Disclaimer: Daria and associated characters are owned by MTV. This is fan fiction written for entertainment only. No money or other negotiable currency or goods have been exchanged.
Original characters and plot copyright Richard J. Lobinske. 2004.
This is the seventh story in the Falling into College series.
Home for Thanksgiving
Daria Morgendorffer sat in a drab, institutional desk little different from the ones in high school. Said desk was near the front of a classroom in Newton Hall, Raft University. She was dressed warmly against the mid-autumn cold of Boston, brown pants pulled over her boots and a tan sweat shirt. Her grey jacket was hung on the back of the desk. She was partially slumped in the seat; her legs stretched out to the front and crossed at the ankles. She was neatly writing in a blue spiral notebook on the desk, next to a microcassette recorder.
Dr. Wilson was near the lectern, gesturing with a laser pointer at a large poster showing stylized plants and animals, connected by arrows.
"There, you have the basic idea of food webs and energy cycling. Wednesday, I'll cover primary and secondary productivity, in detail. That'll finish off our section on ecology."
He pocketed the pointer and collected his supplies from the lectern. Students rose unevenly and gathered their belongings, most exiting, some talking, and a couple walking up to Dr. Wilson. Daria rose, donned her jacket and exited Survey of Biology. As Daria left Newton Hall, Anna Stevens, a fellow resident of her dorm floor, caught up with her. She wore a long, plaid wool skirt with a maroon sweater, and her waist-length black hair was pulled into a long braid.
"Could you join me for lunch and help me with biology?"
"Sure. I was heading over to the Raft Sandwich Shop; does that sound good to you?"
"I can eat there. Thanks."
The two women walked southwest off campus to a building in a mock-colonial style. Small restaurants filled the storefronts. The Raft Sandwich Shop was between The Big Bean Burrito and Callie's Barbeque. They walked to the order line and perused the illuminated menu overhead.
Anna said, "I appreciate this. We've been real lucky having you and Karen on our floor."
"Two of the biggest brains in the freshman class, right there with us. And both of you always seem to be willing to help with this stuff. It's been so nice."
"Oh. To be honest, I'm still kind of getting used to it. A lot of people in high school avoided me for the same reason."
"They were idiots who missed out on a cool girl."
Daria smiled. "Thanks."
Daria relaxed on her bed, three pillows stacked behind her for support, reading her history textbook. Her afternoon College Algebra class was uneventful with the exception that class would not be held Wednesday because of noon dismissal for the Thanksgiving Holiday. Her session with Ms. Poole was a little stressful, but the therapy seemed to help. She was accepting her looks better. She knew she could continue to dress in the plain and functional manner she had been, but now, she did it because she rationally wanted to, not because she was trying to hide her looks. The telephone ring broke her concentration; she leaned over to pick up the handset from the wall mount.
"Hello…Hi Mrs. Myerson…She is…Just a second."
"Karen, your Mom."
"Great." Karen jumped up from her desk and ran to the phone.
"Hi Mom…I'm doing well…Grades are fine…That's good…Hey, when should I expect the tickets?"
After a moment, Karen abruptly dropped onto her bed in shock.
"What happened?...Can't be helped…I know…I'll see what I can do here…Thanks…Okay. I love you…Good night."
Karen sniffled as she returned the phone to the cradle. She dropped back on the bed and began to cry.
Daria looked at her roommate and friend. "Karen?"
Daria crossed the small room and sat next to Karen. She hesitantly set a hand on Karen's shoulder. "What's wrong?"
Karen rubbed her eyes and sniffed loudly. "I didn't have the cash on hand for a bus ticket home for Thanksgiving, so my folks were going to get one for me. The harvester had a major breakdown a couple days ago; they had to spend their money to get it fixed. I'm going to be stuck here over Thanksgiving break."
Daria thought for a moment. "Look, why don't I just get you a ticket on my plastic; you can pay me back later. I know you're good for it. Besides, I know where you live."
"I can't do that."
"Sure you can, a little at a time with your pay from the zoo."
Karen nervously rubbed her hands together in her lap. Embarrassed, her shoulders slumped and she looked at the floor. "I'm using that to eat with."
"What? I thought you had financial aid?"
"It was short of what I thought I was going to get. Plus, groceries here are a lot more expensive than I budgeted for."
She looked up with sadness in her eyes. "I'm barely able to keep myself going here. I don't know how I'll find the money to get home for Christmas break if my parents can't afford it."
