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 forty-eighth John Lane story
Happy with the e-mail reply, John swiveled his chair to face Daria, who had been reading over his shoulder. "You at Raft on Tuesday and BFAC for me on Wednesday should give us plenty of time to check out both campuses and still see the sights around Boston."
"Providing we can get there," Daria said. "Mom's eyeball deep, as usual, in a case and Dad has some clients with real money for a change. Yeah, they let us go to D.C. together, but that wasn't planned to be overnight and this will need to be at least two nights."
"It's planning for college. Your mother is not going to say no. She's stubborn that way."
"There is that. Maybe if we can get someone like Aunt Amy to chaperone, Mom will go along without much fuss."
"Better than her asking Grandma Ruth to chaperone."
"Don't even joke about that, John."
Hearing Daria's voice on the phone, Amy Barksdale leaned back on her sofa and said, "My favorite niece. I hope this is a social call and not to inform me that Helen has blown a head gasket and needs to be sent back to the factory for repairs."
"Actually, John and I kind of need a favor."
"Sure, I can be a witness. Fifty bucks if I meet you at the Justice of the Peace and a hundred if you drag me to a chapel."
Amy laughed and said, "Okay, okay. You're not getting hitched, so I guess you need bail money. How much?"
"We don't need bail money, either. We want to make a trip to Boston during spring break for interviews at a couple of colleges and need a chaperone."
"Now how in the hell can I vicariously live an exciting life through you if you're going to be all responsible and stuff?"
"Amy, we live in Lawndale. The polar opposite of exciting."
"Oh, yeah. Sorry about that, kids. When is your spring break?"
"Week after next."
"Matches up with mine. I'll do it. Providing you're not expecting me to pay for everything."
"I'm sure we can get Mom to pitch in something."
"You've got a deal. E-mail the details and I'll find a hotel."
"Sure, Daria. The chance to spend a couple uninterrupted days as a bad influence, how could I pass that up?"
With her parents seated at the dining table, Daria set a calendar down in front of them and said, "We leave Lawndale on Monday, spend Tuesday at Raft and Wednesday at BFAC. On Thursday, we head back to Lawndale."
Helen said, "Very nice planning, but I'm sorry, your father and I are too busy to get away for four days."
"We thought of that," John said from where he was seated across the table. "Daria's Aunt Amy has agreed to go along as a chaperone."
"Who better to guide us around colleges than a college professor?" Daria said.
"You appear to have thought of everything," Helen said. "I'm impressed."
Sounding disappointed, Jake said, "You're not going to stop by Middleton?"
"Not this time, Dad," Daria said.
"Well, when you want to go, just let me know," Jake said. "I'd love to show you around the old alma mater."
"We'll work around your important clients," John said.
"Yeah, thanks, John."
"Do we have a deal?" Daria asked.
Helen said, "Jake, I think we should let them go."
"Sure, but I don't think that they should drive their car. I mean, it's a long way to Boston."
"Well, Amy can...oh, dear. Her car is rather small. Daria, we'll rent a car for you to use. Something a bit more reliable than yours."
"No complaints from this end," John said. "Hmm..."
Pointedly, Helen said, "I'll pick the rental car."
Quinn heard about the trip at dinner and her response was, "Daria! You can't leave me alone with Mom and Dad for half a week!"
"I'm sure Tom won't mind if you hang out with him while we're gone," John said.
"But Tom and his mother are going to Newtown to visit Bromwell at the same time!"
"There's always the Fashion Club and the column. It never hurts to get a week ahead on things like that."
"But that means the news will be a week old. You just can't do that in cutting-edge fashion, Daria."
"My mistake, sorry."
John said, "Look at it as practice for when Daria and I are gone for months on end next year."
Amy hugged her sister as soon as she opened the door. "Helen, it's so good to see you."
Returning the hug, Helen said, "Amy, thank you so much for agreeing to all this."
From the living room, Jake waved and said, "Hi, Amy."
Amy stepped inside and said, "Jake, you still haven't turned Helen in for a newer model. That's what I call dedication. Or brain damage."
Helen gave her a curt laugh. "We're doing very well. John and Daria should be down shortly. Their luggage is already in the rental car."
