Disclaimer: Daria and associated characters are owned by MTV. This is fan fiction written for entertainment only. No money or other negotiable currency or goods have been exchanged.
Original characters and plot copyright Richard J. Lobinske. 2006.
This is the Forty-third story in the Falling into College series.
Four Friends, Four Winds
"Good luck with those weddings," Fran Lawrence said over breakfast to her friend, Quinn Morgendorffer.
Sitting at the dining table with Fran's aunt and uncle, Quinn said, "Thanks, I'm going to need it. Lindy's mom is going insane."
Fran's aunt and foster-mother, Beth Stamford, asked, "A lot of mothers kind of go a little nuts. Mine did."
Quinn shook her head. "This is more than a little nuts. Mrs. Weaver's turning into a real Momzilla. And we're really trying to figure out how to keep her sober at the reception."
"Fran said weddings, as in more than one?" Fran's Uncle David asked.
Quinn nodded. "And ohmygod, my Aunt Amy is getting married in September."
"That sounds nice. Is it a second marriage?" replied Beth.
Quinn explained, "No. That's kind of what has me worried. According to Daria, Mom and her sisters are getting along kinda sorta better. But still. I remember the riot at my cousin Erin's wedding."
David asked, "Riot?"
"Really, it was more of a big food fight. Well, except for the one groomsman and the preacher; they were really hitting each other. Anyway, one of Amy's best friends is like this army woman and I think she'll help keep things under control."
"Are you in that one, too?"
"I don't know if she's made any decisions about who's going to be in the wedding party. I won't be upset if I'm not. Being Lindy's maid of honor is enough for one summer."
David said, "Either way, sounds like you'll have a busy time."
"Yeah. Plus, I hope I can get my old job back at Cashman's. I wouldn't mind getting an employee discount again."
Beth looked at Fran. "Something you might consider, with how much your clothes budget has gone up in the last six months."
Quinn sheepishly said, "I'm kind of responsible for that. But I only wanted to..."
"Shh." Beth hushed Quinn. "I don't mind that much. It's nice to see Fran a little more outgoing."
Fran said, "I'm glad I am, too."
"But, you need to pay a little more of your own way."
"Yes, ma'am," Fran answered.
Standing by Quinn's red Vexxer, Fran hugged her friend and said, "Have good summer. I can't wait to move into the Tri-Theta house next year."
Quinn hugged back. "We're gonna have a lot of fun."
"I can hardly wait."
Quinn opened her car door. "With four days on the road ahead of me, I really should get going. You take care of yourself, Fran."
"I will. You too. I had a lot of fun this year."
"Me too. Bye."
Quinn got in, started the car and backed onto the street. With a short wave, she reluctantly started her long trip home.
Helen Morgendorffer watched her husband pace in front of the picture window in their living room. "Jake, you're wearing a hole in the carpet."
He replied, "Oh, sorry. Just nervous about Quinn. She's running late."
"She has her cell phone. She'll call if something comes up."
"But what if she's been in a horrible accident? What if she's not in a service area? What if she forgot to charge it?"
"Jake, it's no worse than when we rode across country at her age. Remember?"
"We were in a lot less reliable of a car than hers."
"Oh, well, yeah."
"Then settle down."
Jake slumped his shoulders and he sat next to Helen. "Can't I be a little worried?"
"Yes you can, dear. But just a little."
"It's going to be nice to have one of our girls home for a while. The place has been awfully quiet."
Helen smiled and kissed his cheek. "Not all the time."
He laughed and kissed back. "No, not all. But I still miss our girls."
Helen nodded. "I miss them, too." She looked at her watch. "Quinn, you're late. Where could you possibly be?"
Jake jumped up and ran to the window. "There she is!"
Helen joined him, rushing to open the door.
Quinn stiffly got out of her car and walked to the door, slightly hunched over. "Finally."
"Quinn! Welcome home!" Helen cried out.
