This is a continuation of my previous fic, “Families”. In it, we see the effects of that fic on the next day in Lawndale. Also, Amy Barksdale comes to Lawndale to visit “her favourite niece” and Daria’s family.
Daria (and associated characters and locations) is copyright © 1997-2000 MTV Networks.
This story is copyright © 2002 by Bacner () and has been written for personal enjoyment. No infringement of the above rights is intended.
Daria Morgendorffer woke-up. It was nine AM. After a brief debate on whether of staying more in bed or getting an early breakfast, she decided to do the latter. After all, the rest of her family by now probably either left already or not woken-up. That meant that she could be practically alone in the house, if she kept quiet. That decided it. Daria dressed-up and went downstairs.
Downstairs, Daria saw a discerning sight: her father, sitting at a breakfast table, reading a newspaper. “Dad? You're still home?” Daria said, surprised.
“Why shouldn’t I be, kiddo?” Jake looked-up from the newspaper.
“Um…today is a workday? Mom has left hours already, I believe.”
“I'm self-employed, kiddo, remember? What I say at Morgendorffer Consulting, goes without arguing!”
“Dad, you are Morgendorffer Consulting. Without you pushing things along, nothing goes along there.”
“Exactly! And so, today, I decided to have a family bonding day with my girls instead!”
“Where’s mom?” Daria asked.
“Why do you ask it?”
“’Cause for a family bonding you need a full family, dad. Now Quinn’s not awake yet, and I’m pretty sure that mom’s at work.”
“She is, kiddo. Yesterday was her day to bond with you two; today is mine.”
“Oh! I get it!” realization hit home. “You heard what happened yesterday with the Lanes, hah?”
“Yes, kiddo. And I want you to know…that I’m happy that you decided to stay with us.”
“Speaking of us, I have two, no three points.”
“Oh? What are they, kiddo?”
“Firstly, where’re Penny and Jane?”
“Oh, they went home to check on Trent – to see if the house wasn’t repossessed or something. I told them that we’ll be leaving later in the morning, so no problems there.”
“That brings on my second question: where are we going?”
“You and Quinn and I are going to Boston!”
“Boston? Groovy,” Daria deadpanned. “And this, dad, brings me to my last point: you got to awaken Quinn now, and get her involved in this idea of yours quickly, before she produces any counter-arguments why she shouldn’t go.”
Jake nodded. “Thanks, Daria! Eh, while I go and wake-up Quinn, can you make us some breakfast?”
“Didn't you already eat?” Daria said, but Jake didn't hear her – he already left.
“Terrific,” Daria muttered and pulled-out the toaster.
Some time later, Daria, Jake and Quinn were riding in Jake’s Lexus. “So why mom isn't with us?” Quinn asked, still not-quite-awakened.
“Helen had already spent time with you,” Jake chuckled. “It’s my turn today.”
“I see,” Quinn said. “It’s because Daria almost left with Penny yesterday?”
“Eh…yeah,” Jake uncomfortably said. “Helen did point-out that our family isn't the most functional one…”
“You didn't see some of other families here,” Quinn rose to defend the family honour. “The Taylors, for one example.”
“Steve Taylor and his family,” Daria explained.
“Oh them. Well, you know, their family is somewhat… mended-over.”
“Dad,” Daria said softly, “Steve Taylor married a woman who’s young enough to be his oldest daughter. What kind of a role model is that? You're much better.”
“Thanks, kiddo!” Jake cheered-up. “Well, off we go to see the wonderful city of Boston!”
“Will we be home for dinner?” Quinn asked.
“We shall see…”
Penny and Jane looked around the Lane residence. “All’s in place, and we’ve seem to have gained three guys on top of this,” Penny said. “Where did they come from?”
“Oh, that’s Nick, Max and Jesse,” Jane replied. “They’re Trent’s group, Mystik Spiral.”
“And they’re sleeping here because-?”
“They were probably practicing and fell asleep.”
“Ah! Just like the old times,” Penny nodded. “Is their music still the same?”
“Well, that takes care of burglar-alarms, I guess. Don't the neighbours complain, though?”
“They do still, from time to time. Then we have to barricade our doors to escape the police.”
Penny shook her head. “Wonderful. I suppose they bring girls here too?”
“Yeah, they do,” Jane said. “Just not very often.”
“Hmm. Didn't Trent go steady with some girl named Dominique or something?”
“It's Monique,” Jane replied, “and yeah, they still are steady – like waves upon a shore. Off and on again. So anyways. Where are you planning to stay?”
“Here, I suppose.”
“Your old room, I meant?”
“Please. Summer’s room is never to my liking.”
“And another thing – this isn't going to swamp-out into another family gathering, is it?”
“Let’s see. Summer is still chasing after her kids in Canada, Wind is in either here in California or in Andros, Bahamas, Trent’s accounted for, and Mom and Dad were in Spain, the last time I heard from them.”
“And where did you return from? Brazil? Paraguay?”
“Madagascar?! That’s in Africa!”
“Did you see the monkeys there?”
“More than enough. If you look around, you’d sure to see some monkey – they’re called lemurs there.”
“So anyway. What do you want to do today?”
“Sit on a couch and watch TV. I didn't do either of them in a long while.”
“Sounds fair. But I must warn you – Trent.”
“Trent will be sleeping for ages, Jane, I'll wager.”
“You’ll have to be more specific than that.”
Penny chucked a pillow at Jane in reply. Jane answered similarly; soon the two sisters were involved in a big pillow fight.
“Oh dear. We’ve phoned Quinn several times by now, but nobody’s answering,” Stacy Rowe nervously turned to her fellow Fashion Clubber, Tiffany Blum-Deckler.
“That’s bad?” Tiffany asked, not getting it.
“Tiffany, think. Yesterday, Sandi said something that made Quinn upset.”
“About her sister?”
“Yes, you do remember!” Stacy said. “Sandi made Quinn upset; Quinn probably told her parents, and now both they and Sandi’s parents are upset.”
“So where does this leave us?”
“So what should we do?”
“I don't know. Let’s go and see what’s at Cashman’s.”
Tiffany nodded. At this point of time it was too hard to see where all of this will end-up in, and who’ll win – Sandi or Quinn.
Sandi Griffin was quite angry with her mother, who was angry with her. “I was just only trying to be helpful,” Sandi muttered for a countless time, “but does anybody care about this? No!”
Sandi walked another circle, and turned even more thoughtful. “I have had enough from mom. She constantly runs my life. I've got to do something that’ll keep her out of my hair – at least for a while. But what?” Realizing that she could think of nothing at the moment in here,” Sandi went outside, trying to find an idea.
Helen’s business phone rang. “Who is it?” she spoke into the receiver.
“Helen? It’s me, Amy.”
“Hello Amy, why are you calling me?”
“Helen, Rita wants to crash at my place for a while; some sort of a problem with Paul, I think. I told her that my place is fumigated; can I spent some time in Lawndale away from her?”
“Yes Amy, you can. Normally you couldn’t, but this is Rita we’re talking about. Any news about Erin or Brian?”
“Oh well. Have fun in Lawndale!” Helen hanged-up.”
For a change, Sandi Griffin was unwilling to meet any of her Fashion Club members; they never did do anything more serious than shop. And for once in her life time, Sandi Griffin was unwilling to shop. “This bites, this really bites,” she muttered. “I swear, whenever I confront those two, I end-up for punished for something that they didn’t do.”
“Are you talking about your two brothers?” another voice spoke behind her. Sandi turned around. “Michael Jordan Mackenzie. What are you doing here at the mall?”
“Shopping for Jodie’s birthday,” Mack replied plainly. “You?”
