(Scene: Cedars of Lawndale, cafeteria. AP is sitting at a table, leafing through a stack of papers. Facial expression -- pure tormented nostalgia. Daria approaches and sits across from him.)

AP: No change. (beat) How're you doing?

Daria: As well as can be expected. What are you reading?

AP: Old e-mails from Purple Peril. Just ... (sigh) I guess I want to keep all this fresh. Just in case. You know?

Daria: (sad) Better than you think. (to AP's look) Another time. What have you got?

AP: (reading aloud) 'Dear Maverick, history repeats. Threat of wacky ward currently being used as bludgeon by Nazi Jackboot. EE and I forced to make deal due to time shortage -- currently trying to put positive spin on Gulag. Am trying not to lose it -- don't want to frighten gang ... yet, anyway. So only 40% chance of shoot-out as yet. However, sleep dep and vast irritation causing percentage to rise. Will let you know. Peril.' (sigh) She never really explained that.

Daria: Oh, that. Mr O'Neill wanted us to write 'a poem that says "I feel".' We did. He crumpled. We went before Ms Li, who said she'd have us committed unless we wrote an essay on the school for some competition in "Waif". (slight smirk) After a few false starts, the spin doctors were in.

AP: (thoughtful) Oh, right. (sigh; miserable) I remember reading this the first time. Thought she'd calmed down. You know - no more doing stupid things in demon-rage fit. I guess I was wrong. I'd call barging in on a mad shooter pretty stupid.

Daria: (not sure how to respond) Um ... what do you mean, 'calmed down'? Somehow, 'calm' is not the first word that comes to mind when thinking about Lynn.

AP: Well, it was worse. (thinking) I know she said she didn't have time to plan something, but we've done shorter-notice things before. Maybe she didn't use a Method on the Jackboot because she didn't want to drag you into it too far. Or get you into trouble.

Daria: A 'Method'.

AP: You've heard about Methods 9 and 10.

Daria: (thinks) That would be ... cement in the wind instruments and furniture on the ceiling, right? (AP nods) Oh. I see your point.

AP: And the funny thing is that we used Method 10 in pretty much the same situation as your...

Daria: (sad nostalgic smile) Operation Faeces Tauri.

AP: (grin) Yeah. (thought) Or not. I mean, she didn't actually pull anything until it really came to the crunch.

Daria: Tell me. (to AP's slightly puzzled look) It might help to share. (thought VO) You and me both.

AP: (sad little grin) Maybe. Well, we got called up for meetings with the guidance counsellor -- and you know how much she hates guidance counsellors...

(Scene: Oakwood High School cafeteria. Doesn't look very different from the Lawndale one -- school cafeterias never look very different. Lynn and AP, age 16 or thereabouts, are sitting across from each other, poking at the ubiquitous pseudo-food.)

AP: (mock pompous) So where do you see yourself in ten years' time, young lady? It's never too early to start thinking of the future.

Lynn: If that man wants the future, he should get himself a crystal ball. I resent the hell out of some bitter, underpaid hack dictating my career path.

AP: Well, you're going to have to tell him something. (beat) Unless you take the 'see-no-moron, hear-no-moron, speak-to-no-moron' line like you did in the psychological evaluations.

Lynn: No -- that's only a stopgap measure. (beat) Now what can I tell him I want to be that won't result in me staggering out of his office under an unendurable weight of college brochures and unwanted advice?

AP: McDonalds counter-person?

Lynn: (shudder) Ugh -- too depressing. Anyway, no guidance counsellor worth beans would leave someone who said that alone.

AP: True. (beat) Why not just tell him that all you really want to be is a freelance writer?

Lynn: (raised eyebrow) You mean be honest with him? I have standards, Maverick.

AP: Rock musician?

Lynn: (mock pompous) But then why did you quit the band? (beat; normal) Anyway, knowing him, he'd probably suggest performing arts schools.

AP: Kinda limits the options, doesn't it?

Lynn: No kidding. What I need is a slightly scary but undeniably necessary career goal that requires only a basic education and a specific sort of personality.

AP: Hmm ... tough call.

(Very brief silence ... then Lynn gets a sly look.)

Lynn: Not really...

(AP looks at Lynn strangely. She returns it with a look that simply says, 'you'll see'.)

(Scene: OHS corridor. AP is waiting outside a door, which opens after a moment. Lynn steps out -- behind her, through the door, a portly, white-haired man can be seen sitting at his desk, stunned and nearly gibbering. Then Lynn shuts the door behind her and, seemingly heedless of AP's confused stare, moves off down the corridor. AP stares at her a second longer, then peers into the glass panel of the door, then looks after Lynn again.)

AP: (frantic) What did you do?

(And he runs off after Lynn.)

(Scene: elsewhere in the OHS corridor. Lynn is casually loading up her backpack. AP is staring at her, nearly as stunned as the man in the earlier shot had been.)

AP: You ... told him... (mild squeak)

Lynn: It fit the criteria. Basic education only, damn scary...

AP: You ... told him you wanted... (mild sputter)

Lynn: And, of course, it had the added bonus of effectively rendering the man speechless. (musing) Of course, I was a bit disappointed that he didn't go fetal -- I obviously underestimated him.


(Lynn shrugs and shuts her locker as AP stares at her)

Lynn: (shouldering her backpack) Pizza?

AP: (stunned) Okay...

(Lynn and AP walk away OS.)

AP: (OS) Just ... you don't really want to do that for a living...?

Lynn: (OS) What do you think?

AP: (OS) With you? Who knows?

(Scene: OHS corridor. AP stacking books in his locker. Lynn reading "Do You Want Fries With That?: Career Prospects for the Aspiring Writer or Artist." And a voice is heard over the PA.)

PA: Would Lynn Cullen please report to Dr Myers' office immediately?

(AP looks at Lynn, eyes wide. Lynn raises her eyebrows.)

AP: Uh-oh. The head-shrink. You think it's about what happened yesterday?

Lynn: Either that or my last English essay. I advanced the potentially controversial opinion that Whitman's patriotic themes prove conclusively that he had his head stuck firmly up his backside.

AP: (puzzled) Oh. (beat) So what are you going to do?

(Lynn makes the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil [which in her case is see-no-moron, hear-no-moron, speak-to-no-moron] gesture and walks away. AP looks slightly worried, then shrugs and shuts his locker.)

(Scene: Leaning Tower of Pizza. Lynn and AP share a booth. Lynn has gone beyond 'that weird shade of maroon' - something in her eyes suggests imminent random kill-spree. AP looks concerned. There is no food on the table as yet. They seem to have been waiting for some time.)

AP: So ... how'd it go?

Lynn: (dark) It went. (beat; finger-drumming) What the hell happened to 'quick service with a smile'?

AP: (hesitant) Um ... well, they might be busy...

(Lynn raises an eyebrow. Quick pan to half-empty restaurant.)

AP: ...Or maybe it's just the fact that the vibes you're giving off would kill at twenty paces.

(A waitress walks somewhat quickly past in a "I quit before I serve that table" kind of way and Lynn trips her. The waitress hits the floor and Lynn grabs her by the collar of her uniform and hauls her half-upright so they are nearly nose to nose. Waitress is scared witless.)

Lynn: ('pleasant' tone) Excuse me. We'd like to order now? (waitress: spastic head-nod) There should be an order pad in your apron pocket? (waitress: spastic head-nod. Lynn's voice now deadly) Get. It. Out. Then.

(Waitress does so ... then thinks about it and tries to manufacture a smile. It looks ghastly.)

AP: (freaked) Um ... Lynn?

Lynn: (monotone; eyes locked with those of terrified waitress) Place the order, AP.

AP: But...

Lynn: (deadly; still not looking) Now.

AP: (WAY too fast) Pepperoni-and-mushroom-pizza-extra-cheese-two-Cokes-please.

Lynn: (to shaking waitress) Got that? (waitress: spastic head-shake) One medium pepperoni and mushroom pizza. With extra cheese. Two large Cokes.

AP: I said please.

Lynn: I don't care. (to madly scribbling waitress) Got it now? (waitress: spastic head-nod) Good.

(Lynn lets go. Waitress flees for her life. AP stares at Lynn, who resumes deadpan expression. There is silence.)

AP: (concern and exasperation) Vent.

Lynn: (suppressed anger) I don't need to vent.

AP: Bull. Myers kept you in until nearly lunch. Then there was the five-minute speech in English about ritual sacrifice -- man, I bet Ms Gavenny wishes she hadn't started The Crucible. Now you're pulling a total Linda Blair.

Lynn: (raised eyebrow; mildly impressed through demon-rage) Nice culture reference. Not your usual thing.

AP: I've known you for about a decade now. It rubs off. (beat) Now vent or I'll be forced to ... (the words 'beat it out of you' cross his mind but self-preservation instinct rings bells) ... um ... try whipping up sodium pentothal or something.

(There is silence as they face off. The demon-rage holds for a moment ... then fades from Lynn's face, at which point she looks very tired.)

Lynn: (sigh) After nearly two hours of listening to a wide variety of insulting questions about my family life and nearly spraining a face muscle or two trying to keep deadpan, imagine my surprise when he informed me that I have unresolved personal issues and he is going to 'work with me' on them in my study hall time.

AP: (stunned) Can he do that?

Lynn: Apparently. He tracked Mom to Seattle and she gave full permission. She would -- she's wanted me in therapy for years.

AP: I wouldn't, if I were her. I mean, if you ever decided to spill your guts about her... (at Lynn's glare, he gets a 'whoops' expression and rapidly changes the subject.) Anyway, what are you going to do now?

Lynn: I may have to go sit in his office for fifty minutes three times a week, but no one said I had to co-operate with him and there's no way in hell they can make me. I play see-no-moron, hear-no-moron, speak-to-no-moron long enough and he'll have to give me up as a lost cause.

AP: Backup plan?

Lynn: 3, 10 or 19.

AP: Not 21?

Lynn: Definitely not 21. Some things should only be taken so far.

(AP looks a bit disappointed, but gives a grudging nod.)

(Scene: Myers' office. Lynn looks at Myers [a pallid, sandy-haired skeleton of a man with an overabundance of freckles and watery grey eyes] impassively. Myers looks frustrated.)

Myers: I sense a real reluctance to discuss your home life, Lynn. Care to comment?

(Lynn, still impassive, says nothing.)

Myers: You're going to have to address this at some point, Lynn. It'd save you a lot of grief in later life if you began addressing it now.

(Nil response from Lynn.)

Myers: (narrowed eyes) Three weeks, Lynn. Nine sessions. And not a word. You obviously have some severe problems with trusting authority figures.


Myers: (frustrated) Would you at least satisfy my curiosity as to why you won't even say 'good morning' when you enter this office?

(Lynn continues to look impassively at him.)

Myers: (sigh) All right, Lynn. I'm loath to do this, but it's the only option I have left to help you start helping yourself. I'll keep seeing you for another two weeks and, if you still insist on this ... silent protest nonsense, I will be forced to suggest a more ... formal assessment.


Myers: You do understand that, given the uncommunicative tack you are currently taking, the assessment might lead to a suggestion of in-patient psychiatric treatment?

(Still nothing.)

Myers: (sigh) You can go. Just ... think about it.

(In silence, still impassive, Lynn gets up and leaves. Myers looks worried at her lack of reaction.)

(Scene: OHS cafeteria. Lynn, the same deadpan look on her face, is picking at her food. AP is watching, worry for her and fear of her plain on his face.)

AP: (nervous) Look, I... (beat) Can I just... (beat) You just seem... (beat: speed-rant) LookIknowIpromisedIwouldn'taskbutIjustKNOWit'sgotworse'causeyouwouldn'tevenblowMsGavennyoutofthewaterthewayyounormallydoinEnglishclassandyoulooklikesomeonetookyoursoulandI'mscaredoutofmyMIND!

(There is a pause while AP catches his breath. Lynn does not look up.)

Lynn: (deadpan) I have two weeks to start talking or I wind up at Pineland.

(AP's eyes widen and he reaches out and uncertainly pats her hand.)

AP: Oh, Jeez. Um ... I ... don't worry? He's not gonna...

(Lynn looks up and, though her face is neutral, her eyes blaze fury. AP pulls back in fear -- this is way worse than at Leaning Tower.)

Lynn: Damn right he's not gonna. Galileo may have recanted; I'm not going to. (beat; to AP's blank look) He's a scientist? (sigh) Never mind. All I mean is that it's time for the backup plan.

AP: (weak grin) Sure you won't think about 21?

Lynn: That'd get me into Pineland for sure. The only person I want committed is him.

AP: So ... 3, 10 or 19?

Lynn: (looking at the 'food') We'll discuss it after school over something palatable.

(She raises her milk carton. He raises his, and they 'clink' them together. AP is grinning but Lynn is solemn.)

(Scene: OHS exterior. Lynn and AP, both dressed in black, stand on the sidewalk, consulting a sheet of paper.)

Lynn: So we're clear on what we're doing?

AP: Yeah, but ... this is gonna be hard with just the two of us. Nineteen would have been a lot easier...

Lynn: Precisely why it has to be Ten. It's nearly impossible to do what we're going to do with two people, and it is impossible to do it alone. So, given that each of us has a total of one friend we actually trust, who's going to suspect us?

AP: Point taken. But if we screw this up...

Lynn: Nineteen is the fallback, okay?

AP: All right! Let's turn the head-shrink's life upside-down!

(Lynn raises an eyebrow at him and they move towards the school.)

(Montage. Music: "Change The World" -- Offspring.

Auto shop. AP enters and shines a flashlight over the room. The beam rests on a bunch of car jacks, which he approaches. He starts shoving car jacks into a large sack.

Wood shop. Lynn is dumping an electric screwdriver into her backpack ... then notes a bunch of half-assembled scaffolding in the corner. She smirks.

OHS corridor. AP waits, carrying a sack over his shoulder [like a young, slim, demented Santa Claus]. Then Lynn comes around a corner wheeling a dolly, upon which rests a tool box and the half-assembled scaffolding. AP grins. Lynn reaches into her backpack and takes out her lock-picking tools.

OHS exterior. Through one of the windows, we can see two flashlight beams and two shadows, moving. Dim thumps and the odd muffled obscenity can be heard.

End montage OHS exterior as Lynn and AP stand outside the side door. Lynn is testing it to make sure it's locked.)

Lynn: Mission accomplished.

AP: Was there ever any doubt?

Lynn: (raised eyebrow) Not from me, Mr 'Let's Use 19 Instead'...

AP: (blush) Well...

Lynn: Come on. I'll save the I told you so's for another time.

(They walk off. Time lapse photography to morning. Bell rings.)

(Scene: OHS corridor, outside Myers' office. Myers approaches the door to his office and unlocks it. Lynn and AP amble very slowly past, their faces carefully blank as Myers opens the door ... and stops with a horrified expression on his face.)

Myers: Wha...

(Lynn and AP look at each other. AP is visibly fighting a grin.)


(Mid-scream, he turns on his heel and runs, the scream trailing off behind him as he leaves. As he vacates the doorway, we see into his office. In all defiance of gravity, the desk, chairs and filing cabinet are standing upside down on the ceiling; all the desktop detritus has been stuck fast to the desk surface. The light fixture has been bolted to the floor. Two paintings on the walls have been rehung upside-down. The general effect is eerie. Cut to Lynn and AP, who smirk and grin respectively.)

Lynn: And yet another authority figure learns the folly of trying mess with the Peril. (beat) But then again, yet another authority figure refuses to go fetal. Maybe we could have used 21.

AP: Yeah, but I was thinking and where were we going to find that many live garter snakes?

Lynn: True enough. Anyway, he's still in no position to recommend committal.

AP: I knew my Crazy Glue fetish would help me out someday!

Lynn: (shrug) Whatever. Well done, Psycho-Maverick.

AP: Hey, Method Ten was your idea, Purple Peril!

(They shake hands briefly and then walk away without so much as a backward glance at the office they altered.)

(Scene: Cedars of Lawndale cafeteria. Daria looks thoroughly blown away.)

Daria: (after a moment of groping for words -- and this is Daria we're talking about) So it was either you two rearranging the man's office in total defiance of gravitational laws or...

AP: In the immortal words of Marcellus Wallace, Purple Peril getting medieval on his ass.

(They fall silent. We hear the cafeteria-noises quite clearly for a moment.)

Daria: You know ... this helps.

AP: (slight smile) Yeah, it does. (beat) But I'll probably talk your ear off if we keep going.

Daria: And how is this different from normal? (they both smile) Seriously, I ... I guess I'm kind of curious about her. I don't know her half as well as I feel I should. (AP gives her a curious look) I'll tell you some other time. (beat; choosing words carefully) So ... Lynn's ... violent by nature?

AP: She had her moments. (mild wince) You never saw her slam some poor sap into a brick wall.

Daria: (sudden memory) The hockey.

AP: (mild surprise) She told you about that?

Daria: Unavoidable, after watching you smash headlong into Upchuck even when not on roller skates. (beat) She said it was your idea ... but that you couldn't roller skate to save your life. (AP nods sheepishly) So why roller hockey?

AP: (sheepish) Well ... Purple Peril wanted archery to improve her aim. I wanted something that would let her vent the demon-rage a little.

(Daria looks at AP, who's blushing madly by this point, with a fair bit of respect.)

Daria: But you didn't tell her that was why.

AP: No, I had better things to do with my summer than spend it in traction. But when I had to, I just sort of ... nudged her in the right direction.

Daria: Had to?

AP: Our parents made us sign up for a sport -- Dad because ... well, you know ... (Daria nods understanding) and Kate ... well, to beat down Purple Peril's deviant streak. She'd kind of flaunted it before school let out.

(Scene: Lynn's room, Oakwood. Music: "Dust and Bones" -- Guns 'N Roses. The furniture is pine stuff seen in any Ikea catalogue, the walls are white and the bedspread is pale violet. It looks dull and very non-Lynn. Lynn, age 11, in black skirt, purple T-shirt and Converse high-topped sneakers [this is pre-boots], is talking on the phone. AP, in black jeans, blue T-shirt and blue Keds, sits on the bed, watching with interest.)

Lynn: (into phone) I don't know why you're getting so upset -- I got an A. (beat) Yes, I know Mrs Rossi and three of my classmates were sick, but it's not my fault they have weak stomachs. (beat) Well, I could have done something on Mrs Rossi's reading list, but I wanted a challenge. (long pause) But Mom... (shorter pause) And if I don't? (beat; sigh) All right. But I get to pick. (beat) Yes, within reason. (beat) No, I can't say whether 'that red-headed freak' will sign up for any sport I do -- I am not his keeper. (beat) Fine. I'll see you in a few days. (beat) No, I do not want an Eiffel Tower snow-globe. But a guillotine might be nice... (beat) Okay, okay, I was kidding. Good bye. (hangs up; heavy sigh)

AP: You got in trouble over the end-of-year book report. (Lynn nods) Maybe Stephen King's "It" wasn't such a good idea.

Lynn: She gave me the option of choosing my favourite book; I took it. (musing) Though maybe I didn't have to go into such graphic detail over the maulings. (beat) But it wouldn't have mattered so much if she hadn't insisted on making us do oral presentations.

AP: So what's Kate doing to slap you down this time?

Lynn: Accurate as that statement is, I'd prefer if you could phrase it such that it doesn't rub salt into the wounds. (beat) She wants me signed up for a sport or something this summer. Said something about the discipline doing me good. And if I don't -- she sends me off to summer camp.

AP: You, at summer camp? That's pathetic! Campfires, kickboards, colour war and sharing a tent with six other people?

Lynn: I know; I could be scarred for life by that sort of thing. Hence "all right, I'll do it" to the sport of my choice.

AP: So what are our options, sports-wise?

Lynn: (raised eyebrow) Our options? I've seen you in gym class, Maverick.

AP: Yeah, well... (blush) Dad's sort of said about the same thing to me as Kate's said to you. Only I'll spend all summer helping him with home improvements if I don't go.

Lynn: (deadpan) The horror. The horror.

AP: So come on; any ideas?

(Lynn goes into a desk drawer and pulls out a Fed Ex envelope. She reaches inside the envelope and pulls out several sheets of paper and brochures etc.)

Lynn: This arrived from Mom's office this morning. She got her secretary to do the research. So I wouldn't be able to 'forget' to pick up registration forms and things.

AP: (slight worry) Kate's serious about this, isn't she?

Lynn: Whatever. At least it saves me having to do it.

(Scene: the same. Music: "Garden of Eden" - Guns 'N Roses [it's on the same album - my way of saying time has passed.] Lynn and AP are sitting on the bed, paper spread all over.)

Lynn: I still say archery.

AP: Look, Purple Peril, even if we did do archery, you wouldn't be able to use your crossbow. Didn't you say it was illegal to have one until you turned 20?

Lynn: But it would still improve my aim a bit. And put a scare into my mother.

AP: (honestly tempted) Hmm. (back on track) Nah; I still say hockey's the best bet.

Lynn: (raised eyebrow) And why do you say that?

AP: Well ... I don't know any other sport where you're cheered on for hurting people!

Lynn: Rugby.

AP: Rugby? What's rugby?

Lynn: Football with less throwing, more tackling and no padding.

AP: (wince) Ouch.

Lynn: Anyway, this is roller hockey. You don't skate.

AP: Well ... do you?

Lynn: I ice skate. How much harder can wheels be? (AP nods, conceding the point. Brief pause) You realise that team sports go against my principles.

AP: You don't have principles.

Lynn: (slight nod conceding his point) And I suppose you make a point about the crossbow. Roller hockey it is, then.

(AP grins. Lynn shrugs.)

(Scene: park bench somewhere. Lynn and AP lacing up roller skates. Lynn has tied her hair into a braid.)

Lynn: (wary) Do you know anything about hockey, Maverick? Or is this another of your sick whims?

AP: I've seen a few games. Dad follows the New Jersey Devils.

Lynn: I commiserate. Highly.

AP: You?

Lynn: A quasi-distant cousin of mine lived in Montreal. She's kind of into hockey as a matter of national loyalty ... particularly since she's moving to England in the fall. I've been to visit her a couple of times and she told me the basics. And something about what she calls "back-alley" style of play.

AP: Come again?

(A fat, miserable-looking woman with a whistle around her neck comes up behind them. This is Mrs Botts. [Reader's note: this woman epitomises the phrase "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. Those who can't teach, teach gym." She dislikes everything and everyone indiscriminately and has the grace of a wallowing hippo.])

Botts: Get moving, you two. We're starting practice!

(Lynn and AP nod at the woman, but she stands there, looming over them like the promise of death.)

Lynn: What a sucky way to spend the summer. I still say we should have gone for archery.

AP: Oh, come on, Purple Peril! Just think of the damage you're allowed to do to other people in hockey!

(Lynn raises an eyebrow. AP grins evilly and stands up ... then wobbles on his skates and falls over backwards. Lynn raises an eyebrow again, gets up and skates off.)

AP: (from ground) Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!

(Scene: the 'pitch' [for want of a better word - it's the British term, used in field hockey. In this case, a large patch of clear asphalt with a sagging net at either end, flanked by a brick wall on one side and chain-link fence on the other three]. Lynn is facing off against a fairly bulky blond kid; she keeps her eye on the ball rather than on her opponent. Botts blows the whistle and drops the little orange ball they're using as a puck, and the blond kid smacks it backwards to his own players as he rushes forward, barging into Lynn and knocking her on her ass. She sits there a moment, eyes narrow.)

Lynn: (dark mutter) This means war...

(She gets up and skates off. A moment later, there is a repetitive 'whack' sound, a few screams, and then a whistle blast.)

Botts: (OS) Cullen! Penalty, two minutes, sticking! (dim 'thump') McIntyre...

AP: (OS; muffled [note - he's talking into the asphalt]) Someone help me up, please.

(Scene: Oakwood street. Music: "Happiness in Slavery" - Nine Inch Nails. Lynn and AP are walking home, bearing hockey sticks, skates slung over shoulders by the laces. AP looks concerned and impressed in equal measure.)

AP: I was gonna ask you to explain "back alley" style. (beat) I don't really have to anymore, do I.

Lynn: (slightly smug) Nope. It's basic hockey with more checking, sticking and gouging. (beat) And of course, less interference by the ref. How many times did I get sent to the penalty box anyway? I lost track.

AP: Three times for hooking, twice for sticking, another three for slashing -- way to aim for the shins, by the way (Lynn shrugs) and once for checking Chris Hutchins into a wall.

Lynn: Tell me he didn't deserve it, after all the times he beat you up back in first grade.

AP: Yeah, I know. (beat; sigh) Well, at least you stayed standing for three minutes running. (beat) And what's with Mrs Botts about Lawndale, anyway? I mean, we're playing a game of hockey against them, not starting World War III.

Lynn: I think there's some kind of sports rivalry between Oakwood and Lawndale. Adriana said something about a dodgeball tournament between the two schools every year, and of course there's the high school football thing. (beat; lofty) Two freeholds, both alike in idiocy...

AP: You're not doing Shakespeare again, are you?

Lynn: Paraphrasing, actually. But yes.

AP: I hate it when you do that. I just don't get Shakespeare.

Lynn: Then if I start shouting "Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more!" when we play Lawndale next week, you won't be rallied?

AP: Confused, more like.

Lynn: Philistine.

AP: Come again?

(Lynn sighs. They walk on.)

(Montage sequence. Music: "Mama Said Knock You Out" -- LL Cool J.
Lynn is taking another face-off. When Botts drops the ball, Lynn hits it back towards her own team before whacking the kid she's up against in the shins until he screams. A whistle blows and Lynn raises her hockey stick in mock salute before skating off.

AP half skates, half staggers towards the 'puck', which has rolled fairly near him. His legs go out from under him and he falls flat on his face on the asphalt. The burly blond kid points and laughs as he skates up and takes control of the puck, at which point Lynn body checks him into a brick wall. The whistle sounds again.

AP rolls helplessly towards the goal, in control of the puck but out of control himself. He smashes into the goalie; they both fall over and the net collapses around them. Botts rolls her eyes in disgust.

Lynn sits on the bench -- their makeshift penalty box. As she watches, AP falls on his face again, skidding until he's nearly at Lynn's feet. Lynn winces and offers a hand to help him up.

Lynn rolls up to a skinny, dark-haired boy who's in possession of the puck and hooks his legs out from under him. The whistle blows again, and Lynn skates off towards the 'penalty box'. On her way, she catches AP about two feet shy of hitting the wall. End montage but continue scene, as Lynn drags him towards the bench. They both sit down.)

AP: And we're going to play Lawndale next week.

Lynn: Look on the bright side. Between the two of us, they won't be able to see the puck through tears of laughter.

AP: Or pain.

(Lynn shrugs.)

(Scene: the hockey pitch. Mrs Botts is standing amidst her team, who are dressed in black shorts, red T-shirts, roller skates, safety goggles [Lynn's are prescription, we must assume] and knee and elbow pads. Lynn's hair is braided. No one looks particularly impressed.)

Botts: All right, men... (Lynn and a plump girl towards the back clear their throats loudly.) ...and women. (mutter) God, I hate the nineties. (aloud) We've beaten Lawndale three years running and I don't want our winning streak blown now. So Cullen, I want you to take it easy out there -- no 'incidents' like at our last practice!

Lynn: (shrug) He shouldn't have got in my way.

Botts: (ignoring this with an effort) And McIntyre, just ... try to stay out of harm's way, okay?

AP: Yes'm.

Botts: Now let's get out there and show those Lawndale kids what we're made of!

Lynn: (aside to AP) What, bone, blood and various bits of tubing it's probably best not to contemplate?

AP: (aside to Lynn) Maybe she means at a molecular level. Carbon and hydrogen.

(They shrug at each other and move out of shot.)

(Scene: the fence surrounding the 'pitch'. Andrew and Michelle Landon approach with an 11-year-old Jodie. Michelle is holding Rachel, age 5, by the hand.)

