Synopsis: In the midst of the Lawndale Teachers strike, Daria gets forced into teaching the Language Arts class, while attempting to balance home life, school, and pregnancy. Sandi tries to use what she knows against Quinn one too many times, and Amy is haunted by resurfacing memories of her past.

Author’s Forward: I am rating the following story PG-13 for content. The subject matter deals with teen pregnancy. I am not an advocate of teen pregnancy, and firmly believe that common sense should prevail in such cases. However, real life being what it is, this is not always the case.

The following story was written for entertainment purposes only, and should not be taken as educational material. I do not claim that the “technical” aspects of my story are even remotely accurate. If you have any questions, go to a responsible adult knowledgeable in the appropriate areas.

Other Notes: The author assumes that the reader is familiar with “Daria” and the characters therein, and has read my previous stories, “Empirical Evidence,” “Reflections and Revelations,” “The Exposure of D,” and “First Steps.” This story takes place concurrent with the Lawndale Teachers Strike portrayed in “Lucky Strike.”

Legal Drek: Daria and her cohorts are property of MTV and Viacom.

This story is Copyright October 20, 2003.



Preemptive Strike

By Greystar

~~~~~~ ~~~~~~ ~~~~~~

Daria and Jane strolled through the corridors of Lawndale High, enjoying their extended lunch hours brought on by a meeting of the Lawndale Teachers Union that had obviously run over it’s allotted time. On the face of it, another ordinary Tuesday was doing it’s best to crawl by. The main thing that made it seem out of the ordinary appeared the subject of the two girls conversation.

“So, how did your doctor’s appointment go Monday?” Jane asked Daria as the walked along.

“Pretty much like my trip to the clinic. The only difference was that Dr. Portenza did a more complete physical this time, blood work, the whole thing,” Daria said, wincing at the memory. “She was going to do a sonogram, but there wasn’t a machine available, so it got kicked back to tonight.”

”Nothing like stretching out a good time. Is your Mom picking you up?”

“No, she’s going to be in court all day with this ATC Motors thing, and in the office for most of the night,” Daria said as they turned a corner and started in the general direction of Ms Li’s office. “Tom’s going to give me a ride over after school.”

“Is he going to stick around for the sonogram?” Jane asked.

“He says he is, but I think he’s just got a morbid sense of curiosity.” Daria looked at her boots for a second as they walked. “I, uh, wouldn’t mind if you were there, too.”

“Wild horses couldn’t keep me away, amiga,” Jane said with a small smile.

“Thanks.” Daria looked back up the corridor. “Now what do you supposed that is all about?”

Jane followed Daria’s look and saw that Charles Ruttheimer, better known to the rest of the students as “Upchuck,” was in front of Ms Li’s office door, bent over with his hands on his knees. He had his eye pressed up against the keyhole, and was apparently trying to see what was going on inside the office.

“My better judgment says ‘keep walking,’ “ Daria said.

“Ah, but my morbid sense of curiosity says otherwise. C’mon!”

The two girls continued down the corridor to where Upchuck had his eye pressed to Ms Li’s door. As the got closer, they were able to make out the sounds of a rather heated discussion coming from behind the door. Apparently, the union meeting was not going as well as one may have thought.

“Ooo, I like what I’m seeing,” Upchuck said to himself with a chuckle, not seeing Daria and Jane approaching.

“Ms. Li changing her support hose again?“ Jane asked with a smirk.

“That's another habit that will lead to blindness, Upchuck.” Daria chimed in.

“Yeah, but in this case you'll wish for it.”

“Your concern touches me, ladies,” Upchuck said with affected graciousness as he stood up and turned to the two girls. “But we've got a cat-and-dogfight here. Me-ouch! And it's about to get strike-o-licious!”

Daria and Jane exchanged a look.

“A teacher strike?” Jane asked. “You don’t suppose that we could get lucky, do you?”

Yeah, and maybe you’ll ‘get lucky’ and we can share Lamaze classes after school, too. Daria was about to grace her friend with that particular line, but the small crowd that was forming around the door made her bite the sides of her tongue to keep from saying it.

“I doubt it,” Daria merely replied.

From the other side of the door, it sounded as though DeMartino’s negotiating skills were definitely on par with the last time around, and Ms Li wasn’t letting him forget it.

That’s it!! We strike!!” Every student in the gathering crowd heard clearly through the door.

A moment later, and to the rousing cheers and applause of the assembled students, DeMartino led Mr. O’Neill, Mrs. Barch, and Mrs. Defoe, out of the office. They all looked very determined, O’Neill uncharacteristically so.

Daria and Jane cast a glance at each other as the office door closed behind the retreating teachers. Jane was about to rebuke Daria for her eternal pessimism, when a blast of feedback announced that the public address system was now on.

“Students of Lawndale High, your attention, please!” Ms Li called out over the PA. Her voice sounded as though she was still stinging a little from her recent confrontation.

“Is that the voice in my head that tells me to kill and kill again?” Jane asked rhetorically, looking at the speaker above the office door.

“No. Satan's voice is lower and he has an English accent.” Daria replied. “This is worse.”

“In an unprecedented show of spine -- I mean spite,” Ms Li continued, oblivious to the byplay outside her door. “Your teachers have announced a strike. However, school will continue just as before!”

The student’s disappointment was rather vocal to say the least.

“It just won't involve teachers,” Ms Li mumbled too close to the PA mic just before it clicked off. Most of the students didn’t catch her words, but two did.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Daria asked as she and Jane continued on their way as the crowd broke up around them.

“Somehow, Daria, I don’t think we want to know.”


Later that afternoon, Daria, Jane, and Tom walked into the fourth floor waiting room of Lawndale Medical Arts Partners building. All three of them took a look around and were immediately thankful for the fact that there were only a couple of people waiting to be seen. There was one woman, obviously close to term, sitting on one of the sofa benches and reading quietly out of a children’s book to a little girl who looked to be about two. A couple in their thirties were sitting across the room, sharing a parenting magazine that one or the other of them would point to something in and comment on occasionally.

Daria swallowed once to suppress the butterflies in her stomach and set out across the room to the receptionist desk, Jane and Tom in tow. She tried to look neither left or right as she went, but her eyes were drawn to the pregnant woman with her daughter for just a moment too long. The woman caught Daria’s look for a moment, and just smiled slightly at her as she walked by. Daria winced in embarrassment and concentrated on the woman behind the desk.

That’s going to be me in a few months, Daria thought.

“Hi there,” the seemingly too young nurse’s assistant said as the three approached. Her name tag said ‘Jenny.’ “Can I help you?”

“Uh, yes, I have an appointment with a Dr. Nelson for four o’clock?” Daria said quietly.

“Last name?” Jenny asked as she turned towards her computer.

“Morgendorffer. Daria Morgendorffer.”

“Morgen...Here we go.” Jenny clicked her mouse a couple of times, and the laser printer next to the computer began to hum. “I’ll let the doctor know you’re here as soon as this is done printing. Why don’t you have a seat? It should only be a few minutes.”

“Yeah, sure,” Daria said as she turned around. “So was the pregnancy test.”

The trio found seats on a sofa bench more or less in the middle of the room. It gave them the most distance between the others in the room, but Daria still wished that she could have put her back to the woman with her daughter. She had to make a conscious effort not to stare at her as she waited, but she still glanced in her direction a time or two. Daria’s discomfort was obvious, despite her attempts to hide it.

Tom, however, wasn’t quite so guarded in his nervousness. He was looking over the collection of magazines on the small table next to the bench. Amazingly, about half of them were current and most of were geared towards birth and parenting, which was no surprise. He picked up three of the magazines and began looking over the articles on the covers.

“God, look at all this stuff,” Tom said quietly as he opened the cover of the one on top while Jane grabbed the next one in the stack. “Lamaze or Bradley: The Birth Method Right For You; The Developmental Stages of Your Baby. Oh, here’s a winner -- Fathers in Labor, A True Story.”

The Modern Baby Namer,” Jane chimed in, looking at the cover of the magazine that she picked up. “The ‘Must Have’ Educational Toys for Your Baby. Man, what a racket. I can’t believe that people would actually read this stuff.”

“Evidently the tried and true copy of Dr. Spock just isn’t good enough for the modern world anymore, right Daria?” Tom said, unconvincingly. When he didn’t get an immediate response, he looked over. “Daria?”

Daria wasn’t paying attention. She had, in fact, given up trying to keep her attention on her hands or keeping her eyes on the toes of her boots. She was trying to surreptitiously catch a glance of the woman out of the corner of her eye without being seen. The sight of the obviously pregnant woman with her child had peaked Daria’s curiosity. She was going into this whole situation with essentially no information, despite all the questions she’d asked Dr. Portenza that Monday, or all the research and reading she’d done in the last few weeks. Yes, she had a lot of technical knowledge about what would happen, but no one she had talked to thus far had told her what she wanted to know: what it would feel like.

The pregnant woman across the room glanced up from the book she was reading to her little girl. Her gaze met with Daria’s and her right eyebrow went up, as if to say “Something?” There was something, and Daria made a small, snap decision.

“Daria, what’s wrong?” Tom asked in a quiet tone.

“Nothing,” Daria said as she stood up. “I need to talk to this lady for a minute.”

“Huh?” Jane said as Daria started across the room.

She walked up to the lady and her daughter, who stopped reading as Daria approached. Behind her, Tom and Jane exchanged a look.

“Excuse me,” Daria said, uncharacteristically nervous.

“Can I help you with something?” the lady asked.

“Yes, I was hoping that I could ask you something,” Daria said as she sat down. “I didn’t mean to stare earlier, but I couldn’t help noticing that you’re rather . . . well . . .”

“Pregnant as hell?” the lady said with a slight smile.

“Uh, yeah,” Daria mumbled, embarrassed for a moment. “I am, too. Uh, pregnant, that is. I was wondering if you could tell me . . . You see, I’ve been dong a lot of research ever since I found out, and I haven’t been able to find out what I was looking for and . . . I’m sorry, this is a mistake. I’m sorry to have bothered you.”

“Wait,” the lady said, putting a hand on Daria’s arm as she started to stand. Daria slowly sat back down. “What did you want to ask me?”

“What does it feel like?”

“Being pregnant?”

“Not just that,” Daria said, looking at the two year-old. “I mean when the baby grows or when it moves . . . “

“I’m not sure I quite understand what you’re asking, but I’ll give it a shot,” the lady replied, gesturing at her own abdomen. “Obviously, when the kid grows, things stretch. The skin gets tight, sometimes, but lotion will usually fix that. Most of the time, this one liked to use my bladder as a soccer ball, but now he just likes to beat the dickens out of my intestines.”

“You know it’s a boy?” Daria asked.

“Yeah, we finally found out about a month ago,” she said, running a hand over the baby’s bulge. “Mr. Willy finally smiled for the camera.”

“There’s an image I really needed. Thanks a heap,” Daria said dryly.

“Sorry,” the lady chuckled.

“I don’t just mean physically, I can read up on that. Maybe I mean emotionally, I think. I mean, what do you feel when . . . ” Daria asked, trying to frame her words the right way. When she realized that she couldn‘t put her questions into actual context, she gave up. “I’m sorry to have bothered you. This was a mistake. I can’t even figure out how to ask what I want to ask.”

“Wait a second,” the lady said as Daria started to stand back up. “Actually, I think maybe I have something that will help you answer your question.”

The lady took Daria’s right hand and laid it along the curve of her abdomen. She adjusted the positioning a little, as if searching for something.

“Right . . . there,” she said as she found what she was looking for.

Daria felt something small, hard, and rounded press into the pads of her fingers for a moment before it disappeared, but it came back again and pressed into the palm of her hand. Daria forgot to breathe for a moment as she felt the unborn infant kick her hand through the cotton of the lady’s shirt and through the tissues and muscles below. That simple pressure on her hand told her more on a visceral level, on emotional level, on a level that she couldn’t even put a name to, than any amount of research and reading and questions could.

“That’s . . .” Daria whispered, a little wide-eyed.

“Yeah,” the lady replied with a small smile. “Isn’t it great?”

“Daria Morgendorffer?” An unfamiliar voice intruded into Daria’s world. She slowly looked around and saw a lady doctor standing by the admit desk. She wore a white lab coat over greenish scrubs and had the stereotypical stethoscope draped around her neck.

“I’ll be right there,” Daria said slowly as she stood back up. She turned and faced the lady she was talking too. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” she said as she picked up the children's book again. “I hope that I was able to answer your question.”

“You were, thank you,” Daria said as she gave a little wave in the direction of the two year old before she walked over to the doctor.

“Daria? I’m Dr. Samantha Nelson,” she said as she offered her hand to Daria. “My friends all call me Sam.”

“A pleasure, I think,” Daria said as she looked over her new physician. She categorized her build as similar to Andrea’s, the Goth girl that she went to school with, though her hair color was only a little darker than that of her mother’s. She wore small, oval shaped glasses and had her hair pulled up, more or less, into a bun on the back of her head.

“Shall we head on back?” Dr. Nelson said, turning slightly.

“Um, would it be all right if my friends came along, also?” Daria asked. In response, Jane and Tom stood up and took a couple of steps forward.