"I don't know why I thought I could make it here. Mom and Dad were barely able to get my brother Terry through Georgia Tech, a state school, and they paid resident tuition. I wanted to go to the wonderful place my old boss had gone. I wanted to get out and see more of the world than Georgia. Where did it get me? Stuck in a school eleven hundred miles from home, shoveling crap in a zoo so I can eat."
"I owe you a lot. I'm willing to cover your ticket home. As a gift."
"No, Daria. I can't do that."
"Yes, you can."
"Daria, I'm touched by the offer. I hope you understand. It's something personal for me not to accept any significant amount of money from friends."
Daria recognized her friend's stubborn streak. "I can't change your mind, can I?"
"No. I wonder if I can get a ride with someone most of the way there. I could get somebody to pick me up at the end or hitchhike."
Daria stood and faced Karen, hands on hips. "Absolutely not. I am not going to allow one of my few friends to take a risk like that."
"How are you going to stop me?"
"Look. I understand personal integrity issues, so I accept you won't take a ticket home from me. But I don't want you to take a risk on finding a ride. Will you consider an alternative?"
"What kind of alternative?"
"My dad is driving up to get me Wednesday. Come home with me for the holiday. Sure, you'll be in a house full of nutters, but it beats being in the dorm alone or abandoned on an interstate somewhere."
"I'm not sure…"
"All you will have to accept will be free food. Since, as a college student, you are contractually obligated to have no objection to that, it shouldn't be a problem."
"Won't an extra person mess up their cooking plans?"
"I'll tell Mom to pick up extra from the deli. You don't think she actually cooks a Thanksgiving dinner, do you?"
"Should have known better. What about your Dad?"
"After the fireball incident, we won't allow him near a turkey."
"What if I still refuse?"
"I'll handcuff your butt to me if I have to."
"Like you have a set handy." Karen looked a little worried. "You don't, do you?"
"No, but I'm sure I could find some on short notice from one of those interesting 'boutiques' on the other side of Sorority Row."
Karen smiled a tiny amount. "How would you know about those?"
"Just picking up a few things for my wedding hope chest."
Karen laughed a little. "Like I believe that."
"Didn't think you would, but at least you laughed."
"I did. Thanks. That solves the holiday, but it doesn't help the long-term problem. Lack of money. No offense, but I get the idea that you've never seriously experienced that."
Daria looked at her friend. "Nothing like this, no. Look, I'm going to call Mom on her cell and get things set up. We'll work on the long-term problem later. Trust me."
Daria picked up the phone and entered her phone card code, waited, and then dialed Helen's cell phone number.
After several rings, Helen answered. "Hello."
"Hi, Mom. Do you have a minute?"
"Daria? Is everything alright? You're not hurt are you?"
"Mom, settle down. I'm fine, but I would like to ask something."
"Oh, go ahead."
"Remember when I told you, "I hope you'll understand when I don't bring my roommate home for Thanksgiving."
"Things have changed. Will it be okay if Karen stays with us for the holiday?"
"She's more than welcome. But, I'm a little curious about your change of plan. I thought we were too embarrassing." Helen let a hint of sarcasm drop into her voice.
Daria smiled slightly. "Well, you are, but I'm willing to risk it. Karen will otherwise be stuck in the dorm during the holiday. Kind of a money crunch, long story."
"Tell her to please come with. But, we better not tell your father she would be stuck in the dorm; you know how that could set him off."
Daria shivered. "Good plan. I'll surprise Dad when he gets here Wednesday. Tell him we set things up while he was on the way up."
"Sorry, dear. I do have to run. I look forward to seeing Karen again. Bye."
Daria hung up the phone. "You're in."
Dr. Wilson cleaned the white board as he spoke. "Speaking of secondary productivity. I hope everyone has a pleasant holiday and packs on a little extra biomass." Nobody laughed. He looked mildly disappointed at his failed joke. "Oh, well. See everyone next Monday."
The classroom cleared quickly that morning. Daria pulled on her heavy green jacket over a blue flannel shirt and black jeans. "I have a feeling February is really going to suck, temperature-wise."
She left Newton Hall and walked along the south sidewalk toward her dorm. Feeling one boot beginning to slip, she stopped at a bench, placing one foot on it. She pulled up that pant leg and started to retie the boot.
A young man with straight, red hair stopped next to her. Michael Fulton stood a little less than six feet tall, with a medium build. He wore a woodland camouflage, army surplus field jacket, jeans, and black work boots. He held a dark green backpack in his left hand by the shoulder straps. He pushed up his large, aviator style glasses and nervously shuffled his feet.
