Cyber Stacy
  by Kemical Reaxion

Yet another departure from my typical, comedic style, this fic is an intense one. And a long one as well. It's not at all what I intended when I started writing it, but as usual, the story took on a mind of its own. The words started choosing their own path, and I could do nothing but sit back and watch the words fly across the screen. I'm happy to say, I think the right path was chosen. Keep in mind though that while it IS a more dramatic fic, there are PLENTY of my usual comedic moments. So don't worry...this fic isn't going to bum you out completely. I promise! It's a roller coaster ride though, so be prepared. Just sit back and enjoy the ride!!
Artist: Milo Minderbinder

Act 1

[Music: “Digital Get Down” by ‘NSync] Scene begins with a close-up view of a computer screen. There are several windows open on the screen. The one covering the full screen is a chat room screen. There is a large space on the left side of the screen where people are chatting. The right side of the window lists all the user names logged into the chat room. Typical generic chat names -- pimp_daddy, babydoll16, hotboy69, etc. -- are among those listed. A small pop-up window can be seen in the middle of the screen, covering up some of the chat window. The title at the top of the window says that it’s a PM (private message) window. There, a conversation between two people -- moonpetal and dragonslayer19 -- is going on.

dragonslayer19: Lawndale, huh? I’ve been there once or twice.

moonpetal: It’s not real exciting around here.

dragonslayer19: So, what do you do for fun in Lawndale anyway?

moonpetal: Well, my friends and I usually just go to the mall and stuff.

dragonslayer19: Really? Sounds boring.

moonpetal: It can be. I mean, the mindless chatter and ruthless sale-hunting gets old after awhile.

dragonslayer19: If they’re so dull, why do you even hang out with them?

moonpetal: They’re my friends. I can’t drop them just because I’m tired of them.

dragonslayer19: Why not? They’d probably do the same to you.

moonpetal: No, they're not like that at all. They'd never do that to me.

dragonslayer19: Well, there’s got to be someone around there with a few more brain cells than those losers. Someone who would be a helluva lot more interesting to be around.

moonpetal: Like you? ;-)

dragonslayer19: Ha ha...well that’s not what I meant, but hey, if the shoe fits...

moonpetal: Buy four pair.

dragonslayer19: lol You’re funny, Stacy.

Camera pulls back to reveal Stacy sitting in the LHS computer lab. The room is a typical, non-descript high school computer lab. Stacy is wearing headphones, and so the music that was playing becomes suddenly faint (as it is coming from her headphones). She stares at the screen, smiles, and continues typing. The computer lab is empty except for her. A few moments later, Mr. O’Neill comes up behind her and places a hand on her shoulder.

O’Neill: Stacy??

Stacy is startled and jumps.

Stacy: Eep! (turns in her chair) Oh, hi, Mr. O’Neill. (takes off the headphones) I didn’t hear you come in.

O’Neill: I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you, but the lab’s going to be closing soon.

Stacy: (suddenly panicked) Really?? Oh, my gosh! What time is it?

O’Neill: It’s almost 5:30.

Stacy: Oh, no! (turns back to the computer and types frantically for a few moments, then closes out of the chat room) My mother’s gonna kill me!

O’Neill: Oh, dear. Do you need a ride home?

Stacy pauses, considering this for a moment.

Cut to:

[Music: “Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band] O’Neill’s car. O’Neill is driving, his head bouncing back and forth happily to the music coming from the car radio. He’s singing along, a little too enthusiastically, with the song. Stacy is sitting in the passenger seat with her backpack in her lap. She looks very uncomfortable and is fidgeting with the zipper on her bag.

O’Neill: (singing) Skyrockets in flight. Afternoon delight. A-a-afternoon delight!

Stacy looks over at O’Neill and rolls her eyes. O’Neill looks over at her and sees the unpleasant look on her face.

O’Neill: Eep! (turns down the radio) Sorry. Sometimes I get carried away! (bt) Well, I was certainly glad to see you staying after school so late to do homework. Taking such an active role in your education is a big step in expanding your mind. I couldn’t be more thrilled for you. You’re finally starting to realize how important your education is. (Stacy looks guilty) I only wish the rest of your friends shared your enthusiasm. After Quinn got that tutor over the summer, I had high hopes for her, but her concentration and thirst for knowledge didn’t last as long as I had hoped. It’s sad, really. (smiles) But you! You can really excel if you continue to apply yourself.

Finally, the guilt gets to Stacy, and she blurts out the truth.

Stacy: I was in a chat room!!!

Stacy covers her face with her hands and sobs. O’Neill starts to look very uncomfortable.

O’Neill: Oh my. Umm....well, chat rooms do have their place. It’s nothing to get upset over.

Stacy: (lifts her face, her eyes are red and puffy from crying) But now you think I’m STUPID!!! Aaaaahhhhhh......(covers her face again)

O’Neill bites his lip and grips the steering wheel tighter. He doesn’t know what to say, so he just stares straight ahead and drives in silence, sweating bullets the rest of the way.

Cut to:

Lawndale High. Daria and Jane are walking down the hall, carrying their books. Daria is in mid-Tom-story and Jane is looking very distant.

Daria:, Tom and I thought we had finally lost the jerk, but just as we reached the front of the line, he reappeared out of nowhere and “accidentally” spilled his coke down the front of my shirt. By this time I was about two seconds away from shoving a snow cone up his ass, when Tom stepped in.

Jane: Uh-huh.

Daria and Jane stop at Jane’s locker. Jane starts swapping out books for her next class.

Daria: He got right up in the guy’s face and told that hulking mass of testosterone to take a hike before he turned his face into creamed spinach. The guy made some prehistoric grunting noises and mumbled a few choice expletives before lumbering off into the sunset.

Jane: Uh-huh.

Daria: I mean, it wasn’t an ideal situation, but I rather enjoyed it overall. You know me; I normally prefer to fight my own battles, but it was nice having someone stand up for me for a change.

Jane: (slams her locker with a little too much force, turns and starts walking off) Yeah.

Daria: (follows a few steps behind, narrowing her eyes) And then....Tom and I went back to his house and had wild sex on his parents’ $5,000 oriental rug.

Jane: Uh-huh.

Daria: Jane, have you been listening to ANYTHING I’ve been saying?

Jane: (stops and turns toward Daria suddenly) Gee, Daria, I don’t know. You lost me right after ‘...and then Tom turned water into wine and found a cure for football-induced brain damage.’

Daria: What is WITH you today?

Jane: (both turn and keep walking down the hall) What do you think? You think I haven’t heard all these stories before?

Daria: I’m sure you have, but when YOU heard them, YOU were the one telling them. Remember?

Jane: My point exactly.

Daria: (a tiny bit frustrated) I thought you said you were over Tom.

Jane: I am. But that doesn’t mean I want to hear ‘The Adventures of Tom and Daria’ every damn second of the day. My life is exciting enough, thank you.

Daria: What do you think *I* had to put up with for months?

Jane: (tries to make light of the situation but comes off sounding hateful) Geez, Daria. Do you ALWAYS have to copy my style?

Daria: (taken aback) What?

Jane: (sweeps her hand through the air, dismissing the whole thing) Nevermind. I gotta get to class. (ducks into a classroom)

Daria is left standing outside the classroom, clutching her books to her chest. She stares into the classroom for a moment, watching Jane, before turning and heading down the hallway to her own class.

Cut to:

LHS computer lab. Daria walks into the lab. Several of her fellow students -- including Kevin, Brittany, Jodie, Mack, and Andrea -- are already there, seated at the computers. Daria takes a seat at the end of one of the rows, right across from Kevin and Brittany. The teacher of the class, Mr. Blankenship, is standing at the front of the room at the chalkboard, drawing some confusing, meaningless diagrams on the board. He is a tall thin man with a well-trimmed grey beard and a quickly receding hairline. He has small wire-rimmed glasses perched on the end of his nose and is dressed in a plaid shirt and beige slacks. Finally, after finishing his diagrams, he turns to the class.

Blankenship: Hello, class. And welcome to another exciting day of Introduction to the Internet. Everyone having a fantastic day, I hope?

Camera cuts to a view of the class. The students all look tired, bored, and/or unimpressed. No one says a word. Cut back to the teacher.

Blankenship: (frowns) That good, huh? (grins again) Well, this class is sure to cheer you up. Today, I thought instead of our usual book lesson, I’d make an extra special assignment. There has been alot of controversy lately surrounding chat rooms. Are they a danger to young people? Are they a breeding ground for perversion and corruption? Or, are they a useful tool in the educational process and a great way to connect with people from around the globe? People from all walks of life. (sweeping his hand in front of him dramatically) From India to Indiana. Austin to Australia. Algeria to Alaska.

Brittany: I didn’t know they had chat rooms in Alaska!

Daria: They don’t. They just carve messages into blocks of ice and float them downstream.

Brittany: Really?

Daria: Yeah. Think about it...who needs email when you’ve got ‘sail mail’? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. (bt) So to speak.

Brittany: (twisting her hair around her index finger, amazed) Wow....

Blankenship: (continuing) So, for the remainder of this week I want you to visit a variety of chat rooms. Observe the conversations taking place. Converse with the people. Then, I want you to write a short essay on what you discovered. Discuss why you think chat rooms are good or bad for society. Support your conclusions and be prepared to read your essays aloud in class on Monday.

Jodie: (raising her hand) Mr. Blankenship?

Blankenship: Yes, Miss Landon?

Jodie: We don’t have class on Monday. Remember?

Blankenship: Oh, sure. Of course. (grumbles) Blasted teacher’s meetings. (shakes it off) Ok, so I guess these will be due on Tuesday. Any questions?

Camera cuts back to the students. Kevin has somehow managed to get the mouse cord wrapped around his neck. With quite a bit of effort, he raises his hand.

Kevin: (struggling with the cord) Uh, Mr. B? Could I, like, get some help over here?

Blankenship sighs. He looks annoyed but not at all surprised.

Cut to:

Later that evening. Daria is sitting in her room at her computer. She’s sitting back in her chair munching on some pretzels, staring at the computer screen, observing the occupants of the chat room. Camera cuts to view of the computer screen. She is currently in a chat room titled “Literary Geniuses,” but no one appears to be discussing literature. The typical generic names are listed off to the right side, like before. The name ‘DarianGray’ is highlighted, indicating Daria’s own screen name. A few lines of the conversation going on are visible.

badboy2000: you want a piece of me, beeee-aaaaach?

biteme_14f: bring it on sucka!!!

FlowerChild: ooooo....someone just opened up a can of whoop ass!

bkstreetgirl15: whoop! ass! whoop! ass!

Daria: (out loud to herself) If these guys are discussing literary geniuses, then I’m the Queen of Spam Land.

Tom: (from Daria’s bedroom doorway) God save the Queen!

Daria: (startled) Ah! (turns and sees Tom) Oh. Hey Tom. What are you doing here?

Tom walks over to Daria’s chair and kisses her lightly on the lips. Daria smiles and blushes slightly.

Tom: I tried to call, but the line was busy, so I just decided to come over. (glances at the screen) Still doing that Internet assignment?

Daria: The whole thing’s a joke. (bt) A very bad joke. (bt) A very bad knock-knock joke.

Tom: Oooo, that IS bad. (sees Daria’s screen name, smiles) ‘DarianGray’? Clever.

Daria: Thanks. It was either that or ‘Queen of Spam Land.’

Tom: (chuckles) I’d say you made a wise decision.

Cut to:

[Music: “Breakout” by Foo Fighters] Pizza King. Daria and Tom are sitting in a booth, finishing off a pie.

Daria: So, when’s your cousin getting into town?

Tom: (unenthusiastic) Tomorrow afternoon.

Daria: And I’m guessing by your reaction that this is NOT a joyous occasion?

Tom: Not at all. He’s thirty-seven years old and still lives with his parents. He sits around all day playing video games and hacking into government websites. He hardly ever bathes or leaves the house, and when he does, it’s only to drive down to the comic book store to pick up the latest issue of ‘Cyborg Babes from Planet Double D.’ The guy’s downright weird. Quite frankly, he gives me the creeps.

Daria: So if he’s so engrossed in his pornographic comic books and illegal activities, why is he making this journey to grace you with his odious presence?

Tom: I haven’t the slightest idea. He told my parents he had some ‘business’ to take care of, which, knowing him, could mean a wide variety of things. One thing it DOESN’T mean is that he actually plans on doing any business. Everything’s pleasure with him.

Daria: Well, I’d ask you to come stay at my house while he’s visiting, but my mother would throw a hissy-fit.

Tom: And that’s different from her normal behavior how?

Daria: (grinning) Funny. If I weren’t -- (spots Jane walk in the front door) -- aw, hell.

Tom: (sees Jane) Uh-oh. I gather you two haven’t kissed and made up yet?

Daria: Kissed and made up? We haven’t even held hands and tolerated each other’s presence.

Jane is still standing by the front door, looking around the restaurant like she’s searching for someone. Then, she spots Daria and Tom. Momentarily her passive expression tightens as she glares at them, then she regains her composure and makes her way to an empty table clear across the room from Daria and Tom. After a long, tense silence, Tom speaks up.

Tom: Maybe you should go talk to her.

Daria: I’ve tried. I’ve done everything I can think of, short of doing back-flips and jumping through a ring of fire.

Tom: Well, as much as I would enjoy seeing you attempt a few back-flips, I think it’s best you keep your feet on solid ground.

Daria: (grinning) Smart ass.

Tom: Beats being a dumbass.

Cut to:

Jane, sitting at a table alone, eating a slice of pizza. She occasionally glances over at Daria and Tom, a strange mixture of sadness and disdain in her eyes. The Fashion Club is seated at a nearby table, and Jane is trying to occupy her time by listening to their mindless gossip. After listening for a few moments, she gets bored and leaves the table to go to the bathroom.

Sandi: So it’s settled then. The Fashion Club’s Midterm Make-Over Madness will be held at Quinn’s house tomorrow night.

Tiffany: I....can’t....wait.

Quinn: Yeah! It’ll be great! I’ve already ordered the vegetarian tacos and no-fat, no-sugar, no-calorie frozen yogurt bars for dessert. I have every back issue of Waif and Val since 1996 as well as the brand new Waif special edition: “How to Become a Supermodel in 10 Days or Less.”

Tiffany:’ve thought of eeeeeeverything, Quinn...

Stacy: Um, does it HAVE to be tomorrow night?

Sandi: Why? Is there a schedule conflict that we should be apprised of, Miss Rowe?

Stacy: (sheepish) Well, yeah. You see....I sorta have....a, um...a date.

Sandi: YOU have a date? Why weren’t we informed of this prior to the planning of our annual make-over extravaganza? Where are your priorities?

Stacy: Well, I....

Quinn: Omigod! Tell us all about him. Is he cute? What car does he drive? ‘Cos, y’know, if he drives a blue car, I have this dark blue, sling back dress that would coordinate PERFECTLY, especially with your blue eyes and everything. And then you could wear those little patent leather...

Sandi: (interrupting) Wardrobe is of little concern at the moment. The important question is, who is this...person?

Stacy: You don’t know him. He’ out of town.

Sandi: (raises an eyebrow suspiciously) Out of town? Are you sure you’re not just SAYING that because you’re embarrassed to tell us who he is, for fear of complete and utter exile?

Quinn: C’mon, Stacy, tell us about him. I’m sure he’s DREAMY! You have nothing to be embarrassed about.

Tiffany: Yeah. Unless he’s.....a total.....geek.

Stacy: No, he’s not a geek. He’s really funny and he’s got a wonderful personality.

Sandi: You mean he’s a dog.

Stacy: Um, well....I’m not sure...exactly....

Sandi: Not sure? He either IS a dog or he ISN’T. Which one is it?

Stacy: have to go to the bathroom!

Stacy quickly jumps up and runs to the ladies room. She pushes her way through the door and runs right by the row of sinks. She ducks into one of the stalls and locks the door. Jane, who is standing at one of the sinks washing her hands, turns to look at the stall door. Weak, pitiful sobs can be heard from behind the stall door, and Jane cocks an eyebrow. She dries her hands on a paper towel and tosses the towel in the garbage. She turns to exit, then stops suddenly. Jane stands there at the restroom door for a moment, thinking. Finally, she decides to find out what’s going on and turns back to Stacy’s stall.

Jane: (knocking on the stall door) You okay in there?

Stacy: (through sobs) No.

Jane: What happened?

Stacy: (snaps) Nothing!

Jane: Okaaaay....sorry I asked.

Jane turns to leave, but the sound of the stall door opening stops her. She turns back around to see a red-faced, tear-streaked Stacy emerge from the bathroom stall.

Stacy: Sorry, I didn’t mean to be mean. I’m just...having a bad day, y’know?

Jane: (frowns) Strangely enough, I DO know.

Stacy: I don’t understand people sometimes. I just wish everyone wasn’t so quick to judge. (holds out her left hand, palm up) I mean, on one hand I have this wonderful guy that I want to get to know better, (holds out right hand) but on the other hand I have all my friends monitoring every move I make and every guy I date. I just KNOW they won’t like him. They’ll try to get me to break up with him. They’ll be mean and hateful to us until I either dump him or them. I don’t understand how people who CLAIM to be my friends could be

Jane: (raising an eyebrow but obviously taking Stacy’s story very personally) Well, maybe they’re doing it for your own good. I mean, suppose they know something about this guy you’re dating, something you don’t know or are too love-blind to see. Maybe he’s not the nice guy he appears to be, and you’re the only one that doesn’t see it.

Stacy: But they’ve never even MET him before. I met him on the.... (stops abruptly)

Jane: Love Boat?

Stacy: (sighs) On the Internet.

Jane: Ooo...well, then I’d say they probably have a good reason to be worried.

Stacy: But they don’t KNOW that’s where I met him. They think just because he’s got a ‘good personality’ that he’s not cute. And so what if he’s NOT? Looks aren’t everything.

Jane: Right. You can’t judge people by their looks. Instead you judge them by how much money they have and what kind of car they drive.

Stacy: God...are we really that shallow? (Jane shrugs) Oh. Well, I don’t mean to be. And after I meet him tomorrow, I can PROVE that I’m not.

Jane:’re meeting him? In PERSON?

Stacy: Uh-huh.

Jane: Stacy, you may think you know this guy, but it’s way too easy to lie on the Internet. You know NOTHING about him.

Stacy: But you don’t KNOW him like I do. He’d NEVER lie to me.

Jane: How can you be so sure? Because he TELLS you he’s not lying? (Stacy bites her bottom lip, Jane sighs) Look, if you’re going to meet with him, at least have someone else there with you, just in case.

Stacy: But none of my friends would agree to meet him. I just know it. They already don’t like him. Who could I ask? (getting upset again) I’m all ALONE!!

Jane: (resists for a moment, then finally caves in) I know I’m going to regret this, but since I really don’t need a teenage girl’s murder on my conscience...I’ll do it.

Stacy: (thrilled) You will?? (hugs Jane enthusiastically, Jane looks a tad uncomfortable and tries to pull away) Oh, thank you! Thankyouthankyouthankyou!!!!

Jane: (through gritted teeth) I’m regretting it already.

Cut to:

The next day at school. Jane is standing at her locker, staring into it blindly. She’s deep in thought and looks depressed. A locker slams a few feet away, and Jane snaps out of her mild trance. She looks over to her right to see Andrea staring at her.

Andrea: What are you looking at?

Jane: (offended) Well, forgive me for allowing my eyes to fall upon you without your permission. Next time I’ll make an appointment first.

Andrea: (takes a step forward) No, I mean....(gestures towards Jane’s open locker) what are you LOOKING at?

Jane’s face falls slightly, and she looks just a tiny bit embarrassed.

Jane: Oh. (sighs) I don’t know. I guess I’ve been a little out of it lately.

Andrea: Obviously.

Jane: Thanks for the encouragement.

Andrea spots Daria standing at the end of the hall, watching them, but not making an effort to walk towards them.

Andrea: Is she pissed off at you?

Jane: Who? (turns around, sees Daria) Oh. Probably. She usually is these days. I somehow always manage to give her a good reason to be. (turns back to Andrea) It’s one of my many talents.

Andrea: What did you do? Steal her boyfriend?

Jane: That’s not funny.

Andrea: Well, you had to have done something.

Jane: (getting irritated) Why does it ALWAYS have to be my fault?

Andrea: Because you just said that you always manage to tick her off. (sees that Jane is getting agitated) So, I’m asking. What. Did. You. Do?

Jane: (snaps, suddenly gets overly defensive) Nothing!

Andrea: (grins ever so slightly, as if that’s what she wanted Jane to say) Nothing, huh? Well, maybe THAT’S your problem. (she turns and walks off)

Jane stands there at her locker, watching Andrea walk away for a moment. Then, she turns around to catch another glimpse of Daria. Daria is gone. Jane sighs, slams her locker, and heads off down the hall.

Cut to:

After school that same day. Daria is in the computer lab in yet another chat room. This time, she’s not even looking at the screen. She has a book on her lap and is reading, oblivious to the conversation in the chat room. Cut to close-up of the computer screen. “DarianGray” is highlighted as before, and among the typical generic names is a familiar one... “dragonslayer19.” After a moment of typical chat room conversation, a PM window pops up. Dragonslayer19 is sending a private message to DarianGray.

dragonslayer19: Hey baby, you want to take on a real man?

Daria, engrossed in her novel, keeps reading and doesn’t even notice his pathetic attempt. After a long pause:

dragonslayer19: C’mon, sweetcakes. You know you can’t resist me. Don’t be shy.