“Reminiscing. I made a mistake, apparently, but I don’t know what kind of! I was only trying to help.”
“An ancient wise man once said: Remember, there are only two faces of evil: either an enemy cleverly made trouble, or a foolish friend decided to give a helping hand”
“Hey! I’m not stupid!” Sandi protested. Then she remembered something and sighed: “Or maybe I am. This is the second time, after all.”
“When was the first?”
“I really cannot tell you,” Sandi shook her head.
“Come on,” Mack said kindly. “I won’t gossip.”
“Okay,” Sandi nodded. “The first time was when I was four, and me and my parents were visiting my aunt Vicki in…”
“El Paso is bo-ring!” four-year-old Sandi Griffin loudly complained, looking at the streets, lit-up by a morning sun. “There’s nothing here but some dumb zoo, and a state park, where is nothing but ugly rocks!”
Her parents, Tom and Linda, looked at each other with equal distaste. “Remind me, dear, why did we decide to visit your sister?”
Linda bristled. “Look, Tom. This is important. I need to visit my sister…”
“…In order to get some cash loaned to you, is that it? Is it true, dear, that your sister organizes smuggling operations into Mexico?”
Linda bristled. El Paso was located right next to the Mexican border and a Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez, as well as on the shores of Rio Grande. Basically, for Tom and Linda Griffin, both of whom have lived in the New England town of Lawndale, all of this seemed more than a little bit criminally shady. And the weather – right now it was at least 10 degrees higher in El Paso than back home. And since the weather was high, the Griffins’ tempers were high-strung as well.
…Linda exhaled. “Look, Tom. We need the cash. I may be ousted from my place as a TV anchor, for crying outloud!”
“So what’s so bad?”
“What’s so bad, what’s so bad?! I worked hard for this for the last four years, and now I may lose it. Why, you may ask, why…”
“’Cause your coworkers call you Gorgon, that’s why,” Tom snapped. “I heard enough about you and that Barksdale woman, you know?”
“Her name is Amy,” Linda snorted. “Sounds like a name for a pet rat.”
“And with that attitude you're wondering why you may lose your job?” Tom sneered.
While her parents continued to argue, Sandi wandered-off. She was bored; she didn't care about her parents’ arguments; she wanted souvenirs!
“Hah?” Sandi turned around. A girl of the same age as her – was looking/squinting at her in a conspiring manner.
“Yo, you! You want souvenirs?”
“Aha,” nodded Sandi. “Where can I find them?”
And Sandi followed the strange girl, wondering into what was she getting into? The girl’s clothes were so strange, so…cheap and unfashionable, that Sandi couldn't help but mistrust her – a little bit.
“We're here!” the other girl called-out. “Penelope?”
“Yeah?” another girl, this one about twice as old as Sandi, appeared on the scene.
“You got a customer!”
“Should I show her what we have?”
“Hey!” Sandi spoke loudly. “How do I know that you have what I want?”
“Well, what do you want?”
“Cool! Then how about this statuette of the Great Buffalo of the Plains, who, when he is angry, causes earthquakes, but when he is pleased, brings abundant herds to us?”
“To People of the Plains,” the younger girl explained. “Do you want it or not?”
“I don’t know; all I have is ten dollars,” Sandi said.
“Great! Such a statuette costs exactly ten dollars!” the girl emphatically said. “Let’s trade!”
The girl’s face shone with such honesty, that Sandi gave-in. She handed the girl ten dollars, took the statuette of the holy buffalo and left.
“Sandi!” Linda spoke sharply, when she and Tom caught the sight of their first-born again. “Where were you?”
“Trading!” Sandi said proudly. “See? I traded my ten dollars for this statuette of the holy buffalo!”
The mouths of both older Griffins opened wide, but before either of them could speak, Vicki Vanelk, sister of Linda, finally made her presence known. “Well, what do I see? My niece proving that she is the daughter of my sister? How ironic.”
Linda whirled around, her face scarlet. “What are you talking about?”
“Isn't it obvious? Your daughter has been swindled out of ten dollars. That is one of the stones from Tanks State Historical Park, its’ shape hand-altered just a little bit. Hmm. Looks like an elk, if you ask me.” Vicki shook her head. “’Course, your daughter, Linda, was unlucky too. Usually people are swindled for four-five dollars this way, nothing more. Guess some street vendors got lucky with a kid.”
Sandi’s face burned, and she almost didn't hear Tom Griffin’s angry harangue at her about the value of spending the right amount. “Nevermore,” Sandi whispered under her nose, “nevermore will I trust people in ugly, unfashionable clothing.”
“So that’s what happened,” Sandi finished her tale. “My aunt did loan some cash to my mom, but it didn’t help anyways, mom did lose that TV-anchor job and got demoted to weather channel news; there was some sort of trouble with it in fact, of which I know nothing about; and aunt Vicki lives in North Dakota, somewhere between Minot and Lake Sakakawea, as far as I know.”
“So what does that event fourteen years ago got to do with yesterday’s punishment of yours?” Mack asked.
“See, the first girl – the one my age – is Daria Morgendorffer. The Daria Morgendorffer, if you please. And the second girl, I understood, was a Lane – Penny Lane, I think her name is. And you know how Quinn claims that Daria isn't her real sister.”
“You know she’s lying.”
“Well, yeah. But with a sister like that, who wouldn't? Anyways, Daria does spend a lot of time with Jane Lane, and only then she is acting remotely human-like. Ditto goes for Jane too, if you ask me.”
“Get to the point, please.”
“Alright, Mack. See, when I saw Daria yesterday with Lanes, she was acting normal – like you or me, not as a Misery Chick. And then that suppressed memory of fourteen years ago popped-up, and I recognized the other Lane as that other street-vendor girl. Naturally, since they were together fourteen years ago, I thought that Daria was also a Lane, not a Morgendorffer, and told Quinn that much. Quinn freaked-out, contacted her mom, and her mom contacted me and my mom, and here I am, in this mess.”
“Poor you,” Mack sighed. “This time, you really didn't do anything wrong. My condolences. Although – if you mom still had a job on TV, why is she the president of Lawndale’s Businesswomen Association?”
“Oh, mom left shortly after she got re-positioned. Her ego,” Sandi drawled-out vehemently. “My mom got a really big one. I really hate her for that.”
“Don't say that!” Mack argued. “Your parents are your parents. You’ve got to love them no matter what!”
Sandi pierced Mack with a glance. “Did you ever hear your girlfriend Jodie on that subject? I know I did.”
Mack sighed. He may be the captain of the football team, and certainly not Kevin, but he would probably never understand girls. Oh well, why bother?
Helen’s phone rang.
“Yes, who is it?”
“Mom, it’s me. Daria.”
“Oh hi, honey, where did you dad take you and Quinn?”
“Currently, we’re in Boston, near Quincy Bay. See, we were going to go and watch a movie, but Quinn wanted to see ‘American Pie 2’, while I wanted to see ‘Jurassic Park III’, so dad took us fishing instead. ‘Course, he also had fishing equipment in the back of the car, so I wonder if we were set-up.”
“Did he now?”
“Yes, mom. Currently, he is fishing in the Atlantic, yelling as if he caught Godzilla himself on his lure. Whoa! Mom, I'll have to call you later. I think dad did catch Godzilla Jr. Bye.”
“Daria!” Jake yelled again. “Quinn! Stop talking on the phones and help me! Yikes! Help!”
Jake was indeed in trouble. A huge codfish got caught on his fishing line and now was fighting Jake for what it was worth. Other fishermen were looking curiously at Jake, but weren’t hurrying to aide him, since it was too early to tell whether he needed help or not.
