Daria in 'Welcome to the Rat Race'

Rated: TV-PG for language

Short summary:

Daria and Tiffany separately cope with jobs and parental expectations. Meanwhile the expanded Fashion Club holds elections and Quinn and Sandi have to adapt to the new members or lose their offices.

Chronology: This story marks the fifth episode in my version of Daria's senior year, falling between Is It Fall Yet? at the end of the fourth season and the beginning of the fifth. The individual stories have a sequence, and events in one depend on the previous stories, but each story stands alone and can be read individually. The sequence is:

Temple of Gloom - 1 - Daria and Jane explore a tomb under Lawndale High. Very loosely connected to the others, and my first Daria story. Contains some foreshadowing of Stacy's rebellion.

Breaking Strain - 2 - Daria gets a job. Stacy stands up to Sandi. Jodie hangs out with Daria and Jane. The first of four stories focused on the members of the Fashion Club.

Strange Bedfellows - 3 - A school trip to a ski lodge results in farce, and a better understanding of Sandi. A Romantic Comedy.

Love's Labours Undone - 4 - The school puts on a play. Quinn and Sandi compete, and discover that they really are friends. Daria gets involved, despite her better judgment, but has problems in her relationships with both Jane and Tom, who seem to be getting along with each other.

Welcome to the Rat Race - 5 - This story.

Daria (and associated characters and locations) is copyright © 1997-2001 MTV Networks

This story is copyright © 2001 Mystik Slacker (mystik_slacker@hotmail.com) and has been written for personal enjoyment. No infringement of the above rights is intended.

Written: April/May 2001.

Intro, with title 'Daria, in "Welcome to the Rat Race"':


Interior. Ms. Li's Office, Lawndale High School - Day.

Ms. Li sits behind her desk, shuffling papers.

Superimposed title: Two Months Ago.

There is a knock on the door. Ms. Li stops rearranging papers, and looks up.

MS LI: (with enthusiasm) Enter!

The door opens, and Jodie enters, followed by Daria, who closes the door behind her.

MS LI: (cordial) Ms. Landon, Ms. Morgendorffer, please be seated.

Ms. Li waves to a pair of chairs in front of her desk. Daria and Jodie sit.

MS LI: (businesslike) Congratulations. The two of you have the highest overall grade averages in the senior class. Because of this, you have been selected to represent Lawndale High in an experimental internship program the county schools are conducting with Middleton College.

DARIA: (annoyed) I don't recall volunteering for an internship.

Interior. Morgendorffer Living Room - Evening.

Daria and Stacy are studying, as Sandi pushes past Quinn at the door to confront Stacy, while Tiffany remains standing in the doorway.

Superimposed title: Two Months Ago.

SANDI: (faux polite) Gee Stacy, this is a surprise. I thought you were working on your English paper. Instead, you're socializing with Quinn's unpopular cousin.

Stacy rises from the couch, dropping her book, and turns to face Sandi. She begins to breathe rapidly. Daria remains seated, watching the drama unfold.

SANDI: (to Daria, not polite, working herself up to a tantrum) And you, Quinn's cousin, you're so unpopular you don't have any friends, so you need to steal mine and turn them into brains! First it was Quinn, now Stacy! I suppose you'll be taking Tiffany next?

Daria scowls, and leans forward as if she's about to stand up. But Stacy speaks first.

STACY: (still breathing hard, but now angry rather than panicked, she speaks quickly, her emotion almost outpacing her ability to speak) Leave her out of this! This isn't about her! She's tutoring me because I asked her to! Because I need her to, or I'm going to fail English! Haven't you been listening to anything I've said all week?

Startled, Sandi turns slightly, and switches her offensive to Quinn.

SANDI: Well, whatever the reason, Quinn's still been lying to us! Undercutting my leadership! As if she could be a better president than me!

Quinn looks angry, like she's finally had enough of Sandi's paranoia, and starts to speak, but Stacy's still going strong and overruns whatever she might have said. In the background, Daria smiles and sits back.

STACY: (yelling) You? It's always about you, isn't it? The rest of us don't really exist to you, do we? We're just "Sandi's followers"? You don't care what we want! Just what you think we should want!

Sandi's face, turned towards Quinn, goes blank with shock, and she turns back to face Stacy.

SANDI: (defensive and upset, real emotion, not her usual facade) Stacy! That's not true! Everything I do for the fashion club is for all of us! To keep us number one! How can you say I don't care?

STACY: (still yelling) If you care, then why doesn't my failing English matter? What you care about is that you're number one! No matter what it does to the rest of us!

SANDI: (choked voice) No! I... No!

STACY: (no longer yelling, but still angry and speaking sharply) Well, I've had enough! I only stayed this long because of Quinn and Tiffany! You and I used to be friends, but I don't know you anymore! I don't like who you've turned into! It's over! I'm quitting the fashion club, and you can just go to hell! I never want to see you again, now get out of here and let me finish my English paper!

Interior. Ski Lodge - Evening.

Students are gathered on couches and chairs around a fireplace. The room is lit by the fire, and by scattered oil lanterns. Sandi and Tiffany are sitting together, talking.

Superimposed title: Six Weeks Ago.

Jamie walks up.

JAMIE: Excuse me, Tiffany?

TIFFANY: Yes, Jamie?

JAMIE: Hey, you remembered my name!

TIFFANY: Of course I remembered your name; it's not that confusing. What do you want?

JAMIE: Well, I was going to ask you if Quinn... Never mind, uh, can I get you a diet cola?

TIFFANY: Thank you, but why don't we go get something together, that way you won't have to carry drinks back across the room in the dark. (to Sandi) Catch you later, huh?

SANDI: (smiling) Sure.

Tiffany rises, and walks off towards the bar at the far end of the room with Jamie.

Interior. Cafeteria - Day.

Sandi, Stacy, Tiffany and Quinn are eating lunch and talking.

Superimposed title: Three Weeks Ago.

Tiffany reacts to something Quinn just said with an outburst.

TIFFANY: (irate) His name is Jamie! Not Jerome! Not Jeremiah! How can you be so dense?

Quinn is taken aback by Tiffany's vehemence, and looks at her in surprise.

QUINN: What does his name matter? He's just the third guy with a soda. And why do you care so much, anyway?

TIFFANY: (still irate) 'cause he's my damn boyfriend, that's why!

Interior. Hospital Room - Day.

Quinn is sitting up in bed, leaning on a large pillow, with her ribs bandaged. Sandi stands beside the bed, with a concerned look on her face.

Superimposed title: Last Week.

QUINN: Have you seen Stacy or Tiffany today? I was hoping they'd come to visit.

SANDI: They'll be over later. I told them I wanted to talk to you alone first.

Sandi pauses, looking thoughtful.

QUINN: What is it, Sandi?

SANDI: Well. I've been thinking. How would you feel about putting the club back together?

QUINN: Fine by me, but Stacy and Tiffany were the ones who quit. They're the ones you need to convince.

SANDI: They said okay, on three conditions.

QUINN: Oh. What conditions?

Sandi ticks off the three points on her fingers.

SANDI: One, you have to agree; two, we need to admit Brooke and any others who want to join; and three, we need to hold an election for club officers after we admit the new members.

QUINN: But we won't be exclusive if we let just anyone in. And what if people who don't know anything about fashion want to join?

SANDI: I think that's their point. Besides, those of us who've been doing this for years will have an advantage. We can give seminars on color coordination, or makeup, and show the new members how to be fashionable. If we prove we know our stuff, we can probably get our old jobs back even with an election.

Establishing shot: Exterior. Lawndale High School - Day.

Superimposed title: The Present (late November, Wednesday morning)

Interior. Hallway - Morning.

Sandi, Quinn, Stacy and Tiffany are standing in front of the lockers talking, while Stacy sorts through a pile of Waif magazines in her locker. There is a visible bulge under Quinn's tee, where her ribs are still bandaged from the recent accident. She moves stiffly, and with careful, deliberate movements. Other students are walking about in the background, taking off coats and pulling books from their lockers.

STACY: I know that article is here somewhere. I just saw it last week.

QUINN: Don't sweat it, Stacy. It'll turn up.

Tiffany makes a disgusted face.

TIFFANY: Eww, Quinn, sweat.

Quinn turns to Tiffany, with an amused grin on her face.

QUINN: I thought you were done with the dumb act.

Tiffany grins back.

TIFFANY: I am, but old habits are hard to break. Besides, I really don't like sweat; it's gross.

Sandi watches the three with a thoughtful expression. Her gaze is distant, as if her thoughts are elsewhere, but a brief smile crosses her face at Tiffany's last statement, so she's obviously listening.

STACY: Here it is, "How to explain fashion basics to the unfashionable". It's part of their "Beginners Guide to Fashion" issue.

QUINN: Perfect, that's just what we need. Right, Sandi?

Sandi returns from wherever her thoughts had taken her, and focuses on Quinn.

SANDI: Right. We'll need to set up several training sessions, so we can all show how much we know to the new members.

Stacy frowns.

STACY: I thought the reason for this was to teach the new members fashion, not to show off how smart we are.

QUINN: It is, Stacy, but we're also showing them that we're qualified for our offices because we understand fashion better than they do. There's nothing wrong with doing both, is there?

STACY: I suppose not. But being club Secretary has more to do with taking notes and organizing the meetings than it does with knowing fashion. And I don't really think I want to try teaching people anyway. The first time someone asks me a question, I'll panic, even if I know the answer.

SANDI: It won't be that bad, and one of us can sit in with you and help.

STACY: No... I really don't think I want to do it.

Quinn glances at Sandi, then turns to Stacy.

QUINN: You don't have to if you don't want to, the rest of us can run the sessions.

Stacy hands the issue of Waif to Sandi, who tucks it under her arm.

TIFFANY: Well, actually, it'll be just you and Sandi doing them. I have to go to work right after school, remember? I'm not going to be running for office anyway.

The other three react with surprise.

SANDI: Not running? Why not? You've always enjoyed being Coordinating Officer.

STACY: Yeah, and you do the best on the mix-and-match tests of any of us.

QUINN: Right. Don't you want to keep your office?

