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 twenty-first story in the Falling into College series.
Keeping My Friends Close
Raft University student Daria Morgendorffer walked out of the hall of her south Boston apartment to face the morning. She noticed her roommate, Jane Lane, sitting at the dining table, still in her night shirt and slouched over a plate containing what appeared to be shredded cardboard covered with syrup. A very large mug of coffee emblazoned 'Boston Fine Arts College' was raised to Jane's lips.
Daria looked again at the plate. "Jane...please tell me you are not eating paper pulp."
Jane leaned forward to focus on Daria. "Huh?"
"That substance on your plate; what is it?"
"Uh?" Jane looked down and back up. "Pancakes."
"Jane, pancakes are normally flat."
"Yeah...well...they ended up...scrambled."
Daria shook her head. "I'm afraid to go in the kitchen."
Jane mumbled around a mouthful. "Hey, one bowl; one pan."
Daria looked inside and breathed a sigh of relief. "With how that stuff looked..."
Jane smirked. "Hey, I don't cook pretty like you; I just want the fuel in me."
Daria went into the kitchen. A minute later, she returned with a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal. "Yeah, this is authentic 'pretty' cooking. Ready to face the first day of summer classes?"
Jane curled one side of her mouth into a sneer. "How did you talk me into this?"
At 9:00 AM, Daria rushed into the office of Raft University Press for her first day of work, and knocked on the chief editor's door. "Dr. Killarny? It's Daria Morgendorffer."
Dr. Killarny looked up from his desk. "Good morning, young lady. I hope that distraction during your interview has been cleared up."
She nodded. "Completely."
"Good. You seem a little out of breath."
"I had a delay getting my parking decal and had to run from the lot."
"I see." He directed her to a workstation toward the back of the main editorial room. "This will be your personal space, such as it is."
It was a grey, government surplus metal desk with chipped chrome handles on the drawers. However, the computer looked new, and it had more drives that she had ever seen on a single unit, a CD, a CD-R, both sizes of floppy, and a zip drive. "Nice system. Why so many drives?"
"So it can handle submissions on almost any media. We're just starting to accept submissions electronically from start to finish."
"You get to do the plain grunt work of proofreading. The regular editorial staff will take care of the rest; you will be checking for typos and format errors. Each submission will have the native word processor program marked on the media. Just open in that and mark all of your edits in red."
He handed her a stack of diskettes. "Good, you can get started."
The noon-time crowd at the Raft Sandwich Shop was thinner than Daria was accustomed to. "I can get used to this." The line was less hectic and there were choices of places to sit, instead of grabbing the first vacated chair. Daria also had room to place her backpack on the table and go through her books and schedule. "Monday, Wednesday: American Lit One and Political Science. Tuesday, Thursday: Primary Grades Teaching Methods and Survey of Theater. All in the afternoon."
Daria watched traffic go by in the mid-May afternoon as she ate her lunch. She thought of how much her life had changed since her last summer had started after graduation from high school. Was that really less than a year ago? So much has happened.
Fingering a gold pendant set with a rich green stone, Daria also thought of the "distraction" Dr. Killarny had mentioned. During her job interview, she was in the middle of a temporary breakup with Michael Fulton, one of the many things that had happened during her freshman year. They'd patched things up after a comedy of errors. I already miss you.
Jane opened the door to a man in a gray telephone company uniform.
He looked down at a clipboard. "You Miss Lane or Miss Morgendorffer?"
"Lane. You here for the phone?"
"That's what they're paying me for." He walked into the apartment. "I turned things on outside, need to check the inside line. Where's the jack?"
Jane motioned to the wall jack in the dining room. "Over there."
The man grunted and walked over, bending down to connect a work phone to the jack.
Jane gave him a queasy smirk and walked back to her easel, mumbling, "Only the finest quality butt cracks need apply." She went back to painting.
After about ten minutes, he approached, holding out the clipboard. "Need you to sign, lady. Everything works." Jane signed the form and handed it back. He gave her a piece of paper. "Here's the new phone number. Have a nice day." He turned and shuffled toward the door.