“Sure, I’ve got no problems with that. We won’t be doing anything really serious today, anyway,” Dr. Nelson said as she made a quick round of hand shakes and introductions.

“I’m guessing you’re dad?” She asked when she got to Tom.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Tom said as he shook hands with the doctor. “Unless Jane’s been keeping secrets from us the last couple of years.”

“Remind me to hurt you later,” Jane scowled.

Daria rolled her eyes. “Can we just get this over with?”


The exam room that they had gone to for the sonogram had surprised Daria when the four of them went in. Despite the fact that it was a hospital exam room, complete with the table covered in a strip of butcher paper, high-tech light fixture, and usual array of equipment, it didn’t really feel like one. Harsh white walls and stainless steel counters had given way to warm pastels and soothing Formica counter tops. The gentle scent of vanilla filled the air, and Daria identified the source as a candle warmer in the corner on one of the counters. There were no industrial linoleum tiles on the floor, in fact the pattern was a design that could have been found in a home kitchen. A work station sat along one wall along with three comfortable looking, high backed office chairs. The open spaces on the walls of the room held an array of posters regarding female reproductive anatomy, fetal development on a month by month basis, and various other charts and graphs related to child growth and development. A device about the size of a personal computer sat on a wheeled, red cart next to the work station.

Daria walked over to the exam table and hoisted herself up so she was sitting in the edge of the paper strip. Tom leaned against the table beside Daria, and Jane leaned against a nearby counter and looked over the room with a critical eye. Dr. Nelson went over to the workstation and picked up a file folder from an organizer on top of the desk.

“So, Daria,” Dr. Nelson said as she opened the folder and looked at its contents. “I see here that you got the usual poking and prodding from Dr. Portenza, as well as blood work. The two of you determined that you’re about thirteen weeks along so far?” Daria nodded. “And I see that the clinic also got you started on prenatal vitamins and an iron supplement.”

“Correct,” Daria nodded again. “I m taking the vitamins twice a day and the iron supplement once a day.”

“Okay.” The doctor made a couple of notes. “I think that we can drop the iron supplement for a while. Those guys at the clinic always jump the gun on those, if you ask me. We’ll do a hemocrit test the next time you’re here and see then, all right?”

“If you say so,” Daria said blandly.

“Nervous?” Dr. Nelson asked with a bit of a smile.

“No. . . Well, a little.”

“Don’t be. You’ve got nothing to worry about,” Dr Nelson said reassuringly. “From everything I’ve seen here, your pregnancy is completely normal.”

“That’s not what I’m nervous about,” Daria quietly said, looking downward at the toes of her boots. “I’m just not sure that I’m . . . I’m not ready for all of this.”

“Nobody’s ready for something like this, Daria,” Dr. Nelson said as she walked over to the red cart. “I sure as hell wasn’t when I had either one of my kids. But, thanks to my husband and a lot of help from a couple of good friends, we’ve been doing all right.”

“Ya got by with a little help from your friends, eh?” Jane quipped.

“Pretty much.”

Daria unzipped her jacket and lay back on the exam table as Dr. Nelson wheeled the red cart around to the side of the table. Tom moved around to the opposite side as Jane took a place at the foot of the table while the doctor plugged the power cord for the ultrasound device into the wall and switched the machine on. The doctor adjusted a couple of controls on the terminal, and then took a device about the size and shape of a large hand stamp of a recess in the cart and wiped it down with a clean white cloth that came with it.

“Okay, Daria, what I need you to do is pull your t-shirt up and push your skirt down a touch so your abdomen is exposed,” Dr. Nelson instructed as she put the device back and took a pair of surgical gloves out of a drawer. “Then I need to palpate your abdomen some so that I can locate the baby, okay?”

“Um, okay,” Daria said, slowly pulling the bottom of her shirt up to her ribs. She wished that she could be anywhere else, right at the moment.

“Would you feel better about this if I left?” Tom asked quietly.

“God knows you’ve seen it all before,” Daria grudgingly replied as she hooked her thumbs into her skirt and pushed the front down about four inches. “You might as well stay.”

Dr. Nelson stepped up and placed the tips of her fingers on Daria’s stomach in the general area of her navel. She pressed lightly with her fingers and probed around in an area about the size of a couple of playing cards. Daria winced slightly at the pressure on her bladder and silently wished that she hadn’t had that can of soda while she was waiting for Tom after school.

If this takes too long, Daria thought, I’m going to have to go to the bathroom right in the middle of the examination.

“There’s the little fella,” Dr. Nelson said as she stopped at a point about a half inch below her navel. “Feel that solid spot?”

“Uh, yeah,” Daria said as she reached up and felt where the doctor’s fingers had stopped.

“That’s where your baby is right now. You uterus has stiffened up some to keep everything in one place.” The doctor reached over to the cart and picked up a large tube of gel.

“When I was at the clinic, I told them that all I wanted to know for sure was if the baby and I were healthy or not,” Daria said quietly, looking up at Tom from the examination table. “I wasn’t really dealing too well with this whole thing then.”

“That’s all that this is going to do,” Tom said.

“I know, but I’m still not too sure about this.”

“This is going to be a little chilly,” Dr. Nelson said as she squeezed about a quarter cup worth of clear glop onto Daria’s abdomen. Daria sucked air in through her teeth as the seemingly ice cold gel slowly spread while the doctor quickly recapped the tube and picked up the ultrasound transducer.

“So, is everyone ready to see what we can see?” Dr. Nelson said as she reached out with the transducer towards the blob of gel on Daria’s belly.

“I’m not sure that I want to see it,” Daria said quietly.

“I’m sorry?” The transducer hovered about three inches over the blob.

“Daria, we saw all sorts of ultrasound pictures in that reproductive biology unit you aced last year, remember?” Jane said with some confusion. She didn’t remember Daria being this squeamish when they dissected frogs in science class.

“That was in text books. This . . . isn’t.”

“Daria, you don’t have to look if you don’t want to,” Tom said as he took her hand. “But she does have to do the examination.”

“I know that, it just . . . “ Daria struggled for words for a moment.

“It’s okay, I understand,” Tom said reassuringly. Actually, he didn’t understand at all, but this wasn’t the time or place to make a big deal of it.

“Thanks. Um, if you want to look, it’s okay,” Daria said. “I’d understand.”

“No, if you don’t want to see, than I won’t look either,” Tom smiled slightly.

“Well, dammit, I want to see!” Jane said in frustration.

“Then get your buns over here,” Dr. Nelson said as she placed the transducer in the blob of gel and pressed a few controls on the ultrasound machine as she did so.

Daria felt, or imagined she felt, a slight tingle on her skin as Dr. Nelson slowly moved the transducer around, spreading the gel out as she did so. She took Tom’s hand in hers and turned away from the machine as the doctor made some adjustments with Jane looking over her shoulder.

“Daria, are you okay?” Tom asked in a whisper.

“I know that this sounds silly,“ Daria whispered back. “But if I don’t know certain things about all of this, it makes it all a little easier to handle.”

“I’m not sure that I get it, but okay.”

“There we are,” Dr. Nelson said quietly as her search pattern with the transducer slowed abruptly.

Tom glanced up and saw that the monitor for the machine was turned away from them. Jane must have done it when she walked over. He looked back down at Daria, who looked like she was trying not to listen. He thought that she looked like she wanted to plug her ears.

“Look here and . . . here,” Dr. Nelson said as she pointed to a couple of places on the monitor.

“Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable,” Jane said as she leaned in, her nose almost pressed up against the monitor. “Daria, are you absolutely sure that you don’t want to see this?”

“Positive,” Daria said.

“You’re missing out, amiga.” Jane looked closely at the monitor in wonder, than glanced at the doctor. “How big . . ?”

“Oh, about the size of your thumb, give or take a few millimeters,” Dr. Nelson said as she adjusted the transducer slightly.

“So damn tiny,” Jane whispered in something akin to awe, looking from her thumb to the screen.

No kidding, Tom thought as he glanced as his and Daria’s thumbs wrapped around each other as they held hands.

“Babies grow fast enough, though.” Dr. Nelson said as she clicked a button on the console, saving a still shot to the machine’s memory. “Some days, too fast.”

“You’re taking pictures?” Jane asked.

“Yep. You want copies?” Dr. Nelson adjusted the transducer and took another still shot. “I’m taking about six.”

“Yeah. I’ll hang on to them for her in the meantime. Daria will want to see them eventually,” Jane said knowingly.

“No I won’t,” Daria said from the table.

“Yeah, right, Cleo.” Jane smirked. “Send me a picture of the Nile next time you’re back among your loyal subjects, hmm?”

“While you’re there, can you get your slave army to build me a sphinx with my face on it?” Tom said with a chuckle. “I always wanted one of those.”

“I’ve always wanted my own pyramid,” the doctor chimed in. Who was she to ruin a perfectly good private joke, even if she didn’t get it.

“Oh, drop dead,” Daria grumbled. “Individually and / or collectively.”

It was all Dr. Nelson could do not to burst out laughing as she clicked another still shot into the ultrasound machine’s memory.


Amy Barksdale sat at a worktable in the large storage facility that doubled as a restoration room for the Lawndale Fine Arts Museum. She was closely inspecting a large landscape painting with a magnifying glass. Her last few days had been spent cataloging and appraising the collection of paintings, sculptures, and other odds and ends that had been recently acquired. The project ahead of her looked to be a two or three month job, even with the museum staff’s help. That suited Amy just fine as she had no real plans to leave Lawndale for about six or seven months or so. The only real downside, though was that idiot Mils kept poking his nose in and trying to make things go faster. He wasn’t, but Amy got paid by the hour.

She put down her magnifying glass and started making notes on a handy legal pad as the storage facility’s door was slid nosily open. Glancing up, Amy immediately recognized mils’ weasely features, shaved head, and art nouveau outfit of black slacks, shirt, and jacket. The short haired woman with him she didn’t recognize. She wore a white shirt and off-white pant that made her look like she would be more at home sipping iced tea next to the tennis courts with the society set. Amy went back to her noted, figuring that this lady was one of the people on the museum board that Mils kept dragging through.

“Hello? Are you in here?” Mils called out.

No, I left twenty minutes ago. Right after I got back here from the last time you dragged me out to see someone, Amy thought with a sigh as she added something to her notes. “Over here, Mils.”

“Ah, goot! Vonderful!” Mills waved as if it was some big discovery he had just made. “I have someone I vant to introduce you to.”

Amy looked between the painting and Mils and his friend as they threaded their way across the room. She wished that Mils would drop that pseudo-European accent that he used constantly. Amy was pretty sure that the only thing European about him were his overpriced shoes.

“Ah, Amy!” Mils said as they approached her table. “I vould like you to meet Kay Sloane, one of our most distinctive members of the museum board. Kay, this is the young voman whom I have told you so much about, Ms Amy Bahgsdale.”

“Most people pronounce it ‘Barksdale,’ “ Amy said as she shook Kay’s hand in greeting, simultaneously shooting an annoyed glance at Mils. “Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Sloane.”

“Charmed, I’m sure.“ Kay smiled warmly. “And please, Amy, anyone willing to take on a project like this can call me Kay.”

“All right, Kay, if you insist,” Amy said, a little perturbed with the sudden familiarity.

“Oh, I do. I just had to come down and meet you when Mils told me what a wonderful job you were doing,” Kay said with a glance at Mils.

Like he‘d know, Amy thought. “Yes, well, it would be a lot more wonderful a job if certain folks weren’t popping in every two hours to see what’s been finished and what hasn’t.”

“Really?” Kay cocked an eyebrow at Mils.

“Ah, yes, well.” Mils cleared his throat and slowly backed off. “As it’s obvious that you two are getting along svimmingly, I do have other duties that I must attend to . . .”

“Well, I suppose if you must,” Amy said with a forced sweetness that none of them believed.

“Yes, I must,” Mils said as he turned and beat a hasty exit “Aufwiedersuen, ladies!”

“Well, I suppose I can’t be too hard on him. Mils is a bit of a sycophant, but he does an excellent job of keeping this place organized.,” Kay said as she watched the door slide closed before turning back to Amy. “So, Amy, what do you think of our little collection here?”

“Well, from what I’ve seen so far, it looks to be fairly complete,” Amy said, glancing back over her notes. “I can have the rest of the major pieces done by the end of the week after next, or so. The minor pieces will take longer because there’s so many of them. Maybe a couple of months.”

“Not surprising,” Kay said, looking over the room. “You’re not going to be staying in a hotel all that time, are you?”

“My sister set me up in her guest room,” Amy replied. “No real problem there, I don’t see enough of her family, any way.”

“So, tell me, Amy, where did you go to school?”

Not a very smooth change of the subject, Kay, ol’ girl, Amy thought. “Well, I started out at Boston Fine Arts and did two years there. Then I moved up to New York and did another three at NYU. I have a Bachelor’s and a Master of Arts degree.”

“Boston? That’s was only a little ways away from my alma mater: Bromwell University,” Kay said as she turned back to Amy with a smile.

“Really? I spent a few days looking over Bromwell and a few others before I went with B-FAC,” Amy said. “Smaller student body, more instructor availability, that kind of thing. But, that was eons ago.”

