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. 2006.

This is the fifty-fourth story in the Falling into College series.

Richard Lobinske

Another Day in Paradise

"...town Boston!" the clock/radio in Michael's room blared. "Currently, it's a warm 52 degrees on this Monday morning, November 26 and your first day back to work after stuffing your face all weekend. Looks like a cloudy day with a slight chance of rain and a high in the low to mid sixties."

"Ungh," Michael groaned, opening one eye to see that the clock did, indeed, say 6:00 AM.

The radio DJ loudly continued, "But don't worry, you have Bing and the Spatula Man on Wee93 to help you make it through the morning. That is, unless you're driving around the Big Dig...in that case, nobody can help you!"

Michael rubbed his face and reached to the nightstand for his glasses. "Another day in paradise."

"That's right, Bing," the second announcer said. "We may be mental, but we're nothing compared to the people who brought you that hole in the ground!"

"But tell you what," Bing said, "the third caller with their 'Worst Big Dig is a pain in the ass' story will get a Wee93 bumper sticker/t-shirt combo!"

Michael sat up and said to the radio, "Ooh, then I'll have a real trendy wardrobe and car." He reached over and turned it off before climbing from bed, making a face at his sore leg and hip. Scratching himself through his old shorts, he walked with a limp to the apartment's single bathroom for a quick shower and a reasonable attempt at becoming human.

Showered and dressed, Michael stood at the kitchen counter, pouring milk into a mug of coffee. Lewis appeared from his room, clad in a bathrobe and slowly shuffling to the bathroom. He muttered, "I see you survived the southern wilds."

"Mostly," Michael answered. "I only have a slight limp."

Lewis shook his head in mock disappointment. "I told you to run if you heard Dueling Banjos; guess you were a little slow. What happened?"

"I fell off of a horse."

"Mmm, using faster transportation, smart man. Well, except the falling off part."

"I got a great picture of Daria in the process, so it was worth it."

"It better be good if you did that to get it. Now pardon me while I go shower off last night's bar funk."

Michael carried the mug and a plate of scrambled eggs to his room and started his computer, looking at his growing collection of historical artifact replicas, such as a Roman legion standard or a doubloon from the Nuestra Señora de Atocha or a US colonial era pewter mug. He then sipped coffee and ate breakfast while going through his morning email, interest groups and news. Excited, he connected his camera and transferred the image files to his hard drive. He browsed the folder, found the image he wanted and opened it.

He frowned slightly, seeing the image was a little blurred from camera shaking, but he had to admit it wasn't bad for something taken from horseback. In the picture, Daria faced the camera while riding a gray horse, her hair flowing back in the wind and a bright smile on her face. "Still worth it," he said and stood up to load photo paper in his printer. "Daria's going to love this."

Dressed, Michael loaded a book bag and slung it over his shoulder. Next, he grabbed a gym bag containing a folded work uniform and stepped over to his dresser. He paused for a moment, looking at a blue velvet ring box on top. He took a deep breath and picked it up, transferring it to his inner jacket pocket.

Eating a barely heated frozen waffle, Lewis watched Michael cross the room and said, "You look like a man on a mission."

"You could say that."

"Hope you fly it better than a P-51 and don't get shot down."

"You spent a lot of the weekend on that game, didn't you?"

"A couple hours. Anyway, whatever you're up to, good luck."


The gray-haired woman underlined the words "Chapter 12" on the whiteboard and said, "We start on the last chapter Wednesday. That's right kids; we're in the home stretch. Any questions?"

A girl with wavy, blond hair a row behind Michael asked, "Are the term papers still due this Friday, Professor Blum?"

"Yes, Clarice, no change in plans," the instructor replied. "And don't forget, I want hard copies as well as disk. Anything else?" Hearing no replies, she said, "Class dismissed."

Outside the room, a young man with close-cropped black hair said, "Michael, holiday trip go that badly that you have a limp, or that good?" The last was added with a laugh as he pulled a hand from the pocket of a black leather jacket to slap Michael on the shoulder.

"A little bit of both," Michael said.

Behind them, Clarice finished pulling her book bag over her shoulders and said, "Sean, there's no need to give him a load of crap just because you can't get a girl."

"You offering?" Sean replied.

She half-rolled her eyes. "You wish."

"Just asking."

Clarice then said, "So, what were you two doing on the horse that made you fall off?"

Michael moaned. "We were not on the same horse."

"Ooh, two horses, kinky."

"Two horses? What are you pervs talking about now?" a trench-coat wearing fourth student said as he joined them.

