Daria cringed. No matter how many walls and doors separated the two sisters, she could always hear Quinn’s ear-piercing whine from anywhere in the house. Daria grabbed the pillow off her bed and wrapped it around her head, stubbornly shielding her ears. She didn’t really care what Quinn’s crisis of the moment was. It could have been anything from a burglar to a broken nail; it mattered little to Daria. All she wanted was a little peace and quiet for once, yet all she ever got was more of the same. Her mother prying into her social life, or lack thereof. Her father blindly ignoring her, too absorbed in his own problems to notice. Her sister just being her usual, obnoxious, poseur self. It was all too much for an introverted, intelligent teenager to bear.
Helen’s voice drifted up the stairs. “Did you check the bathroom counter, Quinn?”
“Yes, and they’re not there! You KNOW I can’t go on my date tonight without them. I’ll just die!”
“Promises, promises,” Daria muttered, tossing the pillow aside. At least Quinn would be leaving on her date soon. Then, she’d only have to deal with her parents. Of course, she was planning on going over to Jane’s later, escaping the confines of her insane family for a night. She could always count on a good “Sick Sad World” marathon at the Lane house to see her through those difficult family moments. Those moments when she wished her parents could be more like Jane’s, traipsing across the globe photographing the landscape or locking themselves in a bunker with a pottery wheel and a kiln. But, wishing doesn’t make it so, Daria thought. She knew that better than anybody.
Bored and desperate, Daria grabbed the book on her nightstand and tried to concentrate. After staring at the same paragraph for five minutes straight, she closed the book and again set it aside. Her mind simply wouldn’t cooperate. Dickens would just have to wait.
After a good yawn and a hearty stretch, Daria stood and made her way downstairs to the kitchen. Her mother was seated at the table, a large pile of paperwork and a lukewarm cup of coffee in front of her. Daria made her way to the refrigerator, opened it, and pulled out a soda can. She could sense the tension in the room the moment she walked in. Her mother was working feverishly at something and was obviously trying to beat a deadline.
Daria snuck out of the kitchen and made her way back out to the living room. Her father was on the cordless phone, pacing back and forth across the room as he spoke. Daria took that as a bad sign. He seemed irritable and edgy, even more so than usual, and the last thing she wanted was to be in the line of fire. She decided to take her soda outside on the front porch where it would be safe, and very possibly quiet as well.
As she sat silently on the front porch, watching the sky slowly fade into shades of orange and pink, the door opened behind her. Helen and Jake stepped outside and walked right past Daria without even taking notice. They were arguing again, no surprise to their eldest. She knew the routine all too well. Father says something stupid. Mother snaps back and storms off. Father follows, trying to stop her. Mother goes to a motel for the night. Father goes out, gets drunk and doesn’t come back til after midnight. They always made up, of course, but it was still disturbing to witness their constant bickering.
Helen climbed into her car and slammed the door. Jake, red-faced and angry, yelled after her as she backed out of the driveway, dead-set on having the last word in the matter. “Oh yeah? Well, you just be that way then. See if I care. See? See?? I don’t care!”
Daria sat there watching the carnage with a cold, stony face. She hated being caught in the middle. Jake watched his wife drive away for a seemingly endless moment. Finally, his face faded from anger into anguish. He turned and headed for his vehicle, digging for the keys in his pocket. “Damnit!” he cursed, frustrated. “Where are those little bastards?”
“I believe the ‘little bastards’ are in the house on the kitchen table,” Daria said. “But don’t you think you’d be better off calling a cab? Considering where you’re going.”
“Maybe.” Jake turned and trudged back up the steps, but stopped and looked down at his daughter, his expression softening a bit. “Daria? Do you think I’m a bad father? For arguing in front of you, I mean.”
Daria thought about that. There were plenty of other ways a man could be a bad father. Arguing in front of the children was pretty minor when compared with the other possibilities. She sighed, not willing to have that conversation with him again. The strength for a meaningful father-daughter talk was absent from her, and probably from him as well. “No, I don’t think you’re a bad father.” Her father grinned a little. “But,” Daria continued, “if you’re worried that you might be a bad husband, maybe instead of going out and drowning yourself in a bottle, you should go after her. Apologize. Do something nice for her. Say the L-word, if it comes to that.”