“I’ll bet that we know some of the same --” Kay was interrupted by the ringing of a cellular telephone. She reached into her pocket and removed an expensive looking flip phone. “Excuse me just a moment.” She flipped open the phone and put it to her ear. “Kay Sloane. . . What do you mean ‘served?’ “ Kay covered the mouth piece and looked back at Amy. “Amy, I have to go. Good to meet you.”

Amy watched as Kay walked towards the door, talking on the phone all the while.

“Yes, I know that, but still, he’s eighteen and . . . Well, I don’t care what that Morgendorffer woman said. . Dammit, how does that make us responsible for child support?” Kay snapped as she slipped out of the door.

Child support? Amy thought. Then her eyes got wide. Sloane?? Holy moly, that’s got to be Tom’s mother, Kathrine! What a time to get lost in your work, Barksdale. You should have made that connection in a hot second!

Then another thought struck her.

“Probably would be a good idea not to mention who your sister is,” Amy mumbled to her self.

It was nearly impossible for her to concentrate on her work for the rest of the morning.


The shrill screech of chalk across the blackboard filled the classroom as the old woman who was to be their substitute teacher slowly wrote her name. To a student, everyone in the class cringed as the torture continued, several plugging their ears in pain.

I’ll tell you the secret formula, just make it stop! Daria thought as the screech went on. She was certain that her developing child had its developing fingers jammed into its developing ears against the noise. Mercifully, the sound abated after a moment, and Daria opened one screwed shut eye to see if it was safe.

At the head of the room, the stoop shouldered old woman who looked to be somewhere in her eighties, looked over partially deafened students with a grandmotherly smile. Beside her, in large, wavy cursive letters she had written “Mrs. Stoller.”

“Class, you may have noticed I’m not you’re usual teacher,” Mrs. Stoller said slowly, graciously pointing out the blindingly obvious.

“If only we didn’t have our usual students,” Daria said aside to Jane, who replied with a smile.

“Now, for our first lesson, let’s learn each others’ names. I’m Mrs. Stoller,” she said, pointing out the blindly obvious yet again.

“Got it!” Kevin exclaimed. “Man, this class is going to be a breeze!”

Finally, he gets one right, Daria thought as she rolled her eyes.

“And you are?” Stoller asked pleasantly

“I‘m the Q.B!” Kevin pointed out with his trademark grin.

“Posture, Cubie, posture!” Stoller waver her gnarled finger in Kevin‘s direction, much to his confusion as he straightened up in his chair.

“We think he’s been doing very well considering how he missed out on evolution and all,” Daria pointed out, unable to suppress the urge any longer. She was even a little surprised that Kevin knew what posture was.

“And what’s you’re name, dear?”

“Daria,” she said flatly.

“That sounds like a hippy name,” Stoller said with a frown. “I think I’ll call you ‘Darlene.’ So much prettier.”

Daria and Jane exchanged a pained look. This was not what they were expecting, to be sure. This class was going to be a definite test of their patience.

“And what would your name be, dear?” Stoller asked as she moved on to Jane.

“Jane Lane,” she said with a smirk. “But I wouldn’t mind it if you gave me a really cool name if you wanted to.”

“That’s such a nice name. Why would you want something different?” Stoller asked as she moved on to the next student.

“Thanks,” Jane mumbled glancing over at Daria. “Dammit, I wanted a new name.”

“Want mine? I’m Darlene. I used to be that hippy chick Daria,” Daria whispered, placing her chin in her hand and leaning on her desk.

“Thanks, Darlene,” Jane said quietly, glancing up at Stoller than back to Daria. “This is gonna be fun.”

“Yeah, a laugh a day,” Daria replied weakly, suppressing a hiccough of some kind.

“You okay, amiga?” Jane thought she was looking a little pale.

“I think I’m gonna be . . .” Daria didn’t finish, bur raised her hand to get the sub’s attention. “Mrs. Stoller, can I be excused for a few minutes? I need to use the restroom.”

“After we’ve finished the lesson, Darlene dear,” Stoller said in dismissal before she continued on.

“I don’t think I can wait that -- urpff!” Daria clamped her hand over her mouth and was out of the door an instant later.

“Now that wasn’t very polite for such a nice girl,” Stoller said sourly after Daria bolted. “Perhaps our next lesson should be on manners.”

“Daria a nice girl,” Kevin chuckled under is breath. “Oh, yeah, right!”

Jane shot a dirty look over her shoulder at the quarterback as she collected her and Daria’s packs from under the desks. Jane noticed that Jodie and Mack were also sending harsh looks in Kevin’s direction.

“And just what do you think that it is that you’re doing, young lady?” Stoller asked, bringing Jane’s attention back to the front of the room.

“To see to the health and well being of my friend,” Jane said with an arched eyebrow as she slung both packs over her shoulder.

“Well, I suppose,” Stoller frowned. “On your way then.”

“Boy, you’da thought that she would have figured that that was going to happen!” Kevin laughed out loud as Jane left the room

“Cubie, you hush!” Stoller wagged her finger at him again. “And posture, young man! Posture!”


That evening at the Morgendorffer house was something of a tense one. Daria, Helen, Quinn, and Amy had all congregated in the kitchen that evening. Helen had already come in with a stack of paperwork and was attempting to sort through it at the table, grumbling all the while. Daria had forsaken her usual book and was going over several papers at the table as well, and was looking rather distressed about their subject matter. Amy had just finished setting up her laptop and notes at the breakfast bar when Quinn had come in and taken off on a full speed rant about the substitutes that she’d been forced to deal with that day. Amy was amazed at how fast everyone was able to tune her out once Quinn got going, and idly wondered what their secret was as she corrected a couple of Quinn induced typos.

“How dare those people even try to contest this!” Helen growled at her paperwork as she went through it. “They can easily afford five times what I’m asking! I can’t believe that the Sloanes can be so ridiculously stubborn about all of this!”

“Come on, Mom,” Daria muttered without looking up. “What exactly did you expect them to do? Capitulate without a fight?”

“I had hoped that they would show some common sense,” Helen replied.

Like you did when you found out? Daria thought with an eye roll.

“Anyway...” Quinn said loudly enough to bring most of the attention back her way. “This guy that’s substituting for Mr. O’Neill in Language arts just wouldn’t stop talking about this dumb novel he’s writing!”

“Mm-hmm,” Helen mumbled as she shuffled her paperwork.

“He said it was about some professor who’s dating a budding child woman because he wants to blossom her, or something,” Quinn rolled her eyes as she took a drink of her diet soda.

“Mm-hmm.” Helen glared at another page.

Daria looked up from the papers she was staring at and cocked an eyebrow at Quinn for a second. This was starting to sound suspiciously like something she’d read sometime back.

Then he started acting out his stupid book for us,” Quinn said with a roll of her eyes. “He started stroking Tiffany’s hair and telling her about his anguished soul and stuff.”

Daria stood, collected her papers and started to head around the table. The last thing that any of them needed to deal with now was some fool who had read Nabakov one too many times. Daria looked up at Amy, who was looking at her watch and counting down with her fingers, having had apparently made the same connection.

Five . . . four . . .three . . .

“Mm-hmm. . .”

Two . . .one . . .

What!?” Helen shouted as Amy mimed an explosion with her hands. “He was stroking Tiffany’s hair?!”

“Yeah, I know,” Quinn snorted into her diet soda as Daria walked behind her and took the cordless telephone off of it’s deck. “Like Tiffany would ever date anyone who wore a tweed jacket!”

“Daria! Get me the --” Helen started to order, only to find that the objective of her order was being handed to her already. “Oh . . . Thank you.”

Daria mumbled a reply as Helen angrily stabbed a number into the phone from memory, and walked over to where Amy was sitting at the breakfast bar. With out even paying any real attention to the rather one-sided conversation behind her, Daria knew that her mother was already tearing into Ms. Li.

“Sounds like things aren’t exactly going well with the substitute jailers,” Amy said as she collected her own papers.

“Yeah. It looks like Ms. Li decided to hire Humbolt Humbolt to teach language arts,” Daria said flatly as she dropped her papers onto the bar.

“Whatcha got there?” Amy nodded at the papers.

“It’s something that Dr. Nelson gave me after my sonogram yesterday,” Daria said as she slipped up onto the other stool.

“Hey, that’s right! Did you bring home any pictures of the future little ankle biter?”

“No. Actually, Jane has them if you want to go and see them,” Daria said.

“Why not?”

“It’s just something that I don’t want to deal with right now. It’s just too overwhelming.” Daria looked off into space for a moment. “I know it’s there and I know it’s healthy. Beyond that, I just really don’t want to deal with it right now.”

Wow, she’s sporting a serious case of denial, Amy thought worriedly. Worse than mine was, way back when. I’d better talk to Helen about this . . . Amy looked over at her sister who was now citing what seemed to be some serious case law at someone. Maybe later tonight when she’s not so busy.

“Okay, so what’s this?” Amy brought things back to the present.

“Dr. Nelson called it a ‘Birth Plan.’ I’m supposed to go over this with Tom and Mom and whoever else, then go back to Dr. Nelson on subsequent appointments and go over it with her.” Daria said, looking at the worksheets she had just lain down. “I can’t deal with this. I mean look at all this -- Where do I want to give birth? Who do I want to be there? Do I want music? What kinds of medications do I want?” Daria shoved the worksheets in Amy’s general direction. “How the hell am I supposed to answer all of this stuff??”

Amy picked up the worksheets and glanced over them as Daria folded her arms and put her head down on top of them. It was a pretty extensive little listing with some sixty questions covering everything from environment, first and second stage labor, cesarean sections, and labor induction if it was necessary. Amy could see that trying to deal with all of this at once would be overwhelming to someone who was having a hard time trying to accept that it was happening at all.

“When’s your next appointment supposed to be?” Amy asked as she skimmed over the first section.

“Next month,” Daria said from the countertop.

“Well, you don’t have to have this completed for another six month’s or so. And if I’m reading this right, you don’t even have to answer all of them.“ Amy looked at her niece, who didn’t appear to be reassured in any way. In fact, she hadn’t even looked up. “Look, I know that I’m not really one to talk, but maybe you ought to get Tom over here. Then the two of you can talk to Helen about some of this stuff. After all, she’s been through it with you and Quinn.”

“I don’t know. Maybe.” Daria still didn’t look up.

“Dammit, Li, I don’t care what his credentials are!” Helen barked, finally losing what little cool she had. “If that monster is in that classroom tomorrow morning I swear I’ll have the whole school district so wrapped up in litigation your great grandchildren will be answering motions! Do you understand me?!”

Daria finally looked up from her folded arms and sighed heavily as she looked back in the direction of the table. Quinn was watching Helen go ballistic and slowly slid out of her chair, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. She slowly walked, backwards, over to where Daria and Amy were sitting.

“Is this what Mom was like when you broke the news to her?” Quinn asked her sister.

“Mildly,” Daria replied with a sigh. Oh, yeah. Talking to Mom is just going to be a barrel of laughs.


Angela Li stood on the steps of Lawndale High as two officers of the Lawndale Police Department took a sobbing Ken Edwards, former Language Arts substitute, out to their patrol car. She couldn’t believe that she hadn’t checked into his background more closely. A simple search of the security camera tapes from yesterday had revealed that his action towards the Blum-Deckler girl had been wholly inappropriate and were sufficient enough for him to be fired on the spot. She would have never believed that Helen Morgendorffer would have the gall to go behind her back and undermine her authority in Lawndale’s school system.

Apparently, that Morgendorffer woman had someone run a background check on Mr. Edwards, which was quite a trick, considering that it was after hours for most of the city and state offices. Edwards had been fired five minutes after he had arrived at work, and two minutes after that two uniformed officers had shown up with an arrest warrant. While one officer cuffed and Mirandized Edwards, the other informed Ms. Li that the former substitute was a registered sex offender in two states and was wanted for violations of parole, probation, and half a dozen restraining orders.

“Damn that woman!” Li muttered for the tenth time that morning as the patrol car pulled away.

“Angela, I’ve finished checking the records for potential substitutes,” Diane Bennett said as she came walking out onto the school’s front steps. “None of them will come in on this kind of short notice! And all of them are on the side of the striking teachers, because -- “

“Yes, I know, because they get a contractual raise also and they all want their precious money,” Li grumbled as she turned around and looked at one of the few teachers loyal to Lawndale High.

“So, what do we do?” Bennett asked, drawing a glowering look.

“The Morgendorffers got us into this mess. It seems only fitting that the Morgendorffers get us out of it.” Li turned around and stormed back into the school building with Bennett on her heels.

“Angela, what are you going to do?”

“Never you mind, Diane. Go back to your classroom,” Li said as she walked into her office and locked the door behind her. Picking up the mic for the public address system, she hit the power and triggered the mic at almost the same moment.

Attention!” Li barked. “Would Miss Daria Morgendorffer please report to the principal’s office! Now!!

As Li sat down behind her desk, she had no doubts that convincing Daria to do what she wanted her to do would be difficult. She was really the only student in the school that had ever had the nerve to stand up to Li when she was confronted. However, if what Li suspected from observing Daria’s activities over the last few weeks combined with what she had heard form Morris and various others was indeed true, Daria would have no choice.


