To Swim Against The Tide

By Freya Torvaldsland


     When Daria's conscience gets the better of her, she finds herself on a fashion rollercoaster ride through hell.



     Gee Daria, it's Friday already. I'm surprised Ms. Li hasn't made the Asian Educator formal dance mandatory yet. There are only a couple weeks to go.

     "Don't jinx it Lane, I'm not going formal for any..." At that moment, the school's PA tones chimed loudly, cutting Daria off in mid-sentence.

    "Attention students of Lawndale High...the Asian Educator formal dance is now mandatory.  Show your support for this outstanding organization by picking up your nominally priced tickets at the school's office before classes end Friday...or face a full letter grade loss in all classes." Ms. Li quickly added,  "Stag, is acceptable people, just be there. That is all. Good day."

     "Damn it Jane, it's like she read your mind.  Daria anticipated Jane's next question and rushed to address it. "Don't ask if my mother can stop her either.  Mom already made her position clear this morning. She wants me to attend as an extra curricular activity." Daria let out a long sigh, "I wouldn't be surprised Mom hadn't called to suggest it to Ms. Li."

     As Daria and Jane exchanged books at their lockers in uneasy silence, the fashion club passed by with a fellow student in tow, known only as 'Guy'. 

     Sandy spoke in a haughty tone, "We simply cannot allow a guy into the Fashion Club, it would violate our by-laws,"    

     Stacy spoke up, "No guy could possibly understand 'true' fashion anyway."

     "Besides," droned Tiffany, "it's just so wrong..."

     Yes, I agree, now go away Guy," said Quinn.

     After they passed, Jane looked to Daria saying, "Oh look, The Fascist Club just crushed the dreams of another poor tragic soul. They have heartlessly ground another fragile human spirit beneath the wheels of senseless oppression.  I have junk food, let's go hang out on the roof."

     "Junk food; oh yeah, I'm in. I always have time for processed sugar and empty calories," said Daria with unusual enthusiasm.  You have any of those Swedish fish?"  


     When Daria and Jane arrived at the roof, they found it occupied.  The young man known as Guy was there, sobbing softly into his hands.  Jane's face wrinkled into a mask of disapproval. She stopped just short of leaving the narrow access way.  She began to turn in retreat but Daria intervened.

     Daria softly said, "It is against my better judgment, but I feel strangely responsible."

     "You're getting soft in your old age Amiga, but maybe you're right," said Jane.

     As they approached, Guy stiffened, then began to dry his face with the sleeve of his shirt before looking up.

     Daria stood before the young man for a moment before speaking.  She spoke, with gentleness. "The fashion club is rough on everyone.  Try not to let them get to ah um...Guy."

     "Terry.  My name is Terry, not Guy.  Terry McGillum. Thank you though for being kind though, I appreciate it. I guess shouldn't wear my heart on my sleeve, not with that crowd."

     "Not when it comes to the fashion club, no," affirmed Jane.

     After an uneasy silence, Daria said, "Well then, I'm glad we've gotten that out of the way."

     Jane quickly nodded saying, Yes, we must go, ah...good luck and all."

     As the girls turned to go Terry spoke in a subdued voice.  "I asked to join the fashion club you know."

     Daria and Jane stopped in their tracks.  After a few moments, Jane turned and spoke.  "Why? Why would you want to?"

     Terry dropped his head before speaking.  "I love fashion, I always have.  As a child I watched old movies with an insatiable sense of awe. The gowns, the costumes, the style, it took my breath away. I became so enthralled, I begged my mom teach me how to sew when I was just a child.  Since then I've even been taking sewing classes, some even at the college. I had hoped the fashion club would want to see my work.  Secretly, I desperately wanted to see my clothing out in the light of day.

     "I have a pair of slacks I need hemmed," murmured Jane uncomfortably.

     Terry slowly looked up.  "I can hem your slacks.  I can 'make' a pair of slacks.  I can make a pair of slacks along with a matching suit. I can do the blouse and underwear to go along with the suit too.  That, was what I was doing with the fashion club today.  If they had let me join, I would have happily offered to make their gowns for the upcoming Asian Educator formal. Forgive the boast, but I would have made each of the club members a gown which would've made them breathtaking in their beauty."

     "Ah well, I'm sorry it didn't work out, Guy, I mean...Terry, but we must be going now," Daria said nervously.

     Jane suddenly placed her books on the roof, then to Daria's surprise, sat on them while looking deep into Terry's eyes. "I want to see your work, today, after school. Can you arrange it?

     Terry looked up with a slight smile crossing his lips.  "Yes, I sure can. When and where?"

