That I Can Depend On
by Dennis

Finishing her sculpture, Jane looked up. She knew Tom was there, but had the trick of holding conversations while half-listening. She thought this one was about plagues or something, but whatever it was took a distant second place in her consciousness. "Now," she said, thinking aloud, "all it needs is a little color and voila! I'll just make the deadline for the art fair."

Rising, she looked over to the counter where she'd left her art supplies, a bowl of pre-sorted gummy bears. She supposed some people would call using candy for her artwork weird, but she didn't care. Not only did microwaving the gummy bears turn them into a stained-glass–like mosaic, they were easy to work with because the melted gummy bear goop made a killer adhesive. Unfortunately, the bowl was gone.

"You haven't seen my art supples, have you?" she asked Tom without looking away from the table. "I left them here in a bowl."

The "oops" from behind her warned her that something was wrong, and she turned to see Tom, hands and mouth full of gummy bears. "Dammit!" she snapped, as anger poured through her, an anger his sheepish smile did nothing to dissipate. "You ate my art supplies, you thoughtless bastard!"

"Art supplies?" he said, and now his voice was angry. "I thought it was food!"

"Why the hell would you think that?!"

"How silly of me," he said with exaggerated courtesy meant to wound. "I can't imagine why I thought a bowl of gummy bears on the kitchen table was there to be eaten! After all, there's never anything edible here unless it was just delivered from Cluster Burger or Pizza King."

"Don't you start," she leaned in and shook a finger in his face. "Just because your family's rich enough to have a staff caterer."

"Don't you bring my family into this!"

"Fuck you! You're the one who started, by making fun of how there's no food in this house and eating my art supplies. You act like you can do whatever you want, just because you're rich!"

They continued in the same vein for another fifteen minutes before Tom finally stalked out, the bowl of gummy bears just missing his head as he left the kitchen. In the aftermath, Jane stood alone, anger still coursing through her. She wasn't sure she could forgive Tom some of the things he'd said, and part of her hoped she'd wounded him as badly. She wasn't even aware of Trent's head poking through the kitchen door. "Hey, Janey," his rough voice said. "You okay?"

"I'm fine," she lied. "Go back to bed."

"You sure? That sounded like a pretty good fight you had there."

With Tom gone, her anger needed an outlet. "I'm fine!" she snarled. "Now get lost before I turn your face into a Picasso!"

"Whoa," he said, and ambled off. Memory strong as life overwhelmed her.

"C'mon, Janey," Trent said. "We need your help! Max had to go but we still need the practice."

Jane at thirteen was equally exasperated by her brother's laziness. "You'd have gotten two hours of practice in if you hadn't all decided to hit Cluster Burger and nap first." She went back to sorting M&Ms from the bag in front of her. A big bowl contained a mass of the colored candy, while the smaller bowl next to it contained only the new blue ones.

"Hey! We're musicians, we need to keep our strength up."

"And your ambition down," she muttered and dropped two more blue M&Ms in the bowl.

"What are you so busy with?" he asked. "Are those M&Ms?"

"Yes," she said with a patient sigh. "I'm using the blue ones as tesserae in a mosaic I'm making from random odds and ends. The blue color will work really well in the design I'm doing."

"Cool," he said, which was his way of saying he understood maybe one word in three. "By the way, Janey...." His words drifted off, but his meaning was clear.

"Yes, you and those savages you call bandmates can eat the other ones, but not until I'm done with my project. I know how you guys get, and I don't want you eating my blue ones or the bowl they're in. It's the only cereal bowl in the house."

"Okay," he said, and then added in a pleading tone, "but you'll play with us, right?"

She looked into his eyes and knew she would give in. He was her older brother, but with Mom and Dad away so often, she was the closest thing he had to a parent. "Fine. I'll play for an hour, but then I'm done."

Drumming was okay, Jane thought as she sat behind the kit while Trent and Jesse argued about lyrics, but she had no passion for it. Her art on the other hand.... She thought of the M&Ms she'd collected and the way they would fit into the work emerging upstairs. Even though she wasn't sure she liked the particular shade of blue, something told her it was the one. Besides, M&Ms were cheaper than just about anything else she could use—an important consideration for a thirteen-year-old whose main source of income was too often the couch cushions.

Finally, the argument died down, and Trent signaled for her to give the time. She started a simple 4/4 beat for song they'd been working on, "Icebox Woman." Personally, she hated it, and apparently so did Nick, who after four measures, dropped his bass and said, "Screw this. I'm outta here."

Jesse and Trent followed, leaving Jane alone. With a sigh, she gathered the instruments and put them on their stands, and then turned off the amplifiers. She didn't think leaving them on would do much damage, but since they were older than her (and probably her sister Summer, who was pushing thirty), she took no chances. The last thing they needed was the fire department coming around.

By the time she got up the stairs, the shouting was over, but she could hear low voices from the kitchen. "I guess they made up," she said to herself as she walked in to get her bowl of supplies. Her boots crunched on broken ceramic.

"You didn't," she said in disbelief as she looked down to see the shattered remains of a bowl on the floor. A solitary blue M&M sat next to one of the larger shards.

"Oh crap," Trent said. "Sorry, Janey."

Anger choked her. "How could you— I didn't even— I was only downstairs for five minutes!"

This time it was Jesse who spoke. "Me and Nick were arguing and we saw all those M&Ms. Now we don't need to argue anymore. We have M&Ms. Want one?" He held up the larger bowl, which was nearly empty.

"Those were my M&Ms, you nimrod!" Jane shouted. "I can't believe you! I abandon my art for your stupid, lousy band and play that stupid, lousy song over and over, and this is the thanks I get!"

"Hey," Trent said, "That hurt!"

She could still remember, over three years later, the bile she'd spewed at Trent. Nick and Jesse had fled within five minutes, but she'd chewed out Trent for another forty and refused to speak to him for close to a month. Eventually, they'd patched it up—they'd had to, because most of the time, they were the only ones home—but she'd never played drums with Trent again. And she'd never been able to look at a blue M&M.

As she looked down at the broken bowl and the remaining gummy bears scattered across the floor, her anger started to shrink, replaced by a bone-deep sadness. Over and over again, scenelets like these played out in her life, and over and over, the lessons seemed the same. Don't use candy in your artwork, there's a good lesson, she thought with grim humor.

The more important lesson was that she couldn't depend on anyway. Not her parents, for sure; after the years of travel and artistic seclusion, they were like strangers to her. She loved Trent like she loved no one in the world, but they both knew that he depended on her, and not the other way around. And now there was Tom. She still liked him a lot; she might even be in love with him. But all they seemed to do was fight, and when she needed something from him—understanding, support, the consideration not to eat her art supplies—he seemed unable to give it.

Her eyes fell on her sculpture, and resolve woke in her. Its shape was so fascinating, so eye-drawing; all it needed was color, and she was damned well going to get it some. She could still salvage this, and she suddenly remembered there was somone she could depend on—a willful, often bitchy, but fiercely loyal someone only a phone call away. She picked up the handset and dialed.

A monotone voice answered. "I'm sorry, but Quinn's in Kenya on safari...." Jane smiled. At least there's one person that I can depend on.

Author's Note:

This was written as part of a PPMB write-off between myself and Shull Bitter. The challenge was to explain Jane's dislike of Blue M&Ms, as discussed in "Antisocial Climbers." So, of course, I decided to base the story on "Mart of Darkness."

Disclaimer: Some dialogue taken from "Mart of Darkness" by Rachelle Romberg, copyright 2000. Daria and all characters are copyright MTV 1997–2002. I own nothing and am merely along for the ride.