Legal stuff: Daria and her compadres are owned by MTV, Viacom, Glenn Eisher so on so forth.
The Lane That Wasn't
Jane's head was throbbing and everything hurt. She felt a cool sensation running through her veins which seemed to ease the pain. She started to hear the sounds of machines beeping all around her. She struggled to slowly open her eyes. The first person she saw was Quinn, who was looking down at her crying. The next thing she saw was the closed curtain separating her from whoever was on the other side of it. She hurt to much to move so she stared up at the ceiling.
"Mom! Dad! Jane's awake!"
Jane heard footsteps coming from the other side of the room. The next thing she knew, she was being wrapped in gentle embraces. What the hell happened? Then, she remembered the wreck. Visions of the passenger side of Trent's car getting hit and the car spinning around and crashing into the telephone pole played out in her mind. Oh, God! Daria and Trent! Where are Daria and Trent? Jane's blood pressure began to rise. There must be something really wrong with Daria and Trent for the Morgendorffers to be crying over me waking up. She closed her eyes and felt a strong but caring hand take hers.
"You need to calm down kiddo. We don't want you getting yourself all worked up." Jake smiled at her. The calmness in his voice told her things were bad.
"I'll try Mr. M," Jane whispered.
"You know I hate it when you call me that. Dad is a lot shorter and I like it more."
Dad? Okayyyy. "Sorry dad. Where are Trent and Daria?"
"Trent is down in the emergency room. He is being released. Daria's in the next bed. She's hurt more than you are sweetie." Helen sat down next to her while Jake and Quinn checked on Daria.
Why is Daria's mom calling me sweetie? I don't understand what is going on? I wonder how bad Daria is? I want to know what's wrong with Daria. "Mrs. M?"
"Call me mom."
I need to find out whatever it is this place is giving me for pain and have them stop. Jane cleared her throat, "Mom, is there anyway I could see Daria? Please?"
Before Helen could answer, a doctor walked in the door. He was a smile on his face as he approached Jane's bed. He looked down at his clipboard briefly.
"Hello Jane, I'm Doctor Phillips. I'm glad to see you're awake. How are you feeling?"
"Like I've been hit by a bus," Jane mumbled.
"Bus..no.. a drunk driver behind the wheel of a work truck.. yes. The cops left with him a few minutes ago. Trent will be up in about ten minutes. He's finishing up signing the release paperwork. Now, I want to go over with you some of your injuries. Your left shoulder was separated, we were able to put it back in place. You have whiplash and a mild concussion, three broke ribs and a very badly bruised knee. Most of the scratches on your face and hands should heal quickly. The stitches in your forearm where part of the window embedded itself in your arm will have to stay for a couple of weeks. You are probably going to be in here for about a week. Do you have any questions?"
"Can I see Daria?" Jane felt her voice crack.
"If it's okay with Helen," Dr. Phillips said as he turned to Helen.
Helen hesitantly nodded. Helen moved to the other side of Jane and took Jane's hand. The doctor pulled back the curtain. Jane turned just enough to see the other bed. She could feel the tears forming in her eyes as she stared at her roommate. Daria's neck was braced. Her right arm, leg and chest were in casts. There were cuts all over her face and neck and her head was heavily bandaged. A breathing tube had been secured to Daria's face. The only movement Jane saw was Daria's chest rise and fall when the oxygen hit it.
"Is..is she going to be okay?" Jane whispered.
"It's too early to say. We have her sedated right now. Her injuries are extensive. She is going to need physical therapy after they heal. She's got a long road ahead of her."
Jane watched her tears being carefully wiped away by Helen. Jane heard the sounds of footsteps slowly enter the room. Trent walked in with his arm in a sling and several stitches in his face and hand. He walked up to Jane and gave a weak smile.
"Hey, Janey. I'm glad you're awake. They have been keeping me posted downstairs."
Trent turned and saw Daria. The color instantly faded from his face. He quickly made his way to her. He stroked her left hand. He lowered his head. Quinn stood up and wrapped her arms around him.
"I knew he was going to take this hard. I didn't want him to come up here. He kept saying.. those are my sisters up there."
Sisters? What do you mean sisters? Jane was still confused. Doctor Phillips turned to Jane. "Now I'm going to give you a mild sedative so you can get some more sleep. I want you to behave yourself tonight Miss Morgendorffer. Don't worry.. you...," he pointed over to Daria " and Miss Lane Morgendorffer are in good hands."
Morgendorffer? What do you mean Morgendorrfer? Daria Lane Morgendorffer..I don't understand..I don't.... Jane felt the blackness of sleep overtake her.
* * * * *
Several hours later, Jane started to come to. The only light in the room came from the machines that were hooked up to Daria. Jane could hear the sounds of someone snoring in the room. Must be Mr. Morgendorffer. Jane was trying to piece together the events that brought them here. More importantly, she wanted to know why her last name was now Morgendorffer. She started tapping her finger on the bed. Memories of the day before played out in her mind.
We were on our way back to the school to destroy our poster. I remember heading out the front door saying "I call shotgun."
Daria turned to me, "Fine.. but I claim it for the trip back."
Trent was leaning against the front of the car. He had a small grin on his face. "I see Janey beat you again at shotgun Dee." Jane's brow creased. I don't ever recall Trent having a pet name for Daria. Jane began to think about the conversation they had in the car. Daria was never this talkative around Trent. Even as we were getting out of the car, after I warned him to go park, Daria playfully slapped his arm and made a 'you better stay awake' gesture. He nodded and let out a slight laugh. Another look of confusion fell over Jane's face. I don't get it. Daria would never touch Trent much less slap him. I need answers and the two people I feel will give me straight answers can't. One is not here and the other is unconscious. Jane let out a long, frustrated sigh.
"Everything okay over there kiddo?"
Better say something and fast. "I'm just worried about Daria."
Jake walked over to her. "I know you are.. you two have been inseparable since you met. She's gonna need you a lot Jane. Dr. Phillips came in a little while ago and wants to talk to me and your mom in private. He looked over one of her x-rays again and saw something that bothered him. He wants to take more x-rays to confirm it."
Jane's mind filled with dread and more memories from the afternoon before. We ran out of the school. We stopped long enough to laugh when we heard Ms. Li scream through the halls "What the Hell!"
"She must have saw it," Daria smirked.
We headed straight for the car. Trent saw us coming and started it up. We were at a red light. Daria had turned so she could say something to me. Then, the light switched to green. Trent started to go when the truck rounded the corner and slammed into us. What was she telling me? "I'm sorry I got you involved in that poster thing. I shouldn't have asked you to write that poem." Wait.. I'm not a writer.. why did she say that?
Jane was rushed back into the present. Jane felt her throat close and her chest tighten. She willed herself to breath. "Daria will be okay though...right?"
Jake took Jane's hand and gently patted it. "She will...it's just going to take time. Time and love. You know, I never told you thank you."
Jane looked up at him. "Thank me for what?"
"For convincing Helen and I to adopt Daria and Trent."
* * * * *
Jane saw Helen walk into the room with Doctor Phillips behind her. Jake bent down and kissed Jane. He went to Daria's bed and carefully did the same. Jane watched as Helen, Jake and the doctor left the room. Jane could see the beginnings of daybreak creep through the window. Jane was tired and scared. Scared not only for herself, but for Daria. She tilted her head towards one of the few people on this planet she relied on. She wanted to reach out to the other bed, but knew she would fall short.
"Daria.. I know you can hear me over there. I want you to know that I'm here for you. I'm a little banged up right now, so I can't go over to your side of the room yet. Hopefully in the next day or two, we will be able to have more than a one-way conversation. Doctor Phillips said there is a lot going on with you. I want you to know that I'll take care of you. I promise. Look, I need you. You have to help me figure things out. Just hang in there. I hear people coming so I'll talk to you later. I love you."
Jane turned towards the door to see Trent and Quinn walk in. Trent sat down between the two beds. He took both Daria and Jane's hands. He looked over Jane. She took a good look at him. She could see the cuts on his face and arm from where his window shattered. She saw the exhaustion in his face.
"Where are mom and dad? They called us and told us to come here. Is everything okay Janey?"
"I'm not sure Trent. They are talking to our doctor in private. He saw something on one of Daria's x-rays he didn't like."