TIFFANY: Now that I'm working evenings for the Christmas season, I don't have any time to put into coordinating outfits for all of us, especially with so many new members to keep track of. I'm not sure we even need a Coordinating Officer any more.

QUINN: But Tiffany, all the new members are going to need extra help picking out outfits, at least at first. Most of them haven't shown much fashion sense in the past. That kind of advice is what we need a Coordinating Officer for, even if you don't do a three-day forecast for all of us like you used to.

TIFFANY: I don't think you're giving the new people enough credit. Most of them understand the basics, they just haven't spent as much time on fashion as we have, so they aren't as good at the details. Remember back before the club broke up, when Brooke and Lisa beat us to the new styles at the sale? They knew what to get.

SANDI: Knowing that something is good, and knowing that it's good on you, or how to accessorize for it, isn't the same thing. The salespeople can help anyone pick out good styles, but expertise is in knowing what's right for you.

Tiffany quirks an eyebrow at Sandi, who looks embarrassed.

SANDI: Um, I didn't mean you, I meant the other salespeople.

TIFFANY: Well, anyway, if we're going to have a Coordinating Officer, it's going to be someone other than me. I just don't have the time for it.

SANDI: Very well, I'm sure we can find someone who knows fashion well enough to do the work (she looks at Quinn).

Stacy begins to glance nervously between Sandi and Quinn.

QUINN: (looking back, sharply) Right, we can make it part of the Vice President's job, then you can do it after I become President, Sandi.

Stacy shows signs of impending panic: a strained expression, quick glances between Quinn and Sandi, and short, shallow breaths.

STACY: (emotional) Guys, you're doing it again. Do you have to fight all of the time?


Stacy flinches slightly, but stands her ground. She appears calmer now, though still not relaxed.


QUINN: Because we don't like losing...

SANDI: ...and we enjoy the arguments...

QUINN: ...as well as the competition...

BOTH: ...especially when SHE loses!

The two of them dissolve into laughter, as Stacy and Tiffany look on bemusedly. Stacy seems to have recovered from her nervousness.

STACY: I just don't understand how you can be friends and still fight all the time.

Sandi chokes back her laughter to reply.

SANDI: But we are, Stacy. It's just how our friendship works. Quinn and I figured that out when we did the play. You'll just have to get used to it, we're not going to change.

QUINN: Yeah. It's not like we're yelling or anything, and we're only doing it to each other, not to you or Tiffany. Don't stress over it, huh?

STACY: Well, I'll try, but it still seems weird.

TIFFANY: Yeah, I'm with Stacy. That's not a normal friendship.

SANDI: I won't argue with that, but it's the friendship we've got, and we like it.

QUINN: Yeah. So, anyway, it sounds like it's just Sandi and I doing the orientation sessions, maybe we should get one of the new people to do one, so it's not just us.

The class bell rings, and the other students drift off or into classrooms. The four girls continue talking as if they hadn't heard the bell.

SANDI: Good idea. Lisa has a good sense of style, we could ask her to talk about assembling outfits.

TIFFANY: That's good. She'd like that.

QUINN: We're going to have elections for three offices: President, Vice President, and Secretary. Do we need a Treasurer too? With all these new members, it's going to be a lot more work to keep track of the budget.

SANDI: Well, I don't think Ms. Li is going to release any school money to us this year. I'm pretty sure she gave our money to Ms. Barch for the Science Club's field trip after I dissolved the Fashion Club. And she was really annoyed with me too; she was looking forward to income from our fashion show. We were lucky to get permission to hold the meetings during study-hall period, and that only happened because the cheerleaders were already busy after school and wanted to join the club too. She isn't going to do any more for us.

TIFFANY: We'll have to collect dues if we want to have any money, and we'll need to be careful how we spend it.

QUINN: We've got lots of people who want to be members, so we shouldn't need that much per person. But somebody will need to keep track of it. I think we should add a Treasurer.

STACY: Yeah, I sure don't want to get stuck doing that. Buying snacks for the meetings is complicated enough.

SANDI: Okay, we'll add Treasurer to the list. That also gives us one position someone new can take, without needing to know fashion. It'll help stop it from looking like we're trying to keep control of the club.

STACY: Even if you are.

Quinn turns to Stacy, with an exasperated expression.

QUINN: (briskly) Well, someone who knows what they're doing needs to be in charge, and that's one of the four of us. If you two don't want the job, it's got to be Sandi or me. You can't have people who aren't experts on fashion making decisions that affect everyone in the club.

STACY: (subdued) I understand, but I hope this doesn't mean we're going back to the old fashion club (she looks pointedly at Sandi).

SANDI: (defensive) No, we're not. I promise. When I am elected President, I'm going to pay attention to what everyone else wants. You don't need to worry about that.

QUINN: (smug) Besides, I'll be President anyway.

Sandi looks like she's about to respond. Stacy closes her locker, loudly.

STACY: Okay, that's it. You two stay here and fight if you want, I'm going to class. Even listening to Mr. O'Neill is better than watching you two try to outdo each other.

Stacy walks away, and the other three trail after her, with Quinn and Sandi hanging back, talking to each other. The camera remains in position, and we hear them talking as they walk away.

QUINN: (to Sandi) I'll talk to Lisa about doing a session on outfits. Do you have time to update the list of offices and duties and make copies before study hall?

SANDI: Sure. Chuck showed me how to use the word processor in the computer lab, so I just have to make the changes and I can print out a dozen copies right there. That should be enough. There aren't that many fashionable girls in the school.

Establishing shot: Halcyon Hills Corporate Office Park - Morning.

Halcyon Hills is a complex of concrete and glass office buildings, of several stories each, set in carefully manicured landscapes and surrounded by parking lots full of cars. The sun glares brightly off the glass of the buildings.

Interior. Hallway.

A featureless office hallway, lined with closed doors. Next to each door is a plate bearing the number ("407", etc) with last names on the plates below the number.

Daria appears around a corner. She's wearing jeans and a faded orange t-shirt, and her usual boots, but not her jacket. A white badge bearing her picture hangs around her neck on a chain. She's carrying a sheet of paper in her left hand. Daria proceeds down the hallway, until she comes to an open door to room 415, with no name on the plate.

The camera pans to look over her shoulder into the office as Daria knocks on the doorframe.

The office is a small, windowless room, holding four tables being used as desks, with little room to move between them. Computers sit on each of the four tables. One dark-haired woman sits with her back to the door, working at a computer. She doesn't react to the knock, apparently deeply intent on her work.

DARIA: Excuse me. Did you call technical support about a network problem?

The woman stops typing, and turns to face the door. She is an Asian woman in her mid/late thirties, wearing a conservative skirt and blouse. A matching jacket lies in a heap on a nearby chair.

WOMAN: (apologetic, but cheerful) I'm sorry; I didn't hear you there. That was fast; I only called an hour ago. Come on in. Welcome to my closet.

Daria walks in, looking around the office.

DARIA: They really pack you in here, don't they? I'm Daria, by the way.

The woman speaks quickly, not pausing before changing topics, as if the words are trying to get out faster than she can talk. She projects an air of cheerful intensity.

WOMAN: Pleased to meet you, Daria, I'm Laurel. They don't waste office space on a temp. At least I have a door. I've worked places where they put a desk in the hall and told me to share it with someone else.

DARIA: Nice. I guess this is upscale by comparison. (she leans back against a desk, looking around) So, what's the problem, the report only says (reading from the paper in her hand) "network broken". They don't even have your name or phone extension listed, probably because you're new. Can you be more specific?

LAUREL: Well, I can't print, which is what I really need to do, but I also can't get to the company website, or my email, either, so I think it's safe to say the whole thing's busted.

She ends with a faint shrug, and a quick grin, as if apologizing for the computers misbehavior.

DARIA: Fair enough. Did it ever work?

LAUREL: I don't think so, but today's my first day. The computer was already set up when I got here. It's possible somebody was using it.

Daria walks over, and looks at the computer, pulling a cable up from behind it, and following the cable to a receptacle on the wall.

DARIA: Well, it looks like a good cable, and it's plugged into the right jack on the wall. That's always a good sign. Can I look at your computer?

LAUREL: Let me save this first. (types briefly) Okay, it's all yours.

Laurel rolls her chair away from the desk, and Daria pulls a chair over from one of the other desks, and sits down at the keyboard. She opens windows and types for a couple of minutes.

DARIA: Everything looks fine, but it's definitely not working. I'll go down to the wiring closet, and make sure everything's connected properly there. I'll be back in a few minutes.

LAUREL: Okay, great. I'll get back to work. Let me know if you need to use the computer again.

Daria stands up, and walks out of the room. Laurel rolls back into position, and begins typing.

Fade out and back in.

Daria walks back into the room.

DARIA: Okay, try it now.

Laurel types briefly, and then turns around with a smile. Meanwhile, Daria has sat down on the edge of one of the unoccupied desks, and is scribbling some notes on the piece of paper she's been carrying around.

LAUREL: Yes! You fixed it, I can print! Now I won't have to keep flipping between windows to check the source material. I hate small screens. What was wrong with it? How did you fix it so quickly? Was it something I did wrong?

Daria shrugs, looking vaguely embarrassed.

DARIA: Whoever set up your computer forgot to call us; this room wasn't wired at all. I made all of the jacks in here live, so when your fellow prisoners move in, they should be all set.

LAUREL: Thanks. It's nice to meet someone who cares enough about her job to think ahead like that. It usually takes me several days at a company before they figure out how to get whatever computer they dug up for me to socialize with the nearest printer. Don't take this the wrong way, but you look a little young. Are you an intern?

Daria stands, and puts her right hand on her hip.

DARIA: (affecting a haughty attitude) I'll have you know I'm a fully qualified Technical Support Assistant. (she relaxes, and continues in a normal voice) Which means, yeah, I'm an intern, and I've read a book about networks, and spent one day a week playing with them for the last two months. That's hardly a lot of experience. You were just lucky this time, and it was an obvious problem.

LAUREL: Well, maybe, but you seem to know your stuff. Say, do you know if the cafeteria's open yet? I need caffeine. And do you know how late it closes? I tend to work late, and having coffee is important. I lose focus when I run out of energy, and just stare at the screen...

