Nemo Blank


Retrograde Girl.


Writing is easy. All you have to do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. Gene Fowler (1890-1960)


Characters belong to Viacom. Used without permission. This story is not to be sold, but it may be distributed and posted freely in unchanged form, so long as the authors name and email address remain. Story Copyright July 2000, by Nemo Blank.





     Daria was walking along the second floor of the Lawndale Mall, on her way to the bookstore, when she heard Jane's voice.

     "Trent! Do you have that ten bucks you owe me? Running shoes are on sale!" Jane and Trent were down in the Galleria.

     Frowning, Daria turned away. Jane had made her feelings perfectly clear. Ever since Jane had rejoined the track team and started going out with Evan, Daria just wasn't very welcome. They were on different schedules and had no classes together, so they rarely saw each other. The estrangement had been hard enough to stomach during the summer, while Tom was around, but now Tom was away at Princeton.

     Cutting through Cashman's, unwilling to deal with the pain of Jane's indifference, she headed for the bus stop, outside the store.

     "Hi! Can I interest you in Voodoo?" The girl lifted the ornate perfume bottle and just as Daria turned to see what she was talking about, squirted a huge gout of chemicals directly into Daria's face.

     "No! Don't-" Daria's eyes instantly turned red and started streaming, her sinuses snapped shut and she gave an enormous sneeze.

     Her glasses sailed off in a graceful arc and were stepped on and crushed by the frantically retreating salesgirl.

     Daria, eyes streaming, gagged and sneezed. She was allergic to the formaldehyde contained in the very cheap perfumes.

     "Are you alright?" Krissy, the perfume counter supervisor, exchanged a worried look with Yolanda. The girl didn't seem to be breathing.

     "Miss?" Theresa, just coming off of her shift, stopped at the sight, then thinking that she was choking, started giving her the Heimlich maneuver, over and over.

     Daria, tears and snot running freely, shook the attacker off, ripped the skirt of a dress display and cleaned the snot, mucous and tears off of her face. "Get away from me!" She blew her nose. "What was that, mace?"

     Yolanda shrugged. "It was Voodoo."

     "Like a curse." Daria picked up her glasses. The frames were broken, along with the lenses. "You stepped on my glasses, damn you! Do you have any idea how hard this style is to find? I'll be sending a bill." Blindly, she stumbled out of the doors, away from the agonizing stench of chemicals.

     "Hey, she should like, pay for that skirt." Yolanda wrung her hands, upset.

     Taken aback, Theresa stared after the retreating figure. "What happened to her?" Theresa eyed the two perfume counter girls.

     "I just squirted her with some Voodoo!" Yolanda shrugged.

     "Did you ask her permission?" Krissy gave Yolanda a stern look.

     "Well, no, but it was all her fault! She shouldn't have looked at me and-"

     "Turn in your atomizer, Yolanda." Krissy looked at her, censoriously. "Its back to JJ Geeters, for you."

     "Noooo!" Yolanda ran off toward the bathroom.

     "You'd better hope she doesn't sue us, or you'll be joining her." Theresa picked up some fragments from the broken glasses.

     "Wasn't that like, Quinn's cousin?" Krissy smiled. "She won't sue. Quinn would lose her spot in the catalog."

     Theresa had picked up Daria's wallet, which had gone astray during the attempted Heimlich maneuver. "Quinn's cousin? From this wallet, I'd say more like Quinn's sister."

     Krissy looked after Daria. "Really? She does have the 'waif' look. If only she knew how to dress."

     Daria pulled a Kleenex out of her pocket and wiped at her running nose, then sat on the bus stop bench, depressed. The universe seemed to be a fundamentally Daria-hating place. She really missed Jane.

     Trent backed out of the parking spot and the car stalled. "Damn."

     Jane looked up from her magazine. "Uh-oh."

     He got out and opened the hood. "I thought I smelled antifreeze for the last couple of days." The heater hose had burst and soaked the distributor cap.

     Jane followed and looked at the maze inside the hood. "Would a glue gun help?"

     Trent stared at her, shrugged, and then shook his head. "No, but there's an auto parts store right over there. I'll only take me a minute to put a new hose on."

     Jane steered as he pushed the car back into the parking spot. "Leave the key. I'll stay here and listen to the radio while you do the maniac-ing. I want to guard my art supplies."

     Coming out of the store, Trent glanced over at the bus stop and saw Daria. He frowned at her lack of any response to his presence, then walked over and stopped about ten paces away, waiting for her to acknowledge him.

     Daria sat on the bench, staring directly at him, without expression. It gave him the willies. He noticed once again how strikingly beautiful her face was, without the heavy glasses masking it. Suddenly, belatedly, he realized that she either couldn't see him or else didn't know who he was.

     "Daria?" He looked at her, curiously. Her eyes were red.

     "Who's that? Trent?" Daria had thought that it might be Trent, but she just couldn't resolve enough detail to know for sure.

     Trent shook his head in disbelief. Jane had once told him how blind she was, but this was ridiculous. "Yeah. It's me. Do you need a ride home, Daria? My car is over in the other parking lot."

     "No thanks." Daria flushed. "The bus is fine."

     Trent looked closely at her. "Have you been crying?"

     "No." Daria glared in a direction that was slightly off. "I don't need anything. Thanks."

     Moving closer, he squatted down to her level, until the eyes finally found and focused on him. "I'm sorry that you and Janey fought, but I thought that we were friends too, Daria."

     Daria blinked, then flushed with embarrassment. "I'm sorry, Trent. You didn't deserve all that attitude."

     He took her hand. "What's the problem with you and Janey?"

     Daria shrugged. "I guess she never really got over the way that I betrayed her. It's all my fault. I can't blame her."

     Trent looked startled. "Do you mean you and Tom? Why would she worry about that? She's dating that Evan guy, now."

     Daria nodded. "And she wants to keep him. I don't like him and I guess that it's totally mutual. Who needs a Misery Chick around, driving your dates away or stealing them? She's got a point, Trent."

