Tigresses of Lawndale – Part 2 – Comedy Tonight
By Dr T
Daria and Jane are set up on a date by Mack; Helen and Jake move forward.
Story synopsis: After returning from Ashfield, Daria decides to take on all the opportunities that present themselves – on her own terms, of course. D/OC, J/OC, and some light-to-medium D/J.
Daria had managed to get up, use the bathroom, and then go back and dress. When she was finished, Daria headed back to the bathroom to put in her contacts, and then go down to breakfast.
Daria was surprised to find the doorway blocked by Quinn. "Ah-ha," Quinn smirked. "I thought you'd dress differently today, AND wear your contacts."
"I haven't put them in yet," Daria muttered, unhappy at this turn of events but not awake enough to really fight back.
"Good," Quinn said. "You look decent, but don't change everything at once."
"I'm not so much changing as being willing to mix up my look," Daria stated, pretending to be off-hand.
Quinn crossed her arms and leaned on the doorway. "So, you just plan on wearing those green jackets of yours what? Just four out of five days instead of everyday?"
"Two or three times a week," Daria retorted. "I like them, and I'm comfortable in the style."
"I'm not going to argue with you," Quinn assured her sister. "That casual prep look you have going today is a better one for you, but you know how to run the rest of your life, so go ahead. Still, like I said, since you're not doing a complete make-over, wait and wear the contacts tomorrow."
"Okay," Daria said, pulling her glasses out of the inner pocket of the windbreaker. "There's something else, I can tell."
"Three things. One, if you want to, you could get a card from Mom and we – we meaning you, me, and Jane if you want – can go to J.J. Jeeters right after school and get you some more outfits. Right now, you don't have enough variety in your closet to pull off any other look more than once a week."
"I hate to admit it, but you're right," Daria admitted. "Okay, I'll give you a chance."
Quinn acknowledged that. "Second, let's get breakfast now so we can leave early. I should brief you on Thor and John on the way over to Jane's and you can fill her in then. Marty will drive down the street and pick me up."
"Not your three shadows?" Daria asked, curious.
Quinn shook her head. "Football practice, otherwise they would, of course."
"I'm surprised those three are still trying."
"So am I, but if they want to who am I to stop them? No," Quinn added, "don't answer that."
"Since you're doing me some favors, I won't," Daria agreed. "And third?"
"Here," Quinn said. "I think you'll like this lip gloss better than the generic brand you're using."
"So, did Quinn have any insights?" Jane asked as the pair strolled to school.
"Not especially," Daria answered with a shake of her head. "John drives a new two-door Chevy Metro, which usually rates low on her scale, but it is his, it is new and is a convertible, and she says he keeps in clean, so that makes it a lower-mid-level. . . ."
"Anything important?" Considering she rode in (and sometimes drove) Trent's old car, and rode in the Tank and Tom's Pinto, it was clear Jane cared little for the looks of her transportation.
"Well, she said last night he has a reputation as a polite grabber after the third date," Daria pointed out. "Still, she said you would be firm enough to have him keep his hands where you want them, no matter where you might want them."
"Ha ha," Jane merely said.
"Obviously, he tends towards taking his dates to the family restaurants, at least casual dates. Quinn amazingly hadn't known the family owns that gyro chain. She'll add that to her database. He's dated fairly widely, and yet doesn't have too bad a reputation. He'll go practically anywhere that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, although boy band concerts are out."
"Well, that's a blessing, anyway," Jane agreed. "I can listen to almost anything but that. And the mighty Thor?"
"Theo was dating a cheerleader who was also a ballerina in Quinn's grade for almost two full years, but she and her family moved to California over the summer, so he's actually not fully accounted for by her system," Daria replied. "He drives a small Toyota short-bed truck with a king cab, and is known as the 'arty' football player because he is not only in the orchestra, choir, and select choir, but apparently he enjoyed going to his girl friend's ballet performances. They were also known to go to opera and orchestra concerts."
"Not the typical Lawndale football player and cheerleader," Jane had to admit.
"I asked Quinn," Daria admitted, "and she said the ex-girlfriend was less than an inche taller than me."
"There's something else that's bothering you? Is it the change of clothes you're wearing?"
"Partly," Daria was forced to admit again. "I need to mix up my outfits a little. Will you join me and Quinn at Jeeters after school?"
"Their stuff might look good on you," Jane conceded. "Does that mean you won't give me grief if I 'dress conventional' sometimes?"