Daria gives up waiting for her to run down, and just speaks over her to answer the question.

DARIA: They're open from eleven to two for food, but the coffee is self-serve and free all day. My office-mates drink it by the gallon, well into the evening. It's pretty bad even fresh, and they say it's high-grade paint remover by late evening, although I'm not here that late, so they could be exaggerating.

LAUREL: Sounds like my kind of fuel. Writing is hard work, and I need all the kick I can get.

Daria sits back down on the desk, looking at Laurel with interest.

DARIA: What kind of writing do you do? I thought this company sold software.

LAUREL: Why don't you walk to the cafeteria with me, and we can talk while I get some coffee. By the time I get back, my printing should have finished.

DARIA: Okay, I don't have any urgent problems to deal with.

Laurel and Daria get up and walk out of the office. The camera pans to reveal a photograph taped to the wall, where it was blocked from view by Laurels computer screen. The photograph shows Laurel standing next to Tiffany. The camera holds on a close-up of the photograph briefly.

Cut to: Daria and Laurel walking up a bare concrete stairway with metal railings. It's a typical interior fire escape stairwell.

LAUREL: Anyway, to answer your question, I'm a tech writer. Right now I'm working on the user manual for the next release of their software. The company brings temps like me in a month or two before they're ready to ship, long after they should have started thinking about a new manual, and we write like crazy. The hours are insane, but I get paid by the hour, so I don't mind. I'm saving to put my daughter through college; extra hours are always welcome.

DARIA: Well, you must have plenty of time to save; you look to be just over thirty. How old is your daughter?

LAUREL: Bless you! But I'm thirty-nine, and she's seventeen. I married young, and wasn't much older when we divorced. It hasn't been easy, putting enough aside for her schooling, but I've done it. By next year, she'll be able to go to a good school. Not a great one, her grades aren't good enough for one of those anyway, but something better than the community college I went to.

DARIA: So, what is technical writing like? I'm a writer, but just of essays and fiction.

Laurel pauses before replying, as the exit through a fire door into a hallway, and begin walking towards the cafeteria at the end of the hall.

LAUREL: Well, I'm not sure I'd recommend it as a career choice. There aren't that many permanent positions available, and as a temp you have to compete with all the people who can't find work in their usual profession, and turn to technical writing because they think it's easy. Some of them are just incompetent, but the people who do the hiring often can't tell the difference between a good writer and a bad one until it's too late. The actual writing is fascinating. I love learning a whole new subject each time. Usually I have to drag information out of the technical staff, because nobody ever writes the details down. Discovering what I'm documenting is as much fun as figuring out how to write it down so someone who's new to the subject can get what they need out of the manual.

DARIA: It sounds like you really enjoy what you're doing. That's the kind of job I'd want, and writing is something I'm good at.

Laurel glances at Daria, with a skeptical look.

LAUREL: But you know computers. You can make a lot more money doing that.

DARIA: Well, I don't really know that much, and I'm not sure that I want to learn more. It's a pretty sterile field, and the only human interaction seems to consist of people yelling at me because I didn't solve their problem fast enough. I'd rather have a job where I did something I enjoy. Money doesn't matter that much.

LAUREL: Oh? What line of work are your parents in?

They enter a self-serve cafeteria, empty except for a counter bearing a coffee maker, and a couple of canned soda vending machines. A larger area to the rear is closed off with a security grating. Laurel heads for the coffee, and pours herself a large cup.

DARIA: My parents? Mom's a lawyer, and Dad's a consultant, mostly because he can't deal with authority, so he's never been able to keep a real job for any length of time.

LAUREL: But both of those are fairly high-paying jobs, aren't they?

DARIA: I suppose, although I'm not sure Dad manages to hold on to his clients long enough to make much off them.

LAUREL: But my point is that you're used to a standard of living based on those jobs. Adapting to something less is harder than you'd think. When my husband left me and I had to work, without much of a marketable skill, it took ages to become comfortable living on a tight budget. Don't underestimate the adjustment you'll have to make if you're on an income where you have to scrimp to afford cable TV, or a new computer when the old one dies.

DARIA: I hadn't thought of it like that. I guess I do take some things for granted.

LAUREL: That's hardly surprising, if you're still a student. You don't really think about money problems until you have to deal with them.

Laurel leans back against the counter, sipping her drink. Daria stands nearby, thinking.

LAUREL: Anyway, I don't mean to frighten you away from writing as a career. If you're good, and a bit lucky, there are real writing jobs out there, and if you've got the right personality, and the economy is doing well, temping is great. But you're probably better off using writing as an adjunct to something else, rather than as an end in itself. That way you have something else to fall back on, and a writer who is also an expert in the subject is more valuable than a writer who's learning as she goes.

DARIA: Yeah. Thanks. You've given me something to think about.

LAUREL: No problem, I enjoy talking, when I have time. Drop by my palatial office some day at lunchtime and we can go eat together and talk some more. I'll be around for the next month or so. Maybe longer, if they have another job after this one.

Laurel refills her now-empty coffee cup. She takes another sip, and makes a disgusted face.

LAUREL: Your friends were right, this is paint remover. If it were any stronger, it would eat through the cup. (smiles) I love it.

DARIA: Just don't blame me when you get an ulcer. I warned you.

LAUREL: I'll be sure to tell my lawyer to go easy on you.

Interior. Classroom - Day.

The room is a typical Lawndale High classroom. Quinn, Stacy and Tiffany sit behind the teacher's desk. Sandi is standing beside the desk, speaking. About a dozen girls, and a couple of boys, sit facing them. Among the students are Brooke, several of the cheerleaders, and a small cluster of girls with decidedly unfashionable clothing, multiple piercings, and tattoos.

SANDI: So, those are the bylaws, any questions?

She waits, but nobody speaks. In fact, nobody even moves. If they weren't all looking at her, they would appear to be asleep. Apparently, it's been a long, dull, meeting.

SANDI: Okay. Next on the agenda: elections. We have four offices: President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. The duties of the Coordinating Officer have been merged into the Vice Presidents office. Anyone who wants to run for office, sign up by Friday's meeting with our Secretary, Stacy. After that, you'll have to be a write-in candidate. Questions?

Robby, one of the pierced girls, dressed all in black, who looks like a younger version of Andrea, with light brown hair, stands up to speak. A few of the other audience members watch the resulting conversation with interest.

ROBBY: (challenging) Yeah, I got one. What's to keep you from stuffing the ballot box and re-electing all your friends?

Sandi appears irked at the question, or perhaps just at the argumentative tone in which it was asked, but replies calmly.

SANDI: Elections will be by paper ballot during our regular meeting, in one week, and we'll have someone from the student council here to supervise the election. Anyone who wants to can check the ballot box before we start, and the ballots will be counted in the meeting. This is a real election. We're not trying to fool anyone.

ROBBY: And what're you going to do if you lose, quit and form another club?

Sandi is clearly holding herself back from a sharper reply, but continues to speak calmly.

SANDI: No, as long as the club continues to be about real fashion, we're going to be a part of it. Now, if there aren't any further questions, we'll move on to the next agenda item.

She pauses briefly, and continues without really leaving time for any other questions. Robby seems about to speak, but sits down instead.

SANDI: Next up is Quinn, to explain our fashion orientation sessions. Quinn?

Sandi sits down, as Quinn steps up beside the desk.

QUINN: Since some of you are new to the world of fashion (she looks at Robby and her friends) we've organized a few sessions to explain the basics: outfits, color coordination, and accessorizing. I'll explain how to accessorize tomorrow, then Friday, Lisa will explain how to pick an outfit, and Monday, Sandi will talk about color coordination. We'll be meeting in this room, after school. I hope you'll all be able to attend.

Quinn sits down, and Sandi steps back up.

SANDI: That's the end of the agenda. Does anyone want to raise any issues for the meeting? (she looks around, but nobody responds) Okay, that's it then. Our next meeting is during study hall on Friday, in this room.

The meeting members stand up, and begin walking out the door. A few come up to talk to the four at the front of the room. Robby and her friends leave with the others.

Interior. Technical Support Room.

There are several desks around the edge of the room, and a large pile of cardboard boxes in the middle. Computers sit on three of the desks, and what appears to be a disassembled computer sits on another desk. A couple of desks are piled with tools, wires, and paper.

Daria is sitting with her feet up on a desk, reading, as her coworkers, Ben and Jerry enter. Ben is about thirty, tall, and overweight, Jerry is about 25, thin, with a narrow face, and about as short as Daria. Both are wearing jeans and t-shirts bearing illegible corporate logos. Both are carrying paper coffee cups with steam rising from them.

BEN: Careful. Work much harder and you'll have a heart attack before you're thirty.

Daria looks up from her book, amused, and closes the book, holding her place with a finger. Her conversation, and that of the other two, is entirely in a serious tone, although it's clear that none of them take it seriously.

DARIA: Well, I could run around like a headless chicken, but then I'd need to take a management position, oh fearless leader.

Jerry chalks a mark on an imaginary scoreboard in the air.

JERRY: Workers, one; Management, zero.

Ben turns to Jerry with mock severity.

BEN: Don't you have something useful to do?

JERRY: Yeah, but I decided to come to work anyway. Why, do you need something to do? I think there's a union rule against that somewhere.

BEN: We're not unionized. If we were unionized they'd have to pay us overtime, and then we could retire young.

DARIA: So instead, you slave away for ten or twelve hours a day on a straight salary. And I used to think you were smart.

BEN: Speaking of work, is there anything happening out there today?

DARIA: The usual crop of self-inflicted injuries. I handled most of it, but I left a couple of calls for you guys. I didn't want to spoil your fun.

JERRY: How can we ever thank you?

BEN: I don't know, but I think it involves surgical instruments.

Ben walks over to a pile of paper, skims it, and hands several pages to Jerry.

BEN: Here, you take these, and I'll handle the others.

JERRY: Got it.

Jerry walks out, still carrying his coffee in one hand. Ben flips through his papers, while Daria looks on. Eventually he looks up at her.