Jane looked as he left. "Um...yeah. You, too."
The scent of the "low-odor" turpentine substitute Jane used made Daria wrinkle her nose as she entered the apartment. Jane had her easel set up in the living room, painting from a sketch series pinned to a second easel. Daria said as she put down her backpack, "Ugh. I thought you were going to ventilate when you painted out here?"
Jane looked over. "Oops, I forgot."
Daria sighed and opened a window. "I know you were used to doing whatever at Casa Lane, but you did remember to open a window when you were at my house. That stuff is better than turpentine, but it still can't be good for you to breathe."
"Nmm. I suppose you're right. How was the first day on the new job?"
"Not bad. I get to work on a killer computer, that's fast, has a lot of memory, and has more drives than I know what to do with."
"What about the actual work?"
"With an interesting manuscript, fun. With a dull manuscript, excruciating."
The following afternoon, a soft, relaxed smile crossed Daria's face as her fingers tapped easily over the computer keyboard.
Flames danced exceptionally close to her face as Melody worked the lock pick in the handcuffs. Feeling more than hearing the click, the cuffs opened and Melody was free of the post. With a determined scowl, she rolled away from the flames and hissed, "Okay Alexei, now we play on my terms."
She quietly said as she wrote, "I've read most of the plays in my theater class. With my highly expressive voice, I should be able to scam out of any on-stage parts. Though, it is odd that there are only four women in the class." Daria shrugged and stopped typing, reading what she had just entered. "It should leave me more free time to write. With a little luck, I can get some more stories written and sold."
The sound of the doorbell roused Daria from her muse. She saved and closed the file before going to the front door. She rose up onto her toes to see through the peephole. Outside was a man in a green uniform with "Boston Cable" embroidered over one pocket. She cracked the door open, keeping the chain in place.
"Hey, lady...you Miss Morgendotter?" The man at the door asked in a native Boston accent.
Daria rubbed her head. "Morgendorffer. I assume you're the cable technician?"
"Yeah, that's me." The man looked at his clipboard. "Okay, two hookups, cable modem at one of those."
"Yes." Daria opened the chain and allowed the man inside.
"Wonderful. Better get to work."
The installer worked quickly and efficiently. As he started to setup the cable modem on Daria's computer, he said, "You must be a bunch of college students living here."
"Yeah, that's right."
He laughed and said, "Three computers, two cable hookups and you have camp chairs in the living room. College students are the only ones that would do that."
Daria gave him a small smile. "Guess it says something about our priorities."
"As long as it works for you." He looked down the hall, smiled, and looked up at Daria. "One modem, three computers. Hmm. There's a little Mom and Pop electronics store down the road a bit that has the best price locally for routers."
Daria looked sidelong at him. "And you are altruistically giving me this advice, because?"
"They're old family friends. But, they really do have good deals on them."
He finished with the setup and did a quick opening of the browser. "There you go. Have fun kids."
"Do I need to sign anything?"
The technician produced his clipboard. "Like visiting the crapper, nothing's done without the paperwork. Sign at the bottom."
There was no mistaking Jane's return home that afternoon. Daria could hear Jane loudly proclaiming, "Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!"
Daria raised her eyebrows and turned away from her computer to look down the hall. "Glad you're home, too."
Jane stomped down the hall to Daria's room. "All freakin' new. I can't afford this crap."
"Uh...All new, what?"
"Textbooks! Couldn't find a single one used, either at BFAC's bookstore, or the independents."
"No kidding. Four hundred bucks and change."
"Weren't you only budgeting for two hundred?"
"Yeah. I was planning on living off the rest until something sells at Gary's, again."
"So, how much do you have left?"
"About a hundred or so." Jane tapped her foot on the ground and looked up. "Despite all the financial aid help you found me last summer, it looks like this Lane is on the job market again."
Daria hooked an arm around the back of her chair and thought for a minute. "Well, you do have experience working at Gary's; maybe you can find a job in a gallery. Or, you also have your experience as Ms. Defoe's teaching assistant last fall."
"I suppose, but I doubt if there are many school-level TA positions out there during summer."
