Jane's mind had always had the habit of re-examining the less intelligent moments of her life. She was not sure where this habit came from. It had helped her learn from her mistakes, but was it ever a pain while it was doing it. No one wants to re-live their most embarrassing moments.
"Well, you've got so much else of mine, you might as well have my identity."
Yes, Jane, you moron. She thought to herself. That was a really stupid thing to say. I know that already, oh brain of many tortures, so why have you repeated it to me eight times in the last few minutes?
"Cheer up, Daria, without me around you'll have that much more time for your budding social life."
Yes, all right already! She barked inwardly. What, do I have the Marquis de Sade living in my head now? I know that was even stupider. I could hear the hurt in her voice - hell that's the most expressive I've ever seen Daria - why did I have to rub salt in her wounds?
For revenge. For your pain.
Revenge on my best friend? That makes no sense. No wonder you've been so lonely lately, if that's what you do to friends.
Again, Jane lifted her brush to the canvas. Again, she set it back down, nothing coming to mind. No imagery to represent her pain manifested. Jane, you know how to handle artist's block. Just mark the canvas. A little blob will do ya.
She lifted her brush again and pushed it against the middle of the canvas. No paint adhered - it was dry.
Great, just fantastic. Another ruined brush.
Frustrated, Jane tossed the brush toward her overflowing wastebasket and gathered her easel and canvas up in her arms, carrying them to the corner where they were unceremoniously dropped.
Jane snatched her left hand away, drawing a hissing breath. A splinter reddened and puckered her skin on the wrist just below her thumb.
"Ow." She grumbled as she headed to her cluttered desk for tweezers.
Not one damn thing can go right for me, now can it? She asked herself as she tried to nip the edge of the splinter with her old tweezers.
She drew away only the end of the splinter, her skin letting her know the rest was still very much embedded and was none too happy about it. Nothing was left on the surface to grab with the tweezers.
Swabbing the blade and her wrist with copious amounts of rubbing alcohol, she put the edge of the X-Acto blade over the splinter. She closed her eyes and began to psyche herself up for the shallow wound she would need to inflict to get to the bit of wood.
"Oh, god! Janey! No!"
Jane opened her eyes in time to see her normally slumberous brother vault from the doorway, grab her hand and throw the blade away.
"It'll be OK, Janey. There's no need for this, we can make it better." He babbled.
Jane gave him a flat, irritated stare.
"Splinter." She said.
"I know it seems that way, but it'll all come back together!"
"No." Jane said, holding her wrist up to her bother's nose. "Splinter."
Trent looked at the red, irritated swelling around the foreign piece of wood, and his face turned red.
"Um... Oh. Sorry."
Jane picked up a second blade from her desk, dipped it in the bottle of alcohol and quickly slit open her skin.
Her brother shuddered.
With a slight smirk, Jane picked up the tweezers again. With a second hiss of pain, she pulled out a quarter-inch long sliver of wood as the blood oozed from the new wound. Quickly, she took a small adhesive bandage from a drawer and applied it to the tiny laceration.
"Now that that's over, my dearest brother, mind telling me just what the hell were you thinking?"
"Um, you did have a knife against your wrist." He started.
"Well, you have been kind of depressed lately."
Jane's eyebrow shot up her forehead. "You have got to be kidding me! Suicide? Me?" Jane found she could not help but laugh. "No freaking way!"
Never mind I had that thought pass through my head once or twice. She thought as her laughter subsided. Never mind I don't even have the slightest clue who I'd be killing off if I did suicide.
"Oh." Trent grunted, embarrassed. "Well, uh, I gotta go to practice. I'm late."
Jane smirked as she watched him saunter through the door, never in a hurry no matter how late he was. After he was out of sight, her attention focused on the abandoned canvas. Nothing after eight weeks. I've never gone this long without at least some impressionist crap.