BEN: Come with me. You can tell me about the ones you fixed while I work on these. And there's something I want to talk to you about.

Daria sets her book down, places a bookmark that was on the desk in it, swings her feet to the floor, and stands up.

DARIA: What's up?

The two walk out into the hall, walking side by side once they are through the door. The camera keeps pace, with a medium shot from in front of them, so we see their faces as they talk.

BEN: Your internship is over in a couple of weeks. Looking forward to returning to school full time?

DARIA: I'm not sure "looking forward" is exactly the right phrase.

BEN: (chuckles) Okay, point taken. You've done some good work here. I don't expect much from interns, and that's usually what I get. You've actually been useful on more than simply clerical stuff. That's rare. I've already passed my comments along to your principal, and you should be getting an excellent grade for the internship, although I don't get to set the actual grade.

Daria is clearly embarrassed by his comments, and mumbles something inaudible in reply.

BEN: You don't need to be embarrassed about doing a good job. It's something to be proud of. Anyway, Jerry and I both appreciate the way you've been handling the routine things before we get in. It gives us that much more time to focus on the serious problems. I know you have to go back to school during the day, but would you consider a part-time evening job?

Daria stops walking with a stunned look on her face. Ben stops and turns to face her.

DARIA: A job?

BEN: Yeah. Four or five hours a night, two or three nights a week. You know enough now to be useful on some of the routine maintenance we do in the evenings, and there'll be days when we don't get through all of the problem reports, and you could handle some of those too. I can't promise you great pay, but it beats flipping burgers, and I can pay at least as much as they can. I'd pay more, but HR controls the purse strings, and they're of the opinion that all warm bodies without credentials are identical.

DARIA: I don't know. I like working with you guys, but it is work, and I'm not sure I can afford to lose two or three nights out of my week.

BEN: Well, think it over. Let me know in a couple of weeks what you want to do. Just don't make a decision until you've given it some thought. Deal?

DARIA: Yeah, okay, I'll think about it. But I don't think I'll go for it.

BEN: Just give it some thought, that's all I'm asking.

Interior. Jake's Car - Night.

Jake is driving. Jodie is in the front seat, and Daria sits behind Jake.

JAKE: How was your day, Jodie?

JODIE: Oh, the usual: file this, take notes on that. I could do it in my sleep. I'll be glad when this internship is over; it's pretty dull. Daria has a much more interesting job, and she's really impressed her boss.

Daria is looking at Jodie, shaking her head in negation, trying to get her to shut up, but Jodi is looking forward, and doesn't see her.

JAKE: She did? (over his shoulder, to Daria) That's great, kiddo. How'd you do that?

DARIA: (quiet monotone) It's nothing, Jodie's exaggerating.

JODIE: Hey, being offered a part-time job isn't nothing. They wouldn't have done that if they didn't think you were something special.

Daria gives up, and flops back in her seat.

JAKE: They offered you a job? Jodie's right, you must have really impressed them. When do you start?

DARIA: I'm not sure I want to start. I've got senior year to get through.

JAKE: Oh. Well, I suppose that does take a lot of your time. But a job would mean extra money for college.

DARIA: I thought you said we were all set for college, between the money you and Mom set aside, and Grandma Barksdale, and some student loans?

JAKE: Well, yeah, but it's still going to be tight if you get accepted by one of the more expensive schools. Every dollar helps, even if it's only a little extra for textbooks or spending money.


JAKE: I'm not saying you should take the job if you don't want to, just that it would be a good thing to do. If you wanted to do it, that is.

Daria scowls, unspeaking but plainly indicating that she doesn't want the job. However, Jake can't see her since she's directly behind him.

Interlude (a video montage with music):

Daria meets Laurel.

Sandi presides over the Fashion Club meeting.

Robby questions Sandi.

Ben offers Daria a job.

Commercial Break


Interior. Morgendorffer Kitchen - Breakfast.

Helen and Jake are seated at the breakfast table. Jake is reading a newspaper, and Helen is picking at a grapefruit. Daria enters, collects a bowl and cereal box from the kitchen cabinets, fills the bowl, and takes the milk from the refrigerator.

DARIA: (looking at milk carton) Whole milk? Who bought this?

HELEN: Your father, who else?

Jake looks up briefly from behind the paper.

JAKE: (whining) I don't like that other stuff; it tastes like water.

HELEN: But it's much healthier for you than whole milk, dear.

DARIA: Yeah. Isn't one heart attack enough?

She pours some milk over her cereal, and returns the carton to the refrigerator. Jake ducks back behind the paper.

JAKE: You're ganging up on me!

DARIA: Well, what do you expect? We prefer you alive. If we wanted to kill you off, we'd leave skateboards at the top of the stairs in the morning.

Helen glances at Daria with a frown, not exactly approving of this approach.

HELEN: Honey, we care about you, that's why we want you to watch what you eat.

Daria walks over to the table with her cereal, and sits down.

DARIA: Speak for yourself. I just like picking on him.

HELEN: (mildly exasperated) Daria! That's no way to talk about your father!

Jake sets the paper down, and looks at Daria.

JAKE: So, have you told your mother about the job offer?

HELEN: Job offer?

Daria looks up at Jake.

DARIA: Touche. (turning to her mother) It's nothing, Mom, the folks at my internship have an opening for an evening job, and offered it to me, but I turned them down.

HELEN: Why? You like working there, and you can certainly use the money for college.

Jake retreats behind his paper.

DARIA: I won't get to college if I don't finish senior year, and I need my evenings for schoolwork.

HELEN: You spend most of your evenings reading and watching television.

DARIA: Right, and if it comes to a choice between that and schoolwork, I know which loses. Besides, I won't get to see Jane once we leave for college, so I want to spend time with her while I still can. I won't be able to do that if I'm working.

HELEN: Daria, I'm not going to force you to take the job if you don't want it, but you really ought to give it more thought before you turn it down. Aside from the money, it's good experience, and it will look very good on your college applications to continue it after the internship.

Daria finishes her cereal, and carries the bowl to the sink.

DARIA: I'll think about it, Mom, but I'm fairly sure of my decision.

She picks up her pack, and walks out of the kitchen. We can hear the front door open and close.

HELEN: (to Jake) So, when were you going to tell me about this?

Jake puts down the paper.

JAKE: She's old enough to make her own decisions, Helen. If she really doesn't want to do it, there's no point in us pressuring her.

HELEN: (defensive) I am not pressuring her! I said it was her choice, didn't I?

JAKE: Yes, and so did I when I pointed out the money aspect to her yesterday. It's still pressure. But I was hoping she'd tell you on her own. She does listen to you, even if it doesn't seem that way.

HELEN: I know. I suppose I was just like her as a teen; I'd never admit what I was thinking to my parents. Somehow, I thought it would be different with our girls. We've avoided the mistakes our parents made, but they still treat us as if we couldn't understand them if they talked to us about their lives.

JAKE: She did come to you when she had that problem with Jane and Tom. Would you have talked to your mother about something like that?

HELEN: God, no. She'd just have used it as an excuse to tell me to act more like Rita.

JAKE: So, the two of you already have a closer relationship than you and your mother. Don't push. She's going to have to start making her own decisions soon enough. It's best if she gets used to it while we're still in a position to watch. She's heard both of us, and she'll make the decision that's right for her.

Helen reaches over, and takes his hand.

HELEN: I hope so, Jake. I really hope so.

Interior. Classroom - Day.

Quinn is standing at the front of the classroom. Most of the students who were at the Fashion Club meeting are present, except for Sandi, Stacy, and Tiffany.

QUINN: So, an accessory is anything that works with your outfit; a purse, a belt, or a pair of earrings, for example.

ROBBY: Why a pair of earrings? Why not one, or three?

A look of annoyance crosses Quinn's face.

QUINN: Because fashionable earrings come in pairs.

ROBBY: Lots of people wear them in other numbers.

Quinn's answer is abrupt. Not angry, but she speaks as if she were explaining the obvious to someone who ought to know better than to ask.

QUINN: That's a fad. Just because lots of people do it, doesn't make it fashionable.

ROBBY: So, a fad is something people do because it's popular, and fashion is something popular people do? What's the difference?

Quinn adopts a calm, instructor's voice.

QUINN: Real fashion is based on principles like balance, and complementary colors. It's like art. A fad is just something that catches on for a while because it's different, and then disappears when people get used to it.

ROBBY: But the rules change. Pants weren't fashionable for women a hundred years ago, now they are, and bow ties used to be fashionable for men, and now they're just silly. How do you know which principles matter?

Various students nod as Robby speaks. It appears that she's asked a question many of them share.

QUINN: We know because experts like the Waif magazine editors keep track of what's fashionable, and explain why, and then we can use those explanations to guide what we choose.

ROBBY: So, we should follow rules set by people who figure out the rules by watching what people like us do?

QUINN: Right.

ROBBY: But isn't that kind of circular reasoning? You can't prove something's true by assuming it's true to begin with.

QUINN: (emotional) This isn't math! This is art!

Interior. Junior Five - Night.

Tiffany is working, straightening clothing on racks. Stacy enters, shopping, but doesn't see Tiffany, although she can hear her working on the opposite side of the rack she's examining. Stacy pulls out a top, and looks at it, then she looks around for someone to help her.

STACY: (speaking over the top of the clothing rack in front of her) Excuse me, do you work here?

Tiffany stands up and looks back at Stacy.

STACY: Eep! Tiffany, I didn't realize it was you. Have you seen Theresa? There doesn't seem to be anybody in this department.

TIFFANY: Actually, I'm running the department tonight. Theresa has the night off. Did you want to try that on?

STACY: (excited) They're letting you run the department? That's so cool!

TIFFANY: (amused) Yes. That's a nice top, but I saw one you might like even better over on the sale rack.

Tiffany points to another rack of clothes. Stacy turns to look.

STACY: But aren't those old fashions? I don't want to wear something that's gone out of style.

TIFFANY: It's just stuff that hasn't sold in a while, maybe because it wasn't stylish, or maybe because it just wasn't right for anyone. There's a blue one that would probably look good on you. Take a look and see what you think.