Quinn sat down on the other side of Jane. She reached into her oversized purse and pulled out a notebook and pencil. "I figured once you started feeling a little better, you would want these. You always seem happier when you're writing or running."
Writing? I'm not a writer.. I'm Jane Lane artist extraordinaire. How does Quinn know about the way running makes me feel? I'm losing it... I'm ****ing falling apart here. Maybe it's some kind of brain injury...perhaps I should tell the doctor. Knowing my luck, Helen would try to have me put in the loony bin. Then I wouldn't be able to keep my promise to Daria.
"Are you all right sis?" Quinn gave Jane's hand a gentle squeeze. "Don't worry about 'squirt'.. she'll be up and about before you can spout out the meaning of Manifest Destiny."
Daria would kill Quinn for calling her squirt. Why is Quinn thinking about a term popularized in the 1840's? Where in the hell did that come from? "I'm okay, just really tired, didn't sleep to good last night."
Trent turned so he faced Jane. "Janey.. you need to get some rest..."
He was about to continue when Helen, Jake and Doctor Phillips walked back into the room. Jane's heart sank. She could see her parents puffy, red eyes. Some of the color had drained from their faces. She could feel the grip Trent had on her hand tighten a little.
"Kids.. Doctor Phillips wants to talk to you about what's going on with Daria," Helen's voice sounded emotionally dead.
"As you can see, Daria has extensive injuries from this accident. Several broken bones, a punctured lung, deep cuts and scratches. We have also found damage to her spinal cord. There is no easy way to say this.. Daria will never be able to walk again."
* * * * *
Quinn and Jake had to stop Jane from trying to get out of bed. It didn't take much because the sudden movement caused pain to shoot from her neck and shoulder. As they gently embraced her, she wailed against their bodies. NO DAMNIT! DAMNIT ALL TO HELL! WHY DID THIS HAVE TO HAPPEN TO HER! DAMN YOU MS.LI, IF YOU WOULD HAVE LET US WITHDRAW OUR DAMN POSTER, WE WOULDN'T BE HERE RIGHT NOW! DARIA WOULD BE HOME AND I WOULD BE SANE! But whose home would I be in.. the Morgendorffers or the Lanes.. or are they one in the same? She could feel herself weaken as the emotional release drained her. Jake and Quinn helped her lay back down.
Doctor Phillips signaled for Helen and Jake to step out of the room. Trent watched them through the open door. He made his way over to Jane. Quinn took his place next to Daria. Quinn began whispering words of encouragement to Daria. Trent brushed Jane's short bangs out of her face. He wanted to take hers and Daria's pain away, but he knew he couldn't. Jane looked up at him, as she tried to fight sleep. He knelt down beside her until he was eye level.
"Janey...Dee's gonna need all of us to be strong...especially you. So, I really need you to close your eyes and get some rest. You won't be able to help her if your sick. I know you're not nine anymore, but I got an idea." A few moments later, he was singing her favorite song.
His voice isn't raspy. It's clear.. and sounds really good too. It's quite soothing. It doesn't seem... Before Jane was completely asleep, she heard Jake tell Trent "You did a good job son."
A couple of hours later, Jane woke back up. She was feeling physically better, but mentally and emotionally she was still suffering. She tried to survey the room without hurting her neck. She froze when she saw a taller, skinnier version of Daria staring at her from Daria's side of the room. A smile came over the woman's face as she walked towards Jane.
"Ahh, I'm glad to see my favorite niece is up. How are you feeling?"
"Hi Aunt Amy." How do I know this woman's name? I've never heard Daria mention her before? Could it be I am a Morgendorffer, but Daria looks just like her. "Between getting hurt myself, and worrying about Daria, numbness is about the only thing I am feeling right now."
Amy gently patted Jane's hand. "Your mom and dad told me what is going on with Daria. I sent them home. This has really taken a toll on everyone. I brought you something...." Amy reached down in her purse and grabbed a small bag.
Jane opened it to find three pairs of silver hoop earrings. A smile came over her face. She reached up and noticed her other ones were missing. How did she know about what kind of earrings I wear. Maybe Daria told her.
"Your mom said the emts had to remove your old ones so they wouldn't get in the way while they worked on you. I figured there was a 50/50 chance of you not getting them back, so I brought you some replacements."
"Thanks Aunt Amy. I just wish I could see Daria better. I hate that they won't let me out of bed."
Amy walked over to the door, she looked down both ends of the hallway. She went back over to Jane.
"You must never tell anyone about this."
Amy unlocked Jane's bed and carefully rolled it closer to Daria's bed. Amy began to slowly raise Jane's bed so she was sitting almost upright. Jane reached out and held Daria's hand. Jane felt a slight twitch. She stared at Daria's broken body. She looks so small in that bed. The casts probably weigh as much as she does. She's gonna be angry when she sees all the hair they had to cut off. Amy headed for the door.
"I'll stand look-out. You talk to her. If I see somebody coming though, I'll have to move you back."
Jane gave Amy a slight smile. Jane gathered her thoughts for a moment.
"Hey amiga.. I'm sure we're breaking a rule or five here, but I just wanted you to know I'm here. We'll help you through this. Even if it means I have to carry you up the stairs to our room. Our? Trent, Quinn and I will be there for you.. no matter what. Amy's heading back our way, which probably means, I have to get moved back. The doc says I might be able to be wheeled over here tomorrow if my neck and knee feel a little better."
Jane gave Daria's hand a gentle squeeze. This time, Daria's hand returned the grasp. Jane didn't want to let go as her eyes started to water. Amy almost had to pry her hand away. She rolled Jane back just moments before one of the nurses came in to check on her and Daria. The nurse started writing down Daria's vitals. A broad smile came over the nurse's face.
"Dr. Phillips will be very happy to see that your vitals are improving." The nurse then went over to Jane. "Yours are looking good as well. And just for the record..." the nurse gave a mock glare to Amy and Jane "I'm pretending I didn't hear the sounds of this bed being rolled back into place. Besides, it seemed to do wonders for her." The nurse pointed to Daria.
Amy's face turned a slight shade of red. The nurse gave a slight laugh as she left the room. Amy leaned over at Jane.
"Okay, I guess I wasn't as stealthy as I thought. There goes my official James Bond fanclub membership." Amy whispered.
Jane and Amy busted into laughter.
* * * * *
Jane and Daria were alone in the room. Amy, Helen and Jake had went down to the cafeteria. Jane stared down at the notebook Quinn had brought her. She flipped through it reading. "The Bleakness That Lies Ahead", "No Life, No Hope, No Future", "Mommy's Little Hypocrite".. I have heard of these. I don't remember writing any of them. She continued looking at the stories until she came to a couple of blank pages. She began to put down on paper what was going on with herself and Daria. She stopped briefly to compare what she had just written to some of the other pages in the book. The handwriting is the same. I've watched Daria write. Her penmanship is a little messier than mine. Jane went back to putting words to paper. Her feelings of hopelessness and desperation poured out of her mind. She stopped when she heard a knock on the room door. Jodie and Mack slowly walked in. They walked towards her.
"Hey Jane. We heard about what happened. We wanted to check on you and Daria," Jodie said.
"I'm sore, but am getting better. She's got a longer road ahead of her." Jane pointed to Daria.
Jodie and Mack turned around and gasped. They looked back at Jane. They watched as Jane tried to fight off the tears. Mack and Jodie each took one of her hands.
"It's really bad. She's got several broken bones, one of her lungs was punctured and that's not even the worse of it," Jane's voice quivered as she tried to calm herself down.
"What is the worse?" Mack asked.
"Our doctor told us this morning that Daria will never be able to walk again," Jane said, barely above a whisper. She felt their grip around her hands tighten.
"I'm sooo sorry Jane. I know this is tearing you up. I wish I had as good of a relationship with my sister as you do with yours. Mr. O'Neill freaked out in class when he called role and stared at yours and Daria's empty seats. Even Mr. DeMartino got a little emotional over the fact that is favorite student and her trusty sidekick were missing," Jodie said.
"I'm sure he can't wait for Daria to make it back to class," Jane replied.
"Don't try to play off your role as teacher's pet. Besides, Daria's Ms. Defoe's pet, I don't even want to think about how upset she was. That reminds me.. expect a visit from the the two of them soon," Jodie stated.
