…To Mother You
Text © Parker-man (email@example.com)
Daria and associated characters © 2003 MTV Networks
Synopsis: Daria gives a special gift to Jane in a time of despair.
Author’s Notes: This is a ficlet quite dependent on Roger E. Moore’s excellent piece entitled April Is the Cruelest Month. I would highly encourage you to read his story first to understand mine, and so you can understand my story’s place alongside Mr. Moore’s story. It would be criminal to ignore, or even to understate the importance of April… in the creation of this brief story.
The idea for this piece came to me shortly after reading April…, while I was on a long-distance road trip. As the miles passed by, I was daydreaming about the story, and what could have occurred before the events described (and after, but that will probably be another submission!). Looking for something else to occupy my mind for a while, I fished for a cassette, found “Gospel Oak” by Sinead O’Connor, stuffed it into the radio, and out came the song, “This Is to Mother You.” Thinking of the events in Mr. Moore’s story, and listening to the lyrics of this song, this dramatic scene was formed.
Acknowledgements: As this piece is a sort of “prequel” to April Is the Cruelest Month and depends quite heavily upon it, all acknowledgements from Mr. Moore to those who provided his inspiration must be repeated by myself, along with my own hearty “thank you” to Mr. Moore for such a moving story. Of course, thanks to Sinead for the song, and also for a voice which I could easily “see” coming from Daria. And last, but not least, thanks to Deref, who spared some of his time for me and beta-read this story.
Legal Dreck: Daria and all associated characters are not mine… they belong to MTV. (Darn it! <grin> I think Jane’s a hottie!!) The song, “This Is to Mother You” doesn’t belong to me either… it belongs to Sinead O’Connor. (Thanks, Sinead, I’ll give it back in the same condition I borrowed it.) April Is the Cruelest Month also is not mine… as you have probably already guessed, it belongs to Roger E. Moore. (His other stuff is good, too. I really like The Art of Seeing.) There. That should cover it.
School’s out for summer. School’s out forever. School’s blown to pieces.
Daria tries to remember who sings that song as she walks quickly from the bus stop, through the parking lot towards the building. Trent probably knows, but she’s only guessing. Ahh… It doesn’t matter much, anyway. All she knows is that her Sophomore year at Raft is over… and she is glad.
She enters the hospital through the main lobby, happy to finally get out of the rain. Sheesh! she muses, Now I understand what Milne calls “mizzly rain.” No wonder it made Christopher Robin delusional. I’d start talking to my teddy bear, too. She heads toward the elevators, removing her jacket and shaking the moisture off along the way. An elevator disgorges its passengers as she approaches. She enters and presses the button for the third floor, grateful to have the elevator to herself.
Arriving at the nurse’s station, Daria waves a polite greeting to Brenda, the duty nurse. She points down the hallway, and looks at Brenda with an “is it okay?” look, silently asking if she can proceed. Brenda smiles and nods. Daria is happy – no, not happy… content would be a better word. She is content that most of the nurses who work the floor know her. Or, at least, know who she is. Stopping just outside Jane’s room, she takes a deep breath. She knows something is not right. Letting the breath go, she says to herself… I can do this... I have to.
Daria opens the door to Jane’s room slowly, so as not to disturb her if she is sleeping. She isn’t. Her bed is raised to a semi-sitting position, and her face is turned towards the window.
“Hey,” she says, standing in the doorway.
Jane slowly turns her gaze from the window to face Daria. “It’s raining,” she says, flatly.
“Umm, yeah.” She hesitates. “It’s supposed to clear up later, though.” Daria steps into the room, places her book bag on the floor next to the door, folds and places her jacket on top of it, and moves to the chair next to Jane’s bed. Jane watches her, then turns to stare back out the window as Daria sits down on the edge of the seat, knees and ankles together, forearms along thighs, hands clasped together – as if ready to start praying.
“I saw Trent this morning,” Daria says, quietly. “He said he gave you a letter last night... from Amanda.” She pauses before continuing, trying to gauge Jane’s reaction. Seeing none, she continues. “But he didn’t say anything else. He looked… upset.”
“Yeah.” Jane slowly turns her head back to look at Daria. “Why are you here?”
Daria’s gut feeling is turning into reality. Something is definitely wrong.
“I told you I was coming back today. I want to see you, keep you company. See how you’re doing, and—“
Jane slowly shakes her head. “No, Daria,” she interrupts, “I mean why are you here, now, with me? Why aren’t you back home? You have no reason to be here.”
“Yeah, right.” Jane listlessly returns her gaze to the window.
After a moment which seems to stretch to tomorrow, Daria asks the question which has plagued her since she had spoken to Trent earlier. She is afraid of the answer. Very afraid.
Looking down at her hands, she asks, “Is she coming to Boston?” She looks again towards her friend.
Silence. Jane’s breathing seems to cease; yet she blinks once, slowly. Daria holds her breath, waiting.
“No,” is the quiet reply, “no, she’s not.”