"Well, I might if you bring out that teddy bear backpack, but otherwise, no, I won't," Daria agreed. "What you're wearing today is good, although they look a bit odd with your running shoes."
"Well, I wouldn't go with the exact outfit I used for that assignment," Jane added, ignoring the complement on her Capri pants. "I like my boots too much to want to wear sandals to school again. So it was either these or the boots, and the boots would look even dumber."
"I agree," Daria said strongly. "I made it clear to Quinn the sort of clothes I would consider, and she agreed to help."
"What does she get out of this?"
"Materially, amazingly enough, nothing directly. However, with Mom becoming a partner, she should get at least a fifty percent pay raise. We both figure our getting along like this will incite her to raise our allowances, plus Quinn said Sandi was a bit ticked off that we looked so good yesterday when we were both in our usual look. This should irritate her even more."
"That's always good, within reason."
"True, no need to actually aggravate people; irritation is enough. As for Quinn, we both also want to avoid acting like our mother and her sisters."
"So, after sixteen years or so, you two are finally playing nice together?" Jane asked.
Daria scowled with all her old intensity, which made Jane laugh. "Come on, freakin' friend," Jane said. "Let's go find our new boy toys."
Daria merely rolled her eyes.
Jake looked up from his desk, which he had just settled into, surprised that one of the secretaries for the many small one-person offices had called that he had a client already.
Jake was even more surprised at who it was. He shot to his feet. "Mr. Horowitz, I mean, Abraham. . . ." Abraham Horowitz allowed few to call him Abe; mostly his family and his two friends and partners. Even the Schrecters had to address him as Abraham.
"Jacob," Horowwitz answered with a nod. Although the same age as the other two remaining original partners (53), Abraham Horowitz had always exuded an old-world formality. He had been seen as a man of experience and grave consideration even as a college student and that aura had merely grown over the decades. Old money and corporate leaders saw Abraham Horowitz as an old-style family attorney of multiple generational standing, the kind they all felt their families and corporations had had in the golden past.
It was a false image, as Abe Horowitz' family had been a typical Lower-East Side immigrants' tale for the two previous generations until he had managed to get into the Bromwell law school, where he had been befriended by two equally talented, upwardly mobile and ruthless men, also from state colleges.
"As you know, our firm has had to rapidly reorganize itself over the last two days," Abraham said after sitting. "While we are still deciding who to bring on as the other two new partners, one of those people will be purely a personal injury attorney. These are the types of cases we have generally handled only when a current or previous client has come to us with such a need, or as part of a class action suit. The most successful firms which deal exclusively with those types of cases are those which have, in our opinion, rather low-class television ad campaigns. Neither I nor the other partners feel comfortable with those types of ads."
Jake merely nodded, but the lawyer could tell he had the consultant interested.
"Both of the perspective partners in this area pointed out last evening that if we were to go, at least to the general public, under the name of 'Lawndale Law,' we could still show ourselves to our more traditional client base under the name of the partnership. That would allow the personal injury attorney to sell himself under both his own name and 'Lawndale Law.' That is, he would represent himself and his associates as the personal injury arm of a truly full service law firm."
"If you and the other senior partners are fully comfortable with that, it could be a great idea," Jake said, just managing to contain his salesman's enthusiasm.
"We are at least comfortable enough to make some preliminary plans," Abraham retorted. "As this lies in your area of expertise, we also felt we should give you a chance to develop the idea. Helen will of course supervise and advise you as we finalize any decisions on the personal injure attorney. We would also like a more upscale, dignified campaign on the idea of a full-service law firm."
Whatever his lapses at home, Jake was an experienced businessman who had been married to an attorney for years. "Yes, sir, I understand. Does the firm have any kind of logo or preferred symbol yet?"
Horowitz sat back, intrigued. "We never considered such a thing, but you're right. We need some sort of visual link between the two campaigns. Do you do that as well?"
"I have working relationships with several different graphic art companies, not to mention straight forward ad agencies," Jake answered. "Once any preliminary ideas are okayed, we will have them work up full-fledged ad presentations for you to look at."
Abraham nodded. "We have a person who does press releases, who will also be in touch. Eric used to press for a full-blown publicity department. What do you think?" This was a test, as any such department would deprive Jake of a client in time. There was no really right answer, although there were many wrong ones.