Daria looked innocently upward. "Or, you could always ask your old roommate, CC, if there are any openings at her dance club."
"Sure, but only if you sign up with me."
"No chance. I already have a job."
Yawning and stretching, Daria sat up in bed. "Mornings. What did humanity do to deserve mornings?" After rubbing her eyes, she put her glasses on and started for the bathroom.
Once there, she observed a multi-colored blob in the sink, foam-like in texture, with many different animal-like shapes protruding out at random angles. Daria attempted to refocus her eyes and failed. "This is just too weird for words early in the morning."
After hearing a repeated knock on her bedroom door, Jane let out an irritated, "What do you want?"
"Jane, what the hell is that in the bathroom?"
With one eye open, Jane grunted, "The toilet?"
"The toilet does not reside in the sink, is not multi-colored and does not look like the result of a delirium hallucination."
"Oh, that's one of my projects. I super glued a bunch of those supergrow sponge animals together and left it in the sink to soak up water overnight. Does it look cool?"
"Not first thing in the morning. But, at least I know it's safe to move."
Daria shuffled back to the bathroom and tossed the soggy creation into the bathtub where it landed with a resounding splat. "Artists."
Angrily biting from a slice of pizza, Jane read through the classified ads. "Damn, I graduated high school with all kinds of marketable skills."
Her aura of frustration kept a zone of clear tables around her at Easel Pizza, the preferred student lunch spot near BFAC. Alternating between destroying the pizza and drinking from her soda, Jane would pull a pencil from behind her ear to mark the paper. At other intervals, odd expletives would erupt from her as the frustration grew.
Eventually, CC ventured into the dead zone around Jane. "Hey, I heard you were scaring away the customers."
Jane gazed over the top of the paper at her blue-haired friend. "Job hunting. I'd rather be head hunting."
"Nah, you don't. The bottom's fallen out of the market."
Jane chuckled. "Thanks, I needed that. This has been a frustrating experience."
"Well, I'm not exactly full of marketable skills for the kinds of jobs hiring."
"Hey, you could do designs for tattoo shops."
"CC, that would remind me too much of the time I spent in jail in Fremont with Trent's band. Though the kids at the sheriff's daughter's party had fun with the temporary tattoos I did. Actually, I looked into that back in Lawndale. Most tattooists do their own designs. If or when they do buy, they pay squat."
"Well...what about some of the sign companies? Although, you would have to tailor the designs to their tastes."
"If I do that, I might as well start hacking for Gary's Gallery again. I'm too afraid to get an art job that doesn't let me do my own work. I don't want anything to mess with my creativity. So, I'm looking elsewhere."
"Hmm. Yeah, not much out there, except service jobs."
"I did sales at Gary's last summer; I'm hoping that will help, some."
"It might. Don't forget to include some of that stupid stuff from high school to inflate your resume. You did have the honor society thing, it couldn't hurt."
"I hadn't thought of that. We joked about it, but I never really thought about using it." Jane scratched her head. "Speaking of not thinking, I'm living with an English major. I should get her to proofread my resume."
"That would be a good idea."
Early that evening, Jane had several newspapers spread across the small dining table as she sorted through them. Daria was at Jane's computer, proofreading and editing Jane's resume. She called over her shoulder, "What was the name of the art colony from Hell?"
Jane curled her lip and spat out, "Ashfield."
"Look, I know you don't have great memories of the place, but getting accepted into it was a measure of your talent and skill."
"Well, at least now I can say I got something out of the place."
"See, I'm good for something."
Daria worked for another ten minutes before she printed a copy. She started to look at the sheet, frowned, and pulled her glasses down to the tip of her nose to allow her to read over the top of her glasses. "Okay, I think this is it." A tap of her finger replaced the glasses and she went out to the dining room to lay the page down in front of Jane.
Jane looked at the resume. "Cool. This looks a lot better."
Daria produced a small smile.
Jane continued, "You have a good eye for composition. I can compose images, but whenever I try to arrange text, it always looks like a ransom note."
"Just a little basic..."
Putting hands on her hips, Jane interrupted, "Take a compliment, will you?"