     "Tonight at seven, at my house, I'll write down the directions. But first, what is it that you aren't telling us young man?  There is more here, I can feel it.  Fess.  Confession is good for the soul."

     Daria beamed a withering look to Jane.  Realizing her friend was too caught up in the moment to stop, she followed suit with her own books, releasing a great sigh resignation on the way down. 

     Terry watched as Daria came to rest on her great pile of books. He eyed her legs appreciatively before lowering his head to search his soul for the right words to answer Jane's question.

     "Confession is good for the soul eh," Terry repeated as his face took on a hard look, one tingeing on defiance.

     Daria felt the tension build.  She knew something was coming, something big. She had no doubt it would become a heavy burden on her soul too.  She could see no way out, nowhere to run, not now.  She wished with all her heart and soul they had stayed off the roof this day. She found little satisfaction in knowing it was her original sense of responsibility which had been the initial impetus of her being there now. Damn Quinn and her air-headed fashion drones. Damn her own sense of compassion.

     Terry smiled then asked softly, "Have you ever heard of The Rocky Horror Picture show?" Before they could answer, he went on,  "There is a line in it, "Don't dream it, be it."  I took it to heart.  I too want to dress like Fay Rae."

     Jane gently smiled, leaned forward and placed her hands on Terry's shoulders.  "Well said Amigo.  Thank you for trusting us.  Your trust won't be abused, I promise. The bell is about to ring now. I'll see you tonight though.  No sooner had Jane spoken than the sound of the bell rose up to assault their ears. 

     Terry smiled, "I'll see you tonight with my stuff, I promise." He then turned to Daria, saying softly, "Please be there, I really want you to see my work too."


     "What should I show first? I have formal gowns in this bag, casual clothes in this one and power suits over here." Terry gestured to the large garment bags, speaking with a quaver of excitement ringing in his voice.

     "Let's open the bag with gowns first," Jane suggested.  "Let's see what the fashion club is missing out on."

     Daria smiled at Jane's wry comment, though her eyes bore a "deer in headlights" look.  She always wore a frightened look when exposed to fashion in any form. She thought seriously now about giving in to her impulse to dash away as Terry disgorged the garment bag of its many colored fabrics.

     Terry drew out his first gown with a flourish, holding it up before Jane with pride. 

     Jane let out a low whisper, "Wow."  She then up looked to Terry, saying with awe, "this is so beautiful, I'm just blown away.  You really do know your stuff."

     Daria said nothing.  She stared at the dress, transfixed.  The gown was in vibrant green velvet with a gold satin cross-over waist ribbon, which was carefully tied to the base at the gowns back. The dress had a bold open backline, though the décolletage in front was graced with a delicate gold lace modesty panel.  Terry then brought out a shoulder wrap to complete the ensemble.

     Terry winked conspiratorially to Jane, then gracefully moved to stand before Daria. He displayed the shimmering gown before her eyes as though offering it to a great queen. He then slowly knelt down, draping the gown across Daria's knees.

    Daria was startled senseless. She stared at the gown with great trepidation.

    "Lovely woman, you bring this gown to life, it begs to grace your beauty," Terry assured her with wicked showmanship.

     "I don't hear anything," stammered Daria uncomfortably.  However, she didn't set the gown aside when Terry rose and turned away. Terry's bravado left her deeply rattled. Without thought, she stroked the rich velvet of the gown as though it were a treasured pet.  She was quite comfortable with the gown so boldly spread across her naked knees.

     With one last smile for Daria, Terry again turned to the garment bag, this time, drawing out a scarlet satin gown.  He held it against his own form, dancing in a twirl only to stop before Jane.  He reached out a hand, whispering softly, "Dance with us, please?"

    Jane found herself on winged feet, moving in a whirl of red satin.  Terry raised her hand bringing her to pirouette until the red satin came alive against Jane's slight form. Terry danced her to a standstill before a large mirror.  Jane stood illuminated in the glass, the scarlet gown clinging warmly against her.  She closed her eyes to savor the sweet image.  She felt beautiful in a magic way, one she never believed possible till this wonderful moment.

     The smile of joy fighting to bloom across Jane's face was what Terry needed to know.  Emboldened, he set about displaying the rest of the gowns, spreading each carefully across Jane's bed with deft fingers.

     Jane turned from the mirror, still holding the satin gown against her as she gazed at the colorful new submissions.  "So lovely," she enthused, "so very lovely, thank you for showing us your work.  I never imagined clothing could have such life and vibrance. After a moment, Jane asked, "Which is your favorite?"

