The Two of Them




©2009 The Angst Guy (

Daria and associated characters are ©2009 MTV Networks



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Synopsis: A blind date goes horribly awry—or does it? A Daria/Stacy shipper from an Iron Chef challenge, just because.


Author's Notes: This story is in response to Prince Charon’s Iron Chef challenge, “Blind Date,” from August 13, 2005: “Quinn and Jane set Stacy and Daria up on a blind date. Yes, with each other. Do they get together, or just cooperate long enough to prank their best friends?” I ran with it from there, combining it with an old Iron Chef challenge from Nemo Blank from July 6, 2003: “Mission Mischief,” which asked for a story in which any two characters were “involved in a bit of typical teenaged mischief,” with “some sort of unintended consequence, for good or ill.” Then I added a challenge from Ms. Hand, from October 18, 2005: “Take your favorite line from the series and have a Daria character (not necessarily the one who originally said it) repeat it in an entirely different situation.” (This occurs primarily in Chapter IV.) More notes are at the end. Enjoy.


Acknowledgements: A multitude of thanks, of course, to Prince Charon for the original challenge, and to DigiSim and Brandon League, for finding assorted errors in the original version.










Die young, stay pretty.










I. When It Changed



       “Of all of the ideas you’ve ever had,” Daria grumbled into her untouched drink, “this one is the worst.”

       “Oh, I’ve had plenty of worse ideas than this one, trust me,” said her best friend Jane, unfazed as she sipped her Ultra-Cola. “A blind date isn’t the worst thing in the world. Well, okay, if your date turns out to be an axe murderer, then... wait, knowing you, that would be a good date. Okay, if your date turns out not to be an axe murderer, then that—”

       “Shut up.” Seated in a booth at a pizzeria, Daria kept her hands clasped together on the tabletop to keep them from trembling. She was sick to her stomach with anxiety over the blind date—and sick with heartbreak as well. I’ll go through with this for one hour, just long enough for whichever guy Jane set me up with to get a deep whiff of my patented “go to hell, you idiot” persona, so he’ll dump me in time for me to head back to Jane’s for another evening of Sick, Sad World—unless she’s busy with an art project or with that damn Tom again. I can’t believe she’s doing this to me. I didn’t ask to go out on a blind date! Doesn’t she know what’s really going on? Can’t she read my mind? Doesn’t she know how I feel about her? She’s going out with this yuppie asshole when she should be going out with me—ME!—but I’m such a coward I’ll never be able to tell her how I feel. Never. This is worse than pathetic; I’m deep in Jerry Springer territory. I should bail. I should—

       “Ah, here we go,” said Jane, looking over Daria’s head toward the door of the restaurant. Daria tensed. She sees my date coming in. Here he comes. I can’t do this. I have to end it before it goes too far. I’ll tell Jane how I feel about her, right now. Now! NOW!

       She picked up her Ultra-Cola and gulped down a third of it. Footsteps approached their booth. Panicking, she put the drink down and laced her fingers into a knot in front of her, steeling herself.

       “Hi, Jane! Hi, Daria!” called a shockingly familiar voice. “Wow, what are the odds of meeting you two here? How’re you doing?”

       Daria looked in astonishment at the slim, redheaded teen walking up to stand at her side. Quinn? thought Daria. What the hell is my sister doing here? And why is she being so nice to Jane and me all of a sudden? She glanced at the girl standing beside Quinn. A cute, nervous girl with braided brunette pigtails and the spine of an earthworm, Stacy looked every bit as uncomfortable as Daria at the surprise meeting. Two tenth-grade fashion mavens bumping into a pair of eleventh-grade social outcasts and making nice—it just wasn’t done.

       “Quinn?” asked Stacy, tugging on the other girl’s sleeve. “Weren’t we going back to your place to unpack your new shoes and try them on?”

       Stacy’s like Quinn’s little shadow, Daria thought. She hangs on to my sister like they were joined at the hip. She shivered. Eww, bad imagery there.

       “Tell you what,” said Jane to Quinn, scooting over on the bench and getting to her feet, “I’ll let Stacy sit next to me while you sit next to Daria, and we can talk for a while!”

       “Great idea!” said Quinn. “Stacy, go sit across from Daria.”

       “What?” gasped Stacy. “Are you kidding?”

       “What’s going on?” asked Daria, taken aback.

       “Oh, just take a seat!” said Quinn to Stacy. “They’re not going to bite!”

       “Wrong!” Daria said in a loud voice.

       “I know for a fact that your bark is much worse,” said Jane. She shooed Stacy onto the long bench, then took a seat at the end, trapping Stacy in place. Anxiety stricken, Stacy scooted as far away from Jane as she could. Quinn was already seated beside her sister, who looked from her to Jane and back in disbelief.

       “So!” said Jane with unusual enthusiasm. “Here we are! The four of us!”

       “Yes!” said Quinn, just as cheery. “It’s great that we found you guys! We were shopping at the mall and we made it up to the Junior Five department at—”

       Jane cleared her throat and gave Quinn a significant look.

       “Oh!” said Quinn, backpedaling. “Forget all that. Who cares about shopping?” She gave a quick laugh, then said, “Say, did anyone read a good book lately?”

       Stacy gazed open-mouthed at Quinn as if her friend had grown a second head. “Don’t you like shopping?” she squeaked.

       “Oh, Stacy,” said Quinn, waving the question away, “anyone can go shopping, but reading a book, that’s—uh, that’s—that’s—”

       “Fun,” supplied Jane.

       “Fun! Right!” Quinn turned to Daria. “What was that book you were telling me about, the one by that author, um, ah, Joanne somebody... oh, Joanna Russ! That’s the one! What was that book about? Was it any good?”

       Thunderstruck, Daria could barely find her voice. “When did I ever talk to you about anything that I’ve read, ever?”

       “Oh, lots of times!” said Quinn. “Well, usually you don’t talk about a book so much as you hide behind it when I’m in the same room with you, but that’s the same thing as talking about it, really. So, was it any good?”

       “Better company than the present,” Daria growled in a low voice.

       “See, I knew it was a good book, whatever it was. Stacy, how about you? What were you looking at when we went by Books by the Ton at the mall?”

       “I wasn’t looking at any books!” Stacy cried, strangely panicked. “I swear, I was thinking only about your underwear! I mean, for me! Underwear I would wear, not like on you!”

       “Oh, now, Stacy,” Quinn prodded, “I saw you looking at books in the store window when we walked by, and you almost stopped, I saw you. What did you see that you liked?”

       “That I liked?” Stacy was actually sweating. Her breathing increased dramatically. “Uh, ah, uh, ah, I don’t know! I mean, there are so many! They just make so many of them!”

       “Yeah, they do for some reason, but don’t you have a lot of sci-fi stuff in your room, in the back of your closet on that narrow bookshelf behind all your winter pants?”

       Stacy jumped in her seat, eyes locked on Quinn. Her face went white. Nothing came out of her open mouth, not even breath.

       “I mean, wow,” Quinn went on, oblivious, “you’ve got so many great-looking colorful books by all these authors, like all these fantasy and sci-fi things, like, um, stuff by all sorts of women and even a guy, James Tiptree, although I can’t imagine why you’d—”

       Jane cleared her throat. “James Tiptree, Junior,” she said, “was actually a woman. She was pretending to be a male writer.”

       “Oh!” said Quinn, her confusion gone. “That explains it, then! See, here we’ve talked for only a couple of seconds, and already the two of you know each other so much better!” Quinn glanced at her watch. “Wow, I’ve got to run out for a minute or two. Jane, would you come with me and help me carry my shopping bags up to my room at home so I have room for you and Stacy and Daria later on in the car? Cashman’s had the best sale on shoes ever, you wouldn’t believe what I found!”

       “You silver-tongued devil, you talked me into it,” said Jane, getting up. “Nothing I like better than spending a Saturday afternoon carrying around shoes.” She chugged down the last of her Ultra-Cola.

       Daria felt her sanity slip away. “Jane!” she protested. “You hate shoes!”

       “Well, yeah, I do,” said Jane, putting down her empty soft-drink glass, “but maybe I’ll get to like them if I look at them long enough. Anything’s possible.” Under her breath, she added, “I hope.”

       “You guys wait for us right here, okay?” said Quinn. “Jane and I are going to run out for a few minutes, then we’ll be right back. Oh!” Quinn reached into her purse and pulled out a wad of bills, tossing them on the table in front of Daria. “Here, this is to pay for the pizza. Be right back in a half hour or so!”

       And she and Jane were gone. Daria turned and half sat up in her seat, trying to see her sister and her best friend leave, but other people got in the way. She sat down again, not believing what had happened—

       —and saw Stacy with a look of profound depression on her face, staring down at the tabletop. “She left me,” Stacy whispered. “I can’t believe it. She left me.”

       This is funny, thought Daria, who did not think it was funny at all. Jane left me, and I can’t believe it, either. What the hell is going on here? She numbly gathered up the cash Quinn had left her and counted it. Forty bucks. Why had Quinn been so generous? Ordinarily Daria would have loved getting her hands on this much money, but it did nothing for her now, with the shock of Jane walking out. Why did Jane offer to help Quinn carry shoes around? She hates shoes. She hates shopping. She doesn’t even like Quinn or Stacy! I know her better than she knows herself. Why did she do this?

       She eyed the morose girl in pigtails across the table from her. Should I split part of this with her before I take off? Nah. Daria folded up the bills and tucked them in a pocket of her green jacket—but made no move to leave. “Are you going to wait for them to get back?” she asked.

       Stacy gave a little shrug. “I’ll wait,” she said at last, not looking up. “She’ll be back.”

       Is Jane coming back? Maybe I should go home and see if they’re really carrying shoes around or what. She had an uncomfortable picture in her mind of Quinn hitting it off with Jane in a way that Daria had hoped only she would do, but shook the image off right away. Unlike Daria, Quinn was straight, straight as an arrow, and Jane was—alas—exactly the same. They thought about boys on a frequent basis, Jane less so than Quinn but just as faithfully—to Daria’s profound disappointment. Isn’t she even a little curious to try something with another girl? Like me? I’m terrified to ask her, but wouldn’t she maybe once want to—

       “What book was that?” Stacy said in an inflectionless tone. She was looking at Daria.

       Daria blinked, back in reality. “What?”

       “The book you were reading,” said Stacy. She lowered her head. “Never mind.”

       Why does she want to know? “Uh, I don’t know. Probably a, uh, science-fiction book I picked up.”

       “Oh.” A long pause. Stacy wiped at her eye. “By Joanna Russ?” she asked.

       “Uh... yeah. Um... it was The Female Man.

       Stacy nodded her head slightly. “I haven’t read that one.”

