This story takes place approximately one year after the events of the second season of "Daria."
LAWNDALE HIGH SCHOOL|
Friday afternoon at Lawndale High School. The hallways were bustling with students making weekend plans with others, or else just trying to get out as fast as they could so as to enjoy as much of the weekend as possible. For her part, Daria Morgendorffer mostly ignored the activity around her. She stood at her locker, concentrating on filling her backpack with books and other needs for the usual weekend load of schoolwork... a load that had increased substantially ever since she had entered her junior year.
"Yo!" She turned at the sound of the voice, and saw her best friend Jane Lane standing at her locker, which was only a few feet away from Daria's.
"Hey, Jane," Daria replied. "Want to get some pizza? So far, this school's richly rewarding academic experience hasn't ruined my appetite nearly as much as I thought it would."
Jane shook her head. "Not today. I haven't been out running for at least a week, so I thought I'd get in a few miles. Want to join me?"
Daria grimaced. "No, thanks. I'm not looking forward to collapsing from exhaustion like the last time I joined you. Besides, the only running I prefer to do is away from my family." She then heard a familiar group of voices. "Speaking of which..." she said, turning her head as the Fashion Club -- Sandi Griffin, Stacy Rowe, Tiffany Blum-Deckler, and her sister Quinn -- strode down the hallway, with Quinn describing her latest juggling act among her many male admirers.
When she finished with her tale, both Stacy and Tiffany praised Quinn for her inventiveness, though Stacy always praised Quinn so that didn't mean very much. Sandi, however, wasn't impressed at all. "It must be so satisfying to be, like, deceitful and everything, Quinn," she sneered. "Your mother must be very proud, since she's, like, a lawyer and all."
Quinn glared at Sandi. She had been in the Fashion Club for over a year, ever since her family had moved to Lawndale in her freshman year, and while she and Sandi had always been rivals, the competition until recently had at least been marginally civil. These days it wasn't even that, as Sandi's jealousies and insecurities constantly spilled over into behavior that could only be described as outright contempt.
Before Quinn could mount a suitably scathing comeback, Daria stopped her in the hall. "Quinn, I hate to interrupt your fashion festival," she said, "but your personal Three Musketeers asked me to give you some messages." She pulled out her notepad. "Joey said to tell you that he'd really like to take you to Slippery Slide World this weekend, and not to tell Jeffy or Jamie. Jeffy said to tell you that he wants to take you to the movies, and not to tell Jamie or Joey. And Jamie said to tell you that he has tickets to the ice show, and not to tell Joey or Jeffy." She looked up from her pad. "And I'm telling you that I'm not your personal answering service, so tell these guys to start giving you their own damn messages."
Quinn rolled her eyes. "Fine, whatever," she said. "I can't go out with any of them this weekend anyway. I already have a date." She paused to think. "Hmmm... actually, I could probably postpone it until after seven, and have Jeffy..." Quinn then proceeded to launch into a long explanation of her plans to manipulate her three suitors and come out on top.
None of which was even remotely interesting to Daria. "You know, Quinn," she said sarcastically, interrupting Quinn in mid-scheme, "you should market these shallowness lessons of yours on the home shopping channels. You'd probably make a fortune."
"Ugh!" Quinn said in a disgusted tone, throwing her arms in the air. "Why do I even bother talking to you?" She turned on her heel and rejoined her Fashion Club cohorts, and proceeded to discuss with them wardrobe possibilities for her date while they walked out the door.
That's what I keep asking myself, Daria thought. She swore she could actually feel brain cells dying every second she was exposed to Quinn's superficiality. "Going to college in Australia is looking better and better every day," she muttered.
Shaking her head in disgust, she closed her locker and turned to Jane, who was putting on her running shoes. "How do you keep yourself motivated to do all that running, anyway?" she asked.
"Are you kidding?" Jane said as she tied her laces. "I just imagine I'm trying to escape from them." She jerked a thumb in the direction of the just-departed Fashion Club. "You'd be surprised how many miles of motivation I can get out of that."
Late Saturday Afternoon
Helen hurried down the stairs of the Morgendorffer residence late Saturday afternoon, wearing her very best outfit. "Jake!" she shouted up the stairway. "Hurry up, for God's sake! You know how long it takes to get to Leeville from here!"
Daria, who was sitting cross-legged on the couch reading a book, turned to her mother. "Off to your all-night legal jubilee, I take it?"
"It's the Windsor Hills Tri-County Charity Fundraiser, sweetie," Helen said. "A very prestigious event. The most influential people in the legal profession from all over the state will be there. It's a great honor to be invited." She gave a hopeful sigh. "You know, I can really make some good contacts tonight, if I play my cards right."
Helen checked her watch, and turned to face the stairs. "Jake!" she yelled. Facing her daughter again, she said, "I hope you won't be out with your friends too late, Daria."
"Actually," Daria replied, "I was planning on staying the night at Jane's. She asked me to help her study for a big math test next week."
Helen frowned. "Well, this is pretty last-minute, but I don't really see a problem with it. We won't be gone all night, so Quinn won't be here alone." She turned and yelled for Jake for a third time, and ended up screaming right in his face, as he had just come down the stairs and was standing next to Helen. "Dammit, Jake, why can't you ever be ready on time!"
"But I..." he said, holding up his arms by way of explanation. He had been trying to put on his cufflinks, and hadn't had any success.
Helen made an exasperated sound. "Oh, here!" she said, and took his wrists so she could attach the cufflinks.
Jake turned to address Daria. "So, kiddo," he said. "Got any big plans for tonight?"
"Not really," Daria said. "Jane and I were just going to cruise around the bad part of town and pick up seedy, dangerous men."
Helen yanked on his arms to bring him back to Earth. "Jake, relax. She's joking."
"Oh, I knew that!" Jake said, laughing. He turned to Daria. "You... were kidding, right?"
"Yes, Dad," Daria sighed. "We're just going to The Zen to watch her brother Trent and his band perform. Nothing we haven't done a thousand times before."
Helen finished attaching Jake's cufflinks, and gave him a small shove. "Come on, Jake, we're late. You be careful, all right, sweetie?"
Before Daria could answer, Quinn flew through the front door and up the stairs. "Hi, can't talk now, bye!"
Helen and Jake watched Quinn disappear up the stairs. "What was that all about?" Helen wondered. They turned to Daria, who simply gave them a "do-you-really-need-to-ask?" look. Shrugging their shoulders, they turned and went out the front door, heading for the car.
A few hours later, the doorbell rang. Daria answered it, to find Jane and Trent standing on the front stoop. "Ready to go?" Jane asked.
"Yeah," Daria replied, and walked with them to Trent's aging blue Plymouth. Their little excursions to the Mystik Spiral gigs at The Zen had become a fairly regular thing, and while Daria still got jelly-kneed around Trent, it was worth it for the opportunity to get away from homework and family for an evening.
"So, did your parents say you could spend the night?" Jane asked.
"Yeah," said Daria. "I told my mom that you needed help studying for a math test... which isn't entirely a lie, given your meticulously maintained 'C' average."
"Actually, I do have a math test next week," Jane admitted, "but why waste a perfectly good weekend studying when you can put it off 'til the last minute?"
"The secret of the 'C' average, revealed at last," Daria said dryly. "Anyway, I doubt she would have liked hearing that I didn't feel like sitting around all evening keeping an eye on Princess Diana." She smirked. "You should've seen the look on my dad's face when I told him we were going out trolling for men. He almost blew a blood vessel."
Jane and Trent chuckled, imagining the scene all too clearly. As they were getting into the car, another car -- this one a moderately expensive sports sedan -- pulled up behind them and honked the horn. "Who's that?" Trent asked, somewhat irritably.
"Someone from Quinn's army of admirers, no doubt," Jane remarked as she settled into the back seat. "She did say something at school about juggling her personal fan club to make room for tonight's main attraction."
A slight frown creased Trent's face. "Daria's sister... figures," he said darkly. He put the car in gear and headed towards downtown, allowing the second car to pull in front the house. They never saw Quinn come strolling out, dressed to kill, and get into the car, which sped off into the night.
