Nemo Blank

Presents yet another thrilling adventure.



Insanabile caco ë thes scribendi


The primary difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.
Anthony DeMartino (1946 -?) on the subject of fan fiction writers.


Characters belong to MTV. Used without permission. This story is copyright 1/2000 by Nemo Blank and is not to be sold or profited from. It may however be copied, distributed and posted freely in unaltered form, so long as the authors name and email address remains on the work.




     Daria picked at the chicken breast on her plate, unable to find anything edible. "Mm-Mmm, Deep fried offal. Its finger licking, artery clogging good."

     Helen wiped grease off of her fingers and looked at the gooey mess on her plate. "Well, Daria, you're the one who complained about the lasagna. You could always volunteer to cook something, if you don't like what I bring home."

     Daria shook her head. She'd complained about ten straight days of lasagna. Helen, too busy to shop, had resentfully started picking up fast food instead. "Have you looked in the kitchen lately? All we have is lasagna, cereal, olives and salt."

     "We have cereal?" Quinn stood, looking pleased.

     "Sit down, Quinn. We don't waste food." Helen shot her a severe look.

     Quinn sat resentfully and picked at her rubbery, ultra sweet coleslaw. "Mu-om! I can't eat this stuff! Greasy food gives you acne and makes you fat!"

     Daria smelled a biscuit. "As much as it distresses me to agree with Barbie, I have to point out that this biscuit was apparently made from pencil shavings."

     Helen slammed down her plastic spork. "Fine! Tomorrow, we'll have something better. I want you all to come to a firm family cookout and retreat tomorrow."

     Daria started in horror, Quinn blanched and Helen smiled. She believed in spreading the misery.

     Quinn revolted. "But Mu-ooom, tomorrow's Saturday! I have dates tomorrow! I'm going to eat at-"

     Helen interrupted. "Methodist park, with the family, at the firm's family cookout."

     "Oh, God." Daria hated the idea. "We already did the bring your daughter to work thing, Mom. A park full of lawyers? Relaxing? Get real."

     "Just plan to be there all day, Daria. Jake, what do you thin-" Helen stared. Jake was in a trance, mechanically shoveling down the slop on his plate and reading a flyer from the newspaper.

     "Look, Helen! There's an airshow tomorrow!" Jake, absorbed in memories of his youth, didn't see the trouble coming. "Ya know, when I was in that damn military school, the airshow was the only thing that they'd let us off post for. We'd fall in and march the sixteen miles to our bivouac at the Air Force base and then that night we'd all go AWOL and mix with the girls from the Catholic-"

     "Jake! Haven't you been listening to a thing I said!" Helen's temper snapped. She threw a styrofoam gravy cup at him.

     Jake caught it. Fortunately the synthetic gravy was too thick and glutinous to slosh out of the cup. "Oh, all right!" Jake angrily tried to blob some gravy onto his reconstituted mashed potatoes. "I guess we can go to the ballet if you want, but an airshow is-"

     "Jesus, Jake! It's a cookout! A stupid family bonding cookout for the stupid firm, because the stupid consultant hired by the stupid partners said that they'll loose fewer trained associates if they don't divorce their stupid hus- spouses!" Helen heaved with anger, face flushed and eyes blazing.

     Jake stared at her, massively turned on.

     Helen's eyes locked with his and widened. She suddenly smiled.

     Jake pulled out his wallet and shuffled out a couple of twenties. "Here, you girls go out and eat. I want to... talk to your mother for a couple of hours."

     Quinn snatched all of the money and sprinted for the door.

     "Quinn! You be home by-" Helen sighed as the door slammed and the sound of a car stopping, then speeding away came through the window.

     "Don't worry. You'll just love having a grandchild around." Daria almost smiled at their expressions.

     "Dammit, Daria!" Jake dug out another twenty. When Daria made no move to take it, he flushed and pulled out a fifty. "Ya got change, Kiddo?"

     "Sorry. Hey, we could go down to the mini mart and get change. It'd just take a half hour-"

     "Just take it!" Impatiently, Jake thrust the bill at her.

     "Thanks." Daria took it and walked out, not failing to notice the vibes between her parents. She didn't plan to be back before midnight. "Please, lord, not another sister."

     Out of old habit, Daria wandered toward Jane's. As she turned onto the street, she saw Tom and Jane get into his old Pinto and clatter away.

     Daria shrugged, unsurprised. "Well hell, all alone again." She decided to go to the library. When she reached the door, she saw a 'closed for annual inventory' sign taped up.

     "Damn." Daria walked aimlessly around town for a while, then turned her feet toward Dega street. Pausing in front of the vintage clothing store, Funky Doodle's, she stared. The outfit was out on display again.

     You'd look hot in that, Daria. For an instant, she thought that Trent had come up behind her and spoken. It had been over a year ago that he'd said that to her. She flushed and took a step away. It was stupid even contemplating it.

     Inside the store, Mary looked out and saw that the girl was there, staring at the outfit again. She quickly ran to the door. Every time she displayed the outfit, the girl would stop and look. Mary couldn't carry it forever. It was time to turn it over and make some room. Taking two quick strides, Mary opened the door. "Hello, miss? Would you like to come in and look around? I'm giving away free vintage PEZ dispensers today!"

     Daria teetered on the brink of indecision, then saw Upchuck swaggering up the dusky street. "Uhm, sure." She scuttled into the shop. He'd never leave her alone if he caught her out without Jane.

     Mary glanced down the street and smirked. Upchuck had quite a local reputation. Closing the door, she flipped the open sign over. "There you go. Now he'll have to just walk by. My name is Mary." She liked to be on a first name basis with the customers. It made it harder for them to say no.

     Daria smiled her almost imperceptible smile. "I'm Daria. Thanks, Mary, he's a real pest." She looked around. The small store was crammed with clothing, so cluttered that it was hard to move around in. By the dressing rooms, big drippy aromatic moth candles burned in tin pails, masking the old-clothes smell.

     Mary took down the outfit and held it out. "I've seen you looking at this every time it's been out in the display window this year. Why don't you go ahead and try it on?"

     Daria flushed. "No, I don't-"

     Mary held it in front of her persuasively. "Come on, what could it hurt? You don't have to buy it or anything. Just try it on while you're here. Satisfy your own curiosity."

     Daria took it. "Well, I don't know. I wouldn't be caught dead in this."