She looked up at the man. She recognized him as fellow student from biology. Quiet, but always with the right answer when asked.
"Oh. Hi, Michael."
Daria nodded her head toward him a tiny amount as she finished tying her boot. "Yes?"
"Could I ask you something?"
Daria pulled down the pant leg over the boot, and stood up. "Go ahead."
Michael swallowed. "W…would you like to go out with me sometime?"
Daria looked at him, speechless.
Michael looked at her eyes, expectantly.
Daria sighed. "I…I'm going to have to say no. Nothing against you, I'm just not ready to date anybody now."
Michael deflated. "I understand. At least you were nice about it." He sadly walked away.
Daria watched the receding figure for a minute, confusion on her face. Finally, she pushed her hands into her jacket pocket and, head down, resumed her course to the dorm.
"Hanky-panky among the technicians. What does a mosquito lab need with six dozen natural membrane condoms? An investigative exclusive, next on Sick, Sad World."
Daria and Karen sat in the TV room/lobby of the dorm. Both had had winter coats folded next to them, and suitcases on the floor in front. Karen had her feet propped up on hers. Other residents milled around or traveled in and out as all prepared for the four day holiday.
Daria motioned to the television. "I must be getting soft; I used to not be able to go a day without this, now I hardly ever see it."
Karen sipped from a travel mug of coffee. "I bet if we had a TV in the room you would; you're just too lazy to walk down here."
"A case to consider."
"But look at how much better you've gotten on Cannibal Fragfest."
Daria looked at her watch. 1:10 PM. "I hate this waiting. I'll be so glad next year when we can get parking permits. If we had a car, we could've been on the road an hour ago."
Karen looked disappointed. "Providing I can come up with enough money to stay after this year."
"We'll find a way. It might have to be a little creative."
Karen raised an eyebrow.
"Nothing illegal. I don't want to explain to Mom why I need bail money."
A black woman stopped by the back of the sofa. Carly Stanton's short hair accented soft facial features. She had a black leather jacket on over a blue and white patterned sweater. "I'd be scared to find out what you would need bail money for."
Daria smiled. "Only some financial opportunities."
Carly briefly laughed. "Can't stay long, I'm meeting Tom, oh, five minutes ago. Have a good weekend, both of you."
Daria said, "You too."
Karen replied, "Don't get into too much trouble."
Carly waved and left.
Daria turned to Karen. "Remember, your ride broke down at the last minute. You don't want to hear him rant about being left at military school over holidays for the six hour drive."
"I'll pass on that. Say, why is your Dad making such a long round trip? Wouldn't it have been easier for you to take a bus or fly home? "
"He thinks it will give him some quality, 'bonding' time with me."
"So, you did have an ulterior motive to ask me along."
"I'm thinking of it as a side benefit."
Jake Morgendorffer walked into the lobby, looking around. He was dressed in slacks and a gray sweatshirt with "Raft University" on the front. He wore a dark blue jacket over that. Daria nudged Karen, and both stood.
"Dad, over here."
Jake turned, rushed over, and grabbed her into a bear hug. "Daria! I'm so glad to see you."
Daria gasped. "Dad, a little lighter, I'd like to breath."
He released his grip. "Sorry, got a little overexcited. How do you like the shirt? Bought it online from the bookstore."
"It looks good. Dad, Karen's ride broke down this morning. We worked out a deal between Mom and Mrs. Myerson for Karen to spend the holiday with us. Sorry for the short notice, but you were already on your way here."
"Hey! No problem. Your friends are always welcome. Guess we'll have to dust off the guest room for her."
Daria and Karen picked up their luggage.
Jake reached toward them. "Want me to get those?"
Daria said, "We've got them, but you can get the trunk open."
"Sure thing." He jogged out to the Lexus.
Daria started to walk after him. "Don't forget, we need to pick up some lunch on the way."
Three hours later, the nondescript view from I-95 continued to slide past the windows. Karen softly snored in the back seat, headphones in place, though her tape had shut off half an hour earlier. Daria was alternating between enjoying the warm familiarity of listening to her father's voice, cringing at some of his bonding attempts, and feeling amused as he related memories of his days at Middleton College.
"You know, Daria. It was right around this time of year that I first got to know your mother."
Daria's interest was piqued. While she had heard her mother's version of events, her father hadn't previously talked about it.