"Hey, Jack," Michael answered. "Just the pathetic imaginations of our friends."

"I don't know; two horses sounds like pretty vivid imaginations to me."

Michael pulled his backpack off and took a large envelope from a pocket. "Will you settle for photographic evidence?"

Clarice took the photo of Daria riding and said, "Ah, that's cute. Not as tantalizing, but cute."

Sean and Jack looked over her shoulder. Sean said, "I bet she was ready to ride something else afterwards."

Clarice glanced back and sarcastically said, "Smooth. No wonder you get all the girls."

Michael took the photo back from them saying, "If you'll excuse me, I'm going to call Daria to figure out what we're doing for lunch."

Just outside of the building exit, Michael stopped at a pay phone while his friends scattered to their next classes. He dialed and waited patiently.

After a couple rings, Daria answered, "Hello."

"Hey, it's me. How does Thai sound for lunch?"

Tired and irritated, Daria said, "I can't make it today. My car wouldn't start this morning and the mechanic just gave me a ransom note for $450. I'm on a bus now, heading to Lethbridge-Stewart Middle to sit in on a class with one of the mentor teachers and running late, so it'll be the class after the one originally scheduled. All that means that I won't have time for lunch today."

Michael moved the phone away and sighed. Bringing it back, he said, "Will dinner after work help? I'll pick you up."

"Sounds great. Just be prepared for a very grumpy girlfriend."

"Thanks for the warning. I think I have something that might just cheer you up."


"It's a surprise."

"A surprise, huh. Don't forget that I'll be wearing my boots."

"I'm hoping that they won't be needed. See you at 5:30?"

"5:30, it's a date." After a moment, Daria added, "I love you."

"I love you. Hope the rest of your day goes well."

"Thanks, but facing a room full of screaming kids and then a psycho boss, I wouldn't bet on it."

"I can still hope. Bye."


He patted the ring box in his jacket. "I hope this cheers you up."

Professor Mahanoor's office was the cluttered stereotype often expected for college faculty. Books, folders and loose papers covered almost every available surface, with a single potted plant surviving on the window ledge. He was a good-humored, olive-skinned man whose soft voice was often missed in a crowd, but carried clearly in a classroom. He studied information on his computer monitor while Michael waited before saying, "Your choice of classes looks good and all of them are in your program of study. Though in the future, I would like you to pick up a little more variety in your restrictive electives, but that's a personal preference."

Michael glanced over his advisor's shoulder at a small sign that read, "An advisor is like a diaper, all over your ass and usually full of crap." He said, "You still think I need some more Asian studies."

"Yes, I think you would benefit and it would help to balance your historical view."

"With most of my upper division requirements covered after spring semester, that's something I can work in my senior year, when I have more leeway."

Prof. Mahanoor smiled and said, "I'll remind you of that when you register for fall." He then took a pen from an old cup on his desk and signed a form resting beside his keyboard. He checked the carbon copies and passed it to Michael. "There you go."

Collecting his advising form, Michael said, "Thanks."

"Are you well, Mr. Fulton?" Prof. Mahanoor asked. "You're normally not nervous about advising sessions"

"Um, it's not the advising, I just have other things on my mind."

"Anything to do with your studies or school?"

"Oh, um, no. It's personal stuff."

"You're a level-headed young man; I'm sure that you'll figure out what to do."

Michael started to rise from his chair. "I know what I'm going to do, but I have to wait until tonight."

"Well then, good luck."

After his last class of the morning, Michael walked to Brandt Hall, home of the Engineering Department. From among a group of students gathered outside the main doorway, a tall black man wearing mirrored shades waved and stepped over toward Michael. His old roommate said, "What brings you to the light side of campus?"

"Hey, Todd," Michael said in greeting. "Just on my way to lunch."

Todd started walking with his friend. "Bullshit. Something's on your mind and you came to hear my wisdom, now spill it."

Michael briefly glanced at Todd. "You know me too well."

"You live close enough to smell someone's dirty socks for a year; you learn a few things about them. Now, what's up, and does it have anything to do with that limp?"

"A little bit. I got the limp over the weekend when I went to Daria's roommate's parents' farm."

"Okay, so this involves your girlfriend. How badly did you screw up?"

"Haven't you read the school paper's story about me falling off of a horse?" Michael sarcastically said.

Following the joke, Todd shook his head. "You know I don't read that rag. So, you fell off of a horse, then what?"

"I started thinking."

"You know how dangerous that can get. Did you say something stupid?"

