Tigresses of Lawndale – 14 – After the Last Regular Game. . . .
By Dr T
Lawndale has its chance at the State Championship, Daria and Jane further their relationships with Theo and John, and each other.
John and Thor leaned back in the hot tub and let the swirling water relax them. The regular season was over, and Lawndale had trounced Lawndale County East 45-10. Had Kevin not thrown two interceptions, they might even have achieved a shutout. In any event, Lawndale had its first undefeated season since Tommy Sherman had led the team to the state championship. And Lawndale was assured of at least a shot at the playoffs, although the actual matches would not be announced until Tuesday night.
Thor and John had, as usual, taken Daria and Jane out to dinner, followed by a long session in the hot tub. Daria and Jane had only left the tub a little more than ten minutes before, and had in fact just popped their heads in to say goodbye before Daria drove her best friend home, where the two would be spending the night. Both of the football players were still in a daze.
"I can't believe Daria did that to you when Jane and I were watching," John finally said after a few more minutes of silence.
"Considering Jane was doing the same thing to you at the time, I don't think she saw too much," Thor retorted.
"No, I could tell she was watching almost as closely as I was," John maintained. "She was certainly turned-on by it!"
"I think all three of us were," Thor agreed. "Even before Daria helped Jane get-off on your leg."
"I really like Jane, and her look," John had to admit, "but damn, Daria's boobs are even more perfect than I had thought."
"They are," Thor agreed. "And if you ever tell anyone that, remember, it will be Daria who goes after you; I won't have to."
"Don't worry," John assured his friend. "First of all, I doubt anyone would believe me anyway." No one gossiped about Daria when Theo was nearby, but they sometimes did when John was. Except perhaps for Mack, none of the other football players understood why anyone would give Daria a second look. "Second, if I've learned anything about Daria that I didn't know before the start of school this year, I have learned that not only is she even smarter and more ruthless than I had thought, she's also a lot more dangerous."
"She is, and damn cute, not to mention sexy," Thor added.
"If I hadn't already thought that, she would have proven it to me tonight!"
"I wouldn't mention it again, not even to her or Jane, if you want a repeat showing," Thor warned.
"True," John agreed, forcing himself to relax some more. He thought a moment and said, "You know, I don't think college will be better than this."
Thor smiled sadly, knowing there was at least a fair chance that his relationship with Daria wouldn't last long past graduation.
"You're awfully quiet," Daria commented to Jane as she drove them through town.
"We just got our boyfriends off in front of the other's, and then you and John got me off twice while Thor watched," Jane pointed out. "Can I ask you something?"
"Of course you may."
Jane rolled her eyes at the correction to her grammar, but went ahead and asked, "Are you dying?"
Daria was glad she was pulling up to a red light, because if she had been in heavy traffic there might have been an accident. "What?"
"Are you dying? Trying to get the most out of life before, well, you know. . . ."
The light was a short one, and Daria went forward. "As far as I know, I am perfectly healthy, Jane. Still," Daria had to admit, "I have to say I understand why you asked that the way you did. Compared to how I acted before this year, or at least before last summer, I am certainly acting differently."
"Acting differently, yes," Jane agreed. "I mean, your underlying personality hasn't changed much, so I haven't looked for the pod, or even for electrodes. . . ."
"If you want to do a search for electrodes implanted just under my skin, we can talk about it at your place, if there's no one else there."
"Stop flirting with me! I don't know what to say when you do that!"
Daria rested her hand on Jane's knee and asked, "Do you really want me to stop?"
Jane shivered a little. "No," she whispered.
"Good. Now, part of this is me acting as I wish I comfortably could; most of me still wants to sit back and observe and then make nasty but very clever comments. But what kind of life experience is that? Over the next three to eight years, I am going to studying and writing like crazy. I am not going to have much time for a guy and a regular relationship, not to mention casual sexual contact or even football games and extracurricular activities that I can tell my mother about or other such stuff. So, I'm fitting most of that into this year, because what I do in a sense doesn't matter."
Jane wasn't sure what her friend meant. "Huh?"
