Lunchtime, Doubly So...
An 'Iron Chef' fan fiction by Brother Grimace
The challenge: to write a fic featuring the fashion club, in which Sandi becomes anorexic, Tiffany becomes fat, Quinn becomes disfigured, and Stacy defeats Daria in a battle of wits. Length of your choosing, but must be posted no later than 72 hours from the time of this post.
"I'll have a garden salad, no dressing, and a slice of dry toast with the edges slice away."
"The... pork... spareribs..."
"I'll have a garden salad, with the California French dressing, and... the baked macaroni and cheese."
"I'll have my usual, please."
Bewildered looks, then shrugs. "So, Quinn, do you really think that you should eat all of that? I mean, the salt content in the cheese will make you retain water, and it's pasta – so fattening – oh, sorry, Tiffany..."
"About... what...?" Tiffany Blum-Deckler asked, her friends noticing – with varying degrees of envy - that eleven years and eighty-five pounds hadn't changed the Asian woman much. Even overweight, the woman was still far more beautiful than most of the women seated in the comfortable atmosphere of the 'Green Meadow' eatery. "Oh. The... weight."
Her face went blank for a moment – making her slightly plump face even more attractive – and then, she somehow made it back to reality. "I... made... four... million... last... year..."
"Well, that's just wonderful," Sandra Sloane yawned, turning back to Quinn Morgendorffer. "I guess there is a niche for that kind of clothing. So, Quinn – when are you going to let someone make an honest woman of you? Gallivanting all over the globe, playing weather girl to the world..."
"Well, if you must know, Sandi-" A moment of regret flashed through the stunning redhead as she caught the way Sandi's eyes flared; since her marriage, she'd insisted on being 'Sandra', and calling her 'Sandi' was a childish, unnecessary dig. "Sandra. If you must know, I like working on the Weather Channel! I get to actually help people..."
Not to mention that being the hottest woman on the air today isn't anything to be ashamed of, either, Quinn thought very loudly. She could read the polls and paid attention to the TvQ ratings; she was the most-watched woman on television in twenty years. "I also get to give back to all sorts of causes – and why would I want to get married right now? I date princes, governors and supermodels – male supermodels," she added, her tone sharpening as she saw the way Sandi's left eyebrow arched.
"Nice... ring..." Tiffany drawled, noticing the spectacular pink diamond ring on Quinn's finger as her hand closed around a water goblet. "You're... engaged-?"
"No – I got this from Anton di Fiori... we met in Florida, and were stuck in the same hotel during Hurricane Leo. He was crewing on his brother's yacht when the bad weather in Pensacola caught them. He was... fun."
"He's... sweet," Tiffany somehow managed to say. "We... were... in... Milan... with... Emme..."
"Thomas and I managed to fly over there last spring ourselves," Sandi cut in, blatantly fingering her wedding ring, a jewel-encrusted spectacle that looked even bigger upon Sandi's slender finger – a finger that, to Quinn's eye, looked almost skeletal. "I just loved taking the Concorde, but now, we just have to travel in the Gulfstream V when we go abroad – well, if the twins aren't coming along. If we bring them, we just have to take the 747. There's more room, you see."
Looks like there's plenty of room in your clothes, Quinn observed, noticing how her – well, Sandi never really was her friend, was she? – how Sandi was at least a good twenty pounds under her optimum weight, and even her perfect outfit and hairstyle couldn't hide it from someone who looked closely... If she's a hundred and five, I'll eat my shoes. God, I'd heard stories, but if that Tom Sloane's philandering has driven her to this – to thinking that she's got to be a size zero by any means necessary – my God, you're so thin that you don't even have breasts anymore!
No man's worth this – no amount of money is worth this – your children growing up without their parents together isn't worth this! God, Sandi – leave him...
Quinn reached for her purse, and her fingers closed upon one of her mother's business cards when Sandi's voice brought her eyes back up to the table. "As I was saying, Quinn – the girls were asking about all of the scarves you wear."