Another long pause. Daria turns a page nonchalantly without looking up.

dragonslayer19: Admit it. Just the sight of my name makes you horny.

Daria yawns and continues reading. Finally, a shadow falls over the pages of her book.

Jane: Looks like someone’s got a fan.

Daria: (looks up at Jane) Huh? (finally glances at the screen) Oh, yeah. Him. I’ve had problems with him before. I’ve ignored him ‘til I’m blue in the face, but he doesn’t ever seem to get the hint.

Jane sits down at the computer next to Daria’s.

Jane: Some guys just won’t take “Hell no” for an answer.

Daria smiles a bit, but is still a little uncomfortable. She looks as though she wants to say something but doesn’t know what she should say. Finally, she opens her mouth to speak, but Jane cuts her off.

Jane: (turns to her computer and starts clicking with the mouse) My home computer died a slow and painful death, so I figured I’d swing by and check my email before heading over to get some pizza. (glances over at Daria) You gonna be here long?

Daria: (without thinking) Not much longer. I’m getting ready to head out. Tom and I are going to the.... (stops abruptly, looks a bit guilty for mentioning Tom)

Jane: (after a slight pause) Going to the...what? Daria, you don’t have to be afraid to say his name around me, for cryin’ out loud. I’m a big girl. (suddenly very serious) Look, Daria, about yesterday....

Her explanation is interrupted by Kevin and Brittany, who are sitting a few computers down from the two. Kevin is in the process of removing the keys from Brittany’s keyboard and rearranging the letters. Brittany has finally gotten tired of it and gives Kevin a harsh wack on the back of the head.

Brittany: I told you to STOP DOING THAT!!!

Kevin: (rubbing the back of his head) But babe, look how COOL your key thingy looks now!

Brittany: It’s not a key THINGY! It’s a key BOARD! Ugh!!

Jane: (grins at Kevin’s stupidity) I wonder what the village idiot was doing this time.

Daria: Looking for the ‘any’ key?

Jane: Must he ALWAYS take everything so literally?

Daria: That’s nothing. You should have seen what he did when Mr. Blankenship started discussing ‘RAM disk.’ I heard it took over two hours to have that disk removed.

Jane: Dare I ask where it was removed from?

Daria: I don’t even want to think about it. (glances at her watch) Well, as much as I’ve enjoyed this thrilling episode of “The Blonde and the Witless,” I’d better get going before Tom calls out the search party.

Jane: (frowning) Oh. Ok, then. I’ll just stay here. Hold down the old proverbial fort.

Daria: (concerned) Are you ok?

Jane: Sure. I’ve never been more ‘ok’ in my life. (bt, looks Daria in the eye) Daria, would you do me a favor? (Daria nods) You’ve always been a pretty good judge of character, but you can’t be right ALL the time. You can never be too careful, y’know?

Daria: Jane....what are you talking about?

Jane: Just promise me you’ll be on your guard.

Daria: (after an extremely lengthy pause) I promise.

Cut to:

[Music: “Magic’s In The Makeup” by No Doubt] The moment has finally arrived. The night of the big meeting. Stacy is in her bedroom primping in front of a full length mirror. She’s dressed in a short, dark purple skirt and silver silk top. Over the top, she’s wearing a long-sleeved purple sweater with fur around the collar and cuffs. The purple top is unbuttoned all the way down to reveal the shiny blouse underneath. Her hair is swept up and gathered loosely on the top of her head, the hair held in place by a number of tiny silver butterflies. She looks absolutely stunning. As she’s checking her makeup in the mirror, trying to calm her nerves a bit, the doorbell rings downstairs. Stacy visibly starts shaking.

Stacy: Omigod! He’s here! What am I gonna say? What if he doesn’t like me? What if he’s...

Her panic is interrupted by her father’s voice downstairs.

Mr. Rowe: (VO) Sweetie! Jane’s here!!

Stacy calms down considerably, smiling slightly. She takes one last look in the mirror, grabs her purse off the bed, and pulls open her bedroom door. Jane is standing outside the door, a raised fist indicating she was about to knock. Jane is dressed as she normally is, but there is a distinct bulge in her right pocket.

Jane: (in a very bad John Wayne impression) Hey there, lil’ lady. You ready to paint the town red?

Stacy: (giggles) Hey, you’re the artist, not me!

Cut to:

Stacy’s living room. Stacy and Jane are sitting at opposite ends of the sofa. Stacy looks a little nervous again while Jane is calm and aloof as ever. Her hand is resting casually on the bulge in her pocket.

Jane: So how old did you say this guy is?

Stacy: Nineteen.

Jane: Well, just keep in mind, 19-year-old males are capable of a great many things. I can attest to that fact. That’s why I’m here. To make sure he doesn’t try anything...funny.

Stacy: That’s gonna be tough. He’s got a great sense of humor.

Jane: (sighs) Stacy, that’s not the kind of funny I meant.

Stacy: I know. I was just trying to be...funny. (grins)

Jane: (shakes her head) Unbelievable.

Stacy: What?

Jane: You. You’re not at all what I assumed one of Quinn’s self-absorbed, boyband-obsessed Fashion Fanatics would be. (bt) No offense.

Stacy: None taken. And you’re right. We are self-absorbed at times, but isn’t EVERYBODY? We’re just more obvious about it than some people, I guess.

Jane looks down at her lap, thinking this over.

Stacy: (on a roll, continues) I mean, you said yesterday that you thought I was shallow. Which is true in a way. Ok, so we don’t talk about “deep” stuff like politics and literature or whatever, but at least we’re good at what we do. And thinking about all that deep, intellectual stuff all the time can be really depressing, y’know? (bt, looks up at the ceiling) It’s like...we KNOW we could be smarter, but sometimes being smarter means seeing things for the way they really are. It’s better, for some people, not to see all the bad stuff.

Jane is staring at Stacy in shock. She doesn’t even know what to say.

Stacy: (continuing) So we go shopping and spend hours on our hair and makeup and nails because we want to see the beauty in the world, not the ugly. And if we can, in a small way, make this ugly world more beautiful, we’ve accomplished something. Not alot, but something. (shrugs) Maybe it’s silly. But it’s no sillier than you thinking we’re shallow just because we like listening to pop music and talking about clothes, right? I mean, when you think about it, that’s no different than judging people by the kind of car they drive. (pauses, thinking) Y’know what? I guess you and I aren’t that different.

Jane: (smiling) If anyone asks me, I’ll deny I ever said this, but that actually makes alot of sense.

Stacy: (beaming) You think so?

Before Jane can answer, the doorbell rings. Stacy jumps at the noise a bit, and starts getting nervous all over again.

Stacy: Omigod! This is it! (practically hyperventilating) I can’t do this. What if I say something stupid? Oh, GOD, he’s gonna hate me...

Jane: (stands up) Calm down. You’ll be fine. If you start to get nervous, just picture him in his under-- No, nevermind. That probably wouldn’t work in this situation. (starts toward the door) Just be yourself.

Stacy: (calming a bit) I guess I can do that.

Jane: Good. (smiles) Ready? (Stacy nods timidly, Jane reaches for the door knob) I-i-i-i-i-i-i-t’s SHOWTIME!!!

Act 2

Morgendorffer residence, the same night. Daria, Quinn, Helen, and Jake are seated around the table eating -- what else -- lasagna. Jake is absorbed in the paper, as always, and Quinn is babbling, as always. Helen is pretending to be listening to Quinn, but it’s obvious by the exasperated look on her face that she is bored and tired. Daria, on the other hand, is in a totally different world, not hearing a word of the conversation.

Quinn: So you guys HAVE to make sure that you’re not, like, in the living room or anything when my friends get here ‘cos it would really suck if they saw you. Not that I’m EMBARASSED by you or anything but your presence during the Makeover Madness opening ceremonies would be very distracting and would probably be boring and over your heads anyway, so I wouldn’t want you to be caught in an uncomfortable situation....

As Quinn rambles on in the background, camera zooms in on Daria, who is staring down at her place, lost in thought. Her thoughts echo in her head.

Jane: (echo, VO) You can’t be right ALL the time.

Daria shakes her head slowly, thinking carefully about what Jane had said earlier.

Jane: (echo, VO) Just promise me you’ll be on your guard.

After another moment, Daria sighs, perhaps a little TOO loudly. Helen glances over at Daria and seems a bit worried by the look on her daughter’s face. She places a hand gently on Daria’s arm.

Helen: (whispering) Are you alright, sweetie?

Daria: Yeah. Sure. (standing) I have homework to do. (leaves the room)

Quinn: (after a very brief silence) Homework? On a Friday night? Mom, are you SURE she’s not adopted?

Helen: Quinn, that’s not a very nice thing to say about your sister.

Quinn: Well, there’s OBVIOUSLY something wrong with her. What ELSE could it be?

Helen: (eyes narrow in deep thought) I don’t know. (gets up from the table) But I’m going to find out. (leaves the room)

Jake: (after Helen is gone he finally lowers the paper and looks over at Quinn) So, are Daria and your mother not joining us for dinner tonight?

Quinn: Daddy! Haven’t you been listening?

Jake: Uh...sure I was, honey. Make-overs. Opening ceremonies. Stay out of your way. Don’t embarrass you in front of your friends. (raises eyebrows hopefully) Right?

Quinn: Right!

Jake smiles contentedly, as if this were the first time he’d answered a question right in a long time, then goes back to reading his paper.

Cut to:

[Music: “Social Enemies” by Orgy] Daria’s bedroom. Daria is seated at her computer, typing. Camera zooms in to show the computer screen. She’s in a chat room again, chatting on a private message screen. Her screen name is visible along with one we haven’t seen before, but we can tell by the screen name exactly who she’s talking to.

missing_link: Wow, sounds like a pretty nasty situation.

DarianGray: It is. I just wish I knew what I’ve done to make her so angry.

missing_link: You sure it’s not just that time of the month?

DarianGray: Well, she hasn’t set anything on fire yet, so probably not.

missing_link: It was just a thought.

DarianGray: So, what do you suggest I do?

missing_link: You could always run away and join the circus. That’s what I’m gonna do, just as soon as I can slip those sleeping pills into my stepfather’s twelfth beer.

DarianGray: Hey, after twelve beers, who needs sleeping pills?

Suddenly there is a knock at the door.

Helen: (VO, from hallway) Daria, can I come in?

DarianGray: Uh-oh. Meddling parent at 10 o’clock. I’ll talk to you later, Link.

Daria reaches around and turns off the monitor. Helen steps into the room and closes the door behind her. Daria crosses the room and sits down on the bed. Helen follows, sitting beside her.

Daria: Alright, let’s get this heart-to-heart over with. What do you want to know?

Helen: I just wanted to make sure you’re alright. You haven’t exactly been yourself lately.

Daria: And you’re actually complaining about this? Are you feeling alright?

Helen: You know what I mean, Daria. Now, what’s wrong?

Daria: (sees she’s not getting out of it that easily, sighs) Ok. Suppose you have this friend that has been acting very strangely towards you. Distant. Even hateful at times.

Helen: Mmm-hmmm....

Daria: Now suppose whenever you ask her what’s wrong, she just blows it off like it’s no big deal. Like I’m....I mean YOU’RE....imagining the whole thing.

Helen: (smiles knowingly) I’d probably try having a one-on-one talk with her, someplace private. If she still won’t talk, I’d let her know that whenever she IS ready to talk about her problem, that I’ll be there for her.

Daria: But what if you get the distinct impression that her problem

Helen: (thinking) Well.....then, I guess I’d just wait it out for awhile and see if she comes around. Give her some space and some time to cool off, then try talking to her again later once she’s had some time to sort through some things. Meanwhile, I would try to determine what it was that I could have done to upset her. Go through the events in my mind, leading up to the time right before she started acting differently.

Daria: (considers this) Hmmm....sounds promising. Systematically rule out every other possible explanation for her behavior until you can nail down the precise reason behind it. Divide and conquer. Sounds simple theory.

Helen: Sounds like you’re creating a battle plan rather than saving a friendship.

Daria: Excuse me?

Helen: What I mean is, it’s pointless to look at this situation from an intellectual point of view. That’s fine for some things, but not this.

Daria: You’re talking to an intellectual, Mom. That’s a difficult concept for me to grasp.

Helen: I know, sweetie, but it’s the truth. At times like this, you have to learn to think with something other than your brain.

Daria: Please, let’s leave my gall bladder out of this.

Helen: Your heart, Daria. Think with your heart. If you can do that, you’ll know what you need to do.

Daria: Has it really come to that?

Helen: I’m afraid so.

Daria: (long pause) At what point did *I* become the subject of this conversation?

Helen: I believe it was when you said, “suppose you have this friend.” (smiles encouragingly)

Daria: You mean that carefully crafted “friend” story didn’t fool you?

Helen: Please, Daria. I can always tell when someone's lying. I'm a lawyer. (bt) AND a mother.

Daria: Sounds like a dangerous combination, if you ask me.

Cut to:

Stacy’s living room. Stacy is still sitting on the sofa, now chewing on her nails nervously. Jane is at the front door with her hand on the knob, preparing to open the door. She quickly swings open the door and, as she sees the person standing before her, her face changes suddenly from excited curiosity to confusion and doubt.

Justin, the man standing on Stacy’s porch, looks to be in his mid- to late-thirties. He’s tall and slender with wavy red hair that hangs down to his shoulders. He also has a scraggly red goatee. His blue jeans have several large holes in the knees and his black Iron Maiden T-shirt is faded and wrinkled. The skanky clothes and hair look incredibly ridiculous, given his age. He is obviously not at all what Jane expected.

From Stacy’s place on the sofa, she can’t see him, but Jane has a front-row view, and doesn’t seem to like what she sees. The man looks Jane up and down slowly. Noting the bulge in her pocket, he smirks.

Justin: (jokingly) Is that your hand in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Jane: (reaches her hand into her pocket and pulls out a small can of Pepper Spray) Are those my only two choices?

Justin: (takes a step back) Whoa! Sorry! Uh, maybe I’ve got the wrong house. (takes a slip of paper out of his pocket) Are you...(reading off of the paper) Stacy Rowe?

Jane: (aiming the can in Justin’s direction, just in case) No.

Justin: Oh! (shoves the paper back into his pocket) I guess I must’ve miss-read the directions. (leans against the door frame) So, what’s YOUR name, gorgeous?

Jane: (bt, deadpan) Gorgeous.

Justin: (laughs) You’re funny! (extends his right hand) My name’s Justin. (Jane glares at him and places a finger on the trigger) Uh, would you mind pointing that somewhere else? I’m hot enough without that, doncha think?

Jane: (obviously doesn’t like this guy) No, I don’t think.

Justin: Well, you outta try it sometime. (bt, winks at Jane suggestively) Anyway, what’s a pretty thing like you doing home on a Friday night?

Jane: Flossing my cat.

Justin: That certainly conjures up an interesting mental image. One I find strangely arousing.

Jane: (forcefully) I think you’d better be going.

Stacy: (hears this and leaps off the sofa, running to the door) No, don’t go!! (practically shoves Jane out of the way) Hi! I’m Stacy!

Stacy holds her hand out in the offer of a handshake. Justin takes her hand and kisses it gently. Stacy blushes, and Jane rolls her eyes, sticking the Pepper Spray back in her pocket. Stacy leads Justin into the living room and the two take a seat on the sofa. Justin edges closer to Stacy, still holding her hand. Jane closes the door and turns to stare at the pair. Stacy doesn’t seem to notice that this guy is obviously NOT nineteen like she had thought. Justin reaches into his pocket and pulls out two small shiny hair clips and holds them out to Stacy..

Justin: I saw these in a store window the other day and immediately thought of you.

Jane rolls her eyes in an “oh, brother” expression. Stacy takes the silver-toned hair clips and looks down at them. They look cheap and lightweight, but Stacy doesn’t seem to care. Her first name has been engraved, a bit sloppily, on the surface of each clip. She looks up at Justin and smiles.

Stacy: (almost in a whisper) That’s so sweet. Thank you.

Jane leans back against the front door, still keeping an eye on them. Her eyes narrow as she watches them converse with each other. She’s obviously suspicious of this new-comer and does not like what she sees at all.

Cut to:

[Music: “Make Like A Tree” by Bif Naked] The next day, Lane house. Jane is standing at her easel, painting a giant serpent swallowing Justin whole. Close up of Jane’s face shows her depth of concentration, her tongue sticking out of the corner of her mouth slightly. After a few quiet moments, the phone rings. Jane ignores the phone, too involved in her painting to notice it. The phone rings about 5 or 6 times before it finally stops.

Cut to:

Lane house, kitchen. Trent is leaning on the kitchen counter, the phone to his ear. Jesse is seated at the kitchen table looking over some new song lyrics in Trent’s notebook.

Trent: (into the phone) Yeah, I think I can do that. (writes an address on his hand as the person on the other end talks) Ok, got it. See ya. (hangs up)

Jesse: Who was that?

Trent: One of Janey’s friends. She’s supposed to come over, but she needs a ride.

Jesse: You can’t leave, man. I thought you were gonna work on these lyrics.

Trent: I will. Later.

Jesse: But we’re supposed to perform it tonight.

Trent: (scratching his chin) Hmm....good point.

Jesse: If you want, I can pick her up.

Trent: Good idea.

Trent grabs his keys off the kitchen counter and tosses them at Jesse, who catches them easily between his palms. Jesse stands and prepares to exit the kitchen, then, realizing something, turns back.

Jesse: Did you write down the address?

Trent looks down at his hand.

Trent: Hmm...maybe I’d better go with you.

Cut to:

Trent’s car on the way back from Stacy’s. Stacy is in the passenger seat next to Jesse, who is driving with one hand and fiddling with the radio with the other. Trent is crammed into the backseat, his lyric notebook on his lap, scribbling wildly. The car is silent except for the static coming from the radio. Jesse, finding he can’t pick up any radio stations, shuts off the radio. Finally, after a few moments, Stacy breaks the silence.

Stacy: So, you guys are in a band?

Jesse: Yeah.

Stacy: That's pretty cool. I don't really know any musicians. Well, except for a few band geeks from the High School marching band, but I don't really think that counts. It's not like they play GOOD music or anything.

Jesse: I used to be in the marching band.

Stacy: Oh? (blushes, embarrassed) Sorry.

Jesse: It's cool.

Stacy: Well, I'm sure YOUR band is much better than the High School band. I'd like to hear you play sometime.

Jesse: We have a gig tonight at The Snake Pit, if you wanna go.

Stacy: I can't tonight. Me and my (giggles) BOYFRIEND are going out later.

Jesse: Boyfriend?

Stacy: Yeah! His name’s Justin. He’s wonderful! We only met in person last night, but he’s a great guy and we’re perfect for each other. I just KNOW it. I was so lucky to meet someone like him, somebody who treats me right. We’re going out again tonight, but I promised Jane I wouldn’t go out with him alone, so she’s tagging along.

Jesse: That must be kinda weird.

Stacy: Nah. She’s cool about it. (thinking) Although, she doesn’t seem to like him very much. I can’t imagine why. He’s terrific. What’s not to like?

Trent, who has been totally absorbed in his song lyrics, picks this exact moment to ask a question.

Trent: Hey, either of you know another word for ‘pervert’?

Stacy: (thinking) Hmmm....would ‘reprobate’ work?

Trent: Yeah. Good one. (continues writing)

Jesse: So, Jane didn’t say what she doesn’t like about him?

Stacy: No, she just keeps telling me to be careful around him and not to let his actions lull me into a false sense of security or something like that. I don’t understand it. He’s perfect. There’s absolutely nothing to worry about.

Trent: (butting in again) Ok, so what rhymes with ‘reprobate’?

Jesse: Fate?

Trent: Nah.

Jesse: Wait?


Jesse: Collate?

Trent shakes his head.

Stacy: Fornicate.

Trent: Perfect. (starts writing again)

Jesse glances over at Stacy and raises an eyebrow.

Cut to:

The Sloane residence. Daria and Tom are seated in the living room on the sofa. Tom’s arm is flung casually around Daria’s shoulders as they watch television. A familiar voice emanates from the TV set.

SSW Announcer: Cult leaders of the world distribute their mind-controlling doctrines to a larger posting them on the Internet! The growing popularity of Cyber Sects, a “Sick Sad World” exclusive.

Daria: That’s wrong on so many levels, I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

Tom: Very true. Unfortunately, I get the feeling my cousin would disagree with you.

Daria: Oh, yeah. How are things going with the Dungeon Master?

Tom: Not well. As if having him here wasn’t punishment enough, now they’re letting the cretin sleep in my room.

Daria: Well, think of it this way. Once he leaves, you’ll finally have a good excuse to have your room sand-blasted.

Tom: I’m not so sure even THAT would be powerful enough to remove the essence of Justin.

Daria: Essence of Justin. The new cologne for men who never shower. Covers up any odor known to man.

Tom: Catchy slogan. I can DEFINITELY see that on a billboard over Time Square.

Just then, Tom’s cousin enters the room. It is none other than Stacy’s cyber-boyfriend Justin. He takes a seat next to Daria, alot closer than she would like him to be. She scoots closer to Tom, as close as she can get without climbing up and sitting on his lap. Justin doesn’t seem to notice her aversion to him.

Justin: Having fun, kids?

Tom: We WERE, yes.

Justin: (smirks) I’m not interrupting any “physical activities,” am I?

Daria: Like breathing?

Justin: Is THAT what you kids are calling it these days? Funny, we always just called it sex. (stands) But whatever floats your boat! (heads for the door) Well, I’ll leave you guys alone, then. Don’t do anything I would. (laughs at his own joke) Later, lovebirds! (leaves the room)

A long silence passes between Daria and Tom. They don’t even know where to begin. Finally, Tom speaks up.

