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. 2007.
This is the Fifty-ninth story in the Falling into College series.
Link with the Past
Link Rouillard weaved his way through the crowded corridor of Lawndale High School. Excitement and apprehension mixed in the 16-year old's stomach when he saw a freckled brunette at her locker, transferring books to a blue denim backpack. From nervous habit, he blinked his eyes to make sure his contacts were in place and not dry. When the girl turned and he saw her slender, gold-framed glasses, he knew he couldn't wait any longer.
The girl smiled and said, "Link, hi. That was really funny what you said to Mr. Barch."
He chuckled. "Thanks."
She warned, "But I'd be careful around Mrs. Barch when we go to Chemistry this afternoon."
"Yeah, though from what I've heard, she's not as bad as she used to be."
That made Hanna laugh. "My older brother has some real scary stories about her."
"I bet." Link took a deep breath and said, "Um, do you want to go to the Zon on Friday? Maybe have some pizza on the way?"
Hanna tilted her head and smiled again. "Did you just ask me out on a date?"
Feeling his knees weaken from her smile, he said, "That's...what it sounded like to me."
"Then it's a date."
Thoroughly enjoying the springtime sun shining on the Raft Quad, Wendy said to her walking companion, "You're kidding me. Your sister's birthday is Tax Day?"
Daria replied, "I kid you not."
"Let me guess: your parents' taxes were late that year."
"I've always wondered how many people legitimately used the birth of a child to explain needing an extension."
Wendy said, "Also speaking of taxes, have you gotten your refund yet?"
"It arrived at a good time. I'll be glad when I can find another job to pay for the expensive habits I've picked up."
"Maybe I can help you a little in that department."
"I got a gig directing an original play at the Old Millhouse Theater. We're having open auditions Thursday night. It's a small operation, so the pay isn't great. But, at least it's something."
Daria joked, "You're trying to get another chance to see me in a dressing room."
"I won't deny that. You did a good job on Henry V and it sounds like you can use a little extra cash."
Daria sighed. "I won't deny that I can use the money, either. I know Mom and Dad would send some in a heartbeat, but I don't want to ask if I can avoid it."
"Then come on, it'll be fun."
"You know that I have all the fun I can handle."
Wendy elbowed Daria. "You can bring him along, too."
Despite the age and poor condition of the magazine, Lindy managed to keep herself distracted with it while waiting in a doctor's examination room. She shuffled her feet and turned a page, feeling hopeful about the upcoming news.
A middle-aged woman in a lab coat entered and sat down in the chair next to Lindy. The doctor smiled and told the young woman, "Congratulations. The test was positive, everything looks good, and I'd say you're about six weeks along."
Lindy broke into a glowing smile. "That's wonderful. I've heard all these stories of people trying and trying...but it's only been two months for us."
"I'm glad things worked for you so easily. Stuff like this is what makes my job worth it."
"I can't wait to tell Trent."
The doctor gave Lindy a handful of pamphlets and photocopies. "I know you've been researching this, but here's information on what to expect and important guidelines on what to do and don't."
The doctor's mood turned more serious. "Pregnancy is going to introduce a lot of new stresses that you've never had before."
Lindy also grew serious and slowly nodded. "I'll have to be careful to maintain my sobriety."
"Don't hesitate to use your support framework, if needed. Family, friends, social groups, recovery groups, or me."
"I'll do that. I like my life the way it is and I don't want to risk a bit of it."
Full of adrenaline, Link jogged and grinned. "She said yes." The anticipation of a first date with Hanna left him euphoric for the entire trip home from his after-school job at Cluster Burger.
That euphoria crashed to the ground when he opened the apartment door and heard his mother yelling on the phone, "No, you stupid son-of-a-bitch! You have no parental rights. You're not his father and you never adopted him! You haven't even kept up on the joke for alimony you owe me. Yeah? You too, and the jackass you rode in on!"
As silent as possible, Link snuck past his mother railing against his ex-stepfather and went straight to his room. He started his computer and changed out of his school clothes while the second-hand unit slowly booted up. Life had improved since he and his mother had found this small apartment and gotten out of the shelter they'd moved to after his mother had left his ex-stepfather. However, the extra phone line to his modem, paid for by his part-time job, was still a lifeline to the outside world.
His mother's fight brought home the reality that he'd never seen a healthy relationship. His mother's relationships were disasters. His maternal grandparents were divorced and nobody had seen his grandfather in at least ten years. His paternal grandparents should've been divorced, except that they probably couldn't find anyone else to drink with them. He'd never met his ex-stepfather's parents and didn't even know if they were alive.