     Suddenly she heard Upchuck walking by, singing loudly, obviously for her benefit. "One day, I'm gonna get-cha, gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha. One way, or another-"

     Mary was sorting through her inventory. She came up with a set of hot pink, early 70's vintage open-toed platform heels and a late 60's chrome hairclip. "Here. Try it all together. At least you won't wonder about it any more."

     "Okay, I guess it couldn't hurt." Embarrassed, Daria grabbed the accessories and went into the dressing room. She put it on and critically looked at herself. It fit her perfectly. Daria looked at the mirror, surprised at the way her breasts were accentuated. It was an outfit straight out of Boogie nights. Daria sighed, thinking of Trent. It was too bad he'd never see it, because she definitely wouldn't be caught dead in it. She slipped the silver hairclip on and looked again. Trent was right. She did look hot in the outfit.

     Daria coughed and hesitantly stepped out. "Well, here it is."

     Mary clapped her palms together. "Almost perfect! I know just what else you need. Come on into the basement."

     Mary didn't give Daria time to object.

     She found bins full of exotic eyewear. "What's your prescription, Daria?"

     Daria shrugged. "I don't know it, off hand. My eyes are pretty bad. I doubt if you'd have anything in there that would work for me anyway. You don't have to bother-"

     "It's no bother! Let me see your glasses. I can usually tell what the prescription is. I used to work for an optometrist." Mary held out her hand, smiling.

     Daria shrugged and handed them over.

     Mary looked through then nodded. She went to the last bin and removed a small red leather case. She opened it and pulled out a set of small, rose tinted frameless granny glasses. Comparing them with Daria's glasses, she nodded in triumph. "Close, if not right on. Give them a try."

     Daria unfolded them and put them on. They fit perfectly and she couldn't tell the difference in the prescription. "These, I might just buy," she said.

     They went back up the narrow flight of stairs. When they reached the door, the whole front of the store was wreathed in flames.

     Mary gasped. "Oh, no! Come on, out the back door!"

     Daria hesitated, afraid of the inferno.

     Mary stumbled, then dropped, unconscious, hitting her head on the floor.

     Daria bent over her, gagged and stumbled dizzily. The heat caused a wind to blow through the store and Daria suddenly felt better.

     There must be poisonous gas in the air! All that burning polyester... Daria grabbed Mary's jacket and dragged her toward the back, where the breeze was coming from.

     The door was chained from the inside. A transom style window was cracked open above it, but it was heavily grilled. Daria pulled at it, then searched Mary's pockets. There were no keys. The flames roared behind her, hungrily consuming the other end of the hall.

     Daria squeezed her eyes shut and sobbed. Oh, god, she thought. This is it, then. I'm going to die now, all because of Trent's stupid dress. She thought about her life. What a pointless waste of time. Now I'm dead. Dead Daria. Hey, did you hear the news? That Daria chick got roasted alive! You know, Quinn's cousin? The brain? The misery chick? Oh well. Let's all go to Cashman's!

     She looked around, despairingly. A surveillance camera was mounted on the wall, covering the back door. The red light was on. Great, I'm going to die on TV.

     Little creepers of flame, fed by the inrush of air being sucked through the transom, moved toward her along the roof of the hall. Daria sobbed, tremors of panic traversing her. She could just see it now. Helen would probably blame Jake somehow and divorce him. They would generate so much heat and acrimony that she could be safely forgotten. Jane would be pretty upset. Maybe. Daria hadn't seen much of Jane over the last few weeks. Tom was there so much that she had stopped just dropping by. Trent, Daria's dead! Trent? Wake up, Trent! Oh well, Tom will comfort me. And Quinn. But, Mu-om! I have a daate! I don't want to go to some stupid funeral. She's dead, what does she care? She shook her head in denial. "Oh, God, they'll forget all about me within two weeks."

     There had to be something. She wasn't going to just give up. Calming herself, she began methodically inspecting the door and frame. She saw a length of pipe laying on the floor, apparently used to prop the door open.

     Daria picked it up and inserted it into the loop of chain. She twisted, wrapping the pipe in the chain until all the slack was gone. Praying aloud, Daria twisted with all her might, wishing that she was heavier. There was a snap, the pipe clanged on the floor and she saw flames covering the ceiling and moving fast along the walls toward her.

     Trembling, she unlaced the chain from the door and dragged Mary out into the alley. The heat on her back was intense.

     In the alley, Mary coughed and woke up. "My god! The fire! Where am I? What am I going to do now?"

     Daria kneeling beside her, gasping with relief, said, "Call the fire department?"

     Mary didn't move, so Daria dragged her away from the wall, then clumsily clogged her way across the street to Axl's.

     Axl was in the back. "I'll be wiv ya in a minnit-" he came out. "Well, 'ello there, luv. Bloody flashback time, innit? Like a nice ankle tattoo? Ya got a little smudge on your face-"

     Daria flushed. "Call the fire department! Mary's shop is on fire!"

     "Blimey! Is she all right?"

     "She took a hit on the head. She's bleeding a little. You'd better tell them to send an ambulance." Daria was looking out of the window.

     Alex called 911, then yelled into the back, "Sorry, mate. I can't finish it today."

     Daria heard glass shatter. The front of Mary's store was a mass of flames now. She swallowed as she remembered the flames licking at her as she'd fumbled at the back door.

     "Bummer." Trent came out, putting on his shirt, the outline of a freshly drawn ankh visible at his throat.

     Daria froze, then something gave way inside her psyche. She straightened and put on a bored look. She felt... liberated. He was just a guy.

     Trent got his shirt on and saw her from the back, outlined by the neon lights. "Woah! Hey, baby, I'm Trent. Do you like music?"

     Still turned away, Daria said in a voice somewhat removed from her usual monotone, "Oh, yeah. I love the nightlife, I love to boogie, on the disco li-ight... Uh-huh, yeah."

     Axl laughed, in spite of his concern for Mary. "Good one, luv."

     Trent smiled and walked up to her. Usually he didn't hit on women much, but there was something about a this woman... "So. You want to come to the Zen with me tonight? My band, Mystik Spiral is... God! Daria?"

     Daria smiled. "Mystik Spiral isn't that good, Trent. Maybe a very minor saint, but not the deity himself."

     He took in the smile and the outfit. "I always knew you'd look hot in that, Daria." Trent swallowed. He'd often thought about her dressed like that. Usually in his most private moments.

     Daria heaved a gusty sigh, causing Trent heart palpitations. "Not as hot as I could have been. A few minutes later and I'd have been caught in that."

