Jane looked up when the classroom door opened. Mr. DeMartino did not take kindly to anyone who was late to his class. The resulting histrionics while not always entertaining were at least an interruption of the norm. Jane did not recognize the girl who entered.
"Newbie," she thought. "What crime against the universe did you commit for karma to dump you in Lawndale?"
The girl was shorter than average. Dense dark brown hair that fell past her shoulders framed a pale face dominated by a pair of thick glasses. Jane looked closer. The girl was no head-turner but there was something interesting, even compelling about her. Jane decided that it was in the way she moved. Self-confident did not quite describe the way she walked or the directness she displayed while handing the teacher the sheet of paper that she had in her hand. Self-awareness, perhaps? What was that phrase O'Neil liked so much; self-realization?
"Class, we have a new student joining us today," Mr. DeMartino began after he read what the girl had given him. "Daria Morgendorffer."
"Morgendorffer," thought Jane as a few of the students waved and said 'hi' to the new girl. "What a mouthful."
"Daria," Mr. DeMartino said with a gleam in his eye. "We began a chapter on 'Manifest Destiny' last week. Perhaps you think it unfair to ask someone who has not been here and someone coming from where you do a question about it but can you summarize for us what that term meant?"
Daria nodded. "Yes, Herr Professor," she said the crisply pronounced words that were clear despite her distinct accent. "Similar to the German idea of 'Ostsiedlung' except in the opposite direction, it was the term used to describe the belief amongst Americans in the first half of the nineteenth century that it was the Will of God that they conquer the continent although Heaven's mandate evidently did not involve facing the guns of the British Empire to take Canada away but instead was confined to military actions against the aborigines and the comparatively weak state of Mexico. Later ventures in the second half of the nineteenth century that brought the Hawaiian Islands and other Pacific and Caribbean possessions into the American realm continued the spirit of Manifest Destiny if not it's outright principle."
Jane almost laughed aloud at the history teacher's dumbfounded expression. He gaped as his jaws moved trying in vain for several moments to say something, anything. He finally shook his head as a wet dog might and cleared his throat.
"Thank you, Daria," he eventually said. He paused briefly before continuing. "How does someone from the Kaiserreich know that much about American history?"
A small enigmatic smile lifted the corners of her mouth ever so slightly as she answered. "Are our nations not allies, Professor?" she asked rhetorically. "I am certain that many of your students know as much about my country."
The history teacher's face hardened. "Call me Mr. DeMartino not Professor and don't be so certain," he growled. "If half these slack-jawed zombies could point out Germany on a map let alone know the name of the current Kaiser, I'd dance naked around the flag pole."
"I don't know his name but he's Prince Ludwig's father," Brittany piped up. "He is so cute. The prince, I mean. Do you know him, Daria? "
"I have not met the Crown Prince," Daria answered amusement dancing briefly across her face.
"Too bad," a disappointed Brittany replied.
"Please take a seat, Daria," the teacher said.
"Which one, Mr. DeMartino?" she asked.
"Any one," he replied. "They are not assigned."
Jane watched her scan the classroom. There were few choices but Jane was happy to see that Daria took the desk next to hers. The new girl was something to divert her attention from class. Despite its proximity to the country's capital, few foreigners passed though Lawndale even Germans who excepting perhaps the British were America's closest ally.
Jane mentally shrugged. "If you live in what everyone calls the greatest country on Earth," she thought. "Why would you go anywhere else?"
Keeping a watchful eye out for the teacher, she covertly finished two sketches of the new girl and started a third when the bell rang ending class.
"What class do you have next," Jane asked her.
Daria extracted a schedule from her notebook. "Drawing," she said after a moment.
"Hey, me too," Jane exclaimed.
"Yes, I noticed that you started that class early," Daria wryly replied.
Jane zipped up her portfolio as she stood. "At least it's something new every day," she said. "Most classes everything's repeated over and over again."
"Repetition is the mother of memory," Daria quoted as she too gathered her things. "But yes, it is difficult to stay...focused if you know the data."
Brittany and Kevin were standing before a map of the world that hung on one wall. Frowning, they ran their eyes carefully over Asia.
"Hey, Daria, where is Germany?" Kevin called out. "This map doesn't have it on here."
"Maybe it's an old one," Brittany said.
With an animal snarl of exasperation, Mr. DeMartino grabbed a pack of cigarettes from his desk and fled the room.
"They're not joking," Jane said in answer to Daria's inquiring look.
"Hi, I'm Jodie," a slender black young woman said as she and bulky teen came up to the pair. "And for the record, not all Americans are ignorant despite some unfortunate examples."
"We have fools in Germany also," Daria replied. "Trust me."
"Mack," the young man said simply. "Good to meet you."
When they got to Brittany's side, Daria tapped on the map. "It is here in Europe," she said running her finger from France to the outskirts of Moscow and then up to the Barents Sea.
"Whoa, big country," Brittany said.
"America's bigger," Kevin replied.
"And Canada's even bigger than us, Kevin," Mack said sharply.
"It is?" Kevin asked in surprise as he tried to find Canada on the map. "Then how come they only have eight football teams?"
"Where are you from, Daria?" Brittany asked.