Jake pondered this for a moment. “Good point. But she’s so mad. It’s usually a better idea to just let her cool off for awhile. Let off some steam.”
The sarcastic side of Daria kicked in again. “Then maybe you should just walk to the motel. By the time you got there, she’d be calmed down enough, and you could both drive home together.” Daria paused. “Or, better yet, you could both just stay at the motel for the night.”
Jake smiled, thinking Daria’s idea was the best he’d ever heard. “You know what? You’re absolutely brilliant! Thanks, kiddo!” He descended the steps again and took off walking down the sidewalk.
Daria shook her head. “I had to open my big mouth.”
Later that evening, Daria was in the living room, curled up on the sofa watching television. Quinn was still milling around, so the house wasn’t completely silent, but the absence of their parents had managed to lighten the mood a bit. Daria let herself sink a bit further into the cushions of the chair, enjoying the calm, though inevitably short, moment of silence.
Suddenly, almost as if on cue, the doorbell rang, breaking Daria’s barrier of peace and quiet. She reluctantly stood from the sofa and opened the front door. Much to her surprise, Kevin stood there on her front steps, wearing a Lawndale High letter jacket over his trademark uniform and shoulder pads.
Daria was visibly shocked. “Kevin? You don’t have a date with Quinn, do you?”
“Nah! Actually, I’m here to see you, Daria.” He glanced from side-to-side nervously as he spoke, refusing to look Daria in the eyes. Daria’s eyes widened a little questioningly, and she wasn’t sure exactly what to say. Kevin cleared his throat. “Um...can I come in?”
Daria silently shrugged her shoulders and stepped aside. Kevin walked in and Daria shut the door behind him. She led him into the living room, returned to her place on the sofa, and offered him a seat. He refused, claiming he’d rather stand. Just then, before Kevin could explain the reason behind his surprise visit, Quinn sauntered down the stairs, dressed to kill. She made her way into the room carefully, her short red strapless dress swaying with each step.
“Daria, you didn’t talk to my date, did you? That’d be soooo....” Quinn stopped mid-sentence after seeing none other than Lawndale’s star quarterback standing in her living room. Smiling and slinking seductively over to him, she was ready and raring to put the moves on him. Daria rolled her eyes. “Hi, Kevin!”
“Hey, Quinn,” he answered absently, shoving his hands in his jacket pockets.
“What are you doing here?” Quinn continued, batting her eyes up at him. “Can I get you a soda? Why don’t you sit down and...” Quinn was again cut off as the doorbell rang. She immediately kicked out of ‘flirtatious girl’ mode and headed for the door. “That’s for me!” She opened the door, greeted her latest ‘victim’ and started out on yet another evening of wining, dining, and pointless, mindless chit-chat.
Daria turned her attention back to Kevin. What in the world does bonehead want now? Must have a math test on Monday or something. “So,” she started, “what are you doing here? Get lost on your way to the arcade again?”
Kevin ignored her question. His mind was obviously pre-occupied and he had something serious to say. He sighed heavily. “You’re so lucky, Daria,” he stated, shuffling his feet. “Being in a relationship is, like, hard and complicated.”
Daria, unsure whether she really wanted to know, ventured to ask anyway. “Having girl problems, Kevin?”
Kevin nodded, his voice rising gradually. “Brittany and I had a fight yesterday. She said that I was an immature coward. That I always make promises that I never keep. But she’s wrong. I kept all kinds of promises to her!”
“Well, I don’t really think I can help you, Kevin. I don’t know...”
Kevin pulled his hand out of his pocket, revealing a small handgun. Daria stopped dead in her tracks, hoping like everything that it was just a toy. It certainly looked real to Daria though, and she felt her heartbeat quicken.