Maybe I'm just not an artist. She mused as she retrieved the discarded blade from the floor so she would not rediscover it in the night with her bare feet. What the hell else have I been faking at all this time? Just who the hell am I, anyway?
I'm over it. I'm over it. I'm over it. Damn it, I'm over it.
Jane desperately tried to convince herself as Daria and Tom leaned against each other opposite her in the booth at the pizza shop. They probably were not even really conscious of it, considering Daria's usual standoffish nature.
At the edge of her perception, she could hear their conversation. She could even hear what she hoped were witty repartees from her own lips. Internally, she was too busy being terribly frightened.
Why wasn't I good enough for him? Why the hell did he choose Daria over me?
She lifted her slice of pizza to her mouth and tore off an immense bite. Now she could think and not be expected to participate for a bit.
She's smarter than you are, Jane.
Oh, god. Not you again.
Jane looked at Daria, who was sipping her soda and listening intently while Tom went off on some tangent.
She is smarter that I am.
She's prettier, too. Even with those glasses covering her face, she's so much prettier.
Ok, now you're going too far.
Jane looked at Daria's curved face and her thick, long eyelashes.
Ok, so she is prettier, too.
Jane's heart began to ache, something she would never before expected to feel, but now was all too familiar with the feeling. Trying to quench it, she polished off her piece if pizza.
"Hey, there's this great movie at the Showcase Cinema." Tom announced. "Sick: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist. It's a documentary somewhere between fascinating and sickening. Right up our collective alley. How about it, my treat!"
Jane's face scrunched slightly as she tried to place the name.
"Wow. A documentary about an insane performance artist who was into pain, public sex and black paint. How does one resist an offer like that?" Daria replied to Tom, a smirk on her face.
Damn it. I'm supposed to be the one who knows about the artists. Thanks bunches, Daria.
"Well? How about it, Jane?" Tom asked, all amicable and unhurt.
How about you stuff it up your kazoo, traitor.
"Actually, I want to go buy some art supplies. I've been having some bad luck with brushes lately." Jane apologized. "You two'd want to be alone in the theatre anyway." She smirked. "Dark places with padding and all that."
Tom chuckled, and Daria looked a little shocked.
Tom and Jane rose from their seats, Daria following after a brief moment.
"See you guys." Jane said, turning to leave without waiting for their parting words.
On one of the myriad of roadside benches along Degas Street, Jane sat sipping the super-sweet frozen drink from the small store behind her. It had not taken any time to buy a few brushes, especially since they knew her well enough in there that they had what she needed sitting ready for her once they saw her enter the store.
It's nice to be known. Too bad it's for something you really aren't. Maybe it's time to just drop the whole charade thing. Maybe I really am just your average Jane, except kind of pretentious. I'm an artist wannabe.
Jane looked down the street, hoping the bus would be along soon. Her eye caught sight of someone she recognized.
Aw, hell. What the hell is she doing in Lawndale?
Alison was walking out from one of the more unusual stores on Degas Street. Jane found herself staring at her.
I still wonder about that. Maybe I should have stayed with her that night. Maybe all this doubt is just... denial? She is kind of pretty. No, she is beautiful. Attractive. Jeez what am I doing?
Being honest? For once?
Alison looked over toward her and their eyes met. Alison looked startled and apprehensive. Jane felt her hand raise to shoulder level and wave.
Ok, hand - I'll punish you later.
Alison set her jaw, and began walking toward her.
Yes, hand - you are in such trouble.
"Hi, Jane." Alison greeted quietly.
"I, uh..." "About that..." They spoke over each other.
Jane smiled and Alison giggled slightly.
"Mind if I go first, Jane?"
"Ok, sure." Jane said, curiosity piqued.
"Since the end of that workshop, I've been meaning to apologize to you."
"It's Ok, Alison." Jane jumped in. "I mean, I could have been propositioned by far, far worse people."