Daria chuckled slightly. "I have been a regular...bum, no...vagabond," she said sliding her finger down the map to Africa. "I was born here in Deustch-Ostafrika. Then my family moved to briefly here to America then Konigsberg, and then on to Novgorod, Saint Petersburg, Frankfort am Main, and finally Kursk before now here." She added tapping each city in turn.
"Was your family from Africa?" Jodie asked.
"No," Daria said shaking her head. "The bank that my father works for transferred him to Bagamoyo where he met my mother who was vacationing there. He is an Alsatian. His family has lived in or near Strasbourg for centuries."
"And your mother?" Jane asked.
"Mother is an American," Daria answered. "She was born in your neighboring state of Virginia as was my sister, Quinn, when we lived here the first time. I do not have to point to that on a map, I trust."
"Don't bet the deed on that," Jane muttered while looking at Kevin.
"Wow," Brittany exclaimed. "It looks like you lived all over."
"I have yet to visit our lunar colonies," Daria quipped. She was only joking but Mack frowned nonetheless. Germany's space stations and lunar colonies were a sore spot for many American scientists, engineers, and sci-fi buffs like Mack. America they felt should pursue its own space program instead of riding piggyback on the German one. Then perhaps it could have been the Stars and Stripes instead of the Imperial Eagle planted on the Martian surface in '88.
After morning classes, Daria and Jane met again met at lunch. They sat down in as quiet a corner as could be found in the noisy, crowded cafeteria.
"So, impressions of Lawndale High?" Jane asked.
Daria smiled amused at Jane's sometimes-abbreviated way of talking. "The academics are not as..."
"The usual word is rigorous," Jane supplied when she noted that her new friend was searching for the correct word.
Daria pulled a dictionary from her bag. After flipping a few pages, she frowned as she read. "That does not seem to be the word I want. Demanding, that is what I wanted. The academics here are not as demanding as in the gymnasiums that I have attended."
"Rigorous means that," Jane said. "Or people use it to mean that anyway."
"I see," said Daria. "Language changes."
"Other than the fact you can coast to graduation," Jane continued. "What else?"
"The same impression that I got on all my other visits to America," Daria responded. "The same commented on by nearly everyone who comes here. Americans are so welcoming, so friendly."
"That's us," Jane agreed. "I passed another girl in the hall earlier who spoke with a German accent."
"Red hair," Daria said. "Surrounded by boys?"
"Yep," said Jane.
"My sister, Quinn," Daria replied.
"Your mom must have named you," Jane guessed.
Daria chuckled. "Two German sisters one with a Greek name and the other with an Irish one. That could only be the work of an American."
"I thought you said that your sister was born here," Jane replied.
"She holds dual citizenship," the German girl answered. "As it is that we will be living in the United States for several years I think that she will become more American."
"And you?" Jane asked.
Daria shrugged. "Time will tell but as close as Germany, Britain, and the United States are in these days it does not seem to be as important as it was perhaps in our grandparents age. So many are like me; one parent from one country the other from one of the other two."
"Do you know something that always struck me as weird?" asked Jane.
"What is strange to you?" Daria asked in return.
"The fact that America and Germany are friends in the first place," Jane said.
"We were allies in the Bolshevik War in the nineteen forties," Daria replied. "Bonds forged in war are strong."
"But we're so different," Jane said.
"We're not so different," Daria retorted gently. "There are several examples of German influence in the American culture which is not surprising since I once read somewhere that Germans are the largest single ethnic group in your country and your culture especially your music and cinema affects art in Germany. While your people refuse to understand that a football is round, it stays easy for us to talk because most Germans have a knowledge of English while I read somewhere that more students in your country take German than any other language."
"I take Spanish," Jane said. "But getting back to the subject, we are different. We laid-back, you guys are ramrod straight."
"You have not met any Bavarians," Daria laughed then grew serious. She looked lost in thought for a moment before continuing. "Other than a shared culture the reason I think and many others in Germany think that our nations are allies, friends if you will, what allowed us to be so is that America did not enter the Four Years War against us."
"Why would we have," Jane asked. "It wasn't any of our business."
"No, it was not," Daria agreed. "But many in America were demanding that you enter the war. The French and British wanted the same but fortunately your President Hughes refused and the Treaty of Versailles that ended the war in 1918 returned Europe to the antebellum status quo."
"We remained on good terms with you and eventually worked out our differences with Britain."
"Helps when your kings are related," Jane quipped. "They were what? First cousins?
"Yes but more than just the crowns," Daria replied. "As I said earlier many have relatives in both countries especially the noble families who had more influence on government in that time. As for the war one can play what-if all day but it does not take a seer to know that with everyone at their breaking point American material and men the balance would have tipped to France and Britain."
"After that, who knows? Germany could have been broken up into its pre-empire states. France and Britain might have divided us into spheres of influence. Alsace would not have remained in Germany for certain and God help me, I would be French."
"To the victor the spoils," Jane said. "You guys took a big chuck of Russia after the Bolshevik War."
"And what was once Chukotka and Kamchatka in the old Soviet Union is now the American states of Franklin, Jefferson, and Lincoln," Daria added. "The Bering Sea is an American lake because of the spoils of war."
"Manifest Destiny," said Jane sipping her milk.