Daria turned when she heard the doorbell. "That must be Tim from the computer lab to set up our local computer network." Daria rose up on her toes to look through the spyhole in the door. "I really wish that thing was a little lower." She opened the door to let in a young man with scruffy blond hair and the pale stubble of a beard. He smiled and said, "Hiya, Daria. Wow, cool place."
"Come on in, this is Jane. The owner of the third computer isn't here right now, but I want to get it set up anyway."
He nodded. "Hiya, Jane."
Jane smiled and waved from the table.
Daria gave him the agreed upon cash payment. "There you go." Pointing toward her room, she said, "The computer with the cable modem is in here; so are all the components you asked for."
"What about the donuts?"
Daria looked to Jane. "Please? They're in the kitchen."
"Sure, feed the techie."
Daria escorted Tim into her room as Jane retrieved the donuts. The router was efficiently set up and soon he was bouncing between computers stringing cable, trying to get the network settings to match, and munching on donuts through the entire process.
"I love mixing PCs and Macs on the same network," Tim sarcastically said as he made adjustments to Jane's computer, "They never seem to work and play well together."
Jane snickered at the comment. "Kind of like life."
As he was finishing up, he gazed around the Jane's room. "Hmm. Three pretty girls under one roof. Are any of you interested in a sophisticated but plain talking young man of extraordinary taste?"
Jane closed her eyes and groaned. "Please tell me you're not trolling for a date."
"Well, since I was here..."
"No, thanks. Don't ask Daria either, she already has someone."
He nodded and lecherously grinned. "I'm not your type, no problem. However...if you want to earn a little extra money, I can hook up a few webcams and..."
Jane blanched as she clenched fists at her side and barked, "Out...Now!"
Rushing down the hall, Daria called out, "What's going on?"
Jane spun toward her, wide-eyed. "Where did you find this git? The little pervert..."
Turning to Tim, Daria asked, "Did you hit on Jane?"
"I just asked..."
Jane glowered, "That I could deal with, but his little business proposal..."
Daria's eyes widened. "Business proposal?"
Jane snarled, "Webcams."
Daria grabbed Tim's arm and guided him toward the front door. "You better leave before you start losing body parts."
He shook loose and continued heading out. "Sheesh, I was just trying to have a little fun and make some money for all of us."
Daria glared at him. "A little fun is fine, but a business proposition like that from someone you just met doesn't go over very well. Thanks for the install, but I wish you hadn't said that."
"Oh, well. Can't blame a guy for trying."
"Yes, I can."
Jane called from the dining room, "I can mutilate!"
He raised his hands in surrender. "Okay, I screwed up. Um...thanks for the donuts."
He closed the door and jogged down the stairs.
Jane continued to glare at Daria. "Dammit! Why did you invite a pervert like that into here?" Jane was still pale and her hands shook slightly.
With hands spread wide, Daria said, "I had no idea. He didn't show any sign of being that way when he fixed the office computers where I worked last term."
Jane calmed a little. "Look...please be more careful next time? He scared me. We were in my room when he said that."
"I'm rattled, too. He spent more time in my room. I'm sorry."
"Okay." Jane sat down and forced herself to relax more. "Things are a lot different from Lawndale or the dorms."
"Life in the big city, I guess. Though, we did have some world-class lowlifes in Highland. However boring it may have been, Lawndale was a safe place to be."
"I have to admit it, you're right. Growing up there, I guess I've been a little sheltered. Then to a dorm and basically living on campus at BFAC or Raft when I visited you. This is the first time I've been out from under shelter."
"We really need to be more careful. I'm sorry for bringing him over."
"It's okay. No harm done. But next time, I keep the pepper spray handy."
Directing her attention back to the papers, Jane fell quiet. Daria went back to her room and opened her email. A little diversion would do me some good. I haven't sent new contact info to Amy, yet. Opening a new mail to her aunt, Daria typed:
Just a quick note to let you know Jane and I have set up housekeeping in the apartment I told you about. Things have been no more strained than last fall when I was getting used to Karen, just a few minor annoyances. She's out job hunting now, been a little grumpy lately because of that. Anyway, my new address and phone number are in the sig I'm using.
