(Scene Five: The Morgendorffer residence, the next day, in the morning. Jane, wearing her book bag, walks up to the front stoop, and rings the doorbell. After a moment, Daria, wearing her own book bag, opens the door)
JANE: (Smirks:) Yo!
DARIA: (Returns a brief smirk:) Hey. So, you're here at my house first yet again. I seem to recall that it used to be the other way around.
JANE: (Small, sheepish shrug:) Well, I can't seem to get out of my new little rut of rising really early to jog. Maybe it's because it's still kinda warm out, and I just wanted to get my jogs out of the way for the day before school. I’m sure that it’ll change back soon, and I can get back to my afternoon, post school romps.
DARIA: (Mock ponders:) Orrr, maybe it's because my brother's influenced you on all those early morning jogs you two took over this summer, and you've decided to stick to your little schedule.
JANE: (Wry look:) Go ahead and ruin my take, why don't you?
DARIA: I already have.
JANE: (Snaps fingers:) Curses! Hoisted by my own petard! (Daria shows her a brief, Mona Lisa smile. Jane swings her fist, mock-enthused, grins:) Anyhoo, ready for yet another rip-roaring day at Lawndale Penitentiary?
DARIA: Of course not, but I suppose we have no choice. Lead the way--(before Daria can step through the doorway, an excited Quinn, holding her pink book bag, jostles by her from within, almost running into Jane as well) Whoa! Hey, where's the fire, “Red”?
JANE: (Turns, looks after her:) Yeah! I want to take some pictures, dammit!
QUINN: (Stops, turns back to them both, slight smile:) Oops! Sorry, Daria! 'Morning, Jane! (Plows on before Jane can respond:) I'm on my way over to Sandi's so we can get to school a little early with the rest of the Fashion Club! (Gives a smug look:) We volunteered to do the interior decorations, since we are fashion experts, you know, and that goes for dressing walls, too! Ms. Li wants our final opinion on the colors of the flower arrangements and the welcome banner for when Darren visits tomorrow!
DARIA: (In a mock serious deadpan tone:) You mean, there were other previous opinions on the critical choices of the flowers with the banner, and you didn’t let us know about this? We feel so insulted. (Jane nods fiercely in “agreement”) We could’ve helped you pick out the school colors, right, Jane?
JANE: (Same mock serious tone, waves her off with a limp wrist:) Oh my, yes. I could’ve told you that sunflower yellow and midnight blue would’ve been the perfect school colors to use during the daylight hours, as opposed to banana yellow and navy blue.
QUINN: But we’re not using banana yellow with navy blue, we’re using lem--(realizes, narrows eyes, suspicious tone:) hey! Are you two like, playing with me? Because if you are—
Daria and Jane silently smirked at her.
QUINN: (Rolls eyes,
sighs, exasperated:) It’s not funny, you know! Look, Ms. Li is really taking this seriously, like the Fashion Club
is! We wanna make the best impression on Darren when he sees our school!
DARIA: Somehow, I don’t think our brother will take the time to stop and smell the roses, pansies, or any other flowers in our school, Quinn. He’s only coming to talk to Ms. Li about his donation, you know that.
JANE: Besides, I don’t think Darren wanted it to be turned into some sorta state visit. (Grins, amused tone:) There’s no need to go overboard and get Brittany or the rest of the cheerleaders to give that special welcome cheer to Darren.
QUINN: (Cocks eyebrow:) Hey, how’d you know about that? Did Brittany mention it? We were gonna spring it on Darren when he walked through the doors tomorrow afternoon! (Jane gives her a surprised look with Daria. Quinn then grins:) Hah! Gotcha! Bye--ee! (Quickly leaves)
Daria and Jane could only stare after Quinn in stunned amazement as she literally bounced down the street, giggling.
DARIA: (As she shuts the door behind her, joins Jane on the stoop:) Well, whattaya know. My sister, the comedienne. Next thing you know, she’ll want her own improv stage in the middle of our living room.
JANE: (Snickers as they start walking:) Still, ya gotta admit that Quinn caught us a little off guard, there. (Pauses:) Is it just me, or has she developed a lighter sense of humor lately?
DARIA: Normally, I’d say it’s just you and your warped sense of humor, but yeah, she’s been more of a playful soul recently. I’d say that it’s a combination of Darren‘s impending visit, along with, well, you know—
JANE: (Takes it up, nods:) –Uh, her getting over that “David” guy you told me about?
DARIA: (Sighs:) You got it. (Pauses:) I think she’s finally putting him behind her, once and for all.
JANE: (Senses something’s not quite right, cocks eyebrow:) Buttt--?
DARIA: But, I heard her speaking to Sandi over the phone this morning about possibly seeing David “One more time” at Lawndale State University. I thought about confronting her over it, but I decided not to. (Shrugs:) Maybe Quinn wants to see if she still has any feelings left for him. (Sighs, shakes head:) I think I’ll just stay out of this from now on, and not play Dr. Phil anymore…
JANE: --Unlessss she comes to you again to talk about him, (looks up for a moment:) or even perhaps to Darren while he’s here--? (Smirks:) No need for you to feel left out of their cute, little sibling talks, you know.
DARIA: (Rolls eyes disdainfully:) Funny. Even though I’ll admit that Quinn’s into her schoolwork more these days, she’d probably bore Darren to death with her take on fashions instead. Look, I’ll reserve my opinions until asked, if that’s what you’re inferring. In the case of Darren, I’m sure he’d probably jump right in on the subject of David if Quinn asked him what he thought.
JANE: (Chuckles:) Or, instead of the subject per se, Darren might want to jump in on David himself for hurting his “baby” sister! (Daria stops, frowns briefly at Jane. Jane walks past her for a moment, then stops as well. Jane turns back to her, then returns:) Huh? What?
DARIA: Jane, did Darren happen to add anything more to you about that?
JANE: (Drops eyebrow:) Come again? On what? (Pauses, realizes:) Oh, you're talking about that "David" guy, aren’t you?
DARIA: Well, nothing else but. Darren was the person who called me last night after our talk. At the end of our jabbering, he wanted to know yet again how Quinn was doing after what happened with her former tutor. Though he didn't directly say it, I could tell that Darren sounded a tad peeved again about the situation. I told him that Quinn was still doing okay, but he didn't seem completely convinced.
JANE: He didn't say anything more to me about it when we spoke yesterday. (Pauses, realizes, adds:) Don't tell me Darren inferred to you that he's gonna actually do something nasty to Quinn's former tutor?
DARIA: (Looks off for an instant, then back to Jane:) Um, well--no, of course not, but after I hung up, I couldn't help but to remember what you told me about his reaction to Mr. Reardon's accusations against him for quickly “forgetting” about his deceased fiancée Stephanie, and how Darren was with Rory McKinna in that "Reynaldo's" place. He was royally pissed both times; he even grabbed them both.
Jane mildly frowned for a bit, pondering. Daria continued on after a moment.
DARIA: I’m just—(pauses:) a little worried that he might try to let David know (finger quote:) “directly” on how wrong Quinn was treated from his point of view. Darren was pretty damn lucky both times that he wasn’t arrested for attempted battery, when I think about it. What if the third time’s a charm? (Sighs:) I know he took that Zen Buddhist teaching along with his martial arts to calm himself down, but I’m still wondering a little bit about what might happen if Darren happens to meet him here…
JANE: (Small nod:) Okay, I admit that you do have a point or two, amiga, but what good would it do, other than bringing Darren some unwanted attention, especially from the tabloids, and maybe even a lawsuit after he’s arrested, from that "David" guy, to boot? Besides, it’s not as if Darren’s even seen him, so he doesn’t know what he looks like. I also don’t think Darren would want Quinn angry at him. Plus, he’s promised me that if he happens to meet that “David” guy here by chance, he won’t do anything bad, and that’s good enough for your's truly because Darren knows it would make me become seriously pissed at him, too.
DARIA: (Cocks an eyebrow as they resume walking, smirks:) Got him on a leash, eh?
JANE: (Grins:) Ahhh, something like that, I guess. (Pauses, red-faced, hesitates, looks off for a moment as she quickly adds:) I, uh, wouldn’t want anything to mess up what Darren and I are starting to have, you know? Our relationship’s, uh, getting really serious, (Daria cocks a very raised eyebrow) and this, (sighs, frowns:) along with Krystal liking Trent, is not gonna change that.
DARIA: (Appears as if she wants to say something more, but doesn’t:) Um, sure…
JANE: (Quickly changes the subject:) Mooooving on, unfortunately speaking of Krystal, guess what my brother did last night?
DARIA: (Smirks, mock-hopeful tone:) He came to his senses, and he’s gonna tell her to hit the road?
JANE: (Grins, teasing tone:) Oh, you dreamer, you. And here I thought you’d said that you’d never try to deliberately spread good cheer, unless it’s to make others feel miserable. (Daria releases a low snort) He’s just prepared our place for Krystal’s visit.