SILVER LAKE MARINA|
Early Sunday Morning
The early morning sun was just peeking over the horizon when the harbormaster for the Silver Lake Marina arrived at work. After stowing his gear in the office, he drank a cup of coffee to warm himself up -- there was a distinct chill in the air, especially near the water -- before setting off on his morning rounds.
As he strolled down the docks, he kept an eye out for problems while simultaneously marveling at the splendor of the lake and its surroundings. He never tired of the view, even after his many years on the job. Silver Lake was a haven for the more affluent members of the surrounding communities, and for good reason: its wide, pristine beaches surrounded by woods and wetlands ensured privacy, luxury, and exclusivity.
He reached the end of the main dock and was about to turn back when he noticed, in the distance, what looked like an animal washed up on the beach. Perhaps a deer from the surrounding woods had somehow been injured, and had wandered down to the waters' edge and collapsed. Frowning, he pulled his long wool coat tighter around his body, stepped off the dock, and started down towards the sand.
As he got closer, he saw that it was not a deer but a human body, lying face-down in the sand. He ran the remaining distance, and discovered that it was the nude form of a young woman, probably not much older than fifteen or sixteen. Getting down on one knee, he turned the woman over and brushed her reddish-gold hair away from her face, and was sickened at what he saw. She had been beaten up, and badly.
Fearing the worst, he placed his fingers on the side of her neck, and was surprised to discover that the woman still had a pulse. He took off his coat and wrapped it around her, then picked the woman up and quickly carried her from the water's edge. After gently placing her in the passenger seat of his pickup truck, he drove her to the area hospital, where -- lacking any identification -- she was admitted to the emergency room under the name "Jane Doe."
Shortly after noon, Trent wandered down the stairs and into the kitchen after having slept all night... a rare thing indeed for someone who had, in spite of his narcoleptic tendencies, raised being a night owl to an art form. He was about to pour a cup of coffee when the phone rang. Reaching over the counter and picking up the phone before it could ring a second time, he answered with a somewhat groggy "Hello?"
"Yes, hello... who is this?" said the voice on the other end.
"Uh, this is Trent."
The voice paused. Then, "Oh, yes. Jane's brother. This is Daria's mother. Could I please speak with her?"
"Oh... sure," he said. "Hold on." He set the phone on the counter, then loped up the stairs to Jane's room. His sleep-fogged brain barely registered that it was strange that Helen didn't remember him, considering that he'd visited several times and had even spent the night at their house. Something was definitely bothering her.
Daria and Jane were sitting on the bed -- she had ended up helping Jane with her math studies after all, given the lack of anything decent on Sunday afternoon television -- when there was a knock on the bedroom door. "Yo!" Jane called out. The door opened, and Trent stuck his head in. "Hey, Trent. What's up?"
"Phone call for you, Daria," he said. "It's your mother."
My mother? "Um, thanks, Trent." She reached over and picked up Jane's cordless phone as Trent closed the door and headed back to the kitchen. Clicking the handset on, she answered, "Hi, Mom. What's up?"
Helen wasted no time. "Daria, do you know where Quinn is?"
"She's not at home?" Daria said, frowning.
"No, she's not," Helen replied, and for the first time, Daria noted the worry in her mother's voice. "We came home late from the banquet last night and her bedroom door was closed, so we just assumed that she was asleep. When she didn't come down for breakfast this morning, I went to her room to check on her, and found that her bed hadn't even been slept in." She hesitated. "I assume she went on a date last night... you don't suppose they...?"
"Relax, Mom," Daria said. "Quinn's lots of things, but crazy isn't one of them. She probably just went to stay with one of her friends from the fashion brigade."
"I've already called them. Tiffany and Stacy haven't seen her, and that little witch Sandi acted like she could care less," she said, fuming at the memory of Sandi's callous indifference. "I took the liberty of grabbing Quinn's address book from her bedroom. I'm in the process of calling her other friends and boyfriends, but... well, this is going to take forever. Would you mind calling around to the various hospitals, and see if -- God forbid -- she ended up at any of them?"
"The hospitals?" She glanced at Jane, who had looked up from her math textbook and was now staring at Daria intently. "Don't you think you're overreacting just a bit?"
In the background, she could hear her father ranting, vowing to kill anyone who so much as looked the wrong way at his little girl. "Jake, please!" Helen shouted, the shrill sound coming through the receiver loud enough to make Daria wince. "Anyway," she said, her voice back to normal, "I know it's a long shot, but your father and I are very worried, so could you please just do this?"
Daria sighed. "All right. We'll call around and let you know," she said, and clicked the handset off. She put the handset back into its cradle and turned to Jane. "You got any phone books around here?"
Jane lifted an eyebrow. "Yeah, downstairs. What's up with Queen Elizabeth, anyway?"
"My mom said she didn't come home last night," Daria replied. "The Fashion Club hasn't seen her, and my parents are now in a full-blown panic, wanting me to call around to all the hospitals in the area."
"You thinking she and her date actually spent the night somewhere?"
"I wouldn't put it past her, despite what I told my mom," Daria admitted. "Anyway, let's get this over with so we can get back to your math studies... you know, something exciting." With that, they got up and headed downstairs to retrieve the phone books.
SILVER LAKE MEMORIAL HOSPITAL|
Later that afternoon, Daria and Jane were with Trent as he drove them to various hospitals in the area. At first, Daria had dismissed the whole notion as far-fetched, but after calling around, they had discovered three people that matched Quinn's general description... all of them listed as "Jane Doe." The first two tries were a bust; Silver Lake Memorial Hospital was last on the list.
As they drove, Jane glanced at Daria, who was staring intently out the passenger window. "Hey," she said, nudging Daria in the arm. "I'm sure this one's gonna be a false alarm, too. We'll get home, and discover that Quinn and one of her friends had secretly sneaked off for an all-day shopping blitz. She'll get grounded for six months, and you'll have the perfect opportunity to drive her insane."
"I don't think I'd have very far to drive," Daria said, but her voice had none of her usual dry humor in it. To everyone's surprise, including her own, Daria was genuinely concerned about her sister. She resumed staring out the window, and they proceeded the rest of the way in silence.
When they arrived at Silver Lake Memorial, they entered through the emergency room and walked up to the admissions desk. The nurse behind the counter looked up from her paperwork. "Can I help you?"
"We called earlier today," Daria said, "about a patient that was admitted here. A fifteen year old girl with red hair listed as 'Jane Doe'?"
The nurse got up from her chair and went over to the rack of patient charts that was sitting nearby. She leafed through several of them before pulling one out. "Oh, yes... Jane Doe... mid teens, red hair, blue eyes." The nurse glanced through the rest of the chart, and got a strange look on her face. She looked at Daria. "Are you related to her?"
"She might be my sister."
The nurse nodded. "She was admitted early this morning, and is now in the intensive care unit. If you'll follow me, please?" When Jane and Trent began to follow as well, the nurse stopped them. "Just the young woman, please."
"They're my friends," Daria explained. "I'd really like them to come along, if that's okay."
The nurse paused for a moment, thinking. "I suppose that would be all right," she said reluctantly, and lead the three of them through the emergency room to the intensive care unit. They entered the room and passed one bed after another, each separated by a privacy curtain. "Here we go," she finally said as they approached a bed near the far end of the room.
Daria reached the foot of the bed... and her heart froze in her chest. "Quinn..." she whispered.
Quinn was barely recognizable. Her head was bandaged, covering her forehead and much of her left eye, her right eye was almost swollen shut, and another bandage was wrapped around from her nose to the back of her head. Both lips were split. Several intravenous tubes emerged from her arms, and in the background an EKG machine was running, its beep-beep sound forcefully punctuating the seriousness of her injuries.
The nurse looked at Daria with sympathy. "Is this your sister?" she asked gently. Daria could only nod, being too shocked to speak. "I'm so sorry," the nurse replied. "I know what you must be going through right now, but if you're feeling up to it, we'd like to get some information about her. What is her name?"
"Q-Quinn... Quinn Morgendorffer," Daria said, her voice shaky. "My God, what happened to her?"
