Disclaimer: Daria and associated characters are owned by MTV. This is fan fiction written for entertainment only. No money or other negotiable currency or goods have been exchanged.
This is the eleventh John Lane story
A Mirror of Future Fears
Daria Morgendorffer shook her head as she neared the front door of her home. "I don't think you've thought this through. A thousand Elvis impersonators in one place could collapse into a black hole."
Holding her hand as he walked beside, John Lane said, "But then, nobody could say my art didn't make a mark on the world."
Daria opened the door and they could hear her mother say, "Rita, that's so wonderful. I still can't believe Erin's getting married."
Daria said, "Oh, no. This is going to be bad."
"Mom's talking to Aunt Rita."
"I've seen my Uncle Max on a bender, can't be much worse."
Daria shook her head and continued into the house. "Don't bet on it."
In the kitchen, Helen scribbled on a notepad as she talked on the telephone. "There's a branch here in town; they won't have any problems...Don't worry, Rita, it's not an issue...That's right...I assume Mother's paying for this...Oh, no...not at all."
They skirted around Helen and stopped by Daria's father. Jake carefully said, "Your cousin Erin is getting married."
Daria said, "We heard." To John, she added, "Rita's only child, about Trent's age."
Jake leaned between them. "It's gonna hit the fan this time."
"Okay, I'll let everyone know...Bye." Helen turned off the phone and sat at the table with them. "Well, Rita's precious Erin is getting married." Dropping in clear resentment, she continued by saying, "At the Windsor Hills Resort in Leeville."
Jake whistled and exclaimed. "That'll...Rita's not paying for this, is she?"
Helen growled, "No, Mother is." She shifted to a mock-sweet voice. "Nothing but the best for her favorite granddaughter."
John whispered to Daria, "This is where it starts to get bad, right?"
Daria replied, "Oh, Mom's just getting started."
Dreamily, Jake mused, "Windsor Hills' legendary thirteenth hole. I can hardly wait."
"Forget it, we're going to a wedding." Helen glared fire at her husband. "No golf."
Quinn walked to the edge of the kitchen, listening.
Daria sat back in her chair. "Too bad we're going to miss it."
In order, Helen locked her eyes on each of the teens. "You're not getting off that easily. I made sure you and Quinn are going to be bridesmaids, and John, a groomsman.
Shocked, Daria blurted, "You didn't."
Grinning with excitement, Quinn said, "What do the dresses look like? Will I need to dye my hair?"
John frowned and eyed the others with concern. "Why is this sounding a lot more complicated than one of Wind's weddings?"
"What do you mean, I can't wear that new suit?" John asked. "Isn't that one of the reasons I got stuck with that thing?"
He stood by his closet, holding up a suit on a hanger.
Daria shook her head. "Sorry. That's part of life. I get to suffer and so do you. At least you only have to rent your tux."
"We never did anything like this for Wind or Summer's weddings."
"You probably wore jeans."
"The ones without holes in them."
"Don't complain. You're still coming out ahead in the deal."
"What a waste of a perfectly good afternoon," John griped as he and Daria walked along a downtown sidewalk.
Daria grumbled, "Fate hates us. Strong-arming us into a wedding party."
"I mean, what are we supposed to do? Stand around like statues?"
"That's about it. Here we are."
They stopped for a moment in front of the bridal shop before going in. Mannequins in gowns sprouted up throughout the store. A slightly elderly saleslady approached from around the sales counter.
She said, "I'm sorry, we only do weddings, not funerals."
"This could be both," Daria said in return.
"You don't have to get married, do you?" The saleslady asked. "Maternity gowns require a special fit."
Daria sighed in frustration. "I've been sentenced to be a bridesmaid in the Chambers-Danielson wedding."
The saleslady walked back to the computer at the sales counter and started to search. "Umm-hmm. Ah, here it is. You'll need to be fitted. If that's possible."
Bored, John sat in a chair outside the fitting room while Daria was inside with the saleslady. He idly flipped through a bridal magazine and muttered, "If they're going to make you wait out here, they should at least have something as interesting to read as in a doctor's waiting room."
A squeaky voice said, "John?"
He looked up to see Brittany Taylor and Jodie Landon entering the store.