“All my life,” Kevin ranted, waving the gun around, “I’ve had to, like, prove stuff to people. I had to prove that I’m a winner. Prove that I haven’t been cheating on my girlfriend. Prove that I’m a man. You know what I mean?”
“Sure,” Daria said. “I have to prove that I’m a man all the time. Tell me Kevin. That’s not a real gun, is it?”
“Yes it is, and I’m going to use it.”
“And I’m guessing you’re not just here to shoot bottles off of our fence post.”
Kevin started pacing the floor, waving the gun in front of him as he spoke. Daria sat on the edge of the sofa cushion, watching his every move, expecting the worst at any moment. She didn’t know why Kevin had a gun or if he was actually planning to use it. She wasn’t even certain if he knew how to use one, but she did know that he wasn’t an intelligent person. A gun in his hands could be very, very dangerous. She didn’t trust the situation at all, so she watched him like a hawk.
“Everybody expects me to be, like, this big hero or whatever. I’m supposed to be tough and strong and not a big wimpy baby! I’m supposed to do manly things. I’m supposed to smoke and spit and cuss and drink and shoot guns...just like the guys on TV. Now those are real men.”
Daria was starting to get the general idea. Kevin was feeling insecure and to prove his manhood to Brittany, or possibly just to himself, he had to do something “manly.” And, in true Kevin Thompson fashion, he had decided to base his entire theory on a few low-budget, action-packed television shows. Westerns. Cop shows. Why couldn’t he watch something harmless like cartoons? Daria thought. She watched as Kevin stopped in front of her and stuck the barrel of the gun right in her face. She swallowed hard and looked away.
“Kevin, can’t we talk about this?” Daria questioned, hoping maybe she could talk him out of whatever he was planning to do to her.
Kevin shook his head, ignoring her question. “Do you have any idea how much it sucks to have a girlfriend who thinks you’re a big loser baby?”
“Can’t say that I do, but...”
“Brittany said that I’m not a real man. That I’m just some spoiled little kid. And you know what I said to that?”
“ ‘Am not’?” Daria quipped, resorting to her trusty sarcasm to see her through the crisis at hand.
Kevin gripped the barrel of the gun tighter, his knuckles going white. Daria cringed, suddenly regretting her words. Her whole body tensed up, and she squeezed her eyes shut, just in case. If she had to go, she didn’t want to see it coming.
Kevin continued through gritted teeth, “I told her that I’d show her what a real man I am. I’m just as tough as all those guys on TV. Cowboys. Spies. Detectives.” Kevin relaxed a bit, and Daria opened her eyes again, surprised to still be breathing. “They all kill people, Daria, even the good guys. And that makes them tough.”
Daria shook her head in disbelief. “Kevin, killing people won’t make you tough.”
Kevin lowered the gun. “I know, but I gotta prove to Brit that I’m not a wuss.”
“But why me?”
Kevin shrugged. “Well, you’re not popular. Nobody will really notice you’re gone, except for Jane, and she’s not popular either, so no biggy.”
Daria frowned. That one had stung. Not only was Kevin going to take her life to prove a point to his girlfriend, but also because no one will miss her when she’s gone. Yeah, Daria thought, this is exactly how I wanted to go. “Let me see if I’ve got this straight. You’re feeling inferior because of something Brittany said, so now you have to kill someone to prove that you’ve got the guts to do something dangerous. And you chose me as the lucky victim because of my low social status and the fact that no one will give a flying flip when I’m found dead on my living room floor.”
“But it was Brittany that started the whole thing. Brittany that made you feel like a big “loser baby.” Brittany that insulted you and called you names. Why don’t you just kill her?”
Shocked and appalled at the suggestion, Kevin raised the gun again, pointing it at Daria with shaky, sweaty hands. “I can’t do that. She’s, like, my girlfriend and stuff! That would just be wrong! Besides, if she’s dead, she won’t get to see how cool I am. I have to show her that I can plan to do something and follow through with it.”
“And not get caught,” Daria muttered.
Kevin looked confused. “Huh?”
