THE WHOLE TRUTH

 

"The Whole Truth" is my first fanfic. It was inspired by "Diary Dearest", a fanfic by Renfield, which I found at Lawndale Commons. "Diary Dearest" is well-written and I was sad to see it end. In fact, I can remember thinking, "No! It can't end there!", and before I knew it, a significant fraction of "The Whole Truth" had written itself in my head. Inspiration is a funny thing. It's kind of like having a squirrel in your pants, you just gotta let it out. (Hmm, I think I'll have Daria say that to Kevin in Mr. O'Neill's writing class in a future fic.) Anyway, thanks, Renfield, for the inspiration. Thanks also to C. E. Forman for the delightful sequences in his fanfic "Alienation Legacy" wherein Daria and Luhrman torment Daria's three gullible cousins at Aunt Ellie's funeral, to which I made reference in this story. Which I hope you like, and which here is.

If you haven't read "Diary Dearest" (Which I recommend) and don't want to stop now to do so, it ends when Daria manages, with great and harrowing difficulty, to show Helen that the diary with the suicide note in it is not hers. The Whole Truth begins five or ten minutes later, in the same room at Cedars of Lawndale Mental Treatment Center.

 

 

THE WHOLE TRUTH

by Galen Hardesty

 

Daria raised her head from the table and looked at Helen. She was shouting at several people, most of whom were not in the room, and shouting about several more. Daria made a small noise. Helen did not hear, but Quinn did and came over. Cradling Daria's head in her hands, she burst out, "Oh, Daria, I'm so sorry! I never looked to see whose it was, 'cause I was so scared and I ran and called Mom and it was under your pillow but I should have looked and this is ALL MY FAAUULT!"

Daria realized she wasn't the only one here who had been traumatized. She looked into her sister's eyes and managed a slight smile, or at least thought she did. Sitting up straighter, she shook her head "no", while attempting to maintain the smile. She was answered by a dawning expression of gratitude and relief, followed immediately by a hug. Since her mouth was so close to Quinn's ear, Daria attempted a word. Concentrating hard, she managed a faint "home" on her third try. Quinn heard, dropped the hug in favor of a grip on Daria's shoulders. "Home? You want to go home?" she asked. Daria, thinking "Well, duh!", nodded.

"MOM! DARIA WANTS TO GO HOME!" Quinn shouted, more than loud enough to break through the din in and around the visiting room. Helen was instantly at Daria's side, speaking a curt "wait" into her cell phone. "Probably cranking up a lawsuit.", Daria thought. "I'm okay with that, but first things first."

"Oh, sweetie! Of course you want to go home! And we will, just as soon as we get your clothes and stuff and... " Her expression turned fierce. "Don't miss anything!" she whispered, turning away. Then she was back talking quietly but intensely into the cell phone.

Turning back to Quinn, Daria tried again.

"Don'.. cauh...n..naked.....ou..out.....pf..pbl...pleazh!" she begged, reinforcing it with her best pitiful look.

Quinn's return expression left no doubt that she felt worse for Daria than Daria did for herself at that moment. "I'll get you outta here, sis!", she said. Then, at the top of her voice, "MOOOMM! DARIA SAYS SHE DOESN'T CARE IF SHE'S NAKED, SHE WANTS OUT OF HERE NOW!!"

Daria thought about rolling her eyes, but decided it was more trouble than it was worth in the present circumstances.

Again Helen was instantly at Daria's side. "Oh, precious.. (to Quinn) She really said that? (back to Daria) You said that? You can talk now? Say something!"

"Oh, great, now they expect me to entertain." Daria thought. "Well, maybe I can say something to move this process along." Two things occurred to her. Helenís and Quinnís eyes were glued to her face, and Jake was coming over. She took a breath and concentrated on her uncooperative tongue. "Diuh-y", she managed. And then "Stuh-ait jacket." "Damn rís!", she thought.

All three seemed momentarily frozen by this, with what Daria guessed were blank looks on their blurry faces. "Two things at once- Iíve confused them.", she scolded herself. But then Quinn looked down and reached for a piece of the ill-starred steno pad, just as Helen realized that Daria hadnít meant to connect the two objects.

"Jake, get her out of that awful thing!" Helen barked. "Quinn, be sure to get every scrap of that diary, put it in a bag or something, and hold onto it! Then, to no one in particular,

"WHERE THE HELL ARE HER CLOTHES AND HER GLASSES?!"

 

 

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Scene 2- Ext Morgendorfer Home- deep purple twilight. Jake's car pulls out of the driveway to pick up Helen from Cedars of Lawndale. cut to-

Int Morgendorfer home- family room. Quinn and Daria are seated on the couch, the center section facing the tv, which is off. Daria is once more dressed in her favorite outfit.

 

"So, Dad should be back with Mom in twenty or thirty minutes, and then we'll, I guess, have dinner? Oh, yeah, Dad said he'd pick up a pizza.", said Quinn. Daria nodded vaguely, her gaze slowly roaming.

"So, I guess you're happy to be home, huh?", Quinn ventured. Daria nodded again, shaking her arms and flexing her fingers. "Do you want me to rub your arms some more?"

Daria shook her head no. "They're better. Not tingling any more."

"Geez, how long did they have you in that strait jacket?"

"Whole time. Except for visits and baths."

"The whole time! That's awful! But how did you dress yourself? How did you brush your teeth? How did you..."

Daria silenty returned Quinn's shocked look.

"Oh, God." Quinn looked more intently at Daria, whose gaze returned to scanning the family room, seemingly at random. "Oh, GOD! Daria, how can you be so CALM? I'm about to scream just thinking about that one little part of it!"

"Buttload of happy-drooly juice. Really strong, takes a long time to wear off." Daria thought, "But I'm screaming on the inside. 'Way down deep. I can hear me."

"Yeah, your speech is still kind of slurred.

"On the upside, I think I'll get a good night's sleep tonight. I'm gonna need it- and I don't know when I'll get another one. Also, you're not having to peel me off the wall right now. Oh, hand me the phone." Quinn complied, looking vaguely worried.

Daria quickly punched in Jane's phone number, made a mistake, hung up, then punched it in again, more carefully. Two rings, then a pickup. Jane's voice said, "Hello?"

A heavy lead weight lifted off Daria's chest, one she hadn't known she'd been carrying. She started to answer, but realized she hadnít thought out what to say. Jane's voice came again: "Hello?" In the background, Trent's voice called, "C'mon, Janie, we'll be late for the gig."

Daria listened in silence, longing to speak, but restrained by concern for her friend. Jane said, "Okay", probably to Trent, then one more irritated "Hello!", then she hung up the phone.

Daria pressed the "off" button on her handset, exhaled much more breath than she'd thought she was holding. A smile appeared on her lips, slowly began to widen.

Quinn looked quizzically at Daria, head cocked to one side. "You don't say!"

"Jane.", Daria said, smiling beatifically at the phone in her lap. "Jane's okay. She's just heading out to a gig with Trent's band."

"Oh, that's great! I'm so glad! But why didn't you... oh."

"Right. Got to plan that conversation carefully." Daria began punching another number. "Did Aunt Amy get the Canada story?"

"No, she didn't call while you were away. Daria, do you think you should be telling anyone about this without checking with Mom?"

"Aunt Amy's not anyone. In a wierd way, I'm almost like her clone. She'll understand how this is affecting me by knowing what it would do to her. No one else in the world can do that for me except possibly, to a lesser extent, Jane. And Jane will have her own problems tomorrow. No way am I gonna check with Mom on this one. Hi, Aunt Amy, this is- --I'm better . --I sound that way because I'm kind of doped up. --With dope. --I dont know, violent lunatic kind of dope. --(sigh) I just got home from Cedars of Lawndale. It was a misunderstanding, it's been cleared up. Mom's down there gathering facts and terrorizing shrinks right now. --They thought I was suicidal. --Well, there was this diary under my pillow open to a very well written suicide note. --No, it wasn't mine. --It was an accident. --That's way too compucated -complicated to answer in my present stoned condition. I called because I knew you'd want me to, and to ask you what times I could call tomorrow if I needed to. You know, so you won't be completely blindsided if I call and ask you to talk me down off the chandelier. --You're the greatest, Amy. I love you. --The dope made me say it. --Fine, really. I feel unnaturally serene, which is just about perfect for the occasion. --Listen, gotta go. Haven't used my vocal cords in, uh, however many days, gotta rest 'em. Lots of screaming tomorrow. Just kidding, I hope. Oh, yeah, the cover story is a senimar... seminar in Canada. Bye."

Daria looked over at Quinn, puzzled by her strange wistful expression. Then she got it. "I love you, Quinn.", she said softly.

"Ohhh, Daria..." Quinn burst into tears, then grabbed Daria in a teary, drippy embrace. "I love you, too!" After a surprised couple of seconds, Daria returned the hug as best she could.

After a time, they separated, wiping tears and other fluids from their faces. "This is so great!", sniffed Quinn. "We haven't sat and talked like this in... uh... "

"Never?"

"Yeah! Oh... Oh, gosh, that's so sad!"

"You're right, Quinn, it is. Do you suppose that if we had talked like this a few times, when you read that suicide note, you'd have had at least a suspicion it wasn't mine, say, enough to check for a name?"

Quinn's eyes widened. She gasped and clapped her hands to her mouth. After a few seconds she nodded mutely.

"Yeah. That's what I think, too. We've got to get to know each other. All four of us. But right now, more urgently, you three have got to know me. I don't know if I can take a repeat of this." They sat in silence for a moment, Daria staring at her hands, Quinn anxiously trying to read Daria's absence of expression. "This is going to be really hard."

"I'll do my best, Daria. How can I help you?"

