trusts me at least."

Jane sat at the front of the class. Current student projects had been moved to the side of the room to leave blank tables, chairs and desks. Students were drifting in slowly when Jane recognized Quinn's bright red hair moving into the room. Close behind were the rest of her friends, Sandi, Stacy and Tiffany.

"This has the potential to be a lot of fun."

The bell ringing brought the students to final decisions on seats. Jane stood and faced the room.

"Good afternoon. I'm Ms. Lane and I will supervise your study hall this period. I expect you to treat me the same as Ms. Defoe. Otherwise, I will make your existence most unpleasant. Some of you are familiar enough with me to know that this is not an empty threat." Jane looked directly at Quinn during the last comment.

Quinn gave Jane a weak smile, and then quietly said, "Oh, no."

Sandi watched Quinn's reaction. "Quinn. Isn't that your sister's weird art friend?"

Stacy added, "I thought she graduated last year."

Tiffany cocked her head a little to the left. "Yeah. Graduated."

Jane watched the foursome with amusement before continuing. "You're supposed to use this time to study or do homework. Like that's going to happen."

Jane grinned to the class. "I ask that you keep yourself physically within the room. Don't damage the room, its contents, or its occupants. Finally, keep the volume to something manageable. If you can do that, we'll get along fine."

Joey, Jamie, and Jeffy entered the room, clearly having been running to get there.

Jane turned to look directly at the three and crossed her arms. "Late on your first day. Do you think I should make an example of you?"

Joey said, "Uh, we're only a little late."

Jamie added, "Coach Gibson had us stay a little late at gym."

Jeffy shuffled his feet. "Should we have gotten a note?"

Jane stifled a laugh. "Yes. You should have. Now find a seat. I just told the rest of the class that I expect you do stay put, not wreck the room, or each other, and to keep it down. Do you think you can handle that?"

The three voiced several affirmatives as they struggled to locate seats near Quinn. Jane watched with continued amusement, but thought it odd that Jamie was less enthusiastic than last year.

"One last warning. Since I have you as a captive audience, I will be using you for drawing studies. So if you don't want be drawn in a compromising position, don't get me upset."

Jane sat down at the front desk and pulled out a sketchpad to make the point.

Jane stepped from the blue classic VW Beetle and turned to Claire. "Thanks for the ride."

"You're welcome. See you in the morning." The Beetle pulled away as Jane turned to face the house.

"I thought the first day of my freshman year was bad."

Jane walked into the house and directly to her room. Minutes later, Jane emerged wearing running gear. She peeked through the open door of Trent's room and found it empty. She went downstairs, found the kitchen also empty. Jane headed down the next set of stairs to the basement. Down there, she found Trent plugging his guitar into an amplifier.

"Hey! Trent. I'm going for a run. Be back in a half-hour or so."

"Have fun. By the way, where have you been all day?"

"Um, Trent. First day of school."

"I thought you graduated."

Jane picked up some dirty laundry to throw. As she took aim, she saw Trent's smirk.


"Weird, having your own sister cross over to the dark side."

"Hey! It's only temporary."

"Yeah. You can quit any time. How'd things go today?"

"How long have you got?"

Quinn sat at the sales desk for the children's department of Cashman's. She was reading a battered, paperback copy of Inferno. "LHS English Dept." was written on the spine. She set the book down and rubbed her eyes.

"Now I see why Daria liked that Dante guy, but I can only take so much. I can't believe Mr. O'Neill is starting off the year with it."

She picked up a small notebook and started writing. After a few moments, she erased part of what she wrote and quickly penciled in something new. A wry grin spread across her face as she continued writing.

"I'm probably going to regret writing this letter to Ms. Li, but Jane was right. Daria deserves it, she'll hate it, and there's nothing she can do about it." Quinn grinned at being able to have a little fun with her sister, and started writing again.

Ms. Li,

I was wondering if you were going to recognize my sister, Daria, for being the first president of that new Honor Society at Lawndale. My parents and I were very proud of her for that, and I think she should be given the attention by the school that she deserves.

Quinn Morgendorffer

Quinn tapped the pencil eraser on her chin as she thought a bit more. "I wonder what Jane is really up to?"

"I hate this." Daria complained over the telephone.

"You'll do fine." Jane replied as she cradled the cordless phone on her shoulder. She continued to work on a painting of Daria, wearing a blue one-piece swimsuit, sitting on a beach chair. A young blond man looked up at her from his seat on the ground.

"Fine? You can pay my counseling bills."

"We'll take up a collection."

"Good to know who my friends are."

"At least you don't have to be there in person."

"My only consolation."

"Changing the subject. You've had a full week of college class. How is it?"

"Better than high school, but you can still tell these are freshman classes. Concentrating on getting my required courses out of the way, so they aren't the most exciting. However, I have to work and learn more to keep up. Kind of fun.

"So you finally found something you'd admit was fun. Figures it would be more school."

"So, I'm still the weird chick."

"That's why you're my friend."

"How did you survive your first week?"

"Kevin made a pass at me. Thing is, it wasn't any fun to shoot him down. It just seemed too easy. I'm stuck with cafeteria watch and covering Claire's study hall. Quinn and the rest of the fiends are in that. Your sister's puppy patrol is also there. That group dynamic is very entertaining. I'm going to have sketch material for months after this. Otherwise, not much to say unless you really enjoy hearing about storerooms and ordering supplies."

