THE TROUBLE WITH VERONICA
A Daria fan fiction by Brother Grimace
EXT. HIGHWAY - NIGHT
(It is just after sunset, and we see a champagne-hued Lincoln Town Car moving briskly down the road.)
INT. LINCOLN TOWN CAR - NIGHT
(Helen is driving, with Quinn in the front seat and Daria in the back. Quinn, wearing a jacket with the Pepperhill University mascot - a penguin in a fighting stance on the front - is obviously enjoying the comfort of the car, and Daria just shakes her head as she watches.)
Helen: All right, girls - no making fun of each other. You're a college graduate, Daria - you're far too mature for that.
Daria: But I like being immature.
Helen: If nothing else, Daria - at least spare your little sister the joy of your acid wit.
Daria: Veronica enjoys the acid wit, Mom. I wouldn't burn up half of the minutes in my cell-phone plan every month on someone who doesn't. (beat) I didn't think that she'd make it through a semester up there, but she's made it through three years!
Quinn: Yeah - she even stays through the summer sessions! She's even more of a bookworm than - I mean, she-
Daria: Didn't you hear, Quinn? 'Nerd' and 'Geek' are now labels to be worn with pride by the young and incredibly intelligent of today.
Helen: Yes, well...Veronica's done incredibly well at Grove Hills, but I don't think that she's all that happy with her social life there. She never talks about having any friends, or getting involved in any activities, or about meeting any boys- (Quinn mouths to Daria 'yes, she does...')
Daria: Maybe she doesn't want to spin the wheel to see what happens with Dad after she mentions some boy's name - burst blood vessels in the eye, heart attack, a sudden desire to cook Kitchen Sink Stew...
Quinn: Maybe she doesn't mention liking any boys because SHE didn't go to school here and meet anybody! (motions with her head towards Daria)
Daria: That is not funny.
Quinn: Oh, come on - if he liked you first, Veronica crushed on him! Trent, Ted, Tom - I think that Mack had a thing for you, because the summer before you both went off to school, she followed him all around like a puppy! (laughs) Oh, Jodie Landon was not amused!
Daria: What did she have to worry about from Veronica?
Quinn: Please - you, but younger, way smarter without even trying, always around, definitely interested in her very under-appreciated boyfriend and about to become cute? (beat) The next time that Jodie sees Veronica - or you - she'll probably shoot to kill! (She does a dead-on, squeaky-voiced impression of Brittany.) I'll get you, you, you - Morgendorffer temptresses! (She and Daria burst into laughter.)
Helen: Quinn, I want you to promise me right now that you won't tease Veronica about that. Just because you were very popular in high school and never felt out-of-place doesn't mean that you can make fun of her! (beat) She's still not happy that your father doesn't get to come up any more...
Daria: (Her eyebrows raise.) No. (pause) He's still banned from the campus?
Helen: Don't make fun of your father.
Daria: I'm not - because I'd then have to make fun of other people, too. (Quinn tries and fails to keep a big grin from her face.) I can't believe that you billed them at your normal hourly rate!
Helen: I gave them one of the ten best students they've ever had and pay for the privilege - they're crazy if they're going to screw me and your father out of the actual time we use making that money for them! (beat) At least I don't have to go up there every weekend, acting like a unpaid intern, licking envelopes and listening to those wretched people talk about their -
Daria: (holding up her finger and moving it about) Redrum! Redrum!
Helen: (grimaces; she's heard that tone of voice far too many times) Quinn, don't say it-
Quinn: Did Daddy really yell 'Death to the Furher!' and try to choke the Chancellor?
Daria: If we were all guys, imaging how dirty that would sound...
Helen: I've told you a hundred times before, Quinn... your father was already a bit on edge after losing the 'Squirrel-Buddy' outdoor feeder account. It's a six-hour drive up to Grove Hills, and the Chancellor was in a bad mood himself, so he made the mistake of yelling at Jake after he'd spent four hours collating the mid-term test booklets for the fifth-year students... and getting them mixed with the tests for the first-years... (sighs)
Daria: Thank God they didn't want to lose Veronica, or it would have been 'to the curb, Morgendorffers!' (beat) At least you and Dad didn't get arrested this time, and they let the small, smart one stay... say, what are you going to do about Veronica's graduation next year, if Dad's banned from the campus?
Helen: I don't think that'll be a problem. (She clamps her mouth shut, realizing that she let something slip out.)
Daria: Mom... what's going on?
Helen: (a bit too blithely) What do you mean, Daria?
Daria: Oh, just wondering what evil scheme you'll use to make them allow Dad back on campus for the graduation... (She sees an unusual flicker cross her mother's face.) Oh. (beat) Oh, I get it.
Quinn: (confused) Get what?
Daria: Didn't you wonder why Mom wanted us both to be back now, just before classes start at Pepperhill and Raft... and Lawndale High?
Quinn: Well, I know I'll be cutting it close getting back to school... what does classes at Lawndale High have to- (A look of repulsed shock crosses her face, and Daria nods, seeing that Quinn has gotten it.) Oh, Mom... you're not going to do that, are you?
Helen; Do what?
Quinn: You're going to pull Veronica out of Grove Hills, bring her back home and send her to Lawndale High. (beat) Why, Mom? There's nothing LHS has that beats Grove Hills, and the teachers - well, Mr. DeMartino's good, and Ms. Barch will love the brat, but aside from that...(Her voice trails off.)
Helen: I want her back at home, girls. I want to spend time with my last remaining child before she leaves the nest - and I don't want to travel hundreds of miles every time I want to see her! I spent far, FAR too much time in the office while the two of you were growing up, and I want to be able to at least slow down enough to see one of my babies do that! (pause) Since I made partner earlier this year, money's not going to be an issue any longer, so I think that it's time that I got more involved in the community, and in parent activities at Lawndale High! (beat) I actually do agree with Grove Hills about that - as long as they actually involve bonding with your children, and not just makeshift or scut jobs...