"Fall of Sixty-Eight. We had a freshman Poly-Sci course together. She sat two rows ahead of me in the lecture hall. I'd been watching and dreaming about her for a month. She was such a beautiful sight every class, and her enthusiasm to save the world was infectious. It took me a month to build up the courage just to ask her out."
Daria gave him a questioning look.
"Something you probably don't realize. Asking a young lady out can be one of the most terrifying things a man can try. Because of how crushing 'no' can be. Boy, do I know how that feels."
Daria's face dropped.
Jake snapped out of the incipient rant. "I approached her after class. Helen seemed nervous, but she said yes. We ate at the Hare Krishna free lunch stand and spent the afternoon at a rally in front of the admin building. Thirty-one years later, it was still the best gamble I ever made in my life."
Daria turned to face her side window, her brow furrowed in thought.
The blue Lexus pulled into the Morgendorffer driveway at eight that evening. Daria parked the car and looked over at Karen in the passenger seat. Daria reached over the seat back and nudged Jake, fast asleep.
"Dad, we're home. Dad." She pushed harder. "Dad, time to get up."
Jake started. "What? Oh. Hey, home already? Time sure flies."
Daria opened the trunk. She and Karen retrieved their suitcases while Jake went ahead.
They found the house empty. Atop the clutter on the refrigerator was a note.
Late getting home from work. Quinn and I left for the deli to pick up dinner for tomorrow. We already ate. If you're hungry, heat up some lasagna from the blue container. Should be back in an hour.
Jake turned to the two women. "Daria, your old room's ready for you. The contractors finished up last week. Go ahead and show Karen to the guest room. Looks like we just missed your mom, I'll heat up something for us."
Daria motioned Karen up the stairs. They walked up, and Daria directed Karen to the door almost directly ahead. "That's the guest room, the bathroom is next door." Daria pointed down the hall to the right. "My room is the one on the left, Quinn's on the right."
They peeked in the guest room. Everything looked in order. Karen walked in, dropped her suitcase on the bed, and popped it open. "I want to change before dinner. How about if I meet you downstairs?"
Daria walked to the end of the hall and stopped at the door. She started to open it, but hesitated. She closed her eyes, pushed it open, inhaled, and opened her eyes.
The room was painted in a light green. Deep green curtains framed each of the four windows. The floor was covered in a buff colored carpet. A new bed was in the familiar corner, finished in a green bedspread. A richly stained wood dresser was against the wall to the left of the closet, a matching nightstand by the bed. Bookshelves and the computer desk were in their old places to the left of the door.
Daria had a sad smile. Her beloved padded room was truly gone. It was clear that her mother had tried hard to make a new room to suit Daria. A room Daria knew she would use only for visits.
The red SUV pulled into the Lane driveway and stopped. Daria and Karen stepped out and walked to the front door.
Karen looked to the side. "Interesting lawn ornament."
After Daria knocked, the door was opened by Jane. She jumped forward and grabbed Daria.
"Amiga! Glad you made it home."
Daria returned the embrace. "It's good to see you, Jane." Letting go, she waved her hand toward Karen. "Jane, Karen; Karen, Jane."
Jane raised her eyebrow. "So you're Daria's keeper for now."
"Luck of the draw, I guess."
"Come on in. I can really use some intelligent conversation."
Karen grinned. "So why are you inviting us in?"
Jane turned with her hands on her hips. "The force is strong in this one."
Daria smirked. "So's the gas."
Karen snapped back. "You weren't a lot of fun to be around after you ate one of the Mucho Supremos from Big Bean Burrito."
Jane motioned the three upstairs. "After three days proctoring trimester finals, that is music to my ears."
Daria followed Jane. "If you think that's music, you've been exposed to excess amounts of Mystik Spiral."
Karen said over Daria's shoulder, "Come on, do these people really exist? I've heard Daria talk about them, but haven't heard a single bit of their music."
Daria turned her head. "Be glad."
Jane opened her room door. "Welcome to the Artist Extraordinaire's Den of Iniquity."
Daria walked in. "Please leave your taste at the door."
Jane turned and gave Daria a gentler hug. "After that little bombshell a few weeks ago, I've been worried about you."
"I've been worried too. But, both you and Karen have been a big help."
Karen sat on the bed and kicked up one foot. "Always glad to be of service."
Daria laughed a bit. "You two enjoy it too much."
Jane released Daria. "No good deed goes unpunished. You're still the reason I'm going to BFAC."
Karen became interested. "Oh? How's that?"
"After being rejected by two schools, I wasn't going to bother with the application. Daria…convinced me to send it in."