Jake grabbed Quinn in a bear hug and lifted her off the ground. "I'm so glad you're safe!"
After being set back on the ground, Quinn mumbled. "Hi Mom, hi Dad. I'm going to take a hot bath. Wake me up in an hour."
Trancelike, Quinn walked upstairs and directly into the bathroom.
Jake looked at Helen. "I'd have thought she'd be a little more excited to see us."
Helen placed the hot baking dish on a trivet and answered the ringing telephone. "Hello?...Oh, hi Sandi....Quinn got home about an hour ago...She's in the bath right now...Can you? Can you what?...What?...Uh, no Sandi, she was a little out of it when she got home, she didn't mention anything...I couldn't believe your mother would do such a thing...Still?...No...Oh, Sandi, of course you can...right now if you want, I'll tell Quinn as soon as she's out of the bath...Okay, bye."
Helen placed the phone back down. "Jake, we're having another guest."
Jake turned around on the sofa. "Daria's coming home to visit too?"
"Um, no Jake."
Jake warily asked, "Not one of our relatives?"
"No, Jake. Quinn's friend Sandi needs a place to stay."
"She's the one that testified with Daria about that school case. Sure."
"I'm glad you agree, Jake. Give me a moment to go check on Quinn."
Helen went upstairs and knocked on the bathroom door. After no response, she knocked louder.
Only face and knees peaking out over the suds of the bubble bath, Quinn came out of her light sleep and said, "Huh?"
Helen said through the door, "Honey, did you have something you were going to ask us?"
"Were you planning on asking us something when you got home?"
Still foggy, Quinn sat partway up and said, "About what?"
"Did you tell Sandi that she might be able to stay here?"
"Oh, yeah. Can she? Her mother's still being a real witch about that whole testimonial stuff and won't let her go home."
"I'd gathered that much. She'll be here in about half an hour. I suggest you get dressed before then."
Quinn rushed to answer the doorbell. "I'll get it."
Sandi's hair was flat and simply cut. For her, freshman fifteen was more like thirty. Even makeup couldn't conceal the fatigue in her eyes. Though still tasteful and well coordinated, her clothes were inexpensive copies of last season's fashions.
It didn't matter to Quinn. She embraced her friend and squealed, "Sandi!"
Subdued, Sandi said, "Thanks, Quinn."
Helen came in from the kitchen. "Sandi, come in please. We have the guest room ready for you."
"Thanks, Mrs. Morgendorffer."
Quinn said, "I'll show you," and led Sandi to her new room.
Inside, Sandi grabbed Quinn and buried her face against the redhead's shoulder, crying.
Recovering from her emotional release, Sandi dried her eyes and sat on the bed. "I guess I knew things would get bad when I left for college last fall. After Mom got me fired over that stupid tape, we could hardly talk to each other."
Sitting down on the bed beside her, Quinn said, "I wish I knew something to say."
"You talked your mom into letting me stay; that's enough for now."
"I'll be honest; I think she also likes the chance to take a poke at your mother."
Sandi found the strength for a weak smile. "Can I give her a bigger stick?"
Quinn softly laughed. "Good one. Do you know your final grades yet?"
"I barely kept a 2.0 GPA. I don't know if I'm going to be able to finish."
"Hey, you made it through your freshman year, that's a good sign."
"But I don't want to go back. I'm all alone up there."
"I don't have any real friends at school. There are only a couple people that will even talk to me. I hate it."
"Oh. I'm sorry."
Sighing, Sandi said, "I'm going to look into Lawndale State. Maybe I can transfer. At least a few people around here still like me."
"Sandi, of course there are."
"Oh, can I go with you tomorrow to apply for a job at Cashman's? I'm going to need a job real fast."
Quinn paused for a moment as she developed an idea. "We'll do that the day after tomorrow. I'm calling Stacy and Tiffany and we're having a day out, just like old times. Well, not exactly like old times since I don't think Joey, Jeffy or Jamie are still around. But otherwise, just like old times."