Suddenly, Daria saw a window of opportunity opening up. The words whirled around in her mind, the idea churning. She was quickly concocting a way to talk herself out of the situation. If it was one thing Daria Morgendorffer could do it was think fast under pressure. She could always intellectualize her way out of dangerous or uncomfortable situations, and it certainly wouldn’t take much effort to outthink Kevin.
Daria planned her words carefully, then plunged ahead. “You don’t actually expect to get away with this do you?”
“Well, yeah! I mean...I’m the QB. No one would ever suspect a hunky guy like me could do something so...so...”
“Carefully thought-out?” Daria shook her head. “Look Kevin. The judicial system isn’t always a popularity contest. You’d never get away with it; there’s too much evidence against you. Brittany knows that you’re planning something, right? Even if she doesn’t know what exactly, it won’t be good for your defense to have your girlfriend testifying that you were planning on doing something crazy to prove your manhood. And Quinn actually saw you here tonight. You’ve got two witnesses against you already. The gun, I’m guessing, belongs to your father, and I’d be willing to wager that the thing’s registered. The police won’t have any trouble tracking the gun back to your dad, and when they do, they’ll find your fingerprints all over it. They’ll also dust for fingerprints here, at the crime scene, and they’re bound to discover your prints on the doorbell out front. You follow me?”
He obviously wasn’t following at all, but he pretended to understand. “Ummm...ok.”
“So if you go through with this now,” she continued, “you might as well bend over and kiss it goodbye, because the police will have your butt nailed to the wall before you can say ‘temporary insanity.’ They’re probably preparing your final meal as we speak.
Kevin seemed to be eating up every word, slowly convincing himself that Daria could be right, but suddenly he started showing signs of doubt. “Wait a second,” he spoke up. “How do I know you’re not just trying to trick me? How do you know so much anyway?”
“Experience, Kevin. Plus, my mother’s a lawyer. You pick up things.”
“Oh, yeah? Well...you may know about all that...law stuff, but what would you know about killing people, huh?” Kevin was getting agitated again, panicking. He lifted the gun to shoulder-level again and stepped closer to Daria. “I’ll bet you’ve never even seen ‘Mission: Impossible!’”
Seen it? Hell, I’m living it, Daria thought. The situation was flying desperately out of control, and Daria knew she didn’t have much time left to try and convince him. She had to pull out all the stops, say whatever it took and deal with the consequences of her words later. “I know more about murder than you think, Kevin. Believe me, killing someone isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I oughta know.”
“C’mon, Kevin. Ms. Li’s and Mr. DeMartino’s sudden disappearance several weeks ago?” Daria rubbed her hands together nervously, constructing her words carefully. It’s gotta sound believable, she thought. “Does that ring a bell in that little pea-sized brain of yours?”
Kevin absent-mindedly raised the gun and scratched his head with the end of the barrel. “Buuuuut...I thought they ran away together or something.”
“Sure, it appears that way, doesn’t it? The phony love letters found in Ms. Li’s office about how she and her ‘Tony Bear’ were going to run away to get married.” Daria snickered silently. “Please, give me a break. I wrote those letters. Don’t you see?”
Daria glanced at Kevin, who was leaning against the television, his brow furrowed in confusion. She continued her cleverly crafted story. “I’ve hated Ms. Li from the start. She’s always had something against me. For whatever reason, she detested me. Probably because I challenged her high-and-mighty power and authority. I wanted her dead so bad I could taste it. She wasn’t in love with Mr. DeMartino. I made all that stuff up when I wrote the fake love letters and planted them in her office drawer. The only people Ms. Li ever loved besides herself were a few dead presidents.”
“Ewww,” Kevin said, shriveling his nose in disgust. “That’s sick, Daria.”
“Money, Kevin,” she clarified. “It was all she ever cared about. Not the students. Not the education. Not shaping the minds of our future leaders. It was money and recognition, nothing more. That’s why I had to kill her. And Mr. DeMartino? Well, his death was just an added bonus as far as I’m concerned. I figured while I was at it, I might as well kill two tyrants with one stone.” Daria paused. “So to speak.”