Andrew: I'm telling you, Jodie, sport builds character! I think you'd really enjoy hockey!

Michelle: Andrew, maybe tennis would be better for Jodie. I mean, hockey isn't really a ladylike sport...

Andrew: Exactly my point! She has to learn to get along in a cut-throat, competitive world.

Jodie: (under her breath) I am here, you know.

Michelle: We're not going to push you into this.

Andrew: But we want you to just watch the one game and give it real consider--

(He's cut off mid-word as AP careens into the fence right in front of them and nearly falls over; he drops his hockey stick and grabs the links of the fence to keep vaguely upright as his feet shoot out from under him. He cautiously lets go of the fence with one hand to retrieve his hockey stick, then uses it as a crutch to get himself upright again.)

AP: (to the Landons; sheepish) Sorry.

(With that, he half-skates, half-hobbles away, still using the hockey stick as support. There is a moment of near silence as the Landons look at each other, and then there is a sickening 'thump'. The Landons wince as the sound of a boy whimpering fills the air.)

Botts: (OS) Cullen! Penalty box! Five minutes! Checking! And you don't hit them while they're down! And especially not there!

(Lynn skates into shot and sits down on a bench to the extreme far left of the Landons.)

Lynn: (mutter) No checking, no sticking, no putting the boot in ... there's no point if we're all playing at kindergarten level... (spots the Landons; deadpan) Run. While there's still time.

(Andrew and Michelle look at each other, then at Jodie, who looks a little impressed.)

Michelle: Tennis?

Andrew: Definitely.

(And they take Jodie by the shoulders and lead her away. She looks a bit reluctant.)

(Scene: Cullen house, exterior [it's large. It's made of bricks. Beyond that, I don't care]. Music: "Rooster" -- Alice in Chains. AP is sitting on the stoop, goggles, hockey stick and skates in a careless heap beside him. There are bleeding grazes on both hands and his right arm and cheek. Lynn steps out with a bottle of antiseptic, cotton balls and Band-Aids.)

Lynn: (sitting beside him, unscrewing the cap to the antiseptic) Warning: this stuff stings. (Lynn pours some antiseptic on some of the cotton balls and starts dabbing at the cut on AP's face. He winces.) Well, that was interesting. Any more bright ideas?

AP: Oh, come on, Purple Peril. (wince) OW! (beat) It wasn't so bad... (wince) Well, it wasn't so bad for you, anyway...

Lynn: (applying Band-Aid) No, I just got bored witless sitting in the penalty box the whole game. (pause as Lynn discards the cotton balls and douses more with antiseptic.) Arm. (AP holds out his arm and winces in anticipation. Lynn starts dabbing at the cut.) It can't last.

AP: You mean I'm bound to learn how to stand up on wheels and you'll chill a bit?

Lynn: (raised eyebrow) That will happen when hell freezes over, I think. And before that happy event, Mrs Botts is bound to get sick of us and toss us out.

AP: You really think so?

Lynn: Well, thanks to our combined efforts, the Lawndale Lions Junior League trashed our team this afternoon. How long do you think it will take for Mrs Botts to get fed up with that?

AP: Two weeks?

Lynn: You're an optimist. (beat) Actually, maybe more a pessimist.

(Scene: the pitch. Music: "Hummer" -- Smashing Pumpkins. Lynn and AP, in practice gear, walk towards the team, who are in a huddle talking. As Lynn and AP approach, the entire team just looks at them with reproach and, in the case of Lynn, fear. Mrs Botts walks over.)

Botts: I don't see a need to beat around the bush here. You (points at AP) are the most pathetic player I've ever seen. I don't know why the hell I kept you as long as I did. And as for you... (points at Lynn) You're a liability, Cullen. You'd be a damn good player if you could just control that damned temper of yours. Now I've talked with the team and we all agree there isn't any point in your being here. Not when you spend most of your time on your asses, one way or another. Now out, both of you.

(With that, Mrs Botts points the way off the field with a grim look on her face. AP and Lynn smirk at each other and leave.)

(Scene: Oakwood street. Music plays on. Lynn and AP walking home.)

AP: Two weeks. One real game. And that's it. (beat) Dad's gonna freak.

Lynn: Hey; you tried your best. You failed miserably. He can't argue with that. (beat) And it's too late for Mom to send me to summer camp and she's in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver for most of the summer, so I'm safe too. (beat) All in all, this didn't work out so badly.

AP: And if we'd gone for archery, we'd still be standing in the hot sun, shooting blunt-tipped arrows at Styrofoam blocks.

Lynn: You're never going to let me live down the archery, are you?

AP: No way! (beat) So what do we do with the rest of our summer?

(Scene: Oakwood street. Music: "Looking Down The Barrel of a Gun" -- Beastie Boys. Mrs Botts is waddling along, walking a small, miserable-looking Yorkshire terrier. She passes under a tree... and *splat* -- hit from above by a water-balloon.)

Botts: (looking up; angry) What the...

(A snicker is heard, and a balloon containing red paint is dropped right into her face. Mrs Botts screams and starts to run; she's hit with several more red paint-bombs before she makes it out of range. Pan up to the tree, where Lynn and AP are sitting in the branches, smirking at each other.)

AP: It was non-toxic paint, wasn't it?

Lynn: You know, I never checked.

AP: (aghast) Lynn!

Lynn: Kidding. Kidding.

(She smirks at him. He rolls his eyes.)

(Scene: Cedars of Lawndale cafeteria. Daria shakes her head slowly, wearing a reluctant little Mona Lisa smile. Then something occurs to her.)

Daria: But why attack the hockey coach? I mean, by kicking you off the team, she was giving you exactly what you wanted.

AP: Yeah, I know. That's why we only did it once.

Daria: Even so...

AP: Botts was a bully. Purple Peril's got a thing about bullies.

Daria: I sort of guessed that.

AP: I always kind of figured it had something to do with ... well, you've met Kate...

Daria: I've had that dubious honour.

AP: Heh. Yeah, I know. (beat) Anyway, she just sort of ... fought back if people made her hurt. (beat; sigh) Or she protected other people -- like Ponytail Barbie when Cyclops was on her case.

Daria: (raised eyebrow) And you?

AP: (little smile) Oh, yeah. That's how we met.

Daria: I wondered about that. (to AP's raised eyebrow) Well, if I had met you separately instead of through Lynn, I would never have pegged you as friends. (beat) Then again, I wouldn't have pegged us that way either.

AP: Yeah ... I can see that. And we weren't first off. I mean, she sat at the front of the room, did all her work really fast, and read grown-up books quietly while waiting for everyone else to finish. I sat a few rows back, did my work really fast and sat around getting bored.

Daria: And, to occupy your mind, you turned straight to mischief-making.

AP: Gah -- you all know me way too well. (beat) For the first month or two we didn't talk and the only thing we had in common was getting picked on by Chris Hutchins, the class bully. I didn't even remember her name after day one. But then one day, we were doing math, I got bored...

Daria: Let me guess; you were into long division while everyone else was counting mittens.

AP: Actually, trig. (beat) And I wanted to make some mischief. But I picked a really bad target. (shakes his head) Really bad.

(Scene: sunny first grade classroom, Oakwood Elementary. [You know the sort of place -- class pet, hamster in this case, in cage by window, colourful learning aid-style posters on the walls, decorated with childish drawings... you've all been to first grade, right?] Twenty-four of the twenty-six students are bent over workbooks. In the front row, a girl with glasses, Stacy-esque pigtails and a purple sweater is reading "Carrie". A stocky, sandy-haired boy who sits a row back on her right looks up at her, reaches out and yanks on one of her pigtails. She winces and pulls away a little. The boy snickers at the girl, who ignores him. A young boy with scruffy red hair, who we identify as AP age 6, is sitting at a desk in the third row, chewing a fairly large mouthful of something unidentified. A moment later, he spits a large spitball of perfect consistency into his hand. Frowning in concentration, he searches the room for a target. His eyes land on the girl with the pigtails, and he grins.)

AP: (thought VO) At least fifty points. Ten bonus if I can make spit run down her neck.

(With that, he winds up for the pitch ... and the girl -- Lynn age 6 -- turns to face him. Her face is rather adult for its age and her eyes, behind her large glasses, clearly say, "If you don't want to spend the rest of your short life in agony, don't bother -- I'm not in the mood." AP, clearly intimidated but unable to check the throw, twists his whole body to change the spitball's trajectory. It hits something with a wet 'thwap' sound and AP's eyes widen in horror.)

AP: (thought VO) Not Chris Hutchins. Oh, no...

(The sandy-haired boy [who sits in the row in front of AP] is pulling spitball bits from his hair. He turns around and gives AP a look that is only slightly less scary than Lynn's was.)

Chris: (menacing whisper) Later for you, Twinkie.

(AP looks towards Lynn, but she has turned back to her book. Someone studying her carefully would detect a hint of a smirk on her face. AP sighs and drops his head onto his desk.)

AP: (low whimper) I'm so dead...

(Mrs Vineberg looks up)

Vineberg: Quiet, Andrew. Some of the students aren't finished their work yet.

(Mrs Vineberg turns back to the blackboard. Lynn's smirk becomes a little more noticeable, and Chris takes the opportunity and yanks one of her pigtails again. Lynn turns around and favours him with what will one day become her 'go to hell' stare. Then she settles back to her book. AP, seeing that Chris feels meaner than usual today, bangs his head on the desk softly.)

Vineberg: Andrew!

(AP sighs)

(Scene: Oakwood Elementary playground. Lynn is sitting cross-legged on the edge of the sandbox/jungle gym set-up, still reading her book. Running feet and shouting can be heard out of shot.)

Chris: (OS) Come on, you chicken! Stand still so I can cream you!

AP: (OS; panting) Nuh-uh!

(The two boys run into shot. AP is breathing hard and flagging badly -- Chris is not very far behind and gaining fairly rapidly. AP runs past quite close to where Lynn sits, and she doesn't appear to look up ... but as Chris passes, Lynn sticks her foot out, tripping him neatly. As Chris topples, Lynn gets to her feet and runs in the opposite direction to AP.)

Chris: OW!

(Meanwhile, AP has risked a look back, noticed that he was no longer being followed, and watched the action while still running. He slams into a chain link fence and grabs hold of it to keep from falling over. He watches as Chris looks at Lynn, who has resumed her cross-legged reading position on a low wall at the back of the playground, then at AP ... then glowers and gets up off the asphalt, hobbling towards the school building. AP looks at where Lynn is sitting and then jogs towards her. She doesn't look up at his approach and, with some trepidation, he sits beside her.)

AP: Um ... thanks. He would have creamed me.

Lynn: (not looking up) I don't like having my hair pulled.

(Uncomfortable silence.)

AP: He's not gonna be happy with you.

Lynn: He never was.

(AP thinks about this, then nods.)

AP: Right. (beat) Um ... sorry?

Lynn: (finally looking up) Well, you didn't actually throw it. So forgiven. (beat) You're AP, right? (AP nods, pleased someone remembered.) What does the AP stand for?

AP: Andrew Philip?

Lynn: (raised eyebrow) Hint: come up with something better if you want to make it stick.

AP: ('Ooo-kay...' look) Yeah. Whatever. (beat) You're...

Lynn: Lynn, last name in transit. (to AP's confused look) My dad's a Smythe -- he doesn't live with us anymore. My mom's a Cullen, and just had both our names changed. I'm not used to Cullen yet. (shrug) But I guess it's better than Smythe. Sounds like a Tolkien monster.

(AP looks at Lynn -- he can tell she doesn't really want to talk about this -- and changes the subject)

AP: What'cha reading? (Lynn holds up the book. AP looks impressed.) Wow. Any gory stuff?

Lynn: Well ... the pig slaughter is kind of gross, but mostly not. If you want real gore, go for "It" and "Pet Sematary".

AP: And you can read those?

Lynn: Yeah. I needed a dictionary for "It" but not very often.

(AP raises an eyebrow -- not much to say to that. They sit in silence for awhile.)

AP: Nice move, tripping him like that.

Lynn: (shrug) Eh.

AP: You are a peril. (grins; tugs at her sweater) A Purple Peril.

(Lynn raises an eyebrow at him, then smiles.)

Lynn: Y'know, I kind of like that.

(Montage. Music: "Purple Haze" -- Jimi Hendrix
Mrs Vineberg's classroom. AP working. Suddenly, a hand reaches out and slams his face into the desk. He looks up, rubbing his nose, to see Chris grinning at him. Then an apple flies into shot and hits Chris in the back of the head. He turns. Lynn is tucking a brown paper bag back into her desk innocently. She turns and smiles at AP, who grins back.

Playground. Lynn and AP are rummaging through lunch bags. They each pull out a sandwich, unwrap it and lift the top slice of bread. They peer into their own sandwich ... then into one another's ... and then they drop the top slice of bread and wordlessly swap.

Classroom. Chris reaches out and yanks hard on one of Lynn's pigtails. A moment later, his chair tips forward and he falls, knocking over his desk on the way down. AP grins as he untangles his feet from Chris' chair. Lynn smiles.

Playground. Lynn and AP are rummaging through lunch bags. They each pull out one of those individual pudding cups -- Lynn's is chocolate; AP has butterscotch. They regard their own desserts, then each other's, then trade off.

Classroom. AP is folding a piece of paper into an airplane. He looks up to make sure Mrs Vineberg's still writing on the blackboard, and then tosses it towards the front of the room to see how it flies. It passes fairly close to Lynn, who grabs it out of the air just as Mrs Vineberg turns around. Once Mrs Vineberg is settled at her desk again, Lynn looks back at AP and raises an eyebrow. He grins apologetically.

Playground. Lynn sitting on the low wall, reading. AP walks up shyly and presents her with a nicely made slingshot -- likely his own handiwork. Lynn looks at it, then at him, and smiles. Then she cuts her eyes to the side, pulls an eraser out of her pocket, fits it into the cup of the slingshot and fires it. We hear Chris' scream from out of shot -- he was apparently moving in for another attack. Lynn and AP share a look and then run like hell.

Nurse's office. Lynn and AP, bearing two grazed knees and a badly bruised forearm respectively, sit on chairs and watch as a thin, distracted-looking nurse absently picks bits of gravel out of Chris' hands. Their facial expressions denote a certain cool, sadistic enjoyment. End montage.)

(Scene: Oakwood Elementary, Mrs Vineberg's classroom. Lynn walks over to the windowsill, upon which rests a hamster cage. She looks at the cage, taps the bars a little, then opens the top and reaches in, pulling out a pathetic bundle of orange and white fur. She looks at it, listens to it for a minute, then walks over to Mrs Vineberg.)

Vineberg: Lynn, Fuzz-Wuzz is not a toy. Please put him back in his cage.

Lynn: He doesn't know the difference, Ma'am. He's dead.

Vineberg: Oh, no, he can't be. He's just resting.

Lynn: (slight smirk) Maybe -- I read somewhere that hamsters hibernate sometimes. Then they dig themselves out of their own graves and head for home. But it hasn't been cold enough for that. He's stiff and cold and I think that usually means dead.

(She hands over the bundle of fur to Mrs Vineberg, who holds it for a moment, looking sad.)

Vineberg: Oh dear...

Lynn: This might be a good time to explain the concept of death to the class, Ma'am.

Vineberg: (slightly unnerved) I think you might be taking this a bit too calmly, Lynn...

Lynn: (deadpan) No, I'm devastated. Really. (beat) In fact, I'd really like it if we could give (slight grimace) 'Fuzz-Wuzz' a decent burial. (beat) I'd do the eulogy, if you want.

Vineberg: That sounds like a ... a fine idea, Lynn.

(Lynn walks towards her desk with a smug look on her face. AP looks at her cautiously. Lynn just smirks at him as if to say "you'll see".)

(Scene: the same. Lynn stands at the head of the class, a shoebox in front of her. She looks solemn ... but there is a slight mischievous glint in her eye.)

Lynn: We are gathered here today, not only to count mittens and read about Spot the dog, but to mourn the passing of (slight grimace) Fuzz-Wuzz, the class hamster. Fuzz-Wuzz was ... well, all the things a hamster ought to be, and it's hard to believe that he has died. And so, to help us come to terms with the loss of this ... much loved class pet ... I would like to give the following as a eulogy.

(Most of the students and the teacher look prepared to be bored. AP looks very confused. Lynn takes a breath and then launches into her 'eulogy', passably imitating John Cleese.)

Lynn: "VOOM"?!? Mate, this hamster wouldn't "voom" if you put four million volts through it! 'E's bleedin' demised! 'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This hamster is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the wheel 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-HAMSTER!!

(There is dead silence for a moment. Everyone is staring at her, mostly in shock and horror ... all bar AP, who is biting his lip to keep from laughing.)

Lynn: (resuming normal tones) Ah, Fuzz-Wuzz, we barely knew ye. Let's have a moment of silence for the class pet.

(The class looks like they couldn't talk if they wanted to. AP has both hands clapped over his mouth to keep the giggles in.)

Lynn: I'll leave the interment to Mrs Vineberg. May Fuzz-Wuzz rest in peace.

(She picks up the shoebox coffin and walks over to her desk, where Mrs Vineberg is sitting. She holds it out to the woman, who hesitates, then takes it. Still staring at Lynn, she gets up and lets Lynn have her chair back. Lynn sits down. Vineberg walks haltingly back to her desk. Lynn raises an eyebrow and smirks at the woman. Pan to AP, who has buried his head in his arms -- his shoulders are hitching with laughter it's nearly killing him to stifle.)

(Scene: Oakwood Elementary exterior. The bell rings and, a very short while later, Lynn and AP go dashing out the front doors, bearing lunch bags. AP is laughing so hard he can barely move. Lynn is giggling softly.)

AP: That was so funny! I thought I was gonna die! How did you think up something like that?

Lynn: I didn't. That whole thing was courtesy of Messrs Cleese, Idle, Palin, Chapman, Gilliam and Jones.

AP: Who?

Lynn: Collectively known as Monty Python. British comedy. Very popular with most British people and a certain brand of sick, sad American. (giggle) You should see the whole skit sometime -- it gets better. (beat) Monty Python also came up with great stuff like The Lumberjack Song, the Whizzo Chocolate sketch and "Sit On My Face".

AP: (makes a face) Eww...

Lynn: (shrug) It makes adults laugh. Yet again, they know something we don't and aren't telling.

AP: My mom would have a fit if she saw me watching stuff like this!

Lynn: My mom would too. And does. All the time. But Dad keeps sending me videos and audio tapes because he knows I like them. (to AP's look) He was born in England -- he lived there when Python was popular. Said something about educating the youth of America, one child at a time. (shrug)

AP: (chuckle) Your family's weird! But I like! (beat) Hey, if you didn't have plans after school, could I come over and see some of this Python stuff?

Lynn: Um ... sure. Mom won't be home -- she works late -- so as long as I get my homework done and don't burn the house down, she doesn't much care what I do. (beat; wry) And it'd be interesting to see the look on her face if she did come home early and found that I'd invited a friend home.

(There is a slightly loaded pause -- neither of them have actually referred to each other as friends before. It's not a term they're used to using. AP, not really comfortable with the serious tone this is taking, makes a face.)

AP: Well, if I'm not allowed to burn the house down, it's not as much fun, but I'll come anyway. So what's for lunch?

(Lynn rolls her eyes and reaches into her lunch bag. She pulls out a sandwich and looks at it.)

Lynn: What is it with my mother and mock chicken? What have you got?

AP: (checking) Cold leftover meatloaf from last night's dinner.

(They look at each other and make slight disgusted faces.)

Lynn & AP: (in unison) Eww...

(With that, they toss the sandwiches into a nearby trash can.)

(Scene: Cedars of Lawndale cafeteria. Daria is looking at AP in slight confusion.)

Daria: Am I missing something here?

AP: (evasive) Don't think so...

Daria: You said she smiled. Not smirked ... smiled. And you used the word 'giggled' at least once. Was that a lapse in your vocabulary skills?

AP: (not meeting Daria's eyes) No ... just telling it like it was...

Daria: (raised eyebrow) So I am missing something here. (seeing AP's consternation but pressing anyway) The image of Lynn at age six giggling and smiling does not gel well with the image of Lynn at age eleven smirking as she slammed her peers into walls.

AP: Why are you pressing this, anyway?

Daria: ('oops') Um ... that's a long and complicated story.

AP: Well, so is mine.

(Face-off. Neither looks ready to give ground. And Kate approaches, slapping two business cards down on the table next to the pile of papers in front of AP. As she goes to take a glance at the top sheet, AP pulls them under the table and out of sight, glaring at her.)

AP: (cold) These are private.

Kate: (scorn evident) I see. (beat; businesslike) These are the numbers in Tokyo where I can be reached as of tomorrow. I assume you'll contact me if there are any developments?

(Daria and AP just look at her. There is a long, deep silence.)

Daria: And if we need to plan a funeral?

(That gives Kate pause. She winces slightly.)

Kate: I'm sure it won't come to that.

(Daria raises an eyebrow at her. More dead silence.)

Daria: And what do we tell her if she wakes up and asks where you are?

Kate: You don't know her very well if you think she'll ask that.

Daria: I've known her less than a year and I know her better than you do. And I wouldn't blame her if she didn't ask for you.

(Kate glares at Daria. Daria glares back.)

Kate: Keep me informed.

(And she exits with all the dignity she can, given. Daria looks after her with that same narrow-eyed expression with which she favoured Tommy Sherman.)

Daria: Maybe I'm not missing anything here. Living with that for a few years would make anyone... (She turns to AP as she says this, and trails off when she sees the terrified, haunted expression on his face.) AP? Are you okay?

AP: (evasive) I just ... hate that woman. (beat; shakes head) Hard to explain. It's like Kate just doesn't like Purple Peril. I think it's 'cause, no matter how hard Kate tries to make her follow in her footsteps, she's just too much like Jerome.

Daria: Oh.

AP: (venting) I mean, she broke up the B.A.N.D. and what did she make Purple Peril do?

(Scene: Cullen living room, Oakwood. [Same Ikea catalogue, money, and lack of imagination decor] Kate is pacing in front of Lynn [as we know her from TLAS], who has her guitar on her knees and looks to be both annoyed and afraid.)

Kate: I just don't believe you. One thing I ask of you -- one thing -- and you can't even do that like a normal person. No, you just have to be different.

Lynn: I'm not different. All teenagers piss off their parents. It's in the handbook.

Kate: Don't get smart with me, young lady!

Lynn: I thought we'd already established that there's nothing ladylike about me...

Kate: Shut up! (Lynn involuntarily cringes backwards) Now hand over the guitar.

Lynn: But...

Kate: I said hand it over! You're done with that stupid band, do you hear me?

Lynn: Well, it's your own money you're wasting...

(Lynn reluctantly hands over the case, only just managing to keep her face impassive.)

Kate: I just don't believe the nerve of you.

Lynn: Well, I don't believe that you spent a fairly large amount of money to let me develop a talent that you now won't allow me to use. Life's funny, isn't it?

Kate: This isn't over. (beat; smirk) You want to be in a band?

(Lynn's face shifts straight to 'uh-oh' mode)

(Scene: OHS music room. Lynn, carrying a case of a very different shape, is shoved into a room. A whole bunch of other students stare at her as she tries not to fall over on the way in. The door shuts behind her. Mr Brunner, a fat man with a pathetic comb-over and O'Neill-esque soppy enthusiasm, looks at her.)

Brunner: Well, hello! You must be our new saxophonist!

Lynn: It would appear so, yes. (thought VO) I could scream "They're all looking at me!" and run away; that would give them pause...

Brunner: Great! Welcome to the team! If you could just take your seat over there with the others...

(With a sigh, Lynn complies and starts assembling the saxophone.)

(Scene: OHS bleachers. Lynn is sitting with the band, next to a scrawny guy with glasses, braces, and everything but the word 'nerd' printed on his forehead. They both wear the uniform of the Oakwood High marching band -- typical marching band attire in red and black, stupid hats included. Lynn is looking at her peers -- and she looks appalled and resigned in equal measure.)

Lynn: (sigh) "You are all individuals."

Nerd: (answering quote) "We are all individuals!"

(Lynn blinks and looks at him.)

Lynn: Pythoniac?

Nerd: Who isn't?

Lynn: People of poor taste.

Nerd: Most of the school.

Lynn: Lynn Cullen.

Nerd: Matt Templeton.

Brunner: (OS) All right, ladies and gentleman! The Oakwood Eagles fight song!

(Lynn and Matt look at each other and roll their eyes.)

(Scene: Leaning Tower of Pizza. Lynn and AP [again, as we know him] are sitting in a booth. Lynn looks almost animated. AP looks a bit worried.)

Lynn: ...And Matt's got the musical score to "Sit On My Face". We're thinking of using it as a practice piece -- and, if I can talk them into it, fitting it into the half-time show at Homecoming. That's if I can get the mike away from the announcers and... (notes concerned look on AP's face.) What's wrong?

AP: (evasive) Nothing, no, not at all. (Lynn: raised eyebrow) So ... you're really enjoying the marching band, huh?

Lynn: Well, there's ample opportunity for minor havoc and a few Pythoniacs in the ranks. So it's not as bad as I thought it was going to be. Anything else would be overgenerous. (beat) And of course, my mother's convinced that my enforced interaction with other people will put me into contact with someone less ... well, less you. So she's ecstatic.

AP: (mutter) You mentioned Matt to her?

Lynn: (hearing this) Uh, no. I'm looking to flay her for this, not reward her. (beat) What's your problem?

AP: (kind of stuck) Um ... well ... I mean ... I guess...

(Enter Matt, who makes a beeline for their table. Lynn very nearly smiles. AP glares.)

Matt: Hey!

Lynn: Hey, Matt. Matt, this is AP.

Matt: Oh, you're that Andy kid in my history class. Hey.

AP: (grumble) Hi.

Matt: (now completely ignoring AP) Look, I'm glad I caught up with you. Rick's doing roadie work in Lawndale and got a bunch of us on the guest list tonight. Want in?

Lynn: (shrug) Sure. (to AP) You up for this, AP?

AP: I...

Matt: Actually, it'd just be us band people. Keep it small and exclusive. So how about it?

Lynn: (torn) Well, I...

AP: Hey, it's okay. I mean, I ... had something to do anyway.

Lynn: You sure, Maverick?

Matt: (butting in) Of course he's sure -- I'm sure he's got much better things to do than hang around listening to a bunch of bands. Rick and Joe are outside waiting so let's go!

(He takes Lynn's wrist and pulls her upright and out of the restaurant. AP looks angry and miserable all at once.)

(Fade to: Leaning Tower of Pizza, a few hours later. AP is still sitting there, staring at his food. He sighs.)

AP: (mutter) I am not jealous. He's ugly and boring. (beat) And it's not like Purple Peril and I are really a couple. (beat) I am not jealous. Notnotnot. Nothing to be jealous of. (beat) Damn.

(Scene: LHS parking lot. [Writing in Daria font underneath reads "Three days later".] The Oakwood marching band has congregated around one bus, chatting amiably. Lynn stands sort of off to one side, chatting to Matt.)

Matt: Can you believe that quarterback? What a shmuck! I mean, it's a miracle they didn't have to hold up a sign telling him to stop when he reached the end zone!

Lynn: And yet, with such a stupid quarterback, they whipped our sorry excuse for a football team, thirty-five to six. Not that I care.

Matt: Yeah, well ... our quarterback's a prime shmuck too, that's all.

(Cut to the other bus, where Sam Stack is chatting to who we recognise as Brittany. There is obvious flirtation.)

Rick: Man, football players get all the chicks.

Sarah: You sexist male pigs make me sick.

Joe: Come on, Rick -- you're not doing too bad yourself. Heard you were out with Mara Fitzgerald on Thursday.

Rick: (snigger) Yeah, well, I wanted to find out if it was true what they say about Goths.

