Jane quickly walked back into Daria's room and set her glass of water down beside Daria, who sat at her desk, studying for her finals. Jane lifted the phone and began to dial.
"Daria? What's the address for Ford's Theater?"
"Ford's Theater. Lincoln got shot there. Quick, girl!" Jane urged as she listened to the receiver.
"Uh, I think it's 511 tenth street northwest in Washington, DC." Daria answered, puzzled.
Jane perked up and spoke into the phone.
"Yeah, hi. It's 511 tenth street northwest in Washington, DC. What? The zip code? Uh…" Jane motioned frantically to Daria.
"20004!" Jane yelled into the phone.
Jane listened for a moment, then became excited.
"Yes! Cool! Yes! Yes!"
Daria shook her head, amused at her friend as Jane told the person on the other end of the phone her name and address and danced ecstatically in place. Jane had to finish off by yelling the radio station's call letters for them, but didn't seem to mind. She returned the phone to the cradle and continued her little victory dance.
"Yes! We are the winners!" Jane sang.
"Obviously, we need to get your medication adjusted again. What did you win? A cheesy tee shirt? A CD so bad that no one can sell it, so they have to give it away? Tickets to see townies ruin otherwise worthwhile music?" Daria smirked.
Jane sat down on Daria's bed and grinned.
"This contest has been going on for about a week, Daria. Every day, they asked a different question on some really obscure fact. This is the first time I've had your brain available to actually make the call." She explained. "The prize is something special. Clearly worth it."
"Yeah?" Daria said, flatly.
"Come on, take a guess. I'll give you a hint: You'll want to go with me."
"You won a trip to anywhere else than the Morgendorffer residence." Daria said with much faux enthusiasm.
"Close!" Jane joked.
"I give up."
Jane couldn't contain herself any longer.
"The Smithsonian!" Jane bounced on the bed.
Daria's eyes went wide.
"Are you kidding me?"
"No! I just got four tickets to complete and paid for week-long trips to the Smithsonian and Washington D.C.!"
"That is far too cool!" Daria said, breathlessly.
"You're coming, right?"
Jane gave her a look that had "Well, Duh" written all over it.
"Yes!" Daria almost yelled. "Yes, yes." Daria had always wanted to see the Smithsonian museums.
"Cool!" Jane exclaimed. "Say – how do you know things like that, anyway?"
"Things stick in my head. I did a report on Lincoln in grade school, and I saw the address on a National Parks pamphlet."
Jane seemed to consider this for a moment, then donned a plotting smirk.
"Come on, let's go to the kitchen."
"Huh?" Daria was confused by the sudden shift in the conversation.
The girls headed down to the kitchen, Daria looking mildly confused. As they approached their destination, Jane began to speak loudly.
"Yeah, I'm glad I won that trip, Daria."
Helen, irritated, looked up from the work she had scattered on the table. Jane continued to the fridge and opened it, still being loud.
"Yeah, assuming you can come with me, Daria, It'll be the best birthday present I've given you so far."
Daria smirked, now knowing what her friend was up to.
"Yeah." Daria answered. "That would be cool."
Jane emerged from the refrigerator and handed Daria a soda.
"That's tomorrow, right?" Jane asked as she headed back to the stairs.
"Yep." Daria answered as they both mounted the stairs.
Helen's face was the model of horror.
Jane sat the unopened soda down and retrieved her water glass. Daria opened hers and took a sip, then sat back down to study.
"So, you think they'll let you go?"
"Well, I'll be eighteen, so it's not like they can stop me, really." Daria waved her hand at her books. "But if we don't graduate, Jane, I'm willing to bet neither of us get to go." Daria said, sweeping her hand over her books.
"You are, of course, correct. Which brings me to…"
"Yes, I'll help you with your math." Daria sighed.
"Bless you, friend!" Jane said with exaggerated gratitude.
"Jake!" Helen barked as she ran to the back yard.
Jake was puttering around with his grill, preparing for the coming summer outdoor cooking season.
"Jake! Come on!" Helen ordered as she grabbed her husband's arm and started to drag him toward the front door.
"Honey, what's going on?"
"Jake! We forgot Daria's birthday!" Helen said, frightened.
Jake looked confused.
"But, isn't it tomorrow?"
Helen glared at Jake.
"Yes! Of course it is."
"Then what's the problem? We've got her a present, and she hates parties!"
"We have a present for her?" It was Helen's turn to look confused.
"Yeah. You told me to go get something for her weeks ago, remember?"
Helen wandered over to a lawn chair and sat, looking relived.
"Oh, thank goodness. I thought I had forgotten." Helen took a deep breath and let it out with a whoosh, trying to relax. "What did you get her?"
"It's great! She'll love it! They were on sale, so I got her a whole set!" Jake looked very excited.
"A whole set of what, Jake?"
"Stuffed animals!" Jake smiled proudly.
Helen leapt from her seat and began to drag Jake to the car.
Jane paced in her room. She wondered how to use the other two tickets on her prize vacation. She started to run through people in her head.
Trent seemed a good first choice. Heck, he could use a vacation after so long on that management job. So, one slot left to fill. It had to be someone who she could tolerate being with during the day, and who could share a room with Trent.
Jane headed for the kitchen for a glass of water, still pondering her question.
"Hey Jane." Jesse said from his perch on the living room couch.
Jane filled a glass and began to drink, staring out the window. Nick and Max were out of the question, she'd be sick of their company in the first few seconds. Trent didn't get along with them very well since Mystic Spiral broke up anyway. No one from school seemed the right choice, since Trent wouldn't want to share a room with them and Jane couldn't stand most of them anyway. Jane headed back to her room.
"Hey Jane." Jesse said from his perch on the living room couch.
Jane's mind settled on Monique as she entered her room, and quickly discarded the idea as just plain stupid. She began to pace again, becoming frustrated. She sat her glass on her desk, but miscalculated her distance and it tipped over onto the floor.
"Damn it!" She cursed and headed to the kitchen for some paper towels.
"Hey Jane." Jesse said from his perch on the living room couch.
She gathered a wad of towels and paused. There was someone who would fit the bill, there had to be. Jane sighed and headed back to her room to clean up the spilled water.
"Hey Jane." Jesse said from his perch on the living room couch.
Jane stopped at the foot of the stairs, a smile forming on her face.
Daria woke to her alarm and oozed out of bed. She made her bed, gathered her clothes, and headed for the bathroom to prepare for the day. The shower always helped her wake up, and it was one of the few things she enjoyed about mornings. As she dried herself off, she looked up at the mirror. Turning to the side, she realized that her body looked more like a woman's and less like a girl's. Feeling mildly embarrassed at her moment of vanity she quickly finished dressing. She returned her nightclothes to her room, retrieved her backpack along with her homework, and headed down to the kitchen.
Daria pulled down dishes and waffle makings and prepared breakfast for herself and her family. As the coffee finished brewing, a bleary-eyed Jake entered the kitchen and poured himself a cup.
"Morning, kiddo." He greeted sleepily.
Jake sipped his coffee and took a waffle from the stack that Daria had set in the middle of the table. Daria watched, mildly disgusted at the thought, as he immersed it in syrup. Returning to her cooking, Daria finished the last of the waffle dough and brought the second stack to the table and sat down to eat.
Helen walked in and poured herself a cup of coffee, stopping to drop a spoonful of sugar and a bit of non-dairy creamer into it. She sat silently at the table, still not awake enough to even speak. Daria took a waffle off the first stack and set it on her mother's plate, and moved the syrup within her reach.
"Morning sweetie, thanks." Helen said, the coffee beginning to have its desired effect.
Quinn pranced in and sat down at the table, annoyingly chipper.
Jake and Helen mumbled their greetings while Daria remained silent.
"Waffles again?" Quinn whined.
"Yes, why do we always have waffles?" Helen asked, looking at Jake.
"I like waffles, Helen!" Jake said, defensively.
"That doesn't mean we should have them every day, dear."
Jake was silenced by a glare from Helen. Daria sighed quietly and finished her breakfast.
"I have to run, I promised I'd get to Jane's early today."
"Ok, dear. Have a good day at school!" Helen said, her tone saccharine.
Daria snagged her backpack on the way out the door, and she moved down the street at a fast walk. When she got to Jane's house, a note waited for her on the door inviting her to come on in. Shrugging at this unusual turn in her mornings, she opened the door and walked in.
"Surprise!" Jane and Trent yelled and tossed confetti into the air above Daria's head.
"Happy birthday!" Jane said, offering a surprised, scowling, and confetti-covered Daria a cupcake with a lit candle in it.
"Make a wish!"
Daria took the cupcake and, shielding the candle flame, she went outside to the sidewalk and looked down the street. A perplexed Trent and Jane followed. Daria closed her eyes and blew out the candle, then made a show of looking down the street, her hand above her eyes as if shielding them from the sun's glare. After a moment, she dropped her hand to her side as if in disappointment.
"Damn! The school didn't explode." She said, turning back to a giggling Jane and amused Trent.