The nurse finished writing on Quinn's chart, crossing out "Jane Doe" and writing "Quinn Morgendorffer" in its place. "It would probably be better to let the doctor explain things to you and your parents. If you'll come with me back to the waiting room, we can get more of Quinn's personal information, and you can call your folks." She led them back through the intensive care unit, with Jane and Trent putting their arms around Daria in comfort and support.
Helen was sitting at the kitchen table, and was about to dial another number when the phone rang. Clicking on the handset, she answered, "Hello?"
"Mom? It's Daria."
"Daria!" she said. "Did you find out anything?"
"I'm afraid so." The voice at the other end hesitated. "We're at Silver Lake Memorial Hospital. Quinn's in the ICU."
Helen felt the blood drain from her face. "Oh, my God..." she said as she squeezed her eyes shut, not wanting to believe it was true. "What happened to her?"
"I don't know," Daria replied. "They won't tell me anything without you and Dad here, but from what I can see, it looks like she was beaten up pretty badly." Her voice broke, and it was several moments before she could speak again. "How soon can you and Dad get here?"
"We're leaving now!" Helen clicked off the cordless phone, and when she went to put it back in its cradle, she noticed that her hands were shaking. She closed her eyes, bunched her hands into fists, and took a few deep breaths to calm herself. When she felt sufficiently in control, she turned on her heel and hurried into the living room to get Jake.
Daria hung up the phone, then returned to the ER waiting room and sat down between Jane and Trent. "They're on their way," she told them.
"Cool," Trent said. "Don't worry, Daria. Quinn's gonna be fine. You'll see."
"I hope so," said Daria, her voice heavy. "God, I hope so. I mean, we've been at each others' throats for as long as I can remember, and now... I mean, what if..." Her voice broke again, and she couldn't say anything more.
"That's not going to happen," Jane said with firm reassurance, putting her hand on her friend's shoulder. "Just you watch. She'll come through this with flying colors, and before you know it, you'll both resume your little Cold War with even more energy than before."
Daria let that sink in, then composed herself and favored both Jane and Trent with a rare but shaky smile. "Thanks, guys." They settled back into their chairs to wait for the Morgendorffers to arrive.
An hour later, the three were watching -- without much enthusiasm -- the exploits of Xena: Warrior Princess when Helen and Jake finally arrived. Noticing the Morgendorffers approaching the emergency room doors, Jane gave Daria a nudge. "They're here."
Daria stood up and went over to greet them. Helen, the first one through the door, grabbed Daria and held her in a fierce hug. "Oh, sweetie..." she said. Breaking the clinch, she asked, "Have they told you anything?"
"Not yet, no. They simply took down the information I gave them about Quinn, then told me to call you guys. They said they'd give us an explanation as soon as you got here."
Helen turned to her husband. "Jake, why don't you get us some coffee while I track down a doctor and find out how she's doing." Jake nodded and ambled off to find the coffee machine while Helen spoke to the nurse at the admissions desk.
Twenty minutes later, a doctor came into the waiting room and approached the Morgendorffers. "Mr. and Mrs. Morgendorffer? I'm Doctor Samuels," he said as he shook their hands. "I've been assigned to your daughter's case."
"How is she, doctor?" Helen asked. "What happened to her? My daughter said that it looked like she'd been beaten up."
The doctor hesitated. "Perhaps we should talk somewhere more private," he said, gesturing to a small room off the waiting area. Helen, Jake, and Daria followed the doctor into the room, with Daria receiving a smile and a thumbs-up from Jane and a reassuring wink from Trent.
Dr. Samuels closed the door, then waited for them to sit down before speaking. "There's no easy way to say any of this, so I'll just tell you straight out. It appears that Quinn has indeed been through a severe beating, like your daughter said." He referenced Quinn's medical chart. "She has numerous facial lacerations, her nose is broken, and she has three fractured ribs, as well as various bruises and contusions over her body. Fortunately, there are no internal injuries that we can detect, so surgery shouldn't be necessary."
He hesitated before bringing up the next subject. "What's more disturbing are her other injuries. She has severe lacerations in her vaginal and anal cavities, which suggests that she's been sexually assaulted, possibly several times."
"Oh, dear Lord..." Helen said, putting her hands to her mouth, her worst fears confirmed. Jake put his arm around his wife and pulled her close; he didn't say a word, but the look in his eyes suggested he wanted to find the monster that did this to his daughter and kill him... as many times as he could.
The doctor cleared his throat. "In cases of possible sexual assault, we try to collect samples of blood, semen, and other bodily fluids, to aid the police in their investigation. Hopefully, this will allow them to bring her assailant to justice." He paused. "Unfortunately, that's the good news, such as it is."
Daria, who had sat stone-faced throughout the discussion, got a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. "What's the bad news?"
"The bad news," he said slowly, "is that Quinn has suffered a major concussion, due to the blows to the head she received from her assailant. The MRI doesn't show any brain damage, but..."
"But what???" Helen insisted.
Dr. Samuels looked at them with sympathy. "The trauma has left her in a coma... and we don't know when, or if, she'll emerge."
Jane and Trent saw the Morgendorffers emerge from the small conference room, and knew instantly that something was terribly wrong. Helen was crying, and Jake looked like he could commit murder at any moment. And Daria...
Daria left her parents so they could speak further with the doctor, and approached Jane and Trent. "What happened?" Jane asked.
"It's worse than we thought," Daria replied, her voice flat. "Not only was she beaten, she was raped, and her injuries were severe enough to put her in a coma."
"Jeez..." Jane said, horrified. "Daria, I'm so sorry." Beside her, Trent wore a look of shock and sympathy. Quinn was probably the last person he'd choose to be friends with, but aside from the fact that she was Daria's sister, this was something that he'd never have wished on anyone. Not even Quinn.
"Yeah..." After a pause, she said, "My parents are making arrangements to have her transferred to Cedars of Lawndale Hospital. Apparently, they're better equipped to handle cases of severe head trauma." Another pause. "At least she'll be close by..."
"Do you want us to hang around?" Trent asked gently.
Daria shook her head. "I don't really see the point. We're going to be tied up for a while, so I'll just get a ride home with my mom and dad."
Jane nodded. "No problem. I'll see you in school, okay?"
Trent put a hand on her shoulder. "If there's anything we can do for you, Daria," he said, "just let us know."
"Thanks," Daria replied. She hadn't even reacted to Trent's touch. That, more than anything else, told Jane and Trent how tightly she was keeping her emotions in check. With one last parting smile of reassurance, Jane and Trent ambled out of the emergency room and headed for his car. Daria watched them go, then went to rejoin her parents and the doctor.
LAWNDALE HIGH SCHOOL|
Monday morning at Lawndale High was pure hell for Daria. After Quinn was transferred to Cedars, she and her parents had spent the rest of the evening at Quinn's bedside. That night, Daria had gotten very little sleep, as all she kept thinking about was the sight of her sister laying comatose in a hospital bed, the bandages and IV tubes being used to help her heal somehow making her condition look even worse. Helen had wanted Daria to stay home from school to get some badly needed rest, but she had insisted on going, as she needed the diversion to take her mind off things.
She reached her locker just as Jane was closing hers. "Hey, Daria," Jane said. "How's Quinn?"
"She's still comatose," Daria replied. "Fortunately, her condition is stable, and it looks like her injuries are going to heal, so they moved her to a private room."
"Thank God for that," Jane said. "So how are your parents holding up? They didn't look very good after you guys talked to the doctor yesterday."
Daria finished getting her books from her locker, and together they proceeded to their next class. "My mom's thrown herself into her work, as you can imagine," she said as they walked, "but now her work includes doing everything within her power to find out who attacked Quinn. And my dad..." She paused. "He's scaring me, Jane. Any other time, he'd be flying off the handle, but he's calm... too calm. He refuses to talk about it. And when you look in his eyes..."
Jane waited, but Daria didn't say anything further. "And what about you?" she asked after a moment, forming the question that had been foremost on her mind.