Michael pulled the ring box from his pocket and rolled it in his hands. "I haven't said anything yet and I don't think it's stupid."

Todd laughed at the sight of the box. "It's about time you did something with that instead of pining over it in your closet. Don't look all shocked, you did a crappy job of hiding it."


"Let me guess, you're scared spitless."

"I am rather nervous since this will be the second try."

"If it means anything, I think your head is screwed on tighter than when I first met you."


Todd tapped on the box. "That thing better not be empty."

Michael opened it to show a yellow gold band set with a single marquis-cut emerald. "She's very fond of green."

"That's a cool rock," Todd said, followed with a whistle. "You get points for style. What's the plan after this?"

"Pick her up from work for dinner and ask sometime after that."

Todd eyes widened. "Playing it by ear? That takes some big ones."

"I don't have a choice since my original plan fell through."

"So that was your screw-up."

Michael explained, "No, her car broke down, which meant she couldn't meet me for lunch."

"When you planned to ask..."


"Ah, now things are becoming a little clearer. Life pulled the rug out from under you and you're still trying to keep from falling on your face."

Michael groaned. "A great turn of phrase. You should become a motivational speaker."

"I try. Look at it this way, you still have lunch and all afternoon at work to come up with a plan."

"There is that. Any ideas or advice?"

"Don't get so nervous that you puke," Todd suggested.

"Handy, I'll try to remember that."

"In that case, my work is done. Good luck."


Todd veered away and said, "You'll do fine...just don't eat a big dinner."

Michael stopped. "Thanks, I really needed that."

Actually buoyed by his conversation with Todd, Michael jogged across the street to the line of eateries and bars next to the Raft campus. He chose a place called "Bow Thai" and fought his way through the takeout line to grab his lunch.

Going out of his way upon exiting the restaurant, Michael carried his takeout bag to a bench outside Newton Hall, the biology and chemistry building. He looked at the bench for several seconds before sitting down with a smile on his face. Two years ago at this bench, Daria first agreed to go out with me. Too bad her car broke down today; asking her here would've been a nice touch.

Michael unpacked his lunch and started to eat his garlic curry beef while remembering that day. He recalled things like his complete surprise at the change in her answer after turning him down before the Thanksgiving holiday, followed by the stumbling attempts to plan a first date. Michael chuckled at how nervous they each were. Sipping his Thai coffee, the thought of how the rest of that day seemed to pass with him walking on air; even Ken, his offensive roommate that year, didn't bother him that day.

Just before Michael finished his lunch, he knew he had a plan for the evening. He packed the trash back within the bag and dropped it into a nearby trash can. Michael turned and looked at the spot Daria had sat on that day, quietly saying, "I hope you like what I've planned for tonight."

The remaining staff parking space was narrow and Michael had to maneuver carefully to slip his car into the slot. It required just as much careful effort for him to squeeze out of the car in the narrow space left between vehicles. Carrying his gym bag, he jogged across the parking lot to the Freedom Trail Visitor Center's staff entrance. He quickly changed to his green uniform in the restroom. Feeling that it wouldn't be safe anywhere but on him, Michael placed the ring in his shirt pocket. Next, he placed his regular clothes in the bag and then went back out to the staff room to place it and his jacket in a locker.

Walking past a couple other staff members finishing their lunch, Michael checked the duty board and sighed with gratitude. "Visitor Center. Good, I don't have to run around as much today."

From below the duty board, Michael picked up a clipboard with a work checklist with "Visitor Center" marked on top. Going down it, the topmost unmarked line was "Check and replace light bulbs."

He tossed the board in the air, spinning it and saying, "Yee-haw," as he walked out into the hallway. Following a second page on the clipboard, he started checking room by room, recording burned out light bulbs. At his boss's office, he knocked on the open door's frame. "Hi, Mr. Morrison, just checking the lights."

In his late fifties, Amos Morrison's head was crowned with thinning white hair. A product of the career service system, he barely glanced up as Michael noted the two dark florescent tubes. "I noticed the light in the back of the office supply closet is flickering."

"Thanks for the heads up."

His boss grunted in reply.

After completing the staff rooms, he went out into the public area of the center to continue scouting. The crowd was thin, with only a few scattered tourists and one tour group of high school students. He started around the main lobby, checking the display cases and interpretive stations.

A man tapped Michael on the shoulder and said, "Excuse me. Why isn't the Samuel Adams brewery on the tour?"

Confused, Michael said, "Pardon?"

"Why isn't the Samuel Adams brewery on the tour?"