Daria reached Jake first and grabbed him by the belt. “Whoa there, dad. Steady does it!”
Jake grunted and jerked the lure. The fish jerked back, making Jake lose his balance. He fell, pulling Daria and Quinn after him.
Suddenly, his falling stopped. Daria had him with the waist; Quinn had Daria by the collar of Daria’s jacket, and lots of other people had the three Morgendorffers by various parts of their clothing.
“Drop the rod, dad!” Quinn yelled from ahead.
“Never!” Jake grunted. “Little Jakey’s not a quitter, dad!” He jerked his fishing rod and line once again. The fish leapt, and the balance in the ‘human vine’ shifted abruptly, causing a lot of people to wall into Quincy Bay. But spontaneously with that the balance in the fishing line changed too, and Jake’s next jerk got the cod right into his arms. “Ah-ha!” he triumphantly yelled, thumping the cod’s head on the nearest harbour rock.
Only, it wasn't a rock but a napping harbour seal, who lashed-out with his teeth to counter the supposed assault. Jake jerked back, barrelled into other people, started a sort of in-water domino effect…
In short, it was one of the more humiliating moments in Daria’s life.
Amy Barksdale passionlessly looked at the closed and empty residence of the Morgendorffers. “Wonderful. Jake gets a clue and whisks my nieces away – right on the same day I decide to visit them. Bugger. What else can go wrong?”
“Excuse me. Are the Morgendorffers home?”
Amy slowly turned around. “Linda Griffin. Now my day is set. How’s life in the business world?”
Linda paled. “Why are you here, Amy?”
“Visiting my family, of course. Not all of us are embarrassed of our sisters, you know?” (Especially if there’s more than one to choose, she silently added.)
Linda seethed. In the end, her sisterly relationship with Vicki did more harm to her than good, and Amy still got the job that Linda once held – of a news’ anchor. “Look, Amy. I’m not off to search for Vicki in North Dakota, just because you came here. And besides…”
“Massachusetts is smaller than North Dakota? Is that it?” Amy asked. “Look, Linda. Try not to be so paranoid. Try to act friendly, at least. After all, it’ll cost you nothing!”
“Shut-up!” Linda snarled. “You bloody Barksdale sisters! Always reaching for the sky above. Your sister is a bloody lawyer, you yourself are living my career! The one I should have had, but you stole it from me!!”
“Look at it this way,” Amy suggested. “I'm still single. You got a husband and three kids.”
“Another thing to be grateful about, my kids!” Linda snapped. “Originally, me and Tom thought that Sandi will be enough. But you and your sister, you unbalanced us so much, that Sam was conceived.”
“Your oldest son?”
“Yes. He is thirteen.”
“And Sandi’s eighteen now, while your youngest son is eight. Have you decided to have children in five-year intervals?”
“Shut-up!” Linda snarled, “shut-up! What do you know about children? – Nothing! You're an aunt, but never will be a mother!”
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Amy shrugged. “I’m not over my forties mark, unlike some.”
Linda didn’t scream. If she did, she’d probably do it in ultra-sound. “What is your secret?” she finally asked, forcing herself to sound normal. “You have no personal skills, you look like a rat, your attitude is anything but bearable! If you didn't have your lawyer-sister on your side, I would have beaten you!”
“Unlikely,” Amy shook her head. “After all, you weren’t called the Gorgon for nothing. That may be a good thing, but too much pudding spoils the dog, you know!”
Linda paled, but for two red spots on her cheeks. Whirling around, she stalked-off.
Amy sighed. “I'm too damn nice, Daria would say in such a situation. Hey Linda, wait up! I’m sorry!”
Amy went-off after Linda.
“So what are you going to do now?” Mack asked Sandi.
“Hmm? Oh, I don't know. Get even with my mom somehow, I think,” Sandi scratched her head. “Why’s the sudden interest in my actions, Mack? We were never friends, and me and Jodie aren’t particularly friendly, either.”
“I wondered about that. Why? Isn't Jodie cool enough for that?”
Sandi sighed. “Mack, do you consider me racist?”
“Do you think that Lawndale is a racist town?”
“Try to tell that to Michelle Landon and see how far you’ll get with this statement. Michelle Landon is, frankly, frightening. Most kids try to avoid the Landons as whole, and probably most adults too.”
“Good point,” Mack conceded. “And speaking of Jodie, can I ask your advice?”
“Is there a gift involved?”
“Possibly, yeah. So can I ask your advice?”
“Why not? It’s not like I have anything to do otherwise.”
“You know,” Stacy turned to her friend Tiffany. “Shopping isn’t as fun without Sandi or Quinn.”
“Aha,” Tiffany nodded. Stacy’s chattering was starting to get even on her nerves.
“Whoa, Tiffany, look!”
Tiffany looked, and saw Sandi, parading before Michael Mackenzie, in some rather revealing clothing.
“Oh my god! It’s Sandi! And Mack! They’re an item!” Stacy began to squeal. Tiffany acted quickly, leaving nothing to chance. She dragged Stacy off to the women’s washroom, where Stacy could hyperventilate as much as she wanted. Tiffany herself needed to think too. Whom should she tell about this? Jodie? Quinn? Anyone else? Yes, this definitely needed some thought.
“So what do you think? Do you think that Jodie will appreciate it? Or rather, will you appreciate Jodie in this?” Sandi asked Mack, as she showed-off the latest achievements in lingerie manufacturing.
“I think I’m going to buy it, and leave at that,” Mack said. “It came to my attention that with your help I can make this store were lucky, and leave the store very poor.” Mack paused. “You know something, Sandi? You may not be exactly pretty, but you’re very elegant. Whatever you wear – it always looks good.”
“Ahem,” the cashier spoke. “Young man, are you going to buy this stuff, or continue to appraise your girlfriend?”
“We're not a couple!” Mack and Sandi spoke at the same time.
The cashier just smirked.
“Oh my god! Sandi and Mack are a couple! Oh my god! What are we to do?” Stacy wailed.
Tiffany frowned slightly. There were times when it was good to be friends with Stacy, but right now Stacy’s wails were only interrupting her thinking processes and brought attention. And so, when Stacy paused for breath, Tiffany jammed a large portion of low-fat fries into Stacy’s mouth, causing her to fall silent.
Then Tiffany started to think for real.
…Unlike the popular belief that Tiffany was stupid, Tiffany knew that that wasn't the case. She always completed her assignments on time and always passed. And just because she wasn’t as active as Jodie Landon, didn’t mean that she was dumb. Or slow. In fact, if Stacy’s line of thought was fast, then Tiffany was going to go with slow for a long time.
Tiffany frowned. So Sandi and Mack were a couple? Hmm. “Stacy. Are Jodie and Mack a couple?”
Stacy shook her head. Then nodded. “I don't know. They’re always together and all, but they’re not like Kevin and Brittany.”
Tiffany nodded. That was the crux of the whole matter: were Mack and Jodie a couple or not? Or were they just hanging around each other because they were they were practically the only Afro-American students in Lawndale High? Tiffany wondered if she would stop hanging around the Fashion Club if another Asian-American student would appear in Lawndale High. Course, that student would have to be unrelated to Ms. Li.
Tiffany shook her head. Originally she hanged-around with the Fashion Club because Stacy and Sandi always had the best gossip in Lawndale High if not the whole Lawndale, and recently, with Quinn Morgendorffer arriving on the scene, the Fashion Club itself started to become interesting from Tiffany’s point of view. Before Quinn, Sandi would always tell Stacy and Tiffany what to wear or what was fashionable, and the other two would comply. Now with Quinn Morgendorffer actually asking Sandi “Why should we do that?” or “Why shouldn’t we do this?” Sandi actually had to think of sentences starting with “because”. They were called explanations.