“Really?” Kevin took a seat on the sofa next to Daria. He rested the gun in his lap and gazed almost admiringly at Daria. “So, how’d you do it.”
Daria thought for a moment. Here it goes. All or nothing. “Well, I went to Ms. Li’s office after school the day she disappeared. I told her that I had evidence in my possession that she was redistributing school funds in her own unique way. Meaning, she used the money allocated for new text books to purchase video surveillance cameras for the student restrooms.”
“Whoa! That’s kinda gross.”
“Tell me about it. Of course, I didn’t really have any evidence. I just wanted her to believe that I did. I went on to explain that in order for her to get the evidence back from me, she would have to do me a little favor. I told her to meet me at the old abandoned quarry that night to discuss the details of our deal. Needless to say, she was appalled that I would try and blackmail her but agreed to meet with me anyway to prevent a scandal. Later, I ran into Mr. DeMartino in the hall. I ‘accidentally’ let it slip about the misused funds, and he was mad as Hell. He pleaded with me to go to the authorities with my evidence, but I told him I couldn’t do that. I explained that if he wanted to discuss some kind of an arrangement, a plot to get back at Ms. Li perhaps, he could meet me at the quarry that night.
“So when Ms. Li showed up for our little meeting, she demanded to see the evidence I had against her before making any sort of deal. I pulled a stack of papers out of the manila envelope I had brought along and handed them over to her. She started going through the papers, only to discover that the stack contained nothing more than blank typing paper. While she was frantically flipping through the pages, more than a little confused, I reached down and picked up a large rock. She looked up just in time to see that rock crashing down on her head. Then, with her lying semi-conscious on the ground, I rolled her to the edge of the cliff and pushed her off.
“After putting Ms. Li’s car in neutral and easing it over the cliff, I waited for Mr. DeMartino to show up. He stormed up to me, demanding that I hand over the evidence so he could take it to the police. Poor guy. He never saw it coming. He met a similar fate as Ms. Li, and I proceeded to roll his body off the cliff as well. Then all I had to do was dispose of his car in the same fashion, plant the love letters in Ms. Li’s office the next morning and violá. Instant faculty extermination. It was simple.” Daria paused dramatically, then for emphasis, added, “Almost too simple.
“The cars and bodies are probably covered over by so many rocks and boulders by now that the police will never find them. Even if they do find them, they’ll just write it off as an accident. The two love birds were probably driving up to Lover’s Lane to meet each other and do a little necking, but got too close to the edge. Maybe they couldn’t see because of the heavy fog and just drove over by accident. Maybe they decided their love could never be and committed double suicide. There would be many theories if the bodies were ever found, but not one of them would include the words ‘murder’ or ‘foul play.’ It really couldn’t have been any easier, and it went off without a hitch.”
Kevin was sitting next to Daria, wide-eyed as he listened to her carefully constructed story. Daria could do nothing but hope he believed her. Otherwise, if he thought for an instant that she was lying, he’d no doubt go through with killing her anyway. Daria looked at Kevin expectantly, waiting for a reply. Finally, one came. “Wow! That’s awesome! I never would have guessed that you brains could be so...deadly!”
Daria sighed inwardly. He bought it. Thank God, he bought it. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“So, you must have really enjoyed killing those two, huh? I never liked them either. Mr. D always made me feel so stupid.”
Daria smirked. “Gee...who didn’t?”
Kevin ran his fingers along the gun in his lap. He appeared to be thinking about something, considering his options as carefully as he could. He grabbed the handle and lifted the gun once again, pointing it at Daria. “But, I’m still gonna do this, Daria.”
Daria was in shock. Where did I go wrong? She was running out of ideas. “What? Didn’t you believe me?”
“Yeah, and it sounds like something I want to do. You just convinced me that it would be really fun and easy to kill someone.” A silly grin shot across his face as he laughed, standing from his place on the sofa. “Thanks, Daria.”