"I don't want to mess things up Friday," he told himself. "I wish I had someone to ask."
His eyes caught a note taped to his monitor with an e-mail address and a RapidTransmit username. "She's cool; I bet Daria can help."
Link opened his chat software and sent an invitation to DariaM.
After several seconds, he saw:
DariaM: Link? What's up?
MissingLink: Can I ask you for some advice?
In her apartment, Daria had to type around a black cat snoozing on her lap. "I hope his mother isn't having problems again."
DariaM: Sure, about what?
MissingLink: I asked a girl out on a date for Friday.
DariaM: Okay. From what my fiancé says, you're past the first difficult part.
MissingLink: I really like her and I don't want to mess things up. What should I do?
DariaM: Do about what?
MissingLink: I really don't have anyone to ask around here. All I've seen is how to do things wrong. I'm hoping you can help, at least a little bit.
Daria rubbed her face. "Oh, boy."
DariaM: I'll do what I can. What are your plans?
Trent was sprawled on a sofa, strumming his acoustic guitar, occasionally breaking into a short stretch of melody that changed slightly with each effort as he tried to make the tune work.
Almost bouncing, Lindy came in and sat next to Trent, giving him a long hug.
He set his guitar aside and returned the hug. "You're in a good mood. Trying to tell me something?"
Lindy laughed at the suggestion. "Yes, but not that. Well, I suppose it has something to do with that."
"We did it! We're going to have a baby."
It took several seconds for the words to register. "Whoa. Really?"
Lindy wrapped her arms around Trent's neck. "I hope you're going to say something more than, 'whoa.'"
"That's better, though I was hoping for more syllables."
She moved her hands around his neck. "Now you're teasing me."
Lindy released his neck and hugged him again. "I'm so happy."
Trent gently squeezed her and said, "I noticed," while faint concern registered in his eyes.
DariaM: That's all I can think of. Good luck, Link.
MissingLink: Thanks, Daria. I really owe you. Talk to you later.
DariaM: Good night.
Daria signed off the message program and said, "I hope my advice helps. I'm not exactly the best person to ask about what other girls will like."
Bump looked up and meowed. Daria replied, "You should've spoken up earlier, but I'll pass that on the next time I talk to Link. Now, it's time for you to get up. I need a break from this machine."
Emitting a meow of protest, Bump jumped off of Daria's lap after being nudged. The brunette stood, stretching. "That's better."
Hearing her cell phone ring, Daria went to her desk and unplugged the charger. Curious about the number, she answered, saying, "Hello."
Trent said, "Hey Daria, do you have a few minutes to talk?"
"Sure. What's up, Trent?"
"Um...well, Lindy and I have been trying to have a baby."
Hoping the conversation was not about to go in the direction she feared, Daria said, "Trent, this isn't going to involve too much information, is it?"
"Huh? Um, I don't think so."
"We're going to have a baby."
Daria inwardly chuckled. "By 'we', I'm assuming you mean you and Lindy."
"Um, yeah. Good one, Daria."
"Since you said you were trying, I assume that congratulations are in order."
"So...what did you want to talk about?"
"I, uh, didn't think it would happen this fast."
"Ah. Not as ready as you thought you were going to be?"
"Yeah. This is like, really big, and I've gotta be responsible."
"You don't know what to do."
"It's a lot to, um, get your head around."
"That, it is." Figuring out the basis for Trent's uncertainty, Daria thought for a moment and then said, "Trent, what you're feeling is probably very normal for new fathers. I think you need to face this the way you've always faced things that are important to you."
"Take a nap?"
Daria shook her head in friendly disbelief. "Besides that. Put your thoughts and feelings into words. Write a song."
"Oh, yeah. That's a great idea. Thanks, Daria. I'm going to do that."
"I think you're going to be a good father."
"I know you were there for Jane and it wasn't easy for you. Look how she turned out."
Trent laughed and coughed. "I thought she raised me."
"Okay, you raised each other, and still did a good job."
"I guess so. Later, Daria."
"Good night, Trent. And tell Lindy congratulations from me."
Jane angrily stared at the e-mail on her computer. "Greek Inter-Chapter Social Activity Forum my ass. Mack, we both know it's an oversized frat party with every chapter at Vance joining in."
"Hey," Daria said from the door. "Bad time?"