"I guess we'll have to take those finals after all." Daria said as she split the cupcake into thirds.
They reentered the Lane household as they munched on the cake. Trent quickly went to the kitchen and returned with a large, gift-wrapped book, which he handed to Daria.
"I wish you a joy filled birthday. I'm glad you were born." He said.
Daria blushed and accepted the offered gift.
"I said not to get anything for me." She protested gently.
"No, you told me not to get you anything." Jane explained, smirking. "This was his idea."
Daria unwrapped the monster tome and gasped.
"Bartlett's Roget's Thesaurus!" She whispered.
"Yeah. I heard you complain about how useless the little thesaurus you already have was, so I asked around and found out what the pro writers use." Trent purred.
"I… I don't know what to say, Trent. This is wonderful, thank you."
Trent gave Daria a quick hug, and Daria turned to give Jane a hug as well.
Daria returned home tired from her day of testing. Jane had wanted to go for a run to vent some tension so Daria had an afternoon of bad television and comfort food planned to tide her over until Jane got back.
Daria tossed her unusually light backpack on the sofa. Now that finals were over and there was no homework to be done, she had left all her schoolbooks in her locker. Daria picked up the television remote and began her hunt for entertainment. When the familiar logo of her favorite show caught her eye, she tossed the remote back onto the sofa and headed to the kitchen for a soda and a snack.
A large box on the kitchen table caught her eye immediately. It was wrapped in bright paper with the words "happy birthday" scattered about the pattern. Daria smiled diminutively and picked up the card from off the top of the box.
"Happy birthday, Daria." She read aloud.
Opening the card revealed birthday wishes from her mother and father and two hundred-dollar bills. The card instructed her to open the box immediately.
Tearing back the wrapping revealed a plain brown cardboard box. Daria tore at the tape, then – hoping it wouldn't be a new wardrobe as chosen by Quinn – she pulled back a flap and gasped. She pulled out a beautiful new laptop computer. Beneath it in the box were boxes of new software including a top of the line word processor, web site editing software, a planner calendar, and various useful utilities. A note in the box let her know Helen had already loaded all the software onto the laptop. There was also a tiny inkjet printer, a modem, and an Ethernet card like many colleges needed for dorm room Internet access.
Daria sat down and looked at her present, smiling. This was, by far, the best birthday present her parents had ever given her. She opened the laptop and turned it on, and started the word processor.
She began to write a long thank you letter.
"Daria?" Helen called as her daughter approached the front door.
Daria stopped and faced her mother.
"Where are you off to?" Helen asked, her tone conversational.
"Just going to Jane's."
Helen looked suddenly concerned.
"Don't you spend an awful lot of time with her?"
"She is my friend, Mom." Daria said, her face showing a very slight irritation.
"It's just that, well…"
"I was wondering why you never seem to go out with a boy now and again."
Daria cocked an eyebrow at her mother.
"Maybe because Quinn has called 'dibs' on them all." Daria said, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
"Oh, Daria. I just don't want you to shut yourself off from the whole world." Helen said.
"Mom, if I meet someone I like, then I'll 'go out' with them. In the mean time, I'll spend time with my friend."
"No one has interested you so far?" Helen said, surprised.
"No, not really." Daria shrugged. "It's not like I'm looking for anyone right now, though."
"Why not?" Helen asked.
Daria gave her mother a blank stare.
"Well, let's see: There is college, career decisions, and general not being ready for a relationship. Among, um, other reasons."
"I'm so proud of you, Daria. You always make mature decisions."
"Uh, thanks." Daria was caught off-guard.
"Go on, have a good time." Helen said.
Daria and Jane stood in the quad, their grade envelopes in their hands. Other members of the senior class milled around them in states varying from ecstatic to depressed.
"Ready?" Jane said, apprehensive.
"As ready as I'll ever be." Daria said, worried about that Trig exam she thought she blew.
They opened the envelopes, Daria opening Jane's and Jane opening Daria's.
They read for a moment.
"Well?" Jane said.
"Congratulations. You graduate, with a 2.8 average." Daria said, smiling. "That extra studying paid off."
"Cool!" Jane said, looking relieved.
"And for me?"
"Well, my friend, I have bad news."
Daria's face went ashen.
"Jodie got Valedictorian. You got Salutatorian." Jane smirked.
"Yes, yes." Daria said, waving her hand at Jane. "That's all well and good. But, did I graduate?"
Jane chuckled and looked around at the other seniors.
"Want to join in any of the revelry?" Jane asked.
The friends made their way quickly to the roof of the school and found their usual spots underneath one of the heater units. Jane pulled out her sketchbook and continued on a drawing she had started earlier.
Daria wrote several words in her notebook then paused.
"Damn. I wish I had Trent's present with me." She murmured.
"Trent's present?" Jane said, looking over and smiling.
"Yeah, the thesaurus."
"You call it 'Trent's present'?"
"That's so cute!" Jane said, ribbing her friend.
"Jane, most people would use the stairs to get off the roof."
Jane looked perplexed by Daria's sudden change of theme.
"Why do you say that?" Jane asked.
"Because you seem deliberately well on your way to getting thrown off the side."
Jane chuckled and they both returned to their creative efforts.
Trent leaned back in his chair, tired of doing tedious paperwork. He stretched, then laced his fingers together behind his head. He looked up at the calendar in his office and noticed there was a little less than two weeks before his vacation with Jane, Daria and Jesse started. He was looking forward to that in a big way.
He thought about Daria. She had really changed since he first gave her and his sister a ride to that party so long ago. She had been so quiet and nervous. At first, he thought she was another antisocial like Jane was always messing with, but slowly he began to understand what it was that made her so nervous around him. When he fully understood, he couldn't help but be honored that someone like her could have a crush on someone like him.
So much had changed since that moment, as well. As Daria narrowed her focus and came to understand herself better, he came to understand something about her far better. He felt he knew it better than even she did, but that might just be arrogance. He would have to find some way of getting her to see it or – considering the kind of intellect Daria had – get her to admit to it.
Trent's train of thought was interrupted when an employee knocked on his door. Trent sighed, ever since he took on the responsibilities of managing the Dega Street Music shop; it seemed he had nothing but employee trouble.
"Come on in." Trent yelled.
A pimply-faced boy of about sixteen entered the room, looking nervous.
"What can I do for you, Jim?" Trent asked.
"Sir? I need this Saturday evening off."
Trent repressed a wince at being called "sir".
"Yeah? Got a hot date, huh?" Trent teased the shy teen.
Jim blushed and looked at the floor, shuffling his feet. Trent picked up the schedule and thought for an instant, then picked up his phone.
"Hey David. Want to cover for Jim on Saturday? Yeah, evening shift. Thanks man." Trent hung up the phone and looked at Jim.
"You're in luck, Jim, so enjoy your Saturday night."
"Thanks, sir." Jim said and retreated.
Trent sighed again as he changed the schedule and wondered when it was exactly that he grew up.
As Jane mounted the stage to get her diploma, Daria smirked at her impressive and artistic graduation robes. Done primarily in school colors, the back had many small scenes depicting school life while the front was a very beautiful lion mascot image. Ms. Li had approved of it immediately. Of course, had Ms. Li stood back about ten feet from the images on the back of the robes she would have been able to make out the image of an extended middle finger that Jane had masterfully incorporated.
Judging from the amused reaction of the students, they certainly noticed it.
After the diplomas were handed out, Daria returned to the audience to sit with Jane, rather than on stage, while Jodie gave the valedictory speech.
"Pretty corny speech you gave up there." Jane said softly, smirking.
"I cribbed every word from Bartlett's quotes." Daria answered, also smirking.
Jane repressed a laugh. It figured. Daria hadn't wanted to do the speech at all, and Ms. Li of course rejected her first drafts in total. Rather than put any more work into it, she would assemble the cream of the cliché crop. Ms. Li couldn't help but approve that kind of drivel.
Jane put her arm across the back of Daria's char, and Daria hung her hand over Jane's shoulder as they began to discuss what to do with their week before the trip to the Smithsonian.
Daria quietly closed the door behind her, trying not to wake her family. She carried her suitcase to her green Nissan Sentra and put it in the trunk. After getting into the driver's seat, she yawned and stretched. It was tough being up at four in the morning.
She started the car and headed for the Lane's house. As she drove, she relished the thought of the upcoming week away from Lawndale. She wanted this vacation to be pure relaxation and enjoyment of the museums.
She pulled her car into the driveway and shut it off. Jane and Trent had apparently been watching for her as they immediately came out of the house with their suitcases. Daria opened her trunk for them.
"Morning Daria." Jane said sleepily as she passed by, clasping Daria's shoulder.
Trent mumbled something unintelligible.
Daria smirked at the two sleepyheads as they got into her car. Jane put on her seatbelt and looked over at her friend, giving her a thumbs-up. Daria checked the back seat, finding Trent buckled in and already asleep.
"Off we go." Daria said to her self as she backed out of the driveway.
