A Stranger in Lawndale
a multi-part story by Belle Book

Part Seven: A Nightmare in Lawndale

A warm day in mid-July:

Ms. Janet Barch entered the new theater house and sat herself down in a seat near the back of the theater. Her boyfriend, Mr. O'Neill, whom she called "Skinny," was holding auditions for a new production and she wanted to see what it was. Or that's what she told herself. She didn't want to admit -- even to herself -- that the real reason was that she wanted to see a certain gorgeous young man -- Derek Powell.

She'd first seen Derek when she went to the opening night production of Love's Labors Lost to see how Skinny did as a director. And the instant she saw the stunning young man with the coppery-red hair shining under the stage lights and the golden-brown eyes, her heart practically skipped a beat -- before telling herself that he was probably just like every other man except Skinny -- jerks who lived to degrade women. Just like her ex-husband.

Ms. Barch always ranted about how her ex-husband had dumped her after twenty-two years of unconditional servitude. And if she'd been honest with herself, she would've admitted that in the beginning, that was true. They'd gotten married right out of high school and basically put each other through college. Back then, Ms. Barch had genuinely been in love with her ex-husband, and she spent every spare moment after studying and later after working as a teacher catering to his every wish. And for awhile, things were good -- if not great.

But then things began going downhill, slowly but surely. The first bad sign was that her ex-husband began ignoring her after a few years of marriage. She didn't realize at first that it was because he had taken her for granted. At first she redoubled her efforts to serve her husband but that only made him more and more neglectful of her. She began feeling bitter as a result and began to regret having chosen to be a science teacher instead of a real scientist as she planned before meeting her ex-husband. This ultimately led her to begin nagging her husband to not just sit there and watch TV but to get up and help her out. All this did was encourage her ex-husband to ignore her, thus triggering a never-ending cycle of bitterness, resentment and nagging. To make matters worse, after 1987 work at Lawndale High became bad when Ms. Li became principal and started acting like a total despot. That added to Ms. Barch's increasing resentment.

Finally, it all came to a head when a pretty young woman arrived in Lawndale in October 1994 and began working at the place where Ms. Barch's then-husband worked. Ms. Barch didn't pay attention to what was happening at first -- but soon things fell apart. One day in December, after she came home from another grueling day of teaching, her then-husband gave her the bad news: he wanted out of the marriage. Ms. Barch had gone ballistic then, ranting and raving about how she gave the best years of her life to him only to be tossed aside like old garbage. It didn't keep him in the marriage -- in fact, it only made him more determined to get out of it. The jerk. However, if she'd been honest with herself, she would've had to admit that he had been good enough not to want to involve his new love in a sordid affair while he was still married, so that's why he suggested the divorce -- and he was good enough to allow her to take whatever was hers and to keep the house they'd lived in for so long.

But the break-up, the divorce, and the bitterness that came before and during the whole mess had the result of convincing Ms. Barch that all men were beasts and she should do all that she could to make their lives miserable -- especially if they were students in her class. And then she got to spend time with Skinny at that stupid paintballing place (1). That's when she realized for the first time that a man could be sensitive, and thus began their torrid relationship. Of course, if she had been absolutely honest with herself, she would've admitted that a major reason why she stayed in the relationship with Skinny was because he was so sensitive that he was easy to dominate -- and that after what happened, she wanted a man whom she could dominate. And if she'd been that honest with herself, then she also would have realized that maybe one reason why she picked on Michael Jordan "Mack" McKenzie so much was because she subconsciously realized he wasn't a jerk -- and because she realized he wasn't a man she could dominate.