Jane spun her computer chair around to face Daria. "Nah, not really. Just a little bummed that Mack can't make it this weekend for the Street Revolt Art Show. I have a couple of pieces entered."
"So to speak. I heard you on the phone earlier and it sounded like you were talking to my brother."
"I was. As I'm sure you know, he was feeling a little overwhelmed by Lindy's condition."
"You know, pregnant."
Jane flew off of the chair. "What!"
Daria stepped back. "Uh, oh."
"And my brother told you and not me."
"Jane, I'm sure he's about to call you with the news. He just needed someone to talk to first."
"He could talk to me."
"Jane, Trent needed to hear from someone outside of the family. He's scared about becoming a parent like...some other family members."
"Okay, I can see that. Please tell me it was planned."
"Yes, it was planned, but it sounds like things happened sooner than expected."
Jane couldn't avoid a smirk. "What can I say, we Lanes are fertile. Look at how many of us there are."
Daria smirked back. "Have you warned Mack about that?"
"Trust me; I take as many precautions as you."
Hearing the apartment telephone ring, Daria said, "I bet that's Trent."
"It better be," Jane said as she went into the dining room to answer the phone. "Hello."
"Hi, Janey," Trent said.
"So, big brother, do you have any news for me?"
"Well, now that you mention it..."
Jane interrupted, "Daria just told me."
"Oh. Uh, sorry. I think I should've told you first."
"Yeah, but I'll forgive you this time."
"Just don't do it again."
"I better write a note on my arm."
Jane laughed and said, "If you do that, don't get confused and start a band called, 'Tell Jane First.'"
"Hey, that kinda has a ring to it."
"Or maybe not."
Jane continued to tease her brother. "Daria tells me that you're scared spitless."
"No, just a little...nervous."
"Trent, Lindy is not going to let you screw up."
"Anyway, congratulations. I bet Lindy's happy."
"Since she likes the refrigerator clean, I'm sure that's not from something she ate."
"Good one, Janey."
Jane dropped her teasing. "Trent, you're going to be fine. Lindy's a good person, and your kid will have Aunt Janey around to keep her in line." She mischievously glanced at her roommate. "As well as Aunt Daria."
Trent said, "Aunt Daria. I like the sound of that."
Daria glared at Jane. "You're going to pay for that."
Lewis opened his apartment door and said in greeting, "Hey, Daria. How's it going?"
"Weird. How are things for you?"
"Pretty good, for a change. My final set of experiments is running well. With a little luck, I should be able to finish in a month or two. After that, it's focus on actually writing my dissertation."
"Congratulations. Where's Michael?"
"He's in his room, waiting for you." Lewis hesitated, and then asked, "Will I need to be somewhere else?"
"No, I think I'm more in a mood to talk. Like I said, it's been weird."
"Ah, okay. You can do some mutual griping; he was looking a little beat when he came home."
"Always the mark of a good relationship."
Daria slowly pushed the bedroom door open and said, "Michael?"
Slouching on an old recliner tucked into a corner, reading, he sat up and said, "Hey. How was your day?"
"Very strange." She crawled onto the chair next to him. "When did I become a counselor?"
Softly putting his arms around her, Michael said, "Can I have the back-story before I answer?"
"You really need to learn telepathy; it'll make things so much easier."
"But then I wouldn't have as much time to sit with you like this while you explain."
Daria snuggled against him. "That got you off the hook, this time."
"Then start from the beginning, and take your time," Michael said, kissing her forehead.
"I suppose the weird stuff started when Wendy talked me into trying out for a play she's directing."
"Oh boy, that's how it started?"
Still sharing the recliner with Daria, Michael said, "People respect your advice. I wish someone had told me something like that when I was sixteen."
Daria gave him a light-hearted glare. "I'm sure your mother did."
"How much did you listen to your mother when you were that age?"
"Now that you mention it..."
"About as much as I did."
"Probably less," Daria had to admit. "I hope my advice was good. I've changed since high school, but I'm still hardly your typical girl."
"That, you're not," Michael said, kissing her neck. "You're much better."
She arched her neck and sighed with pleasure, letting him continue for a few seconds. "You're trying to distract me."
"It's not completely working, but you don't have to stop."
"And what do I know about having kids? Or being a good parent?"
Michael moved to look Daria in the eye. "Does anybody before they become one? You asked Trent to look inside himself. Sounds good to me."
"You make it sound like I'm making sense." Daria gave him a slow, lingering kiss. "So, what do you think about me trying out for that play?"