As they entered the highway and the roar of air around the car began, Jane reached over and turned on the stereo, playing the cassette Daria already had in there. As the music began to fill the car's interior, Jane tried to keep herself awake by singing to the music and dancing in her seat, keeping Daria amused as she drove.
"What building do you want to hit first?" Daria asked her dancing friend.
"Easy: The Freer Gallery. Huge collection of Whistler's work there." Jane answered enthusiastically. "Which one do you want to see first?"
"It's a toss-up between the Air and Space Museum or the National Postal Museum. I lean toward the Air and Space Museum since the Postal Museum doesn't seem to have a 'going postal' weapons exhibit." Daria smirked.
The two chatted and Jane occasionally slept as they made their way down the highway toward the airport.
As Daria parked in the airport lot, they could see Jesse waiting for them at the doors. He had business near the airport and had chosen to stay overnight rather than return to Lawndale and then go back again. As they approached the waiting Jesse, Daria considered how much he had evolved in the time she knew of him. He had gone from a slow-talking musician to a slow-talking computer parts dealer in the span of one year. She hadn't known he was interested in the electronics field, much less capable of understanding it as well as he seemed to. Never the less, there he stood in his dress shirt and slacks, short hair and shaven chin, looking quite the young professional.
"Hey Jess." Trent greeted.
"Hey Trent. Hey Jane. Hey Daria." Jesse said, smiling.
"Hi Jesse." Daria answered.
Jane smiled and waved.
"Let's get our boarding passes." Jane said.
They checked their luggage, answering what seemed inane security questions. It was all Daria could do not to crack wise at some of them. She knew many of these airport security types had no sense of humor about it, so she kept quiet. Good fortune let them pass through the metal detectors un-beeped. They headed toward the gate where their plane would be boarding and settled in for the twenty-minute wait. Jane and Daria fell asleep, leaning on one another, while Trent and Jesse talked about getting together and playing guitar.
Jesse pointed at the girls.
"That reminds me." Jesse said. "Are you going to tell her?"
"I don't know, man. It could really mess things up." Trent said, looking at Daria.
"Maybe. Maybe it would make things better. I think ignoring it is going to screw things up worse, eventually. You know, denial and all that."
"Yeah. I don't know. I still need to think on it. You know, to be sure." Trent said.
An announcement garbled over the public address system and Trent was certain he heard their flight number called.
"Let's wake the girls." Jesse suggested.
Soon all were aboard the jet. Jesse and Trent were fast asleep the minute the jet leveled out from takeoff. Jane and Daria continued their discussion about the Smithsonian.
"Wow, not a bad room." Jane said as they entered the suite.
"Not bad at all." Trent said, delighted.
The suite had two bedrooms off of a large living room. It was nicely appointed, even luxurious, with a large television, wet bar and kitchenette.
Jesse and Trent headed to the bedroom to the right to put away their luggage. Jane looked at Daria, shrugged, and they both headed to the other bedroom.
Daria opened the curtains and looked out over the city. The window looked out toward the Washington monument and she could just make out the Lincoln memorial.
"So this is Washington D.C." Daria mumbled.
"Yep. Capitol of these here Unites States and the number one place to score some crack." Jane said, standing behind Daria.
"Such symmetry." Daria said, smirking.
They wandered back out to the living room and discovered Jesse and Trent raiding the wet bar.
"Before noon?" Daria said, sarcastically.
"We were hoping there was something to eat." Jesse said, sounding depressed.
"Well, what if we went to a restaurant? Then you could eat something significant, rather than taunt your hunger with a few peanuts and pretzel sticks." Jane gibed.
"Cool." Jesse replied.
"Come on, I saw a fast food joint down the street. You two can stuff yourselves there without blowing your food budget." Jane suggested.
Daria and Jane headed out the door, the boys following without question. They left the hotel and walked the several blocks to the chain restaurant and went in. As predicted, the boys ordered a feast for themselves, while Daria and Jane chose something better resembling a normal meal.
"So, what to do with this afternoon?" Jane asked as they sat to eat.
"I want to go to the National Archives." Daria said. "I've always wanted to see the Constitution."
"Woah. That would be cool. The defining document of the United States." Trent said.
"I'd like that. How about you, Jesse?" Jane inquired.
"Please, keep your answers short, Jesse. We don't have time for your rambling today." Jane said, smirking.
They all chuckled, except Jesse, who looked confused.
As they walked through the large doors into the archive building, Daria found herself feeling a little awed. They approached the inert gas filled case and looked at the faded piece of parchment within.
"There it is. The reason we call ourselves free." Daria said in a hushed, reverent tone.
"The basis of our very government." Trent said.
"People have fought and died protecting the concepts written on that piece of paper." Daria continued.
"Giving us the freedom even to deride the concept itself." Trent commented.
"The freedom to spout corny patriotic nonsense while allowing your basic freedoms to be eroded by a self-serving hypocritical political body." Jane added.
They all looked at her.
"What?" Jane asked, innocently.
Jane and Jesse went off to explore some of the other documents on display at the Archives while Trent and Daria went to the gift shop where Daria picked up an annotated reference copy of the Constitution for herself and one for her mother.
"I thought your Mom was a litigator type of lawyer." Trent said as they left the shop.
"Yeah, but she's shown plenty of interest in Constitutional law. I thought she'd appreciate a nice copy for herself."
"Hmmm. Must be nice to have parents you know something about." Trent frowned.
They sat on one of the benches just outside the Archives.
"Well, you know Trent, it has advantages and disadvantages like everything else." Daria sighed. "I suppose it's not really a matter of what's better or worse, but making the most of what you have. There have been times I wished my parents were away as often as yours are. I know you and Jane have wished yours were home more often." Daria shrugged.
"Yeah. I guess you're right." Trent looked thoughtful.
They sat silently for a while, Daria leafing through her recent purchase. Trent looked uncomfortable and shifted in his seat a few times.
"There's something I think we need to talk about."
Daria looked up at him, an eyebrow cocked in surprise.
"Ok." Daria said protractedly.
"Hey, there you are!" Jane called as she led Jesse out of the Archives. "Let's go see the Freer Gallery. We can get a look at a few of the exhibits before they close if we go now."
"Sure, what say?" Trent said, getting up from the bench.
"Works for me." Daria said.
As Trent hailed a taxi, Daria stared at him and wondered what he could want to talk to her about that was so serious.
"See something you like?" Jane asked, smirking.
"Um, just hoping he doesn't get run over." Daria replied hastily.
"Sure. Right." Jane replied with a grand smirk.
"You could go play in traffic yourself, you know." Daria said, a wry smile on her face.
Daria sat in the lobby of their hotel reading the local newspaper and listening to an octet playing chamber music. She liked this hotel, it gave her the feeling of being somewhere important, with it's (albeit fake) marble, glass chandeliers and chamber music. She knew it was all tourist trap rubbish, but it was effective. It gave her the feeling of being in a city that hosts ambassadors and emissaries from everywhere in the world.
Trent wandered over and sat beside her. Daria became immediately uncomfortable.
"Uh, Hi Trent."
Trent sat silently for a while, listening.
"Very calming." He said.
They sat for a while longer. Daria tried to go back to reading the paper, but couldn't concentrate on it.
"Uh, Trent? Was there something you wanted to talk to me about? You know, from earlier?"
"Oh. Uh, yeah, but it can wait. I shouldn't have brought it up." Trent sounded embarrassed.
"I see. So, you're going to just leave me wondering about it for a while, then?"
"Yeah, pretty much. Sorry."
Daria sighed and rolled her eyes.
"Par for the course, Trent."
They sat in silence again, this time Daria looked annoyed. Trent had his eyes closed, listening to the soft strings of the octet.
"Is this about my feelings for a certain Lane family member?"
Trent looked startled, his eyes wide.
"Uh, yeah. How did you know?"
"Lucky guess. Look, I've been doing a lot of thinking about that subject over the past year or so, Trent. I'm quite certain that there's nothing more to it than friendship. I like it like that."
"I'm not so sure about that." Trent said, looking very serious.
Daria boggled, her eyes growing wide. Then her face hardened and her eyes narrowed.
"Oh, no! Don't do this to me now! I get those feelings all settled down and here you come along and try to stir them up again."
"Don't you think it's better to face up to the truth than to deny…"
"Shut up! You and I both know that a relationship like that wouldn't work out. We'd both be continuously questioned, not to mention a certain discrimination problem with my family…"
"Nothing that couldn't be worked out, Daria." Trent interrupted.
Dara stood and glared at Trent.
"No. Don't do this to me, damn it!" She growled.
Daria cut him off with a furious wave of her hand, then turned and marched to the elevators.
Trent watched her go, his face lined with worry.
Jane had found a really bad television program and was watching it, totally enthralled. She hoped Daria would return in time to see some of it.
She heard the door open and turned to see who was coming in.
"Hey Daria look… at… what… um…" Jane trailed off as Daria stormed past her and went into their bedroom, slamming the door behind her.