"Once I get you going, that would depend on how big you want the campaigns and how often you want to change them," Jake replied. His was a niche market, providing services for new businesses, small businesses, and large companies who wanted or needed local help to break into local markets. Jake made the connections between the clients and the best local providers.
Abraham was satisfied with that answer. "Would ten thousand be an adequate retainer?"
"For the moment," Jake responded.
"When do you think you might have something?"
"For the personal injury partner, two weeks after your new partner can return a questionnaire I'll prepare for him," Jake answered. "I'll give Helen a preliminary one by Thursday, and then at least one of the original partners should answer one as well. I'll be able to take it from there. I may be able to present an idea sooner, but that would depend on the creative types I can get a hold of."
"That is acceptable," Abraham agreed. "I'll make certain all the partners answer your questionnaire." Abraham stood and extended his hand. "I look forward to working with you."
Since John and Thor were in the string section of the orchestra, their homeroom was part of the music suite, which was behind the auditorium, which, in turn, was between the main classroom wing of the high school complex and the gym. The football team had light practice in the mornings between 7:15-8:15, giving them half an hour to shower and get to homeroom. School let out at 3:20, and they would have a heavier practice from 3:45-5:00.
Jane and Daria made their way to the lockers for the band, band front, and orchestra, waving to Mack, as usual one of the first players to be showered and out, as they did so. Mack nodded back, as he was carrying a ham and egg sandwich in one hand, and a large orange juice in the other – snacks provided by the school for the players to tide them over until lunch. The Three J's went by next, as they wanted to walk Quinn to homeroom on days they could not walk her to school.
The corridor was crowded with musicians and the band front, plus the football players coming from the gym. The two groups sometimes had social clashes. While cheerleaders could only dare to date football players without social pressure, the players could easily date anyone. The majorettes were the second favorite source of dates for the football players (despite what Sandi claimed about the fashion club, they had only moved into the truly popular ranks because of Quinn). Brooke of the botched nose job had been a majorette, as was Tori, the blonde arbiter of popularity.
There was also the small color guard, and a twenty-girl pennant unit, and a sixteen girl dance squad. These formed a pool which both the football players and the male band and orchestra members competed for. All these girls made certain that the two groups (generally) behaved when the players crossed the music department's territory. (These female groups, some fifty of them, also insured there was a slight male-to-female imbalance in the regular homerooms.) Every fall, a few of the cockier new junior varsity players had to be taught their place, but that was the exception.
Jane and Daria, therefore, earned some dirty looks by all those auxiliary groups, not to mention the females in the band and orchestra, as the pair invaded the periphery of music territory. Jane, the acknowledged queen of the associated art areas, ignored them, while Daria seemed to, although the instincts she had gained at Highland put her on-guard.
Thor was easy to spot coming up the corridor, and he quickly saw Jane, and then Daria. He moved towards them, and it was soon clear John was with him. The two greeted the girls, and then they split to opposite sides of the hallway just outside the music area.
"Hey, Jane," John said after swallowing the last of his breakfast sandwich. "So, ready to try this again?"
"Sure, it could be fun," Jane answered, "but why are you interested?"
"I don't know about your friend, she hasn't seemed too interested in the dating scene, but I know you could easily date a lot more than you do if you wanted to."
"Don't you remember ninth grade well?" Jane demanded. She had not had an easy time after the first few weeks.
"I do, but I hope you're over all that," John replied. "Plus, I always supported you, remember? Even after I stopped seeing you."
"True," Jane agreed. "I just haven't seen anyone here to get serious about and Daria hasn't found anyone she was interested in."
"Well, I'm with you there," John answered. "Still, I like going out. I'm going to be really busy this term, but I'd still like to go out. I know you well enough to know you have some depths, some interests besides what goes on here in school and boy bands. Thor's gotten me interested in serious music and plays and stuff, and I've gotten him to some jazz clubs over past Oakwood. When Mack mentioned your name, I thought you might be interested in some casual dating, and we'll see where it might go."
"Would you be willing to extend your musical interests to the odd Degas Street grunge club to balance out your good taste?" Jane asked.
"Trent's still playing down there?" John asked.
"I'm afraid so," Jane admitted.
"Have they gotten any better?"
"Better is a relative term," Jane pointed out. "How about, they don't suck quite as much?"
"Fair is fair," John admitted. "Would you be offended if I wore ear plugs?"
"Daria and I both wear them now," Jane admitted. "We want to save our high-frequency hearing until we're at least fifty."