DARIA: (Cocks eyebrow:) “Prepared”? (Pauses, adds:) As innn--?
JANE: Cleaning up his room, spotlessly, I might add, (smirks:) along with the rest of Casa Lane. (Daria suddenly stops while Jane continues walking) I was so into painting, (pauses:) er, something last night, I didn’t even not--ice? (Sees once again that her friend isn’t beside her, stops yet again, grins, returns:) This is gettin’old, Morgendorffer…
DARIA: (Speaking through her shock:) So we’ll work out a new routine. (Pauses:) Let me understand this—Trent’s room, and the rest of the house, is “clean”, as in the opposite of “dirty”?
JANE: Last time I checked, that’s what “clean” meant. (Chuckles out loud:) I was shocked beyond belief when I saw his room! But after I recovered, he told me about the rest of the house, too! See, Max and Nick had come over to help him out after Trent had bribed them with some cartons of cigarettes and beer, since, you know, Jesse’s gone to see Fiona, and they had decided to take a few days off from playing because of it. They had cleaned Summer’s, Penny’s, and Wind’s old rooms first, with Trent cleaning his own afterwards. Big Brother showed me a whole load of trash at the curb, and-- (Daria suddenly turns from her, now going in the other direction) hey! Where are you going? (Starts to follow her)
DARIA: (As Jane catches up, and walks beside her:) To witness history in the making at Casa Lane by eyeing those rooms myself. I may never live to see this day again.
JANE: I can’t believe I’m about to say this, and I’ll deny it to the death if you snitch, but what about the penitentiary? Won’t we be late?
DARIA: (Shrugs:) Eh. We’re actually pretty well ahead of schedule, thanks to your dragging your ass out of bed earlier than usual these days. (Jane snorts) It won’t be too long, and I think we can make the first tardy bell. Besides, thanks to Ms. Li’s salivating at my brother’s pending donation, she’s falling all over herself to be nice to us, remember? In the event that we are late, I‘ll just say that I forgot something at home, which I won’t add is actually your's, and I had to get it back. I think she’ll let us off with just a mild warning, and tell us not to let it happen again.
JANE: Hm.Yeah.You’re probably right. Li wants some of Darren’s moolah pretty badly.
DARIA: Exactly. (Pauses, hesitates, worried expression:) Um, I just thought of something, Jane. If Trent’s gone to this much trouble…
JANE: (Grim look, nods:) –Yeah, yeah, I know, Daria. (Deep frown:) He must really like Krystal. (Pauses, very low tone, bitter:) Dammit. (Daria cuts her eyes over, says nothing as the two continue to walk. Jane shrugs:) Of course after what else he told me last night about her, it's not all that much of a surprise.
DARIA: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Come again? About Krystal? You mean there's more, other than the huge clean up?
JANE: (Snorts:) Oh yeah. There's Trent's apparent perception that he (finger quotes:) "already" knew that I didn't like Krystal from the beginning. (Daria's eyebrows rise) Here's what he said...
(Scene Six: The same time, in front of Sandi's)
Quinn, still on her little high from needling Daria and Jane, bounced up to the rest of the Fashion Club, who were waiting for her. Sandi crossed her arms and showed an amused look, while Tiffany exhibited her usual vacant expression. Stacy smiled, but appeared uncomfortable.
SANDI: (Cocked eyebrow:) Well, now. You certainly appear to be in a good mood, Quinn, despite your rather, (pauses:) unfashionable expression of mirth.
TIFFANY: Yeah...whatever Sandi...said... (Stacy, with a nervous smile, nods wordlessly in agreement)
QUINN: (Giggles:) I just put one over on Daria and Jane, guys, that's all! I'll tell you about it on the way to school... (begins walking with the others)
STACY: (Swallows hard, interrupts:) Uh, before you tell us, Quinn, could I say something first, (quickly adds to Quinn’s surprised expression:) if that's okay--? I, um, have some really good news. (Grins:) I was going to tell you guys at school, but I'm so excited, I just couldn't wait!
QUINN: (Glances at the others, and vice-versa:) Good news? Oh, yeah, sure, Stacy. What is it?
STACY: (Grins wider:) Um, do you guys remember that contest for the Bliss cosmetic line of beauty products, you know, the sweepstakes where the top five winners would get an interview to be a model for their stuff, even though it wouldn’t guarantee that they all would get it, just one?
SANDI: (Furrowed eyebrow:) Hmmm, yes. I seem to recall us talking about it in passing several months back, just before we met Darren, as a matter of fact. We all decided later not to pursue it after we agreed to go into Circa. (Quinn and Tiffany look at each other and nod) What of it?
STACY: (Pauses, then reaches into her purse, suddenly pulls out a folded, medium-sized slip of paper, wildly giggles:) Well, I wanted to tell you all that I had decided to enter it at the last second, writing why I wanted to be a model, and providing a picture of myself, you know, stuff that they wanted, and guess who’s one of the top five winners? (Gives paper to Quinn, which causes them to all stop. Sandi and Tiffany read it over her shoulders) Me!
QUINN: (Gasps with the others in shock:) S-Stacy--? You entered, and WON? (Looks up, grins:) That's great! (Hugs her lightly)
TIFFANY: (Slowly smiles:) Yeah...that's great…Stacy...(ditto with the hug)
Sandi had taken the paper from Quinn and had read it again, this time more carefully. She narrowed her eyes at the small print on the bottom, suddenly suspicious. She looked up at Stacy, cocking an equally-suspicious eyebrow.
SANDI: Stacccy—this paper also says you’re leaving Lawndale the day after tomorrow to go to Baltimore to speak to the Bliss representatives in one of the interviews.
STACY: (Releases Tiffany, unsure expression:) Uh, yeah, Sandi--? (Swallows hard again:) So--?
SANDI: (Direct look at Stacy:) So, Bliss’s main headquarters is in New York City. (Cocks eyebrow:) Why are you going to Baltimore? I seem to recall that all of the five winners were supposed to go to New York City...
STACY: (Shrugs uneasily:) W-Well, gee, Sandi, I guess they have a branch office in Baltimore. (Weak shrug:) They also probably changed their minds at the last minute for everybody’s interviews, or something, you know, sending them to locations near where they lived--? (Forced grin:) I couldn't care less, I won, right? (Now develops a "curious" look:) Um, what's the problem--? (Quinn and Tiffany also look curiously at Sandi)
SANDI: (Again looking, and now sounding suspicious:) Well, it would seem to me that they'd fly all of you up to New York City to their corporate office, since you all were the grand prize winners. It also seems, like, a step down that they'd want you to come to Baltimore, especially since you can practically almost walk to there from here. (Glances down at paper yet again:) This doesn't make any sense, the more I think about it...
STACY: (Swallows hard yet again:) What are you saying, Sandi--? That I'm-- (panics, begins to hyperventilate:) lying for some reason?
QUINN: (Mild gasp of shock with Tiffany:) Stacy!
SANDI: (Caught off-guard at this, actually surprised:) I most certainly am not saying that you're lying, Stacy! There would be no reason for you to do that! I’m happy for you—(pauses, looks pained for some reason, seemingly forces herself to reply:) really!
Quinn stared at Sandi in mild surprise while Tiffany maintained her vacant expression. Even though to her Sandi obviously had undergone a change over the summer because of recent events, becoming nicer and even more open emotionally, she still had half-expected Sandi to say something at least mildly nasty.
Quinn immediately kicked herself mentally. Dork! That shouldn’t have surprised you, you know, not now, anyway! Sandi’s just really concerned that something’s not right, here. It does seem kinda strange that Bliss changed where the grand prize interviews would be...
STACY: (Shows an uneasy look, calms down a little, but still hyperventilating:) You--you really are happy for me, Sandi? Then why--
SANDI: (Regains initiative, frowns, sounding like her old, nasty self, interrupts:) --If you must know, it just seems to me that there's something that feels wrong with all of this! (Narrows eyes, looks off:) I can't, like, totally explain how or why, but--
Stacy stopped hyperventilating for an instant, and then stared pointedly at Sandi, narrowing her eyes. To Quinn, Stacy seemed different, somehow, as if she had suddenly found a sense of bravery, similar to that night at the lake on Darren's estate when she, Tiffany, and Tina had discovered her with Rory. Now, even the usually-vacant Tiffany had a touch of worry on her face.
STACY: (Cuts Sandi off:) --What could possibly be wrong with it, Sandi? (Pauses:) I entered the contest, and I won! I told you that!
SANDI: (Hesitates:) Perhaps, but—
begins to hyperventilate again:) –But what, Sandi? (Raises voice, becomes
wide-eyed:) WHAT?! (The others stare at Stacy, now wide-eyed themselves in
shock:) You don’t believe me! Why won’t you believe me?! All I did was enter the
contest, and I won! Why can’t you just be happy for me like Quinn and Tiffany
QUINN: (Alarmed look with Tiffany:) Stacy, calm down—
STACY: (Shakes head quickly, now glares at Sandi:) No, I won’t calm down, Quinn! I’m not gonna back off like I used to do, not anymore! Don’t you see? Sandi’s just jealous that I won!