Stacy runs over, and begins sorting through the clothing. Tiffany finishes what she was doing, and walks over to join her. Meanwhile, Stacy has pulled out a blue top that looks exactly like the one she's wearing, and is holding it up in front of her.

STACY: This is great! And it's sixty percent off, wow! Can I try it on too?

TIFFANY: Of course, I'll unlock the dressing room for you.

They walk over to a corner where there's a dressing room door, and Tiffany takes a key from her pocket and opens the door. Stacy walks in with the two tops she's found, and emerges a short time later wearing the first one.

STACY: What do you think?

TIFFANY: I like it. I didn't think it would work when you found it, but it does. You have a good eye.

STACY: Thanks. So, have any of the others stopped by to visit you at work?

TIFFANY: Well, a few girls from school have seen me, but you're the first of my friends to come by. I only started this week, you know.

Stacy walks back into the dressing room and closes the door.

STACY: (off screen) Why are you working here, anyway? I was wondering, but I didn't want to ask in front of the others.

TIFFANY: Well, Theresa said they needed people for Christmas season, and my Mom's been working really hard to save money so I can go to college, so I thought I should earn some too. Maybe she won't have to work so much overtime if I can save enough. Also, she's been bugging me because I spend so much time on clothes and makeup. This should show her that I can make money from it, so maybe she won't get on my case as much.

Stacy walks out, now wearing the new blue top (we can tell by the tag on the sleeve), which is otherwise indistinguishable from her usual blue top.

STACY: How does this look?

TIFFANY: That's nice too, but if you were only getting one, I'd go with the other one, it's something different, and this is closer to what you usually wear.

STACY: Yeah, I think you're right, but with this one on sale, I can afford both. If I was only going to get one, I'd get the other one. Was your mother happy?

Tiffany seems confused by the question.

TIFFANY: About what?

STACY: About you getting a job.

TIFFANY: Oh. I haven't had a chance to tell her yet. She's been working really long hours this month.

STACY: But didn't you need her permission? You're not eighteen yet.

TIFFANY: Well, I lied about my age. They wouldn't let me work alone unless I was eighteen, so I wouldn't have been able to get as many hours. Don't tell anyone.

STACY: Jeeze, you could get in big trouble. What if she finds out and gets upset?

TIFFANY: Nah, she's not like that. She's trusted me to take care of myself when she was working for years, she won't mind this.

Stacy goes back into the dressing room.

STACY: (off screen) Well, okay. My Mom would freak if I did something like that.

Stacy comes back out in her usual attire (no tag) holding the two items.

STACY: (mischievous) Well, miss, I think I'll take these two items, can you wrap them?

TIFFANY: (grinning) Of course, Madam, will that be cash or charge?

STACY: (giggling) Put it on my Mom's store credit card, I think you know her name.

TIFFANY: (still grinning) Of course, Madam.

Interior. Pizza Place - Evening.

Jane and Daria are sitting in a booth, with the remnants of a pizza between them.

DARIA: She's so predictable; I could replace her with a tape recorder. Job offer: "gee, Daria, that would look good on your college applications."

JANE: Your mother never said "gee" in her life.

DARIA: Probably true, but irrelevant. What matters is her knee-jerk reaction to any opportunity for my self-promotion. Hasn't she figured out yet that I'm not the self-promoting type?

JANE: Yes. That's why she feels it necessary to push you. She knows you won't push yourself.

Daria cocks an eyebrow at Jane in a questioning gesture.

DARIA: Do you think I should be taking this job too?

JANE: You're not going to draw me into this. I don't have an opinion on the job. Take it if you want to, or don't. But don't ignore an opportunity just to spite your parents.

DARIA: No... That's not it. I'll admit the job is tempting, but I really don't have the time for it. I want to enjoy my last year of high school, not waste it in a corporate maze. That comes after college, not before.

JANE: Listen to yourself: "enjoy" high school? Do you remember where you go to school?

DARIA: Oh God, kill me now. I did say that, didn't I?

JANE: Yep. And I would, but I'm eating, and the blood would ruin my appetite.

Jane takes a slice of pizza, and bites into it, chewing with gusto.

JANE: (somewhat mumbled, around the food) Hmm. Good pizza.

She swallows and, still holding the pizza, looks at Daria.

JANE: I don't know what your problem is. So your parents want you to think about the job. They're not forcing you to take it, are they?

Daria, her mouth full of pizza, shakes her head: no.

JANE: Hell, I'd be happy if my parents paid that much attention to me. Benign neglect is fine, up to a point, but it would be nice if they cared what I did. Be thankful yours do.

Jane goes back to eating her pizza. The two eat in silence for a while before Daria replies.

DARIA: Well, I am glad they care. I just don't like the way they tell me to think for myself, and then question every decision I make.

JANE: Maybe they only question the wrong ones.

DARIA: Thanks. Your support is duly noted.

JANE: Hey, it's what friends are for, or so I'm told.

DARIA: So, friend, do you think I should take the job?

JANE: As I said, I don't have an opinion. But if you like the work, and the pay is good, why wouldn't you take it?

DARIA: Because I don't have the time for it.

JANE: Bull. Ten or fifteen hours a week? You spend more than that reading my father's back issues of national geographic while I paint.

DARIA: Right, and I don't want to give up my social life for work.

JANE: You don't have a social life.

Daria appears to have been stung by that comment.

DARIA: (defensive) What about eating pizza with you, or movie night with you and Jodie?

JANE: We can still fit in movie night, and both our waistlines would benefit from less pizza.

She picks up another slice and begins to eat.

DARIA: Right. I can see how concerned you are about that.

JANE: Look, if you didn't want my opinion, why did you ask?

DARIA: Because I wanted you to tell me I was right.

JANE: Are we back to that supportive thing again?

DARIA: Okay, okay, I give up.

JANE: So, you're going to take the job?

DARIA: No, I'm going to stop asking you for advice. (grins briefly)

JANE: Works for me.

Interior. Junior Five.

Tiffany is working in the clothing department, returning clothing from the dressing room to the racks. Theresa can be seen in the background, working at the counter. A young girl walks up to her, as she speaks we see her face: it's Robby, carrying a gray blouse on a hanger.

ROBBY: Excuse me; can I try this on?

Tiffany turns to face her, and Robby gives a start of recognition.


Robby steps into the dressing room, while Tiffany returns to racking clothing. A short time later Robby emerges, wearing the blouse, and looks at herself in the mirror. Tiffany walks over to her.

TIFFANY: That looks good. It complements your skin tone better than pure black.

Robby seems surprised.

ROBBY: How about the earrings?

Tiffany looks in the mirror briefly.

TIFFANY: Hmm. You should really wear gold. Your skin's too pale for silver.

Robby turns to face her.

ROBBY: You don't think three earrings in one ear are unfashionable?

TIFFANY: It's not what I'd wear, but I'm more traditional than you are. Three is fine, if you're going for a less conservative look. What matters is that your accessories reinforce the look you want.

ROBBY: Uh, yeah. But that's not what Quinn was saying the other day.

TIFFANY: Quinn's even more conventional than I am. They look fine on you. They'd look silly on Quinn.

ROBBY: (smiles briefly) Yeah, they would. Thanks. I'll take the blouse. And then I'm going to go find some gold earrings.

Interior. Classroom - Day.

This is the same classroom as the previous Fashion Club meeting, and the original four members are once again behind the desk, with Sandi standing and talking. The same students are seated at the desks as before.

SANDI: So, we have four candidates for President, two for Secretary, and three for Treasurer. Unfortunately, nobody (she looks pointedly at Quinn) is interested in running for Vice President.

Stacy looks up from the notes she's taking.

STACY: Um, so do we extend the nomination period?

SANDI: No. I talked it over with Jodie, and she suggested that whoever got the second largest number of votes for President could be the Vice President. (she looks pointedly at Quinn, again).

QUINN: And I'm sure you'll make a good VP, Sandi.

ROBBY: What about write-in candidates?

SANDI: Well, since nobody is running for Vice President, it's not going to be on the ballot for a write-in, but you can still write in for the other positions. I'm surprised you're not running for office, you seem to have a lot of ideas on how we should run things.

Robby looks around the room, where more conventional students are clearly in the majority.

ROBBY: Yeah, well I don't claim to know enough about fashion to run the club. I just have some ideas about how not to run it.

SANDI: Okay, but you could always run for Treasurer, or Secretary. (Stacy glances up) If you decide you want to be on the ballot, just let Stacy know by the end of the meeting.

ROBBY: No thanks. Politics isn't for me.

SANDI: Very well, next on the agenda, Tiffany has an announcement. Tiffany?

Tiffany stands up to speak, and Sandi sits back down while she's talking.

TIFFANY: I just wanted to let everyone know that Cashmans is having a fashion show at the mall tomorrow to display their new winter line, and they need teen models. If anyone's interested, you can signup at the Junior Five counter tonight. Participants get a coupon good for ten percent off of one day's shopping. I'll be there, and I hope some of you will too. It's good experience if you're thinking about modeling, and ten percent off your Christmas shopping isn't too bad a deal either.

Tiffany sits back down, and Sandi rises, but she holds off speaking as there's a buzz of conversation in the room after Tiffany's announcement. After a while, she bangs on the desktop with her knuckles to get everyone's attention.

SANDI: Okay everyone, if you're interested, go and sign up. In the meantime, we need to get back to our meeting.

Interior. Mall Food Court - Day.

Daria and Laurel are sitting at a table off to one side of the food court, eating. Laurel has a salad, and Daria a hamburger. Laurel is wearing the same outfit as when we first saw here, complete with rumpled coat.

LAUREL: Thanks for inviting me to lunch. It's good to get out of the building sometimes when the sun is out, even if it's just to go to a mall where you can't see it anyway. Oh, that smells so good. I hate my diet. How did you get them to cook it rare? Nobody does that anymore; they're all afraid of being sued. Aren't you worried about bacteria?

She finally pauses to eat a bit of salad.

DARIA: You're welcome, and to answer your questions in order: the chef's one of my sister's boyfriends, and I told him I'd put in a good word for him if he cooked it my way, and no, I'm not worried about bacteria. I ate rare hamburgers for years without getting sick, and statistically I'm no more at risk now than I was then, which is not very.