Tourons. I hope I can keep my cool. Michael forced himself to be polite. "That's not a historical establishment."

"Don't tell me that!" the man said, becoming belligerent. "Samuel Adams was one of the founding greats of our country."

Michael took a breath. "Yes, sir. However, the brewery is only named after Samuel Adams, he didn't start it."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive. Let's put it this way; if the government was running the brewery, do you think the beer would taste good?"

The man rubbed his chin. "Hmm, yeah, I hadn't thought of that. Something from the government would probably make Billy Beer taste great. Sorry to bother you."

Michael gave him a polite smile. "No problem, sir."

"Oh, one more question. When's the tea party?"

Standing on an aluminum ladder, Michael reached overhead and jiggled a light drop panel back into place. "Got it. Nguyen, what's next?" he asked as he climbed down.

Releasing his brace hold on the ladder once Michael was on the floor, the slightly pudgy park ranger looked at the clipboard resting on a cart holding new bulbs and tubes on top and discards underneath. He said, "That was the last one."

Michael checked his watch. "Great, it looks like I might be able to get out of here a little early. Daria's car broke down and I promised her a ride plus dinner."

"Ah, I remember when I was dating my wife," Nguyen said. "I kind of miss those days and the little edge of uncertainty that you don't have once a ring's on your finger."

Folding the ladder, Michael said, "You miss the uncertainty?"

"It gave things a little extra excitement, knowing that you could lose her at any moment. It also kept me on my toes, and a little more honest."

Michael gave him a doubtful look, making Nguyen laugh. "Okay, you caught me."

"You talk about your wife and kids too much to make that line believable."

"Oh yeah, that's right." Nguyen said, pushing the cart while Michael carried the ladder to the equipment supply room.

"How are they?"

"They're wonderful. My oldest is in a school play and my youngest is now certain she's going to be a painter."

"Better be careful with her, they can be wild. Daria's roommate is one."

"She'll probably want to be a paratrooper next week."

They reached the custodial equipment room and put everything away. While reaching up to hang the ladder on storage hooks, Michael realized that his shirt pocket was open and empty. "Dammit!"

Nguyen hurried over. "You okay?"

Michael spun around, looking. "I dropped something out of my pocket. Dammit! I should've left it in my locker, but I thought it'd be safer with me."

Not seeing anything out of place, Nguyen said, "What are we looking for?"

Michael gestured with one hand. "A blue box about this big."

Nguyen raised one eyebrow and said, "I'll start backtracking where we've been and check with lost and found."

Crawling on the floor to look under the shelf units, Michael said, "Thanks. I'll start the other way after I finish here."

Going back to the lobby, Nguyen trotted over to the information desk. "Marie, has anyone turned in a blue box about this big?" he asked the attendant.

"Nothing like that, why?"

"Michael lost it and he's really upset."

"Nope, I haven't seen it, sorry."

"Thanks; I'll have to keep looking."

It took about five minutes to check all the fixtures they had serviced in the public areas, with no luck. After another ten minutes of examining the staff rooms, he met Michael, who asked, "Find it?"

"No, I'm sorry."

Michael slumped against a wall. "Dammit, dammit, dammit."

Worried for the young man, Nguyen suggested, "Look, why don't we check the lost and found again? Maybe someone turned it in while we were looking."

Holding back tears, Michael said, "Can't hurt."

At least half a dozen staff members were gathered around the information desk when they approached. One of the office receptionists said, "There he is!"

The group turned. Several started to clap and one whistled. The remaining tourist family in the hall looked over with curiosity.

"I think someone found the box...and opened it," Nguyen said.

Heart pounding, Michael ran over to the desk. Marie held the open box in her hand. "I hear this is yours, but the bet is that it won't be for much longer."

"Thank God!" he said. "Who found it?"

Mr. Morrison calmly said, "It was in the office supply room, sitting on a shelf. You should probably be more careful, son."

Michael smacked his head. "Doh! I took it out when I replaced the bulbs in that back fixture; it's half-covered by a shelf and you have to be a contortionist to reach it. I didn't want the box catching on something and coming out."

Conspiratorially, Nguyen said to the others, "He's meeting his girl after work. I think we know what's planned."

More clapping caused Michael to turn almost as red as his hair.

Marie giggled and asked, "So, do we get to throw you a wedding shower?"


"Oh, you probably want it back," she said, grinning.

Coming out of shock, Michael said, "Yes, please, thanks," and took the open box from Marie.

The receptionist who first spotted him said, "Ooh, a shower could be fun. Can we, Mr. Morrison?"