Joe: (lecherous) And is it?

(Rick leers for a moment, then stops when he sees Sarah staring at him, out for blood if he utters one wrong word.)

Rick: (nervous) Absolutely. Very kind, good conversationalists. And not evil, Satan-worshipping nymphomaniacs in any way, shape or form.

(Sarah raises an eyebrow, but remain silent. Slight shift to Lynn and Matt. Lynn looks over her shoulder and her eyes widen slightly.)

Lynn: Um ... isn't that the Lawndale football team headed this way?

Matt: Ignore 'em, the shmucks.

Lynn: They look a bit ... high-spirited.

Matt: Oh, yeah, what are they gonna do to us?

Lynn: They have cans of silly string and elastic bandages ... so I think it would be dangerous to even speculate.

Kevin: (OS) Woo-hoo! Lions rule! WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS, MY FRIENDS!

Matt: That's that shmuck quarterback.

Lynn: Oh no...

(And she is yanked forcibly out of shot.)

(Scene: the same, some time later. Coach Gibson and the Oakwood coach are yelling at each other as the Oakwood and Lawndale football teams go about beating each other up. The cheerleaders from both sides are cheering on their respective teams in a brainless sort of way. In the middle of it all stands the Oakwood marching band, tied into a huddle with elastic bandages. Someone has liberally sprayed them with blue and yellow silly string.)


Lynn: Is that the only insult you know? Or just the strongest?

Matt: Well, what would you call them?

Lynn: Pillocks. Wankers. Gits. Misbegotten sons of bitches. A...

Rick: Let's not go there -- you remember what happened last time.

Lynn: You never let me have any fun.


Lynn: That's the spirit.

(Brief pause)

Band: (in unison) WANKERS!

(Scene: Lynn's room. Lynn is standing at the foot of the bed, picking silly string out of her hair. She is still in uniform. AP clambers through the window.)

AP: And how's Oakwood's answer to -- whoa what happened to you?

Lynn: (sigh) Lawndale happened. The victory over our ground troops went to what passes for their brains and they tied us up with elastic bandages.

AP: And the blue and yellow silly string?

Lynn: Just don't.

AP: So not fun, then?

Lynn: In the thesaurus, under fun, a description of my marching band career can be found in the listed antonyms. (to AP's blank look) Take that as a no.

AP: Come on, we can get you out of it easy! All we have to do is...

Lynn: (holds up hands) AP ... call the mischievous streak to heel.

AP: But...

Lynn: This is not the fault of the marching band. This is the fault of the nitwits who wear the title of jocks in the next town over. They'll get theirs but I'm not going to pull anything stupid. There are other people involved.

AP: (suspicious) This is about Matt, isn't it.

Lynn: Not exclusively, no. AP, what is with you?

AP: ('whoops') Um ... I just don't like seeing you being a doormat, that's all!

Lynn: (successful distraction) What do you mean, doormat? I'm just not in the habit of dragging people down with me just because I've had a bad day!

AP: You always drag me into these things!

Lynn: You volunteer for these things, you twit! Half of 'these things' are your idea! (beat; calming) Look. If I quit with a bang for a reason like, "I got tied to my band mates and liberally sprayed with silly string", people will not accept that. Either I will not be permitted to resign or my mother will think up something dumber. If you can find me an acceptable, unshakeable reason to quit, then do it, because right now I can't!

(AP looks at her, crestfallen.)

AP: Look, Purple Peril, I...

Lynn: (cold) If you'll excuse me, I need to change out of my 'doormat' costume.

(AP, looking somewhat sad, leaves.)

(Scene: band room. Mr Brunner approaches Lynn, who's unpacking her saxophone.)

Brunner: Lynn ... can I talk to you?

Lynn: ('uh-oh' expression) As you're doing so now, I would assume you're capable of it, yes.

Brunner: I've been thinking about the band's voice.

Lynn: We're doing chorus now?

Brunner: No, the instrumental voice! (beat) I've noticed that there's an awful lot of saxophone sound in the band's collective voice. And to balance it out, I'd like you to switch to a different instrument!

Lynn: (raised eyebrow) Excuse me?

Brunner: You caught on to the saxophone so well, I'm sure you'll have no problem switching to another instrument! Especially the one I have in mind! (he hands her a case) It's an alto clarinet! Has a great sound and uses the same basic fingering as a saxophone!

(Lynn sets down her sax and takes the case as one would a live explosive. She opens it cautiously, then takes out the bits and assembles it, putting on the neck strap and holding it. She looks dubiously at Brunner.)

Brunner: (ecstatic) Go on; give it a try! Scales!

(Lynn sighs and gamely begins. Every other note comes out as a howling, whiny squeak. She finishes and looks at the alto clarinet.)

Lynn: (sliding off the neck strap) I don't think so.

Brunner: Oh, come on; that was your first try! There's no need to be defeatist -- you'll be great in a week or so! I'll let you get to practising.

(He steps away. Lynn tries a few bars of "When the Saints Go Marching In", but stops when the screeching becomes too much for her. She looks at the alto clarinet, then at her fingers, and her eyes narrow. Matt approaches.)

Matt: Hey, nice. Mating call of the wild wood duck?

Lynn: If it was being bitten by fire ants, maybe. (beat) I don't think my finger pads are up to this job.

Matt: Hey, don't worry about it. It takes some practice, that's all.

Lynn: (sigh) I don't think that's going to help. Anyway, I haven't got the time for that kind of practice. What with homework, writing and having what passes for a social life in my philosophy, band takes up too much of my time as it is.

Matt: Hey, we've all been there. You just have to cut back, is all.

Lynn: (mild suspicion) Cut back on what, exactly?

Matt: Well, that Andy shmuck, for one. (Lynn's face goes carefully blank; Matt doesn't notice) I mean, he's ... interesting and all, but he's just not...

Lynn: ...One of the band?

Matt: Exactly! We've gotta stick together! And there usually isn't any room for outsiders, if you know what I mean.

Lynn: (neutral) I know exactly what you mean. (packs up the alto clarinet and gets up)

Matt: Where are you going?

Lynn: First step to exiling the outsider.

(She walks out the door. Matt grins in a triumphant sort of way. Then the following is heard from outside: a rather loud metallic *bang*, an equally metallic but softer *whamwhamwham*, and then the shatter of broken glass. He looks very confused.)

(Scene: OHS cafeteria. AP sits looking at his lunch. Lynn approaches -- she is balancing a tray one-handed because her right hand is bandaged. A book is tucked under her arm. She gently sets the tray down and then sits. Silence for a moment as AP looks at her, wondering how to start.)

AP: Hey. Listen, I'm glad you're here. I wanted to say...

Lynn: I have an acceptable, unshakeable reason. Let's make that man's life hell. (beat) And while we're at it, I have an idea about how to cause some havoc in the ranks of the Lawndale football team.

(AP studies her a moment, then grins.)

AP: So what's the plan?

Lynn: Hmm... (takes the book; opens it) I'm sure I'll think of something. But first I have to get out of the band in the first place.

AP: (reading front cover) "So You Finally Realised You're a Doormat"?

(Lynn ducks further behind her book. You can just about see the blush. AP gives her an indulgent smile that has a wistful note to it.)

(Scene: OHS corridor. Lynn steps up to a fashionably dressed blonde with a superior expression.)

Lynn: Hello, Jenny.

Jenny: (cool) And what do you want? Finally broken down and decided to ask for advice on how to dress?

Lynn: (raised eyebrow) Not as such, no. Care to make a quick twenty bucks?

Jenny: (suspicious) What do I have to do?

Lynn: (shrug) Oh, nothing much. You've got a Fashion Club debate at Lawndale this week, don't you?

Jenny: (ultra-suspicious) Yeah...

Lynn: I need a note placing in the locker of the class perv.

Jenny: (shock) Upchuck? Ewwww... (Lynn waves the money in her face. Jenny looks at it, then at Lynn.) Extra twenty if I have to go anywhere near him.

Lynn: (shrug) Fair enough.

(She hands over the money and the note to Jenny, who pockets both with some disdain.)

Jenny: Now go away before someone finds out I'm talking to you.

(Lynn narrows her eyes a little, but moves on to her own locker. AP joins her after a moment.)

AP: What'd you want to talk to the Ice Queen over there for?

Lynn: Oh, just a little revenge. (to AP's confused look) I tapped into the gossip channel for awhile. From what of the incoherent babble I could make out, Lawndale's quarterback dates their head cheerleader...

AP: You had to listen to gossip to figure that out?

Lynn: (continuing, annoyed) ...And their head cheerleader was recently spotted making sheep's eyes at our own quarterback. And it turns out they've got a rendezvous planned. Now what do you think the Lawndale school pervert would do with information like that?

AP: (prompt reply) Take pictures, probably, but... (he gets it; brief pause) You're evil.

Lynn: (shrug) I do hate not sticking with up-close-and-personal revenge, but I figure this'll cause some havoc somewhere along the way. That's all I'm after.

AP: (raised eyebrow) And the Lawndale quarterback will suffer, probably.

Lynn: Well, someone will, at least. Wish I could be sure, but I'm not going back there if I can avoid it.

AP: So...

Lynn: So?

AP: Come on, Purple Peril! I want in on Brunner's payback!

Lynn: (smirk) Thank you for asking. As you're joined forces with me of your own free will, I can at least avoid a coercion rap.

AP: So what? Six?

Lynn: No; that only works in chemistry classes.

AP: Yeah, true. Though it might work just as well with some of the disinfectant they use on the mouthpieces. (Lynn glares) No? Hmm. Seventeen?

Lynn: (smirk) Not even close. Anyway, do you have any idea how much work it would take to make the sound equipment? I'm after quick, nasty and permanent.

AP: (it dawns) Method nine. (to Lynn's smirk) You are evil. That could disable the band for months!

Lynn: (wider smirk) That's what I'm counting on.

(Scene: band room. Lynn is looking at a crestfallen Mr Brunner.)

Lynn: ...So you can understand why I can't stay.

Brunner: Well, I wish there was something I could say to change your mind, but if you feel I'm pressuring you... (sigh) You may go.

(Lynn steps out.)

(Scene: OHS corridor. Lynn and AP standing in front of the band room door. They appear to be waiting for something.)

AP: So how'd he take it?

Lynn: I've had guilt trips in my time, but that one has to have been the most pathetic.

AP: Any pangs?

Lynn: Nope.

(There is an incoherent buzz of conversation, an anguished scream, and then the door opens and Matt steps out. He stares at the duo.)

Matt: Let me guess.

Lynn: Guess what? I don't do band anymore, remember?

Matt: I don't get you. You were playing well...

Lynn: Until someone threw me an insurmountable learning curve...

Matt: You were even making some friends...

Lynn: Who won't even talk to me now that I've quit.

Matt: Damn straight. We're an exclusive group, you know. And you just gave it all up.

Lynn: I wouldn't want to join a club that would have me as a member. Good day.

(Lynn walks off. AP gives him an excrement-eating grin and moves off after her.)

(Scene: Cedars of Lawndale cafeteria. Daria looks at AP, who has a slightly evil satisfied smirk on his face. She seems to be trying to decide which direction she wants the conversation to take.)

Daria: (thought VO) Lull him into a false sense of security, then hit him with the deep questions. (aloud) I guess Matt wasn't a problem after that.

AP: Well, maybe he never was, but... (sigh) never mind.

(Little awkward silence. Daria looks sorry she brought it up.)

Daria: I still don't believe that you were in a band.

AP: The Back Alley Name-Droppers? Oh yeah. (beat) If you call hitting things 'being in a band'.

Daria: Never say that around Max. He thinks hitting things is the height of art.

AP: (chuckle) Nah; as far as art went, Mara was the real whiz. Little Goth-girl Mozart on the keyboards. (beat) And of course, Purple Peril's vocals.

Daria: She seems to have improved a lot.

AP: Hey, she hadn't sung anything more than "Eric the Half-A-Bee" for over a year. She was gonna be rusty when she started with Mystik Spiral.

Daria: (remembering her rendition of "Screamager") That was rusty?

AP: (casual) Uh-huh. Very.

Daria: (changing subject now) But why did you get involved?

AP: (slight chuckle) I'm too pushy for my own good, that's why. (beat; to Daria's raised eyebrow) You've heard her -- tell me she wasn't wasting a damn fine talent.

Daria: (sigh) I'd rather not perjure myself, thanks.

AP: (ignoring what he does not understand) And I kept telling her and telling her she kicked but she wouldn't listen. And so one summer ... I shoved her into it. And then she shoved me into it.

(Scene: Lynn's room. Lynn is sitting on her bed, holding her guitar. She thinks about it for a moment, then starts the opening bars to Metallica's "Enter Sandman". AP clambers in through the window, hears her practising, and grins, drumming along with the music until she gets to the vocal part.)


(For a reply, Lynn fumbles the guitar, nearly dropping it, and glares at AP.)

Lynn: AP, I thought we agreed you'd try a quieter announcement of your presence.

AP: Sorry. Got carried away. You're getting a lot better at this.

Lynn: (shrug) Practice makes halfway-decent.

AP: I thought that was 'practice makes perfect'.

Lynn: No use giving myself a swelled head.

AP: Hey, Purple Peril -- why don't you join a band?

Lynn: Because my masochistic tendencies don't extend to opening myself to public ridicule. Yet, anyway.

AP: Aw, come on, Purple Peril! You kick and you know it!

Lynn: You would like to see me kick? Feel free to expose your backside.

AP: Oh, very funny. Really -- you rock! Why not show people what you can do?

Lynn: I play a halfway decent riff and you're putting me on par with Dave Gilmour? (to AP's blank look) Pink Floyd? (beat) The Wall? (beat) Another Brick In...? (beat; sigh; singing and playing) "We don't need no education..."

AP: Oh, yeah. (beat) Well, no ... you sing a killer lyric and play a halfway decent riff and if you're not in this Gilmour guy's league, you beat the hell out of Tairrie B.

Lynn: What do you know about Tairrie B anyway? To you, music begins with the Ramones and ends somewhere around Offspring's latest.

AP: Okay ... so you beat the hell out of Sid Vicious, then! (to Lynn's raised eyebrow) Okay, so it's not saying much, but ... oh, come on! What have you got to lose?

Lynn: A vast chunk of my time, what few shreds of self-esteem I have left, a few pints of blood if someone decides to throw bottles at me...

AP: You're a real ray of sunshine, you know that?

(In reply, Lynn proceeds to play Nirvana's "Come As You Are". AP rolls his eyes. Lynn smirks.)

(Scene: Bonner Street, Oakwood [NB: Bonner Street is the Oakwood equivalent of Dega Street]. Lynn is looking in a shop window when Mara Fitzgerald, a small Goth-type, approaches.)

Mara: Hey.

Lynn: (looks over; raised eyebrow) Mara. You don't normally approach the female of the species. Decided you're not getting enough action batting just the one team?

Mara: Heard you were looking for a few good band members. I'm in.

Lynn: Excuse me?

Mara: Word on the street is you're starting up a band.

Lynn: Is it. And you got this word from...

Mara: My source swore me to secrecy. Said you'd kill.

Lynn: Someone who knows me rather well, given the accuracy of that statement.

Mara: Whatever. I play keyboards. Auditions at five, tomorrow, your place?

Lynn: Um ... I take it you know where I live.

Mara: Yep.

Lynn: (sigh of defeat) Bring your own instrument.

Mara: Whatever.

(Mara leaves. Lynn stares in the general direction of the shop window for a moment, tapping her foot. Then she raises a speculative eyebrow.)

(Scene: AP's room. Lynn clambers through his window, leans against the sill and, arms folded, looks at him, tapping her foot again. [The foot tapping is an obvious bad sign.])

AP: (mildly nervous) So... What's new?

Lynn: You and I are going to Bonner Street. Right now. On an errand.

AP: (suspicious) What kind of errand?

Lynn: We're going to find you a drum kit. If I'm going through with this band crap, you're going with me.

AP: ('eep' expression) But I don't know how to play drums!

Lynn: You seem to do all right with drumming along to my playing. So either you learn on the skins or I learn on your skull. With ball peen hammers. (clambers out the window)

AP: (following her) Well, with an offer like that, how can I refuse?

(Scene: Oakwood streets. Lynn and AP are walking along. Lynn looks impatient; AP looks triumphant.)

Lynn: And wipe that stupid grin off your face.

AP: (making no effort to do so) Okay!

Lynn: You know the worst thing about this? Once again, you got your own way. You're getting more manipulative and devious by the day.

AP: I learned from the master!

Lynn: Don't try to flatter your way out of this, Maverick. (beat) How did you get the word out so fast, as a matter of interest?

AP: The Net is a wonderful thing, Purple Peril!

Lynn: So it would appear, since you spend most days glued to it.

AP: Hey, there's not a lot else to do around here!

Lynn: (slightly sad sigh) Well, there is now, geek-boy.

(Montage sequence. Music: "I Love Rock & Roll" -- Joan Jett & the Blackhearts.
Cullen garage. A modest drum set-up sits along the back wall. AP sits behind it; Lynn has her guitar slung over her shoulder. A small Oriental boy with bright orange streaks in his hair is hammering away on a bass guitar. Cut to Lynn and AP, who both have their hands over their ears.

Short time later. Lynn has removed her glasses and has a hand pressed to her eyes; she is shaking her head in total disgust. A guy in his early 30s wearing way too much denim -- a holdover from 'big hair' rock - is thrashing away on his guitar in an obvious orgasmic frenzy of 'wheedly-wheedly-WEEEEOW'. He stops and peers at Lynn and AP through his hair. They both look at him and then shake their heads in disgust and pity.

Mara Fitzgerald has set up a small keyboard and is playing. Lynn and AP exchange a look that clearly says 'not bad'. Mara wraps it up and looks at Lynn, who nods. Mara's look clearly shows that she expected nothing less.

A young woman looking quite a bit like Nadja [Coal Chamber's replacement bassist while Rayna's on maternity leave] raises a hand, strums at her bass once, then looks at her hand -- she has broken a nail. Her lower lip quivers and she turns without a word and walks out. Lynn, AP and Mara look at each other -- "Good riddance".

A chunky blond boy with a sullen expression [Casey Wright] walks in, shoulders his bass and starts to play. Lynn, AP and Mara look at him speculatively. He stops. They nod. End montage but continue scene.)

Lynn: Bass, lead, keyboards and drums. That ought to do.

Mara: We got a name?

Lynn: Not yet. But I'd like some thought to go into it. The last thing I want to do is start whatever gigs we play with the catchphrase, "We're 'such and such a band' but we're thinking of changing the name". So let's leave it until next rehearsal -- say Friday afternoon at three?

Mara: Cool. I don't think I've got a date that night until eight-thirty.

(AP and Casey raise eyebrows. Lynn glares at her.)

Lynn: Look, let's get one thing straight. We don't operate to your date roster. You rehearse when we rehearse, or you're out on your ear.

(Mara looks at her coldly ... then nods with a dark sort of respect and leaves. Casey shrugs and shuffles out as well. AP looks at Lynn.)

AP: (smirk) And you said you didn't want to do this.

Lynn: (cold glare) I don't. But since I've been forced into this, I'm going to do it properly.

(AP grins at her -- he doesn't believe a word of it. Lynn's expression indicates that he's right but that she would rather die than admit it out loud.)

(Scene: Lynn's room. Lynn is sitting cross-legged on her bed, looking at AP, who is perched on the desk with a set look on his face.)

Lynn: AP, that has got to be one of the most ludicrous names for a band I've ever heard. We'd sound like some band that plays Sex Pistols covers at brewpubs.

AP: But ... the initials...

Lynn: I don't believe you spent three days looking for a name that uses the word 'BAND' as an acronym. (beat) And came up with that.

AP: You got a better name?

Lynn: I had better things to do with my eloquence and verbosity, thank you. (to AP's blank look) I was writing some songs. Do you want to be a covers band? (to AP's sheepish head-shake) Good.

AP: So we basically haven't got a better name.

Lynn: (sigh) That's the last time I let you deal with anything to do with words. I mean it -- the last damn time. (beat) The Back Alley Name-Droppers it is, then.

AP: (triumphant grin) All right, Purple Peril!

Lynn: (groan) Don't start. I'm doing this so much against my better judgement.

(Scene: Cullen garage. The Back Alley Name-Droppers are thrashing away at the final chords to Type O Negative's "Love You To Death". Once they stop, they look at each other.)

AP: Okay ... that was cool.

Mara: Huh, yeah. Now all we need is a gig.

Lynn: That's covered. School starts in a few short weeks and every year there's a 'welcome back' dance. We'll audition for that -- might do to get us started.

AP: A school dance? What makes you think they'll hire us?

Mara: You weren't at last year's dance, were you? They hired some band out of Lawndale. They sucked. big time. (beat) Though the rhythm guitarist was fine...

Lynn: I thought only men were allowed to be walking hormones, Mara.

Mara: Whatever. So what's the set list?

AP: How about that one you turned up with last week, Purple Peril?

Lynn: I don't think that would be a good idea. That's the one that compares the soon-to-be sophomore class to barnyard animals. It names names.

AP: (chastened) Oh yeah. (perking up) Or that one ... what'd you call it again? (to Lynn's raised eyebrow) Oh, come on, you know I'm not good at that word crap!

Casey: (barely audible grunt) 'Chalk and Brimstone'.

(They all turn to stare at him.)

AP: He speaks! (beat) And he got the song I was looking for!

(Casey shrugs. Lynn, AP and Mara stare at him a little longer, then turn away.)

Lynn: The chaperones will have kittens.

AP: So? This kind of music is supposed to freak people out!

Lynn: (sigh) All right. It goes on the set list.

(Scene: OHS corridor. Lynn is stacking books in her locker. AP runs over and stands behind her, waiting. Which he does for some tense seconds as Lynn refuses to acknowledge him.)

AP: (exasperated) Well?

Lynn: (unfazed; not looking at him) Well, what?

AP: You're just going to let me suffer, aren't you? (Lynn doesn't reply) Did you even ask if we could audition?

Lynn: Yes.


Lynn: We're not auditioning. (AP looks downcast) We were hired anyway.

(AP blinks at her for a moment. She shuts her locker and starts walking away. He trails after her.)

AP: (weak) How?

Lynn: (shrug) No clue. Maybe it came down to a choice between us or the unnamed Lawndale band.

(They consider this, shrug, and keep walking.)

(Scene: OHS gymnasium. Onstage, Mara is setting up her keyboards. Casey is helping AP set up the drums, and Lynn is sitting with her legs dangling off the stage, tuning her guitar. AP wanders over and sits down next to her.)

AP: Nervous?

Lynn: Would I admit it if I were?

AP: Well, I am.

Lynn: About screwing up the music, or about being onstage in front of your peers?

AP: Both.

Lynn: Well, the first one you don't have to worry about. You have a pretty good sense of rhythm. And as to the other thing, the only two living drummers that in any way stick in the mind are Phil Collins and Lars Ulrich. And the only reason those two come to mind is because Phil Collins sings and Lars Ulrich makes an ass of himself for the media. So no one is looking at you.

AP: (mulling this over) I guess that makes sense. (beat; shy) Thanks.

Lynn: (shrug) Happy to be of service.

(Slight pause. AP looks sidelong at Lynn, then screws up his courage.)

AP: And you'll be fine too. You got stage presence and you can sing damn well.

(With that, he gets up and goes back to helping Casey with the drums. Lynn blinks, then looks back over her shoulder at him ... then smiles a little.)

(Scene: the same, some time later. A group of preppy kids are dancing to Underworld's "Born Slippy" on the floor. Onstage, Mara looks disgusted.)

Mara: They're opening with this crap?

Lynn: It could be worse.

Mara: How?

Lynn: Robbie Williams.

Mara: (wince) Oh yeah.

(The song draws to its close; as it fades out, Lynn strikes a chord on her guitar. The preppy-dressed kids turn towards the stage and stare at them for a moment.)

Lynn: Welcome back to your incarceration, students of Oakwood High.

(With that, the band starts playing [note to reader: their sound could best be described as the bastard child of early Metallica and the Deftones, with a little Type O tossed in].)

Lynn: (singing) In your wash of facts and figures will I drown
If I dare to speak my mind you slap me down
Every rule you give me says that life's unfair
And then you wonder why I just don't bloody care
Nonconformist and you've got no future
That's your lesson plan; you teach it well
And your teaching tools are chalk and brimstone
Why not go and call the roll in hell

(A few notes into the bridge between the above chorus and the second verse, the power on the stage dies. As the band looks at their instruments and the preppy students stare, Mrs Williamson, the principal, a formal-looking woman in a suit whose bearing, if not her features [grey hair in a bun, pinched Caucasian features], resemble Ms Li, comes onstage.)

Williamson: (shaking her head) That is not acceptable music for a school function! (beat) I will see all four of you in my office first thing tomorrow morning. Now get off this stage right now!

Lynn: Um ... isn't there an amendment that says you can't do this sort of thing...?

Williamson: OFF!

(The B.A.N.D. look at each other warily for a moment, then starts packing up. Williamson gestures to the DJ, who starts flipping hastily through CDs.)

(Scene: Oakwood street. Lynn and AP walking home.)

AP: What did you say to her, anyway?

Lynn: (evasive) To who?

AP: Don't play the slippery eel with me! Mrs Williamson was gonna haul all of us up on the carpet; she called us up one at a time -- alphabetically. So you go in and she never calls the rest of us! What gives?

Lynn: (sigh) I told her outright who wrote the song and, as leader of the band, took full responsibility.

(AP stares at her. Lynn's face clearly indicates that there is going to be no discussion of this.)

AP: So ... what's she going to do to you?

Lynn: Nothing overt. Since the dance was after school hours, she couldn't really justify detention. (beat) But she did say she was going to call my mother and discuss the matter further. So we'll have to see.

AP: And what part of the country is your mom in this time?

Lynn: Actually, she's in town for the week. (dry) Much joy. (beat; to AP's worried look) Don't look like that. What's the worst they can do to me?

(AP raises a dubious eyebrow but drops the subject.)

AP: We were damn cool, though. We just had the wrong audience. (beat) So you ever going to be in a band again?

Lynn: Sure ... right after I join the Fashion Club. (beat) Seriously, I'm not going through that fiasco again. Not a snowflake's chance in hell.

(AP looks at her sceptically. Lynn's face is set, but anyone who knows her really well can see that she's rather depressed about the whole thing, so he shrugs.)

AP: C'mon. We'll grab a pizza. My treat. (beat) And you can pick the toppings this time.

(Lynn shrugs assent. When she thinks he's not looking, she smiles a little.)

(Scene: hospital cafeteria. Daria is looking at a large sheaf of papers written in Lynn's handwriting.)

AP: I guess she kinda scares me like that, thinking about it. I mean, she did join the band ... just after that freakiness with Fashion Victims R Us...

Daria: (holding up the papers) Actual letters? BC, I take it.

AP: Come again?

Daria: BC. In your parlance, it would mean "Before Computer".

AP: 'Parlance'? Isn't that the thing like they had on the Simpsons once where the jokes sucked, the dancing ladies weren't wearing a lot of clothes and Madge ran a bulldozer through the house?

Daria: I think you meant Marge, and that's burlesque. Parlance means ... oh, never mind. (beat) So why was she writing you letters?

AP: It wasn't before I had a computer. It wasn't even before she had a computer. Well, she had a piece of crap her mom got from the office...

Daria: (genuinely stunned) Kate Cullen has an office?

AP: (shrug) Guess so. S'what she said, anyway. Just ... well, she didn't have one handy that summer.

Daria: Will I regret asking why not?

(Scene: Oakwood High School, ext. Music: "Ode to Summer" -- Lostprophets. Lynn and AP, age about 14, sitting on the grass out front, watching students pile out of the building with usual end-of-year cheer. Lynn looks stoic; AP is tugging at her jacket sleeve a little desperately.)