(Daria and Quinn look at each other grimly. Knowing how much Helen and Ms. Li dislike each other, something is definitely up.)
Quinn: Mom. What's wrong with Veronica?
Daria: Yeah - what happened? Did she get an 'A-minus' and the other kids rose up to drive her out from their absolute mentocracy, which she befouled with the unspeakable crime of not giving textbook-perfect answers?
Helen: Nothing's wrong with Veronica. In fact, not only did she get perfect grades this year, but when she took the C.A.P.T. test, she got the third highest score ever for someone going to Grove Hills! The day her test scores posted, the Chancellor himself called and wanted us to know that they'd give her a full scholarship for her senior year, as well as a stipend for attending, and that they wanted to make her an Ambassador for the school. She'd get to travel all over the country!
Daria: (dry as a lake bed on Mars) But you said, no, we want to put our youngest chick - an unbelievably intelligent girl who we admit isn't all that socially adept - into the meat grinder of mindless boobs, dim bulbs who quest after being even more idiotic, and teachers who couldn't care less if their students think that Sherlock Holmes is a housing project in London. Yeah, let's do that. (fixes Helen with a meat-cleaver glare) Look how well it worked the first time.
Helen: (growing tired of defending her actions) And look at you now, Daria. You graduated with honors from a top university! I'd like to think that Lawndale High prepared you for that!
Daria: And I'm sure that Jonah would have liked to believe that passing up fish dinners on Friday was adequate preparation for successfully avoiding being digested by the larger members of the aquatic community.
Helen: She's coming home, Daria! That's the end of it!
Daria: Tell us the truth, Mom. You read the article in the Quibbler - so now you're finally convinced that Harry Potter was right, and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has returned. That's why you want Veronica to come back home.
(Quinn snorts out a laugh, and Helen's face flushes with anger.)
Helen: One more word out of you, and - (Daria cocks her head, and waits blithely for the end of Helen's statement.) Never mind. Just... I brought you girls up to help me, not to play 'Twenty Questions' about Veronica!
Quinn: Mom, is she still freaking about growing an inch or two...?
Helen: Actually, Quinn - Veronica had a growth spurt of more than just 'an inch or two'. Some boy called her 'the red giraffe, and she's been feeling self-conscious ever since.
Quinn: The boy's probably just got a thing for her, but he's too young and dumb to know how to talk to her. (beat) So she's tall now, hmn? How tall is she?
Helen: She grew about five or six inches this past year; that's what she told me when she called over Christmas. We sent her money for new school uniforms and shoes – she's grown out of her own stuff so fast it was hard to believe!
Daria: And you've seen how tall she is now. Personally?
Helen: Yes, Daria, and I've been in constant contact with her teachers and the Chancellor. They've told me-
Quinn: EWWWWWW! (Daria and Helen look over at her.) I just caught that! School uniforms! God, Mom, how could you let her go to a school that makes the kids do that?
Helen: It was actually one of the reasons why we agreed that she could go. They put the policy change in place the year after you (glances back to Daria) decided not to go, and I thought it was an excellent idea. (Gives Quinn a pointed look.) After all, I've seen the drawbacks. I've seen the negative effects that being overly concerned about fashion can have on young people.
Daria: (leaning back with satisfaction as she watches Quinn deflate; V.O.) I see she's improved her psychic SAM-missile capability. (aloud) Mom – I didn't want to go there because the people were jerks.
Helen: Veronica doesn't seem to think they're all jerks – after all, she's been here for three years!
Daria: Mom, with her I.Q., they probably throw rose petals everywhere she walks.
Helen: (an unreadable look crossing her face VERY quickly) Maybe. Anyway, being back in Lawndale will be good for her. She can see what average kids are like.
Daria: Sounds like we've got another Dian Fossey award-winner coming up in the family.
Helen: Daria, I also want you to talk to your sister while you're here. Tell her how college was a great experience for you, and it'll be the same for her!
Daria: It was a great experience for me, Mom. People I could have actual conversations with and no need to edit myself while I spoke, and special areas for the nitwits who slipped into the university through the cat-flap. Trust-fund babies, and jocks...
Helen: (warningly) Daria...
Daria: (sighs) Fine. (pause) Exactly how much did she grow in the past year, Mom?
Quinn: Afraid that now you'll have to use the high chair at family dinners, big sister?
(Daria has to catch herself from making a very rude finger-gesture.) Oh, you brought a date along for the ride.
Helen (totally missing Daria's question) Stop that! That's part of the reason why she just wanted to stay here for Christmas this past year. She still feels uncomfortable about her body, and between the pressure she has with her schoolwork, coming home to your sarcasm (glances back at Daria), your makeover mania (glances at Quinn) and your father's cooking (grimaces at the memory), coming home for a couple of weeks wasn't something she wanted to do.
Quinn: I do not have a mania! It's a profession!
Daria: So, since you've got the Land Barge here, I supposed that means you're giving the Land Rover to Veronica...soften the blow of sending her back into the jungle...
Helen: I think that giving Veronica the car would be unfair. You two didn't have cars in high school, and I think that it would send the wrong message. I don't want her to think that we're spoiling her, or playing favorites...
Quinn: Then can I have the car?
Helen: Quinn, giving you the car would also be unfair to Veronica. Remember – no favorites.
Daria: (V.O.) No, that's a message you don't want to send anymore - especially since one daughter's out of the nest, the second is almost gone, you've only one left, and you've got the money to spoil her rotten if you wanted. What gives?
Helen: Actually, Daria, I was wondering if you'd like the car. It's well maintained, and that'll be one less worry as you start out in your new career.