Wait.. I'm Mr. DeMartino's favorite student and Daria's Ms Defoe's? Okay, ghost of Rod Serling... where in the hell are you? Jane let out a small yawn. This caused Jodie and Mack to stand up.
"We'll sit with Daria for a few. You look like you could use some more rest," Jodie smiled.
"Talk to her.. she'll hear you. She's needs all the support she can get. If I'm not awake when you leave, do me a favor.. keep an eye on Quinn at school. Even though she wasn't in the accident, this has really affected her. Mom wants her to go back to school tomorrow and I would feel better if you two were watching out for her. See you tomorrow?" Jaen asked.
Mack nodded, "Don't worry, we'll look out for Quinn. Yeah, we'll come back tomorrow."
Jane closed her eyes. It didn't take long for sleep to overtake her. Dreams of herself and Daria in school filled her head. Then came the terrible visions of the wreck. She had to force herself not to sit straight up when the nightmares forced her awake. The darkness of the room didn't help Jane's mental state. After she settled down, she heard voices in the room. Trent was talking to Amy and another man. I know that voice...that's my dad.. Vincent Lane. Why is he talking to Amy? Jane sat quietly and listened to their conversation.
"Why dad.. why did you and mom take off on Daria and me? You left us at that damn hippie colony!" Jane could hear the anger rising in Trent's voice.
"I know it was wrong of us son, but your mother just couldn't raise another woman's daughter anymore...even if I was her father." Vincent sighed.
"This was to my fault to. Trent, I should have never slept with your father when I was visited Helen and Jake, much less asked him and Amanda to raise Daria. I just wanted her to have a better life than living with an unwed, unemployed, nineteen year old mom." Amy's voice broke.
* * * * *
The road her before stretched endlessly in two directions. Jane sat on the bench. She looked at what appeared to be an oversized laptop's screen. The grey-eyed man who was sitting beside her remained silent. She sat back rubbing her eyes. She turned to him and watched as his face remained expressionless. He pressed the pause button.
"So you are telling me this is what is going to happen when I wake up?"
"Yes, if you follow the road ahead of you."
"You show me this and still want to know what direction I want to go? My best friend - my only friend will be paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of her life if I choose that path to follow. Not to mention, I lose my art! I don't think I need to see anymore."
"I think you should wait my child and see how this plays out before making such a big decision. I only come once and not to everyone. I must be called upon by someone other than the person I am visiting." The color of the old man's eyes changed to match Jane's. "In the same light, I can't make you stay. If at any point you want to leave, all you have to do is stand up and walk in that direction." He pointed behind them.
Jane went to leave, but hesitated. "Certainly, no true good could come from this? I mean yeah, it appears that I am in a family that loves me, but look at the cost? I'm soo confused."
"Even more reason for you to watch some more before deciding. And don't worry about your body, you're unconscious and nothing is going wrong ok.. time moves differently here. You have watched 48 of video while losing only five minutes of your time. If you ever want me to fast forward, I can and it doesn't effect your time line at all, but I think you need to watch the next few days worth of footage."
Jane looked down at the ground. "Okay... I'll keep watching."
He clicked the play button. Jane focused on the images in front of her.
Jane woke up to see the curtain between her and Daria closed. Helen was sitting with her. Jane looked at her in confusion.
"Daria's getting the breathing tube removed. After they are done, they are going to get you a wheelchair so you can go sit with her for awhile."
"When will she be able to wake up?"
"Hopefully later on today or tomorrow sweetie."
"Your dad and I need to talk to you. We've decided to go house hunting. We are going to need to find a house that has at least one bedroom and a bathroom with a shower downstairs."
"That's understandable. Daria and I will still be roommates right?"
"If you want to. Trent is going to move back home after the move. He wants to help take care of Daria when she comes home. I can't wait either - I really miss his cooking." Helen smiled.
Trent can cook? At least we'll be living under the same roof. What about his band? Mystik Spiral can't practice at the house. "Will his band be able to practice at the house?"
"Trent rents a place for them to practice with what he makes working with your dad."
Trent has a job? Wow..maybe I could get used to this. A few minutes later, Doctor Phillips opened the curtain and sent one of the nurses to grab a wheelchair. The orderlies helped Jane get out of her bed and sit in the chair. They wheeled her over to Daria. She looked a lot better without the tube sticking put of her mouth.
"Now if you start to get tired, I want you call the nurse's station. Until then, take some time with your sister."
* * * * *
Jake called Helen to tell her the realtor was wanting to take them to a few homes that were on the market. Amy was walking in as Helen stood up to leave. The sisters stared at each other silently for a moment before Amy motioned for Helen to step outside. Jane watched as Amy and Helen embraced each other. She tried to listen to what was going on.
"Thank you for taking such good care of her Helen."
"You should have told me you were pregnant back then Amy. Jake and I would have taken her in."
"Helen, you were pregnant with Jane. Jake had just started his first sales job and you were still in law school. Your plate was already full. Besides, if I had given Daria to you, you would have never adopted Trent. Even you have to admit that Jake is a lot calmer than he used to be because he has another guy he can do things with."
"You have a point there. Are you going to tell her?"
"After things calm down and she starts to get adjusted to her new life. She deserves to know the truth."
Jane looked down at Daria. Jane wondered how Daria was going to handle everything that was going on with her. Before she could finish her thought, Amy entered the room. She sat down across from Jane. Jane studied Amy. She could see how much the older woman was hurting. She watched as Amy moved her chair to where she could massage Daria's feet. She closed her eyes as if trying to will any sign of movement. Jane rolled herself to where she was next to Amy. Jane put her hand on Amy's shoulder and squeezed.
"She'll get through this," Jane sat quietly for a moment before continuing. "It's amazing how much you two look alike."
"I take it you heard us last night. Yeah she has my face, Vincent's hair and unfortunately for her, Grandma Barksdale's height. When Helen told me she was adopting Daria and Trent, I almost fell apart at the seams. I didn't know that things had gone so wrong. From what Helen told me, she's a lot happier than when she first came to live with you. Helen also said that you still want to share a room with her when you move?"
"Yeah, she's going to need help. I want to be there for her. Besides, we feed off each other's creativity."
"Helen and I used to do that. Don't let your mom know I told you this.. but when she was younger, she could really belt out a tune. When she and Jake were dating, they came home from college to visit for the summer. I wrote a couple of songs, Jake played the piano and Helen would sing them. We even had a couple of gigs at a bar near the house. It was fun. I think that's the reason why they support Trent as much as they do."
"I wish I could have heard them. How did you meet Daria's dad?"
"Well, I had gone to visit Helen and Jake after graduating high school. They lived near the artist commune. I had always wanted to take a photography class, so I signed up for the one Vincent taught. Amanda was at another commune that summer teaching pottery. After the last night of class, we all went out for drinks. Needless to say, one thing led to another and he and I slept together. He left a week later to join Amanda at the other colony. Penny and Summer were old enough to take care of Trent. When I found out I was pregnant, I went to commune they were at. They agreed to take care of the baby once it was born. The only thing I asked of them was to let me name her or him." Tears began to run down Amy's face.
Jane and Amy turned around when they heard footsteps behind them. Trent smiled as he put his arms around Jane. He carefully embraced her.
"I'm glad to see you out of that bed Janey. Hi Amy. Any word on when Daria will be waking up?"
"We're hoping sometime in the next day or so. How was work?"
"Good. We left early so mom and dad could look at houses. Did mom tell you that I'm moving back in once you move? Don't get me wrong, I love being out on my own, but I really have missed seeing you and Dee on a daily basis. Besides, its my job to make sure the two of you will be alright."
Jane looked over at Trent. "It's also your job as a big brother to scratch the back of your younger and injured sister who can't reach the itch and please hurry... it's driving me crazy," Jane smirked.
* * * * *
Jane was asleep when she heard a slight moan come from Daria's bed. Jake shot up from the pullout couch he had been lying on. Trent who had been sitting beside Jane got up and walked over to Daria's bed. He was the first she saw when she came to. She blinked several times as she tried to focus. Trent reached for her glasses and placed them on her. She gave him a weak smile.
"Hey Dee... glad to see you're awake."