At the same time, he and Brittany said, "What are you doing here?"
John said, "You'd never believe me if I said I was trolling for dates."
"We're modeling at the school's bridal expo," Brittany explained.
After a moment, Jodie added, "It's an extracurricular activity fundraiser."
John smirked. "Sounds like some interesting extracurricular activities?"
Brittany asked, "What about you?"
"I'm a cross-dresser. Thought I'd try on something a little more formal than usual."
Brittany stared at him, unsure. "Um...okay?"
Daria crying, "Ouch!" came from the fitting room.
Jodie smiled. "That sounded like Daria. So what's...?"
Brittany exclaimed, "You two are getting married? Wow!"
"No, Brittany," John said and stood up. "Daria's cousin is getting married."
"You're marrying her cousin!" She slapped John on the face. "You...you..."
Jodie grabbed Brittany's arm before she could hit John again. "Brittany, he didn't say he was marrying Daria's cousin."
John rubbed his jaw and moved it back and forth to make sure it was working before saying, "She's a bridesmaid. When we're done here, I get to be fitted for a monkey suit to be a groomsman."
"Oh. Um, I'm sorry," Brittany said.
"Nothing I won't survive."
"What in the hell are you doing!" Quinn shrieked from inside the fitting room.
John, Brittany and Jodie all turned to look at the door. John muttered, "When did she get here?"
Quinn went on with her outburst, "I've got to be seen with her! Not to mention photographed! Daria, you can't go out with the dress fitted like that!"
"Let me guess," Jodie leaned over and said to John, "Quinn's a bridesmaid, too."
John squinted at the directions taped to the mirror and awkwardly pulled a cloth end through a loop to complete the bowtie's knot. "Ugh. Stupid, miserable..."
"Trade ya," Daria said from the room door.
Turning, he saw she was in a well-fitted, pale blue, off-the-shoulder gown. A white accent ribbon rose up from the sides to a bow just below the neckline and matched a triple string of pearls around her neck.
Wow, he thought before saying, "I don't think it would do a thing for me."
"Probably not." She squirmed her torso inside the dress to try to get comfortable. "And I've got to spend the next several hours in it."
"Uh...if it helps, you do look nice in it."
Daria stopped and smiled. "Thanks. Though I have Quinn to thank for it fitting right."
"She was insistent. Jodie and Brittany were very amused."
"Oh, yeah. I loved finding out we had an audience for that."
Behind the wheel of his Lexus, Jake complained, "I wish you'd let me bring my golf clubs."
Helen snapped. "This is my family; we're not here to have fun."
He asked, "Who's Rita with nowadays, anyway?"
"I don't know. She dumped the sculptor. No offense, John."
"None taken," John said, jammed into the backseat between Daria and Quinn.
"And then there was Roger's horrible accident. Oh, yeah, Mother said Bruno was sentenced to fifteen to thirty."
Jake shook his head. "Your sister sure has found some winners."
The car rounded a corner and entered a long driveway leading to a large, red-brick colonial-style resort.
"Wow!" Quinn said in wonder.
John leaned against Daria and said, "Well, Scarlett, how does it feel to return to Tara?"
Daria leaned back against him. "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."
Jake also watched in wonder. "This will cost your mother a fortune!"
Helen sat with her arms folded. "Well, what else should she spend her money on? Something boring, like college funds for her other grandchildren?"
Jake laughed, but it faded. "Dammit!"
Helen looked over her shoulder. "I just keep telling myself that Erin hasn't had the advantages you kids have."
John shrugged. "Hey, I'll take it."
Jake stopped the car in front of the valet parking. He stepped out and handed his keys to the attendant, saying, "This is an expensive vehicle. Be careful with it."
Everyone else stepped out and the attendant sat down, muttering, "Yeah, right," before driving off a little too fast.
A blond woman in a tan and white dress with a wide sun hat waited by the door. The family resemblance to Helen was unmistakable. She said, "Helen!" and opened her arms.
Helen said, "Rita!" The sisters held hands and stiffly leaned toward each other.
Helen stepped aside and Rita said, "How are you, Jake?"
Jake walked up and said, "Well, I'm not that bad..."
