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 fifth story in the Falling into College series.
Quinn the Tutor
Claire Defoe saw the garment bag over Jane Lane's shoulder and laughed. Jane jogged up to the blue VW Beetle from her house and tossed the bag into the rear seat.
"Jane, I've said it before; you're incorrigible."
"Yes, I am. Please incorrige."
"Was that necessary?" Claire shifted the car into reverse and backed out of the Lane driveway.
"If I don't let them out, my head will explode."
Claire stopped in the street, shifted gears, and started down the road toward Lawndale High School.
"You know how Ms. Li feels about Halloween costumes."
"I'm exposing less skin than normal, it's very conservative, and it's something someone's mother would wear."
Claire laughed. "You're right. Are you still planning on posing?"
"Wouldn't miss it for the world, plus it gives me another reason if Ms. Li gets weird on me."
"I hope Pavlov brought the props over from the theater."
"They're not that heavy. If needed, I could grab a strong back and weak mind from home room to bring them over."
"I guess that would give Kevin something useful to do."
"I walked right into that one."
Quinn Morgendorffer sat at the kitchen table. She briefly looked at her father, Jake, reading the paper, and softly sighed. Despite finding it rather dull, she went back to reading the latest issue of Waif. Quinn was starting to understand Daria's old habit. Though little was said, she felt a quiet closeness to her father. She was almost finished with her fat-free breakfast bar when her mother, Helen, entered the room.
"Quinn, I'm so glad I caught you before you left."
Quinn thought, Oh, no. Not again...Oh, God. I used a quote Daria said came from one of her books.
"It's wonderful that you've been so academically successful lately, but I am a little concerned about your college applications. Fashion Club vice-president for three years looks good, but what are you going to use for extracurriculars this year?"
"Mom, I haven't had much time, what with my job at Cashman's and dating."
"Quinn, I'm not blind; you're only working two evenings a week on school days, and you haven't been on nearly as many dates as you were last year."
"Thanks, Mom. Rub it in."
"I'm just saying that I think you have a little free time for some more activities to put on your college applications. What have your friends been doing this year?"
"Sandi continued her summer job as an assistant at the TV station with her mother. She tried to host an afternoon show on teen fashion, but it was cancelled after a week. Stacy has been working on something with her dad, but won't tell us what. Tiffany has been spending a lot more time studying; she was scared by her SAT scores last year and wants to bring them up. I've been helping her during study hall."
Quinn's hand went to her mouth and her eyes widened as she realized the last slipped out.
Helen smiled and thought. Works every time. Now I can talk to you about it without letting on that Daria told me about it last week.
"Helping Tiffany? That's wonderful. It's so generous of you to do that. We could probably get that counted as an activity for you." Having you tutor should also help your confidence. I don't want you to loose that.
"Mom, Tiffany's always been a little...slow. She's embarrassed and would like to keep things quiet."
"You said you were doing that in study hall. Don't you think anybody would notice there?"
"The other students won't say anything about it. Ms. Lane and I have an agreement, too."
"Ms. Lane, who's...You mean Jane?"
"Yes. Sorry, she's strict about calling her that at school, kind of get in the habit."
Helen glared at Quinn. "And what kind of agreement is this?"
"I worked with Jane to help her brother on something, so she doesn't say anything to Ms. Li and the other faculty about this. Li always wants to make a big, public display of these things."
But Jane did say something to Daria. Quinn, I need to teach you how to cut better deals on keeping things quiet. She said to Quinn, "Any other...deals?"
"Mo-om! That's a special case. Like, I would regularly make deals with a member of the faculty." Quinn shuddered. "Ugh."
"Okay Quinn, we won't embarrass Tiffany. But would you consider tutoring somebody else?"
"I...I hadn't thought about it. I guess."
"Great! I'll call Ms. Li today and see what we can arrange."
Quinn raised a hand to her forehead. She really set me up for that one.