Daria: (quickly) Deal. (V.O.) But don't think for a second that this gets me off the subject.
(Daria settles back into a slight funk, when suddenly, her eyes go very wide. She looks up at Quinn, who's been watching her expression in the rear-view mirror.)
Quinn: (a HUGE smile on her face) Yeah - she was crushing on him, too. She probably liked him more than any of the others. Personally, I can't wait to see what happens if she ever sees him in his uniform or his flight suit-
Helen: Quinn, who are you talking about?
Quinn: Charles Ruttheimer the Third - we called him 'Upchuck' back in school. He graduated from the Air Force Academy back in June, and I heard that he's learning how to fly those new fighters with the dinosaur name - I think it's 'Raptor', or something. He grew like Veronica, too - he's six feet tall, now!
Daria: (suddenly frowning) Wait a minute. You said, 'if she ever sees him in his uniform'. (beat) How do you know what he looks like in his uniform, or... (She looks at Quinn, dumbfounded.) Quinn, have you-
Quinn: (smiling; cuts Daria off in a sing-song tone) I'll never tell...
EXT. GROVE HILLS PREPARATORY ACADEMY - NIGHT
(The Town Car pulls into a surprisingly filled parking lot. Students and family members move about the area as the Morgendorffers disembark and look around.)
Daria: What is this - Parent's Night, or something?
Helen: (also confused) No - that was back in April. They don't have anything like that during the summer session, and since finals were this week, most of these people are probably here just to pick up their kids. (beat) Veronica's last test was today, so I thought we'd come up and surprise her, and spend a day or so with her before we all head back.
Quinn: (can smell a party a mile away) Mom, are you sure there isn't some big celebration or something scheduled for tonight - something you forgot about?
Helen: No, Veronica would have told me. (beat) Over there. That's her dorm.
INT. BENNINGTON-RYAN HALL - FOYER - NIGHT
(As the Morgendorffers file into the foyer, they see the lighted community board on the wall. There are several sections for various types of notices and announcements, and a large sign at the top, reminding readers that Bennington-Ryan Hall is designated as an 'intensive-study' hall, with quiet hours that are strictly enforced. There are also end-of-term notices placed on the board, as well as a tear-away calendar; the exposed page says 'Thursday, August 11 - 1 day left in semester.')
Quinn: (grimaces as she reads) 'No loud noises after 7:00 PM?' 'No open doors after 9:00 PM?' All students must be in their own rooms by 10:30 PM?' Oh, wait a minute - 'no members of the opposite sex in students' rooms after 7:00 PM?' 'Any study group with opposite-sex members must study in ONLY commons areas on the first floor until 10:00 PM?' What's the intensive study of - what boarding-school life was like, back in the stuck-up fifties?
(A snort of laughter catches the Morgendorffer's attention, and they turn to see a girl -shorter than Daria, with an unruly mop of dirty-blonde hair and a stride that all but shouts 'Hey! I'm a GIRL!' - as she glides past them and into the elevator, chugging away at a huge Slushie. She wears the Grove Hills uniform, but with little trinkets and pins cluttered all over the vest.)
Quinn: (wiping sweat from her forehead) That actually looks good.
Daria: (smirking) Wow, Quinn - college in California really has changed you.
Quinn: Shut up - a grape Slushie would be good right now. (To the girl) Hold the elevator!
INT. HALLWAY - NIGHT
(The Morgendorffers get off the elevator.)
Helen: Her room's down this hall. Room 292.
Voice: (O.S.; from behind) Excuse me?
(The three women turn around, to see the blonde girl and her large Slushie.)
Girl: You said 'Room 292'. You guys looking for MV?
Girl: MV - Veronica? You're looking for her?
Helen: Yes. I'm her mother.
Girl: (wipes her hand on her outfit and extends it to Helen.) I'm Lennie. Lennie Andrews-Brooks. I live two doors down.
Lennie: (shrugs) Lenora. Why are you guys looking for her in there?
Daria: (sharper than she meant to) Because it's her room.
Lennie: (after a moment) You're her sister Daria, aren't you? (beat; continues through the surprised look on Daria's face and the sudden smirk on Quinn's.) Oh! You're late - the show started an hour ago, and I only came back over to get a couple of extra batteries for my camcorder... It's a good thing that our dorm's second to last, or you'd miss everything - I can take you over, if you'll wait a minute. (Lennie disappears into a room, and the three women share surprised looks. Helen, of course, regains her wits first)
Helen: 'The show...?' (beat) Why do I have the feeling that your little sister is going to have a LOT of explaining to do?
Daria: Considering that her I.Q. is in the 190's, I think that she'll come up with some good explanations.
EXT/INT. METZZNER AUDITORIUM - NIGHT
Lennie and the Morgendorffers cross the large, grassy area in front of the auditorium, passing through tightly packed groups of students as they start up the stairs to the auditorium entrances. The sound of laughter can be heard sporadically, and as they make their way forward, Lennie keeps looking back at both Quinn and Daria.
Helen: (loudly) Why are all of these people here?
Lonnie: (hesitantly) They - they have the Stunt Show every year. Everybody invites their families, and - (Helen's face darkens, and Lonnie suddenly decides to jab some poor guy with her knuckle.) Hey! Keep it moving! I'm helping film this thing! Move, already!
Daria: For someone so small, she's very loud.
Helen: (a pointed glance at Daria) I wouldn't know anything about that.
Daria: (thinking aloud) Why am I getting the body blows?
(They make their way through the crowd and towards the inner doors. Quinn sees Lonnie staring at her again.)
Quinn: What is it?
Quinn: What do you want?
Lonnie: Excuse me?
Quinn: You keep staring at us. At me and at Daria: What do you want?