     Trent looked out at the mass of flames. "Damn." His knees felt weak.

     Trent, Axl and Daria walked out on the sidewalk and watched the flames engulfing the shop.

     Daria saw Mary stumbling out of the alley and they went over to help. She supported her as they crossed the street.

     A flash camera blinded them and Daria helped Mary to a chair that Axl had brought out of his shop. She saw Upchuck grinning at her from the street.

     "Smile, Daria!" He took her picture again, delightedly shocked when she smiled at him.

     Mary spoke as an ambulance and fire engine pulled up. "There goes ten years," she said. "I'm gonna open an espresso stand if the insurance covers it." She stood for a minute and hugged Daria. "Thanks for saving my life, Daria."

     Upchuck got the shot.

     Daria smiled. "You're welcome. I said that I wouldn't be caught dead in these clothes." She looked back at the burning shop, shivered and thought of the locked door.

     Trent put his arm around Daria when he saw her trembling. "It's okay, Daria. Just another near miss. Life is full of 'em. So, wanna come to the Zen with me tonight?"

     The camera flashed again.

     Daria shrugged and let her head rest on his shoulder. "Sure. Let's get out of here, Trent. Let's go have some fun." She wondered where all of her angst had gone. Nothing seemed to really matter to her, anymore.

     That night, Daria was animated and outgoing. She had a knot of men hovering around her. The bouncer had to put a couple of over-persistent guys out.

     Trent felt so much alarm at the change that he kept speeding up the tempo, until an infuriated Jesse finally kicked him. All he could think about was keeping the guys away from Daria. When Jane and Tom came in, he felt a pang of relief. Now, maybe Daria would settle down.

     Jane looked around. "Lets go dance, Tom."

     Tom was looking at the front of the house. "Jane, isn't that Daria?"

     Jane stared. "I... don't know. She looks kind of like Daria but she sure doesn't dress or act like Daria."

     The girl's face was alive, mobile and animated. She was the center of attention, dancing with three guys.

     Tom looked at Trent. "Whoever she is, Trent's not too happy with her."

     When the set ended, she disappeared toward the bathroom.

     Jane went after her.

     "So it is you!" Jane stared in amazement at her friend. "So how long have you had these strange new powers, disco girl?"

     Daria shrugged. "It's a chain of events too bizarre to explain. Suffice to say that the old Daria is long gone. The new Daria just wants to par-ty."

     "Well, Trent doesn't look real happy about you dancing with other guys." Jane frowned. She couldn't understand it.

     Daria looked at her fingers in exaggerated puzzlement. "Oh, look. No wedding ring. No engagement ring. No Trent out there keeping me company. I guess that means that I should just hang around until he's ready for me. Not!" Daria looked a little angry.

     Jane shrugged. "But still-"

     Daria interrupted. "Jane, I almost died today. My whole life flashed in front of my eyes. Out of almost eighteen years, I've mildly enjoyed about eight hours of it, mostly the parts with you in it. I could die anytime. I don't have time to waste on the sidelines anymore. I'm here, I'm alive, I want to dance till dawn. Carpe Diem, Jane. I like Trent, but life is too short to wait for anything."

     Jane looked at her, concerned. Behind the bright exterior, hysteria crawled. "Died horribly?"

     Daria nodded. "The big sleep. Bought the farm. I was trapped in the back corridor of The Funky Doodle with a fire behind me and a locked door in front. I could hear the reaper, sharpening up his scythe. It was all over, Jane. Dark wings were a-fluttering and all the life that I had to look back on was a thousand hours of Sick Sad World. Then I got real lucky and managed to open the back door. At the last possible second I broke the chain with a pipe."

     An older woman had come in and was listening to them. "Excuse me, but is your name Daria Morgendorffer?"

     Daria nodded. "It is."

     She flashed a press card. "My name is Kathleen Borden. I'm with the Sun Herald. Did I hear you say that the door was chained?"

     Daria shrugged, then nodded. "I don't want to talk about it. Well, gotta dance!" Daria left.

     Borden turned to Jane. "Are you her friend?"

     Jane stared after Daria, a perplexed look on her face. "Yes."

     Borden took out a business card and gave it to Jane. "Give her this, tomorrow. I want to interview her. She's too stressed right now. If you care about her, I'd recommend that you keep an eye on her. I've seen this before. She's flying on adrenaline and when she crashes, she'll crash hard."

     Jane cleared her throat. "What exactly happened?"

     Borden explained. She got to the end. "They found chain and a lock welded to the doorframe. The security camera footage survived and it shows her in action. She dragged the owner to the dead end and was trapped there for a while. It was the closest call imaginable."

     Jane shuddered. "So she really might have died tonight."

     Borden nodded. "Roasted alive. The place went up like a bucket of gasoline."

     "She's not thinking clearly!" Jane rushed after Daria.

     Tom thought about the problem, then came up with a solution. She was overexcited, ergo she needed a depressant. Fortunately, plenty was available. Procuring three cups of beer wasn't hard, but separating Daria from her fan club was. Amid hostile glares, Tom and Jane got Daria to come with them, to 'talk'.

     Daria was easily persuaded to drink the beer and the effect was as hoped. She stopped sparkling and soon became melancholy. She had another, then a third. By the time Trent finished, she was quite drunk.

     Daria swayed and sang along with the music, even though it had stopped.

     Trent came up, saw her condition and got mad. "Daria, what-"

     "Trenty!" She flung herself at him and kissed him. "There you are! I knew you wouldn't forget about me. I was just thinking about you."

     Trent gently hugged her. "That's good. I think about you a lot, too."

     "When the fire had me trapped." Daria grew morose. "I wondered if anyone would really miss me."

     "I'd miss you, Daria. More than you could know. Everyone would." Trent gently kissed her, then caught Jesse's eye.

     He motioned to the equipment and was rewarded by a knowing grin and a nod from his friend.

     Jessie picked up Trent's guitar and loaded it along with his own.

     "Come on, let's go somewhere else." Trent led her towards his car.

     Jane joined them. "We can't take her home, Trent. Not like that."

     Trent nodded. "I'll take care of her, Janey. She'll just stay over tonight."

     "Now you're talking," Daria slurred. "Need more beer."

     Trent laughed. "Sure, Daria. In the morning." He gently helped her into the car.