The morning bell rang as the first period students settled down. Ms. Defoe stood before a curtain suspended from the ceiling in front of the class.
"Good morning class. Today we will continue our pencil techniques, using a live model in a tableau inspired by a classic American painting."
Ms. Defoe pulled the curtain aside to reveal Jane sitting on a dark-stained wood, straight-back chair, facing to the viewers left. She wore an ankle-length black dress with white lace cuffs on the sleeves, and a white lace bonnet. Her hands were clasped in her lap and feet set on a small footrest. Behind were grey theatre flats. To the left was hung a dark grey, patterned curtain. A single, small painting was hung in the middle of the flats, just to the viewer's left of Jane.
"Extra credit for those that can correctly name the painting."
Kevin Thompson blurted out. "Whoa. Ms. Lane looks, like, really old in that dress."
Jane sat still, forcing herself to stay the model and not react, while thinking, I am going to kill him and bury him in that bridesmaid dress Daria threatened me with.
Ms. Defoe responded, "Kevin, we don't need those kinds of comments. Now please get started."
Helen sat at her office desk, wading through yet another endless pile of legal documents. She answered the buzzing telephone.
Marianne responded, "I have Ms. Li on line two for you."
"Oh. Thank you, Marianne." Helen punched the button on the phone console. She put on her most pleasant voice. "Hello, Ms. Li."
"Mrs. Morgendorffer. To what do I owe this privilege?"
"My daughter, Quinn, has expressed an interest in helping other students. I was wondering if you had an opening for her to help tutor one of her classmates?"
"That's quite an unexpected offer." Ms. Li removed a folder marked "Problems To Be Solved" from a drawer of her desk. She flipped through the pages and extracted two letters.
Dear Principal Li,
In light of Lawndale High School's previous record of grade irregularities and attempts to field a player beyond the Competitive Eligibility limit , the State High School Athletic Association hereby denies extended eligibility for Mr. Kevin Thompson beyond the standard four years he has already used.
Mr. B. T. Wentworth
Dear Ms. Angela Li,
I have become extremely concerned about my son, Kevin's, progress toward graduation this year. His failure last year came as a shocking disappointment. I have learned (from his father, Douglas) that there had been a certain amount of "grade fixing" going on for student athletes. This disturbs me quite a bit, since it looks like my son was a victim of this practice, with my husband's knowledge. If Kevin does not pass and graduate with some real education this year, expect to be contacted by my lawyer.
Mrs. Charlene Thompson.
"I think I know of just such a student."
Jane chuckled over her lunch at the student reactions at her costume. Wearing it and posing during the morning had been fun, and many of the students had reacted positively to working with a live model. I'm starting to see what Claire gets out of teaching.
Angela Li's voice broke over her shoulder. "Ms. Lane. What is the meaning of this?"
Jane turned and innocently said, "Meaning of what?"
"You know about the ban on Halloween costumes."
"Ms. Li, this is not a Halloween costume; it is part of today's art assignments. I just didn't feel like changing before lunch." Jane leaned closer to Ms. Li. "Between you and me, getting in and out of the corset is a Grade 'A' pain in the neck."
"What kind of assignment?"
"Examining the classic painting, Study in Grey and Black, through the use of a live model."
"What are you talking about?"
"Whistler's mother." Idiot.
Ms. Li raised her finger and was about to say something when the image matched with memory.
"Oooooh. Very well. Carry on." She turned and stormed out of the cafeteria.
Students in the room stared in amazement as Ms. Li retreated. Jane sat at her table with an angelic smile on her face. Later, students who saw that smile all felt that it was somehow...disturbing.
The intercom loudspeaker brayed out Ms. Li's voice into the art room. "Ms. Quinn Morgendorffer report to the principal's office."
Quinn gave an I-don't-know look to her fiends. Jane, still in her costume, motioned with one hand for her to proceed. She left the room, acutely aware of everyone's eyes following her. What does that mean, old bag want now?