"I am basically accepted into the colleges I want, Jane. My grades are a matter of pride, so I won't let them slip, at least not much, but my final high school GPA is irrelevant and I'm finished with the SAT and all the achievement and proficiency exams. So long as I don't get hurt or hurt anyone or do anything illegal, does it matter if I have a fling with Theo, or that John sees me having sexual contact with Theo and even with you? I really like Theo, but I'm not in love with him, and I don't think he's in love with me, although he is at least somewhat infatuated. If we do fall in love with each other, that's good, but I suspect we will just be very pleasant memories to each other well before this time next year. On the other hand, hopefully even if we never go further than we did tonight, or even if we don't repeat what we did, you and I will still be together in some fashion."
"I don't know what to say," Jane admitted. "Tell me, you made love to me in a sense tonight, didn't you? I mean, you didn't just help get me off twice."
"Yes, I think I did both," Daria had to agree.
"Then part of the answer to your unspoken question would be yes, but only if you allow me to do with same with you. You still haven't let Thor touch you, have you?"
"Not like either John or I were touching you, let alone the equivalent of what we did to the guys," Daria admitted.
"Do you think you will? Allow either Thor or myself, that is?"
"I hope so," Daria said softly. "I know I'm not there yet, by myself or with you or anyone else."
"If Mom has already left, we know Trent won't be home," Jane said. "Would you, well, shave me? I decided it would be awkward to do it myself, and I think John would like it better."
"And will you let me shave you?"
Daria bit her lower lip in thought, but then said in a small voice. "Yes."
The next morning, when Daria woke up she was still in Jane's bed, rather than in the sleeping bag on the floor as she always had before, other than when she had slept in Penny's old room. She tensed for a moment, and then relaxed. The pair had not 'made love' or had sex in any way. They had, however, cuddled. Daria thought about that for a moment. Only her closest friends and family would have been able to tell she was smiling just a little at the memories of affection. Those meant far more to her than mere physical gratification.
The Lawndale football team and their fans were hoping that they would be one of the top seeds; if nothing else that might allow them at least one game that wasn't too tough. Instead, Lawndale was seeded ninth in the field of sixteen, meaning they would be playing the eighth seed, a larger school from Baltimore, at that team's home field. All the first round games would be that Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
Since Amanda had left town the previous weekend and would not return until she and Vincent came for Christmas (they were spending the time together in Washington D.C.), Jane would join the Morgendorffers for Thanksgiving dinner. (Trent and the band were playing two sets out of town Thanksgiving afternoon and evening.) Since Helen had not cooked a Thanksgiving (or Christmas) dinner since the year before Daria had been born, it was no trouble for her to order food for five instead of four.
When the 'dinner' was over, around 3:00, Quinn took off for Tiffany's. The Fashion Club would be leaving from there early the next morning to haunt the malls on 'Black Friday' – not to mention all day Saturday plus Sunday afternoon. Daria made a show of allowing her parents to 'convince' her to leave for the weekend as well. While there would be a big college football party given by the firm's partners on Saturday, Helen and Jake had other, more intimate party plans for themselves for the next 40 hours or so. They enjoyed their time alone so much, that Helen got an interesting idea for New Year's, which she would talk to Daria and Quinn about later on in early December.
Daria put up a slight fuss, in part for pure show, in part to extract a reasonable bribe (some of the leftovers and $60 for the expenses of the school-sponsored trip to the playoff game the next day), but mostly because she knew that Jane had some devious (or more likely these days, deviant) plans for her – Jane was fast adapting to the idea of physical contact with Daria. In addition to whatever Jane might have planned, Jane and Daria would be watching the first of the high school orchestra concerts given for the community as well as the second of the community orchestra's concerts. Had John and Thor not been playing in the first, and Thor's parents in the second, the pair would have, of course, skipped both, just as they would have missed all the football games that season. These were prices the pair were prepared to pay, and both John and Thor would show their appreciation of the support.
It turned out, however, that Jane's plans merely included a fire in the fire place, a rubber sheet, and a large bottle of massage oil. Daria certainly enjoyed massaging Jane, but while she enjoyed being massaged, no matter how intimate Jane's massage of her was, she just could not quite relax enough to 'go over the edge.'
