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 seventeenth John Lane story
"There just seems something inherently wrong with registering for classes during summer," Daria Morgendorffer said as she waited in line at the Registrar's Office of Lawndale Community College.
Behind her in line and quietly admiring her black t-shirt and denim shorts, John Lane said, "It's getting us out of half a day of activities planned by your mother."
"Oh, yeah," Daria replied dryly, "How could I forget?"
"Nail polish fumes from Quinn's room leaking into yours again?"
"We've got to convince my parents to install a fume hood in there."
"Finding one in pink is going to be a problem."
"That's what paint is for. You might know a little bit about that."
"But, what would be my artistic vision for it?"
"Single, instead of double from breathing fumes."
The line shuffled forward and the two followed. Daria pulled at John's black, v-neck shirt and motioned to the other students in line. "Maybe we shouldn't have dressed up."
John looked at the very casual clothes, including beachwear, on display. "Yeah, I feel kind of overdressed. I guess we can make amends tomorrow."
A woman wearing a string-bikini top exited the office and walked past. Daria said, "On second thought, I'm fine the way I am."
Hiding his disappointment, John said, "Yeah, that's not your style."
Comparing their registration receipts as they walked to the bus stop, Daria said, "Not too bad. My Creative Writing class is 9:00 to 9:50 and your Sculpture class is 10:00 to 10:50."
"And, we get high school credit."
"Without darkening the hallowed halls of Lawndale High. Plus, we don't have to show up at Dad's until 1:00 to be his slave labor for the rest of the day."
"Better than getting stuck as PR intern at your Mom's law firm, like Quinn."
"That would be a fate worse than death, but she'll love it. Anyway, taking the bus ride to Dad's into account, we have a good hour and a half to ourselves every day."
"Well, we do need to fit lunch in there somewhere."
"Always thinking with your stomach."
"Better than the other thing guys are always accused of thinking with."
Daria put her arm around his waist. "Good point."
They were startled by a high-pitched "Eap!" from the bus stop, followed by Stacy Rowe complaining to Ted Dewitt-Clinton, "You said nobody would see us here!"
John immediately saw the effect that proximity to Stacy and the rest of the Fashion Club had on Ted. From the designer tennis shirt to his khaki shorts, he looked like he'd stepped off the "Summer Casual" issue of GQ magazine. John said, "Dammit, our cover is blown. Now we'll have to kill you."
Stacy's eyes grew wide as Daria added, "We'll have to wait, too many witnesses here."
Ted shifted his eyes from John to Daria and back before laughing. "You're kidding! That's funny."
Stacy relaxed and moved her hand over her mouth as she giggled.
Daria faced John. "We're losing our touch."
"You'd think that our combined effect would be greater, not less."
Ted laughed again and said, "You two are so funny. Are you taking classes?"
John leaned his head toward Daria, saying, "Creative Writing..." and then leaning his head way from her, adding, "...and Sculpture."
Daria asked, "And you?"
"I'm taking a photography class and Stacy a theater costuming class," Ted answered.
Stacy pleaded, "Please don't tell Quinn you saw me here."
"Saw who here?" Daria replied.
Stacy happily exclaimed, "Thank you!"
They stood in silence until the bus arrived and they filed on, with Ted and Stacy sitting near the front and Daria and John going to the back. As they sat down, John said, "We are losing our touch. You agreed right away."
Daria said, "She might be dressing him up like a Ken doll, but if Ted's getting Stacy more interested in learning, more power to him. With Quinn quietly studying more after her 'brain phase', that's half the Fashion Club secretly going over to the dark side. Why would I stop that?"
John kissed her cheek and said, "I love it when you're evil."
"So, um, what do we do?" Daria asked her father, who was seated on the opposite side of his desk.
"Well, Kiddo, I figure that you'll help with new ideas for the clients," Jake said, and then turned his attention to John, sitting in a chair next to Daria, "And John can do the visuals to present them. I'm sure with your brains and his talent, I can really wow the clients."
John asked, "Okay, so what can we do until then?"
Jake turned his computer monitor to face the teens. "How good are you at Minesweeper?"