There’s only one reason that she could be calling me down to her office, Daria thought as she walked through the corridors. After a few short minutes, she knocked at the office door, and Daria Morgendorffer entered the lion’s den.

“You wanted to see me?” Daria asked as she walked into the office.

“Take a seat, Miss Morgendorffer. You are no doubt aware of what happened this morning, so I won’t go into details,” Li said, her fingers steepled on the desk in front of her. “Needless to say, we are now in a rather precarious position as we have no one available to teach the Junior Language Arts class.”

“I see,” Daria said with that cursedly unflappable deadpan. “Just what would this have to do with me?”

“It’s very simple. Your mother got us into this mess. It is only fitting that you get us out of it.” Li cocked her eyebrow. “I want you to take over teaching the Junior Language Arts Class.”

“Excuse me?” Daria said uneasily. She was expecting to be made the carrier pigeon for some silly grudge match between Li and her mother, but nothing like this.

“You heard me correctly, Miss Morgendorffer. I require you to teach the class.”

“I’m sorry, Ms. Li, but I think that maybe Jodie Landon would be a little better qualified if for something like this,” Daria said as she started to get out of her chair. I don’t need this at all right now, dammit.

“Sit back down, young lady. I’m not sure that you understand the conditions of what I am asking.” Li’s voice turned somewhat colder. “Certain rumors about you have come to my attention and, whether or not they turn out to be true, only time will tell. Personally I’m willing speculate that, should these rumors turn out to, indeed, be true, then certain Physical Education requirements can be lifted, and academic loads can be lightened.”

“And if I refuse?” Daria asked with her own cold glare.

“Now, why would you want to do that? If someone asked me to teach a class, I would be honored,” Li said. “Besides, you know good and well that we wouldn’t be in this mess if it wasn’t for your mother.”

“Oh, yeah. Hire one pedophile and she gets all bent out of shape. Besides, I’m not thinking of me, I’m thinking of the children.” Daria was about to go into snow-job mode and convince Li that Jodie really was the best for the job and how the rumor mill didn’t know beans.

Not so fast, the darker side of her nature cut in. She could almost imagine a version of herself with horns, a forked tail, and barbed pitchfork floating over her right shoulder. You’ll get out of gym class.

You? A scab? The better half of her psyche piped in. Daria’s mind immediately assembled a halo and white wings on another version of herself that hovered over her left shoulder.

Oh, great! Touched by an angel, her darker persona groused.

You’d be betraying your teachers! Her angelic half warned.

Yeah! You’d be betraying your teachers! Her devilish side thought that was a pretty good idea, considering.

Okay, bad point, the angelic half conceded. You’d just be falling into the same trap that management always uses to keep wages low and workers weak.

Oh, go dance on the head of a pin, will ya? Her devil half sneered in Daria’s ear. You can make Quinn’s life really miserable!

Huh. Good point. That kind of thing was always good for her ‘cousin.’

Hey, you hungry?

Yeah. We can pick this up later.

“Well, Miss Morgendorffer?” Li’s voice cut into Daria’s musings. “I’m waiting . . .”

For an answer to an offer that I can’t refuse. Daria sighed. “All right, I’ll teach the class.”

“Excellent! I’m sure that you won’t be disappointed!” Li said as she stood up and motioned for Daria to follow her.

And when all this is over, we hang Li out to dry. On a pike, Daria’s dark side growled in her head.

Amen to that, her angelic half agreed, equally angry.

Daria couldn’t find any reason to argue with either of them.


The Fashion Club continued to sit in the teacherless class after Edwards had been summoned to the office. That had been close to half an hour ago, and the students were quickly starting to get restless. As soon as the teacher had left, the Fashion Clubbers had broken out their bibles of fashion, Waif Magazine, and began to study what was truly important: what was in.

Quinn flipped through her copy of the magazine, but was paying more attention to Tiffany. Once Helen had calmed down some, Quinn had been able to get glean a few more bits of information as her mother had called across half the state, digging up more information on Ken Edwards. More information than Quinn really wanted to know, once she got right down to it, and found out how close they had come to a real disaster. She had ducked out of the house as soon as had been practical, taking her pack of cigarettes with her for a trip to the Village Green Park and a semi-clandestine smoke.

“This is a waste of time,” Sandi complained as she flipped through her copy of the magazine, bringing Quinn crashing back to the present. “Especially with today being the first day of Cashman’s Cruise wear Craziness.”

Quinn was about to say something when the door to the classroom had opened. For a moment, Quinn thought that Edwards was about to come back in, but was only slightly relieved when Ms. Li entered instead.

“Attention, young people!” Ms Li said, even though it was a given that she already had their attention. “Mr. Edwards will no longer be joining us due to . . . reasons.”

Yeah, reasons that’d freak out half the class, Quinn thought.

“I hope it’s not his anguish acting up,” Tiffany said, oblivious to the fact that she had been a hell of a lot closer to real anguish than she would ever have known.

“However,” Li continued. “I am pleased to introduce a substitute with tolerable credentials and who is far less likely to engender a lawsuit that could cost me my very pants.”

Quinn looked up, curious despite herself to see who the new teacher was going to be. Her heart jumped into her throat when Daria walked into the room.

“Hello. My name is Miss Darlene, and I’ll be your new teacher,” Daria said flatly, with a sidelong glare at the principal.

Quinn, however, was silently wishing for the ground to open up and swallow her whole.


Jake Morgendorffer sat at the breakfast table, looking longingly at the eggs and bacon that his youngest daughter seemed to be studiously ignoring. He had rapidly polished off the pile of off yellow egg whites that were supposed be the equivalent of two eggs, as well as the measly strip of bacon that Helen had allowed him. She was always watching what Jake was eating ever since he had that heart attack, but she didn’t do a damn thing about her own breakfast. With everything that had happened in the last three weeks or so, finding out that Daria was pregnant and the crap that the high school principal seemed to be pulling, Jake would have given anything for a decent breakfast.

Two big, grade A eggs, over easy -- no, three! And bacon, done up just right. Or sausage. There ya go, Jake thought, salivating at the thought. He shook his head to clear the image and reached for the paper, while he fished his recently acquired reading glasses out of his inside jacket pocket. A real breakfast. Yeah, dream on, Jakey.

“Well, I can’t say that I agree with what Ms. Li’s doing,” Helen was saying to Quinn that next morning at breakfast. “Daria doesn’t need any more stress to deal with than what she’s got right now.”

“Doesn’t this, like, break child labor laws or something?” Quinn wined plaintively, ignoring her bacon and eggs.

“Unfortunately no. I’ve looked.” Helen frowned. The fact that she hadn’t seen something like this coming with Li galled her to the core. “There has to be a bright side to this. I mean, how many students have access to their teachers twenty four hours a day?”

“But I don’t want access!” Quinn said, turning up the heat on her mother. “Home is supposed to be my sanitarium away from school!”

Daria walked into the kitchen at that moment, looking like she hadn’t slept very well the night before. In fact, now that Jake thought about it, Daria had looked the same way the last couple of mornings.

All because of that miserable Sloane punk, I bet, Jake thought. Shoulda gone with my first instinct and wrung that little punk’s neck.

“Good morning Mom, Dad, class,” Daria said tiredly as she walked stopped by the table.

“Augh! Mo-om, you can’t let her teach this class!” Quinn wined before she got up and stormed out in disgust.

“What’s wrong with your sister?” Helen asked, glancing in the direction that Quinn had just taken.

“It’s her grades,” Daria said. “Or rather, it will be.”

“Daria,” Helen started to say.

“Maybe we ought to have a talk with Ms. Li,” Jake said, finally putting his paper down. “Tell her that she can’t do this kind of thing without out permission, or something like that.”

“Dad, it’s all right,” Daria said as she sat at her usual place. “None of those teachers, with the possible exception of DeMartino, has the fortitude to stick with this strike for more than another few days. And Ms. Li isn’t dumb enough to think that any of the substitutes she has on the payroll are going to stick around for much longer without demanding the same pay hike the others are.”

“Well, I still don’t like it, but if you’re sure,” Helen said with a sigh. “But the minute that you think that this is starting to become too much, you tell me.”

“Yeah,” Jake said, perking up a little. “Then you’ll be able to help old Dad with his model railroading. Just you and me, kiddo, and it’ll be all aboard the Big Jake Express!”

“Um, yeah,” Daria said as the doorbell rang.

“Who could that be?” Jake asked, looking at his watch. “Quinn’s already left.”

“That’s probably Tom.” Daria stood up.

“Tom?” Jake frowned. “What the hell is he doing here at this hour? Doesn’t he have anything better to do, like go to school himself? Or does he pay someone to do that for him?”

“Jake, Tom’s driving Daria to school,” Helen put in. “We talked about this, remember?”

“Oh, yeah.” Jake looked blankly at his paper again, fuming quietly.

“See you tonight,” Daria said as she headed out of the kitchen.

“You come straight home, remember!” Helen called after her daughter. “I’m going to be calling!”

Jake sat for a few moments in silence after Daria left. When he thought enough time had passed -- about two minutes -- Jake looked at his watch and started to get up.

“Well, I’d better get to work. Big day ahead,” Jake said with a forced cheer in his voice.

“Jake, sit back down,” Helen said with a slight frown. “Daria told me about how you tailgated Tom and her all the way to the school yesterday. You’re not going anywhere just yet.”

“Dammit, Helen! That punk’s the cause of all of this!” Jake nearly shouted. “How can you tell me you’re comfortable leaving her alone with him? God only knows what he’s trying to talk her into right now!”

“Jake, calm down,” Helen chided. “Tom’s been doing a very good job of trying to take his share of the responsibility for what happened. We talked about this, too, remember?”

“Oh, yeah, I remember. Well, where the hell was he when our little girl was getting roped into this teaching thing, huh?” Jake asked angrily.

“Oh, Jake, he doesn’t even go to the same school!” Helen sighed.

“Oh, sure, throw that in my face!” Jake stood up and stormed out of the kitchen.

Helen sighed as she watched him walk out. She was having a hard time trying to decide who was acting more childish, her husband or her youngest daughter.


Trent pulled his blue bomber of a car into the circle drive in front of Lawndale High and caught sight of the group of striking teachers as he pulled up. He did a quick count and figured that about half of the faculty was out there, either leaning on or standing and holding some kind of a picket sign. Old Mr. DeMartino, Trent saw, was prowling around in a circle in front of the school’s main entrance. The last time the teachers raises had become an issue, Trent was a junior and had found out that DeMartino had had to teach a sewing class. Trent had almost signed up for it just to watch the over-stressed old teacher disintegrate.

What really caught Trent’s attention, though, was Mr. O’Neill sitting cross-legged on the grass with a guitar over his lap. He had to shake his head as he pulled up to the curb a few paces away from his former Language Arts teacher and killed the engine. O’Neill must be having some kind of flash-back to his own days in the sixties and seventies by trying to turn the strike into some kind of rally.

“On top of our pay checks, right under the date,” Trent heard O’Neill sing as he got out of his car. “Sits a small number, that we’ve all grown to hate. . .” He stopped playing and pondered for a moment. “I don’t know. ‘Hate’ is such an ugly word.”

“Cool tune, man,” Trent said as he got out of the car and walked up behind O’Neill, who looked around. “Classic feel.”

“Wait, I know you!” O’Neill said with a smile.

“You’re on Spiral’s mailing list?” Trent asked with a cocked eyebrow.

“No, you were one of my students,” O’Neill got up and walked over to Trent, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Trent Lane.”

“Um . . .”

“Trent, do you remember when you used to write ‘down with the man’ on my car with soap?” O’Neill asked with what looked like hopefulness.

”Just let it go, man. I mean, bygones, right?” Trent said. Forgetful Jones here remembers something I did when I was a freshman, but he can’t remember who’s in this year’s class? Jeez.

“Well, Trent,” O’Neill went on. “Today ‘the man’ is coming down on us -- the underpaid teachers of Lawndale High. And we could really the help of a talented songwriter.”

“Well, I don’t know,” Trent scratched the back of his neck. He’s really come to take Daria and Jane over to Pizza King for lunch.

“Trent, this is a chance to focus your energy on a cause worthy of your talent, your knowledge, your virtuosity!” O’Neill was really trying to butter him up, Trent could tell.

And it was working.

“I don’t have to read music, do I?” Trent sighed, caving in for the moment.

“No!” O’Neil said with a smile as he handed over the guitar.

As Trent sat down on the grass with O’Neill and his guitar, Daria and Jane were leaving the school building through another entrance. Trent looked up after strumming a couple of chords to get used to the instrument in his hands and spotted the two girls made their way towards the crowd. Trent immediately handed the guitar back to O’Neill, who was just sitting back down.

“Wait, what’s wrong?” O’Neill confusedly asked.

“Sorry, man. Previous commitment.” Trent stood and started to walk away.

“But, what about our song?”

“I’ll be back this afternoon, okay?” Trent said over his shoulder as he dove through the crowd of teachers.