"Yeah, I saw the bourg-mobile outside. I also saw that big old Plymouth. Keeping up the family tradition?"
"They bought it from John's brother."
"Yeah, we were given cars."
"If you call a Dart a car."
Amy countered, "Hey, I had a Vega."
"Let's call it even," Helen said.
"Deal." Looking up, Amy said, "Hi, Daria, John. Ready for your big adventure?"
John said, "As long as it doesn't include Pee Wee Herman."
"Good one," Amy said.
"Thanks, Amy," Daria said.
"Well, let's get going. It's a six-hour drive even if we don't include potty breaks."
Going past Amy, Daria said, "Not to mention stopping at least once for food. That bottomless pit will never make it six hours without regular feedings."
John said, "Bye, everyone. I promise not to get arrested."
Daria said, "Bye, Mom, Dad. Stay out of trouble, Quinn."
"Don't I always?" Quinn said.
"You do have a way of avoiding it."
Helen and Jake stopped Daria and hugged her. "Bye, sweetie," and "Bye, kiddo," they said.
Amy said, "I'll keep them out of jail and out of the seedier space ranger bars. And I promise to bring them back in one piece. More or less."
Amy stretched out in the back seat of the rental car while Daria drove and John rode shotgun. "I could get used to having a chauffeur."
"Now I know my purpose in life," Daria said as she watched the interstate highway traffic. "I can skip college and pimp out my driver's license."
"That's the spirit," Amy said. "You, a limo and some cool artwork from John."
"Yeah, plain black limos are so boring," John said. "Some flames, maybe a few pinstripes..."
"Just don't go for the whole body murals. I survived the Seventies and the era of custom vans. No vehicle deserves shag carpeting."
"You know, there was shag carpeting in the Tank when Max bought it," John said.
"Was?" Daria said.
"Max said that it smelled funky, so he pulled it out."
Amy said, "Smart man. Seventies funk is a smell best left in that decade."
John said, "Voice of experience?"
"Nose of experience," Amy said.
John winced. "Ow. Bad pun. Bad pun."
Amy smiled. "So you two are still together. To be honest, you're doing better than I've ever done."
"Um, thanks?" Daria said.
"It was a compliment."
John said, "We'll take it, then."
Amy sat upright and said, "I do have one question for you. You're both eighteen, so do we need to go through the charade of separate rooms for you?"
Daria glanced at John. "We've shared a hotel room before."
"Good. That'll make life easier all the way around."
"You're a pretty easy chaperone," John said.
"Realistic. My job is to make sure you stay out of jail. Otherwise, you're adults who are responsible for your personal actions. Just don't wake me up with them."
"Okay," John said. "I think we can do that."
Amy smiled. "Besides, compared to your mother, you two are almost saints."
Daria said, "Oh?"
"I could tell you stories about your mother, but you'd be scarred for life and I'd lose valuable bargaining chips against Helen."
"Now the last part I believe," John said.
With a smile, Amy said, "Trust me, being the youngest means that I have bargaining chips or have favors owed from the entire family. They can be useful."
With her parents sharing one of the sofas, Quinn approached them from the kitchen and said, "Mom, Dad. Since Daria and John are going to Boston to look at colleges, can I go look at colleges next year on my spring break?"
Helen said, "I don't see why not."
"Yeah, it's only fair," Jake said.
"Even if, um...I want to look at a college in California?"
"California?" Helen said. "That's a long distance away."
"I know, but...my friends and I are still looking at Pepperhill. I know, I know. They have a party reputation, but it is a real college with real academics."
"Benny Hill? I thought he had that TV show," Jake said.
Patient, Quinn said, "Pepperhill."
"Is that his brother?"
"It's a college. In San Diego. California."
"Oh. Oh, yeah. I knew that."
Helen gave Jake a fast glance before returning to Quinn. "I'd feel more comfortable if you flew out there instead of drove."
"I can handle flying First Class."
Carrying a suitcase in one hand and a laptop case slung over her shoulder, Amy stopped at the door to Daria and John's room. "Good night, kids. I'm going to use the room network connection to check e-mail and stuff for work. Otherwise, I'll see you at eight tomorrow morning downstairs in the restaurant."
"Good night, Amy," Daria said as she opened the room door.