Arriving at home, John, Daria and Jake were surprised to see Quinn watching the local television news, while holding the VCR remote at the ready.
John looked around worriedly and said, "Quinn watching the news. Which sign of the Apocalypse was that?"
Daria said, "Can't be sure. Quinn recording the news is a sure sign we've entered an alternate universe."
Quinn smugly said to them, "Ha, ha. I'm going to be on the news tonight."
"That's great!" Jake exclaimed. Suddenly worried, he said, "For what?"
"Oh, I helped Julie, that's my boss at Mom's work, do a press conference. She says I have a real camera presence."
"In other words, you're cute," John said.
"Well, duh." Quinn responded. "With a little makeup, I'm sure Daria would look good on camera, too."
"I'll pass. Wouldn't want you accused of nepotism," was Daria's reply.
"Oh! There it is!" Quinn shouted and pushed the start button.
On the TV, Quinn stood with a young blonde in her mid-twenties and read several prepared statements in response to questions.
Talking on the cordless phone, Helen Morgendorffer entered the room while saying, "Of course we're recording it. We'll have a copy ready when you get here. Should I also make a copy for you to take back to Rita?"
Daria sidestepped next to John. "Uh-oh, that doesn't sound good."
Helen said, "We'll be waiting. Okay, good bye, and we'll see you then."
Quinn turned off the recording and said, "I'm going to be famous."
John said, "Quinn, except for maybe Jodie Landon, I doubt if anyone you know watched that."
Not missing a beat, Quinn said, "Then I'll just have to make copies!"
"Speaking of copies," Helen said. "I need you to make one for your grandmother and Aunt Rita."
Jake grinned. "Hey, you can make one for my mother, too!"
John asked Daria, "Is this sounding like what I think it is?"
"Pretty sure." Daria said to Helen, "Is Grandma Tess coming to visit?"
Jake's face drained of color.
"She'll be here Friday."
Jake dropped heavily onto one of the sofas. "Friday?"
"Yes Jake, Friday. She wants to meet John, since she was sick and missed Erin's wedding."
John asked, "Me?"
Stepping off the bus the following morning, Daria asked John, "So, what are you going to be up to while I'm in class?"
He held up a sketchpad. "Thought I'd hang around the Student Union and watch the freak show."
"Isn't that where they're having the Student Activities Fair?"
"Yep. I can sit back and watch the moochers ignore the club tables while getting to the free food."
"Which, I'm sure, you plan to partake in."
"Just getting into the college spirit."
"I've always wondered about college spirits. Where do they come from? Do they run classified ads in the cemetery?"
John grinned at the idea forming in his mind. "Zombies in the Student Union. Thanks."
"Let me know how fresh the brains are."
"Sure. What about you? Any plans while I'm in class?"
"Check out the library and hope the roof isn't about to collapse."
Leaning back in a chair set against a wall, John quickly drew different students entering the activity fair, while thinking, These people really give new definition to "summer casual."
The other students milled around tables, munched on the cheap snacks provided and talked. At sixteen, he felt a little out of place among the older students, but knowing Daria was also on campus prevented the feeling of loneliness that he'd felt on campus the year before during his life drawing class.
A sudden influx of new students made John check his watch. "Oops, better get going." He closed his notepad and dropped the chair onto the floor before heading off to the Liberal Arts Building.
Inside the assigned room, several students were already seated, ranging in age from early twenties to mid or late sixties. John took a seat and waited as several more students filed in.
At exactly 10:00, a large woman with blond hair entered and said, "Hey everybody, I'm Shirley Miller and I'm here to teach you how to take it off or put it on to get the shape you want."
She's either going to be interesting, or I'm going to want to kill her within an hour.
"Not a problem; that's what I'm here for," Daria said to the rotund man with a bad hairpiece seated at her father's desk.
"Thanks, Daria," Jake said.
"Sure, Dad." Daria turned and walked back to the desk she shared with John.
As she neared it, Daria quietly said to him, "Somehow, I vaguely feel dirty." When the telephone rang, she added, "Your turn. I answered it yesterday."
He watched Jake excitedly talking with the client for a second before picking up the phone. "Morgendorffer Consulting."