       Of course not. You wouldn’t know good science fiction if it bit you in the

       “I liked her Alyx stories, though,” Stacy went on. “They’re kind of fun.” She looked up briefly. “It’s not like I’m really into reading or anything, okay? It’s just that... it’s...” Her face fell and her head lowered again. “Oh, nothing.”

       “Alyx,” said Daria. Alyx, the feminist time-traveling mercenary? Why was a doormat like Stacy reading stuff like that? The evening was getting weirder and weirder. “Picnic on Paradise?” she said in a low voice.

       Stacy looked up again. The misery on her face eased for a moment. “Yeah,” she said. “I have that one. That was the first one, right? It was good. I found one or two others, but I heard there were more.”

       I can’t believe I’m having this conversation. “There’s a collection of all the Alyx tales somewhere. I don’t know if it’s in print anymore. A used bookstore might have it. Maybe there’s one somewhere on the Internet.”

       “Oh. Thank you.”


       They sat in silence for perhaps half a minute, listening to the fizzing of Daria’s Ultra-Cola.

       “This has been a really bizarre day,” said Stacy to the tabletop. “I mean, just really bizarre.”

       Not half as bizarre as mine. thought Daria.

       “Quinn and I were supposed to go on a date tonight,” Stacy went on. “I mean, not a date like a double date or anything. She was going to set me up on a blind date, but now she’s gone, so I guess it’s not going to happen.”

       Daria frowned. “That’s odd,” she said without thinking. “Jane said we were going on—”

       Time stopped. The revelation’s impact was so great, so stunning, that it knocked Daria back in her seat. She found herself staring at Stacy, unable to look away.

       Moments later, Stacy’s eyes widened while she was looking at the tabletop. She lifted her head and looked back at Daria in disbelief.

       Neither spoke as the revelation washed over them.

       They put us together on purpose, thought Daria. Jane and Quinn put us together on a blind date. They know my deepest secret. They’d have to know in order to do this. I’ve never told anyone, I’ve never even told my diary, but they both know it, because they’d never set me up for a date WITH ANOTHER GIRL unless it was a practical joke, but—wait a minute, wait a minute—

       —Stacy’s a lesbian, too. Well, duh. Now I get it.

       “This isn’t happening,” Stacy whispered.

       “I wish I had your conviction,” said Daria.


       “Jane, too.”

       “But they—”


       “But that means that she—she doesn’t—”

       Daria opened her mouth to say something, but she forgot what it was in the blinding light of a second revelation. Jane knew how I felt about her, even though I’ve never said it aloud. She had to know. And she couldn’t handle it. That’s why she set this up with Quinn. She wants me to find someone else. She doesn’t love me.

       The only person I have ever loved in my life does not love me back.

       She was aware of her labored breathing, the roar of blood in her ears, the sounds of people talking at a great distance, glasses and silverware clinking.

       She doesn’t love me at all.

       Her heart broke. It was the worst pain imaginable, as if she had been physically torn in two. She closed her eyes.

       She doesn’t love me.

       The floor had tilted beneath her. She fell back in her seat, dizzy and drained. She doesn’t love me. She never did. She never will.

       Her colorless gaze fell upon Stacy, who covered her tear-stained face with her hands. Stacy feels what I feel. She was in love with Quinn, or had a crush on her. I never saw it. How funny. What a pair of fools we are. What a perfect pair of fools.

       A tremendous hatred then rose within Daria, a godlike rage that made all the red anger she had ever felt before seem pitiful. God damn you, Jane, for doing this. God damn you and my sister for what you have done to me. How could you?

       The black rage faded. A crushing weight settled down on her shoulders and forced her head down. She was broken. It was my fault. I brought this on myself. I did this to me. I am a perfect fool. An overpowering urge to escape arose, but her body was weighted with lead. They’ll be at the house together, carrying shoes up to Quinn’s room, talking about us, wondering if we’ve hit it off. I can’t go home. I can’t stay here. I have to get out. Where will I go? What should I do?

       “I have to go,” she whispered. Her voice sounded all wrong.

       Stacy gave no sign that she heard. Her hands still covered her eyes, her face tight and drawn. A blur of red appeared around her bitten lower lip, then a trickle of blood slowly ran down to her chin.

       People were watching them. Daria sensed it. She pushed a cloth napkin across the table to Stacy. She must have loved Quinn very much. But she did not love Quinn more than I loved Jane, blood or no. No one could have loved anyone more than I loved Jane.

       Loved. I said loved. In the past tense.

       It is over. Time to go.

       Daria gripped the tabletop and scooted to the edge of the seat with effort. She wasn’t sure she would be able to walk. The foundations of the earth had been shaken and were still trembling with aftershocks. She found her footing as she stood, then turned back to the table. Her hand went into her pocket; she took out the bills Quinn had given her and left a ten and two fives on the table to pay for the as-yet undelivered pizza. She looked up at Stacy, sitting motionless.

       I can’t leave her here like this.

       Why not?

       Because I know what she’s feeling. I know it too well.

       Daria reached over and touched the other girl on the arm. After a moment, Stacy wiped her face and reached down for the napkin, cleaning her face up with it. She had bitten through her lower lip. “I’m okay,” she whispered thickly, bright red saliva in her mouth. “I’d better go, too.”

       Daria waited while Stacy got up. Like Quinn and Jane, Stacy was taller than the five-two Daria by several inches, but almost everyone was taller than Daria. They walked out of the restaurant together, ignoring the stares, numb with grief.

       They looked at each other when they were outside but said nothing. Stacy wiped her eyes and sniffed before turning and walking away. She did not look back. Daria left right after, going a different route. She could not go home, so her feet chose their own path. Thirty minutes later, she was at the Lawndale Mall. She did not remember how she got there. When she reached the window of the Books by the Ton outlet store, she saw in a moment what Stacy had been looking at, since only one book was featured in the unfinished window display. Nicola Griffith’s latest novel had just come out, a detective mystery called The Blue Place.

       Nicola Griffith being a lesbian author. Her latest book, like so many of her others, featuring a strong lesbian protagonist.

       Stacy had lied. She was a hard-core reader, if a closet one, and she had good taste.

       Daria briefly considered buying the book for Stacy, or for herself, but it would only remind them of their darkest hour. And there was no reason to buy Stacy anything. It was not Stacy whom Daria had loved.

       She walked about the mall a while longer, then went home and found Quinn and Jane gone. She went upstairs, locked herself in her room, and fell across the bed. She stayed in there for the rest of the weekend but did not remember sleeping. She did not speak to her sister, who tried quite often to speak to her through the door and apologize, nor did she take any of Jane’s phone calls.

       When the weekend was over and Monday dawned, Daria walked to school without stopping at Jane’s house first, as she had done for so many months since her family had moved to a Baltimore suburb from Texas. The two made a half-hearted effort to mend their friendship in following days, but it was shattered to the core. Daria and Jane eventually stopped seeing each other. Jane was sad for a time, but she always had her art for comfort, and of course there was the smirking, triumphant Tom. Daria had only her grief. The world, once rich with the presence of another, was now gray and devoid of hope.

       In a seemingly unrelated move, Stacy Rowe, who had never shown the slightest inclination for independent thought, quit the high school’s Fashion Club, of which Quinn was the vice president. Daria saw Stacy now and then in the school hallways, her hair unbraided and uncombed, no makeup on her face, eyes locked on the floor. Quinn did not say what had happened when Stacy left, but she was upset for a week thereafter. Then another girl named Brooke joined the Fashion Club, and Quinn brightened and threw herself into making the new member feel welcome. She did not mention Stacy again.

       Daria and Stacy retreated into their own worlds and nursed their pain. They did not speak to each other or acknowledge each other’s existence.

       The weeks went by. The world moved on.





II. The Women Men Don’t See



       A great parade was held in Lawndale for the soon-to-be-held homecoming football game with the Fighting Penguins of Robert Falcon Scott High School. With nothing better to do on that autumn Saturday afternoon, and determined not to be anywhere near other people—particularly her sister, who would be riding on the Fashion Club’s float in the parade—Daria left the house and headed down the sidewalks for the Lawndale Mall, which lay in the opposite direction from the parade route downtown.

       A revamped Books by the Ton had reopened, featuring more books, more shelves, narrower aisles, and an excellent chance of getting lost in the labyrinth. Having just finished Daniel Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year and in the mood for something even more morbid, she sought out Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian but discovered the store had inexplicably run out of copies. Maybe a new book by Stephen King would help. It took Daria five minutes to figure out where the science-fiction, horror, and fantasy section had gone, though she asked directions twice. Hands jammed into the pockets of her green jacket, she began a slow meander backward from Zelazny to Asimov, looking for something she hadn’t already read. Somewhere between Philip K. Dick and Robert Bloch, she noticed she was in Suzy McKee Charnas territory, and a hardbound copy of the newly released fourth book in the Holdfast series, The Conqueror’s Child, was right in front of her. About damn time, she thought. She reached for it.

       So did the person to her left. Daria turned her head, startled.

       “Oh!” said Stacy Rowe, pulling back her hand. “Sorry! You can have it!” She wore unremarkable jeans and a jeans jacket. Her pink tee covered her navel for once, and her long, uncombed hair almost shielded her face.

       “There are three copies,” said Daria, her momentum regained. “Take one.”

       “Oh! Um, oh, I don’t need it, I was just looking. Bye!” Stacy turned and began to walk away.

       “Stacy,” Daria said.

       The other girl stopped and looked back.

       Daria held out one of the hardbounds.

       Stacy swallowed, then walked back and took it. “Thanks,” she mumbled, blushing. “I really liked The Furies. Hope this one is just as good.”

       “I heard it was.”

       “Thank you,” Stacy repeated. She licked her scarred lips but did not look up from her book. “Who’s your favorite author?”

       “I don’t have one,” said Daria. “I like a lot of them.”

       “I’m really into Nicola Griffith. She hasn’t done that much, but it’s all good.”

       “I didn’t know you liked science fiction and fantasy. I didn’t even know you read.” The words had already left her lips before Daria realized what a mortal slam they were.

       Stacy gave a small nod, accepting the slam without flinching. “Quinn—” she began, then cut herself off with a shake of the head. “It’s just something I like to do sometimes,” she said in a low voice.

       Miracles will never cease. “Did you get The Blue Place?”

       Stacy became more animated. “Yeah. I got it before they started remodeling here. It was awesome.”

       Awesome. Interesting how much that word says about a person. “Quinn said you had a lot of books.”

       “She did? Oh, right, that day... yeah. A few, I guess.” Stacy bit her lower lip, looking into Daria’s eyes. “Maybe more than a few. I read a lot when I’m by myself.”