"Why not?" Michael started kissing her neck again. "It'll give me a chance to see you live on stage instead of on tape."
"Mmm, you're good."
"Are you distracted, yet?"
Daria whispered, "Yes."
In the living room, Lewis cocked his ear and listened. With a soft chuckle, he said, "They're awfully quiet. I think I'll run out to the grocery store for a few things."
Link squinted at the algebraic equation on his homework paper and thought through the problem. Just as he started to form in his mind the path to solving it, his mother entered the bedroom with the phone in her hand. "Link, it's for you. Some girl named Hanna."
"Um, uh, thanks Mom." He took the phone and hoped to hide his anxiety as he said, "Hello?"
Hanna said, "Hi. I realized that we never set up a time for Friday."
Link closed his eyes in embarrassment that he'd forgotten something so simple. "How about six?"
"That's cool. But I need to warn you that my dad's probably going to give you the third degree before we leave."
"I, uh, think I can handle it."
"I bet. Well, now that we have it figured out, I need to go. I'm barely halfway through my algebra homework."
"I'm working on that, too. See you tomorrow."
After Link turned the handset off, he noticed his mother waiting in the doorway. She said, "That sounded like you have a date with this young girl."
"Um, yeah. Friday. By the way, can I borrow the car?"
"It's time that we had a little talk."
He sighed, dreading what he might hear. "Mom..."
Elaine Weaver's kitchen looked the same as it had for the last twenty years. Every appliance, every bowl and every utensil was in their proper place, plus there was a bud vase with a fresh flower centered on the dining table. The woman looked across it at her daughter to say, "Does this mean that Trent will finally go out to look for a real job?"
Irritated, Lindy said, "Mom, writing and playing music is Trent's real job."
"I mean something with a steady paycheck."
"He's a regular at both McGrundy's and the Zon. That is steady income. Plus, he does freelance composition for jingles with the agency I work for."
"Lindy, he's still trying to be a single bum living some childish dream."
"Yeah, but that's what we want. Trent and I are living our dreams. He has his music and I have my design work. We're happy and we get to see each other more than most couples working your 'real' jobs."
"But once that child comes along, mark my words; you'll be the one doing all the work and Trent will still be lying around."
Lindy stood in anger. "I don't know why I even bother. Can't you just for once in your life be happy for me?"
"Honey, I want you to be happy. That's why I'm worried."
"You're not listening. Just be happy for me...not want me to be happy. Please."
"I don't want you to make the same mistake I did."
"Mom, Dad was a grade A asshole. Trent is nothing like that."
Also angry, Elaine said, "Lindy, your father was not like that when I married him. But my mother knew he was bad news and I didn't listen."
"Just...oh, forget it. I was hoping for a little good advice on my pregnancy, but I see I'm only going to get the same old tired lectures from you."
"That's because you never listen to them."
"I really don't need this. Mom, I'll call you later. Maybe we can talk better over the phone."
"We're only going to make things worse if we try to continue this. Later."
Lindy turned and forced herself not to storm out of her mother's house.
Elaine watched and muttered, "I'm not going to let you ruin my grandchild's life."
Between classes the next day, Link stopped by Hanna's locker. "Hanna, can I ask you a question?"
"Sure Link, what?"
"Before I get interrogated by your dad, does he have any special issues that I need to worry about?"
Confused, she asked, "Like what?"
"Like anything that will make him really freaky."
"Nah, I was pulling your leg a little bit. He's a pretty boring dad that's going to do the usual 'protecting his daughter' bit. Why?"
"Well, after Mom asked about you last night, I started to get a little worried."
"Your mom was asking about me?"
"After you called. Mom is...well, different."
"Is she afraid I'm going to seduce you?"
Link blushed and said, "Part of it."
"Where would she get that idea?"
"Mom's not the most stable person in the relationship department. She thinks everyone is going to make her mistakes."
Hanna asked, "Does that mean you were..."
"An accident? Yeah. I've known for as long as I can remember."
Link shrugged. "I deal."
"Look, I'll try to get Dad to chill out a little on you."
Hanna finished exchanging books and closed her locker. "Oh, there is one thing that Dad might worry about. Are you going to be driving any kind of fancy, fast car?"
Link leaned against a nearby locker, laughing.
Hanna smirked and said, "I'll take that as a 'no'."
After starting to shut down her work computer, Lindy rotated her chair to face her husband, asleep on the sofa, guitar on his lap and battered songbook open on his chest. She smiled and crossed the room to kneel beside him. Lindy kissed his cheek and whispered, "Trent," while gently shaking his shoulder.