"I can't go. I'm almost broke. My trust fund can only be used for college expenses. That's why I need to get a job."
"My treat." Quinn raised a finger to Sandi. "No arguments."
Quinn shook her head. "We all promised to stay together as friends, remember? Like Daria and Jane and Jodie and Mack."
"That seems so long ago. They're really all still friends?"
"Well...Jane is seeing Mack now, but yeah. Jodie's even working with my Dad again this summer."
"I'd like to see Stacy and Tiffany. What are we going to do?"
"We'll have lunch and then go to the mall. Maybe catch a movie. It'll be lots of fun."
Speaking on the telephone while sitting in the living room, Quinn bounced from time to time as she talked and listened. "Just three more weeks, Lindy. How are things going?...Max did what?...Where?...Like anybody's going to notice...He didn't...Jesse tried to get just the jacket because he doesn't like to wear shirts?...Did Nick behave?...Maybe we can glue his mouth shut; nobody needs to hear about his divorce right now...Don't worry, they've been fitted for the bridesmaid dresses...I'm positive. Jane took pictures...Daria gave her a mini spy camera for a stunt they pulled a couple years ago, she snuck it in...Daria's helping her boyfriend find an apartment...I'll probably try to push her in front of the bouquet...Oh, she'll probably try to kill me, but it'll be worth it. Can we get together on Saturday?...About eleven? I'll be there. See you then, bye."
Tentatively, Sandi came down the stairs. Her makeup was fixed and signs of her crying were gone. She asked, "How'd it go?"
"Great!" Quinn replied. "Stacy and Tiffany can't wait to see us. We're going to get together at Pizza Prince for lunch and then hit the mall. Lindy's working tomorrow and Friday, so I'll be getting together with her on Saturday to go over stuff for the wedding."
Sandi looked at the floor. "I look like hell, don't I?"
"Sandi, what do you mean?"
"I look like hell," Sandi mumbled. "Look at me. I'm worse than I was after I broke my leg."
"Sandi, you don't look bad."
"Easy for you to say. You're the same size as last year, and that short hair looks makes you look even cuter. I've bloated out and look like a truck hit me without my makeup."
Quinn shivered a little bit at the description, thinking of what had happened to Fran. "Sandi, hold on a minute, will you?"
"I'll be right back."
Quinn ran upstairs and came down with a small stack of photos. She sat back down and showed one to Sandi. "That's my roommate, Fran."
"Uh, huh. That's supposed to make me feel better? Look at how petite she is. She's even smaller than you. I suppose you want me to try her diet."
Quinn showed a second photo. "This is her without makeup."
Sandi started and drew back.
Quinn added, "You don't want her diet. She has to eat like you wouldn't believe just to keep her weight and take special supplements. I was jealous of that at first, but seeing her struggle, I'm not anymore. Sandi, so you've added some weight and worry circles. We know you can still look good when you want to, just as you are."
Sandi asked, "What happened to her?"
"She was in a car accident." Quinn mentally included, Her parents' car was hit by a truck.
Quinn put an arm around Sandi's shoulder. "That doesn't mean that what you've gone through wasn't hard. Only that you don't look like hell. I told you before: you're beautiful on the inside."
Quinn was aware of how slightly out of place she felt in the teen hangout that was Pizza Prince. The place seemed like it was smaller and the booth she was seated at with Sandi a little more worn. However, the cheeseless pizza tasted the same, bringing a warm familiarity to her.
Feeling more like her old self, Sandi said, "It's like these people don't even recognize us."
"A lot of them were only freshman or sophomores when we were seniors. They didn't know us that well."
"So much for our legacy."
"Sandi, did you really want to end up like that Tommy Sherman guy and have your best years in high school?"
"Hmm. When you put it that way, I guess not."
A brunette dressed like a tomboy with full hair past her shoulders entered. "Quinn! Sandi!" Stacy Rowe exclaimed and ran over to their booth, reaching across the table to try to hug both. "It's so good to see you!"