Tom: What’d I tell ya? He just lingers on and on, doesn’t he?

Daria: Yeah, lingers. Like a, nevermind. That was just too easy.

Tom: (grinning) Essence of Sarcasm?

Daria: It’s the only perfume I wear.

Cut to:

The Lane house. Jesse and Trent are seated on the sofa in the front room, pouring over the new song lyrics. Well, Trent is pouring over the lyrics; Jesse seems to be thinking about something else. After a few moments of silence, the doorbell rings. Trent stands and sets the notebook down on the sofa cushion before answering the door. Justin in standing outside, holding an armload of comic books. Trent looks unimpressed, thinking Justin’s a salesman.

Trent: We don’t want any.

Trent starts to close the door, but Justin sticks his foot in the doorway, stopping him. Trent opens the door again and stares at Justin.

Justin: I’m not SELLING anything, man! (indicates the comic books) I’d NEVER sell these babies! I’m here to see Stacy.

Trent: (raising a concerned eyebrow) You’re Justin?

Justin: Right-O! Can I come in or do we have to do the secret handshake first?

Trent steps aside and his eyes follow Justin, scrutinizing him as he makes his way into the house.

Cut to:

Lane kitchen. Jesse and Justin are seated at the kitchen table. Justin’s collection of comic books are now piled neatly on the table, and Trent is across the room pouring out three cups of coffee. The lyric book is on the table in front of Jesse, and as he eyes Justin carefully, he taps his thick fingers on the book absently. Finally, Trent brings two lukewarm cups of coffee to the table, and places one in front of Jesse. He hands the other cup to Justin.

Justin: Thanks, man.

Trent slides back over to the counter, picks up his own cup and sips it as he leans back against the counter. There is an uncomfortable, tense silence in the kitchen for several moments, as Trent and Jesse keep sizing up this new person. Justin senses that he’s being judged, and decides to speak up.

Justin: So, Stacy says you two are in a band.

Trent: Mystik Spiral.

Justin: Cool name.

Jesse: (adds hastily) But we might change it.

Justin: (jokingly) It’s not because *I* like it, is it? (Jesse and Trent remain silent) So, what’re you gonna change it to?

Trent and Jesse look at each other questioningly, each waiting for the other to answer. They obviously hadn’t given the question much thought. When neither of them answers, Trent finally shrugs.

Trent: Maybe we won’t change it.

Justin: (after a pause) So, you have any idea how long Stacy and Jane are gonna be gone?

Trent: Who knows? I think Stacy had to shop for I don’t remember...

Jesse: (interrupting) Peach flavored lip gloss.

Trent looks at Jesse, raising an eyebrow. Jesse looks slightly guilty.

Jesse: (trying to cover up) Or something like that.

Just then the group hears the front door open and the muffled sound of female voices. The voices gradually get louder until finally Jane and Stacy enter the kitchen. Jane is dressed as always, but Stacy is now wearing an orange and white checkered sundress. She is also carrying a small tube of lip gloss in her hand.

Stacy: (entering the room, continuing a conversation) I’ve been pretty much avoiding them lately. I’m sure they’ve never even noticed that I’m gone! (spots Justin at the table, smiles) Hi! I thought that might be your car out front. (Justin hugs her, her voice becomes soft and sweet) At least, I hoped it would be.

Jane tosses a set of car keys on the kitchen table, glaring momentarily at Justin. She takes a seat beside Jesse. Trent finally abandons his place by the counter and takes a seat at the table as well. The three of them watch the spectacle with blank faces.

Justin: (releasing Stacy) So, didja get what you needed?

Stacy: Huh?

Justin: Peach flavored lip gloss. (turns and smirks at Jesse) It WAS peach-flavored, right Jess?

Jesse: (expressionless) Mmm.

Stacy: (lifting up the lip gloss tube) Yep! Got it right here! You wouldn’t BELIEVE how many stores we had to go to before we found it. I mean, every store we went to it was all watermelon this, watermelon that. Not a peach in sight!

Justin: (staring at Stacy) Not from MY vantage point. (takes the lip gloss from her, pops off the lid and smells it) Mmm....smells good. It was well worth the extra effort. (grins at her) I wonder how it TASTES.

Stacy blushes and giggles like a little lovesick girl. Jane, finally fed up, stands and heads for the door.

Trent: (to Jesse) Maybe we’d better go too, man. Give ‘em some privacy.

Jesse: (reluctantly) Yeah.

Trent and Jesse follow Jane out of the kitchen.

Cut to:

Jane’s room. Jane storms in and slams the door behind her, flopping down on her bed face-first. A few moments later, there’s a knock on her door.

Jane: (her voice muffled by the mattress) Go ‘way.

Trent: (VO, through the door) You okay in there?

Jane: (turning onto her side) Why is everyone always asking me that?

Trent: (opens the door and peaks in) Got room for one more?

Jane props herself up on her elbows and shrugs. Trent enters the room, closes the door behind him, and takes a seat on the bed beside his sister.

Trent: It really bothers you, doesn’t it?

Jane: What? (Trent just stares at her but says nothing) Those two downstairs? Please! I don’t care what they do. It’s none of my business. If she wants to date Old Man River, that’s fine with me.

Trent: He is kinda old for her.

Jane: He’s kinda old for her MOTHER. (bt) Well, ok, he’s not THAT old, but you know what I mean.

Trent: I guess as long as they’re happy, age shouldn’t matter.

Jane: It matters a helluva lot when a 16-year-old is dating some guy in his thirties! There’s a name for that, you know.

Trent: That’s not what’s bothering you though, is it?

Jane: The guy’s a total lech! Why doesn’t she see that? Is she completely blind?

Trent: Well, she certainly wasn’t blinded by his radiant beauty.

Jane: THAT’S for sure. (stands abruptly and walks over to the window) I don’t really care what she does. She wouldn’t listen to me if I tried to discourage her anyway. And why SHOULD I? She’s just some shallow, self-centered poseur...just like her friends.

Trent: But YOU’RE her friend, and YOU’RE not like that.

Jane: I’m not her friend. I’m her chaperone. Her chauffeur. That’s all.

Trent: Is that HER talking or YOU?

Jane: (running her finger along the dusty window ledge) I don’t know.

Trent: (as more of a statement than a question) You LIKE her, don’t you?

Jane: I suppose.

Trent: You seem to get along real well.

Jane: (pausing) Yeah.

Trent: You want her to be happy, right?

Jane: Of course. (bt) But I don’t want her to get hurt either. And he’s going to hurt her. I just know it.

Trent: Then tell her. Friends do that for each other. If Daria was dating a guy that you felt was gonna hurt her, you’d tell her, wouldn’t you?

Jane is silent for a long time, staring thoughtfully into her reflection in the window. Her eyes are heavy and sad. She’s processing what Trent has just said and is trying to figure out what she should do.

Trent: (stands and heads for the door) Don’t worry. You’ll figure something out. You always do. (leaves, shutting the door gently behind him)

Jane continues to stare into the window for a few more seconds.

Cut to:

[Music: “Everything To Everyone” by Everclear] The Lane kitchen again, later that day. Stacy and Justin are sitting at the table. Justin has one arm stretched across the back of Stacy’s chair. In his free hand, he is holding a copy of one of the comic books he has brought. It has a scantily-clad, horribly out-of-proportion woman on the front standing in front of a dark jungle background. What little clothing she’s wearing is made of green and brown material, ragged and torn in several places. The cloth covers just enough skin to escape showing anything vital. Her long blonde hair billows around her as she holds her bow and arrow in front of her, ready to attack at any moment. Above her head, written in a dripping-blood-like font, are the words “Amazon Princess Of Death.”

Justin: This is one of my favorites. I think you’ll like it.

Stacy: You’re sure these aren’t too violent?

Justin: (takes it a little too personally) Hey, these aren’t just some sissy, out-of-date “Betty and Veronica” comics. These babies are masterpieces. Treasures! They make a statement! Not just some touchy-feely, wimpy girly crap. This is HARD CORE! Sure, they may be a LITTLE violent and possibly a TAD sexually-explicit, but nothing you can’t handle, right babe?

Stacy: Sure....I guess. (beat, smiles, a little more confidently) No problem.

Justin: That’s my girl!

Stacy: (hears footsteps, turns to look towards the doorway) Wow! Jane, you look great!

Cut to shot of Jane standing in the doorway. She’s wearing a dress! It’s a short, bright red dress, and she has a loosely woven black crocheted cover-up wrapped around her shoulders. Even in a dress, she still proudly wears her black boots. The dress looks good on her, but by the look on her face, she appears to be less than thrilled about the whole thing.

Jane: Alright, let’s get this over with.

Cut to:

Chez Pierre, exterior shot. A large, rickety, puke green station wagon pulls up in front, stopping alongside the “Valet Parking” sign. Cut to close-up view of the car, as Justin climbs out of the driver’s side. He’s dressed as he always is. He quickly runs around to the other side and opens Stacy’s door for her. Jane opens her own door and slides out of the backseat.

Justin: (as Stacy climbs out) Sorry, but it only opens from the outside. The handle’s broken.

Stacy: Oh, that’s okay.

Justin: (slams Stacy’s door and tosses the keys to the young male valet) Now, I trust you’ll park her far away from all the other vehicles. (pats the hood of his car lovingly) Wouldn’t want anyone banging a car door into the old girl.

Jane: Yeah. Looks like “the old girl” has already seen enough abuse for one lifetime.

Valet: (monotone) Whatever.

The valet slips in behind the wheel and speeds away.

Justin: Stupid kid. (extends an arm to Stacy) Shall we proceed, m’lady?

Stacy giggles and hooks her arm around Justin’s. The two walk away towards the front door, Jane following them several steps behind.

Cut to:

Chez Pierre, interior. There is the typical romantic instrumental music playing softly over the speakers. Cut to a shot of the threesome walking in the front door. There is a small stand off to the left side of the door where the maitre d' is positioned. Upon seeing Justin, the man looks him over carefully, looking appalled that he would come to an expensive restaurant dressed so sloppily. Justin walks up to the podium while Stacy and Jane hang back behind him, talking amongst themselves.

Justin: Table for three. Reservation should be under “Sloane.”

The maitre d' looks carefully at the book, then is visibly shocked when he actually finds the name on the list.

Maitre d': (in an obviously fake French accent) Yes, Mizter Sloane. Here it iz. (sounding haughty if not down-right rude) And might I remind sir zat dis establishment haz a dress code. (reaches under the podium, pulls out several different colored neckties, holds them out to Justin) Do you have a particular color prefrenze? (Justin rolls his eyes)

Cut to:

Jane, Stacy, and Justin are now seated at a rather out-of-the-way table in an empty dining room, right off the hallway leading to the restrooms and kitchen. Justin is now wearing a dark green tie, tied in a loose, lopsided knot around his neck. It hangs down over the faded, worn T-shirt, and makes him look even more uncouth than usual, if that’s possible. It’s obvious, to Jane at least, that they were stuck back in that empty room because of the way Justin is dressed. Stacy, on the other hand, is ecstatic that they have a room all to themselves. She surveys the room, admiring the crystal chandeliers, silk tablecloths, and candlelit tables.

Stacy: (sighs) Oh, isn’t this romantic? I love this place. It’s so....foreign!

Jane: (mutters under her breath) Not quite the f-word I would have chosen.

Stacy: Huh?

Jane: Nothing. (opens her menu and glances quickly through the selections) Um, I don’t suppose either of you can speak French.

Justin: Why’s that?

Jane: (sounding a bit patronizing) Because this menu is in French, Einstein.

Justin: (narrowing his eyes) Well this IS a French restaurant, oh magnificent one.

Jane: A French restaurant in an AMERICAN SUBURB, your royal pin-headedness.

Stacy: (not paying attention to their bickering) Wow! Look at these desserts!

Jane and Justin turn and stare at Stacy, the tension momentarily broken by her observation. Just then, without warning, Sandi walks into the dining room, dressed appropriately for such a restaurant, of course. She appears to be on her way to the bathroom, but as she passes the table and spots Stacy, she stops.

Sandi: Well, well, well. What do we have here?

Stacy: (suddenly looks extremely worried) Oh, hey Sandi. W-w-what are you d-doing here?

Sandi: I was just on my way to the bathroom and I thought.... (stops suddenly as she looks Justin over) Who are YOU?

Justin: (stands and extends a hand to Sandi) Justin Sloane. Stacy’s hunka-hunka burnin’ love. At your service.

Sandi: (shakes his hand hesitantly) Amusing. (Justin releases her hand and sits back down, Sandi casually wipes her hand on the side of her dress) Stacy, would you accompany me to the ladies room?

Stacy: But we were just about to order. (Sandi glares at her) Uh, s-s-sure, Sandi. (stands from the table) Be right back.

Stacy and Sandi leave in the direction of the bathrooms. Justin glances over at Jane and smirks. Jane is definitely not happy about being left alone with Justin, but her expression of contempt does nothing to deter him.

Justin: So, it looks like it’s just you and me, hotcakes.

Jane: (monotone) My joy is underwhelming. (bt) Did I hear you right earlier? Your last name is Sloane?

Justin: Yep.

Jane: This is a long-shot, but....I don’t suppose you’re related to the Sloanes here in Lawndale.

Justin: Oh, yeah. Ang and Kat. I’ve been staying with them while I’ve been in town. Great people. And boy, are they LOADED. In more ways than one, if you get my meaning.

Jane: (ignores that last statement, tries to be civil) How are you related?

Justin: They’re my aunt and uncle. On my dad’s side. They got all the money, brains and talent in the family. (smiles) But MY side got all the good looks.

Jane: And I’m sure you’ll be receiving your share any day now.

Justin: (laughs it off) Ha! Good one. You’re sharp, you know that? Yes, indeed. Very sharp. With a tongue that cuts like a double-edged knife. (suggestive grin) Bet you’d like to cut yourself a big ol’ slice of my lovin’, eh?

Justin slides his leg over to the other side of the table and runs his foot up the side of Jane’s leg. Jane grabs the steak knife resting next to her plate and slips it under the table. We can’t see under the table, but we can pretty much guess where the knife is pointed.

Jane: (in a calm tone, almost whispering) If you don’t remove your foot from my calf, that’s not the only thing I’m gonna cut a slice of. (bt, a bit more forcefully) If you get MY meaning.

Justin removes his foot and slides it back over to his side of the table, but by the look on his face it’s clear this has not frightened him in the slightest. Jane returns the knife to its proper place, still eyeing him closely. Justin takes a sip of his water, looks at her over the top of his glass, and winks at her. Jane balls up her fists, but restrains herself.

Cut to:

Chez Pierre, ladies restroom. Sandi and Stacy are standing at the row of pink and white marble sinks. The restroom is one much like any that could be found in an expensive, ritzy eating establishment. Besides providing soap and towels, there is also an assortment of lotions and perfumes lined up on a small ledge over the sinks. At the far end of the sinks, there is a blonde lady in her early twenties sitting in a chair, chewing gum and filing her nails. She’s the restroom attendant and is dressed much the same as the other female employees at Chez Pierre, in a typical nondescript black and white uniform. She doesn’t look particularly thrilled with her job, and who can blame her? Next to her on the counter is a box of Kleenex and a small basket for tips. The basket is nearly empty, as it is obvious the woman doesn’t do much more than chew gum and file her nails. She doesn’t even look up as the confrontation between Sandi and Stacy takes place.

Stacy: B-b-but, you just have to get to KNOW him...

Sandi: I don’t have to KNOW him, Stacy. Have you learned NOTHING from your years in the Fashion Club? The first rule of dating is that your friends MUST evaluate your date for possible popularity damage PRIOR to your first public outing. We take into account the humiliation factor ASSOCIATED with said date and make our decisions accordingly. (points her finger at Stacy) YOU have gone behind our backs, Stacy Rowe. You have disgraced your fellow Fashion Clubbers and violated our first and most sacred rule. Not to mention the fact that you’re, like, dating an old GEEZER! What were you thinking? (Stacy is on the verge of breaking down and is unable to speak) He’s a total geek. He’s not cute. He’s not popular. He SMELLS funny. He wears.... (shudders) hippy sandals. With SOCKS. (shakes her head) No, I’m afraid I don’t NEED to know him. I can tell everything I need to know in the first few seconds I saw him.

Stacy: (tries to collect herself some) But, that can’t be all there is. He’s...(swallows hard)...really nice and stuff. Doesn’t that count for anything?

Sandi: Nice? NICE??? Will ‘nice’ get you invited to all the cool parties? Will ‘nice’ get you a ride in, like, a Porsche or whatever? Will ‘nice’ put you in the latest fall fashions? Will ‘nice’ put a diamond tennis bracelet on your wrist? No, it won’t. But it WILL get you one thing you never counted on.

Stacy: (hopeful) Really? What’s that?

Sandi: Isolation. (clears her throat dramatically) As PRESIDENT of the Fashion Club, having found you guilty of breaking our cardinal rule, I have no choice but to BAN you from the club...permanently!

Stacy: (starts crying) No, Sandi. Pleeeeeease!

Sandi: Like I said, I have no choice. I must also warn you that you will NOT be allowed to associate with myself, Tiffany, or Quinn, on the grounds that you are no longer DESERVING of our company and that your now unpopular presence might taint our high-social status.

Stacy: (sobbing uncontrollably) Noooooo......

Sandi: I must go now, before I am seen talking to you. I wish it didn’t have to be this way. Maybe some day you’ll see the error of your ways and attempt to put your priorities back in order.

Sandi turns and walks out of the bathroom, leaving Stacy behind, bawling. After crying for awhile, she starts to hiccup and gasp for air. The lady in the chair stops filing her nails for a second, just long enough to reach over, snatch a tissue out of the box on the counter and hand it to Stacy. She does this without even looking up or saying a word. Her expression never changes. Then, she simply goes back to filing her nails. Stacy wipes her tears, then blows her nose. Finally, composing herself somewhat, she deposits the tissue in the trash can, reaches into her purse and pulls out a dollar. She tosses the bill into the tip basket, turns and exits the restroom. After she’s gone, the lady in the chair, still filing her nails, mumbles to herself.

Attendant: (through a wad of gum) Bitchin’.

Act 3

[Music: “Walk Me Home” by Mandy Moore] Later that night, Casa Lane. Stacy and Justin are standing out on the front porch, saying goodnight. Stacy is still a little distraught over the incident at the restaurant, and Justin is holding her hands, trying to comfort her.

Stacy: I’m so sorry I had to cut the night short. I just don’t feel much like being out in public right now, y’know?

Justin: Because of me.

Stacy: No!! Not because of you. You’ve been so great through this. It’s Sandi. It’ whole life. I’m just a mess.

Justin: (cups her face in his hands) But a BEAUTIFUL mess.

Stacy smiles warmly at the compliment. Justin leans forward and kisses her. Stacy wraps her arms around his waist and kisses back, tentatively at first, but a bit deeper after awhile. Camera pans up slowly and focuses in on the upstairs window, where Jane’s room is. The curtains flutter, as if someone had been watching over them.

Cut to:

Jane’s room. Jane is standing with her back to the window, her arms crossed defiantly. She looks both annoyed and disgusted. She finds it hard to believe that Stacy doesn’t see Justin the way she does. She walks over to her easel, attempting to forget the situation for a moment. She is met face-to-face with her previous painting of Justin being eaten. She stares intently at Justin’s sleazy likeness for a moment. Her face twists into an expression of rage, and she punches the painting, knocking the easel to the ground. She stands over it for a moment, almost triumphantly. Then, she kicks the painting once or twice for good measure before spinning around and storming out of her room.

Cut to:

Stacy’s house, the next day. Stacy is lying across her bed, clutching a small brown teddy bear to her chest. She looks very much like a little girl as she lies there, smiling contentedly. She is obviously thinking about the previous night, about the kiss. She looks lost in her own little world. Suddenly there is a knock at her bedroom door. She sits up, resting the teddy bear in her lap.

Stacy: Come in!

The door opens and Jane walks in, looking extremely unhappy. Stacy is too preoccupied to notice.

Stacy: Hey, Jane! What are you doing here?

Jane: I needed to talk to you. (walks over and stands in front of Stacy, sarcastically) Have fun last night?

Stacy: was GREAT.

Jane: Even that whole “banishment from the Fashion Club” thing?

Stacy: (frowns a bit) No, that sucked. (perks up again) I meant what happened AFTER.

Jane: After?

Stacy: (smile widens) He kissed me, Jane. (flops back on the bed) It was WONDERFUL. (suddenly remembers something, props herself up on her elbows) Oh, would you be sure and thank Jesse again for taking me home last night after Justin dropped me off? That was really nice.

Jane: Stacy....isn’t there anything that bothers you about him?

Stacy: (confused) Well, he did swerve off the road a few times, but I don't think he did it on purpose.

Jane: Not about Jesse. About Justin!

Stacy: Oh! (thinks for a moment) No, I can't think of anything.

Jane: Nothing? (bt) Nothing at all?

Stacy: If you’re talking about the age thing, we talked about that already.

Jane: And did he give you a plausible reason for lying about his age?

Stacy: Well, technically he never lied about that. (Jane looks at her questioningly) He never told me how old he was. I just assumed that he was 19 because of his chat nickname, dragonslayer19.

Jane: Dragonslayer19? Why does that sound familiar?

Stacy: Anyway, we talked it over, and I told him that I’m ok with the age difference. Because age really doesn’t matter when you’ve got so much in common, right?