SANDI: (Now really enraged, snarls through clenched teeth:) WHAT?!
STACY: (Still hyperventilates, but gamely continues, keeping her glare:) Y-You heard me! You’re jealous because I entered, and won, while you didn’t! Admit it!
SANDI: (Walks up to her face, still in her snarl. Stacy stands her ground, though inside, she’s quivering like Jell-o:) Listen, Staaacy---like, I couldn’t now care less if you won that stupid contest, okay?! If you wanna go to Baltimore, then that’s your business!
STACY: T-That’s right, it is my business, Sandi! My parents told me that I could go by myself, since it’s just for a day, that I’m old enough, that they trust me, since it’s nowhere from here, and that’s what I intend to do!
SANDI: Fine! Then go on!
STACY: I will! (Turns to leave, then stops, turns back to them, hesitates, adds in a meek, but defiant manner:) I--I know you don't completely believe me, Sandi, no matter what you said! To prove to you that I'm telling the truth, why don't you call the phone number and check the website on the paper? You can keep it; it’s just a copy, anyway! Maybe that will convince you! (Frowns:) Oh, and if you want to punish me for "defying" you, then do it, I don't care! (Storms off to the stunned looks of the other Fashion Clubbers, save for Sandi, who looks red-faced and enraged, shaking)
QUINN: Stacy! Wait! (Stacy ignores her, continues on. Quinn appears to want to go after her, but stops)
As she walked away, Stacy couldn't help but to develop a smile, though she was trembling, a bundle of excitement and nervousness inside.
I--I actually did it! All I had to do was to get up enough nerve to pretend to stand up to Sandi, and get her to "approve" of me going without her even knowing it! I even fooled Quinn and Tiff--well, Tiffany doesn't really count. Anyway, I can now go to Baltimore, and be with Rory without them suspecting anything! Even if they check out the number and the website, which Rory's said that he's taken care of, they'll hear and see what he wants them to hear and see!
Stacy then slowly showed an uncharacteristic-looking smirk.
Oh, Sandi, you're so naive. You deserved to have me chew you out! I was so sick and tired of the way you had bullied me around in the Fashion Club! I should've done this a long time ago, for real--
Almost immediately, Stacy formed a pained expression of disbelief and guilt, slowing down her pace to a very slow walk, now slumping. She was now of out sight of the other Fashion Clubbers.
OhmyGodohmyGod! What am I thinking? After seeing what she went through this summer with almost getting killed that night, and of finding out Mrs. Griffin's not her birth mother, Sandi--had changed somehow, even going to a psychologist to help her through both! Sandi wasn't as mean to us--to me, anymore. I shouldn't have enjoyed pretending so much, even if—if…I liked it…
Now out of sight of the others, Stacy stopped, and glanced back.
I'll--apologize to Sandi and the others--if they—she’ll accept it. I—I can't go right back now, not after the way I pretended to…
Slumping once again, Stacy sighed, and quietly walked to school.
After watching Stacy storm out of sight down the street, Quinn cut her eyes over to Sandi.
QUINN: (Carefully choosing her words:) Um, Sandi, I don't think Stacy meant that the way it came out, you know--?
TIFFANY: (For once understanding the art of eggshell walking:) Yeah...I don't think...she was herself... (narrows eyes:) liiiike that time...on the lake...at Darren's...remember...Quinn...? (Quinn cocks a surprised eyebrow at Tiffany's noticing, as well as her remembering. Sandi, though furious, takes note as well. She had been told by Quinn about Stacy’s behavior that night, sans Tiffany)
SANDI: (Calming down, but still obviously P.O.'d, fists clenched at her sides:) Oh, she meant it, all right, there's no doubt about that! (Spits out bitterly:) Let's see what the little bitch thinks about being kicked out of the Fashion Club! (Quinn and Tiffany stare at her, wide-eyed) And that's just for starters! When I get through with her, she'll be so unpopular, she'll have to--to--(slowly shuts eyes, appears torn, slumps, sighs:) no...I...that's not right, not anymore, at least... (puts her hand on her forehead, seems to briefly wobble, starts taking slow breaths. Quinn and Tiffany immediately rush to each side of her)
QUINN: (Worried look with Tiffany, puts hand on Sandi's right shoulder briefly:) Sandi! Are you alright?
SANDI: (Recovers, slight smile:) I'm--fine, Quinn, Tiffany. (Pauses:) Really. (Looks off, small frown:) My--shrink last week said I should try to calm myself down by breathing slowly if I ever get really angry, and stuff. (Frowns, as if she seems to struggle to speak:) I’m—(pauses:) sorry for blowing my stack like that.
QUINN: (Smiles after a moment:) It’s okay, Sandi. (Pauses, now develops a small frown of her own:) Look, Stacy still had no right to go off at you like that, especially, well, after this summer, you know--(the others give her a quiet look. Quinn quickly goes on:) anyway, we're gonna hunt her down at school and get her to apologize to you. (Thought v.o.: Which is really weird. Just last year, it would've sorta been the other way around--or we would've at least tried to shame Sandi into doing it...)
TIFFANY: (Now even she has a tiny frown:) Yeah...that was...sooo...wrong of Stacy…
SANDI: (Hard sigh, appears as if she wants to agree, then relents:) Perhaps, but--well, (very low tone, looks off:) Stacy was sort of...right. I was kind of--jealous.
QUINN & TIFFANY: (Raised eyebrows:) Huh? You…were? (The two stare at each other, shocked at their precisely agreeing)
SANDI: (Very brief glare at them, looks off:) You heard me, okay?! (Throws arms out:) I admit it! I was—(pauses, small scowl of frustration:) sorta jealous that Stacy got that interview! (Quickly adds:) Not as jealous as I might've used to have been, mind you, but I was jealous. It's just seems like something's not totally right about this, you know, and it’s more than just me being jealous!
QUINN: You mean, the way Stacy really went off at you, (glances over at Tiffany, uncertain look:) like, um, what we told you how she was acting over Rory that night near the lake, the same for the sudden location change of the interview from New York City to Baltimore? (Tiffany gives her a brief, odd look)
SANDI: (Also glances at Tiffany, gets Quinn’s inference:) Er, precisely, Quinn. (Looks down at paper again, drops eyebrow:) I wonder... (reads for an instant:) you know, like, is it me, or did Bliss' business phone number change? (Quinn looks over her shoulder with Tiffany) I seem to recall that the issue of Waif with that cover model Manha Manha a few months ago had a different front page telephone number on that contest...
QUINN: (Narrows eyes as she reads:) Hmm...hey, you're right, Sandi, though the area code’s still the same. The company’s e-mail address on the cover has changed, too. I wonder why they changed both? (Pauses:) Now, I'm kinda wondering if anything’s going on myself…
SANDI: (Shrugs:) I dunno. (Pauses:) Maybe we can at least check out the new e-mail and phone number later? Stacy said she didn’t care, right?
QUINN: (Nods:) Good idea. (Looks at her wristwatch:) We'd better get on so we can meet Ms. Li. (Begins walking with the others:) With any luck, Stacy will be waiting there with her, wanting to apologize to you, Sandi… (suddenly gasps:) Oh! I almost forgot to tell you guys about something!
SANDI: (Amused, cocked eyebrow:) You mean, about what you put over your sister and Jane, Quinn?
QUINN: (Shows a bit of a confused expression:) Huh? (Realizes, narrows eyes:) Oh, yeah, there's that, but I just remembered something else, too. I think it's more important for me to talk about this, first.
TIFFANY: What is it...Quinn...?
QUINN: (Suddenly uncomfortable look:) Well, I happened to look something up last night on my laptop after I thought Daria was playing around with me, and, um, well, it turns out that she wasn't, at least not completely. (Sandi and Tiffany give each other odd looks. Quinn shows a disgusted expression:) Have you guys ever heard of something called, ew, "dust mites"...?
(Scene Seven: The law firm of Vitale, Davis, Horowitz, Riordan, Schrecter, Schrecter & [Gasp! Yes!] Morgendorffer, Helen’s office, the same time)
Helen sat stiffly at her familiar desk, staring down at the very thin, but neatly stacked set of papers on it. After a moment, she mildly scowled, then stared forward and quietly sighed as she leaned over forward, placed her chin in her left hand, and her left elbow on her desk, looking bored.
In the foreground, facing directly away from Helen, Marianne, actually looking relaxed for a change, crisply typed at her work desk PC while looking down to her right side at her thicker stack of papers. In the far left background, to the side of Helen, another woman, a younger-looking, glasses-wearing, shoulder-length redhead, who appeared as if she had just graduated from secretarial school (which she had), was also typing at her work desk PC. She was a new secretary that the now-equal partner Helen had recently hired to work primarily for Marianne, although the newbie actually worked for Helen.