Trent's eyes opened and he mumbled, "Hey, I'm writing a song here."
She kissed him again. "I know, dear. I just wanted to tell you I'm going out for a while."
"Oh, that's cool."
"So, whatcha writing?"
"I'm not sure yet...conceptualizing, you know."
"Ah, I see. Just let the magic do its thing."
He kissed her in return. "You know me too well."
"I'll be back in a couple hours. We'll make dinner then."
"It's that late? Wow, I better get back to writing."
Lindy smirked. "I'll let you. Bye."
After Lindy left, Trent hummed and started to write:
Magic is the heart of life
Helen answered the front door and said, "Lindy, what a nice surprise. Come in, please."
"Hi, Helen. How are you doing?"
The older woman held up her polished, rosewood cane topped with gleaming brass. "I'm getting around a lot better and back to full-time at the office. Still have to work a little slower, but I'm getting there."
"That's great. Helen, can I ask you for a little advice?"
"After all you've done for me, of course. Would you like something to drink?"
"Water," Lindy said, following Helen to the kitchen.
Helen poured a glass of water and picked up a can of vegetable juice for herself before leading the younger woman to the table. "What's on your mind?"
"Oh! Congratulations. Uh..."
"Yes, it's planned, if a little sooner than expected. I've only been off the pill for two months."
Helen was visibly relieved. "Let me guess; you're wondering what you've gotten yourself into."
"I'm surprised you're not talking to your mother or Amanda."
Lindy sighed in deep frustration. "I tried talking to my mom, but it went really badly. Amanda's a wonderfully sweet lady, but she's...not always there."
"Yes, she does travel a lot."
"I meant even when she's not traveling."
"Look at your daughters. I think I could learn a lot from you."
Helen laughed a little at herself. "Thank you, Lindy, but I'm not sure how I ended up so lucky. I made plenty of mistakes and I missed too much of them growing up. Some days, I think that Daria and Quinn turned out well in spite of what I did, not because of it."
"You're a strong woman and you've raised two determined daughters. There must be something I can learn from you."
Helen earnestly looked into Lindy's eyes. "Something that came to me the hard way; don't lose sight of your family."
On her return home, Lindy had a good feeling of things to come. Not from an overly-rosy picture, but from Helen's frank and straightforward advice on what to expect over the coming months. But at the end, it would be worth it. From some of the things Quinn had mentioned about her older sister, Lindy was sure that Daria would be horrified that Helen had showed her all of those baby pictures.
Inside, Trent was still on the sofa, with the open notebook fallen to the side. Lindy read the beginning of the song and smiled. "Softy." She bent over and started to kiss his earlobe just above the piercings.
Trent almost purred and rolled toward Lindy, falling off of the sofa with a graceless thump. Eyes finally open, he looked up and said, "I meant to do that."
"Yeah, I could tell by your cat-like grace."
Standing up, Trent said, "Hey, this means you're back."
Lindy patted his stomach and said, "Yes, we can go fix dinner, now."
Cautious, Trent asked, "You're not going to want to fix anything really weird, are you?"
Lindy patted his shoulder and gently pushed him toward the kitchen. "I've been assured that the cravings don't start this early. But when they do hit, just think of it as sharing, since I'm the one that gets to carry this kid around for nine months."
"Hmm, I hope they involve peanut butter."
MissingLink: What really burns me is that Mom wasn't as concerned about the poor kid resulting from an accidental pregnancy as she was about having to cover child support since I'm under 18.
MissingLink: I hate when she does that, going from barely knowing I exist to being all over me.
DariaM: I think some level of that is in the Mother's Contract.
MissingLink: Was your mom like that?
DariaM: Not as bad, but yeah, especially when I got my first boyfriend. She'd sprint up the stairs with snacks so that we wouldn't be 'tempted.'
MissingLink: That's funny.
DariaM: And after a couple months, she went back to almost forgetting we were there. One time, she didn't even notice that my boyfriend and I had fallen asleep while studying. We woke up at around four in the morning and my boyfriend had to sneak out.
MissingLink: And she never knew the difference?
DariaM: No, my dad was downstairs looking for a snack. When he mentioned it to her, she immediately went ubermom on me.
DariaM: That was very awkward, but I survived. Just as you will.
MissingLink: I hope so.
DariaM: It beats the alternative.
MissingLink: Good point.