       “Why hide it? What’s the point in having a brain and... and not...” Oh. She was hiding it from Quinn, who reads only shallow romances and girl magazines.

       “People don’t understand,” Stacy said. She looked down at the book in her hands. “I wanted to fit in with the others, so I thought...”

       Daria assumed an annoyed expression. “You don’t need to fit in. Fitting in is for sheep.”

       Stacy looked up. With a self-mocking tone and a strange smile on her lips, she said, “Baaa.

       Daria smiled back. After a moment she realized what she was doing and made herself stop, assuming her normal deadpan appearance. “Enjoy the book,” she said, turning back to the bookshelves. “I hope we don’t have to wait so long for the next one.”

       “Yeah, thanks.” Stacy did not go away as expected. “Daria?” she said. “Did... I mean, how is Qui—” She suddenly grimaced. “Forget it,” she said. “Sorry.” And she left, clutching the Charnas book, almost at a run.

       Daria stared at the shelves full of books. None of them registered. There was a fragrance in the air, some kind of floral shampoo. It was interesting. It smelled good. It was Stacy’s. When Daria got home an hour later, she realized she’d forgotten to buy her own copy of The Conqueror’s Child. She had no idea how she’d forgotten to do so, as she had meant to get it for ages, and it was on every to-do list she had made for the last six months.

       She lay in bed that night, the fingers of her right hand playing with her blanket. Talking to Stacy had not been like talking to Jane. Jane wasn’t stupid, but Jane liked doing her art more than reading. Daria had liked that about her, that Jane was smart but also did things, cool things, and she did them with her hands. Daria had often imagined what Jane would do with those talented hands, if she had ever thought to use them on Daria. Now it was too late. The dreams had been only that.

       She rolled over and tried to sleep. She wondered what shampoo Stacy used, then she pounded on her pillow and made herself stop thinking about it. The idea of having anything to do with one of her younger sister’s friends—former friends—was anathema. She would never hook up with a spineless airhead like Stacy. Never.

       Even if Stacy had quit the Fashion Club and apparently stopped caring what anyone thought of her.

       Even if Stacy was found to read science fiction and fantasy and showed disturbing signs of having a brain.

       Even then. Daria did not subscribe to the theory that people were sexual chameleons, changing their ways and habits to better match those of a close partner. She had not changed anything she did when she was with Jane, nothing at all, except to talk about things that really bothered her, which she had never done before, or read up on art history and movements, which she hadn’t done much of either, or see art films, which—

       She fell asleep and forgot all about it.

       Two weeks later, it was time for Mow-the-Lawn-Con.





III. Her Smoke Rose Up Forever



       Mow-the-Lawn-Con was a gathering of fantasy, science-fiction, anime, superhero, and horror fans scheduled every fall in Lawndale, half a year apart from the much larger and more famous Balticon, held in Baltimore in the spring. Lawndale’s convention was held at the sprawling, run-down Dutchman Inn, in one of the wings where costumed conventioneers and bizarre fannish activities would not disturb the hotel’s other customers. Daria had missed the convention the previous year, hanging out with Jane instead, but she didn’t have that problem this time. Plus, her father was flying west to a tax-deductible marketing conference on special restaurant franchises, and her mother was staying home to take care of the renewed PortaFry class action lawsuit and incidentally to monitor Quinn and the other three members of the Fashion Club, who were sleeping over.

       On the Friday afternoon that the con began, Daria badgered her mother into dropping her off at the con site, with pickup scheduled for ten that night. “Have you talked to Jane lately?” her mother asked on the way over.

       “I guess I could,” Daria replied blandly. “It was a shallow grave, so digging her up again wouldn’t be a problem.”

       “Oh, Daria, I’m serious!”

       “I never said I wasn’t.”

       “She was your best friend! Couldn’t you two get together this weekend and talk it out, whatever’s wrong?”

       “We did, Mom. We got together and talked it all out, and then I buried her.”

       “I don’t think you’re being fair, sweetie.”

       “It was a shallow grave, so she could dig herself out again if she tried. Wait, I forgot that I cut off her arms, too. I guess she’s down there for good.”

       “Daria, I know something is going on. Could you tell me what it is, please? What happened that—”

       “Drop it, Mom. It’s over. I don’t want to talk about it ever again.”

       Her mother sighed heavily and looked sad. The rest of the ride was made in silence.

       Daria walked in the hotel entrance, under a giant replica of a wooden shoe, and noticed the lobby was already stuffed with costumed con-goers decked out as Imperial Stormtroopers, elf princesses, Star Fleet crewmen, barbarians, Hogwarts students, Orion slave girls, and various aliens, all sitting around the lobby TV waiting for more friends to show up. She recognized several Lawndale High students, but she knew none of them well enough for conversation and wouldn’t have spoken to them if she had. Wonder what Jane’s doing tonight, Daria thought, and hated herself for it. Getting over Jane would take months, if not forever, but there was no way around it.

       Resigned to her suffering, Daria headed for the convention registration desk to get a weekend pass. She put on her nametag upside down, with the space for her name left blank, then read over the list of movies and anime that would be shown, located the snack bar, listened to a filking session with dulcimers and kazoos, avoided the childcare center, played a videogame in the lobby by the pool, studied a programming list of  panels and author readings, avoided the room set aside for the Dungeons & Dragons gamers, peeked into the Green Room for the con staff and guests of honor, drank an Ultra-Cola, avoided the Vampire live-action role-playing groups, and then wandered through the art show, with its annual mix of the hideous, the boring, the saccharine, and the sublime—

       —and closed her eyes in pain when she realized she was in an art show, alone, without the artist she had loved. She was lonelier than if she had been lost on the moon. This would have been perfect with Jane here. It would have been perfect.

       She rubbed her eyes under her glasses and headed out of the art show for the dealer’s room. She had planned to avoid it for a while, saving the best for last, but she needed something to distract her before she sank further into depression. The dealers’ room was larger than she had expected, to her relief. Only moments into her tour of the room, she stopped at a table to admire a collection of rude fandom badges and was holding one in her hand, on the verge of buying it (“So Many People, So Little Ammo”) when a movement at the door to the room caught her attention and she looked up.

       Jane and Tom were walking in, their arms around each other. They both looked in her direction and saw her at the same time.

       Face burning, Daria put down the badge and tried to hide behind one of the booth’s display boards.


       Daria groaned and cursed her wish: This would have been perfect with Jane here. “Hello,” she said dully. “I was just leaving.”

       “Daria, please.”

       Daria made herself look up into Jane’s infinite blue eyes. Tom hovered in the background, trying to look interested in some fantasy T-shirts but looking very uncomfortable instead.

       “Please let me know you’re doing all right,” Jane said. Her expression made it plain that she was serious.

       Daria stared back. “I’m fine,” she said softly.



       “Look, I’m sorry I set you and Stacy up like that. It was my idea. I just... I wasn’t thinking. I don’t know what I wanted to have happen. I’m sorry I did it.”

       Daria swallowed. “Apology accepted.”

       “Can we go back to being friends?”



       Daria hesitated, on the verge of a lie, then gave up. She would run no more. “Because I loved you,” she said. “I loved you from the day we met in that self-esteem class and walked home together afterward. I loved you more than I’ve loved anyone or anything in my life, but when you set me up, I knew it would never work. You didn’t want me, not like I wanted you. It would never work. We can’t be friends again. It’s over.” She swallowed again, her eyes burning. “Goodbye, Jane.”

       She brushed past the speechless Jane and Tom, walked past dozens of shocked fans and dealers, and went down the hall to another hall, then up the stairs to another hall, until she was alone inside a third-floor alcove with an ice machine, where she cried without stopping for half an hour.

       It was really over, this time.

       To go home or not go home? After she cleaned herself up with a wad of Kleenex, she decided to stay. The con admission fee was not excessive but it was not refundable, and besides, she didn’t think Jane would be there when she went back, so she could do what she wanted. It was her weekend out and she was going to stay, whether it was fun or not, and everyone else could burst into flame and die. She didn’t care if she met anyone who had heard her last speech to Jane. Let them hear it. Let them all know.

       That she was a dyke.

       The thought gave her pause. She had definitely come out, and in a big way. She had never given much thought to how she had wanted that to happen, but now it had, and there was nothing more to do about it. She wondered if word would get back to her parents. Her father would freak, as he did at everything, but her mother...

       Well, again, there was nothing more to do about it. If it happened, it happened. She took a deep breath and went back to the con.

       She knew at once word had gotten around. It seemed like hundreds of fans glanced in her direction and quickly looked away. She heard whispers. People stopped talking when she walked by. Let it be. Just let it be. I can’t let it be. Maybe I should call Mom and go home.


       She turned and saw Stacy at the door to the art show. It figured she would be here.

       “Can we talk?” Stacy asked.

       “No,” Daria said, starting away.

       Stacy moved swiftly and caught up with her. “I said the same thing to Quinn a week after she and Jane set us up,” she said.

       Daria slowed down. She did not say, Leave me the hell alone, as she had been ready to do.

       “I’m sorry, but I overheard everything,” Stacy went on. “I was two tables down from you in the dealer’s room. Everything you told Jane, I told Quinn, too. She probably told you all about it.”

       “She never said a thing.”

       “Oh.” Stacy sighed. “Yeah, well, there it is. Welcome to the club.”

       “I don’t want to be in a club. What club?”

       “The out club.”
       “Oh. Yeah.”

       “Are you staying for the weekend?”

       “I don’t know.”

       “You should stay. This is my first time here. It’d be fun to have someone to run around with.”

       Daria grimaced. “I don’t want to run around with anyone. I want—”

       “Okay,” said Stacy. She stopped and stood in place as Daria continued on.

       Daria noticed and stopped and looked back. “Don’t do that,” she said.

       “Don’t follow you?”

       “Don’t leave before I finish telling you to leave.”

       They stared at each other for a couple of seconds before Stacy grinned. “All right,” she said. She marched over and stood in front of Daria. “Finish telling me to leave, then.”

       Daria found it impossible not to smile, which irritated her to no end. She did not want to smile. She wanted to wallow in her misery, and Stacy was making it very hard to do. “Leave,” she said, still fighting the smile.

       “Okay.” Stacy turned and walked away.

       “Wait,” said Daria. What the hell am I doing? “Not yet, I mean. Leave later.”

       Stacy turned around again, hands on her hips. “Stay, leave, stay, leave, stay, leave. This is like being back in the Fashion Club with Sandi.”

       Daria made a face. It bothered her that Stacy was younger and a grade behind her, that she had been acting for so long like a complete airhead and a popularity whore, as she thought of it. She probably still had a fair amount of that left in her. Maybe.