Unlike Marianne's professional keystrokes, however, this woman appeared to be struggling somewhat, typing slower. The woman paused, frowned briefly, tapped the backspace key, and then continued to type at her slower rate. She was looking at her own stack of papers down at her left side, which was thicker than Helen’s or Marianne’s.
Helen wordlessly glanced over at the redhead for a moment. She resumed her bored expression, looking forward.
Well, you wanted to come in early, even though you didn't have to, didn't you, Helen? The only problem is there's little work for you to do. Hell, you've already finished these two depositions, and it only took 30 minutes! Ever since you've become a full partner here, it’s been just like this every day. Oh, sure, you've sat at the conference table with the big boys as an equal. You helped to give out all sorts of caseloads to the other lawyers, their interns, and secretaries--something you used to be on the receiving end of, and of course going to the courthouse for the firm's cases.
Speaking of the courthouse, just a few days ago, you won a financial settlement there for a family concerning a faulty unicycle from a bike maker, a cool $1,000,000--before we got our standard 30% fee, of course. Eric and the other partners were delighted, patting you on the back, and praising you in front of all of those reporters.
Helen gave another sigh, this time a bit louder. Marianne overheard, cut her eyes to the side without turning around for an instant, but continued to type. The other woman continued typing as well, apparently not noticing.
The trouble is, you didn't do most of the arguing for the plaintiff. Since you're an equal partner now, which meant all that you did was to observe and be the head advisor for one of the firm's newly-arrived lawyers. They did the real work, what you used to do, too. Yet, you received the full credit, whereas the newbie was cast aside as someone who simply did what you told him, and nothing more. You remembered how he dutifully packed up his briefcase after the verdict, and left, begging off the victory celebration at Milligan's because he wanted to spend some private time with his new wife. You thought that was so sweet. Later that night, you had somehow convinced Eric and the other partners at the restaurant to give him a few days off with pay as a reward. That way, he could spend more time with her, what you now have yourself after all of these years with your husband and family.
Helen closed her eyes slowly.
Time, Helen. What to do, what to do...
Helen then sat back in her chair, sighing even louder. Once again, Marianne noticed. This time she stopped, and spun around in her computer chair with a concerned expression.
MARIANNE: Helen, is everything all right? (The other woman now stops, notices Marianne’s expression, turns to look at Helen as well)
HELEN: (Shaken out of
her thoughts, sits up:) Hm? What is it Marianne? What did you
MARIANNE: I overheard you sighing, um, rather loudly, and I thought something was wrong.
HELEN: I did? Oh, um, sorry. It’s--nothing. (Quickly adds in her falsetto voice to Marianne’s doubtful look, smiles:) I, ah, think it’s just that I rushed out of the house this morning, and I didn’t have time to get any breakfast. I suppose I’m feeling a little famished.
MARIANNE: Did you want to get something from the break room's vending machine? Maybe a microwavable breakfast sandwich would hit the spot--?
HELEN: (Slight smile:) Mmm, yes. Yes, Marianne, as a matter of fact, I do think I’d like a breakfast sandwich. (Reaches into her purse behind her desk:) Let me get some money…
MARIANNE: (Returns the smile:) Okay, Helen. (Spins in her computer chair towards the redhead, more of a commanding tone:) Cindy, get Helen that breakfast sandwich, pronto. (Cindy immediately nods, stands, goes over to Helen) Make sure it’s piping hot, and without the wrap. Put it on a napkin, and the napkin on a paper plate. Get the plates from the cabinet above the counter.
CINDY: (Sounding like an older version of Stacy, eager look, nods:) Sure, Marianne!
MARIANNE: Helen, did you want a soda or anything else with that?
HELEN: Oh, no, I’ll just drink the coffee in here with it. (Smiles:) Thank you, Cindy. (Gives money to her)
CINDY: (Small smile in return:) You're welcome, Helen. Marianne, did you want anything?
MARIANNE: (Still in her commanding tone, narrows eyes:) Hm--yes. Get me a breakfast burrito, along with a can of iced tea. A donut just doesn't do the job when you’re rushing from the house as well. Hang on a second... (pulls out her top drawer, takes out some bills, gives them to Cindy:) don't dawdle, now. We've got to get those papers done by today. (Helen forms a bemused expression)
CINDY: (Perky expression, tone:) I won't, Marianne! Be back in a few! (Quickly leaves)
Helen watched Cindy leave, and then turned back to Marianne.
HELEN: (Retains her bemused expression:) Well, you've certainly taken to having a secretary of your own, haven't you, ordering her around like that--? (Pauses, falsetto voice:) Don’t you think you were a bit rough on her, Marianne? (Pauses, realizes, small frown:) Now when I think about it further, you’ve sounded pretty rough on her ever since she first started working here...
MARIANNE: (Mildly embarrassed expression:) I was, er, “rough” on Cindy? (Small, uneasy chuckle:) Um, well, maybe I was a little, Helen. I didn’t mean to be like that toward her. (Pauses, looks away, then back at Helen:) I, er, suppose I had gotten carried away, a little. (Pauses:) It just made me feel so, I don’t know, good to order someone around like that, (adds, under her breath, cuts eyes over to Helen briefly:) for a change…
Helen stared at Marianne for an instant, and then Helen’s eyes lit up in slow realization. Marianne quickly picked up on Helen’s look, and immediately spoke in an alarmed tone, as if she knew exactly what Helen was thinking.
MARIANNE: Uh, Helen, look, it’s not that--!
HELEN: (Droll, even look:) Isn’t it, Marianne? (Pointed tone:) I think you’re sort of taking out on Cindy what I had done to you these past few years, aren’t you?
MARIANNE: (Completely at a loss of words, for Helen’s hit the bull’s-eye:) Helen—I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—(looks down, grows silent)
HELEN: (Weary smile, gentle tone:) Marianne, look at me. (After a moment, Marianne does) As much as it pains me to say this, you’re right. (Marianne shows a stunned expression) Oh, don’t look so surprised. Now that I’ve become a partner around here, I’ve had—(pauses:) more time to see things as they really are on my job, since I’ve had less work to do. (Pauses, narrows eyes:) I was a rather demanding bitch to you at times, wasn’t I, Marianne? All you did was work your ass off for me, and all I did was to grind your face into my millstone even harder. (Quickly adds, mild frown to Marianne’s opening mouth:) Don’t you dare deny it, I mean it. Since I have equal clout now with Eric and the others, you don’t have to worry about losing your job. Be completely honest with me.
MARIANNE: (After a moment, carefully considers her words despite Helen’s assurance, sighs:) Well, you did ride me pretty hard more often than not, Helen. I admit it was rather stressful. (Helen says nothing, but shows a mildly grim expression, which Marianne picks up on, gentle tone:) But I know you only wanted to be the best lawyer you could be, (reluctantly adds in a lower tone, looks around:) especially since you were a female, (Helen shows a reflective look) having to work twice as hard for the all-male bosses here to prove to them that you were worth it, and it’s paid off with your partnership, plus, I have my own secretary to boot, which means I’m doing less work than ever, like you. (Thought v.o.: Thank God.)
HELEN: (Slumps back in her chair, sighs:) And that’s just the point, Marianne. I’m—we’re doing less work. (Marianne gives her a confused look) I guess I'm just bored because I have far less to do these days. Ever since I first arrived here, I've coveted getting a partnership in the firm, and now that I have it, (looks off briefly, voice trails off:) it doesn't seem like all it's cracked up to be…
MARIANNE: (Thought v.o.: Oh, no, please don't let her go in that direction...:) Um, don't tell me that you want to give up being an equal partner, Helen--?
HELEN: (Very raised eyebrows:) What? (Chuckles:) Oh God, no, of course not! Not after all that I've gone through to get this! (Pauses, sighs:) It's, well, it's that I'm used to doing more work, that’s all.
MARIANNE: (After a moment:) Well, if you’ve felt this strongly, why haven’t you spoken to Eric or the other partners about it?
HELEN: (Narrows eyes:) I've hinted at it, but Eric and the others either seem to always say that things are going "slow" at the moment, and that they'll pick up soon, or that as a partner, I simply don't have to do as much work anymore, (mumbles, brief scowl:) which would help to explain why I worked my ass off so hard before, while they took up most of the afternoons with each other, playing golf... (Marianne covers her mouth and chuckles very quietly. Helen's eyes light up, embarrassed:) Oh! Marianne! You did not hear that!
MARIANNE: (Quickly recovers:) Don't worry, Helen, I won't say anything. (Becomes serious:) Is not doing as much these days really that bad? You, well, have more time for your family, now. (Thought v.o.: Like I do…)
HELEN: (Nods:) Yes, that's true, but while I've had more time with my husband, it's been a bit more of a challenge to spend some quality time with my daughters. (Shakes head slowly, small chuckle:) Why, just last night, I was so desperate to be around Daria and Quinn, my husband and I listened in on their--(catches herself, glances at a bemused Marianne:) er, well--ahem--anyway, I hope that when Darren comes in tomorrow, we'll be able to have that time together as a family.