Lonnie: (blushing) Oh. Sorry. I'm just - surprised. I didn't think that we'd have any trouble getting in here - I thought that people would just let us... (her voice trails off)
Daria: Why would you think that?
Lonnie: It's - I - you don't look like what - I mean, you're not what I thought you'd look like! I mean, MV talks about you two, and I thought you'd be like these Valkyries, just walking in and having everyone just falling all over you! (Quinn stops, thinks a moment, and then nods.) The way she talks about you two and all the guys you've gone through, we always thought - it sounded like she's -
(Lonnie is interrupted by the sound of applause. A voice is heard over the speakers.)
Voice: (V.O.) Our next act is from Bennington-Ryan Hall! (The lights go up on the stage, and Helen, Daria and Quinn all stop in mid-motion, their mouths agog, as they see Veronica on stage with four other students.)
Helen: (stunned) My baby...
(It's hard to tell which has shocked Helen more - Veronica's appearance, her singing, or her clothing. Veronica, her red hair now a deep scarlet and cut fashionably short, is slender and sleek in appearance. She is six feet in height, with legs capable of drawing major attention.)
She wears a pair of black calf-length motorcycle boots that make Daria's normal combat boots look tame, a short black leather skirt and a Lycra off-the-shoulder top with silver flame designs running up the arms topped with a vest/Basque thing with metal plating. The overall impression is 'hot space-babe body armor' - as created by an enthusiastic sci-fi movie costume designer, now working for an Aaron Spelling teen drama. Her eyes are hidden behind prescription sunglasses.
As Helen and the girls watch, Veronica and the lead guitarist break into a VERY good cover of Evanescence's 'Bring Me To Life'. After a few moments, they turn, questioning looks on their faces as they focus on Lonnie.)
Lonnie: (shrugs helplessly) She made it sound like she was the plain sister.
Daria: (watching her sister on stage) Why do you keep calling her 'MV'?
Lonnie: Are you kidding...? As tall as your sister is? 'Mount Veronica!'
(pause; tosses a wistful look around at the young men watching Veronica, their eyes locked on her.) Which is what every one of these jerks is thinking. If she's in a room, trust me - nobody pays attention to any other girl.
(Helen says nothing, but her eyes narrow as she looks about the area, watching the expressions of the boys, and her right hand curls tightly into a fist.
Quinn looks about the area, but all eyes are on Veronica instead of her, and she suddenly breaks into tears.)
Daria: (watching Helen and Quinn) Right. (pause) So... that's what's wrong with Veronica...
INT. AUDITORIUM – BACKSTAGE – NIGHT
(Veronica and her friends, laughing, come into the green room backstage when the tall teenager stops dead in her tracks.)
Boy: (seeing the fearful look on her face) MV, what's wrong- (He follows Veronica's gaze over to the couch, where Daria gives a noncommittal wave, Quinn looks at her up-close and bursts into tears again, and Helen rises from the furniture like an awakened cobra.) Oh. The family.
(Veronica stands there like a deer in the headlights, cowering before her mother's angry glare.)
Helen: Well. (She does a complete circle around Veronica and stops in front of her.) Evelyn Veronica Morgendorffer. (deadly pause.) Do you have an explanation, young lady?
(Veronica tries to speak, but she is so scared, nothing will come out.)
Helen: (stepping forward and looking up at her youngest child)) What IS that outfit you're wearing – and take off those glasses! You look like something out of one of those 'Matrix' movies! (snatches the glasses off Veronica's face, and the girl begins to squint.) Where are your glasses, young lady? Your REAL glasses?
(One of Veronica's female friends takes a hard-shell glasses case out of her jacket pocket and taps her on the arm; she reaches back to take them. The glasses she puts on are almost identical to Daria's, but totally fail to detract from her attractive face and huge green eyes.)
Helen: Good. Now you can see me. (The tone of her voice goes low, cold and deadly.) What is going on right now – and how did you manage to forget for three years that not only does this school have some sort of student talent show, but that you have an actual talent that your father and I would have loved to support you in? We would have loved to see you sing – and pardon me, but when did you start to do that? When did you find out that you could do this, and why in the name of God did you decide that you couldn't tell your family? What the hell are you doing wearing something like that, and where did you get the money to buy something like that anyway? (Daria notices Quinn concentrating too intently on a cola stain on the floor.) So help me, if I find out that this has in any way affected your grades – you know what musicians are like – didn't watching your sister around that worthless Trent Lane teach you anything?
(Daria turns a bright shade of red, and Veronica has streaks of tears rolling down her cheeks. Helen finally notices the other students, who are looking at Helen with various stages of disgust.)
Helen: Don't you children have somewhere else to be? (One of the students, a tiny brunette with crystal-blue eyes, opens her mouth to speak, but another student leads her away before she can get a word out, and Helen turns back to Veronica.) So, what do you have to say for yourself, young lady?
(During her rant, Helen has backed Veronica against the couch. She looks down to see Daria, then Quinn, then back at her mother.)
Veronica: (squeaking) Eee. (She sinks down between her sisters, her expression miserable.)
Daria: Yep, this is what a Morgendorffer homecoming is all about.
(Quinn looks over at Veronica, and puts her hand on her shoulder.)
Quinn: I liked the way you sing. (Veronica puts her head on Quinn's shoulder.)
INT. BENNINGTON-RYAN HALL - VERONICA'S ROOM – NIGHT
(Daria and Quinn look around Veronica's room as the sound of a running shower can be heard from the bathroom.)
Daria: (examining Veronica's books) Wow. Someone's enjoying her Latin... (Daria notices a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, next to a large folder, and several large tomes with many bookmarks wedged in the pages. She glances at the bathroom door, and then sneaks a look at the folder. Inside are pages after pages of handwritten Latin.) No. She's not doing what I think she's doing...