Jane: I suppose. But Stacy, he’s old enough to be your father.

Stacy: (shakes her head) No, my dad’s in his forties. Justin’s only 37.

Jane: Stacy! This isn’t a joke! Are you completely blind? (Stacy stops, looking like she’s been slapped in the face) He’s a total jerk! He’s been making passes at me -- very inappropriate, unwelcome passes -- ever since I met him. He’s only interested in one thing, and once he gets it, he’s GONE. How can you think he actually cares about you? (cringes at that last line, realizing it was a bit too harsh, her tone softens) Stacy, look...

Stacy: (leaps off the bed, fed up, flings the teddy bear aside) No, YOU look!!! (Jane takes a step back, shocked) Justin makes me happy. He’s not a jerk. He’s an ANGEL. And he does SO care about me. I can tell. He makes me feel SPECIAL. NOBODY has EVER done that. He makes me feel smart and beautiful and....NEEDED. All the things my stupid FRIENDS have failed to do. I want him. He wants me. Nothing else freaking MATTERS!

Jane: (after a long pause) Stacy, I didn’t mean to...

Stacy: To what? Begrudge me a little happiness? What business is it of yours anyway? You don’t CARE what happens to me. You just went along with this whole thing because you felt sorry for me. Well, I don’t need your pity. Not anymore. I don’t need ANYTHING from you.

Jane: (getting angry) God!!! Talk about ungrateful! I did you a favor. Whatever you might choose to believe, I didn’t agree to it because I pitied you. I agreed because I didn’t want anything to happen to you. Who knows why, but I did. And that’s the truth. But you go on believing whatever you want to believe, since nothing I can say will change your mind ANYWAY. You’re obviously hell-bent on ignoring everything I have to say, including my warnings about Justin.

Stacy: You mean your ATTACKS on Justin.

Jane: Hey, I call ‘em how I see ‘em. And that’s how I see ‘em. He’s a sleaze. A manipulator. I outta know. I’ve been played enough times to recognize the signs. Don’t let him fool you with his gifts and compliments. He’s in this for himself, no one else!!

Stacy: (on the verge of tears and still very very angry, speaks through gritted teeth) Get......OUT!!

Jane starts to contest this, then finally gives up, tossing her hands in the air.

Jane: Fine! (mutters as she turns to leave) Try to be a good friend, my ass. (leaves, slamming the door behind her)

Cut to:

[Music: “Come On Over” by Christina Aguilera] Stacy’s living room later that day. Stacy is sprawled out on her stomach in the middle of the floor, flipping through the pages of what looks like some kind of magazine. Her nose is scrunched up in confusion as she stares at the pages. Camera zooms in to reveal she’s actually reading one of Justin’s weird comic books.

Stacy: (flips another page) I don’t GET it. I mean, these cartoon characters aren’t even CUTE! (flips another page and winces slightly) Ewww, gross! (doorbell rings)

Stacy stands, stretches a bit, then walks slowly to the door. She opens the front door only to find Justin staring back at her, smiling. It appears as though he’s combed his hair since we last saw him. Otherwise, it’s the same old Justin. Stacy smiles back.

Justin: Hey, beautiful. (Stacy blushes) Mind if I come in?

Stacy: Sure, I guess. (ushers him in) I mean, we’ll have to be quiet. My dad’s working in the next room. His office had a pipe burst last night and it flooded, so he has to do all his writing at the kitchen table for awhile.

Justin: I didn’t know your dad was a writer. Is he published?

Stacy: Oh, yeah. He’s had TONS of articles published.

Justin: Oh, a journalist, eh? Newspaper?

Stacy: Consumer reports.

Justin: (chuckles) Sounds fascinating. But the kitchen doesn’t sound like a very pleasant working environment. If it was me, I’d have a hard time concentrating with all that food around.

Stacy: Oh, it’s ok. He’s writing an article about cooking sprays, so it actually works out better that way. He’s surrounded by inspiration!

Justin: (laughs) Well, why don’t we leave him alone to work his magic? Whadya say? Care to go for a ride?

Stacy: (hesitant) Umm, I’m really not supposed to.

Justin: C’mon, I’ll have you back by curfew. I promise. They’ll never even know you were gone. (bt, lowers his voice) Jane hasn’t hardly given us two minutes alone since I got here.

Stacy: (reminded of their previous fight, face falls) I know.

Justin: Something wrong?

Stacy: (sighs) We had a fight.

Justin: (tries to conceal a look of triumph) Really? About what?

Stacy: It’s not important. We both overreacted. Said some things we didn’t mean.

Justin: I must admit, you’ve got much more patience than I do. I’ve seen the way she bosses you around. I’d never be able to take abuse like that.

Stacy: You really have to get to know her a little better. She’s not bossy. (bt) Well, she CAN be, but only because she’s worried about me. That’s all.

Justin: If you say so. (changing subjects) So, how about that ride, Miss Stacy?

Stacy: (pauses, thinking it over) Well, I guess if we weren’t gone too long, it would be alright. (starts to turn and reach for the phone) Just let me call Jane....

Justin grabs her wrist gently, stopping her. She turns to face him.

Justin: Do you always have to answer to her?

Stacy:, but, I promised....

Justin: Don’t you trust me, Stacy?

Stacy: Of COURSE I do....

Justin: Well, Jane obviously doesn’t. She’s hated me from the first moment we met. She’s jealous of what you and I have, and she’s trying to keep you from being happy.

Stacy: (uncertain) I don’t really think she....

Justin: Jane’s been bitten by the green-eyed monster. She wants what she can’t have, and if she can’t have it, she doesn’t want anyone else to either. It’s pathetic, really.

Stacy: (starting to believe him a little) Well, maybe, but I still promised that I wouldn’t....

Justin: (releasing her arm) Ok, call her. But you know what she’ll say. She’ll order you to stay put and not go anywhere with me. She’ll try to scare you by spouting off some nonsense about how I’m this horrible monster who’s going to hurt you. You know I’d never do that, but Jane’s very persuasive, and you’ll let her dictate how you feel about me. You’ll actually BELIEVE her. (bt) Don’t you ever get tired of people telling you want to do?

That last statement strikes a cord in Stacy. Her eyes narrow as she mulls it over, the corners of her mouth turning down. Finally, she looks up at Justin, takes a deep breath, and hooks an eager hand over Justin’s arm.

Stacy: To hell with her!

Justin: (grins) That’s my girl!

Cut to:

Lane house, Jane’s room. Jane is sitting on the edge of her bed looking defeated, the phone to her ear.

Jane: Do you know when she’ll be back?

Split screen between Jane and Jake. Jake is seated on the sofa, the phone in one hand, the remote in the other. He’s only half paying attention to Jane, and the muffled sounds of a football game can be heard in the background.

Jake: Sorry, what was that?

Jane: (a little louder) When will Daria be back?

Jake: Oh, um, I dunno. I just came in as she was leaving with... (stands and yells at the TV) Holding??? HOLDING?? What game are YOU watching?? Because it must not be the same one I’M watching!!

Jane: (rolling her eyes) Is MRS. Morgendorffer there, by any chance?

Jake: (calming down some, sits down) Uh, no she’s at work. (bt) I think.

Jane: (sighs) I don’t suppose...(cringes as she says the name) Quinn is there, is she?

Jake: Oh, sure. Hang on.

Split screen dissolves for a moment, showing only Jane for a moment.

Jane: (muttering to herself) I can’t believe I’m actually this desperate.

Split screen returns after a moment, showing Jane on one side and Quinn on the other. Quinn is holding the phone between her ear and her shoulder and is hard at work painting her fingernails.

Quinn: Hello?

Jane: Quinn, this is Jane.

Quinn: (as if she doesn’t recognize the name) Jane?

Jane: Lane.

Quinn: Well, which is it? Make up your mind already.

Jane: (exasperated) Daria’s friend. You know, the artistic one.

Quinn: The ONLY one, you mean. What do you want?

Jane: Do you know when Daria will be back?

Quinn: How should I know? I’m not her landlord or whatever.

Jane: Jake’s a little....preoccupied. (a tad sarcastic) You’re my only hope.

Quinn: Well, duh! Hmm....let’s see. I think she left with that Tom guy about an hour ago. I don’t know where they were going or anything ‘cos I really didn’t want to know. And even if I DID care what they do and where they go, I wouldn’t want HER to know that I cared, and if I did ask, she’d just tell me they were running away to BRAZIL or something to elope, so why bother?

Jane: (after a long pause) So, you’re saying you don’t know.

Quinn: God!! Weren’t you listening?

Jane: Nevermind. Could you just have her call me when she gets back? You CAN handle that, can’t you?

Quinn: I’ll leave her that message. Bye!

Jane starts to say something else, but is cut off. Split screen dissolves again, showing only Jane. She holds the phone out at arms-length, stares at it for awhile, then shakes her head and sets the phone down on the bed beside her. She sits in silence for a moment, staring into space, before picking up the phone again and dialing another number. She holds the phone to her ear and waits for someone to pick up. Finally, someone answers.

Jane: Hi, Mrs. Rowe. Is Stacy there?

Cut to:

[Music: “Make Me Bad” by Korn] Justin’s car, exterior shot. The car is sitting at the edge of the quarry, AKA Lover’s Lane, on the outskirts of Lawndale.

Stacy: (VO, from inside car) Are you SURE we’re out of gas?

Cut to:

Interior of car. Justin is in the driver’s seat, his arm stretched casually across the back of the passenger seat, where Stacy is sitting.

Justin: I’m positive. (bt) And what a coincidence. Here we are, way out here in the middle of nowhere. (lowers his voice) All....alone.

Stacy: (giggles nervously) Yeah...alone.

Justin: (looks around at the scene out the window) And if my calculations are correct -- and they always ARE -- this would be Lover’s Lane. Yes?

Stacy: Uh-huh. (bt) So, what do we do now? You think there’s a pay phone around here?

Justin: How would I know? I don’t live in this town. You do.

Stacy: Yes, but’t really come up here...very often.

Justin: Are you saying you’ve NEVER been up here before?

Stacy: Well....yes. That’s what I’m saying.

Justin: That explains why you keep asking ‘what do we do now?’ I guess if you’d ever been up here with a guy before, you’d KNOW what we do now, wouldn’t you?

Stacy: What do you mean?

Justin scoots over a little closer and drops his right arm off the back of the seat and wraps it around her shoulders. Stacy tenses up and looks even more nervous. Justin smiles, inching his face closer to Stacy’s.

Justin: I’ll SHOW you what I mean. (starts kissing her neck)

Stacy is uncomfortable for a few seconds, then eases into it gradually. She closes her eyes and slides her arms around Justin’s neck, purring softly. After they make out for awhile, Justin is getting more and more bold by the second, and Stacy’s expression changes from contentment to confusion mixed with fear.

Stacy: (wriggling around uncomfortably) Uh, Justin? Could you....maybe....not do that?

Judging by Justin’s expression, he definitely heard what she said, but pretends that he couldn’t hear her. He continues, pushing Stacy down until she’s flat on her back in the seat. When he slides his hand under her blouse, Stacy pushes her hands against his chest in an attempt to free herself. Justin proves to be stronger than he looks. He doesn’t budge.

Stacy: (panic setting in) Justin! Stop it!

Justin raises up slightly and looks down at her.

Justin: Excuse me?

Stacy: (suddenly sheepish again) Um, I mean...I was sorta wondering if maybe you could, y’know, stop for awhile.

Justin: Stop? Now, why would I want to do a silly thing like that? (resumes kissing her)

Stacy: (after a few more moments, pleadingly) Please........

Justin reaches down and starts pulling up her skirt. Finally, Stacy snaps. Instinctively she slaps Justin right across the face, leaving a large red mark on his right cheek. Justin reels back as if he’s been shot.

Stacy: I said STOP! (immediately regrets her actions, tries to sit up) Oh, God! I’m so sorry, are you okay? I didn’t mean to....

Stacy’s words are cut short as Justin balls up his fist and decks her, knocking her back against the car door. Her head hits the metal door handle with a dull *thud.*

Justin: You snotty high school bitch! Nobody says 'no' to me. NOBODY!!!

He descends upon Stacy again as she cowers on the car seat.

Cut to:

Tom’s car, interior. Tom is driving and Daria is seated in the passenger seat, looking out the window.

Daria: Tom, where are we going?

Tom: You’ll see. It’s a surprise.

Daria: (sarcastic) Great idea. You know how I love a good surprise.

Tom: Yeah. Like on your eighth birthday when your parents threw you that surprise birthday party and they scared you so badly you wet your pants?

Daria’s face goes beet red and her eyes widen.

Daria: You KNOW about that?

Tom: That’s what you get for leaving me alone with your father for too long. You know how he loves to tell embarrassing childhood stories.

Daria: (covers her face with her hands, mumbling) When we get to wherever we’re going, remind me to throw myself off a bridge, will you?

Tom: Bridge, nothin’. You’ve got a whole quarry to plummet into.

Tom points out Daria’s window. She raises her head, turns to look where he’s pointing and sees the quarry off in the distance. Daria groans.

Daria: Tom, I can’t believe you brought me here. What kind of girl do you think I am? (bt, teasing) You could have at least bought me dinner first, you big cad.

Tom: How insensitive of me.

Daria, still looking out the window, squints to see through the darkness. She has spotted Justin’s car at the edge of the cliff.

Daria: Hey, isn’t that your cousin’s car?

Tom leans over to get a better look. After a few moments, he nods.

Tom: Typical Justin behavior. Bringing some poor, unsuspecting girl up to Lover’s Lane just so he can get her into the back seat.

Daria: Must run in the family.

Tom grins. Suddenly, as they near the quarry, they can hear a faint female scream. At first, they aren’t sure what they’ve heard. Tom and Daria look at each other questioningly, silently asking each other what that noise was. As the scream is heard the second time, it is much louder and more distinct. The two get frightened looks on their faces.

Tom: My God! What’s he doing?

Daria: Either he’s really good -- which I doubt -- or he’s killing her.

Daria is only half joking when she says that, but as soon as the words are out of her mouth, she wonders if maybe it is the truth. Without another word, Tom slams his foot down on the accelerator and speeds toward Justin’s car.

Cut to:

Justin’s car, exterior. Stacy’s screams of protest can be heard very clearly. After a few moments, Tom’s car pulls up beside Justin’s on the right side, screeching to a halt in a cloud of dust. Before the car even has time to stop moving, Tom is out of the car and rushing around Justin’s car to the driver’s side door. Daria opens the door and steps out of Tom’s car.

Tom: (yelling behind him) Daria, stay there!

Daria freezes, watching the following scene unfold. Tom yanks open Justin’s car door.

Tom: What the hell’s going on!?

Justin: (VO from inside car) Hey!!!

Daria is still by Tom’s car and is straining to see what’s going on. She sees Tom bend down and stick his head inside the car. Moments later he emerges with a half-clothed Justin, his hands gripping Justin’s shoulders forcefully. Tom tosses Justin to the ground. Justin rolls a few feet, then comes to a stop. He sits up and shakes his head, then looks up to see Tom standing over him menacingly, his fists balled up and ready to strike. When he sees that it’s just Tom, he relaxes visibly.

Justin: Oh, hey man. You scared the Holy Hell out of me. I thought I was a goner. What are you doing here?

Tom: I could ask YOU the same question, couldn’t I?

Justin: C’mon, Tom. Lighten up. We were just having a little fun, right Stacy?

Tom turns to look at the girl in the car. Cut to close-up of Daria.

Daria: (to herself) Stacy??

Cut to shot of Stacy. Since Justin’s abrupt departure from the car, she has managed to squeeze herself into the floorboard. She is also partially clothed, her remaining clothes mussed and torn. She has a black eye and split lip and is huddled in a ball in the floorboard, her arms clenched tightly around her knees. Stacy looks up at Tom, a look of half-fear, half-thankfulness glistening in her red, bloodshot eyes. Unable to speak, she simply shakes her head ‘no.’

Resume previous shot of Tom and Justin. Justin is now standing, brushing dirt off his dark blue boxer shorts. Tom turns back to face him.

Justin: Some girls just don’t know when they’re having a good time. But you know what I mean, right? You’ve probably had a ‘good time’ with that little four-eyed chick PLENTY of times.

Cut back to shot of Daria standing at Tom’s car. Her eyes narrow at that last comment. She glances at Justin’s car and squints, trying to see the girl inside to see if it’s the same Stacy she knows, but she can’t see anything; it’s too dark. Slowly, she makes her way to the car and opens up the passenger side door. Finally, she sees Stacy huddled in the floorboard. Stacy’s head turns, and she looks up at Daria, tears flowing down her bruised cheeks.

Stacy: (her voice shaking) D-D-Daria?

Daria cringes momentarily at the sight of Stacy’s injuries. Finding Stacy bare from the waist up except for a slightly torn bra, Daria removes her own green jacket. After gently lifting Stacy out of the car, she slips the jacket around Stacy’s shoulders. Stacy looks up at Daria gratefully and slides a weak arm around Daria’s neck, leaning against her for support. Daria leads her slowly and carefully back to the car.

Daria: It’s ok, Stacy. I’ve got you.

Cut back to shot of Tom and Justin.

Tom: You honestly think that girl was having fun? She looks like she was just run over by a damn tractor and you think she was having FUN?

Justin starts to comment on this, but then he sees Daria leading Stacy back to Tom’s car. He’s not pleased.

Justin: (darting past Tom) Hey! What do you think you’re doing? Our date's not over yet!

Daria opens the right rear door of Tom’s car and lowers Stacy into the back seat. Daria looks scared for a moment as she spots Justin running towards her. Tom is close behind him but Justin reaches her before Tom can catch up with him. Justin is angry and looks ready to hurt someone else. Daria, with a determined look on her face, refuses to be his next victim. Thinking quickly, she reaches into the back floorboard and pulls out the first heavy object she can find: on old, slightly rusted metal jack. As Justin prepares to descend upon Daria, she grips the jack with both hands, raises her weapon over her head and with all her strength, brings the heavy metal jack down onto Justin’s head. Justin falls to the ground at Daria’s feet as blood starts flowing from the large gash in his head. Tom finally reaches Daria, who is now in shock, still holding the jack in front of her in a warrior-like stance. She looks ready to strike again, but that won’t be necessary; Justin is out cold. As tiny drops of rain start to fall, Tom throws his arms around Daria and pulls her away from Justin’s unconscious body. Finally, Daria blinks and drops the jack at her side, flinging her arms around Tom’s waist.

Tom: Are you alright?

Daria: (muffled by Tom’s shirt against her mouth) I’m fine. (suddenly remembering Stacy, pulling away from Tom) Stacy.

Daria spins around, rushes to the car door, and peeks into the backseat where she had left Stacy. Daria stops suddenly, once again in shock. Tom rushes up behind her.

Daria: (whispers) Oh, no.

Tom: (unable to see past Daria) What? What’s wrong?

Daria straightens and faces Tom, sadness and worry engulfing her normally stoic face.

Daria: She’s gone.

Cut to:

[Music: “That I Would Be Good” by Alanis Morrisette] A dark stretch of road in the middle of nowhere, nighttime. It has started sprinkling a little. Stacy is running down the middle of the road, crossing a small bridge. She is crying so hard she can barely catch her breath. Finally, gulping and gasping for air, she stops running just to the other side of the bridge. Leaning over and placing her hands on her knees, she attempts to calm down and catch her breath. As she stares down at the ground, she spots a puddle there between her feet.

Through the darkness, she can just barely see her reflection in the puddle. Focusing on her own image in the water, she stops crying and wipes the back of her hand across her damp eyes. Kneeling down, she stares intently into the tiny pool at her feet. The look on her face gives the impression that she is thinking about much more than what had just happened at the quarry. She obviously isn’t sure whether or not she likes what she sees.

As she’s staring at her reflection, it starts raining harder. Large raindrops fall, breaking the surface of the puddle. Ripples distort the image of Stacy’s face in the water. Stacy reaches out a trembling hand and runs her fingers through the water, creating more and more ripples until her reflection is no longer recognizable. Finally, after a few moments, she sighs, a look of extreme sadness crossing her face.

Cut to:

[Music: “Seek and Destroy” by Metallica] The same stretch of road, nighttime. Exterior shot of the Tank as it speeds through the downpour.

Cut to:

[Music continues] Interior of the Tank, close-up shot of the radio. A hand reaches out from the driver’s side and cranks up the volume. The music gets extremely loud. Then, the hand moves back to the steering wheel.

Cut to:

Same dark stretch of road. Stacy is staring into the puddle, still deep in thought. Finally, she stands and glances up. A look of horror crosses her face as she spots the headlights careening towards her.

Cut to:

[Music continues] Interior of the Tank from the driver’s POV. The windshield wipers are working at full speed, but it is still difficult to see much through the sheets of rain now coming down. The song on the radio keeps blaring as the vehicle speeds through the dark night. Suddenly, illuminated in the headlights, appears the silhouette of a small person standing in the middle of the road.

Cut to:

Exterior of the Tank. Stacy tries to leap back out of the path of the on-coming van, but instead she trips and falls flat on her butt in a large mud puddle. The van swerves, narrowly missing Stacy. On the rain-slicked road, the van hydroplanes, fishtails and slams its large, sturdy back-end into the bridge’s guardrail. The Tank, being indestructible, is barely even dented, but the same can not be said for the guardrail. It’s completely trashed.

The door to the van opens and Jesse stumbles out, shaken but unharmed. He rushes around the van, glancing around frantically for the person he almost hit. Finally, he spots a young girl some distance away, sprawled out beside the railing, covered in mud. From far away and in the dark, he can’t tell who it is, but as he nears her, he sees that she’s wearing Daria’s green jacket.