"Then let's see how things work out Friday. Unless you and Daria want to double the whole night, we can go to dinner separately and then all meet at the theater, or we four can meet for dinner and meet Jodie and Mack at the theater." Seeing Jane's puzzled look, John said, "I think Mack at least wants some alone time with Jodie."
"Which he rarely gets," Jane agreed. "I'm fine with either. Let's see what the other two want to do." Jane started to turn, but turned back with a frown when John lightly put his hand on her arm.
John dropped his hand. "Jane, Daria will give Thor a chance, right?"
"What do you mean?"
"He's a good guy, and she's pretty famous for her put-downs. She's at least willing to give him a chance, right?"
"She is," Jane answered.
"He was pining for Cindy most of the summer – do you know she hasn't called or e-mailed him since she left? So, he was really hurting. He turned down the idea of dating anyone through last Thursday, when Mack brought up the idea of us dating the two of you," John said. "He's at least mildly interested."
"Last Thursday? Mack pretended it was a spur of the moment idea yesterday, the sneak! Anyway, I don't think Daria ever gave either of you a thought until Mack set us up," Jane replied frankly. "If he rushes her, I promise you, he'll be sorry, and don't think that size will protect him. If he's honest and polite, they'll at least get along."
"Then they'll get along," John stated firmly. "Off the field, he's a really gentle guy, except to assholes and bullies." They looked over at Thor and Daria, and both blinked in surprise.
"Hey, Theo," Daria said. "We haven't actually met. I'm Daria."
"Hi, Daria," Thor said, holding out his hand. "My friends also call me Theo." Realizing how Daria had introduced herself, Thor flushed as Daria's tiny hand clasped his. "I mean. . . ."
Daria was shocked as she automatically extended her hand out (and far higher than she was used to). This big, no, huge confident-looking male was actually nervous over meeting her. This was, to say the least, a novel experience for her. "I understand," Daria said quietly. "I imagine most people use your nickname." She noticed that while her hand was engulfed, it was being held very lightly, and he let it go at the slight gesture Daria had just unconsciously made.
She smiled very slightly, and was surprised at the grin that lit up Thor's face in response. "Even some of the teachers," he said. "Only DeMartino, and my Mom when she's mad, uses my full name."
"I wondered which of your parents loved Roman history," Daria remarked.
"Mom started off in Classics; and teaches Romance linguistics at Lawndale State," he said. "Dad teaches musicology." Thor was pleased that Daria not only obviously understood what his parents did, but seemed to appreciate it. Few high school students understood what college professors did.
"I wanted to say at least say 'hello,' but I don't think we'll have much more time than that," Daria said.
"Which lunch period do you have?" Lawndale had three, although few students ate in the third one. That was when most of the non-teaching staff ate.
"Still in second," Daria said.
"Me, too. Shall we talk at lunch?"
Thor smiled and again extended his hand. Daria smirked and the pair shook hands. At that point, the first warning bell went off, and they saw John and Jane were giving them funny looks.
"See you at lunch," Daria said.
"See you then," he replied, only then letting go of her hand. Thor glared at his friend. "What?"
Meanwhile, Jane was giving Daria a strange look as they hurried towards homeroom.
"What?" Daria demanded.
"Nothing," Jane quickly said. 'This could be fun,' she thought.
"H'mm," Jane said, looking around. "No gentle giant or companion. Do you care where we sit?"
Daria glared at Jane. "Why would today be different than any other day?"
"Ha ha. We would have to sit two in if we want Thor to join us," Jane said. "He'll move one chair out of the way and sit on the outside. He needs the leg room."
"Not surprising," Daria had to say as the pair sat just like that at a table. Contrary to popular belief, there were few pre-set tables dividing the social groups, although some of the real outcasts sat up near the garbage area, where the noise of trays being unloaded covered up whatever they were saying. A few of the real trouble makers also had to sit near the teachers' table. Beyond that, it was the students who made the table, and the unpopular rarely tried to sit where a popular person was established.
The popular usually sat in the middle set of the three columns of tables, the best to be visible in. While few ever sat with Jane and Daria, no one had disputed their sitting at a middle table for two years. After all, while they weren't popular, they were far from the underclass. The few who had tried to verbally harass them back in tenth grade had been verbally cut to ribbons in return. The two, and the few other middle-of-the-road loners, were largely left alone at lunch.
"May we join you?" Thor asked politely, coming up from behind Daria.