Recently, on the fifth anniversary of her divorce (which was in May 1995), she complained to Skinny about it being the fifth anniversary of her divorce and she assumed that his reply meant that he wanted to marry her (2). Unfortunately, that didn't work out so well, no thanks to that jerk Mr. DeMartino and she didn't want to see Skinny again. Although she couldn't stand not being with her precious Skinny and made up with him at the graduation ceremony and later agreed to attend the play he was directing, maybe her angry words had done something to weaken her feelings for him. That might explain why she reacetd the way she did when she first saw Derek, who was playing Berowne -- and why she really kept going to see the play while it was still playing. She told herself that she was just going to see Skinny's successful play, but in reality she was going to see Derek.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a commotion down on the stage. She looked down and saw a bunch of guys and girls on the stage along with Skinny. Among them was Derek! Unfortunately, Stacy Rowe was also there. And she'd been told that they were dating. Typical. Guys always went for the docile, weak girls who couldn't stand up for themselves -- although if she was honest with herself, she would've acknowledged that Stacy apparently had been more assertive lately. In any case, even a gorgeous guy like Derek -- or perhaps, especially a guy like him -- wouldn't show any intial interest in an assertive older woman such as Ms. Barch. Maybe she should let him know he could do better -- or should she? After all, he might be just like every man other than Skinny.

"Welcome, everyone!" said Skinny. "I just want you to know that because Love's Labors Lost was such a big success, we'll be going into something even more ambitious -- a musical!"

"Which musical?" Ms. Barch heard Derek ask. "Some of those musicals demand very good singing. For example, Evita demands a really talented singer to do the title role justice. And I think the role of Che would demand a great singer as well."

"I was thinking of Grease!" Skinny told Derek. "It's about high-school teens, so it should fit you guys. And if it doesn't, we can always use lip-synching. Anyway, I'm going to begin auditions for parts in the play. First up are the leads -- Danny and Sandy. Derek and Stacy, since you two are dating, maybe we should have you two audition for the parts first."

"I just hope I'm a good enough singer," said Stacy. "But I'll try it out at least."

Ms. Barch watched as the guys and girls split up into two separate groups. Skinny turned on a boom box and then put a CD inside it before pushing the Play button. Immediately, music began to play -- and apparently on cue, Derek approached the guys, singing.

"Summer lovin' had me a blast," he began, then Stacy sang, "Summer lovin' happened so fast," as she approached the group of girls.

"I met a girl crazy for me," Derek continued. He had a really good voice.

"I met a boy cute as can be," Stacy added, hugging herself and looking star-struck.

Then both sang, "Summer days driftin' away to uh-oh those summer nights." Ms. Barch didn't think Stacy's voice was as good as Derek's, but it didn't sound awful.

The group of guys began singing, "Tell me more, tell me more," before that dumb jock, Kevin, said "Did you get very far?" Then the girls also sang, "Tell me more, tell me more," before the airheaded cheerleader, Brittany, asked, "Like does he have a car?" No surprise that either person said that -- although those lines might be part of the musical. Still, those two would be the most likely to be focused on stuff like sex and cars.

Once the song is done, Ms. Barch hears Mr. O'Neill say, "Great job, Derek! You're also a fine singer! Maybe you could be on Broadway someday."

"If I was, I wouldn't be taking on roles like the Phantom of the Opera," Derek says. "I'm not that good. What about Stacy?"

"She's not quite as good, but she's not so bad that she doesn't deserve the spot of Sandy," said Mr. O'Neill. "You both have the parts!"

Stacy cheered and hugged Derek tightly. He hugged her back and Ms. Barch grumbled to herself. It was time to let Derek know he could do better than Stacy. Even if he was like every man other than Skinny.

Derek stood beside Stacy and watched as Mr. O'Neill began picking other people to play the various roles. He was glad Stacy had gotten the part of Sandy, as it would be a lot more comfortable playing opposite his girlfriend than playing opposite another woman. He believed he could get some chemistry with another woman without having her be any threat for Stacy, but he wasn't sure she'd feel the same way -- at least, not at this point in their relationship.

As Derek watches auditions for the role of Rizzo, Kevin approaches him and Stacy. "Derek, can I ask you something?" he began. "In private."

Derek nodded and walked off to one side, leaving Stacy but maneuvering himself in such a way that he could keep one eye on her if necessary. Kevin then said, "I was wondering -- you and Stacy have been going out for some time, right?"

"A little more than a month, yes," said Derek.

"Well ... the song made me wonder how far you've gotten with Stacy," Kevin said. "You know ..."

Derek did know and thus he interrupted, "You mean like all the way? No, I've only embraced and kissed her. I don't think she's ready for going any further." Although he was at the point where he was ready -- like just about all kitsune, he enjoyed sensations and having sex brought out wonderful sensations -- he knew Stacy was a virgin and believed she wasn't ready for that much intimacy -- yet.