AP: So come on, Purple Peril! Tell already!

Lynn: AP, not yet, okay?

AP: Look, Purple Peril. I asked back in April if you had to do anything over the summer; you said yes but you also said you wouldn't tell me yet. Then I waited and asked in May. You said you wouldn't tell me yet. When Dad said Mom'd said something about letting you have the spare room in the attic at that stupid cabin upstate I asked you if you were sure you had plans for the summer that couldn't be fit around that. You said you weren't sure but you still wouldn't tell me yet! Now it's summer vacation and I *still* dunno what you're up to! It's gotta be yet now, right?

Lynn: (sigh) I was trying to ignore it. I'm being sent down. (beat) Tent inspection, colour war and sharing a tent with six other people.

(After a moment, the memory kicks in.)

AP: S...s...summer camp?

(Lynn heaves a sigh, stands up and walks away. AP looks after her for a minute, stunned.)

AP: But ... you ... I ... geez ... Purple Peril, wait up!

(He tries to leap to his feet, staggers to his knees, then gets up and runs after her.)

(Scene: Oakwood street. Music plays on. AP is jabbering a mile a minute at Lynn.)

AP: When'd that happen? I mean, your mom's sometimes pretty crappy but she wouldn't do that to you, would she? I mean, why would she do that to you? I mean, when are you going? I mean, where are you going? I mean...

Lynn: April, yes, to force me to interact with people who aren't you, three days, Camp Juniper upstate somewhere. Anything else?

AP: But I wanted you to come to that stupid cabin, Purple Peril!

Lynn: You'd wish that on me? I thought you were my friend.

AP: Not like that. It's the outdoors. You always think of stuff to do in the outdoors! And if you're there, I won't get stuck sitting on the lake in a boat with my dad, watching him drink beer and listening to him complain that all the fish I catch are good for are bait!

Lynn: Just stuff one of the smaller ones into his open beer can next time he says that. Then explain that you heard somewhere that hops-fed sushi is a delicacy in some countries.

AP: (chuckle; sigh) See? I need you there to help me come up with stuff like that. I can do the stuff, but the words ... they never come out right.

Lynn: Well, you never know. They kick people out of summer camps, same as everyplace else. And part of the reason Mom's sending me off this time is that she's on a three-month sojourn to Sydney.

AP: How long d'you think it'll take? I'm gonna ... uh ... I mean ... it's gonna suck without you.

(They've stopped in front of the Cullen house.)

Lynn: Yeah. Well. I'd better go pack. Any suggestions?

AP: Aerosol cans, Black Cats, that glowing paint stuff we used for the Malloy sleepover last month, and 20 packets of pineapple Jell-O mix.

Lynn: (small smirk) And that's just for starters. Later.

(Lynn starts up the walk towards her house. AP stands on the sidewalk, watching her go in.)

AP: Two months? (moan) Ohhhh, maaaaaaan...

(Scene: OHS parking lot. Music: "Ready To Go" -- Republica. Lynn, carrying her guitar and wearing a rucksack with a sleeping bag strapped to the top of it, is sitting on the kerb. AP sits beside her, looking miserable. A black duffel bag sits at their feet. They're silent for awhile, with kids about their age milling around them, chatting with their peers or hugging their parents. After a long moment, AP turns to Lynn.)

AP: You got everything?

Lynn: The Jell-O mix, the firecrackers -- thanks for the special blend, by the way.

AP: (big grin) Those kids'll think they're in a Rimbo movie!

Lynn: I think you mean 'Rambo'. Anyway, the face paint, a few other bits -- I'll let you know how all that goes -- and ... for the coup de grace...

AP: Coo duh grass? What does grass have to do with anything? (beat) You're not gonna get anyone stoned, are you?

Lynn: Never miiiiiiiiind... Just take a look at this.

(She digs through the duffel at her feet and pulls out a can of hair spray. AP looks at it, reads the label, and his eyes go wide with awe.)

AP: I've heard of this stuff! It's supposed to be real flammable! Like, light a match within three feet of it and whoosh kinda flammable! Where'd you get this stuff? I thought it was only in England!

Lynn: It is. I have connections in England, or don't you remember? Jan Fed-Exed me this stuff when I told her you recommended the aerosol -- something about this stuff being "the dog's bollocks as a replacement for a flamethrower".

(With that, Lynn stuffs the hair spray back into the bag and gets up, hauling the duffel with her. She walks over to the luggage truck and tosses the duffel in as AP gets up and follows her over. Then she shrugs off her rucksack and sends it sailing in after the duffel. The guitar she keeps as she turns back to AP.)

Lynn: Okay. Commencing Operation Hemlock. (beat) How many songs about suicide do you think I can get through before the driver has to stop the bus to break down and cry?

AP: How many do you know?

Lynn: Between the Smiths, "All The Umbrellas in London", Bowie's "Rock 'n Roll Suicide", that "Komm, Susser Tod" thing that sounds so cheerful until you listen to the words...

AP: I get the idea! I get the idea! I dunno about the driver, but I'm scared now!

(People are piling on the buses. Lynn and AP turn that way, looking trepidatious.)

Lynn: That's me, I guess.

AP: You got the cabin address? (to Lynn's nod) You are gonna write, right?

Lynn: If you promise to do the same. There are advantages to being the only person alive who can read your handwriting.

(AP looks around nervously, then grabs Lynn in an impulsive hug. Lynn's eyes go very wide but after a moment, she hugs him back.)

AP: Be strong, Purple Peril...

(AP pulls away. Lynn smirks.)

Lynn: Oh, never mind strong. I'm going to be evil.

(With that, she gets on the bus. AP grins a little sickly as the doors shut and the buses pull away.)

(Scene: hospital cafeteria. Daria shakes her head wryly.)

AP: She was better at it -- the letters, I mean -- than me. First letter got to me just a bit before we left for the stupid cabin.

(He picks a letter off the top of the pile, smiles sadly at it)

Daria: (quiet) Read it?

AP: Uh ... 'kay. (beat; looking at the paper) "Salutations, Maverick..."

(Scene: largish canvas tent. Music: "Polly" -- Nirvana. Four bunk beds line the walls; any wall space not taken up by beds is dominated by overflowing trunks and milk cartons full of cosmetic items and insect repellent. Lynn is in one of the two bunks by the far wall [bottom bunk], wearing ratty black cut-off jeans and a purple T-shirt, chewing on a pen. Before her is a pad of paper. After a moment, she starts writing.)

Lynn: (writing VO) Well, Camp Hemlock's about how I pictured it. It's like high school, only the busywork is even more boring and pointless and they don't let you have your life back at three-thirty.

(Scene: the bus. Lynn is sitting at one of the seats in the back, playing and singing "Asleep" by the Smiths. All the other girls look at her like she's crazy in the dangerous way. A few are openly crying. The driver's seat is empty.)

Lynn: (writing VO) I started the bus trip with "Virgin Suicide" -- though I'm not sure how appropriate it was for the girls I was sharing the bus with. Two songs later, we pulled over at some grubby bar, where the driver stopped for a half-hour. I knew the Smiths would get 'em.

(Scene: the open road. Music: back to "Polly". The bus is halfway on the shoulder of the wrong lane. A black Beemer has crashed into the side of the bus; the bus is dented a little but the Beemer has taken the worst of it. All the girls are off the bus; half of them are crying, most of the rest are glaring at Lynn. Lynn, her guitar slung over her shoulder by its strap, watches with interest as the bus driver and Mr Beemer yell at each other.)

Lynn: (writing VO) When I started on "Komm, Susser Tod", the bus driver veered onto the wrong side of the road and right into the path an ageing yuppie and we had to stop again. I learned a lot about the legal system from the yuppie. I learned a lot about how to use profanity from the bus driver.

(The driver steps away from Mr Beemer and approaches Lynn; he starts yelling. Lynn looks at him, completely deadpan. The driver starts crying. Lynn raises an eyebrow.)

Lynn: (writing VO) I would have finished the song when we got back on the way, but he said he'd make like El Kabong with my guitar if I kept it up and I thought I could get more use out of the thing if it wasn't shattered over my own head. So the rest of the ride was spent in silence. Well, nearly.

(Scene: the bus, moving. The majority of the girls are singing in total unison with the fervency of total desperation.)

Girls: Hey Mr Bus Driver / Speed up a little bit / Speed up a little bit / Speed up a little bit / Hey Mr Bus Driver / Speed up a little bit / Cos we want away from this main-ee-ac!

(Lynn, at the back of the bus, just smirks a little.)

(Scene: the tent. Music plays on. Lynn is chewing on the end of her pen again. She takes the pen out of her mouth, allows herself a smirk, then sets to writing again.)

Lynn: (writing VO) Needless to say, I'm a legend in my own time ... the kind of legend whose hook-replacing-a-hand is found hanging from car doors of unsuspecting teenagers making out on deserted back roads. And frankly, I'm proud of it. From the looks of most of my tentmates, I think I'd rather be maligned and feared by them than the alternative. So how're things with you? Ready for the foray into the great outdoors? I checked a local map -- if your cabin's anywhere near Lake Charchattac, we'll be neighbours when you finally arrive. Let me know, because having someplace to hide might come in handy sooner than I thought.

(Scene: hospital cafeteria. AP still reading, with a smile. Daria has a small smile too.)

AP: "Next time I write, I'll tell you about the people who may soon be forming my lynch mob, but for now, be grateful for where you are. Yes, I know we're talking about Oakwood, but it's better than here. Peril."

(thoughtful pause)

Daria: That's ... very, very her.

AP: Yeah. I was worried for a little that they'd brainwash her or something -- and that was before I saw that "Addams Family Values" movie -- but I should've known a whole lot better.

Daria: Something like that. If brainwashing is going to be done, it's probably her that's doing it.

AP: (groan) I gotta get some food. I didn't think I'd be able to eat again until ... well ... but...

Daria: Well, if you need to eat but feel bad about taking any enjoyment out of it, a hospital cafeteria's probably the right place to go.

AP: Uh ... yeah. You want anything?

Daria: I'm okay, thanks.

(AP wanders off. Daria looks at the next sheet of paper -- this one's typed. She picks it up and starts reading.)

AP: (writing VO) Hey ho, Purple Peril!

(Scene: AP's room, Oakwood. Music: "Can U Dig It?" -- Pop Will Eat Itself. There's a small desk, a chest of drawers and a card table, all covered in bits of paper, various bottles of odd substances and a computer. There's actually a bed frame, as well -- wood, painted off-white and plastered with Star Wars stickers. The bedding is done in "The Empire Strikes Back" pattern to complete the motif. Young AP runs in, clutching a bit of paper, and flings himself onto the bed -- it creaks alarmingly, then falls apart entirely. AP looks at it in some shock.)

AP: (writing VO) The bed-thing finally fell apart. No biggie -- I'm gonna turn the wood scraps into shelves and stick the mattress in my closet. Hey, I got more space now! Maybe I'll be able to see the top of my dresser again! Yeah, and helium's gonna turn solid at room temp.

(Scene: Oakwood Heights mall. Music plays on. Fred walks into shot, leading a typically glazed Carol with one arm and dragging a very reluctant AP with the other.)

AP: (writing VO) Dad said he wanted the back-to-school stuff done before we went to the stupid cabin so we took a trip to the Heights.

(The family enters the mall. Fifteen seconds later, they are led out again by very annoyed-looking security guards. Fred glares at AP, who grins sickly at his father and waves at the guards. One of them gives him the finger as the pair go back inside.)

AP: (writing VO) Let's just say we're still persons non gratis ... au gratin ... aw, hell, they just don't like us very much. So we went to that Cranberry place in Lawndale instead.

(Scene: Cashman's. Music plays on. AP digging around a T-shirt display. He's selected five T-shirts -- three are black, two are blue. Young versions of Sandi, Tiffany and Stacy walk past him, look at him, then take a second look and start giggling. AP stares at them, utterly perplexed. The trio just giggle harder.)

AP: (writing VO) You're kind of a girl -- maybe you can tell me why girls look at a guy, start getting all red and then giggle. One of the three girls who did that looked like the type -- braids, sappy smile -- but the Asian girl seemed too dumb and the other one ... well, I think she's gotta have eyes in her nostrils to be able to see where she's going with her nose that high in the air. Anyway, it freaked me out, so...

(AP digs into the pocket of his jeans and pulls out a realistic-looking rubber spider; he then throws it at young Sandi, who steps back in shock before looking at him in that "bitch-queen" way she perfects in later years. Stacy screams and ducks behind a rack of shirts. Tiffany stops giggling but otherwise doesn't seem to get what's going on.)

Sandi: Ewww! That is so rude! And to think I thought he might be cute.

Stacy: Ewewewew! That ... that isn't real, is it, Sandi? (starts hyperventilating)

Sandi: Of course it isn't, Stacy! It's just, like, some geek's rubber toy. Come on; let's go see if there's anything in Junior Five that'll make us look sixteen.

(Sandi stalks off, with Stacy scurrying after. Tiffany just stares at AP for a minute, then picks up the rubber spider by one leg and throws it back at him with a very small sly smirk.)

Tiffany: (typically slow) The look on her face ... that was soooo cool.

(Tiffany walks away. AP looks after her with a very puzzled expression.)

AP: (writing VO) Do you understand girls? 'Cos I sure don't.

(Scene: hospital cafeteria. Daria still reading.)

AP: (writing VO) Anyway, we leave in the morning so I guess I better pack. Man, it's gonna suck without you. I'm gonna send some junk food cos I heard stories of what camps feed campers. Hope you don't starve. Later! Maverick.

(AP approaches and sees her with the paper.)

AP: Aw, you read that?

Daria: You realise who the three giggling fiends might well be, from your description?

AP: What, braids, dumb Asian and the... (it hits him. HARD.) Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh jeez.

Daria: You were flirted with by the pre-pubescent Fashion Victims R Us, pre-Morgendorffer edition.

AP: Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh jeez. I think I'm gonna forget it. That's too damn freaky.

Daria: Seconded. (picks up the next letter in the series, starts to read aloud) "Salutations, Maverick." (AP winces; Daria notices) Maybe I shouldn't read this.

AP: No, go on and do it.

(Scene: the tent again. Music: "Witches' Song" -- Juliana Hatfield. An attractive blond girl is doing her nails on a bottom bunk by the door. An equally attractive brunette is sitting on the trunk at the foot of said bed, looking at herself in a compact mirror. Lynn's sprawled on her own bunk, reading and not paying them a damn bit of notice.)

Lynn: (writing VO) I promised I'd tell you about the people who I have to share space with. Most of them, I have to dub the "Y-Bothers". When you're in close quarters with Becky, Sally, Toby, Shelly and, believe it or not, Mindy, that's what you keep asking yourself.

Blonde: Jeez, Becky, maybe we should ask Miranda to set us up for one of those do-it-yourself facials or something. I mean, this air does nothing for your complexion.

Becky: God, yeah. I haven't seen my nose this shiny since I tried that face glitter! But probably a bad idea, Mindy. I heard that all it is is -- get this, right -- you slather your face in cold oatmeal...

Mindy: Oh, God, Becky, that's gross! That's, like, the stuff we wouldn't eat at breakfast, all lumpy and grey...

Becky: Or worse ... mud. And I'm not talking that nice spa-grade purified stuff either. I'm talking that stuff you get by the banks of the lake, that God-knows-what's peed in...

Lynn: (not looking up) I dunno. I hear that ureic acid does wonders for the pores.

Voice: (from the bunk above Lynn) Hey, people put lemon goop on their faces and stuff; maybe it's better the more acidic it is.

(Lynn quirks an eyebrow, but plays along.)

Lynn: That may be true. Hey, I know where you can get some sulphuric acid wholesale. Might even take care of that root problem, Mindy.

Mindy: Shut up, you freak! I do not have a root problem!

Voice: Sure ya do! Hell, you've got that "photo negative of skunk" look going on. And I know the carpet doesn't match the drapes, Ms Skinny-Dipping '96...

Becky: Come on, Mindy. Let's go somewhere ... normal.

(Becky gets up and goes over to Mindy, whose lower lip is trembling.)

Mindy: I am a natural blonde, you know, really!

Becky: Don't listen to them, honey; they're just rejects.

(The duo leave the tent; Lynn casts her eyes up and sees a very pale face set with bright blue eyes peering down at her. Said face is crowned with a shock of candy-apple red hair. The girl gives a thread-thin smile. Lynn smirks at her.)

Lynn: (writing VO) Not everyone here is friendly and popular. There's this one girl named Rose who is snide, antisocial and resentful. Finally, a friend.

(Smash cut to the hospital cafeteria. Daria is staring at the paper in some shock.)

Daria: She didn't write that. She just didn't. (reading on; carefully) "Rose is an artist, which means she spends a lot of her time drawing the world as she wishes it was, which in turn involves a lot of drawings of rabid foxes chewing Mindy's face off or a psycho attacking Shelly with her own eyelash curlers. She gets the most mail of any of us -- her family, consisting of three brothers and a sister as well as the parents, seems to wander around the world not doing very much except being artistic and..." (beat; looking at AP) This is bizarre. (to AP's quizzical look) You haven't seen it yet.

AP: Hey, I haven't read these in nearly five years! Is it my fault that I'm blanking on why you're so freaked that Purple Peril was once friends with some artist chick with a bad attitude who likes red and has a family that ... travels... (*ping*; his eyes go big)

(Scene: the tent again. Lynn, Rose, Becky, Mindy and a girl of obvious Japanese descent with her hair in a long braid down her back are sitting in a circle. All but Rose are holding cards. A large stack of assorted junk food items sits in the circle between them.)

Lynn: (writing VO) Thanks for the junk food. Not only is it going to keep me from starving -- everything you've heard about the food at summer camp is a vast understatement -- but it was also useful as a stake. You know how they say you have to spend money to make money?

Mindy: (sigh) I have two threes. Toby?

Toby: (the Japanese girl) I have a queen, if that counts for anything... Becky?

Becky: Pair of fives.

Rose: Don't look at me; I folded five minutes ago.

Lynn: Three kings. (rakes in the pot) Pleasure doing business with you, ladies. Care for another hand?

Toby: You cleaned me out.

Becky: She cleaned all of us out. But I guess freaks have to be good at something...

(The trio get up and walk out. Rose looks at Lynn and offers the thread-thin smile again.)

Rose: Hey, it's their own fault. They should have known better than to gamble with someone with your poker face...

(Lynn throws a Snickers bar at Rose, smirking slightly.)

(Scene: the hospital cafeteria. Daria puts the letter down.)

Daria: I could have used a Rose -- or a Jane -- at Camp Dragonfly. (beat) Or Camp Grizzly, come to think of it.

AP: Camp where and Camp what?

Daria: It doesn't matter. (beat; looks at the next letter in the series) Didn't get a chance to reply to this one?

AP: Well, not really. Dad took me out on some hunting thing and we were outta the cabin for about three days while he tried to show me how to use a gun. (to Daria's "oh dear GOD" look) Yeah, I know, I know, I know. Give me a gun and there're only two safe places to be -- wherever I'm actually aiming or behind me. Not even so much behind me cos I keep getting knocked over by the kick and I kind of smacked Dad in the mouth with the rifle butt when I went over.

Daria: (wince) Anyway. By the time you got back from that...

(AP waves the letter.)

(Scene: dining hall [large, battered wooden building with school cafeteria-style tables set up throughout; two doors leading to the kitchen labelled "In" and "Out", small, scarred piano in the centre of the room]. Music: "Livin' in the Fridge" -- Weird Al Yankovic. Lynn, Rose, Toby, Becky, Mindy, a short, frail-looking girl with white-blonde curls and an innocent expression [Sally], and a snub-nosed brunette with freckles [Shelly] sit at a table. At the head of the table is a tall woman with caramel-coloured skin and long dark hair [Miranda, the counsellor]. They are all looking at their plates, upon which lies slabs of brown stuff that looks a bit like slices of mud-brick.)

Lynn: (writing VO) Salutations, Maverick. I've finally found something more unappetising than your pizza.

Mindy: (scowling at the "food") What is this stuff?

Rose: Well, I'd say what it looks like, but...

Lynn: It's meatloaf. (beat) But I hear the kitchen staff call it "Roadkill Surprise".

Sally: Uh ... do I want to know why they'd call it something that gross?

Becky: Advance-ew on whatever the Misery Chick's gonna say next...

Shelly: ... "Misery Chick", Becky?

Becky: Well, she is! She's ... like the weather outside!

(She gestures to the window -- we see it's pouring with rain.)

Rose: And they say goldfish have short attention spans.

Lynn: Maybe they shouldn't hear this. I mean, aren't the popular known for frail constitutions to match their learning skills?

Mindy: Okay, fine, Misery Chick. Why do they call it Roadkill Surprise?

Lynn: Simple, really. Just because the meat in it's whatever the milk truck hit on the way in that morning.

(Dead silence for a moment.)

Rose: (casual interest) Y'mean there could be racoon in here?

Lynn: If we're lucky -- according to this nation's redneck population, them's good eatin'. More likely there's mole ... chipmunk ... skunk...

Rose: Hedgehog? Porcupine?

Lynn: I doubt it. I haven't encountered any spines yet. (beat) What, you don't think they take the trouble to remove the skin and stuff, do you? And porcupine quills don't grind down the way bone does...

(And at that point, all the other occupants of the table -- including the counsellor -- get up and flee. Lynn and Rose look at each other and share a smirk.)

Lynn: (writing VO) And word got around, too. There was a boycott and apparently they're never allowed to serve the meatloaf again ... something about it being a health hazard. I can't believe I did this place some good. I have to get out of here.

(Scene: dining hall again; this time the tables are empty. Rain still pours down outside. Lynn's seated on the splintery piano bench, her guitar before her. She's surrounded by campers of various ages and she looks extremely fed up.)

Lynn: (writing VO) It gets worse. It's been raining non-stop for the last three days, so it's been too wet and muddy to saddle us with the usual activity-fest. And under circumstances like those, people tend to look to the entertainers. The musicians. Anyone who carries a guitar in this place when it rains soon finds that they're in excessive demand.

Daria: (OS) Wait.

(Scene: the hospital cafeteria. AP looks at Daria quizzically.)

Daria: How often did you have to use a dictionary to understand these letters?

AP: I dunno. Lots?

(Daria sighs.)

(Scene: the dining hall. Young Lynn flings up her hands in resignation.)

Lynn: Look, I said you could hang around while I was practising. I did not say you could barrage me with requests.

(A tall brown-haired boy age about fifteen stands up and steps over to Lynn.)

Boy: Look. We're bored. We want to hear some music...

Girl: (age maybe 11, red-haired, pale) They took our Walkmen!

Boy: ...And if you don't play, we'll find something else to do.

Lynn: Suits me just fine.

Boy: I was thinking Paint the Geek.

Lynn: That's usually "Paint the Counsell... (she gets it) You wouldn't dare.

Shelly: Or maybe we could give her a makeover? Brett, you could tie her down to something while we did that, right?

Brett: (the big brunette) Sure. (beat; to Lynn) So. You gonna play or what?

(Lynn closes her eyes, gives a defeated sigh, and starts playing. And singing.)

Lynn: o/` On a warm summer's evening
On a train bound for nowhere... o/`

Lynn: (writing VO) I swear, if you believe in the idea of a personal hell, if I continue the rate I'm going, I will be sent there. And what I will discover waiting for me will consist of a guitar, someplace to sit and a minor demon with a cattle prod forcing me to play "The Gambler" for the rest of eternity.

(Scene: hospital cafeteria.)

Daria: (reading) "I repeat. I have to get out of here. I'm instituting Operation Hemlock in full force as soon as the rain stops. Wish me luck. Peril." (beat) And I thought my summer camps were bad.

AP: It goes on like that for pages and pages and pages. How she freaked out her whole tent group by doing the glow-in-the-dark face paint thing and sneakin' up on 'em at campfire ... how the counsellors figured out how best to piss her off and punished her by putting her on at their big music night with the greatest hits of Kenny Whatshisface ... how she got knocked into a big patch of poison ivy by one of the Y-bothers and how she made 'em pay for it by puttin' the stuff in the salad and lettin' em eat it...

Daria: General Lynn-ness in other words.

AP: And then there was me. Dad was draggin' me out on the huntin' and the fishin' and I didn't get to write much. And then there was the real huntin'. Dad took me out on an overnight camping trip so we could make with the killing of small animals or big animals or any animals...

(Scene: the woods. Music: "Weapon" -- Matthew GoodIt's a clear night, and AP and Fred are curled up in sleeping bags around a banked fire. Neither of them are asleep yet, so when a high, almost plaintive howl rises from somewhere deep within the trees, they both sit up.)

AP: (terrified) M-m-maybe now's a good time to make like humans. Y'know, electric lights ... walls ... big thick door you can lock...

Fred: Come on, son; we're top of the food chain! No uppity dog's gonna be able to hurt us!

AP: Tell that to Mrs Parson's Corgi.

Fred: (fed up) All right; that's it. I'm not having my son be a namby-pamby all his life. That wolf worries you? Take the gun and go shoot the varmint.

AP: (*gleep*) Dad, we tried that! With the deer, 'member?

Fred: You're gonna go out there and shoot, boy, and that's my last word on it.

(AP sighs and begins to disentangle himself from his sleeping bag. The howl rises again as he's reaching for his shoes and he freezes. Then he gives Fred a pleading look, but Fred's face is stone. So AP struggles the rest of the way out of the sleeping bag, sticks his feet into the shoes, takes the shotgun and a flashlight from their place by the packs and moves off into the trees.)

(Scene: deeper in the woods. AP picks his way carefully over roots and rocks, the gun slung over his shoulder and his flashlight trained on the ground at his feet. The howl he heard earlier comes again, very close, and he screams and jumps. He comes down badly on top of one of his shoelaces, stumbles and loses the flashlight -- it hits the ground and shatters. There's darkness. There's a rustle to the right and AP screams again. There is the sound of a shotgun shot.)

Lynn: (OS; freaking) WAUGH! Lose the gun, Maverick! It's not Peril season!

(We hear the sound of something heavy hitting the ground. A flashlight comes on to the right and reveals Lynn, in a Camp Juniper T-shirt and carrying her gear, as she steps out of the foliage. AP stares at her as if he has shot her and is seeing her ghost right now.)

AP: I ... I ... I...

Lynn: Just graced a very large maple twenty feet to my left with a hefty round of buckshot.

AP: (pointing at her) You ... you ... you...

Lynn: Should've found a less threatening way to get your attention, obviously.

AP: (confusion finally trumps shock) Come again? (in reply, Lynn produces the wolf howl) You evil scare-happy bi--

Lynn: (holding up a hand) Please. I've heard it from pros.

(AP's finally got his head together enough for "I'm so glad to see you" to get through and he grabs her in a big bear hug ... insofar as is possible with her luggage.)

AP: What're you doing here so late? I mean, it's all good, but so late?

Lynn: (shrug) It's a long way to hitch.

AP: (wide-eyed) Y-you... (stops; restarts) What went down?

Lynn: Camp Juniper's entire plumbing system, actually. (to the awed stare) Serves them right for having a prehistoric septic tank that yarks just because of Jell-O.

AP: So you got yoinked.

Lynn: Not exactly. More like they had to close down. No one wanted to risk the parents hearing that their darling offspring had to walk through an inch and a half of raw sewage to get to breakfast.

AP: So then why make with the thumb?

Lynn: ("duh" voice) Had I stuck around long enough for the buses to arrive, someone would have traced the accident back to me. I left a note saying that your mom picked me up and took to the road.

(Pause as AP tries to find the logic hole ... and eventually fails.)

AP: (puts a hand on her shoulder) C'mon. You can wool-pull Dad.

(They start walking; Lynn retrieves the shotgun.)

Lynn: By the way, Maverick...

AP: Hmm?

Lynn: (brandishing the stock of the gun) I ever see you with a firearm again, I take it off you and beat you with it. We clear?