"Of course," Daria said.
"Wow," Jane said, "I thought one helping of mystery meat and gravy over congealed and re-mashed pseudo-starch was living life on the edge."
"I shudder every time I eat this stuff, but hey, practice takes energy," John admitted. Only Thor knew his friend had some secret dreams of becoming a true chef. John had a double helping of the turkey and gravy over mashed potatoes, but only one helping of the green beans and dessert. Thor had a double helping of everything but dessert, as well as two of the half pints of two-percent milk and two skim.
"Did you and Daria get a chance to talk about my ideas for Friday?" John asked.
"A little," Jane said. "Either is fine with me. Where would we go?"
"Well, the family dislikes me going anyplace Italian or Greek we don't own, and you two practically live at the Prince. Mexican in Oakwood?"
"Sounds yummy." Jane knew that John was at least somewhat serious; his casual dates were always taken to the family pizza places, where he either didn't have to pay or at least got a heavy discount.
Thor turned to Daria. "What do you to think?"
"Would it bother you if I paid my own way?" Daria asked.
"No, but why would you want to?"
"To distance myself a bit from how my sister acts," Daria said drily.
John grimaced while Jane smirked. Thor merely shrugged. "If you want, you can pay Mack for the tickets, and I'll take you to dinner," Thor offered. "How does that sound?"
"Fair enough," Daria answered. "You choose, then."
"I like that Mexican place, but I also like to eat seafood on Friday," Thor put out for Daria's consideration.
"Old school Catholic?" Daria asked, pleased at his still giving her a choice.
"My mother is, and I usually go along."
"Let's have seafood then," Daria said. She turned to Jane. "We'll all meet at the theater, and maybe we can treat the guys to coffee or shakes or something together after."
It was clear the other three liked that idea. "I'll talk it over with Mack," Thor said.
"Hi!" came a perky squeak. "Can we sit here?"
"Hi, Brittany," Daria said without looking over. "Go ahead." Greetings were exchanged, and, as Daria had feared, Kevin was with his squeeze toy. Daria could usually stand Brittany in small doses, preferably without Kevin. Fortunately, the love birds were occupied with themselves.
Jane ignored the pair making eyes at each other and turned to John and Thor. "Do you guys like Shakespeare?"
"Watching, yes," Thor answered. "Reading him, not really."
"And I like the comedies I've seen," John added.
At that point, the quartet heard a tray dropped on the table. They saw a young teen, obviously a slightly overgrown ninth grader, glaring at them. To the shock of Jane and Daria, the youngster was also in full uniform and pads, and carried a football, just like Kevin. He turned to Kevin and said, "Hi, again, Kevin! I hope you don't mind!" He glared at Jane and Daria, ignoring the male figures on the opposite side of them. "Although I don't know why you're sitting with these losers." The boy sat, glared again at Daria and Jane, and then looked hopefully at Kevin for approval.
"Oh, look," Jane snapped, "Kevin has a little puppy in need of training. How cute."
"Hey! I'm the QB!" the boy pronounced, very proud of being the quarterback of the junior varsity football team.
"Err . . . Jeremy. . . ." Kevin started.
"Are these losers bothering you, Kevin?"
Kevin had a magnificent sense of placement and danger on the playing field, but it often deserted him in other situations. Still, somewhere in the dim recesses of his mind, warning signals were blaring as he saw the looks in Jane and especially Daria's eyes. Brittany, on the other hand, was debating on if she should save Kevin's worshipper, or leave him to his fate. Brittany could also see DeMartino was standing at the teachers' table, in case he needed to intervene.
"May I?" Thor rumbled in Daria ear. "There would be less bloodshed."
"Go ahead," Daria hissed, still glaring at the Kevin-wannabe. "But one more insult out of this twerp. . . ."
"Hey, girl! Like I said, I am the QB! Don't think anyone can intimidate me!"
Daria's hand pulled out the can of pepper spray, although it stayed out of sight under the table; Helen had made certain Ms Li knew her children were allowed to carry on campus, high security or not. If the boy made a physical move, she would nail him.
Daria heard the chair beside her scrape, and sensed Thor standing. She saw the boy's eyes widen in horror as he realized who was sitting beside the glaring small senior.