     Jane grabbed his shirt when he started to walk around to the drivers side. "Trent..." She stared at him with an unreadable expression. "Don't do... anything." She didn't think he would, but he was male and he was definitely attracted to Daria.

     Trent looked at her, offended, then nodded. "Daria's always safe with me. I'd never try anything while she was drunk."

     "Goddamit! Mind your own business, Jane!" Daria had roused and heard the conversation.

     Jane laughed. "I take it all back. Who am I to interfere?"

     Daria looked slightly mollified. "Good. Let's go, Trent. That beer is going right through me."

     Trent laughed. "At your command, milady." He got into the car.

     "You sound like Upchuck." Daria smiled. She saw Upchuck standing by the club's front door and got even for the camera flashes. "Upchuck has some pretty good lines. Too bad he's such an Upchuck."

     As they pulled away, Jane heard Trent say, "Who's this Upchuck? Someone that I should worry about?"

     Jane smiled. Whatever happened, Daria wouldn't be able to retreat back into her shell and Trent couldn't pretend to be oblivious after this.

     Daria woke up and blinked, astonished. She was in Trent's bed! Searching her memory, she cringed in horror. First she'd gotten drunk, then Trent had gotten drunk with her then they'd... she flushed, remembering herself crying in his arms. She'd thrown herself at him like a fool. He'd just put her to bed like a little kid. Utterly humiliated, she got up to dress.

     She saw that she only had that soon-to-be-burned dress. Shuddering, she put on one of Trent's green T-shirts and went to Jane's room to borrow some clothes.

     She stopped at the door and heard Tom's voice from inside. Unwilling to confront him, or anyone, Daria went back to Trent's room.

     She quickly dressed and then looked sourly at the ridiculous shoes. Her good boots had burned and she had a long walk ahead. She tried to break the heels off, but they were massively thick.

     Barefoot, she crept past the couch on which Trent still lay snoring and left the house. She got to the driveway and had to put on the shoes. Looking back at the house, she shuddered. She was grossly embarrassed, doubting if she would ever have the nerve to go back. Wobbling on the stupid shoes, Daria set off for home.

     She heard a chirp behind her. Looking around, she saw a woman in a police car.

     "Hello, Daria. I'm Lt. Della Marks, with the arson squad. I have a few questions for you, if you don't mind." Della hoped that Daria was ready to talk. She didn't want to have to pressure her, but Daria should have stayed at the scene.

     Daria squeezed her ankle. She'd turned it twice. "I'll tell you what. If you give me a ride home, I'll tell you what I think happened."

     "Deal." Della opened the door. "Have you had breakfast yet?"

     Daria shook her head. "No, but I'm not really hungry. I have to get out of this awful dress before my mom sees it."

     Della laughed. "You look good, Daria. Don't worry about it."

     "You don't know my mom." Daria got into the police car.

     Daria made her statement and signed it and Della drove her home.

     Daria snuck into the garage and entered the house through the laundry room. She looked for clothes, but there was nothing in the hampers. She opened the door a crack and then made for her room.

     "Daria?" Quinn stood on the stairs, open mouthed, magazine in hand, staring at Daria. She looked at the model in her hours-old Waif, dressed exactly like Daria. "Where... How... Retro in...Noooo!"

     Daria just kept moving.

     "Mu-oom! Daria's home!" Quinn smirked vengefully at Daria as she pushed past.

     "Daria! Where have- What are you wearing?" Helen gaped at the totally unexpected sight of her eldest daughter, dressed to kill.

     "Clothes." Daria made it into her room.

     "Daria!" Helen knocked on the door. "What's going on? Where have you been? Did you have sex with that Trent boy? Do you think we're blind? Daria! Open this door!"

     Daria changed into her bathrobe, then came out. "One, I did not have sex. I'm still in 'factory new' condition. Two, I lost my clothes, boots and glasses in a fire at the Funky Doodle and that's all you'll get from me. Three, the preferred modern usage is 'visually impaired'."

     "Fire! Daria, what-" The cell phone rang and Helen answered. "Oh. Hi, Eric. Yes, I'll bring it to the picnic." She wandered off, Daria forgotten.

     Daria escaped into the bathroom and took a long shower. When she came out, the coast was clear. She went to her room and put on a slate gray tanktop, a set of faded blue jeans and a pair of previously unworn Nike running shoes. Her spare glasses were in the drawer, but Daria put the small, frameless, tinted glasses she'd gotten from Mary back on. Moving quietly, she made for the back door.

     "Daria! You're a hero!" Jake bulled his way in and swept her along. "Look everyone, it's my daughter, the hero!"

     "What?" Daria wondered if Jake had finally snapped completely.

     "You made the front page!" His voice dropped and he frowned. "I didn't know you danced, Daria." He shoved the newspaper under her nose. There was a grainy security cam photo of her dragging Mary and a sharp color photo of her at the Zen, dancing with a knot of guys. The caption said, High School Heroine dances the night away.

     "Damn!" I'm going to absolutely kill Upchuck, she thought.

     Jane chased Tom out of the house, then saw Trent asleep on the couch. He had a big smile on his face and looked happier than she'd seen him in years.

     "Up and at 'em, music boy!" She slapped him on the chest.

     "Ugh!" Trent bolted upright. "Wha! No! Under age! I didn't touch-"

     "Really?" Jane laughed at his confusion. "Tooo bad."

     Trent jumped up. "That's it, Janey!" He chased her around the room, caught her, threw her on the couch and then held her down to tickle her feet until she screamed with laughter.

     When he released her and she quit laughing, Jane smoothed his spiky hair. "So, where's Daria?"

     Trent smiled. "I put her in my room last night." He told Jane about resisting Daria's pass. "It was the hardest thing that I ever did."

     Jane's smile faded. "Do you mean that you just dumped her in your bed and left?"

     Trent, catching her expression, wilted. "Uh, what is it?"

     Jane shook her head. "I'll bet she..." Jane went up the stairs and opened Trent's door. The room was empty. "Uh, oooh."

     Trent came up behind her. "Maybe I should- She's gone!"

     Jane pursed her lips. "Right." If she knew Daria, the walls were a-building.

     Jake pulled up to the parking area and Helen pulled her laptop plug out of the lighter socket.

     "Now you two be sure and mix." Helen eyed Daria and thought about the mileage she would make out of the newspaper story. She just hoped that Daria wouldn't rebel.

     "Will there be any cute guys here?" Quinn looked up from the glitter that she was putting on her fingernails.