MARIANNE: (Smiles:) I'm sure you all will, Helen.
At that moment, Eric walked in, smiling. Marianne immediately spun back around, and resuming her typing.
ERIC: (Goes over, pats Helen on the shoulder:) There's my go-getter, and she's here really early! How's everything, (emphasizes:) partner?
HELEN: (Sighs. Marianne cuts her eyes to the side for an instant while typing:) Truth be told, Eric--? (Throws arms in the air, leans back in her chair:) It's boring! I don't have anything to do! I've just finished the Hardesty and Moore depositions in what seems to be record time, (mutters:) given that there wasn't that much to them, anyway--
ERIC: (Chuckles:) Ah! Feeling "needy" again, eh, Helen? Well, we'll both be with the other partners in a meeting in an hour or two--
HELEN: (Rolls eyes, interrupts with a long sigh:) --And afterwards, you and the others will play some golf at the Sedimentary Rock Country Club and Links as usual, I take it--?
ERIC: (Pauses, taken aback:) Why, yes, as a matter of fact, we will, Helen. We’ll be meeting a few more potential clients there. You’re, (pauses:) er, welcome to come, if you wish…
HELEN: (Shakes head:) No, that’s okay, Eric. (Eric subtly forms a relieved expression, which Helen doesn’t notice) Generally, with very few exceptions, any golf I play is with my husband, and that’s only when he asks me to join him. Besides, I really don’t feel like playing, anyway.
ERIC: (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow, now concerned:) Is...there anything wrong, Helen--?
HELEN: (Long stare, then shakes her head slowly:) No, Eric, there's--nothing wrong. (Marianne appears surprised that Helen would hold back, but continues to type. Helen sighs:) I guess I could take the extra time to go home early, and get ready for my son's visit tomorrow, since there’s nothing to do here...
ERIC: (Brightens:) Why, that's a wonderful idea, Helen! (Suddenly develops another concerned expression, narrows eyes:) Sooo, Darren's definitely coming, eh?
HELEN: (Drops an eyebrow when she now notices Eric's demeanor:) Yesss, he is, unless something suddenly comes up out of the blue. (Eric appears alarmed, which Helen also notices:) But he and I don't anticipate anything. (Eric now forms a relieved expression. Helen speaks in a monotone voice:) So, we'll meet at the usual time in the conference room?
ERIC: (Smiles:) Yes, 10:00 a.m. (Pauses, adds to Helen's now-bored expression:) Look, I think we'll have, uh, a few new caseloads to discuss, Helen. (Hesitates, shrugs:) I'm, er, pretty sure of it. I'll try to insure that some of them will be your babies exclusively to handle however you wish. (Pauses to Helen's suddenly-hopeful look:) However, we'll--ahem--probably really get into them after your son leaves, (Helen cocks an eyebrow. Eric quickly adds:) since, well, you'll want to take up your off-time with him, right?
At that moment, Cindy quietly came in with Helen and Marianne's trays of food and drink, forcing Helen to pause. Cindy sat them on a nearby table beside the office's coffee maker, and returned to her desk. She then promptly resumed her typing. In her mind, though, she sensed she had returned at an awkward time, for she constantly found herself cutting her eyes to the side, listening in, which in turn slowed her typing even more. After a moment, Helen continued.
HELEN: (Falsetto voice, smile:) Now, Eric, I'm sure that I can continue to work at least a little while Darren's here--
ERIC: (Waves her off, chuckles as he backs toward the doorway:) Nonsense, Helen! After all, Darren's come here to see you and your family, and his girlfriend Joan, right? In fact, just consider taking the days off you need right after our meeting! (Pauses, stops at the doorway, adds to Helen's surprised look:) Er, you will come by with Darren to say hello while you’re off, right?
HELEN: (Pauses:) Of course, Eric, but really, you don’t--
ERIC: (Turns, laughs:) --Atta girl! See you at 10:00! (Quickly leaves)
Helen glared after him for a moment, then sighed and rose from her seat with her empty coffee mug, going over to the table to retrieve her food. Marianne stopped typing, getting up to join her.
Helen wordlessly bit into her sandwich, chewing in a mechanical manner as she stared outside through the office’s window. After taking a quick bite from her burrito and swallowing, Marianne glanced at Cindy, and then turned to Helen, speaking in a whisper.
MARIANNE: Helen, why didn't you air out your complaints for more work to Eric? It was the perfect opportunity. (Bites into her burrito)
HELEN: (Swallows after another bite, returns the whisper:) It wouldn’t have made any difference, Marianne. You saw how evasive he was. (Fills her coffee mug, drinks a swig, then swallows:) Besides, he's said that there's going to be more work coming down the pike.
MARIANNE: (Mild eyeroll:) Don't tell me that you really believe that? Hasn’t he promised you that a few times before? (Helen remains silent, bites into her sandwich. Marianne hesitates:) I’m sorry, Helen, but if you ask me, Eric sounded as if he were making that up yet again, like he’s done several times previously! I don’t think that even he knows it himself for sure! (Bites into her burrito, speaks while chewing:) And what about those questions that he asked about Darren, making sure that he'd be with you when you said "hello" on your off days, as if you had to come in? (Pauses:) Why, if I didn't know any better, I'd think--
HELEN: (Interrupts, annoyed:) --Yes, yes, I know what you're going to say, Marianne, (pauses, scowls:) that all Eric, and yes, the other partners care about is meeting Darren and his billions again! Dammit, don't you think that I don't know that?! (Marianne is taken aback) I know the only reason why I had gotten the partnership was because of Darr--(Cindy now overhears, stops for a moment, looks over at the two, concerned. Helen covers, grins, in her falsetto voice:) Oh, ah, it’s nothing, sweetie! We're just disputing about the, er, Wendell case! Keep typing, hmmm--? (Cindy gives her an odd look for a moment with Marianne, then she resumes her typing)
Helen sighed, and then slumped a little. She glanced out of the office’s window again.
HELEN: (Resuming her whisper:) I’m--sorry for snapping at you like that, Marianne.
MARIANNE: (After a moment, ditto with the whisper, smiles:) It’s alright, Helen. I shouldn’t have inferred what I thought Eric had done concerning your son. I was way out of line. Sorry. (Quickly bites into her burrito again)
HELEN: (Pauses, nods as she continues to look through the window, far off tone:) No. No, you were right to hint at that, the same for me pointing it out literally. My being Darren’s birth mother helped me to acquire the partnership, there's no doubt about that... (bites into her sandwich)
MARIANNE: (Pauses, then adds:) Okay, even if that's true, Helen, (hesitates:) and it probably is, you still got it, albeit in a roundabout way, but you got it, and you deserved it. Eric and the others probably wanted to do business with Darren through you, but that doesn't take away the fact that you're a very good lawyer. Nobody around here earned their way to the partnership more than you.
HELEN: (Turns to Marianne, small smile:) Why, thank you, Marianne. I really appreciate your words.
MARIANNE: (Smiles:) And I meant them, Helen. (Pauses, more serious expression:) What will you do now?
HELEN: (Sighs:) I--don't know, Marianne. Maybe I'll just follow Eric’s idea, take the rest of the day off after the meeting, and go home to get my head together, not to mention getting ready to meet my son. Excuse me; I'm going to freshen up for the meeting. Be sure to have your notes ready for the Hardesty and Moore deposition presentations. (Heads towards the office's restroom, tosses the tiny remnant of her sandwich into a nearby waste basket, goes in)
Marianne stared after Helen, shaking her head slowly. She then finished her burrito, chewing wordlessly, deep in thought. After a moment, Cindy stopped her typing, spun around, and stared meekly at Marianne.
CINDY: Um, Marianne--?
MARIANNE: (Shaken out her thoughts:) Hm--? Oh, what is it, Cindy?
CINDY: Is—(pauses:) everything okay with Helen? I couldn't help but to wonder--
MARIANNE: (Drops an admonishing eyebrow, slips into her commanding tone, sharply interrupts:) --Helen's fine, Cindy. (Cindy flinches) You and I need to finish these papers before the end of the day. (Goes over to her desk, sits down, begins to type)
CINDY: (Taken aback:) I-I'm sorry for asking, Marianne. I just wanted to know if anything was wrong... (slowly spins back, begins to type again)
Marianne sighed, and then stopped typing. She spun around.
MARIANNE: (Softer tone:) Cindy--?
CINDY: (Stops typing, turns back:) Yes, Marianne?
MARIANNE: Look, I'm sorry for talking to you like that, okay? It's just not a good time for Helen right now, all right? She needs to have some quiet time to herself, and I think she'll be leaving early today to get that after the daily meeting.