Tiffany shook her head. “So are Mack and Jodie a couple or not?”
“I don’t know,” Stacy admitted. “Mack and Jodie are always seen together, and Jodie is the vice-president of the school council, while Sandi is just the president of the Fashion Club…” Stacy has forgotten than she and Tiffany were the Fashion Club.
“And Mack’s the captain of the football team,” Tiffany nodded. “Hmm.” She thought some more. “Too much of a good thing, maybe? Mack and Jodie were often arguing about the lack of private time for the two of them. On one thing, this as well as what Stacy and Tiffany saw earlier today, indicated that Mack and Jodie were reaching a supposed climax of a relationship – the home run, to use the baseball language. On the other hand, today’s earlier events meant Mack and Jodie may be breaking-up – maybe just unconsciously, but still. “I think, Stacy,” Tiffany finally said, “we should keep quiet about this. After all – Sandi is our friend, fellow Fashion Clubber and our superiour. We owe it to her to keep quiet about this.” (And get out of any mess on her own, she silently added.)
“You think? But isn’t it just wrong? I mean, Mack and Jodie fit-in so well!”
“Stacy. People aren't like socks and scrunchies – they may go together even if they don’t match.”
“Not matching socks and scrunchies – yikes!” Stacy gulped. She began to blab about the horrors of that, quite forgetting about Mack, Jodie and Sandi.
Tiffany sighed. Fast thinking – forget it. She’d go-on on her own pace.
“Well, this settles it,” Penny turned to Jane. “Nothing has been missing since last night. Let’s go.”
“Go where?” Jane asked. “It’s summer-time. Many of shops are closed; and besides I don’t do shopping, unless it’s for art supplies. And then, of course, it’s Dega street.”
“Jane, anything on Dega street that’s cheap is worthless,” Penny said. “Anything that’s worthwhile is there is never cheap.”
“I think that things have quieted-down somewhat there since you were my age,” Jane said. “Besides, we do have different attitudes, you know?”
“Jane. People on Dega street do what I do: sell stuff that would be cheap if it was authentic, but since it is not, it is over-priced.”
“Penny, it’s hard to fake art supplies. They may be old, but they are still art supplies. At least here.”
“And what do you consider as art supplies? Paints and brushes?”
“Also pencils, pastels, even pens, chalks, paper, canvas – lots of stuff. And I don’t just paint; I sculpt, too.”
“You sculpt? Can I see one of your sculptures, then?”
“Okay. Here’s one.” And Jane proudly presented one of her sculptures to Penny.”
“Hmm,” Penny said thoughtful, “can you give a clue on what theme it was made-off?”
“It’s mythology,” Jane said.
Penny looked at her.
Jane blushed. “What? I like reading myths.”
“Mmm. I guess that this is a basilisk. No, wait, Echidna the Snakewoman and the mother of all monsters, right?”
“Actually, it was supposed to be a phoenix,” Jane glared. “See? The wings, the tail, the head?”
“I thought that a phoenix was kind-of eagle-ish,” Penny replied. “This looks like a cross between a bird of paradise and one of those herons that dad photographed in Egypt. You sure it was supposed to be a phoenix?”
Jane glared. Penny stared back. Jane sighed. “All right, all right, this was supposed to be a pheasant. You know what I’m talking about?”
“Mmm. Guess you got creative?”
“Yeah. But a cockatrice? A Snakewoman? What brought that on?”
“One of Summer’s boyfriends was an artist. He drew that kind of things. One of his paintings was Echidna the Snakewoman.”
“Oh? How did it look?”
“He drew a weeping woman whose face was covered by her hands, and who was a snake from waist-down. It wasn’t a real painting; just a black-and-white sketch. The background was just a rock. You draw better.”
“Nah, there’s a difference between painting, drawing, and sketching, though you probably don't know. Still, even you must know the difference between sketching and sculpting.”
“Oh, but Jane, see? The tail, the torso, the forelimbs, the head. No offence, but those wings don't look much like wings, and I can't see the bird’s legs, either.”
“The legs are there – the tail just covers them,” Jane replied. “And the wings – so I did get a little bit showy. They still don't look like arms or forelimbs.”
“That’s why I thought if this was a cockatrice first,” Penny replied. “There is just enough bird in this whole sculpture.”
“Hmmpf!” Jane snorted. “Coincidentally, what did become of the sketching Summer’s boyfriend?”
“Don't know,” Penny shrugged, “got to ask Summer the next time she appears.” She looked around. “So how’s Trent doing?”
“Not bad, so-so,” Jane replied, kind-of eager for the change of subject. “Still writes songs – here’s one.
A lover, slippery as soap,
Crawled through my intestines into my heart.
A lover, slippery as soap,
Simply ripped my chest apart.”
“Yup, that’s Trent, all right,” Penny replied.
Jane snorted. “No, that’s probably Max. Or Nick. It certainly can’t be Jesse because he never writes. He barely talks, even.”
“So why it can’t be Trent?”
“A lover, slippery as soap? Alliterations were never Trent’s things.”
“What about this one?
Night, like an apple-tree, into my window knocks,
And way outside a night-bird cries.
I know, I know, I know one only thing:
What in day-time flourishes, in night-time dies.
Who wrote this one?”
“Now that’s Trent,” Jane replied. “The paper’s kind of yellowish, I think?”
“Well, I thought so. I think he tried to impress Monique with this one some time ago. The words sounded familiar-y.”
“Do you like her?”
“Er, why do you ask?”
“’Cause you still live with Trent, and whenever he brings somebody over here, you have either a front-row seat in an audience, or a sleepover somewhere.”
“Penny, Trent isn't Wind!”
“God, I hope not. One spouse-seeking boy sibling is enough.”
Jane snorted. “Will Wind never find love?”
“I don’t know. You tell me. I told you he was either in Bahamas or in California.”
“And Summer is in Canada?”
“The last time we contacted, she was in Brandon, Manitoba.”
“And our folks in Spain?”
“In Badajoz, planning to sail on Guadina upstream away from Portuguese border. Some trouble in Beja, involving leather, I was told.”
“Mmm. Lucky us. So Penny, since you know so much about sculpting, why won’t we have a bit of a sisterly bonding thing and make one of our own sculptures.”
“What if one of the guys wakes-up?”
“They’re used to it, as long as I don’t paint their hair.”
“What hair?” Penny asked, looking at Nick.
“Nevermind. Let’s get started, shall we?”
“So guys, what do you want to see next?” Jake Morgendorffer asked his girls, Daria and Quinn.
“The zoo, daddy?” Quinn asked politely. “Maybe they’ll have seals there and feed them fishies!”
“Um, Quinn honey, daddy had all the fishy excitement he could get,” Jake uneasily chuckled.
“Yeah, and a fishy almost fed on him,” Daria added wryly. “What are you going to do with this monster, dad?”
“Take it home and cook us some cod-fish chowder – mm-mm, yummy!” Jake chuckled, back in a good mood. “Ishmael himself would probably deign to eat it.”
“The story-teller in Moby Dick,” Daria explained.
“Eew! You read Moby Dick?” Quinn explained. “This guy is weird! First he tries to sound like some plain whaler, but then he starts talking like a brain! That story is broken into pieces!”
“You read Moby Dick?” Daria incredibly asked.
“I-I looked over it,” Quinn quickly said. “It’s dull and dumb. Only a brain like you would enjoy reading it.”
“Hey, I know!” Jake spoke emphatically. “Let’s go to the harbour and see the seals and the dolphins play!”