A wolf whistle cut through the air as Daria led Michael toward the small theater's stage. Turned around in a seat of the front row was Isabelle, the tall, blonde costumer that Daria had met the year before. Isabelle loudly said, "Damn, girl, you're looking good. Wendy's really getting you into shape."
"Thanks, just tell everyone what you think," Daria replied.
"Don't I always? So, what part are you trying out for?"
Daria and Michael reached the front and took seats behind Isabelle. Daria said, "Whatever."
Scattered in the audience chairs were about twenty or so other people ready to audition. After a brief word with one young man, Wendy hurried over to Daria. "Hey, here's the script for tonight. Oh, and I need to get you to fill out this audition form." Wendy looked at Daria's fiancé. "Michael, do you want one?"
He waved his hand. "Nah, I'm here for psychological support."
"So you're Daria's boy toy." Isabelle said.
Taken off-guard, Michael managed to said, "Um...yeah."
Isabelle winked at Daria. "Good, he knows his place."
Michael said, "Let me guess, they're not always like this. Sometimes, they're worse."
Daria nodded. "Inhibition is not in their vocabulary."
While Daria was finishing the form, a woman with hair as black as Jane's appeared at one corner of the stage and looked around. She was in her mid-twenties, with a modest figure and hair drawn into a thick braid. Seemingly satisfied with the turnout, she hopped off the stage and spoke for several seconds with Wendy.
Wendy led the woman to a seat and then said, "Okay everybody, we're ready to start. This is Lorna Kayukova, the writer and producer of our show."
Lorna turned and waved. "Thank you for coming out tonight. I hope we're going to have a wonderful show."
Wendy vaulted onto the stage and turned to look around. After a check of her clipboard, she said, "I'm going to start with some of the supporting characters. "April, Joshua, come on up and read from page six, Amelia and Randall."
While the two actors were reading, Wendy and Lorna listened intently and took notes. Isabelle turned and whispered to Daria. "Wait until you see the costumes I have designed for this show. Daria, with how you're looking now, you'll be a knockout in some of them."
She blushed faintly and said, "Thanks. It's not like I've been exercising for looks. After my mom's stroke, I realized that I need to take better care of myself."
"I heard about that through the grapevine. How's she doing?"
"Pretty good. She's back to work and only needs a cane to get around now."
"That's pretty cool." Isabelle then said to Michael, "But I'm sure you're not complaining about how she looks."
"She's always looked beautiful," he answered.
Isabelle smirked and said, "He's good."
Daria squeezed Michael's hand and said, "Yes, he is."
"Oh, that sounds like fun," Isabelle said.
Daria decided to turn the conversation around. "Isabelle, how's your love life doing lately?"
"Well, I'm kinda in between right now and looking. Know any good prospects?"
Daria looked at Michael. "I'm sure that one of your friends could use a date."
"Are you sure you want to do that to your friend?" he asked.
With the first pair done with their reading, Wendy said, "Okay, same scene, let's try Daria and Frank."
"Oops, that's me," Daria said, rising from her chair. "Back in a minute."
Still looking over the chair back, Isabelle playfully asked, "Tell me, how did a nerd like you hook up a hot, brainy chick like Daria?"
Recovered from his earlier surprise, Michael said, "I took a chance and asked her out."
"I'm sure it wasn't that easy."
"Well, there was the gut-wrenching fear of rejection."
Isabelle quieted her laughing and said, "That I can believe."
Michael remembered some of Daria's stories and said, "You made the costumes for the play she was in last year."
"That's me. I understand you appreciated my handiwork on Daria."
Isabelle grinned. "Then wait until you see what I can do for her this time."
"It sounds like you already have something in mind."
"I've read the play. Daria may not have any idea about what part she wants, but I know what part would be great for her, and I bet that's why Wendy talked her into auditioning."
"Sounds like a plot."
"It is. Speaking of plots - if you and Daria are planning blind dates, you should at least tell me about these guys and let me pick."
"Well, they don't have great personalities..."
A couple hours later, Wendy and Lorna were seated on the edge of the stage quietly comparing notes while Daria, Michael and Isabelle were still talking.
After hearing the story of Daria and Michael's engagement, Isabelle said, "You are a little drama queen under that cool exterior. I knew it."
"Hey, I was having a bad day," Daria said in explanation.
"It sounded like it," Isabelle agreed. "You've got to admit that he had a great way to cheer you up."
Michael said, "Even if I can only do it once."