CINDY: (Pauses:) Okay, Marianne, I understand--(turns around, begins typing again)
MARIANNE: (Pauses:) There’s something else I’d like to add, Cindy. (Cindy stops her typing, turns around again) I also wanted to apologize for the way I've been treating you ever since you first came here... (Cindy shows a surprised expression)
(Scene Eight: Jake's office, the same time. Like Helen, he's arrived at his job early, and is on the phone. Just outside his office's opened door, there is a gray-haired, heavy-set woman in her late fifties, dressed in a white blouse and jeans typing at her desk)
JAKE: (Nods:) Sure, Mr. Hennigan, I can look at the top hat-dancing penguins idea, but I can't promise you anything. (Pauses:) A meeting tomorrow? Well, I'm afraid not. My son's coming to town, and I plan to be off for the days that he's visiting. (Pauses, sighs, weary answer:) Yes, that Darren Appleton, the one you’ve seen on TV. (Pauses:) No, I'm sorry, but my son's basically here to relax, and he doesn't really to want to talk too much about any potential business projects while he's here, like those penguins. (Pauses:) No, that's okay, no offense taken. Look, how about you and me meeting here early next week, sayyy, Tuesday at 9 a.m.? (Pauses, grins:) You can? Great! See you then!
Jake hung up the phone wearily, and leaned back in his chair.
Whew! This is already the eighth call I've had this morning, all in the last 45 minutes! Boy, business has been comin’ down the pike lately, hasn’t it? Heck, I’ve had to come in even earlier recently just to keep up! I don't think I've ever worked this hard before, not even for that tyrant bastard on my old job, just before I became a consultant on my own while we stayed in Highland! When in the hell did all of this happen?
Jake stared forward in space for a moment in realization.
Oh, yeah, when my son came into my—our family’s lives.
Jake sighed, suddenly leaning forward, and then put both of his elbows on the desk. He stared forward in space again while he held his chin in his hands, and then frowned briefly.
Then again, the only reason so many darn offers are coming my way now is because of my son and his zillions of bucks. Those jerks wouldn't have even noticed me if it weren't for Darren! Well, at least I showed them all by giving out some damn good ideas, which they all took! I was a good consultant even before we found my son, and I'm one hell of a businessman outside of that, to boot! Hah! Take that, Old Man!
Jake then sat back again, this time looking weary.
Still, it's been so much work. At least I've made myself get off at five, most of the time, no matter how much stuff I had left on my desk. Andrew and the others have tried to get me to work more hours, which kinda bugs me since they don't seem to wanna see me during my off-hours, though Andrew will occasionally join me for a drink, and that’s really rare in itself.
Why is that, I wonder? Am I that bad to have as a friend, for crying out loud?! It's a good thing I'll be playin' some golf with my son while he's here, though Angier Sloane will be playing with us, too, after he practically begged his son to ask for a little get-together on the local golf course. It's more than likely because Angier's hoping he can handle some of my son's company stocks, and stuff...
I've at least kept Landon, Taylor, and Hopkins off my back when I casually tell them that Darren wouldn't be pleased if he heard that I was harassed by them. I'm not complaining about the extra work, really, but I don't wanna run myself into the ground like Helen, answering cell phone calls at home all of the time, and--waitasec--Helen isn't doing that anymore, is she? In fact, I don't recall artsy-smartsy Eric calling since, well, since Helen's become an equal partner at her job…
Now when I think about it, she's been at home more often than not when I come in. We've even cooked some dishes together from Henri's e-mailed recipes. I've liked having more private time with you, honey. I'll bet you're so happy with less stuff to do these days on your job! You deserve it, after bringing in most of the bacon all of these years. Now, it’s my turn to catch up, and make up for it…
Jake then smiled.
I've tried to spend some more time with Daria and Quinn, but like me, they seem so busy in their lives, too. My Kiddo's out with Tim--no, wait, that "Tom" guy when Jane-o's up at Darren's, and she's having the time of her life, I bet! Having a boyfriend's gonna do wonders for her! I just hope that they don't do anything, well, ewww!
Nah. Daria's smarter than that, and even if they do, well, Tom seems nice and responsible enough, the same for Jane-o, who I know is. I think she and Darren will be careful enough if they, uh, do it, and even if my grandchild is born by “accident”, my son will have plenty of moolah to help raise him, not that having money could replace love, of course, but it sure can cover the baby's needs. I just hope if things get that serious, they'll marry, especially after the fact. Hm--if a baby is born to those two, I wonder if he or she will be a Morgendorffer, or an Appleton? Oh, God, I really haven't thought about that! I'd love the Morgendorffer name, of course, but I know my son's proud of his last name, not that I could blame him. Maybe the baby could have a Morgendorffer-Appleton name? I could accept that. As for Quinn…
Jake suddenly frowned, and made a fist, shaking it in a fury.
Damn that Turley! He screwed up everything, didn't he?! I should've smelled that sleeping stuff that he put on my mask that night, whatever the hell it was, knew immediately that he was trying to knock me out, then ripped it off, and kicked his ass! Yeah! Kicked his--his--oh, crap, who am I kidding? I did smell the stuff, and it put me right out. All of those crappy years, I thought I had fainted, and failed my wife on the most important night of our lives. At least it lessened the guilt when I found out that I didn’t faint, along with our discovering that our son was still alive.
Jake formed a sad expression, looking into space.
Kinda did, anyway. Missed almost twenty years with my son no matter how I look at it. Probably best that I did, with that nightmare I had the other night. I hated lying to Helen about it when I accidentally woke her up, using my Old Man as the fall guy, but it was so crappy scary, realistic, and horrible--!
Jake developed a deep scowl, worse than before, in fact perhaps the worst he had shown in years.
"Doctor" Turley, I'm sure you're with my Old Man in hell, you bastard! I hope you both burn forever with that Willard guy--no, wait, William guy. Yeah, that’s him, Darren’s dead uncle…
Jake quickly shook his head, grinning.
Dammit, I'm getting into my own little world, again. Helen's tried to keep me focused when I do that, bless her heart, and by golly, I'm gonna give it the ol' college try! I plan to stay alive, and not have another heart attack, no siree!
Where was I? Oh, yeah, my other daughter. Quinn's been really busy with her little friends and their fashion stuff, whatever it is, and she seems happy enough. At least she looks like she’s gotten past her old tutor, that Denton fella. Helen told me about our Princess’ developing little crush on him. Aw, that was so cuuuute!
No, wait, it wasn’t Denton. Was it Dennard? No, that's not it, either. Who the hell was it? Damien? No. Dreven? No. Dinky? No…
The next instant, Jake's desk phone intercom came on. A booming, gravelly-sounding, female voice came over the speaker. At the same time, the woman in the outer office leaned over far enough from her desk to glance in, grinning as she held down her button, and spoke in her sending speaker.
VOICE: Jake? It's Agnes! You've got a call on line three! (Jake sighs. Yet another call. No rest for the wary.) It's Calvin Hopkins, your former rival-now-kiss-ass-minion! (Sneers, amused:) Aren't you the busy one today? (Releases button, resumes typing)
Jake couldn't help but to chuckle as he briefly eyed Agnes. Ever since he decided to get a secretary to help him, at Helen's insistence (something he still wondered about until this day, particularly since she didn't ask for his help when she chose one for herself only a few days earlier), he came to appreciate the feisty older woman, with her excellent bookkeeping, typing, and phone-answering skills, ironic in itself when he wondered about her mild, scathing remarks, something that briefly reminded him of Daria. In fact, the two sort of hit it off when they first met.
It was a few days ago, when he had an evening dinner business meeting with a female client. Jake had called Daria from the office after he remembered that she had gotten out of school, and had asked her to borrow her mother's SUV to drop off his dry-cleaned suit, since he didn't have the time to come right home and change. Jake figured he could get Daria to do the favor, which, of course Daria did--right after Jake had bribed her $20 after she asked, for which he didn't mind, since he was rolling in the dough these days. Jake had told Agnes offhandedly beforehand that a “young lady” was coming to bring his suit, but in a typical fashion for him, had forgotten to tell her it was his eldest daughter.
When Daria entered the office with his suit, Agnes bluntly remarked in a joking way that is was bad enough the “young lady” was seeing a married older man after hours, but to bring in his clothes herself took the cake, since she should've allowed him get his own funeral suit to be buried in.
Daria, being caught off-guard momentarily, smirked briefly, and quickly retorted before a shocked Jake could speak in her defense that the suit was for Jake's birthday, not for a funeral, though his wife would probably kill and bury him in it if she had caught him cheating.
Jake frowned a little at this, confused while Agnes chuckled, and Daria continued to smirk. He finally (and actually) got it after a minute, and laughed out loud. Daria and Agnes, now by this time conversing casually, and of having introduced themselves to one another, stopped and looked at him stoically. After a moment, Jake, embarrassed, meekly went in and locked his office door to change.