       “I don’t want to talk about the Fashion Club or fashion or scrunchies or anything like it,” Daria said.

       “Neither do I, so good.”

       “I don’t want you to follow me around like a sheep.”


       Damn her anyway, Daria thought, and she rubbed her mouth to make the smile stop. “And this is just for the weekend, when I feel like having someone around who doesn’t piss me off.”

       “I’ll think about it.”

       Daria frowned. “You’ll think about what?”

       “Are you hungry?”

       “Uh—” She was hungry, she discovered.

       They sat at a table by the snack bar, drank sodas, split a club sandwich, and pretended not to notice that they were the subject of literally hundreds of curious gazes from conventioneers and staff.

       “If you say one word about dieting, watching my weight, calories, cellulite, scrunchies, blush, acne, bed hair, or how hard it is to find something that matches your blouse, you’re history,” Daria warned.

       “Power yoga?”


       “Open-toed shoes?”




       “When’s your birthday?”

       “Astrology’s right out, too. Go back a moment. What did you mean about voo—”

       “Quinn said it was in November. You’ll be seventeen, right? I’m sixteen until February, so I’m sorta the same age as you. Funny. Have you had your birthday yet?”

       “No, and I don’t want any presents except for fifties and hundreds.”

       “Hmm,” said Stacy, eyeing Daria closely, “you look like a size—”

       “And no talk about makeovers, period. I like what I’m wearing and I’ll never change.”

       “You must have twenty copies of that same outfit.”


       “Did you like that movie, The Road Warrior?”

       Daria hesitated. She had the odd sense that she had lost her way in the conversation. “Road Warrior? Um, yeah, it was—”

       “It kind of grossed me out the first two or three times I saw it, but after that it kind of like of grew on me. I was thinking of making a costume for the convention like that warrior woman’s, you know, the one who got shot at the end but died so beautifully? I’m pretty good with clothes. She had like that white armor on, sort of like with football player pads, and that big bow, but I don’t know if the convention would let me have a bow. Maybe if I didn’t have any arrows.” Stacy pulled back her hair and looked Daria in the face. “What do you think? Could I pull it off?”

       Daria studied her companion. “You need to look meaner.”

       Stacy scowled. It was an impressive scowl, heartless and cold.

       “Better,” said Daria, and she took another bite of her half of the sandwich.

       “Oh, good. Whew. I think I like dystopian post-apocalyptic movies because no one has to worry about fashion anymore. Everyone—”

       Daria swallowed her bite and raised a hand. “Wait a minute. What did you just say?”

       “Oh. I said, I like dystopian post-apocalyptic movies because—what? Why are you looking at me like that? Was it because I said ‘fashion’?”

       “No.” Daria continued to look puzzled. “You said... never mind. Go on.”

       “Oh. Well, no one has to worry about fashion, but there’s like a whole different fashion going on anyway, you know? There’s like a special look to the whole thing, like in that movie Blade Runner, where... you’re looking at me like that again. Is it bothering you that I’m talking about fashion when you said not to talk about it? Do I have to leave now?”

       “When did you see Blade Runner?”

       “Oh, we had a sleepover at Sandi’s last year, and when everyone else was asleep but I was worried about something, I found the tape and played it on the Griffins’ TV until five in the morning. That was awesome.”

       “Don’t say that.”



       “Okay. It was... it was something.”

       “Awesome,” Daria said dryly.

       “Yeah. How come you get to say it and I don’t?”

       Daria sighed. Her gaze dropped to Stacy’s hands. Her hands seemed larger than one would have expected, almost muscular. Same for her forearms. And she was wearing a watch with a dog on it.

       “What?” Stacy looked down, then raised the hand with the watch. “Were you looking at this? I got this in the dealers’ room. Isn’t it great? That’s Ein, the little corgi from Cowboy Bebop. See how his little tail is the hour hand? You ever watch Cowboy Bebop? It’s... um, something.”

       “Something,” said Daria. She felt like she had entered a new land, an undiscovered country. It wasn’t unpleasant, just confusing. She didn’t know what she was thinking from one moment to the next. This had never happened with Jane.

       “How long are you staying tonight?” asked Stacy.

       “Um... until ten, when my mom comes to get me.”

       “My mom’s coming to get me at ten-thirty. Want to watch some Cowboy Bebop? It’ll be on in fifteen minutes in the movie room.”

       “Uh... okay.”

       “But no talk about dieting from you, okay?” Stacy began to smile again.

       I hate it when she does that. Daria struggled to stop her own smile.

       “And no lording it over me that you’re older than me, although I might ask you a couple of questions about math, if you don’t mind, because I kind of suck at it and my mom’s driving me nuts over my grades.”

       Jane never asked for help in math. She liked getting C’s. “Okay.”

       “And no talking about my mother,” said Stacy, her smile fading. “She drives me crazy, always telling me I’m an idiot. She’s the reason I have therapy with Ms. Manson at school on Tuesdays and Thursday. Sorry, I won’t mention my mother again. Or Ms. Manson. I hope. So, you think I’d make a good warrior woman, like from The Road Warrior? In costume, I mean.”

       Stacy was definitely an acquired taste, Daria decided as they sat in the dark movie theater a half hour later. So was Cowboy Bebop. The English subtitles helped greatly to understand what was going on, but it was still very weird and unexpected. And oddly exciting.

       Friends, thought Daria. We’re just going to be friends. Distant friends. For this convention only. That’s all.

       Partway through the movie, Stacy shifted in her seat. Her right shoulder and upper arm brushed against Daria’s... and stayed. After a moment, Daria moved away. Stacy did not attempt to get closer. They were both very quiet.

       Just before the movie ended, though, Daria shifted in her seat, too. Her left shoulder and upper arm brushed against Stacy’s... and stayed. Stacy did not move away. They sat like that through three more episodes of Cowboy Bebop until an announcement was made over the hotel’s P.A. system for Daria Morgendorffer to come to the hotel entrance, where her mother was waiting. It was ten twenty-five. They left the movie room by the hotel entrance, made an agreement to meet the next day at ten a.m. at the front desk, and said goodnight without further ado, as Stacy’s mother had also arrived and was tapping her foot. Daria’s mother read her the riot act all the way home, talking about being responsible and showing up for things on time, and didn’t Daria have a watch, after all? What was the point of having a watch if you didn’t use it?

       Daria stared out the window and did not hear a word of it. She could still feel Stacy’s arm against hers. Her arm had felt very warm. Did she mean anything when she put her arm against mine? Did she think I meant anything when I did it to her? I only did it because it felt comfortable and kind of nice and I felt less lonely when I did it, but that was all. Did she get the wrong idea? And what do I mean by “the wrong idea?” Is she wearing perfume or is that really her shampoo that smells so good? Why are her hands so big? Does she work out? What does she like to do with her hands? She shivered and could not wait for the rest of the convention for the answers. But one answer was all she needed.





IV. The Furies



       Daria’s mother drove her to the convention the next day, after extracting a promise that Daria would, without fail, be at the appointed pick-up place at 10 p.m. sharp that evening, or else suffer dire consequences that were deliberately not spelled out. This Daria expected and could tolerate, but the ride to the Dutchman’s Inn was also made with Quinn and the rest of the Fashion Club in the SUV with her, which she had not expected. I don’t suppose anything worse will happen, she told herself.

       When they got to the Dutchman’s Inn, someone was waiting outside at the entrance. It was the white-clad Warrior Woman from The Road Warrior, leaning against a pillar with an unstrung compound bow over her shoulder and her arms crossed.

       Daria closed her eyes and winced. When the cosmos wanted to rub it in, it really rubbed it in.

       “Who is that?” Quinn asked, squinting. As the SUV pulled up, Daria heard her sister gasp and emit a strangled cry of “Oh, my God!

       Daria got out of the car and stood beside the Warrior Woman. “I’m in good hands,” she said in her usual deadpan. “Oh, and Quinn? Thanks.”
       Stacy raised a hand and waved, grinning at the look of drop-jawed astonishment Quinn gave both her and Daria. Daria’s mother, missing everything, drove away.

       “Now, that was a Kodak moment,” said Daria. She studied Stacy’s outfit. “Were you up late last night power-sewing?”

       “Oh, this old thing?” said Stacy, looking down at herself. “I made it a couple weeks ago when I decided to come to the convention. It’s almost like the original, but not quite. Something like that. Painting my eyebrows to look right was the hardest part. Anyway, if the tights itch too much, I can change back into my regular clothes.” She scratched her forehead under the sweatband with a white-gloved hand. “Don’t worry, though. None of the daggers and stuff strapped on me are real. They’re just the handles.”

       “You’re such a tease.”

       “You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve been called that.”

       “Yes, I would.”

       Stacy laughed and her laugh was like clear water. They went into the convention walking side by side. It was evident that Stacy’s costume was an instant hit with the guys—but no one missed for a second Daria’s presence beside her. Everyone stared. Crowds even parted to let them through.

       “So, this is life in the fishbowl,” said Daria, unsure if she liked this or not.


       “Oh, you’re probably used to this, being looked at like a supermodel in a boys’ locker room.”

       “I guess. Seems a little different now, though.”

       It was a full day. They caught a surprise showing of The Matrix, talked about the movie over lunch together (salad and diet soda for Stacy, small pizza and regular soda for Daria), and went to a panel discussion on female stereotypes in science-fiction movies, during which Daria got into a loud argument with the panel about who really invented the science fiction and horror genres.

       “It was Mary Shelley, and they can bite my ass!” grumbled Daria on the way out. “How can they get away with saying it was H. G. Wells and Bram Stoker? Shelley did it first!”

       Stacy said nothing. She only smiled. They played video games by the pool.

       “It’s next Saturday, by the way,” Daria said without preamble.

       “What is?”

       “My birthday.”

       “Got it.”

       “Fifties and hundreds.”

       “No problem.”

       “Are you going to rob a bank?”

       “Are you going to come along and watch?”

       “Maybe. Why are you doing this?”

       Stacy paused in her Ms. Pac-Man game for a moment to eye her smaller companion. “Doing what?”

       “Hanging around me. I mean really. Are you doing this just to get a way back to Quinn, through me?”

       Daria heard no reply for several long seconds, but then she did hear someone slam a gloved fist against a videogame console, followed by boots stamping away over concrete. She looked up with a sense of dread. Stacy was pushing her way through the glass doors out of the pool area, leaving her alone. Oh, crap. Now I’ve done it. “Stacy?” She left her videogame and started after her, then stopped. Driving Stacy away had been amazingly easy. “Why the hell did I say that?” she asked, but the pool area was empty except for her. She already knew why she’d said it, anyway. She was just being herself.