Jesse: Daria?!

Jesse reaches Stacy and kneels down beside her, concern sweeping over his face. Finally, as Stacy looks up at him, he realizes who it is, and is even more concerned than before.

Jesse: (uncharacteristically emotional) Oh my God, Stacy! Are you alright? Are you hurt?

Stacy: I don’t think s--

Jesse sees Stacy’s busted lip and bruised face.

Jesse: You ARE hurt! Here, let me help you.

Jesse wraps his arms around her and lifts her effortlessly out of the mud. Stacy starts to protest, but then finds she doesn’t have the strength for it anymore. She closes her eyes and rests her head against Jesse’s muscular shoulder as he carries her back to the van.

Cut to:

The Lane house, interior. Trent, Max, and Nick are seated at the kitchen table. Nick is drinking a cup of coffee, Max is spinning his drumsticks around between his fingers impatiently, and Trent is leaning back in his chair with his feet propped up on the table.

Nick: I’m tellin’ you, Max. He’ll BE here. Just chill out, already.

Max: Why is it that we ALWAYS have to wait on SOMEONE. If it’s not Jesse being late, it’s Trent sleeping through practice...

Trent: Hey....

Max: Or YOU giving us that lame excuse about having to drop your kid off at DAYCARE!

Nick: What do you MEAN, ‘lame excuse’? Beth was late for work, so she asked me to drop TJ off at daycare. What’s the big deal? Besides, I was only 10 minutes late for rehearsal. At least I actually sound DECENT whenever we DO finally get around to practicing.

Max: Are you saying I DON’T sound decent?

Nick: That’s exactly what I’m saying. You’re too slow. You’d think you could manage to keep up with us. It’s not like we’re playing SPEED metal or anything.

Max: Oh, yeah? (he’s run out of insults) You suck!

Nick: No, YOU suck!

Jane walks in at just that moment.

Jane: You BOTH suck.

Max and Nick: (indignant) Hey!

Trent laughs/coughs. Jane crosses the kitchen to the refrigerator, opens the door, and peers inside.

Jane: (staring into the empty fridge) Let’s see. Nothing or...nothing? Hmm...tough choice.

Suddenly, the phone on the counter rings. Max leaps out of his chair and runs to the phone.

Max: (reaches for the phone) If that’s Jesse with another damned flat-tire excuse I’m gonna rip him a new... (lifts the receiver to his ear, answers sharply) Hello?!

Trent: (to Nick) We’d better switch Max to DECAF before he bursts a blood vessel. (Nick nods in agreement)

Max: (into the phone) Yeah, hold on a sec. (holds the phone out to Jane) It’s for you.

Jane: (taking the phone reluctantly) Hello?

Split screen follows, with Jane on the right side and Daria on the left. Daria appears to be at a pay phone.

Daria: Jane, please don’t hang up.

Jane: Gee, nice to talk to you, too. (sighs) Look, Daria, I’m not MAD at you, ok?

Daria: Have you heard from Stacy lately?

Split screen ends, switching back to the shot of Jane holding the phone, with Mystik Spiral in the background.

Jane: (taken by surprise) Stacy?, not since yesterday. Why?

Jane is silent as, on the other end of the line, Daria explains what happened at the quarry. As Jane listens intently, Nick and Max’s bickering continues on in the background. Jane’s expression goes from mild interest to shock and horror to complete and utter disbelief and finally to unbelievable hatred and rage.

Max: No...YOU are!

Nick: No...YOU!

Max: You!!!

Nick: You!!!

Max: YOU!!!!

Their argument is interrupted by Jane.

Jane: (into the phone) That ASSHOLE!!!

The three guys around the table go silent and stare at Jane. There is dead silence in the kitchen for a moment. Then Max whispers to Trent and Nick.

Max: Man, she needs to switch to decaf before she gives herself an ulcer.

Trent and Nick exchange amused glances.

Cut to:

[Music: “Moonchild” by Chris Cornell] The Tank, exterior. It is on the same dark road, but parked a safe distance off the pavement. There is a small dent in the back fender, but nothing more. It’s still raining fairly heavily, but appears to have let up a little.

Cut to:

The Tank, interior. Stacy is seated in the back on a large trunk. She is still covered in mud and is clutching Daria’s jacket tightly around her. Jesse is behind her, rummaging around in a large pile of junk. Finally, he emerges with an old, wrinkled, slightly stained T-shirt.

Jesse: I KNEW I had that shirt back here somewhere. (takes a seat beside Stacy, hands her the shirt) Don’t pay any attention to that stain.

Stacy: At this point I’m not really picky. (Jesse stares at her for a moment, Stacy clears her throat) *Ahem.*

Jesse, finally getting it, stands up and opens the door to the van.

Jesse: Sorry. (he exits and shuts the door behind him)

Stacy removes the muddy jacket and deposits it on the floor beside her. It lands in a pile with a wet, sick-sounding *plop.* She then removes her mud-covered, slightly torn skirt and drops it next to the jacket. She slowly pulls the T-shirt over her head. The T-shirt, about three sizes too big for Stacy, hangs down past her knees and sports a Budweiser logo. Stacy removes the clip from one of her braids and starts pulling sections of hair apart, disassembling the braid.

Stacy: Okay. You can come back in now.

The sliding door opens again and a rain-soaked Jesse steps back inside, shutting the door behind him. He spots Stacy, who is now working on the other braid, her long hair hanging down to the middle of her back. He swallows hard at the sight of her and looks away.

Stacy: Thank you so much, Jesse. I feel better now.

Jesse: No problem. I just wish I had some ice for that black eye. (bt, glances up at her quickly) Uh, I was wondering....

Stacy: Yes?

Jesse: (looks her straight in the eyes, with some difficulty) What were you doing out here by yourself?

Stacy lowers her eyes, staring intently at her bare feet. There is a rather large puddle of muddy water surrounding her. As she stares down, she looks at the puddle, trying to make out her reflection, but she can’t see through all the dirt. After a moment, she sighs.

Stacy: I don’t know who I am anymore.

Jesse: (confused) Huh?

Stacy: (sits down, Jesse sits beside her) I feel really....alone. My friends have all abandoned me. (bt, frowns) At least, I THOUGHT they were my friends. I’ve spent so many years judging my own life by what THEY told me. Sandi was always telling me what to do, what to wear, what to think. And I always did it. I was completely brainwashed by her and everyone else, that now I’m to the point where I don’t even know HOW to think on my own. How can I tell which thoughts are really MINE and which ones are just thoughts drilled into my head by years of other people bossing me around?

Jesse shrugs, not knowing quite what to say. He just lets her talk, silently listening to her with surprisingly genuine interest.

Stacy: Then I finally found this guy that really treated me like I was special. We could talk for hours about nothing. About EVERYTHING. He made me feel smart. No one’s ever done that before. He’s the only person that’s made me feel that way, and I really liked him. I was so sure that he felt the same way about me, but he wanted something else. (tears threaten to surface) Something I wasn’t willing to give. And when I wouldn’t give it....he... (a solitary tear slides down her cheek) ...tried to TAKE it.

Jesse’s eyes widen, indicating he understands exactly what she means.

Jesse: (points at her black eye) And... (pauses, swallowing his anger) He did that to you?

Stacy: (nods slowly) If it weren’t for Daria and her boyfriend, I....I don’t know what.....I’d.... (she finally breaks down)

The tears are flowing freely now. Jesse obviously wants to comfort her but doesn’t really know what to do or say. No words really seem appropriate. Finally, with extreme caution, he places a caring hand on her shoulder. Stacy surprises him by leaning into him and crying unabashedly into his leather vest. Jesse wraps a compassionate arm around her shoulders and lets her cry. The sadness in his eyes as he gazes down at her is overwhelming. He wishes there is more he could do for her, but all he can do is sit there and stroke her hair as she cries.

Cut to:

Tom’s car, night. Tom is driving, and Daria is in the passenger seat, her arms crossed firmly across her chest. She’s trying to keep her composure, but is having difficulty. She looks both worried and angry, and Tom keeps glancing over at her, biting his lower lip absently.

Tom: (after a long silence) You okay?

Daria: (looking out the window) Mm.

Tom: I’ll take that as a ‘no.’ (bt) Look, I had no idea Justin was dating Stacy.

Daria: I know.

Tom: (dejected) I just wish I had found out sooner.

Daria: What good would that have done?

Tom: (shrugs) I don’t know. Maybe I could have warned Stacy that she was dating a creep. Try to get Jane to convince her to stay away from him. Something!

Daria: From what Jane told me on the phone, she had a bad feeling about him from the beginning, but Stacy didn’t see him that way. She tried to warn Stacy to be on her guard, but she wouldn’t

Daria’s voice fades off as she is suddenly drawn back to the day when Jane had said those same exact words to her in the computer lab: “Be on your guard.” Looking into the glass of the window, Daria stares at her own reflection for a moment, then glances at Tom’s blurred reflection behind hers. Her brow creases as she examines him, trying to read him. Jane’s voice once again echoes through her mind, only this time, the words are starting to make sense.

Jane: (VO, echo) You can’t be right about EVERYONE all the time. You can never be too careful. (Daria’s brow furrows even more) Just promise me you’ll be on your guard.

Tom shifts in his seat as the car rounds a corner. He’s glancing back and forth, looking for Stacy as he drives. Daria closes her eyes and rests her forehead against the cool glass surface of the car window. By the look on her face, it is evident that she is feeling very conflicted and cannot even begin to know what she should do.

Tom wheels the car onto the same bridge where Jesse had picked up Stacy earlier. Spotting the smashed-up guardrail and deep tire tracks in the mud, Tom abruptly slams on the breaks. The abrupt change of speed flings Daria forward, and she is pulled back roughly by her seatbelt. As the car slides through the mud and finally comes to a stop, Daria whips her head around, slightly peeved.

Daria: What the hell was that for??

Tom: (points out his window at the guardrail) Look at that!

Daria: (leans over and squints, looking out the window) So what? Some drunk probably had one too many screwdrivers and ended the evening by wrapping his Impala around a guardrail. Nothing unusual about that. Not in THIS town.

Tom: (not convinced) I don’t know....

Not even bothering to turn off the headlights, Tom steps out and crosses the street to get a closer look. Daria sighs, unbuckles her seatbelt and reluctantly follows him. Tom runs his hand along the bent, twisted metal of the railing, then turns his attention to the tire tracks. He follows the tracks for a few feet, with Daria a few steps behind. Suddenly, he hears Daria’s footsteps stop behind him. From behind him, Daria mutters something under her breath. Tom turns around to find Daria staring down at the ground.

Tom: (walking back to where Daria has stopped) What is it?

Lying there at Daria’s feet, half caked in mud, is a small silver hair barrette, glistening in the light of Tom’s headlights. Daria bends down and picks it up and uses her fingernail to chip off some of the mud. The barrette now shines back a dull silver, revealing the name engraved into the metallic surface: Stacy. Daria looks up at Tom, a glimmer of panic in her eyes as he stares back at her, looking equally concerned.

Act 4

[Music (from radio): “On Your Way Down” by Stabbing Westward] The Tank, interior. Jesse is driving and Stacy is hunched down in the passenger seat. They are both silent, not knowing what to say. Jesse’s face is passive, but Stacy looks a little embarrassed by her previous outburst. Jesse glances over at her and notices that she looks a bit uncomfortable. He reaches down to turn off the radio, but Stacy’s voice stops him.

Stacy: No, I like that song.

Jesse: (a bit shocked) You do?

Stacy: Well....yeah. (to the funny look Jesse gives her) I mean, I listen to alot of different stuff. Like, I listen to pop music, but whenever I’m in a bad mood or whatever, I like to listen to alternative or rock or something. It just depends. (bites her lip, meek) Why, is that a problem?

Jesse: No, I think that’s pretty cool.

Stacy: (perks up a little) Really?

Jesse: (glances over at her and smiles sincerely) Yeah.

Stacy blushes slightly. No one had ever thought she was ‘cool’ before, and she beams a bit at that.

Stacy: Well, I’m sure the little Fashion Nuggets wouldn’t think it was ‘cool.’ If they found out that I liked music that was so ‘uncute,’ they’d string me up by my French-manicured nails. (looks down at her hands, examining her nails) My very CHIPPED, French-manicured nails.

Jesse: (chuckles) Just imagine what they’d say about that outfit.

Stacy looks down at the stained beer T-shirt and giggles.

Stacy: Oh, yeah. I can hear it now. (in her best Sandi impression) “As PRESIDENT of the FASHION club, I hereby order you to flee in shame while we pelt rocks MERCILESSLY at your fashionably-challenged head!” (Jesse starts laughing, but Stacy’s not done yet, impersonates Quinn) “Omigod, Stacy! I can’t believe you wore that T-shirt. Beer logos are SO five minutes ago!” (switches to an over-exaggerated Tiffany voice) “Muddy hair is sooooooooo wroooooooooong.”

By now, Jesse is doubled over the steering wheel, laughing so hard tears are streaming down his face. Stacy joins in and they both have a good, long laugh as they drive down the rain-soaked road.

Cut to:

Lane kitchen. Jane is pacing back and forth across the room, looking worried and on the verge of sheer panic. Nick is sitting at the table watching her closely.

Jane: I’ll kill him. I swear to GOD, I’ll kill the bastard. (Nick raises his eyebrows but says nothing) He’d just better be glad *I* wasn’t there when it happened. I wouldn’t have been quite as nice as Daria was.

Nick: But didn’t you say she knocked him unconscious?

Jane: Like I said... (Nick's eyes widen) He’d just better hope Stacy is found soon. (balls up her fists at her side) If anything else happens to her because of him.... (pounds one of her fists into the palm of her other hand)

Nick: Don’t worry, Jane. Trent and Max’ll find her.

Jane: Oh, sure. Trust the fate of a scared young girl to a narcoleptic guitar player and a psychotic drummer. Forgive me if that doesn’t set my mind at ease.

Nick: (a little frightened by Jane’s attitude) Why don’t you sit down? Have some coffee.

Jane: Nick, I’m already keyed-up enough as it is. The last thing I need right now is caffeine.

Nick: Just trying to help.

Jane: (flinging her arms around maniacally as she talks) You wanna help? Well maybe you could be out there looking for her!

Nick: On foot? Jane, you know Max and I rode over here together, and he’s got the car now. I don’t think I’d get very far without it.

Jane: (shoulders slump) Sorry, I know...wish I could DO something. I feel so stupid just standing around and waiting.

Nick: Well, y’know, somebody needs to be here in case she shows up. (bt, tries to reassure her) I’m sure she’s ok, Jane. She’ll turn up eventually.

Just then, the sounds of a vehicle pulling up in the driveway can be heard. Jane spins around at the sound of the vehicle’s door slamming. She and Nick exchange quick glances before they both rush into the living room. Just as they enter the room, the front door opens. Jesse and Stacy walk in together, laughing. Jane’s mouth drops open at the sight of Stacy’s battered face and muddy hair. Without a word, she rushes to the door and throws her arms around Stacy, hugging her intensely. Stacy is a little shocked, but gladly returns the hug.

Jane: (releasing her) Where the hell did you go? Daria called and told me what happened. We’ve had a search party out looking for you. I’ve been so worried. Oh, God! I’m just glad you’re safe. (hugs her again)

Stacy is overcome by Jane’s reaction and starts tearing up. Finally, the girls break their embrace, and Stacy wipes a tear from her eyelash.

Stacy: You were really worried about me?

Jane: (as if this was the stupidest question on earth) Of COURSE I was worried. You’re my.... (stops herself)

Stacy: (understands without hearing her say it) Yeah. I know.

Jesse is grinning just a little watching the two girls. Finally, Nick grabs his arm and pulls him aside.

Nick: (to Jesse) Trent and Max are out looking for her. You think we should go find ‘em?

Jesse: (still watching Jane and Stacy) Nah. They’ll turn up eventually.

Cut to:

[Music: “Angel Standing By” by Jewel] The Lane bathroom, later that night. Stacy, still muddy and in Jesse’s T-shirt, can be seen walking in and closing the door behind her. She crosses to the bathtub, bends down and turns the knob marked “hot” as far as it will go. As the water runs in the tub, steam rises from it, fogging up the bathroom mirror. As the tub fills up slowly with hot water, Stacy reaches into the medicine cabinet, rummages around some before pulling out a bottle of bubble bath. It’s one of those bottles made especially for children, with a goofy cartoon character at the top of the bottle, covering the lid. Stacy takes the silly-looking top off the bottle, unscrews the cap and proceeds to pour some of the bubble bath into the water. She has to shake the bottle violently to get any out, since it’s almost empty and probably more than a few years old. Finally, satisfied, she replaces the cap and puts the bottle back into the cabinet.

As the tub continues to fill, the bubbles start crawling up the side of the tub. Camera shows shot of Stacy’s bare feet. First, the stained beer T-shirt drops at her feet, then a pair of lacy white panties follows. Her feet step up and over the side of the bathtub and she eases herself down into the sudsy bath water. As the foam reaches the very top of the tub, Stacy reaches over and turns off the faucet. Settling into the comforting, nearly scalding water and sweet-smelling suds, she leans back and closes her eyes. As she’s sitting there, enjoying the silence, the doorbell can be heard ringing downstairs, but she’s so lost in her own world, she doesn’t even open her eyes at the sound.

Cut to:

Lane house, front door. Jane opens the door to find Tom and Daria on the other side of it. Tom has his arm around Daria’s shoulder, but as Jane opens the door, Daria ducks away from him. Tom glances over at Daria, looking slightly hurt by the motion, but decides to let it slide for now. Jane’s jaw sets defiantly at the sight of him, and she steps aside without a word. The pair enters the house.

Cut to:

Lane kitchen. Tom and Daria are sitting at the kitchen table while Jane is sitting on the countertop nearby. The tension in the room is evident to all three, and nobody knows what to say. No one wants to be the first to break the silence. Daria is tapping her foot wildly under the table, while Tom keeps rubbing his hands together nervously. Jane refuses to look at either of them. Finally, Daria speaks up.

Daria: Soooo......

Jane: (imitating Daria) Soooo.....

Tom: (after a long silence) I gather it’s my turn now?

Jane: (mumbles bitterly) I suppose this is all some big joke to you.

Tom: What’s that supposed to mean?

Jane: You outta know. (mutters under her breath) Perversion runs in the family.

Tom: (eyes narrow) What was that?

Jane simply shrugs and says nothing. Daria, sick of the bickering, is desperate to change the subject. She turns the focus back to Stacy.

Daria: How’s she doing, Jane?

Jane: (now looking down at her hands) She’s better than I expected her to be after all she’s been through. (frowns) Maybe a little TOO good. It kinda worries me.

Tom opens his mouth to ask a question, but Daria puts a hand on his arm and shakes her head slowly, stopping him. Tom, realizing that just the sound of his voice might set her off again, shuts his mouth and lets Daria ask the questions.

Daria: Has she said anything to you about what happened?

Jane: Only that she didn’t want to talk about it. I asked Jesse though, and I guess she talked to him about it some.

Daria: (not knowing how to word the question) Did Justin...I you think he....

Jane: I don’t think he got as far as he wanted to with her. I think she’d be alot more torn up if he had.

Daria: Do her parents know what happened?

Jane: No. I called them to let her know she was ok. Her father was hysterical. He was in a panic, wondering where she was. I told him she had been over here all night. I figured if she wants to tell him about it, it’s her business, not mine.

Daria: Good call.

Jane: (swallowing her pride with a great deal of effort) Thanks for helping her tonight. (glances up at Tom momentarily) BOTH of you.

Tom smiles back and nods silently. Jane looks back down at her hands, the wall slamming back up in front of her.

Daria: So what’s she gonna do now?

Jane: She’s staying the night here. That’ll give her a chance to collect herself before she has to go home and face her parents. Plus, I think she feels safer here. More people around and all.

Daria: More people? You and Trent....

Jane: And Jesse.

Daria: Jesse’s staying?

Jane: Yeah. (grins in spite of herself) It’s amazing how concerned he is with her. It’s almost as if... (shakes the thought from her head) Nah! That’s crazy...

Daria: What? (bt, gets it) Jesse and Stacy? Are you serious?

Jane: I don’t know. You haven’t seen them together. In a weird way they almost make sense. It’s insane, but still...

Just then, Jesse and Trent walk into the room. The conversation stops abruptly and everyone stares at Jesse.

Jesse: (after a moment) What? (Jane grins at him) What?? (looks at Daria and Tom, who are also grinning, Jesse shakes his head) You guys are weird. (turns around and walks out)

Trent: (raising an eyebrow) What’s with you guys?

Jane: Nothing. (nods in the direction Jesse just left) What’s with HIM?

Trent stands in the doorway, looking back and forth between Jane, Tom, and Daria. It’s obvious by the confused look on his face that he has no idea what they’re talking about.

Trent: He’s right. You guys ARE weird.

Cut to:

Lane bathroom again. Stacy now has a damp washcloth over her eyes. The bubbles are still completely covering her body and steam rises gently from the water. She’s running her fingers absently through the water, her lips turned down in a slight frown. She doesn’t appear to be angry or upset, just deep in thought. She’s trying to relax and let the water wash everything away, but it’s not doing the job entirely. She still looks conflicted. Suddenly, the bathroom door swings open and Jesse walks in. Stacy, hearing the door, reaches up and removes the cloth from her eyes. Jesse, finally seeing Stacy in the tub, blushes profusely and rushes out of the room. Stacy calls after him.