AP: ("eep" look) Compliance!

Lynn: (as they get lost in the trees) That's from that Flight of the Navigator thing; do you even know what it means?

AP: Um ... in convex, I guess.

Lynn: That's context, AP.

(Fade to black.)

(Scene: hospital canteen. Daria has a small smile on; even AP has a reluctant grin as he harkens back to the good times. Then something strikes Daria.)

Daria: Did Lynn ever have her mother dragged into conferences with the teachers when she was a kid?

AP: Uh ... Erudite Emerald? We dropped rubber fish off the roof. Kate woulda lived in the principal's office if they didn't decide phone calls were easier. She always busted the teachers.

Daria: No. See, say she didn't exactly ... fit in. Didn't interact with anyone except for you, read above her age level rather than playing at recess, wrote things that disturbed people. Nothing against the written rules, but something that went against the grain of ordinary student life.

AP: Um ... well, I... I still don't get you.

Daria: (*sigh*) When I was a kid, my parents got dragged into school all the time, just because I preferred reading to official human interaction. They used to fight about it. (beat) I probably wouldn't even have remembered if this whole thing about Lynn's dad hadn't come up. I see why Mom tried so hard to defend me now, I guess; Dad getting mad at his supposed daughter for something that wasn't something she got from his side of the family must have freaked her out.

AP: Y'mean like something that reminded her of Jerome?

Daria: I wouldn't know, exactly, but I guess.

AP: Well... (beat; really thinking about it) Hmm. For something she didn't mean to bust anyone f... (something clicks) Ooooooooooooh.

Daria: You thought of something?

AP: Well, it wasn't reading but it was her just being her. It's why she doesn't do the art-smart thing very much.

(Scene: Oakwood Elementary, 2nd grade classroom. There are some late autumn decorations on the walls and windows -- paper jack-o' lanterns and turkeys. The kids are sitting at their desks; Lynn's still in the front row; AP's right behind her. Mrs Randall [very tall, no figure to speak of, green dress makes her look a little like a praying mantis, and she looks perpetually nervous] stands at her desk.)

Randall: Now, class, seeing as winter's nearly here, we should change the decorations, right?

Lynn: (softly) I don't see why. The turkeys and grinning vegetables pretty well represent the students in here.

(AP, who heard that, grins. Chris, who also heard that and isn't totally stupid, throws an eraser at Lynn's head. AP retaliates by digging in his desk and tossing an orange at Chris; AP being AP, he misses and hits a very small mousy-haired girl sitting in front of Chris -- the camera on her desk identifies her as Adriana "Shutterbug" Falconridge. She turns and scowls at AP, who gives her a sheepish grin in reply.)

Randall: (panicked) All right, all right, settle down! Chris, Andrew, that's enough of that! (beat as the class settles down) Now. We'll do some simple things; let's start with snowflakes. I'll pass out some white paper in a minute, but first I'll do a little demonstration.

(She takes out a piece of paper and folds it, then brings out a pair of scissors. Cut to about a half-hour later. The students are cutting pieces of paper into shapes as intricate as seven-and-eight year olds can make them. Mrs Randall is wandering around between the desks, watching the students at work.)

Randall: Yes, very nice, Adriana... Chris, try smaller pieces... Sam -- Sam, the paper's supposed to be white; snow's white, dear... Mei, this is paper-cutting, not origami... Andrew... (She's reached AP's desk; AP holds up a piece of mangled paper that looks like Freddy Kruger's been at it. A piece of paper falls off it; he gives a sick, sheepish grin.) ...Andrew, try again... Lynn.

(Lynn holds her own snowflake up. It's not the same simple square pattern as the others; the edges are rounded, so that it looks like a doily. It's quite nice -- but it's not the same as what the others are doing, as Mrs Randall proves when she holds up her example piece -- it's a simple square with simple shapes cut in it.)

Lynn: Excuse me ... I wasn't really done yet.

Randall: Lynn ... does anything strike you as wrong with this? (to the blank look) Do these look anything remotely alike?

Lynn: Well ... do they have to?

Randall: I showed the class how to do it; you didn't exactly follow instructions, did you?

Lynn: This is art, Mrs Randall. I didn't think we had to do it like paint-by-numbers or...

Randall: I don't really appreciate the attitude, young lady.

Lynn: What attitude? I'm just trying to express myself...

Randall: Young lady, while you're in my class, you'll do as I...

Lynn: But it's art, Mrs Randall; I...

Randall: I think we'll talk about this after school. I won't have you disrupting my class any more with this.

(She walks off among the desks again a little more briskly than before. Lynn looks wounded and vulnerable [two features we've never really seen on her face, but she's seven]. AP looks at her, a little worried. Chris smirks -- he likes to see her get it in the neck. In fact, so do a lot of the other kids.)

(Scene: OES playground. Music: "The Shadow of Seattle" -- Marcy Playground. Lynn's sitting on the low wall at the back of the playground, looking at her paper snowflake with utter confusion. Her bag lunch is sitting on the wall next to her, untouched. AP comes and joins her, digging in his own lunch bag.)

AP: Hey ho, Purple Peril! Mom packed an extra hunk of that chocolate cake with the maple sugar icing you like.

Lynn: (still staring at the snowflake) I'm not really hungry. You can have it.

AP: (looking a little worried) But you were tellin' me just last week that it was nice havin' dinner at my house even if Mom is a bit hyper 'cos at least she makes real food instead of the freezer-funk your mom feeds you and she makes real dessert! (slings an arm over her shoulder) Aw, c'mon, Purple Peril, what's wrong?

Lynn: (still staring at the snowflake) What's wrong with it? I think it looks nice.

AP: Hey, you don't wanna listen to her, Purple Peril. You know that no two snowflakes are just the same. So she's bein' silly if she wants everyone's to look the same. (beat) Did Mrs Randall say anything yet?

Lynn: Something about spending lunch trying to get a hold of Mom.

AP: Good luck. Doesn't she do meetings and stuff?

Lynn: (shrug) I think that's what secretaries are for. A message'll get to her. And then I'll be in for it.

AP: (trying desperately to think of something comforting) Well, hey, look on the bright side. She'd never come here. It's not like when Mom and Dad had to come over here when I stuck the class turtle to the book she uses to call attention.

Lynn: Maybe you're right. But...

AP: C'mon, Purple Peril. But what?

Lynn: Well, freaking out the teachers is fine. Kind of fun. But doing it without meaning to?

AP: You're ... um ... gifted!

(Lynn looks at AP, who grins big. She gives a reluctant smile in return.)

(Scene: OES corridor. Bell rings and a moment later, it's filled with kids milling out of classrooms. Lynn and AP come out of one behind the others. Mrs Randall follows them out.)

Randall: Lynn ... would you wait a minute?

Lynn: (stops; turns) Yes, ma'am?

Randall: I got in touch with your mother and she should be here soon to talk to me. I'd like you to stay behind.

Lynn: Um ... parent inbound. Teacher... (gestures at Mrs Randall) Doesn't that fit the bill for a parent/teacher conference?

Randall: (sigh) Why not just stay and try to get something out of this? Try to see it less as a punishment and more as a ... a learning opportunity.

Lynn: And what am I supposed to learn from listening to two adults who seem to control my life talking about me over my head?

Randall: (fed up) Your place. Now just go and wait for your mother to arrive.

AP: Um...

Randall: You'll see your little friend tomorrow, Andrew. Now go on home.

(AP exchanges a look with Lynn -- she looks sad and a little scared. Then he walks off, we follow him around the corner. He ducks into a bathroom. A moment later, we hear the click of high heels as Kate walks past. AP pokes his head out of the bathroom, sees who went by and ducks back in again.)

(Scene: outside Mrs Randall's classroom. Music: "Out From Under" -- Incubus. AP walks up to the door as quietly as he knows how.)

Kate: (OS) You got me out of a dinner meeting for a snowflake?

(AP peers around the corner and we see what he sees -- Kate sitting in a chair in front of Mrs Randall's desk, holding Lynn's snowflake. Lynn sits at her desk, watching this with an apprehensive expression.)

Randall: The snowflake itself isn't the problem, Ms Cullen. The problem is her distinct ... disregard for authority. She seems to think that she's above the rules.

Kate: You made rules about how she cuts up a little piece of paper. For this I pay my taxes.

Randall: Ms Cullen, you don't seem to...

Kate: What I don't seem to understand is why you think that a child showing some shred of originality and willingness to go the extra distance bothers you.

Randall: Going the extra...?

Kate: This thing is round. She had to work a little bit harder to do that, didn't she? That's willingness to put in a little more work to make something that little bit better than the rest of the class. The ability to do that is what separates the success stories from the blue-collar bozos and you know it. After all, if you had that ability, you wouldn't be settling for some measly job teaching second-graders in this sorry excuse for a Texas suburb.

Randall: Ms Cullen, this is exactly the problem. She is gifted intellectually ... and she knows it. She doesn't fit in. She doesn't even try. Now, I think she'd have a far easier time if she could just ... be a bit more like the other students.

Kate: ...A bit more like the other students. I've seen my daughter's report cards. She's pulling straight As. How many of your students can say that, Mrs Randall? (when Randall looks down at her desk blotter) She gets good grades and she reads beyond her age-level. My daughter has an intellect and you'd like her to strangle it to death just so your class is nice and uniform. What reich did you come out of?

Randall: I...

Kate: (standing) This conversation has gone quite far enough. I trust that this matter is not going to affect my daughter's grades in any way. And I thank you for wasting my afternoon with this nonsense. (beat) Come on, Lynn; we're going.

(AP ducks back around the corner, runs a few paces away from the door and trips over a shoelace. He conceals himself behind a water fountain as Kate herds Lynn down the hall.)

Kate: I don't believe you sometimes. You can't even cut a piece of paper according to instructions.

Lynn: But you said...

Kate: No, I don't appreciate her acting like a little Hitler over a Goddamn paper snowflake but you could at least follow one simple rule, no matter how stupid it is.

Lynn: But...

Kate: We'll talk about this tonight. I'm going to try to get back in on that meeting. I'll try not to be too late.

(She squeezes Lynn's shoulder and strides off. Lynn stops, looks at her shoes, squints her eyes shut. AP gets up, watches Lynn for a minute, then steps forward.)

AP: Hey ho.

Lynn: (not looking up) I thought you went home.

AP: Thought I'd wait. Get a lift home.

Lynn: Mom went back to work.

AP: ...'Kay then. (beat) Um ... gotta be home anytime special?

Lynn: (shrug) Late. Dinner meeting but she wants to talk to me after.

AP: We could stop by the park on the way, then. Um ... go to that bit with the trees and see if we can find cool crawlers under the rocks. (beat) Or you could throw rocks at the goldfish in that pond thing.

(Lynn looks up at him now, with a very small smile. AP grins and offers his arm. She hooks it with her own and they walk off.)

(Scene: hospital cafeteria. Daria is looking at a depressed-seeming AP with something like awe.)

Daria: At least my parents were gracious about it.

AP: I don't know much about words, but I figure that "gracious" is the last thing Kate Cullen is.

Daria: (now let's get to the meat of it) And where was her father while all this was going on?

AP: (shrug) I dunno. We didn't talk about her dad much even then. I'd have been okay with it and everything, 'specially after meeting him, but...

Daria: You met him?

AP: Sure. He dropped by sometimes. Took us out ride-hopping one summer just after I turned eight. First time I met him, we'd just started second grade. I guess she'd got letters and stuff but she never said.

Daria: What'd you think of him?

AP: Erudite Emerald, I was seven. Then, only thing I could think of him was "good timing".

Daria: (perplexed) Good timing?

(Scene: Oakwood Elementary School, playground. Music: "Hero" -- Chad Kroeger feat. Josey Scott. AP, age 7, is having his arm bent behind his back by a mid-height black-haired boy. He's struggling and grunting with pain.)

Lynn: (OS) This is silly, you know.

(Pan over to Lynn -- who is being held upside down by her ankles by Chris Hutchins, who stands on a low wall at the back of the playground. Lynn is using both hands to keep her skirt in position.)

Lynn: (cont'd) If you drop me on my head and kill all my brain cells, I won't be the geeky brain kid and you won't have anyone to make fun of anymore.

Chris: Always be the weenie over there. (to AP, still struggling in his captor's grip) You got a reason we shouldn't cream you?

(AP looks around a little desperately, finishing up looking over his shoulder, where something catches his eye.)

AP: Adult!

(Chris looks over, as does the kid holding AP, and Lynn lets go of her skirt so she can grab Chris' calf. She hauls herself backwards and sinks her teeth into Chris' ankle; he screams and they both let go of each other's legs at the same time. Lynn lands on her hands and knees on the asphalt as the black-haired boy releases AP's arm. He and Chris tear off towards the school as Lynn sits back on her heels and examines the palms of her hands.)

Lynn: Quick thinking. I thought it was a bit obvious, but it's not like they're smart enough to notice a quick and simple lie.

AP: What lie? Look.

Jerome: (OS) Hello, Trouble.

Lynn: (getting to her feet) Dad!

AP: Dad?

(He watches Lynn run up to ... a male, besuited, 25-years-older version of herself, who grabs her up in a hug. AP nods to himself; the similarity between them is all the confirmation he needs.)

AP: Oh. Right. Dad.

Jerome: And who were those little felons?

Lynn: A couple of Henry Bowers wannabes. Well, Bowers and Criss.

Jerome: They're short a bully. But then, you're a few Losers short the club anyway. You've Bill's word-savvy, Bev's aim -- and gender -- and Richie's glasses, but...

Lynn: (gesturing at a lost-looking AP) Ben's engineering, Bill's red hair and Richie's runaway mouth. Dad, this is AP McIntyre.

AP: (gleep; offers hand) Good to meet you, sir.

Jerome: (taking and shaking it) Likewise. I've heard a great deal about you, AP.

AP: (wide-eyed) Eee...

Lynn: (fond smile) He says 'thanks but stop; you're embarrassing me'. (beat; frown) Mom never told me you were coming...

Jerome: Ah, well, you see, I thought I'd be better off presenting your mother with a fait accompli...

AP: A what?

Jerome: A thing which will prevent her from being able to argue with me. We'll ring Kate from the restaurant. Your parents too, if you'd like to come along, AP. It's a father's job to vet his daughter's boyfriends, after all.

Lynn: (blushing) Dad...

AP: Sir?!?

(Jerome gives the pair of them the by-now familiar Mona Lisa smirk.)

(Scene: Oakwood Heights mall; bank of payphones. AP is talking into the phone.)

AP: C'mon, Mom; you heard from him, you heard from her and now you're hearing from me! The guy's her dad, he's cool, and he wants us to do dinner! So can I go? (pause) Yeah, yeah, if we go someplace fancy I'll tell you what was on the menu. Yeahbye.

(He hands the phone to Jerome, who hangs up.)

Jerome: Your mother seems ... interested in your upbringing.

Lynn: His mother seems a little hyper. But she's cool.

Jerome: Right! First thing we do is a little shopping. I'll really need some new books and things for the trip back. Perhaps if you lot find something for me I'll let you pick out some things as a finder's fee. (looking at Lynn) And we'll have to find you something more ... suited to your tastes, clotheswise. Woman, you look like your mother dressed you.

AP: But ... her mother did... Oh. Right.

(Jerome and Lynn share a little grin.)

(Scene: relatively fancy restaurant. Jerome is standing by the maitre d's podium, talking on the phone. In the pauses, we can hear shrill yelling from the receiver.)

Jerome: Yes, Kate, I... (pause) No, Kate, I... (pause) Kate, I do have visitation... (pause) Now, look here, Katydid... (loud shrillness from other end of phone) All right, all right, old habits die hard. (pause) It's just dinner, Kate. And we are well chaperoned. (pause) By one Master Andrew P McIntyre... (more overly loud screeching) I fail to see how you consider him a 'freak', m'duck. He seems a personable gentleman. (pause) Listen, listen, our table's ready so we must dash. (pause) Oh, of course we'll be late in, darling; have you ever known me to close a dinner date before ten? (pause) Yes, yes, yes, ta-ta, Kate.

(He hangs up the phone and looks at the two children; AP looks awed and Lynn's giggling behind her hand.)

AP: Sir? That ... I ... never heard anyone talk to her that way...

Jerome: Well, I was married to her, you know. One learns a few survival skills after a few years of twenty-four-seven living. Shall we?

(He gestures towards the waiter, who nods, turns and heads into the restaurant. The kids pad off after him and Jerome follows at their heels.)

(Scene: the table. The trio are looking at menus.)

AP: Skate and caper sauce. (beat) Who'd cook sports gear?

Jerome: A skate's a type of ray.

Lynn: Chondrichcthyes.

AP: Cartilagenous fish! Cool! (beat; looking at Jerome) C'n I have that?

Jerome: You may, but I'm not sure capers would be to your taste...

Lynn: He likes capers. I think they taste funny, but his mom cooks with them a lot so he's used to them.

Jerome: Your mother is a very ... singular woman, AP.

AP: Hey!

Lynn: It was a compliment.

AP: Oh.

Jerome: What'd you think, Trouble? Roast lamb or the coq au vin?

AP: Sorry, but that last one sounds kinda sick.

Lynn: It's chicken, AP. It's the French word for chicken. (AP gives a sheepish grin) The lamb, please? Mom brings home that frozen chicken stuff so I get it too much.

Jerome: (frowning) Do me a favour, AP. Have your mother invite my daughter to dinner more often.

AP: Sounds good, sir!

Jerome: (to hovering waiter) One skate with capers for the young man and two of the lamb. And a half-carafe of the Sauvingon. And three glasses. (to the look) Oh, they'll just have a sip -- it's expected and natural in Portugal.

(The waiter walks off, looking a little scandalised. Lynn looks at Jerome.)

Lynn: Why Portugal, Dad?

Jerome: Beg pardon?

Lynn: Mom said ... why Portugal? I mean, what's wrong with here?

Jerome: Texas? Let me count the ways. America ... I suppose I just ... needed to clear my head.

(AP watches this play out, looking nervous.)

Lynn: It wasn't ... 'cos of me?

Jerome: What on earth gave you that idea?

Lynn: I don't remember very well, but ... once when I was really little ... I was in your office, and ... I had something of yours, and then Mom was yelling and I got sent to my room and then there was more yelling and then ... you were gone, and we were moving, and I wasn't Smythe anymore.

Jerome: Lynn. Please. Believe me. My leaving had nothing to do with you. Your mother and I... We had our differences... (sigh) Lynn, between my job and problems with your mother...

Lynn: Just so it wasn't my fault.

Jerome: It was not your fault.

Lynn: (not completely buying it) Okay.

(Re-enter waiter. He puts the mini-carafe and three glasses down on the table with an abruptness that is nearly rude. Then he stalks off. Jerome pours a very small amount into two of the glasses, then fills his own.)

Jerome: Well. To our fortuitous meeting, and my prospective future son-in-law.

Lynn: (turning the same colour as the wine) Da-ad!

AP: (likewise) Sir?!?

(Jerome smirks again.)

(Scene: Cullen house, ext. Music: "Dark Secret" -- Matthew Sweet. Kate is standing in the doorway, drumming her nails on the doorframe, when Jerome's Bentley pulls up. She stalks down the walk and to the car as Jerome opens the driver's side door and comes out to meet her.)

Jerome: If you're going to sound off, try quietly -- the kids are asleep.

Kate: I don't give much of a damn, Jerome. You turn up out of nowhere and...

Jerome: (pointed glare) Portugal is hardly 'nowhere', Kate.

(AP's head appears in the window. We can just see Lynn curled up on the other end of the seat, asleep.)

Kate: Oh. So she asked you about that now. Wonderful.

Jerome: She asked if it was her fault. She remembers something about that day in my study.

(Kate runs her hands through her hair and sighs.)

Kate: How much?

Jerome: Not that much. Just enough to let her blame herself for the divorce.

Kate: Well, it's better than the alternative. She could have found out just how much of an asshole you really are.

Jerome: I'm concerned about our daughter carrying around Christ only knows how much unnecessary guilt and I'm the arsehole? (beat) There's some things for her in the boot. Would you mind bringing them in? I'll take her up.

Kate: Like hell you will! She has legs; I don't want you in my house!

Jerome: You are not denying me the right to tuck my only child in, Kate. I have some rights, you know.

(He turns to the car and sees AP looking at them. Jerome and AP lock eyes for a moment, and then he moves to the other side of the door, opening it as Kate looks on, fuming. Lynn looks up sleepily.)

Lynn: Aw ... we home?

Jerome: Yep. C'mon, Trouble.

(He picks her up and carries her towards the house. AP sits up in his seat and looks at Kate, who scowls at him before walking back into the house.)

(Scene: Bentley, int. Music plays on. Jerome driving, a set look on his face. AP is sitting in the front passenger seat.)

Jerome: Straight down here?

AP: Two blocks, then right at the ugly ducky mailbox and it's the house at the end with too much lawn.


Jerome: Is she happy?

AP: What, Purple Peril? (thinks) Dunno. Kinda. Sometimes.

Jerome: Only sometimes, huh.

AP: Y'couldn't get her to live with you, couldja? (Jerome shoots him a sharp look before bringing his eyes back to the road) I mean, I'd miss her and all, but she'd be better with you. I can see that. Anyone could.

Jerome: AP ... if it were up to me, I'd like nothing better. Thing is, it wouldn't be proper. Custody goes to the mother and ... well ... there are no guarantees she'd have a better life.

(Brief pause; silence broken only by the tick-tick noise of a turn signal.)

AP: Visit more, maybe?

Jerome: Bet on it.

(And the car pulls up in front of the housewith too much lawn.)

(Scene: Hospital cafeteria. Daria's mulling this over; something about it seems to bother her.)

AP: (bitter-sounding) Yeah. Right. I didn't have much cash anyway when I was little; making that bet'd have been a loser from minute one.

Daria: He seemed ... an improvement.

AP: Sure, for awhile. He came by a couple of times, took her places -- we went on vacation and did the ride-thing ... and then poof. (beat; grudging) But I guess he at least paid attention. Y'know, listened to her and that.

Daria: And he was the first one to notice things between you and her, even then.

AP: Yeah, well, he was just joking. (beat) I think. (beat) And it's not like it ever really happened...

Daria: I'm honestly curious -- why not?

AP: (handing her a few sheets of paper) This is why not.

(Daria takes the pieces of paper, looks over them ... then frowns in confusion.)

Daria: "I'm sorry". Over and over and over again.

AP: Five hundred times. I counted.

Daria: Wouldn't cut and paste have been easier?

AP: Yeah, but it just didn't have the same "oomph". I mean, it'd be cheating and that was one thing I wasn't gonna cheat on.

(AP looks so distressed at this that Daria looks nearly set to let it go, but then she looks at the pages again -- "I'm sorry" written over and over in AP's struggling handwriting. That decides her.)

Daria: What did you do?

AP: Well ... y'know ... long time back, her mom got real off about us hanging out and stuff. And...

(Scene: Cullen residence, Oakwood. Music: "Living a Lie" -- Default. AP, age 13 [black jeans, blue T-shirt], scampers up to the door in jeans and T-shirt, book bag slung over his shoulder. He rings the doorbell and waits. Door opens -- Lynn stands there in black skirt, grey T-shirt, sneakers ... and her purple jacket, which is several sizes too large for her. Her expression screams "help me".)

Kate: (OS) I don't care who sent it to you or how much sentimental value you think it has -- you are not wearing that ... that thing to school! And for the last time, I don't want to hear about you hanging around with that little red-haired freak when you could be spending time doing something nor...

(She appears behind Lynn in the hallway and Lynn seems to get sudden inspiration. She interrupts her mother by the simple expedient of grabbing AP and kissing him on the cheek. She turns to her mother as she grabs AP's hand -- AP looks very pleasantly stunned.)

Lynn: Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention -- I'm dating. Him. (beat) Dating's normal, right?

(She walks off, dragging the still stunned AP behind her. Kate stares after them both, stunned and not in the pleasant way.)

(Scene: Oakwood street. Music plays on. Lynn and AP walking. They are still holding hands. AP seems to be waking up a little and seems not to want to be.)

Lynn: I should apologise for that.

AP: Oh, no, no, no you shouldn't. Ah... what are friends for?

Lynn: Yeah, well, it was still probably out of line, springing it on you like that. But it does solve a lot of problems.

AP: She riding you that hard?

Lynn: Like a bucking bronc at rodeo.

AP: Yeah, I guess it'd de-freak Dad, too. He's been talking about ... well, y'know. I don't do girls, I don't do sports, I sleep in a closet...

Lynn: And he's worried about you coming out of said closet. And not in the literal sense.

AP: Well, you know Dad. So I guess we could do this ... y'know ... thing ... in front of Dad and he'd know that I'm not ... y'know ... that way. And he'd stop talking about taking me hunting, feeding me beer and making me a man.

Lynn: So that works out for both of us. (beat) We're ... still holding hands.

AP: Well, yeah. I mean, it could work out for school too. You know Chris and Sam and the rest of the Wild Bunch whup me in the locker rooms... And the gym. And the hallways.

Lynn: Until I turn up and for some reason, they always stop.

AP: Well, you sticking Jonson to the ceiling in the guy's locker room with masking tape kinda freaked 'em out. Anyway. They keep callin' me ... well, that ... too.

Lynn: You think they'll lay off at least a little if you proved conclusively that you're hetero?

AP: Worth a shot. And it'd shut Jenny Malloy up with you, right?

Lynn: Sticks and stones may break my bones...

AP: But whips and chains excite...

(She punches him hard on the shoulder with her free hand to shut him up. But even with that, she doesn't let go.)

AP: So what's with the jacket, anyway?

Lynn: My cousin Jan sent it to me. She found it in Camden -- says it's the only place you can find a jacket like this in any colour but green.

AP: Think she could get me one in blue? (to the look) What? I think it's cool! And it's ... anonymous? Amorphous?

Lynn: Androgynous.

AP: Right.

(Scene: Hospital cafeteria. Daria rolls her eyes with a very slight Mona Lisa smile. AP, blushing, grins.)

Daria: A match made in Hades.

AP: It worked out great. People freaked for awhile, but it wasn't like no one figured it wouldn't happen. I mean, we were always together anyway, and we were in that whole dating age group and... (shrug) Well, anyway, that went on for, like, two years. Then... (picks up the papers, throws them down) Then this.

Daria: I can't think of anything so bad that she wouldn't forgive you for it.

AP: I ... kinda cheated on her.

Daria: You ... "kinda" cheated on someone who was only "supposedly" going out with you. (beat) How exactly does that work?

AP: Well, I guess it's the only thing that makes it so that we don't go out for real now. I think. See, it was about our third year "going out" and Nympho-Goth was coming into her own. I mean really.

(Scene: OHS corridor. Music: "Warning" -- All Too Much. AP's at his locker, trying to excavate something out of it. Adriana, a small mousy girl with a camera around her neck, approaches him. She looks at the mess in AP's locker and then starts snapping pictures.)

AP: C'mon, Dree; it's not art, 'kay?

Adriana: (still shooting) Art's in the eye of the beholder.

AP: D'you just come here for the photo op?

Adriana: (putting the camera down) No. Mara wants to talk to you.

AP: ...Why? I mean, she's not... Um...

Adriana: This, you're not supposed to know, but ... well, she's worked her way through the football team. You know -- romance wise. The football team and all the other conventionally cute guys in school.

AP: What, she wants me to work her out a stat sheet?

Adriana: You are dense. She wants to up her score. So she's working her way through your people next. She wants to talk to you so she can drag you into a broom closet or something.

(AP frowns over this one for a moment, and the realisation hits. As it does, Adriana raises her camera again. AP bats it down.)

AP: She's nuts! I don't wanna! I've got a girlfriend! She ... she ... she's just nuts!