Quinn: What's that? (beat) Ewww! She's reading those books...! (She looks about the room, and holds up a dog-eared copy of'The Screwtape Letters.) She really IS even more of a bookworm than you, Daria! (Sees a copy of The Prince on the floor next to Veronica's bed.) Good. At least she reads something that isn't all brainy and everything... it must be a really good romance novel, if she was reading it in bed! (Daria winces and turns away as Quinn picks up the remote control to the TV.) Wonder if there's a good movie on?
Daria: It's Veronica's TV. You KNOW what she's got it tuned to. (Quinn turns the TV on, and a small Doppler radar display is seen as an upbeat, horn-driven melody plays.)
Voice: (O.S.) Conditions in your area. (Quinn turns the TV off.)
Daria: (continued) Cable news or the Weather Channel. (She picks up a copy of How To Read Juries.) Geez, she's got a cross-section of reading, doesn't she? (She gasps as she sees The Good Girl's Guide To Bad Girl Sex in the line of books on her desk, right besides The Dilbert Principle.) Veronica!
Quinn: (Daria's tone immediately catching her attention) What? (Daria holds up the book, and Quinn almost falls over a chair!) Ditch that before Mom sees it! (Daria drops the book into the bottom drawer of the desk, and a moment later, there is a knock at the door, followed by Helen entering.)
Quinn: Cluster Burger! Yes! (Helen shoves the fast food towards Quinn, who starts to pillage the bags.)
Helen: Is she still in that shower? I left almost twenty minutes ago!
Daria: Mom – can I suggest that, for just a moment, before you try to talk to Veronica again, you turn it down a notch?
Helen: Daria –
Daria: (calmly) Think about it for a moment. You kept going on and on all the way up here how we shouldn't upset Veronica, and the first thing you do when you see her is embarrass her in front of her friends and made her cry. (pause) I also didn't appreciate that Trent comment, either. If you're still thinking about having her leave here and go to Lawndale High without a fuss, I think that plan is already in the shredder.
(Helen doesn't notice the sound of the shower going off. She drops down into a chair, her eyes sunken as Daria's words finally reach her.)
Helen: I don't want anything to happen to her. (beat) Look at her. Every boy – every man that passes her by will have only one thing on his mind... and she's too lost in her books to realize that. I need to have her close at hand so I can protect her. (pause) She doesn't have your common sense, Daria-
Quinn: Says you. (Helen looks at her.)
Helen: Yes. Says me. (pause) More and more, she's starting to remind me of your Aunt Rita.
Quinn: (offended) In what universe? (Daria gives Quinn a look of surprised respect.) Mom, Veronica's gotten perfect grades every year she's been here. How is that anything near Aunt Rita?
Helen: Quinn, you know how your Aunt Rita is with men. One look, one smile, and she gets involved with the worst - well, she doesn't have very good taste in men.
Quinn: (motioning towards Daria) Mom, look at the boys you know she had some interest in. Okay, I'll give you Trent as a bad apple (stands down Daria's glare) but, you have to admit, he was hot, and he wasn't the type to take advantage of someone impressionable when he had all sorts of chances. That shows he was at least decent on some level.
Daria: (blushing profusely) You ARE aware that I'm standing right here...
Quinn: (smiling gently) Not trying to offend, Daria. (beat) You know, the girls in the Fashion Club - heck, most of the girls in school - okay, the boys that were going after you - it surprised everybody. Every boy that had an actual chance of going out with you could have easily had ANY girl at Lawndale High!
Daria: One - what does this have to do with Veronica? (pause) Two - ANY girl...? She smirks at Quinn's slight blush.)
Quinn: Like you said - this is about Veronica. Mom - if she's got the same taste in men that Daria has, don't you think that she's got some of the same common sense?
Helen: Quinn, what you say is all well and good, but still, she's been really sheltered - I mean, even Daria had Jane to provide her with some-
Daria: Finish that statement and your wedding invitation will never see the light of day.
Helen: What I meant was, well, Veronica's going to have all sorts of handsome, incredible men trying to get close to her because of her looks, and- (Both Quinn and Daria are staring daggers at her.)
Quinn: (holding up a copy of 'Val' magazine; the two-page moisturizer ad inside the front cover is of her, in a breezy summer dress and on a bicycle) Yeah, Mom - and they pay me seven grand an hour and fly me all over because I'm dog food. The young men back at Pepperhill count down the days before I return from a shoot because I'm 'okay-looking'.
Daria: No, Quinn, don't say anything. Let Mom keep digging that hole...
Helen: (trying hard to recover) Of course you're both beautiful young women; it's just that, well, Veronica, over the past year, has, well... she's become...
Daria: (dryly) A world-class babe.
Helen: I haven't told your father, but, well, the Chancellor's been keeping an eye on Veronica...one of his prize students, you understand. Over the past year, the attention that your sister's been attracting... there have been a number of college boys that have tried to-
Quinn: (suddenly all business) Tell me who they are. (her voice arctic) You'll never see them again.
Helen: Of course, nothing happened, and your sister didn't break any rules, but, well, between her grades and her developing looks - and now, apparently this little talent that she never bothered to tell anyone about- (her expression grim) well, apparently she's becoming a bit of a distraction around here...
Daria: So you want to punish her for something she can't control by taking her out of a good school (winces; she can't believe that she just said that) and putting her in the lion's den?
Helen: I've already talked to Ms. Li -
Daria: I'll bet that conversation went over like a screen door on a submarine.
Helen: (ignoring her) - and after going over some of Veronica's records, she's agreed to make sure that she gets a very intensive, accelerated course of study that'll keep her engaged, and make sure that she's not constantly pestered by slobbering young men drooling all around her.