Daria’s jaw drops in utter shock and amazement. Her hands reach out to hold the chair arms. She tries to compose herself before speaking, to no avail.
“Oh.“ It’s almost a cough.
“She’s busy” comes a flat reply.
“Oh,” Daria repeats, her hands fiercely gripping the arms of the chair, fingers making deep impressions in the upholstery.
“So… why are you here?” Jane asks again, without anger, or fear, or… emotion. Any emotion. At all.
This strikes Daria deeply. Why are you here? The question rings in her ears. She looks at her dear friend, looks at her eyes. Her eyes are the eyes of someone who has given up – no, worse. Hers are the eyes of someone who was given up. Why are you here?-- I’m here because you’re here, I’m here because I need to be here, I’m here for you. I’m here… because I brought you here. I’m here… for me.
Daria knows why she is here, but she cannot give Jane an answer, not yet. She doesn’t have the words. Her kill-grip on the chair lessens.
Jane closes her eyes, turning her face towards the ceiling.
“Daria, go home.” Jane sighs. “Go home, go see your family… Helen, Jake, Quinn…”
Daria pauses, grasping for words. “Jane, I –”
“You have no reason to stay.”
Daria replies sharply, “We need to talk.” She hopes she doesn’t sound like she is just talking to be heard – she hopes she sounds sincere. Or, she almost spoke aloud, at least you need to talk.
“Nothing to talk about” mumbles Jane. “Nothing to say.”
Daria is desperate. She tries again. “But…“ Her voice trails off.
Turning to face Daria once again, Jane captures Daria’s eyes with her own, the once bright blue seeming to be not so bright anymore. She says, in a voice devoid of feeling, “Go home, Daria. I’m tired.” She blinks her eyes slowly. “Go home. To Lawndale. Say hello to everyone for me.” With these words, she turns her face to the ceiling, adjusts her head to the pillow, and closes her eyes.
After a stunned pause, Daria replies, “I’ll stay until you fall asleep… if that’s okay.”
Jane breathes deeply, and lets out a sigh. “Whatever.” End of conversation.
Daria looks at her best friend. Even here, like this, she is beautiful. Her face is clear, flawless… strong, yet delicate… an angel’s. Her arms, supple, yet powerful. Her hands, those artist’s hands… graceful. Even in the ugly gown that the hospital gave her, her lean figure is one to envy. Slowly her gaze drifts down towards the foot of the hospital bed. Somewhere around the area of Jane’s pelvis, an armature has been rigged to the bed to prop up the sheet and blanket, making a sort of tent over her legs, so the pressure of the bedding (as light as they were for this June weather) would not cause discomfort. This also serves to completely hide her once strong legs from view.
Daria thinks about what is under that blanket. Jane’s legs. Runner’s legs. She pictures them as she knew them, long and slender and lean. That picture is replaced by what she knows they are now. The stitches, the pins and rods, the scars… the pain. The pain inflicted by…
Stop! She screams in her mind. Don’t Go There!
Daria looks at Jane, sighs quietly, and turns her eyes toward the window. The rain is still falling, soft and steady. The sky is steel-gray, the clouds low. She stands slowly, and steps over to the window. Looking out over the parking lot, she can only guess at what is outside. Cars, certainly. People… some, probably. She sees nothing, however, her mind repeating Jane’s question, over and over.
“Why are you here?” – “ Why are you here?” – “ Why are you here?”
If I had the words, Daria silently answers, I would tell you.
Daria’s mind wanders aimlessly. Landing on a thought here, a thought there, not able to focus. She thinks of the last – No, her mind asserts, not the last – the most recent creation of Jane Lane. A simple painting, uncharacteristically brighter and more colorful than usual. That thought flits away all too soon. She starts thinking of the trip back to Lawndale for the summer that she and Jane are going to – damn! – supposed to take. She pushes that thought aside. Her mind turns back a couple of months to April, when – No! No! No!
She shakes her head to get rid of that thought, and, pushing up her glasses to massage the bridge of her nose, she forces herself to think of something else. She removes her glasses, wipes them on her blouse, and replaces them. Breathe in… breathe out… she thinks. I can do this. She tries to focus again.
She remembers when she was with Jane the previous day, and how cheerful she was. The latest surgery, performed on her left ankle at 6 o’clock that morning, went very well; the pain was lessened, and the swelling had gone down. Daria, however, had not slept well the night before. Worry about the surgery, and keeping the promise she made to Jane to be there for the whole procedure (starting with preparations at 4:30, and staying with her until she awoke in the recovery room), made her quite tired by evening. So tired, in fact, she dozed off in the chair next to Jane while watching “Sick, Sad World.” Jane woke her with a laugh and a smile, and tried to send her to bed for a good night’s sleep. At first, Daria protested. She did not want her friend to be alone that evening. But, Trent was there, having arrived while Daria was napping, so she reluctantly conceded and said goodbye for the night, promising to see Jane in the morning. Jane sent her off with a cheery “Adios, Amiga!”