     Terry's face took on a wistful look.  "I love them all," he said.  He looked at the many gowns displayed.  "Each one was a dream to make.  Every moment working, was a joy.  Of them all though, it would be a toss up between only two.  One is this powder-blue satin cowl-neck with matching waist bow." He picked it up with loving hands saying,  "I really love the way it flares out in train at the floor. Though if I were hard pressed, I would have to choose my second favorite." He gently laid the blue one down, then after a final pat, he reached for a fuchsia colored silk crepe gown. "The one shoulder design is so very pleasing to the eye. The silver bead work bodice is a lovely accent also.  However, the trumpet flare skirt completely takes my breath away. Yes, this one, without doubt, is my all time favorite."

     Jane's face took on a look of intensity.  "Don't dream it, be it.  The fuchsia was made for you, put it on.  I want to see it as it was meant to be, not simply sprawled out across a bed."

     Daria's eyes went wide in shock.  Jane's sudden request raced beyond her conservative imagination's ability.

     Terry stared at Jane for a moment, though her gaze never wavered.  He asked with a small voice, "Oh Jane, are you really serious?"

     "Completely," affirmed Jane.  "You may use Wind's room next door to change, but this is what I want, so hurry."

     Terry's face was a mask of confusion.  He turned to Daria for support.  He looked to her imploringly.

     Daria's eyes narrowed, she didn't understand Jane's ploy, but chose to let her run with it. Daria trusted Jane even though at the moment, it required a great leap of faith.  "Yes," she said firmly.  I second Jane.  I want to see the gown as it was meant to be too."

    Terry let out a long sigh.  In truth, he had outed himself on the roof. His fate had been in Daria and Jane's hands from that moment on.  For good or bad, he was beholden to them.  He was left with no choice but ride the approaching wave, wherever it was to take him.  As he turned to go, he wondered at the depth of his own stupidity.

     After the door had closed and a count of three had passed, Daria whispered insistently to Jane.  "You do know what you're doing don't you?  I mean you do have a plan which doesn't involve irreparably wrecking Terry's life I hope."

     "Relax Daria, it's just us here, what could possibly go wrong?  Besides, I do have a method to my madness.  I've always wondered if the rumors about the Mona Lisa were true.  I think I found the perfect subject to work with now.  Have you looked closely at him?  He can go either way appearance wise.  Just a push in one direction or another will make a huge difference.

     "I'm happy for you; just don't forget the subject here is a real human being. And...I'm involved too.  I wouldn't want to think myself as being cold and callus like my sister when it comes to screwing up people's lives. At least not till I'm in the White House.

     "Fear not Amiga, I have it all under control. Trust me."  Jane smiled reassuringly.


     Terry carried the gown to the bed in Wind's room.  He sat beside it, quickly becoming lost in thought.  Yes, the gown had been made for him.  Yes, he had tried it on before. Up until now, he held to the excuse that he was only testing the fit.  Was there more to it?  Was it drag? Or just a curiosity.  He was unsure, deeply unsure.  He knew without doubt however, if he were to put it on now, and return to Jane's room, it would be drag.  It would catapult him into a mindset he had not been willing to pursue thus far. He looked around the masculine room. Terry pondered many things as he rested there.  Finally, he took a deep breath, exhaling slowly.


     Daria and Jane found themselves actually startled when the tapping on the door came.  Daria had secretly hoped Terry had run away as she wanted so desperately to do.

     Jane felt apprehension too.  She had developed some misgiving in the time Terry had been away.  After loosing a soft sigh, she said loudly enough for him to hear, "Please come in. We're waiting."

     Terry entered the room, then stopped in the center to strike a pose.

     Jane said softly, "You look radiant."  Jane rose with a pensive look.  She went to him, taking his hands in hers, "I was right in asking you put this on. Thank you."

     Daria rose and walked to him. She made a slow circle while looking at each aspect of the gown. She then smiled gently to him.  "Well, here we are," she said softly.  After a moment of reflection Daria said with surprise in her voice, "I guess clothes do make a difference.  This is the first time I've seen you when you didn't look lost or out of place.  Forgive me for saying so. I don't mean it as derogatory in anyway, it's just look...comfortable."  Having blurted out her observation, she retreated to her chair in confusion. Daria reached for the velvet gown, placing it over her knees once again, as though it could shield her from further emotion.

     Jane watched Daria for a moment with concern before saying softly, "Daria's right you know. I don't know why she is, but you now have a sense of calm and poise which eludes you at school. I almost wish the fashion club were here now to tweak you to perfection." Jane asked softly, "Would you allow me to try though?"

     "Why? Why are you willing to do this?" implored Terry. "Is there a reason? I mean, you have no reason to make any fantasy's of mine come true, so why? Please, I need to know.