By the time Jake had left his office, his daughter had gone, but Agnes was still there, chuckling at how she liked Daria's sense of humor, and how she hoped to meet her again soon. Jake couldn't help but to be stunned at his secretary's delight, or even how Daria had actually taken to talking to someone so casually and apparently nicely the first time she had met them. Jake couldn't help but to beam proudly went he thought his little Kidd—
AGNES: (Leaning over the desk, waving her right hand in his face:) HEY, EARTH TO JAKE! IS ANYONE THERE?!
JAKE: (Shaken out of his reverie, blinks:) Huh?! Uhh, Agnes--?
AGNES: (Mild eyeroll:) Sheesh, Jake! You've been out of it for a few, haven't you? For a second there, I thought you were in a diabetic coma, or something! The ass-kisser Hopkins is waiting on the phone, remember? There are also four other messages that I took for you while you were in la-la land. They're on your desk.
JAKE: Oh, uh, yeah, I forgot! Sorry about that, Agnes, and thanks for the messages! (Quickly grabs the phone as Agnes shakes her head, but shows a small, almost sympathetic smirk, leaves the office)
(Scene Nine: Lawndale High, a few minutes later. Quinn, Sandi, and Tiffany arrive at the front of the school, their faces lined with concern)
SANDI: (Stops with the others at the front glass doors:) This is most worrisome, Quinn. Who knew that these—ugh--dust mites existed? We've got to do something to get them out of our rooms, somehow! Who knows what might happen? They could eventually destroy our make-up or clothes by systematically feasting on them a little at a time! I simply cannot go to school, like, with holes in my Giamanti blouse!
QUINN: (Shudders:) I know, Sandi, and what's worse, the dust mites can't be seen at all! They're even invisible to the naked eye!
TIFFANY: Naked...? Ewww...
SANDI: (Sighs:) Tiffany dear, that's just a play on words.
TIFFANY: Oh...yeah...like an orange dress...really isn't...an orange.
QUINN: (Gives her a brief, odd look with Sandi:) Um, yeah, Tiffany, like that.
The three entered the front doors, where they saw Ms. Li waiting for them with crossed arms--as well as a sad-looking Stacy standing beside her. Before the other Fashion Clubbers could say a word, Stacy suddenly ran over, and wrapped her arms around a stunned Sandi in a crushing hold while crying frantically. Ms. Li narrowed her eyes.
STACY: I'm soooo sorry, Sandi! Please forgive me for that outburst! I didn't mean to bite your head off, I wasn't myself!
SANDI: (While struggling to breathe, as well as trying to escape Stacy's iron grip:) Okay, Stacy, it's--alright! Now--let--me--go! (Stacy continues to hold on for dear life. Quinn shows a tiny smile of relief, while Tiffany appears blank, as usual)
MS. LI: (Comes over while Sandi continues to try and pry Stacy off of her:) Whaaat exactly is going on here, ladies? Miss Rowe entered these halls with a saaad expression, and when I asked her what was wrong, she became so upset, she couldn't tell me, preferring to wait for all of you! (Sandi tries to answer, but gasps instead under Stacy’s grip)
QUINN: Oh, uh, it's just a little misunderstanding about, um, some fashions, Ms. Li. Sorry about the scene, it has nothing to do with the school, right, Tiffany? (Gives a quick nod of the head to Tiffany, who cocks a confused eyebrow, then simply nods)
MS. LI: (After a moment glances at Sandi's continued struggling:) Weeeell, since it seems that Miss Rowe is quite--(pauses:) repentant over her actions, whatever they were, I suppose I can allow this to pass. (Pauses, narrows eyes:) However, we waaaant your brother to have the best impression of our school, and sudden outbursts like this while he's here will not help! Do you understand, Miss Morgendorffer?
QUINN: (Thought v.o.: God, Daria's right. You definitely want my bro's money pretty badly, an' you're determined to make sure everything's "perfect", aren't you?) (Perky smile:) Sure, Ms. Li! No problem! I'm sure everything will work out when Darren visits tomorrow afternoon, you'll see!
MS. LI: (Stern nod:) See to it that it does! (Suddenly puts on her own perky smile and tone:) Well, now, let's go over the final decorative preparations, ladies! Follow me! (Starts to walk down the hallway, followed by Quinn and Tiffany)
A frazzled Sandi finally was able to get Stacy off, though Stacy stayed right behind her, looking miserable. Both girls joined the others. Sandi suddenly turned to Stacy while they were walking.
SANDI: (Small frown, glances back:) Um, Sta--cccy, I need some space, okay? You’re, like, crowding me…
STACY: (Jumps back, timidly:) Oh! Um, sorry, Sandi!
SANDI: (Narrows eyes:) I, er, need to speak to Quinn. (Pauses, adds in what she hopes to pass as her old, frosty tone:) Alone. We need to, uh, decide your, uh, punishment for, um, defying me. (Adds with a pseudo-mock tone to Stacy’s stunned expression:) After all, you said that you didn’t care if I punished you, right? (Quinn overhears this, glances back) Go on ahead with Ms. Li and Tiffany.
STACY: (Weakly responds:) I—I—yeah, I did say that, didn’t I? (Sandi nods firmly, convinced Stacy’s cowered. Stacy slumps, and walks forward. Sandi, using her head, subtly motions to Quinn)
QUINN: Um, could you excuse me, Ms. Li? I think Sandi wants to talk to me about something in private--
MS. LI: (Slight scowl, stops with Tiffany, hard sigh, and impatient tone:) Oh, bother! Very well, Miss Morgendorffer, but could you please huuuurry? (Glances at her wristwatch:) As principal of Laaaaaawndale High, I have many duties on my plate to perform today, so be quick!
QUINN: (Thought v.o.: Yeah, I’ll bet you do, like, feeding your drug-sniffing dogs in the early morning first, or something…:) --I’ll just be a second, I promise! (Quickly walks past a still-slumped Stacy, who drags herself over to Tiffany and Ms. Li)
QUINN: (In a low voice as she comes over:) Sandi--? Are you really gonna punish Stacy? I sorta thought after she apologized--
SANDI: (Ditto with her low voice, waves her off:) --No, of course not, (adds hesitantly, playfully smirks:) tempting as it is. Even if I really had the heart to, it, like, would've been a mere half-day fashion sabbatical, or something. Look, it's because of what Stacy just did. I really wanted to ask if we're still going to check on Bliss' new e-mail and telephone number, or whatever. It seems pointless to do so now, what, with Stacy crying her head off, and stuff. I don’t think anything’s weird, anymore. I’m willing to drop it, if you are.
QUINN: (After a moment:) Maybe you're right, Sandi. I mean, if Stacy's really sorry, and it looked as if she was, then it's probably best if we just let it go--
MS. LI: (Suddenly interrupts from the side, delighted tone:) What? But this is wooonderful news! (Quinn and Sandi look in her direction, and then walk over. Stacy gives Tiffany a brief glare, then appears miserable)
QUINN: What's going on? What's wonderful news?
MS. LI: (Smiling:) Why, Miss Rowe's winning the Bliss Cosmetics sweepstakes interview, of course! Miss Blum-deckler juuuust informed me of it! She said that you two knew as well this morning when Miss Rowe informed you!
TIFFANY: (Shrugs:) I was...just making some...small talk...that's all...
STACY: (Thought v.o., sadly sighs mentally: Which matches your small brain, Tiffany...)
MS. LI: This must be immediately reported in the school's newspaper for the glory of Laaaaaaaawndale High! Imagine--one of our own, making it in the cosmetic world!
STACY: (Now suddenly sounding and looking very nervous, puts her right hand up:) N-No! That's all right, Ms. Li! (Quinn and Sandi glance at each other for an instant, surprised) You don't have to go to the trouble of doing that, really! It's just an interview for one day, then I'll come right back! (Quickly reaches into her purse, takes out a slip of paper:) Oh! Uh, here’s my signed excuse from my parents to be out of school, by the way. (Ms. Li takes and reads the slip of paper) I don't even know if I'll be able to model for the company, for sure, so this really isn’t such a big deal--
MS. LI: (Ignores Stacy while placing the excuse slip in her suit pocket, into her own world:) --Nonsense, Miss Rowe! I'll speak to the Lowdown's editor, Miss Landon, and by this afternoon, the entire school will read about your newfound success! (Stacy suddenly looks sick) This will encourage other students to pursue their dreams of success as well for their future endeavors! (Thought v.o.: And make me look good in the process. Should I call the local media--? [Pauses:] Perhaps I’ll wait on that, unless Miss Rowe’s rewarded with the job. We can’t be too assumptive, can we?)
STACY: B-But, I--I... (slumps in defeat:) oh, sure, okay…
MS. LI: Excellent! Now, let's take one last look at the welcome decorations, laaadies! (Immediately strides off, followed by Tiffany, and a worried-looking Stacy. After a moment, Quinn and Sandi follow)
SANDI: (Leans over to Quinn, whispers:) Did you, like, see the way Stacy reacted? It’s almost like she didn’t want Ms. Li to spread her good news about the Bliss interview! You'd think she'd be happy, like when she broke the news to us!