It took only a minute to reach the office through the empty corridors. The secretary showed her directly in when she arrived.
"Good afternoon, Ms. Morgendorffer. I had a most interesting conversation with your mother today."
Wonderful. At least now I know what this is about.
"Such thoughtful gestures to help one's fellow students cannot fail to bring honor to Lawndale High."
"Yeah. So, this must be about tutoring."
"Correct. Your student should be arriving shortly. This is a special situation, but I think you have just what it takes to succeed."
"I hope so. What kind of tutoring am I going to be doing?"
"A little bit of everything to cover the basic curriculum. Your student had some...distractions in the past that you will need to overcome. If you apply that..."
Kevin walked in through the door. "You wanted to see me, Ms. Li? Hey Quinn, cool seeing you here."
"Mr. Thompson. In light of your academic...rough edges, Ms. Morgendorffer has been selected to be your special tutor to help you smooth things out."
"But Ms. Li, why would I need help to smooth things out? I'm doing great in shop class. I know how to use a file."
"Kevin, she will be helping you to understand your other school work."
"Oh. That's cool. Hey Quinn, remember when you helped Daria and me with that science project for Ms. Barch?" Kevin puffed out his chest.
"I'll never forget it."
"Me too. Best lab grade I ever got."
"Didn't you get a D?"
"Yeah! Like I said, best lab grade I ever got."
Jane opened the front door to let Quinn in that Saturday afternoon. Quinn still wore one of her trim business dresses from work that day, and carried a pastel blue and yellow gift bag.
"This way, Quinn."
They walked to the kitchen, where Trent Lane and his recent girlfriend, Lindy, were sitting at the table. A small cake was in the center of the table, along with a serving knife. Four plates of different colors and configurations were set out next to the cake, each a product of Jane and Trent's mother, Amanda's, artistry. Along side each was a fork. A bottle of sparkling grape juice was present, along with four glasses. Lindy rose and greeted Quinn with a hug.
"Thanks for coming."
Quinn handed Lindy the bag, "For you."
Lindy pulled out a dark blue scarf with a fine lace-like pattern in gold thread along the margin.
"You shouldn't have."
"You deserve it. You haven't had a drink in four weeks, and you're planning to stay that way."
Lindy placed the scarf down and poured juice into the glasses. She handed one to each and the last for herself.
"Thank you everyone, for helping me through this. I know this is a little early, today makes four weeks sober, but it will be tough to get everyone together on Tuesday for the actual one month mark. You made me see what I was, so I was able to get into a program for real help. I owe you all." She raised her glass, and all took a drink.
"Quinn, you're the first person to show any worry about me, and made the suggestion that got me on my way. Jane, I know you're mostly looking out for your brother, but your watchful eye has been a great help. Trent, you saved me from my irresponsibility and have stayed by my side since." She added in thought. Plus, knowing what you gave up gave me the final push I needed to do this.
Jane shuffled her feet and looked down slightly. "I had my doubts, but you've proven them wrong, at least up to now. Congratulations."
Quinn said, "I knew you could do it with a little help. I'm really happy for you."
Trent pulled Lindy close and gave her a kiss. "I knew you could. Quinn, Janey, I also want to thank you for helping Lindy."
"Yeah, Trent. Enough of that stuff. We have cake to eat." Jane picked up the knife and began to slice through the cake.
Jane slowly moved through her typical Monday morning fog toward the bathroom. Her father, Vincent's, voice startled her into near wakefulness.
"I'm developing in there; you won't be able to use it this morning."
"Dad? When did you show up?"
"About three this morning. I'm still on Uzbek time, so I decided to get some developing done instead of waking your mother."
"Dad, I have to get to school. You need to open the bathroom."
"Oops. Sorry. You're a senior now, aren't you?"