"Mmmm... I don't know how Dad's gonna react to this, how much of me he can grasp. But Mom is my main problem. Mom signed the papers." Daria's eyes began to dart back and forth like tiny trapped animals. She squeezed them tight shut, bit down on her right forearm, making a high-pitched, muffled sound. Quinn watched in growing alarm, but, after several seconds, Daria seemed to regain control, took a deep breath, exhaled. "Mmmf. Okay. You know how sometimes I'll be talking to Mom and she'll say "Daria!" that way she does, like she thinks I was deliberately trying to gross her out? Hmm, you might have thought so too, a lot of the time. Well, that's the main communications barrier between me and Mom. It's like an unpleasant-reality-proof shield. That's where you can help me, Quinn. When she says "Daria!", you say "Mo-OOO-OM!" and then something like "Listen to her! Try to understand what she's telling you!" Can you do that, Quinn? Can you help me get through to Mom with the stuff she doesn't want to hear? Even if that stuff is creeping you out at the same time?"

"Yes, Daria. You can count on me. I'm pretty good with Mom."

"I know. A lot better than me. Oh, and, uh.., I'm going to try to be more communicative, but I don't know how well I'll do. I'm talking How-was-your-day stuff now. Trivia. So if something occurs to you that you think I should tell mom and dad, mention it to me."

"Sure. I'll do that. Hey, if you're this smart after being stoned out of your skull for a week, how smart are you, really?"

"Before this, I was-- real smart. After this--" Daria's eyes squeezed shut, her forearm was back in her mouth. She made the muffled squeaking sound again. Quinn, alarmed, threw an arm over Daria's shoulders, held her forearm with her other hand. Before Quinn could think what to say, Daria sucked in a lungful of air and opened her eyes. "I can't go there, Quinn. Not tonight. Maybe not tomorrow. It's just too scary, and it can't be helped anyway."

"Oh, I'm sorry, sis! I didn't mean to upset you!" Quinn gave Daria's shoulders an encouraging squeeze. "I'm just so glad to have you back home. I was so afraid I was gonna lose you!"

"You almost did. If Mom had signed that form tonight... never mind. Later. I was afraid I was going to lose you too, uh, sis. When I first heard about the diary I thought it must be yours. I was terrified you were home killing yourself while everyone was messing with me. I tried so hard to tell them, but I just couldn't make them understand."

"You mean that thing with the brush? Is that what that was about?"

Daria sniffed and nodded. Another sloppy hug ensued.

 

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The sound of a car pulling up in the drive roused Daria from her thoughts. Then came sounds of car doors and footsteps on the walk.

Helen Burst through the front door, warbling "Daria!". Spying her on the couch, she rushed over, sat down at her left, and squeezed her hand. "How are you feeling, Daria Darling?"

"Okay, Mom. Regaining motor control, slightly spacey. Did you eat them all, or just kill them?" Daria squeezed back slightly and essayed a smile.

Helen looked unsure for a split second, but replied, "Not yet, sweetie, but soon! Those quacks will pay for what they did to you, bigtime!"

"Ooh, do I smell college fund? What about that limping orderly, Charlie? He treated me rough, but he sort of had a reason."

Helen's eyes took on a baleful glare. "Daria, what did that man do to you?"

There was a terrible memory here that Daria would have to gloss over. "He was on the capture team. One guy with the strait jacket, Dr. White with the knockout syringe, and Charlie was the muscle. The drug got me, but Charlie paid the price."

Helen interrupted. "What do you mean?"

"His limp has my name on it, and it may be permanent."

Quinn piped up, "Really, Daria? Way to go!" Helen's face betrayed a similar emotion, but she said nothing.

Daria forged ahead. "Unfortunately, he was my assigned orderly. He pushed me when I didn't need pushing, let me bump into stuff when I was groggy, handled me roughly, made implied threats but never carried them out. I wasn't traumatized by him or anything. He's kind of pathetic. I'd only want to really go after him if it turned out that he wangled being assigned to me. Then he should never be allowed to work with patients again. I mentioned him because he's vulnerable to being leaned on for information."

"I'll deal with Charlie, Daria. I must say, your thinking is very sharp for one under the influence of narcotics."

"Thinking is what I do, Mom. Speaking of narcotics, was it one or two drugs? Did you get the names? I need to know the side effects, particularly withdrawal symptoms."

Just then Jake's voice came from the Kitchen. "C'mon, ladies! Pizza's getting cold! And eaten!"

Daria stood up, had to wave her arms a bit to retain her balance. Helen quickly grabbed her left arm, Quinn her right. Daria said "aaah!" and jerked away, landing back on the couch. She stared straight ahead, breathing hard.

Helen looked alarmed. "Daria, sweetie, what's wrong? We were just trying to help!"

After a few seconds, Daria looked up at Helen and said, "It surprised me, too. Looks like I might have kind of a phobia, or a startle reaction, about being unexpectedly grabbed for a while, Mom. I'll work through it. But grabbing me from behind could be dangerous. That's what Charlie did." She held out her hand to Helen and stood up again. As they headed toward the kitchen, Helen's hand trembled slightly and her expression was anxious. Daria said softly, "Dont worry, Mom. I'll get over it. I'll get over all of it. I'm a very strong-minded person. Like you." She squeezed and released Helen's hand and slipped into her chair at the kitchen table.

 

 

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Scene 3 Kitchen table

 

Finishing his first slice, Jake glanced over at Daria, who was nibbling. "Gee, it's great to have you back home, kiddo. We're really sorry about the, uh, misunderstanding."

"I know, Dad. It's okay."

"I sure hope it wasn't too-- bad for you in that place."

Daria started to reply, then brought a knuckle to her lips, sat with averted gaze for a couple of seconds. "Most of the time it wasn't. Kind of relaxing, actually. Nothing to do but lie around", her voice took on a slight sing-song quality, "on the nice padded floor of my nice padded cell, in my cozy strait jacket, not feeling bad about anything, not quite able to think, just blowing bubbles in my little drool pool."

"Daria!" A tear trickled down Helen's cheek.

Quinn laid a hand on Helen's forearm. "Just listen, Mom."

Daria shot Quinn an approving glance, continued: "But the best times were late at night, when the drug was finally wearing off and everything was still. I'd look up, and there, in the moonlight streaming through the bars of my cell window, would be Jane. She'd smile and insult me, and I'd smile and insult her back, and we'd sit down and lean against the padded wall and talk for hours as we watched the moonlight creep across the padded floor."

Helen was really leaking now, and Quinn was starting to. "You make it sound so... beautiful, Daria, it almost makes me wish I was crazy, um, I mean doped up..uh..."

Helen gave Quinn a sharp look. Daria gave her a sardonic smile. Thanks, I think. What you mean is, you wish you had a friend as close as Jane and I are. Yes, it was beautiful. I know it was just a dream. I knew it then if I thought about it, which I mostly didn't, because I really needed Jane's company. But it was a very special dream, and it really helped me get through the bad stuff with minimum damage. Jane came to visit me every night, you know. But she couldn't have, and especially we couldn't have talked for hours like we did, if I hadn't known Jane very, very well. That's also why, as soon as I'd read that suicide note, I knew Jane had written it, and that she had no intention of committing suicide, and that if I could just show you Jane's name on the inside front cover, I'd be outta there. Too bad I couldn't speak a word, or I'd have done it with more grace and aplomb."

Silence. After a moment, Quinn said, "Wow, Daria, you're... amazing!"

Jake said, "Yeah!!"

Daria looked down, smiled, and actually blushed a bit. "Thanks, but what I'm getting at is not that I can think with three-fourths of my brain shut down, but that you three, who should know me better than anyone else, in fact don't know me well enough to know, or even suspect, that I'm not suicidal. Not enough to examine the diary, not enough to ask me for an explanation."

Embarrassed silence, then a tiny sound from Helen that might signal the onset of weeping.

Daria continued, "And since it's all three of you, the fault must be mine."

A short pause, then: "Oh, no, honey, it isn't your fault!" from Jake, "Darling, you can't blame yourself for any of this!" from Helen, puzzled expression from Quinn.

"Well, nobody can say you haven't tried, Mom. You're always scheduling family time, trying to find out if I have any social life, wanting to help me be more attractive. I can't remember when you gave yourself any personal downtime.

"I do try... "

"And Dad, you do your best. We all know you didn't get much in the way of parenting skills from your father."

"Damn rigid uncaring HEARTLESS BASTARD!!!

"You're doing way better than he did, Dad. We all know you love us."

"And Quinn... well, you know, sibling rivalry. But we're already starting to grow out of it."

A shadow seemed to pass over Helen's face.

"Right! and we did real good today, didn't we?"

"We sure did, Quinn. And it felt real good too. Gotta wash this jacket, though." Embarrassed giggle from Quinn.

"But I'm the writer wannabe. I'm the wordsmith. I know I can communicate better than I have been. But I've always put a high value on privacy. I'd try to conceal facts about me that I knew would be misunderstood. I knew you wouldn't be interested in Solzhenytsin or Kant,or most of the other stuff I read. I lived the life of the mind, and I've never detected a tendency to do that in you guys, so I didn't try to talk about it. And when I did try to talk to you, my sense of humor sometimes got in the way. I lean rather heavily towards irony and sarcasm, and I sometimes look at things from odd angles. But I tended to forget that sarcasm is also one of my defense mechanisms, and I'd send a negative message without intending to. Like "go away" or... " Daria looked down and her voice dropped. "Beware- Abnormal Personality."

"My defense mechanisms didn't help me a bit this time. Nor did my privacy. In fact, it seems they helped put me in that ghastly situation. So now I'm thinking, What can I do to help you guys understand me better?"

Something impelled Jake to speak. "Well gee, Kiddo, to me you've always just seemed so... lonely."

"Until we moved here, I was very lonely, Dad. Then I met Jane, and we became best friends, and it was only then that I realized how terribly lonely I'd been before. I don't think I could go back to having no friends now."

"You have other friends, don't you, sweetie? How about Jodie?" asked Helen.

"Jodie's my friend, and I'd love to get to know her better, but she just has no time of her own. It's so sad. Her parents are stealing her life. There are a couple of other bright girls at Lawndale, but they're kind of prissy and snobbish. I'd like to make more friends, and I'm going to look harder, but one true friend is so much better than a lot of acquaintances."

Quinn's expression turned sad, and she looked down at her hands, one of which was squeezing the other. Daria noticed, said, "Stacy is a good person, Quinn. She's got a lot of potential, in a fixer-upper kind of way. Those other two... " she decided to break it off there.