“Dad, didn't we just come from the harbour?” Daria asked, pointedly looking at the fish slung in a backpack over Jake’s shoulder, while Quinn just stared.
“Well yeah, but that was Quincy Bay; I'm talking about Boston Harbour!”
“We’ll go, dad,” but no fishing there!” Quinn said firmly.
“You might catch a porpoise there, and that’s illegal,” Daria added.
“Roger!” Jake nodded.
Linda sat in a diner in Lawndale Mall, feeling her anger slowly abating.
Okay, the things were bad. Due to Sandi’s bloody interfering with the Morgendorffer affairs, Helen Morgendorffer was angry. And Linda Griffin remembered her first seeing of the older sister of Amy Barksdale – a female lawyer with fiery eyes and temper; when Helen Morgendorffer had come to aide her sister Amy, Linda Griffin was scared.
But she recovered. After all, the Morgendorffers did go back to Texas while the Griffins stayed here, in Lawndale. But now the Morgendorffers have returned. And what was especially aggravating to Linda, it was the fact that Helen Morgendorffer had forgotten all about their first meeting! That, to put it frankly, stank.
“Well, what do you expect?” Amy Barksdale re-appeared, seemingly out of thin air. “My sister is a very busy woman; she considers it lucky to eke some time for her family – namely us.”
“Who are ‘us’?” Linda grunted.
“Me, our mother Evelyn, and our sister Rita and her daughter, Erin.”
“I see. A big blooming family, aren't you all?” Linda grunted. “My only family is currently consisting of a sister who is in North Dakota!”
“Yowza!” Amy nodded. “That stinks. Still, do you think that she may be avoiding you?”
“Of course! In case you haven’t forgotten, my fall didn't happen without her help.”
“Oh, get over it, already! You're a president of a business association; surely you make enough money for now-“
“This isn't about money, Amy, this is about fame. I could’ve been known – at least for a while. I would’ve been on TV!”
“Linda, you know that those famous people never have any family lives…”
“So spoke a single woman. I already told you about my birth-family; a sister who is most dishonest and despises me and my family. As for my immediate family, they involve my husband Tom Griffin, with whom I get-on like a house on fire; my daughter Sandi, who may look like me, but acts like Tom; and my sons Sam and Chris, both of whom are delinquents – nothing else.”
“Gee, I wonder why did this happen? Not with such a loving mother-and-wife figure at helm!”
“There you go again!! Being sarcastic!! I hate you, Amy Barksdale!”
“Hate is such an ugly thing, Linda. Have you ever seen this ‘Xena’ episode-“
Linda groaned. “Just leave me alone. You came here to see your family – fine. If they were my family I would want to visit them too. But me – leave me alone! I have no truck with any of your family!!”
“Fine,” Amy got-up. “Do as you will. I just wanted to apologize and to offer my condolences-“
“I don't need nothing from you!” Linda hissed. “Go away.”
“Fine.” Amy Barksdale left, leaving Linda staring mutely at a table.
“Do you want anything?” a waiter came up to her.
Linda pierced the waiter with a stare. “A cup of black coffee and a small bottle of rum.”
“We-e d-don't s-serve alcoholic beverages here, ma’am,” the waiter quailed under Linda’s death-stare.
“I see. Then just a really big cup of black coffee. Can you serve that?”
“Yes ma’am. Will you be staying or going?”
Sandi and Mack walked through the mall. “So explain something to me,” Mack turned to Sandi. “Why are you scared of your mother? You are eighteen, you know.”
“It’s not so easy,” Sandi shook her head. “Why my mother gets angry – she shouts. Loudly, but it can be braved. The scary thing is what’s on the other side, when she stops raging and turns calm. Then when things turn scary. She just looks at you in that odd way, and you become willing to do anything just to get her back to normal. The only one who’s not affected by that is my cousin Marcello.”
“Son of my paternal uncle and aunt. He’s kind of like Quinn’s sister, Daria. Really heavy with sarcasm. And since he’s built like a weight-lifter, this does make him unusual.”
“Mmm. I see. So you’re not going to stand-up to your mom?”
Sandi looked thoughtful. “I don't think I'm going to exactly stand-up to her. But she and I are going to have a conversation – later today. That’s for sure.” She paused. “Now back to you, Mack.”
“To me? What about me?”
“So how are things with you and Jodie? Judging from your choice of gifts, you're going for the home run, aren’t you?”
Mack blushed. “Not exactly; I’m merely hinting at my willingness to do so, to Jodie.”
“Mack! You probably don't know, but buying lingerie for any girl is a serious step; unless you’re completely confident in your dealings with Jodie, you shouldn’t give her that.” Sandi paused. “Just how are your dealings with Jodie?”
“Hopefully, improved by this,” Mack admitted.
The two teens went-on, ignoring the commotion on their right.
Michelle Landon stared coldly after the mismatched pair. “How dare that Griffin tramp steal my daughter’s boyfriend!” she hissed.
“Are you talking about my Sandi?” Linda’s voice came from behind her.
Michelle turned around. There stood Linda Griffin, looking somehow disshevelled, but nonchalantly sipping some black coffee – make that a lot of black coffee. “Yes,” Michelle bit-out the words. “Your Sandi is stealing my daughter’s boyfriend!”
“Excuse me,” Linda said levelly – too levelly for anyone who knew Linda. “Since when is Michael Jordan Mackenzie is your daughter’s boyfriend?”
Michelle looked at Linda as if she was retarded. “They spend most of their time in school together.”
“Helen Morgendorffer’s girl spends most of her time with Jane Lane,” Linda said levelly. “Are you saying that those two girls are also a couple?”
“I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case with you white folks,” Michelle sneered.
“Excuse me,” Linda said, suddenly coming closer to Michelle. “Are you anti-Democratic?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, since when do democratic people sneer at others for their race, belief, or sexual preferences?”
“A-plenty!” Michelle snapped, the ‘red-rag’ word, ‘race’ blotting-out everything else in her ears. “You white folks, you-“
“Are you feeling deficient, lacking in something?” Linda interrupted her.
“Excuse me?” Michelle blubbered. “What are you talking about?”
Linda calmly put a hand on the other woman’s shoulder – a friendly gesture, nothing more. But Michelle shivered from sudden worry.
“Why, Michelle, I'm pointing-out the fact that any conversation with you deteriorates into you blustering and raging about the white folks’ superiority. Now is it just me, or are you jealous and are wistfully wishing for some of that superiority for yourself?”
Michelle’s face was so hot, you could boil water on it. “Nonsense. Us black folks-“
“There you go again,” Linda said, almost jovially. “Dividing the people into white and black. My-my-my, you really aren’t democratic, are you? Maybe you even support Mandela?”
Michelle Landon tried to get her composure together. “What are you getting at, Linda?” she hissed.
“Hmm? Me? Getting at? Ah, yes. You see, Michelle, in our wonderful” Linda’s face turned sneering for a moment “world, people are treated according to their social status, not their race or anything like that. If you’re just a housewife, you’ll be treated just a housewife, no matter what special treatment you try to weasel-out of them by pretending to be racially-deficient or something.” Linda’s mouth forded a definite smirk, and it was wicked. “I'm willing to bet that when you were the VP of US Women company, you weren’t so concerned about racial treatment, were you?”
“Um, well,” Michelle paused. Linda’s words didn't just strike a nerve; they hammered all of them. “What are you getting at, Linda?”
“My company could use a good and experienced business manager,” Linda shrugged. “That is all. Have a good day, Mrs. Landon.”
Linda left. Michelle stared after her, thinking hard.