Isabelle snickered and said, "Isn't that the problem with all guys?"
Daria carefully smiled and said, "Not for everything."
Before Isabelle could speak, Wendy stood and said, "Okay everybody, I think we've decided. Donna, Willy, you have the leads, Mina and Randolph. We thought the chemistry between you two was wonderful."
A slender brunette and a stocky, muscular man with light brown hair smiled and congratulated each other.
Wendy continued, "For the part of Gwen, Daria, it's yours."
Isabelle pumped her fist and said, "Yeah!" She turned and said, "Oh, do I have plans for you."
Daria noticed Michael's sheepish smile and said, "What did I just get myself into?"
Quinn squealed with delight as she listened to Lindy on the phone. Her suitemates, scattered around the living room, all turned and looked at her as she said, "That's wonderful! I'm sorry you couldn't get through before; I lost the charger to my phone and couldn't find a new one until this morning. You'd think that a phone charger would be a phone charger, but no, I had to find the one made just for my phone."
Lindy was seated on the sofa, talking on the phone and watching Trent get ready for the evening's performance. "What's important is that I finally got a chance to tell you."
"Is Trent excited?"
"In his way. I think he's going to get a lot of songs out of this."
"Hmm?" Trent asked.
"Nothing, honey. I was talking to Quinn."
"Say 'hi' for me," he said.
To the phone, Lindy said, "Trent says 'hi.' He's getting ready for tonight's gig at the Zon and to try out a new song."
Quinn said, "Are you going to be there?"
"I'm always there when he tries out a new song. He says I give him good luck."
"You tell him he's lucky to have you."
"Speaking of lucky," Lindy said. "How's things with your new boyfriend?"
"Good, when we get to see each other. Kinda busy with school and stuff. Driving from one side of LA to the other isn't a quick trip."
"I bet, but I also bet you have some great places to go when you get together."
"Oh, Lindy, you have got to get out here sometime. You and Trent would love it."
Lindy looked down at her stomach. "I'd like that, if we can swing it. Probably be a good idea to go before the baby's due."
"Just let me know."
Carrying his guitar case and dressed in a trim, black and grey shirt and slacks, Trent said, "Ready?"
She nodded to her husband and said into the phone, "I need to go, talk to you later, Quinn."
"Have fun, Lindy. I can't wait to start looking for maternity clothes for you."
Lindy laughed and said, "You do that. Bye."
After setting the phone on its cradle, Lindy said, "Well, tiger, ready to show them your stuff?"
Trent put his free arm around her waist, kissed her and said, "As long as you're with me."
Link, I want you on your best behavior tonight. This girl is a person in her own right, not some notch on your belt. Link remembered his mother's parting comment as he drove the old, blue Pacer up to the gas pumps at a local convenience store. "Thanks, Mom. Like I want to screw this up. Oh well, at least you let me have the car tonight."
After shutting the car's engine off, Link jogged inside the store and handed the dark-haired, bored looking clerk some cash, saying, "Ten of regular, please."
"Sure thing, buddy," the clerk said. He slowly and carefully rang up the sale and set the pump auto-shutoff to the proper amount. "All set. Hey, you're dressed up tonight."
"Got a date."
"Cool. Is she good looking?"
Link replied, "I think so."
"Good luck, dude."
"Thanks. You take it easy tonight."
"I will." Kevin Thompson watched the teenager walk back to the old car and thought, At least I don't have to pump the gas like that old test said I would.
Link looked at the car as he dispensed the fuel. "At least it runs, and with a full tank, Hanna won't have to worry about me running out of gas." When the pump stopped with a loud clunk, he put the nozzle back on the pump and thought, "Hmm, maybe I should've filled it up after I picked her up. Too late now."
Lindy sat at the Zon's bar, twirling an "underage" bracelet around her wrist while watching Trent set up on the stage. The college-age woman working behind the bar set a glass in front of Lindy and said, "Your usual, one diet soda. Do you want some cheddar onion rings to go with that?"
"No, can I just have some peanuts tonight?"
The bartender filled a bowl from a large jar under the bar and said, "You okay?"
Accepting the peanuts, Lindy said, "I'm fine, but I need to be a little more careful about what I eat."
"Ah, you look fine to me. I wish I could get down to your weight."
"That's not it, though I will be putting on a few pounds over the next eight months."
The bartender happily grinned. "You're going to have a baby?"
"Congratulations. How's Trent dealing with it?"
"Pretty good, I think. We'll know for certain after he plays tonight. Trent's been writing most of the week."