     Trent thought about it then shook his head. "Janey doesn't think like that, Daria. She just falls in love too easy. She blames herself when it doesn't work out. You have to give her time. You know, I like Tom, but I really hate Evan. He's got her dressing like a... cheerleader wannabe, again."

     Daria smiled a little at the memory of Jane in a cheerleader costume and shrugged. "I am giving her time. That's why I don't want to see her. She'd just say something nasty to me and I don't think that I could take it, right now."

     "Look, I'm not leaving you out here in the dark, Daria. I'll talk to her. If I can get my car started, I'll be here to pick you up in a few minutes. The busses aren't running anymore, you know. The drivers all went on strike today."

     She glared at nothing in particular. "Damn! They could have said something this morning! Look, Trent, just... go away. I don't want you to force Jane to be nice to me. She's right. I am a boyfriend stealing bitch."

     He looked at her for a few minutes. She meant every word. "Well, I don't have a boyfriend and I don't leave my friends stranded at the mall."

     "Don't worry about me, Trent. I can call my sister for a ride. She's got the car." Quinn had gotten her license and now use of the car was virtually unobtainable. It didn't matter very much, usually. Daria had a bus pass and there was really nowhere to go, anyway. Summer had been magic, but between the death of her miniscule social life and the closing of the dollar theatre, life in Lawndale was a truly bleak place.

     He winced at the intense misery on her face. Trent had gone on the road last summer, so he'd missed the fireworks between Evan and Daria. "I'll be right back."

     "By all means, take your time." Daria wasn't going to be there, anyway.

     Trent ran into complications and it took him forty minutes to get the car started. He argued with Jane the whole time.

     Daria walked down the shoulder of the highway, heading for a nearby Exxon station that had a pay phone. A cab could be summoned and she could avoid being further lacerated. She was walking away from the mall and Lawndale because she didn't want to get picked up. She wasn't comfortable with Jane, now. Things had been said, justified things, things that could never be unsaid. It still hurt like an open wound.

     Walking cautiously, Daria was careful to keep one foot on the rough gravel and the other on the paved shoulder of the road. She couldn't see very much. Night had fallen and the mile-distant lights of the gas station were all that she could make out.

     "Yew bitch!" Marvin slapped his wife, his old Buick crossing the centerline.

     "Watch the roaaaaad!" Sally covered her face. She'd flirted with a truck driver back at the bar and Marvin hadn't reacted well.

     "I'm gonna give ya a real whuppin' when I get ya home, yew danged ol' hore. Oughter bob yer nose, bitch." He suddenly lunged at her again. The eight beers that he'd drunk made him very unpredictable.

     Sally's shrieks and the crunch of gravel under the wheels covered up the sound of the impact. Marvin didn't even know that he'd hit anything.

     "There you go. No Daria. Happy now?" Jane glared at him.

     "Happy? No Jane, I'm not happy at all." Trent looked around. "She's out here somewhere, without her glasses."

     Jane bit her lip. "Well, she's not inside, so she's either gotten a ride or she's hitchhiking. Daria doesn't hitchhike, so that leaves a ride. She could even have called for a cab if she wanted to. Her family's not poor, Trent."

     Trent thought about it and then pulled out. "Whatever you think, Jane." He looked at her. "Don't you see how depressed she is?"

     Jane shifted uncomfortably. "Well, I can't help that." She looked at Trent. "Evan doesn't like her." She'd already lost one boyfriend because of Daria.

     Trent nodded. "That's not a surprise. He doesn't like me, either. It's too bad. I guess that people like me and Daria are just too nonconformist for someone like him."

     Jane looked at him with slitted eyes. "Are you saying that Evan is controlling me?"

     Trent didn't look at her. "Mmm."

     Jane was stung. "What does THAT mean?" She was getting loud.

     He shrugged. "It means that you're the one that just said it, not me."

     Marvin stood handcuffed, swaying drunkenly beside a police cruiser. The State Trooper was looking at the Buick's right front fender.

     "What's this dent, Marvin?" Trooper Morgan wondered if he could get away with busting this worthless hillbilly's chops.

     Something in the Trooper's eyes communicated itself and Marvin finally deigned to glance at the dent. "Gawd damn it! Sal! Did yew dent my automobile 'gin?"

     The Trooper picked a green tatter of cloth off of a peeled back piece of trim. It was bloody. He got on the radio and more state, county and city cars began retracing Marvin's erratic route.

     In the course of the field interrogation to determine that route, Marvin lost all of his remaining teeth and broke several fingers along with his nose. He was duly cited with assault on an officer and attempted escape, in addition to all of the other felonies. Marvin was heading back to the joint for good.

     Helen got out of the SUV and walked up to the door, arguing with Jake. Their weekend marriage retreat, where they were supposed to talk out their differences, had turned into another wild sexathon, punctuated with arguments. She wondered if that was all the marriage was based on. Shrugging philosophically, she decided that it was enough.

     She frowned at the uncollected newspapers and opening the door, she looked around. "Daria?"

     Jake walked up with the suitcases. "How come the papers haven't been picked up? Look at the mailbox! It's overflowing! Can't those kids ever-"

     "Jake!" Helen shook her head at his iron-headed obtusity. "She probably cut school and went to see Tom, in New Jersey." Helen climbed the stairs and looked in her daughter's room. The bed was unmade and a reeking milk glass sat on the desk.

     Jake came up. "Who's Tom? Is there a note or something?"

     Helen shook her head, worried. Ignoring his stupid questions, she wrung her hands with anxiety. "She hasn't been here for days. She wouldn't have left a dirty dish in her room if she was going somewhere, deliberately." Taking the dirty glass, she went down the stairs.

     "Where's Quinn?" As soon as he'd said it, Jake remembered. She was staying with her friend, Stacy. "Maybe Daria got lonely and went to stay with Quinn."

     Helen shot him an incredulous look. "I'll call her friend, Jane."

     Jane was desultorily gluing flower petals to her canvas, when Amanda stuck her head in the door.

     "Is Daria here?" Amanda was holding a phone.

     "No, Mom. Daria hasn't been here in a long time." Jane shredded the rose petal in her fingers.