“So what do you want to do now?” Sandi asked Mack, quite unaware of the drama that has happened on the sidelines.
Mack shrugged his head. “Want to see a movie?” he asked. “I heard that ‘Lord of the Rings’ was being played.”
“Is it cool?”
“Got lots of special effects, if that’s what you mean?”
“Mmm-m. I see. Does it have… content?”
“Well, yeah. It is deep, if that’s what you mean.”
“All right, but you’ll have to explain the confusing parts.”
“Very well, so I shall.”
“So what should we do, what should we do?” Stacy nervously chattered.
“Stacy, be quiet,” Tiffany droned-out. More than anything, Tiffany right now wanted to be alone, away from Stacy. But she also knew, that if she said that to Stacy directly, this would cause a chain reaction with too many unknown factors involved. Tiffany didn’t like chain reactions leading into the unknown; she didn’t like the unknown period.
But she was also tired of Stacy. After a brief thinking-over, she had a flash. “Stace,” she told her companion, “you have gotten tired, very tired.”
“Aha. You are so tired, that you want to go home, as I do.”
“Aha. Let us go to our separate homes.”
Stacy nodded. Tiffany smirked on the inside. Hypnosis, her foot! When it came to direct stupidity, simple repetition of the facts often did the trick.
“Tell me again, what’s this that we are supposed to be making?” Penny asked Jane.
“Well,” Jane defensively said, “this is supposed to be a pot, you know!”
“The only way an individual can take this as a… drinking vessel would be if he or she smoked pot or crack themselves,” Penny argued. “I know crappy work when I see one – God knows how many I made and sold to various suckers that tour Third World countries.”
“I see,” Jane said sourly. “So why did you came back to Lawndale? Please don’t give me anything about Daria – you never knew she was here!”
“Well yeah,” Penny began but was interrupted by Trent’s sleep singing:
“My lover, slippery as soap,
Show me past and what yet will be…”
He turned onto his other side, then re-started: “Sourceress, your kisses are like poisoned stingers!” and then he turned back to snoring.
“By any chance, is he on something?” Jane muttered.
“Who did you say write ‘Slippery Lover’?” Penny asked archly, re-indicating the piece she had found first.
“Aw, come on, this doesn’t mean nothing. Trent and the guys are desperate enough to try to use anything that seems to be working!” Jane argued. “Although, if he’ll try to sing that ‘Night’ song, I'll smother him with a pillow!”
“How ‘bout using your phoenix sculpture instead?”
“Nah, maybe you’ll sell it to some sucker instead,” Jane said with a hint of bitterness.
“Nah,” Penny aped her younger sister. “Anyone can see that that is custom-made.”
“It’s not custom-made! I made it for myself!”
“Unfortunately, majority of people do not believe that you can make a mythical animal out of clay just because you feel like it,” Penny argued. “Coincidentally, why won’t we try and make some sort of animal from clay instead of this pot or jar or frying pan that we're at.”
“Right. So what do you want to do? A hydra?”
“Nah. Always get confused with the heads. How about a giant?”
”That’ll do. Bring forth more clay!”
“Hello again, Helen.”
“Amy. What are you doing here? I thought you didn't like this place?”
“Helen, you forgot to mention that Jake has taken my nieces somewhere, which leaves me with a rather large amount of empty and boring time that I decided to partially fill by joining you for lunch. Is that a problem?”
Helen rolled her eyes. “Not, but Amy, I’m the lawyer in this family; I’m the one who is supposed to make long, confusing sentences around here full of bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo.”
“Helen, I don't want to interrupt you, but some guy is heading over here to us.”
Helen looked around. “Ow, hi Eric.”
“Hello again, Helen. Who’s your friend.”
“Amy, meet my immediate boss, Eric Schrecter. Eric, meet my sister, Amy Barksdale.”
“Hey, I know you!” Eric suddenly said. “You're the news anchor!” He paused. “You're here not for business, are you?” There was look in his eyes that was vaguely hopeful.
“Nah, just visiting my sister and her family,” Amy shook her head. “Sorry.”
“That’s okay,” Eric shook his head. “By any chance, are you related to Evelyn Barksdale, one of richest people in Nashua?”
“That’s our mother,” Helen replied instead.
“Wow,” Eric shook his head. “You know Helen, you really must tell me about your family life. Well, see you later.” He left.
“Should Jake be worried?” Amy asked Helen with a glint in her eye.
“Nah. After seeing how bothersome it is to have a divorce, I’m not divorcing Jake with a very good reason. And his alimony payments would suck, too.”
Amy shook her head. “There you go again, killing my sarcasm with your professionalism. I really ought to take Daria off your hands – who knows into what she will grow-up.”
Helen shook her head. “No way, Miss Self-Made Woman. You two are too similar; I hate to think how you will affect each other. ‘Cause, you could always borrow Daria to do something to Rita, you know I wouldn’t mind.”
“You should talk about me being ‘self-made’,” Amy shook her head. “You didn't exactly act dependant to Jake either.”
“Well, that’s not true. Jake is a good guy, can be a good father, and a wonderful ego booster. ‘Course, he is also easily distracted, but who isn’t?”
“Good point,” admitted Amy. “You sis, I wonder about Rita.”
“No, I am not inviting her here.”
“God forbid I suggest that! I just wonder. Me – news anchor. You – a lawyer. Rita – zilch. How come we have that ‘self-making’ gene and she doesn't?”
Helen shook her head. “Maybe her blondishness makes that’s impossible?”
“That’s not a tangible answer.”
“If you’re going to quote that anecdote about blondes and nuclear physics, forget it. But seriously. Did you forget, dear Amy, that Rita had been originally cousin Rita?”
“Ah yes. Mom dearest adopted her, after Rita’s parents perished in a car accident. Sad. Still, shouldn’t there be any similarities?”
“No offence, but when we were kids, few would be believe when they met us for the first while, that we three were related. We were different and we are still different.” Helen shook her head. “You know, Amy, my lunch is almost finished. ‘Course, you’re always welcome to join me afterwards, but really,”
“Say no more,” Amy replied. “You're not roping me into aiding you around the office for free. Or aiding your assistant for free, either. But how about I join you for dinner after work?”
“This could work,” Helen nodded. “I end at six; see you at six-thirty at Morgendorffer residence?”
“It’s a deal.”
As Helen went to the elevator, Eric Schrecter joined her. “So that was your sister?” he asked Helen.
“Yes. Hardly believable, isn't it?”
“True. You sure that she wasn’t adopted?”
“No, that would be my other sister, Rita.”
“You have another sister? Who is she?”
“I don't want to talk about it,” Helen shook her head. “Rita’s not really a sister of me and Amy; our folks adopted her when her died.”
“A total stranger?”
“No, a cousin.”
“You have one weird family, Helen.”
“True, so why’s the sudden interest?”
“Well,” Eric looked slightly embarrassed, “I was wondering – is your sister available? This one, not the other one.”
“She is single, if you mean it, and I think she likes being single.”
“Oh, I don't know. Many people are single till they meet a person who is exactly for them.”
“Eric. You're fifty-two. My sister is thirty-six. It is unlikely that you two will click.”
“Are you sure that she is that age.”
“She’s four years younger than me.”
“But you don't look forty.”
“Thanks! I knew that could always pass for thirty-eight if I tried to look my best.”
Eric wanted to say: “That’s not what I meant,” but he saw, that despite Helen’s carefree tone, her eyes were watchful and rather angry, and decided not to say it.
It was better for his health anyways.
Tiffany and Stacy were walking towards the Food Court section of the mall. They were in mood for some cheeseless pizza. Suddenly Stacy stiffened. “Oh my god, Tiffany! There’s Mrs. Landon.”