The next person to come into Daria's view was Jake, "You had us worried kiddo."
Daria took his hand and squeezed it. He knelt down beside her, "I'm going to let your mother and doctor know you're awake." He kissed her forehead and left.
"Where's 'Legs'?" Daria's voice was gravely.
"She's over in the other bed."
'Legs'? We have nicknames for each other. This is weird. Better try to keep the conversation upbeat. "I see you decided to rejoin us in the conscious world Daria."
"Things must be bad for you not to call me squirt. Did you catch the number of the freight train that hit us?" Daria asked.
"No. but the police did arrest the drunken son of a bitch that hit us," Trent growled.
"Are you okay Jane?" Daria's voice wavered.
"I'm a little banged up but other than that, I'm okay." Unless you include this whole mind **** thing going on.
"Well, I can feel some casts and a collar around my neck, so something tells me that I've had better days."
Jane and Trent went quiet. After almost a minute, Daria voice broke the silence, "Please don't all talk at once."
"We better wait 'til dad comes back with the doctor." Trent tried to mask the sadness in his voice, but he failed.
Jake walked back into the room. "Your mom and Quinn are on their way. When they get here, the doctor will come in and talk to you."
"I should have asked you if they could bring me a sketchbook."
"Quinn's already took care of that. Now your right arm is broke, so you won't be able to draw with it for awhile." Jake took her hand.
"I guess I'll be drawing lefty then. The last time I did that, I had some interesting creations," Daria gave a small laugh.
One of the nurses walked in and took Daria and Jane's vitals. Jane's blood pressure was a little high. Yours would be too if you were dreading what's going to happen when Daria finds out about her condition. Jane took several deep breaths which lowered the number a little. The nurse walked over to Daria. As the nurse finished, Helen and Quinn walked in with Doctor Phillips. Quinn placed the sketchbook and pencil within reach of Daria's left hand.
"I figured you wanted these Squirt."
"Thanks Red. So is someone going to tell me what's wrong with me or do I need to call Miss Cleo's psychic hotline for the answers. Trust me, with as much as she charges, the doc here telling me would be a whole lot cheaper." The frustration in Daria's voice cut through the sarcasm.
* * * * *
It had been a little over two hours since Daria had been told about her condition. She had not spoken a word since that moment, not even a question. In the same light, she had shed no tears. There was no wailing or even arguing with God over why this had happened. Their parents had left the room to talk with Doctor Phillips. Trent and Quinn were on their way home. Jane waited to hear something, anything, from that side of the room. About ten minutes later, she heard the sound of pencil against paper. About thirty minutes later, Daria lifted the sketchbook and turned it towards Jane. It was a picture of a rocket wheelchair. It looked like something from a Wile E. Coyote cartoon.
"So.. do you think they would let me have one of those?" Daria asked.
"I don't know...I doubt the Acme Company delivers to Lawndale."
"You're probably right damnit. Jane are you really okay?"
"Yeah..I've got some bumps and bruises and a sore neck but other than that, I'm fine."
"Good. How much longer will you be here?"
"The doctor said I should be able to leave early next week. I'll be here everyday after school to come see you though. That reminds me.. Jodie and Mack should be by tomorrow along with Ms.Defoe and Mr. DeMartino."
"As long as Mr. O'Neill doesn't show up I'll be fine. I can truly say the last thing I need right now is a speech on self-esteem. I wonder if they will make me see Mrs. Manson when I make it back to school."
"More than likely."
"I wonder if she'll get my name right this time. I guess this will bring a whole new meaning to my 'Misery Chick' persona," Daria sighed.
"You're not the Misery Chick," Jane's voice suddenly became stern.
An awkward silence fell over them. Jane hoped that Daria would continue talking. After several moments, Daria drew a deep breath and exhaled.
"I'm still sorry I got you mixed up in that poster crap," Daria's voice lowered.
"Daria...don't apologize. If Ms. Li had just let pull the damn thing from the contest, we wouldn't be here. I told mom about it. I think she's going to sue the school. I know she's suing the company the driver who hit us worked for. He had two previous DUI arrests and they still allowed him to drive an oversized company vehicle home on a suspended license." Jane paused for a moment. With a voice filled with trepidation, Jane asked "How can you be handling this so well?"
"Just because I'm not screaming, doesn't mean I'm fine with this. Crying isn't going to help the situation. I would love nothing more than to get up out of this bed and run out the door."
"I wish you could do that too. You know I'll be here for you come hell or high water right?"
"That's a good thing cause the water is rising and hell ain't too far behind."
* * * * *
One of the nurses helped Jane into the wheelchair. Jane slowly made her way to Daria's bed. Daria had woken up mintues earlier from being sedated the night before. Although she may not have physically been showing how the diagnosis affected her, it was apparent in her blood pressure readings. Daria saw Jane for the first time since the accident. Jane grabbed Daria's hand. Daria gave her a slight smile.
"How are you doing this morning?" Jane asked.
"I'm frustrated. I can't move my head to see what I am drawing. I could use an easel, but I doubt I would be allowed to have one. I wonder if the dining table tilts enough for me to use it. Then again.. it has no lip to stop the paper from sliding."
"I'm sure we can make a stopper. I can have Trent bring a ruler from the house and we can duct tape it to the table."
"That might work. I take it Trent's at work."
"Yeah.. he's holding down the fort at Morgendorffer Consulting while dad is out house hunting."
"House hunting?" Daria asked.
"Mom and dad are looking for a house with at least one downstairs bedroom and shower."
"Oh..." Daria's mood shifted, "I don't want to move. I like our room. The padding, the bars, the crazy poetry in the closet...they really help my creative spark."
"I have to admit, it's the coolest room we've ever had."
Jane could see the anger building on Daria's face. Jane wasn't prepared for what happened next. Daria took her left hand andmade a swiping motion that caused the sketchbook and pencils to go flying against the wall. She then proceded to pound her fist against her matress. Jane wheeled around Daria's bed and grabbed Daria's hand. Jane wiped off the single tear that was falling down Daria's face.
"Calm down. You wouldn't want the nurse to come and sedate you again. Now I talked to mom. She's going to let us put the padding up in our new room. The bars might be beneficial to you so I'll talk to her about them later. I'll even copy the poetry down if you want me to."
"Really? Wow.. I figured she would break out in a dance that she was getting rid of it. Look.. once I get home, if you don't want to room with me anymore I'd understand."
"You're stuck with me for the long haul squirt. Oh.. Trent is moving back home as well."
"Good.. maybe dad will stay out of the kitchen. I don't think i can handle anymore penne ala pesto."
* * * * *
Jane was back in her bed when Mr. Demartino and Ms. Defoe walked in. Jane felt a tinge of sadness as she watched her favorite teacher head towards her "favorite student". Mr. DeMartino sat beside Jane. His face didn't show his usual anger or frustration. He looked over at Jane with genuine concern on his face.
"How are you doing Ms. Morgendorffer?"
"I'm starting to feel better. My neck and shoulder are a little stiff."
Mr. DeMartino nodded. "You'll feel like that for awhile. Jodie and Mack told Ms. Defoe and myself about Daria. How is she taking it?"
"I'm waiting for the bottom to fall out. She had a small blow up this morning when I told her our parents were looking for a new house."
"Do you blame her? Everything in life is changing rapidly. I also know that you'll take care of her. The two of you have one of the best sibling relationships I have ever seen. Now, when will you be back in class to help enlighten and raise their collective IQ's to almost normal?"
"I will be getting released Monday. I will be able to go back to school Wednesday."
"Good...you and your sister's sarcasm are sorely missed."
Ms.Defoe walked over and joined Jane and Mr. DeMartino. As she sat down, she took Jane 's hand. Jane could feel the sadness coursing through Ms. Defoe's veins.
"Daria told me everything that happened. Jane.. if I had known.. I would have never pushed for her to make a poster for that contest."
"Ms. Defoe.. the only person I blame for being here is the drunk jerk drving the truck that hit us."
A small smile came over the teacher's face. "Thank you. I know you both have a long road ahead of you. I just hope this doesn't hurt either of you creatively. Oh, did you two start that graphic novel yet?"
Graphic novel? What is she talking about? "Umm.. no. Maybe once Daria gets to come home and settled," Jane's facial expression changed. "What is Daria going to do about school? She's going to be here for at least a month."