     No," Amanda said into her portable phone. "Sorry, Helen." Listening a minute, she looked up at Jane. "Jane, do you know where Daria is?"

     Jane shrugged. "Trent said that he saw her, three days ago, at the mall."

     Amanda relayed that information, then looked up, sharply. "I'll call you back if I hear anything, Helen." Amanda broke the connection. "Jane, Helen says that Daria hasn't been home for days." Amanda stepped into the room and looked carefully at Jane. "Do you know anything about it?"

     Jane looked up, worried. "Why didn't they call before?"

     "I don't know." Amanda sat on the bed. "What's the matter?"

     "Daria and I had a fight. I don't think that she'll ever come back here, Mom." Jane looked down. Her art had been worthless ever since she'd said those terrible things to Daria.

     The third hospital that Jake called had an unidentified girl that was near Daria's age. He didn't wait to tell Helen, rushing to his car and tearing away.

     Helen, hearing his tires chirp, punched redial, spoke with the front desk and then followed by taxi. She got there first, because Jake got a ticket.

     "She's been here for three days, the first two in a coma. She was the victim of a hit and run, by a drunk driver." The doctor looked at them, hesitated, and then opened the door.

     "Daria!" Jake tottered up, seeing the slack expression and the bandages. "What have they done to you?"

     Helen sobbed, ruthlessly elbowing Jake aside. "My baby!"

     The doctor watched Daria, closely, then sighed. "She doesn't know who she is or who you are. Come away, Mrs. Morgendorffer, you're just scaring her."

     "What!" Helen looked at Daria closely. The pale gray eyes showed only apprehension. There was no hint of recognition.

     "What's wrong with my daughter!" Helen touched Daria and she flinched away.

     "Retrograde Amnesia, bruised ribs, some small cuts and a minor rope burn." The doctor sighed. He hated explaining the inexplicable.

     Helen, Jake and Dr. Breen sat around a circular table in a conference room. There were x-rays and cat-scan sheets neatly piled up on the table in folders.

     "There is no visible brain injury that should cause this. She had some diffuse damage and swelling, but there was no bleeding. All in all, surprisingly little rotational injury." The doctor reached for an x-ray.

     "Are you saying that she's faking?" Jake's jaw dropped. He'd seen her blank eyes. She wasn't faking.

     Breen shook his head. "I'm faking, Mr. Morgendorffer. Medical science is faking. We still have a lot to learn about the brain."

     Quinn came home, angry. She'd gone to Alternapalooza with her friends and actually made it, this time. A drunk had vomited on Sandi and they'd all had to endure the smell in the car. Then the car had broken down and she had been forced to stand by the side of the road for hours, until a tow truck arrived. She hadn't been able to get an answer at home or from her mom's cell phone.

     Jake was snoring on the couch and the house was a mess, with her old toys spread all around the floor.

     Quinn looked around, with outrage. She had put them away in the basement, but all of those toys were hers. Well, some were Daria's, but they had become hers. Someone had been in her things. She went up to her room, fuming. If they thought that they were going to give them away or something, they had another think coming. Maybe she could sell them. She wondered what they were worth. As a working model, she should have her own car, but her mother made her save all of the modeling money for college. It just wasn't fair.

     Looking around her room, she stiffened with outrage. Someone had been in her closet and had knocked over her lipstick stand. Cleaning up and then checking her makeup, she crossed over to Daria's room to see what was going on.

     She knocked, but there was no answer. Quinn heard a thump, so she opened the door.

     Daria was sitting on the floor, in a robe, with all of Quinn's old dolls in front of her. Her eyes were wide, fixed on Quinn, filled with amazement and apprehension.

     Quinn crossed her arms, leaned against the doorframe and smirked. "Oh, for a camera. This little episode ought to be worth big bucks, Daria."

     Daria stared at her, attentively. When nothing else was forthcoming she started to play with the toys again. "Huu.. hu... horsy," She informed Quinn, holding an Eyore doll. Then she started a tuneless humming.

     Quinn straightened in shock. "Daria? What are you doing?" She stared for a while, feeling the blood draining from her face and the panic rising in her. "Cut it out!" She took two angry steps into the room, hoping that she was being mocked, somehow.

     Daria gaped up at her, then shrank back in abject terror. She started a nearly continuos high-pitched screaming and scrabbled back, away from Quinn.

     Daria's robe gaped open and Quinn saw the wound dressing, wrapped around her ribs. "Daria! What's the matter? DAAAAAD!"

     Jake came sprinting in, almost bowling Quinn over. "Sweetie! Don't worry precious, Daddy's here! Get out of the way, Quinn!" He picked up Daria and laid her on the bed, cradling her head. Daria immediately stopped screaming and assumed a blank expression.

     Jake hugged Daria, cooing at her like a baby. Then he turned furiously on Quinn. "What did you do?" he hissed, angrily.

     Quinn stared at Daria, feeling faint, wide eyed with horror. "Oh my God! What's happened to her?"

     Helen and Jake sat on the couch, with Quinn on a chair. Daria was on the floor in front of the TV, playing contentedly with a ragged old Nerf ball.

     "Doctor Breen, the neurosurgeon, said that she's suffering from retrograde amnesia brought about by diffuse rotational injuries to the brain." Helen paused then looked at her brilliant Daria, sorrowfully.

     "What does it mean? Will she get better?" Quinn stared at her sister. She was smiling, carefree, enjoying the toys and the attention. Quinn wondered if she wasn't better off this way. She knew all about Daria's recent lack of a social life.

     Jake rolled the ball to Daria. She laughed and rolled it back. "Of course she will! You'll get better, won't you Kiddo?"

     Daria looked at him and said, "Djake."

     "See? She's already much better. Say 'Daddy,' honey." Jake bounced the ball to her.

     "Jake." Daria looked a bit mischievous.

     Helen nodded. "She is better. Quinn, Daria was the equivalent of a baby, just yesterday. Today she's using simple words and regaining her motor skills. The doctor says that she'll gradually connect it all back together and be as good as new, but this kind of profound amnesia can take months. She'll be going to therapy, instead of school."