"Ooooookay." Jane said softly, still looking at the recently slammed door.
Trent walked in through the door that Daria hadn't bothered to close. He looked depressed.
"Trent? Can you tell me about what I just saw?"
"I don't really want to talk about it right now, Janey. I'm going to bed."
Jane watched Trent go into the boy's bedroom, closing the door gently behind him.
She stared at the door for a second, thinking. She turned at stared at the other door for another few moments. Making a decision, she turned off the television and headed toward Daria. She opened the door slowly and slipped inside, re-closing the door softly. Daria sat on the end of her bed, her face in her hands. Her glasses hung by the frames from one hand.
"Daria?" Jane said, almost too quietly.
Daria looked up at her friend. Jane had expected to see her crying, but instead she just looked tired.
"Hi Jane." Daria said, also being quiet.
Jane sat down beside her friend.
"So, can I ask what that was all about?"
Daria sighed and gathered the words.
"You do know that I don't have a crush on Trent anymore, right?"
"So, I assume all the teasing was…"
"Habit." Jane finished, shrugging.
"Ok." Daria sighed again, hesitant to go on.
Jane reached over and gave Daria a squeeze.
"I think Trent wanted to bring all that up again. It just made me so angry. I get all that squared away so I can concentrate on getting my life together and he goes and tries to make this confession night." Daria looked irritated.
"Do you want me to have some words with him. You know, tell him to back off?"
Daria thought about it.
"No. I think he'll figure that out on his own. Besides, I don't want to stick you in the position of choosing between your brother and me anyway – assuming it would get to that point. I think I overreacted anyway."
Jane stood and guided Daria to her feet to give her a quick hug.
"Thanks, Jane." Daria said.
"For being my friend."
Daria went into the bathroom to change for bed.
As Trent entered the bedroom, Jesse looked up from his laptop.
"Hey Trent. What's up?"
Trent shrugged and flopped down face-first onto his bed.
"Something eating at your soul, man?"
Trent rolled over and faced Jesse.
"I tried to talk to her tonight about…"
"And she got angry." Jesse interrupted.
"We both knew that would happen, man. This isn't gonna be easy." Jesse said.
"Yeah, I guess I just wanted it to be a simple matter."
"If you thought that was tough, man, wait till you tell Jane."
"I don't know." Trent said, sounding optimistic. "I think Jane already knows."
"Don't assume, man."
"Yeah, yeah. Ass, You, Me. Well, more you than me." Trent said, smiling.
Jesse nailed Trent in the face with a pillow.
Trent threw the pillow back, still smiling. Jesse chuckled.
"Anyway, I have a plan for the rest of the week." Trent's smile broadened.
For the next few days, Trent and Jesse always got a head start on the day. They were touring the city together, leaving the girls to decide what to do with their time on their own. At first, this irritated Jane, but she quickly decided it worked just fine. Besides, if her brother was looking to act weird, at least he was choosing a low-impact way of doing it.
Daria and Jane were enjoying themselves profusely. The Smithsonian was a wonderful place and they both enjoyed every display in every museum. They also enjoyed touring the cities many monuments. Jane found the Lincoln memorial especially fascinating, sitting on the floor and drawing the massive statue from several different angles. Their trip to Capitol Hill was a highlight since Jane got herself in trouble with an uniformed Secret Service guard. She claimed she had them confused with the Buckingham Palace guards.
For Daria, the city was full of muses. She wrote and wrote and wrote some more. Every monument made her think of a new essay, or several, and she had to stop and write down her ideas.
On the next to last night of the vacation, they returned to the hotel suite to find Trent and Jesse there. They were usually out quite late, so this was a surprise. Daria looked instantly annoyed and went to the girl's bedroom. Trent looked hurt and went to the boy's bedroom.
"Oh, great." Jane said.
"Can I talk to you for a minute, Jane?" Jesse asked from his seat on one of the sofas.
"Uh, sure." Jane said, sitting across from Jesse on the other sofa.
"You and Daria have been friends for a long time now, huh?"
"You would do a lot for Daria, huh?"
"You really miss her when she isn't around, huh?"
"Jesse, is there a point to this, or are you just seeing how many questions you can end with 'huh'?"
"Well, it's just that Trent and I noticed that you and Daria seem to be…"
"Woah. Stop there. I'm not sure I like where I think this is going."
Trent sauntered out of his room and sat by Jesse.
"Janey, it's not healthy to deny yourself." Trent said, concerned.
"Look, I know what you two are getting at. I know what I feel. But Daria isn't ready to hear this, OK? She may not even…"
"Not ready to hear what?" Daria said, standing in the doorway.
"Oh, hell." Jane whimpered, leaning forward and putting her face in her hands.
The room fell silent. Daria observed everyone's reactions for a moment, then walked over to behind Jane.
"I get this feeling that I misconstrued the point of our little chat, Trent. You weren't talking about you, were you."
"Uh, no, I wasn't."
Jane looked up at Daria.
"Jane, let's go get a cup of coffee." Daria said, flatly.
"Ok." Jane said, sheepishly.
Daria and Jane sipped quietly on their coffees in the hotel's restaurant. Daria had been very quiet, speaking only to the waitress. Jane was too nervous to break the silence, she had the uneasy feeling her long friendship with Daria was about to hit the rocks. Daria's eyes suggested she was gathering the courage to speak.
"So." Daria suddenly said, startling Jane.
"My best friend is gay, then?" Daria asked, looking into her coffee.
"Um. Yeah." Jane said, weakly.
"She's in love with me?"
"Yes?" Jane's voice was becoming unsteady.
"Ok, so far I can easily handle all that. This is the hard part."
Jane looked up at Daria, who was still looking into her coffee.
"Months ago I had something of a revelation. I've always managed to pick guys who weren't worth it, like Ted, or guys who were unobtainable, like Trent. Until this revelation I figured it was just part of being so walled away from the world." Daria paused to sip her Coffee. "It turns out, however, that I simply don't like males."
Daria paused again, drumming her fingers on the table.
"I had friends back in Highland, Jane – if you could call them that. Really, they were just people I knew who would invite me to sleepovers. I think it was just that I had an adult library card and could check out romance novels."
Jane smiled slightly at that.
"You, though. You are a real friend. The first and only I've ever had. You I let in behind my defenses. I'm not interested in loosing that, Jane. No, not interested in the least."
Daria moved to a chair cattycorner to Jane, leaning in close so she could whisper.
"Jane, I'm scared. I'm sure I love you, too, but it scares me."
"No, just listen for a while longer, please." Daria asked.
Daria took another sip of her coffee, her eyes betraying the fact she was again gathering up words and courage to speak.
"I have prided myself on being open minded, Jane. I know several homosexuals – gay men and lesbians – and I'd like to think their sexual orientation wasn't an issue. However, once my sexuality was the one in question, I found that I have been infected with those same prejudices I so proudly proclaimed myself to be free of. I'm not afraid of my sexuality, Jane. I'm terrified of what people would think! Can you believe that? Me, Daria Morgendorffer, worried about what those brain dead idiots think!"
Daria quietly laughed mirthlessly.
"One last thing, I'm not done. I want to go to bed this evening, then go think tomorrow. I have to get this sorted out. Now, please…" Daria indicated she wouldn't interrupt again.
"Look, if you'd rather just pretend this evening never happened, that's Ok with me." Jane offered.
"No. Can't be done and you know it."
"Ok. Daria, I don't want our friendship to be over."
"In all honesty, Jane, I don't think that's likely." Daria admitted. "I think that this will work out, one way or another, because we want it to. I'm in this for the long haul." Daria gave Jane's hand a quick squeeze.
"Me, too." Jane said, a glimmer of hope in her voice.
Daria stood and dropped a few dollars on the table.
"Let's get some sleep."
Jane woke from a fitful sleep and found Daria was already gone. A note sat on the dressing table.
I'm off to think this out. Don't worry about me today. Try and have some fun with Trent and Jesse. I'll be back in the hotel room by seven. I've promised myself, and now I promise you, I'll have this worked out by then.
Jane reread the note, then went and took a long shower. Her fear that she could lose Daria entirely sat as a cold, sharp pain in her stomach. She had hidden her sexuality from Daria for this very reason. Her excuse being Daria wasn't ready to hear it had become a habit and a mantra.
Now, thanks to Trent and Jesse's meddling, her whole world had become precarious.
Jane shut off the water and dried herself off. She dressed quickly and went out to the living area and turned on the television, hoping the mind-dulling barrage of images would help her shut out the world.
Trent and Jesse emerged and approached her.
"You Ok, Janey?" Trent asked.
"Take a guess." Jane said, acerbically.
"It'll be Ok, Janey. You'll see."
"It'll be Ok?" Jane repeated, incredulous. "How in the hell can you say that? You don't know. For all I know, Daria will come back and tell me to go take a flying leap. Thanks to you, you ass, I could lose my best friend. And all you can say is 'It'll be ok'?"