Daria jumped up from the sofa in one last desperate attempt to save her skin. “Kevin, wait, listen to me. I wasn’t finished. There’s more to this story.”
Kevin paused, skeptical. “Oh, yeah?”
“Yeah,” Daria said, thinking quickly. “Li and DeMartino were not the first. I had killed several times before then, but each time I did, I felt bad afterwards.”
Kevin shrugged it off. “Oh, don’t worry, Daria. I won’t feel guilty about this.”
“Not guilty, Kevin. Not scared either. Just...bad. I couldn’t exactly pin down what that feeling meant. Then, one day I realized what the problem was. I was in it all alone. The individual experiences were all very exciting and thrilling, having all that power over another person, but afterwards, I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. I had to hide what I had done and couldn’t relive the experience. I thought maybe having a ‘partner in crime’ would be more fun. Then we could share our experiences together. Doing it alone isn’t the way to go. I know that now. You don’t want to make that mistake, Kevin. Believe me.”
Kevin lowered the gun. “Soooo....you want to team up with someone else?”
Daria saw that her idea may work after all. She eased up a little and sat back down, leaning back against the soft, comforting cushions. “Maybe. I mean, the thought has crossed my mind. I was just always too afraid to bring it up to anyone. What if they turned me in to the police, you know?” Daria lifted her index finger to the corner of her mouth, pretending to just suddenly get an idea. “Hey, I know. Why don’t you and I do one together?”
“Really?” Kevin said, suddenly getting excited.
Daria nodded. “Yeah, then the two of us could talk about it with each other. It would be our secret, just the two of us, Kevin. Think of it. Wouldn’t that be great?” She paused dramatically, lowering her voice. “It would make you feel like a real man again, don’t you think?”
“Yeah! Alright!” Kevin shouted, throwing his arms up in the air. “Let’s do it!”
Daria stood and slowly walked Kevin to the door, leading him by his arm. “Great. Why don’t we talk about this later, work out the details and everything.”
“Ohhhh, no! We gotta talk about it now! I don’t want you backing out on me.”
“Trust me. I won’t.” Kevin had stopped by the door and was not budging. Daria had to do something to reassure him that this thing was really going to happen. “My parents are due back any minute now. We can’t talk about it with them here, and you don’t want to be here when they get back. It’ll look suspicious. I’ll tell you what. I’ll meet you somewhere tomorrow night. We can discuss it then. In private.”
Kevin answered reluctantly, “Ok, I guess. Where?”
Daria said the first out-of-the-way place that came to mind. “Lover’s Lane?” She cringed inwardly, wishing she had said something, anything, besides that. She stood in silence, waiting for an answer.
Kevin pondered this, then grinned. “Is 10 o’clock cool?”
“As cool as it gets.”
“Should I bring my gun?”
“No!” Daria insisted. The gun had been making her uneasy all night, and the last thing she wanted was to even hear that word again. Just agree and get out of here, you big ape, Daria inwardly pleaded. Just go away so I can lock my doors and be safely away from you. That’s all I want right now. Daria was genuinely scared, and she was eager to get this whole mess over with, no matter what it took to appease his simple, one-track mind.
“Ok, I’ll see you at ten,” Kevin agreed. He opened the front door and started out towards his car. “Don’t be late.”
Daria didn’t even wait to hear those last words. As soon as Kevin was out the door, she slammed it shut, locked the deadbolt and slid the chain lock into place. She spun around on her heals and leaned back wearily against the front door. Her heart was pounding furiously, she was breathing heavy, and simply couldn’t catch her breath. She had come dangerously close to dying that night; she was fully aware of that fact. She stood there for a moment, trying to calm down, pushing back the tears now welling up in her eyes. She had never felt fear like that before, staring down the barrel of that gun. It was a sight she would never be able to erase from her mind. Never.