"Stacy!" Quinn said back.
Sandi honestly was pleased to see her. "Hi, Stacy."
Stacy sat down next to Sandi. "It's been so long."
"Stacy, how are you?" Quinn asked.
"Wonderful. I made it through my first year at Lawndale Community College. I've had a couple of good race finishes."
Sandi observed, "Your clothes have changed."
Shyer, Stacy said, "Well, um, I haven't been paying much attention to fashion. What with college and racing and helping Daddy with the shop and stuff."
"Oh," Sandi said.
"I'm sorry. But now, I just don't have time."
"I guess not." Sandi shrugged. "But then, I haven't either."
"Hey everybody," Tiffany Blum-Deckler said as she came in. Her painfully slender build was gone, replaced by toned muscle that was set off by a pale blue tennis dress.
More loud greetings followed as Tiffany settled into the booth next to Quinn, who asked, "How's your modeling work going?"
"I'm doing mostly sports fashion now. So, my manager has me doing all these weight things to look the part. It's a lot of work."
"I bet," Stacy said.
"But it's been kind of weird," Tiffany explained. "Things don't make me as fat any more."
"Ooooh! I haven't been shopping like this in ages," Stacy said as the four young women entered the Lawndale Mall.
Quinn was again struck by how small it seemed compared to her memories and also how light the crowd was compared to the malls she visited in San Diego.
Sandi said, "Stacy, it kind of looks like it."
Stacy explained, "Um, well, I've mostly been buying clothes I can also use around Dad's shop. Uh, fashion stuff gets messed up real easy."
"Yeah," Tiffany added, "Stacy, remember what that grease did to your green top? It was so yucky."
Quinn pointed to a store. "I know. Why don't we start at Norman William's Cosmetics and get some manicures done? They always get me in the mood for shopping."
Stacy looked at her short, plain nails. "Manicures don't last long for me anymore. But, I'll sit and talk while you get yours done."
"You can get a hardening treatment, Stacy," Tiffany suggested.
"I suppose," Stacy admitted. "Okay, let's go."
Almost to the cosmetic store, the girls heard a piercing voice that they'd hoped had faded into memory.
"Come on, Skinny!" Mrs. Janet Barch commanded her husband, Tim Barch-O'Neill. "It's not that heavy."
He panted, "Sorry, Janet. I'm just a little winded."
"If I have to lug this around for nine months, you do too! Now put that weight harness back on. You're going to earn your paternity leave."
Quinn riveted her eyes to their destination. "Oh dear God, I don't want to see."
Sandi said, "Not looking..."
"Eep!" was all Stacy managed to say.
Just as they made it to Norman Williams, Tiffany said, "Boy have they gotten fat."
While buffing Quinn's nails, the manicurist asked, "Where did you get such a nice tan?"
She answered, "I just got back from California."
"Oh," was the reply. "You are so lucky. All the tanning salons around here have such icky booths."
"You have to go out of town," Tiffany said. "There are some good ones near Baltimore. And some really cute guys that go to them."
"Now Stacy," the technician said to her charge, "The 'Diamond-Kote' will make your nails harder, but I don't know what that degreaser you mentioned will do to it. Nobody's ever asked."
"Thanks anyway," Stacy said in return. "How about if I let you know?"
"Ah...sure Stacy. Just in case anyone else needs to know."
Speaking quietly, the manicurist told Sandi, "I've smoothed and evened the edges. Nobody will be able to tell you were biting your nails." Louder, she said, "The Strawberry Frost looks so good on your hands; they're going to look fabulous."
Quinn said, "Sandi has always had great nails."
Tiffany said, "You know, getting our hair done would also be a great way to get ready for shopping."
Sandi ran her fingers through her hair. "Tiffany dear, that's an excellent idea. I think a new look is in order."
Quinn shrugged to herself as the stylist trimmed her hair. I told Sandi my treat, and if it helps her feel better about herself, it's worth it.