Quinn didn't look up, said "mmm... "

Daria looked around, said, "So, is there anything else I can do to convince you that I'm not suicidal, or psychotic, or whatever?"

Quinn still didn't look up, but her expression changed to a slightly evil smile. You mean, like, a psychotic serial killer currently serving six back-to-back life sentences? You could, maybe, quit telling people that."

"WHAT?!!" Helen shot to her feet, spraying pizza bits in all directions. "DARIA, WHO did you tell that to and WHY??!"

"Cousin Daphne, cousin Whoosis and cousin Whatserface, at Aunt Ellie's funeral. I was just curious to see if there was anything I could tell them that they wouldn't believe. Apparently there isn't. See, at Erin's wedding, I told them I was an exotic dancer and an astronaut, both in my after-school time, and that my boyfriend was a Navy SEAL who'd rescued me from the undersea fish people. They believed every word of it. Then I told them I'd made it all up, of course. But the very next time they see me, at the funeral, unmanacled , unguarded, I let slip that line about serving back-to-back life sentences, and it was as if the tops of their skulls just flipped back and they said, "oooh, shovel in some more, please! And Luhrman said, "Show them your prison tatoo, it's really cool.", and from there it took on a life of its own."

"But, Daria, why on earth would you want to tell anyone such things in the first place?"

"I'm a writer, Mom. Writers tell stories. My mind works that way. Besides, itís fun. Didn't you ever pull anyone's leg?"

"I never ripped one completely off."

"They're still ambulatory. Anyway, I was doing them a favor. If they reach adulthood that gullible, con men will take them for every cent they have."

"How altruistic of you."

"(sigh) I guess Quinn has a point. I could ease off on that sort of stuff a bit, at least with people who don't know me."

Quinn joined in. "Which, for now, would be, like, everyone but Jane, Amy, that Luhrman guy, and, possibly, me."

"Wow, two good points in a row, Quinn. you're on a roll. So, Mom, can you accept me saying things like that, and retain your faith in my sanity?"

"You make it kind of tough."

"It's not tough for Amy. She'd write herself a part and jump right in, without a bit of prearrangement necessary. Just like Luhrman did."

"Speaking of Amy, dear, would you mind not calling her, at least for a few days, till we get more... settled?"

"I've already talked to her. I gave her an outline of the situation and asked if I could call her tomorrow if I needed to talk. She gave me all her numbers and said to call anytime."

"Oh. Well, that's very good of Amy. Uh.. outline?"

"I said a diary with a suicide note, not mine, was found under my pillow, that I was in Cedars for a few days until the misunderstanding was corrected, that I was fine now, and that you were preparing a possible lawsuit. I said nothing about who wrote the note, who found it, how it got there, or what they did to me. Oh, except for the drug, because she noticed the slurred speech."

"That's good, Daria. I'm glad you didn't upset her too much. I was thinking we could just have a quiet day at home tomorrow, just us. Relax, talk some, mellow out."

"That would be great, Mom, but I'm afraid there's no way tomorrow will be quiet, at least not all of it. I can feel at least two major screaming fits followed by crying jags coming on, and I don't know how I'm going to feel when the last of this dope wears off in the morning. That reminds me, I hope Jane visits me tonight. I need to ask her how to tell the real Jane about the diary tomorrow. And I will need to talk to Amy. When the time comes, you'll realize you need her as much as I do."

"Daria, I really think you shouldn't be involving these other people so soon. Those things can wait till later."

"Mom, I hear what you're trying not to say. Amy's not alienating my affections. The fact that I love her doesn't mean I love you any less. Love isn't a zero-sum game. It's just that she understands me so well. She'll know how these things have affected me because they'd affect her the same way. No one else can help me the way she can. You're my mother and I love you so much, but I'm going to need both of you to make it through tomorrow. Besides, if Amy doesn't get at least a couple of calls, she'll be down here in force to bust me out."

"Daria! Just what do you mean, "In force?"

"You know, that squad of mercenaries she's been dating."

"Squad of Mercenaries?!"

"You mean she didn't-- Damn! I never told you that, okay? Promise? She's actually only dated one or two. But she says they're all itching for action because they haven't had a gig in a while. She found this bar on her way home from work where they hang out and wait for contracts to come in."

"Mercenaries!! My GOD, what is she THINKING?!" Helen clapped a hand over her eyes.

Quinn siezed this opening to frantically signal to Daria. Daria read, "Zip it-- you-- crazy."

Realizing Quinn had a point, she said, "Just kidding, Mom."

"WHAT?!"

"Amy isn't dating any mercenaries. And she didn't say anything about coming down here in force."

"Daria, what in--"

Daria looked at Helen with sad, frightened eyes. "You're going to send me back, aren't you?", she said in a hushed, quavering voice, hanging her head.

Instantly, Helen was all love and reassurance. She rose and hugged Daria to her bosom. "Of course not, Daria, darling! You're home now and you'll never go back to that awful place again!" Relaxing her embrace a bit, she looked down into her daughter's face. "But why did you say that about the mercenaries?"

"It just popped into my head. It's a restatement of my previous question: Can you accept me saying things like that and still retain your faith in my sanity?"

"Oh. You mean that's what you did to your cousins?"

"Yes. Only I didn't get around to the "just kidding" part quite so quickly."

"Dating a squad of mercenaries! I can't believe I fell for that! Hey! You did it to me twice, didn't you?" Helen mimicked Daria's small, sad voice. "You're going to send me back, aren't you?"

"Ouch! Nailed me that time."

"I'll nail you good, you little dickens!" Helen swatted Daria in the seat, not too hard.

"Ouch!", Daria said again, a little louder, but didn't slacken her grip on her mother. "Right in the dartboard!" Jake and Quinn laughed. Helen was occupied kissing Daria's forehead. Daria just smiled and hugged and enjoyed.

As they broke it up, Daria said, "But seriously, Mom, how much does that bother you? Tell you what, try comparing me to, say, Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, and (shudder) L. Ron Hubbard. Three very successful, well known, popular writers, and all 'way more twisted than me."

"Hmmm, I see your point. I guess you're not so bad, considering. I'd certainly rather have you for a daughter than L. Ron Hubbard. Especially if he were alive."

"Hey, morbid humor. Good one!"

"Thanks. Now could you please leave off jerking your poor mother around for awhile?"

"No more tonight. I promise. Now where were we? Oh, yeah. As for Jane, I don't know how to tell her yet. Quinn was all torn up with guilt just because she found the diary. You must feel even worse because you-- mmm! mmmm! mmmm!"

Daria, her forearm in her mouth again, fighting to stifle the agonized cries, hurried as best she could around the table to the sink. With her left hand she turned on the cold water, soaked a hand towel and slapped it to her face. She replaced her right forearm with the wadded up lower end of the towel , bit down hard, and pressed the top part to her brow. She started as she felt hands grip her arms and shoulders, but that reaction was swallowed up in the struggle to suppress. Finally she pulled her mind away from the horror she dared not yet face. Her panic drained away until the artificial serenity of the drug re-emerged.

Peeling the towel off her face, Daria turned, seeking comfort. Jake was closest, so she threw herself into his arms. This he knew how to do. Hugging her close, he murmured "There, there, kiddo, it's all right, it's all right!"

Daria heard Helen say something in a questioning tone, and Quinn said, "She did that twice before you guys got back, but not near that bad."

Daria let go of Jake and turned to face the others. "That... was the Very Worst Thing. I got too close to it and it almost got out." She looked around at their faces, didn't like what she saw. "I'm scaring you, aren't I? Look, I just mean that there are a few bad experiences, a few unpleasant facts, that I don't want to deal with until tomorrow, mainly because I want a good night's sleep tonight. So I'm trying not to think about them, or anything closely connected to them, until then. But, as you just saw, a couple of them aren't going to keep too long. Okay? You understand?"

Helen's relief was obvious. Quinn said, "Oh, sure, I do that sometimes." Jake said, "Hey, maybe I oughtta try that!"

"Maybe. But I can't keep biting my arm like that. I'd hate to have to try and replace this jacket. Haven't seen them in the stores for a long time"

"Yeah, perish the thought.", mumbled Quinn.

"Dad, do you still have that little pillow stuffed with chicken feathers that came from your grandmother's?"

"Sure, kiddo, it's up in our closet somewhere."

"Can I borrow it? I heard somewhere that chicken feathers make really good sound insulation. I could carry it around and yell into it instead of stuffing my arm in my mouth."

Jake got up and headed toward the family room, presumably on his way upstairs. Daria looked down at her slice of pizza, still half uneaten, said, "Guess I don't really want pizza tonight. I don't need pizza dreams on top of narcotic dreams on top of loony bin dreams. Maybe cereal and milk."

"I'll get it.", said Quinn, who was standing near the cabinet the cereal was kept in. "Your usual?"

"Yeah, thanks. Now. Sometime tomorrow I've got to see about Jane. She knows her diary is missing, probably has a good idea where she left it. She knows what's in it. Now I've disappeared under mysterious circumstances, with a lame cover story. She'll put it all together sooner or later, probably sooner. It'll hit her hard, very hard. I owe it to her to be there when the last piece falls into place, which means I'll probably have to drop it into place myself. She helped pull me through this. Now I have to return the favor." Daria took a bite of cereal.

"Sweetie, I'm very proud of you for being so loyal to Jane, and so concerned about her welfare. Please don't take this the wrong way, but I'm just afraid that you're taking too much onto yourself at this very delicate... sensitive.. time."

Daria spooned more cereal into her mouth, looked at Helen as she chewed. Then she said. "Mom, naturally you think of my welfare, first and foremost. And Quinn's and Dad's. And I love you for it. But look at it this way. Jane and I are a very effective mutual support group. All we have to do is convince her that she's not to blame for what happened to me, and I've got my best friend ready and able to help me over the rest of my rough spots. And don't forget, I'm going to need in-school support when I go back, in case something... pops up. At the very least, there'll be a lot of questions."