LAUREL: I do tend to talk on, don't I? I guess I'm just used to talking for two. My daughter doesn't talk much. That was nice of the chef. Are you actually going to put in a good word for him with your sister?

DARIA: Probably not. But it won't matter, she thinks all boys are valued on the type of car they drive and their desirability to her peers. She doesn't actually care if they're thoughtful or not, as long as they appear to be in front of her friends.

LAUREL: That's horrible. But my daughter's the same way. Her current flame is better than most of her boys, but he's still fairly empty-headed.

DARIA: How many seventeen-year-old males have you met who weren't?

Laurel laughs, a quick, sharp, bark, while Daria smiles briefly.

LAUREL: True enough. But there are some. I just don't want her to marry someone as shallow as her father. You've heard of men leaving their wives to marry their secretaries, right?

Daria nods.

LAUREL: Well, usually they wait until they have middle-age as an excuse. Mine left me after two years. He was twenty-four. His secretary was younger than me, by about a year.

Daria, her mouth full of hamburger, makes a commiserating noise.

LAUREL: I console myself with the thought that it's better that he left then, than taking off after I'd had a chance to get used to him. Except for the effort of raising Tiffany on my own, I'm not sorry to see him go.

DARIA: (surprised) Tiffany! She's your daughter?

LAUREL: Yes. Didn't I mention her name before? Do you know her?

DARIA: No, you didn't, and no, I don't really know her. She's one of my sister's friends.

Laurel pauses briefly for thought.

LAUREL: Oh! You're that Daria. Quinn's sister. Funny, from her description of you, I always pictured you as some kind of rebel in a leather jacket or with a pierced nose or something.

DARIA: (incredulous) Quinn said I had a pierced nose?

LAUREL: No. She said you didn't care about your appearance, and that you always had to be different from everyone else. But you don't really look any different from most people.

DARIA: Ah, but I don't wear makeup, obsess about how my handbag clashes with my shoes, or change my dress three times a day. I don't even own a handbag, shoes, or a dress. By the Fashion Club's standards, that makes me a rebel, or possibly an alien.

LAUREL: Yes, I think that describes my relationship with my daughter, too. One of us is an alien, but we disagree on which one. She lives for boys and clothing, and I was a bit of a nerd in high school, and haven't really changed. I'll never understand her obsession with her appearance, and she'll never understand why I'm so concerned about money and school.

DARIA: Yeah, my Mom and I sometimes seem like that. She's a workaholic lawyer, and work is something I can't get excited about. That's why I wanted to talk to you. The network group at the office park has offered me a part-time job when my internship is over. I can't decide if I should take it or not. Mom and Dad think I should, but their reasons seem to have more to do with money than anything else.

LAUREL: Well, that is why most of us work. Welcome to the rat-race. (smiles) Is the reason they are concerned about money school, or about you being self-sufficient?

DARIA: Hmm. I'd thought it was about school, but it could be... They have been leaving more decisions up to me lately. Maybe they're trying to get me ready to leave home for school in the fall. I hadn't thought of it that way.

LAUREL: Well, put yourself in their shoes. Speaking as a mother, I worry about how my daughter will cope when I'm not there. Her values seem so different from mine, and she doesn't appear to have any direction in her life. I don't know how she'll react to unexpected circumstances. I'm afraid she won't be able to deal with problems. Your parents may have the same fears.

DARIA: Yeah, and if I know them, it's compounded with guilt that they may not have spent enough time being parents. Although, to be fair, I think they did a decent job of it, on the whole.

LAUREL: Yeah, I know that guilt, too. I have so many jobs with heavy overtime, I rarely see Tiffany after school, and we don't get in much talk over breakfast. Her obsession with her appearance started years ago, and now I wonder if I had spent more time with her, could I have somehow changed that? I wish I could spend more time with her now, but I really need the hours at work.

DARIA: What about weekends?

LAUREL: Well, she's usually busy with her friends. I don't want to be the heavy, telling her she has to spend time with me when she wants to do something else.

DARIA: I don't know. It seems to me you should set aside time to be with her when you can. It's not like you'd be telling her she can't spend any time with her friends. If you don't understand what she wants from life, if the two of you keep thinking of each other as aliens, how are you ever going to be able to trust her when she goes away to school?

LAUREL: That's true. (stares off into the distance with an abstracted look for a while) Yes, you're right, I need to spend more time with her. Now I just need to convince her of that. So, what about you? What are you going to do about the job?

DARIA: Well, if this is my parents trying to get me to try my wings, they're probably going to be upset if I say no, even if they claim it's my decision. But I really don't want to lose time I could spend with Jane.

LAUREL: Well, just to throw another monkey wrench into the gears, consider this: a job is a way to meet people you wouldn't ordinarily meet. If you want to write fiction, the more different people you know, the more material you'll have. Hanging out with your friend is satisfying, but there are other kinds of satisfaction.

DARIA: Damn. You make a convincing argument.

LAUREL: So, are you going to take the job?

DARIA: I need to think some more, but it's not as clear-cut as it was before.

LAUREL: (chuckles) Sorry, it's the mother thing, we can't help making simple decisions complex. Now that I've thoroughly derailed you, I should be getting back to work. Shouldn't you be in school now, anyway?

DARIA: Yep. I can ditch lunch with impunity, but I'm going to catch hell for being late for economics. That is, if the teacher has noticed I'm missing. She can be single-minded in her pursuit of scholasticism, to the point where she forgets there is anyone else in the room.

LAUREL: I'll give you a ride.

DARIA: Thanks. As long as you drop me by the woods out back of the school, I can get in without anyone noticing.

The two rise, and walk away.

Interior. Quinn's Room - Night.

Quinn and Sandi are sitting cross-legged on the floor, looking at piles of Waif magazines.

SANDI: This Robby is really starting to get to me. If she doesn't want to be fashionable, why is she even in the damn club?

QUINN: I think she wants to be popular, without giving up her idea of fashion.

SANDI: Well, that's fine. If she wants to dress like someone in a vampire movie, that's her business. What bugs me is her assuming that we're some kind of control freaks, who want to rule the club at all costs.

QUINN: But Sandi, we are trying to rule the club.

SANDI: But we're not going to cheat to do it. Damn her, I'm going to win because I'm the best. (looks at Quinn) Or you are, whichever. But we don't need to cheat to beat out someone whose idea of color coordination involves different shades of gray.

QUINN: We don't need to beat her; she isn't running for office anyway...

The phone rings, cutting off Quinn. Quinn stands up to answer the phone.

QUINN: Hello, Stacy?

Split screen: Medium shots of Quinn on the left and Laurel in her kitchen on the right.

LAUREL: No, Quinn, this is Laurel, can I speak to Tiffany?

QUINN: Oh, hi Mrs. Blum-Deckler. She's not here. Did you try Stacy's?

Laurel looks worried.

LAUREL: Stacy's studying; her mother thought Tiffany might be with you. Thanks.

Laurel hangs up, and the screen returns to Quinn.

SANDI: Isn't Tiffany working tonight?

QUINN: I thought so, but her mother wouldn't be calling us if she was, would she?

SANDI: I guess. Maybe she's out with Jamie.

QUINN: Yeah. Anyway, I don't think there's anything we can do about Robby. There's nothing in the bylaws that would let us throw her out for being unfashionable. And, even if there were, the others would probably see it as us trying to keep control. We're better off just letting her vent. She'll get tired of it eventually if we don't respond, especially once she sees we really are being fair.

SANDI: Maybe, but if the little brat comes that close to calling me a liar again, I swear I'll pound some sense into her.

Quinn looks worriedly at Sandi.

QUINN: Um, you are kidding, right?

SANDI: Yeah. If I thought violence solved anything, I'd have killed you long ago. (smiles)

QUINN: (nervous smile) Uh, yeah.

Interior. Blum-Deckler Living Room - Night.

Laurel is sitting on a couch, typing on a laptop balanced on her knees. She wears an intent, irritated expression, and her typing comes in quick, machine-gun bursts punctuated by pauses while she scowls at the screen. A cordless phone sits on the couch next to her. In one of her pauses, the door opens, and Tiffany enters, looking tired. She's wearing a jacket over her usual clothing.

TIFFANY: (surprised) Mom! You're home early.

LAUREL: (irritated) Early? Young lady, it's nearly ten, where have you been?

TIFFANY: (tired) Out. Why?

Laurel sets the laptop aside, roughly, and stands up, walking over to Tiffany. She is clearly angry. She talks rapidly and emphatically; not yelling, but forceful, on the verge of yelling.

LAUREL: Why? I'll tell you why! I came home three hours ago so we could spend some time together, and you're nowhere to be found! I called all of your friend's houses, and you weren't there! I even called that good-for-nothing boyfriend of yours, but his mother said he was out partying with the other football players! Were you with him? I've been worried sick!

TIFFANY: If you wanted to spend time with me, why didn't you mention it at breakfast?

LAUREL: That's no excuse! I asked you a question, were you with that good-for-nothing idiot?

TIFFANY: His name's Jamie! And no, I wasn't with him, although I don't see what the problem would be if I was. You've never cared how I spend my evenings, as long as I get my homework done and get to bed by eleven.

LAUREL: I don't give a damn what his name is, he's an empty-headed loser, just like your father was! And how are you planning to do your homework in the next hour?

Tiffany has finally become angry herself, although she's still clearly tired, and her outbursts lack Laurel's energy.

TIFFANY: It's Friday Mom, I'll do it over the weekend, and who I date is none of your damned business! Now, if you don't mind, I'd really like to go to bed before I fall asleep standing here. Goodnight.

Tiffany turns to leave, taking the jacket off and hanging it on a coat-rack by the door. Laurel continues talking to her back, still angry but not quite as close to yelling.

LAUREL: Oh, no you don't. I want to know where you were tonight, and what you've been doing that has you so exhausted. Are you doing drugs?

Tiffany turns around to face her, with her Cashmans nametag clearly visible on her chest.