He scratched his head. "You'll have to run that by the social committee."

Marie looked around the group, counting. "We have a quorum. All those in favor?"

Hers and three more hands went up.

"Unanimous. Okay, now we just need a date."

Michael stammered, "Um...I think Daria needs to agree, first."

Marie said, "If a girl turns down a rock like that, I'm kicking her ass."

"And, um, even then, it probably won't be right away or anything."

Nguyen said, "We can wait."

The day's anxiety added to his normally short patience with Boston traffic, Michael shouted, "Move it!" at a car taking up both lanes as it slowly exited the parking lot of Raft's University Press. Hearing a horn blow behind him as he waited for the entrance to clear, he shouted over his shoulder, "Blow it out of your ass!" Once into the parking lot, he slowed and used the delay to calm down so he wouldn't spoil the evening. Once ready, he drove to the front of the office, where Daria was waiting on the steps. She stomped to the car and yanked the door open before throwing her pack into the back seat. "What a day!"

"Things didn't improve after we talked?"

She looked up at the car's headliner. "Oh, taking my car into the shop was the high point of the day."

"I, uh, hope what I have in mind will cheer you up."

"With how I feel, it had better be something good."

Daria leaned her head against the car window. "Because I went to visit a different class, I had about five minutes to get a handle on the day's activity. Middle school students will circle an unprepared teacher like sharks around chum. Hungry sixth graders are a scary sight."

"Good thing you're a fast learner?" Michael hazarded to say.

"They'd have eaten me alive otherwise."

"What about the mentor?"

"She only had to step in toward the end...after one of the kids barfed on me."

Michael glanced at Daria's blue slacks and maroon blouse. "I didn't think I'd seen you wear that before."

"One of the other teachers used her planning period to run down to the Overstock Outlet to pick this up for me. I had to wait in the teachers' lounge in an oversized loaner dress until she got back."

"What happened to your other clothes?"

"The janitor's washing them and I can get them back tomorrow."

"That's something, right?"

"Barely. Waiting for clothes meant that I had to eat lunch on the bus to work...and I was an hour late getting there. Dr. Findlay wasn't amused."


"He went off on a long rant about punctuality and responsibility. I swear, if I'd had them with me, I'd have dumped my puke-covered clothes on his desk and asked if he wanted me to wear them around the office all afternoon."

"That guy is really an ass. I know the work experience is great, but is the job really worth putting up with him?"

Daria closed her eyes and growled, "Michael, I really don't need you second-guessing me tonight."

He waited for the sting of her retort to fade. "Since it's been two years since we first started going out, I figured we could go to that diner we went to on our first date."

"The one we visited after the movie?" Daria asked.

"That's the one."

"I think a greasy spoon will hit the spot tonight. They'd better have cheese fries."

"No worries about cholesterol tonight, I see."

"Screw the cholesterol, I want junk food."

"If we're lucky, maybe they'll have chili-cheese fries."

Daria gave him a quick glance. "Optimist."

Daria burped queasily and pushed her plate away. "I think we found where Speedy Lube gets rid of their old motor oil."

Michael looked at his half-eaten dinner and had to agree. He placed his silverware on top and took a long drink of tea to wash away the aftertaste. "I seem to remember it being better than this."

Daria looked around for the waitress. "And the service has been almost as good as the food."

"Yeah," he replied, though the waitress hadn't been that bad, just overworked in a crowded diner.

Daria dropped her head on the table. "Ah well, a crappy ending to a crappy day."

"I'm sorry about the dinner. I have something that may..."

"Michael, stop." Daria sighed in anger as she looked up. "I'll appreciate your attempts to cheer me up in the morning, but right now, they're making matters worse."

"I'll get the check and then I can take you home, how's that?" he asked, irritated.

"Good idea."

"Um, yeah." Michael caught a glimpse of the waitress and waved.

The college-aged girl hurried over. "Yes?"

Michael said, "Can I have the check, please?"

"Would you like to-go boxes?"

Daria stared at her plate and growled, "My landlady frowns on me bringing home toxic waste."

The waitress clenched her teeth and walked away.

Michael glared at Daria. "She didn't have anything to do with the food other than bringing it out."

"Look, I'm in a bad mood and not fit to be around people, okay?"

"Yeah, I can see that."

The waitress dropped off the check without slowing or looking at them. Michael grabbed it and said, "Be right back."

"I'll head out to the car...fewer people out there. If I'm lucky, I'll run into a mugger and I can shove my boot up his ass."