"Work e-mail?" John said, holding two suitcases. "I thought you were on vacation."
"In some ways, you never escape being a professor," Amy said. "I'm expecting some manuscript revisions from a collaborator in London and want to see if they came in."
Daria said, "If it has, something tells me you're not going to get much sleep tonight."
"Pretty much. But, that's the life I chose. It mostly doesn't suck." Amy nodded and went to her room. "And don't forget that I'm in the next room."
John walked into the room and Daria closed the door behind him. With a minimum of fumbling, he placed the suitcases on the stands and opened them. "Home, sweet home for the next couple days."
Daria collected her toiletries from her suitcase. "Two days of reasonable privacy."
Smiling, John kissed her shoulder as she passed. "That is a good thing."
Daria stopped at the bathroom door and looked back. "I'll be back in a couple of minutes."
"Okay." John sat on the bed and reached for the TV remote before the hint in her voice registered. "Oh, okay!"
Looking at Daria and John seated on the other side of the restaurant table, Amy said, "It looks like you had a good night."
Daria nodded. "What makes you say that?"
"Your glow is lighting up the place."
"We're not that bad," John said. "Are we?"
"You are, but that's okay. After all, you are living under my sister's roof and I assume maintain some level of respectability."
"A certain level of decorum is expected," Daria said.
John said, "At least as much as Jake and Helen show."
Amy closed her eyes, took a deep swig of coffee and said, "There is a reason I can't look at aerosol whipped cream without – never mind."
"More soul-searing history of my parents?" Daria said.
It was Amy's turn to nod. "That taught me to not ditch a lousy date and come home early when Helen was around. Anyway, since I didn't get any last night, why don't we change the subject to the plan for the day?"
"My appointment at Raft is for eleven. I figure that we can tour the campus before then, find out what's close by for lunch and then maybe see some sights around Boston."
"Damn kids and your plans, making my generation look like a bunch of slackers," Amy said.
"I don't think anyone's ever accused a Lane of making a plan," John said.
Carrying an over-the-shoulder bag and hurrying past her parents eating breakfast, Quinn grabbed an energy bar and said, "The Fashion Club is having a conference on summer apparel that we expect to last all week. I should be home on Thursday."
Helen said, "That's nice, dear. Where are you going to be?"
Jake said, "Have fun!"
"It's good to see you and the other girls planning ahead," Helen said.
"Yeah, Mom," Quinn said. "You can never do too much planning for summer."
"Call us if you need anything," Helen said.
"I will. Bye, Mom. Bye, Dad."
"Bye," both Helen and Jake said.
As Quinn walked out of the house, she kept her eyes fixed straight ahead and said, "Don't look back. Don't look back."
Sandi was waiting in the driveway. "Hi, Quinn. I'm so glad you came to me with the idea for a summer planning conference."
"My pleasure, Sandi," Quinn said. "And thank you for agreeing on such short notice. Are you ready to go?"
"You seem to be in a hurry."
"My Mom and Dad are going to be home alone and they tend to get...frisky."
"Eww," Sandi said, quickly starting the car. "That is too much information."
"Please, just go."
Sandi barked the tires as she backed away. "I'm going, Quinn. I'm going."
Being spring break, parking was pleasantly easy to find on the Raft campus, in stark contrast to the rest of Boston. As they got out of the car, Daria said, "Selling the car and learning how to use the local transportation might be a smart choice."
"Where's your sense of adventure, Daria?" John said.
"Safely tucked away for something interesting and driving around Boston traffic doesn't qualify."
Amy said, "So just imagine what it would be like around here when classes are in session."
John said, "You know, cash from the car could give us a deposit on an apartment."
"Even though Raft and BFAC require freshman to live on campus?" Daria said.
"Save it for sophomore year."
Amy smirked, lifted one eyebrow and said, "That sounds like planning to me."
Not far from Downtown Boston, the Raft campus was arranged around a large, open quadrangle, which in better weather would be covered in grass. To the north were the original men's resident halls and to the south, the women's. Reading a map, Daria pointed to a building along the eastern side and said, "Founders Hall. That's the main admin building and where we need to go."
Amy said, "I see the bookstore is over there, too. Cuts down on how far they have to carry the kickbacks."