     "No!" Jake glowered at his daughters in the rear view mirror. The newspaper photo of Daria dancing with what looked like an entire platoon had alarmed him as much as it had thrilled Helen and horrified Quinn. "No boys! You girls stay away from boys! They only want-"

     "Jake!" Helen sighed. Jake still thought that his daughters were pre teens.

     Daria wandered over to a barrel of ice and fished out a cold gingerale.

     "Hi! Are you Daria?"

     Daria turned around. A tall, handsome, college aged blond, with a Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy shirt stood there. "Who wants to know?"

     He grinned. "Dave Baker wants to know."

     Involuntarily she smiled back. "Where is he?"

     His eyes widened. "Woah, I don't think that you're ready for that level of Zen yet, Daria."

     "Speaking of levels, why are you here among the dammed, Dave Baker?" Daria's gesture encompassed the surrounding lawyers.

     "I, am the one and only grandson of..." He beat a tattoo on his chest, imitating a drumroll, "His Majesty, the founding partner!" He grimaced. "Or to put it more simply, if I don't come, they'll cut my trust fund money off."

     "Ouch." Daria smirked at him. "Well, what may a humble peasant girl such as I help you with, Prince Dave?"

     He laughed. "It's the not so evil stepmother. She read about you in the paper and dispatched me out into dragon country to bring you back to the royal court." He gestured toward a large tent.

     Daria shrugged. "Well, I-"

     "Daaave!" Quinn's voice came from behind some trees.

     "Woah! Dragon at twelve o' clock!" He grabbed her hand. Come on, you don't want to meet her!" The young chick had been after him all day.

     Daria didn't wait for explanations. As they headed for the tent, she glanced back and saw a stricken looking Quinn staring after them. "Uh oh."

     Dave looked back and saw that Quinn wasn't following. "Whew! She's been chattering at me non stop since I got here. It's just like fingernails on a blackboard."

     "Well do I know the feeling. That, is my sister." As they entered the tent, Daria wondered when he was going to let go of her hand.

     "What? No, it couldn't be. She told me her life story. She said that she was an only child!" He looked at her in bewilderment.

     Taking pity, Daria explained. "She thinks that her high school popularity would be adversely affected if it became generally known that she was related to a so called 'brain', so she tells people that I'm her cousin."

     He shrugged and spoke without thinking. "Maybe she's just trying to keep you away. You're a lot better looking than her." It was true. To Dave's eye, Daria had bigger tits.

     Daria smiled. "Flattery? Are you trying to seduce me?"

     Dave blushed, provoking laughter from Daria.

     Eldon Baker stood quietly by the wall of the refreshment tent watching the by-play, already very satisfied with the day. He'd seen her picture in the Herald and so he knew who she was. At last the feckless boy seemed to have found himself a cool headed girl of decent stock and proven worth. He'd long despaired of the boy, convinced that his line would end in ignominy. The last grisly creature that he'd brought home had had what looked like a medieval dental appliance stapled to her ear. At least this one was white.

     Dave looked up, saw him, said something to the girl and they came over.

     "Sir, This is Daria Morgendorffer. Daria, I'd like you to meet my grandfather, Eldon Baker."

     Daria took his proffered hand. "Hello."

     Eldon evaluated her up close, his interest caught by the obvious intelligence blazing in her eyes. He smiled as he realized that she was reading him! "Please call me Eldon, Daria. I've just been reading about you. It was an impressive escape."

     Daria shrugged. "It's a good thing that there was a pipe there."

     Eldon laughed. "You'd be amazed at how many people would have just sat there and burned. You never gave up. A person can't expect to live long or well if they give up. Most people never learn that little home truth, Daria."

     Helen saw Daria and froze, mouth open, in mid conversation. Marianne's eyes followed hers and she gasped.

     "Isn't that your daughter with Eldon and his grandson?" Marianne smiled. Maybe she'd be getting a secretary of her own soon. "Wow, they look pretty smitten." Eldon Baker was almost fawning over Daria.

     Helen shook her head, sighing. "Daria isn't the type to do herself any favors. Besides, I think that she likes-" Helen broke off, seeing Eldon wife, Mara, approaching.

     Mara looked at Helen with compassion. Long ago her own daughter had been killed in a house fire. "Helen! I'm glad that you could make it. I read about your daughter in the paper this morning. What an incredibly lucky escape!"

     "Yes, it was." Helen hadn't really let it sink in before, but now she was shaken by the reality of the near tragedy.

     Mara looked over at Daria, thoughtfully. "She certainly looks like a lively girl."

     Helen agreed, faintly.

     Quinn entered the tent and immediately saw a crowd gathered around Daria. Quinn scowled. It was totally unfair. Daria already had that Trent guy and now she had taken Dave away from her. Why did the cool older guys keep going for Daria? It got even worse for Quinn as the day went on. Holly Hunter, the reporter for channel five arrived with a crew and interviewed Daria. Quinn couldn't even get into the shot.

     Daria walked through the parking lot, having finally shaken the crowd. She'd told her pointless story one time to often and had decided to permanently retire from the heroing business. Setting off down the sidewalk, she heard a beep. Turning, she saw David idling along behind her in a black Porsche convertible.

     "Want a ride?" He smiled at her.

     She shrugged. "If you promise not to say one word about the fire, I'll ride with you."

     He opened the door. "It's a deal. What's the big idea, leaving me trapped all alone in that park with your sister?" His grandfather had dragged him away from Holly and practically kicked him after her.

     Daria looked around at the car. "Well, it was you or me. Nice wheels."

     He pulled away from the curb. "Yeah, a regular chick magnet."

     She chuckled. "I'll bet."

     He looked over at her. "Uhm, Daria, are you doing anything tonight?"

     Daria glanced at him, a little apprehensively. "I don't know. What did you have in mind?"

     "Well, I wondered if you might want to catch a movie or something." He shrugged. "Just something to help stave off the boredom."

     Daria thought about it. Trent had rejected her, fairly emphatically. Jane was busy with Tom and even if she wasn't, Daria wouldn't darken the door of any house with Trent in it for a good long time. Even now, she felt like shriveling up with embarrassment. Besides, Trent had no real claim on her. No more than she had on him. Daria became aware that she had left David hanging for a beat too long. "Um, sure. Sounds like fun. Or something, anyway."

     He leaned back in his seat, smiling. "Whew! You really had me going there." He wasn't used to being toyed with by women. They usually threw themselves at him, attracted by his good looks and his trust fund. He smiled at her, winningly. Dating Daria would get Eldon off of his back about getting kicked out of law school.