"I'm fine," Daria said shortly. Jane didn't pry any further, as Daria's voice got more monotone the harder she controlled her emotions, and right now it was flatter than she had ever heard it. They walked in silence the rest of the way to the classroom of their English teacher, Timothy O'Neill.
No sooner had the class bell rang and the students taken their seats than the voice of Angela Li, Lawndale High's principal, came over the public address system. "Attention, students," said Ms. Li's disembodied voice. "I have a very sad announcement. One of our students, Ms. Quinn Morgendorffer, was severely injured over the weekend, and is currently at Cedars of Lawndale Hospital." Gasps of shock and surprise came from the students in the class that knew Quinn. Several people glanced over at Daria, who was looking straight ahead, her stone mask firmly in place. "Details of her condition, and the circumstances behind them, are being withheld out of respect for the family's privacy. However, those of you who wish to express your condolences may obtain the necessary information from the front office."
The speaker clicked off, and the students began to murmur amongst themselves. Mr. O'Neill turned to Daria and said, "Daria, I'm so sorry! This must be a very difficult time for you. Is there anything we can do to help you through this?"
"Yes," Daria said, "there is. You can get on with teaching the class, and stop making a fuss over me. That's the last thing I want, or need, right now."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. I appreciate the concern, but right now I think the best thing for me to do is to concentrate on schoolwork."
O'Neill nodded. "Very well, Daria, if that's what you think is best. Just remember: we're here for you, so let us know if there's anything we can do." Reluctantly, he turned to face the entire class, and he began his lecture for the day.
Not unexpectedly, Daria was surrounded by a veritable mob of people almost the instant she left O'Neill's classroom. Didn't take them very long, did it? she thought to herself.
Jodie Landon and her boyfriend, "Mack" MacKenzie, were the first to approach her. "Daria, I'm so sorry to hear about Quinn," she said. "Is she going to be all right?"
"We think so," Daria replied, deliberately omitting the facts of Quinn's rape and coma, "but right now it's too soon to tell." She was prevented from saying anything else by the ever-emotional Brittany Taylor, who nearly knocked Daria over when she ran up to her and, sobbing, grabbed her in a fierce hug. It took a few moments for a startled Daria to recover. "There... there..." she said, awkwardly patting the cheerleader on the back. "Uh... Brittany... I can't... breathe..."
Brittany let go of Daria, who started gasping for air. "Sorry," she said, sniffling, then latched onto her boyfriend, quarterback Kevin Thompson, and started bawling all over again. Fortunately, Kevin had an easier time of it, being both an athlete and at least a head taller than Brittany.
"So, Daria," inquired Kevin. "What's wrong with Quinn... owww!" he yelled, as Brittany kicked him in the shin for his utter lack of tact.
Daria sighed. "We were hoping to keep this private, but I guess I'd better tell you before rumors start running rampant. Quinn went out on a date Saturday, and got beaten up so badly that it put her in a coma." A collective gasp arose from the crowd; under other circumstances, it would have been comical. "Her injuries will heal, but as far as her coma is concerned... we don't know."
"I'm not surprised," said a voice from the back of the crowd. Heads turned, and the crowd parted to reveal the three senior members of the Fashion Club. "She was probably asking for it, the little hussy."
"Sandi!" gasped Tiffany and Stacy simultaneously. They knew that there was no love lost between Sandi and Quinn, but this was going way too far, even for her.
Daria glared at Sandi. "You're on thin ice, Griffin," she growled, her tone ice-cold. Beside her, Jane fixed Sandi with the same glare; if looks could kill, Sandi would have been vaporized right on the spot.
"Oh, like, what are you going to do about it?" Sandi replied, ignoring the increasingly hostile looks she was receiving from the gathering crowd. "Are you going to, like, bore me to death with some book quotes or something?" She snorted. "Quinn's been trying to push me out of the way ever since she came here. As far as I'm concerned, she got what she deserved." With a toss of her head, she turned to leave.
What happened next was so unexpected that it took everyone completely by surprise. With a scream of pure rage, Daria practically leaped the short distance between her and Sandi and knocked her to the floor with a flying tackle. Her fists flew as she tried to pummel Sandi, who held her arms out in a feeble attempt to ward off the blows. The rather one-sided fight went on for several moments until the other students finally recovered from the shock and pulled the two combatants apart, with Kevin and Mack holding onto Daria and several others restraining Sandi.
Ms. Li, who had been in a classroom down the hall, arrived on the scene moments later. "What the hell is going on here?!!" she demanded.
Sandi dabbed at the blood trickling out of her nose. "I was just, like, walking down the hall, minding my own business..."
"Liar!" Daria spat.
"... when Quinn's cousin attacked me for, like, no reason!"
"You stupid bitch!" shouted Daria as she attempted to lunge at Sandi, but Kevin and Mack were holding fast. "I'm not Quinn's cousin, I'm her sister! You must be the only person who hasn't figured that out by now! And I can only hope that one of your dates doesn't rape you, beat the hell out of you, and leave you for dead!"
A shocked murmur went through the crowd at this latest revelation. However, Ms. Li -- who was already aware of the details -- was determined to maintain control of the situation. "Ms. Morgendorffer, Ms. Griffin, I want you both in my office. Now!" With that, Kevin and Mack released Daria's arms, and both she and Sandi trudged off to the principal's office, with Ms. Li right on their heels.
The front door opened at the Morgendorffer residence and Daria walked in, followed by a positively irate Helen. "Suspended for a week!" she exclaimed, continuing her tirade from where she had left off in the car. "Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to be called out of a meeting to pick up your daughter from school because she was suspended for fighting with another student?"
"No, I don't," Daria replied, her mask of non-emotion firmly in place once again, "and at the moment, I couldn't care less."
"Don't talk back to me, young lady!" Helen snapped. "I know you must be upset about your sister, but fighting..."
"That little bitch asked for it, after what she said about Quinn. She deserves more than the two days' suspension she got."
Helen sighed. "Daria, that's quite enough. Go upstairs to your room while I decide on your punishment... and you can bet it will be severe." She waited until Daria was upstairs before sitting on the couch and putting her head in her hands. On top of her normal workload, she had been sifting through Quinn's diary, address book, notes... anything she could think of that could provide a clue as to the identity of the person who had attacked her. So far, she had encountered nothing but frustration, and this incident with Daria didn't exactly help matters.
Daria reached the top of the stairs and started down the hall towards her bedroom. She stopped as she reached Quinn's room, and as she stood there, she was besieged by memories of the past: Quinn complaining that "her life was being ruined again" when she found out that Daria had been invited to Brittany's party... Quinn's admission to her and Jane of her obsession with fashion and popularity... her reassuring Quinn that she was still attractive after Dr. Shar had preyed on her insecurities... Quinn dressing all in black when her essay became the talk of the school and everyone believed she was a "brain"... her and Quinn in the Lawndale High girls' bathroom, with Quinn trying to help cure her skin rash... all of these were mixed in with earlier memories of their childhood, of all the times they had fought and argued like siblings are wont to do. Daria stood there for many long moments, remembering, her emotions playing a tug-of-war inside her...
Downstairs, Helen was still sitting on the couch, trying to figure out how to sort out the mess her family was in, when she heard a loud crash come from the upper floor. She ran up the stairs in time to hear another crash, and identified it as coming from Daria's room. Helen rushed to Daria's bedroom, and her eyes widened at what she saw: Daria was in a rage, tossing things everywhere, literally tearing her room apart. She had pulled her bookcase over and had knocked the items off of her desk, and as Helen watched, she sent the cheese wedge and heart models flying off her dresser with an incoherent yell and a sweep of her arm.
Helen rushed over and grabbed her daughter by the arms before she could do any more harm to herself or her surroundings. "Daria!" she shouted. "Get a hold of yourself!" She was having a hard time holding on as Daria tried to break her grasp, searching for more things to break or to knock through the walls.
Daria finally squirmed around in her mother's grasp to face her. "Why?!!" she screamed, beating her fists against Helen's chest. "Why Quinn? She didn't deserve it! Why?!!" Daria flailed away for a few moments longer, ranting at the injustice done to her sister, before finally collapsing in Helen's arms, crying hard, her sobs seeming to come from the very depths of her soul.