"Don't worry. I've talked to her other teachers. We'll be taking turns coming by to help her stay caught up. I'm sure between us and yourself.. she'll stay on track," Mr.DeMartino replied.
The teachers stood up. Mr. Demartino walked over to Daria an spoke to her briefly. Ms. Defoe waited for him at the room door. They waved at Jane as they left. Jane still had a look of confusion on her face.
"I'm not in the mood to talk right now Jane," Daria's voice was choppy.
"What graphic novel was Ms. Defoe talking about?"
"I was going to start illustrating some of your Melody Powers stories for a project."
"Well it was just an extra credit project. Not that I needed it or anything but we were going to give one copy to Ms. Defoe and one to Mr. O'Neill."
"Oh...," Jane's voice trailed off. Something is screaming to me that this was going to be more than just a project. "Daria..it would mean a lot to me if you drew it anyway not as just some project either."
Daria laid there for a moment. Jane watched as she wheeled the dining table over the bed. Daria tilted it. She winced as she lifted her broken arm to hold the sketchbook in place. Jane watched as Daria became immersed in her drawing. Jane could see the pained expression on Daria's face as she furiously forced pencil onto paper. After twenty minutes, Daria lowered her broken arm. The sketchbook slid off the table. Daria held it up and studied it. Daria turned the notebook towards Jane.
Jane looked over the drawing. She's far better than I ever was. The woman on the paper looked like an older version of Jane mixed with a little bit of Lara Croft from "Tomb Raider". Jane couldn't take her eyes off of the simple sketch. If this is what she could do with her weak hand, I can't wait to see what she comes up with once her right arm is healed.
Daria's voice broke Jane's concentration. "Jane...meet Melody Powers."
* * * * *
Jane continued to look at the screen in front of her. The old man studied her expressions. He noticed how a look of pain came over Jane when she watched the scene the where she had told Daria about moving. He saw jealousy flash in her eyes when she saw the drawing Daria did of Melody Powers. She tried to stay expressionless but couldn't. She turned to him. His eyes had changed colors again. This time they were matching Daria's dark brown eyes. She looked down at the road that stretched ahead of her. She looked at him with a curious face.
"I have a question," Jane stated.
"Ask away," The old man shifted his gaze to sky.
"I see this road ahead of me, and I see the path behind us. They are both completely straight...no twists.. no turns... nothing. Now I know for a fact, that my old life sucked. Will I be able to see what both paths really look like?"
"No my child. I can show you what one of the roads truly looks like. One and one only. However, I would advise you not to ask to see it just yet. I can see you are still very indecisive. It would be in your best interest to wait. Also...I cannot tell you who asked me to visit you just yet. That cannot be revealed until you have started on your chosen path."
"I see. If Daria is a better artist than me in that world, does that mean I am a better writer than she was?"
"Yes.. but not because it evens the playing field. You are both better because you have had each other to feed off of longer. Let me ask you a question.. do you think you are a better artist since you have met Daria?"
Jane nodded. The old man continued, "Now just think if you had met her five years ago or in the case of what you are watching seven years ago. Just imagine what your creativity would be like today."
"It sounds to me like you are a little biased," Jane huffed.
"I am but not for the reasons you may think. You have to remember Jane.. even though I am here with you...I'm not here for you. I am here because someone else wants you on this path."
"Does this other person know what will happen to Daria if I take the road you're offering?"
The old man shook his head. "You have only seen the immediate aftermath of the wreck.. perhaps you need to look a little further down the road."
"You're certain this won't affect me in my time."
"Your real body is still resting and we have only spent the equivalent of eight minutes in real time here. Like I said before...jumping forward will not affect your time line at all."
"Well.. the earliest Daria would have been allowed to come home was one month after the wreck. Let me see three months from the time of the wreck."
The old man typed in the date and hit the enter button. A new set of scenes came forward. The hospital was no longer on the screen. He handed Jane back the futuristic laptop. Jane sighed for a moment. Instantly, a pizza and two sodas appear before her. The old man opened the box and pulled out a slice.
"Yeah.. even I get hungry sometimes," The old man smiled.
Three months after the wreck...
Jane is typing on the computer. I need to get this story finished before Friday. I just had to tell Mr. O'Neill I had read all of those books. Jane heard the front door close. A smile came over Jane's face when she heard Daria and Quinn laughing. I'm glad to see that they are getting along better. As Trent walked her room, she could see why her two sisters were laughing. The front of his shirt was covered in soda.
"Missed your mouth again Tee?"
Trent gave a slight chuckle. He took his shirt off and brought it to the laundry room. A few moments later, Daria wheeled into the room. She put on the breaks after she aligned the chair to the bed. The muscles in her arms have begun to get very defined. She transferred herself onto the bed and collapsed.
"Hard day of therapy?" Jane asked without looking in Daria's direction.
"Yeah.. but my stamina is getting better. After my leg exercises, I was still able to swim four laps and do twenty sit-ups."
"That's good. Do you still hate the leg machine?"
"Hate, loathe, despise.. don't begin to describe my feelings for that machine."
"At least it's keeping your muscles strong," Jane moved her computer chair over to Daria's bed.
"Yeah and check it out," Daria said as she struggled to make her right foot move. A smile of accomplishment came over her face.
"Mom and dad are going to flip when they see that. Does it hurt?"
"No...but I really have to concentrate to do that."
"At least you have some nerve impulses traveling through those legs. They checked for sores today right?"
"Yes mom I've got a clean bill of health so far. The doctor said who ever has been tending to my scars has been doing a wonderful job. Thanks sis." Daria reached up for Jane's hand and gave it a squeeze.
Jane returned the gesture, "I need to keep you around so that you can kill me before Friday."
"Still dealing with writer's block?" Daria tightened her grip on Jane's hand and pulled herself up.
"Yeah.. it's so bad I asked Mr.O'Neill for advice. Instead he altered the subject," Jane sighed.
"Now what does he want you to do?"
"Write a story using people I know and revolve it around a game of cards."
"You know you could always be evil and write a story in which our teachers are playing strip poker," Daria smirked.
"Are you trying to make me lose my appetite?" Jane winced.
Daria laughed, "You might want to. Trent has band practice tonight and I have already heard dad mention something about kitchen sink stew."
* * * * *
As Daria wheeled through the living room, she paused to catch a moving scene. Helen had her arms around Jane and was crying. Jane looked as though she was trying to console their mom. I want to capture this on paper. She went into her room and started sketching. A few minutes later, Jane came and walked over to Daria.
"Hey squirt.. what are you working on?" Jane asked as she tried to peek over Daria's shoulder.
Daria moved so that Jane could see the picture of herself and Helen. She really has a talent for drawing the human form. The picture was being drawn to photographic perfection. Daria pushed her chair back in place and continued working.
"So legs.. what did you say to mom to make her turn into a blubbering water spicket on the couch?"
"Nothing... I showed her the story I wrote for Mr. O'Neill's assignment. She took it as evidence that I am not as secretly alienated as I seem."
"It will take you years to undo the damage. So...when will I get to read your story?"
Jane hesitated for a moment. "I'm not sure if I want you to read it. I don't want to upset you. I do however have a consolation prize.." Jane pulled out a report binder. She handed it to Daria. Daria put down her pencil and began to read. A few moments later, Daria was already beginning to laugh.
You could hear the laughter coming from the living room in the tiny apartment. Mr. DeMartino, Ms. Li, Ms. Barch, Mr. O'Neill and Mrs. Bennett were sitting around the table. Stacks of chips were in front of them. Each one in various states of undress. Mr. O'Neill asked for three cards. Ms. Barch, the dealer, sent them his way. She drew Ms. Li two. Mr. O'Neill put in the last of his chips. Ms. Li decided to match him and raise him. He agreed to the wager. They flipped over their hands.
"Ms. Li's three of a kind beats your two pairs. Lose the shirt Skinny!" Ms. Barch said in an almost cat-like growl.
Mr. O'Neill proceded to take off one of the few articles of clothing he had left, exposing a pale chest and flabby belly. Ms. Barch was leering at him with lust in her eyes. Mr. DeMartino moved his tie that was wrapped around the top of his head to rub his temples. Ms. Li, who was down to her bra and skirt, hid her laughter behind the cars she was holding in her hands. Ms. Defoe and Ms. Bennett, both of which were still fully clothed, just pointed at him and laughed. After he was finished taking off his shirt, he sat back down. Ms. Barch proceded to deal the next hand.