Alison smiled. "Thanks for the backhanded compliment. I mean about the high-schooler crack, though. It wasn't fair, and worse I only said it because what you had implied was partly true. I was going to bed him for the gallery connections."
Alison sat down beside Jane.
"I wasn't trying to manipulate you, though. I just read you wrong. I mean, you are really attractive, I really wanted you to be... well, open to it at least. Then when you said you were straight, and you were so certain about it - I let my embarrassment do the talking. I didn't mean to make you doubt yourself, even for the briefest moment. God, Jane. I really made an ass of myself. I hope you can forgive me."
Alison punctuated her plea by placing her hand on Jane's.
Jane looked at it, not feeling the need to draw away.
Warm and soft. Nicer than Tom's hand was. God, I miss contact like this.
"Um, I..." Jane watched, mildly surprised, when her other hand came around and rested on Alison's hand. "Oh, it wasn't anything I lost sleep over or anything. So let's call it forgotten, Ok?"
They sat for a bit in silence. Jane studied Alison's face - it was an interesting one with soft curves and interesting shadows - and enjoyed the touch of her hand.
"You know, if I had been honest from the outset, I wouldn't have hurt you. It's one of those obvious truths - honesty - that I forget to apply."
Jane smirked. "Oh, I don't think that's your exclusive territory. I've blowing it seriously on the honesty front a few thousand times, too."
"Yeah." Alison chuckled. "We've all got learning to do."
Silence descended again.
Time to know. Time to shed doubt. Time to stop being alone.
"Do you still, you know, want to ... uh..."
Alison's eyebrows shot up. "Are you sure?"
"Well..." Rather than answer, she leaned forward and was met halfway by Alison. Their lips met briefly and they both backed away a little.
"Yeah, I'm sure."
Jane followed Alison to her car where they headed to Alison's hotel.
Jane half-woke; her nose insisting there was a good reason to stop sleeping on this ever so comfortable bed even as her body hugged her pillow closer, insisting more sleep was necessary. She took a deep breath - coffee! Not just coffee, but coffee with vanilla and a bit of chocolate. It was close... very close.
Jane opened her right eye and saw a mug of the delicious smelling brew hovering by the bed.
"Mmmm." Jane murmured.
"Morning, Jane." She heard Alison say. "I've got breakfast on order. Want to shower?"
Jane opened her other eye, rolled onto her back and sat up. She accepted the coffee from Alison and - finding it of a comfortable temperature - she took a deep draught.
Alison draped a soft looking robe similar to the one she was wearing across Jane's lap.
"Yeah... showering would be good." Jane said, sleepily. She took another sip if the coffee. "This is good."
"Mhmm." Alison agreed while sipping from her own mug. "Go on, before room service gets here."
Jane set her coffee on the nightstand and stood up. Feeling Alison's eyes upon her, she stretched then picked up the robe and headed for the shower.
Jane stepped under the rain-like flow of hot water. As the feeling of the water rushing over her woke her up, she began lathering up her hands with the bar of soap that was waiting for her.
Ok, Jane. Was that what I expected? She asked herself. It was nice, even fun. But, was it what I really, truly want?
Don't you remember? It's time to be honest.
Oh, what do you know about honesty? You're all doubts and fears. I have to ask, or I can't be honest.
Jane tried not to think for a few minutes.
"Jane? Breakfast's arrived. Ready when you are!" Alison called though the door.
She likes me. She's attracted to me. I want that.
She's only visiting. She'll be gone soon.
Who cares? How often do I get to feel wanted? I should take what I get and like it.
Jane stepped out of the shower and toweled off. Donning the robe and wrapping her hair in a dry towel, she re-immerged feeling refreshed.
Alison smiled around nibbling on a honeydew wedge. "Good morning, beautiful."
Jane thought she felt her cheeks color. "Uh, hey."
After a moment of watching Jane's embarrassed hesitance, Alison waved her hand over the broad selection of fresh fruits, muffins, juices and milk to invite her to table.