"Yeah, she does have this thing about her friends and college. She's now determined to keep me in school."
Jane gave her a quizzical look.
Karen looked a little embarrassed. "My finances are running tight. Daria has decided that she's going to single-handedly find a way to keep me at Raft."
"If she's applying that Morgendorffer Mercenary bent to the problem, you're in good hands."
"I hope so."
Daria inquired "Speaking of finances, how are your plans going, Jane?
"Between the TA job and what I've sold at Gary's, I got enough to cover summer now. I've been thinking, with you staying over the summer, I might for the first one, at least. It'll get me caught up, so I can graduate on schedule with you."
"So stuff's still selling."
"Who'd have thought that there was that much interest in Lawndale?"
"I guess everyone can't have Steve Taylor's taste."
Karen asked, "I don't want to know, do I?"
Jane smirked. "Smart woman."
Jane grabbed two jewel cases off of her stereo. "Karen, since you asked. The Spiral's first CD single, Freakin' Friends. Here, you should have one too, Daria."
Daria looked at the proffered disk. "You're kidding."
"Nope. Come on, you have to admit, it's still the best song they've done."
"Hey, it's even gotten a little airplay on the local alternative station. They've sold about fifty of them, so far."
"Better than the eighteen they sold of the vinyl Behind My Eyelids single."
Karen motioned to the stereo. "Do you mind, my curiosity is piqued."
"Yeah, go ahead."
Daria warned, "We are not responsible for any brain damage that may result."
Karen started the CD and listened. When it was over, she turned to the both of them. "Believe me, I've heard a lot worse. I kind of like it, and it seems to fit you two."
Jane smirked. "Well…Trent did write it for us."
"Hey, will I get to meet him this weekend?"
Jane shook her head. "Nah. Lindy is hauling Trent to her folks so he could meet them. They won't be back until Sunday."
"So I guess it's you and your folks for the holiday?"
"Nope. Mom and Dad are off with the elk migrations in Alaska. I will finally get what I've long wished for; home alone with a TV dinner."
"Oh, I'm sorry."
"Don't be. This will be the first holiday I've ever be able to relax. No family weirdness and no band practice.
Karen turned to Daria. "Is she serious?"
"Yep. Can't talk her out of it either. She's fantasized about this for years."
The large dining room table was arranged with seats at the end, three seats on one side, occupied by Daria, Karen and Quinn, and two on the other with Jake and Helen. The far end was set with the Thanksgiving dinner: a platter of sliced turkey breast in the center, surrounded by mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing, cranberry sauce, corn and green beans. All carefully transferred from deli containers to serving dishes and heated in the microwave.
Karen stretched her elbows to the side. "Wow, what a concept. Elbow room at the table."
Helen asked, "Large extended family?"
"That's one way of putting it. Dad was the oldest of eight. They all want to bring their families home for the holidays, with Mom and Dad hosting. Last year we had thirty-one people eating."
"Sounds like you miss it."
"I do, but life goes on. Thanks for letting me stay this year."
"Friends of Daria's are always welcome."
Jake reached to the platter of turkey and held it before Karen. "Guests first."
Conversation dropped to single words as the food was passed around and servings made. Karen waited for the others.
Daria leaned over and whispered, "Go ahead and start eating; you're not going to hear grace or any mushy statements of thanks."
"Oh." Karen slowly picked up her fork when she saw Jake start in on his plate. When in Rome.
Daria leaned toward Quinn. "So, how's the education of the QB coming?"
"Slow, painfully slow. He doesn't get as distracted when I convert everything to sports, but he still does. I'm hoping he at least passed his trimester finals."
"Quinn, if he does, I will officially be impressed."
"His parents' getting a divorce isn't helping. Mrs. Thompson has been real nice, though I think she wants me to start dating him." Quinn shuddered. "Mr. Thompson was such a pig. I can see where Kevin got some of his old charm. Mrs. Thompson threw him out a week ago."
"Be careful about any cross-fire."
Helen spoke up. "Don't worry; I'm keeping an eye on things."
Daria nodded. "Your lawyer reputation does come in handy, doesn't it?"
Karen whispered to Daria, "At breakfast and lunch, I noticed everyone was reading. Some special ban on reading during dinner, or just Thanksgiving?"
"Thanksgiving. This is supposed to be a special family bonding time. If you want fireworks, bring out a paper and watch Mom's head explode."
Toward the end of dinner, Helen brought in a birthday cake for Daria. "Since it wasn't practical for us to be with you last week."