“Well, what do you know?” Jane said admiringly as Trent walked up to her. “You’re actually on time for a change.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve been up all morning,” Trent replied with an eyebrow cocked at his sister. “I set my alarm and when it went off I found out that some one had set my clock ahead four hours. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

“Well . . . “ Jane looked a little guilty.

“How you doing, Daria?” Trent asked. “Everything all right?”

“Well, I guess I‘m doing okay,” Daria said, a little confused by his sudden attention. “However, I’m not sure that you’ve adjusted to the time change. Did we just see you working on a song with Mr. O’Neill?”

“Well, yeah. He said that they needed a song for their strike thing.” Trent sighed. “I told him that I’d be back this afternoon.”

“Oh, you’re just too good natured,” Jane said with a smirk. “If a teacher tried to take advantage of me like that, I’d tell them right where to stick it!”

“Jane! Thank God!”

All three of them turned to see Ms Defoe, the art teacher quickly walking their way from out of the crowd. She was carrying a picket sign that had a roughly drawn picture of an upraised fist inside the circle of the ‘female’ symbol. She walked up to them and held out the sign for Jane to peruse.

Yeah, any teacher but this one, Trent thought as he saw an ‘oh, crap’ look cross his sister’s face for a moment.

“We need your taste and talent,” Defoe said, giving the sign a dirty look.

“Well, go on Jane,” Daria said, silently daring Jane to follow through. “Offer that piece of friendly advice you just mentioned.”

“Huh?” Defoe asked as Jane gave Daria a look. “Jane, it’s Ms Barch’s signs. They aren’t really getting our messages across.”

“Yeah, I can see that,” Jane said.

“Can you help us design some strong, graphic statements? I’ll write a note to get you out of class,” Defoe offered hopefully before she realized that she had no way to follow through at the moment. “Oh, wait. I guess I can’t.”

“No, but the scab can,” Jane said with a smirk and pointed with her thumb towards Daria.

“Gee, thanks, Mr. Hoffa,” Daria said as she unlimbered her back pack and reached in for her steno pad.


Jodie and Mack listened to Mrs. Stoller drone on at the front of the room and killed the time by passing notes back and forth, playing word games with each other. In their notes, the two wondered exactly what kind of progress Daria was having with the Language Arts class a few doors up the hall. They had both noticed early on that Daria hadn't seemed to be quite herself for the last few days, but figured that she would work through things like she usually did and really hadn’t brought the subject up.

Mack cocked his eyebrow as he wrote his turn for their word game down on the slip of paper that they were passing back and forth. He was thinking he might just have Jodie cornered this time, when Jane walked into the classroom.

“Young lady, you’re tardy,” Stoller said, interrupting her monotonous monologue about Washington to give Jane a harsh look.

“Gee, he wasn’t very focused,” Brittany commented, having actually been paying attention for a change.

“I have a note from a teacher,” Jane handed Stoller a sheet of paper.

“Hmm. ‘Please excuse Jane from class. Signed, Miss Darlene,’ “ Stoller frowned at the note for a moment. “Oh, the one the principal was talking to the school nurse about. Well, on your way, then.”

Mack and Jodie exchanged a look as Jane walked out of the room.

“School nurse?” Mack whispered as Stoller resumed her lesson.

”Search me,” Jodie shrugged. “I knew that she was looking awfully tired the last couple of days, but I didn’t think it was anything that serious.”

“Maybe we ought to go talk to her,” Mack said. “She’s not the kind of person to say much when something’s really wrong.”

“Yeah, I know.” Jodie frowned. But then, Daria can be a little hard to read.

She had only known Daria for a little more than two years, but one thing she was sure of was that Daria let very little show by way of emotion. When she did let something show, it was usually because something had sat and festered long past anyone else’s breaking point. Maybe Daria had reached hers.

Jodie remembered about a week ago when the Fashion Club had set up a stand to sell their short lived news letter. Sandi Griffin had made some kind of backhanded remark about “her condition” as Daria and Jane were walking by and gotten her foot promptly mashed by Quinn -- “accidentally,” of course. Jodie had hung out at the stand long enough to try and put out that particular brush fire before it started. However, in the intervening class period, before Jodie had saw Daria, Sandi had apparently talked to several more students and started the grapes on the vine to talking.

Jodie didn’t believe it for a minute, and had written off the verbal mauling that Daria had given Kevin Thompson in the corridor to the fact that Daria had just flatly had enough. Now, though, she was starting to rethink what she knew of the situation. Over the last few weeks, Daria had occasionally had to leave class a few times in a big hurry. Her emotions seemed to be running a lot closer to the surface than they ever had in the past. Finally, she looked exhausted most of the time, something that didn’t mean that the rumors were necessarily true, but made sense -- Jodie’s mother had looked wiped out most of the time she was pregnant with Evan.

Jodie was so lost in her ruminations that she jumped in her seat when the bell rang to end class. She quickly gathered her books as she stood up, getting Mack’s attention.

“C’mon, Mack. Let’s go find Daria.”

“Okay,” Mack said simply, knowing when Jodie was on a mission and there wasn’t much he could do that would stop her.

They found Daria, along with Jane, by the lockers, the former having been cornered by Kevin, Brittany, and Charles Ruttheimer. It seemed that all three were sucking up for some kind of pass out of whatever classes they were in. Kevin, however, seemed to think that she could get him out of dealing with his Dad for denting the car with his jeep.

Mack had heard about how Daria had tore into Kevin from Jodie, who had witnessed the whole thing, and quickly stepped in to save his slow witted friend form another pasting. Judging by Daria’s slightly haggard look, he was heading into another at full speed.

“Hey, Kevin! Coach wants to see you out on the field about something,” Mack said as they walked up to the group.

“Hey, thanks, Mack Daddy,” Kevin said as he headed off in the opposite direction.

“I really wish he’d quit calling me that,” Mack sighed, looking skyward.

“You want him to start calling you ‘bro’ again?” Jane asked.

“Ugh. Bite your tongue.” Mach shuddered.

“So, want to walk with us to class?” Jodie asked, making ‘let’s go now’ motions with her eyes.

“Uh, sure Jodie. See ya, Upchuck,” Daria said as she fell in step with Jodie and Mack, with Jane close behind.

“Maybe, but I’ll definitely see you first,” Upchuck purred lecherously.

Daria rolled her eyes. God, that guy was irritating. She had to wonder what would happen if any female in Lawndale High were desperate enough to take him up on one of his propositions. She and Jane had bet that he’d either faint dead away, or run away screaming, however, they had no intention of trying to resolve the bet.

“So, Jodie, considering that our next class is in the opposite wing of the building, what can I do for you?” Daria asked as they walked.

“Well, Daria, I want to ask you something, but if I’m wrong it’ll be kind of embarrassing,” Jodie said slowly. “We kind of wanted to talk to you about it in private, more or less.”

“That explains why we’re headed towards the gym,” Jane pointed out. “You’re not worried about cutting a class?”

“Are you serious?” Mack asked. “Have you seen the guy they have filling in for Government? All he talks about is the evolution of tax law.”

“Well, the IRS is everywhere,” Daria said as they walked up to the double doors that led into the gym.

The four students entered the massive room and crossed over to the bleachers on the opposite side. They climbed up a few levels before sitting down in a rough circle, their books and packs nearby.

“So, what did you want to ask me?” Daria asked.

“Well, I’ve been doing some thinking. Yesterday wasn’t the only time that you had to leave class in a rush, because I remember you had to do it a few times over the last few weeks. Then there was last week when Sandi said something about a ‘condition’ that you had and you ripped into Kevin a little later.”

“Your point being what?” Daria said. “Kevin’s got a big mouth and a pea brain. He had it coming.”

“I’m not denying that, but there’s some other things that I’ve been noticing,” Jodie said. “Like the fact that you look like you haven’t had a decent night’s sleep for three or four days now. My mom looked wiped out all of the time when she was carrying my baby brother. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that you really were pregnant.”

Daria slumped back on the bench behind her. Mack and Jodie looked a little surprised for a moment, while Jane glanced around the gym, looking for any obvious eavesdroppers. Mack followed suit after a stunned moment, but Jodie couldn’t take her eyes off Daria.

“Oh my god,” Jodie whispered, looking surprised and a bit guilty.

“You really are pregnant?” Mack asked quietly.

“Yes, guys, I really am pregnant,” Daria said sullenly. “The reason that I’ve had to leave class in a hurry is obvious -- morning sickness. I’ve only just started to show a little in the last couple of days, but my jacket keeps that under wraps, at least for the moment. And the reason I look like hell is that, ever since my parents found out, I’ve been treated like either a porcelain doll or a prisoner at home. The fact that Ms Li has me teaching this stupid class hasn’t helped matters any, either.”

“But how did you--? I mean who did you --? I mean --” Jodie started to ask, but was stopped by Daria’s upraised hand.

“Our protection failed, and that’s all I intend to say about it, okay? I’ve had to tell that particular story to my family more times than I ever wanted to and don’t particularly want to tell it again.” Daria dropped her hand. “And I don’t need another lecture on teen sex right now, all right?”

“Fair enough,” Jodie said. “I didn’t mean to sound like the spokesperson for the moral majority. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Daria sighed. “I’ve just been a little edgy lately.”

“Daria, if you want, Mack and I can take over teaching the Language Arts class for you,” Jodie offered.

“Sure. That way Jodie and I can get out of history class and you can have a little more free time to yourself, if you want it.” Mack seconded.

“That’s all right, Mack. I got roped into it, so I’ll get through it as best as I can,” Daria said as she stood back up. “Besides, it’s pretty much the same thing that we had last year.”

“Well, if you say so,” Jodie said. “But if you change your mind, let us know, okay?”

“I wouldn‘t mind getting out of that class anyway,” Mack said. “I swear, that Mrs. Stoller acts like she should be talking to a bunch of first graders.”

“Actually, she probably thinks she is,” Jane said as she stood up beside Daria.

“What do you mean?” Jodie asked.

“I dug up an old yearbook from way back when my brother Trent went to Lincoln Elementary,” Jane said. “Loretta Stoller was his first grade teacher, and she retired the year after at age seventy two.”

“That actually explains a lot,” Jodie said.

“We’re going to homeroom,” Daria said as she and Jane descended the bleachers. “Later.”

“Yeah, later.”

Jodie and Mack sat and quietly watched as Daria and Jane left the gym. Neither one of them said anything until the doors closed behind the two girls.

“Wow,” Jodie said.

“No kidding. Who’s the father, do you think?” Mack asked, not really expecting an answer.

“Well, she was seeing that Tom Sloane. Maybe it’s him.” Jodie speculated.

“Makes sense, I guess. They’ve been seeing each other long enough,” Mack said.

There was a long few minutes of silence before either of them spoke again.


“Hmm?” Mack looked up and was surprised at the guilty look on Jodie’s face.

“Why do I keep thinking ‘Better them than us?’ “


The next day’s Language Arts class was plodding by at a snail’s pace. Daria had planned to go over what she felt were several key scenes in Romeo and Juliet and have the students read them and ask questions so they understood them a little better. But no good plan ever survives first contact with the enemy, and Daria wound up coaching most of the readers on how to read the script. All of them had some problems with the Old English speech patterns, and Joey, Jeffy, and Jamie had almost gotten in a fight over Romeo’s part when Quinn was asked to read for Juliet.

“For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her . . . Romeo?” Jamie White haltingly read from his copy of The Bard’s plays.

“Thank you Joey, Jeffy, or Jamie,” Daria said tiredly, not really caring which was which right now. “Lawrence Olivier, in his present state, couldn’t have done better.”

“Cool!” Jamie grinned as he sat back down. He’d just seen that Olivier fellow on an old movie last night, though he couldn’t remember the what character he’d been playing.

“What does woe mean?” Jeffy asked, looking up from his copy of the play.

“It’s like the feeling you’d get if the Super Bowl were preempted by Antiques Roadshow,” Daria said with barely any hesitation.

“Whoa!” Joey exclaimed, wide eyed.

“See?” Daria smirked before taking another question from further back.

In the back corner of the classroom, Quinn smirked slightly to herself as she jotted down part of the little exchange going on in front of the room. The other three Fashion Clubbers had spent most of the period with their noses buried in fashion magazines. Ordinarily, Quinn would be doing the same thing, but she was finding that she actually enjoyed Daria’s teaching style.

“Quinn,” Stacy’s voice suddenly intruded. “Are you taking notes?”

Quinn looked up to see Stacy looking over her shoulder at her with the most curious look on her face. Stacy’s question also attracted Tiffany’s and Sandi’s attention, Quinn saw, and cringed slightly under Sandi’s frowning glare.

“Uh, no!” Quinn stammered, trying to cover. “I’m just, er, writing so that girl thinks I’m paying attention when I’m not really.”

“Who cares what teachers think,” Sandi said with a derisive snort. “They’re all such losers.”

“Yeah, eww . . .” Tiffany drawled, going back to her magazine.

Quinn glanced at the front of the room to see if Daria had heard anything Sandi had said. So far, though, she had given no indication that she had heard anything.

“Uh, she’s not a real teacher, Sandi. She’s a substitute,” Quinn said guardedly. God, what is Sandi’s problem?