“Hi, Mrs. Landon!” Tiffany replied instantly.
Michelle looked at the two girls, her expression unreadable. “Who are you?”
“We're Jodie’s friends. From school,” Tiffany drawled-out. Then she noticed that Stacy was looking panicky and opening her mouth. Realizing the danger signs, Tiffany turned to her friend. “Stacy, why won’t you go and order our pizza?”
“Right,” nodded Stacy, only too eager to leave the presence of Mrs. Landon. (On top of everything else, Stacy was a little bit cowardly.) She left.
“So you are-?” Michelle asked, not sure if she remembered the name.
“Tiffany Blum-Deckler,” Tiffany replied.
“Oh yes,” Michelle nodded. “Silly me, forgetting your name.” She paused. “So tell me, Tiffany, is it lonely for you being the only Asian-American student in school?”
“Not really. Stacy and Quinn and Sandi are good friends.”
“But you don't feel like the odd person out because of your race.”
“No, and neither does Ms. Li.”
“Please do not mention Ms. Li to me,” Michelle grimaced. “That woman is nuts!”
“So do something about it.”
Michelle shook her head. “You do not displace a principal because of personal oddities. Anyhow, you know Jodie, you say?”
“Yeah, I know her.”
“So what kind of person do you conceive her to be?”
Tiffany frowned. It was that kind of a discussion, it seemed. Somebody, apparently, gotten to Mrs. Landon and knocked her psychological foundation right from under her feet. “Jodie’s fast. That’s bad.”
“The tortoise beat the hair.”
“Stacy’s also fast,” Tiffany added, jabbing her finger at Stacy, who was standing in line for pizza, looking nervous.
“Jodie’s not like her!” Michelle protested.
“No, Jodie is smarter, braver. But she is also fast. Stacy is fast, and fast means hurrying, and hurrying, Stacy runs into a dead end, because she missed all the other options, hurrying forwards. That’s sad. Jodie is smart, so it slows her down, but sooner or later she’ll also run into a dead-end and will have to back-out of it. Stacy has trouble backing-out from dead ends. I know.”
“I see. And your other friends, Sandi and Quinn?”
Michelle looked at Tiffany: was the girl taking her own? But Tiffany’s face was staying passive, emotionless. Kind of like Helen Morgendorffer’s eldest daughter’s face. Daria Morgendorffer too was the queen of deadpan.
Daria Morgendorffer was also smarter than an average high schooler. Michelle decided to take a risk. “Tiffany,” she said. “What do you think of me?”
“You're sad ‘cause you can’t go to work like you used to,” Tiffany replied.
Michelle nodded. Now was the time to ask important questions. “Tiffany. Somebody asked me to work for them. I don’t like that somebody, but I do want to work. What do you think I should do?”
“I think you should work there, but try to establish clear rules around your relationship. Few work-place romances ended successfully.”
Michelle snorted. “Thanks, Tiffany. See ya.”
“Hey, where did Mrs. Landon go?” Stacy asked, arriving with the pizza a few moments later.
“We talked. She left,” Tiffany said indifferently.
Helen’s phone rang. “Who is it?” she spoke into the phone. “Amy?”
“No mom, it’s me. Daria.”
“Oh hi, Daria. How are your father and Quinn?”
“They’re amongst the living,” Daria replied dryly. “Why’d you confuse me with aunt Amy? We don't sound so similarly, you know.”
“Oh honey, your aunt Amy is in town. She wanted to visit you, and you’re away in Boston. She’s joined me for a house dinner.”
“Oh really? Can we cut our trip short and join you girls?”
“Oh honey, but what about your father?”
“I'll ask him,” Daria promised. She shouted off phone: “Dad?”
“Aunt Amy is coming for a home dinner. Can we go home to join her and mom?”
“Great idea, kiddo! Why, I-“
“Thanks, dad!” Daria quickly interrupted Jake and spoke back into the receiver. “No problem mom, we’ll meet you at dinner-time. Bye!” she hanged-up.
Helen was left shaking her head. What did Jake do to embarrass even Daria?
“Okay dad, you’re off the hook,” Daria turned to her father.
Jake stood in a distance, dripping wet. “Thanks, kiddo! I owe you one! But why did that blasted dolphin try to pull me into the ocean-“
“’Cause you smell of fish, dad,” Quinn replied, staying away from him. “’Course, now you smell of something else entirely. I really think that you should change your clothing once we return home.”
“Good idea, kiddo, and home we are going!” Jake replied.
The three Morgendorffers got into their car and rode away.
Michelle Landon searched for Linda Griffin. Eventually, she found her sitting on a bench near the fountain, still sipping her black coffee.
“Linda?” Michelle asked.
“Remember, what you said about a business manager?”
“Well, even if I wanted to get that job – and I’m not saying yes or no, mind you – my husband would find several very good and logical reasons why I shouldn’t. What can you say to that, hah?”
“Luckily for you, an acquaintance of mine came to town for a family visit, who can beat logical single-handedly, if we ask her.”
“A female relative of yours?”
“No, of Helen Morgendorffer. Want to go and ask her to help you with your husband.”
Amy’s cell phone rang. “Who is it?” she spoke.
“Amy, it’s me, Helen. Jake and the girls are coming to join us for dinner. This means that Jake will be cooking, so could you buy us some stomach pills and soda as well?”
“Roger,” nodded Amy, who knew by now how Morgendorffer family dynamics worked. “See ya later.”
“Yes.” Amy hanged-up.
“Amy!” Amy turned around. Linda Griffin was coming up to her, with some unfamiliar woman in tow.
“Linda,” Amy nodded. “Who’s your friend?”
“That’s Michelle Landon. She wants to work for me, but afraid that her husband will ensnare her in logic. Can you help us in dealing with that man?”
“Why not?” shrugged Amy. “Lead-on!”
The three women found Andrew Landon in a small breakfast café, eating, surprisingly, eggs and ham. “Hello dear,” Michelle spoke in carefully controlled voice.
Andrew looked-up and frowned. He knew his wife and very well and smelled trouble. “Hello Michelle. What do you want?”
“Me and Linda Griffin here agreed that I go to work for her as a business manager.”
“Impossible. We cannot leave Evan and Rachel alone.”
“Jodie can take care of them.”
“Jodie got her extracurriculars.”
“Jodie can lose some extracurriculars.”
“Excuse me, Michelle. In today’s society, if one wants to be successful in politics, one has to-“
“Excuse me,” Amy wedged-in. “But what if Jodie doesn't want to go to politics? What if she wants to go to business, or something.”
“Business! That’s a good one!” Andrew laughed. “I won’t allow it!” Too late he noticed his wife’s face become several times darker.
“That does it, Andrew Landon!” Michelle snapped. “I'm going to work, and if Jodie will want to dump all of her extracurriculars, she’ll find my support behind her full-time, no matter what she does. Let’s go, Linda!” They left, with Amy looking at Andrew Landon one last time. “You really should know your wife better,” she said, then left.
Penny and Jane were standing, looking at the Morgendorffer house, when Jake, Daria and Quinn arrived. Without a word, Jake marched inside, dripping wet and smelling to high heaven. Quinn and Daria followed, carrying a large package. “Can we come in?” Jane asked.
“Yeah, sure,” Daria snorted.
A short time later she and Jane were sitting on a couch in Morgendorffers’ living room. “So what happened to your dad?” Jane asked. “He caught that giant cod but fell into the water with it,” Daria said. “He became saturated with fish smell, and so, a short time later, a hungry porpoise jumped out of the water and tried to eat him. Dad got so scared, that he wet his pants from the inside in a big way, before life guards didn't separate him from the porpoise.”