After sending, Daria checked her inbox. "Jodie?" Daria opened the message from her old Lawndale High classmate, Jodie Landon. After a reading, Daria gave a slim smile and typed a response.
That's brilliant. Crazy, but brilliant. I think I can work things out for you at my end before we get together. However, I really hope you realize what you are getting yourself in for. I won't take responsibility for any brain damage that may occur.
Jane and I are looking forward to seeing you and Mack in a couple weeks.
Jane frowned behind the wheel of her black sedan, stopped at a light. She held a map and a slip of paper with an address in front of her. "Where the hell am I?" A horn blast from behind made her look up to see the green light. "Dammit." She accelerated past the intersection and tried to catch a street sign that matched anything she'd seen on the map. "You'd think after all the driving I've done around this city in the last week looking for jobs, I wouldn't be lost." With growing frustration, she continued looking until she spotted a large building with "Boston Children's Hospital" on a large sign out front.
Relieved, she parked nearby. She opened the door and swiveled her legs out, pulling off her boots and showing that she was dressed in much more formal attire than usual; a black skirt and blazer combination. After placing the boots on the passenger side floorboard, she pulled on some low-heel black shoes. "God, I hate these things." Grabbing a copy of her resume from a folder, she closed and locked the car. Turning toward the building, she closed her eyes. "Okay Lane, calm down. You've been cranky for the last couple days. Even if Daria will put up with it, you won't a get job like that." After a few minutes, Jane headed inside.
After a brief discussion with the receptionist, she was directed to an office at the end of the hall. Jane looked through the open door. "Mrs. Marquez?"
A Latin woman with long black hair looked up from the desk. She was in her early fifties and had the rounded form of one who spends most of their time deskbound. "May I help you?"
"I'm Jane Lane. I'm applying for the position you advertised."
"Please, have a seat. May I see your resume?"
Jane passed the printed pages over. Mrs. Marquez read it with practiced ease, making comments as she did. "BFAC student...teaching assistant...hmm...Honor Society for artistic endeavors...hospital arts and crafts volunteer."
Jane sat with her hands folded in her lap, continually making sure she didn't tap her foot while waiting.
"You have an impressive art background and very similar previous experience to what we need. You may find this next question a little odd, but I find it tends to be useful. If you could change one thing you did as a hospital volunteer, what would it be?"
Jane momentarily looked like a deer caught in headlights. "Um...in hindsight, work with the staff better."
Mrs. Marquez smiled and jotted down a note. "Tell me, what kind of things would you like to have the children work on?"
"Let them create things themselves. Have them experiment with different media and ideas that they normally wouldn't see in arts and crafts. No popsicle-stick art."
After another note, Mrs. Marquez said, "You realize that we have to be careful about what kind of person we hire to work with our children. Have you ever been arrested?"
"The closest was a day I spent in jail with my brother's band for a traffic violation. I ended up working off my debt to society by creating some art at a birthday party for the sheriff's daughter."
"Hmm." Another note. "Any experience with things like babysitting?"
"My older sister's kids."
"Okay." Mrs. Marquez asked, "Do you mind if I call the principal of your high school?"
Jane suppressed the urge to shrug and said, "Please, go ahead."
Claire Defoe sat at the principal's desk of Lawndale High School. A little over three weeks before, her predecessor, Angela Li, had been arrested as the result of a student-athlete grade-fixing scandal. As the only senior faculty member not implicated and without other "problems", she had been tapped as acting principal. With visible relief, Claire turned away from the computer monitor and answered the phone. "Claire Defoe."
"Good afternoon. My name is Isabel Marquez; I'm with the Boston Children's Hospital. One of your former students used your name as a reference; do you have a few minutes?"
"Why, yes. You caught me at a good time. Who are you interested in?"
"A Ms. Jane Lane. Her resume states she worked with you as a teaching assistant last fall."
"That's correct. She did an excellent job. Is she applying for another assistant position?"
"Not exactly. She also reported being a hospital volunteer...teaching arts and crafts to children."