A man's voice said, "Jake?"
"He's with a client, can I help you?"
"Well, um, tell Jake that Tiffany's Dream was pulled from the third when the owner's daughter wanted to ride the filly with her friends instead. That bumped the odds for Dancing With Dogs to 3:2."
"Uh, sure. I'll make sure he gets the message." John hung up the phone and stared at it. "Gee, I wonder if Jake will take us on one of those field trips."
"That must've been his bookie."
"Oh. Is he threatening to break Dad's leg?"
"Nah, just a change of odds. Um, didn't Quinn say that she was going horseback riding with the Fashion Club this afternoon?"
"Since when do you pay attention to things like that?"
"I think I just found out how Tiffany's dad paid for the horse."
"Keep that on file. Back to where we were before Dad interrupted. Mrs. Sanger sounds like she knows her stuff."
"Unlike the faculty at Lawndale High."
"Exactly. Gives me hope that college will be a step up from high school."
John nodded. "Same here, if I can survive Mrs. Miller's puns."
"John!" Jake called from the desk. "You're my Visual Design Intern, come take a look at the new logo Mr. Boswick came up with for his restaurant, Oscar's Wieners."
"Be right there," John said to Jake, and then whispered to Daria, "Wish me luck."
"You're gonna need it," she whispered back.
John looked at the design and said, "You might run into a little trouble with the Academy if you use their trophy design like that."
Mr. Boswick frowned. "I'm trying to play off my name."
Oscar. I never would've guessed. On the same sheet of paper, John talked as he sketched. "But, if you change the design a little, add the hot dog here, and, hmm...here, maybe put a smile on the trophy's face."
"Oooh, that's great." Mr. Boswick rose and shook Jake's hand. "Mr. Morgendorffer, you've got a deal."
"I do? Oh, yeah, a pleasure doing business with you," Jake replied, coming out of his confusion.
"Wish I could find interns who think like that," Mr. Boswick added.
John went back to the shared desk and sat down, looking at his hand. "Yeah, I feel kind of dirty, too."
"And we have a whole summer of this to look forward to."
"I hope your dad doesn't get the bright idea to ask Trent for jingles."
Daria sternly looked into his eyes. "Don't even think it."
"Mo-om, why can't we put Grandma in Daria's room?" Quinn plaintively asked Helen.
Helen looked at the gray padding in her oldest daughter's room and sighed. "Because I'd never hear the end of it. Daria, your door stays closed, and John, I'm asking you not to be in there while my mother is visiting."
Still fighting for her territory, Quinn suggested, "What about John's room? That's where you put the Yeagers."
"That's right. Now, it's your turn," Helen retorted. "You can stay with Daria in her room."
Daria asked, "Why can't Quinn sleep on the sofa like John did?"
Helen glared back at Daria. "Because it wouldn't be proper. Quinn stays in your room, and that's final."
"Mom, what about my clothes?" Quinn demanded.
"Just move what you need for the weekend over to Daria's closet."
"There's not enough room!"
"Quinn, her closet's only half full."
Daria said, "I prefer to think of it as half empty."
Quinn threw her hands up. "Like I said, there's not enough room!"
Hands on her hips, Helen addressed Quinn. "Mother's going to be here tonight and I want things ready for her, so get what you want to wear over the weekend moved before we leave for the office."
"Quinn, it's only one weekend. You can survive on half a closet worth of clothes."
"If you want any more space, you'll have to negotiate a deal with Daria for it."
Seeing Daria's predatory smile, Quinn capitulated. "Okay, half a closet it is."
"Jake, not now. You can have the martinis after Mother's gone to bed."
Jake clutched the full pitcher in both hands like a teddy bear and pleaded with his eyes.
She held firm. "Later. I promise."
Reluctant, Jake put the mixed drink in the refrigerator. "You promise."
"Yes dear, after Mother goes to bed. Now please, let me finish dinner."
Sitting on the sofa with Daria next to him, John said, "I can't believe your Mom kicked me out of the kitchen."
Daria said, "When Mom's on one of her 'I have to cook to show how good of a mother I am' frenzies, it's safer to just stay away. Far away."