“Yeowch!” Jane shuddered.
“He also used that cod to hit a seal on the head,” Daria replied. “I don’t think either me or Quinn will want to go to Boston any time soon.”
“Speaking of Quinn, she’s been in kitchen for too long for her,” Jane said. “Wonder what’s up?”
“Why are you here?” Penny asked Quinn, who just sat at the table, looking vague.
“Got nothing to do, I guess,” Quinn shrugged. “I’m not sure if I can phone Sandi, I don’t want to phone Stacy or Tiffany, and Daria and Jane are too busy talking to each other – I don’t want to wedge-in.”
“Smart kid,” Penny snorted. “Now buzz off and bother your dad.”
“Nah, he’s asleep in the shower. Today’s events were too much for him.”
“Okay, buzz-off anyways.”
“Nah, I want to see what will you be doing with the cod.”
“I'll roast it with potatoes and onions,” Penny replied.
“You will? How?” Quinn looked genuinely interested.
“Let’s see. Do you have any: onion bulbs, potatoes, tomatoes, vinegar and cooking oil?”
“All present!” Quinn said proudly.
“Good. Then watch and learn, or at least keep quiet.”
When Jodie returned home, she saw her father, Andrew Landon, looking angrily through a phone book. “Dad?” she asked. “Where’s mom?”
“Your mother,” Andrew snapped, “decided to return to work-force, and now I’m stuck in finding a baby-sitter for Rachel and Evan.”
“I could do it,” Jodie said.
“You have extracurriculars.”
“I could dump some.”
“Impossible!” Andrew began, but there was a knock on the door. Jodie opened it. There stood Mack, looking worried.
Mack wasn't feeling very self-assured, to tell the truth. His movie-watching with Sandi Griffin ended-up with them grasping hands of each other, and that was disturbing and uncomfortable. After all, Jodie was the whole focus here, wasn't she?
“Look, Jodie, I got you a gift,” Mack said.
Jodie look – and her face fell. “Mack, you gave me underwear?”
“You don't like it?”
“But Sandi said it was stylish!”
“What does Sandi has to do with this?!!”
“Son, get lost,” Andrew appeared behind Jodie, “and on another note, never admit to a girl that another girl helped you buy underwear for her.”
Jodie’s face turned purple. “Dad! Go to Hell and take Mack with you!”
“What’s going-on?” It was Michelle Landon; Mack thought it’d be for the best if he faded into the background.
“Dad just gave Mack some advice – that’s all!!”
“Oh, Jodie, your father today is just a well-spring of advice, that he is,” Michelle said. “What advice did he give Mack?”
“The best way to buy me underwear for presents!”
“Ah yes, Michael Jordan Mackenzie, right. So Jodie, why did he buy you underwear? Are you two past being friends, already?”
“No! I’m just not interested in him!!”
“Oh, that’s good. I saw him with Sandi Griffin today.”
“I know! She helped him buy it!!”
“Who cares! I may be gay anyway!” Jodie stomped upstairs. When she reached upstairs, there was a thud from below. “Jodie?” Michelle’s voice came from below.
“Call an ambulance. Your father suffered from a mild heart attack and dropped on the floor.”
When Helen and Amy came to the Morgendorffer house, inside a semi-idyll awaited them: Jane and Daria were chatting at a couch, Penny was setting the table, Quinn was talking to Sandi on the phone: “So Sandi, I’m sorry I didn't call you earlier: we were in Boston. Yes, Boston. No, no souvenirs – dad took us fishing. Okay, I'll ask Daria. I’m sorry that you got grounded.”
“Quinn!” Helen called-out.
“Sandi, got to go. Mom wants me for something.” Quinn put down the receiver and turned and faced her mother and her aunt. “Hi mom, hi aunt Amy!”
“What did your father do today?” Helen took the bull by the horns.
“Um,” Quinn said. Meanwhile, Jane turned-on the Morgendorffer family TV:
“…Aqua-man! Next on Sick, Sad, World!” the TV blared, as pictures of Jake hitting a seal on the head with a fish and then being pulled underwater by a porpoise, appeared.
Click! Jane quickly turned-off the TV, but insufficiently quickly, for Helen and Amy saw the whole gist. “Where is Jake?” Helen asked Daria.
“Upstairs,” Daria said weakly.
Helen marched upstairs.
When Helen returned, with pale and chastened Jake in tow, the table was all set. “Nice recipe,” Amy turned to Penny. “Cook much?”
“Had to,” Penny shrugged. “I travelled the world, you know?”
“That she did,” said everyone else at the table minus Jake.
“So what is this?” Helen asked.
“That codfish that your husband took, roasted with potatoes and onions. I used the end part, because the front part was somewhat damaged.”
Jake cringed as Helen glared at him.
“So aunt Amy,” Daria turned to her aunt. “Why are you here? Not to have mom sue somebody for you.”
“Nah, I've been given some vacation time, to use it or lose it,” Amy shrugged. “I decided to spend it with my family – and not with your aunt Rita, who wanted to crash at my place, because of some house problems with hers.”
“How is cousin Erin, by the way?” Quinn asked. “Still married to that Brian guy?”
“Don't know, Rita never said,” Amy shrugged. “So Jake, Helen, what brought that sudden trip to Boston on? Not fishing, I presume?”
“Nah, Daria just wanted to leave Lawndale instead of going to college, and mom had to bond with her in order from prevent this from happening,” Quinn explained.
Amy arched an eyebrow. “That I got to know. What happened, in detail?”
She was told.
When the tale was finished, Amy’s eyes grew round. “Good thing mother didn't know about this,” she told Helen. “Otherwise she’d be upon you just like that!”
“Tell me about it,” Helen agreed.
Quinn, meanwhile, turned to Daria. “So Daria, what did Sandi mean when she asked me to ask you about souvenirs?”
Daria looked confused. “Maybe we sold her one when we were little, I don't know.”
“Lots of customers, hah?” Amy snorted.
“Enough,” Penny shrugged. “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
“And on that heartfelt advice we’ll finish this dinner,” Helen said.
It was also dinner-time in the Griffin household. “Sandi?” Linda called-out to her daughter.
“You're un-grounded. I'm overreacted yesterday, alright?”
“Fine,” nodded Sandi, deciding not to press for an apology.
“You seem to be in a good mood tonight, dear,” Tom Griffin pointed from his seat at the table.
“Yes. I got myself a good business manager,” Linda replied curtly. There was the sound of a phone ringing. “Yes?” Linda spoke into it. “Oh. So sorry. If you want to change your mind… no? All right, I'll see you tomorrow, then. Bye.”
Michelle Landon turned her cell-phone off. “Jodie,” she told her daughter, “I’m off to work tomorrow, and you’ll have to watch Rachel and Evan tomorrow.”
“No problem. I could do it for even more than one day,” Jodie replied.
“Good. You heard Dr. Phillips – your father will have to stay for at least two weeks in the hospital.”
“Roger.” The car with the two Landon women drove-on.
Another phone rang in the Mackenzie residence. “Yes?” spoke Mack.
“Mack, it’s me. Sandi. So how did things with Jodie go?”
“Badly. She wasn’t happy, and I think I chose a bad time to come to them, too.”
“Oh. Well, that’s too bad. Another time, maybe?”
“Yeah, maybe,” Mack agreed. “Say, Sandi – if you ever want to go to the movies – I'll be more than happy to escort you.”
“It’s a deal.”
Once again, night slowly fell onto the town of Lawndale. A new day was coming, and once again, it will be bringing new changes.