"You're right. I'm sorry. I just wanted you to be happy, Janey." Trent's voice wavered.
Jane sighed and turned back to the television.
"Let's go get some breakfast, Jane." Jesse offered.
"I'm not hungry."
"Well, it's not going to help moping around in here. At least if we go out and do something it'll help make the time pass quicker." Trent said.
Jane flipped channels a few times.
"You're right. May as well."
Jane turned off the television and the three went to find a meal.
Daria sat near the edge of the reflection pool in front of the Lincoln memorial. She had settled there soon after leaving the hotel and hadn't moved from the spot. She was writing furiously, working out what she should do.
She could come up with a thousand reasons why she shouldn't be a lesbian. Each was easily countered – should and shouldn't meant nothing in the face of what is and isn't.
She had figured out she was a lesbian many months ago and filed it away under 'to be dealt with later'. Later was upon her. This was a matter of coming out, and if she wanted to advance her relationship with Jane. Her mind hung on to 'coming out' as the paramount issue, refusing to think of anything else.
"To be or not to be." Daria said to one of the pigeons. "That isn't the question at all. Whether 'tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous prejudice that one might be true to ones soul… That's the real question."
She set her notebook down.
"To thine own self be true!" She exclaimed, frightening away several of the pigeons. "Unless inconvenient." She whimpered.
Daria sighed and looked at the obelisk that was the Washington Monument.
She picked up her notebook and stood, brushing off the grit from her skirt. She turned to look at the visage of the great emancipator.
She saw two women holding hands. They were older, fifty or more, and certainly didn't look anything like the stereotype. When they kissed, Daria made her decision. Screwing up her courage, she walked up to them.
"Um, pardon me." She started. The two turned and looked at her.
"Hi. May I ask you a question?"
"Sure." The woman in the blue shirt said.
"How… uh…" Daria sighed. "Sorry if this is too personal. How did you deal with coming out?"
The woman in the green shirt chuckled.
"Everyone has to deal with that one on an individual basis."
"Oh." Daria looked disappointed.
"No easy answers, sorry." The woman in green said. "But, once you're out, it's a real load off your shoulders. Even if there are those who would wish otherwise."
"You thinking about coming out?" The woman in blue asked.
Daria nodded her head.
"Well, guess what? You already have – and to strangers, girl. It's a slippery slope." She said, smiling.
Daria found herself chuckling a little.
"Thank you." Daria said.
"No problem." The woman in green answered.
Daria turned and headed back to the hotel room.
Daria turned off the television and stood when she heard the lock on the door. Trent and Jesse came in followed by a nervous looking Jane.
"Hey Daria." Trent greeted her, trepidation in his voice.
Jesse half-smiled his greeting and started to drag Trent away toward the boy's bedroom. Once the door was closed, Daria faced Jane.
"Hi." Daria almost whispered.
Daria motioned Jane over and they sat on one of the sofas.
"Jane, you are still my best friend." Daria said, trying to comfort Jane.
Jane looked up at her friend.
Daria put her arm around Jane and drew her into a hug.
"This isn't going to be easy." Daria whispered. "This changes everything."
Jane looked at Daria hopefully.
"We can do this together, right?" Jane said.
"I think we can." Daria drew a deep breath and expelled it slowly. "I know we can."
Jane's face lit up and she looked ready to explode with joy.
"So, we are going to try this?"
Daria leaned over and kissed Jane lightly and tenderly. They paused for a moment, looking into one another's eyes, the kissed again, more deeply.
Daria pulled her car into the Lane driveway and pulled the parking brake. Jane unbuckled herself and turned in her seat to give a sleeping Trent a solid swat on the arm, waking him with a start.
"We're home, meddling-boy." Jane said.
Daria smirked as she got out of the car. Jane was still angry with her brother for interfering, even though it seemed it would work for the best.
Daria helped the Lanes carry their luggage into the house, then sat on the living room couch. Jane tossed her suitcase into her room where a loud crash reminded her she had left a sculpture project in the middle of her floor.
"Oh, damn it!" Jane exclaimed, marching back down the stairs.
Jane sat down beside Daria and glared at Trent as he passed by.
"You plan on cutting him any slack?" Daria asked.
"Yeah. I just want to make sure he thinks twice before messing with my life again."
Jane leaned her head on Daria's shoulder.
"So, thoughts on our coming out?" She asked.
"More than you can shake a stick at." Daria answered.
"Are you going to tell you parents?"
"Yes. Once I find them, that is. I think my Mom will be Ok with it. My Dad may get confused for a while, but will probably also be fine with it. How about you?"
"Well, I'm pretty sure my Mom's going to be Ok. I'm a little worried about my Dad."
"Oh, come on, Daria. You'll be lucky if he notices. He makes Trent look observant." Jane joked.
"Good point." Daria snickered.
"We are going to be together when we tell them, right?" Jane asked,
"Oh yeah. I don't think I could do it without some support."
"Cool, ditto." Jane said, a small wry smile on her face.
"You know what? This coming out stuff may not be as much strife as I thought." Daria said.
Jane looked at her quizzically.
"When did you learn to be an optimist?" She asked, smirking.
"I won't tell if you won't." Daria said, looking at her watch. "I'd better get home. I don't want the 'rents having a tizzy just yet."
They stood and headed for the door.
"You know, I'm sorry this week is over." Daria commented. "It was fun, even with a little distress. Thanks for having me along."
"Thanks for being along." Jane said.
Daria turned to Jane and they gave one another a kiss that lingered for a moment longer than either expected.
"Let's do a movie tonight." Daria suggested as they broke their embrace.
"How about a video?"
"Works for me. It's bad movie night anyway."
"Oh yeah. And do I have the perfect bad flick in mind." Jane smiled a wry smile.
"I shall leave that in your capable hands. See you later."
Daria drove the short distance home smiling.
Daria lugged her suitcase into the Morgendorffer home, calling out to announce her arrival. When she was met with silence she shrugged and took her suitcase to her room and unpacked. She wandered the house for a while, trying to find evidence of the whereabouts of her family. Finding none, she decided to clean up her room and do her laundry.
As she carried a bundle of clothes to the garage, her mind was, of course, on Jane. The idea of being Jane's lover instead of simply her friend sat well with her. Far better than she had originally expected. The whole event seemed more like an evolution of her feelings for Jane rather than a changing of them. As she poured detergent into the machine, she thought how comfortable, how right the idea had started to become. If it were in her nature, she would be giddy.
Daria fetched her notebook and returned to nursemaid the finicky washing machine. She returned to some of the incomplete essays she had started in Washington and applied herself to see one or two of them through to completion.
Two loads of laundry and three biting essays on American politics later, Daria found herself annoyed that there was still no sign of her family. After having been admonished by her mother to return immediately from the airport, she had expected to be met at the door.
She wandered to the kitchen to make herself a late lunch. As she threw together a simple sandwich, the silence of the house began to get on her nerves. She quickly ate her sandwich and grabbed a soda as she headed to her room. She was determined to find something else to do, but so very little came to mind. Homework was a thing of the past until she went off to university, she was tired of writing her essays, and television was sheer drivel on Sundays – even on cable.
Spying her new laptop, she smiled minutely. Web surfing, that Internet-age pastime, was a new option she had forgotten about. She flipped on her little boom-box stereo, playing one of her favorite CDs. She booted her computer and dialed in to her ISP and began general surfing. Before long she found herself exploring 'lesbian' sites, now curious as to this lifestyle in general. She absorbed buckets of information, paging though site after site until she finally came across a page on lesbian sexuality. She nearly passed it up, but her curiosity got the better of her.
"Daria! What in… Ewwww!" Quinn said, disgusted.
"Gah!" Daria exclaimed, jumping in fright.
Daria turned to see her sister – eyes locked on the laptop's screen – backing away, her hands to her mouth and her face a mask of shock and disgust. Quinn turned and rushed out of Daria's room.
"Quinn! Oh, damn it." Daria growled, as she put away her web browser and disconnected from her ISP.
Daria took a second to calm down. She would have to diffuse Quinn's accidental outing – assuming that's what Quinn was up to – without actually denying herself. She wanted Jane there once they decided to go through with telling her parents.
Daria calmly walked down the stairs to the living room, where Helen was trying to get Quinn to slow down. Quinn seemed to be going for her Oscar™; such were her dramatics. Daria sat down on the love seat and put on her best wooden face.
"Hi, Mom. Hi Dad. Hello Sis."
Jake was sitting on the sofa, not really sure what to make of Quinn's melodramatics. Helen got Quinn down to simply doing a good impression of hyperventilating.
"What's wrong, Quinn?" Helen asked again, exasperated.
"Daria… on her computer…" Quinn began, gasping. "Two women doing… things!"
Jake looked instantly uncomfortable, taking a quick sidelong look at Daria. Daria remained impassive. Helen cocked an incredulous eyebrow at Quinn.
"What are you talking about?" Helen asked, her voice doubtful.
"Mu-om! She was looking at… dikes." Quinn half-whispered the last word.