"I remember...she had such a good time doing that."
"I'm interviewing her for a similar position here at the Boston Children's Hospital. Setting up and running art activities for some of our long-term patients."
"Just a moment, please." Claire went to a filing cabinet and after a few moments, removed a folder. After a short search, she located the pages she was after. She returned to the desk and picked up the phone. "Here they are. The school received several letters from the children saying how much they enjoyed working with her and hoped she would come back."
"That sounds encouraging."
"I know from having her as my assistant that she's a natural teacher and I think she'll do an excellent job."
"I also see that she was the inaugural arts representative for an honor society at your school."
"Correct, I was the person that nominated her. She was the most talented student I've had the pleasure of teaching."
"Isn't that a little unusual for a principal?"
"I'm the acting principal. I normally teach art."
"Oh. Thank you, Ms. Defoe. Please have a nice day."
Mrs. Marquez redirected her attention to Jane. "That went very well. I like what I see here and what I heard. When can you start?"
"You want me!"
"Yes, Ms. Lane. Ms. Defoe gave you an excellent recommendation. When can you start?"
"Tomorrow. I can get here by two."
"Congratulations. Now, I'll need you to get with my secretary to fill out some forms."
Daria sat in one of the folding chairs in the living room, her feet propped on another, watching television. The Sick, Sad, World reporter asked Artie, "Tell us what this new plot you've uncovered is."
The acne-faced man looked directly at the camera. "The aliens have infiltrated the world business community. They now control all hiring and firing decisions. If they believe you're any kind of threat, you can't get a job. If you do find a job, it'll be where they want you to be."
Daria shook her head at the frequent guest. "Artie, are you making appearances on this show your career? What does that tell us about the alien's plan for you?" She stretched her legs out and leaned back. "I've missed this."
Jane burst through the door and rushed up to Daria. "I got a job!"
Turning, Daria said, "You did?"
"Thanks to Ms. Li's enforced volunteerism."
Daria said in horror, "Did I just hear 'thanks to Ms Li' coming from you?"
Jane shrugged a shoulder. "I'll be teaching arts and crafts at a children's hospital residence. One of those places where families can stay while a kid gets long-term treatment. A lot like my volunteer work."
Recovering from her shock, Daria smiled and said, "Wow. But, aren't you worried about what happened last time?"
With a lopsided grin, Jane said, "I think I'll try to behave a little better. Including a scalping in that mural was probably not a good idea back in Lawndale. I had fun last time and I missed doing it."
"Could be. How much creativity will you have?"
"I'll have a lot of latitude in what I teach, as long as it is age appropriate."
"Jane, you do realize you're teaching again?"
"Damn, you're right."
"Continuing your path to the dark side?"
"At least I'm not majoring in it."
"I start tomorrow. Hey, now I won't have to mooch off of you the first month I'm here."
"Much to my relief," Daria said with a slight smile.
Jane pulled up one of the remaining chairs and sat facing Daria. "I owe you again; that resume helped a lot. I hadn't thought of including that volunteer work before."
"Don't mention it."
"Daria, I'm mentioning it because I appreciate all you're doing."
"Don't thank me yet. You're going to be working with children."
"Kids aren't all that bad."
"Particularly with a little ketchup."
With rolled eyes, Jane said, "Daria, I like kids."
"Are you starting to turn all maternal on me?"
After a moment of thought, Jane said, "A little. I know you've never been comfortable around children. Probably weren't when you were one. But, someday I...plan on having one or two of my own."
Daria became serious herself, "I've long figured that." Daria gave Jane a kind smile. "And I think you'll be a caring mother to them."
"Don't downplay yourself. Look at all you've done in the last year for me...Karen...Jodie..."
"Hey, I'm only trying to keep my friends close."
"It's easier to get to their necks."
Jane crossed her arms. Right.
Thanks to the residents of PPMB for comments, Isa Yo-Jo, The Angst Guy, Kristen Bealer, Steven Galloway, nonamejane, and Lawndale Stalker.
Thanks to Ipswichfan and Kristen Bealer for beta reading.
Revised February 2005