"Hey man, why don't you talk her into it?" asked Kevin.

Derek is getting angry and decides to stop the conversation. "Because I'm not about ready to push her!" he says, a little angrily. "I love Stacy! And love doesn't push -- it's too patient for that! Got it?" Kevin backs away quickly. "Good," he murmurs as he rejoins Stacy.

"What did Kevin wish to speak to you about?" asked Stacy.

"He was asking whether we had sex or not," Derek said. "We haven't even got to the foreplay, let alone gone all the way. And I'm not going to pressure you into doing something that you're probably not ready for -- no matter what Kevin thinks."

"He's not the only one that's probably thinking that way," said Stacy, sighing. "Sandi told me earlier today that she believed that if you were going steady with someone -- and we are more or less going steady -- then you should be having sex. She's wondering why I haven't even gotten to foreplay yet."

"I hope you're not thinking that we should have sex just because people think that people going steady should have sex," said Derek. "Peer pressure isn't a good reason to have sex. Please look at yourself and ask yourself if you're ready for that much intimacy."

Stacy looked away for a moment, and that's when Derek saw an older woman off to the side. She looked to be in her mid-forties, with dark brown hair and hazel eyes. She was wearing a light purple shirt and a darker purple shirt, along with high heels. What he most noticed was the bitter look on her face. Then he heard Stacy say, "I don't think I'm really ready to go all the way -- not when we've not even gotten to foreplay."

Derek was relieved as he said, "I agree with you on that."

At that point, he heard a female voice say, "So, you're not trying to force your no-good, freeloading body upon Stacy? That's the first time -- other than with Skinny -- that I've seen a guy not degrade a girl."

Derek had a sneaking suspicion who this was even before Stacy said, "Ms. Barch! Derek, this is Ms. Barch, our science teacher. Ms. Barch, this is Derek Powell, my boyfriend."

Yep, this was Ms. Barch. And Derek knew he didn't really want to get to know Ms. Barch any more than he had to. Still, he had to be polite, so he said, "Pleased to meet you, Ms. Barch -- as much as I possibly can be pleased to meet a woman who hates almost all men."

"Well, they deserve it!" protested Ms. Barch. "Take my ex-husband, for example. Twenty-two years I slaved for him, fulfilling his every wish and for what? He dumped me for a younger, prettier woman as soon as he could!"

Surprisingly, Derek found he could understand -- a little -- why Ms. Barch felt such anger for her ex-husband. "I can understand why you'd be mad at your former husband for walking out on you," he admitted. "I'd feel the same way if I had a wife who walked out on me. But I hope I'd have the wisdom to eventually realize that just because one man was a total jerk doesn't mean all men -- or even all men except Mr. O'Neill -- are total jerks!"

Ms. Barch smiles as she says, "I'm beginning to see that, Derek." Then she began approaching him -- and his instincts went on full alert. She was up to something and he had a bad feeling he wouldn't like whatever it was. "What do you think about older women?" she continued.

"Depends on the personality of the older woman," said Derek. "I have nothing against younger men hooking up with older women -- I just don't want a younger man to hook up with a woman whose personality sucks."

"What would you say about my personality?" Ms. Barch then asked before basically jumping him.

The reaction took Ms. Barch totally by surprise.

One moment, she was right up against him, her arms around his neck, her mouth pressed against his. The next moment, she felt a foot stamp hard on her toe. As she loosened her embrace in surprise, she was practically shoved down onto the floor!

Once there, she looked up -- and gasped. Derek was standing above her and his eyes were almost blazing with barely-controlled fury. His hands were clenched into fists and his face was flushed with the same barely-controlled fury she saw in his eyes. The barely-controlled fury practically radiated from him, making Ms. Barch nearly terrified -- the first time she'd ever been afraid of a guy in a long time.

"How dare you force yourself on a man who has a girlfriend?!" Derek asked. His voice had changed -- it had a more gravelly tone to it than before. "HOW DARE YOU?! I don't force myself on other women and I certainly don't want anyone forcing themselves on me! Especially when I have a girlfriend I love very much! You may think that all men are jerks, but you are a total bitch! I suggest you return to Mr. O'Neill -- he's your type!"