The chocolate cake had nineteen candles and "Happy Birthday Daria" written in green frosting. Helen, Jake, and Quinn chimed in on "Happy Birthday." Karen joined in.
When the off-key singing was completed, Daria blew out the candles. "I'm making it official. Please, no more singing."
Quinn went to the kitchen and returned with two packages. "The top one is from Mom and Dad, the bottom is from me."
Daria opened the first, finding a small wooden box. Inside was a six month CD worth $1000, due to mature in early May.
Jake said. "We never got you a pony, but a down payment on a car should make up for it."
Karen looked on in disbelief. Damn. These people really are in a different world.
"Wow. Thanks." Daria hugged both of them. She turned to Quinn's package and opened it. Inside was a long, black winter-weight skirt.
"Um, thanks Quinn."
"Try it with that sweater I gave you when you moved."
"Sure." She gave Quinn a brief hug. "Still trying to give me makeovers. At least you're finding stuff more like what I would wear."
As the dinner ended, everyone lined up in the kitchen on the way to the dishwasher to deposit tableware. After placing his in the bins, Jake stepped away from the dishwasher and turned on the small television in the kitchen.
The news announcer spoke in a faux excited voice. "Local girl in surprise win at Lawndale raceway. The first place trophy for this year's Lawndale Turkey Day Amateur 100 stock car race went to seventeen-year-old Stacy Rowe."
The screen image showed Stacy, wearing a red racing jumpsuit and white helmet, sitting in the driver's window of a blue car. She held up a trophy and flashed "1" with her other hand.
Quinn's dishes clattered in the washer as they slipped from her hand. "Stacy!" She rushed to the television in surprise.
"Oh my God! That road grime can't be good for her pores. And, a jumpsuit! Sandi is going to die!" Quinn giggled. "So that's what she's been up to since last summer."
Karen put Quinn's dishes in place before adding her own. "I take it they know each other."
Daria started stacking hers in. "One of the former fashion fiends I told you about. I don't think she's so worried about fashion anymore."
Karen looked closely at the screen. "Then why does she have Waif as a sponsor?
Daria sat at the desk in her redecorated old room. Her laptop was connected to the phone jack and she was beginning to make a connection. Jane sat on the bed while Karen watched over Daria's shoulder.
Karen said, "Kind of feel sorry for Quinn today. Working a mall on Black Friday."
Daria glanced over. "You don't understand her kind. She's in heaven."
"No, I really don't, then."
The computer emitted tones and noise as the connection was made. The start page began to slowly load.
"I forgot how much dialup sucks."
Karen lightly slapped her back. "We do get spoiled easily, don't we?"
Jane asked, "So what's the plan?"
"I still have a bunch of sites bookmarked from when I searched for scholarships last fall. I transferred them from my other computer."
"I remember you didn't have much luck except the Wizard scholarship."
"I wasn't really trying that hard. It was more a formality to keep Mom happy. But now, we need to get serious."
Karen knelt beside Daria. "If you don't mind my asking, you seem to be pretty well set up, money-wise. How did you do that?"
"After a little trip to Middleton College when I was a sophomore in high school, Mom and Dad got serious about mine and Quinn's college funds. It also got a boost when Mom, and I suspect Aunt Amy, guilt-tripped Grandma Barksdale into a hefty contribution to each. Plus, Mom and Dad's common motivation to get us to do things was bribery; I saved most of mine."
"You are so lucky."
Daria looked at Karen. "I'm starting learn just how true that is. Now, to start entering data from the background material you gave me."
Daria was quickly engrossed in the search process. Karen wandered over to Jane, sketching Daria hunched over the computer like Quasimodo.
"How was your Thanksgiving?"
"It was nice and relaxing. Though I will admit now, I don't want to make too much of a habit of it."
Daria called over her shoulder. "Good. Now that you've gotten that out of your system, will you let me invite you over next time?"
"Yes, dear." Jane chuckled and turned back to Karen. "How was your day with the Morgendorffers?"
"Never had so much room before during a holiday, but it seemed a little strange."
"With this bunch, probably a lot strange. But, I'll take your word for it."
Daria looked up from the screen. "I think I found one. One thousand dollars per scholastic year awarded to direct descendents of Nine-Eighteenth Bombardment Group veterans." Daria checked her notes. "That was what you wrote down your paternal grandfather was with in World War Two. All you have to do is fill out the form to show you're a direct relative."
Karen looked over here shoulder. "I had no idea there was stuff like this out there."