     "Will she be like, the same, afterwards?" Quinn was horrorstruck. What if someone like, found out?

     Helen smiled at her daughter. Quinn was very concerned. "According to the pamphlet that they gave us, she could exhibit personality changes. It's just like a second childhood, Quinn. The brain grows along the easiest path, but never exactly the same. We need to expose her to familiar things."

     Daria looked at Quinn, shyly, then hesitantly rolled the ball to her.

     Quinn picked up the ball and gave Daria a smile. "Do you want to like, play with me?" She rolled the ball back, then sat down in front of her on the floor, cross-legged.

     Daria hit her with a dazzling smile. "Gwinn." She rolled the ball back.

     Quinn was touched. "Say 'Quinn'." She pretended to lose the ball, behind her.

     "Quinn." Daria laughed at Quinn's amazement when she found the ball.

     Jake was happy to see them getting along so well. "Quinn is your sister, Daria. Can you say, 'sister?'"

     Daria looked at Quinn, doubtfully. "Sister?"

     "Good girl!" Quinn rolled the ball to her. "Yes, Daria. I'm your sister, Quinn."

     "Sister." Daria stood up, sat on the couch next to her mother, yawned, then went to sleep, leaning on her.

     "Who's going to tell Tom?" Quinn choked up a little at the thought of it.

     "Tom already came over. He was here when we brought Daria back from the hospital." Helen wiped at a tear. "He went back to class. There's just nothing that he can do for her." He'd been frantic, after three days of silence from Daria. It had been heartbreaking, watching him cry and Daria cower away from him.

     Helen hugged Daria, then looked at Quinn. "We have a problem, Quinn."

     "I'll say." Quinn swallowed, regarding the sleeping face, with its chillingly wrong smile.

     Helen sighed. "I don't have any leave time left and your father is even busier that I am, with these new contracts. She'll be in therapy during the school day, but it's going to be up to you to pick her up afterwards and well... baby sit, Quinn."

     "What! Me?" Quinn looked at them in outrage. "It's not fair!"

     Helen stroked Daria's hair. "No."

     Quinn sat in the fashion club meeting, keeping one eye on Daria. Since the meeting had started, Daria hadn't done very much out of the ordinary. Over the week, she had started stringing short sentences together. She was growing ever more curious and inclined to wander.

     "And thirdly, it is resolved that because of her professional qualifications, Quinn Morgendorffer will assume the additional duties as our official liaison with the world of professional modeling." Sandi's eyes were fixed on Daria, who was in the corner, playing quietly with a doll. "Quinn, like, what is wrong with your cousin?"

     Quinn sighed. Over the last few days, her embarrassment had faded. The simple version of Daria had a sweet personality that had quickly charmed her sister. "Daria got hit by a car and now she has amnesia. She's just like a little girl."

     "Oh, thaaats soooo saaad." Tiffany looked over. "Caaan she still taaalk?"

     "Yes. A little, anyway. She's really making progress." Quinn beamed. She'd been spending time with the therapist that was helping to rehabilitate Daria. When Daria was exposed to something, it all fell right into place for her. Quinn was proud of her hard work. "Come here, Daria!"

     Daria walked over. "Quinn?"

     "How do you spell Daria?" Stacy was busily taking minutes.

     "D-A-R-I-A." Daria spelled it out reflexively then looked confused.

     "She remembers new things, all the time. The doctors say that she's in a fugue state. She could wake up anytime, or never." Quinn blinked, then swallowed, sadly. "I guess that she can spell, but she still can't really talk."

     Sandi eyed Daria. Daria had always intimidated her. "Hello, Daria."

     Daria stared at her. "Pretty."

     Sandi's eyes widened in surprise, then she smiled, tossing her hair demurely, loving the honest complement. "Why, thank you. You're really pretty too, Daria. With a makeover you'd be..." Sandy realized that Daria had no idea what she was saying and wasn't paying attention, anyway. "Why do you still dress her like that?" Sandi felt a deep pang of sympathy, an unusual occurrence.

     "It's like, familiar to her." Quinn had thought about it, but why make her look good? Daria was a child, now. Quinn frowned. "She's like, growing up again. Dr, Breen says that we should keep her doing familiar things, because that'll help her remember."

     Sandi smiled. "I always wanted to make your sister over, Quinn. Let's do it while we have the chance."

     "I don't know..." Quinn was uncomfortable.

     "Did you saaay sister?" Tiffany looked at Daria, shocked.

     Quinn was in the changing room with Daria. "Put it on."

     "No." Daria was scared. She didn't like dress-up, and she didn't like the little room.

     "Come on, Daria. Do it for me?" Quinn smiled winningly at her sister. "If I have to take you with me somewhere, I don't want anyone..." Quinn sighed. She kept forgetting. "Look, do you want some candy?" Quinn kept a box of lemon drops in her purse, to bribe Daria with. She vaguely remembered Helen doing it to her.

     "Candy?" Reluctantly, Daria let Quinn persuade her.

     Theresa had given Quinn the wallet that Daria dropped on that fateful night, so Daria's wardrobe change was on Helen's credit card.

     Sandi smiled at the transformation that her fashion genius had wrought. Daria looked perfect. She was well coordinated with the club and perfectly styled. Having her around was fun. Her sweet nature kept the bickering down and they'd taught her to say 'no' whenever Tiffany asked if she looked fat. Sandi just liked her. She enjoyed competing with Quinn for Daria's regard.

     Sandi was in Quinn's room, teaching Daria how to put in a contact lens. "Now you look up and to the left, bringing the contact up to the eye." She used color contacts, sometimes.

     Daria blinked, having understood nothing.

     Sandi cleaned the lens and put it in her own eye. "Like this, Daria... AHHHHHHH!"

     Quinn passed Helen a napkin. "And when Sandi put it in, she said that it felt like a hot coal. The optometrist said it was defective and gave us a box of disposables, until it could be replaced."