Jane's fist hit the wall. Her voice was hard and precise. "Dad, I graduated last year. But, I'm not in the mood to talk about that. I work at the school now. I'm going downstairs to fix some coffee. You have five minutes to clear your stuff enough for me to use the bathroom, or I will clear it with a large broom." Jane stalked past her father and made straight for the kitchen.
"Graduated? They grow up so fast. Guess I better clear some space for her in there." Vincent entered the bathroom and began to clear away his equipment and chemicals.
A couple minutes later, Jane sat in the kitchen, watching the coffee drip into the carafe, when a piercing, female scream finished waking her up.
"Damn." Jane ran up the stairs to find Lindy, clad only in a t-shirt that just reached the middle of her thighs, staring at a shocked Vincent standing in the bathroom door.
Lindy was yelling, "Who the hell are you?"
Vincent was able to utter, "Um, I'm Vincent, I live here."
"Could have fooled me."
Jane reached Lindy and rested a hand on her shoulder. Lindy jumped at the touch, then relaxed upon seeing Jane.
Jane quickly said, "Lindy, this is my father, Vincent. Dad, this is Lindy, Trent's girlfriend. Dad, you have a lot you need to catch up on. Lindy, I have dibs on the bathroom."
Fifteen minutes after school ended, Quinn sat in the school library. She was waiting for Kevin, who still had not arrived for his first session.
"I'm going to kill him."
The familiar "smooth" voice called, loudly, from the front door. "I'm ready for my one-on-one time with you, Quinn."
The librarian glared at Kevin, made a face, shook her head, and went back to reading.
Quinn slid down in her chair. Kevin reached the table and sat down. Quinn said in a harsh whisper, "Where have you been?"
In a normal room voice, he replied, "Oh. No big deal. Ms. Barch had me writing on the board again."
"Kevin, we're in the library, keep it down, will you?"
"Why? It's not like I'm embarrassed to be seen with you. You still look hot."
"Kevin, if you don't keep quiet, they will throw us out."
"Hey, we're too popular for them to throw us out."
A matronly voice announced from behind Kevin, "No, you aren't. Both of you, out. Now."
"But, we were only..."
Quinn put her hand over his mouth, and moved directly into his face. "Say one more thing, and you will wish you were still wearing your football cup."
Quinn glared directly into his eyes. Kevin remembered Daria doing something similar, and he backed away without saying a word.
Quinn grabbed his sleeve and pulled. "Follow me."
After exiting the library, she turned him to look directly at his face. "Kevin, don't embarrass me like that again."
"We need a place for these tutoring sessions, since you can't seem to behave in there."
"What about your place? I loved watching the Pigskin Channel there."
"No. We're not going to my house, and you're not going to watch the Pigskin Channel."
"Your house. I will meet you at your Jeep in five minutes. Put the top up, I don't want convertible hair."
Quinn turned and quickly moved to her locker. She removed her dark sunglasses and hat from the locker and donned them. She closed the locker and quickly walked to the parking lot, to find Kevin waiting at his Jeep.
Almost an hour into the session, Quinn had a blinding headache and desperately wished she could learn to keep her mouth shut in front of her mother. She and Kevin were seated at the kitchen table of the Thompson home. Kevin was reading The Glass Menagerie from a textbook; water glasses were on the table.
"So, like, the broken unicorn thingy means that she can't go back to the way she was?"
Slowly, Kevin was beginning to understand. Kevin could read at an acceptable level and understand much of what he read. However, when he had little interest, his attention wandered very easily.
"Something like that. It's a little more involved."
Charlene Thompson entered the kitchen. "Sorry to disturb you, but I need to start on dinner."
Quinn stood. "That's okay, Mrs. Thompson. We were just finishing."
"Quinn, thank you for agreeing to help with Kevin."
"Welcome." She turned to Kevin. "We'll work on your history Wednesday."
Charlene walked Quinn through the house. "You Morgendorffer girls have always seemed to be such a good influence on my Kevin. Even if your sister was a little odd, she seemed to make Kevin try to think."