Perfect fingers withdrew from the calfskin cardholder in her original Shoshanna handbag. "Oh, were they...?"
"They were watching you on one of those little talk shows you did last week, and since they know that we went to Lawndale High together, they kept asking me questions. One thing they asked was about those scarves you seen to never be without."
"Yeah... It's... like... you... have... your... own... style..." A lumbering pause. "Now..."
"It seems as if no matter when they see you on the TV, or in a magazine; even if you're doing a shoot for one of those covers on those poser 'he-man' magazines like that 'Maxim', you still manage to have some sort of scarf on," Sandy drawled. "I remember how you had your little problem back in high school... nothing else's happened, hmn?"
"Sandy, I can understand how being a mommy and a society queen can take up so much time – I barely knew my own mother growing up! – but I thought you would remember that people like us don't follow trends... we create them."
You've let that urge to be slender eat away at your brain if you think I'll tell you about what happened... "Didn't you see me in the spring fashion issue of 'Harper's Bazaar' – don't tell me your girls didn't catch the webcast of 'Val Online'? Scarves, Sandi. They're not just a fashion statement – they're a lifestyle."
Sandi looked up as the server placed an attractive green salad in front of her, and she picked joylessly at the leafy greens as she saw Quinn take a hearty forkful of cheese-drenched macaroni into her mouth...
Oh, sure. You don't think that Tom told me all about what his people found out? You've got some nerve, Quinn... so, the grand, pretty, perky one's got another neck zit, it got infected and left a nasty mark... nothing you couldn't deal with if you were just anyone on the street, but you, being Miss Hot Weathercaster and Fashion Plate... shame that the plastic surgeons said that trying to correct it would be a waste of time... maybe in a few years, when they get that new low-level laser debridement treatment down pat... too bad you won't be the hot fashion plate then, with all the men rolling their tongues when you pass by...
I can't wait until someone 'accidentally' jerks one of those scarves off – hopefully, when you're 'on live', so Teryl and Micah can see that you're not a Greek goddess... no, so that they can see you exactly for what you are – just as petty and screwed up and FLAWED as everyone else...you're just lucky enough that you're still pretty – I mean, that having babies hasn't done – everybody gets stretch marks, Thomas has no right to say anything -
I hate you.
"Stacy – are you just going to sit there and not say anything – is that PIZZA you're eating?"
"I really like it," the tall, slender woman said, brushing her long, straight mane of chestnut hair back – she hated it when her hair fell anywhere near her food. "I do an hour on the treadmill every day, though-!"
"So, just what is it you do around here, anyway?"
"Oh, it's so boring – I have to read a lot of reports, listen to people and their problems, work on budgets... every now and then, I get to help people-"
"Yes, I'm sure that your little office job must seem important – but if you ever want to make some real money, you can come and work for me. I need a new personal assistant, and I'm sure that you can use a better job..." Funny, I never bothered to think about having Thomas check up on Stacy, I always thought that she'd end up doing nothing after she started doing all of that race car stuff after high school, instead of going into modeling – not that she'd have made it... "Stacy, why don't you dress better?"
"Well, the people bump into you all day, and they're always grabbing onto your arm, and they always want to shake your hand and just touch you-"
Stacy Rowe looked at the three women at the table with her, at the shocked look they all had at the identical sound they made – and then, all four broke out in rolling, happy laughter.
"Oh, God, I needed that," Quinn said, wiping away tears.
"Me, too," Sandi said, finding her voice again after taking a drink of water to stop the hiccupping her laughing had caused. "I haven't had a good laugh in so long..."
"Oh, God," Stacy said, suddenly picking up a menu and trying to hide behind it. "I really don't need to see that jerk right now..."
"The other three women looked about the restaurant. "What is it, Stacy?" Quinn asked, genuine concern on her face. "What's wrong?"
"See that guy that just came through the door – the one with the cameras? That's Dennis – he's from work!"