"What?" Helen looked surprised and worried.
Jake shifted in his seat, looking ready to bolt.
"She was, Mom! I saw!" Quinn proclaimed, pointing at Daria.
Helen turned and looked at her elder daughter. Daria stared impassively and coldly at Quinn, who shrank back from its invisible intensity.
"It's the God-damned Internet, isn't it?" Jake hissed, staring at Daria. "It's polluted your mind!"
Daria rolled her eyes at her Dad's expected rant. Helen glared at him for interrupting.
"Jake! Calm down." Helen admonished.
"What have you been looking at, Daria?" Helen asked Daria.
"Apparently Quinn saw a picture of Holland on my computer."
"What?" Helen said, confused.
"She mentioned dikes."
Helen and Jake both looked completely confused. Quinn glared at her sister.
"I don't think that's what she meant." Helen said.
"Oh. Well, I don't remember looking at any hardware sites, although I think they're commonly referred to as 'side cutters' now."
The room grew silent for a moment.
"You're being evasive." Helen chided.
"Yes. Yes, I am." Daria said.
"Why is that?"
"I don't see what is relevant about what I've seen or not seen on the Internet."
"Daria!" Jake yelled. "Do you have any idea what you've been accused of?"
Daria was about to answer when a thought occurred to her.
"No, Dad. What is it, exactly, that I've been accused of?"
The room fell silent again, Jake and Helen trading glances with each other.
"Ah. I see no one has any idea. Well, isn't this nice." Daria said, her voice flat. "I come home after a week away and because Quinn comes down babbling some incoherent nonsense I get to explain my web surfing habits and get accused of having a 'polluted mind'. All this and not so much as a 'welcome back, Daria'."
Daria stood up and headed for the front door.
"I'm going to Jane's." She grumbled.
"She's your lover, isn't she?" Quinn said, her voice venomous.
"Go to hell, Quinn." Daria shot back over her shoulder.
"Stop!" Helen yelled. "Come back here, Daria Morgendorffer."
Daria stopped and turned around but made no move to return to her seat. She crossed her arms and looked at Helen.
"Why are you going to Jane's?" Helen asked after glancing at Quinn.
"It's bad movie night, Mom. I've been going over to Jane's every other Sunday evening for well over a year." Daria's eyes narrowed. "Or maybe it's because I spent a week with the Lanes and enjoyed myself, where I spend ten minutes with the Morgendorffers and I feel persecuted."
Helen looked shocked and angry, and Jake stood.
"That's it, young lady! Go to your room!" Jake barked.
"Excuse me? Why am I being treaded like a child?" Daria asked, looking at Jake.
"If you act like a child…" Helen started automatically.
"Wait a second! Quinn comes down here and spouts nonsense, you and Dad overreact to it – you don't even know what it is you're reacting to – and I get punished for it?"
"There's more to it than that, Daria." Helen explained, shaking her finger at Daria. "I think you spend far too much time with that girl."
"What?" Daria was shocked.
"And this incident worries me."
"Me, too." Jake chimed in.
"I want you to see less of Jane and try and find some other friends." Helen demanded.
"Daria." Helen's voice was low and dangerous.
"This is not fair." Daria stated coldly. "Why are you doing this?"
Helen turned to Quinn, who tried to hide her triumphant look.
"Quinn, go to your room."
Quinn pouted, but went up the stairs.
"Daria, this isn't the first time you've been accused of being a lesbian." Helen said, subdued.
Daria was startled, but quickly regained her composure.
"First, I wasn't aware I was being 'accused' of anything right now. Second, is being a homosexual a crime?"
"Well, no, It's not a crime, but…"
"Then how can one be accused of it?"
Helen fell silent and looked irritated. Jake approached Daria.
"It's just wrong, honey." Jake said, as if explaining it to an addled child.
Daria went cold. She hadn't expected her father to be so flatly against homosexuality.
"Wrong? Why?" Daria asked.
"Why are you arguing the point, dear?" Helen asked, an accusing look on her face.
Dara cursed to herself. She was backed into a corner.
"Dear, we've seen things that worry us. You spend almost all your free time with her. You don't normally let anyone touch you – not even your father and I – yet you two have your arms around each other a lot, lately." Helen explained, still angry.
"Why should that worry you?" Daria asked.
"Daria." Jake said, frighteningly serious. "Do you think you're a lesbian?"
Daria's eyes went wide, and then narrowed as she decided there was little left to do than be honest.
"I don't think I'm a lesbian, Dad." Daria started.
Jake sighed as if in relief. Helen noticed her inflection and took a step closer.
"I know I am." Daria finished.
Helen and Jake looked horrified.
"I had hoped to do this with more preparation, and with Jane here. The situation left me with no alternative."
"What do you mean, you know? How can you know overnight?" Helen said.
"What do you mean, overnight? You yourself said you saw signs preceding this. This is hardly a snap decision, Mom. I assure you that I've tried to deny it myself."
Jake began to wail and pace the room.
"No! This can't be." He cried.
Daria watched him for a moment.
"I don't understand your reactions. You at least suspected or you wouldn't have asked. Why are you acting like I dropped a bomb?"
"Never mind that, Daria. Go to your room, your father and I have to discuss this." Helen said, sounding discouraged.
"What we're going to do about your little… problem."
"It's not a problem. It's not a lifestyle, and it's not a choice. It's a fact. A fact you will have to learn to live with just like I ha…"
Helen's left hand whipped around and backhanded Daria. Her glasses clattered near the foot of the stairs. Jake stopped and looked stupefied. Helen was shocked at her own action. Daria retrieved her glasses and headed up the stairs, a hand on her cheek.
Helen turned to Jake who still had no idea how to react. She looked at her hand as if noticing it for the first time.
"Oh God. What have I done?"
Helen sat on a sofa holding her hand away from herself. Jake and Helen stared at one another silently.
Daria reappeared with her suitcase and a plastic bag, both heavily laden. She stood by the door and unhooked one key from her ring and set it on the table by the front door. Before her parents had time to react, she went out the door and to her car.
Jane heard a car pull into the driveway. Recognizing it's unique squeaks, she set her brush down and headed to the front door to let her friend and lover in. She opened the door and froze, unprepared for what she saw.
"Daria? What happened?" She asked, reaching for the suitcase to help.
Daria remained silent as she hauled the plastic bag into Jane's home. After closing the door, Jane watched Daria and waited for her to gather herself.
Daria turned her head to one side and pointed to her cheek. It was still bright red and bruising was becoming evident on the cheekbone. A nasty scratch, probably from Helen's wedding ring, completed the ugly image.
"Oh jeez, Daria." Jane whispered, reaching for her. "Jeez."
They embraced, Daria's stoic defenses crumbled and she began to weep quietly on Jane's shoulder.
Jane woke and saw midmorning sun leaking into her room around her heavy burgundy curtains. She turned her head and saw a jumble of brown hair peeking out from her blankets. A quiet snoring emanated from it.
Jane carefully got out of bed and adjusted her tee shirt. She was glad to see Daria actually asleep; she had been worried that Daria would be awake all night, she had been so worried about her decision to leave after Helen struck her. Jane carefully stepped over Daria's suitcase and padded down to the kitchen to make some breakfast. She stopped suddenly in the doorway to the kitchen and stared.
"Mom! You're home!"
"Hi honey. How are you?"
"In a state of flux." Jane said, smirking.
Amanda Lane sat at the kitchen table, motioning for Jane so sit with her.
"So, what's wrong?" Amanda asked.
"Nothing is wrong, exactly. I'm glad you're home." Jane said, taking a seat cattycorner to her mother.
"Thank you, dear. But I know there's something you want to say."
"Yeah?" Jane looked incredulous.
"I'm your mother, Jane. I know these things."
"So, you talked to Trent."
"Just before he went to work."
"So, what did he say, exactly?"
"Nothing specific. Just that you had something you needed to tell me."
"Well, I guess that's true. But, a friend of mine has to be with us for the telling."
"I understand. I'm going to be home for a few weeks, so any time your ready, just let me know." Amanda said, her tone loving.
"How about right now?" Daria said from the doorway.
Jane jumped slightly in surprise, then motioned Daria to sit at the table.
"Hi! It's Daria, right?" Amanda asked as Daria sat across from her.
"Yes, Mrs. Lane."
"Call me Amanda."
"So, you two are lovers now, right?" Amanda said, smiling happily.
Daria and Jane's jaws both dropped.
"Yeah, we are." Jane said.
"Wonderful! Oh, Jane, I'm so happy you finally discovered and accepted your true self." Amanda gushed.
Daria and Jane traded glances.
"You knew?" Jane asked, astonished.
"Oh, yes. I've known for a long time. A Sandia shaman in New Mexico told me you were going to find your way with your own kind."
"And you never told me because…?" Jane prompted.
"You have to discover who you are on your own. I didn't want my preconceived notion of who 'Jane' was to taint your view of yourself."
Amanda patted her daughter's hand.