"And cafeteria just on the other side," John said. "I guess that means the food can't smell too bad if it's that close to the president's office."
"Don't bet on it," Amy said. "The president probably installed HEPA filters to the air handlers for his office."
As they walked around the perimeter, Daria used the map to identify other parts of the campus. She pointed to the west and said, "Warner Hall. That's the humanities building, so I guess I'm going to be spending a lot of time there. John, that's Lavell Hall, the fine arts building."
"So the place has a little good taste and class," he replied.
Daria said, "I don't think I'll need to worry too much about the fraternity and sorority houses, but they're on the other side of the matching dorms, following a nice, early twentieth-century sensibility of not allowing boys and girls to live too close together."
"And it gives more opportunities for streaking across the quad," Amy said. When John and Daria looked at her, she said, "Hey, I started college in the seventies. We did things like that. And before you give me any more looks, your generation will find something just as stupid to do."
"Or more stupid," John said, "if most of our current classmates are any indication."
"Things improve in college," Amy said. "Trust me on that."
The receptionist checked her computer and said, "I have you right here." She then picked up her telephone and dialed. "Ms. Morgendorffer is here. I'll send her in."
After the receptionist nodded to the door, Daria said, "Thank you."
"Good luck," John said, giving her a quick hug.
"See you in about half an hour," Daria said, accepting the embrace. "Try to not draw on the walls."
"I brought a sketch pad," John said in faux offense.
"Okay, you're off the hook."
After Daria went in and closed the door, John sat down in the waiting area and Amy took the chair next to him.
He glanced at her and said, "So the interrogation begins?"
"I can't think of anything that Helen wouldn't have asked you already – and if all of your body parts are still attached, I can safely assume that you passed."
He gulped. "Um, thanks."
"I also heard about your run-in with my mother." Amy smiled. "She's not used to that many people standing up to her."
"Yeah, but everybody else standing up for me made me feel wanted," John said. "Though it sank any hopes of her helping out with our college expenses."
"I'm not surprised. Mom never shied away from using her money as a weapon."
"But it looks like we've pulled enough help together to get us through. Barely."
"That's good to hear," Amy said.
"Can I ask you something?"
"Do you have any advice for us?" John said.
Amy closed her eyes for a moment before answering. "Remember what's really important."
The Admissions Director was a trim man in his late thirties, clean-shaven with light brown hair. He stood and motioned to one of the chairs facing his desk. "Please, have a seat."
Daria took the chair and said, "Good morning."
The director opened his file and skimmed the contents. "You have a respectable packet. Good grades, extracurricular activities and a refreshingly well-written cover letter."
"I hope to be a writer," Daria said.
"We have several degree programs that could fit that desire," he said. "What made you choose Raft College?"
Daria paused for a moment before answering. "Raft has well-respected English and Education programs. It's small enough to allow students to know their instructors without being so small as to feel like an overgrown high school."
The director smiled. "A happy balance. What about our location in Boston?"
"I'm looking forward to all the..." Daria stopped and shifted forward. "I'm not good at giving pat answers. Boston has a lot more of interest to me than the boring suburb where I live now or the desolate backwater I lived in before that."
"I can appreciate honesty. I don't hear it that often in this line of work. Please, continue."
Daria relaxed. "I can do honest."
Seated on the floor of Stacy's room along with the rest of the Fashion Club, Quinn said, "I talked my Mom and Dad into allowing me to visit Pepperhill next spring break. Why don't we all go together to look at the campus?"
Sandi sighed and said, "Quinn, Pepperhill is so last year."
Quinn gave Sandi a tired look. "So what college is 'in' this year?"
With an equally tired look, Sandi said, "I guess you have fallen behind a bit, what with having a regular boyfriend and all. The college to attend now is Vizcaya."
"In Miami?" Quinn said.
"I see you haven't forgotten your geography."
Excited, Stacy said, "I'm sorry, Quinn. You were on a date with Tom when we talked about colleges. The weather around Vizcaya is wonderful year-round and think of all the cute guys that will be on the beaches."
"Cute guys," Tiffany said.
Feeling left out, Quinn said, "In that case, can you please bring me up to date on this?"