Stacy: It’s ok. You can come in.

Stacy reaches up and pulls the shower curtain closed about three-fourths of the way, so all that is visible around the curtain is her face and shoulders. Jesse re-enters the room with a little hesitation. He focuses his gaze on the floor, unwilling to let himself look at her.

Jesse: (uncertain) Are you sure?

Stacy: Yeah. Really, it’s alright. (reaches a dripping arm around the curtain and points to the toilet) Have a seat!

Jesse finally looks up at her and laughs. He lowers the lid and takes a seat on the stool, resting his arms on his knees.

Stacy: (after a beat, suddenly serious) I didn’t really get a chance to thank you earlier.

Jesse: You don’t have to.

Stacy: I know I don’t have to...but I want to. You really saved me. Tom and Daria saved me from... (her voice falters for a moment) ....from him....but you saved me from myself. (laughs a little) Sounds like a line from “Titanic,” doesn’t it?

Jesse: (grins slightly) I wouldn’t know.

Stacy: (smiles back) Of course. (clears her throat) Anyway, I was really depressed earlier. I’d just lost my friends, my boyfriend, my dignity....everything. Out there on the bridge, I was very close to doing something I wouldn’t live to regret. If you hadn’t nearly flattened me with your van, I might have done something drastic.

Jesse: I can’t really take credit for that. I didn’t do it on purpose or anything.

Stacy: I know, but that’s not the point. You stopped and took care of me whenever I needed it. I was so down on myself and needed to get it all out. I really needed to be around someone who was willing to listen.

Jesse: I’m just glad you’re ok. (pauses, glances up at her again) You ARE ok, aren’t you?

Stacy: (face falls a little, shrugs) I suppose. I mean, not entirely...but I DO feel alot better now. (slipping into deep thought again) I never thought my life could be so royally screwed up. I always thought things were ok. I thought *I* was ok. But I was wrong. My life was one big lie. (reaches up and gently touches her bruised cheek) Unfortunately, it’s taken a few major blows to make me see that things have to change.

Jesse: Things? Like what?

Stacy: Well, my friends, for starters.

Jesse: Yeah. It doesn’t sound like your...whadjacallem?

Stacy: Fashion Nuggets?

Jesse: Yeah. It doesn’t sound like they’re very good friends.

Stacy: They’re not. I just wish I had seen it sooner. (bt) You know, I really outta be thanking Jane as well. She’s been a real friend. She watched out for me for no reason. Even when I wouldn’t listen. Even when she hated me.

Jesse: She doesn’t hate you.

Stacy: Oh, I know she doesn’t NOW. But... (choosing the right words) You have to school, we’re in two completely separate worlds. I’m with the in-crowd, she’s with...I guess the out-crowd. We hadn’t even spoken that much until this week. She thought I was shallow just like the rest of the people I hang out with. (smiles) But not anymore.

Jesse: Jane’s certainly a good person to have on your side. Sounds like that’s a good start, anyway.

Stacy: Yeah, but that’s really the easy part. The hard part will be changing my image.

Jesse: What? Like changing how you dress?

Stacy: No, not how I look, just how other people look AT me.

Jesse: (nods in understanding) That won’t be easy.

Stacy: I can handle it though. It’ll take time. But I’ll have you guys to back me up, right?

Jesse: (smiles) All the way. (Stacy smiles back at him)

Cut to:

Upstairs hallway, Lane house. Jane is walking towards the bathroom. She reaches the door, which is slightly ajar, and is getting ready to push the door open, when she hears laughter from the other side. She lowers her hand just as Jesse is opening the door. He walks forward out the door, but has his head turned back, still talking to Stacy.

Jesse: I’ll see you lat-- (runs into Jane) Oh! (turns around) Oh....Jane. Sorry. (closes the door behind him, looks a little guilty)

Jane: (grinning) Whatcha doin’?

Jesse: Nothing.

Jane: (grin widens) Who were you talking to in there?

Jesse: No one. (hurries down the hall before she can ask any more questions)

Jane: Uh-huh. Su-u-u-u-ure! (knocks on the bathroom door) Stacy? Can I come in?

Cut to:

Downstairs. Daria, Tom, and Trent are standing at the front door. The door is open and it appears Tom and Daria are preparing to leave.

Trent: We’ll take good care of her. Don’t worry.

Daria: Thanks, Trent. I’ll come by and check on her tomorrow. (bt) If that’s alright.

Trent: Sure. It’s cool.

Tom: Great. See you later, Trent.

Trent: Later.

Daria and Tom exit and Trent starts to shut the door. Then, Daria stops.

Daria: (turns back around) Wait. (Trent opens the door, Daria speaks to Tom) Would you mind waiting in the car? (Tom shrugs and heads down the walk, once he’s a safe distance, she continues) Trent, can I ask you something?

Trent: Sure.

Daria: (lowers her voice even though there’s no one else around to hear) You’ve seen Jane and Stacy together.

Trent: (not sure where this is going) Of course....

Daria: They get along really well.

Trent: (raises an eyebrow) Yeah....

Daria: Do you think she.....Jane, I mean....(takes a deep breathe) Does she like Stacy more than me?

Trent: (relaxes a bit, relieved it’s not something more) Why would you think that?

Daria: Well, she and I haven’t exactly been on the best terms lately. Sometimes we get along. Other times she’s biting my head off. I have no idea why, and she won’t talk about it. I thought know...she’s got a new friend and she doesn’t....(looks down) need me anymore.

Trent: That’s ridiculous. (Daria looks up) Daria, she needs you. More than you know. She has a hard time admitting it. But just because she has another friend, doesn’t mean jack. You’ve got a boyfriend. Does that mean you don’t need HER anymore?

Daria: Well, it’s not exactly the same thing.

Trent: Yes it is. Look, Daria. I know Janey. She has a temper. Something’s really been bothering her lately. I’ve caught the brunt of it a few times myself this past week. It’ll surface eventually and you can work things out then. But it has to be on her terms. (Daria nods slowly) Just give it time.

Daria: (after a short silence) Thanks Trent.

Trent: Anytime.

Cut to:

Bathroom. Stacy’s still in the tub with the curtain partially drawn. Jane is seated on the edge of the tub, talking to Stacy. Stacy looks a little embarrassed, and Jane is grinning sheepishly.

Jane: So, what were you two talking about in here?

Stacy: Oh, you know....stuff.

Jane: Uh-huh....

Stacy: Jane? Do you think he’s....cute? (recovers quickly) Not that it MATTERS, you?

Jane: (shrugs) For a manly, muscle-bound Neanderthal, he’s not half bad.

Stacy: That’s what I think. And you know what? He actually listens to me when I talk. NOBODY does that!

Jane: (pretends not to have heard her) What? Did you say something?

Stacy: (acts indignant) Hey!

Stacy reaches down with one hand and scoops up a huge handful of bubbles. Lifting her hand up to her mouth, she blows out a large puff of air, sending white foam shooting out in all directions, most of which lands on Jane’s face. Stacy starts giggling uncontrollably. Jane, her eyes squeezed shut, spits out a mouthful of foam and runs the back of her hand along her eyes. After she’s wiped off her face a little, she opens her eyes, a wicked grin on her face.

Jane: (leaning towards Stacy) Oh, you are SO gonna get it!

Jane dunks Stacy’s head under the water for a few seconds. Stacy resurfaces, arms flailing. Jane starts laughing, and Stacy’s laughter soon follows.

Stacy: (wiping her eyes) This means WAR!!!!

Cut to:

Trent and Jesse are downstairs in the kitchen, looking through the fridge. Jesse has changed into a pair of grey jogging pants. He’s shirtless, of course, and has a goofy grin on his face. Trent doesn’t seem to notice it.

Trent: (reaching into the fridge, pushing aside a box of baking soda) I could’ve sworn I put those leftover breadsticks in here last month.

Just then, a high-pitched piercing scream is heard from upstairs. Trent, startled by the noise, raises up and wacks the back of his head on the freezer door above him.

Trent: (straightening, rubbing his head) Aw, shhh..... (turns to find Jesse gone) Jess?

Cut to:

Staircase. Jesse comes barreling up the steps, three at a time. He hears the screams again as he nears the bathroom. Just as he reaches the bathroom door, the door swings open and Jane walks out. She’s in her regular clothes, but is soaking wet and has bubble-bath foam in her hair. She stops outside the door and doubles over laughing. Stacy follows a moment later, also laughing, dripping wet and wearing a long, bright red bathrobe with the initials JPL. Stacy also has foam in her hair and a little bit running down her legs as well. The girls continue on down the hallway, passing Jesse without even noticing the strange looks he is giving them. They head down to Jane’s room, enter her room, and shut the door, laughing all the way. Jesse shakes his head and starts back downstairs, smiling to himself.

Jesse: I don’t even want to know.

Cut to:

Jane’s bedroom. Stacy, still in Jane’s robe, is sitting on the edge of the bed while Jane rummages through the pile of clothes in her closet, looking for something clean, or perhaps just something DRY. Stacy is looking down at the initials on the robe.

Stacy: Hey, Jane?

Jane: (without turning) Yo.

Stacy: What’s the ‘P’ stand for?

Jane: (turning around) Huh? (sees the initials on the bathrobe) Oh. (laughs) You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.

Stacy: (smiles, intrigued) What? Tell me!

Jane takes a long pause, then mumbles something under her breath.

Stacy: What??

Jane: (more clear this time) It stands for ‘Payne.’

Stacy: PAYNE??? You’re full name is Jane Payne Lane?

Jane: Not by choice. My parents were real big into (finger quotes) “herbal supplements,” if you get my drift. (Stacy giggles) Of course, now that you know my deepest, darkest secret, you will have to be destroyed.

Stacy: Oh, c’’s not THAT bad.

Jane: I guess it could be worse. I could’ve been named after a Beatles song like my sister, Penny.

Stacy continues laughing, Jane turns around and retrieves something from the closet. Turning back to face Stacy, we see that she is now holding up that horrid pink nightgown that Daria was forced to wear in “That Was Then, This Is Dumb.”

Jane: Alright, funny girl. Prepare to be humiliated.

Jane tosses the nightgown at her, and it lands on Stacy’s head. Jane grins.

Cut to:

[Music: “Fear For You” by Boss Hog] Later that night, Jane’s room. Jane is at her easel, dressed in her typical night clothes, painting Stacy as a towering pink monster, destroying Lawndale. The monster is frozen in mid-roar, and holds a frightened Sandi in one clawed hand. On the ground in front of her, running away in terror, are Quinn and Tiffany. As Jane paints this, Stacy, dressed in the horrible pink nightgown, is standing behind her, watching. She is holding an icepack up to her bruised cheek.

Stacy: (very impressed) I like it. Very realistic.

Jane: Thanks.

Stacy: Except.... (Jane turns and raises an eyebrow) do you think you could give Tiffany, like, a really big butt or something? That’d absolutely KILL her!

Jane: (smirks) I like the way you think! (turns around) One big ass, coming up!!

Jane proceeds to paint a large rear end onto the fearful likeness of Tiffany. Stacy nods approvingly. Then, Jane adds horns and a pitchfork to Sandi and a long pointed mustache and beard to Quinn. Stacy giggles.

Jane: NOW it’s realistic! (sets her brushes down and wipes her hands off on the towel flung over her shoulder) Stacy, can I ask you something?

Stacy: Sure!

The two girls cross the room and take a seat on the edge of Jane’s bed.

Jane: (hesitates momentarily, then presses on) How are you doing? Really.

Stacy: (sighs) Jane, I already said I didn’t want to talk about that....

Jane: I know. just seems to me that you’re taking this way too well, y’know? You don’t seem to be upset about what happened tonight. It worries me.

Stacy: (after a long thoughtful pause) Remember what we talked about before? About how thinking too much usually ends up making you unhappy? (Jane nods) NOT thinking about it is how I’m dealing with it.

Jane: But aren’t you mad? Don’t you HATE him for what he did to you?

Stacy: Of course I’m mad! (lowers icepack and points at her battered face) How could I NOT be upset over this? (replaces icepack) But I can’t let myself dwell on it. (bt) And, no, I don’t hate him.

Jane: Well, excuse me if I’m not as forgiving as you are.

Stacy: I didn’t say I forgive him. I said I don’t hate him. There’s a difference. Forgiveness takes time, I know that. Maybe I’ll NEVER be able to forgive him. I don’t know. But hating him won’t help me or hurt him in any way. And it certainly can't undo all the damage that's already been done. So, what’s the point?

Jane: Well, at least you don’t have to worry about seeing him again. Outside of a courtroom, that is. (Stacy looks down and says nothing) You ARE going to press charges, aren’t you? (Stacy shrugs) Stacy, you can’t just let him off the hook. He’ll turn around and do it to someone else. You have to know that.

Stacy: (sighs) Yeah, I know that. I know what I have to do. But I know it means dredging it all up again. It’ll mean seeing him face-to-face again. I don’t know if I can handle it. Maybe I’m not strong enough.

Jane: After seeing all the shit you’ve been put through in the last few days, I’d say you can handle ANYTHING.

Stacy: (grateful for the confidence boost) Thanks, Jane.

Jane: Hey, I’m here for ya, ok? (Stacy smiles and nods, Jane smirks) Of course, if you tell anyone what my middle name is, I’ll have to kill you.

Stacy: (grins) Don’t worry. Your secret’s safe with me.

Cut to:

Very late that night, Lane house. Jesse, in his grey sweatpants, is standing in the kitchen, pouring himself a cup of coffee. After he pours coffee into the mug, he reaches up into the cabinet and pulls out a bottle of vodka and pours just a tiny bit into his coffee. Replacing the bottle, Jesse collects the mug, wraps his hands around it, and shuffles into the living room. The lights are all off except for a small circle of light coming from behind the television. Jesse’s eyes narrow as he sees this. He walks over to the television, which isn’t even ON, and looks down behind the TV. There, he spots Stacy crouched down behind the set, flashlight in hand, messing with the cords. Stacy, who is still wearing the ugly pink nightgown, looks up, a bit startled, and shines the flashlight in Jesse’s face. Jesse squints and turns his face away from the light.

Stacy: Oh, Jesse! You scared me!

Jesse: Sorry. (bt) Uh, do you mind?

Stacy: Oh! (points the flashlight at the wall instead, Jesse turns back and opens his eyes) Sorry about that.

Jesse: ‘S okay. What are you doing?

Stacy: (stands, brushes off her knees) I couldn’t sleep. I thought I’d watch some TV, but the set's broken.

Jesse: (shakes his head) Nope, just stubborn. (balls up his fist and pounds on the top of the set, the TV screen flashes a few times then finally comes on) See?

Stacy: (looks down at her feet, shyness taking over a bit) Yeah, umm....thanks. (bt) So, what are you doing up so late?

Jesse: Trent’s been snoring like a hacksaw for hours. (sits down on the sofa) It was either smother him with a pillow or watch TV. (bt) You don’t mind a little company, do you?

Stacy: No, of course not.

Stacy walks over to the sofa and sits down next to Jesse. Jesse glances over at her and clears his throat nervously, but says nothing. The sounds of a late night infomercial can be heard coming from the TV.

Infomercial Guy: It slices. It dices. It purees. It cuts through any surface with ease. It can change a flat tire, trim your nose hair, AND play perfect renditions of Beethoven’s symphonies...all at the same time. Plus, it comes complete with this handy-dandy synthetic leather carrying case. Now, how much would you pay for such a....

As the pathetic sales pitch continues on, Jesse shifts uneasily in his seat, then sneaks a peek over at Stacy. Her eyes look heavy as she is trying desperately to stay awake. She looks very cute like this, and Jesse can’t help but smile a little.

Cut to:

Early the next morning. Jane is in her bed, covers pulled tightly over her head. Light pours into her room from her windows, and cheerful birds chirp outside. From under the covers, a light groan of disgust can be heard, then the covers are pulled even tighter around her.

Cut to shot of Trent’s room. Trent is lying face-down on his bed. Loud raspy snoring can be heard. Sunlight also pours into his room, but he’s so out of it, he doesn’t even notice.

Cut to downstairs. Close-up shot of Jesse asleep on the couch. He’s sitting up with his head leaning back against the sofa. His mouth is hanging open a bit and his light breathing can be heard. Pan back to show Stacy asleep beside him, her head resting on his shoulder. Stacy has her arms wrapped loosely around Jesse’s arm and she looks quite peaceful and content as she sleeps.

Cut to:

[Music: “Hopelessly Addicted” by The Corrs] Jane's room, a bit later in the morning. Jane is out of bed finally. She’s already dressed, but her hair is still in its “I just woke up” state....matted and rumpled. She’s sitting on the edge of the bed, pulling her boots on. There is an empty sleeping bag at the foot of Jane’s bed, where Stacy was supposed to be sleeping.

Cut to shot of Jane walking down the stairs, yawning wide. As she makes her way into the living room, she stops dead in her tracks, and a smile stretches across her face. Pan back to show that she has spotted Jesse and Stacy on the couch. Jane has an “aww, how CUTE” look in her eyes. As she’s watching them, Trent walks up groggily behind her. His hair looks far WORSE than Jane’s does, and he’s stretching one arm over his head, working out the kinks of the previous night.

Jane: (whispering) Isn’t that sweet?

Trent: (doesn’t look surprised) Mmm....

Jane: (looks up at her tired brother) Coffee?

Trent: (nods) Mmmmm.....

The two quietly sneak past Jesse and Stacy on their way to the kitchen.

Cut to:

The kitchen, a little later. Jane and Trent are seated at the table, drinking coffee. They both look like they’ve woken up a little more. As they sit there in silence, Jesse walks in, his hair and clothing equally disheveled. Trent and Jane look up at him and get inquisitive expressions. Unfortunately, Jesse doesn’t look interested in answering questions. He crosses the room and starts pouring himself a cup of coffee. As he does so, both Trent’s and Jane’s eyes follow him. Then, as he turns and makes his way over to the table, they continue to watch him. Jesse sits down and rests his elbows on the table. Finally, he notices the looks Jane and Trent are giving him.

Jesse: Ummm....good morning.

Jane: I’ll just BET it is.

Jesse: (confused) Huh?

Jane: (raises an eyebrow) Sleep well last night?

Jesse: (still doesn’t get it) Umm....yeah, I guess so.

Jane chuckles to herself at Jesse’s cluelessness, shaking her head. Finally, setting her coffee mug aside, she pushes back her chair and stands.

Jane: Well, as stimulating as this conversation is, I have need to take care of today.

Trent: We’ll keep an eye on Stacy ‘til you get back.

Jane: (looks pointedly at Jesse and grins) I’m sure at least ONE of you will.

Act 4

[Music: “Your Clown” by Eiffel 65] The Sloane residence, later in the day. Daria is in Tom’s room, sitting at his computer. Tom is standing behind her, reading over her shoulder. After a few moments, Tom finishes reading, and pats Daria on the shoulder.

Tom: Looks good. I think Blankenship will appreciate the powerful message it conveys. Plus, for some strange reason, teachers always seem to be impressed by first-hand experiences and original research. Gives it a personal touch, I suppose.

Daria: You mean to say that my essay on “killer chat rooms” looks like something my teacher might actually respect and, dare I say, like?

Tom: (nods) Mm-hmm.

Daria: Damn. Now I’ll have to start all over.

As the two are talking, the door to the bedroom is standing wide open. Suddenly, a voice is heard coming from the hallway.

Jane: (VO, hallway) Is everybody decent?

Daria: If you mean fully-clothed, yes.

Jane walks into the room, a determined look on her face. She’s carrying an envelope in her hands and looks like she’s got alot on her mind.

Tom: Hey, Jane.

Jane: (in a strained voice) Hey.

Jane walks up to Tom and Daria and stares down at her feet for a few moments. Finally, after an awkward silence, Tom clears his throat.

Tom: So, to what do we owe the pleasure?

Jane: (taking a deep breath) We need to talk.

Daria: ‘We’ as in you and me or ‘we’ as in you and Tom?

Jane: ‘We’ as in all three we.

Daria: Oh.

Jane plops down on Tom’s bed and Tom hesitantly takes a seat beside her. Daria turns the computer chair around so that she is seated directly across from them. Jane hands the envelope to Tom.

Jane: I think you need to explain these.

Tom carefully opens the envelope and pulls out a small stack of Polaroids. The pictures are not visible, but by the look of shock on Tom’s face, they are not good.

Tom: (stunned) What the hell....

Daria leans over and tries to look at them, but Tom turns the stack upside down before she can see.

Daria: What? What is it?

Tom looks over at Jane with a look of confusion while Jane stares at him accusingly. Daria glances back and forth between them several times, before reaching out and snatching the pictures out of Tom’s hands.

Tom: (taken by surprise) Hey! (as Daria turns over the stack) Daria, don’t....

Daria: (her eyes widen in shock)

Jane: So, what do you have to say in your defense, Mr. Sloane?

Tom: What do you mean, 'in my defense'? Where did you get these?

Jane: I found them under your bed a few days ago.

Tom: What were you doing looking under my bed?

Daria: What were you doing anywhere NEAR his bed?

Jane: Oh, Daria, let’s not pass judgment on my intentions here. Now is HARDLY the time for that. I came over to retrieve a few of the things I’d left here. You know, things I had left while Tom and I were still...when you and him weren’t...oh, you know what I mean. Tom wasn’t here then, so Elsie let me in. I was looking around for my walkman, but when I couldn’t find it in any of the obvious places, I looked under the bed. That’s when I found....those.