"Um. Thanks." Quinn stepped out the door and gave a little wave. "I can walk home from here." David, how did you put up with things like this?
Charlene closed the door.
Doug Thompson sat in his recliner, in a foul mood. "Why are you going to all this work for the stupid boy? The idiot blew his chance with football. I say we just drop this school crap like I did and put him on one of my work crews like over the summer."
"Because, I want him to have more of a future than that. It was your constantly pushing football that got him in this position, now you just want to abandon his future and use him as a wage laborer. You filthy pig!"
"Don't use that tone with me, you coddling bitch! If he wasn't man enough to get through high school like he was supposed to, why try to baby feed it to him now?"
"Man enough? I'm having him do this because you made football his life and told him not to worry about grades; that Coach Gibson would take care of everything. You even got into a fight with a couple of the teachers because they wouldn't let him slide by. Fat lot of good that did him. He certainly followed in your footsteps. Or don't you remember that you weren't 'man enough' to finish high school. Now we do things my way."
Kevin closed the book and quietly exited the house through the kitchen door. These fights are getting worse than the ones last summer. He walked to the other side of the masonry barbeque and sat on the ground, resting his back against it. He was still thinking of The Glass Menagerie. Images of Jim and Laura dancing formed, but, he found it difficult to tell the two apart. He thought also of the broken unicorn. I can't go back to the way I was.
Daria held the phone a couple of inches away from her ear.
"Heeeelp?" Quinn desperately cried.
Daria returned the phone to her ear. "Which one has gone off the deep end?"
"Me. Because of Kevin and Tiffany, and all because Mom talked to Ms. Li."
"Please tell me you can clarify that. Because I am terrified to go where that seems to be pointing."
"Okay, okay. It's kind of a long story. Mom found out I was helping to sort-of tutor Tiffany, and...well...one thing led to another and Mom called Ms. Li to volunteer me to help tutor other students. Guess what? She sticks me with trying to help Kevin."
"Oh, how the mighty have fallen. I gather this is not an enjoyable pastime, but what is the actual problem?"
"Tiffany hasn't been too bad. She's in most of my classes, so I just have to go over the homework a couple times with her, and a little slower."
"Sounds like possibly a mild learning disability. Repetition and slower speed can be effective. That's very good, Quinn."
"Thanks. But helping her isn't the problem. It's not real hard; you just have to be patient. She's my friend, so it's easy. But Kevin, argh. He reads a little better than Tiffany, but keeping his attention is almost impossible. This is kind of weird. He could concentrate on his lines when we tried to do Canterbury Tales for that medieval faire. He seemed to be really, really focused on that. Now, his brain is like, bouncing from thing to thing. Plus, he goes off onto the wildest stuff. I don't know what to do."
"Some kind of attention deficit. That would explain a lot. Should have been picked up on by Mrs. Manson, same with Tiffany. Can't help it now. What did you try?"
"Kind of what I did with Tiffany. Went over things slow and repeated them. I had to repeat a lot more because he kept looking out the window, or at the TV, or, wherever."
"I take it killing him isn't an option."
"I thought about it. But that would mean that Mom would find me another extracurricular activity that could be worse."
"I can't think of anything worse."
"Daria. We're talking about Mom on one of her find-something-now obsessions."
"Hmm. She could find something worse. So, you need to find some way to keep his attention. On the schoolwork, not you."
"Like I would want his attention on me. Don't mention that incident with the science project; I never want to think about that again."
"So your taste has improved."
"Ha. Ha. Any teaching suggestions?"
"Remember, when you told me how David made school subjects more interesting for you, summer before last? He tailored the slant of what he was teaching to match your interests; you need to do that with Kevin."
"But, that means sports."
Mr. O'Neill half-sat, half-leaned against the teacher's desk.
"Okay, Brooke. That was...an interesting perspective on the character."
Mr. O'Neill briefly consulted his notes. "What was one of the overall themes in the play? Kevin."