To her immense surprise, she did enjoy the attempt, however.
Daria and Jane sat with Jodie the next afternoon at the first playoff game. The Lawndale defense was in top form throughout the game, as was the offense through the first three quarters of the game and well into the final quarter. It was at that point that Kevin pulled a 'Tommy Sherman' and, in a two-point conversion, ran into the goal post, nearly giving himself a concussion. Lawndale, however, managed to hold on to the 15-14 win despite Kevin being out for the rest of the game.
While the Lawndale football supporters were happy for the narrow win, they were not happy the following Monday evening when the next game was announced. It would be played the following Saturday afternoon in the western fringes of the state. Only the most die-hard or affluent fans were likely to make the journey.
Jane was a bit sorry not to make the trip, but only a bit. She estimated that she would be basically done with her painting by December 8, although she would need to let it dry for a least a week more before she would start the process of varnishing it to preserve the painting. She therefore decided that she would gamble on being done and arranged to show the painting as it would be on the morning the 9th. She asked permission from Ms Li to have guests in the school that Saturday, and then let Daria issue the invitations. She would be spending all evening on the 1st and the morning and afternoon of the 2nd as well as after school that following week working on fine details with instruments finer than brushes, trying to finish. The incredibly small-scale work would send Jane to bed early each night to prevent eye strain. She barely noticed Lawndale's 7-6 victory in western Maryland. With John and Thor practicing hard both for concerts and the playoffs, and Jane even busier than usual with her painting, Daria was able to work on the romance novel, some short stories, and her plans for the Lawndale Review the next spring. The pair only hoped that John and Thor would be able to make Jane's preliminary showing.
Jane was forced to reschedule her limited showing from 11:00 Saturday morning to 9:30, however, when, to the surprise of many, it was announced that Lawndale would be hosting the semi-final game Saturday afternoon instead of travelling to an away game Friday night. There were only a select few invited to the show. From the school, there was only Daria, Jodie, John, Thor, Mack, Ms Defoe, and Ms Li. Mrs. Sloane and two other members of the Sloane Foundation would of course be present. Other than that, Jane's parents, Daria's parents, Quinn, and Mark Riordan from the law firm would be the only other people at the preview.
Daria, Jane, and a few other students, plus all of the faculty and staff geared up for that Wednesday, expecting an attack, or at least another nasty letter. To the surprise of everyone concerned, however, nothing was reported. There were certainly no attacks in or around the school itself. If there were any letters stuffed into lockers, the victim did not report it.
The overly mushy card that Quinn received was ignored by Quinn herself and Stacey. No one else, other than the sender, knew about it.
The casual way Quinn had glanced at it and then tucked it away at first angered the sender, but fortunately then he decided that Quinn just didn't want to draw attention to it at that point, and would enjoy it later.
The next Saturday, Jane had set up supports on the stage itself, while Daria managed the overall setting. It had taken Jane, Jodie, Mack, John, and Thor together to maneuver the huge (78 inches – six and a half feet – high by 126 inches – ten and a half feet – long) canvas into position. Jane would be happy when it was varnished so it could be framed, as that would give the canvas greater stability. Still, by 9:10 the canvas was in position behind the closed curtain, Daria and Jane had decided on the lighting, and the guests were gathering out in the auditorium. John had arranged to have a large urn of hot chocolate and cookies set up in front of the stage and Quinn was already there, playing hostess.
At 9:16, Thor popped his head behind the curtain. "Everyone is already here," he told the waiting pair.
Jane, who had been jaunty up until that moment, suddenly froze for a moment, paling. Daria placed a hand on her shoulder to steady her. "Are you okay?" she asked, concerned.
"Let's just get this over with," Jane muttered.
Daria nodded, and dragged Jane over towards the light board. Thor watched for a moment, and left to go back down front.
Daria flipped a switch to turn on a spotlight to stage left, took Jane's hand and squeezed it briefly to reassure her, and simply said, "You're on."