And with that, she saw Derek stomp off, clearly furious. She saw Mr. O'Neill stare off after Derek, saying, "Oh my!" And then she heard Stacy run after him, saying "Derek! DEREK!" as she did so. Typical -- she's thinking of her boyfriend instead of herself. Well, at least she knew one thing -- she'd never try that tack again on Derek. In fact, she might never dare to approach him again -- ever! She had no trouble dealing with most guys, but something told her that this guy might really be dangerous.

Stacy was terrified as well -- not so much for herself as for Ms. Barch. True, Ms. Barch was wrong to hit on Derek like that but she knew from Derek that if a person offended a kitsune in some way, the kitsune would take revenge and the revenge could be extreme. She didn't want Derek taking an extreme form of revenge on Ms. Barch -- that might cause a whole lot of problems. She had to catch him before he could do anything like that.

Fortunately, Stacy caught up to Derek backstage, near the dressing rooms. Derek turned and for an instant she saw the same look of barely-controlled fury on his face and in his eyes -- before he recognized her and started taking a couple of deep breaths to calm down. Then he stepped forward -- and drew Stacy into a tight embrace, holding her very close. Stacy hugged Derek back, allowing him to rest his head against hers.

Finally, Derek lifted his head and looked down at Stacy. "Sorry if I scared you," he said gently. "I was just about furious at Ms. Barch."

"I can understand why," said Stacy, who was now beginning to feel angry herself. "She was wrong to hit on you since we're dating -- and she should've known we were dating before she jumped you like that. She may deserve to be punished -- but I'm worried about the kind of punishment you might give her."

Derek frowned as he thought for a moment. "Well, I'm not about to seduce her and drain her life force from her -- especially not after my reaction when she jumped me!" he said. "I'm in human form already, so I think possession's out of the question -- besides, I don't usually do that in America. I can't willfully manifest myself into the dreams of others, so that's out. I don't usually do this to women in America -- just men -- but I might have to give her rather terrifying visions which will strike at any time. That would be easy for me, since her jumping on me actually enabled me to do this without having to hypnotize her first."

This worried Stacy, as she could see the dangers that can come from this kind of punishment. Derek apparently saw her concern, for he sighed as he continued, "I promise that it won't be as severe as I could possibly make it. Just enough to drive her into therapy. Trust me, she needs it, what with her attitude towards men."

"You promise?" Stacy asked, hopefully.

"I promise," said Derek, looking down into her eyes. She sighed in relief, then she saw him smile in such a way that it warmed her from the inside out -- before he bent his head down and kissed her. In that moment, every worry and doubt she had simply faded away as she swayed closer into his embrace. Her arms were around his neck, holding on as if for dear life as waves of intense pleasure filled her. Every time he kissed her she felt the same wonderful sensations and emotions coursing through her.

Finally, Stacy felt Derek lift his head. She opened her eyes and through the haze of pleasure she could see him smiling down at her. She smiled back, then she rested her head against his chest as he held her tightly, stroking her back as he did so.

After a few moments, they parted and headed back to the stage. Stacy just hoped that Ms. Barch wouldn't be permanently damaged by Derek's planned revenge. And she now knew just how bad it was to get a kitsune mad at you.

Derek watched Mr. O'Neill continued assigning parts to the cast. He had calmed down considerably since he'd talked to Stacy, but he was still mad at Ms. Barch for jumping him without his consent and thus offending him. It was a bad idea to offend a kitsune -- even if the person probably didn't believe that kitsune and other such beings existed.

But because Ms. Barch probably didn't believe that kitsune existed -- after all, she was a science teacher who lived in a culture which was very skeptical about such matters -- he probably shouldn't give her the type of punishment he felt she deserved. Besides, seducing and draining the life force out of her had lost its appeal after meeting Stacy. And as he said, he wasn't quite strong enough to willfully manifest himself into the dreams of others and he couldn't possess a woman if he was already in human form. He had to terrify her with visions -- and that wasn't easy. Fortunately, her jumping Derek meant she'd touched him. This would enable him to meet her eyes and if he concentrated, subliminally plant terrifying visions in her brain -- along with the times that they would go off, so to speak. They would eventually worsen until she would have to go into therapy, whereupon hopefully she'd get the help she needed to get over her hatred of men.