Daria: I can believe that. (beat) She'll take Ms. Barch off the chain. After one class with Veronica, she'll eviscerate any boy who talks to her during a lunch hour, in front of the school, so everyone knows not to bother her.
Quinn: That's about right.
Helen: And while Ms. Li's doing her part at school, your father and I'll be doing our part at home. (beat) Your sister's got an incredible future ahead of her, and she'll be able to go to any university in the world, so I'm not about to let some... boy... come along and screw it all up for her!
Quinn: (pulling a burger from the bag) Gawd, Mom, why don't you just save everyone all of the trouble and lock her up in a tower until she's twenty-one? Just because you made stupid mistakes with guys when you were young, don't take it out on Veronica and make her life miserable by trying to control it!
(Daria actually beams as Helen draws back at Quinn's comments.)
Quinn: (continued) That's just rotten, Mom. You're not worried about her not having a social life - you're afraid that she actually will get one. (beat) If she hadn't blossomed like she has, if she'd stayed gangly and awkward, and you didn't think boys would be interested in her, then you wouldn't have any problems with her being up here. (beat; glances over at Daria.) Aren't you glad she thought you weren't sure which way you were going to swing, so that's why you decided not to really get up close to anyone romantically in high school? (Daria's eyes swivel back to an ashen-faced Helen as Quinn unwraps her burger, sniffs it, and then takes a big bite.) Mmmmm... God, I love the taste of beef...this'll be eight extra hours on the exercise bike and a couple of seaweed and sauna treatments, but it's worth it...
Daria: (coolly; to Helen) You thought I was gay?
Helen: (defensive) I didn't know! I mean, you hung out with only Jane Lane since day one, but you always kept reaching back for another boy - first that Trent, then the young man with blonde hair, and the way you and Jane acted when Tom Sloane came into the picture...! Almost everyone thought that you resented the hell out of the boy for coming in between you and Jane, and then, when you actually started dating him, we thought that it was because you were getting revenge on Jane for dumping you for him in the first place!
Daria: You thought I was gay.
Quinn: (chewing; her tone nonchalant) Oh, come off it, Daria. Being gay, for women, is like, well, the new hetero thing to do!
Daria: Please. Not every woman in this family dives when she's young. (Quinn's mouth stops moving in mid-chew as her eyes dart in Helen's direction. Helen's complexion goes so white that her brown hair seems to darken by comparison, and Daria looks at her with unrepentant falcon's eyes.)
Veronica: (O.S.) Stop it. (The other Morgendorffers turn to see Veronica, wearing a set of pajamas and leaning against the bathroom door.)
Quinn: Veronica, we-
Veronica: This is the main reason why I wanted to come here to Grove Hills. (beat) Why is it that you can't put even two Barksdale women in a room without a border war breaking out - and because they're Barksdales, there'll be more coming in to make the fire hotter? (pause) I wanted to get away from all of that. I wanted to get away from being labeled 'like Aunt so-and-so', or 'cousin whomever'... (She sniffs, and wipes tears away with the cuff of her pajama top.) I guess I couldn't even get away from that, not even being up here. (pause; focuses on Helen) You think I'm going to be like Aunt Rita just because of this face.
Helen: Veronica, I don't think you understand-
Veronica: (cutting her off) Yes, I do. (pause) You couldn't all even get along at cousin Erin's wedding... I don't want to be like that.
Helen: (rising, trying not to look at Daria as she stands) Honey, I'm sorry about-
Veronica: I didn't tell you about the show, because you'd only be coming up because I'm good, not because it's me performing. You'd come so you could you could beat Aunt Rita and Grandma over the head with it. Thank God Aunt Amy married that rich pilot and had babies right away, otherwise they'd have tormented her with it, too. (pause) But even if you did come, you'd have one hand on your cell phone, and if it rang, you'd just have to hurry off somewhere so you could take the call... (she sniffs) Up here, they like me for me.
Daria: (softly) I came up here once before, remember? The students are all grade-obsessed, and the ones I met were jerks, full of themselves-
Veronica: That's right. The ones you met. That was six years ago. The people I know aren't like that - and even if they were, they can't be that way around me. I'm smarter than any of them - and that's not bragging, it's fact. (pause; to Helen) But that's not all that I am. That's just a part, Mom. Like this face. It's just a part of me, too. I haven't done anything with anyone, not boys, not anybody... I've never even been out on a date, you know?
(Quinn almost gags on a bite of her burger, and Daria hits her on the back as Veronica gets her a bottle of water from her mini-fridge.)
Quinn: (getting her breath back) Sorry. Reflex.
Veronica: You okay?
Quinn: (smiling gently) Fine.
Helen: Honey, I realize that -
Veronica: Why didn't you call me and tell me you were coming? (beat) Oh, yeah - get me off balance, and keep me like that so I'd just come along quietly while you just moved me back home. I don't like being that way, Mom - I don't like feeling like that, and that's how it feels back in Lawndale.
Helen: But, it is your home...
Veronica: But you never noticed me while I was there, Mom. It was either 'Daria's insulted someone - again' or 'WHY can't Quinn stop spending so much on clothes, and when is she going to get through her head that she needs to do better in school?", or you'd say something to Dad about going off on rants about Grandpa Morgendorffer... I did what I was supposed to do - study, get good grades and stay out of trouble... and I disappeared off the radar. Mom - I feel more at home at Grove Hills than I ever did back in Lawndale. (pause) This is my home.
Helen: Veronica -
Veronica: I want something that nobody else in the family got while they were young, Mom. (beat) I want to be happy. (pause) I might have this body that doesn't do exactly what I tell it to... I still keep bumping my head when I get in cars because I forget that I have to duck down more, and guys just gawk at me no matter what I wear - I can't even wear skirts much, because they just stare even more, it's been this way since spring semester...