"Look at the worst-case scenario. Jane comes over, and we both freak out at the same time. A totally freaked-out Jane, from the standpoint of my needs, in the middle of my freakout, is still better than no Jane at all. Misery Loves Company is the cornerstone of our friendship. So there really isn't any downside."

"And it's not like I'll be bouncing off the walls all day, nonstop. There are only two big bad things, neither one of which could possibly take more than half an hour start to finish, and the rest is just a few minor non-screaming things. Talk and tissues. We can work Jane in."

"All right, Daria. I can't argue with that. I bow before your relentless logic. Are you sure you don't want to be a lawyer?"

"Thanks, Mom. Yeah. Well, pretty sure... I could be good, huh?"

Jake came back in with a small ticking pillow in a once-white case, marked by time. A simple pattern was embroidered along the open end, and a few small flowers were stitched in random spots. It had obviously been handmade with love, long ago. Daria smiled up at him as she ran a hand softly over the embroidery. "Thanks, Dad. I'll be careful with it."

"I know you will, kiddo. Say, what is that "Very Worst Thing", anyway?"

Daria stepped back, alarm rising in her eyes. "Aah! No!", she cried. "NoNoNo! Don't go there!"

Closing her eyes tightly, Daria placed the tips of her middle fingers against her temples, pointed her index fingers at the ceiling and her thumbs straight behind her.

"TheBoyStoodOnTheBurningDeckHisFeetWereFullOfBlisters! HeToreHisPantsOnARustyNailSoNowHeWearsHisSister's!"

Daria inhaled deeply, exhaled slowly. The Very Worst Thing was not near. She opened her eyes. Her family was staring at her open-mouthed. Quinn said, "What was THAT?"

Daria replied, "uh, Vulcan mind control technique.", but thought, "Where did that come from?"

Helen turned away from Daria to hide the expression that had siezed her face.

After a few seconds of awkward silence, Daria said, "Uhh, well, I think I'll do something I've been wanting to do for a long time."

Jake bit. "What's that, kiddo?"

Already headed out of the kitchen area, Daria said, "Go to the bathroom without a strait jacket and an orderly."

Over her shoulder, Daria heard, "DARIA!!", followed by "Mo-OOO-OM!" Then, more softly, "She's trying to be more communicative! Give her a chance! And, Daddy, ixnay with the questions about you-know-what! She's avoiding that for tonight, remember?"

Daria thought, "Way to go, Quinn!"

-----:{}:-----

 

Scene 4 Int Daria's bedroom, night.

Daria rolled over on her left side, opened one eye a crack. In the moonlight shining through her window, she saw a stack of books, some bones, her hydrocephalic skull replica, her boots, and Jane's boots. Opening her other eye, she saw that Jane's boots were occupied. Daria sat up, put on her glasses. Jane's boots were occupied by Jane.

"Hey, Jane. Good to see you. What's doin'?"

"You know, just slid in on the moonbeam. Hmmm. Much more cluttered tonight. Either Cedars ran out of storage space, or you're back home. She picked up the hydrocephalic skull replica. "The latter. Congratulations. How'd you do it?"

"I finally managed to get a look at the diary, and all became clear. It wasn't mine, so all I had to do was get Mom to look at the inside front cover. When she read the name, that was basically it."

"Well that's great. So whose was it? Quinn's?" Daria shook her head no. "If not hers, whose ? who else could get into your room and-" Jane looked at Daria with dawning realization. Daria's hand reached out to Jane. Her mouth was open but she had no words. "Oh. Oh, no. Oh, bleep. It was mine." Jane stood frozen, face a mask of horror, hands in front of her as if holding a dead baby. After a seemingly endless moment, "Why am I standing here? Why am I not running screaming through the night? I need to run screaming through the night!"

"I think it's because you know I need your help, Jane. I need you to tell me how to tell you about this whole thing tomorrow morning."

Jane shifted with difficulty into parsing mode. "Me- tell you- how to tell me- this? You just did tell me this- or I just figured out this- or whatever. Why do you need to tell me tomorrow morning? "

"I need to tell the other you, the you who thinks I'm at a seminar in Canada, the you who hasn't seen me for over a week and is getting worried."

"The other me?" Long pause. "The real me? Great. Not only did I get my best friend thrown into Bedlam, now you're telling me I'm not even real."

"No. The other you misplaced her diary. You're the one who came to visit me every night. You're the one who helped me survive the bad stuff. And hey, being real isn't all it's cracked up to be. You're the one who can walk through walls and surf moonbeams."

"Oh, yeah. Cool. Hmmm. Well, much as I'd like to dwell on the horror of discovering I have no real existence, I wouldn't want to give you multiple personality disorder and wreck all my hard work. Now, how to-- well, right off the top of my head, you should either tie her down or block all the exits, 'cause if it hits her like it did me, she'll probably bolt. And if she gets out the door, she might not stop running for ten or twelve miles."

"Good point. But no tying down. I've had enough bondage to last me a lifetime."

"I heard that. Anyway, you might get rope burns on my boots. Can't have that. Um, if you can string it out, a little bit at a time, maybe you can avoid triggering the bolt reaction. Put things in some logical order, so one thing leads to another, and you can kind of control the conversation."

"That's good. That's probably the best approach. Thanks, chum."

"Don't mention it. And now, this REM sleep sequence has gone on long enough. You need a segment of deep, dreamless sleep right here. I'll stand watch, and if I think of anything else, I'll leave a note on the inside of your forehead."

"Okay, Jane. You're the best. See ya."

 

-----:{}:-----

 

Scene 5 Int Morgendorfer home, family room, early morning. Daria, in nighttime shorts and t-shirt, quietly descends the stairs. She picks up the phone., begins punching a number, pacing slowly at random. Sound of phone ringing at other end.

 

Daria listened to the phone ringing in Aunt Amy's apartment, said "Darn, I thought she'd still be home this early."

Through the earpiece came sounds of connections being made, then a different ring tone. Daria thought she heard a noise from outside, stepped closer to the front door to listen with her free ear. From just outside a voice said "Amy Barksdale". A split second later a voice on the phone echoed this.

Daria's face lit up. She said, "Wow, great connection! You sound like you're in the front yard!"

Silence for a second, then: "Is this the Psychic Hotline again? I told you to stop calling me!"

Daria flung open the front door. "Amy!" She pointed to the phone in her hand. "I called but you weren't home."

"Drat! Where could I have gotten off to this time?"

"I didn't want you to trash your whole day! Talking on the phone is good."

"I can't hug you over the phone, Daria." Which she did. "And if I'm talking you down off the chandelier, I'll need to steady the ladder. And no way am I gonna miss a chance to videotape my favorite niece in full freak!"

"Aren't blackmailers supposed to be sneakier about gathering their material? Well, come on in before you scare the paperboy." Daria grabbed a bag that Amy had set down to answer her cell phone. "Let's get some breakfast and make enough noise to wake everybody else. Hmm, on second thought, let's be very quiet."

 

-----:{}:-----

Scene 6 Int Morgendorffer kitchen, a few minutes later. Coffee is brewing.

Daria had arranged two serving bowls and three coffee cups upside down on the counter. "So this is what my day looks like so far. These represent two major screaming fits, each followed by a crying jag of unknown duration.

These others are relatively minor, stuff I need to talk through, but not likely to be traumatic. So, basically, I'll just pick my time, pick my target, walk up... Daria fingerwalked her right hand over to the nearest coffee cup, made a kicking motion. "..kick it over, the bad thing leaps out, and we fight to the death. Her left hand attacked her right hand, and they struggled on the counter.

Amy examined the layout. "Uh-huh. I see, I think. So, what is... " her finger strayed toward the largest bowl.

Daria grabbed Amy's hand, gently pushed it back, spoke rapidly. "Uh-uh, uh-uh, not yet, not ready! Call it, it comes. Later. This one," She pointed to the cup, "is the strait jacket. This one," another cup, "is the shrink. I don't really have to worry about him. Mom will question me thoroughly about every detail of our two interviews, then she'll process him for me."

"Process?"

"Macerate. Sometimes it's good to have a shark for a mother. Me having a seat in court will be therapy aplenty for him. This one... hmmm. That's the strait jacket, too. Bathroom breaks in the strait jacket."

"Bathroom breaks?!? You can't go to the bathroom in a strait jacket! You couldn't... and you couldn't... Are you pulling my leg?"

Daria solemnly shook her head no, then turned and removed two cereal bowls from the cabinet. "Let's slide by that for now. I want some cereal, and the coffee's ready. Let's see if I can scald the little shrink in this cup."

"Which cabinet is the cereal in?" Daria pointed. "But why a strait jacket at all? Were you violent? Did you kill some guy? Wasn't the dope enough?"

"No, just maimed him, and that was in the bushwhack room, before the first injection. They can't blame me for that. Self defense. They attacked me in the dark."

"Maimed?"

"Smashed kneecap, fractured fibula, four bones in the top of the foot, collapsed arch. One lightning-swift blow from my deadly Doc Martens."

"You stomped a psycho-qualified orderly?! Daria, you're my hero!"

"A self-defense move they taught us in school. Powered by terror and panic. By the way, don't grab me by surprise. I'm a bit freaky about that now." Daria set the milk on the counter. "Wanna sit at the table?"

"My butt says no. The drive, y'know. You're still my hero."

Daria smiled and blushed a bit. "Thanks. But I'd rather be admired for my writing skills than my fighting skills."

"Then I'll have to read some of your writing."

"Guess I can let you take half a bale or so." Daria ate a spoonful of cereal. "Yeah, the drug alone would have been more than sufficient. They'd inject me early in the morning, try to catch me still sleeping. I'd be unconcious till about noon, then able to stumble around if dragged or shoved till afternoon, then I'd begin to regain some higher mental functions. The time I called you last night was about the earliest I could speak understandably. About 2 a.m. Jane would come to visit for a few hours. Early next morning I'd awaken, alert and refreshed, to the jab of another hypodermic in my tiny tushie. I'd have about five seconds to get my day's thinking done before lights out." She ate another spoonful of cereal.