"That's what friends are for," Sandi said.
Amy lifted her glass and said, "One down, one to go."
Daria and John joined her in the friendly toast as they ate dinner. He said, "I hope my interview goes as good as Daria's."
"Don't bet on an interviewer that appreciates sarcasm," Daria warned. "I lucked out."
"I hope I don't get someone who thinks the art world begins and ends with Elvis on black velvet."
"Because it really should be white velvet," Amy said.
He looked at her. "I'm glad I know you're joking."
"You suggested going to the Institute of Contemporary Art tomorrow afternoon. You appreciate good art."
"Damn you kids."
Daria said, "History, bookstores, culture. Today's been great and I think I could live here."
"I see a lot of public transit in our future," John said. "The local drivers make your dad look sane and I don't know about Raft, but BFAC doesn't allow freshmen to have cars on campus."
"Same with Raft," Daria said. "We'll definitely have to part with the old blue bomber."
"This summer, I'll see if Trent wants it back. The circle of life and that kind of stuff."
Amy said, "I don't think that's what people mean by the circle of life."
"It'll make sense to Trent."
"Someday, I have to meet this brother of yours."
Curious, John said, "Oh?"
"I think he'd make a fascinating research subject."
An orange streak followed by a gray streak bounced onto and off the bed, waking Jake and Helen. Jake sat upright with a "What! What's that?"
Helen groaned, "It's only the cats, honey."
"Cats? Oh, oh yeah. The cats."
Zachary and Taylor jumped back up onto the bed and stopped when they noticed that the humans were awake. In well-timed divide and conquer, Zachary went to Helen and Taylor to Jake, purring and nuzzling the humans.
Helen said, "I think they miss the kids."
Petting the cat, Jake said, "It's been awfully quiet."
"It has." Helen took a moment to think that it wouldn't be long before all of the children were away to college. "I think we need to get used to it."
Jake caught her idea. "Where did the time go?"
"I don't know."
When Taylor rubbed against Jake again and meowed, he said, "Do you think that they know?"
Helen picked up Zachary and held him. "I think that they're trying to prepare us."
Lying in her sleeping bag while the rest of the Fashion Club slept in Stacy's room, Quinn watched the glowing clock and thought about the evening's conversation.
"Screw it," she said. "I'm going to the college I want to go to. I don't care what Waif says is hot."
A quiet whisper replied, "But what if I don't want to go to college?"
Quinn rolled to face Stacy. "Do you have something else in mind?" she whispered.
"Yeah, something else."
"Then let's go for what we want."
"Deal. But what about Sandi?"
"She really doesn't need to know, does she?"
"Then don't worry about it."
Entering the hotel restaurant, Amy saw John and Daria seated next to each other at a booth, sipping coffee and juice. "At least she's not as loud as my sisters and I've been able to sleep," Amy joked to herself. She reached them and said, "Good morning."
"Morning, Amy," Daria said. "Another late night with your manuscript?"
Amy sat and tastefully motioned for the waitress. Timing her reply carefully, she said, "Nah, I blew it off to surf for internet porn."
John's spit-take was exactly the response she was expecting.
"What?" Amy innocently said.
While Daria chuckled, John wiped his mouth and said, "You caught me by surprise."
"You need to expect the unexpected," Amy said, smiling.
"I'm slowly learning that," he said.
"It's a good skill to learn."
"I suppose it'll help me to prepare for my interview."
Amy winked at Daria and said in a faux-country accent, "He learns up real good. I think you should keep him."
"I'm thinking about it," Daria said.
The waitress arrived and said, "Good morning, ma'am. Would you care for something to drink?"
"Coffee and orange juice," Amy said.
"I'll be right back," the waitress said, departing.
John said, "So, Amy. What kind of porn?"
She smirked. "Yep. Keeper."
Boston Fine Arts College was not far from Raft. John estimated it would be a fairly easy jog, less than three miles. Unlike the older, open quad of Raft, BFAC was a tight cluster of taller buildings confined to two city blocks with only a small courtyard for open space. "I can see parking sucks even more here than at Raft," he said as Amy squeezed the car into the parking garage.
"I've seen worse," Amy said.
"Show off," Daria said.
"Occupational hazard; I'm an academic. You tend to see a lot of different campuses."