"It's out there; the hard part is finding it."
Daria, Jane, and Karen were seated at a Pizza Prince booth with a pie divided between them. The Saturday afternoon crowd was a little larger than usual with holiday shoppers.
Karen gestured with a slice. "I must admit your high school is pretty creepy with those security cameras. Mine didn't have anything more complicated than barbed wire on the fences around the bus park."
"Still waiting to see how Ms. Li gets around the Feng Shue water fountain I put next to the hidden mike in the faculty lounge." Jane smiled sweetly.
Daria finished chewing. "Probably just put in a new one over holiday break and leave the old one as a decoy."
Karen set her slice down. "You're kidding. Hidden microphones?"
"Oh, yes. Nothing is too paranoid for our Ms. Li."
"That's even creepier."
Daria steepled her fingers in front of her. "I figure if Karen applies to all the funds we found yesterday, she should be pretty secure. However, there is one more option I would like to consider. I need to run it by both of you."
Jane said, "Run away."
"I've looked into the rent for three bedroom apartments between Raft and BFAC. With a three-way split, we can save Karen an extra fifty to hundred dollars a month compared to living in a dorm. But, we all three need to agree that we can tolerate each other."
Jane snickered. "I've put up with Trent for almost nineteen years. I'm in."
Karen looked surprised. "You want to keep me as a roommate after this year?"
Daria nodded. "Yes, Karen. Maybe you haven't noticed, but I tend to be possessive of my friends. I want to keep them around."
Jane raised her cup. "That's an understatement."
Daria glared at Jane. "So I can get to their throats easier."
Karen asked, "You're serious?"
"I agree. You are possessive of your friends. Count me in. Thanks for asking."
Sunday morning, Daria stood in the door of the closet as the cedar scent from the new paneling drifted around her. She held up the black skirt and green sweater that were gifts from Quinn.
"She really is trying to find things that I would more likely wear. I was planning on surprising her with the sweater, might as well add the skirt."
Daria changed into the new clothes. The black skirt flowed smoothly over her slim hips, and widened slightly to its full ankle length. The green cashmere sweater was closer fitting than she normally preferred, though the soft texture was pleasing to her skin. The effect accented her shape, without being suggestive. "I think I can live with this, occasionally."
A knock on the door diverted her attention. "It's open."
Jake walked in. "Trying on Quinn's gift. Real thoughtful of you. Where'd you get the sweater?"
"Quinn. She snuck it into my dorm room somehow when I moved in. First time I've had an occasion to wear it."
Jake shook his head lightly. "I am so glad you took after your mother instead of me. You look wonderful."
Daria blushed. "Um. Thanks."
"I came up to see if you needed anything carried down."
"I could probably get it, but you can carry my suitcase if you want."
Jake walked to the suitcase, and sat on the bed. "Daria, what do you think of the new room?"
"Very nice. Mom went to a lot of effort to make it suit me."
Jake motioned for Daria to come closer. She complied.
Jake's voice was quiet, and sad. "We're only going to see you as a guest, aren't we? You're not planning on moving back here."
Daria was taken by surprise by the comment. "How…how did you know?"
"I might spend half of my life clueless, but some things you just don't miss. It was in your eyes when we packed last August. I had that same look when I went to Middleton."
"It's not that I feel I was driven out."
"Not like I was. I know. But, you feel it's time to face life on your own terms."
"Yeah. So, why go to all this effort to make the room to suit me?"
"Your mother still expects you to come home this summer."
"You didn't say anything to her?"
"Your mother needs certain illusions to function."
Daria smiled as she remembered her mother saying the same thing about Jake.
"Please let me tell her, when I'm ready."
"Will do." Jake picked up the suitcase, and headed downstairs. Daria followed.
Quinn rose from the sofa. "Daria. You look great in that."
Daria hesitated a moment. "Thanks, Quinn. I do like this, and it's comfortable."
Jake continued out the front door.
Quinn scrutinized Daria a little more. "Just what I though. Classics work best on you."
"No more trying to get me in the latest fashion?"
Quinn laughed. "I guess not. You never really would have looked good in them. I've learned that some people look good in the latest fashions, others in timeless classics. Like you."
"Whatever the reason, I'm glad."
"Though we still need to do something about those glasses."
"Don't go there."
Quinn held up her hands. "Okay. One step at a time."
Daria gave Quinn a quick hug. "Take care, Sis. See you again in a few weeks. Don't kill Kevin; Mom doesn't need the extra billable hours."