     Helen wiped Daria's chin and frowned. That stupid clinic charged an arm and a leg. She briefly considered a lawsuit, then decided that it wasn't worth her time. She was making almost two hundred thousand, now that she was a full partner. "Why are you doing all this, Quinn? She's your sister, not a doll for you and your friends to play with."

     Quinn looked at her, outraged. "Like, its hard enough having her around all the time with her looking different. When we make her dress, she's just like one of us."

     Helen smirked.

     Quinn flushed. "Not like that! I mean... she and Tiffany get along really good and Stacy reads to them both from Waif." Quinn frowned. Daria fit in disturbingly well. Now she was the only member without a title, but if she was to have one, it would be guinea pig. She got more makeovers than Malibu Barbie.

     "I guess it's all right, if it helps her fit in better." Helen went back to refining Daria's table manners. Daria was picking up the basics very quickly, but she still needed constant supervision. Jake had intercepted her, as she was about to walk into the road, just yesterday.

     Jake frowned at them. He didn't like it at all. He'd rather just keep her in the house.

     Jane jogged past Daria's house, then came back. Daria wasn't at school and Jane needed to talk to her. Daria had been right. Evan was a control freak. He'd given her a list of things that she should wear. At that second, Jane had realized that she liked track, not Evan. If she wanted to lose her identity, she'd join a real cult.

     After her epiphany, Jane had ditched bonehead math to catch Daria at her lunch period. Daria, being an 'A' student on the honors track, was on a completely different schedule than 'C' student Jane. They had no classes together. It had been a relief, at first, but Jane had never realized how much Daria helped her maintain that C.

     Daria hadn't been at lunch, so Jane had gone to see Jodie. Surprised that she didn't know, Jodie had told her that Daria had transferred to another school weeks ago.

     Miffed at herself, Jane had hunted Quinn down. Quinn had frowned at her and confirmed the transfer. Then she said that Daria was sick and 'very contagious.' Jane, needing someone to talk to, could risk a little contagion. Maybe it wasn't too late to rebuild a shattered friendship, even if she had to eat a mountain of crow. Swallowing her pride, she knocked on the door.

     "What do you want?" Quinn was harassed. Her agent had called her, offering a photo-shoot for a JC Penny catalog, but she couldn't get Helen on the phone for permission. Helen was in court and the agent had to know, by five.

     Jane raised an eyebrow. "I want to talk to Daria."

     Quinn sighed in dismay, then looked at her, slyly. "If I let you see her, will you stay and keep an eye on her for a little while?" She could move a lot faster without Daria. She always stopped and looked at everything.

     Jane stared. "She's that sick?"

     "Uh-huh. She can't be left alone. Not even for a minute. Do you promise to stay until someone comes? It won't be long." Quinn looked at her, anxiously.

     "Alright, sure." Jane walked in. "Where is she, up in her room?"

     "Yes." Quinn didn't want to waste time going through explanations. "There's a pamphlet on the kitchen cabinet that explains all about what she has." Quinn knew all about Evan and Jane, and Jane tearing in to Daria. It had been prime gossip for a while. She wasn't above taking a little revenge, on Daria's behalf. "Look, she got hit by a car on that day that Trent saw her at the Mall. I'm going now."

     "What? Wait!" Jane thought that she was fast, but Quinn easily outdistanced her, getting into a little black Jetta.

     "How did it happen?" Jane hung in the window as Quinn started the car.

     "She was walking towards the highway from the mall. The guy that hit her was really drunk. He went way off the road and grazed her." Quinn cranked the window up a notch. "I have to go! Just keep her inside until someone comes." Quinn loved the Jetta. Jake had bought it to give to Daria for her birthday, but it had become Quinn's by default.

     Jane took a step back and then watched her pull away. Climbing the stairs two at a time, Jane paused in the hall and then knocked on the familiar door.

     "Come in." Daria blinked, not quite sure of what she'd said.

     Jane entered, expecting the worst. Her eyes widened. "Hey, you're looking pretty good, Daria. Been taking a walk on the darkside? Well, it would be the darkside for you."

     Daria stared at her, sitting on the edge of her bed. She was dressed in granny glasses, a blue long cuff Henley blouse, Ten speed 30 jeans, white Nike cross-trainers and a blue Sadie necklace. She was holding a book. Books were piled up all over the floor. She was building a house. Quinn had taken all of her Lego's away, after stepping on one.

     "Um. I talked to Quinn and she said something about you being in an accident." Jane shuffled nervously under the steady gaze. "Look, Daria, are you going to talk to me?"

     "You want to play?" Daria shifted restlessly. She hoped it wasn't makeover or dress-up, again. Sandi, Stacy and Tiffany always wanted to play that one. They brushed the knots out of her hair and made her wear the sting-eye contacts.

     "What? I guess you could put it like that." Jane sat down next to her, on the edge of the bed. "Daria, I'm dead sorry about what happened. I... fall for these guys, way too fast, throw everything that I have at them, then I fall apart trying to please them. If only I could start with pure disdain, like you do."

     Daria stared at her, mouth slightly agape, blinking occasionally.

     "I guess I knew on some level that having a really honest, black and white sort of person like you around would just make the self deception a little too hard, so I-..." Jane looked over and her eyes widened. "What are you doing?"

     Daria was smiling widely, completely ignoring her, engrossed in her own business.

     Guiltily, Daria spat out the paper that she'd gnawed from the corner of the book. "I'm sorry," she said, in a small voice. She put the book on top of the stack. "I'm making a playhouse."

     "What? What are you-" Jane, terribly alarmed, jumped to her feet.

     Daria flinched back. When no threatening moves were forthcoming, she relaxed, then said, "You're all red, like your shirt. Why do you wear all that red? That's funny. What's your name?"

     Jane swallowed. If this was revenge, it was the best revenge that she'd ever heard of. "Jane Lane. Partner in cri... Don't you remember me?"

     Daria frowned. "I forgot everything. Quinn says that I'll remember again though." She suddenly smiled. "But I can spell! Want to see? J-A-N-E L-A-N-E."

     "That... was... really... good," Jane croaked.

     "It rhymes! Do you like to play Nintendo?" Daria frowned. "Quinn only lets me play for one hour a day, but sometimes she forgets."