"So?" Sandi scoffed. "I can make a call and have someone handle him if he's been bothering you-"
"He's... cute," Tiffany offered. "For... not... being... a... model..."
"He's just one of the guys from Public Affairs, and he's been trying to get a candid picture of me for weeks – 'because it's supposed to be your turn in the 'Faces About Town' part of the newsletter'. Don't look at him – he might not have noticed me and he'll go away!"
"Stacy, even after all of these years, you should have remembered that it's the duty of any attractive, fashionable woman to be photographed," Sandi intoned, some life coming back into her slightly sunken cheeks. "Perhaps, after seeing a beautiful woman like you in not so fashionable clothes, there will be young women who will make the choice to spend more of their hard-earned money on acceptable attire, and endeavor to avoid becoming a fashion 'Don't."
She stood up and waved at the man with the camera. "Dennis? That's right, your name is Dennis, yes? Please, come here."
Stacy flushed crimson, Quinn shook her head in disbelief and Tiffany gnawed on a juicy rib as the youngish cameraman scurried over. "I understand that you're supposed to take a photograph of Miss Rowe."
"Yes, ma'am, they wanted photos of the – of Miss Rowe, yes, that's what they said. Good afternoon, ma'am. Do you mind if I take a couple of you here? They said that you eat here whenever they serve the pizza special..."
"Yes – and to make it even more special, we'll pose for the photo, too!"
"Stacy," Quinn said, trying to tread with caution, "this is for Stacy's job. We can't just bull our way into her photo session-"
"It... isn't... a... session... there's... no... big... lights..." Tiffany happened to look up, and saw a huge, fashion-statement of a sun lamp overhead, illuminating them with a soft, flattering light that she hadn't noticed before. "Oh. I... thought...that... you... all... just... looked... that... good."
"She didn't mean anything, Quinn," Stacy cut in quickly; she saw Sandi's eyes blaze with atomic fire at Tiffany's words. "Look – I don't mind if we take a picture. I mean, us, all, I mean – take a picture"
"Calm down, Stacy," Sandi said soothingly. "Look. You. Dennis, or, like, whatever. You can take a photograph of Stacy, and you can take one of all of us together. It will be for us."
"Like they did in 'The Untouchables!"
"Stacy! I would think that after eleven years, you would have lost your propensity for, what did we call it? – Yes. Geekyishness."
I'd have thought you'd have lost your need to be a bitch, Quinn reflected.
"Okay – Stacy, Quinn, move your chairs over here. Tiffany, wipe your mouth. Barbecue lips are not fashionable." The three women lined up their chairs, and adjusted themselves as the young man readied his flash.
"Is everyone ready?"
"I guess so-!"
"You guess so?" Sandi scoffed, looking past Quinn to where Stacy sat, off to her left. "Did the Fashion Club teach you nothing? For the opportunity to be fashionable and have others see this – one should always be ready. You. Dennis. You may begin."
There was a click, followed by a sudden, all consuming brilliance, that took each woman back, far back; for a moment, in the camera's flash, each of the four women could see, in the corners of their eyes, the way they were oh, so many years ago... a comforting illusion, where they each had their place...
The light faded away.
"Thank you, ma'am!"
"It was our pleasure," Sandi replied regally, dismissing him from her thoughts with a wave of her hand.
"Thank you!" Stacy said eagerly, and Dennis blushed, stumbling as she smiled at him before he made his way out of the restaurant. "Oh... did I do that...?"
"He... likes... you...Stacy."
"Yes, if you don't care that he's a younger man," Sandi scoffed.
"So? That just means that you've still got it, and they still want it! Stacy, I'd say there's hope for you yet!" Quinn laughed, looking at her watch. "Hey... does anyone have anything that they can't get out of this afternoon?"
The others shook their heads in unison. "Well, then, ummn... why don't we just spend a little time here, together? I mean, this is the first time since graduation that we've all been together in one place..."
"I came along because Thomas had to talk to some of his lobbyist-people here in Washington, and it's a four-day weekend, so he wanted the girls along, too," Sandi sighed. "They're with him now... he said he wants them to see the mint, and see where the money is physically made..."