Daria continued to laugh as she read the pages before her. After she was through reading it, she turned to Jane with tears in her eyes. I haven't seen Daria laugh since the accident. Jane handed her a tissue. She wheeled the short story over to her bed.
"You wrote that one just for me didn't you?" Daria asked.
"Yeah.. I was going to turn it in at first but mom caught me as I was writing it and vetoed it. I am glad you liked it, although my brain still hasn't recovered from imaging our teachers almost naked." Jane faked a shudder.
"It was a good story. Now I have something to read when I need a good laugh. Oh.. I have something for you as well."
Daria pulled out a sketchpad and gave it to Jane. "It's the first three chapters of our Melody Powers graphic novel. You're not the first person to see it though. I showed it to Trent to get his opinion, but after seeing it, he mentioned something about needing a cold shower."
Jane began to read it as Daria went back to her side of the bedroom. She was amazed to see how beautifully Daria had taken her words and brought them to life. Jane made it to a scene that even caused her to blush. I bet this is when Trent needed that shower. She was going to compliment Daria on a job well done, but she could tell Daria had fallen asleep. Jane walked over to Daria's bed. She took off Daria's boots and glasses. She gave Daria's legs a quick inspection for sores or bruises. Not wanting to wake Daria up, she grabbed a spare blanket from the closet.
"Good night sis. I'll see you in the morning," Jane whispered as she went and turned off the lights.
* * * * *
Jane was walking home beside Daria and Quinn from school. They had heard the rumor that Mr. O'Neill had left school early after reading the story she turned in. A look of satisfaction was on Jane's face as her two sister congratulated her. They arrived home as Jake was pulling in. After eating a quick snack, Daria asked Jane and Quinn if they wanted to go with her to physical therapy. Quinn had plans to go over to Stacy's house. Jane decided to join them. Daria called shotgun. As Jane loaded Daria's wheelchair into the trunk, Jake approached her.
"Have you ever been with Daria to therapy before?"
"It's hard to watch Jane. They really put her through the ringer. So keep in mind they are only doing it to help her. She has made great improvements since she started, but she gets frustrated. Maybe having you there will help her stay motivated," Jake smiled.
Jane got in the backseat. They continued to talk about how Jane had turned their English teacher into a pile of mush. Jake laughed as he listened to his two daughters. Mr. Morgendorrfer seems happier, more relaxed. He's actually paying attention to what we are saying. They parked. Jake grabbed the wheelchair. Daria made her way into the chair. Daria gave Jane a quick tour of the rehabilitation center. Alexis, her therapist met them at the front. Jake led Jane towards the weight room while Daria followed Alexis.
"Alexis is the one who checks for any sores or possible infections then Daria changes. That takes about twenty minutes. Tell me more about this story you wrote kiddo," Jake motioned for Jane to sit next to him.
Jane explained to him about the writing assignment. She briefly described the story. She promised him that he could read it once Mr. O'Neill graded it. Jake nodded. Daria and Alexis came into the room. Jane watched as Daria began to do her exercises. Jane watched Daria as she struggled with the dumbbells. The device that her legs were attached to allowed them to do leg curls. Jane moved to sit beside her, giving her words of encouragement. Daria seemed to be driven by her sister's words. When Daria was through with the weights, she had to do thirty sit-ups. Jane could see the pain in Daria's eyes. Jane continued to spur Daria on. After the sit-ups, Daria moved to her chair and wheeled over to the pool. Alexis helped her get in and together they began to swim five laps. How can she take that and not want to give up? Once the laps were over, Daria headed to the shower room.
Jane and Jake stood in the waiting area. Daria rolled out about twenty minutes later. Jane and her went to the car while Jake talked to Alexis. When he got to the car he gave Daria's shoulder a gentle squeeze.
"Alexis is really happy with your progress."
"I want to keep myself in good shape. I don't want to go back to the hospital," Daria sighed.
As they drove home, they talked about school and Jake's company. When they arrived home, Jake helped Daria out of the car. Once inside the house, Quinn came up to them. She had a notepad in her hands.
"Daria... Ted called. He was wondering if you were still going to Pizza King and the arcade tonight. Robert wants to join you but only if Jane goes as well. Oh and Jane, Ms. Morris told me to let you know that practice got moved to noon instead of ten."
Ted? Robert? Track practice? "I guess so now that I don't have to get up so early," Jane answered.
Quinn handed Daria the phone. As Daria left the room to talk to Ted, Quinn ambled over to Jane. She had a smirk on her face. Quinn gave Jane a playful swap on the arm.
"I'm impressed Legs. According to my three minions, Robert talks about you a lot. I know he's not the smartest guy at school, but he is one of the nicest one," Quinn pointed to Jane and Daria's bedroom door. "Ted maybe a bit of a kook, but he and Daria have similar interests. They're cute in that art geek type way. I'm spending the night at Sandi's so good luck at practice tomorrow. I'm still surprised you joined the track team."
Jane looked at Quinn. "So am I, Red. So am I."
* * * * *
Jane was lined up with the rest of the track team for a photo for the school's paper. Daria rolled up with Ted beside her. Daria's part of the newpaper staff? I don't get it. Why am I having so many problems remembering this stuff? Did I suffer some kind of head injury in that wreck? I couldn't have.. or I wouldn't be running. Jane's thoughts were broken by the flash of Daria's camera. After the photo shoot was over, Jane began to run laps to warm up. Evan, one of the guys on the team caught up with her.
"I can't believe they sent the crip out here to take pictures of us. I guess we aren't as important as the football team so they sent us their back-up photographer," he remarked in a spiteful tone.
"That's my sister douchebag. So if you don't want me running up your spine with these spikes I would advise you to keep your narrow-minded stupid-ass comments to yourself." Jane put her headphones on and sprinted away.
When practice was over, Jane went to find Daria. Robert had been watching practice from the bleachers. He walked up to her. He could tell she was upset, but when he asked...she shrugged it off. Jane was still pissed off over what Evan had said. They found Daria talking with Ted. They were discussing the layout for the next edition. Jane sat down. She watched Evan walk by and glared at him. Robert turned to her.
"Did he say something to you during practice?" Robert asked.
"I don't want to talk about it," Jane sighed.
Trent pulled up and honked. Daria and Jane got in. The ride home was quiet. Jane was the first to get out of the car. She already had the bedroom door closed. Daria waited a couple of minutes before knocking.
"Can I come in?"
"It's your room too," Jane grumbled.
Daria slowly opened the door. She wheeled herself over to her desk. Soon the only sounds you heard in the room was lines being drawn on paper. Jane laid in her bed staring up at the ceiling.
"Out with it Morgendorrfer," Daria said as she changed sheets. "You never stare at the ceiling is when something is really bothering you."
"One of the guys on the team said something that pissed me off."
"Since when do you let someone else's words bother you like this?"
"Since they weren't about me," Jane sighed.
"Oh," Daria went back to work. "Thanks for defending me."
"I shouldn't have had to. Jerk. When we're in school, do people call you anything?"
"Not to where I can hear it. Between you, Ted, Robert, Jodie, Mack, Quinn, Brittany and Andrea other students are really careful what they say around me. When we go out, Trent and the band are usually with us, so I tend not to get much grief. You don't know how grateful I am for that."
"Cool. How are you coming with the novel?"
"Well I am trying to get chapter four finished before the Spiral's show tonight. I want to have at least five chapters before that comic book convention comes to town next weekend." Daria smiled, "I think we can get some interest."
The old man pressed the pause button. "I'm sorry... I can't show you what happens next. Damn rules."
Jane shook her head. "I don't understand why the me I am watching can't remember things?"
"It's complicated to explain. See while you are watching, your projecting your thoughts onto that Jane," he pointed to the screen. "If or when these events actually occur, you will be thinking in the then. You didn't see all three months so you don't know what transpired. That Jane will though for having lived through them. I know you are seriously considering this new direction. You are beginning to think as if you're already on that path."
"If I am allowed to see the future, can I also see the past?" Jane asked.