Moments later, she could hear the faint sound of Kevin’s car starting, then pulling away from the curb. The sound of the engine faded as he drove away, and Daria finally felt the ordeal was over. She exhaled and wiped her eyes with the back of her trembling hand. She thought about the promise she had made to Kevin. Ten o’clock tomorrow night. Kevin would be expecting another meeting. If she didn't make an appearance, who knows what he’d do then? She shook her head, trying to dislodge the thought from her mind. She didn’t want to think about that. She couldn’t. The only thing she was concerned with was the present. Keeping her sanity.
Daria ran upstairs to her bedroom in a frightened fury, slinging clothes frantically into a duffel bag. She just couldn’t stay in that empty house any longer. She had to get out before the silence and emptiness drove her over the edge. Slinging the bag onto her shoulder, she hurried back downstairs, grabbed her dad’s car keys off the kitchen table and flew out the front door. I can’t be alone in this house for another second. Screw what Dad said about taking the car without permission, she reasoned. I have to go to Jane’s NOW! And I’m sure as Hell not gonna WALK over there, not after what just happened.
Daria wheeled her father’s SUV carefully into the Lane driveway and shut off the engine. On the drive over, she had managed to collect herself a bit. At least her tears were under control. She didn’t want Jane to see her cry. She climbed out, grabbed her bag out of the backseat, and ambled up to the front door, glancing around nervously at the shadows lining the walkway. She rang the doorbell, and after a moment, Jane, paintbrush in hand, opened the door and smiled at her friend.
“Well, well...the amazing disappearing woman has arrived,” Jane said as Daria stepped into the house.
Daria sighed. “Sorry I’m late, Jane. You wouldn’t believe the night I just had.”
The two made their way up the stairs to Jane’s bedroom. Jane, sounding mildly concerned, questioned, “You want to talk about it?”
“No,” Daria said firmly, dropping her bag carelessly on the floor.
Jane shrugged and returned to her canvas as the familiar sounds of “Sick Sad World” played softly in the background. It was obvious that Daria didn’t want to reveal her reasons, but that wasn’t really a problem as far as Jane was concerned. Their entire friendship was based on a silent understanding they had for one another.
Jane brushed it off and let it slide. “Well, you’re here now and that’s the important thing. The marathon just started, so you haven’t missed too much yet.”
“Good.” Daria stared down at her hands, noticing how unsteady they had become. A long uneasy silence followed before Daria gathered up the courage to speak again. She started, almost in a whisper, “Jane, we have to do another one.”
Jane whirled around, unable to believe what she was hearing. Red paint dripped slowly from the brush in her hands, pooling up at her feet like blood. “What? No way, Daria. Uh-uh. We decided Li and DeMartino would be the last ones.”
“Please don’t question this Jane. It’s a necessity.”
Jane contemplated this momentarily before giving in. “Who?”
Jane smirked and set down her paintbrush, wiping her hands on her shirt. “Well then, I’d say it’s not only a necessity, it’s a public service.” Daria sat in silence, still trying to shake the memory of the events of that evening. Jane could see Daria was still a little shaken, for whatever reason, she could only guess. “So, why Kevin?”
After a moment’s pause, Daria came back with the best possible answer she could think of for Jane’s question. “Why not?”
Jane didn’t push the topic further. She knew that if Daria said something had to be done, then she had just cause and there was no going back. The reason wasn’t all that important anyway. They were in too deep to turn on each other now.
“So, when do we make our move, boss?” Jane said jokingly, trying to break the tension.
“Tomorrow. At the quarry.”
“Alright then, partner in crime. I’ll be there with bells on.”
Daria nodded, then turned back to the television without another word while Jane went back to her painting. The two friends shared a long moment of comfortable silence, easily returning to their normal routine just as quickly as they had departed from it. No need to ruin a perfectly good “Sick Sad World” marathon discussing the ugly details. There would be plenty of time for that later.
This story was based on “The Boy Next Door,” a short story by Ellen Emerson White. I don’t own the rights to the story, just as I don’t own the rights to Daria. Please don’t sue me. It wouldn’t be worth the effort anyway. If you have any feedback about this story or any others of mine, please feel free to email me at email@example.com.