Using fast, controlled rolls of his wrist, Sandi's stylist added curls to her newly blonde hair. He said, "The young men are going to be falling all over themselves over you."
"I'll have to make sure I take one off the top so they're not dirty," Sandi replied with a touch more haughtiness returning to her voice.
"Ohmygod," Stacy said, "The colleges around here have so many nice guys. There's supposed to be a free movie night at the Lawndale U Student Union tonight. Why don't we go there after shopping?"
"They're showing The French Patient," Tiffany said. "That way the guys won't just try to watch the movie."
"I like it," Quinn said.
"Hmm." Sandi thought. "That might be a good idea, Stacy. Let's go."
School had let out for the day and the mall crowd swelled with students by the time they left the hair salon. In the lead, Quinn walked around a large planter next to a reflecting pool. She stepped to one side to allow a pair of teen or near-teen aged blond-haired kids and their parents get by.
The younger boy tugged on his father's shirt and said, "Mom, Dad. It's Quinn!" Tad Gupty turned his attention back to four girls. "Hi, Quinn!"
Tricia Gupty also smiled. "Hi, Quinn."
"I'll be," Lester Gupty said. "It is."
"Quinn, I like your new haircut," Lauren Gupty said.
Boy have they grown. She paused a moment, remembering their ages the last time she'd baby-sat them. Oh wow, Tricia will be in high school next year.
"Thanks, Mrs. Gupty," Quinn directly answered Lauren's comment. "Hi everybody."
Quinn introduced everyone while desperately hoping that Tad didn't recognize her friends from that homecoming parade three years before.
Tricia said, "How's college?"
"Okay, a lot more work than high school. You're starting high school next year, aren't you?"
Tricia nodded. "Yes. I'm excited. Although, I'm worried about all the stories I've heard of how popular people behave."
"Um, yeah." Quinn nervously laughed and glanced over her shoulder. Tiffany was looking at her reflection in the pool. Stacy appeared slightly embarrassed, while Sandi studied Tad, as if trying to figure out why he looked familiar.
Quinn looked back at Tricia. "You remember my sister, Daria?"
"How could I forget? Is she around somewhere?"
"No, she's in Boston. But, she's really the one to talk to about dealing with popular people."
"I miss you and Daria baby-sitting," Tad said. "Now my sister does it."
"I'm sure she does a good job. It's been nice running into you, but we need to get going. Bye."
After patiently hearing the Guptys' good-byes, Quinn managed to get Tiffany's attention and move her friends past the family. They were almost out of earshot when Quinn heard Tad say, "Hey, that was the animal abuser from the parade!"
Sandi asked, "Was that the boy that hopped on the parade float with Daria that one time?"
"Yeah Sandi, it was," Quinn answered.
"Has it been that long that he's grown that much?"
Sandi traced her fingertips along the side of her face as she walked with the others toward Cashman's. She whispered, "Old?"
Quinn smoothed the brightly colored skirt and checked that the blouse was tucked in just right. Hearing a sigh, she said to the next dressing room, "Are you okay, Stacy?"
"Oh, yes. Fine," Stacy replied with little enthusiasm. The brunette stared at the light blue summer dress in her hands and then the sturdy denim and cotton clothes she'd been wearing. Holding the dress in front, Stacy looked into one of the full-length mirrors and sighed again.
"Stacy?" Quinn asked again.
"Do you really think I'd look good in the powder blue dress?"
"Sure, Stacy, don't you think so?"
Stacy dropped her arms down and looked up at the ceiling. "I don't know."
"What was that?"
"Quinn, I don't know. I never know how I look in something."
"That's why I haven't been shopping. I never know what to get or what to buy or what to wear. I always relied on Sandi or you or Tiffany. Now with everyone gone, I don't know what to do, so I get stuff I know will work around Dad's shop and stuff."
"What about Tiffany? I'm sure she would help you."