John shrugged and scratched Zachary's head. The cat purred and tilted his head to direct John's attention to just the right spot. John said, "At least we don't have to lock you two up this time."
On the television, an announcer said, "Dresses for Chickens? Those are some Grade 'A' Fancy Eggs, next on Sick, Sad World."
Quinn looked closely at the televised image and said, "Eww. That dress is so last year. How could she do that to that poor bird?"
Daria shrugged and said, "I suppose it's better than the mosquito control guy a couple months ago that dressed them up as Beefeaters."
John groaned and rubbed his forehead as he recited the tag-line, "Cross-dressing sentinel chickens."
Quinn faced them, trying to figure out if they were kidding or not.
Helen called out, "Change the channel! Mother will be here any minute."
Using the remote to switch to an all-news channel, John asked, "Does she always get like this when her mother visits?"
Jake had entered the living room. Hearing the question, he answered, "Helen's a little on edge since her mother hasn't seen the house. Tess...never cared much for our old house."
Daria said, "Dad, she called it, 'A step up from a cardboard box on the street.'"
Jake coughed and said, "Yeah, something like that. Helen's also a tiny bit concerned about her meeting John."
"Did you warn her I was here?" John asked. "I remember Amy was just a little bit surprised by my sudden appearance at Erin's wedding."
"Oh yes, Tess knows that you're here and she's excited to meet you. But, um..."
"Here it comes," Daria commented. "What did you leave out?"
Quinn giggled. "Grandma doesn't know that you two are an item!"
Commenting after seeing a twitch in Jake's cheek, John said, "Isn't that kind of an important detail to leave out?"
Jake pulled at his shirt collar while explaining, "You see, it's like this. Tess was never happy with Helen and me living together before we got married."
"So John and I will have to pretend otherwise all weekend," Daria summed up.
"Uh, that's right, Kiddo."
"Think you could've given us a little more warning?"
The doorbell rang and all heads turned to the door. Daria added to her statement, "Than just before Grandma arrived?"
Quinn ran for the door. "I'll get it!" She reached the door and swung it open. "Grandma!"
Outside was a well-dressed lady with surprisingly deep red hair. She was slightly stooped with age, but carried herself with dignity. At her feet were two suitcases and walking away was the taxi driver returning to his car. She smiled and said, "Quinn! You look so pretty, as always."
"Thanks, Grandma. Come on in."
Jake appeared behind Quinn and said, "I'll get your bags, Mrs. Barksdale."
She stepped aside and let him through, saying, "Please be careful, between the train and that dreadful driver, I don't know how much damage they've done and they don't need any more."
"I'll take them to your room," Jake replied. As he started up the stairs, John could read his lips saying, "You old bat."
Helen rushed around from the kitchen. "Mother, it's so good to see you. How was your trip?"
"Horrible. The train ride was bumpy and the cab driver was a lunatic."
Helen discreetly embraced her mother. "Oh, that's terrible. But, you're here safe and sound. Dinner will be ready in just a little bit."
Tess returned the gesture. "That's nice. So, where's Daria and this boy you've taken in?"
"That's our cue." Daria stood and pulled John up with her. "Hi, Grandma. This is John."
John waved and said, "Um, hi Mrs. Barksdale."
"You're a handsome young man. Welcome to the family."
Tess said, "And hello, Daria. I was pleasantly surprise by how you looked at Erin's wedding."
"Um, thank you."
"The offer still stands to change your hair."
Daria placed one hand on the bottom edge of her auburn locks. "I'm kind of attached to it."
Jealous at losing a warm lap and attention, Zachary jumped onto the sofa back and stretched.
"What a lovely cat," Tess said.
"And he knows it," Daria confirmed as the feline strutted back and forth.
"They came with me," John said. "That's Zachary, and Taylor's sleeping in the sunlight over by the sliding glass door."
The other cat flicked an ear and slit open one eye at hearing his name, and then decided that sleep was much more important that another one of those strange human gatherings.
Jake came back to the top of the stairs. "You'll be staying in Quinn's room and she and Daria will share."
Slightly irritated, Tess said, "Helen, when you bought the house, you told me you had a spare bedroom."