"I promise. Those orange jumpsuits are so hideous."
"We must keep our perspective."
"Daria, you take care too. I'm still a little worried about you."
"Thanks, I will be careful." Daria headed out the door. Helen and Karen were waiting at the SUV. Jake was just closing the rear hatch.
"Okay folks, time to get this show on the road."
Helen, Daria, and Karen stopped for lunch in southern Connecticut, at a diner off I-95. Helen had a salad, Daria a burger and Karen a plate of fried chicken.
Karen was excitedly talking. "Mrs. Morgendorffer, it was amazing. Daria was able to track down enough grant and scholarship money, added to what I already have, to keep me afloat through graduation. I'm so happy."
"That's wonderful. Daria has shown a knack for pulling through to help her friends."
"Not only that, she invited me to stay with her and Jane when they get an apartment this summer."
Karen abruptly stopped and squeezed her eyes shut; hoping Helen hadn't picked up on it.
Helen turned to Daria and gave her a penetrating look. "Summer?"
Karen covered her face. "Damn."
Daria sighed. "I'd hoped to tell you under different circumstances. I decided to stay in Boston to attend class over the summer."
"I wondered if you would."
Daria gave her a questioning look.
"I can add up credit hours as well as you can. The only way you could finish on time with the double major was summer classes." Her voice lost its confidence and became quiet. "I was hoping that you would stay home at least one more summer though."
"Mom. I appreciated the effort you made to redecorate the room to suit me. But, Lawndale is your home; it's no longer mine. My home is in Boston. Can you understand?"
"Yes dear. I understand. I was just hoping for a little more time. You grew up far too fast, and I missed too much."
"Daria, I do understand. It's the same choice Jake and I made. We moved into the group house with Coyote and Willow. You'll be moving in with Karen and Jane. It's a separation every mother has to deal with, but is never ready for."
"Mom, I will still be stopping to visit. How else can I mooch almost four days worth of free food?"
Helen smiled. "That's the college spirit."
Daria relaxed. She leaned toward Karen. "Don't worry, it was a minor slip. No real harm done, you just made me stop my procrastinating."
"Are you sure?"
Daria raised her eyebrows.
"You're welcome then. Another quality service I provide."
Daria turned back to Helen. "Mom. On the way down, Dad was telling about how he first asked you out. Would you mind giving me your side of the story again?"
Helen gave Daria a lawyer's stare. "Sure. We both had a horribly boring Political Science class together. It was mid-November. He asked me to lunch and an anti-war rally when we came out of class. He seemed so nervous. At first, I didn't know what to make of him; I hardly knew him, but he seemed sincere. So I took a chance on him."
Helen raised an eyebrow. "Any particular reason you're so interested?"
"It was a nice story, but you know how Dad exaggerates a little. I wanted a second viewpoint. What do you know, you both agree." Daria smiled.
"Hmm. We do agree at times, don't we?" Helen continued to give Daria a look.
Daria and Karen waved to Helen as she drove away. They carried their suitcases into Fenderson Hall and into the elevator. After the long drive, they remained quiet as they exited and made their way into room 316. Daria dropped her suitcase near the closet. Karen dropped hers on her bed. Karen turned to Daria.
"Okay, give it up. Why were you asking your mother about how your father first asked her out?"
"I was curious."
"My butt." Karen's eyes lit up. "Somebody asked you out."
Daria slumped into her desk chair. "Michael, someone in my Bio class."
"And you said?"
"No. But I'm starting to reconsider."
Karen's eyes shifted left and right. "He asked you out as you were leaving class."
"So, you can be a romantic. A little history repeating itself."
"I don't know."
Leaving Newton Hall the following Monday morning, Daria tapped Michael on the shoulder.
"Um…Can we talk?"
Michael looked surprised, but nodded at a nearby bench. The two walked over and sat.
"I…had some things on my mind last week. I'm sorry. Can I reconsider my answer?"
He looked lost.
Daria took a deep breath. "Do you still want to go out with me?"
His eyes popped open in surprise. "Y…yes."
"Then I agree."
Thanks to Steven Galloway for his Morgendorffer house plans posted at Glitter Berries.
Thanks to PPMB residents Lawndale Stalker, Steven Galloway, Isa Yo-Jo, Ranger Thorne, Kristen Bealer, Mike Nassour, and renfield1969 for comments, suggestions and general nit-picking :)
Thanks to Kristen Bealer and Robert Nowell for beta reading.
Revised February 2005