Rita cut him off. "Oh, the girls look lovely. And the young man must be John. Nice to meet you."
John nodded. "Hi."
"I'm sorry about the rehearsal dinner, Rita," Helen said. "I had meetings all yesterday afternoon, and by the time I got home..."
Rita motioned through the glass doors and a balding man stepped out. Rita said, "Everyone, this is Paul, my beau."
He said, "Hello."
Jake said in surprise, "Paul Myerson?"
"Jake?" Paul explained to Rita, "Jake and I were in Boy Scouts together." He asked Jake, "Did you bring your clubs?"
Jake grumbled, "No."
Daria whispered to John, "Real winners?"
A red, two-seat sports car rolled to a quick stop. Moments later, a wavy haired brunette wearing black and purple stepped out of the car.
"Okay, who's that?" John asked.
Daria blinked and half-asked, "Aunt Amy?"
Amy Barksdale handed her keys to the attendant and said, "I don't mind a few dents, but change the radio station and you're a dead man."
Rita walked over to the new arrival. "How delightful you made it, Amy. I thought you weren't coming."
Amy said, "I wasn't, but I thought if you two could put aside years of bitterness and resentment, then so can I...for a day."
"Oh, Amy, why do you say such ridiculous things?" Helen asked.
Amy smirked. "Out loud?" She walked between her sisters and said, "So, Jake. You're still with Helen, huh? Shows remarkable fortitude." She turned to Paul. "And Roger. How's the skydiving going?"
John whispered to Daria, "Now that's a Lane-style gaff if I ever heard one."
Helen cleared her throat. "Um, Amy, Roger passed away. This is Paul."
Amy was nonplussed. "Oh, sorry. Paul, how do you do?"
Paul asked, "Who's Roger?"
Quinn replied, "He fell onto a cow."
"Ick!" Paul looked slightly ill.
Daria added, "And he was one of the lucky ones."
"When do I get to hear about the unlucky ones?" John said with a grin.
Helen chided, "Children."
Amy looked at John. "Helen, I know it's been a while, but I'm reasonably certain you never had twins or a third pregnancy. Where'd the spare kid come from?"
"Amy, this is John." Helen put a hand on his shoulder. "Jake and I are his guardians."
Quinn moved close to Amy. "And Daria's live-in boyfriend."
Helen sharply said, "Quinn!"
Amy raised an eyebrow at Daria's bright blush. "So, Daria. Grabbing 'em while they're young?"
John held out his hand. "Hi. Trust me, it's weirder than it sounds, but we..."
Amy shook his hand and said, "Don't ask, don't tell. But I'll warn you, kidding is fair game. Anyway, John, Daria, I like your attitudes."
Rita tapped Amy's shoulder. "I hope we can find someplace to seat you."
Amy started toward the door. "I'm sure we can find something. A pillow on the floor will be sufficient."
After Rita and Paul followed Amy inside, Helen said, "I need a drink."
Hearing Jake's chuckles, she said, "Why are you laughing?"
Following them in, John said, "Yep, you do have a weird family."
Daria rolled her eyes. "And they're still playing nice."
Distant thunder sounded just before the door closed.
They passed through the lobby of the resort and beyond to a large garden. The wedding party and guests were gathered under a large pavilion. Daria pointed to three women, one blonde, one short-haired brunette and a second brunette with a pony tail in bridesmaid dresses.
"They might have a clue of where we're supposed to go."
They could hear the blonde say in a southern accent, "Oh, don't you see? A little rain won't spoil the happiest day of Brian and Erin's life. It may rain out there, but in here, the sun will be shining."
"We are now entering hell," Daria said. "Please keep your hands and elbows inside the car."
The same bridesmaid said, "You must be Erin's cousins, and that poor boy your parents took in. What happened?"
Daria answered, "John's in the witness protection program. Mom and Dad took him in after his family was killed by art smugglers."
The two other bridesmaids stepped back once. The blonde looked uneasy, but kept up a brave front. "The rehearsal dinner was so much fun; too bad you missed it. Now Daria, John will be your escort. Quinn, let me introduce you to yours."
She walked Quinn over to an awkwardly tall young man with curly brown hair piled high on his head. "Quinn, this is Luhrman. Luhrman, this is Quinn."