Amy stood aghast, spoon half raised to her open mouth. "Daria, that is horrible, that is hideous! They treated Hannibal Lechter better than that! Why would they do such a thing?"

"Judging by how his drugging schedule related to the visiting schedule, and the lies he was telling Mom and Dad, Dr. White intended to keep me completely helpless and incommunicado until the insurance money ran out. After that, what? I don't think I'm ready to think about that yet."

"Well then, let's not. I think Helen is best qualified to handle that."

"Yeah. But remind me to tell her. She doesn't have that much detail yet. Which reminds me, I wonder if there's some maximum allowable duration reg for continuous strait jacket wear? If there is, he almost certainly broke it with me."

Amy's aghast look began to return. "Come on. Let me have it. How long?"

"Except for the first two parental visits and a shower every other day, all the time. I still don't know how many days I was there." Daria took another bite of cereal.

"Daria, this keeps getting worse and worse by orders of magnitude, and you sit there eating your cereal , looking perfectly normal! What gives?"

"Amy, I'm nowhere near normal. From my current position, I can't see normal with binoculars. When I got home last night, I was about ninety-three percent out of my tree. The happy-drooly juice helped me keep it together, as did being so relieved to be out, and I concentrated on acting non-suicidal and hugging a lot. This morning, my mad meter reads about eighty-six percent, and I'm concentrating grimly on the schedule. Breakfast first, freak later. Madness looks better when itís neatly organized. Plus, it helps a lot that you're here." Another spoonful of cereal. "So you see, every day in every way, I am getting better and better."

Amy groped for words. Rudyard Kipling came to her aid. "You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din."

Daria smiled. "Oh, Amy, it was bad, but it didn't begin to approach, say, the Hanoi Hilton experience. You could survive worse. So could I. And everybody's been very supportive. Quinn was a big help, especially with Mom. She was acting almost as strange as I was."

"Thanks, I think. Hi, Aunt Amy." Quinn said from the entryway.

Amy replied, "Hey, Quinn, I hear you've been behaving strangely."

"Yeah. I hear you've been dating a squad of mercenaries."

"I have? Cute ones, I hope."

"Oh, yeah. All but the one with his nose bitten off. Just the sort of thing a certain recent escapee needs to be telling her mother." Quinn pulled down her favored box of cereal.

Daria broke in. "Hey, I said, "Just Kidding." That means it doesn't count."

Amy said. "Of course. Did she buy it?"

"Yeah. Got her good." Daria glanced to the entryway, then imitated Helen. "Mercenaries! My GOD, what is she THINKING?!" Daria clapped her hand over her eyes. "Fortunately, Quinn stopped me before I'd totally hanged my stupid self with my own tongue."

Amy laughed a near-silent, wheezing laugh. "Sorry I missed that. But let's fade back a few minutes. What was that about Jane visiting you around 2 a.m.?"

"Yeah. I'd look up from the floor of my cell, and Jane would be standing there in the moonlight. She'd make some smartass crack, and I'd make one back, and we'd talk about what the hell happened, why was I here, how could I get out, how her artwork was going, that horrid orderly, school food versus madhouse food, my revenge after I escaped, everything. Sometimes she'd even put on a strait jacket so I wouldn't feel self-conscious. We'd just lean against the padded wall and watch the square of moonlight creep across the padded floor, and she'd keep me company until morning."

Quinn pulled two tissues, handed one to Amy. "Dang. Got me again." she said.

"Yeah, me too.", said Amy, dabbing beneath her glasses. Jane's your best friend, right? She sounds like a very special person."

"That she is. Oh, that reminds me. Jane's the other item on my schedule for today. She doesn't yet know I'm back from my "Canadian seminar", and she also doesn't know Quinn found her diary under my pillow."

"It was Jane's diary? Jane's suicide note? Are you sure she's all right?"

"She's fine. I called her last night but didn't talk. It wasn't a real suicide note. It was a diagnostic. My term. For some reason, suicide occurred to her. She thought to herself, "I wonder how near suicidal I am?" So she whips out her diary and composes a suicide note. She does a good job, uses all the reasons she can think of that actually apply to her at present. She tries to make it convincing. Then she reads it critically. She decides, "That's a really lame excuse for going to all that trouble. Guess I'm not very suicidal this week." It looked very real and serious at first glance, but when I boiled it down, it said, "Life is great right now, but something bad will probably happen in the future, so I've decided to quit winners." People don't use that logic to walk away from a slot machine, much less kill themselves. Something bad always happens to everyone in the future. Anyway, just then, Quinn or Mom comes to my door. Since she's sitting on my bed, she slips it under my pillow to conceal it. Then she forgets to retrieve it when she leaves. I do similar things in my diary, although I haven't yet done an actual suicide note. Anyway, that's what I think happened."

"Sounds like an insightful analysis. But I guess you'll be wanting to get in touch with her pretty soon anyway.", said Amy.

"Yes. I want to catch her before she leaves this morning, but since this is Saturday, that won't be too early. Jane dropped in to see me last night, and I asked her what she thought would be the best way to tell Jane. After she got over the trauma of finding out that it was her diary, and the added trauma of finding out that she wasn't the real Jane, she said that I should break it up into small pieces strung together in a logical sequence, so I could control the conversation and feed it to her gradually. She also said that we should block all her exits, because she has a tendency to jump and run."

"Geez, Daria, all I can say is, it's a good thing you couldn't talk when we sprung you yesterday, 'cause if those guys had heard what you just said---"

"Hey, I never said I was sane, just that I'm not suicidal. Anyway, Moonbeam Jane is right. Jane's a track star, she runs like a deer. When she has a problem she needs to think out or just work off, she often does it by running.

I could use her support today, but if she winds up on the other side of town by the time she comes to terms with it, it could take her hours to walk back."

"Amy! What an unexpected treat!" Helen stood in the entryway, with Jake behind her.

"Helen, how are you?" Amy moved to meet Helen, embraced her. "This must have been so rough on all of you! How are you holding up?"

"We're fine, Amy. We're going to sit down together and talk it all out. I must say, I'm a bit surprised to see you. I gathered from Daria that she was going to phone you. ..Not that I'm not glad to see you, of course."

"Yes, that was the plan. Helen, you must be immensely proud of Daria. Most kids her age would be total basket cases after what she went through. Most people of any age would be. But she's standing her ground like a marine. She said on the phone she was fine, and she did her best to be convincing, but the more I thought about it, the more I knew I should be here. I just had to come."

"And I'm really glad you came, Aunt Amy. I'm glad I didn't quite convince you. She looked at Helen. "Good morning, Mom, Dad. I'm gonna run upstairs and change. Don't want to be the only one running around in my nightie." She kissed Helen and Jake on the cheek on her way to the stairs. Jake looked down at Daria's t-shirt and shorts, scratched his head. Helen touched her cheek, looked surprised but pleased. Amy gave no sign of having noticed.

Amy stepped to the coffeemaker, poured a cup for Helen. "Oh, Helen, that horrible psychiatrist. Daria was just telling me that he was deliberately keeping her too heavily sedated to talk to you, and lying to you about her condition!"

Quinn added, "Yeah, Mom, and you know that time she kinda hit you with the hairbrush? She said she'd just heard about the diary, and she thought it must be mine, and she was afraid I was home killing myself while you were all messing with her! She said she was trying real hard to tell you that, but couldn't make you understand!"

"Oh, my poor baby! What have I done to her?"

"Helen, you mustn't blame yourself. You either, Jake. You had to make a very difficult decision in a very difficult situation with incomplete information. You did what you felt you had to do to protect your daughter's life. You trusted someone who should have been trustworthy and competent, but wasn't. As soon as you had better information, you got her out of there. You did your best, all along the line. You're not to blame."

"I should have looked at it, made sure it was hers."

"Everyone has 20-20 hindsight. It was under her pillow. You didn't have all day. Were the three of you supposed to take turns reading the whole thing? Or just inspecting every page for signatures? If anyone should have looked, it was that damn shrink. Don't waste your energy beating yourself up. Put it into getting to know Daria better. While respecting her privacy, of course."

"Oh, Amy, I've tried, but it's so hard with Daria."

"This may be your golden opportunity. She seems to be seeking understanding, to be reaching out. You reach out too. I'll help you."

 

 

-----:{}:-----

Scene 7 Daria's room

 

Daria finished buttoning up her other green jacket. It seemed a bit tight. Probably a subconscious association with that damn strait jacket. Daria was fairly sure she'd stopped growing.

She picked up her phone and dialed Jane's number. It was picked up after four rings, followed by two seconds of silence, followed by fumbling noises. Finally Daria heard Jane's voice say, "mm-wa?"

Daria said, "Lane! You're late for school!"

"What? thrashing noises. Oh, hell, oh sh- Hey! This is Saturday!"

"Oh, that's right. Never mind."

"Never-- Morgendorfer! Is that you? You'd better still be in Canada, 'cause if you're in Lawndale I'm gonna kick your butt!"

"Oh-oh. Now I've gone and done it. Well, you'll have to come over here and kick it, because I can't leave right now. Tell ya what, I'll feed you breakfast so you don't bonk before my butt's done."

"I'll be right over. Might as well, can't get back to sleep now. You'll just have time to take a before picture and kiss your tookus goodbye." Jane hung up.

Daria picked up a pencil and notepad and headed downstairs, rushing to put together a presentation before butt-kickin' time.

 

 

-----:{}:-----

 

Scene 8 Int Morgendorfer kitchen, twenty minutes later. Daria is seated in Jakeís usual spot, talking to Jane,who is seated in Dariaís spot eating a bowl of cereal.

"...and sometimes you'd even put on a strait jacket so I wouldn't feel self-conscious. And you'd keep me company until morning."

"Uh, Daria, I like effusive thanks as much as the next guy, but you're wierding me out a little here."

"I know you didn't physically break into the place every night, but by being such a really good, close friend, and by us getting to know each other so well, ... (sigh) I'm not very good at this. You gave me yourself, Jane, just by being you. I'll always have you with me up here", Daria tapped her forehead, "and... here." She touched her chest over her heart. That's how you were there for me when I really needed you. And I had to let you know just how much your friendship meant to me when the crunch came."