Jane began to sit on the bed opposite, but changed her mind and went to sit on the lounge with Alison. Jane selected one of the muffins and began to eat.
"You know, Jane, I don't normally feel like I have to discuss my performance... but I have a feeling last night wasn't exactly what you had hoped for."
Jane met her eyes, a worried look on her face. "What do you mean?" She said around a bite of the muffin.
"Well, first I want to make sure you know that you were quite good. Especially considering it was your first time. You're adaptive, thoughtful and a very quick study."
Jane felt her cheeks warm again.
"But, there was a forced quality to it." Alison said, her forehead wrinkled with worry.
Jane looked back at her muffin. "Um, sorry?"
"No, nothing to apologize for. I was worried that I had... well... taken advantage of you. Maybe you weren't ready for this?"
Jane felt a chill rush through her. "No! I was, but... uh... well, I was just kind of nervous, that's all."
Alison looked at her meaningfully.
"Really!" Jane pleaded.
"You know, Jane. I'm not an experimental lay for anyone. You looked like you needed it, though, and I simply could not resist an offer from you. I won't be insulted or hurt in the least if you discovered you really are straight because I already suspect you are." Alison smiled. "And we both need to practice with the honesty thing, remember?"
"I'm..." Jane's voice was a whisper.
Don't say it. You'll lose her.
If I don't say it, I'll loose myself.
"I don't want to loose you." Jane whispered. "But, I don't think I'm gay or bi."
Alison put her arm around Jane and held her. "It's ok, Jane. I'm still here, and I understand. As much as it sounds like a cliché, we can still be friends, if you'll have me."
"You're not mad?"
Alison shook her head in the negative, smiling.
"Yeah. I could use a friend." Jane admitted.
Alison picked up another honeydew wedge and bit off a piece. "Great! Now, I hope you don't have any other plans for today. I've got two local galleries to visit and I'd love for you to come along. It's time you met the darker, more bureaucratic side of the art scene."
"Why?" Jane asked.
"I've seen your work, Jane. You should be trying to get it in the market now, while there's some money in it. There's no use waiting till after college, and if you can get a name for yourself, then school-of-your-choice, here you come."
"My work?" Jane looked incredulous.
Alison raised an eyebrow and froze in mid-bite. "God, Jane. What happened to you since I saw you last?"
Jane shrugged. "Kinda personal." She said.
Alison grinned. "So, just how much more intimate would we have to get before you'd share it with me?"
Jane chortled, briefly choking on her muffin. "Yeah, good point." She admitted.
Jane took a moment to gather herself, then launched into the tale of her harrowing brush with conventionality at her English teacher's behest, losing her boyfriend to her best friend, and very nearly loosing her best and only friend. She discussed the fact that her relationship with Daria was still sort of rocky, her inability to create art anymore, her depression, and even Trent's mistaking her actions for a suicide attempt.
Through it all, Alison listened attentively, never drawing back or acting bored. It made Jane feel a little better about her self, and it made her problems seem a little smaller.
"Oh, this is great!" Alison said, admiring the odd little statuette of an alien slave lord. "I love the perverse expression. He's kind of cute and he give me the creeps all at once."
Does she really like my work, or is she just trying to fluff up my ego? Jane asked herself. For the Goddess's sake, Jane, get real. After a week of her taking time out of her own schedule for you, the way she talked you up to all those dealers, haven't you figured it out yet?
"Hey!" Alison scolded playfully. "Don't move away from that canvas. I told you, we break the block tonight if it kills us both."
Jane smirked again and re-took her position in front of the blank canvas as Alison resumed rummaging though her "discarded art" closet.
"I love the way you work in any medium you want to." Alison said from the depths of the closet. "Not too many people can manage that - and it's all great work. Nothing forced or overwrought."
"Thanks." Jane said, still embarrassed even after days of such compliments.