John said, "You haven't really given us much of your opinion of our schools, Amy."
"I'm here to keep you out of jail, not influence your decisions."
"You're allowed to give us your opinion," Daria said. "I promise not to tell Mom."
"I've heard a lot of good things about Raft. Granted, I mostly know about the Sociology department, but it has a good rep. Even the University Press is known for quality work. John, I'm not much of an artist and honestly don't know much about BFAC beyond what I've read in the Journal of Higher Education, which paints it..."
"Bad pun," John said.
"I have to let them out," Amy said. "If I hold them in, I get gas."
Daria said, "That was too much information. Now, go on."
"It has a reputation for innovation. Hell, they even hold an ice sculpture contest every year that they call the Ice Tea Party."
"That sounds like it could be fun."
Amy found a parking spot at last and pulled in. "I thought you would like it."
The interviewer was a man in his early fifties with long, graying brown hair pulled into a ponytail. "So, Mr. Lane. What draws you to Boston Fine Arts College? Besides the obvious that we specialize in art education."
"My girlfriend is hoping to go to Raft."
"I see. Logical. Any reason you didn't look into Raft's art department?"
John shrugged. "It's a department and BFAC is an entire school. You have more faculty offering classes in more areas than would be available at Raft."
"I reviewed your portfolio before you arrived. You show a lot of promise. Your academic records are reasonable, though I notice a strong improvement in your sophomore year."
"That's when I met my girlfriend."
The interviewer smiled. "That usually accompanies a decline in grades. Unusual, but a good sign."
"Now it's your turn to ask any questions you have about BFAC."
"Tell me about this Ice Tea Party."
Nestled under John's arm the next morning, Daria said, "Damn, we have to sleep in our own beds tonight."
"Don't remind me," he said.
"I guess that's the price we have to pay for some level of happiness."
"I wish there was a way around the 'freshman on campus' rules."
"You know what they say about wishing in one hand," Daria said.
"Make sure you wash the other hand when you're done." John snuggled Daria closer and said, "I hope Amy doesn't mind us staying in a bit longer."
"She'll have to deal."
Waiting at a table, Amy said, "You're too wide awake for me to make sleeping-in jokes about you."
John said, "Hope you didn't mind the wait."
"I got to flirt with a cute waiter, so I'm good," Amy said. "Are you ready for the return to Mundania?"
"If we must," Daria said.
"It's only for a few more months," Amy said, reassuring.
"Assuming we get in," Daria said.
Amy chuckled. "It's not like you're trying to get into someplace like Bromwell, that has ten times the number of qualified applicants as slots. Unless you royally pissed off the interviewer, you've got the grades and background to get into Raft, Daria. Hell, the interview was more for them to sell Raft to you, not to weed you out. Relax."
Daria nodded. "Thanks, Amy."
"But I don't have Daria's grades," John said.
"BFAC wanted to interview you, right?" Amy said.
"Then they want you. Look, the hundred or so schools that receive far more applicants than they have openings use their interviews to eliminate applicants. For all the rest of us mere mortal schools, the interviews are a sales pitch to get the student to attend. I'd bet you good money that each of you gets in."
"I've learned not to bet against any of you people," John said.
"You'll do well in this world, young man."
After Sandi drove away, Quinn paused at the front door of her house and listened. "No strange noises inside – good. It might be safe to enter."
She pushed the door open and stepped inside while keeping her eyes closed. "Mom! Dad! I'm home!"
"Welcome home, Quinn," Helen said from where she was seated on the sofa. "How was your stay with your friends?"
Hearing her mother's voice like that, Quinn knew it was safe to open her eyes. "Great, Mom. We have our summer wear all planned out."
"That's thinking ahead," Helen said, though there was a faint disappointment in her voice.
"And," Quinn said, "we made some good decisions about college and stuff."
Happier, Helen said, "That's wonderful. Are you still thinking about Pepperhill?"
"Positive. I want to go there."
"If you know what you want, then you can start planning. It's never too early to get ready to impress the admissions office."
Quinn nodded. After looking around, she said. "Where's Dad?"
"He's upstairs, uh, cleaning. You may want to wait a little while before you go upstairs."