Jane nodded, took a deep breath, and walked out in front of the curtain and into the spotlight, glad she could not really see the faces looking up at her. A brief memory of her fleeing the stage after passing out of the Self Esteem class flashed through her head, but she suppressed it. "Good morning," Jane said. "I had a big huge detailed speech, but to be honest, I'm too nervous to give it." Jane did not hear the supportive but amused murmurs that generated. "So, last summer I was at Ashield, I mean the Ashfield Art Colony. I would have been happy just doing my normal style of painting, but I was challenged to try some other styles, styles of realism. Because of the encouragement of my best friend, I took up those challenges, and found realism, especially photorealism, interesting technically if limited imaginatively. My answer to that is sometimes called hyperrealism or fantasy realism, or a few other things. Thanks to the Sloane Foundation for the supplies and Ms Li for the space, I have to able to create this piece, Arena of Progress?"
After a moment, Daria realized that was her cue, and she opened the curtains. John and Thor instantly began clapping, and Jodie, Quinn, and Mack quickly joined. The adults did the same, and then one by one each mounted the stairs to take a better look.
The foreground shaded from the vibrant greens and whites of a hash-marked football field into the bloodied sands of the Roman arena. Where the two seamlessly blended, a triumphant retiarius (the Roman gladiator armed with net, trident, and dagger) stood over the body of a football player (in Oakwood colors at the request of Ms Li – the retiarius' gladiator tattoo was of a Lawndale lion). The retiarius' trident was clearly planted in the football player's neck, and the blood was pooling off near the helmet. The back foot of the gladiator was fully in the grass, the football player's splayed cleated shoes in the sand, reversing their eras.
It was the crowd, however, that made the painting. Football sidelines were missing, and the fight had clearly taken place a few feet from the arena walls. Therefore, the first three rows of spectators were shown in full photorealism, the fantasy coming from the mixture of eras. There were a few Romans in togas and Oakwood supporters in full fan gear. However, there were also people dressed for Spanish and Mexican bull fights, Cajuns and Regency dandies from cockfighting, Elizabethans who would have been watching bull or bear-baiting, Aztecs watching ullamaliztli, soccer rowdies in various fan gear, boxing fans in the dress from the late-nineteenth century to the present howling for blood, and NASCAR fans waiting for a crash. Altogether, there were 45 figures fully depicted, and another 21 partially shown on the sides or behind the third row. Some were excited by the blood in front of them, some were obviously watching other combat off in the distance, some seemed disappointed that there was not enough blood, a few paid no attention to the arena. Several held food or drink from the wrong eras, while one figure dressed as a Soviet officer was winning a chess game against an SS officer, neither paying attention to what was going on around them. In the foreground, a fully-spurred fighting cock scratched unconcerned in the grass looking for bugs, while off to the side sand side, the upper body of a dead bear, the bloody drag marks clear, could be seen. Between the bear's carcass and the dead football player, barely discernable, was the shadow of a grim reaper.
It was clear that a number of the characters were known to the people looking the painting over. Although his face wasn't really visible, John was the gladiator, while Kevin's profile was partially visible behind the football player's facemask. In the shadows of the upper right corner, most of Daria was visible, a Roman Vestal clearly more interested in a scroll she was reading than what was going on around her. Even less of Jane herself was visible, a dozing slave at Daria's feet, her head resting against her mistress' thigh. Mark Riordan smirked, seeing his partners Horowitz and Vitale respectively as the Soviet and Nazi chess players respectively. Riordan himself, Jake Morgendorffer, and Vincent Lane were three of the Romans, Riordan in the toga of a patrician auger, although holding one of his favored hand-rolled panatelas, clearly smoldering. Thor, Mack, and a number of the other Lawndale football players were various soccer rowdies. Quinn and the other fashion club members were in full redneck fashion as NASCAR fan girls, their hairdos each an homage to hair spray, if in different ways. Mystic Spiral's members were Mexican working class bull fight fans, although Trent's face wasn't visible, as he was asleep under a sombrero, a Spanish guitar clutched in one hand.
The figures were full of life and photo-clear. The characters and scenery blended together perfectly, although of course the cross-historical nature of the painting jarred, as it was meant to. It was as if the images had been perfectly photo-shopped and blended, rather than painted.