“Oh. A substitute loser,” Sandi said flippantly.

“Okay,” Daria said from the front of the room. “You’ve all read the play -- tomorrow you take the test.”

“Test?” Sandi said amongst the collected moans and groans of the students.

Well, duh, Sandi, Quinn thought. Why do you think they were reading the play?

“Sorry, orders from above,” Daria said, tossing her pack over her shoulder as the groans died down. “I’d suggest that you cheat off your neighbor, but considering who most of you are sitting next to . . .mmmff!”

Quinn looked on as Daria started heading for the door rather quickly with her hand over her mouth. The rest of the class just watched as she left, Quinn looking a little worried, and Sandi with a knowing smirk on her face.

“I guess that means class is dismissed,” Stacy said with a little confusion.

“Yeeaahh,” Tiffany blinked as the bell rang to confirm it.

“Hmph,” Sandi grumbled as she gathered her books and magazines. “Fashion Club meeting at my house immediately after school to discuss this test and what we can do about it.”

Oh, great, Quinn thought. Just freaking great.


Amy walked into Kay Sloane’s museum office and dropped down on the ornate leather sofa that was in there, dropping a file folder next to her. The secretary said that it would be only a few minutes, but Amy had worked with enough museum board members to know that those few minutes could easily turn into an hour or more. The whole room was done up in lots of dark wood paneling, all of it probably oak, Amy surmised. Several bookcases were laden with reference material and old auction catalogs, while older looking knickknacks were spread throughout the room. Obviously modern office equipment sat on a computer desk behind Kay’s large, antique looking desk, leaving it free for other things.

She sat for a moment and cleaned her glasses on the hem of her blouse before restlessness drove her out of the sofa to prowl the room. Amy briefly examined a couple of the more personal looking items on the desk in an effort to kill time while she waited for Kay. Glancing at the desk, Amy saw the usual family photos arranged across it’s surface. She saw one family photo with Kay and Tom, whom she immediately recognized, as well as a younger girl and an man about the same age as Kay, whom she assumed were her daughter and husband. Individual pictures of each of them were there as well. An overly large magnifying glass with a wooden handle sat on a stack of documents, obviously being used as a paperweight. A small brass plate on it to be the Bromwell Forensics Club Award for Excellence, presented to one Kay Maxwell way back in 1973.

Amy put the magnifying glass back on the stack of papers and began to peruse the paintings and pictures on the office wall. Her attention was quickly drawn to a place mat sized photograph of what looked to be a large number of people. Three or four hundred little, bug sized faces were arranged in five rows across the length of the picture. Two of them, about half way towards the right hand side of the picture were circled with a small heart. Inlaid gold lettering and a French lily and Ivy crest proclaimed it to be a picture of the graduating class of Bromwell University, 1974.

Leaning in a little, Amy squinted through her class as she tried to make out the features of the two circled faces. She knew perfectly well that one of the smudge-like faces had to be Kay, and was wondering what her current boss had looked like way back then. Unable to make out any real features, Amy shrugged and turned away from the photo on the wall, walking back over to the sofa to sit back down.

Bromwell University. Amy had almost gone to college there, but had decided that it was too expensive and too stuck up. It was also too close to a period of her life that, while she didn’t want to forget entirely, she didn’t want to revisit it very many times either. She hadn’t thought that New Town was all that bad a place on the whole, despite the wholly unoriginal name, but it came with the same kind of feel that Bromwell had: more privacy fences than public parking and even the used cars were worth a year’s salary.

What the hell do you mean you’re pregnant?! How do you even know?

The doctor told me just yesterday, that’s how I know!

I just finished my first year! The absolute last thing I need is a rug rat screwing things up right now!

Amy rubbed her temples as the echoes of her past subsided. She hadn’t really thought about that time in her past until Daria had dropped the news of her. Thankfully, Daria seemed to have more of a support system in her friends and family, despite the bumps, than Amy had at the time. They way Amy’s mother had reacted had made Helen’s initial reaction to Daria’s news seem tame by comparison.

And Mom wonders why I never call, Amy thought with a sigh. Six months of ‘convalescence,’ as she called that silent treatment she gave me in between harangues.

Amy winced at the memory of some of those fights, some little more than snapped bits of sentences fired across the room and back. Others were screaming matches, epic in their scope as they ranged across the Barksdale house. Amy had looked for active support in her Father, but had found none, though she found out that he wasn’t backing up her Mother either. Rita was no help at all, going out of her way to be the perfect little girl.

When Amy headed off to go to Boston Fine Arts College, Mom and Dad were no help their either. Well, no that wasn’t completely true, Amy had to admit. Dad did help some by greasing the skids with a few building owners he knew in Boston to get Amy a decent place to stay at a decent price, though she still had to work full time to make the rent. The downside was that they knew exactly where she was and, when it wasn’t Rita on her case, Mother was in the city, bird dogging her daughter’s every move. The constant pressure had drove her to transfer out of Boston and up to New York, and into therapy for a year and a half.

Seventy five dollars an hour, three times a week, on top of college and working, Amy thought with a shake of her head. Thank heaven for understanding roommates. And Helen.

She had bumped into her sister who had come to New York for a rally of some kind, along with a few of her friends from “The Movement” for old time’s sake, and her new boyfriend Jake. Amy remembered almost laughing her self into tears when Helen told her about how he gave the Pentagon a good swift kick when their “positive energy” wasn’t enough to levitate it. By the time the night was over, both of them were in tears for different reasons. It had been a long, long night, but Amy was finally able to quit seeing the therapist a few days after that.

True, Helen and Amy didn’t communicate all that often, but it was a lot more often than Amy and her Mother had spoken. Rita had, eventually tracked Amy down again, this time on the arm of some aspiring painter that was teaching at NYU. Communication among the three sisters was sporadic, slow, and sometimes heated, but it was there. Amy and Evelyn Barksdale had yet to exchange a civil word.

Amy took off her glasses and shook her head slightly, somewhat in wonder that she hadn’t thought this much about that time in her life in a long time. It figured that it would have come back to the surface sooner or later, what with he situation with Daria now, but Amy realized that is was all the talk of Bromwell that had kicked over this particular apple cart.

The boy stood on the burning deck, his feet were full of blisters, Amy thought with a deep breath, and slamming the door to the memory vault. He tore his pants on a rusty nail, so now he wears his sister's.

The therapist in New York had taught her that little memory blocking trick years and years ago. She’d hadn’t had to use it in a quite some time. It figured that, now that she was about neck deep in Daria’s problems, and would be for a while, that old memories would try and ride the wave to the surface. She didn’t need memories of her own rough patches to come back and raise hell now that she had resolved to help Daria get through hers.

Now if that Kay Sloane would just get her fanny in here, Amy thought as she looked at her watch and picked up the file folder that she had dropped when she came in. Maybe I ought to teach her the memory blocking trick before I tell her that one of her collection’s central pieces is a fake.


Damn you, Sandi Griffin! Quinn thought as she walked home across the Village Green Park. How can you put me in a position like this?

She sat down at the base of the bearded guy‘s statue and searched through one of the inside pockets of her backpack until she came up with her pack of cigarettes and disposable lighter. She frowned at the ground in front of her as she pulled out one of the slim cigarettes and lit it with a couple of puffs. The acrid smoke filled nose and throat for a moment before she blew it out in a long, bluish jet into the air. Her head swam a little with the effects of the tobacco, but it wasn’t enough to settle her down any.

Quinn had really wanted to skip the Fashion Club meeting that Sandi had called, but couldn’t quite bring herself to do it. She had been sitting on Sandi’s bed, feeling decidedly uncomfortable about the whole thing, as the meeting took place after school as Sandi had ordered. Tiffany had sat down on the floor on one side of the room and was meticulously applying mascara, seemingly one eyelash at a time, while Stacy had stretched out in her stomach and was pouring over an article on accessories. Sandi, however, had immediately ignored the two girls and turned her full attentions on her hapless vice president.

“Quinn, I hope that substitute that you’ve been making excuses for won’t be holding us to the same rigid grading standards as everyone else,” Sandi said with a cocked eyebrow at Quinn. “Perhaps you should remind her how popular we are.”

“Yeah, but she’s weird,” Quinn had said. She figured she ought to know. “I don’t think she even cares about popular people!”

“See, there you go, sticking up for her again,” Sandi said with a slight frown. “It’s almost as if you two share some deep, dark secret that might inadvertently come out if tomorrow’s test proves too difficult.”

“Look, Sandi, I don’t --” Quinn started to say, but was cut off.

“Of course, certain rumors could also suddenly solidify into facts,” Sandi said with a glare at Quinn.

“You mean like how Angie really isn’t a natural blonde?” Stacy piped up from the floor.

“She isn’t?” Tiffany said slowly, not looking up from her mirror.

“No, she . . .eep!” Stacy looked up to see Sandi’s standing over her with her hands on her hips. She buried her face back in her magazine and tried to sink into the carpet.

“What exactly do you mean, Sandi?” Quinn had asked nervously.

“Like the rumor that a certain substitute has a certain condition.” Sandi turned back to Quinn. “Details about things like that tend to be particularly nasty. Whether they happen to be true or not.”

Meaning whatever story that your conniving little mind can make up, Quinn thought with a frown as she took another pull on her cigarette. I suppose that I should be glad that it wasn’t Stacy sitting in Pizza King that day. She can’t keep her mouth shut to save her life sometimes. At least Sandi had the good sense to call me about it first, but I could still kill her.

Quinn knew better than anyone what kind of stresses her sister was under, save Daria herself, because she was taking the fallout from it as well. Her parents were riding heard on her almost constantly, enforcing that stupid nine o’clock curfew that Helen had drunkenly instituted, as well as insisting that they meet each and every one of her dates. Because of that, she’d only been on three dates over the last couple of weeks, a secret that she managed to keep from Sandi’s ears for the time being. Her popularity was being slowly killed, and if came out that her sister was pregnant, then it would go down the tubes in a heartbeat.

That shouldn’t matter, Quinn thought as she got up and started walking again. But it does, dammit. There has to be a way that I can convince Daria not to make this too hard. Unfortunately, there’s only one way that I can think of to do that.

Quinn took one final pull off of her cigarette as she rounded the corner to her house. She stopped momentarily to grind out the stub under the toe of her shoe and take a stick of gum from her pack to disguise her breath till she could get to some mouthwash or something, then continued on. She saw that Tom’s car was sitting out in front of the house, and silently hoped that her Dad wasn’t home. She didn’t need to be a witness to a confrontation between those two tonight.

Taking a deep breath as she approached the house, Quinn gathered her resolve and headed inside and up the stairs. After a quick side trip to her bedroom to get rid of her backpack, Quinn approached the door to her sister’s bedroom.

“Hey, how about asking them this,” Quinn heard Tom’s voice drift out of the open door, bringing her to a stop. “If Verona had had metal detectors, would Mercutio be alive today?”

“If he were, he’d be about four hundred years old,” Daria responded, sounding very tired.

“That’s why they’ll all get it wrong! Trick question, yeah!”

Trick questions?! Oh god, I’m doomed! Quinn thought, her resolve slowly turning into fright.

“Gee, I wonder why no one’s ever asked you to teach a class,” Daria said as Quinn charged ahead before her nerve failed her.

Tom was sitting on the floor, and Daria in her desk chair, and both of them looked up when Quinn came into the room. Tom‘s eyebrow went up slightly, while Daria remained impassive, like she always did, though she was looking like she’d had a long day.

“Daria, you know that test tomorrow? It’s going to be easy right?” Quinn asked, then everything came out at once. “Because if you make it really hard some popular people might take it out on another completely innocent popular person and besides it’s good to help the popular because if you don’t if might make you even more unpopular although I don’t know if such a thing is possible.”

“Ooo, wouldn’t want to risk that,” Daria said as she turned back to her computer.

“So you’ll do it?” Hey, this may be easier than I thought!

“Yeah, right after I change into my fur bikini,” Daria said dryly.

“Daria!” Quinn said disgustedly, seeing Tom’s face light up. “God! Don’t tell me that stuff! But you’ll make the test easy?”

“You know, I didn’t ask for this stupid teaching job,” Daria sighed, turning back to face Quinn. “I don’t need the work, I don’t need the stigma, and God knows I don’t need the stress. I’ve tried to make this class interesting and focus on the play, not the grades. And if, after all of that, the only thing that you’re vapid friends can think of is how to finesse taking the test, than they deserve to fail!”

“Daria, do you know what’s going to happen?” Quinn asked. “Do you want everyone to hate you?”

“Quinn, why should you go out of your way to protect the stupid?” Daria asked. “You’re not one of them!”

“I . . . I . . .” Quinn stammered, then finally broke. “Daria, you don’t understand! Sandi knows about you being pregnant! She’s the one who started all these rumors going around in the first place! If this test isn’t easy, then she told me she’s going to make sure that everyone knows about it and she’s just gong to make up all these nasty details about how you got that way as she goes along!”

“Gee, whatever will I do then?” Daria rolled her eyes.

“Um, Daria, maybe Quinn’s right,” Tom said. “Things are going to be tense enough as time goes on. If it keeps you from getting harassed at school about being pregnant for a little while, the maybe you ought to go easy on them.”