"It's not spare anymore; I'm using it," John said.
"Oh. Well, that makes sense. Quinn, will you please show me? I'd like to freshen up before dinner."
Quinn waved and said, "Sure, Grandma. This way," and turned to the stairs.
Daria sniffed and said, "I smell smoke."
"Same here," John checked toward the kitchen. "Uh-oh."
Helen followed his gaze and cried out, "Dinner!" before racing back to face the wisps of smoke coming from the stovetop.
Daria said, "Grandma, why don't you finish changing while we figure out if dinner can be rescued, or find out which restaurant still has reservations open tonight."
Fifteen minutes later, Helen breathed a loud sigh. "It took some talking, but I managed to get reservations for six on this short of notice."
Daria said, "Hmm. We haven't been to Pizza Forest in a while."
Quinn frowned and said, "Bite your tongue."
"No, Daria. It's not Pizza Forest. I wanted someplace a little more tasteful for mother."
John said, "In Lawndale?"
"Yes, in Lawndale," Helen confirmed. "We have a reservation for Chez Pierre in one hour. Now, go get ready."
Quinn beamed and said, "Oh, thank you. Grandma will be so thrilled." Bouncing, Quinn went to her room.
Daria turned to John and said, "Chez Pierre?"
John half-smiled and commented, "Just imagine how horrified Quinn will be if any of her Fashion Club friends are there on dates."
Holding back from Helen's red SUV, John asked Daria, "This is going to be a tight fit. Are we sure we want this much family togetherness?"
"Come on, you need to experience a full-blown family outing disaster."
"Didn't the camping trip count as a disaster?"
Daria flashed an odd smile, as if remembering something. John thought, Something I said or did under the influence of those berries is going to come back to bite me, I just know it.
Answering John, she said, "Okay, extended family disaster."
"How about Erin's wedding? It looked like a bomb went off in the hall."
"But, we avoided the worst of the carnage when we made the getaway with Amy." She gently pushed him forward. "March. I'm not getting into that car without backup."
"Ah, now your motives come through."
Helen yelled from the vehicle, "Daria, John! Don't dawdle, or we'll be late."
Still being pushed along by Daria, John asked, "Can I at least ride in the back?"
"Why should you get off easy?"
Speaking in a fake French accent, the maitre d' said, "Follow me."
The Morgendorffers were led to a banquet table that could seat eight. The maitre d' carefully set out menus at six seats before presenting the wine menu to Jake. "Our wines, sir."
"Thanks, my man," Jake said brightly while taking the folder as the maitre d' made a fast exit.
Tess whispered to Helen, "I see his manners haven't improved any."
She answered, "Um, with our busy lives, we hardly get a chance for formal dining. He's just a little out of practice."
John tilted his menu toward Daria. "Um, can you translate? My smattering of Spanish doesn't help much."
On his other side, Quinn said, "I can help."
"You know French?"
"No, but I've had dinner here often enough." She started pointing at menu items. "That's beef with that really good yellow sauce, that's, I don't know - I never order it because it's the cheapest thing on the menu."
Daria said, "That's a steak with wild mushrooms."
"Oh, thanks Daria," Quinn said. Commenting more on the menu, she said, "That's scallops, really fishy."
Daria corrected, "Quinn, that's a petite cut of veal, not scallops."
"Really? Why doesn't it say that?"
"Um, that's what the veau in the name means."
Amused, John watched the two argue over his menu and kept quiet.
Quinn moved down the list, "That's just a soup that tastes like fish for some reason."
"Bouillabaisse is a fish soup."
Quinn rolled her eyes and said, "And that's the pork chops, though you have to order the applesauce separately."
"Quinn, the pork filets are meant to be eaten without applesauce."
"But, they've never said anything when they brought me the applesauce."
"It's their job to provide what you ask for. But, I bet they were laughing their asses off every time they got out of view."
"What about when I said the soup was too fishy?"
"Considering that fish is the main ingredient, probably even more."
Quinn slid back in shock. "No!"
"Sorry," Daria said with a little sympathy.
"From some of Monique's old waitress stories," John said, "they'll do that."
Still in shock, Quinn said, "Oh my God, all of us in the Fashion Club..."