"Woah." Alison said, her frenetic search suddenly halted. "This is interesting."
"What is?" Jane asked.
Alison emerged with a canvas, looking at the image it held. "Who is this?" she asked enthusiastically. "This look is intense!"
Jane smirked, now knowing whom she was talking about. "That's Daria. She's an intense kind of gal."
"Pretty, too." Alison commented offhandedly.
"Yeah." Jane agreed. "I wish she'd let me paint her more often. She hates the attention, though. Still, I paint about things and people around me who are important to me." Jane's hands began to move as she thought about the night that she had convinced Daria to let her paint her portrait.
"Until lately, I used paint to express what I was feeling. Daria and I don't really like the whole public display thing, but we need outlets. She writes. You should read her stories and essays. They make even the most jaded feel something. She has this one, 'The Poor Man's Rich Daughter' - god, that one had me painting for weeks after I read it." Jane sighed, looking at the ceiling. "It was this study about her relationship with her father. Talk about your painful love. I'm not sure whether to be jealous of them or to pity them."
Jane fell silent as she eked out details on the canvas in front of her.
Smiling, Alison came up beside her to see what image was forming. She paused, her face a mask of shock, then she covered her mouth and tried to hold back joyous tears.
On the canvas was her image, a goddess standing above a lake of bright energy, one hand splayed out in the air above her and the other around her bare waist, swirls of bright energy from the lake dancing around her. The blue and cyan hues gave the painting a tranquil, pleasant feel, and the bright whites, peaches and reds made her image striking and important against the darker background.
Jane touched up the eyes one last time, then cleaned her brushes.
I am an artist. She thought to herself. Damn it all, I am an artist!
In the midst of her excitement over breaking the long period of creative emptiness and feeling like she had regained an important part of her identity, Jane became aware of Alison's quiet sobs.
"What? What's wrong?" Jane asked gently.
Alison held up an earlier painting with her as the subject that she had found in Jane's closet. She was perfectly human in that image, in a normal setting, but some indefinable quality to it made her seem evil, unnatural.
"People tend to see me like this." Alison pointed to the new painting. "I've never been... no one has ever seen me that way." She sniffled. "Thank you, Jane."
Jane hugged her new friend, who wept on her shoulder.
"Than you, Alison." Jane whispered.
Alison held Jane close as they watched the airliners land and take off on the runways of their local airport. Being held had a different feel for Jane now than it had two weeks ago. It was more of a friendly gesture and about not wanting to let go just yet than it was a romantic effort. Jane held Alison in a similar manner.
The Alison from art camp had been someone else - or so it seemed. This Alison was her friend. This one had taught her things and shared experiences with her that Jane honestly felt enriched her life in important ways.
I'm really going to miss her.
"I know you've been avoiding asking this..." Alison started. "I think it's important you know, since you have so much more potential than I do."
With Jane looking on with much curiosity, Alison rummaged around her large carry-on bag. Eventually she withdrew a receipt.
"This is why I've been staying in a nice hotel and buying all the meals and stuff like that. This is what could be in your future, only with bigger numbers."
Jane read the figures. Her jaw hung open in shock and awe. "Woah!"
"If I can sell off one of my sculptures for that much, Jane, you're headed for something really big." Alison raised her hand to stop Jane's attempt at protest. "I know what I'm talking about, Jane. Remember to take these deals when they show up, this is how you work the system without falling prey to it."
"This is what you meant by 'selling isn't selling out?'"
Alison nodded in the affirmative.
"Um, this isn't the result of you and what's-his-name, is it?"
Alison smiled indulgently. "No, I just happened into this one. He didn't work out at all, Jane. It wasn't worth it."
"Well, I hate to say 'I told you so'..."
"I know. Try not to loose sight of your ethics, Jane. You're wiser than most people I know. It'd be a shame to loose that."
That would be Daria's influence. Jane figured.