Helen stood there, close to tears herself, and held Daria tightly in her arms, comforting her and trying to comfort herself as well. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Daria's wracking sobs subsided. Their grip on each other lessened, and Helen looked down at her daughter. "Feeling better now, sweetie?" she asked, gently brushing a wild strand of hair out of Daria's eyes.
Daria nodded, and wiped the moisture from her cheeks. "I don't know why I did that," she said, her voice rough from her crying and tinged with embarrassment. "I thought I had more control than that..."
"I think I know why," Helen said as she guided Daria over to the bed and sat down beside her. "Remember what we talked about that time when you were stuck on that writing assignment? I told you that you had a hard time expressing how you felt, that you were so caught up in your cynical shell that you could never tell anyone about your feelings."
"Mm-hmm," Daria replied, sniffling slightly.
Helen gave Daria a small smile. "Well, this is the result... the backlash, if you will. You've done such a good job of burying your feelings that when something terrible like this happens, you don't know how to handle it. Your feelings for your sister -- and don't try to deny them, because no matter how hard you two fight, I know better -- they overwhelmed you, and you reacted the only way you knew how."
Daria thought about that for a moment, then nodded. "That's probably what made me attack Sandi. That, and the fact that Quinn's attempts at being nice to her -- when they weren't being rivals, of course -- were always getting thrown back in her face. I guess I just wanted to wipe that smug look off Sandi's face once and for all."
"I can understand that," Helen said, "and just between you and me, she probably deserved it." She looked at Daria. "But that still doesn't excuse the fight, Daria. Nor is it going to alleviate your punishment."
Daria nodded. "I know." She wiped away one final tear, then stood up. "I think I'd like to be alone for a while. I need to do some thinking."
Helen stood as well. "And some cleaning up, I should imagine." Daria responded with a nod and a small smile, which Helen returned in kind. "I'll come up later to see how you're doing." With that, she exited the bedroom and headed towards the stairs, leaving Daria with a mess to clean... and a lot of thinking to do.
At about the same time, Linda Griffin pulled into the driveway of the Griffin residence, her daughter Sandi sulking in the front seat next to her. "You just march up to your room right now, young lady," she told Sandi as they got out of the car and entered the house. "I'll be up shortly to tell you what your punishment is going to be."
"But Mom!" wailed Sandi in protest. "That psycho sister of Quinn's is the one that started it!"
"I don't care!" Linda snapped. "Upstairs! Now!" Seething, Sandi stomped up the stairs and slammed the door to her bedroom. Sitting down at the kitchen table, Linda picked up the phone and dialed the Morgendorffers. They weren't going to get away with this without getting a piece of her mind, by God!
The phone rang twice. "Hello?" said the voice at the other end. It was Helen.
"Helen, this is Linda."
Helen breathed an exasperated sigh. "Yes, Linda, what can I do for you... as if I didn't know."
"Oh, I'm sure you do," Linda sneered. "Perhaps you'd care to explain why that insane daughter of yours decided to attack Sandi? And while you're at it, maybe you, as a lawyer, could give me a reason why we shouldn't press charges over it?"
"Linda, I'm really in no mood for this right now..."
Linda became incensed. "Not in the mood? Not in the mood??? Well, you'd better damn well get in the mood, because I'm not going to take this lying down!" she growled, her voice rising as she spoke. "Someone over there is going to be held accountable for this, and at this point, I don't care if it's you, your crazy daughter, or that prissy little mama's girl of yours that's always giving Sandi such grief!"
"God damn it, Linda!" Helen shouted. "Don't you have any compassion in that cold black heart of yours for what's happened to Quinn?" Helen couldn't say any more, overwhelmed as she was by grief and rage.
Linda had just been getting warmed up when Helen's words finally registered. "What do you mean, 'what's happened to Quinn?'" she asked, her momentum gone as her train of thought jolted to a halt.
"She was raped and beaten into a coma, that's what!" cried Helen. "And despite all the bad blood that's flowed between us, I just hope to God that something like this doesn't ever happen to your daughter so your family don't have to go through the hell that we're going through right now!"
"Helen, wait!" Linda shouted before Helen could hang up. When she didn't hear a click, she continued. "Please... I'm sorry. I didn't know. I'd never have said what I did if I had." Linda put her hand to her forehead. Raped and beaten... my God, she said to herself. Congratulations, Linda. No one can ever say you don't know how to come off as the biggest jackass on the planet. "God... I don't know what to say..."
"Well, for starters, you can tell me that you'll punish Sandi for giving Daria a reason to attack her in the first place."
"Sandi instigated this?" Linda said, reeling slightly, the revelations coming faster than she could handle them. "She told me that Daria went after her for no reason."
"Oh, there was plenty of reason, all right," Helen said. "When she found out what had happened to Quinn, I believe her exact words were, 'she probably asked for it' and 'she got was she deserved.'" Her voice was hard, her grief transformed into anger. "Now, I don't condone what Daria did, and she will be disciplined for it, but as far as I'm concerned, what Sandi said about Quinn was reprehensible. I'll have to think long and hard about whether or not I'll allow Quinn to associate with her again... presuming that Quinn makes it through this ordeal, and is still able to do any associating."
"Don't worry, Helen," Linda said. "You can rest assured that I will talk to her about it. And again... I'm truly sorry for what I said." She paused. "I know we've had our differences, but if there's anything Tom and I can do to help, please don't hesitate to ask."
Helen gave a weary sigh. "I will, Linda. Thank you. And I'll keep you informed as to Quinn's condition."
"Okay, Helen. Good-bye." Linda hung up the phone, then slowly counted to ten. It didn't help. "Sandi! Get-down-here-now!" she yelled, biting off every syllable.
Sandi came down the stairs, with just enough of a delay to make known her displeasure at being punished. "Yes, mother?" she said, acting innocent.
"Save the act, young lady," Linda snapped. "Perhaps you'd care to explain why you omitted the fact that insulting Quinn is what made her sister attack you, and why you told me that she started it without any provocation?"
"Who told you that?" Sandi said, narrowing her eyes.
"That doesn't matter. What do you have to say for yourself?"
Sandi was silent for a moment. "Okay, fine, so I said it!" she finally exclaimed. "And I meant every word! She's been trying to edge me out since, like, the first day she was here... stealing all the cute guys, trying to take over as president of the Fashion Club, grabbing all the glory for herself! As far as I'm concerned, she's nothing but a common little whore who got what was coming to her!"
The slap came so hard and so fast that Sandi didn't even have time to react. When it finally registered, she put her hand to her burning cheek and stared wordlessly at Linda, mouth agape, unable to believe what her mother had just done.
Linda, for her part, was furious. She had to wait several long moments before she was calm enough to speak again. "Whatever Quinn saw in you as a friend I'll never know," she said, her voice cold. "I just pray to God, young lady, that you never have to endure the pain and suffering that she is going through right now." A wide-eyed Sandi withered under her glare, slowly coming to the realization that she may have finally gone too far, crossing a line that should never have been crossed. "You will go back to your room, you will sit there, and you will think about what a rotten, conniving, back-stabbing little bitch you've become... and I will think about how far into the next century I'm going to ground you."
LAWNDALE HIGH SCHOOL|
"... so my mother grounded me for, like, six months," Sandi told her Fashion Club cohorts as they walked the halls of Lawndale High. Her two days' suspension had seemed like forever. "No car, no television, no shopping, no leaving the house at all."
"Uh-huh," Tiffany said distractedly. Stacy didn't say a word.
Sandi stopped. "What's wrong with you guys? Didn't you hear what I said? I said, like, no shopping and no car! This is the worse crisis the Fashion Club has ever faced!"
"You brought it on yourself, Sandi, for the way you talked about Quinn." Both Sandi and Tiffany stared at Stacy; it wasn't unusual for her to take Quinn's side, but it was the very first time they could recall that Stacy had ever asserted herself with anyone, much less the intimidating Sandi. And it was the first time they had ever heard genuine anger in her voice.