Luhrman slowly said, "How do you do, Quinn."
"Oh. Um, hi." Quinn shuffled her feet. "Could you please get me a soda with just a tiny slice of lemon?"
He shrugged. "I suppose."
"Hmm." John nudged Daria and pointed to Quinn. "She doesn't look too happy."
"But you noticed he's still getting her a soda."
Adjacent to the pavilion, numerous wooden folding chairs faced a white gazebo. The minister stood upon the steps while the bride and groom stood before him. Along Erin's side, the bridesmaids, led by the blonde maid of honor, were lined up with Daria at the back. Along the groom's side, the groomsmen were similarly lined up, with John also at the back of the line.
While the minister droned on, John thought, How long is this going to take? This must be an endurance test to see if the bride and groom can tolerate being close to each other for extended periods of time.
A chuckle from Daria caught his attention, followed by a whispered, "It was her."
On the edge of his vision, John noticed Amy innocently looking upward. She saw him looking and shrugged just as Helen reached behind Jake and tapped her shoulder, tersely saying in a low voice, "Amy!"
Seated near one end of the wedding party table, John's stomach growled as he stared at his emptied plate. That wasn't enough to feed a hamster. And what was that cake frosting made out of? Lard?
Daria fought back a yawn. "I don't know if I can take much more of this excitement."
"What else is there to do?"
Cheery, Quinn chimed in from his other side, "Oh, there's still the first dance...and throwing the bouquet...and throwing the garter...and the big exit..."
Luhrman mumbled something incomprehensible.
Quinn asked him, "What did you say?"
"Just some idle chitchat," he said without enthusiasm. "Would you like another soda?"
"I think I need to use the restroom," Quinn said and stood before rapidly heading away.
He shrugged. "Or perhaps I'll drink a bottle of drain cleaner." After seeing Daria and John's stare, he added, "Please be assured that my remark was intended in jest and not as an indication of any type of self-destructive behavior."
Daria said, "You're not a local, are you?"
"So, how did you get recruited into this gig?" John asked.
"I'm still trying to figure that out. Maybe I did something very bad in a previous life."
Both grinning, the newlyweds came over to the table. Erin said, "Daria, there you are! I can't believe I didn't get to see you before the wedding!"
Daria plainly said, "It was a lovely ceremony."
"And you must be John! How are you?"
He nodded. "I'm fine."
Erin smiled even wider. "And this is Brian. Isn't he marvelous? He works for the government." In a whisper added, "Intelligence."
Half-annoyed, Brian said, "Erin!"
"I know, I know, I'm not supposed to say anything," she said to placate Brian. To Daria, she said, "But isn't it exciting?"
"If our national security is compromised, you can bet there's a woman at the bottom of it," Brian said with a hint of tiredness.
Erin playfully pushed him. "Oh, you."
Daria rolled her eyes. "Oh, God." Under the table, she tugged on John's hand. "I'm going to the..."
Brian completed the sentence, saying, "...little girl's room?"
"Yeah, the little girl's room." She got up and started to walk away. "I promise not to pass on any of the gory details."
John said, "I'll take the chance to go get us some fresh drinks. Nice to meet you."
As John hurried away, he heard Luhrman say, "I'm sorry, what did you say you do? I thought I heard intelligence, but that can't be right."
Nearing the bar, John noticed Jake telling Paul, "Yeah, you mentioned. So, how'd you meet Rita?"
Paul said, "Well, you know, we both love the sea. I have a sailboat."
Jokingly, Jake said, "And she's a little dingy!" Calming, he then said, "I'm kidding, of course."
John said to the bartender, "Two colas."
Paul said conspiratorially, "Well, let's face it. Rita's a little flighty, of course, but she's a tiger in the bedroom."
The bartender opened two soda cans and poured them into glasses. "At least you're not trying to scam me into serving you something I shouldn't."
Jake looked briefly at Helen seated at the end of the bar and said, "Yeah, well, I guess it runs in the family."
Paul laughed. "So, Brian's in for a fun time tonight!"
Jake started to laugh and suddenly stopped, his eyes growing huge.
John rubbed his face with both hands. "Oh, jeez. Here we go again."
"What?" The bartender asked.