Alison traded the receipt for a business card. "Let's not loose touch with each other, ok?"
Jane pocketed the card, smiling sadly and nodding as Alison's flight was called.
The two friends embraced.
"I'm going to miss you." Alison admitted.
Jane pulled back just enough to give Alison a quick but tender kiss. Alison's eyes widened.
"What was that for?"
Jane shrugged. "I don't know. Impulse."
"Funny, this'll be the first time the company meant more to me than the sex." Alison said with a wry grin. "Are you trying to corrupt me?"
Ironic that the sex meant a lot to me, even if it wasn't really me. Jane thought as she laughed along with Alison.
"Until next time." Alison said. She broke their embrace, turned around and walked to the boarding gate quickly, disappearing around the corner.
Jane spotted her as she boarded the aircraft, one last wave exchanged between the two.
Jane sauntered up to the door while casually wiping off the smeared charcoal from her hands onto a towel, her mind much too involved with her latest project to have much interest in who was knocking.
She opened the door and felt her face brighten. "Daria!" She exclaimed, very much happy to see her best friend.
"Hey, Jane." Daria replied in her usual monotone. "I'm glad to see you smiling - I was worried you were angry with me again."
Jane looked befuddled. "Why?"
"Because I haven't seen you in two weeks."
"Oh, that." Jane said, waving her friend in. "I was busy with a new friend of sorts, and I wanted to give you more time with Tom"
"More time with Tom?" Daria asked as they mounted the stairs to Jane's room.
"Ok, It's more like less time for me around Tom."
"You are angry with me, then."
"No, no!" Jane placated as Daria sat on her bed and she resumed her charcoal image. "I'm way over being angry with either of you. But..." Jane sighed.
"Watching you two was making me feel... lonely. I needed time away from that."
"Oh." Daria grunted. "I'm sorry, Jane."
"Not your fault, Amiga." Jane explained. "Besides, this has been a good couple of weeks." Jane indicated the new paintings on the wall.
Daria stood and looked at them. Where a few were a little dark and spoke of depression, most were interesting visual essays. Daria paused and really looked at one with a nude goddess-like figure above a pool of light.
"I recognize the face, but I can't place from where."
"Alison from art camp."
Daria's eyebrow levitated. "I thought you didn't much like her."
"I didn't. But she was in town and we reconciled. She's actually a really neat person."
"Oh." Daria said, studying the painting. "I take it she posed for you?"
"No, it's all from memory." Jane said, then froze in embarrassment.
Daria seemed to take no notice whatsoever, and moved on to other paintings.
"What was she doing in Lawndale?" Daria asked.
"Dealing with a couple of galleries in the city." Jane answered.
"Doing that bad, huh?" Daria commented.
"No, actually. Those galleries are far more connected than I thought. They brokered a six-figure deal for her over one of her sculptures."
Daria looked over her shoulder at Jane. "Six figures?"
"Yep. It seems our little berg has some interesting affiliations with big businesses and the so-called 'neuvau-riche'."
"Hmm." Daria contemplated. "Which would actually explain my dad's business' success."
Jane raised an eyebrow. I hadn't thought of that.
"It was really cool hanging out with her. She taught me a lot about the gallery business." Jane commented.
Daria paused again, with a small startle, in front of the likeness Jane really wanted her to see. One of Jane's carefully realistic paintings, it depicted Tom and Daria on a park bench, both very much being themselves. In that enigmatic way Jane had with her work, there were traces of contentment around the couple on the canvas even though there was nothing overt in their poses to suggest it. The hints were almost subliminal - you just knew they were happy to be together.
Daria seemed to study the painting completely dispassionately. Jane knew this only meant she had clamped down on her emotions.
The less emotion she shows, the more she feels.
Jane eased up beside her.
"I don't know what Tom saw in me." Jane said quietly. "I guess it was just physical. I know that I just liked being wanted. So, I don't really know the feelings I see between you and Tom."