     Trent groaned and threw down the ratchet. Whoever the genius was that had designed the old Plymouth really deserved to be roasting in hell. Having to take the front wheels off just to get at the sparkplugs was really too much.

     Lying wedged into the wheel well, he fumbled the spark plug out of the rusty old engine. It looked like it belonged in a tugboat or something. Maybe he ought to get rid of the ancient Detroit iron and get something that didn't require an archeologist to find parts.

     He got the new plug in and started on the next. Pulling with all his might, he tried to get the plug out when *CRACK* the cheap plastic ratchet mechanism broke, flinging his hand into the steel engine block.

     "FUUUUUUUCK!" Trent squirmed out from under the car, cursing. He kicked the dented door panel and cursed some more when his shoe split.

     "Dirty old shitheap! I HATE YOU sooooo much!" He wiped the blood off of his knuckles, rubbed his bruised foot and went back to work, his litany of curses and woes running through his mind.

     First there was Daria. She'd been avoiding him for weeks. After seeing her on television, he'd been shattered by the eloquent despair in her eyes, captured by the security camera in the corridor. He knew that he'd handled things badly. She had needed to be held, touched, comforted. Instead, afraid that he couldn't control his raging lust, he'd just joked around with her and then left her alone with her insecurities.

     He'd called and gone to her house, but she was never in. As soon as he'd realized that she was avoiding him, he'd staked out her house. He'd seen her get into some rich boy's Porsche and leave him in the dust.

     The band had recently begun pissing him off too. He'd had a dream vision of himself in twenty years as a part time bell-hop and the leader of a group of Fat Elvis impersonators. As he stared at his own face, his dream self had slowly morphed into first Kurt Cobain, then his father, Vince. This life he was leading just blew chunks. He was a worthless musical poseur on the road to nowhere.

     As he lay under his ancient car and fumed, a phone company utility truck parked just down the block started a generator. The deep 2/2 thump of the engine served as a perfect baseline for his fuming.

God dam, trash can, bloody hand pogue...
Don't even know where to go.
Missed out, no doubt, sleeping fool, out on the couch...
And she just walked out.

     Trent started singing, really barking out the lyrics, the guitar parts playing themselves in his head.

     Jane had come out a little earlier to tell him that Max was on the phone, but she just kept back and listened as his muttering turned into a song. Eyes widening, she began jotting lyrics down, not wanting to disturb him. This stuff was really good, right from the heart. It sounded commercial. Not like his usual affected whining. This had an edge that you could split atoms with.

     Daria sat in the theatre, her eyes flicking sideways. David was as handsome as a god, his breath was sweet and he always wanted to pay her way, but he had all the sex appeal of a fire hydrant. In short, Daria was bored.

     Daria grimaced as David shifted in his seat and put his arm around her, all the while, laughing at the stupid, obvious, movie plot. He made her think of a yokel who'd just seen a Duchess fall into a mudhole. It was time to let this taper off.

     She sighed, thinking about Trent. Trent would puke if someone made him watch this mess. Jane had come over several times, having gone into a chill phase with Tom and she hadn't mentioned Trent at all. Daria had been grateful at first, but now she was disappointed. She felt another pang of remorse. After all, she'd treated him so badly. All that he'd really done was to refrain from taking advantage of her.

     Dave glanced over at his stone faced date. She didn't like these comedies. Pauli Shore and his ilk just didn't turn her crank. Daria was hot and a real kick in the ass, but she just wasn't really his type. He liked a girl that you could pal around with. Daria was a real lady, with an acerbic personality a lot like his grandmothers. That was probably why his grandfather had practically ordered him to go after her. The old man had dreams of dynasty twinkling in his leathery old brain. If Dave knocked Daria up, the money supply would be unlimited. He had to keep things cool, keep Pops happy for another year until the trust was irrevocable. Then he was dropping out of Middleton and heading for Hollywood.

     He took his arm off of her stiff shoulders and felt her relax. She was getting colder by the minute. He'd tried everything, spent more effort on her than he'd ever spent on a girl. Five dates was his limit though. All of his lines and witty conversational gambits were used up. She was starting to see through him. He'd try to get into her pants tonight and if that was a no-go then he'd smoke a few rocks and spend the night with Lydia. She was always ready to play.

     Trent stalked into the bar and got himself a beer. He didn't really like beer, but he felt like doing something different tonight. He'd tried out the new number, but predictably, the band wasn't up to it. Max and Nick were almost within a few miles of being able to learn someday, but five chord Jesse hadn't been able to follow him at all. Like usual, they had all blamed his ideas. If it didn't sound like Nirvana it just wasn't any good. They were just posing around and playing musician, not really digging in to work at it. He drained his beer and then several more.

     Moodily staring into his glass, Trent wondered what he could do. Leave Lawndale? Even if he got to LA, he didn't think that his guitar playing was really all that good yet. He might not even find a band. That was the hell of it. He was just as guilty as them. He kept living in his head, ignoring reality. Reality was that he needed to learn to play the guitar. Reality was that his band was a joke. Reality was that he needed to go get a diploma and have a fallback while he learned to play guitar. Reality was that he wanted to be a rock star when he grew up. He'd never had a second choice. Gloomily, he emptied his beer.

     The bartender just coming on duty walked up with another. "Well, well, Mr. Lane. Bud do you?"

     Trent started in surprise. "Mr. DeMartino! Uh, yeah. What are you doing here?"

     DeMartino glared, popeyed. "Did you THINK that I'd let you just get AWAY with not turning in that final PROJECT, Mr. Lane?"

     Trent stared in slack-jawed amazement, then started laughing. DeMartino picked up the empty glass and laughed with him.

     Trent shook his head. "I guess this is what you do in the summer. I'd have never guessed."

     DeMartino smiled. "Well, I know how to intimidate drunks. I guess I did learn something useful in seventeen years of teaching."

     Trent stared at him, fascinated. "You're smiling when no one is bleeding, your eye isn't popping and you talk normally. What's with that?"

     DeMartino shrugged. "Well, Mr. Lane, Would you have paid any attention at all if I wasn't such an entertainingly sarcastic fellow? Look at O'Neill. He bursts into tears to get your... the classes attention. In this day and age an effective educator has to have an act. Mine is the insanely evil incipient heart attack victim."

     Trent shook his head in admiration. "God, but you're good. You fooled every last one of us."