"Daria!" Jake looked around the room. "Where's Daria?"
"I better head this off before he blows another vein." John said to the bartender, "Can I leave these here for a minute?"
He shrugged. "Hey, old lady Barksdale's paying for it. If they're not here, I'll pour you more."
John went to Jake. He saw John and grabbed his shoulders, shouting, "Where's Daria?"
"The restroom, Mr. Morgendorffer."
"Where...where have you two been?"
John pointed to the head table. "Sitting over there."
"Where were you before that!"
"With the rest of the wedding party, standing like a bunch of statues."
"Then you haven't....?"
"Oh!" Jake calmed. "Oh. Um, sorry, John."
"Why don't you go grab another drink and I'll go get Daria. We can talk then."
"Yeah, another drink. That might be a good idea."
Helen's voice called out over the crowd noise, "Waiter! More wine, please."
"Or, you can go check on Mrs. Morgendorffer."
"Maybe you're right."
John hurried to grab the sodas, muttering, "I hope we can stay the night. They're both too ripped to drive home."
John was marginally surprised to see Daria and Amy exit the restroom together. He said to them, "Should I be worried?"
Amy smiled. "Don't worry, kid. The sarcasm is strong in you, too."
"Daria, be careful. Your Dad's gone paranoid about us again."
Daria sagged. "Crap. What set him off?"
"Talking with your Aunt Rita's boyfriend."
Amy rubbed her forehead. "Let me guess, they started comparing notes."
John made a queasy face. "Yeah."
Amy sighed. "Boys and their toys."
Daria frowned, "Thanks for that wonderful thought."
"John," Amy said. "Where's Jake at now?"
"Daria's Mom was already tying one on pretty good; I directed him that way."
"Look, I'll go play crazy sister and keep them distracted. Knowing Jake, that may be enough to get him to forget."
"Thanks," Daria told her.
John handed Daria her drink. "Yeah, thanks Amy."
Amy waved them back to their table. "I'll catch up with you later."
She watched John and Daria go back to the table with a sly smile. "I notice he still got you a soda." Amy scanned the bar and located her sister and Jake. "Oooh. Helen's on a roll. I may not have to do much."
Later at the table, Daria told the blonde maid of honor, "To be honest, Daphne, we barely have time for anything but the school paper and track, what with our mission and all."
"Oh? What do you do?" Daphne asked.
John said, "We're trying to track down my parent's killers."
Rita walked over to the table. "Come on, girls. It's time to catch the bouquet."
The other bridesmaids eagerly moved to the center of the room while Daria remained seated. Rita said, "You too, Daria."
"Only under protest," Daria said as she got up.
Rita checked around. "Where's Quinn?"
Daria pointed a thumb at the passage to the restrooms. "Last I saw, the minister was hitting on her."
Rita's face pinched in frustration. "Dammit! Sean promised he was going to behave today." She spun around and stomped over to where Daria had indicated.
"Another ex-boyfriend of hers?" John asked.
"Who knows. Let's hope this is over soon." Daria joined the rest of the single girls and women gathered together.
Not long after, Quinn appeared looking over her shoulder and stopped next to Daria. "Boy is Rita mad."
"You really shouldn't encourage older guys like that. You could get into real trouble," Daria said.
"Like I would be interested in someone like him? I was only listening and waiting for Luhrman to come looking for me."
"Quinn, Luhrman hasn't moved from his chair. I don't think he's that impressed with you."
"Not impressed? How could he..."
"God, I really hate this part," Amy grumbled. She stood behind Daria and Quinn and placed a hand on each girl's shoulder. "Do you understand the concept of human shields?"
Daria pivoted her head to half-face Amy. "We've just been volunteered, haven't we?"
Quinn asked, "Don't you want to catch it, Aunt Amy?"
"Not particularly. It would only get Mother, Rita and Helen restarted...and I don't want to go there."
Erin turned her back on the group. "Ready?"
The other bridesmaids and several others shouted, "Ready!"
"Here goes." Erin tossed the bouquet over her shoulder toward the crowd. Despite high heels and fancy dresses, many of the women jumped and clawed over each other for the flying flowers. Amy gently pulled Quinn and Daria away from the slower ones ricocheting off the mass of bodies and stumbling back.
