THE BEAR AND THE UNICORN
A 'Daria' fanfic by Brother Grimace
"Mrs. Morgendorffer? A package just arrived for you..."
"Well, open it!"
"The messenger says that he has specific instructions to give it to you personally."
"Then tell one of the associates to say that she's me and let her open it!"
The pale face of Marianne Potter disappeared out of the doorway, and Helen Morgendorffer shook her head as she turned her attention back to the pile of files upon her desk. "Stupid, incompetent, backward... who wrote this brief? It reads like a summary of a 'Judge Judy' episode... why do I always get the cases with screaming idiots? My God, it's like that law firm on that show with the silly, skinny girl – 'Cage and Fish: We Handle Weird Stuff'!"
Helen all but snarled
as the door opened again, and a petite Latina poked her head inside. "Mrs.
The associate let a shrill peep of terror escape through her nostrils and pulled her head out quickly. "STOP," Helen barked; a high forehead and large brown eyes framed by huge glasses peeked back into the office. "What – do – you – want...?"
Faster than she'd expected, the associate shot into the office, dropped a shoebox-sized package on the desk before Helen and darted out before she could say a word! "She should get into politics, with speed like that," Helen observed, looking at the package. "Well, I might as well see what's so important..."
Helen opened the package, and her hostile expression suddenly softened as she say the contents; a 'Valentine's Day' card lay beneath two small, stuffed animals – a teddy bear, and a unicorn. 'To remind you about what's important. Love, Jake.'
For Helen, it was suddenly many years earlier...
The young student who worked the evening/early morning shift in the Lesar Law Library did it for three reasons. First, he made two bucks an hour more than the guys who worked the normal hours – and for someone who planned to finally go on Spring Break after seven long years on the treadmill, every buck mattered... and he'd heard stories.
Second – there were very few people who came in after regular hours, except during the weeks leading up to finals, so he was able to get a lot of studying done in a peaceful atmosphere; several members of one of the fraternities lived in the apartments below his, and if the partying didn't disturb his studies, the incessant feminine cries and shrieks at inappropriate times left him unable to concentrate... yes, he admitted to himself, he didn't date much. Yes – he needed to.
The third reason was sitting in plain view, about twenty feet away from him, and totally unaware of the way the library worker looked at her. Helen Barksdale, he said to himself, was totally, totally hot. If I had any kind of courage, I'd ask her if she wanted a cup of coffee, or if she'd like some tea – I bet that she'd love some of the specialty teas that I order from overseas, and it wouldn't be a waste to ask her, it'd be worth it just to get her to notice me for a moment, or even to say my name-
Helen Barksdale practically lived in the library since classes began last August. She'd started coming in for long stretches, and quickly became a regular figure known to everyone who worked late nights on the SIU- Carbondale campus. The Campus Police even started making a habit of sending a couple of guys through the library at staggered times; they didn't want anybody to see the overly-studious brunette as a target of opportunity, and bad things had been known to young women in Thompson Woods...
The young man let his chin slump down on the stack of books on the desk before him as he watched the way the very attractive law student nibbled her pencils as she read through a book on tort reform. Man, is she pretty...
His mind was made up. He kept a hotplate in a back room where the other library workers took their breaks, and always kept a pot of water ready for tea; alright, I've got the tea, milk, ginger snaps, vanilla wafers (no sugar – what am I, a Philistine?), I've got the nice cups, and – oh, man...
The young man's dreams of asking Helen Barksdale out splintered into a million tiny pieces as he saw the long-haired guy sit down in front of Helen, and the way she looked at him as he placed a shoebox in front of her...
Oh, well, he sighed, pouring milk and tea before sitting down and nibbling a ginger snap as he gave Helen and the guy a final glance. She's got a guy, and the smile she gave him... must be nice, having a girl look at you that way... good for you.
He let the heady scent of the herbal tea fill his nostrils. The young man just sat back for several moments as he savored the wonderful bouquet. For a brief moment, he allowed himself to wonder what it would be like for someone to show up for him in this mausoleum of books; to bring him a little gift, sit with him for a cup of tea, and smile at him like that...
I can dream, can't I?
Hey, it is Valentine's Day, after all
"Hello, Jake," Helen said, rising from her seat slightly to give Jake Morgendorffer a kiss. "I didn't know that you'd come back from your media workshop yet – I thought that you'd be in Chicago for another three or four days-"
"I wanted to see you," he said, pushing the box towards her. "I picked up something for you – it's Valentine's Day!"
Helen opened the box, and gave Jake a dubious glance as she pulled a small, adorable brown teddy bear from the box. "Jake-?"
"I got those because they represent Valentine's Day!" Jake gushed. "See, you've got the teddy bear – that's what most people think of when they think of this day – the hugs, the cuddling, the softness and all of the sweet, happy, loving stuff-"
"Jake. Is this going somewhere?"
"Now look at the other animal."
Helen pulled a stuffed unicorn out of the box. "A unicorn."
"That's what I think of when Valentine's Day comes to mind."
"A unicorn." There was a long pause. "I don't get it."
"Look at what's on his forehead."
Helen looked down at the stuffed animal and then back up to Jake; her expression flashed from understanding, to surprise, to disbelief, and finally settled upon mischievousness as she saw the rakish glint in his eyes. "So, you want to take a quick... study break?"
"Jake Morgendorffer, you are the most unbelievable – " Helen looked down at the stuffed animals in her hands, and back up to her man. "Yes. I can take a study break."
The two young people smiled at one another across the sea of law texts and two small stuffed animals. "Happy Valentine's Day, Helen."
"Same to you, baby," she said, reaching out to stroke his face. "Happy Valentine's Day."
"Yeah, we'd better check the temperature in Hell," a male intern said, watching the closed door to Helen's office with a noticeable sense or relief. "After she got that package, she called Mr. Horowitz, told him that she's taking some personal time – and asked that we don't try to contact her for the remainder of the day."
"What was in that package, anyway?" a female paralegal asked.
'A couple of stuffed animals," the Latina told them. "Wonder what that was all about, her getting out of here like that?"
"Who cares – all I know is that, for a few minutes, Helen Morgendorffer became a human being and turned off the law computer in her head!" the male intern said, reaching down for another chunk of meatball sandwich. "Let's just enjoy the moment – and scarf down some more of this lunch she had sent over!"
"Who knew she had connections and pull at Chez Pierre like this?" the female paralegal said, helping herself to a serving of lobster quiche. "I guess that you never know people... but you'd think that she'd do the 'reformed Scrooge' thing around Christmas time..."
"Hello, Jake," Helen cooed into the mouthpiece of the bedroom phone. "Yes, I got the package. Yes... I remember what it means."
She stretched herself out in a lazy fashion, the nearly-translucent, scarlet-hued, gossamer-lace lingerie she wore highlighting her every asset as she then moved slowly across the large bed and to the nightstand on her side. "Jake, I've taken the rest of the day off, and I let the kids know that they can stay at their friends houses tonight. Why don't you make an early day of it, and come home. We can just... spend some time together."
Helen listened to her husband's response. "Jake... I made a pot of tea. You know what the scent of tea does for me... I know. I'll see you in ten minutes."
She smiled as she listened. "I know. I love you, too."
2 February 2005 (revised version)
(14 February 2003original/lost version)