     Jane sniffled. "What?

     Daria smiled, gleefully. "I really know how to tell time, but I don't tell her!"

     "Oh, God." Jane started sobbing.

     "Are you sad?" Daria, feeling sympathetic, reached under the bed and gave her a doll to play with.


     Jane looked up, surprised, then stood. "Sandi Griffin?"

     "Yes. You can like, leave right now." Sandi's hostile gaze instantly transformed into a friendly smile as Daria looked up at her. Sandi cooed, "Oh, you look so cute today, Daria!"

     Daria smiled, happily. Sandi was one of her favorite people. "Sandi! I made a playhouse! This is Jane Lane. I can spell that too. J-A-N-E L-A-N-E."

     Sandi walked over and started fussing with her hair. "That's nice. Did you brush today?"

     Daria nodded. "Yes, Sandi. A hundred times on each side, like you said. And I put on my makeup, all by myself."

     "You're so good, Daria!" Sandi eyed her clothes, concealing her disdain. "Quinn picked out your outfit again."

     "Yes, Sandi. Quinn always helps." Daria's hands fluttered nervously. She didn't like it when people got mad at each other and she could sense that Sandi didn't like Jane.

     Sandi nodded. Quinn subtly dressed Daria down, so that she wouldn't be out-shown. Sandi was glad to get this opportunity to straighten Daria out, without interference from Quinn, the spiteful little cat. She couldn't argue with Quinn anymore, because Daria cried, but she could get a measure of revenge by making sure that Daria lived up to her full fashion potential. "Well I think that's too much blue for a redhead. Maybe I can help you, too. I want to show you some pictures, today, Daria. We can learn how a fashionable redhead should dress."

     "Definitely. I'd say lighter colored pastels, maybe a light yellow." Jane smiled at Daria, trying to suppress the mountain of grief and guilt that she felt. This was her fault.

     "Um, 'Jane,' I'd like to see you downstairs for a moment, please." Sandi set Daria brushing her hair, then followed.

     "What's the prognosis?" Jane was waiting in the kitchen, reading the pamphlet that Quinn had told her about.

     Sandy started off mildly. "The prognosis is good. Daria's getting better every day and her attitude is like, great. Why are you even here?"

     Jane sighed. "She's my best friend."

     Sandi shook her head. "A best friend that left her alone at the mall. We all know what happened."

     Jane slumped. "Oh, God, I wish that we hadn't fought over that creep, Evan."

     Sandi sniffed. "She doesn't need misery people like you around, especially since it was your fault that she got hit in the first place. She's happy with us. We can teach her how to fit in." Sandi leaned in and poked the weeping woman in the shoulder with her index finger to underscore her point. "Leave Daria alone. She's ours now, and you can't do a thing about it."

     Jane flew out the door, down the road and out of Lawndale forever. She turned up at an art colony in New Mexico, eighteen months later, with an attitude, an art scholarship at a prestigious university and a newborn baby.

     Quinn stood shivering in the skimpy underwear, next to Shelly and Anna. They kept it cold on the set so that the models wouldn't sweat.

     "Come on, stop shivering and smile! Let's see some energy, girls!" The photographer was clicking away. The set and makeup people were directing fans and altering light levels to the photographers shouted instructions.

     Daria was sitting quietly in a folding chair, next to Stacy, reading a book. She'd started reading again.

     "Oh, they're sooo glamorous!" Stacy, unable to contain her excitement, leaned forward and sighed.

     "They're all just standing around in their underwear." Daria looked up from Little Women and stared at them. "Why is Quinn in her underwear? It's cold in here. Doesn't she know that she's not suppose to do that?"

     A fortyish woman, in the chair on the other side of Daria, snorted with laughter. "If everyone figured that out a whole industry would collapse, my dear."

     Daria looked at the woman, not understanding. "Oh." She shifted restlessly. "What's a industry?"

     The woman smiled. "That's a pretty deep question. I'm Rosalind Reynolds."

     Daria smiled. "Hi, Rosalind Reynolds." She said the phrase that Helen had drilled into her, for meeting strangers. "I'm Daria Morgendorffer. I have Retrograde Amnesia."

     Rosalind stared. "Really?" She saw the confusion lurking in the... striking face, and decided that it was true. "Well, at least you get to read your favorite books for the first time again. Is that Little Women?"

     Stacy was irritated with the banter. It was distracting her from the breathtaking glamour of it all. She dug an old Rubik's Cube out of her bag. It would keep Daria busy and stop her from talking to strangers.

     Quinn had slapped her, the last time she'd let Daria do that. Sandi had pushed her, then threatened her with expulsion from the club. Poor Daria had nearly gone off with the three J's. Quinn had cast all three of them into the outer darkness, with the rest of the Fashion Club's official unpersons.

     Daria nodded. "I learned how to read yesterday. I've read two books. Quinn says that I read too fast. Stacy has to carry too many books."

     "Daria!" Stacy took the book away. "Here. Be quiet and play with this for a while."

     Daria took the cube, looking at it doubtfully. "What does it do?"

     Stacy, suddenly noticing a handsome male model smiling at her, snatched the cube back and rotated the squares around until it was all broken up. "Look, try and make it like it was, with each face a single color." She glanced at Quinn and decided that she could watch Daria just as easily from across the room. She glanced at Rosalind then said, "I'll be right back, Daria. Stay here." She slipped away to get better acquainted with the glamorous model.

     "Oh dear." Rosalind looked at the abandoned girl and then at her watch. She could delay the meeting. There were all sorts of sickos lurking around the edges of any photo-shoot. If any realized how vulnerable Daria was, it could be tragic.

     Daria looked at the cube steadily for a full minute, slowly turning it, looking at each side.

     Just when Rosalind was about to take it and show her how the facets moved, Daria, hands moving with speed, economy and precision, solved it.

     "My goodness!" Rosalind stared in shock.

     Daria dropped the cube, no longer interested. "But I want my book."

     Rosalind picked up the abandoned cube. "I never did manage to solve one of these things. How did you do it?"