     "Tell him Jane, you owe him that much," stated Daria.

     "I want you as an art subject," Jane confessed. "The moment you told us about your "dream," I became enthralled with the thought of testing the Mona Lisa theory."  After a moment Jane said, "Maybe I'm too far over the line here, I don't know.  Maybe this is a bad idea."

     "Maybe it's my secret fantasy becoming cold hard reality," Terry said.  "Maybe, I was on a collision course with my own inevitable fate.  Maybe, you two are less involved than you imagine.  Perhaps you both are just casualties of my own tragic circumstance." Terry stood before them with a sense of resignation reflected in sad eyes.

     "Quinn is "tragic circumstance."  I can deal with this little problem," Daria said with determination.  Let's see where we all end up; not like any of us have a choice now anyway. Besides, Sick Sad World won't be on tonight cause of the stupid football game.

     Terry smiled, "I hate football."

     "We tiny few; the "We hate Football" club. No football, rah, cheered Jane softly. They all laughed nervously till Jane spoke.  Now...let's get this night underway."  She motioned Terry to a chair before her vanity mirror.  "If you are still ok with this I mean."

     Terry chuckled, saying, "In for a penny, in for a pound. I'm already in too deep to climb out, so let's explore the murky bottom.


     Daria watched the proceedings with a mixture of horror and curiosity. She had to admit, Jane was right in her assessment. Terry's appearance was transformed quite easily.  She actually felt queasy as the transformation progressed.  To avoid thinking of the fragile line between genders and her own fragile social identity, she chose to join the debacle by helping set Jane's paints and easel to readiness. After finishing, she found a chair and watched dispassionately while Jane made a photographic essay of Terry's new look.

     Terry laughed nervously.  He asked softly, "Who would have ever thought I'd be this dressed up with no place to go?"

     Daria and Jane snickered at his words, till a new voice rang out.

     "That isn't quite true; we do have a place to go.  Janey, my car is down and Max has the tank," Trent said while leaning against the door frame.  I need a ride to the gig tonight over in Blouserville.  While you're all there, you might as well stay and hear the band.  I'll need a ride home after anyway. Trent entered through the open door of Jane's room, walked to Terry and said, cool gown, looks great. I like it." Then to Jane he said, "Maybe the gown is a bit much for The Manta Ray. I'm sure you can find something a bit less formal though.

     "The Manta ray? Isn't that a gay bar," Jane asked incredulously?

     "Yes'mm it is.  It was real hard talking Max into making the gig, so go easy on him. Trent turned to Terry, "You'll fit in perfectly as you are, so just relax and have fun.


     "Jane, I have a question," Daria said, her face a study in confusion.  We've opened Pandora's Box for Terry. He was asked to dance before we found a table. He appears to be having the time of his life too. But, I was wondering about something.  Everyone seems very out going here. It looks like everyone is easy to get out on the dance floor. I wonder why...well, I...oh never mind."

     "Are you asking me to dance Morgandorfer?  Jane asked with a wicked gleam to her eye. Ok."

     "NO.  No I wasn't.  Oh Jane I don't think...oh god..."  Daria reached for her soda and took a big gulp.  "No, what I was wondering was; why has no one asked you out on the floor?  You told me about Allison being attracted and all.

     Jane burst into bright laughter. "Oh Daria, don't you know?  No one has asked because they think "we" are a couple." Jane patted Daria's hand with a smile. "If you dared though, I'd be happy to cut a rug with you.

     Daria could only stare at Jane, completely wordless. 

     Terry shattered the spell by sliding into the chair opposite Jane. He patted the chair across from Daria, motioning the stranger he had spent the evening dancing with to sit. 

     "Guys, meet Albert, he is an apparel broker.  He wants to see my work. I'm going to present tomorrow.  Thank you.  I would never have gotten this chance if you hadn't been there for me.  I will forever be in your debt.

    Albert said with a smile, "I like Terry's outfit tonight. If the rest of the suite is as well crafted, I will have no difficulty showing his work in places where it will get noticed. He turned to Daria, taking the tip of her lapel between his fingers saying, "Darling, you really should trust Terry's judgment from now on. He can help you know." He beamed a benign smile to Daria, then tugged Terry back to the dance floor.

     Daria fumed at the insult. "How could this night get any worse," she muttered.

     "That's how," said Jane brightly as she pointed to the crowd with merriment.

     "Daria, Jane, I never dreamed I'd see you here, gushed Brittany.  "Wow, this is so cool.  Are you poetry like Estelle and me?" As she spoke, an attractive brunette appeared at Brittany's side.  "Guys, this is Estelle, she loves my poetry.  We met when I had to visit a college for that stupid placement class thingie. We've been friends ever since, just like you and Jane."