TIFFANY: God, Mom, no, I'm not on drugs, unless it's the same drug you've been doing all my life. I was at work, okay? And after six hours on my feet, running the department single-handedly, I'm ready to drop, so if you're done with the third degree, I'm going to bed now, okay?

Laurel stops talking, with a shocked and breathless expression, as if she'd been punched in the gut. Tiffany looks at her with a concerned expression.

TIFFANY: Mom? You okay?

Laurel sits down, hard, on the arm of an easy chair, still looking incredulously at Tiffany.

LAUREL: Work? You have a job? When did you get a job? When were you going to tell me you had a job? Why do you have a job? Where are you working? What are you doing?

Tiffany leans against the wall, tired, but apparently having decided she's not going to get away from her mother any time soon.

TIFFANY: I'm working at Cashmans for the Christmas rush. I'm a clerk in the Junior Five department. I'm doing it to make money for college, so you won't have to work as hard. I just started Monday. And I was going to tell you when I had a chance, but you've been talking non-stop about the user manual you're working on all week, so I never had a chance, okay?

LAUREL: Oh. I'm sorry dear. I have been rather excited about work lately, haven't I? But you should have said something anyway. You know I'll talk for hours if you don't.

TIFFANY: Yeah, well, I kind of wanted to surprise you with my first paycheck.

LAUREL: Oh, you've surprised me all right. (chuckles weakly)

TIFFANY: Mom, you're not mad I got a job, are you?

LAUREL: I'm extremely upset that you didn't tell me where you were going to be at night, but I'm not mad that you have a job. I'm proud of you, dear. That's quite a step to take. And it's good to see you putting your knowledge about clothing to good use.

Tiffany appears taken aback by Laurel's approval, although she's still leaning on the wall and doesn't react much.

TIFFANY: You don't think I should be doing something more serious?

LAUREL: Tiffany, you know I think you spend too much time on superficial things like clothing, but if that's really what excites you, well, I can't complain too much. I'd rather see you in a job where you have to use some skill, even if it is about clothing, than in a menial job flipping burgers at the food court, and there aren't that many skilled jobs for high school students, anyway.

TIFFANY: Flipping burgers actually pays better, but I couldn't handle the thought of all of that grease. Thanks. So, am I like grounded or anything?

Laurel walks over and hugs Tiffany.

LAUREL: Dear, do you have any free time you're not spending at work or school? I'm not sure grounding you would mean anything right now.

TIFFANY: Well, not much, no, but I have weekends off, usually.

LAUREL: I'm not going to ground you, anyway. I don't think you'll forget to tell me where you are in the future, will you?

Laurel releases Tiffany from the hug, and smiles at her. Tiffany smiles back, tentatively.

TIFFANY: No, I don't think so.

LAUREL: Fine, then, let's forget this evening ever happened. I do want to spend some time with you. How about tomorrow?

TIFFANY: Um, don't you work on Saturday?

LAUREL: I can afford to take one day off, especially if you're earning money for school now.

TIFFANY: Yeah, well, I have to work this Saturday. The store is putting on a winter fashion show in the mall.

LAUREL: Can't you get out of it? You've been working all week.

TIFFANY: Um, not really. I volunteered to run it.

LAUREL: (surprised, and approving) You did?

TIFFANY: Yeah. It's extra hours, and I can get the kids from the Fashion Club to help in exchange for discount coupons, so the store saves money they would have spent on professional models. The manager's really happy about that. He said it's cheap advertising if your customers are giving the show themselves.

LAUREL: As long as they're doing it voluntarily. I wouldn't want you forcing them to do it as part of your club.

TIFFANY: No, they're all volunteers. Only about half the club signed up, but we've got nearly twenty people in the club now, so that's plenty of models. Um, I really need to go to sleep, Mom. I'm dead on my feet.

LAUREL: Okay, dear, we'll figure out some way to spend some time together later. Good night.

Tiffany turns, and walks slowly up the stairs. In the distance we hear a door close, and water running in a sink.

LAUREL: (to herself) Well, I'll be damned.

Interlude II (a video montage with music):

Helen talking to Daria at the breakfast table.

Quinn and Robby arguing.

Daria and Jane eating Pizza.

Tiffany and Robby talking at Junior Five.

Commercial Break


Interior. Mall Courtyard - Day.

A stage has been set up in one of the side corridors of the mall, with overhead lights on a metal rail, and curtains on the side and rear. In front, several rows of folding chairs face the stage, which is raised about two feet above the floor. A scattering of people, mostly students from Lawndale high we've seen in the background, sit in the audience.

Tiffany is off to one side of the stage, struggling with some kind of electronic console as her mother walks up.

LAUREL: How's the show going, dear?

Tiffany starts, and turns to her mother.

TIFFANY: Mom! What are you doing here? I thought you were going to work today.

LAUREL: I did. But I left early to come watch your fashion show. Aren't you supposed to have started by now?

TIFFANY: Yeah, but the technician called in sick, and I can't figure out how to make the spotlight work. It's supposed to be able to follow people as they walk onstage, but I can't figure out how.

LAUREL: Let me see, I used to be a theatre nerd in high school. This equipment's different from what I used, but there's only so many things it needs to do, so I ought to be able to figure it out.

Tiffany steps to one side, and Laurel begins to flip switches, turning lights on and off above the stage.

TIFFANY: Great, see what you can do. I'm going to start the show, if the lights don't work, we'll just have to live with it.

LAUREL: Good plan.

Tiffany walks up onto the stage, and starts to talk. After a few words, her voice gets louder, as Laurel turns a knob on her panel and the PA system starts to work.

TIFFANY: (quiet) Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Cashmans winter fashion spectacular, (voice gets louder) up first, we have Lisa, modeling an outfit for the ski season.

Tiffany walks off stage, as Lisa walks on in darkness. As Lisa approaches the front of the stage, the spotlight comes one, and pans over to light where she's standing. Tiffany walks over to stand next to her mother, who is working the lighting board with intense concentration.

TIFFANY: (to Laurel) You got it! Thanks, Mom.

LAUREL: Hey, no problem. This is fun. I wish we'd had one of these when I was in school.

TIFFANY: I'm glad you came, and not just because of the lights.

Laurel glances over at her daughter with an affectionate smile, then quickly returns her attention to the controls.

LAUREL: Thanks, Tiffany, I'm glad too.

Interior. Morgendorffer Kitchen - Morning.

Daria is at the table, eating cereal, when Helen walks in. She pulls a half of a grapefruit from the refrigerator and brings it to the table.

HELEN: Good morning, sweetie.

DARIA: (muffled through a mouthful of cereal) 'mrning Mm.

HELEN: What?

Daria swallows.

DARIA: I said, 'Good morning, Mom', haven't you learned to interpret cereal English yet?

HELEN: No. I persist in the hope that someday my daughters will learn to swallow their food before they start talking.

DARIA: Hah! I thought lawyers were supposed to understand human nature.

Helen looks at Daria with a tolerant smile.

HELEN: It's a mother's prerogative to hope, even when she knows better. Speaking of which, have you decided what you're going to do about your job offer yet?

DARIA: Nope.

Daria takes a bite of cereal, and chews it, glancing over at her mother. Helen sighs, but doesn't rise to the bait. Daria finishes chewing, and swallows the cereal.

DARIA: Mom, what's your real reason for wanting me to take this job?

HELEN: (defensive) I didn't say I wanted you to take it. It's your decision.

DARIA: (addressing an invisible personage above the table) Objection, your honor! Defense is evading the question.

HELEN: Oh, very well. I told you my reason: it would be good to have some extra money, and it will help your college applications.

DARIA: Mom, would you try something that thin on a jury? If I worked from now until summer, and saved every penny, I might have a couple of thousand dollars. That's not chicken feed, but it's hardly going to make a big difference compared to the cost of the schools we've been talking about. And, as for my applications, I already have the experience from the internship; this job doesn't really change anything.

HELEN: Two thousand dollars would be enough to get you a used car for school, or do you want to spend the entire semester without seeing us?

Daria looks at her mother with a speculative glint in her eye.

HELEN: Spare me the cheap shot, that's a serious question.

DARIA: Oh, all right, take away all my fun. Yeah, it would be nice to be able to come visit. I need someone to do my laundry, after all. But are those your only reasons?

HELEN: Well, no, I also think it's important for you to get out and meet other people, and the internship has been good for that, from what you've said.

DARIA: Yes, although that will be less true of a night job. (sighs) There is something to what you say. (Helen looks up from her grapefruit with surprise) I want to be a writer, and a writer needs to understand people. I can't do that without meeting them, however much I might want to.

Helen looks at Daria, her grapefruit forgotten, blinking in surprise.

DARIA: Hello? Earth to Mom, are you there?

HELEN: Daria, I'm... I'm...

DARIA: Stunned? Catatonic? Pining for the fjords?

HELEN: Surprised.

DARIA: (embarrassed) Yeah, well, don't tell anyone. I don't want to ruin a perfectly good reputation as a sociopath.

HELEN: You have too much of a conscience to be a sociopath.

DARIA: Damn conscience. (looks at Helen accusingly) It's all your fault.

HELEN: (amused) Well, your father shares the blame, but I'll plead guilty with pleasure.

DARIA: Bet that doesn't happen too often.

HELEN: (smiling) I think this is a first. So, are you going to take the job?

DARIA: I'm still thinking, but your position is making headway.

HELEN: Then I can go to work with my conscience clear.

DARIA: I thought lawyers were required to leave those at home in the morning?

HELEN: (amused) I should know you'd find a way to get in the last word.

DARIA: (smiling) You should, yes.

Interior. School Cafeteria - Lunchtime.

Robby is sitting at a table with several other girls from the Fashion Club meeting. None of the original four FC members is present.

ROBBY: So Tiffany says to me that my earrings are fine, but I should wear gold ones instead of silver because of my skin tone.

GIRL1: But Quinn said we needed to balance them.

GIRL2: Yeah, like art.

ROBBY: Well, what I remember from Art class is that different people have different ideas of what makes good art, and one group's rules aren't always obeyed by another group of artists. Tiffany said that Quinn was conservative, but that didn't mean that you had to be conservative to be fashionable.