After gazing at the painting closely for nearly five mostly silent minutes, Vincent Lane walked over to his daughter and kissed her forehead. He looked at her for moment, placed his hands on her shoulders, and simply said, "I'm so proud."
That loosened the flood of compliments for all concerned. The three members of the Sloane Foundation conferred briefly, and then Kay went up to Daria, dragged her over to Jane and asked, "Twelve thousand, and your usual contract on reproductions and use?"
Daria looked at Jane, who nodded. Daria looked back at Mrs. Sloane, and noticed Ms Li hovering. "Agreed. When you display it, after acknowledging all the support the Sloane Foundation gave Ms Lane, we will have to insist on a line acknowledging Ms Li and Lawndale High as well."
"Naturally," Kay said. She turned to Jane. "We will of course have a formal showing at the Sloane Foundation wing at the Museum. How does late January or early February sound?" Jane, speechless, could only nod. This was more than she had hoped for. Kay turned to Ms Li. "You will, of course, join us on the dais for the formal dinner before hand, Ms Li?"
Ms Li, knowing the wealth likely to be represented, merely nodded vigorously, afraid for a brief moment that if she said anything it might ruin her chances to meet possible donors.
Kay turned to the Lanes and Morgendorffers. "I'll have a table for twelve set aside for you to finish filling. Jane, Daria, and their escorts will of course be up front with us."
"I'll take two tables of twelve as well," Riordan piped up. Kay smiled, knowing that Riordan was in various direct and indirect ways the second largest supplier of funds for the local art community, although it was of course a distant second after the Sloanes and their Foundation.
"Thank you," Ms Li managed to cut in, having recovered her voice. She turned. "Ms Lane, I will just add 'magnificent' to your kudos. However, Mister Mackenzie, Mister Yanuzzi, Mister Villars? I think you should report to the cafeteria." She reminded the others present, "We do have a playoff game today, starting at one o'clock. Granted, the team lunch doesn't start until eleven, but I want these fine athletes concentrating on the game."
The football players had to help move the painting back to Jane's temporary studio off stage first, and then moved the hot chocolate and cookies to the hallway near the stage entrance as well before going off to the cafeteria. The others stayed, talking about the painting and pointing out all the details they could find (and there were many) until shortly before 11:00. Ms Li and Jodie left together to set up an article about the painting for the school paper. The group quickly cleared out, until only Jane and Daria were left, with an hour and half to kill before they were to meet Jodie in the old press box. Daria opened her backpack, showing she had packed away several sandwiches, a bag of corn chips, and a bottle of fizzy lemonade. "Jane," Daria said, her plastic champagne glass held up for a toast, "you may be an utter egotist, but you have the skills to back your boast."
"Thank you, Amiga," Jane returned. "We worked separately until late last summer, and did very well. Since then, we've partially worked together, and done even better. Now I'm not teasing you when I say this, but I really think you're more of a muse, an inspiration, to me and my imagination than you ever could have been for Trent."
Daria blushed slightly and she bowed her head, hiding her face in a curtain of auburn hair. "Thank you," Daria replied, touched. She looked up and said, "I think I would still be wallowing in angst if I hadn't met you."
Jane merely smiled and said, "I have a proposal for you."
"That's not legal anyplace I know of yet," Daria teased.
"Ha, ha. A business proposal."
"Certainly the truest way to any Morgendorffer's heart," Daria acknowledged.
"A toast, then." Jane finally raised her glass. "To our future, and to D.J. Imaginative Productions?"
Daria touched her glass to Jane's. "To D.J. Imaginative Productions and our future."
Lawndale's defensive unit played their collective hearts out, but Kevin and the Lawndale offense had finally run up against a defense that both confused them and which could read them. Lawndale's running game, never its strongest point as Mack and Kevin were the only decent backs, was held to twelve yards the whole afternoon. Using Mack more as a receiver once the running game was shut down, Kevin managed to use him and the Three J's to some effect, but his three touchdown passes were negated by six interceptions, two run back for touchdowns. Lawndale was knocked out of the semifinals, 21-18.