“Tom, I lied about the fur bikini.” Daria gave Tom a dry look and watched him deflate before turning back to Quinn. “And as far as Sandi Griffin is concerned, I can handle the likes of her quite nicely, thank you very much, so there’s no need for you to worry you’re pretty little head about it.”

“But --”

“Now scram,” Daria cut Quinn off. “I have to come up with this test and still do my own homework.”

Not feeling reassured in the slightest, Quinn left the room and returned to her own bedroom. She grabbed her backpack and headed down stairs in order to put some distance between her and Daria for a while. She needed to concentrate on this stupid test, but she couldn’t do it while she was worrying about what Sandi was gong to do.

When she got downstairs, she noticed that neither Helen nor Jake were home, so she went out the living room sliding doors and crossed the yard. She sat down with her back on the privacy fence between their house and the neighbors and dug out her copy of Romeo and Juliet, and tried to start reading. After a moment, she dug her pack of cigarettes out of her pack and pulled another one out.

Two in one night, Quinn thought as she put the cigarette between her lips and lit it. Thanks a heap, Sandi. You’re going to make me a real addict.

Quinn leaned back against the fence and tried to concentrate on her book. As she tried to read, she’d glance up from time to time at the doors of the house. The last thing that she needed was for her parents to catch her smoking around the house. They’d never understand. Daria didn’t understand, either, when Quinn thought about it. She wasn’t protecting the stupid, as Daria put it, she was trying to help her friends. And Sandi wasn’t stupid, she was actually pretty smart about a lot of things. She was a wizard when it came to make-up and hair, and could put together some dynamite ensembles out of almost anything in a few minutes, whereas it would take Quinn hours of decision making. Of course, Sandi’s color coordination and accessorizing wasn’t all that great, and Quinn could do that in just a short time. And Sandi knew how to manipulate the boys in school almost as well as Quinn could to get what ever she wanted from whomever she wanted it from.

And she’s popular, Quinn thought, forgetting Shakespeare and taking a drag on her cigarette. God, is she popular. I can barely keep up!

Daria was right about one thing, though: Quinn wasn’t stupid. But then, neither was Stacy or Sandi of Tiffany. They just weren’t focused. Well, that wasn’t true, they were focused -- on their looks and image around school.

The only reason you're popular is your looks, and those won't last forever. You have nothing interesting to say and no intellectual curiosity whatsoever. Do the world a favor and don't go to college. Give up your spot to somebody who wants to learn.

Quinn could have cried when her summer tutor, David, had told her that. She had been angry at him and hurt by what he had said. But he was right, and Quinn knew it.

I am curious. I do want to learn. I don’t want to just skate by on just my popularity and great looks. Quinn thought as she looked back down at her book. But I won’t do any of that if I just sit out here and daydream.

She mashed the stub of the cigarette into the ground under the fence with her fingers and stood up and brushed off her pants. On walking back in through the glass doors, Quinn discovered that her father had come in at some time and had set up part of his model train in the middle of the living room floor. Quinn almost thought that she had been caught for a minute, but saw that her father was more interested in poking at the innards of the train’s engine with a length of wire.

“Stupid smoke pellets get stuck so damn easy! Doesn’t even look like real smoke!” Jake stopped and sniffed the air for a second. “Smells like it though.”

Crap! Quinn thought as she tried to tiptoe by. I am so busted!

“Hey, Quinn!” Jake said looking up. “You got a hat pin?”

“A what?” Quinn asked, stunned. He thinks it’s his train!

“A hat pin?”

“Dad, I don’t have time for your crazy jokes,” Quinn said, dropping down on the sofa and setting her book on her lap. “I have to study for this stupid test Daria is making us take on Romeo and Juliet.

“Hey, I remember that play!” Jake said, setting up on his knees. “Let old Jakey help you with your studies, kitten.”

Quinn just sighed. This was going to be big fun.

“Now, as I recall, Romeo meets Juliet by this big, bubbly cauldron,” Jake said, rubbing his chin and trying to remember.

“No, Dad,” Quinn said with a shake of her head. “She’s at this big party he crashes with his friend Mercutio --”

“Oh, right! The little wooden boy!”

No, Dad, he’s Romeo's pal. But he gets stabbed to death by Tybalt,” Quinn pointed out.

“Tybalt?” Jake searched his memory. “Who’s Tybalt?”

“So Romeo kills Tybalt, and then Juliet’s Dad says she has to marry Paris, so she pretends she’s dead and --”

“Tybalt sounds like the name of a rock,” Jake interrupted, still trying to think.

“And when Paris sees her . .. “ Quinn started to continue, but stopped herself. The book on her lap was still closed. “Wait, I know this stuff!” Quinn quickly grabbed her book and backpack and headed for the stairs. “Got to go! Thanks, Dad!”

Sandi, you might know how to build an outfit, Quinn thought as she headed up the stairs at a trot. But you don’t know jack about Romeo and Juliet!


Daria walked into the Language Arts classroom with the last of the students to arrive, namely the Fashion Club, and put her back pack on the teachers desk as everyone filed into their seats. In the back of the room, Sandi was giving Daria a look that said “I know something that you don’t want anyone else to know.” Quinn was also looking at Daria with a mix of trepidation and curiosity. Both those looks together just reconfirmed something that Daria had determined a long time ago: Sandi knew. Daria was about as prepared to handle that as she thought she could be, if it became necessary.

“All right, everyone,” Daria said as she took a stack of papers out of her backpack. She split the stack into five portions and gave them to the first seat in each row. “Take one, pass the rest back. You know the drill.”

After a few moments of grumbling students and the sound of fluttering papers, Daria made a circuit of the back of the room to collect the remaining tests.

“Uh . . .” Joey raised his hand as Daria returned to the front of the room.

“Yes, Jamie, Joey, or Jeffy?”

“Um, my test only has one question on it,” Joey said, looking a little confused. This was it?

“Mine too,” Jeffy said, looking up.

“That’s right --’ What is Romeo and Juliet about?’ “ Daria said as she walked back behind the desk. “Just write what you think and back it up. Two hundred words, minimum.”

“An essay test?!” Sandi exclaimed from the back of the room.

“Two hundred words?” Stacy squeaked.

“Thiiinnnk?” Tiffany asked slowly.

When Quinn’s expected protest didn’t come, Daria looked up into the back corner of the room. She was already diving into her test and hadn’t heard a word that the other three had said. Sandi, however, looked like she was ready to spit nails as she slowly began to write.


A few doors away, Mack and Jodie were staring at their desks as Mrs. Stoller sat up in the front of the room and slowly graded the tests that she had collected. The test, as they had expected, had been ludicrously simple. Jane had definitely called that one that one correctly. Now, as they had for the last three days, they just waited and wasted time.

“Mack,” Jodie whispered. She didn’t worry about being heard by the substitute, who seemed to have a hard time hearing to begin with.

“Yeah?” Mack whispered back.

“I’ve been doing some thinking,” Jodie said. “Daria said that Ms. Li had gotten her do to the Language Arts class, right?”

“Yeah,” Mack replied.

“She never did say why, did she?”

“Not really. But from what I’ve been told, the Language Arts guy got hauled away in cuffs.” Mack thought for a moment. “You’re not saying that Daria had something to do with that, are you?”

“No, but it is Quinn’s class, and their Mom is a lawyer,” Jodie postulated.

“So, Quinn said something to her Mother, who got the sub busted, and Li decided to get back at Quinn and Daria’s Mom by making Daria teach the class?” Mack cocked his head at Jodie.

“And considering that Daria’s . . . well, anyway, she would have tried to get out of it because of the tension.” Jodie narrowed her eyes as she thought.

“But Daria wouldn’t have told Li she was . . .well. . .” Mack shrugged.

“But Stoller said that Li was talking to the school nurse about her a couple of days ago.“ Jodie nodded towards the front of the room. “That means that Li would have had to at least suspect. And Daria couldn’t out and out deny it, because it would be obvious after a while.”

“Yeah.” Mack frowned as he thought for a moment. “Jodie, do you remember that cheerleader who left school during our freshman year?”

“You mean Carrie Landingham? The one Ms Li was always . . .” Jodie started, then stopped as she made the connection. “She was . . .? I always thought that she transferred to Oakwood.”

“Yeah, after she had the you-know-what, and Li was on her like white on rice before,” Mack said. “Always going on about the honor of Lawndale High and all that crap.”

“So basically, Li harassed her until she left.” Jodie sat up in her chair and looked at Mack. “She’s going to do the same thing to Daria.”

“That’s a good bet.” Mack nodded. “Lawndale High: High Security for High Performance.”

“And no tolerance,” Jodie shuddered. “We’ll have to tell Daria about this.”


Daria had had an interesting hour, to say the least. It never failed to amaze her that the simple questions were the ones that brought out the most interesting answers. She had saved some of the more surprising answers for last, just so she could see their reactions close up.

“A ‘B!’ “ Jeffy exclaimed as Daria handed him his test. “You mean you think Mercutio had a thing for Romeo too?”

“No, but you argued your point well,” Daria replied with a slight smirk. “And I thought that your ideas for keeping him out of the locker room were original, if a little close minded.”

Having saved Quinn and the rest of the Fashion Club’s tests for last, Daria walked back to the corner of the room and returned their tests.

“A ‘D-minus?’ “ Sandi said, sounding disgusted. She turned and glared at Quinn. “I should have known that Quinn would fail us.”

Quinn glanced at Sandi and swallowed hard as Daria handed back her test paper.

I should have failed you, too,” Daria said as she handed Tiffany and Stacy their papers. “See, in Shakespeare's version, Romeo never goes by the name Leonardo, or takes a swim in his clothes. But, I gave you extra credit for realizing that the movie and the play were somehow connected.”

Stacy looked at her paper as Daria walked back to the front of the room, then glanced over at Tiffany’s grade. Both had ‘D -’ written on the top in red.

“I guess that we shouldn’t have copied off of each other,” she said, sounding depressed.

Sandi was still staring daggers at Daria’s back as she was walking up the aisle when she realized that Quinn hadn’t said any thing about her own grade. In fact, Sandi saw on looking over at the other girl, Quinn hadn’t even looked at her paper. Sandi’s hand shot out and snatched Quinn’s test paper off of her desk.

“Hey!” Quinn yelped as she tried to grab her paper back.

“Gee, Quinn, what a surprise,” Sandi sneered, holding the paper out of Quinn’s reach. “You got a ‘B-plus.’ I guess having a certain relationship with a certain teacher really pays off.”

“Sandi, I thought she was fairly easy on the grading, as long as you tried to think for yourself,” Quinn said with an exasperated sigh.

“Oh, really?” Sandi handed Quinn her paper back and rolled her eyes snidely. “I guess everything just relative.

By this time, the conversation in the corner was attracting the attention of everyone in the room, Daria included. Everyone was taking the opportunity to watch the two most popular girls in school square off against each other in public.

Don’t protect the stupid, Quinn. You’re not one of them, Daria thought as she took her place behind the teacher’s desk. Not even for your sister.

“Sandi . . . “ Quinn started, taking a deep breath to try and remain calm about the whole thing. “Ever since they asked this girl to take over the class from that creepy guy who wanted to fertilize Tiffany, it seems to me that all she’s tried to do was make the best of a bad situation. Maybe we should cut her some slack.”

“See? There she goes, taking sides again!” Sandi gestured with one hand between Quinn and the front of the room. “You know, you two are so much alike, you’re almost like sisters.” Sandi’s expression turned into an evil smirk. “I wonder what other secrets you two share.”

“I am getting so sick of this,” Quinn sighed, meeting Sandi’s look with a defiant one of her own and a tone of voice to match. “I’m not taking anyone’s side, Sandi. I’m just saying that sometimes people get put in rotten situations that they never intended to be in. Like a girl who has to wear huge braces in fifth grade, and years later her brothers find the pictures of her with them and give them to a friend, who hasn’t shown them to anyone out of the goodness of her heart . . . Yet.”

“Oh?” Sandi said with an eyebrow raised in challenge.

“Besides, why wouldn’t I act sisterly towards her?” Quinn said as she looked up at Daria at the front of the room with a Mona Lisa smile before she turned back to Sandi. “After all, she is my sister, and I’m proud of her. And despite the way I act towards her, sometimes she’s a better friend than you are!”

“Oh ho! Did you hear that? So you admit that weird girl is your sister!” Sandi crowed triumphantly, sitting back and waiting for the reaction she was expecting.

“Uh, Sandi, we already knew that,” Stacy said, looking over the back of her chair.

“Yeah, we were just being polite about it,” Tiffany said as thought it were the most obvious thing in the world.

And that wasn’t it.

Sandi shot Tiffany and Stacy a withering look. She had one more card to play, and she’d be damned if she was going to lose like this.

“Are you just as proud of the fact that your sister--” Sandi put as much venom into the word as she could “--went out and got herself pregnant at some party and has no idea who the father is?”

The classroom erupted into surprised gasps and mumbles. Daria and Quinn looked at each other over the length of the room. Daria had a dry expression on her face like this wasn’t anything that she hadn’t been expecting, but Quinn looked mortified and angry at the same time. Both of them looked at Sandi, who was sitting there with a triumphant look on her face.