Adriana: You've got a girlfriend? Huh. Andy, you two walk around the halls together, you barely hold hands, you never kiss on the mouth... Big surprise that Mara figures you'd want someone with a little more fire just for the afternoon.

AP: Hey, Purple Peril's got plenty of... And that's AP, you...

Adriana: Yeah, whatever. Mara'll get you sooner or later and you know it. So just ... chill out and enjoy it. After all, that's the only real action you'll ever get.

(Adriana raises her camera and takes a picture of AP's confused, enraged face, then strides off. AP stands there; when he calms down, his face starts registering panic. Lynn comes up behind him.)

Lynn: Salu--


(He spins to face her; she looks confused.)

Lynn: Have you been playing with psychotropic substances again? You know what happened last time.

AP: Um ... no ... I ... I gotta go.

(AP moves off quickly. Lynn looks after him; hurt shows on her face for a moment. Then she shuts his locker for him and walks off.)

(Scene: boy's locker room. Music: "Lovercall" -- Danko Jones. AP's sitting on a bench, head in his hands. Joe McKeon approaches and sits down next to him.)

Joe: Cripes. No home to go to?

AP: Trying to avoid that nympho-Goth Mara Fitzgerald. Figure she'll go find another toy if I hang back long enough.

Joe: Most guys pursue Mara ... and the trick is to get her twice.

AP: What part of "I have a girlfriend" don't people get?

Joe: Mara's discreet when dealing with the the spoken-for. Ask Sam Stack. Heck, ask half the football team. You don't see any of them having their girlfriends finish with them for succumbing to Mara's charms.

AP: What's with you guys, anyway? I mean, that's not the point. I mean, you don't really wanna kiss someone else if you're in love. Right?

Joe: Debatable. But who's in love when they're fifteen? (to AP's miserable sigh) Oh. I see. Then why don't I ever see you two acting on that?

AP: I ... see, that's the problem. I never kissed anyone before, and dunno if I'm any good. And for her, I wanna be. Y'know?

Joe: You're considering taking Mara up on her offer for confirmation of your kissing abilities. And as a practice dummy. (to AP's nod) You want to use Mara Fitzgerald, even as she's using you. Bold move, Andrew.

AP: How many times? It's AP. (beat) And I do and I don't. I mean, there's this part of me that's kinda selfish and part of me that's kinda not and I dunno... See, I wanna be just right for Purple Peril. I want, when I do kiss her, for it to be...

Joe: (smiling a little at the unbridled romantic) Spectacular?

AP: Yeah, guess. And that's the not-selfish bit. The selfish bit is ... well, even if I suck at the lip-lock ... I want her to be my first, not that li'l witch with too much paint.

Joe: Ever thought that Lynn might be just as inexperienced as you are?

AP: So? Someone oughta know what they're doing ... right? Aw, I dunno; I suck at this.

Joe: Well, I suggest, if you're going to make sure Lynn's your first kiss, you do it fast. Mara's persistent -- she will get you sooner or later. Then, after the first, you can use Mara as a tutor and practice dummy and make sure all the ones that follow are just what you want them to be.

AP: But... I... Awjeez. What if ... what if it freaks her out, me just out and ... kissing her like that? What if she doesn't wanna be ... a couple after that?

Joe: I've seen the way you two are, kissing or not. Adding the new dimension will only help matters. I may not know from personal experience but... You two have been dancing around it for awhile now. This way, at least you know where you stand.

(Joe gets up and walks off. AP sits there, considering.)

(Scene: OHS corridor. Music plays on. Lynn's stacking books in her locker. AP walks up to her, jaw squared and fists clenched. He looks very nervous. Lynn looks up at him.)

Lynn: What happened to you yesterday? We were supposed to meet at the library. You were going to help me study for that geometry test.

AP: Eee.

Lynn: Are you okay?

AP: Eee.

Lynn: (worried; puts a tentative hand on his shoulder) C'mon, Maverick, spit it out.

AP: (more panic; 'I never thought about the spit involved') Eee...

Lynn: (takes him by both shoulders, shakes) Do you really want me to sic the school nurse on you? Or maybe an exorcist is in order. Come on, AP, you're scaring me. Just...

(AP grabs her around the waist, pulls her forward and kisses her. Lynn stiffens for just a second, eyes very wide, then relaxes and kisses back. Then Jenny, Mei and Tracy, walking past, stop for a moment to stare before giggling loudly and walking away. This breaks the kiss up and the two parties involved leap apart, staring at each other, both tense as bowstrings.)

AP: Uh.

Lynn: That...

AP: I ... think I'm gonna...

Lynn: ...Was...

AP: I go now bye!

(AP vooms. Lynn touches her fingers to her lips, frowning thoughtfully ... and then breaks into a smile.)

Lynn: Wow.

(Scene: OHS corridor. Music: "There Is No Love Between Us Anymore" -- Pop Will Eat Itself. AP walking, shoulders hunched around his ears, books clutched to his chest. Mara [short black skirt, knee-high black suede boots, tight-fitting low-cut burgundy top] steps around a corner and puts a hand out, stopping him.)

AP: Eee!

Mara: Did you really think that was going to work?

AP: Come again?

Mara: (licentious smirk) Mmm... thought you'd never ask.

AP: Wha-- Ew! No! I...

Mara: It's all over school -- your first public lip-lock with the girlfriend. I guess that was to get a message to yours truly...

AP: Well... Kinda...

Mara: Okay, I get it, already; you don't want to lose the girlfriend. Who says you will? (looping an arm around his neck, cozying up) I can keep a secret if you can...

AP: I... I don't...

Mara: What you don't, kid, is have a choice. Now come on, already.

AP: Muuuuuuh...

(Scene: OHS library. Music plays on. Lynn's moving along a row of shelves when she hears giggling. She rolls her eyes.)

Jenny: (OS) ...locked up in the broom closet and believe me, the stupid little geek won't know what hit him.

(Lynn frowns, moves to the end of the row, and peeks around it to see Jenny, Mei and Tracy. They're giggling some more.)

Mei: Why would anyone...?

Jenny: Not our business. It'll just be funny seeing him try to get out of there before the janitor comes.

Tracy: Isn't that kind of ... I don't know... He didn't seem very happy about it.

Mei: I know, and I don't get why...

(Sam Stack walks past and smacks into Lynn. She glares at him.)

Sam: Watch where you're going, geek. Yo, Jenny!

(Sam walks off. Lynn frowns and leaves.)

(Scene: OHS corridor. Music plays on. Lynn marches along the corridor towards a small unmarked door. When she reaches it, she tries the doorknob and is surprised when it turns. Surprise turns to shock when she sees AP and Mara kissing on the other side of the door. They break off when they hear the door and AP goes pasty when he sees her. Mara rolls her eyes.)

Mara: It's gotta happen once, doesn't it...

AP: Muuuuuuh...

Mara: Look, I...

(Lynn shuts the door without saying a word. She stands there for a second, and then the door opens again; Lynn starts walking and Mara, stepping out of the closet and leaving a broken-looking AP in there, follows.)

Mara: Lynn...

Lynn: Not him? Can't get his tongue down off the roof of his mouth, I guess.

Mara: It didn't mean anything...

Lynn: Oh good.

Mara: I just wanted to ... it's trophy hunting...

Lynn: And what did he want?

Mara: Come on, Lynn, you're not going to break up with him just because...

Lynn: Just because I found him swapping saliva with another girl? According to popular culture, that's the best reason to break up with someone.

Mara: But...

(At which point, Lynn stops, grabs Mara by the lapels of her leather jacket, and pulls her forward and up so that they're nose to nose.)

Lynn: It's also a good reason to hit the other girl in the equation.

(Mara squints her eyes shut, waiting for the blow ... and after a minute of waiting, she opens her eyes and looks at Lynn fearfully. Lynn lets go and moves off down the corridor; this time, Mara's smart -- and scared -- enough to let her go.)

(Scene: Redgrave Park. Music: "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me" -- the Smiths. Lynn's sitting on a swing. Her face is unreadable. AP wanders over and sits down on the next swing over. Silence for a moment.)

AP: I... I wrote you something.

Lynn: You did something with words.

AP: Didn't need many.

(He hands over several sheets of paper. Lynn looks them over, still expressionless. Then she hands them back.)

Lynn: You didn't need to do this.

AP: I did! I...

Lynn: It's not like it was real.

AP: What...?

Lynn: Us going out. It was silly to think that you wouldn't want to...

AP: But...

Lynn: ...That you wouldn't want to kiss other girls and...

AP: But I...

Lynn: It was just an arrangement. One I guess neither of us needs anymore.

(She's not looking at him; her face is blank. AP watches her a long moment. Then he sighs, giving up. They sit in silence for awhile.)

AP: We still...?

Lynn: Friends? Sure.

AP: Even when I...?

Lynn: Yeah. (beat) I guess you wanted someone to ... to practice on before the Nympho-Goth got her hooks in you. What else are friends for?

(AP looks at her, sees a very brief flicker of hurt and opens his mouth to explain ... then sees her face close up again. He shakes his head; "I must have imagined that". He holds out the papers again.)

AP: Sure you don't want these?

Lynn: I don't need them. After all, that's friendship -- never apologise, never explain.

AP: Well, I am kinda sorry about the whole not-studying-geometry thing...

Lynn: Funny you should mention that. The test is tomorrow...

(She grabs her book bag and gets up.)

AP: The Tower?

Lynn: You're buying.

AP: Can I getcha an IOU?

(Lynn sighs.)

(Scene: hospital canteen. Daria is shaking her head.)

Daria: You honestly didn't have to worry. About your ... um ... kissing. (beat) Then again, what would I know?

AP: (blush) Yeah, well, I learned a couple things.

Daria: Honesty in the cause of getting what you want not being one of them, it seems.

AP: I know. I suck. (beat) Never did pay her back for that pizza, y'know...

(They're silent for a few seconds, remembering that he might never get the chance.)

Daria: Well ... you two seem quite the double-act without being a couple.

AP: And that helps?

Daria: I guess I wondered ... where other people fit into the equation? Mara? Casey?

AP: Oh them. Well, Nympho-Goth you heard about -- there wasn't any more anonymity... (bangs head on table) Damn, not that word...

Daria: Animosity?

AP: That's the one. Anyway, the Nympho-Goth felt bad about the whole deal so she went up to Purple Peril and tried to set her up with some other people. Dunno who was more messed up by that freakshow; her or me. Guess her; I was 'kay 'cos none of it worked.

Daria: And Casey got involved with this how?

AP: Oh, we known him from way back. Like grade school back. You said about the double-act thing? (Daria nods) Well, we were like that about most everything. 'Specially Halloween costumes. So every year, we'd go matching-like. (beat; musing) Kate didn't like that, but she only tried messin' with it once.

(Scene: Cullen bathroom. Music: "B Movie Scream Queen" -- Murderdolls. Lynn is unloading a shopping bag -- it contains black hair dye, white spray-on dye and various shades of dark makeup. Kate appears in the doorway and watches for a moment.)

Kate: What are you doing?

Lynn: My hair; then probably my face.

Kate: You are not coating your face with that gunk! You should have outgrown that whole 'playing with Mommy's make-up' phase by now.

Lynn: This isn't your makeup. Yours is boring.

Kate: What are you trying to achieve here, exactly?

Lynn: Practice time.

Kate: Practice for what?

Lynn: My Halloween costume. I'm going as the Bride of Frankenstein this year.

Kate: Oh, no you are not!

Lynn: Tell that to AP. This year's double-act was his idea.

Kate: I should have figured.

Lynn: My suggestion was vetoed due to AP's lack of funds. Any idea how much the Godzilla and Mothra costumes cost to rent?

Kate: For God's sake, Lynn! Did it ever occur to you that if you were more like a normal little girl, you'd have more friends?

Lynn: Did it ever occur to you that the only way I'd be able to even fake being a normal little girl would be lobotomy, repeated head injury or the consumption of various drugs that I'm supposed to be too young to know about?

Kate: And I probably don't even want to know why you insist on going to these school parties as a double-act with your little red-haired freak year after year?

Lynn: That's easy. It makes it easier for the other kids to avoid us.

Kate: (fed up) Ohhhh no. You may be misanthropy on legs, but I'm not going to sit by and let that little red-haired freak help you further into that antisocial rut of yours. Get in the car.

Lynn: Where are we going?

(Scene: Angelique's, a costume shop in Lawndale. Music: "Bells, Books and Candles" -- Graeme Revell. Kate is dragging Lynn around the shop by her wrist. Lynn looks more unimpressed than usual.)

Kate: What about this cute little fairy outfit?

Lynn: Faeries could be construed as the harbingers of death. (beat) Sounds good to me.

Kate: (sigh) Never mind. How about this pink rabbit suit?

Lynn: Give me a pair of scissors, a bow tie, and five minutes alone with that costume. Then call Playboy and tell them they've got a new bunny.

Kate: Do you have the remotest idea how horrible what you said is?

Lynn: Put you off getting me the costume, though, didn't it?

Kate: We are not leaving this shop until you agree to a costume.

Lynn: I already have agreed to a costume. Just not with you.

Kate: Well, I'm who counts here.

Lynn: Way to encourage your child's creative growth, Mom.

Kate: You don't need any encouragement in that regard. The last time I even just turned a blind eye, you wrecked the yards of half the neighbourhood.

Lynn: But isn't it nice to know that Animal Control is doing its job?

Kate: So what is your problem with normal costumes for girls your age?

Lynn: They're costumes for my physical age, is the problem. Aren't you the one always telling me that I'm eight going on thirty?

Kate: Okay; that's reasonable. (spies something on a rack out of shot) Now here's something not even you can argue with.

(Kate walks out of shot, dragging Lynn with her.)

(Scene: same shop, changing area, a few moments later. Music plays on.)

Kate: Come on; I know it fits. Come out and let's see how it looks!

Lynn: (OS) I'm not wearing this thing in public. It'll be embarrassing.

Kate: And turning your hair into a fright wig won't?

Lynn: (OS) No; you can only get embarrassed by something you think is stupid that you didn't do of your own free will.

Kate: Get out here, Lynn; I mean it.

(Lynn sighs and exits, wearing a sapphire-blue Victorian era dress. It's a little old for her, but somehow her facial expression of adult disgust helps her carry it off. Kate beams.)

Lynn: Most kids wouldn't feel this sinking feeling in their stomachs at having made their mothers smile that way, right?

Kate: Now that's more like it. Well, we'll have to do something about the hair.

Lynn: Maybe we can just get a wig or something. The fewer people know it's me in this stupid dress, the better.

Kate: Oh, come on, Lynn; don't you want to show all those kids who pick on you how pretty you can be?

Lynn: No. Particularly not since it's the brains they beat me up for and I can't outrun them in this dress.

Kate: (sigh) Lynn, give your classmates a little more credit. (to the implacable look) All right, we'll get a wig. But I warn you ... try to pull a fast one on me to get out of wearing the dress and it will go extremely hard with you, do you understand?

Lynn: (shoulders slumped; she knows she's stuck) I understand.

(Scene: lunchroom, Oakwood Elementary. AP bounces up to Lynn, who's reading Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein' with a wistful expression on her face. She's nearly finished it.)

AP: Hey ho, Purple Peril!

Lynn: (sigh) Salutations, Maverick.

AP: Y'know, you looked a lot more happy yesterday. Halloween usually perks you up.

Lynn: Well, it did until yesterday. There's a problem with the costume. I...

(She stops when something in the book grabs her attention and holds it fast. AP looks quizzically at her.)

AP: Um ... Purple Peril? You were gonna say there was a thing with the costume? (beat) Hello? (beat) Dang, lost you, didn't I. (He sits down and opens his lunch bag.)

(Scene: Cullen front hall. Kate is standing by the door, dressed and ready for work, a Nikon in her hands. She looks impatient.)

Kate: Come on, Lynn! I want to get a picture for the family Christmas card before I get to work! Will you get a move on?

Lynn: (OS) Just a minute! One more thing I have to do!

Kate: (sigh) The things I do to get a decent picture of you for a change ... I'm going to be late for work!

Lynn: (OS) Okay, okay, I'm coming.

(We hear soft footsteps coming down the stairs; Kate's grin turns into a horrified stare as she lets out a little scream and drops her camera.)

(Scene: McIntyre house, ext. Music: "Sick Little Girl" -- Pop Will Eat Itself. Door opens; Fred's standing there.)

Fred: Okay; let's-- (really sees the person on the other side) AGH!

Lynn: (OS) It's okay, Mr McIntyre. Is AP ready to go?

Fred: (nervous look at her) Andrew!

(He walks off. AP comes banging down the stairs in true movie Frankenstein tradition, extended arms and stiff-legged gait. He's put on the flat head wig and painted the rest of himself green, and put a couple of bolts on the neck. Overall, it's not bad, for an eight-year-old's version of the movie. He gets to the bottom of the stairs and grins)

AP: So whaddya think? They're gonna-- (finally focuses on his partner) ACK!

(Now we see Lynn. She's hacked the wig into an uneven mess and singed the edges. She's torn and frayed the hem, neckline and sleeves of the dress and dirtied it until it look like she's been buried in it. Her face is done up in scars and burns over death pallor. There are scar lines all the way around her neck and wrists, complete with 'sutures', and there's a similar line on what you can see of her chest, just over her heart. She looks hideous.)

Lynn: That's three for three. I think I outdid myself this year.

AP: What're you supposed to be?

Lynn: The Bride of Frankenstein. The real one. (beat; to the uncomprehending look) I'll tell you on the way to school. Just ... the movies got it way wrong.

AP: Aw, c'mon; Hollywood always gets it good!

Lynn: (raised eyebrow) Yes, if you don't read...

(Scene: Oakwood Elementary, third grade classroom. Music plays on. Lynn is sitting at the front of the room. AP, a row behind and one seat to the left, keeps looking at her and grinning. Everyone else in the room, dressed as devils and black cats and rabbits and fairies, is staring at her. This includes the teacher, in traditional witch's garb complete with black hat and broomstick. Finally, the teacher speaks.)

Hurley: Um ... Lynn ... what ... who are you supposed to be, exactly?

Lynn: I'm the bride of Frankenstein, Miss Hurley.

Chris: (dressed as a pirate) No you're not! The Bride of Frankenstein was the spooky broad with the hair!

Lynn: (standing up and facing the class as if giving a book report) Dr Victor Frankenstein was in love with a woman named Elizabeth. His monster, made of the best parts of every corpse he could find, wanted a woman of his own, and said that if Victor didn't give him a bride, that he, the monster, would deny Victor his own. Victor didn't do it, and on the night after he married Elizabeth, the monster came and beat her up and ripped her heart out. Victor took his wife's hands, head and heart, put them on and in another woman's body and brought her to life. That's in the Mary Shelley book, anyway. (beat) I was going for authenticity.

(There's a moment of silence as the eight-year-olds absorb that story. Miss Hurley approaches Lynn and looks down at her, obviously not knowing what to think -- "Here's an eight-year-old who understands Shelley but went out for Halloween dressed...")

Hurley: Um. Well. You ... read it.

Lynn: The science was off, but she was pretty young. (beat; to the look) What? I thought schools encouraged literacy.

Hurley: (getting to what's bothering her) But ... such attention to detail ... it's a little ... grotesque.

Lynn: (little Mona Lisa smirk) Added bonus.

(Enter a portly, jovial-looking man dressed as an Arab sheikh -- this is Steven Keys, the principal.)

Keys: And how're my little... (sees Lynn) AGH!

Hurley: (stepping over to him) I want to talk to you about imposing this costume party thing when these kids are involved, Steven... Outside. Now.

(She herds him out. The kids giggle. Lynn sits down, then looks over her shoulder at AP. He grins; she smirks.)

(Scene: Oakwood Elementary playground. Trestle tables with refreshments [punch, cupcakes with orange icing, jack-o-lantern shaped sugar cookies, candy corn, etcetera] are lined up by the low wall at the borders of the playground. There's a tub for apple bobbing set up in the middle of the yard. Kids are milling around, eating and talking and playing tag. A bunch of the teachers are holed up by the refreshment table, occasionally shooting odd looks at Lynn. A pretty little blonde girl in a pink and gold fairy costume with a couple of similarly-dressed comrades [a little Japanese girl in green and a meek brunette in orange] walk up to Lynn; they look disgusted.)

Lynn: Jenny. Mei. Tracy.

Jenny: (the blonde) How could you do that to such a pretty dress?

Lynn: A very healthy disrespect for fashion.

Mei: That is totally wrong.

Tracy: Don't you care how you look?

Lynn: (honest curiosity) Don't you care that you look like a slightly rotted carrot in that costume?

(Tracy looks at herself, her lower lip starts trembling and she runs off crying. Mei follows her. Jenny pauses long enough to shoot a scathing glare at Lynn, then follows. Lynn brushes aside the whole conversation and starts scanning the crowd for AP. She finds him being herded off around the corner of the building by Chris and some mid-height black-haired boy dressed in fake Army fatigues. She hikes her dress up and runs after them.)

(Scene: deserted part of the playground. Music: "Haemoglobin" -- Placebo. No life-saving adults are anywhere in sight, and Chris and the black-haired boy have shoved AP into a corner.)

Chris: Hey, Franken-Weenie. (to the black-haired boy) Hey, Sam, you think bruises show up through green?

Sam: Hey, only one way to find out, right?

AP: (hopeless) Why?

Chris: (slapping him) Because we can.

(At which point, Lynn tears around the corner, jumps onto Chris' back and jabs the sharp edge of one of her shoe heels into Chris' kidneys. Chris screams.)

Chris: Agh get off me, you little freak bi--

Lynn: (slapping a hand over his mouth) Watch your mouth! And don't you beat up my friend!

(Chris bites her hand; she whimpers and lets go, sliding off his back. AP gets to his feet but Sam pushes him back into the wall.)

Chris: You want some of this?

Lynn: Guess that's all you have to give, you little peon.

Chris: What'd you call me?

Lynn: I called you a Neanderthal. A throwback. A subhuman waste of DNA.

(Chris has no idea what she just said, and doesn't much care. He half-curls a fist and uses it to hit her backhand. Lynn falls over, and gets up again with a hand to her nose, which is bleeding. AP bounces up again as well.)

AP: You don't hit girls, you big fat...

(Sam socks AP and AP drops back into his corner with a groan of pain.)

Sam: Shut up, weenie.

(Chris winds up to hit Lynn again, but has his wrist grabbed by someone about his size. They all look around and see a similar-looking boy to Chris -- same approximate build, slightly paler and shaggier hair, true brown eyes to Chris' hazel. He's wearing a martial artist's gi.)

Chris: What do you want, Casey?

Casey: Kid's right. Y'dun hit girls.

(With that, Casey hits Chris in the stomach. Chris hits back and events become irchronicable. Sam wades in and tries to help, but unlike Chris, Casey's bulk is mostly muscle and the martial arts outfit is obviously more than a costume. AP takes the opportunity to get up and head over to Lynn.)

AP: Y'okay?

Lynn: Bloody but unbowed. You?

AP: (waves it away) You got him in the kidneys? And what'd you call him?

Lynn: I called him an ape.

AP: And y'couldn't just say that?

Lynn: I'd kind of hoped he'd be too confused to hit either of us after all that.

AP: Never thought even he was nasty enough to really hit a girl... (beat) Sorry standin' up for me got you a shot in the face.

Lynn: Yeah, well, sorry standing up for me got you what's going to be a nasty black eye.

AP: Aw, s'not so bad. Better'n Casey.

Lynn: He seems to be doing okay.

(Casey has, in fact, seen Chris and Sam off. He's swollen in places and he's going to bruise, but he's at least upright and not groaning or crying, while Chris and Sam [respectively] are. He walks over to the duo.)

Casey: Y'kay?

AP: S'cool.

Lynn: I'll be fine when the bleeding stops. (beat) You okay?

Casey: S'cool. S'rta. (beat; shakes a fist at the sky and speaks clearly for once) Damn you, Dad, for raisin' me right.

(Lynn and AP look at each other and smile.)

AP: Hey ... listen ... you trick-or-treatin' with anyone?

Casey: M'rents. S'fternun.

Lynn: It'd be more fun with other kids.

AP: It'd be ten times more fun with us. Her, anyway. Last year, you don't know how much extra candy she got from the 'dults.

Casey: Huh?

Lynn: Adults tend to drop everything -- including bowls of candy -- if a kid has a seizure on their front doorstep. Even if the seizure's fake.

(Casey just looks at her. Then he turns to AP, who wears a proud grin.)

(Scene: a house, ext. The door opens and a nice little old lady opens the door and beams at whoever knocked. She holds a bowl full of miniature Snickers bars.)

Lynn, AP, Casey: Trick or treat!

Lady: Oh, look at the little trick-or-treaters! (picks out a Snickers bar, drops it into a bag) And there's one for the little ninja... (picks up another one) And there's one for the scary Frankenstein monster... (picks up a third) Oh, come on; I can see from that dress that there's a shy little princess hiding behind those two-- AGH!

(She drops the bowl and slams the door. Cut to the three kids; now Lynn's standing between AP and Casey. With the dried blood on her face, her costume looks all the more horrible. Casey looks impressed. AP still wears that proud grin. Lynn smiles)

Lynn: This costume really comes in handy.

(Casey nods, and all three of them bend down to start picking up the discarded chocolate.)

(Scene: hospital cafeteria. Daria's smiling despite herself. Then she sobers -- she's going to get to the point if it kills her.)

Daria: She changed.

AP: Come again?

Daria: I've been listening to you tell stories all day. In the earlier ones, she showed emotion. She smiled. She only lashed out in the defense of others. After... (thinks) Something happened when she turned ten. She went ... somehow she went vicious and half-dead at the same time.

AP: (defensive) So?

Daria: (pissed off) So I'd like to know what happened when she was ten that did that.

AP: It's not ... it's not like that!

Daria: (volume going up) The reminiscences tell a very different story. And I'm not dropping this until you tell me what the turning point was. Intense bullying? Did she hurt someone?

AP: (not quite yelling) Yeah; herself, okay, now drop it!

Daria: (same) No! How 'hurt herself'?

AP: (we have achieved fission) She tried to kill herself and why are you so pushy on this?

Daria: (likewise) Because she's my half-sister, okay?

(There's a pause while both their slips register and they stare at each other.)

AP: Come again?

Daria: She tried to what?

AP: Yours sounds shorter.

Daria: (sigh) When you were at Grove Hills, my mother ... let it slip that I was most likely the result of an affair she had at a resort in the Catskills some eighteen years ago. When you mentioned Lynn's father's name ... things sort of fell into place. When Kate showed up and obviously had some very bad history with my mother...

AP: That's why with the hitting? (beat) That's why with the twin-ness. (beat) And she...

Daria: If you mean Lynn, she doesn't have a clue. And might not ever get one. (beat) Although if she tried to take her own life at that tender age, she obviously didn't have much of a clue about anything else, either.

AP: Hey, knock it off! She had reasons.

Daria: It's the reasons I'm trying to get out of you.

AP: Look ... ever have a year that was ... not-good to the Nth?

Daria: I think most of the ones I've lived through qualify.

AP: Well, when everything went skewy.

Daria: Like I said.

AP: (sigh) Well, you said you noticed with the changing. Also notice that, when she was teeny, her mom was in the country?

Daria: Yes...

AP: She started travelling. Kate, I mean. Couple days before Lynn's birthday. Didn't tell her she was going, really. Just went. Urgent business, or some crap. Said she'd be back in time for the fifth.

Daria: The fifth of what?

AP: November.

(Scene: Oakwood street. Lynn and AP walking.)

AP: You're goin' to double-figures tomorrow. What's it feel like?

Lynn: You'll find out in six months.

AP: Wonder what your dad'll send you this year.

Lynn: (worried frown) I'd settle for a card. He hasn't been around at all and I haven't had a letter from him since the summer.

AP: C'mon, Purple Peril, he might be a fly-by-day...