Daria glanced at Jane, still hiding behind her stoic façade.
"What's it like?" Jane asked.
"What's what like?"
"Love." Jane said. "Or whatever it is between you two."
Daria shrugged and moved to sit in Jane's overstuffed chair. "It's hard to describe. I don't have anything to compare it to."
Jane sat down on her bed, her look urging Daria to try.
"I'm not even sure what we have. I really like discussing issues with him, even though he sometimes infuriates me with his rich-kid attitudes. Fortunately, those attitudes are few in number, and he doesn't much like them himself, once he knows they're there." Daria shifted in her seat. "I do like to ... uh..." She blushed.
"Make out?" Jane offered helpfully.
"Yeah." Daria admitted. "It's new to me. I worry that once the novelty wears off, Tom will turn out to be just a friend who I happened to kiss."
Jane smiled and looked up at the painting of Alison. "Nothing wrong with that."
Daria looked at the painting, then at Jane. "Is there something I should know?" Daria said, gesturing at the painting. "'From memory'?"
Jane looked at her boots. Honest or evasive?
"Uh, well... I really, really know I'm straight, now?"
Daria cocked her head. "You slept with her?"
Thanks for letting me skirt that one, Daria. "I wouldn't describe it as sleeping, exactly..."
Daria stared at her friend.
"Jeez! I was lonely... a little confused... I needed somebody! It was just that once! Ok?"
"Sorry, Jane. I'm not judging you, I'm just a little surprised." Daria let a small smile form on her face. "Did you at least have fun?"
"Honestly, it was more educational than fun, though I can't deny it was pleasurable. Like I said, I have no doubts at all now about my preference for male interaction."
Daria nodded understanding.
"So..." Jane started, smirking. "Have you and Tom..."
"No!" Daria exclaimed, mortified. "It's never gone that... I mean, we've never actually..."
Jane's wry smile deepened over Daria's discomfort. "I see there's been a little... shall we call it... experimentation?"
Daria's bright red blush was answer enough.
Jane decided not to push her friend any farther. They shared a few moments of that amicable silence possible only among good friends.
"It's kind of nice, that sort of thing. It's more than the excited nerve endings. I mean the sharing." Jane commented. "Knowing you're making someone you care about feel good."
"Yeah, it is." Daria said, looking thoughtful. "It's also nice knowing someone cares enough about you to return the favor."
Jane watched her friend think.
It's nice to know you're still human under there. Jane thought. It's also nice to know that we're still close enough and trust each other enough to discuss this stuff.
Jane felt a little smile rise to the surface.
"Jane? I never meant to hurt you. I'm sorry." Daria said, still looking at the floor. "I didn't want to risk a really, really good friendship over a guy. I didn't even know it was happening until it was too late. I just didn't know any better."
"I know." Jane said. "I forgave the mistake a long while ago. We both learned a lot, and we're still friends. We'll both be more careful in the future."
Jane stood and motioned for Daria to stand. Jane embraced her friend, and was surprised when the hug was returned.
They broke the embrace and Daria pulled her watch from her pocket. "Pizza? My treat." She offered.
"I'd love to, but I have to finish up this project. I want to get a few entries into the Palazio's open show and the deadline is tomorrow afternoon."
"Taking it to the next level?" Daria said, her approval obvious.
"Yeah. It's time to get serious."
"You'll be the big hit no one saw coming, you know."
Jane smiled at the support. "Thanks."
"You realize, also, that you're condemning me to dinner with my family."
Jane smiled and made a dismissive gesture. "All the good writers suffered. I'm doing you a favor."
Daria smirked. "Thanks a ton. I'll be sure to return the favor with interest." Daria looked at the paintings on the wall. "Need help delivering the goods? I can borrow mom's SUV."
"I have a ride, but I could use a friend."
"Then I'll see you tomorrow." Daria said, and headed for home.
Jane smiled and returned to her art.