Thor had a naturally deep voice, but now it was pitched so low as to nearly rumble. Still, in the silence which now descended on the cafeteria, everyone heard him. "Little boy, since you're new here, let me tell you how the lunch room works. First, every senior outranks any freshman or sophomore and any junior outranks any freshman. You, kid, are a freshman. WE are all seniors. Second, all girls outrank guys here. The girls already sitting at a table determine which guys sit there. You are a little boy, and therefore count more or less as a guy. Only then does social rank count. Are you with me so far, kid?"
Jeremy nodded in fear.
"You're new; you don't know the social ranking. In the senior class, only Angie, Jodie, and Brittany outrank Daria and Jane here. None of what I said is up for debate. Understand?"
Jeremy nodded fearfully. Tori, the majorette who was the chief social score keeper, blinked at that assessment from two tables away. She would have put at least fifty girls, about a third of the senior class, ahead of those two at the end of the previous year. The rumblings yesterday and this morning seemed to signal a change. So long as it didn't impact her own social status, Tori loved to watch the social order change.
"And finally, kid, there is not a male student in this county who can tell me what to do." Thor leaned over behind Daria. His voice dropped even lower. "Or do you want to dispute that?"
Jeremy shook his head.
"Hey, Mack," Thor rumbled.
Daria was uncertain how Thor knew Mack had been behind them.
"I think the j.v. offensive line needs to be tested this afternoon. What do you think?"
"I think that's a great idea," Mack said. "We need to know they can protect that new little kid who's temporarily the quarterback. I'll tell Coach."
"Now, eat your lunch, kid." Thor sat back down. "I'll see you on the field."
Thor leaned close to Daria's ear. "Sorry about the macho posturing. That kid might have a mean streak. He certainly has an arrogant one, and we need to knock both out of him anyway. I think he might become the kind to be abusive if we let him get away with acting worse than Kevin."
"I understand." She did not feel like being a target if she could help it, and it also seemed Theo knew that she did not require his protection.
Mack and Jodie sat down, and the six discussed Friday.
That afternoon, the varsity defense did indeed test the j.v. offense, but at three quarter speed and of course without full contact. Jeremy therefore felt safe in taunting Thor.
Thor rolled his eyes and looked at the Coach.
Coach Gibson was worried. This would be Kevin's last year playing, and there were no juniors or sophomores he would want at quarterback. Jeremy was his best chance – he was the only kid with some talent and a really good arm. After all, it was permissible to promote sophomores to the varsity team, as he had once promoted Kevin, Mack, and Thor. But this kid was too cocky.
He sighed and blew his whistle. "Jeremy! You've been caught every play! It's not just your line's fault they're out muscled. You have to run, boy!"
"I can run fine, Coach!"
"Let's see! Okay, boys! One play; full speed and full contact!"
Jeremy spent the night in the hospital with his first concussion.
While a very arrogant young man, he was not really stupid. When he finally fully woke up the next morning, he decided to try being polite to see if the older students would lay off.
To his surprise, they did.
Meanwhile, at J.J. Jeeters, Daria had again laid down her rules: no slacks; no dresses; nothing too cute. Quinn had rolled her eyes at the last condition, but had quickly helped Daria select a dozen skirts, two dozen tops; and three autumn jackets to decide from.
As Daria methodically worked her way through the items, Quinn went over to talk with Jane, who was trying to decide which two pair out of seven pedal-pushers she might select. She knew she couldn't wear her boots with the tighter Capri pants, and thought these might work.
"Jane, can I ask you a serious question?"
Curious, Jane merely said, "Sure."
"Did something bad happen to Daria at that camp this summer?"
"No," Jane asked, surprised. "Why would you think that?"
"Because Daria is carrying that ultra-pepper spray again."
Jane was interested. "So, she really did carry that all the time in Highland? I was half-hoping she was exaggerating."
"Jane," Quinn said seriously, "nearly every girl carried something similar at Highland High, although Daria's was by far the strongest. The middle school we attended was pretty safe, but the other two in town were already war zones. We all learned quick to carry pepper spray or mace at the high school, if not something else. Even the girls who dated the thugs and hoods went armed, because they were actually most likely to be attacked."
Quinn shuddered. "The summer before I went there, I asked Daria if it was really as bad as I'd heard. She took me outback and taught me how to use that pepper spray without blinding myself. Yet the first day, a guy just walked up behind me and started to feel me up and I was so startled, for a second I didn't know what to do! Then he screamed. Daria had this thing, it looked a bit like a car aerial, you know, a metal extension rod?" Jane nodded. "It was about eighteen inches long extended, and a lot heavier than any car antenna. She had come up from behind him swung it between his legs."