In the center, Daphne held the prize up tightly clenched in her fist. "Yes!" Several other girls glared at her.
Daria looked at a woman sitting on the floor at her feet. "Now wasn't that a dignified display of ladylike charms."
Rita shooed them with her hands. "Okay, okay. Time for the garter. Gentlemen, please."
"Oh, boy," Luhrman said to John. "Time to be targets for elastic-propelled lingerie."
Daria, Quinn and Amy walked over. Amy pointed a thumb over her shoulder. "Move it guys. This is equal opportunity embarrassment."
Unenthused, John followed Luhrman over to the group of young men facing where Erin was seated on a folding chair. Brian knelt in front of Erin and gave the gathered men a crooked grin. He rolled Erin's skirt up to her knee and reached in, much farther than a garter would normally be worn.
Erin blushed and said, "Brian!" in a harsh whisper.
He grinned back and slid the garter down her leg. He stood and twirled it around his finger. "Who's the next victim?"
He turned his back to the men and stretched the garter back like a slingshot. Brian released the band and it flew in an uneven arc toward the open space that had appeared as guys stepped aside. John watched as it ignominiously landed on the floor near his feet.
The best man slapped John on the back, causing him to stumble forward. The best man said, "Dude, you're the closest."
Another groomsman said, "If nobody's dumb enough to catch the garter, it goes to who it hits or lands closest to." He tapped John's chest. "Tag, you're it."
The best man and his friends laughed loudly and headed for the bar. John reached down and picked up the garter. "Now what?"
"Be glad he didn't follow one of the older customs of removing it with his teeth." Luhrman said in a deadpan.
"So, it turns out that you could go through training and be fully qualified in three months," Daria said with a straight face, "Now I'm just waiting for my green beret."
The other bridesmaids watched her, wide-eyed. Daphne said, "Wow. Is that true?"
Quinn struggled to conceal a smile and hid behind her soda glass so the others wouldn't see her. John couldn't contain his amusement and chuckled. The three girls stared at him.
Daria sighed and said, "No, it's not true. We made it up. John's parents are still alive..."
"Though not necessarily on this planet," John slipped in. "We're not trained commandos, and we never met the Prince of Atlantis."
The three young women whispered among themselves in careful consultation before the short-haired brunette said, "We decided we'd better not talk to you two anymore."
In mock surprise, Daria said, "What?"
The pony-tailed brunette said, "We like you, but..."
Daphne said, "Ya'll have problems."
After they were gone, Quinn broke out in laughter. When she finally stopped, Quinn had to wipe her eyes. "Daria, that was freakin' hilarious. How long did it take you to write that?"
Daria off-handedly said, "I made it up as I went along, using John and Luhrman's embellishments."
John smirked. "No, Quinn. Daria's good at telling a story on the run. I've almost ruined a couple paintings because I was laughing so hard at what she made up about them."
"I've done it for a long time," Daria explained. "Lots of practice."
"It sounds like you kids are enjoying yourselves way too much," Amy told the teens. "This is a Barksdale wedding. Nobody's here to have fun."
John said, "Daria, didn't your mother say something like that in the car?"
"Quinn," Daria asked, "You've actually sat with us for the last half-hour. What's going on?"
Quinn smiled. "Can't I just hang out with my...sister, for a while?"
"From the tone of Daria's voice," Amy said, "That sounds as likely as me hanging out with one of my sisters."
John said, "I'm a little surprised you didn't leave with Daphne and her crew."
Quinn stared at him. "Jo-hn! They have to be as dim as Kevin Thompson to fall for Daria's story."
"You and Luhrman haven't exactly hit it off," Daria observed. "So why aren't you targeting the other groomsmen?"
Quinn pointed to the bar, where the best man and the other two groomsmen were barely succeeding at staying on their stools. "They're doing tequila shots. Pretty soon, they're going to...eww. This is a pretty dress and I want to keep it that way."
Daria nodded. "So, you're stuck with us. What if your friends find out?"
"Like, who's going to tell them?"
"She has a point," John said. "They'd never believe us."
Luhrman slowly sipped from his drink and then said, ""I'm sure we could find somebody to take photos."