       The videogame was no fun now. Daria left the pool area, face burning and avoiding eye contact with everyone, and went to find a programming list. She was rereading the event list for 3 p.m. for the third time, having trouble remembering any of it, when someone caught her by one arm and spun her around by force. She looked up. A furious Warrior Woman caught her face between her gloved hands and bent her face to hers and kissed her hard on the mouth.

       God damn, she’s strong, Daria thought, her mind blown from the feeling of Stacy’s lips against her own. This is the best kiss ever, the best one ever. She dully realized she was in an attitude of complete, abject surrender.

       A moment later, she realized that a hundred people were standing around her, cheering and applauding. Everyone in the entire convention had to be watching them.

       She opened her eyes and broke free with a gasp. Her glasses were steamed up and crooked, and her face was red with embarrassment.

       Stacy’s eyes were cold and hard. She looked Daria up and down, then turned on a booted heel and stalked away. Everyone scrambled to get out of her path.

       Daria turned and ran in the other direction, heedless of where she was going. She shoved through the doors going out into a parking lot and ran down a line of vehicles until she was at the end, then kept moving at a slower pace, winded.

       She did that to me on purpose. She got me back. I can’t believe she did that. That was totally crazy. She did say she was seeing Ms. Manson about stuff, but I already knew that. Maybe I should be afraid of her. Maybe I should take out a restraining order.

       She couldn’t go back to the convention. She caught her breath and then started for home. Four blocks later and winded again, she sat down on a bench at a bus stop and put her head in her hands.

       Maybe I should just face it that I screwed it up. I tested the depth of the waters, and I got my hand bitten off by a piranha that looked like a goldfish. I didn’t believe we’d be a couple anyway. I never believed it. I just did what I always do: drive everyone away before they get too close and see the real me and dump me. I dumped her first. She got me back, but I dumped her first. I did what I also do. So why do I feel like a pile of crap?

       She sat and stared at the sidewalk for a long time.

       A car pulled up to the curb and stopped. A car door slammed, and someone walked around to the sidewalk.

       “Why did you say that?” Stacy yelled. She was dressed in her street clothes. “Why did you have to go and say that to me? Tell me! Why did you do it?”

       “Go away.”

       “I’m not going away! They keep telling me in therapy that I have to get mad sometimes, and now I’m mad, and I’m not going away! Why did you say that to me? Talk to me!”


       “What is it with you? Why do you try so hard to make everyone mad at you or gross people out? What is it with you that that don’t want anyone to get close to you? What’s wrong with you? I don’t care that you were arguing with those people about Mary whoever, I don’t care that you tell people what you really think, but why do you say things you know are going to really tick people off when you don’t have to? Why is it? Tell me!”

       A bus pulled up behind Stacy’s car and beeped its horn. She gave it only a glance, then turned back to Daria. “Well? Why is it?”

       Daria said nothing.

       “Get in the car!” Stacy snapped, pointing to her vehicle.

       Daria didn’t move.

       Now! Stacy shrieked.

       After the city bus honked its horn louder and longer, Daria sighed and got up and walked to the car and got in. Stacy went around to the driver’s side and got in, buckled up, and pulled away into traffic. They drove in silence for almost a minute.

       “I’m sorry,” said Daria. She meant it. She could not believe Stacy had come after her. No one had ever done that before, come back to her after she’d pissed them off. Except her parents, but they were obligated to do so by law.

       Stacy blew out her breath. “Okay.” After a pause, she said, “Sorry I... no, forget that. I’m not sorry I kissed you. You deserved it.”

       Another half minute of silence.

       “You want to go home?” asked Stacy.

       Daria shrugged.

       “You want to talk?”

       “About what?

       “About our situation.”

       “I don’t know what you mean. We have no situation.”

       “Why did you say that to me, about me using you to get to Quinn?”

       “Why? Why? Because ever since I moved to this town, I knew I’d be a total outcast. No one has ever wanted to be around me, and in the one moment of good luck I’ve had in my entire life, I met another outcast who wanted to hang around me, and then she tried to fix me up with someone else when she figured out I was in love with her. And then you come along and you were in love with my sister before she tried to fix you up, too, and now you’re being nice to me, and no one’s ever been nice to me just to be with me, but everyone’s nice to my sister because everyone on the whole freaking planet wants to be with my sister, not me, and that’s why I said what I did, because I can’t believe you really want to be with me!

       Stacy pulled the car over to the curb and stopped again, turning off the engine. Daria noticed they were in front of her house, but she made no move to get out.

       “I don’t think I was in love with Quinn,” Stacy said. She turned sideways in her seat to face Daria, pulling her right leg up under her to sit on it and resting her left elbow on the steering wheel. “When I met her I thought she was everything, but I could tell after a while that she wasn’t into me like I was into her. I had a crush on her. It’s a crush if you never tell someone you love them. I never told her. Did you ever tell Jane, before last night?”

       “No, and I don’t see what...” Daria fell silent.

       “Then it was a crush,” said Stacy. “That’s all it was. You had a crush on her. It happens all the time. It’s nobody’s fault.

       “Oh, yeah?” Daria snarled, stung to the quick. “How are you so sure it wasn’t love? What do you know about being in love?”

       Stacy stared back at her, clearly stung in return. “I don’t know,” she finally said. “I don’t have any idea.”

       Daria exhaled and looked down at her hands in her lap. She fought back her tears. A crush. That’s all it really was with Jane. She’s right. It was a crush.

       “I want us to be friends, all right?” said Stacy softly. “We have stuff that we both like, and I don’t mean because we’re both into women and everything, okay? You’ve been nice to me when you didn’t have to be, and on account of Quinn and Jane trying to hook us up, we kind of have a history. I care about you. I don’t know that I did before now, to be honest, but I see you differently than I used to. I’m not trying to be with you just to get to Quinn. I don’t want Quinn anymore. If I used you like that, what kind of a jerk would that make me?”

       “Exactly,” said Daria.

       “All right then.”


       “I love you, Daria.”

       Daria lifted her head, unsure she had heard that correctly. “What?” she said, and she turned to her left—

       Stacy leaned over, one hand catching Daria by the right cheek to hold her steady as Stacy kissed her, gently this time.

       Daria thought she heard a shriek in the distance, coming from her house. It sounded like Quinn. How funny, she thought. Kodak moment.

       Stacy pulled back a few inches. “Ow,” she said, rubbing her cheek. “Darn your glasses.”

       “I liked it, too,” said Daria, her head in a fog.

       “I know,” said Stacy.

       “Why me, though?” Daria whispered. “Why not Quinn?”

       Stacy looked at Daria with a sad smile. Daria saw everything except herself. Stacy saw a girl who never got out, never gave herself a chance, never had anyone stick with her long enough to bring her out of her self-imposed exile. She saw her genius and talent and life, saw someone who down deep really, really cared about people. She saw someone who would make a difference in the world, if only...

       “Why me?” Daria repeated.

       “Oh, Daria,” said Stacy, “you are so naïve.” She closed her eyes and went in for number three. Daria’s arms came up and held her when she did.

       It seemed it would last forever, but it lasted only until Daria’s mother Helen came out of the house and turned into Mount St. Helens.





V. Motherlines



       If Daria had stolen a ten-megaton nuclear bomb from the Air Force and had set it off under the house, the result could hardly have been more dramatic than her current situation.

       “I can’t believe this!” Helen shouted. “I can’t believe this is happening to me! I’m trying to get the PortaFry class-action suit under control, and you’re out running wild in the streets when you’re supposed to be at that convention being the responsible Daria I always knew, but now you’ve gone totally crazy when I’m trying to be reasonable and hold everything together, and you just don’t get it! What’s wrong with you?

       “This must be the shock stage,” said Daria, sitting at the kitchen table.

       “Shut up! I’m not finished talking!”

       “It’s my fault!” Quinn howled. “It was my idea to set the two of them up like that! We were just kidding around! We didn’t think they’d really go for each other!”

       “Who else was in on this?” their mother shouted. “Who helped you get this started?”

       “It was Jane! Jane and I were talking at school about—about stuff, and—and it just got all out of hand!”

       “Jane?” gasped Helen with a stupefied look. “Daria’s Jane?” She snatched up the portable phone and dialed. “Jane? Is this Jane? This is Helen Morgendorffer, Daria’s mother. What the hell did you do to turn my daughter into a sex pervert? Hello? Hello? Jane?” She slammed down the phone and turned to Quinn again. “I’ll get hold of her later. What exactly did you two pull?

       “Or maybe we’ve skipped shock and moved right on to anger,” said Daria.

       “Shut up!” Helen turned to Quinn. “Talk to me!”

       “Well,” Quinn nervously began, “Jane and I were talking and we both sorta knew for a long time that, um, she was, you know—”

       “That she was what?

       “Muuuh-ooom, it’s okay, all right? Daria’s gay! She’s a lesbian or whatever! She’s always been like that! And Stacy’s the same way, too, okay? And so we were talking about it, and Jane and I kind of had a problem because—Mom, who are you calling?”

       “Stacy’s mother,” said Helen, punching again at the buttons on the portable phone. “Daria has not always been a lesbian, and I would know because I’m her mother!”

       “Mom, please!”

       “Denial’s supposed to come between shock and anger,” said Daria, “so—”

       “Shut up! Hello? Mrs. Rowe? This is Helen Morgendorffer, Daria’s mother.” During the pause, Helen’s gaze roamed the room at random. “She said what?” Helen swung around to face Daria. “When was this? They were hanging around together at the convention last night and today? And you didn’t know about it until now?

       “Mom, wait!” said Quinn.

       “Why didn’t you know about this before now?” Helen shouted into the phone. “Don’t you talk to your kids? No, I’m not shouting at you, Elaine! I’m just trying to find out why your daughter was kissing my daughter! What? No, of course Daria’s never dated another—” Helen froze and looked at Daria in shock. “I’ll call you back later!” she said, then hung up and dialed another number. “Hello? Is this Jane? Trent? Would you put your sister Jane on the phone?”

       “Now we’ve skipped the remaining stages and arrived at insanity,” Daria groaned in defeat.

       “Shut up! Trent, where is she? She won’t get on the phone? Where are your parents? You don’t know? How the hell can you not know? Listen, do you know if Jane and Daria were seeing each other intimately? What? Yes, I know they were friends, but that’s not what I’m talking about! Well, what do you think I’m talking about? What? What does Daria say? How the hell would I know? She never tells me anything!”

       Daria lowered her head to the table. “Could you just shoot me and get this torture over with?”

       “Shut up, Daria!”

       “Mom!” screamed Quinn. “Let her talk, okay?”

       “Oh, forget it.” Daria pushed back her chair and got to her feet.