"We, um, haven't stayed that close. Remember when Sandi broke her leg and you two resigned from the fashion club leaving only me and Tiffany? Without you or Sandi around...we kind of got on each other's nerves."
"I didn't know."
"The same thing happened after you and Sandi left for school. So, we don't get together that much."
"I'm sorry. I thought you were excited about today."
"I am. We're all together again. Quinn, I liked having all of us together back in school. You know, it really didn't matter what we did, it was the 'us' part that was important. Now I'm realizing it's more than the clothes and stuff. It's about us. I don't need to try on the clothes. I just want us all to be together."
"Um, wow. That's really...wow. Um, I'm really happy to be with everyone, too. But maybe you're right. We need to remember that."
Stacy put the dress back on its hanger and started to get dressed in her regular clothes. "I hope you don't mind, but I think I'm done trying on clothes today."
"Oh, um, no Stacy. I don't mind."
Balancing shopping bags as they left Cashman's, Quinn said, "This really was a lot easier with the guys to help carry stuff. I miss them."
"What happened to them?" Sandi asked.
Stacy said, "Joey joined the Air Force. Jeffy's working in a casino in Atlantic City and...uh, Tiffany, where's Jamie?"
"Ohhh...he went to Key Largo. His uncle has a boat," Tiffany replied.
"That's right," Stacy acknowledged. "It's one of those boats that take tourists out fishing."
"Yuck, fish," Sandi said with a look of disgust.
"It's getting kinda late, why don't we have dinner at the food court before we go to that movie?" Quinn suggested.
"Sure, Quinn," Tiffany agreed.
Quinn and Sandi both set their salads on the table and looked at the roast beef sandwich Tiffany was eating. Sandi said, "Gee, Tiffany, isn't that a big change in your diet?"
"Oh, yeah," Tiffany said. "My trainer likes me to eat more lean protein."
Stacy arrived with a children's size hamburger and a side salad. "Hi guys."
Surprised, Quinn said, "A burger?"
Stacy sat down and shrugged. "They're not bad. Cluster Burger tastes better, though."
"But what about all the fat?"
"I got tired of being hungry all the time," Stacy said with a little irritation.
"Sorry," Quinn said. "Um, it looks like things are going to be a little different than before."
"So, what's this free movie like at Lawndale U?" Sandi asked.
Stacy's excitement grew as she said, "They set up a screen at one end of the Student Union and a bunch of seats. In the back they have a snack bar with sodas and stuff. Beer if you have ID. You can watch the movie or hang out or whatever you like. It's fun."
The auditorium was much as Stacy had described it. A portable screen was in place at one end and a snack bar was set up at the other. A cluster of small tables also filled the space in front of the snack bar. Fifteen minutes before the movie was scheduled to start, the room was already filling with college students.
"Stacy!" a medium-build brunette said as they walked by. The newcomer wore a denim dress with a western-style shirt and cowboy boots that had a solid tapping sound as she walked. "These must be your friends from high school you've told me about."
"Hi, Erica. "Yeah, these are my friends, Quinn and Sandi and you've met Tiffany before. Everybody, this is Erica. She goes to Lawndale CC with me."
"Hi there," Quinn said.
"Hi," added Tiffany.
She's put on a little weight too, or always had it, Sandi thought. "Hi, Erica."
"Stacy, can I talk to you for a bit?" Erica asked.
"Sure." Stacy told her old friends, "I'll be back."
The remaining girls bought some diet sodas and sat down at one of the small tables. They made some small talk while waiting for Stacy, who failed to return by the time the room lights dimmed. Clusters of students drifted from the snack bar area to the movie seating, while others hung back to continue conversations without disturbing the move.
"What could be taking Stacy so long?" Sandi asked.
A muscular man wearing a Lawndale State jersey sat down next to Tiffany. "Hey, haven't I seen you at Brass's Gym?"
"I go there," Tiffany slowly replied.