"So he had to think about it."
"Yeah. I can't blame him; I've had to think about it, too."
The tall man with neatly trimmed brown hair and small, oval glasses opened the door and said, "You must be Link. Come on in, I'm Hanna's father."
Nervous, he entered and said, "Um, hello, sir." Don't mess up. Don't mess up.
Link thought he caught a glint of something positive when the older man looked at the car and said, "Is that your car?"
"I see." The man closed the door and ushered Link into a living room that contained too much furniture facing an entertainment center overflowing with videotapes. "Hanna is upstairs, getting ready. She says that you have a job. Where?"
"Cluster Burger. It's nothing fancy, but it provides my spending money."
The man nodded. "I care for my daughter very much."
"I have no doubt. I, uh, really like her, too."
"I'm sure you do, that's why you asked her out on a date."
Brilliant. "Yeah, I guess that was obvious."
The man nodded again and asked, "What are your plans for tonight?"
"Well, I thought we would have some pizza and then go see who's playing at the Zon."
Hanna's father started walking toward the front window. "That's the club just off downtown, right?"
"I hear that it's a little seedy."
Concern rising, Link said, "It's a little rough looking, but it's the only place in town for us to catch live music."
"Is it safe?"
"I've never seen a real problem there."
"What about drinking? I hear that they serve adults, also."
Link gulped and said, "They card everyone at the door and give you a colored bracelet."
"Lots of people find fake IDs."
"I guess, so, but the bouncer's really good at spotting them. I've seen him throw a couple kids out for fakes."
"Hmm." The man looked out of the window at the car again and turned, a faint smile playing on his face. "At least I can be sure that you won't be hot-rodding around town in that."
The smile grew as he said, "And with all that glass, there's not much privacy in the back seat."
Link felt his body relax at the joke just as he heard.
A cry of, "Dad!" came from up on from the stairs. Link's attention was drawn to Hanna as she walked down the steps. She wore a knee-length black skirt, low boots and a brocaded vest of deep blue and gold over a blouse with gauzy, black sleeves.
Her father said, "You look nice, sweetie. Have a good time tonight. Link seems like a good guy."
"Thanks, Dad. I can't believe you said that about the car."
"It's true," he said. "And from my viewpoint, it's a plus. I'm still allowed to be a little protective of my daughter. Oh, and be back by ten."
"I promise, Dad."
Another voice said, "It's about time you stopped scaring that poor boy." Hanna's mother entered from what Link guessed was an office or den. "It's nice to meet you, Link. I hope you two have a fun night."
"Um, thanks," he said. To Hanna, he said, "Hi. Are you ready to go?"
"Yeah. Bye Mom, bye Dad," she said.
Her parents said, "Goodbye" and gave both a friendly wave as they left the house. On the way, Hanna said, "I hope Dad wasn't too bad."
He really cares about Hanna and trusts her. Cool. He said, "No, I think he did things just about right."
She finally noticed the old Pacer and said, "My God, it looks like a fish bowl. No wonder my dad said what he did."
Magic is the heart of life
Beating its chant within
To calm the soul's strife
For new life to begin.
Trent played out the last chords on his guitar and nodded his head to the applauding crowd. "That was for Lindy. Thank you. I'm Trent Lane, and I'll be back for another set later."
Hanna watched the pretty blonde greet the singer and the two walk away. She turned to Link sitting on the stool next to hers. "Aw, that was so sweet of him."
Link replied, "From what I've heard, they've been real good for each other."
"That's cool. You said he's a regular here. What about her?"
"Seems like she's usually here, but I haven't really paid attention." Link checked his watch and said, "Well, I suppose we should be going."
Disappointed, she said, "I have until ten."
"I know, but I figure if we're a little early, I'll be on your father's good side a little bit more."
Hanna smiled at that. "That sounds like you want to go out with me again."
He reached across the small table to hold her hand. "I'd like that. What would you like to do?"
"I don't know, yet. Can you give me a little while to think about it?"
Behind the Zon, Trent and Lindy leaned against the fender of their black SUV and let the evening breeze cool them. She leaned against him and said, "Thank you. That was beautiful."
Trent slipped his arm around her and drew Lindy closer. "And you're magic."
She closed her eyes and moved his hand over her stomach. "Do you think we know what we're doing?"
"No, but we'll learn together."
Thanks to Louise Lobinske, Kristen Bealer, Ipswichfan and Mr. Orange for beta reading.