       “You stay there, young lady!” yelled Helen. “You stay right there until we’ve gotten you straightened out!”

       “Interesting choice of words.” Daria headed out of the kitchen. Her mother went back to shouting at Jane’s older brother on the phone.

       Quinn followed her sister. “Daria,” she cried, “I swear to God, I am so sorry for getting you into this mess! I never meant for this to happen!”

       “How long have you known?”

       “About you? Geez, Daria, forever! I always knew you were like you are!”

       “But you still tried to get me to go out with guys.”

       “Well, I didn’t know it would stick with you! I thought maybe you just needed some encouragement or something! I didn’t know you were like that all the way through!”

       “Oh.” Daria stopped on the stairs, thinking. “Well, I am. All the way through.” She continued on up to her room, where she locked her door and fell on her bed. She had been cool and collected downstairs, but the stress was so bad she had been afraid she would throw up. Her neck and shoulders were a giant knot of tension, and she felt a monster headache coming on. Even putting the pillow over her head did not shut out her mother’s ranting in the kitchen. This coming-out party isn’t going very well, she decided. I hope she doesn’t call Dad and make him fly back early. What am I saying? Of course she will. Maybe I can find a recipe for making hemlock on the Internet, or maybe I’ll stick with the grape Kool-Aid. I can’t handle much more of this.

       I knew this wasn’t going to work. I knew coming out was going to suck. I knew I was doomed.

       I wonder how Stacy’s doing. I can’t believe I care about her, after all the time I couldn’t stand her, but I do. I don’t know how I feel about her, but I hope she’s okay. I really hope so. She really knows how to kiss.

       But why did she tell me she loved me?

       There was a soft knock at the door. She did not stir to answer it, and she heard nothing more for a while after that. Then came the sound of a sheet of paper being pushed under the door. I should get that crack sealed up, Daria reflected. She waited until she couldn’t stand it, then got up and walked over to retrieve the folded piece of notebook paper on the floor.






I am so sorry this happened. I promise I will do everything I can to calm Mom down. If there’s anything I can do, I mean except for going out with Stacy, which I just can’t do, please tell me. And Jane cares about you, too. She really does. She was just afraid you had a thing for her like I thought Stacy had for me, which it turns out I was right about, and we were only trying to get you two to be friends, that’s all, because you and Stacy had a lot in common and we thought maybe you two would [several words were scratched out here] hang out or whatever, but we never wanted you two to get hurt. Please forgive me and let me try to help even though I can’t think of a thing to do to help you, so just tell me to do something, anything, except go out with Stacy or kill Mom, which I am afraid I might do anyway. Kill Mom, I mean.



your sister

sorry I haven’t been good about saying that before now




       Daria folded the letter and put it in a drawer in her desk, meaning to keep it forever. She could hear her mother still ranting in the kitchen downstairs. She unlocked the door to her room to peek outside and found Quinn standing in the hall.

       “Are you here to shoot me?” Daria asked in a deadpan voice.

       “Gawd, Daria, of course not!”

       “Would you shoot me anyway? Please?”

       Quinn stepped forward and hugged Daria to her. Daria closed her eyes and let her sister do it. She was too lonely and depressed to refuse.

       “Just one little bullet is all I ask,” Daria mumbled into her sister’s shoulder.

       “Shut up,” said Quinn. She pulled back and came into Daria’s room, shutting and locking the door behind her. “Tell me what happened.”

       They ended up sitting on the bed. Daria, who had never told Quinn anything at all about her personal life, told her everything.

       “So you two really did hit it off,” said Quinn. “Ohmigod, I can’t believe it.”

       “I’m worried about her,” said Daria softly. “Between her mom and our mom and Ms. Manson and I don’t know who else, I really afraid of what’s going to happen next. I feel like I’m getting off easy compared to what she’s going through.”

       “Well, I’d call her, but I don’t know if she’d be happy to hear from me,” said Quinn. “Mom’s got the house phone tied up, anyway.”

       They were quiet together, listening to the rise and fall of their mother’s voice downstairs.

       “Stacy said she loved me,” Daria said, staring at the wall. “I don’t know why she said that.”

       Quinn hugged her from the side. “We’ll get through this. Trust me, we will. Mom just needs to let this sink in a while, then she’ll be fine.”

       “Find out if she’s okay.”

       “You mean Stacy or Mom?”


       Quinn exhaled heavily. “Okay, I’ll do my best.” She turned to her sister. “Jane’s worried about you, too. I don’t think she knew how strongly you felt about her, but I don’t think she wanted you to stop being her friend.”

       Daria looked down at her hands but said nothing.

       “Think about it, okay? I’ll try to help out, if you want to meet her somewhere. I can sit with you both while you talk, if you want.”

       “I dunno,” Daria mumbled.

       “Well, think about it. The two of you were such good friends.”

       Daria looked up. “It wasn’t a friendship thing for me.

       “Well... think about it anyway.”

       Daria nodded and looked away. “Okay,” she said in a low voice.

       Footsteps thumped rapidly up the stairs.

       “Oh, crap,” groaned Quinn. “I’ll stay with you.”

       “You don’t have to.”

       “Daria!” Their mother tried the knob, then pounded on the door itself. “Open the door right now! I need to talk to you!”

       “I think I’d better stay,” said Quinn, getting up to unlock the door.

       Helen came in, seeming to fill the doorway. “Quinn—” she began.

       “I’m staying!” Quinn strode away and parked herself on the bed beside Daria.

       Helen gritted her teeth but ignored her youngest daughter. She walked over to stand in front of Daria. “Did that girl force you to kiss her?”

       “No, Mom,” said Daria quietly.

       “Did she threaten you? Did she say you had to do it or else she’d hurt you?”

       “No. I kissed her because I wanted to.”

       Helen’s voice rose. “Have you been drinking or taking drugs?”

       “I wish to God I could now.”

       “Stop that! I’m asking you, have you—”


       “Was it an accident?”

       “No. She wanted to kiss me, and I wanted to kiss her.” Daria looked her mother in the face. “I’m into girls, Mom.”

       Helen blinked. “Quinn, get out of here. Right now.”

       “I won’t!” Quinn said.

       Overwhelmed, Daria lowered her head and covered it with her hands. She felt Quinn’s arm move protectively around her.

       “I’m ordering you to your room, young lady!” Helen yelled. “Get out of here!”

       “No!” Quinn shouted back.

       “Quinn, damn it, if you don’t move right this second, I’m going to knock the—”

       “Okay, that’s it,” said Daria. She stood up by the bed. “That’s enough. We are not going to do the face-smacking thing. What do you want me to do, Mom?”

       “I want you to tell me that you’re not a—that you’re not into girls!”

       Daria swallowed in fear. I’m about two seconds away from having her pop me good. “What else did you want me to do, besides that?”

       “That’s all I want, Daria!”

       “Why do you want that? Why are you afraid of it?”

       “It’s not—” Helen paused and put a hand to her head, controlling herself with an effort “—it’s just that—you have no idea what you’re getting into! You’re a child! You have no understanding of what sex is all about!”

       Daria wrinkled her brow. “You’re kidding me, right?”

       “Mom,” Quinn groaned, “please don’t give her the stunt-car driver speech.”

       “What stunt-car driver?” Daria asked, looking at her sister. “What are you talking about?”

       “Quinn, stay out of this!” Helen turned back to Daria. “I don’t want you experimenting with weird sex with anyone, period, while you’re in this house under our roof! And I don’t want you to go around that girl Stacy again, ever! She’s a bad influence on you!”

       “Worse than you?” Daria muttered.

       “Stop it! And you’re not to ever see Stacy, either, Quinn! You girls don’t know what you’re doing at this age, and until you do, you’ll stay away from people like that and—”

       “I have this sneaking suspicion that if you’d caught a guy kissing me instead of a girl, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. At least, not at this volume.”

       “That doesn’t matter! So long as you’re in this house, you’ll do as you’re told!”

       I give up. Daria raised her chin and steeled herself for the slap. “No,” she said. “I’m a dyke, Mom. That’s the truth. I can’t change that, and I won’t change it. Get over it.” She waited, trembling and alert, hopeful she would be able to dodge the expected hand-slap the same way the characters in The Matrix could dodge bullets.

       The blow never came. Her mother merely stared at her with an unreadable, narrow-eyed expression. After what seemed like ages, she turned and left the room, shutting the door behind her.

       Daria thought she would faint from relief. Quinn hugged her from behind. “I was so afraid she was going to hit you!” she cried. “I’ve never seen her so mad!”

       After a moment Daria pulled free and sat down on her bed, knees shaking. “What was all that about a stunt-car driver?” she asked.

       “I’ll tell you later. Just let me go try to find out what’s going on with Stacy. I’ll be right back. Promise.”

       “Okay,” Daria whispered. She hugged herself as Quinn hurried out. The look her mother had given her... Daria wished she had been slapped instead.

       “Jane and Quinn should have set me up with an axe murderer,” she mumbled. “At least I already know one on the Internet. Rhonda might have been fun, too, if her appeal went through and she got out of prison early. Maybe I’ll send her an e-mail about this. Or maybe I’ll just shut up like everyone keeps telling me to do.”

       The noise level in the house fell to near zero for several hours afterward. Daria stayed in her room, the door locked only because she didn’t want to be surprised by anyone walking in. She lay down on her bed with a damp washcloth over her eyes and her eyeglasses on the floor under the bed.

       Someone knocked at her door in time. Daria reluctantly got up to answer it.

       “I didn’t find out much,” said Quinn, keeping her voice down. “I know Stacy’s parents are fighting. I think it’s about what happened. I called over when Mom went to the bathroom, and Stacy told me a little. She had to hang up, though. I think her parents were looking for her. She said she was worried about you, too, and she hoped you were okay.” There was a beat, then Quinn added, “She said she meant what she said to you. She didn’t say what it was, but she said she meant it.”

       Daria went back to her bed and sat down. “Did Mom call Dad?”

       “I don’t think so, not yet.”

       “Tell her not to, okay? His heart isn’t in very good—”

       “I know, I know. I’ll talk to her. I don’t think she’ll say anything until he gets back tomorrow night.”

       Daria rubbed her hands together as if for warmth. “Did you get in touch with Jane?”

       “Uh, yeah. I told her what was happening.” Quinn sat beside her sister again. “She said if you didn’t want to see her again, she would understand, but she wanted you to know she cared about you. She had no idea you felt that way about her.” Quinn looked at the floor. “I kind of told her once that I thought you might have a thing for her, because I knew how you were and everything, but she didn’t believe me. She does now. She said you talked to her at that convention or whatever. She almost fell over when you told her.”

       “That’s what I always try to do,” said Daria dully. “Be memorable.”