"Is this a girls night out? Or would a little company be acceptable?" Without waiting for an answer, he waved to two friends. "Over here!"
Two more well-toned men joined the first, who said, "I hope you don't mind."
Tiffany said, "Um, no. You're cute."
Quinn said, "I don't mind."
Sandi said, "Okay."
The new guys pulled up chairs and crowded around the table to talk.
Quinn asked, "Yeah, I wonder what happened to Stacy. I don't want her to feel left out."
Tiffany pointed to the end of the snack bar, where Stacy and Erica were talking with two more young men. Tiffany said, "I don't think that's a problem."
The first man asked, "Are we going to see the movie?"
The girls agreed and they stood, followed by the boys. As they walked to the movie seats, Sandi said, "I'll be right with you."
She stopped at the snack bar and said, "A box of chocolate-covered raisins, please."
Halfway through the movie, Tiffany tapped Quinn on the wrist. "I'm leaving with Mitch to get a soda or something."
"I'll watch your seat," Quinn said in return.
"Um, no Quinn. We're not coming back to watch the movie, we're going somewhere else."
Sandi asked, "What was that?"
"Oh, Tiffany's about to leave with, um, Mitch."
A little unsettled, Sandi said, "You don't want to see the end of the movie?"
"Uh, no Sandi. But, I had a good time today. We need to get together sometime and do it again. Bye."
"Bye, Tiffany," Quinn said and waved.
Sandi sank down in her seat and slipped the box of candy out of her pocket. "Bye."
After the movie, Stacy dashed across the room to Quinn and Sandi. "Gosh, I'm sorry I didn't get back with you sooner. A couple of Erica's friends showed up and we started taking and everything and I forgot about the time and you know how that is."
"It's not like there's any rule you have to stay with us the whole time, Stacy," Quinn said.
"I know, but I still wanted to let you know I didn't mean to blow you off or anything. I was just kind of distracted."
Quinn noticed the young man Stacy had been with earlier patiently waiting. "I'd call that a good kind of distracted."
"Oh, um, you noticed."
Quinn folded her arms. "If I don't notice a good-looking guy, I'm probably dead."
"Good. I know this was a day for us girls, but do you mind if...I, um..."
Sandi said, "Stacy, I'm not president anymore and Quinn's not vice president. You don't need our permission."
"I know, Sandi. But, it just seemed kind of rude not to tell you."
"Oh. Thanks, then," Sandi said.
"I was hoping you'd understand. Good night!" Stacy grinned and skipped more than ran back to her date.
Sandi scowled and said, "For nothing."
"It's like, I haven't seen them in six months and they can't even stay around for one day?"
"Those were cute guys they left with."
"That's what you give guys your phone number for!" Sandi exploded. "So that they can call you back later!"
Quinn stepped back in shock.
The stress, pain and fear of the previous year found its release. Sandi felt the pain of her mother's multiple betrayals and then disowning her. She felt the frustration at her father's wretched capitulation to the process. She felt the loss and loneliness of a new school, one where a reputation caused by her old haughtiness caused most to avoid her. Her one hope had been to come back to her old friends and the way things were. A hope now gone.
Through tears and rage, she screamed, "Dammit! You three were my only real friends and...and..." Sandi kicked a chair, causing it to skid across the floor. "They've left me like everyone else has!"
Quinn stepped over and grabbed her friend's arm. "Sandi, you're making a scene. We better get you out..."
"They just didn't care!" Out of control, Sandi lashed out and slapped Quinn. "Nobody freakin' cares!"
The resounding sound of the slap drew attention from those nearby as Quinn held a hand to her face. She stared at Sandi, not really comprehending what had just happened.
"Go on!" Sandi screamed. "Run away like those two. I know you want to!"
One of the men in the crowd, a black-haired guy who slopped beer out of a plastic cup as he wobbled more than walked, called, "Cool! Chick fight!"
One of his equally unstable buddies joined in. "Where's the chocolate pudding!"
A third said, "Ten bucks on the blonde!"