A loud slap resonated through the hall and everyone looked in that direction. Amy quietly said, "And so it begins."
The minister stumbled backward into the room with Helen stalking after him, furious. "One word out of you and it'll take them ten years to dig your ass out from under the court papers!"
Rita and Erin ran over to the disruption. Rita yelled, "What's going on?"
Helen continued to bear down on the minister. "I don't care if you dated my sister three years ago! I'm not interested!" She faced Rita. "Jake was right! You sure have picked some real winners!"
"Mother!" Erin shrieked. "You promised me he'd gotten help for that!"
Rita screamed at the minister, "First you hit on my niece, and then her mother! You imbecile!"
Though in different parts of the dance hall, Jake and Helen yelled together, "What?!"
"I'd say it's time to make an inconspicuous exit," Amy told the teens. "I'd recommend someplace with cheese fries, but all of us are not going to fit into my car."
"Go ahead, I'd rather sit here and watch the carnage unfold," Luhrman replied.
"Yeah. It's just like watching a dogfight...except no intelligent life is harmed in the process."
"Okay." Amy started herding Daria, Quinn and John along the edge of the hall. "Time for me to catch up with my nieces and newborn nephew."
They found refuge in the resort's coffee shop. The waiter placed two demitasse cups of espresso down in front of Amy, a cup of hot water and a screen ball of loose-leaf tea in front of Daria, a diet soda for Quinn and a large regular coffee in front of John.
Amy picked up one of the cups and threw it back like a shot of whiskey. "Ah. I needed that."
"Um," John asked as he poured milk into his coffee, "Didn't that hurt?"
Amy chuckled. "After a while, you burn away the pain sensors. Habit I picked up in grad school; great way to wake up after an exceedingly boring seminar."
Daria said, "So, does life continue to be as irritating and embarrassing as high school?"
"Yeah. It just does it in different ways."
John asked, "Have Daria's mom and Rita always been like that?"
"For about as long as I can remember. Rita was the party girl and Helen was Miss Superstudent. Never really appreciated what they had and jealous of the other. Enough of that. My turn. John, what's Daria like?"
"I need three rooms!" Jake yelled at the poor check-in clerk for the resort.
"I'm sorry, sir. I only have two rooms left."
John and the rest had entered the resort after hearing the police cars leave the scene. In relief, he said, "Good. He's not going to try to drive home."
Daria said, "Dad's out and about, let's hope Mom wasn't arrested."
"I need three!" Jake ranted. "One for me and my wife, one for my girls, and one for our boy. Count that, three."
"Wouldn't be the first time she was," Amy softly told them.
Quinn's eyes lit up. "Mom's been arrested before?"
The desk clerk shrugged at Jake. "So your kids share a room. It won't kill them."
"I will not have them sharing rooms!" Jake's face was turning bright red. "They're teenagers, dammit!"
"Ask her about Boulder, Colorado, August nineteen sixty-nine. I better go give your father a hand," Amy said and crossed the room to the desk.
She tapped his shoulder. "Jake, I can help."
"Huh?" Jake turned. "Oh, Amy. You can?"
"Why don't I stay with Daria and Quinn while John uses my room?"
"What? Oh, yeah. Thanks, Amy."
The clerk asked, "Sir, do you want those rooms?"
"Dad, where's Mom?" Daria asked.
Jake spun in surprise. "Kiddo! Are you all right? What did that bastard say to you?"
"That preacher. Stupid..."
"What are you talking about?"
"Did he...um...make any..."
"Dad, I'm all right. Nothing to worry about."
John whispered to Quinn, "You're gonna owe her for that one."
"All of them were with me, Jake," Amy explained. "We went for some coffee."
"Here you are, sir." The clerk placed two key-cards on the desk. "Rooms four-eleven and four-thirteen."
Jake grabbed the key-cards. "Thanks."
The clerk pointed to a sheet of paper and a credit card. "Sir, you need to sign here, and you might want your gold card back."
"Amy!" Helen and Rita called out. Both women were seated on a step in the ball room with an empty bottle of wine on the floor next to them and an almost empty one in Helen's hand.
John turned in astonishment at the completely trashed room. Tables were overturned, chairs broken and the walls stained with thrown food and drinks. I've seen the Zon look better after a rave.