Daria flips through a couple more of the photographs, a look of disgust on her face. Finally, she looks up at Tom.

Daria: (with a slight edge of bitterness in her voice) Who are these girls, Tom?

Tom: Daria, I’ve never seen them before in my life. I swear! You know I’m not that kind of person. I’d never do that to you. (looks at Jane) To EITHER of you.

Jane: (sarcastic) Well, you certainly never did any of those things to ME. I can’t bend at that angle.

Daria: (shoots Jane a “shut up” glance before turning her attention back to Tom) So you’re trying to tell me you have Polaroids under your bed of teenage girls, minus their clothing, inhibitions and dignity...and you have no idea how they got there?

Tom: I swear to you, I did not take those pictures. (beat, glances at Daria, then Jane) You guys believe me, don’t you?

It’s obvious they don’t believe him at all. Daria looks hurt and on the verge of flying into a rage, while Jane looks like she’s about two seconds away from decking Tom. Suddenly, Elsie barges in.

Elsie: Thomas Andrew, Mom said you need to come downstairs for a minute to... (stops as she sees the pictures) Oh, God. Not more of those awful things.

Tom takes the pictures back from Daria and slams them face down on the bed, trying -- much too late -- to hide them from his sister.

Tom: (angry) Don’t you ever knock???

Elsie: Have I ever?

Tom: Obviously not.

Elsie: (shrugs) Then why break with tradition?

Jane: (glares at Elsie, her eyes narrowing) What do you mean, 'more of those things'?

Elsie: (glances around at the tense faces) Geez, don’t get your panties in a bunch, Jane. Justin had TONS of those horrible things. I’m just surprised there aren’t more of them lying around here. (shudders) Creeps me out just thinking about it.

Daria: Justin?

Elsie: Yeah. He was in here the other day. Had ‘em all spread out on the bed like a freakin’ shrine or something. Might as well have just placed them all around him in a circle, lit candles and chanted. (under her breath) Weirdo. He had his back to the door, so he didn’t see me in the doorway. He never knew I was there, and it’s just as well. If he had seen me, he would have flipped and griped me out, like I was a child or something. So, I just snuck back out and decided not to mention it. Saved me alot of trouble. I mean, I didn’t even want to THINK about it -- much less talk about it -- at the time.

Jane: (as if this wasn’t already obvious) So, they’re not Tom’s?

Tom shoots her a hateful glance.

Elsie: I certainly hope not, or I’d never speak to him again.

Tom: You barely speak to me NOW.

Elsie: (to Jane) Would you PLEASE tell my brother that he could not be more wrong if he tried. And he does try so very hard. (changing subjects, looks at Tom) Anyway, like I was saying before, Mom says you need to come downstairs and put in your request for pizza toppings. We’re trying to order a few pies and we want your input. Well, actually, THEY want your input. I could care less.

Tom: Mom and Dad are ordering pizza?

Elsie: Yeah. (rolls her eyes and sighs) I guess we’re slumming it tonight. (turns to leave) But you’d better hurry, or I’ll just tell them that you want extra rat droppings on your half. (walks out)

Tom, looking about halfway between smug and angry, turns to look at Jane. He’s obviously waiting for her to say something, anything, but she doesn’t. She’s staring down at her hands, which are sitting motionlessly in her lap. He turns and looks at Daria, and she has much the same expression as Jane does. Seeing them both looking so torn, Tom allows his expression to soften a little. Silence hangs in the air between them for a great length of time.

Tom: Daria? (when Daria says nothing, he turns back to Jane) Well?

Jane: (looks up, looking Tom in the eyes) I’m sorry.

Tom is visibly shocked by her apology. He knows Jane isn’t very forthcoming with apologies, so her blunt admission of guilt hits Tom especially hard. Daria, sensing that Tom and Jane have some things they need to discuss, stands and makes her way out the door. Neither Tom nor Jane try and stop her. Daria shuts the door gently as she exits and heads down the hallway.

Cut to:

Back at the Lane house. Stacy is just coming back from the bathroom, having just brushed her hair and changed into one of Jane’s outfits. At the bottom of the stairs, she meets Jesse. Jesse grins up at her, and she smiles back.

Jesse: Sleep good?

Stacy: Yeah. (a bit awkward) You?

Jesse: Yeah. (long pause) Want some coffee?

Stacy: (shakes her head) Uh-uh. It’s bad for my complexion.

Jesse: (a little disappointed) Oh.

Stacy: You know, I’ve been thinking....

Jesse: (looks a little hopeful) Yeah?

Stacy: There’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now. Something I really NEED to do. Would you help me?

Jesse: Sure.

Stacy: (heads for the front door) Grab the car keys. I’ll explain on the way.

Stacy rushes out the door, leaving Jesse at the foot of the stairs, looking more than a little puzzled. Finally, Jesse shrugs, grabs the keys off the arm of the sofa, and heads out the door.

Cut to:

Tom’s room. Jane and Tom are sitting on the bed next to each other, in utter silence. Finally, Jane speaks, gazing down at her hands, too guilty to look up at him.

Jane: I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions. But how was I supposed to know?

Tom: You could have asked me about it first before bringing Daria into this. Or you could have had a little faith in me. That would have been nice.

Jane: How exactly do you expect me to do that?

Tom: Jane, I already know what you’re going to say, so please...just don’t.

Jane: What? (bt) Tom, I’m over that. I am. (long pause) Really.

Tom: (not entirely convinced) Then why don’t you trust me?

Jane: (pauses, searching for the right words) Daria’s my friend, ok? She means alot to me. So, when I found those pictures, I was....well, I was mad as hell at first. I was mad at you because I thought you were some kind of sicko. I was mad at Daria for being blind to that fact. I was even angrier at myself for not seeing it. Ever since I found’s really been on my mind, and I simply couldn’t deal with it.

Tom: And?

Jane: And, instead of confronting you, I tried to distance myself from you and Daria for awhile. But after this whole situation with Stacy it finally donned on me that if I wanted to be a good friend to Daria, I had to tell her. And I thought the best way would be to get all three of us together and talk it out. Give you a chance to explain your side without keeping anything from Daria. She deserved to know what was going on.

Tom: But you DIDN’T give me a chance to explain.

Jane: True. I guess my Lane temper got in the way.

Tom: Ah, the Lane temper. I remember it well.

Jane: (smirking) Oh, shut up.

Tom: See what I mean? (bt) Well, I guess I can forgive you, but just this once.

Jane: Gee, that’s awful big of ya.

Tom: I do what I can.

Jane: (looks down at her hands) I just hope Daria can be as forgiving.

Tom: If you two are as close as you say you are, she’ll understand.

Cut to:

The Tank. Jesse is driving, and Stacy is seated in the passenger seat. There is a cardboard box sitting in her lap and she’s looking out the window as they drive. After a moment of silence, the Tank stops at the edge of the quarry. Jesse gets out, rounds the back of the van, and opens Stacy’s door, taking the box from her so she can climb out. After she’s out, she slams the door and follows Jesse to the edge of the cliff. At the edge, Jesse sets the box down on the ground between them and looks at Stacy expectantly.

Stacy kneels down and reaches into the box, pulling out a stack of Justin’s comic books. After looking down at them for a second, with a graceful flick of the wrist, Stacy flings them into the gaping void of the quarry. She smiles a little as she watches the delicate pages flutter down into the darkness. Reaching into the box again, she pulls out one silver, engraved hair clip and a tube of peach lip gloss and tosses them in after the comics. Then, she pulls out a small stack of what looks like love letters. She doesn’t even hesitate to throw these into the gaping hole. After watching the letters flutter around in the wind, she looks up at Jesse, who is smiling down at her encouragingly.

Stacy: (sighs) That was the easy part.

Jesse: You can do it.

Stacy reaches in one more time, extracting a stack of photographs of the Fashion Club. She flips through the stack momentarily, looking briefly at the pictures. Sandi and Quinn back to back, looking angry and competitive. Quinn with the three J’s following her, carrying her books. Tiffany and Sandi comparing nail polish colors at a store counter. Stacy realizes as she flips through them that she’s not in any of these pictures. They are all of the others, probably because they made her take the pictures. Finally, just as she’s preparing to toss the whole stack into the quarry, she stops. She removes a picture from the stack, tossing the rest of them over into the gorge. She raises this last picture up to eye-level to get a better look. It’s an old picture of her and Sandi as children. They look to be about 6 years old and have their arms around each other’s shoulders. Stacy has her hair in pigtails high up on her head while Sandi has a short, pixie-like haircut. They actually look happy. Stacy’s hands shake slightly as a tear drops onto the surface of the photograph. Jesse kneels down to Stacy’s level and glances first at the photograph, then at Stacy.

Jesse: You ok?

Stacy: I don’t know. (after a long pause) Sandi and I have been friends since pre-school. We used to be happy back then. Why can’t things be the way they were?

Jesse: Because you’ve grown up.

Stacy: But growing up doesn’t have to mean growing apart. (looks up at him) Does it?

Jesse: (shrugs) Sometimes. But that’s ok. You’re better because of it.

Stacy: Then why don’t I feel better?

Jesse: Saying goodbye still hurts. (motions toward the photograph) Maybe you should keep that one.

Stacy: (pressing to picture to her heart, closing her eyes) No, I have to let it go.

After a moment, Stacy holds the photograph out in front of her, takes one last look at the two smiling faces, and then drops it into the quarry. She watches it drift down into the void and out of sight. Stacy sighs and sits back, wrapping her arms around her knees. Jesse picks up the empty box and flings it into the chasm.

Stacy: You know what bothers me more than losing Sandi’s friendship? (Jesse shakes his head) Losing her is bad enough, but to know that she doesn’t even care....that makes it worse.

Jesse: Maybe she does care.

Stacy: No. She hasn’t cared about anybody but herself in a long time. I know that now. (sighs) But I guess there’s nothing I can do to change that. I just have to look at what I’ve got.

Jesse: Like?

Stacy: family. They get on my nerves sometimes, but they’re not so bad. They really care about me. (bt) And Jane. She’s been really great through everything. (bt) And you.

Jesse stares silently at her, unable to tear his eyes away but incapable of doing or saying anything. Stacy leans over, all traces of her past timidity now gone, and kisses Jesse. After a moment of stunned paralysis, Jesse finally reciprocates. He slides his muscular arms around Stacy’s waist. After an extremely long, deep kiss, Stacy pulls away. Jesse releases his hold on her and they stare at each other for a moment. Jesse still looks shocked; Stacy just looks downright giddy. She’s so happy and excited she can hardly control herself, and she starts laughing. Jesse looks a bit hurt at first, not sure exactly WHY she’s laughing. Finally, Stacy catches her breath enough to speak.

Stacy: Oh, Jane’s just gonna LOVE this! (continues laughing)

Jesse, relieved she wasn’t laughing at HIM, joins in and they both laugh together until their sides ache and tears stream down their cheeks.

Cut to:

[Music: “Nothing As It Seems” by Pearl Jam] The Sloane residence, exterior. Daria is sitting out by the road on the curb, her elbows resting on her knees. She’s looking down at the pavement between her feet, the muddy remnants of the previous night’s downpour forming a puddle at her feet. She taps her foot absently in the water, splashing little droplets of mud up onto the sides of her boots. Then, Jane walks up behind her, nudging Daria lightly in the back with her knee. Daria turns slowly and looks up at Jane.

Jane: (attempting to smile) This seat taken?

Daria: (shrugs) I guess it is now. (Jane sits down) That was some scene in there.

Jane: Yeah. (takes a deep breath) You know, Daria, I never intended this to hurt you. I thought I was helping you, being a good friend and all. (looks down at her feet) I guess I can’t even do THAT right.

Daria: Who says I was hurt?

Jane: (looks up) You’re not?

Daria: Should I be? (bt) Jane, it’s true that things could have been handled better. And yes, the situation got a little out of hand. Accusations flying and all that. But you did the right thing. (bt) I actually wish this had happened sooner.

Jane: I know. Maybe if I had said something, this whole thing with Stacy could have been avoided.

Daria: No, that’s not what I meant. Stacy pretty much had her mind made up on the Justin issue. I don’t think it would have made any difference there. No, what I meant was, you and I have spent the last few days barely speaking to each other. And for what? If we’d had this discussion sooner, we could have avoided wasting all that time being mad about something that didn’t even really exist.

Jane: It’s been really rough not having you around these past few days. Hell, ever since you and Tom started dating, I hardly ever see you. And I’ve missed you. (frowns, in a barely audible whisper) Guess I know how you must have felt.

Daria: I don’t mean to make you feel that way. I really don’t want Tom to come between us. What Tom and I have is special, but it can’t even begin to compare to our friendship. If I ever had to choose between the two of you, I’d drop Tom in a heartbeat.

Jane: So if I said I’d never speak to you again unless you broke up with Tom, you’d do it?

Daria: Try me.

Jane: Ok. Break up with Tom or I’ll never speak to you again.

Daria: Bite me, Jane.

Jane: (laughs) Ah, now THAT’S the Daria we all know and love!

Daria: You really should have known better.

Jane: Yeah. As long as we’ve been friends, you’d think I would have learned SOMETHING from you by now.

Daria: You’d think.

Jane: Well I guess I’ve still got alot to learn. Good thing I have such a great partner-in-crime around to knock some sense into me.

Daria: What can I say? I guess we work well together.

Jane: Like Sonny and Cher.

Daria: Laurel and Hardy.

Jane: Clinton and Gore.

Daria: Hey, don’t push it.

Jane: Oh, sorry. (bt) I forgiven?

Daria: There’s nothing to forgive. (Jane smiles) Just promise me that if you ever run into Tom in a lingerie store that you won’t accuse him of being a cross-dresser.

Jane: Sure thing. I’ll just assume he’s picking up a little something for you. (grins and raises an eyebrow) Emphasis on the word ‘little.’

Daria: Boy, you must really have a death wish today.

Jane: I live life on the edge!

Daria: Life in the fast lane?

Jane: Ooo, bad pun alert!! (Daria smirks) Speaking of bad jokes, how’s your chat room assignment coming?

Daria: It’s done. I guess I had plenty of inspiration to draw from this weekend.

Jane: You wrote about Stacy and Justin?

Daria: Yes, but I changed the names to protect the innocent. I didn’t want this essay to be some meaningless busy-work like everything else we’ve been assigned so far. I wanted to prove a point and warn girls about what can happen. I didn’t want it to happen to anyone else I know. Even the people I’d never admit to knowing in public.

Jane: You’re starting to sound like a public service announcement. (bt) Daria Morgendorffer, are you developing a conscience?

Daria: (long pause, smiles slightly) Thanks for ruining the moment, Jane.

Jane: (smirks) Hey, what are best friends for?

Act 5

["Best You Can Get" by Veruca Salt] Pizza King, daytime. Stacy and Jesse are seated next to each other in a booth while Daria and Jane sit across from them. Jane and Daria both share the same shocked but pleased expression as they watch Stacy and Jesse interact. They seem like such an unusual couple, but for some reason, on many levels, it makes sense to them. Stacy is busy peeling the layer of greasy cheese off her slice of pizza. After she delicately removes the cheese, she reaches over and slaps it down on top of Jesse’s slice. He smiles back, thanking her without words. Jane shakes her head, unable to believe the whole thing.

Cut to outside the Pizza King. The Fashion Club is headed down the sidewalk towards the door. They appear to have a new member tagging along behind them: Brooke. Her hair is slightly disheveled and she looks frazzled and exhausted, as she is carrying a large stack of magazines AND trying to take notes in a small pink leather organizer at the same time. She takes down every word Sandi says as they walk towards the restaurant. Sandi has a little satisfied smirk on her face while Tiffany and Quinn simply look indifferent to Brooke’s suffering.

Sandi: So, in conclusion, the great Make-Over Extravaganza of 2000 was a huge success, due in large part to Tiffany’s contribution of exfoliating creams and MY knowledge of...

Brooke: (interrupting, looking confused) Uh, Sandi?

Sandi: (upset at being interrupted) What?!

Brooke: How do you spell ‘exfoliating’?

Sandi: Do I look like an ATLAS, or whatever? Look it up! (Sandi stops at the Pizza King door, pauses for a moment, then clears her throat) *Ahem*

Brooke, getting the hint, rushes to the front of the group and somehow manages to free up one or two fingers with which to pry open the door. She slides her foot through the small crack in the door and shoves the door open. Sandi sachets past her, making certain to “accidentally” elbow her large stack of magazines on her way through the doorway. Of course, they slide out of Brooke’s rather clumsy arms and flop to the ground in a large pile. Tiffany and Quinn glance at Brooke’s pleading look briefly before stepping over the pile and joining Sandi inside the restaurant. Brooke’s eyes turn downcast and she sighs, then kneels down and starts gathering the magazines.

Inside the Pizza King. Sandi stops dead in her tracks as she spots Stacy in the booth with Jesse, Daria, and Jane. Quinn walks up and stops to the left of Sandi, and Tiffany follows soon after on her right. Sandi looks back and forth between Stacy and Jesse, who are talking and laughing with Daria and Jane. Sandi’s eyes narrow as she scrutinizes them.

Quinn: (motions towards Jesse) Who’s THAT?

Sandi: I don’t know.

Tiffany: He’

Sandi: I believe ‘chiseled’ is the word you’re searching for, Tiffany dear.

Tiffany: Yeah....chiseled.

Brooke runs up behind them, carrying her heavy load in her arms. She pushes her way in-between Quinn and Sandi and regards Jesse with a dreamy look in her eyes.

Brooke: Omigod! What a hottie!

Sandi looks over at Brooke and glares at her, silencing her immediately. Brooke hunches down and creeps back a few steps, out of Sandi’s line of sight. Sandi turns her attention to Quinn.

Sandi: I believe a turnover of officers is in order.

Quinn nods hesitantly, hoping that she’s referring to Brooke and not her.

Quinn: Oh, yeah Sandi. Definitely. (nervous laughter)

Sandi heads off in the direction of Stacy’s table. Quinn and Tiffany follow close behind, with Brooke slowly dragging up the rear. As they approach, Stacy looks up and cringes momentarily. Daria and Jane look up at their visitors with detached expressions.

Sandi: (to Stacy) So, Stacy, it appears you have disposed of your LOSER boyfriend.

Jane: Actually, it was Daria that disposed of him. (taps the side of her head) Heavy metal object right upside the head. (Daria smirks)

Sandi: (ignoring Jane) I’m glad to see you have regained your senses. (Stacy says nothing, Sandi nods towards Jesse) Who’s this?

Stacy: (not sure what to say) Ummm...this is Jesse Moreno.

Brooke: (still behind Sandi, gets starry-eyed) Stacy Moreno. Sounds wonderful....

Sandi: Would you shut up already?! (Brooke cowers back a little further) As I was SAYING, it appears you have chosen your path wisely. (looks Jesse over) Not the ideal choice, but definitely a step in the right direction. And, since it looks like we’ll be having an opening in the Fashion Club very shortly (turns and looks pointedly at Brooke, then turns back), I am willing to offer you your old position back. If that is agreeable with the other members.

Quinn: Absolutely.

Tiffany: Tooooootally.

Brooke: (meek) Can I object?

Sandi, Tiffany, & Quinn: (whirling around, simultaneously) NO!!

Brooke drops the pile of magazines, starts bawling, and runs out of the restaurant, her hands covering her face.

Sandi: (after watching Brooke go, with a satisfied grin, then turns back to Stacy) Of course, this re-instatement will be on a strictly trial basis, and you will be watched closely to ensure you don’t repeat any past mistakes.

Quinn: Kinda like probation.

Daria: (under her breath) Gee, won’t THAT be fun...

Sandi: So, what do you have to say to that, Miss Rowe?

Suddenly all eyes are on Stacy. It’s the moment of truth. Does she crawl back to them or does she fold? Stacy stares down at her hands silently for a great length, thinking it over. Finally, looking up, Stacy glances at the faces around her. She looks at Tiffany, that typical blank, uncaring expression. She looks at Sandi, a calculating smirk plastered across her face. She looks at Quinn, who appears to be conflicted, like she wants her to come back, but doesn’t necessarily want any more competition than she already has.

Then she peers across the table at Daria. Daria is calm and composed, but there is a hint, just a glimmer, of encouragement in her eyes. Then, Stacy glances at Jane, who looks back at her hopefully, nodding her head slowly. Finally, her eyes land on Jesse. He looks a cross between confused and supportive. He doesn’t totally understand what’s going on, but he is very obviously ready to back her up if need be. Stacy’s eyes widen as the reality of the situation finally hits. She finally has friends. Real, honest-to-goodness, friends. After that, the decision is easy.

Stacy: (looking down at her half-eaten pizza slice) Go to Hell, Sandi.

Jane and Daria don matching smirks, approvingly. But Sandi is less than thrilled. She takes a step towards Stacy.

Sandi: What did you say??

Mustering up all the courage she has and feeding off the encouraging expressions of her friends, Stacy stands and looks Sandi straight in the eyes.

Stacy: (a bit louder and more firm) Go to Hell, Sandi.

Sandi: That’s what I THOUGHT you said. Do you have any idea what I can do to your popularity at school? I can RUIN you!

Stacy: Go ahead. I don’t care anymore. I’m tired of everyone telling me what to do and treating me like I’m worthless. Not just you... (looks at Quinn and Tiffany) EVERYONE! (glares at Sandi) I’ve been your doormat for years, Sandi, ever since grade school. Remember when Edgar died? It was your fault, but you blamed me!

Jane: (makes a “time-out” symbol with her hands) Whoa. Time-out. Who’s Edgar?