"Everyone in the play was like...um...trying to...not have to deal...with their lives? Kind of like...they didn't want to face who they were?"
Mr. O'Neill's eyes rolled back as he appeared to vertically crumple, falling onto his rump, then back against the teacher's desk. Slowly, he slumped over to one side.
Sandi looked up. "What happened?"
Stacy said, "Is he breathing?"
Kevin looked alarmed. "Man. I hope we don't have to do mouth-to mouth re...gurgi...whatever on him."
Quinn moved up and knelt next to Mr. O'Neill's slumped body. "I think he fainted."
A strong, steady rain fell outside the Thompson house as Quinn worked with Kevin at the kitchen table.
Quinn said, "It was like...baseball teams trading players."
"So, they traded knights? Like, two second-string jousters for a first string?"
Quinn rubbed her eyes. "No. Knights weren't involved. They were trading their children. Sort of like, one king saying to another, I'll let your son marry my daughter, so you can back me up against this other king."
"Hey, that could be twisted. What if the chick was, ugly or something?"
Quinn looked through weary eyes. Or the guy a jerk. "They didn't have a choice."
Doug pulled another beer from the refrigerator and opened it. He swayed slightly. "That is so pathetic. You're hanging around some boney brain chick now. Hardly anything to grab onto. Why'd you let Brittany dump you? There was a chick that had plenty to grab."
Charlene charged in and grabbed Doug by the arm. "Dammit! I told you to stay the hell out of here when they were working."
"Shut up, woman. I was just in here getting a beer. You call what that little twit was doing working?"
Kevin stood and faced his father.
Charlene pulled Doug toward the living room. Fury filled her eyes. "Why don't you just go to your favorite bar for a while? Oh, yeah. You're too embarrassed to show up there because your son is no longer a football hero. Right now, I don't care where you go, just get the hell of this house."
"Okay. Great. Throw me out of my own house. You're going to regret this, you scheming bitch." Doug pulled his arm free, slinging beer across the living room in the process. He charged out of the house, slamming the door as he passed.
Quinn sat with a stunned look on her face. Kevin turned back to face her. "Sorry about that Quinn. Dad's been angry that I didn't go to college for football. He didn't go to college because he failed his senior year. He doesn't want me to try again; he wants me to drop out of school like he did to go to work."
Quinn continued staring straight ahead.
"Um, Quinn? You okay?"
"Boney brain...Nothing to grab onto...Little twit...Nobody insults me like that." Quinn rapidly shifted her gaze toward Kevin. "Do you want to graduate?"
"Um...yeah. I'm like, really bummed that I don't have much future." Kevin gave a sad glance toward the living room. "I don't want to end up like him."
"I'm going to make sure you graduate. He is not going to get away with this."
Charlene returned to the kitchen. "Quinn, I apologize for my husband's behavior."
"I'm okay, but I don't think I'm up to continuing today."
"I understand. I'll give you a ride home. The rain is still heavy out there."
The gold sedan slowly drove through the early evening rain. Charlene drove carefully to avoid the street flooding and loose debris.
"I trusted what I read on the report cards he brought home. I knew he wasn't the brightest student in school, but I thought he was getting by. I was more worried about Brittany getting knocked up and preventing him from going to college than his grades."
Quinn looked over. "You don't have to worry about any kind of relationship like that between me and Kevin. But I do kind of understand what it is like, when people don't expect you to think too much. Somebody once gave me a chance to show I could do well. Somehow, I think something is telling me to do the same."
Thanks to: Isa Yo-Jo, nonamejane, Decelaraptor, Hiergargo, Ranger Thorne, sleepless, Roger E. Moore, Lawndale Stalker, atimnie, Parker-man, Nemo Blank, RedlegRick, (make sure you check out his fic And Then There Was One), and Steven Galloway for comments and support at PPMB.
Thanks to Kristen Bealer and Robert Nowall for beta reading.
Revised January 2005