"Right." Quinn placed her luggage on the floor and walked to the kitchen. "I'll call Tom and see if he's home yet."
"Very thoughtful of you."
In the kitchen, Quinn dialed the cordless phone and sat down at the dining table. After a couple rings, she heard, "Hello."
"Hi, Elsie. Is Tom home, yet?"
"Yeah, they got back a couple of hours ago," Elsie said before calling out, "Tom! Phone!"
Quinn giggled at how much she knew that would annoy Mrs. Sloane.
After a short wait, Tom said, "Hello."
"Hi, it's me, calling to see how your trip went."
"I survived my mother's reminiscing about her college days with Dad and managed to avoid doing anything like throwing up on the interviewer's shoes. Therefore, I'm probably a shoo-in unless the price of admission has gone up from paying for a wing of a building. The only down side was an endless breakfast with one of the faculty, who happened to be an old classmate of my parents. How about you?"
"I spent most of the time with the Fashion Club. We're all set for our summer shopping."
"How exciting. Anything else?"
"I'm pretty sure I want to go to Pepperhill next year."
"That is all the way across the country from Bromwell."
"Yeah, I know," Quinn said, a little worried.
"I guess we'll have to see if we can make a long-distance relationship work."
"I guess we'll have to."
Helen hugged Amy and said, "Thank you again for watching over Daria and John."
"Hey, they were reasonably well-behaved and, besides, I needed to get away from my university for a few days," Amy said.
"Reasonably well-behaved? What a horrible thing to say about teenagers," Helen said, glancing back at Daria and John.
John shrugged. "What can I say? We're beyond redemption."
Helen said, "Amy, we really should see each other more often."
"You know, now that we've had a few years to mellow out, I think you're right. Maybe even include Rita."
"In for a penny," Helen said, wary.
"I'll call Mother when I get home. Rita's usually there."
"Thanks, I'll probably need it. Anyway, I need to get back on the road to make it back home at something like a reasonable hour. Good-bye, everybody."
The rest of the Morgendorffer family gave their farewells and Amy left with a final wave.
Helen turned to John and Daria. "I'm glad that you enjoyed your visits."
"We're excited," John said. "We both feel good about Boston."
Silent to this point, Jake said, "But what did you think about Middleton?"
"Um, Dad," Daria said. "We didn't stop by Middleton."
Jake smirked and said, "Good move, kiddo."
"I don't know what happened this weekend, but your dad just made a joke, Daria," John said.
Jake laughed and slapped John's back. "That's right!"
To Helen, Daria said, "Mom, please, never tell me what happened while we were gone."
Completing the trip home, Amy parked her car in her driveway and said, "Home at last, home at last. Thank God almighty, I'm home at last."
Climbing out and grabbing her suitcase, she walked to her apartment. Thinking about the call she promised to make, she thought for a moment and then said, "Hmm, Mother still owes me a huge favor and this might be a good time to aim for two birds with that stone. Or perhaps four."
Seated on her bed with Quinn, Daria said, "College isn't for everybody and if someone really doesn't want to go, they probably won't graduate and they'll have wasted their time and their parents' money."
Quinn nodded. "I was thinking the same thing."
Daria lifted an eyebrow. "You're not thinking about not going to college, are you?"
"No, Daria. I'm going to Pepperhill."
"You sound pretty certain about that."
"Positive. Daria, could you – help me get started on my application?"
"You're getting an early start."
"I know. Will you?"
"If you're this set on a college, how can I say no to you?"
Looking shocked, Helen slowly opened the door and said, "Girls, I just got off the phone with Mother."
"Oh, my God," Quinn said. "Is Grandma all right?"
Helen nodded. "She's doing very well."
"Then what's wrong?" Daria said.
"Then what's with the look on your face?"
"Girls, your grandmother has agreed to set up college funds for each of you." Helen let out her breath. "Very generous college funds."
"Wow," Quinn said.
"Did Amy have something to do with this?" Daria said.
"She must be behind it, because I can't think of anybody who could talk, bribe or blackmail Mother into setting one up for John, also."
Daria jumped up. "John?"
"Yes, sweetie. She said that he's family, now."
Thanks to Kristen Bealer and Ipswichfan for beta reading.