Recovering from the shock, Sandi said, "If that's the way you feel, Stacy, then perhaps you should step down from your post in the Fashion Club." She turned to Tiffany. "Tiffany, you and I should, like, consider grooming someone else to take over for Stacy," she said, resuming her walk down the hall.
Sandi stopped and did a double-take, unable to believe what she had just heard. "What???" This was inconceivable; Tiffany had always sided with her when Quinn wasn't around!
"I said no," Tiffany replied. "What happened to Quinn was totally heinous, but that was nothing compared to what you said about her. Just because Stacy told you the truth, that's no reason to take it out on her."
"I can't believe what I'm hearing!" exclaimed Sandi.
"Neither can I," Tiffany said. "Who's next, Sandi? Me? The Fashion Club was supposed to be about helping others. But it seems that all you care about is yourself."
Tiffany turned to Stacy. "Come on, Stacy." Both girls walked away, leaving a disbelieving Sandi alone in the hallway, wondering what had happened to turn her world so far upside down in so short a time.
CEDARS OF LAWNDALE HOSPITAL|
Friday evening came, with Quinn still showing no signs of regaining consciousness. Daria, Helen, and Jake were once again sitting at her side, hoping for a miracle that would bring her back to them.
Helen stood up, yawned, and stretched. She had come straight from work after another long day of legal briefs and no results in her search for clues to Quinn's attacker. "I think I'm going to stretch my legs," she said. "Jake?" Without saying a word, Jake got up from his chair and joined Helen. "We'll be back shortly, sweetie."
"Okay, Mom," Daria replied.
After they left, Daria sat and stared once again at her surroundings. The room was almost filled wall-to-wall with flowers from family members -- including her aunts Rita and Amy, Grandma Barksdale, and her cousin Erin and her husband Brian -- as well as from Quinn's friends and admirers. In one corner, she saw three flower baskets from Joey, Jeffy, and Jamie, and she could only imagine their struggle to outdo one another in getting the biggest and best they could afford. In another was a beautiful -- Daria refused to use the word "cute" -- bouquet from Tiffany and Stacy. The biggest arrangement by far, however, was from the Griffins... presumably an effort to atone for Sandi's inexcusable behavior.
Sighing, Daria turned her gaze back to her sister. The swelling on her eyes and nose had gone down considerably, leaving only a few nasty bruises that would eventually heal. Her split lips were also healing nicely, and would probably show little to no trace of their injury, and the doctors said that her fractured ribs and other injuries would also heal up over time. But that gave Daria little comfort, as Quinn was still lost to them, in a place that they could only imagine.
"Quinn?" Daria called softly, taking one of Quinn's hands in her own. "They say that people in a coma can sometimes hear people talking to them. Well, if that's true, then you'd better listen up, because this is probably the only time I'll ever say any of this."
She gazed out into the distance. "When did we start going at each others' throats? When did I decide that you were going to be the biggest pain in the ass in my world?" Her mouth quirked into a wry smile. "I wouldn't be surprised if it was the day Mom and Dad brought you home. Not even a few days old, and already you were making my life hell." Daria shifted in her chair, still holding onto Quinn's hand. "I suppose I haven't exactly made your life any easier, either, but I have to admit, there were times when you gave as good as you got. No matter what anyone says, you're not nearly as dumb as you let on."
She gazed at Quinn for a long time, watching her chest rise and fall with each breath. "Mom was right about me... who'd have guessed it, huh?" Moisture was starting to well in her eyes. "In spite of all we've been through... in spite of all the grief we've given each other over the years... you're still my sister, and I don't know what my life would be like without you." She blinked, trying valiantly to hold back the tears. "I've never admitted that to anyone... hell, until now I've never even admitted it to myself. Why'd it take something like this to happen for me to figure that out?"
A single tear tracked each cheek. "Come back to us, sis..." she whispered. "We miss you... I miss you... and I love you..." She leaned back in the chair, letting Quinn's hand fall to the mattress, and wept silently. Eventually, her tears cried out and exhausted from the long day, she fell into a dreamless sleep.
She never noticed Quinn's hand move to grasp hers and hold it tight...
Helen and Jake came back into the room a short time later, and noticed Daria asleep in her chair, holding Quinn's hand. Putting her arm around her husband, Helen remarked, "Oh, look, Jakey... that's so sweet."
"Yeah," Jake said, showing the first hint of emotion in the past six days. "Wish I had my camera with me."
"Keep it down," said a weak and slightly hoarse voice. "She's trying to sleep."
At first, Helen and Jake were confused, unable to place the voice. They then looked closely at Quinn, and noticed that her hand was grasping Daria's, not the other way around. Not daring to hope, they shifted their gaze to Quinn's face... and saw that her eyes were open slightly, and looking straight at them. "Quinn...?" Helen whispered.
The reunion that occurred at that point was almost indescribable. Helen cried out with joy and rushed to Quinn's side, tears streaking down her face, while Jake nudged Daria awake. He then joined Helen in doting over Quinn, while Daria simply sat in her chair, watching the scene, a small but radiant smile on her face. For the first time in six long days, she felt whole again.
The next few days were a whirlwind of activity. After Quinn awoke, the Morgendorffers were hustled out of the room, and a team of doctors -- lead by Dr. Phillips, the doctor who had treated Daria's rash a year ago -- took over to begin administering a huge battery of tests. When they expressed their desire to stay until the tests were completed, the Morgendorffers were told by Dr. Phillips, "The tests are going to take a while, and Quinn will probably be exhausted afterwards. It would be better for everyone if you returned tomorrow; we should be done by then. Besides," he said with a small smile, "you could definitely use the rest." Reluctantly, they agreed, and said their good-byes to Quinn before heading home.
Quinn's memory of the attack gradually returned, and she recounted it -- at first haltingly, then in increasing and graphic detail -- to the detectives handling the case. When she finished, and the police cross-checked her story to make sure no details contradicted or were left out, they went to the Silver Lake Marina and questioned the harbormaster who had found her washed up on the nearby beach. Based on his and Quinn's testimonies, they had enough cause to obtain a search warrant for the boat belonging to the parents of Skyler Feldman.
The police served the Feldmans with the warrant on Monday morning and, over Mr. Feldman's repeated objections, proceeded to search the family's cabin cruiser moored in the Silver Lake Marina. A forensics team was called in, but they largely proved unnecessary: bloody sheets and Quinn's shredded clothes were found stuffed in a storage locker in the forward cabin.
Skyler was taken into police custody that afternoon as he was leaving Lawndale High, and was charged as an adult with first-degree criminal sexual assault and attempted murder. DNA tests were performed on the semen samples obtained when Quinn was first treated, and there was a better than 95% match. The blood found on the sheets matched Quinn's, and both she and Helen identified the ruined clothes as being hers. Based on the DNA results and the physical evidence, Skyler was given the opportunity to confess and possibly see a lighter sentence on reduced charges. Faced with almost certain conviction if he chose to go to court, Skyler confessed... and confessed everything.
"It all started a year ago," he explained. They were in the interrogation room at the Lawndale police station, a video camera recording Skyler's statement as the detectives looked on and took notes. "After begging for weeks, I had finally landed a date with her. She was beautiful, and I figured we'd be perfect together. I even took her to her favorite restaurant, Chez Pierre, even though it cost a fortune. I figured we were now going steady, but imagine my surprise when I found out that not only was she going to keep dating other guys, but that she planned on dumping me for some other guy once the summer was over!" He snorted contemptuously. "The little bitch was only using me because my parents had a boat, just like she was planning to use that other guy because his parents owned a ski lodge.
"Well, I thought I'd gotten over it -- hey, there are plenty of other fish in the sea for a good-looking guy like me, right? -- but as time went on, I saw her use other guys and toss them aside like empty beer cans. I got even more pissed off, remembering how she had humiliated me, and I finally decided that she needed to be taught a lesson."
Unseen by Skyler, Jake and Helen were watching the confession on the other side of the two-way mirror; it wasn't standard procedure, but Helen had cajoled, insisted, and demanded until they finally relented. Daria had wanted to attend as well, but Helen had refused and wouldn't budge. Daria had gone through enough emotional turmoil over the past week and a half without hearing Skyler describe how he had attacked and violated her sister.