Daria’s recollections become sharper, her thoughts pick up speed. She remembers that familiar farewell, and the long hug that accompanied it. She remembers going to the elevator, and just as the elevator door opened, noticing she had forgotten her book bag. She turned around to retrieve it, and was met by a nurse’s aide, book bag in hand, sent by Jane. She thanked the aide and boarded the elevator, stifling a yawn as the door closed.
As she walked through the lobby towards the front doors, she was thinking about a long hot soak in the tub, and how she could swear she heard her bathtub calling to her. Suddenly, she stopped, as if frozen in time. It was music. No, more precisely, a lyric that caught her attention so. She stood still, quietly listening. She turned her head to find the sound, and saw a tape player on the information desk, and a cassette case on top of it. She moved over to the desk, concentrating intently on the lyrics. The song made a strong impression on her; for what reason, she did not know. All she knew was that she needed to know that song. Soundlessly, she picked up and read the cassette case, making a mental note before placing the case back down. She turned, and increased her pace towards the exit as she fumbled for her wallet.
It was several hours later before she finally returned to her room in the extended-stay hotel. It was summer break, and students who did not have summer quarter classes were not allowed to remain on campus. She and Trent had separate rooms there; paid for by the insurance settlement until Trent could find something more permanent for them. She closed the door behind her, dropped her book bag in the chair by the desk, placed the package from Borders Books and Music on the nightstand, and hurriedly prepared for bed – the long, soaking bath having been forgotten. When all was ready, she opened the CD she had purchased, and placed it in her portable player. She read the lyrics printed on the sleeve several times quickly, then placed it back in the jewel case. She cued the song she had been so mesmerized by, and pushed the “repeat 1” button. Adjusting the volume, adjusting the headset, and adjusting her pillow, Daria settled into her bed, determined to learn the song by heart… or else.
The sound of a clipboard, dropped somewhere down the hall, brings Daria out of her daydream. Glancing over her right shoulder, she looks at Jane, her eyes still closed, her hands resting gently across her waist. Daria’s gaze returns to the dismal view outside.
Damn you, Amanda Lane, she curses silently, you’re her mother!
As the rain, which is now more like heavy mist, blows against the window, that song starts to play, that song she listened to, over and over. That song, which, after having listened to it forty or fifty times, she knows. Knows by heart. Knows every note, every lyric. Jane’s question repeats itself, “Why are you here?” I have your answer, Jane… Daria smiles, bleakly. I’ve found the words. She swallows, remembering how her throat had felt after doing something that she thought she would never, nor even could ever do. She lets the song play in her mind. It begins softly, at first, just a guitar. She holds on to the small refrain that begins the song, letting it loop in her mind for a moment. She lets the music wash over her, through her. At the right moment, she opens her mouth, and softly… sings.
This is to mother you
To comfort you and get you through
Through when your nights are lonely
Through when your dreams are only blue
This is to mother you
Jane’s eyes open slowly to the sound. She blinks once, then again. She looks around, turns toward the window, and her eyes open wide. Daria? In the reflection of the window, Jane sees Daria’s mouth moving, in synch with the words – no, not just words – a song.
For when you need me I will do
What your own mother didn’t do
Which is to mother you
When Daria sings that phrase, those lines, Jane’s astonishment at Daria’s singing is erased, only to be replaced by a wave of grief and sorrow the likes of which she has never felt before. She weeps, silently, but deeply.
All the pain that you have known
All the violence in your soul
All the “wrong” things you have done
I will take from you when I come
Daria’s voice is simple… clear… and sweet. No embellishment, no fanciness. Just heart. Jane’s tears flow.
All your unhappiness
I will give you tenderness
Daria continues her song, tears welling up in her eyes, but her voice unwavering.
For child I am so glad I found you
Although my arms have always been around you
Sweet bird although you did not see me
Daria pauses to clear the lump rising in her throat, and wipes away a tear. Jane lays still, tears streaming, mesmerized.
And I’m here to mother you
To comfort you and get you through
Through when your nights are lonely
Through when your dreams are only blue
Finishing, she takes a deep, shuddering breath, lets it out with a sigh, takes off her glasses and wipes her face with her hand. She puts her glasses back on and composes herself as best she can. Please, she silently begs, please… As she turns to take one more look at her dearest friend before leaving, she hears a snuffling sound. It’s Jane, her blue eyes – bright blue eyes, she quickly notices –overflowing with tears, and looking right at her.
An eternity of silence, and thousands of emotions pass between these two best friends in this one moment.
“Daria!” Jane cries softly, her voice barely audible. She holds out her arms for an embrace, an embrace that a tearful Daria is more than eager to provide.
Original: 01/09/04 Final Revision: 01/26/04 Future – college
“School’s out for summer. School’s out forever. School’s blown to pieces.” – song, “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper
“Mizzly rain” – reference to A. A. Milne, author, and creator of Winnie the Pooh. Daria’s reference is to the rain that would keep Christopher Robin indoors during playtime, when he would talk to his stuffed animals and imagine them talking back. Thus, Winnie, Piglet, Eeyore, and the rest were born.