     Daria looked at her, sadly. Stacy had put the book away. "I looked at the sides. I imagined which squares have to go where, when. Then I just moved them there."

     Rosalind frowned. "Well, sweetie, it doesn't work that way for me."

     Daria thought. "You have to look at all six sides in your head, at the same time. Think of it like one big flat sheet."

     Rosalind shook her head. "I can't do that, but that's all right. You're really very intelligent, Daria."

     Daria looked up at Quinn. "I don't think that's good."

     "Absolute nonsense! Intelligence is part of style, which is the essence of beauty." Rosalind shrugged. The amnesiac girl wasn't listening. Seeing the onset of restlessness, she finally reached over and dug Daria's book out of Stacy's bag. "Here you go, dear."

     "Oh! Thank you, Rosalind!" Daria lit her up with a truly dazzling smile.

     Rosalind, recovering from the smile, watching the speed with which the girl read, shook her head. The damaged brain was a profoundly good one.

     Quinn looked up and gasped in outrage. Stacy had abandoned Daria again. Daria was talking to a strange lady.

     "Who's that lady sitting back there?" Quinn asked the photographer.

     He looked back, then stopped shooting. "My God! It's Rosalind Reynolds! Take a break, everyone. I'll be a minute or three."

     Rosalind frowned. She'd hoped to observe and then get away without having to deal with the leech-like Harry Baum. No matter. The trip was already huge success.

     "Rosalind! How are you?" Harry gave her an ingratiating smile. She was a major power in the industry, one of the movers and shakers at the Elite agency. He wanted to move up, but he'd never had the eye that Rosalind was blessed with.

     Rosalind nodded back. "Hello, Harry. I was just taking a look at the new girls."

     He glanced at his shoot. "You? Scouting?"

     She smiled. "Sometimes it helps to get out of the office and take a look at what's growing out in the heartland, Harry."

     Harry scowled. "Weeds, mostly."

     She nodded. "But you run across flowers in the most amazing places. Have you met my new friend Daria, Harry?"

     Daria stood with her back to the polished stone table, looking out of the skyscraper's corner window. The Daria Building, the home of FC industries, wasn't the biggest in Manhattan, but it was one of the most elegant. It epitomized the Daria style." And the ancillary stuff?"

     Quinn shuffled through the portfolio. "Stacy? Where's my report?"

     "Uh, I'm not finished, Quinn. I can print out what I have. I was up all night with Dale. He was colicky again."

     Quinn rolled her eyes and smirked at Daria.

     Daria sighed. "Stacy, how many personal assistants do you have now? Ten? Eleven? They aren't on paid vacation. Tell one of them to wake up and do it. You can't do everything, all by yourself, you know."

     Stacy nodded. Her assistants were called vice presidents now, and she had a great many more than ten of them. Daria had little firsthand knowledge of company affairs. She just didn't realize how big the company had grown over the last seven years. "I know, but they already work so hard..." She cleared her throat. "I know the numbers anyway. Sales this week of all scent related products were right at $210,862 in US dollars. All together, that's $11,040,920 from all of our domestic, non-core related operations this week."

     "Daria Present's got 20,000,000 hits last month. There's another cool $110,000 in pop up ad revenue." Quinn, seeing Daria's disinterest, cleared her throat. "Daria, have you ever given any thought to what you'll do when the time comes to quit modeling?"

     Daria shrugged. "Eat like hell, I suppose. I'll have to come in once a month and make sure that you don't slack off, Quinn." Stacy and Daria exchanged a little smile. That would be the day.

     Quinn practically lived in the office, reveling in the corporate terrorism that she was so good at. Her pretty-boy husband Mark, a near-clone of Jake, primarily devoted himself to raising their four children. Once a high-flying bond trader, a humiliating near-bankruptcy had made him lose his nerve. Quinn had bailed him out and ruled the family with an iron hand ever since.

     Quinn smiled. "Very funny. Daria. You'll be thirty-five next month. You'd better get yourself a husband and get on with it."

     Daria shrugged. All of her relationships had been horrifying public disasters, complete with tell-all books and screaming tabloid headlines. "Okay. Tell Mom that I was thinking about artificial insemination. Could you pick up a turkey baster and have Mark fill me up a jelly jar?"

     Stacy and Quinn laughed hard.

     Quinn wiped her eyes, grinning. "You'd give Mom and Mark heart attacks."

     Daria smiled and sighed. She hated not remembering her childhood, as bleak as everyone said it was. She only had a year's worth of memory of her father, who'd died of a heart attack. "You're depressing me, Quinn. You guys do whatever you want with the businesses. I don't care. I just come here to hang around and visit, anyway."

     Quinn smiled. "I know, Daria. We don't mind." Daria was little more than a trademark for the company. She had no interest in it.

     Stacy nodded, sniffling. "I wish we were all still here. Who'd have thought the Fashion Club would still be going strong, seventeen years later?" Sandi had died in a plane crash, back in 2012 and Tiffany lived in Paris with her husband, Craig.

     Daria nodded. She had done pretty well materially, but she knew that she hadn't really been all there since the accident, so many years ago. "I miss her too." She sighed. "I'm heading down to the lobby, to have a look at the new art installation. You can call Mom and let her know that I'll pick up a construction guy and be pregnant before dawn."

     Quinn smirked and nodded. "She'd love it. I'll join you down there in a bit. Let me know before you leave the building, okay?"

     "Sure." Daria took her private elevator down.

     "Quinn, do you want security notified?" Stacy's hand hovered over the phone.

     Quinn thought. "Tell them to maintain a discreet watch, but they're to let any respectable looking men approach her."

     Stacy nodded thoughtfully. "How about women?"

     Quinn frowned. "Throw them out."

     Daria took a seat in the lobby, watching the sculpture being settled into the atrium created for it. The artist had been a pre accident friend of some sort and was highly sought after. Daria had a feeling that she wouldn't have had a hope of commissioning a work, otherwise.

     A tall, distinguished looking man in an ultraconservative Saville Row suit strolled confidently over to the construction foreman and had a word. Some scaffolding was hurried into place and a smudge was cleaned off.