"So I kept asking her out again," he continued, "and she finally accepted -- the stupid little bitch even acted like she was doing me a favor! She wanted to go to Chez Pierre, naturally, but instead I invited her for a romantic moonlight dinner on my parent's boat. It was perfect... it was late, the marina was deserted, and we were so far away from anyone that no matter what happened, no one would ever know about it."
He paused and took a drink of water from the Styrofoam cup in front of him. "Once we were below, it's like some other part of me took over. I got the jump on her, and dragged her into the forward cabin. I started ripping her clothes off, but she put up a struggle, so I hit her a few times. Then I started having my way with her. She kept struggling, though, so I kept on hitting her until she stopped." At this, Jake's hands balled into fists, the fury within him rising even higher as he listened to what this animal had done to his little girl. Beside him, Helen was doing everything she could to keep from falling apart, unwilling to hear any more but knowing that she must. She had known it was going to be tough, but nothing could have prepared her for what she was now hearing.
"Afterwards, when I finally came to my senses, I saw what I had done. I figured I'd killed her -- it looked like she wasn't breathing. I'd only wanted to teach her a lesson, not kill her! I panicked; I took her body up to the deck and dropped it into the channel, then I stashed her clothes and the sheets in the footlocker. By then it was late, and if I'd stayed any later my parents would have been suspicious, so I figured I'd take care of them the next chance I got." He sighed. "Looks like that didn't happen in time, did it?"
The detectives asked a few additional questions, then concluded the interview. Skyler remained seated as one of the detectives came out and approached the Morgendorffers. "It's all pretty much a formality from this point on," he told Helen. "The arraignment, a guilty plea, then the sentencing. I don't know exactly what the district attorney's office will do, but in all likelihood they'll drop the attempted murder charge. With first-degree sexual assault, though, he'll still be facing some serious time behind bars."
As he was talking, his partner brought the handcuffed Skyler out of the interrogation room. Jake, overcome by fury, screamed with rage and lunged at him, intending to tear him to pieces, but was restrained by several police officers. "Get him out of here!" the detective snapped at his partner, who hustled Skyler away as an emotionally wrought Helen pleaded with her husband to come to his senses. But Jake continued to struggle, yelling at the top of his lungs, vowing that he'd make good on his threats if he ever saw Skyler's face again.
CEDARS OF LAWNDALE HOSPITAL|
A few days later, Daria, Jane, and Trent visited Quinn, bearing a huge arrangement of flowers from the Lanes in one of Amanda Lane's hand-made vases. Quinn was even more surprised than Daria to find out that Jane and Trent wanted to see her, especially after the way she had acted that night she'd stayed with them, but she appreciated their thoughtfulness. Trent sat and listened as Daria and Jane caught Quinn up on what had happened at school during the time that she was comatose.
When they were finished, Quinn looked at Daria. "Wow... you actually got into a fight because of me?"
"Don't worry," Daria said sardonically. "I don't plan on making a habit of it."
Quinn laughed, then grimaced in pain as her fractured ribs made their presence known. "Owww! Oh, God, don't make me laugh... it hurts." She then turned serious. "I can't believe the way Sandi acted. I mean, sure, we'd always competed with each other, but who'd've thought she'd go that far?" She paused. "I guess my chances of staying in the Fashion Club aren't too good... not that it means as much to me as it once did."
"I'd say the chances are zero," Jane said, "as there is no more Fashion Club."
Quinn was taken aback. "What?"
"Stacy told me that she and Tiffany resigned in disgust over what Sandi had done," Daria explained, "and when word got around, none of the other girls at school would have anything to do with her. For all intents and purposes, the Fashion Club is dead." Daria suddenly remembered. "Oh, yeah... Stacy asked me to tell you that she and Tiffany would try to stop in and see you before you leave."
"It's kinda ironic," Jane mused. "For years, they treated everyone else with disdain, and now its most outspoken member has become a pariah."
"An outcast. Shunned by the rest of society. You know, like those smart people that read books, write stories, and do little paintings and stuff."
"Oh." Quinn nodded, and didn't say anything more. She still couldn't believe it. The Fashion Club had been such a big part of her life over the past year that it was going to take some time to get used to the fact that it had ceased to exist.
They talked for a while longer, then Jane suddenly slapped her knees and stood up. "Well, I think we'd better get going before things get even more goopy and sentimental," she said dryly, and turned to Daria. "You need a ride home?"
"No, thanks," Daria replied. "My mom and dad will be coming by later, after my dad's therapy session. He's got a lot of anger to work through. I'll walk you guys out, though." She turned to Quinn. "I'll be right back, okay?"
Nodding, Daria turned and accompanied Jane and Trent down the hall. When they reached the elevators, she looked at Trent. "Can I talk to you for a moment?"
Jane glanced at Daria, then her brother. "You know," she said, "those paintings in the waiting room looked pretty cool. I think I'll go check them out."
Daria rolled her eyes. "Real subtle, Jane." When Jane was out of sight, Daria faced Trent once again. "Remember that first night we were at the hospital?"
"It's kinda hard to forget," he responded in his usual soft purr.
"Well... when we returned from the ICU... you called my sister 'Quinn.'"
"That's her name, isn't it?"
"Of course it's her name," she said. "The point is that up 'til then, you'd only referred to her as 'Daria's sister'... and there wasn't exactly a whole lot of love in your voice when you said it. You've never called her by name before. Why the change?"
Trent was silent for a moment; he had to carefully consider what he was about to say, to avoid hurting Daria's feelings. He decided to use the direct approach, as honesty and directness were what Daria respected most. "Well... it's no secret that I never really liked Quinn," he explained. "I mean, there were those stories I'd heard from you and Janey, but what really drove it home was that time she spent the night at our house, when I got a first-hand look. She's shallow and superficial, and uses up and discards guys like they were toilet paper. It's what got her into this mess to begin with."
He paused. "But she's also a human being... a human being who feels, and hurts, and bleeds. I guess it just took something like this to make me see her that way, because no one -- not even Quinn -- deserves to go through what she went through." Trent sighed. "I still don't like her... but if any good comes from all this -- if, somehow, it changes her life for the better -- then I promise I'll do my best not to hate her."
Daria simply stood there and stared at Trent. This was the most he had ever said to her, not counting that time they chatted on the side of the road during their trip to Alternapalooza, and it was also probably one of the kindest and most considerate things she had ever heard him say. "Thanks, Trent," she said, and gave him a small hug, which he returned in kind.
"I'm not interrupting anything important, am I?"
Startled, Daria quickly broke away, blushing, and saw Jane staring at them, arms folded, her sly grin now at full strength. "Uh... no... we were... um..." she stammered.
"Articulate as always, I see."
Daria glared at her friend. "I hate you," she muttered.
"My pleasure," Jane replied good-naturedly. "Anyway, we gotta go. I'll see you in school tomorrow, okay?" With that, Jane and Trent walked into the elevator, with Trent flashing his lopsided grin and giving Daria a wink before the doors closed. She stood there for a long moment, then let out her Mona Lisa smile before heading back to Quinn's room.
As Daria approached, she heard voices emanating from the room... Quinn's, and one other voice that made her hackles rise. She stopped at the door, and saw Sandi talking to Quinn; apparently, she must have waited until everyone was out of the room before going in. Daria had returned just in time to catch the tail end of the conversation. "... so I'm sorry, Quinn," Sandi was saying. "I just hope that you can, like, forgive me someday."
Sandi turned to leave, and saw Daria standing at the door and glaring at her with more hatred than she had ever seen. "Um... sorry, Daria," she muttered, unable to meet Daria's eyes, then hurried out the door and down the hall to the elevators.
Daria shook her head and went to Quinn's side. Noticing that Quinn was still upset, she asked, "What happened?"
"Sandi tried to apologize for what she'd said," Quinn explained, "and I told her to get out, that I didn't want to have anything to do with her. I can't forgive her for what she did... I just can't."