Lynn: I think the term's fly by night.

AP: Whatever. But you know he never forgets your birthday. Remember last year?

Lynn: (smile) I think that's the first time I've ever been happy to get called into the principal's office.

AP: Helped you were only there to meet the Fed-Ex man. For once.

Lynn: Hey, you go there more than I do.

AP: Only 'cos you don't get caught so much. So, whatcha wanna do tomorrow?

Lynn: I can't. Mom's note does say she'll be coming back from New York tomorrow so I guess I'd better be around for her to make the necessary fuss.

AP: Aw. How'm I gonna get your present to you? I can't give you what I got in front of your mom; she'd go wigged!

Lynn: (grin) Mmm; I'm intrigued, but I guess I'll have to wait until Sunday.

AP: Awwww...

(Scene: Cullen front hall. Music: "Mad World" -- Tears for Fears. A small stack of letters clunks through the mail slot in the door, and Lynn comes running down the stairs, eagerly dropping down cross-legged to sort through them.)

Lynn: Bill, bill, pizza flyer, you may have already... (derisive snort; tosses that one over her shoulder) ...bill, bank statement... (beat; worried, disappointed frown) Oh.

(She gets up, drops the letters on a little table by the door, and slowly walks down the hall and out of shot.)

(Scene: Cullen living room. Music plays on. Lynn's curled up in an armchair reading 'Go Ask Alice'. Phone rings; she drops the book, jumps out of the chair and runs across the room to get it.)

Lynn: Hello? Dad?

(Split-screen between Lynn and Kate in a hotel room. Kate looks a little pissed off.)

Kate: No, it's your mother.

Lynn: Oh. Hi, Mom. At the airport?

Kate: Well ... no... You expected your father to call?

Lynn: Well, I didn't get a card or anything, so I thought...

Kate: Well, don't expect him to do anything like that. He's the one that ran off, remember? He's fulfilled his obligations and now doesn't give a damn.

Lynn: But... I... (sigh) Maybe. So when does your flight leave?

Kate: The negotiations ran longer than expected. They added a Saturday brainstorming session to the agenda and that ran long...

Lynn: You're not coming, are you.

Kate: I'll be home on Friday. I'll bring you back something nice from New York. They have some very good clothes shopping here. And we'll have a nice dinner as soon as I get back.

Lynn: O-okay.

Kate: I'll call later in the week, make sure you're doing okay. In the meantime, why not raid the spare cash jar and take yourself out for some pizza? (beat) Take that little red-haired freak out or something.

Lynn: A ringing endorsement.

Kate: I'm sure he's a more than adequate substitute for me.

Lynn: Mmm.

(Slight pause. Kate seems almost worried -- she gave Lynn that one and Lynn didn't take the easy shot.)

Kate: You do know I'm sorry...

Lynn: It's okay. It doesn't really matter anyway. I'll talk to you later -- don't you have a meeting or something?

Kate: (checks watch) Oh, sh-- well, I... If you're sure...

Lynn: It doesn't matter. Bye.

(Lynn hangs up. She looks at the phone, picks up the receiver again, dials three numbers ... then puts it down. Then she slumps on the sofa with a horrible lack of expression on her face.)

Lynn: (muttering out loud) It just doesn't matter.

(Scene: Lynn's room. Music plays on. Focus on the window. A ladder clunks into place on the windowsill and then we hear a scuffle and some grunts of exertion. AP pops his head up over the windowsill and he frowns. Then he clambers in, unshouldering his bag and dropping it on the floor.)

AP: (mutter) What the heck...?

(Cut to what he sees. Neatly laid out on Lynn's bed are the following items: a sealed envelope, a .22 pistol, a paring knife, an extension cord tied into the traditional hangman's noose, a bottle of prescription medication, a bottle of drain cleaner, and a bottle of vodka next to a 5 gallon canister of gasoline and a pack of matches. Under each item bar the envelope is a piece of paper divided into two columns. AP picks up the prescription bottle -- it's Valium. He tosses it down in a hurry and picks up the piece of paper under it.)

AP: (aloud) Pros ... painless ... blame factor. Cons ... uncertain outcome ... drawn-out... (beat) What?

(He looks at this all ... considers it ... and then figures out the common factor. He backs away from the bed, wide-eyed, pale and whimpering under his breath. Then he hits the corner of the room and slides into a fetal curl on the floor between the wall and the bedside table, still staring. Enter Lynn, who doesn't notice him. She stands in front of her collected options, frowning. Then she raises a hand.)

Lynn: Eenie, meenie, miney... (beat) Aw, screw it.

(She grabs the drain cleaner, fumbles with the child-protective cap for a moment, then gets it open and throws the cap across the room. She sighs and raises it to her mouth, and AP finally unfreezes. He launches himself out of the corner, slaps the container out of her hand and hits her across the face on the backswing. Lynn just looks at him with no expression whatsoever on her face.)

AP: What do you think you're doing?

Lynn: Seems pretty obvious to me.

AP: But y-- why?

Lynn: That seems pretty obvious too.

(AP, shocked, hits her again. Then he realises something -- he's beating up his best friend, and she's letting him. He drops on the floor in front of her and looks her in the face with the puppy-eyes.)

AP: Why?

Lynn: Call it ... my birthday present to myself. Not having to put up with this anymore is the best present I could ask for.

AP: But... But...

Lynn: When even your parents don't care, what hope is there for you?

(AP looks at her for a minute.)

AP: Where's your mom?

Lynn: Still in New York.

AP: And ... your...

Lynn: Dunno. He doesn't care, Mom said. (beat) Guess she was right.

AP: But... No...

Lynn: It's gonna be like this forever. People will look at me funny just 'cos I read grown-up books and don't put up with kid's stuff or adult condescencion. And no one's going to care about me -- about how they make me feel -- and it'll just keep hurting. I may be a kid, but I know that. So if no one cares, why should I?

AP: But I care! (beat) Look, Lynn, I... All these years, you've been there with me. Chris tries to beat me into the ground? I'm looking like flunking cos I don't get vocab? Any time I need something -- words, plans, whatever -- there you are. 'Course I care. I dunno what I'd do without you. They don't care? They're stupid. You gonna do death by Drano on the say-so of stupid people?

Lynn: Nice alliteration. Looks like you don't need me for words after all.

AP: STOP THAT! (beat) Please ... don't ... do this to me.

(She just looks at him with dead eyes.)

Lynn: You're consigning me to pretty much assured hell, my life being as it is. You know that?

AP: Guess I'm just gonna have to make sure it's not. Dunno how, but...

Lynn: I can't ask you for...

AP: You didn't ask. Gonna do it anyway. Cos I care, I keep telling you.

(She looks at him, this time a searching stare. She sees the total honesty on his face. Then she looks back at all the other suicide implements on the bed behind her and sweeps them off with her arm. Then she drops on the bed and starts to cry. AP watches this with utter shock, then gets up and puts an arm around her.)

(Scene: hospital cafeteria. Daria's staring at AP, who looks like he's reliving the entire thing, emotions included.)

Daria: And then what?

AP: Whaddyamean, then what? S'kinda obvious she didn't do it.

Daria: You didn't leave it there. I know you.

AP: Well, no... S'a handy thing when your mom's clueless and your dad knows it.

Daria: Certainly works in my favour the other way around.

AP: I called Mom, said I was stayin' over Casey's for the night, and crashed out at Purple Peril's.

Daria: I note you didn't say 'slept over'.

AP: Could you have slept?

Daria: Not at age ten ... not today ... never in a million years.

AP: Well, you're stronger'n me. I did kinda pass out 'round three. But I thought it was safe enough -- she'd cried herself out 'round nine.

Daria: You thought?

AP: Well, like I said, it's obvious she didn't go there.

Daria: Not to say she didn't try.

AP: (sick little grin) Kinda sorta, but not really.

(Off Daria's freaked-out, perplexed look, cut to...)

(Scene: Lynn's room. Music: "Too Bad" -- Nickelback. AP's sprawled out on the foot of the bed, snoring. He makes a fuzzy noise, lifts his head and blinks at the head of the bed, which is empty. This does not seem to please him -- he sits up, wide awake and dead panicked, and leans over the bed to peer over it. This being AP, he falls right off the bed and then peers up, panicked.)

AP: Lynn?!?

(He gets to his feet and runs out of the room.)

(Scene: Cullen kitchen. Music plays on. Lynn's standing on a chair, putting something away on the top shelf of one of the kitchen cabinets. There's a kettle on the stove. AP runs in, tries to stop, fails, runs headlong into the fridge, and falls over. Lynn looks at him with the lack of expression we've come to know. AP looks up into that blank face and stiffens.)

Lynn: You're not usually this mobile in the morning. (beat) Then again, you're not usually here in the morning. Didn't your parents mind?

AP: ...I ... called Mom. Told her I was ... staying at Casey's...

(Lynn clambers down off the chair and puts it back at the kitchen table. Then she starts digging through a lower shelf.)

Lynn: Well, you could have at least taken the guest bedroom.

(AP stares at Lynn as she pulls out a jar of instant coffee. The kettle starts whistling and she takes it off the heat.)

AP: You ... thought I'd... (beat) Where's the...?

Lynn: I cleaned up the mess. Put everything back in its place. Mom'll never know any of it got moved.

(She grabs a mug, opens a drawer and takes out a spoon.)

AP: Do you even remember what...?

(She stops in the act of opening the jar of coffee and just looks at him. She remembers, all right ... and that look tells him he'd better not speak of this again if he values his life. AP recoils -- not even Chris ever got a look like that from her. Satisfied, she starts dumping coffee granules into her mug. At the third, AP finally finds his voice again.)

AP: Um ... isn't it kinda ... one ... spoonful?

Lynn: Eh. I'll sleep long enough when I'm d--

(She stops. He looks at her, all concern, but she won't meet his eyes. Then she adds one last spoonful of coffee to the mug, pours in water, stirs and sips. Then she makes a face as she swallows. AP panics all over again.)

AP: Lynn?

Lynn: (still with the yick-face) Sugar, maybe?

(AP has to smile at the fact that she's reacting to something in a way he can understand and reaches for the sugar bowl on the kitchen table. She dumps its contents in, stirs, sips again and then swigs.)

AP: Can I try?

(Lynn hands him the mug. He drinks deep, and after three seconds, he gets the wide-eyed expression of someone who feels like the top of his head's being lifted off from the inside. Lynn gets her evil little Mona Lisa smirk on.)

(Scene: hospital cafeteria. Daria looks a little bit freaked out.)

Daria: Well, that's one way to commit suicide.

AP: Better slow by caff-ulcer than Death by Drano.

Daria: I could have put it better, probably, but not quite as succinctly. (beat) And there were no ... further self-destructive incidents like that?

AP: Like the Drano, not really. Not that I ever saw, and I think I would've. Like the coffee? Well, we did tell you about the deal with Sunset Blade, right? The short story?

Daria: And I've seen her do worse; right.

AP: See, I'm no shrink or that, but I figure ... well, she doesn't care much for her cos no one else seemed to when she was li'l and... Well, see why I don't like Kate so much?

Daria: What about the rest of the Cullen side? And the other Smythes -- I know they didn't...

AP: Make with the flaking? Nah. When Kate came back, first thing happened was Thanksgiving.

Daria: The Cullen family crap-fest.

AP: She gave you that one too, huh? Well, yeah. (miserable) I was so freaked. I mean, the place in Ohio had to have a medicine cabinet and sharp things and crap and with the Cullens...

(Scene: well-appointed living room, decorated mostly in red velvet and mahogany. Lynn is curled up on one corner of the sofa -- she's wearing a high-necked white dress with a pink sash and black patent shoes. Across from her sits a woman in her late 50s -- thin, floral print dress, pearls, bifocals. This is Linda Cullen, Lynn's grandmother.)

Linda: So how have you been doing in school, Lynn-dear? (Lynn hugs her knees to her chest and says nothing.) Dear, please don't put your shoes on the sofa. Velvet's hard to clean.

Lynn: No dirt on these. First time I've worn 'em.

Linda: Now, dear, I know it's no fun for a girl of your age to be sitting with her family, but you really should try to be a little less sullen. Your mother's been saying...

Lynn: That I'm a budding juvenile delinquent who will turn to drugs for her kicks if she isn't forced into the cheerful vapidity of the average pre-teen?

Linda: Lynn, that's enough!

Lynn: Let's just say my life more follows Nirvana than New Kids.

Kate: (entering) Oh, for Christ's sake, Lynn, will you stop that? You could at least get through one meeting with your family without taking that attitude.

Linda: Nirvana ... isn't that the horrible band that sounds like a Down's Syndrome child set to music and the lead singer does heroin? Oh, Lynn-dear, you really should try to listen to something a little more...

Kate: I keep trying to tell her, Mother, but you know what kids are like at this age.

Linda: Isn't she a little young for this sort of rebellion?

Kate: Oh, you know my Lynn. Independent to the last.

(Doorbell rings.)

Lynn: (uncurling) I'll get it. So you can talk about me like I'm not here for real.

(Lynn makes for the living room door.)

Linda: She takes after her father. I told you no good would come of that marriage...

Kate: No, what you said was, "Take him for every penny you can get because that's all the good will ever come of it".

(Scene: long frong hallway, hardwood floor with small Persian rug, door set with pebbled glass. Music: "Dangerous Type" -- Letters to Cleo. Lynn walks slowly to the door, opens it ... to find a younger version of Lorna and a 16-year-old Jan standing there. They blink at her, surprised. Lynn blinks back.)

Lynn: Um ... can I help you?

Jan: (sounding quite American for the moment) You ... didn't pick that dress yourself, did you?

Lynn: Mom nearly had to hog-tie me to get me in it; why?

Lorna: Thank God, Jerome spawned something with taste; I was worried. (extends a hand) Lorna Smythe; your aunt -- you won't remember me, but I was at your christening.

Jan: Janet McGovern. Jan to my friends. Hi.

Lynn: McGov...

Jan: I'm something like your third cousin twice removed -- your paternal grandfather's sister's granddaughter, I think...

Lynn: Sounds complicated.

Lorna: Well, that's the Smythes all over; now, I need to have a word with your mother because we're kidnapping you. Forcing you to the nearby hotel's reasonable dining room and ... out of that sorry excuse for a cleaning rag your mother chooses to call a dress.

Lynn: What you're proposing sounds less like kidnap and more like rescue.

(Enter Kate and Linda; Linda looks surprised but Kate, after a similar surprised blink, looks livid.)

Kate: What are you doing here?

Lorna: Listen; as Jerome's ... been detained ... he's sent us for family emissaries. We're making our own little family Thanksgiving so if you'll excuse the girl to get changed...

Kate: I will not! Her cousins are coming and her great-aunts and they will want to see her...

Lorna: But will she want to see them?

Linda: She's a child! Does it matter?

Jan: (to Kate) You're going to let her talk to your daughter like this?

Kate: She's just telling the truth!

Lorna: Oh, I see; you've said worse in your time. Christ, you are a bitch, aren't you.

Kate: What did you call me?

Jan: Female canine. Lynn'd have better luck being raised by mechanical wolves at Disneyworld. (turning to Linda ) And you; what happened to the doting, forgiving grandmother?

Lorna: If you can tolerate that dress awhile longer, Lynn, I think it'd be better if we just left...

Linda: She's not going anywhere.

(Lynn's face is pure disappointment and resignation; she bites her lip, sighs and...)

Lynn: Aunt Lorna ... Jan... (sigh) You should just go, okay?

Jan: You sure about this? I know I'd rather have a Thanksgiving dinner in a room where the biggest turkey's the one on the table and there's not much chance of that here.

Kate: (stepping up to Lynn and putting a forbidding hand on her shoulder) You heard my daughter. Out.

Lorna: Two things before we go. Firstly, there's the matter of... (rummages through her handbag and brings out a camera) ...Jerome asked us to get a picture before we went.

Jan: I'll go get the presents, okay?

Lynn: (bewildered) Presents?

Lorna: Belated birthday wishes. (beat) Ms Cullen ... if you're not going to let us have a proper visit with our family or even have the common courtesy to invite us in to dinner, you could at least get out of my shot.

Linda: (dragging Kate aside) Maybe we should...

Kate: (through her teeth) I don't want these people here...

Linda: (under her breath, but vicious) This is making a scene, Kaitlin. We have to keep up appearances at least. (aloud to Lorna) Of course you and your ... family person may stay to dinner. There's plenty and ... I suppose you are family...

Lorna: (quietly to Lynn) There you are, Lynn; a few extra mercenaries on your side of the battle lines.

(Lynn stares at Lorna, who smirks at her. Lynn smirks back.)

(Scene: hospital cafeteria. Daria is leaning forward, intrigued despite herself at the new glimpse into that side of her family.)

Daria: And so ... the Coming of the Smythe.

AP: Yep. Different one every time -- Purple Peril reckoned not all of 'em were blood, but she didn't care. Got a phone call next morning after the first one sayin' ... well, not out-an-out sayin', but...

Daria: Saying that maybe more than one person gave a damn after all.

AP: Yeah. I guess it kinda hurt, but ... c'mon, family's gotta care. At least a little. And Kate's side wasn't helping things.

Daria: So in answer to your question, I see your problem with Kate Cullen. (beat) I thought it had more to do with taking Lynn away from you than anything else.

AP: Well, yeah, that too. But it's all components of the same box, y'know? She wanted Purple Peril out of Oakwood and didn't care about what Peril had there; just shifted her out. Worse, she did all the moving stuff while Purple Peril was in London with Lorna and Jan and the rest. Was kinda like revenge. The way Kate had it, we weren't even gonna get a chance to say good-bye.

Daria: I'm taking it as a given that it didn't turn out the way Kate had it.

AP: Huh. Came close, gotta tell ya, but no. I got to see her once, day before school let in. Woulda been more but you know me with the cars.

Daria: You did better than I did.

AP: Yeah ... well, freakily, I was tweekin' less. Anyway...

(Scene: AP's room. Music: "Gonna Leave You" -- Queens of the Stone Age. AP's sitting at his computer, wearing headphones, typing listlessly. A scuffling is heard from outside, and then Lynn's face appears at the window. She taps on the window. After a moment, she digs a library card out of her pocket, jimmies the lock with it and slides the window open. She climbs in and unshoulders the book bag she's wearing -- AP still hasn't noticed. She sighs and puts hands over his eyes.)

AP: Gah! Wha-- Hey! Stop! I... (Lynn lets go and spins his chair to face her; he blinks at her) Uh.

Lynn: And salutations to you too, Maverick.

(She sits down cross-legged on the floor; he slides out of his chair to join her.)

AP: How'd you get here? I saw the movers come while you were in England!

Lynn: I borrowed the Mercedes. (beat) Well, for varying definitions of 'borrow'. (to the look) Did you really think that us being a town apart was going to keep me from visiting? That would mean my mother getting what she wants and you just know that's not going to happen.

AP: (grump) Yeah, well, you haven't been to the school yet. Bet you'll make friends and...

Lynn: And terrify people; you know me. Come on, AP. Even if I don't get to come visiting as often as I'd like, you know I'm not going to lose touch. You hang out on the IRC channels I like, you know my e-mail address and you owe me about two years' worth of pizza money. Now do you want the stuff I brought you back from England or not?

AP: You brought me things? Why'd you bring me things?

Lynn: (digging through the book bag) It's the first of a thousand and one ways to manipulate airport security personnel. You bring enough gifts to others and you can slip in that little bit extra for yourself.

AP: I still don't believe you bought that one.

Lynn: (handing him a shopping bag) You know I have family overseas. Hell, you know me. And this surprises you.

(AP pulls a wrapped parcel out of the bag, rips it open and holds up a T-shirt. He reads it. He blushes.)

AP: "My ... girlfriend went to London and all I got was this lousy T-shirt?"

Lynn: (not quite looking at him) That was as close as I could get. I didn't have time to get "partner in crime" made. And just 'a friend' seemed...

AP: Hey, no, no, s'okay, everyone at school still thinks... ("stop it!") Anyway! (digging through the rest of the T-shirts) "Never Mind the Bollocks...", "Today I am wearing mainly..." (snerk) ...They're all clothes. It's like Christmas at Uncle Jack and Aunt Emma's.

Lynn: Well, your clothes don't say anything.

AP: Sure they do! They say "I am AP; hear me geek".

Lynn: The way I hear it, last time you geeked they heard it three states away. And anyway, most of these say the same thing, only louder.

AP: Oh. (clutching the shirts to him) Thank you!

Lynn: Don't mention it. Everyone needs a T-shirt or two that screams their nature louder than words ever could. Keep going.

AP: Ah, I think I'll wait. Something to do in homeroom in the morning. (beat) Nervous?

Lynn: It's not exactly new territory. I've been to Lawndale before. And I haven't done anything there that anyone can trace back to me. Yet. (beat) Between you, me and the chemistry set ... yes.

AP: Well ... if it helps ... I got something for you too.

(He hands her over a small flat package. She looks at it, turns it over in her hands. Then she opens it -- "25 Sure-Fire Ways to Drive Any Teacher Into Early Retirement". She opens it and reads the dedication.)

Lynn: (nearly speechless) Um. Nice ... binding work.

AP: It's just a draft. When it goes to print from ess-eye-dubya, I'll send a new one. 'Sides, some of these we haven't even really tried yet. (beat) Aw, Purple Peril, I wanted to pull some of this stuff with you!

Lynn: I'll be with you in spirit. As soon as I can figure out astral projection.

AP: Come again?

Lynn: Never mind. (beat) I'd better go. Oakwood'd be the first place Mom would look for me, and it's getting late.

AP: You're gonna be careful, right? I mean, you hear things 'bout the teachers 'round Lawndale. I mean, I know all teachers are warped and stuff but ... I mean ... you are gonna be careful, right?

Lynn: For differing definitions of 'careful'. (to the reproachful look) Do you want comforting, or do you want honest? (the look turns sheepish) Any other questions?

AP: Guess. I ... what ... what're you gonna miss most? I mean, I know the school and that, but ... you're gonna miss something.

Lynn: Besides you, you mean.

AP: (blushing) Um ... yeah.

Lynn: Um, no. (extends a hand) Au revoir, Maverick.

AP: (frowning at it and the words he doesn't get) Um, remember why they kicked me out of French?

Lynn: Oh, yeah, right. Literally, means "until we see each other again".

AP: You think?

Lynn: Count on it.

(AP ignores the hand and hugs her. Lynn stiffens a little but doesn't pull away.)

Lynn: Um ... don't blow up the school or anything. At least not while you're in it.

AP: Gotcha, Purple Peril.

(Short pause)

Lynn: (a little choked) I can't go.

AP: Aw, that's ... sweet, I think, but ... don't you gotta?

Lynn: (more choked) I mean I can't go until you stop with the python grip; anyway I can't breathe!

(AP lets go sheepishly.)

(Scene: Cullen kitchen, Lawndale. Music: "Return of the Phantom Stranger" -- Rob Zombie. Lynn's seated at the table, poking at breakfast. Enter Kate, who looks at her daughter with some disdain.)

Kate: Oh, don't look so miserable. For God's sake, this is how you wound up with no one but that red-haired freak at Oakwood.

Lynn: As always, I thank you for the positivity and encouragement with which you shower me during my life's milestones.

Kate: It's just a new school, for God's sake; I didn't sign you up for the Foreign Legion or anything.

Lynn: To my vast disappointment. At least in the Legion they issue you with a gun.

Kate: Lynn... Just ... will you at least try this year?

Lynn: Sure.

Kate: Really?

Lynn: Yes. I will do my damndest to get through school while attracting minimum attention from my teachers and my so-called peers.

Kate: (throws her hands up in despair) Just don't get me called into your school on the first day; that's all I ask. I can't afford the off-time. I need to establish myself in the Lawndale branch pecking order.

Lynn: Home for dinner?

Kate: Probably not, so rejoice. But I'm taking the car so don't think you can blow off your homework for the drive into Oakwood. I want you to stay out of that town, you understand?

Lynn: You're going to be late.

Kate: Need a lift in?

Lynn: I'll walk. If I'm lucky, I'll get lost.

(Kate just sighs and exits. Lynn returns her attention to her breakfast.)

(Scene: LHS exterior. Music plays on. Lynn approaches and looks at the place -- the sign, the flag, the building. Then she heaves a massive sigh.)

Lynn: You are now entering Hell. Please keep your hands and elbows inside the car.

Mack: (OS) Hey, Daria!

(Lynn turns around and looks at Mack, who recoils a little.)

Mack: Oh, sorry, I guess you're not... Hi, I'm Michael Mackenzie, but everyone calls me Mack.

(Lynn just keeps looking at Mack, who squirms a little.)

Mack: Um ... you need a hand finding your locker or...?

Lynn: (taking pity -- a little) I'll find it. Thank you.

(She walks off. Mack looks after her, shaking his head in bemusement.)

Daria: (VO) Wait. I know some of this. Jane told me she should have known something was going to happen because...

(Mack turns and sees Jane approaching the school; he gives her a long appraising look, which she notices.)

Jane: (bad Scarlett O'Hara) And Ah'd be oblahged if y'all'd tell me why y'all're staring at me; has mah face gone green or something? (when Mack recoils, a little freaked-looking; she speaks normally) Okay, so I'm not that great with accents, but I wasn't that bad.

Mack: (smiling with relief) Yes, you were. Hi, Jane. Good summer?

Jane: Eh, y'know. Win a few, lose a few. You?

Mack: Drove an ice-cream truck. Don't ask.

Jane: So, what was with the in-depth study? Did they add me to the curriculum, or are you just in training to be the next Crocodile Hunter?

Mack: Oh, it's ... nothing. Don't worry about it. You wouldn't believe me if I told you anyway.

(Scene: hospital cafeteria. AP's snickering into his hands.)

Daria: I guess he was right, but forewarned would have been forearmed. And I guess that explains the five...

AP: The five?

Daria: Apparently, five people mistook her for me the first day. Brittany and Kevin were the last; before them, Jane. And it seems the first was Mack. So who was the second?

(Scene: LHS corridor. Music: "People Are Strange" -- The Doors. Lynn is walking slowly down the corridor, looking for her locker. Andrea passes her, blinks, stops, turns around and stares. Lynn stops and stares back. After a moment, Andrea nods and walks off. Lynn shrugs and starts walking again.)

Lynn: Looks like it's not just the teachers...

DeMartino: (OS; almost pleased) Ah! Daria!

(Lynn turns around and looks at DeMartino, who blinks at her.)

Lynn: Ah. No...

(A pack of unnamed students who witnessed this little scene scoot off down the corridor, hissing quietly to each other. DeMartino collects himself.)

DeMartino: While I regret the apparent identification error, young lady, I don't appreciate the tone.

Lynn: What, mono?

(DeMartino looks at her. She looks back. Then he walks off, muttering)

DeMartino: As if one wasn't enough...

(Lynn watches him go, blinks ... then shrugs.)

Lynn: It just seems like just the teachers. Compared to them, the students are sane.

(She keeps walking, finds her locker and starts fiddling with the combination lock. And then...)

Jane: Yo, Daria, love the jacket! You getting Fashion Club seasonal on me?

(Lynn rolls her eyes and doesn't reply.)

Jane: So how was the trip? Everyone have to be airlifted out of the forest again?

(Lynn raises an eyebrow but still says nothing.)

Jane: You're not still mad at me about the Trent thing, are you?

(Both Lynn's eyebrows go up this time; she looks almost panicked)

Jane: Look, I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sor...

(Lynn rolls her eyes again; the expression says, "Anything to shut her up". Then she wheels to face Jane.)

Lynn: Excuse me?


(Scene: hospital cafeteria.)

Daria: I don't think we need to go any further on that. I was there for most of the rest of it.

AP: Well, yeah, I guess. She got on the 'puter straight after and mailed me the whole thing. After the Art-Smart shrieking and the deal with the Na... (bites his lip; hesitates) And Neo-Grunge Earache too ... after she said about that, she only had one more bit...