"I can do better than that. I can send you back.. you in this form back with this knowledge for exactly five minutes. You just have to tell me where in the past you want to go."
* * * * *
Jane closed her eyes for a moment as she thought about the old man's words. Just five minutes..300 seconds..I will need to make them count. She began to think out what she was going to say or do. She gazed back at the old man's face. He stared out straight into the distance. His emotions were unchanging. For the first time since she arrived at this place, she felt afraid. How can he just make me appear out of thin air? What is he? Is he an angel, a devil, or some other kind of otherworldly being out to destroy my sanity? There is just so much I don't understand. Jane started to speak, but the old man stopped her.
"I can read your thoughts when you project them strongly like that. I am not an angel or a demon or Satan himself. I like to refer to myself and the others like me as pathfinders. I'll explain that in a little more detail after you return. Have you thought about where in the past you want to go?"
Jane buried her head in her hands. She would have to choose the right moment in time. She didn't want it to be during school, but she definitely didn't want Helen and Jake to be home either. The open house at the school didn't start until six. We got in Trent's car at 5:45 and his was the only car in the driveway. Helen and Jake weren't home yet. Jane lifted her head and nodded.
"What am I doing an hour before we go back to the school?"
"You are about to be woken up by Daria so that you could leave."
Jane tapped her fingers on the bench. "So how does this work?"
The old man stood up and took her hand. They walk a very short distance away from the crossroad. They stop when they see a tiny hole begin to form in the road. Jane watched as the old man pulled out a folded cane. He straightened the cane out and struck the road with it, causing the hole to widen. The old man pointed down at the now large crater that was in the middle of the road.
"There are some rules I need to explain to you. The you that is down there is the you as if you have accepted this new life. You can warn them about what is to occur but you cannot try to stop the events from happening. You will enter that Jane's body as she is dreaming. In five minutes from the moment that Jane regains consciousness, you will be sent back up here. It will cause that Jane to become very dizzy. Once you return, you and I will talk some more okay? Do you have any questions for me?"
Jane shook her head. "Good," the old man said.
* * * * *
Jane stared nervously at the old man. He gave her a reassuring smile. She leaned over, staring down into the blackness. Jane was about to walk back to the bench. The old man stopped her.
"If you walk away, the hole will close. I will not be able to open another one. There is nothing to be afraid of. You cannot physically get hurt. I know that it looks like complete darkness, but it's just the way to enter your subconscious. The decent takes less than a second. Now, remember, your five minutes starts the moment that Jane wakes up. Good luck. I will see you upon your return."
Jane summoned all her courage. She closed her eyes and jumped. The decent felt like a trip down a fast moving water slide. Before she could finish the thought, she 'landed' at her destination. She went to work on filling this Jane's brain with images from her mind. Memories of the past and future flooded into the sleeping Jane's thoughts. The unconscious form of herself began to react physically to the visions. Jane could feel someone trying to shake the other Jane in order to wake her up. Jane could feel the other Jane's eyes trying to open. You have five minutes Lane. Make every second of them mean something. She looked into Daria's glasses covered eyes.
"Jane.. are you alright? That must have been one helluva nightmare. You want to talk about it?"
Jane watched as Daria walked over to the computer desk and grabbed the chair to sit down. Jane could feel her eyes start to water. The next thing she knew, she was hugging Daria.
"You never hug me unless you want me to take over bathroom cleaning duties. Out with it Morgendorffer," Daria smirked.
"I had this dream that you and I weren't sisters. You were really a Morgendorffer and I was a Lane. We did meet and become friends, but not until earlier this year. You excelled at writing and school. I became an artist."
"Okay...what about Trent and Quinn?"
"I lived with Trent. Quinn was your sister. It was surreal."
Daria nodded. "Do you not like being my sister?"
"I love that we are sisters. I love mom and dad. This dream made me feel as though maybe I was supposed to be someone else."
"In this dream, did I even know Trent?"
"Yeah you even had a crush on him."
"No more Ultra Cola for you after school." Daria let out a laugh.
Daria walked over to her side of the room for a moment. Jane watched her as she ambled around. Then, visions of the wreck and its after effects filled her mind.
"Daria...can I ask you a question?"
"Sure.. I might even know the answer. My gpa would be just as high as yours if I didn't have to take math."
"The second part of this dream scared me. We were in a bad wreck. We both got hurt. You got injured far worse than I did. The wreck crippled you. I think if I was this other Jane...the wreck in my dream wouldn't have happened. What if my dream comes true?"
"Well.. let me answer your question with a question. Am I a different person because of this accident? Does it make me some depressed suicidal chick?"
"No..you were your usual self. The only difference was you couldn't walk."
"Okay. Well let's say this accident occurs. If I had to choose between losing you as my sister or losing my ability to walk...I would tell you that we need to pick up a wheelchair on the way home from the school. I know we aren't sisters by blood, but I thank upper management for Helen and Jake for taking Trent and myself in."
"I would hate for something to happen to you especially if I knew I could stop it."
Daria sat silently for a moment. "This other you...was it happier?"
Jane frowned. "No it wasn't. I lived a solitary existence until I met you. My parents were never home. They left Trent to practically raise me. Then your family moved here and we started hanging out."
Daria sat next to Jane on her bed and took her hand. She could see that Jane was still visibly shaken. She gave Jane's hand a gentle squeeze.
"I would rather something happen to me than to lose you as a sister."
"I love you squirt."
"I love you too legs...now come on. We have to get ready to sabotage a poster contest."
* * * * *
Jane felt a tug as she was transported back to where the old man was waiting for her. They watched as the other Jane started to sway. Daria was right there to help her sit back down. The crater that had been in the road began to close. Struggling to make it back to the bench, Jane graciously accepted the cane the old man offered. Upon sitting down, Jane burst into tears. Placing a gentle hand on her shoulder, the old man stood silently behind her. Love and anger were locked in battle in Jane's mind. Neither emotion was giving away any ground to the other.
"That conversation really took its toll on you." The old man sighed as he handed her his handkerchief.
Wiping tears away from her tired azure eyes, Jane nodded. "I want that sense of family. For that five minutes - I felt a sense of belonging. I don't have a good relationship with my two sisters. Seeing how I am with Quinn and Daria affected me some, but not like hearing Daria say to me that she loved me. The only person I ever remembered telling me that was Trent. I know she didn't realize that what I was saying was true, but when she said that she would choose being my sister over being able to walk...she meant it."
"Absolutely. I've seen the paths both of you were on Jane. Sad and desolate roads with very little greenery around them. Both roads changed the moment the two of you began talking in that self-esteem class. I took the knowledge I had gained from surveying the paths of everyone who would be affected by me being called and began searching for the best new road."
"So the best option was the one that leaves Daria in a wheelchair. I would hate to see the others then." Jane's anger shone in her voice.
"Jane...most of the paths I studied had both of you living lives without any major injuries or illnesses. Physically, they were great lives. Emotionally... they were the same as the road you are already on. This road before you was the best for your mind and soul. I know you're pissed because of the Daria thing, but I want you to look at the Jane thing. You said it yourself. That Jane has the one thing you have yearned for your entire life- a family that loves her. Not to mention that creativity thrives in a house with solid foundations."
Staring down at the ground, Jane pondered the old man's words. Remembering something he said before she had went back in time, Jane turned to him. Changing colors before her, the old man's eyes switched to an olive green. Before the question could be asked, the old man started to speak.
"My eyes switch to different colors to remind the person who I am visiting of who matter to them the most. They turn to grey for Trent, brown for the Morgendorffers, blue is obvious and green well although your first crush had green eyes, someone you meet a little down either road you choose will have them as well."
The answer given caused Jane to do a double take. She decided to put that last bit of information on a shelf in her mind. "Before visiting my other self, you said that I would be allowed to see what one of the two roads actually looked like."
"That is correct. I take it you are ready to see it. So.. which path do you want revealed?"
* * * * *
"Which path do you want to see revealed?"
Jane points to the road in front of them. "This is the road you want me to take. I know about the wreck, but I still want to see what I am up against. Show me this one."