"Trent said something about a real problem, though."
"That would be about me." Daria said. "My parents were… less than enthusiastic."
Amanda looked at Daria's bruised cheek.
"I had stronger language for it, but that will do. I moved out in the heat of the moment. But, now I think maybe I should stay away for a while and give them a little space to think about it."
"You're welcome to stay here, if you like." Amanda offered.
"Um, I'd really hate to be an inconvenience. I'd also like to avoid putting undue strain on my changing relationship with Jane."
"Not a problem. How about I let you rent Wind's old room? It's still furnished, although sparsely. That should give you and Jane some space to be apart, and it keeps you from being any sort of burden."
Jane smiled at her mother, then at Daria.
"Hey! That's Lane family resourcefulness to the rescue. How about it, Daria?"
Daria looked at the table and thought for a few moments.
"Yes. Thank you."
"Wonderful! I'll let you decide how much the room is worth after you've seen it. Jane, would you show her? I need to get back to my kiln."
"Ok, Mom." Jane said, standing.
Amanda stood as well, and drew her daughter to her for a hug.
"I love you, Jane." She said.
"I love you, Mom."
Amanda took Daria's hand in hers.
"Don't worry, things will work out. You'll see."
Daria smiled minutely in appreciation of Amanda's supportive words.
"Come on, I'll show you Wind's old spot."
Jane led Daria off to her new quarters.
Jane knocked lightly on Daria's doorjamb.
"Jane or Amanda come in. Trent piss off." Daria said distractedly.
Jane chuckled and entered her room and sat on the bed, watching her type. After a few moments, Daria turned to face Jane as her computer began to print the document she was working on.
"Hey Jane." Daria greeted, sounding tired.
"Hey Love. What's got your burning the proverbial midnight oil?"
"I'm writing a whole new series of application letters. If I don't get a few academic scholarships, I can kiss college goodbye."
"Oh. Should I come back?"
"No, that's the last of them for this batch. I need a break from it." Daria said as she moved to sit beside Jane.
"So no word from the parents?" Jane said, cautiously.
"Not a word. For all I know, Jane, they've held my funeral and Mom's turning my old room into a home office."
Jane put her arm around Daria who set her head on Jane's shoulder.
"So, why 'Trent piss off'?" Jane asked.
"I just didn't want to have to deal with him tonight. He's still coming around and apologizing for this mess." Daria explained.
"Ever going to forgive him?"
"That's what's so damn irritating, Jane: I already have. He won't drop it. He needs to realize that this was inevitable, and that my parent's reaction and my choice to move out had nothing to do with him."
"He can be stubborn that way." Jane commented.
"Must be a Lane thing." Daria smirked.
Jane poked Daria in the side playfully a few times. Daria yelped and swatted at her hand.
"Down, Jane! Down!" Daria joked.
"Stubborn my big toe!" Jane said as they settled down.
"On the subject of your stubbornness: How goes your collegiate application project?"
"Great. I finally had an idea for it, and I've even started."
"Thank goodness. I was afraid you had terminal artist's block."
"I let the pressure get to me. Once I stopped caring, bingo, my muses start talking. It's all a matter of having a quiet mind."
"That was Zen, this is now."
"Ugh. I hope your project has nothing to do with your puns."
"What is it?"
Daria cocked a curious eyebrow at Jane.
"Secret project? Intriguing. It's going to irritate me, isn't it?"
"That seems likely. Just promise not to kill me or destroy it. That would sort of extinguish my chances of getting in to the Institute."
"I promise nothing. Fortunately that's irrelevant at this point."
Daria's phone rang, startling them. Daria looked at the phone with a worried expression.
"Oh, jeez. I hope it's them."
"Go on, answer! Who else would call at one in the morning?"
Daria went to the phone and lifted it to her ear with much uneasiness.
"Hello? Uh, no. Sorry, wrong number."
Daria set the phone back in its cradle.
"Damn it." Daria mumbled as she sat back down on her bed.
Jane began to rub Daria's back to comfort her.
"Hmmm." Daria purred her approval after a moment.
"They'll call eventually, or write. You've given them your new number and address, so they know you want them to. I'm sure it's just a matter of time."
Jane giggled at Daria's euphoria and began to put more energy into the backrub.
"You're good at this." Daria complimented sleepily.
"You think this is good? Let me show you what I learned when my Mom took me to a healing touch seminar."
Jane maneuvered Daria into lying face down on her bed, then began an intensive, relaxing massage. Daria hummed her total approval and soon she was asleep.
Helen returned home late in the evening from work again. She had been burying herself in as much drudgery as she could lest her guilt drive her mad. She sat her briefcase down by the sofa and headed to the kitchen. Jake sat at the kitchen table, a mess of financial papers sitting in front of him. A broad grin formed across his face when he saw Helen.
"Helen! Guess what!"
Helen's heart leapt, and she looked expectantly at her husband.
"I paid off the mortgage and the loan on your SUV!" Jake smiled proudly.
Helen looked confused.
"Jake? Where did you get the money?" She looked worried, then became excited. "Did you get a major client?"
"No, not yet. I'm still working on GigantiCorp, though." Jake said absently.
"Then where did the money come from, Jake?" Helen asked, then suddenly made the connection. "You didn't… you wouldn't!"
"We had no other use for it, Helen. Admit it, she's gone!" Jake said, angry and sounding a lot like his father.
"Oh, Jake you complete ass! Do you know what you've done?" Helen was livid.
"Of course I do, Helen. I've…"
"You've thrown away any chance we had of ever getting Daria back!" Helen's rage grew with every word. "Jake, how could you? How dare you?"
"Damn it, Helen. I don't care! I'm not having that kind of… of… filth in my house!"
"Jake! She's your daughter!" Helen was shocked.
"No. Not anymore." Jake snarled, standing up from his seat.
"Jake! Please!" Helen pleaded.
Jake silently gathered his papers and left the kitchen.
Daria pushed the now empty returns cart back to the front of the library. A glance at the wall clock let her know her shift had ended a good five minutes previous. Glancing around for anything she left unfinished, she headed to the back office to punch out.
"Daria?" The old librarian called.
"Yes Ms. Pratchet?"
"Your friend has been waiting for you outside for some time now. She looks quite excited." Ms. Pratchet smiled. "I just want to be sure you don't miss her on your way out."
"Thanks Ms. Pratchet." Daria said.
Daria entered the parking lot, curious as to what brought Jane all the way out to the library. Jane sat on the hood of Daria's little Nissan, her ever present sketchbook in hand.
"Jane?" Daria called as she approached.
Jane set her sketchbook aside and leapt from the hood of the car into Daria's arms in one fluid motion.
"I'm in! I'm in! I was accepted!" She cried, dancing with a surprised Daria.
Daria was immediately happy for Jane.
"That's great, Jane! I knew the moment I saw your project they'd take you."
"And that's only half of it!" Jane said, even more excited.
Jane pulled an open letter out of her pocket, settling down suddenly.
"Now, please don't kill me for opening your mail. I saw the return address and I thought it was for me."
Daria took the letter. It was from the college where she was hoping to pursue a degree in journalism, and happened to be the same college Jane had applied to for her arts degree. Daria opened the letter, which was packed with documents, and began to read.
"Oh, yes! Yes!" Daria exclaimed. "A full scholarship opportunity!"
Daria threw her arms around Jane and gave her a sound, happy kiss. Jane was surprised; Daria didn't normally like to display affection in public.
"I can do this, Jane." Daria indicated the scholarship. "How would you like to go to school together?"
Daria pulled Jane to her and kissed her passionately, not waiting for an answer.
Unnoticed behind them, a blue Lexus paused then sped off up the street.
Quinn sat on the bed with her back against the padded wall, looking across the room at the open and empty closet. She drew her legs up to her chest and put her arms around them, resting her chin on her knees.
Quinn felt very confused. For the first few moments on that evening almost three months ago, she knew she finally had Daria completely cornered. For once, she would be the victor in their little spats without question. Soon after her mother had told her to leave the room, her perception changed. Thinking of it even now caused her stomach to ache with a gnawing, cold feeling.
From the door of her room, she had heard a sound that was alien to the Morgendorffer home. She wasn't even able to identify it until she saw her sister climb the stairs.
No one had ever been struck so hard in Quinn's memory. Even when her sister had 'beat' her for stealing her web page software, it hadn't been anything truly serious. There was no real risk of pain, much less marks.
Yet, Daria's cheek glowed red with a crimson line of blood across it. The sight had terrified Quinn.
Quinn was certain it was her fault.
Still, Quinn didn't understand it. Yes, Daria was gay, but that was just gross and weird. Daria had always been weird. That was no reason to not want her around anymore. Not like this, anyway. Not permanently gone.
Her parents still refused to make that phone call. Quinn had heard her father listen to the message Daria left on their answering machine, so they must know how to contact her. He had listened to it several times before finally erasing it.
Her father had admonished her not to go see Daria. His usual spacey nature had been replaced with an almost paranoid protectiveness. He had taken to screening her dates, and he turned many of them away.