Michael parked his car behind Karen's pickup. "Looks like your partners in crime are home."

"Hopefully they'll be busy and won't bother me. I think Bump is the only company I can stand right now," Daria said as she opened the door.

Michael stood and looked over the car roof. "Dammit, I know you had a bad day, but couldn't you have at least given me a chance to cheer you up?"

"You've been trying...very trying. It probably would've been best just to have come straight home from work."

"I was really hoping to make this a special night," he shouted more than spoke.

"You should know by now that when I get like this, just don't try to make things better."

"Yeah, and you know I normally do, but tonight was different!"

"Yeah, it was the anniversary of our first date. Look, they all can't be winners."

"It wasn't just that."

"Then what?"

Michael came around the car, pulling the box from his pocket. When he got to Daria, who was starting to back away, he dropped quickly to one knee, flinching as the gravel dug into the skin.

"What are you up to?" she asked, still angry, but also surprised and curious.

God, please don't let me mess this up and hurt Daria again. Michael calmed his voice and said, "A year and a half ago, I really screwed up and almost lost you. I might be screwing up again, but I really mean this: I love you and want to spend my life with you." He gently pressed the box into her hand and opened it. All of the day's anxiety vanished as Michael focused on his words. "Will you marry me?"

Daria stared at him and slowly gulped. Starting to breathe raggedly, she raised the box to her face as the emerald glinted in the moonlight. She hoarsely whispered, "Marry you?"

He nodded.

"This is beautiful, but how did you find another?"

Michael smiled. "I didn't."

Daria's eyes went wide in realization. "You've had this the whole time?"

"I never had the heart to return it after you called it perfect."

Chewing on her lower lip and blinking back tears, Daria asked, "This is what you had planned for tonight?"

"Yes. I've been carrying it with me all day."

She gulped again and slipped the ring onto her finger. "Yes."

Michael stood and embraced Daria. Feeling herself relax under his gentle touch, she whispered, "You win; you managed to make the day better."

Lounging on the sofa with one leg thrown up on the back, Jane whistled and said, "That took a while for you to finally come upstairs, steam up the car windows or something?"

Lying on the floor reading a book, Karen looked up and said, "You wanna talk about looking like a deer in the headlights; that must've been something."

"Yeah, Morgendorffer," Jane said, "I haven't seen you looking this out of it in...hell, I never have seen you like this."

Daria slowly lifted her hand, turning it to show the ring. Spotting it first, Karen spun up and off the floor, dashing over. "Holy crap!"

Jane crawled over the sofa back and joined Karen. "Damn, Daria. He really did it."

Karen finished the thought. "She did, too."

Jane grabbed Daria's hand. "Wow, the boy knows your taste. That's gorgeous."

Karen said, "Jane, I think we need to give her some room to breathe."

"Oh, yeah. Damn, I can't wait to tell Trent."

Daria placed a hand on Jane's shoulder. "Don't say anything yet. I want to tell Mom and Dad in person."

"That's sweet," Karen said.

Daria gave them a wry grin. "The looks on their faces should be priceless."

Walking up the stairs, Michael swung his backpack around and looked in the pocket, where the photo remained, untouched. "I guess I'll have to save you for another day."

Seated at the table, Lewis barely looked up from behind a stack of bound research journals when Michael entered. He asked, "Hey. Did the day's mission go according to plan?"

"To paraphrase Von Moltke, 'No plan survives contact with reality.'"

"Crash and burn, huh?"

"To further paraphrase from him, 'Life is a matter of expedients.' Daria agreed to marry me."

"Oh, okay." Lewis' head shot up. "Whoa, wait...what was that?"

"It didn't go anywhere near how I planned, but I asked Daria to marry me, and she said, 'yes.'"

"Dude! That's cool! I'm not going to need to find a new roommate right away, am I?"

"Don't worry. Daria and I agreed that tackling the basic concept was enough for one night and negotiation of any further details can wait for another time."

"Whew. Anyway, congrats and all that good stuff."

"Thanks. I hope you don't mind, but I've had a kind of long day, so I'm heading for bed."

"Yeah, sounds like it. Later."

Michael walked back to his room and stopped in front of the door with his hand resting on the knob and head bowed. I know I haven't been praying much lately or gone to church. I guess I'm still trying to figure out what I believe, but if you did help me tonight, thank you.

To my wife, Louise, thank you for twenty wonderful years.

Thanks to Louise Lobinske, Kristen Bealer, Ipswichfan and Mr. Orange for beta reading.

March-April 2007