Sticking out his hand, Jane gave the old man back his cane. Taking a few steps forward, he made his way to the crossroad of both paths. As he reached his hands towards the sky, he was surrounded by a bright red glow. Holding the cane with both hands, the old man chanted as he struck the road with the tip of the cane. Jane watched in awe as the scenery around them is completely transformed. Minor cracks and dips can be seen while grass and flowers grew along the sides. Suddenly, the ground below them started to tremble. Jane and the old man held on to the bench. A few short feet ahead of them, a large land mass shot upward. Before it, was a crater. After several minutes, everything became still.
Staring at what was the actual road, Jane didn't notice the old man's offer to help her stand up. In an effort to calm her nerves, Jane close her eyes and took a long, deep breath. Upon opening her eyes, Jane stood up and brushed the dust and dirt off her boots. Walking towards the old man, Jane was careful not to step on any of the flowers or the grass. Again he offered his hand. Sensing there was a reason for the gesture, Jane accepted. They began walking away from what Jane had perceived to be a mountain. When they reached a particular point in the path, the old man stopped and turned around.
"Here is a good place to start." They made their way back towards the bench.
Jane paused at what appeared to be a tiny pothole, followed by a change in the height of the road. The old man lowered his cane down. "That's where you had chicken pox when you were three. Because you caught it before you turned five, you barely missed any school. It is during that time that you began reading more."
"That's why the road is higher."
Nodding in agreement, the old man continued to point things out. "The dip in the road there," he focused her attention slightly ahead of them, "you were six and sprained your ankle. Man did that drive you insane."
Ambling slowly down the side of the road, the old man came to the spot where the road raised again and bunches of flowers grew along the sides. "This is when you first meet Daria and Trent. You were eight. I want you to take a good look at the road ahead. This much life doesn't surround your current path until way up there." He ran to a spot about a hundred feet away from where they stood.
Raising his hands to his mouth, the old man began to yell. "Your road doesn't begin to rise until here as well. Take a good look of the path behind and before you." He made his way back to her and led her to where they began.
Standing inches away from the hole in the road, Jane could see deep it was. "This must be the wreck."
"Yes, it's the wreck and its immediate after effects. This is your recovery time and coming to grips with Daria's injuries."
"I guess that means the mountain is me struggling to help her get better."
Shaking his head, the old man corrected her. "Not a mountain. This is a plateau's slope. Climbing this slope will be a daunting task. Remember..you won't be struggling up it alone. I am not going lie to you..it takes many years to reach the top. Once you do, the plateau stretches down the remainder of your path."
Studying the road, Jane let the old man's words soak in. Picturing the events he described, Jane began to think about her current life. She didn't have a good childhood. Until Daria, friends were few and far between. That's when she noticed something else. Although the crater was huge, there was greenery and flowers all around it. Even the slope of the plateau was covered in thick vegetation. Carefully, Jane bent down and ran her fingers over the grass. A feeling of warmth instantly enveloped her.
Turning to the old man, Jane tried to speak but her voice froze. She was only able to whisper one word.
* * * * *
Jane knew the moment of decision was fast approaching. Reaching down once again, a smile came over her face. Feeling the warmth, Jane thought about her life as she knew it. There were very few occasions when she felt the sense of familial love. Every one of them involved Trent. This new life was surrounded by it. If this road is encircled by it, then Trent's road should be too. More importantly, if she chose this other path ... she wouldn't lose Trent. The one person who mattered most to her in this life was still going to be her older brother.
Standing back up, Jane walked back towards the old man. As she sat back down, she gripped the bench. Several questions flooded into her mind. Knowing she would not get the answers to all of them, she picked out the ones she thought mattered most.
"If I choose this road, will I remember any of my current one?"
"No ... you will not. The road you are on now is Jane Lane's. The road before you is of Jane Morgendorffer. Minus switching from art to literature, who you are doesn't change, just your memories. As I have shown you, you will stay your same sarcastic, cynical self. You just understand math a little better."
"Will I ever be an artist?"
"Yes and no. You can put paint to canvas, but you excel at putting words on paper. You'll be a very talented artist, just in a different medium."
"Is there a reason why I am allowed to keep Trent as a brother?"
"I did that. You see ... your path and Trent's paths were very intertwined. Every road I looked down where you were separated from each other ended badly. So when I first found this road, Trent's path was next to it, but not attached to it. Because I hate to use the word divine, I'll explain what I did like this. Did you ever hear the story of how Hercules changed the course of a river to clean out some stables?"
Jane nodded. The old man smiled continued. "I did my impersonation of Hercules and moved his path to merge into yours."
"If you could do that.. why couldn't you fill the crater and stop the wreck from happening."
"Without the crater, there can be no plateau. Your road would rise, but only a couple of feet. The accident triggered the one event that would change your other life forever."
"The graphic novel," Jane whispered.
"Yes Jane. That novel will be the first of many in the Morgendorffer Sisters Chronicles. Although the two of you had talked about creating a novel together, it wouldn't have come to be without the wreck."
"Who asked for you to talk to me?"
"I can't answer that until you have picked the path you wish to be on. I hate to do this Jane, but our time together is drawing short. I can give you a little bit of time to think things over, then I must ask for your decision." The old man stood up and walked away from the bench.
Jane sat on the bench deep in thought. If I choose that road, Jane Lane would be gone. However, the Jane I always dreamed of being is on the path before me. Trent is still my brother. I may not be a painter, but I'm still going to be an artiste extraordinaire. I will have sisters and parents who actually care about me. Whoever wanted this path for me must have loved me. I hope some day Daria ... you can forgive me for what I am about to do.
Jane stood up and walked over to the old man. His eyes turned colors to match hers. Drawing every bit of courage up from inside her body, Jane willed her mouth to open.
"I want to take the path you have shown me."
* * * * *
The old man was standing in front of Jane. "Are you sure this is the road you wish to follow?"
"Yes. I want to be Jane Morgendorffer."
"That is your choice, and one I am glad to see you choose." The old man placed his hand on Jane's shoulder.
"So how does this work?"
"Follow me." The old man led Jane to the crossroad of both paths. He turned her away from the crater and the mountain. Another opening began to form in the road. Stretching his arm out towards it, he stared at Jane. "All you have to do is what you love doing ... run. Just like before, the descent takes less than a second."
Nodding her head in understanding, Jane extended her hand. "I guess I should be saying thank you or thanking whoever brought you to me. I know you said you only come once and that is only when you are called. So I guess this is goodbye."
The old man shook his head. "Now that you have chosen the path I picked we will meet again, just not in this setting. I will be keeping an eye on you. For I am the protector of your path and the path of every other soul I have met."
"I would at least like to be able to call you by your name the next time we meet providing I remember any of this."
"The next time we see each other, I will feel like a distant memory. Now hurry up, the opening doesn't last forever."
"You never did tell me sent you to me."
The old man handed Jane his cane. "Tap me on the top of my head with it. Gently please ... it's hard to get good pain killers here."
With her hands slightly shaking, she raised the cane and lightly struck his head. Once again, he was surrounded by a giant red light. With a face etched in a mix of shock and amazement, Jane watched as the old man soon began to transform into a familiar shape. Jane gasped as she realized who had called for him.
"Jake? Jake Morgendorffer? Why would he call you for me and not Daria?"
"You see Jane, Jake knows that Daria is happier whenever you're around. She picks on him a lot for not being observant. That's not true. He understands what is going on with her more than she does."
"Because Jake was Daria at her age. That damn military school made him an outcast with no friends. He didn't want the same thing to happen to her. So when he realized that she had found someone to hang out with, he wished one night that the two of you had met earlier. That is where I come in. The problem was I needed the right moment for us to be able to meet. See, I knew you were going to choose this path before you did. So I chose the wreck to come visit you."
"Your dreams. You have always wanted a close family and a place where you belonged." Looking behind Jane. "Jane ... the opening will not be there much longer you must go NOW!"
Although Jane was stunned by the old man's revelation, she knew she didn't have time to think about it. Her chance at lifelong happiness was in danger of being lost to her. She broke into a sprint. As she ran, she forgot about all the days and nights of being alone. All she could think about was the family that was waiting for her. When she arrived at her destination, the hole was barely two feet wide and closing fast. With a quick leap she jumped down right before the opening closed. Slowly, the old man made his way to where the opening had been. The old man knelt down and brushed his hand over the road.
"I will see you soon Jane Morgendorffer."