Helen and Rita staggered over to Amy. Helen said, "Amy, I love you!"
Half-crying, Rita said, "I love you, too."
Both hugged Amy, who found herself staggering under the weight of abruptly holding both up. "Uh, could I have a little help here?"
John rushed to support Rita while Daria and Quinn got Helen. He said, "Now what?"
"We pour them into their rooms."
"How do we know which one is Rita's?"
Amy fished around in Rita's purse and pulled out a key-card. "One twenty."
Across the room, they heard Erin yell, "Just where in the hell have you been?"
Brian yelled back, "I went to the bowling alley. It was a lot quieter than your family."
Glad to be out of the tie and jacket, John sat on the bed and looked at the white garter sitting on the dresser. He picked it up and rotated it in his hands while he walked to the window. He leaned his head against the glass and watched the shadows over the resort grounds.
A light moved out on the golf course. Must be Jake. I wonder where he found the clubs and the poor caddy he stuck with a flashlight?
He looked down at the garter. I know Daria would say not to be superstitious. That this doesn't really mean anything. But, it does make me wonder.
A heavy yawn broke his reverie. "Long day. Sleep. Sleep good. Think tomorrow."
Not caring, John didn't bother to undress before crawling into bed. He was asleep mere moments later.
Happier than he thought possible, John allowed himself a moment to look at the angelic figure by his side. Daria wore a delicately cut and shaped silk gown of pure white. The heartfelt joy of her smile meant more to him than anything as he slowly pulled her into a loving embrace.
Just as their lips touched, his Uncle Max yelled from the crowd, "You're a bum!"
His grandmother yelled at Max. "Like you're any better!"
Aunt Bernice hollered, "Shut up or I'll shut you up with a croquet mallet!"
Helen stood and turned to face them. "I'm going to have every one of you in court if you don't keep it down."
"That's it, Helen," Rita said. "Threaten to sue, just like any other problem you have."
"At least it's better than asking Mother to throw her money at the problem!" Helen roared back.
Near the back, his brother Wind pleaded with a pair of police officers, "But if my marriage to Alice wasn't legal because I was still married to Kathy, then how can I be arrested for bigamy?"
Seated on the front row, his mother opened her hands and released a large butterfly.
John sat up and shook his head. "That's it. If we ever get married, nobody's invited."
The drive home the following morning was quiet. Helen slumped against the side window with an ice pack on her head. Jake concentrated on the road and said little. Daria had mumbled something about spending most of the night talking with Amy and dozed against John.
When he carefully put his arm around Daria's shoulders, Quinn grinned and whispered to him, "Mom and Dad might've forgotten, but I remember who ended up with the garter."
"How much for you to keep quiet about it?" he whispered back.
"I'll think about it."
On the television in her room, Daria and John watched a man on a space shuttle launch tower catch a bug with a net.
The announcer said, "Bug collecting at famous locations! Next, on Sick, Sad World!"
Several faint thumps filtered down from the attic.
"Might be raccoons or something," John said. "We had them get in the old house. I'll run up and check."
"Don't tell Dad. He gets on these hunting crazes from time to time. I don't want him stalking raccoons."
"I'll be right back."
John was surprised to see the folding ladder to the attic down in the hall near the stairs. He crept up and looked around. Quinn was sitting beside an open box and looking at something in her lap.
He climbed the rest of the way and went to her. "I wouldn't think you'd be up here, braving the dust."
"When we were little, I used to think Daria was reading to me from this. I'd grab the book and insist on a story. I was kind of a brat that way. But she would, and it was always new." Quinn held up the slender children's book that was in her lap. "But there's only one story in this."
"She said she'd been making up stories for a long time."
"Yeah." Quinn put the book back in the box. "She stopped the stories when Mom went to work and we started into daycare and preschool. I was popular and Daria was teased. It only got worse. I won't even describe how bad it got the last year we were in Highland. And then we moved here and she met you."
Quinn closed the box and grinned. "I've decided what you can do to keep me quiet about the garter."
"Someday, make it happen."
Dialog from I Don't by Peter Gaffney
Thanks to Ipswichfan, Mr. Orange and Kristen Bealer for beta reading.