Quinn: Hit anybody yet?
Veronica: No - I just tell anybody who starts to bug me or act like a Mack daddy- (Daria smirks at her choice of words) - that if they can't answer a question, then they can't date me; they're not smart enough to have a conversation with at dinner. (smiles an evil smile) I always make sure that it's a good one, too...
Daria: (nodding in approval) Humph. A teenage version of the Riddle of the Sphinx. (beat) Now, why didn't I come up with that?
(Veronica yawns, and Quinn sticks a burger into the mini-fridge.)
Quinn: Your figure can handle it. (She looks her sister over, and sticks a second burger in the fridge.) You'll walk it off. This is a decent-sized campus.
Veronica: (hesitantly) You're not going to make me be the mannequin again, are you...?
Helen: (sharply) Quinn!
Quinn: It was only a couple of times... but, you know, from the way you were dressed on stage tonight, you could model, if you wanted to. You've definitely got the legs, and your complexion is perfect, you'll probably tan really well, and it'll just set your hair off so well, when did it darken to this shade...?
Veronica: Early last year, just before the fall term started. (Looks over at Daria.) Go ahead, Daria - I can tell you want to ask me something...
Daria: So... (hesitantly) So, about your singing... do you write your own songs?
Veronica: (sighing) No, Daria, I don't write, and I'm not competition. You know that. I like math and science, especially geophysics and meteorology... weather is so cool. (beat) Sorry - bad pun. You know that I'm not much of a writer... well, I'm okay with poems...
Helen: (looking at the costume hanging up in the bathroom) Young lady, you still haven't explained that outfit from tonight, or how you bought it-
Veronica: (voice barely audible)
Helen: Speak up, Veronica, and look at me when you're talking!
Veronica: It's something I got just for tonight, for the show, and I got it because (she jumbles her words together) itmakesmylegslookhot...
Helen: What did you say?
Veronica: All right! I got it because it makes my legs look hot, and I knew that we'd definitely win if I wore some sort of skirt!
Quinn: (cutting in) I can't let you take the blame, Veronica... I got it for her, Mom. It's a V.L. Riley original design, and she owes me favors. It was supposed to be her Halloween costume for last year... several months makes a difference, hmn?
Veronica: (smiling at Quinn) And it makes my legs look hot. That's okay, on stage.
(Helen looks shocked, and Daria just shakes her head.)
Daria: She's definitely a teenage girl, all right.
Veronica: (turning on Daria) How many years did you go around in skirts, even with those ugly boots, so everybody could see what great legs you've got, even if no guy with any sense dared comment on it? (She clasps her hands to her mouth, and her eyes go wide.) Oh, God. I'm doing it now. This is just what I thought would happen. Back with everyone just a little while, and I'm sniping and taking cheap shots...Mom, I suppose you already reserved a hotel room before you made the trip up here?
Helen: Yes, a couple of rooms, for the weekend. I figured that we'd take time boxing up your stuff, and you could relax at the hotel with us- (She tosses a sharp look back at Quinn's snort of disbelief, but continues on.) Anyway, I'm surprised that you put those on - I got food, and I thought -
Veronica: Mom, please - can I just go to sleep? I'm really tired...
Helen: (seeing the looks on her older daughters' faces) Well... okay. (beat) We'll go on to the hotel, but we'll be back over by ten in the morning - that should give you plenty of time to get dressed -
Daria: Or get a decent head start if you make a break for it.
Veronica: (deadpan in a way that makes Daria proud) Can't run. I'm one of the really smart ones. They have me lowjacked - and if I disappear, they turn on the tracking gear, break out the bloodhounds, and round up all of the cute boys on campus. Gotta make sure that I didn't suddenly discover that I'm a girl and run off with someone for a crash course in Comparative Anatomies... might bring down the GPA.
(All three Morgendorffer sisters smirk at the way Helen's face goes purple.)
Veronica: (continued) Just kidding, Mom.
Quinn: We'll see you in the morning, brat. (She hugs Veronica.) You have good dreams, okay? Love you.
Veronica: Love you, too. (She allows Helen to pull her down, and kiss her on the forehead.) Love you, Mom.
Helen: Good night, honey. (Helen and Quinn exit.)
Veronica: (to Daria) I really do miss you.
Daria: Use a better scope on the rifle next time.
Veronica: I prefer explosives. That way, I don't miss anybody. (They share a smile.)
Daria: Just in case you do decide to make a break for it... (She reaches into her jacket, pulls out her wallet, and counts off several bills, which she stuffs into Veronica's hand.) Don't say that you don't want it and that you can't use it. Buy something nice. Buy a few new books - books that won't make Mom scream if she sees the titles. (Veronica gives her a confused look.) The bottom drawer of your desk. (Veronica goes over, opens the drawer, and smirks.)
Veronica: You hid that from Mom?
Daria: Something tells me that I foiled a very cleverly crafted booby-trap.
Veronica: Only one of many. (Points to the bookcase next to the door.) Top shelf, first book to the right. The third shelf, third book to the right. Then, there's my personal favorite - second shelf from the bottom, last book to the left. (Daria's eyes go to the top shelf and narrow.)
Daria: If I could reach that high up, I'd slap you.
Veronica: Thanks. (Daria's eyes move down.)
Daria: A Complete History of Corvis Minor? Veronica-
Veronica: I still say that the Empire could have taken them, if it wasn't written so that the Alliance won. Darth Maul-
Daria: Don't start. (beat) We'll be here all night. (Her eyes go down to the very bottom.) Veronica, I actually care about you, so I'm going to say this only once - get rid of that before our parents see it. I mean it.
Veronica: (nodding slowly) Fine.
Daria: They'd never let you out of their sight if they saw that. Really. The way Mom acted when I was dating Tom Sloane? You'd get it a thousand times worse.