       “You sure were.” Quinn raised a hand to her mouth and bit at a nail, then made herself stop. “It’s not my place to say this,” she added, “but I think in her own way Jane loves you. She loves you like a sister, not like anything else, but she loves you. She’s really missed you, Daria.”

       Daria felt her face burn. She took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. Then it all came up and she began to cry, as hard as she ever had. Quinn held her and wept with her until it was over.

       A wordless dinner was held that evening, the three of them gathering over microwaved lasagna and steamed broccoli. Daria sat at her place and remembered how Stacy looked at lunch earlier in the day. She couldn’t stop wondering what was happening to her friend, and she wondered if she should sneak out to check on her. It then hit Daria that she had no idea where Stacy lived. She’d never seen her house or her room, never talked with her about her book collection or reading habits, never... never done anything much at all with her, until this weekend.

       Why did she say she loved me?

       Helen finished her meal early and got up from the table, putting her plate in the dishwasher before going upstairs to her bedroom.

       “You should eat,” said Quinn, pointing at Daria’s plate with her fork.

       “I can’t,” Daria whispered. “I’m going nuts worrying about her. Where does she live?”

       “You shouldn’t go over there. Her parents will freak. Her mother’s really crazy.”

       Daria bowed her head. “Please find out how she is. I can’t stand this.”

       “I will, promise, tomorrow.” Quinn turned to badgering her sister into finishing at least a third of her meal before cleaning up. Daria got up for a while, then went up to her own room and lay down, forgetting to lock the door. She remembered that tonight was the night for the annual Mow-the-Lawn-Con Hogwarts pillow fight, the traditional anime ghost-story videos, panels on the Y2K problem and the future of online fanfiction, and a seminar in which the convention’s author guest of honor gave a speech about writing and writers. Daria had wanted to be a writer. She had no idea what she would be now.

       She fell asleep without knowing it, exhausted in body and soul.

       About four a.m., the phone rang. Daria half-awoke and heard her mother talking on the phone down the hall in an elevated tone. Then she heard Quinn open her bedroom door and pad barefoot into the master bedroom. When Quinn cried out, “Oh, no!” Daria came completely awake. She threw off her covers and sat up on the edge of the bed. Had something happened to her father? He’d suffered a mild heart attack not long ago. She reached down for her glasses on the floor, trying to find them in the darkness.

       Footsteps came up to her door. Light spilled in from the hall as the door opened.

       “Daria?” said Quinn. She flipped on the room light, half-closed the door behind her, and came over to sit beside her sister and hug her and tell her that Stacy Rowe was dead.





VI. Extra (Ordinary) People



       “You’d think at a mental-health spa they’d give facials with your therapy sessions,” Quinn said, looking around the waiting room in bored resignation. She picked up a magazine—Psychiatric Review Quarterly—and dropped it back on the table. “If I ran Quiet Ivy, I’d make a few changes. I certainly would. What do you think, Daria?”

       Her sister did not reply. Daria sat beside her on the waiting-room sofa, shoulders slumped and head down, and stared at her hands in her lap.

       “Daria?” Quinn prodded. “How are you feeling?” A long moment passed. Quinn waited; she had learned patience these last few weeks.

       “I wanted to ask about her hands,” said Daria, looking at her fingers. The words came out slowly and with a bit of a slur. “I was going to ask her why she had such strong hands, but I kept forgetting.”

       “Oh, yeah.” Quinn sighed and reached over to rub her sister’s back. Daria seemed to like physical contact, though not often. “That was kind of funny. We’d been talking in the Fashion Club about protecting ourselves on dates with guys who were kind of pushy, and she thought if her arms were strong enough, she could take a guy’s hands off her anytime she had to, no matter what he was doing, so she got one of those hand exerciser things and went to it. She worked out with it every day for like a year or so. I think doing it made her feel better whenever she was nervous and stuff, but she liked the results, too.”

       “Oh.” Daria was silent for a beat. “She was really strong.”

       Quinn nodded. “Yeah, she was. It was kind of against Fashion Club rules to work out that hard, ‘cause it made her hands look sort of butchy, but she did it anyway.” She sighed again. “She was very sweet. I think she was the sweetest person I ever knew. She really cared about people, even if she didn’t like guys all that much.”

       Daria lifted her head to look across the room. Her face was drawn and pale, her cheeks hollow, her auburn hair uncombed. Her lower lip was scabbed over where it had been bitten through time after time. Her fingernails were gnawed to the quick.

       “Why did she say she loved me?” she asked.

       Quinn struggled to think of a good, quick answer, but even if one had existed, she could not speak for the dead. Keeping one hand on Daria’s back, she leaned forward and reached for her sister’s closest hand with the other. “Because she did,” she said. “If Stacy said she loved you, she meant it. It doesn’t matter why she felt that way. It just matters that she did.”

       Daria’s face was lifeless. “I never said I loved her back. I never told her that. I think I might have, or I would have, if... if there had been more time... but I just didn’t say it. I never did.” She bit her lower lip again.

       Quinn took a ragged breath and squeezed her sister’s hand. “I’m sure she knows, Daria, wherever she is. She’s watching over you, trying to help you and make you better. She would have wanted that. You know it.”

       Daria shook her head. “I don’t believe in angels,” she said hoarsely.

       “Maybe she believes in you, though. You meant a lot to her, and I’m sure in some way you still do.”

       After a long pause, Daria whispered, “I wish I could believe that.”

       Quinn kept her composure with an effort. In lieu of further conversation, she hugged her sister and listened to her breathing.

       The waiting room door to the hallway opened and spoiled the moment, not a moment too soon.

       “Sorry that took so long,” said Jane, walking in. “I didn’t have anything to read and there wasn’t any good graffiti on the walls, so at least I wasn’t gone as long as I could have been.” She sat on the long sofa beside Daria, opposite Quinn, and took Daria’s other hand to hold it with both of hers.

       Quinn forced a smile and wiped her eyes on her sleeve. “Doctor Millepieds hasn’t come out yet. I don’t know why it’s taking him so long to write out one little prescription that nobody can read.”

       “Jean-Michel is a dish,” said Jane with relish. “I wouldn’t mind studying psychology under him.”

       Quinn turned to Jane, looking behind Daria’s back, and gave her the eye.

       “What?” said Jane, all innocence. “What did I say?”

       “Forget it.” Quinn smirked at the double-entendre. “He is sharp. Silk shirt, perfect tie, and I think those shoes are Italian. The lab coat kind of ruins the effect, though.”

       “I’m sure he’d take it off if we asked.”

       “You’re incorrigible.”

       “I don’t need incorrigement where he’s concerned.”

       Quinn and Jane snickered—and sneaked peeks at Daria’s face. The humor evoked no response; Daria stared at her lap as if nothing had happened.

       Their smiles faded and their faces fell.

       The waiting-room door leading to the psychiatrist’s private office opened. The man in the lab coat who stood in the doorway was tall, dark, and handsome, with combed-back hair, rugged good looks, and a cleft chin. “I apologize for the wait,” he said with a pleasant French accent. “One of the drawbacks to carrying a beeper is that you are required to answer it. If I may, I would like to borrow Quinn for a few minutes.”

       “As long as you borrow me next, sure,” said Jane.

       The psychiatrist laughed. “So, you will be fine out here with your friend?”

       “Daria and I are fine anywhere,” said Jane. She looked at the weary brunette at her side. “Right, amiga?

       Daria’s face tightened and she bit her lower lip, but her empty expression did not change.

       Quinn was escorted into Dr. Millepieds’ office and took her usual seat by a potted palm. “I like this spot,” she said, giving her orange-red mane a toss. “It makes me feel... sort of Egyptian. I can’t explain it.”

       “I cannot explain it either,” said the psychiatrist, pulling up a leather chair and taking a seat. “I am sorry your parents could not make it this time. They were not here the last time you and Jane brought your sister, either.”

       “Yeah, well, I’m sorry, too,” said Quinn with growing irritation. “I mean, Mom says she doesn’t have the time to drive Daria out for her therapy sessions now that she’s a partner at the law firm and has to work all day and all night to pay the bills, but I think she wants to work so much because it keeps her from thinking about Daria and feeling guilty about ignoring her. And Dad... he’s lost in his own clueless fog. I think he cares about Daria, but he’s so messed up over the sexuality issue and Stacy and everything else that happened while he was gone that he can’t do anything to help, and he blames Mom but he doesn’t want to fight about it in front of Daria and me in case it makes us even more mental than we already are, so he runs away from it all by pretending to be an idiot. Plus, I’m worried all the stress will give him another heart attack, so there’s that, too. The only people who are really dealing with Daria anymore are Jane and me, which is just totally hysterical because we’re the ones who messed her up to begin with, and everyone else has run off and left us and I’m really pissed off about it!

       The doctor nodded in solemn agreement at the outburst. “I too would be... pissed off, if I was left to deal with such things and no one helped me. From all that your sister has told me, however, you and your friend have helped her very much. She is lucky, Daria is, to have you both to look out for her until she gets well again. And it is important to say here that I do not think you and Jane are to blame for what happened to Stacy, or to Daria. You feel guilty, but it is misplaced, and you should not.”

       “If I hadn’t set them up, none of this would have happened!” Quinn shot back. “You can’t tell me I’m not responsible for starting this mess! I am!

       “Let us come back to this in a minute, please.” He consulted his notebook. “Your sister and I had a good talk today. She is reading again, which is good, and she likes her walks with you and when Jane drives her places. This is very good for her, it brings up her spirits, so you have helped her very much. She is a little reticent to talk about her future, as it is too early to think too far ahead, but she is improving. She is not improving as much as I would like, however, so I am changing her medication I hope a last time.” He leaned forward to hand Quinn a prescription slip, one just as unreadable as all the ones before it had been. “I want to also ask how your sister is doing at home.”

       “She’s about the same as she is here,” Quinn replied, stuffing the slip in her purse. “She doesn’t do anything except sleep and sit around until I get in from school, but she talks to me more than she used to. She’s not as bad as she was after we found out Stacy was gone.”

       “Yes, what is happening with that, the Stacy situation?”

       Quinn blew out a long puff of breath. “Her mom’s still in jail. I don’t know when the trial will be. Mom asked me if I wanted to go when it started, but I said no. I don’t want to see her.” Quinn crossed her legs and began kicking her foot. “After what she did, I just don’t want to have anything to do with her at all. It makes me sick. Stacy didn’t deserve that. All she ever wanted to do was make people happy, and she got this instead.”

       “Does your sister know the story of what happened?”