     DeMartino shrugged, modestly. "Here's a trivia question. What was the Magna Carta?"

     "The first document of the English constitution. It guaranteed in writing the traditional rights of the Lords and commons. King John signed it to get money to bail out his brother, Richard the Lion Heart who as being held for ransom in Germany." Trent's eyes widened in amazement. "I can't believe that I still know that."

     DeMartino smirked. "I guess it works, Mr. Lane. You win a free beer! Never say that your education was worthless." He set it up.

     Trent laughed. "Thanks. Call me Trent. Mr. Lane is my Granddad." Trent sipped his beer.

     DeMartino nodded. "My beertender handle is Tony. If you don't mind me asking, what the hell are you doing here in Looserville, Trent?"

     Trent laughed. "Home sweet home. Well Tony, I'm still trying to decide what I'm going to be, when I grow up."

     Tony shrugged. "Join the club. Having problems?"

     Trent told him about Daria, the band, his sorry lifestyle and the rank unfairness of it all.

     Tony smiled sympathetically, shocking Trent. "I can see how Daria could be a powerful inducement to get your shit together. So, you're looking for career advice then."

     Trent shrugged. "I guess."

     "Can you still do that thing with the dimes?" Tony slid three over to him.

     In class, Trent used to put three dimes on his fingernails and then using only the back of one hand, juggle them. It had always mesmerized DeMartino.

     "Sure." Trent started flipping the dimes around.

     DeMartino marveled again at the strength, coordination and dexterity in the long, thin fingers. "Will you give what I tell you some thought before dismissing it out of hand?"

     Trent caught the dimes and set them on the bar. "So long as you don't say cop or teacher, sure. I don't know what the hell to do. Just fire away."

     "With hands like that, you were born to be a surgeon, Trent." Tony smirked at Trent's shock. "I can help you figure out how to make it all happen, if you like. I've got connections that you wouldn't believe. In eight years you can be Dr. Lane, the brilliant young intern."

     "Eight years!" Trent shuddered.

     DeMartino laughed. "Eight years is an eyeblink, Trent. On the other hand, in eight years you could be a truck driver or a bartender."

     Trent nodded slowly. "Why would you want to help me? It's not like I was your favorite student or something."

     DeMartino shrugged. "Are you sure about that? Maybe I spent all that time yelling at you for a reason. The naturals like Daria are most teachers favorites, but the ones with hidden potential are the real challenge. Let's just say, for old times sake, Trent." DeMartino would never say it, but he didn't have any children of his own. His students would be his only legacy. That's why he never gave up and let the unmotivated bright ones like Trent slide, like so many of his colleagues did.

     Trent stared into his beer for a time, thinking. Then he picked up a dime. "You call it."


     Trent flipped the coin.

     "Get off of me! I said NO!" Daria gasped and grabbed at his hand as it slid under bra.

     "C'mon, Daria. You know that you want it." Dave had stoked up in the men's room before they left the theater. He snaked his other hand through her defenses and stroked her crotch.

     Daria gasped. "God dammit! I said leave me alone!" Daria pulled away, feeling her bra give way. Desperately she fumbled at the door handle.

     "Woah, hey, we're a long way out, Daria. You might want to think-"

     She slammed the door in his face. "Stay away from me, you creep!"

     "Suit yourself, dyke!" He pulled out, angrily. Who did the little bitch think she was? Did she think that he was dating her to listen to her bullshit conversation? He had lots of girls. It wouldn't be the same as copping a cherry, but he'd just go visit sure-thing Sharon tonight.

     "Bastard!" Daria shouted after him and then looked around. It was already dusk and she was up on lookout point, a good fifteen miles from home. "Oh, hell."

     Someone cleared their throat.

     Daria spun around to find an embarrassed looking Upchuck standing there by the slope on the other side of the road, nervously poking at the ground with a gnarled, club-like, stick.

     "Uhm, hi, Daria." He cleared his throat again. "I was just up here doing some... nature photography and I couldn't help but notice that you seemed to be in a little trouble."

     She looked more closely at him. He was dirty, his clothes were torn and he had leaves and brush entangled in his shoes and hair. "So you grabbed a club and came running straight down the mountainside."

     Embarrassed, he threw the stick away. "Ah, well, you know, I just...was going that way." He shrugged again. "Can I offer you a lift home, Daria?"

     She smiled at him. "Yes, you may... Charles."

     Helen listened for a car outside and worriedly rubbed her forehead. Eldon had proposed her for partner and with his support things were certain. She sighed. Maybe it was time to find a new firm. She'd worked like a machine for two years, bringing in new clients of her own and forging lucrative new ties for the firm with Jake's clients. In all that time she'd gotten no recognition at all. Then Eldon's ne'er-do-well grandson had looked at Daria and suddenly Helen was a rising star. No firm run on that kind of caprice could be healthy. Today, desperately uneasy with the situation, she had sneaked a peek into the confidential files and seen the firm's record of its successful defenses of young David on a number of drug, theft and at least one rape charge. The lawyers in the cases had clearly believed him guilty.

     Helen squared her shoulders, totally resolved. She fully intended to make Daria break it off tonight, Eldon be dammed. Daria was too good for his worthless grandson, as Mara had hinted.

     The Volvo pulled up and Daria smiled at Charles again. "You know, this isn't the first time that you've saved the day for me. Thank you." She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "Nature photography aside, you'd better watch out, Charles. People might figure out that you're actually a pretty nice guy."

     He grinned at her. "I can't have that, Daria. I want to get laid, someday."

     She laughed and ran her hand over his cheek. "Trust me on this, Charles. Let the real you show a little and you'll have girls jumping out of the bushes at you. "

     He smiled, a little sadly. "But not you."

     She shrugged. "I'm a bit stuck on someone right now."

     He nodded. "The guy from the swap meet."

     She smiled ruefully and got out of the car. "That does seem to be the case. Bye and thanks again." She closed the door.

     He started his car. "Hey, anything for a friend." He pulled away, feeling like something had subtly changed for him, somehow.

     Helen laid in to her the minute she opened the door. "Daria! I don't want you seeing David any more. He has a criminal record."

     "Okay." Daria walked over to the refrigerator to get herself some iced tea.

     "Now I know that it might seem unreasonable... What?" Helen, expecting fireworks, was dumbfounded.