Kevin was not the only Lawndale player or student near tears after the game. It was clear both that without Kevin, Lawndale wouldn't have scored as often as they had during the season, but also that his errors had led to this defeat as well. Even Mr. Thompson knew that, coupled with Kevin's poor academic performance over the years, this was likely the end of his son's football career.
Daria and Jane took Thor and John out to dinner as usual, but instead of going to the Yanuzzi hot tub afterwards, they took the boys to Jane's house. Jane took John to her bedroom, Daria took Thor to Penny's.
The boys left over two hours later, their spirits buoyed but neither willing to talk about what had happened. They both knew what the other couple had planned on doing and had likely done, of course, but it had been too intimate and even joyous to talk about, not in any way feeling like a tawdry conquest that they would ever brag about. After the pair had left, Jane and Daria had quietly taken turns showering, changed the sheets on both beds, putting the slightly bloodied sheets into the laundry, then cuddled together in Jane's bed and went to sleep.
The next morning, Jane woke up alone. She met Daria coming out of the bathroom. "You okay?" she mumbled.
"I'm still a bit sore, and to tell the truth, confused," Daria admitted. She sighed. "Very confused."
"Me, too, although you had a much bigger reason to be sore than I did," Jane teased. "Let me go, and then we can talk."
"I feel the need for a big breakfast," Daria told the retreating Jane. "I'll get dressed and I'll drive and treat."
"Darn right you will!" Jane called out behind the closed bathroom door.
Daria drove, but had only gotten out of the driveway when Jane asked, "What are you confused about? Last night?"
Daria merely nodded.
"Well, we knew the first time would likely be painful and messy. I'm just glad you bought supplies." Daria said nothing merely arching an eyebrow.
Jane shrugged. "I thought guys that age always carried one in their wallet."
"Like I would trust one like that," Daria pointed out. "Yes, the first time was painful, and messy. The second and third times less so, and somewhat pleasurable."
"Third? I'm impressed." It was clear Jane was, too.
Daria shrugged. "To tell the truth, I'm still rather ambivalent about the whole process. But no doubt, having gone so far, there's no turning back other than breaking things off, which I don't want to do."
"Me neither," Jane agreed. After a moment's silence, Jane said, "I do really like John, but I'm not in love with him."
"I feel the same way about Theo," Daria admitted. "It doesn't feel wrong to have been, well, intimate with him, though."
"No, I understand and agree," Jane said. "I'm not in love with John, but it did have meaning. It wasn't just about pleasure." She smirked. "I think it may be more about that in the future though."
"Jane! Mind; gutter; out!"
"Okay, okay," Jane replied, giving in.
After a few moments of silence, Daria asked, "What would you say to meeting the guys after you do your coat of varnish, but no intimate settings other than on Friday or Saturday nights? At least for a while?"
"So we don't get too involved?"
"Something like that," Daria agreed. "I think we could all get too caught up if we do this too often."
Jane mused about that and admitted, "Probably a good idea. The fact that they'll be busy with a lot of concerts through Christmas Eve should help a bit."
Jane merely glanced at Daria, who was driving with a very set expression, more reminiscent of her first few weeks in Lawndale than the previous few months. "And will this settle your confusion?"
Daria was silent for a long moment before answering. "I don't know," she finally admitted. "It was painful, which we expected . . . fortunately for me, a little less so than I feared. But as much fun as the foreplay was, the actual act was invasive and dominating. You can't deny that!"
Jane thought about that, both from her perspective as well as her friend's. "Well, on the first term – invasive – how about we agree that I understand why you might think so?"
"As to the second, well, considering your feelings and the respective differences in size between the two of you, let's just say you might want to experiment and find a way you both enjoy?" Jane could see Daria think about that, and give in without verbally agreeing – just a slight twist of her lips and an even slight shrug.
"Admit it; you'll have fun researching the ideas!"
"I like researching many things," was all Daria would say.
"Where are we going?" Jane asked, offering to change the subject.
"I want plenty of protein, but not a lot of carbs. There's a steak place on the way to Baltimore that's supposed to do a Sunday steak and egg brunch. And yes, it's still my treat."
"Sounds like a good idea, Amiga!"