Quinn nodded. "Then she hit him right in the eyes with that mega-spray of hers, and told him and everyone in the hallway over his screaming that she'd knee-cap the next guy who tried that with me. The guy was writhing on the floor in agony, and yet he apologized for daring to touch me, because he hadn't known I was Daria's sister. I later learned that Daria had conditioned even the most violent guys to respect her the year before."
Jane gave Quinn a funny look. "Then why call her cousin here?"
"I know, it sounds like I was ungrateful or something, but when we got here I was so glad to be someplace relatively normal again, and I was so afraid she'd act out like she had to in Highland. . . . I should have understood that when she used to say back there that she just wanted to be left alone, she meant it. I thought she'd take something the wrong way and pepper spray some poor guy. And even if she dressed a little nicer here, she was determined to look, well like a nerd."
"I think she carried the spray here, too, although I didn't know that at first," Jane said.
"Ms Li was against it of course, but Mom can be very persuasive," Quinn said. "I know she carried it our first year here, although I think she left, well, other defenses at home. She slowly stopped carrying the spray, at least most of the time, over last year, except when she went places like those clubs your brother plays at."
"Do you know what she gave me for Christmas that first year?" Jane said. "She taught me how to use that spray, and gave me three canisters. She gave me a refresher before we went to camp."
"So, is it a precaution, or is it mere paranoia?" Quinn asked.
"I think it's a little of both, but mostly, I think it's a security blanket these day."
That made Quinn curious. "How so?"
"Daria agreed to try and be more open at the colony, and that included us going on some double dates," Jane explained. "She always went armed. I think having the spray allowed her to relax, knowing she had a means to defend herself."
"Daria always has multiple ways to defend herself," Quinn said. "Don't think she limits herself to verbiage, pepper spray, and those boots. She bought her first pair less than two weeks after she started Highland High. I'm surprised she never went back to martial arts. . . ."
Quinn nodded. "I forget what kind she learned, but she swears there isn't a place that teaches the right kind nearby. I never see her exercise or practice, either, but she must do something to work off all that pizza besides walk."
"I didn't catch a hint all summer," Jane pointed out.
Daria come over, with six skirts, twelve tops, and one of the jackets, plus a denim jacket. "Quinn, could you pay for most of this with Mom's gold card?" Daria asked. "Everyone at the mall probably believes you're Mom anyways. I'll get the rest of these and then we'll drop you off at Stacy's."
Quinn glared, since she wouldn't have time to use the card for herself.
"I'll buy you a fat-free frozen yogurt," Daria promised.
"You can even have sprinkles if you want. I promise not to tell Sandi."
"Okay. It's not much of a bribe, but it's the thought that counts," Quinn said. At that moment, her beeper went off. "I need to pay for these and call Mom. Don't dawdle. I'm not lugging all these to the food court." That was where the pay phones were located.
"We won't," Daria said. She turned to Jane. "How about you? Ready?"
"I can't decide; I want two of these three," Jane said.
"I'll pay for one to thank you for coming along, and yes, I'll buy you an ice cream, too."
"Thanks! Can I have sprinkles, too?"
The pair went up to the checkout where Quinn was already partially checked out. "My sister will take care of the bags," Quinn told the woman. "I have to run ahead." When she was done, Quinn told Daria, "I'll see you there!" Since Quinn was now acknowledging her as a sister in public, Daria merely nodded.
Daria and Jane were checked out a bit more leisurely, and made their way to the food court. Before they got there, they saw Quinn was ready to get in line at the ice cream/frozen yogurt stand, bouncing in anticipation.
"What's up?" Daria asked, leaving Jane on a bench guarding their bags.
"I don't know," Quinn admitted. "Mom would like you and Jane to come home as soon as you can. When I told her about the yogurt, she asked if you could pick up small cups for her and Dad."
"So, at least they aren't upset about anything," Daria mused.
"Didn't seem that way. Could you please get Stacy a small cup of chocolate with nuts?"
Daria shook her head. "That wasn't part of the deal, but okay, if you haul all the goodies to the car while Jane and I lug the bags."
"Fair enough," Quinn acknowledged, actually glad she and Daria could work together. Daria would have gladly bought her sister and her friend large cups; she was so pleased Quinn was finally acting like her sister. Not that either would have admitted these feeling to the other, of course.