Daria said, "Well Quinn, you now have a choice. Take care not to embarrass yourself anymore, but not tell the rest of the Fashion Club, thus giving you an advantage. Or, tell the others, so that collectively, you're not all embarrassed."
The waiter approached the table and asked the adults, "Will you be ordering from the wine list?"
Tess closed the wine menu and said, "We'll have the Château Orléans 92, please."
"What a wonderful choice, madam," the waiter said as he wrote down the request.
Jake's eye twitched, followed by a muscle in his jaw as he clenched his mouth shut.
John said to Daria, "Why do I have the feeling that's rather expensive wine?"
Quinn replied, "The cheapest wine on the list is something like $25 a bottle."
"And you know this, how?" Daria asked.
"Don't be nosy," Quinn shot back.
"That's gonna cost you," John said.
Quinn looked at her watch. "I don't think so." Leaning behind John, she whispered to Daria, "Don't you usually have a pill to take right about now?"
Daria let a small frown slip. "Deal."
The waiter stepped over to them. "Ladies, gentlemen. What do you wish to drink?"
Daria said, "Hot tea, please."
John said, "Ice tea."
Quinn said, "I'll have a die...uh, just water, thank you."
Daria quietly said, "She learns quickly."
John asked, "Does that mean you're a good influence?"
After the waiter departed, Daria unconsciously felt the birth control pack in her pocket and said, "I'll be back in a minute."
Quinn stood and said, "I'll go with you."
As they walked away, Tess said, "It's nice to see them acting more like real sisters."
John nodded. That is, if real sisters make deals that cause Wall Street brokers to look like lightweights.
Tess turned her attention to John. "So, young man. I understand you're something of an artist."
Please don't take too long.
"Honey, since my mother's our guest, I'll handle the check," Helen said as she intercepted the waiter's hand. She quickly dropped her card onto the tray without looking and said to him, "Thank you."
"I'll be back in a moment, ma'am."
"Good save," John said to Daria, glad that the long dinner and probing questions from Tess were over.
Daria nodded. "Though Dad's going to blow his top when he sees the credit card bill. But by then, Grandma will safely be in another state."
"Too bad we can't be."
"Quit your complaining, you spoiled brats," John said to the pair of cats twining around his feet. After a couple of side steps to avoid the felines, John reached for two bowls and poured the cats' breakfast into them. They sniffed at the offering before starting to eat. "Poor, starving beasts."
Already dressed, Tess said from the edge of the kitchen, "You're up early, young man."
He placed the cat food back into a lower cabinet and said, "I'm about to go running and it's a lot cooler this early in the morning."
"After your story about not continuing on the track team, I'm surprised you're still practicing."
John shrugged. "I like to run."
"And it keeps you in good shape, which I'm sure is popular with the girls. Do you have a girl in particular that you like?"
Now I know what a deer looking at an oncoming car at night feels like. "Um..."
Stalking toward him like a patient predator, Tess said, "I wasn't hatched yesterday and you two don't do a good job of hiding it."
Resigned to the fact that she'd figured it out, John nodded. "Yes, Daria's my girlfriend."
"Helen and Jake lived together for years before they finally got married." Tess stopped, folded her arms and looked down her nose at John. "But I'm still surprised that they allowed you to move in."
Feeling alone, John explained as he stepped back, "Because what we told you was true. If they hadn't allowed me to stay, I'd be in the foster care system now. The only difference was that Daria argued my case to Helen."
Following John's backpedal, Tess pressed on. "And Helen is letting you stay in the room right next to Daria."
"That was the only available room, unless she put me in the dining room."
"Which I'm sure is hardly used."
"I would've slept in the garage if they'd asked." John glanced back toward the sliding glass door. "I'll always be grateful that they took me in."
"To live with your girlfriend."
"If you put it that way, yes."
"I was hoping that Helen and Jake had dropped all that hippie immorality, but I can see that they've passed it onto their children."
"Mrs. Barksdale, Daria and I..."
Scolding, Tess said, "Don't lie to me. I raised three daughters during the 'free love' sixties. I know what goes through young people's minds."