He began mentally creating the terrifying visions Ms. Barch would have before looking for her. There she was! She was watching the people auditioning for the parts in Grease. He began concentrating on the visions and deciding to have them go off whenever she was about to go to sleep. Then she looked over at him, and their eyes met. He glared at her while planting the visions in her brain, along with the triggers that would set them off, and then Ms. Barch broke the eye contact.

It was enough.

Ms. Barch tried not to shiver when she saw Derek glaring at her. After all, she was tough, strong, invincible. No man could scare her. Heck, she'd beaten up Mr. DeMartino in his own room to get the sports and club pages back into the Yearbook (3). And if she could handle him, she could handle a young man who was clearly still mad at her for jumping him in the first place.

Then why did she feel this odd dread when her eyes met his? As if somehow he was going to make sure she paid for what she'd done? Ridiculous, of course. He's not one of those witches or wizards that everyone a long time ago believed served the Devil and hurt people. Witches and wizards only existed in fiction, didn't they?

She shrugged off the dread and continued to watch the people auditioning for the various roles in Grease. As she watched, she was thinking about what to do next. She clearly should apologize to Skinny for betraying him by jumping Derek. He would certainly be a lot kinder than that young man turned out to be -- even if Derek thought he had good reason to be harsh to her -- not to mention easier to control. He'd probably take her back. Stacy could have Derek -- Ms. Barch no longer wanted anything to do with him, not after his reaction.

Once Skinny finished assigning the parts and told everyone when they should meet for their first rehearsal -- two days from now -- everyone began leaving. Ms. Barch got up, ready to approach Skinny and beg for his forgiveness, but then stopped. Maybe she should give him a day or two before she approached him, so he could calm down over what she did. And so she wouldn't have to beg -- that was demeaning.

So she went back home and did all that she had to do. She went to the store, got a TV dinner, prepared it and ate it. Then she watched T.V., all the while thinking about the whole situation with Derek. She couldn't get it out of her mind and she couldn't really relax, even when she got a bath. It was almost as if she was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Finally, she went to bed and began trying to fall asleep. But it was harder than usual to fall asleep. She couldn't stop thinking about all that had happened -- and about whether she was somehow going to pay for her actions. Eventually, however, she began feeling sleepy ...

That's when she thought she heard a knock on the door. She went to answer it -- and there was Skinny. Only he looked different. Not in his clothes -- he wore the same outfit he just about always wore. No, it was the expression on his face. The expression was menacing, unlike anything she'd ever seen on Skinny's face. This scared her.

"Skinny?" she asked tenatively. Then she saw what was in his hands: strips of cloth -- and a knife. She paled at once. This was bad, very bad. Skinny forced his way into the house, forced her over to her bed and then began tying her with the strips of cloth. She had to get free, so she lashed out with her foot, kicking Skinny. But that caused his expression to change from menacing to ferocious as he suddenly pounced onto her, pinning her onto the bed --

A scream suddenly caused Ms. Barch to move -- and that's when she realized she had imagined the whole thing. It was just a dream. But why did she have the dream? She'd never had that type of dream about Skinny before. Not before you jumped Derek, a voice inside her head said.

Not again! This guy wasn't a wizard. He was just an extremely attractive young man whom you probably shouldn't cross. The guy couldn't possibly have cast a spell on her to make her imagine this type of situation happening to her. And if she was thinking this type of thing --

She needed therapy. Right now. Or at least as soon as she could call a psychologist, which would probably have to be tomorrow. She just hoped she could get a good one. One that could help her overcome these thoughts about a young man whom she'd never spoken to until just today. And until then -- she'd just have to take a sleeping pill and hope that these nightmares wouldn't trouble her sleep.

The decision made, she looked up a list of names of psychologists that she could call and found one, circling it before taking her sleeping pill and trying to get back to sleep. She'd take care of this problem, one way or the other.

1. Referred to in "The Daria Hunter."

2. Referred to in "Is It College Yet?"

3. Referred to in "The New Kid."

There are also paraphrases from Ms. Barch's Sexual Harassment memo in The Daria Database in this fanfic. Of course, her ideas of sexual harassment are just a little extreme.

To be continued,
Belle Book