       “Yeah,” said Quinn in a dispirited tone. “She couldn’t miss it.” She scratched the back of her head and looked away. “It was in the papers and TV and everything. Her mom and dad were fighting that night, really fighting, hitting each other with stuff, and Stacy tried to make them stop. They were fighting about her, I think. Her mother threw a hammer at her dad, but she hit Stacy instead, in the temple. They didn’t call an ambulance right away, which was just criminal, and when they did it was too late. Stacy had bleeding in her brain, and they couldn’t do a thing to stop it. She died before she got to the hospital.”

       Quinn stopped scratching her head and sighed heavily, then pulled on her skirt to straighten it. “I think my mom feels really guilty about fighting with Daria that night because of what happened to Stacy, but she won’t do anything to take it back or say she’s sorry or anything. She just—” She waved a dismissive hand “—goes to work, that’s all, like there’s nothing’s wrong. Ffft, she’s off, goodbye, good luck!”

       “Has Daria ever talked about Stacy at home?”

       “Yeah, now and then, but only to me. We were just talking about her in the waiting room, in fact, about what Stacy was like. I don’t want to hide anything from Daria anymore. I owe her the truth.” Quinn rubbed her mouth and looked at the floor. “Since I almost killed her, I figure I owe her that, at least. The whole thing with setting her up with Stacy was my fault. Jane blames herself for it, but it was me who really did it. It was me.”

       “You are very depressed about this,” said the doctor.

       “It’s more like I’m being realistic about it. I mean, yeah, I feel guilty and depressed and horrible every single day. I’m never going to escape this. Jane and I were having a little fun with them, Daria and Stacy, seeing if they would hit it off because we were getting uncomfortable with them following us around all the time like they had a thing for us, which of course we know they did, but thanks to that little prank I pulled, Stacy’s dead—I mean, I actually killed someone who loved me, someone who was probably my best friend, if you look at it that way—and I destroyed my sister, who’s so depressed I have to help her in the shower because she’ll just stand there and do nothing and won’t even wash herself—yeah, I feel guilty! I am depressed! My life’s a freaking train wreck, Daria’s a wreck, my family’s a wreck, Jane’s a wreck, we’re all a total freaking wreck because of a stupid little prank! I hate myself! I can’t stop wishing I was dead!”

       “But if you were dead, who would take care of your sister? Who would love her like you do?”

       “No one, except maybe Jane, and that’s a fact.” Quinn wiped her reddened eyes, her composure returning. “I can’t get away from it. The only thing that gets me through the day is knowing that except for me and Jane, Daria’s got no one else. Mom’s abandoned her and me, too, and I don’t think Dad even talks to her while I’m at school. He isn’t doing any homeschooling like he said he would, because he never shows me any papers she’s done or anything. He’s pretty smashed when I get in, so I know all he’s done all day is sit on the sofa and drink martinis while she stays in her room in bed. I feel some days like I could—” She put her fist over her mouth and did not continue.

       Dr. Millepieds set his notebook aside. “Quinn,” he said, “Stacy’s mother did the evil thing, not you or Jane. You gave Daria a chance to find love, something no one else ever did for her, and you gave your friend Stacy the same thing. You did many good things for her. It is never easy for someone to come out, as they say; it is often very hard, very full of turmoil and shouting and stress, but you stayed with her and helped her when she needed you. She told me you did this, that you saved her. You saved Daria by doing the thing you curse yourself for. Your sister was depressed before you and Jane set up the fateful blind date. Daria was not getting anywhere in her love life. She wanted someone she could not have. You gave her and Stacy hope. It was not you who took Stacy away, but it was you who gave your sister life, and a chance to be happy.”

       Quinn fought to keep her composure, but it was too much. The psychiatrist waited quietly as she wept, only handing her a box of tissues.

       “I can’t believe I did anything good for her,” Quinn gasped long minutes later. “I can hardly get out of bed in the morning.”

       “Yes, I was thinking about that. I want to see you for therapy, too, the next time your sister comes, and I want to start you on medication, a mild antidepressant, but I need to speak to your parents first.”

       “Good luck getting them. I don’t want anything, anyway.”

       “You do not have to take anything if you insist, but you have so many burdens on you, you need someone to help you, too. Your parents will not come in for family therapy, at least when I talked to them last week, but I will try again. Are you thinking about hurting yourself?”

       Quinn sniffed. “No, not really. I couldn’t. I’m all that Daria has at home.”

       “You must promise me you will not hurt yourself or anyone else.”

       “I won’t. I promise.” She blew her nose in a tissue.

       “Okay, that is good. I will not keep you too long. I know how teenagers like to have their Saturdays free, eh?”

       “It doesn’t matter.” Quinn blew her nose again and shrugged. “It’s not like I have a lot of dates anymore, with everything else that’s gone on. Jane broke up with her boyfriend, too, so we’re both stuck.”

       “Oh, I had one last thing to ask before you go. Where Stacy is buried, has Daria been there? Sometimes this is good for, um, completion, closure. You understand.”

       Quinn nodded. “Stacy’s funeral was on Daria’s birthday, but she couldn’t go to it anyway. Her family had only a small service. No one else was invited. That was when Daria stopped eating. I think she wanted to see Stacy one last time. I finally found out where Stacy was buried, and Daria and I have been there a couple of times. I’m not supposed to drive, since I don’t have my license yet, but I drove her over there anyway, just her and me. She’s in a little cemetery with trees all around. It’s very quiet. We sit on a bench and talk about her for a while, or we just sit and don’t say anything, and then we go home. I don’t know if it’s helped.”

       “I think it has, a little. They say, you know, a person’s spirit, their soul, is here for a little while after death, and they can hear what we say if we talk to them.” He gestured with open hands. “Who can say, eh? But I am sure it is good for your sister and for Stacy, too. It is good for them both.”

       Quinn’s face worked and turned bright red. “That’s what I told—”

       She finished off the tissue box.

       “Remember to be careful with her medication,” said Dr. Millepieds as he later led Quinn to the door. “Your sister does not say she wants to hurt herself, which is good, but it is a good idea not to trust that too much sometimes. You must be careful and keep an eye on her and the medicine, but I am sure your mother and father do that, too.”

       Quinn swallowed. She remembered walking into the kitchen several times recently and finding Daria’s antidepressant bottle sitting out in plain sight on the counter. Ingested at once, her pills would be lethal.

       She knew she had not left the bottle out.

       And she knew Daria did not know where the bottle was hidden.

       The bottle now stayed in Quinn’s room under her mattress, and only she gave her sister the pills. Neither her mother nor father had asked where it had gone. Quinn was determined not to tell them if they did.

       “No problem,” she said at last. “Thanks for everything.”

       “I should thank you instead,” said the doctor, opening the door to the waiting room. “We should all thank you and your friend Jane.”

       “Who isn’t going to get her turn with the doctor, I see,” Jane said aloud. She had an open magazine in her lap, held so Daria could see it if she chose.

       The psychiatrist laughed again. “I think maybe one day I will talk with you, too,” he said, “but your parents will have to give permission. And money!”

       “Damn it!” Jane flipped the magazine shut. “C’mon, amiga. Time for the Gorgon Sisters to hit the road.”

       “Snakes for hair, eww.” Quinn waved to the psychiatrist, and the three walked out of the building arm in arm into the sun.










Author’s Notes II: This tale encompasses events in an alternate universe corresponding to the fourth-season episodes “I Loathe a Parade,” “Of Human Bonding,” and “Psycho Therapy.” The story itself takes place in the fall of 1999, which can be deduced by the topical references to books and movies released that year.

       In addition to Prince Charon’s Iron Chef challenge, two other Iron Chefs contributed to this tale: MsHand’s challenge from March 3, 2006 (“Same lines, different situation”) and Nemo Blank’s challenge from November 13, 2005 (“Mission mischief”). This story was meant to answer all three challenges. Plus, I wanted to write a shipper, since there have been so many of them here lately.

       When I began this story, I already had the idea things were not going to go well for the characters, but had no specifics beyond that. The story more or less wrote itself. The blind-date situation was the only one I could conceive would exist, given the particulars of those involved, so it was an AU. Role reversals and transformations were added: Stacy channels Tom Sloane in chapter 4, with Daria playing herself (the kiss-in-the-car scene, borrowed from “Die! Die! My Darling!”), and Quinn recreates Daria’s assessment of their family (from “Psycho Therapy”) in chapter 6, adding a line from “Lane Miserables” when she says she’s not depressed so much as realistic. And Daria at the end physically resembles Stacy from chapter 2.

       Stacy as a closet SF buff was derived from Austin Covello’s version of her in “The Death of Stacy.” Her interests here, of course, lie with feminist and lesbian SF. As it happens, the chapter titles and the fanfic’s title itself are all borrowed from these two sub-genres.


The Two of Them, by Joanna Russ

“When It Changed,” by Joanna Russ

“The Women Men Don’t See,” by James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon)

“Her Smoke Rose Up Forever,” by James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon)

The Furies, by Suzy McKee Charnas

Motherlines, by Suzy McKee Charnas

Extra (Ordinary) People, by Joanna Russ


       The other stories and novels (and authors) mentioned herein also exist in real life. I am a big fan of “When It Changed,” but Suzy McKee Charnas did another story called “Boobs” that will totally blow your mind. Find it; it is awesome.

       Stacy’s Warrior Woman costume is prophetic of her death, as is her comment that the Warrior Woman “died so beautifully,” which of course is not exactly true (WW died horribly, just like Stacy did). There was a funny note in that Stacy liked the tales of Alyx, the time-traveler, but in The Daria Diaries she declares that time travel is impossible (“Fashion Club Minutes”). Definitely an AU Stacy here. Her cartoon-character watch was mentioned by Sandi in “The F Word,” but not shown. Stacy was shown in therapy with Ms. Manson in The Daria Database.

       Cranberry Commons Mall, from The Daria Diaries, was renamed the Lawndale Mall on the “Virtual Lawndale” webpage of the MTV Daria website at:


The Dutchman Inn and its giant clog were mentioned in “Fire!” Quiet Ivy Retreat and Dr. Millepieds appear in “Psycho Therapy.”

       Mow-the-Lawn-Con is based in large part on my experiences at Capricon and WindyCon, which I used to attend in Chicago in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and on Wonderfest, held in Louisville, which I attend now.

       Finally, I deliberately did not reveal which parent was leaving Daria’s antidepressants out, an echo of Stacy’s death as a result of her parents’ actions. Take your pick. I realized while writing this story that many of my other fanfics also involve children and teenagers forced to deal with an extremely hostile world, usually a home environment, and forced to take on adult responsibilities and parenting traits in order to survive. Hmmm.

       Thanks to everyone who kept me on track and added corrections and comments.




Original: 03/14/06, modified 06/01/06, 09/18/06, 11/1/09