     "I said, okay. David is history. A discarded footnote along a back alley off of memory lane. Gone and hopefully forgotten. In short, Mom, your dutiful daughter fully intends to obey your parental directive without undue fuss or backtalk." She smirked at Helen's mind-blown expression.

     Helen sighed with relief. "Thank god. That boy is twisted."

     Daria looked at her with concern. "I know that his Grandfather seemed to be pretty up on us getting together. Will this... breakup cause you problems at work?"

     Helen had never liked to sugarcoat things for her daughters. "I don't know, Daria. Eldon's a powerful and strange old man. He seems to think that he can control people through money. Maybe he's right most of the time, but not me. If he puts pressure on me to pressure you, I'll quit. I can start again at any lawfirm in town. Maybe I should, anyway."

     Daria thought, hard. "Well, don't say anything to him. It's none of his business. I have the feeling that David's on thin ice there, anyway. I'll bet that Eldon won't hear a word from David about it. Just smile at him and say that I never talk about things like that. When you're a partner you can let him know, if you want." She smiled. "Just say that I'm busy picking a college. He's nagging David to go back and finish, so that'll distract him."

     Helen considered. Partnership in the firm was a deeply coveted thing. Most associates lasted about two years. She was at the point of either being invited in or being told to peddle her papers elsewhere. She could easily find a new job, but she would never get rich. Partnership in the firm meant almost certain wealth and a comfortable life for the whole family. Jake made good money, but his business was so chancy that she'd never been able to believe in it as a solid vehicle to wealth. "Okay, Daria. I'll play it your way, for now."

     Jane woke up and yawned. She looked at the clock. It was almost noon. She'd been up late, reading internet fan fiction Sunday night. She had a hunch about one particularly good author. The heroine was suspiciously like Melody Powers and the prose seemed familiar.

     She threw on some clothes and shuffled down the stairs into the kitchen, nodded at Mr. DeMartino and poured herself a cup of coffee. As she was greedily absorbing the life giving fluid, her eyes widened, she choked and sprayed a mouthful of coffee into the sink.

     Jane whirled around, mouth agape. "You!"

     DeMartino laughed. "Good morning! Ready for a pop quiz, Ms. Lane?"

     "Am I actually awake here?" Jane rubbed her eyes. When she looked up he was still there.

     He laughed again. "Don't worry, Ms. Lane, I'm not a figment of your imagination."

     "But... why are you here?" Jane refilled her cup. "Coffee?"

     "Yes, please. I take it black, no sugar. I'm here helping your brother," He suddenly remembered that he'd taught more than a few Lanes. "Trent, chart a course through the rocks and shoals of academia." DeMartino took a coffee cup from her.

     "Trent? You're helping Trent? With college?" Jane saw the stack of catalogs, financial aid forms and brochures on the table and gasped. She wondered again if she was dreaming.

     DeMartino took a sip of the coffee and his eyes widened in appreciation. "This could peel paint off of a battleship! Good coffee, Ja- Ms. Lane."

     Jane swallowed. This guy wasn't at all like he should be. "You can call me Jane."

     DeMartino shook his head. "If you don't mind, I'll stick to calling you Ms. Lane. I might forget next quarter and call you Jane. You might get singled out as a teachers pet and I might hesitate to yell at you if you need it." He smiled. "But the sentiment is appreciated."

     Trent came down the stairs. "I found those transcripts. They- Oh. Hey, Jane."

     "What's going on here, Trent?" Jane meant to get to the bottom of this.

     Trent shrugged. "It's called getting a life, Jane. I'm going to college."

     Jane stared at him like a jack in the box had just sprung out of his head. "But what about your musical career? What about your band?"

     Trent laughed. "Mystik Spiral is and will always remain a townie cover band, just like Daria said, Jane. I'm not going to stop playing. I'm going to practice a lot and try to join a better band in college. It'll really help pay my way."

     DeMartino cleared his throat. "Sometimes, Ms. Lane, one has to put one's own future first. Those three are all good men, but your brother is acute enough to see that he is the engine of their motivation. Without his leadership, they would have long since drifted away and found their own destinies. Trent has recognized that he will never be able to lift himself out of obscurity while carrying their dead weight."

     Trent nodded and sighed. "Jesse, Max and Nick aren't really serious about music, Jane. They all have jobs and lives here in Lawndale. Even Jesse is working in his dad's muffler shop. I'll find them a replacement lead and a new place to practice before I go. They're great guys, but I just can't let them hold me back anymore."

     Jane suddenly lit them up with a brilliant smile. "Good! For the record, I agree. Hey! Maybe we'll go to the same school, sometime!"

     Trent laughed. "I sure hope so, Jane."

     DeMartino eyed her speculatively. "Do you really want to go to college, Jane?"

     Jane glanced at Trent, swallowed and nodded.

     "Well, right now is the time to start the process, J- Ms. Lane. Tell me, what do you want to do?" DeMartino knew that she probably didn't really have a clue.

     Jane shrugged. "I want to be an artist, but I doubt if I could learn much from college. I spent every summer of my life except for this one at Mom's art colony in Santa Fe. I've been tutored by the best."

     "The arts are a booming field, Jane. Every product on the market has its final form designed by an artist. And those artists are well paid. Very well paid." He shuffled out a catalog. "Take a look at that. The Ventura academy has a huge industrial design program. All of the grads are hired." He smirked, looking more like the DeMartino that she knew from school. "But first, Ms. Lane, you'll need a good four year degree to get in. You'll really need to buckle down this year to get there."

     Jane was absorbed in the brochure. "I see that I do. Maybe Daria can help."

     Daria left the city library, her new name tag slipped neatly into a pocket. She'd seen a help wanted sign, impulsively applied that morning and found herself a city employee before lunch. Mrs. Appleton had put her to work right away, thrilled that she didn't have to train the new girl. There was nothing about the operation of a library that Daria hadn't known since she was a child.

     Walking toward home, she impulsively detoured toward Jane's. It was time to face Trent and apologize for her childishness. At the very least, she owed him an explanation for the way that she had been avoiding him. It was a weekday, so he was probably in the basement, practicing.

     She arrived at the front door and knocked, hesitantly.

     Trent opened the door and they just looked at each other for a minute.

     Trent finally cleared his throat. "Hey, Daria. Jane went to the store. She took my car, so she should be back pretty soon."

     Daria smiled at him. "I came to see you."

     Trent's face lit up. "Come on in!"

     Still smiling, somehow knowing that everything would be alright between them, Daria stepped through the door.



The End!

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