"Awww, hell. How am I supposed to eat this cereal when it's all full of salt water?"

From her position leaning against the side patio door, Amy handed Jane a tissue. "Not very good at this, she says." Amy dabbed again at her eyes with another tissue.

"There are just a couple more things I wanted to say. Quinn found your diary. And I hope I can count on you for support till I get back to my version of normal, especially at school."

"Sure, Daria. Whatever you need. Just give me a nudge when you're about to blow and I'll help you get to the janitor's closet. And I've been looking all over for that stupid diary. Where'd I leave it?"

"It was under my pillow. Quinn was doing a little snooping. Thought it was mine."

"The little rat! She read it? I hope she didn't read the last entry, it was a... Oh. Oh, no. Oh, bleep."

"Amazing! that's exactly what Jane-in-my-head said last night when I told her."

Jane sprang from her chair. Daria grabbed, missed. She bounded toward the family room, but Helen and Jake filled the entryway. Jane whirled, made for the side patio door, but Amy was there in a "you-shall-not-pass" stance. She was turning toward the garage door when Daria grabbed her in a bear hug. "Lemme go! I gotta... "

"I know. You gotta run screaming through the night. That's what you said in my room last night. You also said I should be sure and block all the exits, because you'd probably bolt, and if you made it out the door you'd probably run ten or twelve miles."

"Damn! I ratted my own self out?" Jane gave up and returned Daria's hug. "I gotta learn to fake sanity better, so I can maybe get a non-crazy friend."

"Study under Jodie. She fakes sanity real good."

Jane realized what she'd just said, gasped. "Oh, crap! I didn't mean that! Daria, shouldn't you be strangling me right now? I sent you to the filbert factory!"

"No, you didn't! It's not your fault! That note was in your own private diary, clearly so labelled on the inside front cover. You just misplaced it."

"You can't blame yourself, Jane." said Helen. "I never looked to see whose it was."

"Don't you start again, Mom. It's my fault for being so uncommunicative and sarcastic that my own family can't tell I'm not suicidal. And that closes out this round of "The Blame Game." Score remains tied at zero."

 

-----:{}:-----

 

Scene 9 Int Morgendorfer family room,a little later. All participants are seated on the sofa and love seats, or whatever you call those things.

"Well, I guess that about covers how much fun the strait jacket was, as long as we're pretending to be polite company. What rock shall we turn over next?"

Quinn asked, "What about the first time you did that strangled-freakout thing, when you were talking about me helping you talk to Mom?"

"That's the one we're saving for last. The Worst Thing."

"Okay, so what about that other time? After I asked how smart you were really?"

"Fear of brain damage from the drugs. It might sound a little silly to be that worried about a few IQ points, but I really like my brain, Quinn. It's my best feature. Hey, no freakout. That went well. She turned to Helen. "But I'd like to retake the Stanford-Binet. If it turns out that I did lose a significant number of IQ points, which I now doubt, at least you can sue for a couple extra million."

"Go ahead and set it up, sweetie. You have my approval." Helen slipped her arm around Daria's shoulders,very gently. "But you neednít worry. Iím sure you have a substantial cushion of brain power."

"Not if I want to remain the smartest person in the state. Number two is only three points behind me."

Helenís eyes widened and she inhaled sharply. The others showed similar reactions. "Smartest person in the... Are you teasing me?"

Daria gave Helen a resigned look. "You never went to any of those parent-teacher conferences, did you? Well, no use covering that until I get my test score back." She changed the subject. "I still need to know the name of that drug, and what dose they were giving me. Betcha dollars to donuts it was a substantial overdose."

Jake asked, "What was it like? The effects of the drug, I mean."

"Total oblivion in seven seconds. Almost like flipping a... a... " Daria's breathing became spasmodic. Her horrified gaze locked onto something only she could see. Her hands clutched the pillow in her lap but did not raise it to her mouth. "mm... mmm... They turned off my BRAINNN!! They just... SWITCHED IT OFFF!!! AAAAUUGGH!!!"

Helen pulled Daria to her, and Daria let herself be pulled. She collapsed onto Helen's shoulder, racked with tortured sobs sprung from a deep and heinous violation. Helen stroked Daria's hair and rubbed her heaving back. She did the little loving-mother things she had done so long ago, when Daria had last cried her heart out in her mother's arms. And gradually Daria's sobs abated, then died away. She lay still on her mother's bosom for a moment as her breathing became more regular, then slowly sat up. She squeegeed the bulk of the tears from her cheeks with her fingers, dislodging her glasses in the process. Amy retrieved the glasses as Helen passed her a box of tissues. A minute of dabbing, wiping, and nose-squeezing and Daria was as good as new, except for the redness of her eyes.

"Way to let it out!!", said Amy.

"Sweetie, do you think you could do that on the witness stand? Say, for an extra hundred thousand?"

"It's still there. I can drag it up again. I like the way you think, Mom. You're evil."

Amy stage-whispered to Helen, "That's a compliment."

Daria took a deep breath, let it out slowly. "Well. That only leaves The Very Worst Thing. Much as I'd like to, I can't think of a reason to postpone it. Intermission, anyone?" Shrugs, headshakes. "All right, then. Here goes."

"The Very Worst Thing happened just after we got to Cedars. The receptionist told me I'd have to go through a different door than you, Mom. Security precaution, she said." Daria stood up, began to wring her hands. "It didn't set off any bells in my head for some reason. I walk through the door. It's dark. I feel for the wall switch." Daria began to pace, her breathing becoming erratic. "The door slams, three men jump me." Pitch rising, her words came more rapidly. "We struggle. They shove me into a strait jacket, shove my face into the wall, jam a needle in my neck, shoot me full of knockout stuff." Her voice quavered. "Cold, burning numbness. I'm paralyzed. Everything is going black. Then, Dr. White says, "I'll go tell Mrs. Morgendorfer that everything went smoothly." Daria's expression became that of a lost soul, beginning its fall into Hell. "NOOOO!!", she screamed, chest heaving, fists clenched, staring through the ceiling. "Tricked! Trapped! Drugged! Committed!! BETRAYED!!" She clapped her hands to her skull, as if to hold it together. "BETRAYED BY MY OWN PARENTS! MY OWN MOTHER!!" Daria fell to her knees. "It was the worst moment of my entire liiife!! Thank GOD I passed out two seconds later!"

Daria folded up into a little ball of misery, fists weakly beating at the carpet on either side of her head. Jane dropped to the floor beside her, throwing an arm over her shoulder, followed by Quinn a second later, on the other side. Helen's face was the color of oatmeal. Her expression was a duplicate of Daria's a few seconds ago. Knuckles jammed into her open mouth, she stared sightlessly in the general direction of her daughters. Jake had put an arm around her shoulders, but was speechless himself. Amy stared from Helen to Daria and back, torn, then hurried over to Helen.

 

-----:{}:-----

 

Scene 10 Int Morgendorfer kitchen, half an hour later. Helen, Amy, Daria and Jane sit around the table with iced beverages.

Daria said, "I didn't mean to poleax you like that, Mom. I didn't know what I was going to say until I said it. The thing was so awful, I couldn't just lift the lid and peek at it. It would have been on me in a second."

"I can see that. It's a wonder you kept it bottled up as long as you did. That's the thing that almost, uh.. "got out" last night at dinner? When you jumped up and got the wet towel? And then again when you... Amy, when did you teach Daria that wierd "Boy stood on the burning deck" thing you used to do?"

"Huh? Never!" Amy stared at Helen, then Daria. Daria's head jerked up. She stared at Amy, then Helen, then Amy.

"Oh, come on, Amy. She stood right there and did it last night. Just exactly the way you used to."

Amy sat up straighter. "Helen, you're freaking me out. You're not supposed to have that power. I never once did that in Daria's presence. I haven't done it in years, haven't even thought about it, until... " Her eyes widened and returned to Daria.

Daria returned Amy's wide-eyed stare. "...about nine-fifteen last night?" Simultaneously, Daria's and Amy's hands flew up to cover their gaping mouths. Daria said, "I couldn't figure out where in the world that came from!"

"I don't believe it!", said Amy. "Show me!"

Without thinking, as if from much practice, Daria's hands moved to the sides of her head. Her middle fingers were horizontal, their tips touching her temples. Her index fingers pointed vertically to the ceiling, her thumbs back over her shoulders. The other fingers remained folded. She chanted:

"TheBoyStoodOnTheBurningDeckHisFeetWereFullOfBlisters!"

Amy joined in: "HeToreHisPantsOnARustyNailSoNowHeWearsHisSister's!"

Both inhaled deeply, exhaled slowly. They held their strange positions and continued to gape at each other.

"Before I run shrieking out the door, what the hell is that?" asked Jane.

Amy turned, dropped her hands. "It's a thought-blocking technique. It keeps out unwanted facts or ideas. If they're already in your head, it keeps a lid on them." She turned to Daria. "And it worked on the Very Worst Thing?"

"Yeah. A lot better than biting my arm and screaming."

"And you just... telepathied it to Daria last night?", asked Jane.

"It just sort of came to mind, for no particular reason. That was about the time I decided to drive down here, though."

"And I just sort of did it, as if I had just thought it up."

Quinn spoke from the entryway. "And this is my loving sister, whose bedroom door is less than ten feet from mine." She made a pleading gesture at the ceiling. "Why me?"

Jane nodded in sympathy. "I feel your pain. When they finally put the bag on me, and it's my turn in the rubber room, this is the best friend who's gonna surf down the moonbeam and be my sanity anchor."

"I was just gonna go scream in the garage for a while. Care to join me?"

"Thanks, but I think I'll hold on till dark and run screaming through the night. There are a couple of neighborhoods I wanna freak out."

Daria said, "Speaking of screaming and freaking, I've got one more bomb to throw. Everybody get a grip." There was a mutual exchange of worried glances. "Mom, could I borrow a credit card? Amy, would you take me shopping? For clothes?"

Everyone but Daria gasped. (duh.)