John stopped, forcing Tess to do the same. "Maybe you haven't noticed, but this is the nineties. Daria and I may be tempted, but we have many more reasons to resist. It drives Daria and me nuts at times, but Helen's watched over us like a hawk and has lost a lot of sleep worrying. You're insulting your own daughter if you think she's encouraging anything but responsibility, and insulting your granddaughter if you think she's being anything but that." He then stepped past Tess, adding, "I'm going for a run now, probably a long one."
Tess spun around and said to his back, "Don't walk away from me, young man."
"Watch me," John said without looking back. He swiftly stepped outside and started a fast jog toward downtown.
People are going to keep assuming we're sleeping together as long as I live there, so I've got to quit getting so mad about it. The rhythm of John's footfall soothed his anger and the physical exertion burned off the adrenaline hit. Traffic was light along the downtown streets and the sidewalks he followed were almost deserted. Dammit. I'm probably going to be neck deep in it when I get back.
Seeing the telltale black van of Mystik Spiral parked outside the McGrundy's Pub, John slowed down to a walk and took the chance to catch his breath from the hard run. Coming around the side of the van, he saw his brother Trent carrying band equipment from the bar.
Trent set an amplifier into the van and waved. "Hey, Johnny."
Crouched inside the vehicle, Max shifted the amplifier to one side as he said, "Hey, how's it going?"
John stopped and rested his hands on his knees. "Sucks."
"What's wrong?" Trent asked.
"I just stormed out on Daria's grandmother."
"That can't be good."
"It's not. She thought Daria and I were, you know..."
"But let's face it. It is a logical assumption."
"Well yeah, but not if somebody knows you two."
"And then she started ragging on Helen. I know I should've just explained things, but I got mad and left before I said something really stupid."
"Whoa," Jesse, another member of Mystik Spiral, said from the back corner of the van. "You stood up for Daria's mom?"
"Huh, I guess I did."
Trent leaned back against the van. "I think you're where you need to be. Guess it's a good time to tell you."
Concerned, John said, "Tell me what?"
"We're going on the road for a couple months."
Jesse said, "Yeah. Get our sound out to more people."
Max added, "We're gonna rock the east coast from Boston to Savannah."
"You've got gigs that far?" John asked, somewhat incredulous
Trent scratched his neck. "Um, I think we do. Anyway, we're leaving next weekend."
"Don't forget the Morgendorffers' phone number. Just in case."
"I got it written down." Trent showed John the back of his left hand.
"Trent, that's gonna wash off."
"Nah. I had it tattooed on."
To you, I'm sure that makes sense. "Well, at least you won't lose it."
"That's the idea."
John stood upright. "I suppose I should be heading back to face the looming disaster."
Trent shrugged. "You and Daria make a good team. You'll think of something."
"I wish I had your confidence. I'll make sure I stop by your place before you leave."
"Okay, Johnny. See you later."
John started a medium paced jog to retrace his steps back to Glen Oaks Drive.
Trent quietly said, "I wish I had as much confidence in me and the band as I do in you."
Surprised at seeing Quinn waiting outside with uncombed hair, John quickened his pace to cover the last couple blocks.
Quinn waved and yelled, "There you are!"
He came to a heavy stop and said, "If you're out here to flag me down, it must be bad."
"Grandma had a screaming fit at Mom and Dad, which woke me and Daria up. Then, things kind of got loud."
"What's the situation, now?"
"Mom and Grandma are in the kitchen, not talking to each other, Dad's in the living room working on a martini pitcher, and Daria's in her room."
"Thanks for the update. I better go in and face the fallout."
"John, Mom and Dad really stood up for you."
The house was deathly silent when John opened the door. Jake was staring at a baseball game on television, with an empty pitcher in front of him on the coffee table. John stepped over to him, and after a delay, Quinn snuck in and went upstairs.
John stopped next to the sofa. "Hi, Jake."
Unsteadily turning, Jake slurred, "Oh! Hey, John! You missed all the fireworks!"
"Um, so I heard."
"Yeah, you'd think that you and Daria were in the commune like Helen and I were...smoking..."
"Jake!" Helen called as she rushed from the kitchen. "We don't need to go into that much detail."