“The way I heard it, there were three or four guys involved,” Sandi embellished. “Is that true, Quinn? Are you just as proud of her now, Quinn?”

Bedlam replaced the collective mumbles as the subject began to take on a life of it’s own before it had even left the room.

“Sandi, you have no idea what the hell you’re talking about,” Quinn said over the noise.

Her expression changing not a whit, Daria reached into one of the inside pockets of her jacket and removed her coach’s whistle. She’d only used it once or twice to get Kevin off of her locker and send him running to the football field. Taking a deep breath, she put the stainless steel device to her lips and cut loose an ear splitting blast. The room was completely silent in a second and a half.

“Okay, everyone, let’s all just shut up for a minute,” Daria said, replacing the whistle in her jacket. “Let me preemptively set the record straight on this right here. Yes, I am pregnant, and yes, I know exactly who the father is. That particular bit of information, however, is none of your business. I wasn‘t drunk, I wasn‘t high, and I didn’t have a gun held to my head at the time.”

“Oh, fine then,” Sandi said, leaning back in her chair. “Well, how are we supposed to trust what you’ve been teaching us when you were stupid enough to get pregnant in the first place?”

“Jeez, Sandi, just what is the big deal?” Stacy Rowe, of all people, said as she turned around in her chair.

“What’s the big deal??” Sandi shot back at the mouse of the Fashion Club. “She’s in high school and is going to have a baby! Don’t you see anything wrong with that?”

“So? What’s your point?“ Stacy said calmly. “So was my Mom. She was seventeen when I was born.”

“What?” Daria, Quinn, and Sandi said at the same time.

“People of Mars! I mean, students of Lawndale High!” Ms Li’s voice crackled through the PA speaker, adding to the absurdity of the situation.

You were right the first time, Daria thought, blinking at the speaker.

“This is your leader -- uh, principal. . . What was I . . .? Oh, the teachers . . .the teachers . . . The strike’s over! Your teachers will be back tomorrow! Good ni -- day!”

Daria could have sworn that she had heard a thud as the PA switched off. Looking over the classroom, she probably could have heard a pin drop if she wanted to test the theory.

“Um, Miss Darlene?” Jeffy said into the tension filled silence. “I think you were, um . . . You’re a pretty good teacher. And, um . . .congratulations.”

“Thank you, Jeffy,” Daria said with a nod. “And for the record, some of you aren’t half bad students.” Daria looked across the room at Quinn and the Morgendorffer sisters exchanged Mona Lisa smiles. “You know who you are.”

The school bell rang at that point, and the students responded with all the predictability of Pavlov’s beloved dogs, gathering their books and tests and filing for the door. Most of them filed by the desk and said their goodbyes to “Miss Darlene,” adding their own congratulations and if-you-need-anythings. There were a few of them that threw dirty looks her way, Sandi chief among them, as they walked out. Joey, Jeffy, and Jamie all offered whatever assistance that they could, but Daria suspected that they were doing it to impress Quinn. Stacy and Quinn were the last to leave the room, and both of them stopped at the door to talk with Daria.

“Congratulations, Daria,” Stacy said, surprising her with a quick hug before she left. “If you ever need a babysitter . . .”

“Thanks,” Daria said. “I know where to find you.”

“Daria, I’m sorry,” Quinn said, looking downcast. “If I had had any idea that Sandi was going to say something like that, I . . . well . . .”

“Don’t worry about it. You can’t spread a rumor about something that’ll be common knowledge in a few hours anyway,” Daria said. “Besides, don’t you have one more class yet?”

“Yeah, History.” Quinn looked up at Daria. “Where did Ms Li get that old lady from, anyway? She said I had a hippy name and keeps calling me Karen!”


“ . . . And after that, when we got out into the hall, there was Sandi, breathing fire and still making accusations, like it mattered any more,” Daria said, finishing her story as she shifted in the passenger seat of Tom’s rusty old Jag. “Quinn blew her off and took Stacy with her, and Tiffany just stood around looking blank.”

“Like usual. I‘d have never guessed about Stacy, though,” Jane said, leaning over the back of the front seat. “So, just exactly when did Sandi find out? She couldn’t have known about it any longer than we did, because things started cropping up about the time the Fashion Club did their news letter thing.”

“I don’t know, but I’ll bet Quinn does. I’m going to ask her about it when we get home, but I’ve got a pretty good guess.”

“You know, I really can‘t believe that your sister did that. It seems like it would be totally against her character,” Tom said. “But, aren’t you worried about Sandi, though? She could still cause some problems.”

“How? Sandi Griffin is a petty dictator with no real power base in the school,” Daria said as she turned to look out the window and watch the neighborhood go by. “I totally ruined any possibility that she had to humiliate me in public, and Stacy took the rest of the wind out of her sails. About all she can do right now is make noise, and that I can just ignore.”

“What about what Jodie told you about Ms. Li?” Tom asked.

“That I’ll have to wait and see on. If Jodie’s right, then I’ll turn the whole thing over to Mom and let her deal with it. If she’s wrong, then no big deal.” Daria shrugged.

“So, what are you going to do now that your teaching day are over, Miss Darlene?” Jane asked with a smirk as they turned the corner on to Glen Oaks Lane. “Disney World?”

“More like my nice quiet, padded bedroom for a decent night’s sleep. I’ve had it.” Daria looked up as her house came into view. “Looks like this is my stop.”

“Hey, call me later, okay?” Jane said as Tom pulled to a stop next to the mailbox.

“You got it,” Daria said as she opened the door. “Later.”

“Bye,” Tom said as he leaned over and kissed Daria on the cheek.

“Eww! Gross! Cooties, cooties!” Jane flinched and hid behind the seat.

“I’ll call you later,” Daria said, rolling her eyes as she left the car and closed the door.

Tom pulled off after watching Daria walk up the sidewalk and enter the house. Jane climbed up off the back seat floor and stretched out on the back seat of the old luxury car.

“ ‘ome, James,” she said in affected accent and a whimsical wave of her hand.

“The home for the mentally unbalanced, maybe,” Tom said as he pulled back out into the street.

“That’s right, you never met my other brother or sisters, have you?” Jane said. “Trust me. When my whole family gets together, it makes the last three or four days look easy.”


“It’s quite a web site when Civil War buffs get in the buff! ‘www-dot-gettysbare,’ next on Sick, Sad World!

Daria turned off her television and tossed the remote on the bed beside her. That was just getting too weird. But it was no weirder that some of the things that had happened today. She hated to admit it, but she had definitely enjoyed taking the wind out of Sandi’s sails. She pulled her leg up and began to unlace her boot when Quinn walked in the room.

“I already told you, I’m not signing a National Rayon Day petition,” Daria said without looking up.

“You know that grade you gave me?” Quinn asked. “Sandi said I only got it because you’re always at my house. Is that true?”

“Always at ‘your house?’ “ Daria looked at Quinn quizzically.

“That’s the way she said it.” Quinn shrugged.

“Let me pose you a question, Grasshopper,” Daria said, going back to unlacing her boot. “If I gave you a grade that you didn’t earn, that would be acting nice. Could I face myself if I were ever nice to you?”

“Really? I thought so,” Quinn said as she sat down beside her sister on the bed. “Don’t think that I could ever be nice to you, either.”

“Something I’m fully aware of,” Daria said as she pulled off the boot she was unlacing and put it on the floor.

“My social status is going to be totally shot, you know,” Quinn sighed. “Sandi’s going to do everything she can to make me about as popular as those geeks in the Chess club.”

“Why does your popularity have to hinge on what Sandi does?” Daria asked, pulling up her other leg.

“She’s the most popular girl in school. I’ll have to apologize to her sooner or later if I want to keep my spot in the Fashion Club.”

“Why would you want to put yourself back under her thumb again?”

“What else am I supposed to do? It’s too late in the year to join the pep squad,” Quinn said.

“There’s always the Math Club,” Daria suggested with a smirk.

“Daria!” Quinn shuddered. “Ew!”

“Look, there is one thing I would like to know,” Daria asked as she finished unlacing her boot. “It’s obvious that Sandi knew about me for quite some time. I just want to know when she found out.”

“Um, she overheard you and Jane and Aunt Amy talking in Pizza King. She called here right after she left the place and told me what she overheard.” Quinn looked at the toes of her shoes. “I told her to keep quiet about it until I could find out if it was true or not, because I couldn’t come right out and ask you. She just started talking about it and using it as another bargaining chip.”

“I figured as much,” Daria said. “I always thought she had to have found out about it before I officially told Mom and Dad. I suppose I should have known better than to go somewhere like that.”

“I still wish I could have kept her quiet,” Quinn said as she stood back up. “Well, I’m going to take off. I have a date, and Mom and Dad have agreed to extend my curfew by a whole half an hour.

“I feel your pain,” Daria said as she pulled off her boot.

“Well, good night,” Quinn said as she started out of the room.

“Good night . . . Sis.”

Quinn’s date never did figure out why she was smiling all that evening.


Amy slowly walked into the kitchen of the Morgendorffer house and put her laptop computer down in the kitchen table. She had had to walk Kay Sloane through the steps that she had taken in examining the reproduction painting, a process that hadn’t quite taken as long as she thought it would have, but it still took a while. Then there was the inevitable questions over the pieces that she had already examined and the pieces yet to be checked. It was part of the job, and Amy was used to it, even though it meant that her job was going to take that much longer.

Amy plugged her laptop computer’s power cord in to the wall and turned to raid the refrigerator before she started on copying her notes. She saw that there was a message waiting on the cordless phone’s answering machine. Most everyone who knew she was out of town had her cell phone number, but she had left Helen’s with a couple of people if there was some kind of an emergency.

“Knowing my luck, my apartment burnt down,“ Amy said to herself as she reached out and hit the play button on the deck. “But, then again there’s all the rent money I’d be saving.”

“Mrs. Morgendorffer, this is Angier Sloane at Grace, Sloane, and Page Investments,” a man’s voice said. “This is my third attempt to reach you regarding this ridiculous child support case you seem intent on throwing at my family. Contact me and we can settle this in five minutes. You obviously have my number.”

Amy looked slightly wide eyed at the answering machine with a cold feeling in her stomach. She took a couple of steps backwards and sat down in Helen’s chair at the table and stared at the machine for a moment.

Not possible, Amy thought, turning her back on the machine and leaning her elbows on the table. Her fingers interlaced in front of her fact, she gazed off into space over her knuckles. It’s just not possible. . .

The voice sounded older than the one she remembered form more than twenty years ago. She hadn’t heard a word from him since that night and had done her damnedest to try and leave that part of her life in the past.

What the hell do you mean you’re pregnant?! How do you even know?

The doctor told me just yesterday, that’s how I know!

I just finished my first year! The absolute last thing I need is a rug rat screwing things up right now!

The last thing that you need? What about me, what am I supposed to do? I can’t raise a baby on my own!

Not my problem, sweets. You should have thought of that earlier.

Angie, wait! Dammit, come back here!!

Amy closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to steady her nerves. Okay, Angier wasn’t the most common of names, but there were Sloanes all over the place in this part of the country who spelled their name’s a couple of different ways. It wasn’t necessarily the one she remembered. It couldn’t be.

The one thing I don’t understand is how a smart young woman like you could do something so . . . so irresponsibly stupid!

Mom, at least let my try to explain!

You‘re damned right you‘ll explain, young lady, now get in the car. As far as I’m concerned, you deserve what you get for this . . . idiocy.

A tear escaped form under Amy’s eyelid and trailed down her cheek. She’d been forced to explain it all in the car on that trip to the hospital that night. Between her mother’s contemptuous remarks, her father’s silence during the trip, and the twisting pains in her abdomen, Amy had told all but the name of the man. The Barksdales didn’t sully the good names of others with things like this, they just dealt with it and locked it away.

But things like this never stayed locked away forever.

“The boy stood on the burning deck, his feet were full of blisters,” Amy whispered unsteadily into the empty kitchen, trying to purge her mind and calm herself. “He tore his pants on a rusty nail, so now he wears his sister's.

“The boy stood on the burning deck, his feet were full of blisters. He tore his pants on a rusty nail, so now he wears his sister’s.

“The boy stood on the burning deck, his feet were full of blisters . . .


to be continued . . .

Author’s Notes:

First and foremost, I need to thank my Beta Readers: Angelinhel, Steven Galloway, The Crusading Saint, Scarlett, and Tananda. I also want to offer a Special Thanks to Galen Hardesty for Amy’s memory blocking trick, which I shamelessly stole form “The Whole Truth,” the sequel to “Diary Dearest,” by Renfield

Another Special Thank You has to go out to The Baby Center ( which has been my major source of research material for this little series. While this is a great site and an excellent place to start, one should always talk to someone knowledgeable in the field, like an OB/GYN, for instance. I know I said that at the beginning all of these stories, but that doesn’t make it any less important.

I guess there isn’t all that much more to say at the end of this one. I hope that everyone enjoys this little, ever continuing saga. Please feel free to email me at with any questions or comments that you might have. And, as always, I put out an open invitation for the artistically inclined to do fan art based on my any of my stories.

Thank you.