     Daria marked where he had come from and decided to see who he was. She made her way to the spot. As she had hoped, he came back to the same place.


     Daria smiled at him. His shock didn't have the quality of someone confronted by celebrity. He knew her. "That's me! How have you been?"

     His smile died a little. "Oh, fine. I left Lawndale, went back to school, got a job in construction and struck out on my own." He gestured at the logo on the electric crane. "That's my outfit."

     Daria saw the name, somewhat impressed. "That's a good sized company."

     He shrugged, uninterested. "How about you?"

     She gestured around at the House of Daria building. "Plenty of stuff."

     He nodded. "So I see." He smiled. "Good for you, Daria. I always knew that you'd go far."

     She shrugged. "I get tired of it all, sometimes."

     Nodding at his corporate logo, he said, "I hear that. It really doesn't mean much, after a certain point."

     She opened her mouth to agree, when a teenaged boy ran up.

     "Hey, Dad! Can I lower the sculpture?" He was tall, with skinny arms and legs.

     His black hair and gravelly voice reminded her of someone.

     "No, Davie. I have to work now, son. Have Frank drive you back to school." He smiled at the boy. "Tell you what, sport. I'll get your Aunt Janey to show you how to run a laser stonecutter, tomorrow."

     "Alright!" He smiled at Daria and ran off at breakneck speed.

     "Handsome kid. Yours?" Daria saw the pride on his face.

     "Yeah. I'm sorry about that. I cut him way too much slack. I'm a widower. Monique died of cancer when he was just seven." He looked at her closely, realizing that she still didn't know him. "Do you remember me at all? How long can amnesia last, Daria?"

     Daria shrugged. "I'm sorry about your wife. You're right, I don't remember you. They say it can last forever. There's a theory that at some level, the amnesiac just doesn't want to remember. Tell me, were you an old boyfriend or something?"

     He shook his head, sadly. "You had a crush on me when you were sixteen. I got one on you, long after yours evaporated, but you had a boyfriend by then. By the way, I'm Trent Lane."

     "Oh! The artist's brother!" Daria was excited. Quinn didn't know much about her life before the accident. Daria sometimes wondered if they had been all that close, before. "Can you tell me anything about my life, before the accident?"

     Trent shrugged. "Well, for me, you started out as a friend... the friend, of my sister, Jane." Trent told her everything that he knew, from the trip to alternapalooza to the falling away, after Tom.

     "So the art- Jane and I were close." Daria sighed. "I remember talking with her, but she's a stranger to me."

     Trent shrugged. "She's not here today, because it hurts her too much to see you. She often speaks of you, to this day. I don't think she ever found another friend like you."

     Daria shrugged sadly. "What kind of life has she had?"

     Trent shook his head. "Not great, but not really tragic either. Fame of course, but she hasn't done all that well in the relationship side. She has three great kids, each by a guy that she hardly knew. She still leaps before she looks."

     Daria frowned. "She's doing better than me. I want kids, but they would have cost me millions." Daria shrugged. "I've got millions, so what the hell."

     Trent nodded. "It's something worth doing, Daria. Any men in the picture?"

     Daria laughed. "Not a big reader, are you."

     Trent reddened. He'd read Tom's tell-all book, looking for a mention of himself, but had avoided all of the books that followed it. He'd been utterly repulsed by the wild woman portrayed in the pages. Clearly, Tom was bitter. "Tom shouldn't have done that."

     Daria nodded. "I went out with Tom a few times. I really tried, but to tell you the truth, I just didn't like him. He was too arrogant and cynical. Then he wrote that stupid book."

     Trent sighed. "The accident was hard on us all, Daria. It changed a lot of lives. He was angry because he loved the old you and the new you rejected him."

     Daria shrugged. "The guy tells me that he's the love of my life, but he can't remember my only sister's name? Who was he trying to kid? He just lost his butt in the recession of 2009 and wrote the book for some quick cash. Ever since then, every loser that I date cashes in with a book full of lies. It's kind of put me off dating."

     Trent opened his mouth, then closed it. He made a note to find out what Daria's Sister was calling herself, these days. "I can see how it would tend to inhibit a person. By the way, amnesia or not, I've really missed you, Daria." Trent smiled. "I'd hoped that I'd run into you here today. I don't usually get out in the field much, but I personally handle all of Janey's works."

     "I'm awfully glad that you came. God, I wish that I remembered something, but it's just a blank." Daria gazed at the sculpture, sadly. She could almost imagine the days that he'd described, laying on a rumpled bed, watching TV, talking and reading while her partner in crime painted.

     Trent looked at her, saw lurking tears, and then took her hand. "Everything will be alright, Daria. Trust me."

     The elevator arrived and the annunciator bell rang. Daria gasped then sagged into his arms. "Daria?" He frowned in confusion. "Are you all right? Should I get help?"

     "Trent? What are you doing? I said that I didn't want a ride. Oh! That car hit me! I was crawling back toward the road." Impulsively, she kissed him. "I just knew that you'd come after me."

     Quinn stopped, stared in amazement, saw her semiconscious condition and came running. "Daria!"

     "Mom? Where are we and why is my name all over the place? Its got to be a dream. It's like some nightmarisly tasteless shrine to the evil me." Daria sighed. "Trent, you look just like you did in my daydreams about the future. I must be lying by the road, hallucinating. I hope that I don't die with Jane still mad at me."

     Quinn gaped. "Oh my God! She's finally come out of it! The doctor always said that something like this might happen, but I never thought that it could... What year is it, Daria?"

     Daria frowned. "It's the year two thousand, Mo- Quinn?" She gasped. "You're so old!"

     Trent's eyes widened, fearfully. "Oh my God! She doesn't remember anything! What did I do?"

     Quinn took her other arm. "It's not you, Trent. Help me get her to the elevator. Come on, sweetie, let's all go back upstairs. I'll call Dr. Menk and get Mom on the vid. We'll talk about it."

     Still supporting her, Trent activated his voicelink to call Jane.


The End?


Email Me!