     Estelle shyly nudged Brittany, indicating she wanted to return to the dance floor.

     "See you two out on the dance floor," Brittany said cheerily. They blended back into the crowd as quickly as they had materialized.

     "Oh joy, Brittany finding us in a gay bar, together, was exactly what I wanted to see happen," moaned Daria. "You're right Jane, that did take this night to rock bottom."

     "Well Daria, being that all is lost and doom gloom and despair have settled in, come on, I do want to dance...with" Without waiting for an answer Jane pulled a reluctant Daria to the dance floor.

     Daria was on the floor before she could lodge a refusal. Though once there, she found a certain anonymity in the crowd.  She just wished Jane would stop smiling so happily.  Daria wasn't much of a dancer, though she was now deeply caught up in the moment.  In all honesty, if she had to dance, then having Jane as a partner was better than a stranger. She began to relax, secure in the knowledge she was far from home. Brittany more than likely would say nothing for fear of upsetting the other cheerleaders. The night would soon be over, then she could hide in the sanctity of her room till the horror of this night faded.

    "Amiga...the music tempo has changed, Daria. Pay attention," Jane commanded gently.

    Daria looked up, Jane was right, the tempo had slowed, so she turned to leave the floor.  Jane took her hand, gently pulling her back to Jane's warm embrace.  Daria hesitated only a moment before caving in.  After all it was only Jane.  Several dances later, the music tempo rose again, though neither  Daria nor Jane noticed as they continued to dance locked in oblivious embrace despite the gyrations of the crowd surrounding them.

     Brittany nudged Estelle, calling her attention to Jane and Daria.  Estelle smiled saying loud enough for Brittany to hear, "Aw, what a sweet couple."


     Daria sat in the front seat with Trent, deeply lost in her own thoughts.  They had stopped for a snack at an all night diner, just outside of Blouserville. Afterward,  Jane and Terry bid for the back seat.  She fought back a cynical smile, Jane was some romantic.  A few dances then off to snore in the back seat.  Both Jane and Terry had quite a night though.  She used the vanity mirror behind the visor to look into the back seat. They were now sleeping quietly as the long miles to Lawndale slowly played out.  She almost wished her thoughts would slow till the oblivion of sleep would come to her too.

     Trent broke Daria's reverie by saying, "You and Janey made a cute couple tonight.  I'm going to write a song about finding magic where you don't expect it. It'll be a little sweet for the Spiral, but if we use it at the end of the night, I know we can make it work.

We have another gig at the Manta Ray next month. Maybe you'll get a another chance to see if the magic is still alive. Until then, I wouldn't let myself get all worried about something that happened and wasn't planned.  Not till it happens again.

     "It's been quite a night," Daria said pensively. "I wonder if everything changed, or if nothing did.  I almost hope this was only a some ways."



     Daria clutched the bulky gift as she entered the front door of the Morgandorfer home. She was greeted by a loud argument between Quinn and Helen.

     "But Mom, it's for the Asian Educator formal. The fashion club has to maintain high standards," whined Quinn. "Besides, it's a Terry McGillum exclusive one-of-a-kind gown. No one but the fashion club will be in McGillum gown, that makes it priceless.

     "Quinn, 500 dollars for one gown for one night is far too much," Helen scolded.  Designer, one-of-a kind gown or not, how can your father afford a gown for Daria now?

     "Daria can stay home," Quinn said petulantly.  Besides, she'd just be out of place there...everywhere else for that matter."

     "It's all right Mom, I already have a gown for the formal."  She patted the parcel, "right here," Daria intoned.  Her fingers played delicately across the knots, loosening the paper sheath.  Daria spread away the protective cover, then drew out the green velvet gown she had so warmly bonded with the previous Friday.  With a wicked gleam for Quinn, she said with  a smirk.  "See, I have a gown. It too is a McGillum, a Terry McGillum exclusive.

     "Oh Daria, how can your father afford a second designer gown," Helen asked in misery.

     "Dad doesn't have to pay, it was a gift from Terry McGillum himself, he is a dear friend."  Daria grinned wickedly as she leaned toward Quinn. She said sarcastically, "Jane has one too."  Then with a triumphant smile she said, "We were permitted first pick from the latest line before it was released to market.  See you at the formal Quinn."

                                                        Na Na Naa Na



 I borrowed the characters from MTV and Viacom, but return them now, none the worse.  This was for fun only, of course.

Thanks for reading this far, I hope you enjoyed it.