Quinn didn't really complain anymore. How would Daria describe it? "Just deserts" or something like that. That was certainly true. Her life was a desert now, devoid of anything interesting.
Daria was gay. That thought constantly returned to her. She had not expected it to be true. Plenty of people at school had claimed she was a lesbian, and she had seen how she acted around her little art friend, but it was still hard to believe. Quinn had already passed the news on to the rest of the Fashion Club, and they all found it unimportant. She tried to follow Sandi's advice – "So she's weirder than even I suspected. What's the big deal?" – but this was her sister. Or cousin, whatever.
Still, finding it unbelievable didn't stop it from being acceptable – did it? Her Dad seemed to think it did. She wanted to ask her Mom, but she was rarely home since that night, and when she was, she was busy anyway.
Quinn's stomach pains worsened as she considered that all she would have left of her sister was a box of human bones, a model of a Swiss cheese wedge, and a poster of Kafka – whoever the hell that is.
Helen stood at her office window and looked out over the parking lot. She hadn't been able to start any work, much less finish any, since her assistant had gone home for the day. Even so, she was afraid to go home to where she would be reminded of what she had done to her daughter, and what it has cost.
She had taken some time to educate herself on the meaning of the word "lesbian" and discovered it wasn't every evil thing she had originally thought. So many of the assumptions she had made were wrong. So much of the hate propaganda failed to stand up to simple reason.
Even if all the loathsome things she had heard were true, she still wanted her daughter back. She had made the most terrible parenting move that a person could make, and she had made it after her daughter was an adult.
Once she had accepted her daughter's homosexuality as inescapable and irrelevant to her love she had gone to Jake and suggested they both accept and ask her to come home. Jake had become irate, and refused to listen. When Helen said she was just going to go over to visit her daughter, Jake said she left a message telling them not to bother, she had moved out of state.
That news had been devastating. The summer was ending, school was nearing, and she had no idea where her daughter was, if she was going to school, if she was happy, sad, well, ill…
Helen grabbed her briefcase and closed it hard. Gripping its handle hard enough to turn her knuckles white, she went to her car.
Jake sat at his desk staring at the phone numbers on the bright orange piece of paper he held in his hands. A mere seven digits now stood between him and Daria.
Somewhere in the recesses of his mind, an angry and bitter old man repeated the words "No child of mine!" incessantly. One moment of curiosity, one fragile second broken by an unexpected intrusion. For weeks, he had known the worst suffering at the hands of that bitter old man.
No child of his was going to suffer the same way. No child of his would be marked in that way.
Jake crumpled the paper in his hand and threw it toward the waste paper bin, where it landed silently as he returned to his work.
Daria and Jane packed their meager belongings into Daria's little green Nissan. Daria looked at the house that had once been her friends home, then her lover's home, and then briefly her own home.
It contained some of the happiest moments in her life. There she had discovered she could have a real friend. There she had her first real crush. There she had recovered from the crush and made another real friend. There she had fallen in love.
Yes, she was certain now. There was simply no mistaking it. This was love, and it filled her with warmth unlike any emotion she had ever experienced before.
Daria walked up to Jane as she finished tying down her easel. When Jane turned from the task, Daria drew her into an embrace. She held on to Jane for a moment, fighting off the urge to cry.
As they broke the embrace, Jane gave her a worried smile as she stroked her cheek. Daria shook her head: it would pass.
She was hurting. Every week she had called her parent's home and left a message, at first inviting and later imploring them to call her. Every week there was no call. The previous day Daria sent letters to her Aunt Amy, Amanda Lane, and handed one to Trent. They all had contact information, asking them to pass on the information should they see her parents.
She had written a much longer letter to her parents and sent it as well. She explained the reason for all her calls, and told them they didn't need to explain why they never returned any of them. She tried to explain her feelings, and her wish to reconcile. She hoped very much that they would at least send her a letter telling her to stop sending letters.
"Ready?" Jane asked as she pulled her seatbelt around her.
"Let's hit that road and see what happens." Daria said with some trepidation as she started her car's engine.
Jake pulled his blue Lexus into his driveway. For the first time in months, his wife's SUV was already there. Jake hoped she hadn't checked the answering machine yet.
Jake entered his home and saw his wife standing in the middle of the living room, her cheeks were bright red and her eyes flashed with anger.
"Jake, what the hell is this?" She barked, holding out a letter.
Caught off guard, Jake could only shrug.
"This letter was in the mailbox when I got home, Jake. It's from Daria." Helen growled as she approached her husband. "It's a very telling letter, Jake. It tells me that she's been trying to contact us from the start. It fails to mention having ever left town, and the postmark is local." Helen displayed the envelope to Jake by placing it a few inches in front of his face.
"Why did you lie to me!" Helen suddenly burst out in anger, beating on Jake's chest with the letter. "Get out! Get out now!"
"But, Helen, you don't understand!" Jake found himself backing toward the door.
"I don't want to understand, you bastard! Get out!"
Helen reached around him, opened the door and gave him a strong shove. He stumbled and fell against the walkway.
Helen collapsed against the doorframe and slid to the floor.
"She's our daughter, you lying ass! Our daughter." She sobbed.
Jake painfully regained his feet.
"You don't understand, Helen. It's for her own good." He pleaded.
"How can throwing her out of our lives be good for her?" Helen said through her weeping. "The last thing she got from me was a bruised cheek, Jacob!"
"You don't understand. No child of mine will ever disgrace us this way." Jake looked surprised at what he said. It sounded familiar.
"What are you talking about? She's no disgrace to us, or to anyone else! She's our child, and I love her. Damn you Jake, get over it!" Helen said, regaining her resolution and standing.
"Come back once you can remember to love our daughter unconditionally."
Jake watched the door close.
"Hello there beautiful. Is this seat taken?" Jane joked as she sat down on the park bench by her best friend and love.
"Well, if it isn't the painted woman I was warned about." Daria returned the jest as she reached over and wiped at a daub of paint on Jane's forehead.
"What can I say? I love zinging dollops of paint at my canvases."
"So what's for lunch this time?" Daria asked, spying the brown paper bag Jane set between them. "Not one of those all-spice lane specialties, I hope."
"What? You don't like my cooking?"
"Don't get me wrong, Jane. You cook just fine, I just have a general problem with food that has a recovery time."
"Well, then don't eat my chili. This time, it's only some soup and ham sandwiches. I promise no gastric distress."
Jane set out the meal and they began eating.
As they ate, Jane seemed to focus on something in the distance behind Daria.
"So, any word from your folks?" Jane asked.
Jane's focus shifted closer as they ate.
"You'd really like it if your mom showed up, wouldn't you?"
"Oh, yeah." Daria said, sadly.
"What would you say if she showed up."
"Oh, that I loved her. I forgive her for hitting me. All I want is to know I still have that… Oh, hell Jane. After four months of nothing…"
"How would you like the chance to say it right now?"
"Turn around." Jane said, pointing.
Daria turned and looked behind her and her eyes went wide.
"Mom!" Daria cried as she stood.
Helen hugged her daughter tightly.
"I'm so sorry, Daria. I'm so sorry."
"It's alright Mom. I love you." Daria said, her joy loosed the grief she had kept bottled up and she began to weep in her mother's arms.
"Oh, I missed you. I have so much to explain to you."
Mother and daughter sat on the park bench. Jane offered both tissues.
"Thank you, Jane." Helen said.
"How did you know where to find us?" Daria asked, drying her tears.
"Guilty!" Jane smiled.
"I had called your apartment earlier. Jane was kind enough to let me know where you two were having lunch today."
Helen sighed and gathered her courage.
"Daria, your father made a hash of things, I'm afraid. It seems he has some… issues he needs to work out. I finally got him to start seeing a councilor. But…"
"He spent your college fund." Helen said, sounding ashamed.
"It's academic now, Mom. I was able to pull the money together with an scholastic scholarship and a student loan."
"I'm very proud of your resourcefulness, sweetie. But you deserve proper support. Here." Helen handed Daria an envelope.
"It's your monthly stipend. I had intended to be sure that you could go to college without having to work so you could concentrate on your studies. So, in lieu of paying for college, I'll pay for your housing, food and other supplies."
"I appreciate that, Mom. But this isn't really about money…"
"No, it's not. It's about acting in ignorance and haste and damn near loosing my daughter because of it. Daria, I apologize for thinking of you as having a disease, or of acting out any sort of perversion. I'd like to think I've come to accept you, and to love you, for exactly what you are."
Daria reached out and hugged her mother again.
"Thanks Mom. For everything."
"I love you, sweetie." Helen said as they broke the embrace.
"Now, if I'm not mistaken, you two will be free for dinner around six this evening?"
Daria nodded, as did Jane.
"Great. I brought Quinn, who desperately wants to see you, Daria. I'd like it if we could all four have dinner and try to make up for four months lost time."
"How could I possibly say no?" Daria smiled.