 

 

-----:{}:-----

Scene 11 Amy's sports car, pulling out of a shopping center parking lot onto a divided eight-lane crosstown artery. The back seat is pretty full of packages.

Daria looked at Amy, who was grinning as the slipstream played with her hair. "You have such great taste in clothes, Amy. I wish I could pick out clothes that aren't subject to the vagaries of fashion like you can. Guess I've seriously negleced this part of my education."

"You picked up a lot this afternoon, and there isn't really all that much more to it. The whole idea behind this strategy is to not take a lot of your time and attention away from the more important things in your life. I'll send you a book I have at home that'll give you all the basics. For the advanced stuff, well, maybe you'll just have to come and see me sometime."

"I'll do that, I promise. But I wish you'd let me buy you that scarf. I want to give you something nice."

"You gave me a priceless treasure, Daria, shortly before we left the house."

"What was that?"

"The look on Quinn's face when Helen handed you her platinum card and said, "Try to keep it under two thousand, sweetie."" Their laughter mingled with the car's impertinent exhaust note as they accelerated down the highway.

 

-----:{}:-----

Scene 12 A fast food place. Daria and Amy are in a booth, with two sodas and a plate of nachos.

Amy looked at Daria for a minute. Feeling her gaze, Daria looked back inquiringly. After another few seconds, Amy asked, "Daria, how are you feeling?"

"Fine. Glad to be back home, getting back to normal."

Amy continued to look into Daria's eyes. Daria felt a growing discomfort. "What?! Okay, you tell me. How do I look?"

Amy thought for a second, replied, "Like you're auditioning for the lead in Pollyanna"

Daria slumped, stared at her lap. "And I don't have a prayer."

Amy nodded. "It's too much of a stretch for you."

Daria sighed deeply. "I've been trying to be more communicative, more.. forthcoming. I concluded that this--- unpleasantness--- was as much my fault as anyone's. My own immediate family didn't know me well enough to even entertain a doubt when they saw that note. They didn't check for a name in the diary, they didn't confront me with it... come to think of it, Mom did ask me some weaselly questions in the car... and I think I gave her mostly sarcastic brushoffs. Well, that just reinforces my point. I've got to make myself understood to these people who hold this horrible power over me!"

"Being more open is good, Daria, but being bubbly isn't you. You have to be true to yourself. What good is security if you can't be yourself?"

"I'd have said the same thing a week ago. But when you're unconscious, or worse, semiconscious, strait-jacketed, lying in a tiny bare cell in the bowels of Bedlam, and there's no one to get you out, the value of being true to yourself doesn't even come up. Take it from one who's been there. Yesterday. There are worse things than pretending to be someone you aren't. And I only have to keep it up for nine more months. After that, I'll be a legal adult, and no one can have me committed unless I do something really criminally insane."

"Daria, your parents love you. They would never do that to you again."

"They loved me before. That, plus me being true to myself, plus a merry mixup that I had absolutely no control over, landed me in hell. And I haven't even told you what a horribly near thing it was that I got out at all. Mom was going to sign me up for a course of treatments to balance my brain chemistry. The very thought of that awful man playing with my brain chemistry just freezes my soul. Come to think of it, that's probably how he intended to handle the problem of my knowing too much. Daria's eyes grew wide, then squinted shut as she initiated the "Burning Deck" technique in a hurried whisper. Finishing, she took a deep breath and a drink and continued. "Mom had the pen in her hand, inches from the dotted line. I was in the strait jacket and too drugged to say even one word. All I could do was sit there and cry."

Amy's face grew slightly paler as she grasped the enormity of the situation Daria had described. "Well, come on, what did you do?"

"I sat there and cried. By some minor miracle, that was enough. Mom put down the pen to hug me, I waited for an opening, then grabbed the pen in my mouth and managed to scrawl the word "dairy" on the form. Mom figured it out, demanded the diary be brought out. Can you believe, it was still sealed in the envelope Mom brought it in? The slimeball hadn't even looked at it in all that time."

"Anyway, as soon as I read the suicide note, I knew this was Jane's diary, and I knew it was marked "Property of Jane Lane" on the inside front cover. To make a messy story short, by masterful use of my lips, nose, and teeth, and by another minor miracle, I managed to get Mom to see and read that inside front cover, and she took over from there."

"But my point is, another merry mixup could come along any time, and my parents would lovingly lock me away again, and how many more miracles can I count on? I think I may have used up my quota for this year."

"I see your point, Daria, but your bad Shirley Temple impression isn't the answer. It's been setting off my "Wrong" alarm, and it won't be long before it sets off Helen's as well. I think we should sit down with your parents and face this head on. And there'll never be a better time than today, especially with your "Very Worst Thing" presentation fresh in everyone's mind. By the way, have the white streaks appeared at my temples yet? Talk about soul freezing..."

-----:{}:-----

Scene 13 Int Morgendorfer family room. Daria wears an emerald green two-piece sweater that sets off her red-brown hair, with khaki slacks and oxblood loafers. Other items of apparel are displayed on sofas, and shopping bags lurk in corners.

"Oh, Daria, it looks beautiful on you. You look so elegant. And all your other clothes are beautiful too. Amy, you did an excellent job. You could have bought more, you know."

"I know, Mom. I'd like to go shopping with you sometime."

"I'd love to, sweetie. Monday I'll start clearing an afternoon, real soon."

"Mom, I find that I need to talk to you and Dad about another thing related to Cedars. I'm afraid. Afraid of being sent back."

"But, Daria, I told you last night that you'd never go back to that awful place. Do you want us to promise you?"

"More than that. I need some assurance, some guarantee, beyond a simple promise."

"Sweetie, what brought this on? Did you have another one of those... things?"

"No. This is another effect of being committed that I had been... overlooking, or ignoring. Amy pointed it out to me. Since I've been back, I've been acting happy, affectionate, even... bouncy. Amy called it "auditioning for the lead in Pollyanna". I can tell you sort of like it, but we all know that's not my normal personality. The bad part is, I'm doing it out of fear."

"You see, when I found out that you, my own parents, had had me forcibly committed, the ground dropped away from beneath my feet. I thought when I got back home, it would come back, but it hasn't. I can't feel safe here anymore. There's nothing I can point to and say, "Because of this, nothing like that will ever happen again." I can't pick up the pieces of my life if I have no solid place to put them."

Jake said, "Honey, you know we love you, and we only want what's best for you."

"I know, Dad. But those were the reasons you put me in Cedars. Your love without understanding almost got me killed. I can't risk that again."

"What do you mean, "Almost got you killed?" asked Helen, alarmed.

"Dr. White was lying to you about my condition and keeping me too doped up to talk in order to collect the maximum amount of money from your health insurance. I knew it. I knew too much. What do you suppose he intended to do about that? Think, Mom. You were that close to signing the authorization to let him "balance" my brain chemistry. If you'd signed that paper youíd have gotten back a Daria doll. Sheíd sit and sort of smile, and you could dress her in pretty dresses, and brush her hair, and feed her and wipe her face, and change her diapers and give her baths, and maybe take her for walks if you held her hand all the time. But I wouldnít be in there anymore. Or maybe thereíd be a tiny piece of me, way down in the dark somewhere, screaming and s... ohhh, Mom..."

 

For the second time that day, Daria flung herself into her motherís arms, and cried her heart out on her shoulder. But this time it was mutual. Helen was crying her heart out on her daughterís shoulder too. Understanding flowed along with the tears, but it was on a subverbal, or superverbal, level.

 

-----:{}:-----

Scene 14 Morgendorfer family room, an hour later. Jake, Helen, Amy, Daria, and Quinn are there.

Helen glanced at her notes, back to Daria. "As far as I can see, there are three possibilities here. The first would be to have you declared a legal adult. I've never heard of that being done in this situation, but if it's possible, we'll do it. It would mean you would lose some protections and incur some responsibilities from which you are currently shielded by your minor status. You would be made fully aware of all that before deciding, of course. This will all happen automatically in nine months anyway.

"The second thing we could do is relinquish our parental rights and make someone else, like Amy, your legal guardian." Helen dabbed at her eyes with a tissue. "That would throw a lot of responsibilities and expenses onto the guardian, although we would take care of the expenses, of course. Now, if you became Amy's ward, she'd have full parental authority over you, including the authority to have you committed, and you would have to obey her. And she'd have to sign all those permission slips you bring home from school, which would be a bother. Unless of course, you moved in with her. Is that what... um. In any case, you'd have to get Amy, or whatever other adult you select, to agree to be your guardian.

"The third possibility is to handle it contractually. Your father and I will contract with you never to authorize any mental or neurological treatments for you without your express written consent. We would set up Amy, and/or anyone else you select, as guarantor. The guarantor(s) would monitor contract performance and would be set up to obtain cease and desist orders in case of non-compliance. You would probably be required to phone the guarantor once a day. I'd have to do some research into guarantees and penalties and such, this being a rather unusual contract, but I believe this would be the easiest and cheapest of the three solutions to implement. We draw it up, sign it and notarize it, file it at the county courthouse, and it will have the force of law among the signatories. But it'll cost you."

"What do you mean?"

"Since you would be the party to whom service is rendered, service in this case being to refrain from having you committed, or in Amy's case, making sure we refrain, you must render consideration for said service."

An anxious look crept onto Daria's face. "They're gonna twist my arm for something. What?", she thought. "And consideration would be...?", She asked.

Helen noticed Daria's discomfiture, almost succeeded in suppressing a smile. "One dollar apiece is customary, dear."

Relieved, Daria chuckled. "Good one, Mom. You got me. I guess I can manage that. I'll mow some lawns or sell some blood or something. Options 1 and 3 both sound good. I'll leave it to you, Mom. whichever is easiest on you."

Helen sighed and looked down at her notebook. "All right, Daria. I'll get started on it Monday."

Daria knew something was bothering her mother. "What is it, Mom?", she asked softly.

"Oh, nothing, really. I suppose I was just hoping that after you'd heard the options, you'd say something to the effect that you'd settle for our solemn oaths."