"Please tell me you are tormenting Quinn. She deserves it for writing that letter."

"Only when the opportunity occurs. I don't want her to appear as a teacher's pet."

"Now that's an evil thought. She would be mortified."

"Hmm. Nice weapon to keep in the arsenal."

"Since you're bound to ask. I'm mostly getting along with my roommate, but at times it is trying. You'd kill her."


"Farm girl. She has a habit of getting out of bed at six AM or earlier. At least that means she goes to bed early."

"Six? That's obscene. No human would do that."

"Or at least any human we know."

"Talking to you is a great way to finish off a Monday, but I need to call it quits. I want to get in a good run before dark."

"I probably should get back to writing. Talk to you Friday."

Jane grinned. "Yeah. Friday." Jane turned off the phone and tossed it up in the air. "I sure could count on Quinn not to waste any time getting that letter out. Sibling rivalry can be such a useful tool. Now to wait for the fun."

"Wait for the fun? Am I going to need bail money for you?"

Jane turned to face Trent entering the room.

"Not in the least. This is an official, school sanctioned event."

Trent raised one eyebrow.

"Really. For a change, though, I'm going to enjoy the results."

"Are you sure I won't need to raise bail?"


Trent laughed and coughed some. He motioned with his head toward the painting. Jane nodded her head to invite him to look.

Trent rubbed his chin and examined the painting. After a few moments, he shook his head and faced Jane. "Can I ask you a question?"

"Uh. Sure."

He pointed to the painting. "Doesn't Daria see how she looks?"

Jane sadly smiled. "A little. Sometimes."

"Blind spot in her own mirror."

As the last of the students exited the room for Friday assembly, Jane removed a white protective smock. Underneath, she wore a red dress shirt with her black skirt. She buttoned the top button and fitted a black clip-on tie to her neck.

"Ready as I'll ever be."

A few minutes later, she stood at the stage wing watching Ms. Li at the podium. Claire and most of the other teachers were at the back of the auditorium. Ms. Li had already gone through several small orders of business.

Ms. Li looked to the side, making sure Jane was present. "Now an important announcement for the senior class. Through the generosity of one of our state's finest lawyers, Carol Murphey, Lawndale High School now recognizes four graduates each year for outstanding achievement in Student Leadership, Artistic Achievement, Academic Achievement, and Athletic Leadership. It gives me great pride to introduce the president and Academic Achievement representative for the 1999 inaugural class, of the Lawndale High School Student Leaders Honor Society. Speaking to us by telephone from Raft University, Ms. Daria Morgendorffer."

Daria's voice was broadcast over the public address system. "Thank you Ms. Li. Greetings to the class of 2000. I want to encourage you to participate to the fullest in your chosen areas of interest in the hope that you will be recognized by the faculty screening committee to this honor. To quote from our charter: This society will provide a venue to recognize a high school career of hard work, and to provide an atmosphere for these student leaders to network together in preparation for their future. I can speak from experience that my participation in this society has allowed me to develop bonds with fellow student leaders that will endure long into the future. I wish to recognize our faculty nominating committee: Ms. Defoe for art, Mr. Demartino for academics, Mr. Gibson for athletics, and Ms. Li for student leadership."

The three teachers waved from the back of the room; Ms. Li nodded from the side of the stage.

Daria continued. "Besides myself, the 1999 representatives were Jodie Landon for Student Leadership and Michael MacKenzie for Athletic Leadership. Finally, one of our own has returned to help instill her love of art to the students of Lawndale High and will be presenting the permanent plaque for the main office. My friend, Jane Lane."

Jane forced a pleasant smile, and stepped onto the stage carrying the plaque. She glanced to the side enough to see a camera flash at the back of the room.

"Thank you, Daria."

Jane looked at the ornate brass work on a sturdy oak board. Down the left side was a column of years, starting with 1999, engraved on a strip of brass. To the right were four more strips, with one name at the top of each, below a title for the area of achievement.

Jane looked at a note and spoke under her breath.

"I just want to say how proud I am today. Knowing that I have self-esteem gives me even more self-esteem."

She chuckled quietly at the memory, and moved into range of the microphone again.

"On behalf of all the members of the class of 1999, I wish to extend our thanks to the teachers who guided and encouraged us. Personally, I wish to thank Ms. Defoe for four years of steadfast support."

Jane handed the plaque to Ms. Li, and then looked directly at Ms. Morris. "This recognition from Lawndale High allows me to say, to those who doubted, my life is worth more than a hill of beans. I hope that future members will find the same satisfaction from this honor as I do."

Jane left the stage with a genuine smile on her face.

Jane made her way around to the back of the auditorium. She noticed with some satisfaction that Ms. Morris was absent. She sidled up to a happy-looking Claire.

"I saw the flash; think you got a good one?"

"Jane. You're incorrigible. I think you'll be happy with the result."

"My best friend received some of the recognition she deserves, and Ms. Morris knows that I'm more than a pathetic loser. I think I'm happy.

Quote from The Esteemsters by Glenn Eichler

Thanks for comments, suggestions and encouragement from: Lawndale Stalker, Mahna Mahna, Mike Nassour, Isa Yo-Jo, Steven Galloway, Kristen Bealer, Roger E. Moore, qwerty, and Parker-man at PPMB.

Special thanks to Kristen Bealer and Robert Nowell for beta reading and commentary.

July 2004
Revised January 2005