(Scene: Lynn's room. It's bland, it's beige, there are cardboard boxes everywhere and the bed's in pieces. Only the computer and desk are unpacked, and Lynn is sitting on a pile of boxes, typing. After a moment, she stops and looks at the screen. Then she starts again.)

Lynn: (writing VO) So the place resembles Hell. The principal makes ours look sane. In fact, the teachers make ours look sane. The class pervert is worse than I pictured him even when I disregard his personal appearance. And if one more person calls me Daria this week, I'm going to get myself suspended. But given the one who looks like me -- Erudite Emerald, I think -- and the whacked out girl in red -- Art-Smart Scarlet -- maybe it won't be so bad. (beat; she chews her lower lip thoughtfully for a moment) I'd avoid them on the principle that I might come to consider them friends someday and vindicate my mother, but I'm pretty sure those two are not what she had in mind. They don't hold a candle to you, but they're green -- with training, they could be wreaking havoc in no time at all. More as it happens. Peril.

(Lynn leans back in her chair, reading over her mail, then moves the mouse and clicks 'Send'. Then she gives a little Mona Lisa smile.)

(Scene: hospital cafeteria. AP's slouched off somewhere. Daria is sitting at the table, looking at a cup of coffee that has now got very, very cold. Jane approaches, sits down opposite her.)

Jane: Yo, amiga; your shift's over.

Daria: Mmm.

Jane: Hey, y'okay? (beat) Okay, stupid question. What's wrong besides the obvious?

Daria: I was talking to AP. Or rather, he was talking at me.

Jane: Yeah, that'd daze anyone, but I can't see him being too geeked out, with everything...

Daria: Oh, he geeked out, alright. (to Jane's frown) The term 'geeking out' is taken to mean 'expressing one's expertise in a given field'. And AP has expertise in more fields than computing, mathematics, science and all other things that spontaneously combust.

Jane: Really? I thought he was a bit of a three-trick pony like that. What else does he geek on?

Daria: He's the resident expert on Lynn Cullen.

Jane: (extract foot from mouth now) Oh. (blink) How can you geek out about a person?

Daria: He was reminiscing about her childhood.

Jane: (raised eyebrow) Now that's a mental image.

Daria: What is?

Jane: Lynn. In her crib. Reading. "See cemetary. See undead animals. Rampage, animals, rampage."

Daria: (smiling just a little) That's not funny, Jane.

Jane: (smirk) The look on your face says different, amiga. And if you think it's irreverent or something, just remember that she'd do the same for you.

Daria: (lowering her eyes) I don't think she would, actually. I get the impression from what I heard today that she takes some things very seriously.

Jane: Oh. (beat) So you wanna stick around, keep an old watchdog company?

Daria: I think I'd better get home. I've ... got a lot to sort through. (beat) You'll call?

Jane: If there's any change. Or if I just get bored.

(Jane smiles a little at Daria, who smiles back as she gets up and leaves. Jane broods for a minute, then pulls out a sketchpad and a pencil and starts drawing.)

Jane: (evil little grin) Rampage, animals, rampage.

(Scene: Daria's room. Daria's sitting at her computer, typing. Helen stops in the doorway and watches her for a moment.)

Helen: Oh, sweetie, after everything you've been through, you should let your homework wait; I'm sure your teachers will understand...

Daria: If you really think I've let an opportunity to skip my homework pass by unused, you must think I took the blows to the head.

Helen: Daria! I know you're upset...

Daria: I'm not upset.

Helen: But Daria... (sigh) All right. Do you want me to leave you alone?

Daria: (thoughtful) Actually ... no. I'd like you to tell me something.

Helen: (sinking feeling she knows where this is going) A-all right. If I can.

Daria: How did you and ... this Jerome ... how did you... (beat) Why?

(Helen looks at Daria nervously; she knew the question was coming but was still unprepared for it. Then she sighs and sits down on the bed.)

Helen: I'm not sure you're old enough to underst... (catches the look) Fine. Maybe you're not ... emotionally driven enough to understand. Sometimes, Daria, however much you love someone ... they become part of something that... (beat; sigh) I was between courses; I'd finished my internships and needed some kind of break before the bar exams came up. I was so ... stressed out and fed up and I didn't even know if I wanted to be a lawyer anymore.

Daria: How does this connect to being a faithful wife? Didn't you know if you wanted to be that anymore, either?

Helen: Daria, can you imagine being stressed to the hilt and having no one to turn to but Jake?

(Daria thinks about this, and on her grudging half-nod, cut to...)

(Scene: a train station. Music: "Sherry Fraser" -- Marcy Playground. Helen, hair shorn short as we see her in the "Sappy Anniversary" flashback, strides in wearing jeans and a tye-died T-shirt. Her face is showing a great deal of stress. Jake, hair trimmed and sideburns gone, but still in love beads and bell-bottoms, follows her along with a suitcase. He looks desperate and puppyish.)

Jake: But Helen, you can't go! I have that big interview next week! What do I wear? What do I say? What if they try to get me to kowtow to The Man?

Helen: You'll wear the suit I laid out for you -- the one I helped you shop for last weekend. You'll say what's on the cue cards I wrote for you. And Jake... (stops; faces him) They probably will try to get you to kowtow to 'The Man'.

Jake: (aghast) Helen!

Helen: Jakey ... maybe you should rethink this. I mean, there are other things in the world than marketing...

Jake: Yeah? Like what? Like making use of my military education and breaking some other poor boy's spirit the way mine was?

Helen: Maybe you should take a little more time with it, Jakey ... we're getting along on the jobs we have now.

Jake: Yeah, but that's just us! Helen ... we were talking about starting a family and we ... I want us to make sure the little guy has the best of everything, when he comes.

Helen: Jake, we hadn't decided anything about a family yet. I haven't even started my legal career and you know how much it means to me.

Jake: But Helen, you can do both! I mean, if anyone can juggle being a legal giant, a wonderful wife and a caring mother, it's you! (beat) Are you sure you have to...

Helen: (snatching her bag) Yes, I do have to, Jake. After all the work I put in on that internship, I owe myself some time to myself, don't I?

Jake: (meek) Oh. Right. Of course you do. (beat) You have a great time, okay?

Helen: (gracious) Oh, Jakey, I'll try, but without you?

(She kisses her beaming husband on the cheek and walks off, rolling her eyes.)

(Scene: Daria's room.)

Daria: Let me guess. Without him, having a good time was a foregone conclusion.

Helen: Daria, stop it! It wasn't like that!

Daria: Yeah, I know. What I don't know is how it was.

Helen: It was ... taking a break. That's all it was supposed to be. And in a way, it was. Daria, I felt more like a mother than a wife. I ... I was too young to feel that way. And so when I got to the Catskills ... it was like being free. Being young.

Daria: Being single?

(Helen struggles for a moment; then...)

Helen: (lowering her head) For a little while ... yes.

(Scene: posh resort hotel. Music: "Beautiful Day" -- U2. Kate, with very long hair, is standing with Jerome [button-up shirt, no tie, jeans] at the desk. Helen enters, carrying her suitcase.)

Kate: We couldn't have done this in the winter?

Jerome: It wouldn't have been much of a celebration then, would it? Come winter, you'll be a mother.

Kate: Come winter, I'll have had a baby. I thought we agreed I wasn't giving up my career to be a full-time mother.

Jerome: (brushing that aside) In any case, in your condition you wouldn't have much use for skiing anyway. Seeing as you won't partake in any indoor sports during your confinement, I assume the same goes for the ones outdoors as well.

Kate: I think I'll be happy enough spending this vacation by the pool.

Jerome: When there's a perfectly good lake not two miles away?

Kate: I prefer chlorine, thanks.

Jerome: Well, I admire your consistency, my Katydid.

(Kate rolls her eyes, mostly affectionately, and pecks him on the cheek.)

Kate: I'll be in the bar with a tomato juice and a good book. See you there?

(Jerome nods, and Kate strides off. Jerome turns to the waiting bellhop ... and as he does, sees Helen in her slightly tatty jeans and bright tie-dye. He pauses for a moment to look at her ... then blushes and gives a shy Mona Lisa smile. Helen blushes and smiles herself. Then Jerome composes himself and turns to the bellhop)

Jerome: Could you take these up to our suite, please?

(The bellhop nods and Jerome leads the way to the elevators. Helen steps forward to the reception desk and takes a quick look at the register -- signed Mr and Mrs J P Smythe. She blushes again and signs her name under theirs.)

(Scene: hotel dining room -- very posh. Helen, in a casual blue dress, enters -- the place is nearly empty, with Jerome and Kate seated at a table nearby. They look at her and Kate half-stands, motioning her over. Helen approaches tentatively. Jerome looks at her but says nothing.)

Kate: Hi. I thought it was senseless to make them clear two tables. I don't think anyone else is here, so early in the season. Kate Smythe.

Helen: (shaking Kate's hand) Helen Morgendorffer. Thank you. It might be nice to have some company for dinner.

Kate: (sitting down again; Helen follows suit) Half the fun of a vacation is meeting new people, I've always figured. Oh, and this is my husband, Jerome. Jerome, say hello, at least.

Jerome: (nod) Forgive me. Sharing a table with two beautiful women lost me my tongue and my head as well, it seems. (Helen extends a hand and instead of shaking it, he kisses it) Thank you for joining us, Helen.

Kate: (noticing Helen's blush) Don't mind him; he was raised British and is having a very hard time forgetting it.

Helen: Well, it's a part of who he is; it'd be a shame to lose it.

Kate: (snicker) Well, if you say so. And I guess it's a touch of class. He's great at dinner parties.

Jerome: (self-deprecating Mona Lisa smile) I'm a bit of a two-trick pony, I'm afraid. I make a great deal of money and I'm the ideal dinner companion.

(Helen looks at him sharply; he keeps smiling and raises an eyebrow at her, inviting her to join in. She does.)

(Scene: the same, some time later.)

Helen: Well, congratulations. I'm sure you'll be wonderful parents.

Jerome: I'd best be, if Kate continues with her career with her usual single-mindedness.

Helen: Have you thought about names yet?

Jerome: Oh dear. You seem to have a knack for bringing up the bones of contention, Helen.

Kate: Well, I don't care what you think of it; I am not calling our child that, if it's a girl. I'd like a nice, normal name, thank you.

Jerome: What's so abnormal about it?

Kate: Think about what she'll get called at school! Daria ... it's just asking for crude remarks about diarrhea.

Helen: I think it's a lovely name...

Kate: Well, I'd rather our daughter have a normal name, like ... Mary or Susan or something.

Jerome: (slight smirk) Well, my alternative choice would be Lynn. After all, it's close enough to your mother's name to satisfy her, and it's ... fairly normal.

Kate: We'll discuss it later. We've been hogging the conversation here, Jerome. (to Helen) So what brings you out to the sticks?

Helen: Well, I just needed a break. I've finished an internship and wanted to get out and relax before I even think about taking my bar exams...

Kate: Another career woman; wonderful!

Jerome: A sensible one as well, taking some off-time.

Kate: And for leaving the husband at home. Going to try the single life here, Helen?

Jerome: Kate!

Helen: (blushing) I'm not here for anything like that, Kate. I just want to relax and re-evaluate, is all. (standing up) I think I'm finished.

(Jerome stands and gives a little bow as Helen leaves. Then he sits down, glaring at Kate.)

Kate: What? I mean, it's possible! (beat) All right; I was out of line and she's not here for anything like that!

Jerome: (damn near inaudible) Pity, that.

(Then he glances at Kate, who thankfully hasn't noticed.)

(Scene: lake. Music: "Sowing the Seeds of Love" -- Tears for Fears. Helen is sprawled out on a beach blanket in a red one-piece, reading "The Valley of the Dolls". Footsteps are heard approaching, and a moment later, Jerome appears, wearing a pair of navy blue bathing trunks and carrying a bright green towel over one shoulder. He freezes when he sees Helen, who sits up to watch him. He remembers himself and moves towards her.)

Jerome: Sorry to interrupt. I ... didn't know anyone else was out here.

Helen: That's all right. The lake's big enough for both of us.

(Awkward pause.)

Jerome: Pretty day, isn't it?

Helen: Um ... yes. It is.

Jerome: Forgive me. Small talk isn't proper until I've made you an apology.

Helen: What for?

Jerome: (sitting down beside her) That little incident at dinner last night.

Helen: (trying to brush it off) Oh, that. It was...

Jerome: My wife made a rather nasty insinuation to you and I would like to apologise for it on her behalf. She did admit to being out of line, but she thought I'd make a good emissary.

Helen: Well, you have the charm for it, at least...

(Helen realises what she's said and blushes. Jerome blushes a little too.)

Jerome: Well ... I ... it's all part of the job, I suppose. I've become somewhat good at charming the pants off some...

(Jerome stops and looks away with a "Damnit damnit damnit" expression on his face.)

Helen: (blushing) Well ... uh...

Jerome: Look, Helen ... maybe I should leave you to it. I've already said things that we both have cause to regret.

Helen: (patting his hand) There's nothing to regret, Jerome. I...

(She suddenly realises what she's doing and stops patting his hand, just letting it rest on Jerome's. They look at each other -- the spark is there, but so is shock. Helen takes her hand away.)

Jerome: (clears throat) Well. Perhaps a change of subject. (beat) I should also apologise for the ... little disagreement between Kate and I. We shouldn't have indulged in that with you at the table.

Helen: (smile) Oh, that wasn't a disagreement. I have two sisters.

Jerome: (returning it) Ah; then that little exchange must have seemed like pillow-talk to you. I...

(He doesn't quite manage to bite back a wince -- "Damnit, did it again!" Helen, blushing a little, glosses over it.)

Helen: Well, I do think that Daria's a lovely name for a girl.

Jerome: (shrug) If I had my druthers ... but I'm perfectly happy to settle for Lynn. And when Kate finds out what the name means, she might regret her hasty decision.

Helen: Why; what does it mean?

Jerome: 'Beautiful serpent'. (beat) Well, 'Belinda' means 'beautiful serpent', if you want to get technical, but Lynn's a suitable derivation. In any case, I wouldn't saddle any child of mine with the nickname 'Bel'.

Helen: (smiling again) Might make her a little full of herself, you mean?

Jerome: Oh, be serious; the child'll be cursed with smug from both sides of her family. (Helen laughs a little) So you're to be a lawyer?

Helen: Well, yes. If I pass the bar.

Jerome: Oh, you seem an intelligent enough woman; you'll be running the legal snake-pit of your choice before the decade's out.

Helen: (rueful smirk) Not all lawyers are snakes, you know.

Jerome: That's not been my experience. But then, you'll be the prettiest of the breed -- perhaps your parents should've had the foresight to name you Belinda...

(Helen blushes again and turns her face away; Jerome bites his lower lip, obviously ready for her to walk away. But she turns back to him, composed.)

Helen: So on the subject of names ... Peter? Patrick? Paul?

Jerome: (taken aback) Excuse me?

Helen: Mr and Mrs J P Smythe. I wanted to know what the P stood for.

Jerome: (Mona Lisa smirk) I'm afraid there'll have to be at least one mystery to me, m'dear.

(Jerome winces again at the endearment. Helen just blushes.)

(Scene: hotel room. It's well-appointed, done in autumnal colours. Digital bedside alarm clock reads 10:26. Helen is sitting on the bed, fully clothed, staring at but not out the window. She turns and looks at the phone, then shifts her eyes to the clock -- obviously, she's expecting Jake to call. She goes back to staring at the window. After a moment, she looks at the hand she laid on Jerome's. Then she looks back at the phone and checks the clock again as it clicks from 10:27 to 10:28. She reaches out for the phone; her hand hovers above it for a moment ... then she reaches down next to it and grabs her room key. She stands up and walks out.)

(Scene: hotel bar. Music: "Nuit de Reve" -- Moxy Fruvous. Helen is sitting at a table by the window with a glass of white wine; she's staring out. She looks sad and sort of lonely. There's a lone and bored-looking barman polishing glasses at the bar. A moment later, Jerome enters. He scans the nearly-empty room until his eyes lock on Helen and he freezes. Then he visibly composes himself and strides over to her.)

Jerome: Hello.

Helen: (looking up, startled) Jerome! What ... where's Kate?

Jerome: Spark out in our rooms. Twin beds make a night raid on the bar a disappintingly simple thing. (gesturing to her glass) Would ... ah ... you like another?

(Helen pauses, obviously torn. Then she very nearly shrugs and looks up at him.)

Helen: All right.

Jerome: I'll get a bottle; easier that way. (beat; very shy) I was thinking ... ah ... perhaps we could take it outside? It's a lovely night. I...

Helen: (firm) That sounds wonderful.

(Jerome looks at her, trying to gauge meaning from this. Helen's face loses its composure a little, looking a little nervous ... but that spark is still there. Jerome bites his lower lip and puts a hand on hers.)

Jerome: Get us a nice spot by the lake. I'll meet you there.

(Scene: the lake. Music plays on. Helen is looking at the reflection of the half-moon on the water, obviously having a few second thoughts. She hears footsteps on the path and turns to see Jerome, carrying an open bottle of white wine, two glasses and a blanket over his shoulder.)

Helen: A blanket?

Jerome: Well, it'll do to sit on and not spoil your clothes, if nothing else. (beat; wince) Ah. I...

(But Helen's smiling at him, just a little. He puts the wine and glasses down, spreads out the blanket, and sits down. Helen watches as he pours wine into the glasses. Then he looks up at her, a little nervous himself.)

Jerome: Um ... please. Take a seat.

(She hesitates, then does. Jerome hands her a glass of wine, which she looks at as if she's never seen one before. Then she looks at Jerome, who's watching her carefully.)

Helen: Wh-what should we drink to?

Jerome: Perhaps ... fortuitous meetings and... (gulp) the resulting ... transient ... um ... friendships?

(He holds up his glass. Helen sees his hesitation, looks at him carefully as she searches her own heart.)

Helen: Transient affection?

Jerome: (surprised) Oh... You...

Helen: I... think I... Maybe we...

(They lock eyes, there's silence ... and then he puts down his wine glass even as he raises a hand to her face, slowly. When his fingers touch her cheek, they both lean forward and they kiss, gently.)

Daria: (VO) Okay, stop.

(Scene: Daria's room. Daria is looking sternly at Helen.)

Daria: Please. Spare me the details. Or I will be forced to soak my brain in lye.

Helen: Daria!

Daria: If you'd like some perspective on my feelings concerning this, consider the idea of your parents having...

Helen: (clapping her hands to her ears) All right, all right, I see what you mean!

Daria: So. You ... had an affair. I still don't understand the attraction.

Helen: Well, he ... I... (beat) I'm not sure I understand it either. He seemed ... charming, and not bad looking, and ... well, sweet. And ... it was nice to have a man look at me like I was an attractive equal, not just...

Daria: Not just a young enough woman to remove at least some of the stigma of the Oedipus complex from your marriage.

Helen: Daria!

Daria: Would you be so irritated if I was completely wrong?

Helen: (sigh) Anyway, I didn't ... There was something about having a secret from Jake that made me feel more ... interesting.

Daria: Judging by Kate's warm and familiar greeting the other day, it wasn't much of a secret.

Helen: Honestly, I don't know how the woman found out. The only thing I can figure is that she and Jerome had some kind of argument and it slipped out.

Daria: And we all know how easily that can happen.

Helen: (defeated sigh) Well, at least you took the whole thing a little better. But then, I suppose Kate had a more vested interest...

(Scene: hotel bar. Music: "Consequence" -- Incubus. Helen is sitting at a table by the window, stirring her drink absently as she stares out at yet another pretty day. Kate enters, stops in the doorway, spies Helen and strides over to the table. Then she picks up the drink Helen's stirring and throws it in Helen's face. Helen stands up and faces her in total shock.)

Kate: You scheming little bitch!

Helen: Wha-at?

Kate: How dare you? (snide) I thought you weren't here for that! Or was that big black bastard lie for my benefit so you could go screw my husband and think I'd never find out about it?

Helen: Well, frankly, I don't see how you did, seeing as you won't even let him touch you...

Kate: Oh, yes, thank you! Use that as an excuse for adultery! You have a husband of your own, in case you didn't remember, and I'd greatly like to know why you felt the need to sink your claws into mine!

Helen: It should worry you more that it was sort of an equal-opportunity deal, Kate! And you don't need to go Queen High and Mighty with me just because you're pissed off about missing the Free Love era!

Kate: Oh, fine, hide behind your stupid hippie ideals. The sixties are over, bitch! You want to make love? Fine. See how you deal with someone making war.

(Jerome enters the door frame just in time to see Kate slap Helen hard across the face. Helen staggers, presses a hand to her cheek and stares at Kate, who winds up as if to swing again.)

Jerome: Kate, for Christ's sake!

(Helen ducks Kate's second blow; Kate staggers herself, recovers, then grabs a fistful of Helen's hair and pulls. Helen screams. Jerome runs in and tries to pry Kate off Helen. Kate actually lets go of her own accord and wheels to face Jerome.)

Kate: Oh, for ... you're actually defending her?

Jerome: She doesn't deserve this!

Kate: She seduces my husband; what does she deserve? A goddamn medal for getting through the steel armour you wear around your heart?

Jerome: Could we perhaps discuss this? Reasonably? Somewhere where we won't be overheard by half the bloody hotel staff?

Kate: (turning to Helen) I hope you're proud of yourself. You can go home to your husband and pretend this whole thing never happened. I'd add "if you're a good enough liar" but hell, you are going to be a lawyer, after all...

Jerome: Kate, that's enough! Come on!

(Jerome hauls Kate out, giving Helen one apologetic look as he does. Helen slumps back into her seat, hand still pressed to her face, and then she starts to cry.)

(Scene: Daria's room. Helen has put a hand to her face, right where she got hit.)

Daria: And eighteen years later, Helen Morgendorffer watches her daughter avenge her.

(Helen looks up at Daria in some shock. Daria gives her a tiny smile. Helen returns it, and then her face falls again.)

Helen: After that, I didn't see him again. It's probably just as well, considering ... I mean...

Daria: How do you face the man who saw you dripping with...

Helen: (beyond shock) Daria!

Daria: (taken aback) I was going to say scotch and soda. Or whatever it was you were drinking. What did you think I was going to say? (beat) Actually; don't answer that. The speculation alone will scar me for decades to come.

Helen: (warning) Daria...

Daria: Please just give me another mental image to focus on.

Helen: (sheepish look) Well, I'm afraid you won't like the next one any better; I went home the next day -- two days earlier than I'd planned, but I couldn't stay there anymore. The hotel staff kept staring at me.

Daria: And when you got home, Dad was so happy to see you that he... (beat) You're right. I think I like that mental image less than I did the first one.

Helen: And the rest I guess you know. A month or two later, I found out I was pregnant and...

Daria: And ... the name?

(Scene: Morgendorffer kitchen [the one shown as the setting for Daria's first birthday party in the Diaries]. Music: "Song For Whoever" -- The Beautiful South. Helen is sitting, reading through "Dr Spock's Baby and Child Care". Jake comes to the table with two steaming mugs and takes the book away from her.)

Jake: Come on, Helen! What do you need a book for?

Helen: I'm new at this, Jake; I'd like to know at least something about what I'm in for...

Jake: Oh, Helen, relax! You're going to be a great mother! And between us, I bet we've made the best-behaved baby in the world!

(Helen cuts her eyes away and covers that by grabbing her mug and taking a sip. Then she makes a face.)

Helen: Jake ... what is this?

Jake: Camomile tea. (to Helen's look) Come on; we don't want to take any chances with Jakey Junior in there!

Helen: Jake, I... (can't bring herself to tell him she won't call her son that) ...What if it's a girl?

Jake: (hopeful) Jaqueline?

Helen: Jake, no.

Jake: Hmm. Maybe we should get one of those little books of names that tells you what the names mean.

Helen: (idea hits) How about 'Daria'?

Jake: (muses) Daria ... that's kind of pretty. Yeah! Daria! (beat) Where'd you come up with that one?

Helen: Oh, I ... just heard it from somewhere once.

Jake: Well, it's perfect! So Jakey Junior if it's a boy, Daria if it's a girl! Deal?

(He holds out his hand. Helen hesitates a moment, then takes and shakes it.)

Helen: (smile she almost doesn't have to fake) Deal!

(Scene: Daria's room. Daria raises an eyebrow at a still-sheepish Helen.)

Daria: If I didn't know you better, I'd swear that was a glimmer of superstition I heard there.

Helen: What do you mean?

Daria: If I'd turned out to be a boy, my name would have been Dad's. There's a certain irony to that.

Helen: (taken aback) I didn't... (beat) All right, maybe I did think it meant something, but I couldn't have thought it meant that much or you'd be going through life as Jackie Morgendorffer.

Daria: (wince) You make a point.

Helen: How's your ... uh...

Daria: You can still say 'friend'. Unlike my accepted sister, she considers me one, as I do her. Or if you prefer, you can call her Lynn.

Helen: All right; how is Lynn?

Daria: Still unconscious, last I checked. (Helen opens her mouth to speak) Mom ... it's going to be a long few days; can we postpone this?

Helen: Until when? Daria, we do have to talk about this...

Daria: How about waiting until I know whether my ... other half-sister is going to live or die?

(Helen bites her lower lip; Daria turns back to her computer. She types for a moment ... then stops. She turns around, and Helen's still standing there. Daria's shoulders hunch up a little, and Helen takes a huge risk -- she steps over to Daria's desk, kneels and hugs her. Daria sits stiffly for a moment ... then reaches one arm out and hugs Helen back a little.)

Helen: Sweetie ... I know this is hard for you, but... If there's anything I...

(That, evidently, was the wrong thing to do. Daria stiffens again and backs away.)

Daria: I'll be fine. If I can get some time alone to finish this.

(She gestures to the computer. Helen struggles -- she wants to do the right thing but she also wants to have this out. Eventually, the right thing wins out and she gets up.)

Helen: You ... just let me know if you need anything, all right?

Daria: Mmm. Yeah. (almost unintelligible) Thanks.

Helen: (weak little smile) Anytime, sweetie.

(She walks out, shutting the door behind her. Daria looks at her computer screen; from the looks of the scroll bar, she's written a lot prior to her mother's arrival. She puts fingers to keyboard, thinks, then types "The Beginning of the Affair". Fade out on Daria's rapid-fire keystrokes.)



It's been about two years since this thing was last really heard of. I get mail from time to time asking where "Growing Cynical" is and what it is and when I'm going to finish it. Well, the answers to those questions are "here", "this" and "now". The first five or six pieces you'll have already seen -- I toyed with rewriting them but decided not to -- they do still lurk out there separately somewhere. The rest is all new. Or old, depending on how you look at it. And no, I didn't bother matching background music to eras; I was going more for lyrics.

Thanks on this one go out to Ben, as usual, for a couple of good lines. To Chad and Austin, for listening to me bitch. To Thea_Zara, J, Bea and THM, for being supportive. And that, you'll be glad to hear, is all the endnote I need.


Daria Morgendorffer et al are the creations of Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis Lynn but are owned by MTV, a Viacom company, copyright 1997, 2000. [Apparently, this is possible by 'work for hire', a concept that eludes me.] Lynn Cullen, AP McIntyre, and any other character you don't recognise from any ep, on the other hand, were created and are owned by me, one Janet 'Canadibrit' Neilson, copyright 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003. Touch my characters without consulting me and it will go hard with you. All cameos used with permission, though by this point they're more characters in their own rights. This is a "substantially transformative" derivative work, apparently [what a highfalutin way to say fanfic], and is protected by the Supreme Court's decision in re Campbell v. Acuff Rose Music, so keep the copyright notice where it is and don't post it for money. If you do so without my permission and that of MTV Networks, I WILL pull a Lynn Cullen on you. And then I'll call lawyers.