"Oh." Daria looked at her feet for a few seconds, then rested her face in her hands, elbows on her knees. "Oh, Mom, I wish that would work. I wish it could be that simple." She didn't lift her head.

Jake suffered an attack of perception. "Kiddo, if you feel like you need to say something, today is certainly the day for it."

Daria said, "Yeah." After a few seconds she lifted her head. "Okay." She sat up a little straighter and faced her parents. "I don't want to say this. I apologize in advance. Sincerely. But I've got to be sure you understand. If, for whatever reason, you should have me committed again, to Cedars or anywhere else, it will probably kill me. If it doesn't kill me, if some part of me survives, I'll gather up whatever tattered shreds of my mind remain, and drag myself away. You will never see or hear from me again. Some bits of information may from time to time reach you from other sources concerning the wretched, pitiful, shattered existence that passes for my life. After I hear that you are dead and buried, I will return, and hire a roadhouse full of drunks to urinate on your graves."

Jake and Helen stared at Daria as if seeing the shattered wretch she had just described. Helen shivered, and Jake put his arm around her. Helen said, "You certainly have a way with words, dear. I suppose it would be best if we didn't have you committed any more."

"I'm really sorry, Mom, Dad. But I can't start to recover until I'm certain that last week cannot possibly happen again. I'd just keep going downhill until I was in genuine need of psychiatric care, which I would never be able to tolerate. I love you both dearly, but after what happened to me, and what almost happened, I can't trust anyone on earth with the power to have me committed."

 

-----:{}:-----

Scene 15 Same location, Sunday afternoon. Helen, Amy, Daria, and Quinn are discussing family stuff.

"It's really not Mom's fault, Quinn. You see, there's this bizarre circumstance that's always interfered with Mom and me really bonding with each other. Try to imagine what it must have been like for her the first time she realized her firstborn daughter was a little copy of her creepy kid sister."

Helen shrieked, "DARIA!!"

Amy was genuinely impressed. "Kid, you are wise 'way beyond your years! Are you channeling Aunt Emily?"

"AMY!!"

"Sure, aren't you?" Daria's brain suddenly shifted into mind games mode. "By the way, how did you implant the embryo without Mom noticing?"

"DARIA!!" Helen brushed at her arms and rubbed her legs together as if she were covered with bugs. Her eyes were squinted shut and she wore a "eeewww, gross!" expression. Amy's eyes lit up, and she fought to suppress a wicked grin. Daria and Amy closed in from opposite sides, laid hands on Helen's upper arms and shoulders. Quinn watched, delighted, fascinated, and slightly repulsed.

Amy said, "Hey, I know! Let's do her again! You gotta learn how sometime!"

Helen snapped, "You two stop it this instant!"

Daria cooed, "Awww, Mom... ", began kissing the left side of Helen's face.

Amy crooned, "Oh, c'mon, Helen... ", stroked Helen's right shoulder. Helen relaxed a bit.

Daria wheedled, "I'll be careful. I need the practice. I don't wanna botch it when I do Quinn."

Quinn squealed, "DARIA!!"

Amy explained, "First you have to retrieve the egg. You go in here or here (jabbing Helen's abdomen in the approximate location of her ovaries) with the Ovoraptor--"

"AMY!!"

"Don't worry, Helen! You didn't feel a thing last time! So, anyway, after you replace her single-stranded DNA with our omnipotent stem cell double helix, you seal it up, coat it with fertility factor six, and load it into the Violator. With the Violator you go in dead-center at this level..." She jabbed Helen's lower abdomen.

Helen screamed, "AAAUGH!!", leaped up, and fled up the stairs.

"Holler when you're ready, Mom!", Daria called after her.

 

-----:{}:-----

 

Scene 16 Curbside in front of Morgendorfer residence, later Sunday afternoon. Amy is in the driver's seat of her sports car. Daria kneels at the curb, leans on the passenger door, so that she and Amy share the same eye level. Helen, Jake, and Quinn stand along the car's right front fender.

 

Daria said, "So, now you've seen me at my worst. Multiple freakouts, come totally unglued twice. Guess you'll be avoiding this neck of the woods for awhile."

"Are you kidding? Or just fishing for a compliment? I am so proud of you, words fail me. You went through hell and came out with a demonskin jacket!" Daria actually grinned at this.

"We really enjoyed having you, Amy. I wish we'd had time to do something together.", said Helen.

"I know, Helen. Me too. I really want to spend more time with you. It's been too long."

"It really has. You come see us any time you can, Amy. You're always welcome."

"I will, Helen. How's weekend after next?"

Daria's grin returned, even toothier. She turned her head just enough that Helen couldn't see it, flashed Amy a secret thumbs-up.

"Uh- sure, Amy, that would be great! See you then!", said Helen, turning up the sincerity on her smile.

"And I want you all to plan to come up and see me, too. I've got room, really."

"I'll come if I have to hop a freight, Amy.", said Daria. "And I'll start twisting some arms, so maybe we'll find out how much room you really have."

"Great. Jake, you take care of my girls, now. Bye!" Amy turned the ignition switch, the engine burbled to life. Shoving the lever into first, she accelerated away, the car's tailpipe blowing a razzberry to the world.

Daria quit waving, headed up the sidewalk after the others. She moved to consolidate the gains Amy had made. Slipping an arm around Helen's waist, she said, "Mom, I'm so glad to see you and Amy getting along so well! Seeing you fight always made me feel so bad, like I guess you feel when Quinn and I fight. Now you two can be an example for Quinn and me."

Helen looked at Daria and smiled, but with one eyebrow cocked just a bit. "You're right, Daria, there's no reason Amy and I shouldn't be close friends as well as sisters, especially after all these years. You little weasel." She gave Daria a quick side shoulder hug, just before they entered the front door. Daria returned the hug, with one of her Mona Lisa smiles for interest.

  

-----:{}:-----

 

Scene 17 Ext. residential neighborhood, Lawndale. Monday morning. Jane and Daria are walking to school.

 

Daria said, "No, the pain is gone, it's faded away. And I can see it all from Mom's point of view. I can't blame her for what she did, so the memory doesn't hurt anymore. But the memory of the pain-- remains."

"Uh. So, to summarize: The pain is gone. The memory causes no pain. But the memory of the pain-- remains. Hmm. So, where does that leave you?"

"I'm free. It's just a memory of past pain, not pain continuing in the present. I can't erase it, but I have no need to go down and rattle its cage. What Mom did doesn't hurt anymore, that's the important thing.

"Aw, c'mon. Nobody's that well adjusted."

"I suppose not. Guess I'll just play it like Wak-A-Rat. Anytime it pops up, I'll bash it in the head. Beat it down with my relentless logic."

"That'll work."

From an intersecting sidewalk, Jodie Landon waved. "Hey, Daria! Great seeing you again. Mind if I walk with you guys?"

Daria smiled. "Well, you know. We're bold, resolute Face-The-World- Head-On types. Think you can hang?"

"I think so. You gotta be pretty tough to be a Landon."

"I heard that. We were kind of hoping you'd join our support group."

"Support group?"

"Yes. Did you hear that I'd been to a seminar in Canada?"

"Yeah. How did it go? Did you enjoy it?"

"That's just a cover story." Daria put a hand on Jodie's shoulder, looked straight into her eyes. "Do you take your truth straight or with a spoonful of sugar?"

Jodie looked concerned but sincere. "Straight."

Daria squeezed Jodie's shoulder, let it go. "Good on ya. Okay. I was at Cedars of Lawndale Mental Treatment Center. Forcibly committed. Thought to be suicidal."

Jodie gasped, "Daria, that's awful! What happened?"

"You have no idea. It was a series of accidents and misunderstandings."

"My fault.", said Jane.

"NOT your fault."

"I wrote a suicide note in my diary and left it under Daria's pillow."

"Unintentionally. And it had your name on the cover, if anyone had looked."

"Her sister found it, and Daria won an all-expense-paid week in Hell."

"And all the narcotics my butt could absorb. So you see, Jodie, we're both somewhat bent out of shape right now, me more than somewhat. You sure you want to be seen with us?"

Jodie, somewhat shaken, fought not to show it. She replied, "Sure. I've been meaning to get bent."

Daria clapped her on the back. "Thanks, Jodie. You're a man after my own heart!"

 

Jane asked, "so, how'd you like the strait jacket? Bet you looked good in it."

Daria thought, replied, "It actually was quite sharply tailored. All the straps, snaps, buckles and zippers made interesting design elements. Kind of like painters' pants on acid, or a majorette outfit from Hell High."

"Hey, sounds sexy!"

"You know, it was kind of sexy, in a twisted, horrible sort of way. See, when you're wearing a strait jacket, everybody can pull down your pants but you."

Jane seized her head in both hands, feigned agony, as from a sharp blow to the skull. "OW! OOH!! AAUGH!! DAMN, Morgendorfer, do you know how long it'll take me to get that image out of my head?!"

"The rest of your life? Hey, why should I be the only one? Anyway, you just got told. I lived it."

Jodie's eyes were very wide, and her face was noticeably paler. She spoke through her fingers. "Well, I'm bent now."

 

la la LA la la

 

  

Well, that's it- my first Daria story. I realize the Morgendorfers weren't quite their usual selves here, especially Daria, but this is how I see them responding to this very stressful situation. For Daria, extreme anxiety and insecurity and the memory of recent horrors; for the others, guilt and near loss. I'd really like to know how well you, the readers, think I did in staying true to the characters and the series as a whole.

Another thing. The format I used here is a rather awkward blend of narrative and screenplay styles. Don't really know why I did that, other than never having written a screenplay before. Next time maybe I'll try using the straight screenplay style.

"Daria" and all related characters are trademarks of MTV Networks, a division of Viacom International, inc. The author does not claim copyright to these characters or to anything else in the "Daria" milieu; he does, however, claim copyright to all those parts of this work of fiction which are original to him and not to MTV or to other fanfic authors. This fanfic may be freely copied and distributed provided its contents remain unchanged, provided the author's name and email address are included, and provided that the distributor does not use it for monetary profit. (as if.)

  Galen Hardesty [gehardesty@yahoo.com]