"Hah!" One more said, "Fifteen on the redhead!"
The second yelled, "Come on, Red! Knock her lights out!"
Sandi stared at the drunken onlookers for several seconds and then her hand. The emotional pain vanished and a surge of embarrassment caused her to run out of the room.
The sudden disappearance caused Quinn to break out of her shock. "Sandi!" she yelled and chased after.
The first drunk unsuccessfully tried to follow, but fell face first on the floor. "Crap! I wanted to see them make up!"
Winded by the sudden run, Sandi stopped and leaned against a car in the parking lot as she tried to catch her breath. In better shape, Quinn reached her soon after.
"Why?" Quinn asked in anger and dismay.
Breath ragged, Sandi said, "Too tired. Not used to this. Why'd you come after me?"
"I'm your friend, dammit!" Quinn yelled.
"Yes! Sandi, I'm sorry I haven't been around, but I'm here now! Why'd you hit me?"
Sandi sank down to the still warm pavement, her eyes focused somewhere in the far distance. "Nobody else is around. Nobody. They all left me alone. I can't even go home to get Fluffy."
Anger vanishing into worry, Quinn squatted next to Sandi. "You're not alone. I'm here. Like I was after you broke your leg."
Noticing her friend, Sandi said, "Oh, my God. Your face!"
Quinn moved her hand back to the growing bruise, taking time to wipe away a couple tears. "It's not that bad," she said, knowing how much of a lie it was.
"Yes, it is. I hit...and, damn." Sandi went silent and stared at Quinn.
"Nothing a little, okay, a lot, of concealer won't hide."
"Don't worry about it." Quinn realized that they really needed to leave before the inside crowd searched them out. She tried to joke, "But, I think you scared off our dates."
Sandi let out a faint laugh. "That's okay. Mine was kind of boring."
"Mine wasn't that great either."
Sandi pushed herself up, feeling very tired and world-weary. She asked, "Can we go home?"
"Let's get out of here," Quinn said.
The following afternoon, Quinn and Sandi were in an office of Cashman's department store. The nameplate on the desk before them read, "Alicia Cohen." A woman with light brown hair reached across it and said, "Welcome back, Quinn," as she shook the younger woman's hand. Next, she said, "And welcome to Cashman's, Sandi."
"Thanks, Miss Cohen," Sandi gratefully said.
Alicia sat back down. "Quinn, there's a slot open in the Children's Department. It's yours for the asking."
"I'll take it," Quinn answered.
"Sandi, I think we'll start you in the Bed and Bath Department."
"Okay," Sandi said, not certain of anything more to add.
In a pair of plain pajamas, Sandi sat on her bed and stroked the hair on a stuffed, white cat resting on it. "We're lucky Quinn didn't kick us out."
She yawned and rubbed her face. "I'm tired."
Sandi set the toy on the window and crawled back into bed, turning off the table light on the way.
Curling into a fetal position under the blanket, she whispered, "You're not alone. You're not alone."
At the same time, Quinn looked out of her window as she talked on the cell phone. "Oh, the look on their faces must've been priceless, Fran."
Lying on her bed, Fran said, "It already made my summer. How'd that girls' night out go with your old friends?"
"Mostly good, but it kind of ended bad. Tiffany and Stacy cut out early with some guys they met."
"Bummer. How mad are you at them?"
"A bit. Sandi was really hurt."
"Sounds like the four of you have grown apart."
"Yeah, I think you're right."
"It happens. Oh, Beth says that dinner's ready. Sorry things didn't work out better. I'll talk to you later."
"Okay, later. Bye, Fran."
Quinn turned the phone off and set it down on her nightstand before turning off the light. She pulled the covers up.
We have grown apart. We'll still see each other this summer, but it won't be like before. But next year? I don't know. The Fashion Club is really over.
Quinn tightly hugged her stuffed dinosaur.
Thanks to Kristen Bealer and Ipswichfan for beta reading.