Veronica: (resigned) I get the point. (beat) Good night, big sister.
Daria: Good night, little sister. (Daria leaves, and Veronica closes the door behind her. She retrieves a burger and a bottle of water from the fridge, and plops down on her bed when a tapping at the door interrupts her.)
Veronica: If you have any genetic similarities to me beyond being female, you're not allowed to see my face until after ten, tomorrow morning!
Voice: (O.S.) Who'd want to see that horror mask any time?
Veronica: Come on in, Vi... and bring the other one with you... (The door opens, and the tiny, blue-eyed brunette enters, followed by a very slender Asian girl.) Hey, Vi - hey, Laura.
(Vidalia Johannsen sits down without ceremony, and looks Veronica right in the eye.)
Vi: Call him. He's in my room, and he won't answer me.
Veronica: (sighs) Alabama! Alabama! Come here! (Moments pass, and then, a furry little ferret cones bounding through the open door. He runs up to Veronica's leg, and raises himself up, chattering and waiting to be picked up.) How's my furry little guy? (She picks him up, and he nuzzles at her nose before running up her arm and perching himself on her neck as Laura Yuriko watches the show.) Why would you get a pet that doesn't come when you call?
Vi: Well, he would - but then, he saw you, and like every other guy around here, that was the ball game.
Veronica: I've lived down the hall from you for three years, Vi. You'd never let that happen. You're too much like my sister Quinn.
Vi. If we didn't have this stupid dress code, I would be. (beat) That was a cool outfit she's wearing - that was a Pepperhill letter jacket, wasn't it? She's a jock?
Veronica: Not exactly - she started playing because it gave her exercise without being all athlete-like - you know, the walking and stuff - and she somehow ended up on the team. (beat) I also think she does it because it gives her more of an image than an empty-headed model. She's not - she used to help me with my math before I came here - but people give her less static because she got on the team on her own.
Laura: (playing with the 'Hermione Granger' bobble-head on the desk) So, those were your sisters?
Veronica: Oh, yeah.
Vi: The man-magnets.
Veronica: Oh, yeah. The best of the bunch went after Daria, and Quinn reigned over ALL of the rest.
Laura: So you couldn't compete?
Veronica: Compete? Put any guy in a room with my sisters. If he can actually have a conversation, Daria'll get him. Otherwise, if he's not blind, he's all Quinn's. (feeds Alabama a piece of burger, which he eats greedily and begs for more.) That's not the thing. I don't want to go through life resenting my sisters the way my mother and aunts resent each other; that's why I was so glad that I could come here. That way, I stay separate from my sisters, and I can keep on liking them as people.
Vi: I could get that from the auditorium...your mom's really something else, you know?
Veronica: Yeah, I do. Another reason I came here. She yawns, and Alabama scurries down her arm & over to the pillow.) Slacker. (beat) He can stay in here, if you want.
Vi: He acts like he belongs to you, anyway. We're out of here - it looks like you're about to fall over right now. (The two girls leave. Veronica rises to lock the door, and then finishes the last of her burger. She feeds the occasional piece to Alabama, still cuddled on the pillow and lifts his head to take pieces of the burger.)
Veronica: Comfy? Lazy furball. (She goes back to the bathroom and brushes her teeth; Alabama, hearing the sound of running water, scampers into the bathroom, hops from bathtub to toilet seat to the sink, and begins to drink from the faucet.) Oh, stop showing off. (She waits until the ferret has finished, and turns the faucet off.) Get out of here, you little bandit.
(Veronica turns off the lights in her room, and climbs into her bed. She puts her head down on the pillow, and Alabama curls up beneath her chin, nuzzling gently at her neck.) I think I'd miss you most of all, little guy... (beat)God, I don't want to go back there...I just don't want to go back to Lawndale...
Okay. I wrote this to basically create a bit of groundwork for the character of Veronica. I tried to answer a few questions that would tie Veronica into (more or less) the rough fanfic backstory that most of us use (Daria at Raft as a journalism or English major, Quinn at Pepperhill but still doing the modeling thing, the Battling Barksdales... I made two major additions to the character; one is the idea that 'Veronica' is her MIDDLE name - and that Helen tried to mend fences with her mother by naming her last baby Evelyn, after her. Of course, as events showed, it didn't work, so they all started calling her 'Veronica'...
I wanted to give her a characteristic or two that Daria and Quinn would have, but also wanted to make her a more defined and individual character, rather than make her a mix of her sisters. I also wanted to touch upon two things that the show missed out on, or just refused to touch - the fact that Helen actually IS jealous of Rita because she believed that everyone thought Rita was prettier and treated her so (attitudes she's unconsciously trying to pass along to Daria and Quinn), and that Helen basically didn't discuss sexuality with her girls. The second major addition is that Veronica isn't usually seen because she's at Grove Hills - and that she wanted to go, because she doesn't want her siblings to be like Helen and her sisters. Most importantly, I've written Veronica, even with all she's got going for her, as just an average girl who's got two sisters that, in her mind, she'll never live up to because she's the 'little sister'. Basically, she's still just a kid.
One more thing popped up in doing this, and I tried to work it in. With Veronica in the picture, the family dynamics shift to something that was just hinted at in 'Aunt Nauseum': a more mature role for Quinn - as the middle child, she now becomes the mediator.
Thanks go out to my beta-readers: E.A. Smith, and the bug-guy. Also, here's a big shout-out to the Canadibrit, the fic writer who inspired me to get into the deep end of the pool. Any fan of TLAS should recognize the outfit that Veronica wears as the one Lynn Cullen wore in 'Thrash Of The Titans', as well as AP's trademarked sound of fright.
You know where to target the nova-bombs: email2BG@yahoo.com.
16 October 2005