Stacy: (turns to Jane) Our third grade class had a pet iguana named Edgar. It was Sandi’s turn to feed him after school, but she forgot! So the next morning, when Ms. Lewis found him dead, Sandi told the WHOLE CLASS that she had ballet lessons after school and that *I* had promised to feed him instead...which was TOTALLY not true. Everybody HATED me for weeks after that! (to Sandi) But you didn’t care, as long as you were off the hook. As long as you had someone to blame things on. And the really sad thing is, I took the blame without a word. Do you remember that, Sandi?

Tiffany: (before she can answer, to Sandi) Yoooou...killed...Edgar? That’s...sooooo....wr--

Stacy: (to Tiffany, interrupting) And YOU wouldn’t speak to me for weeks because of it! You sided with Sandi, even when I told you what had REALLY happened.

Sandi: So what if that’s true? That’s just ONE instance, and nobody cares about that stupid old ugly lizard now anyway. It’s in the past.

Stacy: But it wasn’t just one instance. And it wasn’t just some stupid lizard. It was NEVER about the damn lizard. You turned the whole class against me all so you wouldn’t get in trouble. You’ve been doing stuff like that to me ever since I’ve known you. Not in a major way at first, but the manipulation was always there. I’ve let you control me for way too long, but now that’s all gonna change.

Sandi: (sees the situation slipping out of her hands) You don’t know what you’re saying...

Stacy: I know exactly what I’m saying. I’m saying that you can all take a long walk off a short runway as far as I’m concerned. I don’t need you anymore!

Sandi: (her composure crumbles) But....

Quinn: Please, Stacy! We need you!

Stacy: You don’t need me. You’ve never needed me. All you ever did was boss me around and make me do all the stuff you didn’t want to do. I was just your secretary. Your SLAVE.

Sandi: (attempts to regain control) You’ve just sentenced yourself to, like, social death or whatever. You realize that, don’t you?

Stacy: Social death? PLEASE! I’m more alive than any of you. You’re already dead. All of you. So, you can all just go screw yourselves with your freaking carrot sticks and non-fat yogurt. I’m THROUGH!!

Stacy breezes past a stunned Sandi and storms out of the restaurant. She practically tramples a small group of kids with skateboards on her way out the door. There is a long silence as the entire group is too shocked to speak. Finally, Quinn turns to Sandi and Tiffany.

Quinn: What now?

Daria: (smirks) Carrot sticks, anyone?

Jane: (grin widens) I recommend the baby carrots. Much less painful, I imagine.

Quinn looks back at her and whimpers a little, then the three Fashion Clubbers lumber off to a nearby booth, all three looking thoroughly defeated.

Jane: I must say, that was even better than an episode of “Sick, Sad World.”

Daria: Hell, that was better than live alligator wrestling.

Jesse: Better than MUD wrestling.

Jane snickers. Jesse smiles back for a moment, but soon adopts a look of concern.

Jesse: Shouldn’t we go after her?

Jane: (glances at the kids Stacy ran over) Judging by the destruction she left in her path, I think I’ll wait ‘til she’s calmed down some. But feel free to chase after her if you have a high tolerance for pain.

The three stare at each other for a moment, but no one makes a move.

Cut to:

Outside the Pizza King. Stacy storms out the door and spots Brooke sitting on the curb outside, sobbing into her hands. Stacy slows her pace, and her expression softens as she walks up behind Brooke. She sits down beside her.

Stacy: Brooke? (Brooke looks up, her face red and tear-streaked) Are you ok?

Brooke simply shakes her head but says nothing. She wipes her eyes with the back of her hand.

Stacy: Can I give you some advice?

Brooke: What?

Stacy: Don’t let them do to you what they did to me. Get out before you get hurt.

Brooke: (totally clueless) What do you mean?

Stacy: Their treatment of you will only get worse, not better. Believe me, I know.

Brooke: (doesn’t get it) I’m sorry, but I don’t know what you’re talking about. They’ve been great. The best friends I’ve ever had.

Stacy: That’s what I used to think, too. But you’re wrong. They’re using you, just like they use everyone else.

Brooke: No offense, Stacy, but you’re the one who’s wrong. They’re my friends. They took me in and made me a Fashion Club officer even though I didn’t really know all that much about clothes and stuff. Sandi’s taken me under her wing. She’s been teaching me all sorts of things about fashion and make-up and dating. Why would she do all that if she wasn’t my friend?

Stacy: (shakes her head solemnly) I guess you’ll have to find out the hard way, like I did.

Brooke: From what I’ve heard, it sounds to me like YOU were just being ungrateful for all they’ve done for you. They gave you popularity and you just threw it back in their faces.

Stacy: (giving up) Believe what you want. (stands, preparing to leave) Just remember that whenever they finally stab you in the back, you can come to me, ok? If you need a friend.

Brooke: (stands to face her) Why would I go to you? I already have friends. Three GREAT friends. (turns and heads off down the sidewalk)

Stacy watches Brooke walk away for a moment, then glances back at the restaurant, looking through the front window. Daria, Jane and Jesse are watching her through the glass, all three looking equally concerned.

Stacy: (smiling warmly, hugging herself) So do I.

Cut to:

The next day, Lawndale High. Inside the computer lab, the class has assembled to read aloud their essays. Blankenship is standing off to one side up at the front of the room, watching and listening closely as Daria finishes reading her essay. Daria is seated on the edge of the small desk at the front of the room. Her ankles are crossed and she is absently swinging her legs back and forth as she reads.

Daria: (continuing) So in conclusion, chat rooms can be a healthy, albeit cowardly, way to meet new people. But, this tool can be both a blessing and a curse, as there are many individuals who thrive on taking advantage and preying on the weaknesses of others. As with other technological advances, when the power of this device is abused, tragic results soon follow. It is up to everyone to judge for themselves how they will use this power and how they will let the power use them. In the possession of intelligent, morally-grounded people who recognize their own limits and act accordingly to keep their use of this instrument in check, chat rooms are for the most part harmless, but for those who would allow themselves to be taken in and controlled, it is an Achilles’ heel. For in the hands of the incompetent, the cruel, and the corrupt, it is a weapon which strikes at the most sensitive and vulnerable parts of other fellow human beings. The chat rooms themselves are not the enemy. The real danger lies in insensitivity and ignorance.

Camera cuts to show the students in the lab, most of which are listening intently to Daria’s every word. A few, including Jodie and Mack, look downright stunned at what they’ve heard. Kevin, on the other hand, hasn’t been paying attention. He’s sitting as his computer playing a video game (Doom, if you must know). He’s punching keys rather loudly and his tongue is sticking out of his mouth in concentration. He pushes the space bar wildly, and every time he does, the rocket launcher fires at the villains on the screen. Of course, he’s at close range, so the rockets explode and end up killing HIM as well! “Game over” flashes across the screen and Kevin slaps his forehead in frustration.

Kevin: Awww, man!!!!

The whole class turns to look at him. Most look annoyed, especially Brittany, who -- like everyone else -- had been listening attentively to Daria’s essay. Kevin looks up finally and sees everyone staring at him. He looks over at Brittany, who’s getting more pissed off by the second. Kevin shoots her a goofy grin.

Kevin: Hey, babe! (points at the screen) Your turn!

Brittany: Oooo.... (turns away from him and crosses her arms firmly)

Kevin shrugs and starts up another game. Daria slides off the desk at the front of the room, folds up her paper, and starts back to her seat.

Daria: I rest my case.

Cut to:

[Music: "Angry" by Matchbox Twenty] Lawndale High hallway, after school. Daria and Jane are walking through the halls toward the front doors of the school building. As they reach the doors, Stacy runs up behind them, her backpack bouncing around on her back as she runs.

Stacy: (falling in step with Jane and Daria) Hi, girls!

Jane: Yo.

Daria: Hey.

Stacy: I just wanted to thank you guys again for everything. You’ve been so great through all my mood swings and problems and stuff.

Daria: I put up with Jane’s mood swings everyday. This was nothing.

Jane: We’re just glad everything worked out. How was your first fashion-free day?

Stacy: Not great. I sat alone at lunch since Sandi’s pretty much ordered my entire class to avoid me at all costs.

Daria: Surprise, surprise.

Stacy: But the up-side is that I had alot of time to catch up on my reading.

Stacy reaches around and pulls a book out of her bag as the three exit the school building. She holds the book out to Daria, who takes it from her. The title, “Jane Eyre,” is visible as Daria slides it in among the rest of the books she’s carrying.

Stacy: Thanks for lending it to me. I absolutely loved it!

Daria: You finished it already? I just gave it to you last night.

Stacy: (shrugs) I had alot of free time.

Suddenly, as they make their way away from the building, a horn honks. The three look up to see Jesse seated in the Tank at the curb. As soon as they spot him, he waves at them and smiles. Stacy blushes ever so slightly as Jane and Daria share identical smirks.

Stacy: (giggles) I’ll see you guys tomorrow! (runs off towards the van)

Jane and Daria stand and watch as Stacy climbs into the van beside Jesse and the vehicle pulls slowly away from the curb and down the road. Jane shakes her head.

Jane: This is definitely gonna take some getting used to.

Daria: They certainly make an interesting pair, don’t they? (bt) Isn’t he a little old for her, though?

Jane: (grins as they start walking again) Oh, Daria, you’re one to talk. Need I remind you that you used to have a crush on my much OLDER...

Daria: Nevermind. I see your point.

Jane: You do? And I didn’t even have to nag, plead or antagonize.

Daria: I guess there’s a first time for everything.

Jane: Sure, but where’s the fun in that?

Daria: True. (bt) Well, I guess this thing with Jesse and Stacy could work out, since the two of them are on relatively the same intellectual level.

Jane: Hey, don’t sell Stacy short. She’s smarter than she lets on. (smirks) How long did it take YOU to read “Jane Eyre”? Hmmm???

Daria: Oh, shut up.

Jane: I think the main thing is that Stacy hasn’t really ever had anyone willing to listen to her before. She’s always been told to shut up. Now she has someone who NEVER talks and ALWAYS listens. It’s a match made in Heaven.

Daria: Makes sense, I guess. I just have a hard time believing she would start dating someone so soon after the Justin fiasco.

Jane: Well, she’s smart enough to realize that it’s way too soon to get serious about anyone. She told me they’ve both decided to take things slow. She’s been through alot lately, and she needs a little space. I think Jesse understands that.

Daria: Wow. Did you just say ‘think,’ ‘Jesse,’ AND ‘understands’ all in the same sentence?

Jane: This really IS a day of firsts, isn’t it? (smirks) Well, I’m glad to see that everything is back to....I’d say ‘normal’ but that doesn’t sound quite right.

Daria: Back to its natural asinine state?

Jane: For Lawndale, that’ll have to do. (bt) I must say, this has been an eventful week. Stacy realized she’s not stupid and she doesn’t have to let people take advantage of her. She found a guy who treats her with respect and listens to what she has to say.

Daria: Meanwhile, we put Tom’s bottom-feeding cousin behind bars and discovered that Tom isn’t the repulsive excuse for a human being that you thought he was.

Jane: That’s quite a compliment coming from you. If only Tom were here to enjoy it. (bt) By the way, where IS the Golden Boy? Doesn’t he usually pick you up after school?

Daria: Usually, but he said he had some work to do, so I let him off the hook.

Jane: You know, you and Stacy are really lucky. She’s found her knight in shining leather pants and you found a guy who shares your love of sarcasm, lasagna and making out.

Daria: That’s not true. (bt) He hates lasagna. (Jane smirks at that) So, I guess this proves there are at least two members of the male species that aren’t lecherous, back-stabbing weasels.

Jane: Ms. Barch will be so disappointed.

Cut to:

Stacy’s room, nighttime. The lights are off, all except for one small nightlight plugged in beside her bed. Stacy is dressed in a short, dark blue satin nightgown. Suddenly, the song “Stronger” by Britney Spears starts playing on her CD player. As the song plays, a musical montage follows (with the song lyrics indicated below in italics):

1) Hush, just stop. There's nothing you can do or say, baby. I've had enough. I'm not your property as from today, baby. You might think that I won't make it on my own.

Stacy is dancing around the middle of the room with major attitude. As she lip-synchs with the song, she flings her arms around dramatically, does a few Britney-esque dance moves, etc.

2) But now I'm stronger than yesterday. Now it's nothing but my way. My loneliness ain't killing me no more. I - I’m stronger than I ever thought that I would be, baby.

Jane’s room. She’s sitting on her bed and has a picture frame on her lap. It’s face-down as she attempts to bend the metal prongs back into place. Finally, with the picture frame back together and a new picture in it, Jane turns it over. It’s a picture of Daria and Tom. Tom has his arm around Daria while Daria, a slight smirk on her face, is holding up two fingers behind his head like bunny ears. Jane grins and shakes her head, then crosses the room and hangs the picture up on the wall right by her computer.

3) I used to go with the flow. Didn't really care 'bout me. You might think that I can't take it, but you're wrong.

Stacy’s room. Still dancing, she spins around and looks down at her desk, stopping abruptly. There she sees her yearbook open to the “Clubs” section, and on that page is a picture of the Fashion Club. She looks down at the picture for a brief moment. Then, as Stacy lip-synchs the phrase “but you’re wrong,” she slams the yearbook shut and smiles triumphantly.

4) 'Cos now I'm stronger than yesterday. Now it's nothing but my way. My loneliness ain't killing me no more. I -- I'm stronger.

Morgendorffer residence. Daria and Tom are standing outside the front door, under the porch light. They talk for a few beats, then they laugh. After a few more beats, they appear to be saying their good-byes, and Tom leans over and kisses her. Then, as he walks away, Daria watches him, smiling.

5) Here I go on my own. I don't need nobody, better off alone. Here I go on my own. I don't need nobody, not anybody. Here I go.

Sandi is in her bedroom in her nightclothes. She’s standing in front of the mirror brushing her hair. Suddenly, she stops and sets down the brush. She has noticed a small photograph stuck in the corner of her mirror. She plucks it out and looks at it carefully. Her eyes going from blank, to sad, to angry. She opens her dresser drawer, tosses the photo into the drawer and slams it shut violently. Then she crosses the room and flops down on her bed, face up, and stares up at the ceiling. It’s difficult to tell what she’s thinking. Her face is red with anger, but it also appears she is on the verge of tears.

6) Stronger than yesterday. It's nothing but my way. My loneliness ain't killing me no more. Now I'm stronger than yesterday. Now it's nothing but my way. My loneliness ain't killing me no more. I -- I'm stronger.

Back to Stacy’s room once more. She is now twirling around the room as the song plays on, a carefree smile on her lips. As she spins, her gown swirls out slowly in small circles around her. This goes on for awhile before she stops spinning and leaps up on the bed. She dances around on the bed for a few beats, then plops down on the mattress and pulls the covers over her body. As the song ends, with the word “stronger,” she reaches over and turns off the nightlight. The screen goes black.

The End.


There are alot of things I’d like to discuss about this fic, and the motives behind them. Like why I paired Stacy with Jesse, why Daria actually ENJOYED having Tom protect her, and are the “nasty” pictures REALLY Justin’s or was Elsie just covering for Tom? But, to save time (and since nobody probably reads these author’s notes anyway) I’ll keep this as brief as possible.

First, let me just say that this fic has been a roller coaster ride. It started off as a comedy, then took on a mind of its own and quickly became a sad, introspective epic about the life of Stacy. Then, as my OWN mood took a turn for the better, it twisted itself back around into a long journey with a happy ending. I hope I made it at least semi-believable.

In case it wasn’t obvious, almost all the songs I used in this fic are significant in some way. Not all, but most contained lyrics that applied to one of the characters (usually Stacy) or one of the situations the characters were in at the time. And I apologize for the Britney Spears song. I was originally going to use Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” for that scene, but when I heard “Stronger” it seemed to fit so perfectly that I decided to change it. Also, I’d like to thank Ruthless Bunny for suggesting “Afternoon Delight” for the O’Neill scene. I got some GREAT suggestions and it was tough to choose, but this song just seemed too perfect (even thought I can’t STAND the song)! Thanks to everyone who helped me out! I appreciate it!

Oh, and one more thing about the songs. You probably noticed that I chose a wide variety of styles in the songs for my fic. I mean, where else could you find Korn, 'NSync, Eiffel 65 and Jewel all in the same fic? I did that mainly because in this fic, I was dealing with Stacy, who admitted to liking pop, alternative, AND rock. I wanted the music in the fic to reflect HER varied taste in music, seeing as how the fic was mostly (but not ENTIRELY) about her. In fics with Jane or Daria as the center of attention, I'd NEVER include so much mainstream pop. Just wanted to clear that up and let you know that yes, I did it that way for a reason.

Before you ask, no Justin was NOT based on anyone in particular. I threw in a lot of elements from several different people I know. He wasn’t inspired by just one person. I don’t know ANYONE that disgusting! And no, I don’t have anything against comic books, or Dungeons & Dragons, or dating older guys. I don’t even hate chat rooms. What I DO have issues with are chat rooms that lead to real-life “relationships” (if you want to call them that). While not meant to be the main focus of the fic, I did want to get the point across that if you’re going to get involved romantically with people over the net -- and actually meet in real life -- you definitely have to be careful.

The REAL goal of this fic had nothing to do with chat rooms. I wanted to give everyone a better glimpse into Stacy’s life (or what her life MIGHT be like). It’s one possibility, and I enjoyed exploring it. I didn’t want to focus TOO much on Justin’s physical attack on Stacy. Her problems had started way before that; the attack was just a catalyst that stirred up the emotions she’d been denying for so long. Hence the permanent break from the Fashion Club at the end. The main point I tried to make was that Stacy finally figured out who she could and couldn’t trust, and in the process, she learned to trust herself.

I hope it doesn’t seem hypocritical of me to first throw Stacy together with a 37-year-old and say “bad Stacy” then turn around and say it’s ok for her to date Jesse, who is quite a few years older than her as well (although not as old as Justin, of course). The reason Justin was wrong for Stacy had very little to do with age. Of course, it had to be an issue in the fic, but what I wanted to show was that no matter WHAT age he might be, he’s still a creep. And Jesse’s a decent guy. Plus, Justin lead Stacy to believe that he was 19, which is definitely NOT cool.

Now, there are a few more minor points I’d like to explain:

1) The term “Fashion Nugget” was used twice in this fic. I got that from the name of a Cake album (the one that has the song “Daria” on it, ironically enough).

2) It seemed to me that Quinn was just slightly out of character, but it was necessary to make Stacy’s break from the FC a clean and complete break. I didn’t want her hanging on because Quinn was sorta nice to her. So, I had to make her a little more of a bitch than I normally would. Sorry to all you Quinn lovers out there!

3) Jane and Tom have middle names. YAY! “Jane Payne Lane” just sounded too good to pass up. I always wondered why she and Trent had fairly normal names while their other siblings had weird ones. So, I picked a weird name for her! I have no real reason for tossing in a middle name for Tom though, other than the fact that “Thomas Andrew Sloane” has a nice ring to it!

4) Two new characters. Blankenship was a fairly minor character, but LHS doesn’t have a computer teacher on the show, so I had to make one up. Not a terribly interesting character, but maybe, if I need him in the future, I can expand his character a bit. Justin, on the other hand, is history. I won’t be needing him in the future. Quite frankly, I got so angry with him while writing this fic, that I never want to write for him again!! :-) So, Justin has made his first and last appearance in my fanfics. And I’m sure you’re all sad to see him go (yeah, right!!)

5) So, what happened to the Make-Over Madness party? Well, one of the reasons I didn’t write much about that is that I really don’t know all that much about fashion. Plus, it wasn’t necessary to the story. Stacy wouldn’t have been there, so there was really no point in writing a scene involving the actual Extravaganza.

6) It has come to my attention that some people don’t know what an infomercial is. Let me try and explain. Pretend you’re up at 4 in the morning (which is not hard for some of you), watching TV. You can either watch static, Brady Bunch reruns, or some guy selling Ginsu knives. This last choice would be an example of an infomercial. An informational commercial (supposedly). Most of them are extremely dumb, and yet people buy their products anyway. Why? Because it’s 4 in the morning and they’re vulnerable from the sleep depravation. It’s a US thing, I guess! God Bless America! :-)

7) Blankenship's "chat room" assignment was based on an actual assignment one of my friends had to do her Freshman year in college. It WAS incredibly stupid and pointless, but unlike Daria, my friend just wrote what the teacher wanted to hear and didn't try to actually learn anything from it. But, as we've seen, Daria's never one to just say what the teacher wants to hear!

8) There are alot of "Stacy becomes her own person and breaks away from the Fashion Club" fics out there, I realize. But I wanted to do one with some extra twists and turns. I used Justin as the catalyst for everything that followed and just let the situation snowball from there. I hope that by doing that, it sets this story apart from all the other fics that have dealt with the Stacy-gets-a-life plotline.

9) The 'any' key Daria referred to in the computer lab is in reference to that old computer joke: "Well, it SAID 'Press ANY key to continue" but I can't find the 'ANY' key!" Oh, and btw...that little comment about Kevin and RAM disk? That's one of my favorite parts of the fic. My all-time favorite scene though is the one where Jane threatens to "cut a slice" of Justin at Chez Pierre. I love that scene! It's so...Jane!

Well, I think that's about it. *Whew* So much for brief author's notes! Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my latest work. Feel free to send your questions, comments, and generous donations to I accept all major credit cards! :-) Now I suppose I 'd better get to work on my next fic...which will be another "Fairly Tale" story, so be looking for that just as soon as I can get inspired again! Until then, peace!