"I'm... doing...a... benefit..."
"Fourth of July weekend? You know that they were going to send me up here, with all of the events, and the fireworks..."
"Well, I work here," Stacy offered weakly. "They won't miss me... I can stay longer."
"Then it's settled," Sandi announced. "We'll make an afternoon of it. Stacy, you can start by telling us why you really dress so, so, so unfashionably! Don't you want to catch a husband someday? Quinn, wave one of the waiters down, we can use some water..."
Two days later, Daria Morgendorffer yawned as she came down the stairs of her home, an empty baby bottle in hand.
Hurry up and get home, Michael, the tiny, auburn-haired woman thought, flopping down into an overstuffed, high-backed chair. It's your turn to obsess over our little demon-bundle in the crib upstairs...I can't believe nursing takes so much out of me... pun certainly intended. Oh, and bring more of the cinnamon-raisin bagels, and the guacamole...always have to be different, and get weird cravings after I have the baby...
Her head rolled over to her right, and she looked down at the end table; a number of envelopes were laid on top. "You could have told me that the mail had come before you left," she said ruefully, reaching out for the envelopes. "I could have done something else besides just lie there, like a mother cat..."
She tore one open, read the letter, and grimaced. "Great. Rate increase on the cell phone tax."
She finally came to a large manila envelope. Daria flicked the flap open, and looked with surprise at the 8x10 photograph she withdrew.
It was a copy of the Fashion Club photo taken days earlier. Daria leaned back in the chair and looked over the photo, remembering years ago, and how annoying, how simple, these four had been... At least they're still attractive – Tiffany needs to lose a few pounds, and she should give them to Sandi... yeah, that's her name... and the pretty one, the skinny one, what was her name...
Daria noticed a letter peeking out of the envelope, and she pulled it out and began to read.
I sent you a copy of this because, in a way, it didn't seem right that you weren't there. We all 'just happened' to end up in Washington over the Fourth of July weekend, and had a nice time.
Why did I send you this? In a way, to thank you. I really don't think that I would have gotten as much out of the Fashion Club as I did if you, and to a lesser extent Quinn, hadn't been around. For four years, I watched the way Sandi and Quinn jockeyed and scrambled over each other for the slightest advantage in everything possible – boys, clothes, popularity, you name it. I also, saw, however, how they really didn't want anything permanent to happen to one another, or to see the other truly weakened to the point that they could walk over them with no problem. I watched Tiffany, and how she really didn't have any position except to back whoever was the last to get to her – but most importantly, I watched you.
I actually considered you an important part of the Fashion Club. You spent all of your time looking down your nose at us, saying how silly we were, considering yourself superior because we were worried about things that no one with any brains would be concerned with – and because so many people were concerned about those things, that only proved how shallow, and banal, and worthless all of those people were. You took a special pleasure, I recall, in looking down your nose at me. Sandi and Quinn were both trying to be in charge, and Tiffany was an airhead, but as for me... you saw me as the worst of the worst. A follower. A sheep.
I wanted so many times to say something to you, but I saw a better way. I watched you. I watched what you did, how you did it, and I learned to understand why.
I learned from you, Daria. The whys, the how's, the 'because I can's, and the 'because I don't care to try's. You were there to tear us down, but never to build us up. More than my time in college, or in any of the other avenues I've moved through, everything I've ever needed to know about politics, I learned from all of you.
P.S. If you and your husband Michael decide to take your mother up on her offer to buy the house and relocate back to Connecticut, feel free to contact me anytime. You're the kind of constituent that keeps us on our toes.
With warmest regards,
Rep. Anastasia Rowe (R-Conn.)
Daria felt something else in the envelope; she shook two last objects free, and reached down to pick them up from the floor.
In her hand she held a bumper sticker and a campaign button. On both was a stylized red-white-and-blue motif with the words 'Rowe To Victory – United States Senate'.
11 May 2005