Daria sat on her bed, back against the wall and knees drawn up to support her diary. A cat was on each side, resting against her.
I think we can kiss any chance of Grandma contributing to our college funds goodbye after today. She was up to her old tricks, waiting to get John alone to confront him about being my boyfriend and living here. John told her off before going out to run (can't blame him) and things went Barksdale in a hurry after that.
But then, something very strange happened. Grandma's "divide and conquer" didn't work and we defended John together, even Quinn. They also stood up for me...despite all of Mom's paranoia, she defended (and I can't believe she used such a word) my virtue the loudest.
After a couple soft taps, Quinn cracked open the door to say, "John's back."
Daria closed her diary and set it aside. She told Quinn, "Thanks," and then said to Zachary and Taylor, "Sorry guys, I'm getting up."
They sleepily emitted small meows of complaint as Daria slid away and stood. She amended her comment with, "It's okay. You can continue your meditation of universal truths without me."
John and her parents were standing together in the kitchen when Daria came downstairs with Quinn. Joining them, Daria could see her grandmother was still seated at the table, pointedly staring out of the window.
Deliberately, Tess turned to face the family. "I see where I stand. Helen, may I please use your telephone?"
"Of course, Mother," Helen said.
Tess picked it up. "As soon as I can change my train, I'll leave. I know when I'm not welcome."
"Don't try; you've made your choice. That goes for all of you."
John had followed Helen and stopped her on the stair landing, looking out through the large, arched window to the front yard. "I'm sorry I got mad."
Helen bowed her head. "John, Mother has exasperated us for years. But I do need to hear your side of what happened."
John told her, including the reason why he left so quickly.
The story elicited a small smile from Helen. She put her hands on both his shoulders and looked into his eyes. "It takes a lot of practice to hold your temper when people you care about are attacked, and I'm getting a good idea of how much you care about Daria. You could've done better, but you certainly could've done worse. Especially when dealing with my mother."
"Quinn said that you and Jake defended me. Thanks."
"As you did Daria and me. My thanks, also."
After Jake passed by his room, carrying Tess's luggage, John stepped out to see the matriarch one more time. He asked, "Do you really believe what you were saying about Daria and me?"
She bitterly replied, "I don't say what I don't mean."
"Is there anything we can do to change your mind?"
"Why should I change my mind when the truth is staring me in the face?"
John struggled to stay his anger. "The truth is looking at you, but you're not seeing it. Things really are the way we said they were. Daria and I are tempted...a lot. But, we have good reasons not to give in, plus Helen and Jake to help us, as well as Quinn."
Tess snorted in distain.
"You really don't know Daria, or any of them, do you?"
"How can I, when I hardly ever see them?" Tess strode away, leaving John standing alone.
He said to himself, "You would be proud of them, if you ever could see them."
After hanging the last of her clothes back in her closet, Quinn went back to Daria's room and said, "You know, John, you're turning into one of those, uh...whatchacallit...cat list things."
Seated next to him on the floor next to her bed, Daria said, "Catalyst."
Daria held John's hand. "That's very good, Quinn. He certainly has changed things around here...for the better."
"No kidding," Quinn replied. "How often have all of us agreed on anything?"
John gently squeezed Daria's hand and said, "I really felt good that everyone could agree on Daria and me."
She leaned her head onto his shoulder. "I liked it, too."
"But, I still wish I could've made a better impression on your grandmother," John said after a sigh.
Daria informed him, "Probably half the times we've been together, somebody's left early. Even after all this time, we hardly know Grandma. I don't even think Mom knows her very well anymore."
John nodded. "And I got the impression that it's the same the other way."
"Kind of sad," Quinn observed, "when you think about it. A mother and child not knowing each other."
Later that evening, John sat in his room and dialed a number on the cordless phone.
After half a dozen rings, Amanda Lane reached the phone in her cottage at Ashfield Community for the Arts. "Hello?"
"Hi, Mom. Thought I'd call and get caught up with you."
Details on the Chez Pierre menu are from The Daria Database by Peggy Nicoll.
Thanks to Kristen Bealer, Ipswichfan and Mr. Orange for beta reading.