GIRL2: I suppose. I saw Tiffany at the store the other day, and she certainly knows what she's talking about.

ROBBY: Right. That's why I'm going to write her in for President when we have the election. We need someone in charge who doesn't think that their way is the only way. Even if we only get enough votes to make her Vice President, that will help bring some sense to the club. So, can I count on you to write her in too?

The group nods in agreement, talking quietly to each other.

Interior. Technical Support Room.

Daria is sitting with her feet up, reading (the title is Candide), as Ben and Jerry walk in.

JERRY: (to Ben, in a childish voice) She's doing it again, Daddy, make her stop.

BEN: (to Jerry, in a paternal tone) Now son, if your sister wants to fill her head with all these strange notions, that's her business.

DARIA: (mock annoyed) And just what is so strange about Voltaire? I suppose you think I should be reading Star Trek novels?

BEN: Heaven forbid! That's so last century. Star Wars novels are the in thing now.

DARIA: Oh, there's a difference?

JERRY: (to Ben) Can we stone the infidel now, huh?

BEN: (to Jerry) Now, now, she's free to have her own opinions, even when they're wrong.

DARIA: That's what I like about you two: you're so open-minded. I guess that's why I decided to take the job.

JERRY: (emotionless) Cool.

BEN: (approving) Yeah, what he said, only with feeling. Glad to have you back aboard. What made you change your mind?

DARIA: The sudden realization that I needed to meet more people.

BEN: And that has exactly what to do with crawling around empty offices in the middle of the night trying to find broken wires?

DARIA: I'm still not too clear on that part. It made sense yesterday.

JERRY: I want some of what she's having.

BEN: (to Jerry) No, you're confused enough already.

DARIA: So, to celebrate, I finished off all the trouble calls. Who's up for a game of Quake?

JERRY: (with emotion) Cool!

BEN: Ah, you are wise in the mysteries of life, young one. It will be a shame to kill you.

DARIA: Just shut up and boot your computer, this time I'm going to win.

Interior. Classroom.

The Fashion Club is meeting again. This time a wooden box with a slot sits atop the desk, and Jodie Landon is standing off to one side, watching the proceedings as students file up, are checked off a list by Stacy, and put their paper ballots in the box. As the last student finishes, Stacy stands up and turns to Jodie.

STACY: Okay, Jodie, that's everyone.

JODIE: Very well, you and Robby open the box and count the ballots together, while I watch.

Stacy opens the top of the box, as Robby walks up to join her, Jodie watches intently, and the other students mill around in the background.

Fade out and Back in.

Stacy hands a sheet of paper to Jodie.

STACY: Here you go.

Jodie turns to Robby.

JODIE: You agree with this count. (Robby nods, unhappy about something, but agreeing) Okay, so let's see. For President, we have four votes each for Sandi and Quinn, two for Lisa, and eight write-in votes for Tiffany.

TIFFANY: But I wasn't running for office!

JODIE: Well, that's what a write-in vote is for, to elect someone who isn't running.

ROBBY: We voted for you because we think you can do the job best, Tiffany. You're the only one who understands that there's more than one kind of fashion.

JODIE: You can decline the position, of course, in which case we'll need to have a run-off election to decide between Quinn and Sandi.

Tiffany pauses briefly before replying.

TIFFANY: Uh, no, if people want me to be President that badly, I'll give it a try.

JODIE: Okay, we still have the minor problem that Quinn and Sandi are tied for Vice President, so I guess we'll have to have a run-off anyway.

SANDI: Or, we could share it.

QUINN: Share it? How?

SANDI: Well, we could take turns. One week I'd do the Vice Presidential stuff and you'd do the Coordinating Officer stuff, and the next week we'd switch.

JODIE: Well, it's a little irregular, but there's nothing that prohibits doing that, if you both agree.

QUINN: Sure, this should be interesting. So, who got the other positions?

JODIE: Well, Stacy took Treasurer with seventeen votes against one for her competitor, Brooke.

STACY: (stunned) Seventeen? But that's everyone...except Brooke.

BROOKE: Well, I couldn't very well vote against myself. What can I say? Congratulations, you've been a good Secretary so far, and everyone can see that.

STACY: (still stunned) Thanks. (looks around, emotional) Thanks, everyone. I'm so happy.

JODIE: And finally, Treasurer goes to Robby, on a write-in, with seven votes, against six and five for your two competitors.

ROBBY: But, I wasn't running.

TIFFANY: (smiling) I tried that excuse; it doesn't work.

One of the girls Robby was plotting the Tiffany write-in with earlier speaks up.

GIRL1: Well, we figured if we could write Tiffany in for President, we could write you in for Treasurer. You really care about keeping the club honest, and that's important for the Treasurer.

ROBBY: But...

SANDI: Oh, give it a rest, now you'll get to see how much work it is on this side of the desk.

TIFFANY: Yep, if I have to be President, you'll have to be Treasurer. If you don't take the position, I'll resign, and Quinn and Sandi can duke it out for the Presidency.

ROBBY: (annoyed) Oh, hell... all right, I guess I won, dammit.

The camera freezes on Robby's annoyed face, and the credits roll.

Author's Notes:

Gah! I'm done! I set out to write a story about Tiffany's relationship with her mother, against the backdrop of the rebuilding of the Fashion Club. It turned out to be harder than I expected. Creating Laurel was easy, but creating a convincing tension between the two, and resolving it, took a lot of work. At least, I hope it was convincing. Of all my stories, I think this one went through the most changes from original conception to finish. Not big changes, just adding and dropping scenes, and one wholesale restructuring of the sequence to pack what had sprawled over three weeks into one (believe me, it's much more readable now).

One of the problems with this story (or maybe it's its strength, but it sure made the writing hard) is that there are too many threads woven together. We have the two mother/daughter elements, the fashion club politics, and the two jobs, which are really part of the mother/daughter elements, so there's really only three plots lines. The last time I used three plots in one story (The Butterfly Storm) I swore I'd never do it again, yet here I am, and with more complexity this time. You'd think I'd learn. But that was the way the story came together, and trying to remove any of the three would make it a weaker story, I think, so I persevered. I hope the result was fun to read.

By the way, lest the above make it sound like I didn't enjoy writing this, I did. I wouldn't spend this much time doing something if, in the end, I wasn't enjoying myself.

Robby - She was fun to create. I thought about using one of the existing non-speaking characters (there's a dark-haired Goth in Quinn's English class I considered), but finally I decided it was better to avoid the baggage an existing character might bring. Since we've only seen a couple of Quinn's classes, and there are bound to be students in the same grade who don't have the same classes anyway, it shouldn't be surprising for someone previously unseen to appear.

Tiffany - Just in case anyone's noticed that Tiffany's character in this story isn't much like her character in the TV show, you're right. As established back in Breaking Strain, she was actually smarter than she let on, and kept to herself to avoid Sandi taking her intelligence as a challenge (as Sandi did Quinn's) and throwing her out of the club. Once the club broke up, she felt she could be herself, and eventually (by Love's Labours Undone) began to get along with Sandi anyway. The other three should be fairly close to their show characters, although Sandi has become less domineering, and Stacy tends to stand up for herself more (although she's still fairly timid). Quinn, alone, hasn't really changed, but her relationship with Sandi is less strained.

Laurel - One of my goals in defining Laurel was to come up with someone who might explain why Tiffany tends to hang back, and not talk too much. Being an only child of a single parent who was always working (leaving no one at home to talk to), and who talks non-stop when she is home, seemed like a logical explanation. I also wanted someone Daria could relate to (hence making her a tech writer) so that I could tie the Daria/Helen and Tiffany/Laurel bits together.

Technical Writing - I'm not a tech writer by profession (although I've done technical writing), but I've worked with a variety of them, both temps and full-time professionals, with backgrounds ranging from English majors to ex-Computer salespeople. Laurel's comments on the field reflect my observations: it's not a bad job, usually, but it's not particularly respected either; job security is very low, because there's a never-ending stream of warm bodies waiting to take the work, even if many of them are barely literate. There are companies that hire full-time tech writers, but when times turn bad they're among the first to be laid off, so job security isn't much better than being a temp.

Other notes:

The events recapped at the beginning are from the three preceding stories: Breaking Strain, Strange Bedfellows, and Love's Labours Undone.

"Remember back before the club broke up, when Brooke and Lisa beat us to the new styles at the sale?" - Tiffany is talking about an incident that was mentioned in Breaking Strain.

Coordinating Officer - Tiffany's duties, including the three-day forecast, come from Sandi's list of Fashion Club Job Descriptions in The Daria Database (Pocket Books, 1998).

"Well, I don't think Ms. Li is going to release any school money to us this year." - After Stacy and Tiffany quit the club, Sandi had to tell Ms. Li that they weren't going to be doing a Fall Fashion Show after all. Ms. Li had already printed tickets, and was very annoyed at losing the money. She made Sandi work as a guide on a school hiking trip to make up for the spent money. This all occurred at the beginning of Strange Bedfellows.

"Chuck showed me how to use the word processor in the computer lab" - He doesn't show up in this story, but Upchuck (Chuck) has been Sandi's boyfriend since Strange Bedfellows. I wanted to work him and Jamie (Tiffany's boyfriend since the same story) in, but there didn't seem to be any place where they fit, so I settled for just mentioning the two of them.

Ben and Jerry first appeared in Breaking Strain. I received several requests to bring them back. I hope you're happy. :-)

"Well, I lied about my age." - I don't recommend this course of action. Employers check ages, and getting caught lying on a job application usually results in being fired. Most stores won't let a minor work a register unattended for insurance reasons, so it was a dramatic necessity if I wanted Tiffany working on her own, but it wouldn't be a good idea in the real world.

"Pining for the fjords?" - From the Monty Python parrot sketch, about a man trying to return a dead bird to a pet store, and the salesclerk telling him the bird's not dead, just "pining for the fjords." I didn't really need to explain that to anyone, did I?

The future - Well, after I finished the previous story in this series, I said I was done with it. Then I got the idea for this one. I don't have a sequel in mind, and I'm presently working on two other Daria stories, so there won't be a successor any time soon, but I've learned not to say "never".