"Hey, it's okay," Daria said reassuringly. "It's over now."
"No, it's not!" Quinn insisted, on the verge of tears. "I mean, look at me, Daria! Everything that was important to me is gone. All I was ever concerned about was looking cute, being popular, and going out with as many guys as I could. Now my face is scarred, and I can't think about any of those other things without... without..."
Daria took her sister's hand. "It's all right, Quinn. No one is expecting you to put the pieces of your life back together overnight. It's going to take time."
"I'm not you, Daria. You've always been the strong one, the smart one. I don't know what I'm gonna do with my life now, and I don't think I can cope with this by myself." Quinn looked in her sister's eyes, and when she spoke again, her voice was almost a whisper. "I need your help to get through this."
Daria was silent for a long moment. "I don't know what to say, Quinn. This is something I never expected to hear from you."
"Yeah, I know," Quinn replied. "I never thought I'd ask it, either, but you're the only one I can turn to... the only one I can trust. So... will you help me?"
Daria smiled, and squeezed Quinn's hand in support. "Yes, of course I will. Don't tell anyone else, though; after all, the 'misery chick' has an image to maintain."
Quinn smiled in return. "Deal." She turned to gaze out the window, watching as a bank of dark clouds started to roll in, then looked at Daria. "I think I'd like to be alone for a little while. I've got some thinking to do, y'know?"
"Sure," Daria said, and stood up. "I'll head over to the waiting room until Mom and Dad show up."
"Thanks, Daria." As Daria approached the door, Quinn added, "And... Daria?"
Daria turned. "Yeah?"
"I love you, too."
One of Daria's eyebrows rose and nearly disappeared into her bangs. "You weren't supposed to have heard that," she said wryly. Then, with just a hint of a smile, Daria turned and headed down the hallway towards the waiting room.
Quinn watched her sister leave, then turned to gaze out the window, her smile fading as she reflected on what had happened to her. She was telling the truth before: she wasn't the Deep Thinker in the family. That was Daria's department. She did know, however, that it was going to take a long time for her to recover, and the journey would be a difficult and painful one. Her injuries would heal, but the scars -- both physical and psychological -- would remain.
A single tear ran down her cheek, matching the gentle rain now falling from the sky, as Quinn contemplated the path her life had taken... and the difficult choices that now lay ahead.
Well, this is my very first Daria fan fiction story. I've tried to stay as true as possible to the characters as envisioned by Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis, while simultaneously taking them into territory that has rarely, if ever, been visited, either on the television show or in fan fiction. Thus, as the story begins, the characters are as we've always known them, but as events unfold, their lives undergo drastic and sometimes permanent changes.
Since I first began watching Daria and became involved in Daria fandom, I've developed a soft spot for Quinn. Not in a romantic sense, mind you; stuck-up, self-absorbed airheads never interested me. Rather, it was my viewing of the episode "Write Where it Hurts," which gave us a look at Daria's vision of the future of the Morgendorffer family, that made me realize the potential for growth that Quinn had.
In Daria's story, the future Quinn had grown up, shed her shallow ways, and became the mother of four children. But how did it start? What event, if any, set Quinn on the path to becoming a mature, responsible adult? For many people, it's a sudden, traumatic event that triggers a change in the paths on which they lead their lives. In this story, Quinn's traumatic event is her past literally coming back to haunt her, as she is assaulted by one of the many guys she had so casually used up and tossed aside. By the end of the story, she is no longer the person she once was. She's by no means whole again -- the physical, emotional, and psychological scars will remain with her for a long time -- but she's started on a path that will, hopefully, lead to a better life for herself.
The lives of the rest of the Morgendorffer clan are changed as well. Helen, perhaps, changes the least; her single-mindedness, normally spent in pursuit of her career, becomes an obsession with finding the person who attacked her daughter. Perhaps almost losing one of the most important people in her life will convince her to give more importance to her family than to her career. On the other hand, Jake is deeply affected, as he develops an all-consuming desire to seek vengeance against Quinn's assailant. By story's end, he is in counseling to help him deal with his anger, and to move beyond his need for revenge.
By far, though, the person most affected (besides Quinn) is Daria. For years, she has developed an emotional detachment from the people around her, so that by the time of our story, Daria has so thoroughly walled off her feelings that when she is plunged into the emotional turmoil surrounding her sister's attack, her shell breaks and she reacts... violently. Eventually, she begins to come to terms with her relationship with her sister, even coming so far as to admit her true feelings for Quinn, the ones she'd kept buried for so long that she herself no longer knew they existed. Like Quinn, Daria is a changed person from when the story began; she has started to learn to be more open, to communicate her feelings for others, though Daria's dry wit and sarcasm remain an essential component of her psychological makeup.
The only other character to undergo any sort of real change is Sandi, Quinn's longtime rival in the Fashion Club... and it's not a change for the better. When our story opens, Quinn has been vice president of the Fashion Club for over a year, and Sandi's jealousy over Quinn's popularity has intensified to the point where rivalry has turned into outright hatred. Ultimately, Sandi pays the price for her hatred, as all of her friends -- disgusted at her callous, unfeeling attitude towards Quinn, and not trusting Sandi to not similarly stab them in the back -- desert her. The Fashion Club, once her own personal symbol of status and power, is no more, and Sandi becomes what she had so often done to others: she is an outcast, shunned and alone.
(If you're thinking that I don't like Sandi, you're absolutely right. In my opinion, she is the only true villain in Daria -- though the tyrranical Ms. Li is a very close second -- and like her mother Linda, she is thoroughly and completely unlikable. Linda, however, salvages her character in the story by virtue of her showing compassion for Quinn, and doing the right thing when confronted by the fact of her daughter's devious, back-stabbing nature. Likewise with the Fashion Club; stuck-up and air-headed though they may be, they knew enough to realize when Sandi had gone too far.)
Of course, some things don't ever change: Helen is a nagging bitch-wife; Jake is gullible, highly emotional, and a bit foolish; Jane is bitingly sarcastic; Kevin is tactless and dumb as a post; the Three Js (Joey, Jeffy, and Jamie) fall all over themselves for Quinn's attentions; and Daria gets flustered whenever she's around Trent. In addition, I've gone to great efforts to include references to past episodes, unlike other stories that barely even acknowledge that the television show exists.
Finally, how did I come to choose Skyler Feldman as Quinn's attacker? For the longest time, I had trouble figuring out just who it should be. A guest character? Too obvious, and no real emotional connection to the show. One of the Three Js? Nope, it's already been done (see Michelle Klein-Häss' "So Turns the Wheel"). It was while watching the episode "Pinch Sitter" that it came to me: the smarmy and narcissistic Skyler, outraged at having been used by Quinn long ago and nurturing that outrage ever since, decides to get even with her once and for all. The location of the attack as being the Feldmans' boat was suggested by Michelle, and it all fell into place from there.
So... that's about it. My thanks to Michelle Klein-Häss, Mad Hamish, Paperpusher, Katherine Goodman, Chris Majors, and all the other participants of the #Daria+ and #DariaFan IRC channels for their suggestions, encouragement, and support. I'd like to hear your comments, too, so please don't hesitate to write. My email-box is always open!
"Daria" and all related titles, logos, and characters are trademarks of MTV Networks, a division of Viacom International, Inc. All rights reserved by trademark-holders under United States National and International Law and Convention.
"Sins of the Past" and all other fanfics written by Martin J. Pollard are works of parody and satire, and "substantially transformative," and as such are covered under the Campbell v. Acuff Rose Music Supreme Court decision and other related decisions regarding the First Amendment right to such forms of free speech. Martin J. Pollard will not profit from these fanfics, and will not tolerate these fanfics distributed in any manner which requires money to change hands for distribution.
"Sins of the Past" is copyright © 1998 by Martin J. Pollard. While he does not claim copyright or moral rights to the characters from the "Daria" milieu, he does claim copyright on the storyline and story arc within this work of fiction.
"Sins of the Past" and all extant and future fanfics written by Martin J. Pollard are works of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of Mr. Pollard's fertile imagination or are used fictitiously.