QUINN: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Stacy didn’t want Ms. Li to know, which is really weird. I think we’d better check those e-mail and phone numbers, after all. Something’s not quite right, here… (thought v.o.: I wonder if I should talk to Daria about this? Maybe I will when I see her…) (She and Sandi walk a bit faster to catch up to the others)
(Scene Ten: The newly-renamed Lawndale County Regional Airport, the same time. A small Cessna plane has just landed, and several people are exiting the craft down the plane's fold-down stairs with their small carry-on luggage. One of them is a tall, burly-looking, yet attractive woman wearing sunglasses, and a wide brim white hat. The woman also appears to have been perspiring heavily, which actually causes her to look even more, ahem, attractive...)
Tina, also wearing a light, white tube top, sneakers, and sweat pants, rubbed her lower back with her left hand while holding her large, white duffel bag over her right shoulder. She simultaneously began walking toward the airport's terminal with the plane's other passengers, all the while glaring at some of the male passengers, who had eagerly offered to help her with the bag. One of them swallowed hard, and walked up to Tina from behind, breaking away from the others.
MAN: (Timidly, while two others stop by to watch what will happen. They all had made a bet to see if one of them could hit on her first.:) Are you sure you don't need any help with--?
TINA: (Turns, scowls and snarls, shows her left fist:) --For the last damn time, no! Now, beat it before I turn you into a pretzel! (The man runs off, terrified, with the other male passengers) (Thought v.o., winces: Small, cramped, damn, lousy, passenger seats, broken-down air conditioners, and fresh jerks! I knew I should've taken a larger, roomier, jet, even though it would've meant I'd have to land at Washington-Baltimore, Dulles, or Reagan National, and had to have driven a rental car here, but nooo, Tina, you decided to be a cheap ass! Oh, well, I think I punished myself enough on that plane for my stupidity. Now to get a taxi, and to check out this "Lawndale" place incognito after I find a motel, rest, and--yeesh--call Elenor, and give her the first of my promised "progress reports". [Smirks:] That was the only way she'd go along with this. Hopefully, I won't run into anyone from Darren's family, Jane, Krystal, Daria's boyfriend Tom Sloane, Quinn's friends, or Jane's brother Trent while I'm here, not to mention Darren himself...)
Tina rolled her eyes and snorted, stopping for an instant.
TINA: (Thought v.o.: Yeah, right, Tina. That'll be like going into a really thick forest, and trying to avoid touching the trees. Well, I plan to stay only half the time Darren's here, anyway. I'll just have to take my chances, and try to stay out of sight as much as possible, maybe going at dusk, or something. If I end up running across anybody I saw at the mansion, I'll just have to 'fess up—[pauses:] and to prepare to look for another job after a pissed-off Darren fires me for thinking that I "shadowed" him like he was still a little boy.)
Tina shrugged, and then resumed her walk toward the airport's terminal.
(Scene Eleven: Back to Lawndale High, a few hours later. It's the late afternoon, and the final bell has rung. The school day is now over. Daria and Jane exit Mrs. Bennett's class with other students.)
JANE: (Grins, throws arms in air:) Alleluia! We're free at last from the shackles of our oppressors, amiga!
DARIA: (Smirks:) You mean, until it starts all over again tomorrow, right?
JANE: (Shrugs:) Hey, your brother and my boyfriend will be here by then to make our daily prison stay more bearable. (Grins:) We can thumb our noses at the guards while we walk around with him.
DARIA: I suppose you have a point, though I wouldn’t be surprised if warden Li would only allow us to see him in the glassed-off meeting room for the standard minute or two. (Pauses, hesitates:) Of course, um, when you think about it further, it really hasn't been so bad here in prison for our senior year so far--
JANE: (Very raised eyebrows, smiles:) Doth my ears deceive me? Did I hear Daria Morgendorffer just say something optimistic?
DARIA: (Mild frown:) Allow me to finish my observation before you deem that I've suddenly joined the human race, okay? What I mean is that we've been treated like royalty because of my brother and your boyfriend by practically everyone here. We've had respect, Jane. Us. You and me.
JANE: And this is bad, how, for the 50th time--? You didn't seem to mind that what you said earlier about Ms. Li seeing us coming in late rang true, no pun intended, since all she did was to give us a mild lecture after the first tardy bell. (Wicked smirk:) I practically loved how she kowtowed to us while she did it. (Adds, even nastier smirk:) And let's not forget Ms. Morris' little teeth-grinding grin while saying, "Okay, sure, you two!" when we asked to be excused from gym.
DARIA: (Smirks:) Don't get me wrong, it's not that it's so bad, just that it's so--unnatural. I've been thinking about this a lot more and more throughout the day. I'm used to being treated like an outcast. I'm used to the indifference our fellow students gave us. Hell, it's given me a reason for my vaunted cynicism.
JANE: (Cocked eyebrow:) Annnd…?
DARIA: (Pauses, looks off:) And now...look, I don't like what I perceive as having an advantage because of Darren's wealth, be it on my writing job, or anywhere else. The only reason why we're getting all of this ass-kissing is because of Darren's pending donation to the school. I mean, our fellow students and teachers have practically been smiling at us in a very scary way, and even Mr. O'Neill has gone out his way to be nice to us--on top of how he's always been. That is scary, even to me. Frowns I can take, but smiles? You know the old saying about people who are smiling having something to hide...
JANE: Chalk that up to Li's influence, Daria. You know how she's whipped the school up into tip-top shape for Darren's visit, and that's just not the flowers and banners speaking. So what if some people are sucking up, particularly the snobs who used to want us to suck up to them? (In a bit of a bitter voice:) I'm gonna milk it for all that it's worth. I think I've earned it after all of the crap I've taken over the years while I grew up because I was “different”. (Daria cocks an eyebrow, stays silent) Besides, not all of the students and teachers have acted phony toward us, you know. Ms. Defoe hasn't, thank God. The same goes for Ms. Barch, who seems to me to really want to speak to Darren when he visits. I heard her tell one of the teachers the other day about her wanting to meet him again, but she didn’t go into detail.
DARIA: (Inquisitive expression:) This is news to me. What in the hell would Ms. Barch want to speak to my brother about, other than telling him how much she hates his male presence?
JANE: (Shrugs:) Hey, I dunno, don't look at me, I'm as concerned as you are about that. (Half-serious tone, weak grin:) Maybe she wants to finish him off from the first time they met--? (Daria gives her a half-serious, worried look. Jane quickly returns to the main subject:) Anyway, even Mr. DeMartino's been his usual, jolly self. Jodie and Mack haven't changed, either. They're still the typical, nice, goody-goody two shoes, popular, token, African-American Lawndale High students that we know and love.
DARIA: (Cuts eyes to the side, stops with Jane:) Speaking of popular, here comes Lawndale High's popular version of "Dumb to Dumbest", (adds, sighs, slumps:) again... (Jane follows Daria’s stare, rolls her eyes, annoyed)
Kevin and Brittany walked up to the two, smiling with their usual, goofy, and/or vacant grins.
BRITTANY: (Squeaks:) Hi, Daria! Hi, Jane!
KEVIN: Yeah, hey Daria, Jane!
DARIA: (Deadpan, annoyed tone:) Hello for the fifth time today, Kevin and Brittany.
JANE: (Ditto:) Yo for the fifth time today as well, Kevin and Brittany.
BRITTANY: (Oblivious like Kevin to their annoyed tones, of course:) Wow! That's five times we've seen you two today? I guess that means you both are pretty popular now, huh, since popular people like Kevin and I have been seen with you by everybody?
KEVIN: (Nods frantically:) Yeah! (Smug look, taps chest with his football:) You two should be so lucky!
JANE: (To Daria:) Should I just hit my head on these lockers trying to figure out what they both meant?
DARIA: Don't waste your time. The potential pain's not worth it.
BRITTANY: (After a moment:) Umm, anyway, Daria, when's your cute-- (glances at Jane, quickly changes:) eep! I mean, your brother supposed to come again? (Jane gives her a brief, amused expression) I was asking because I'm--my dad was planning to have a party in our home while he was here, you know, and he'd be invited, (quickly adds:) uhmmm, along with you, that "Tim" guy, Jane, and Quinn, of course...
DARIA: (Sighs:) For the fifth time today, Brittany, tomorrow morning to Lawndale, then to the school tomorrow afternoon. As for the invitation, that's up to Darren and that "Tim" guy.
JANE: (Smirks at Daria:) We'll get back to you on that, okay?
BRITTANY: (Pauses, perks up:) Okay! (Quickly adds:) Uh, oh, yeah! Could you two please not tell Darren about the welcome cheer the cheerleaders are gonna give him when he comes? (Daria and Jane glance at each other, mildly surprised) We want it to be a surprise! No one outside of us knows!
DARIA: (Slight smirk:) Sure, Brittany. I'll be sure to especially not to tell Quinn. (Jane chuckles. Brittany and Kevin glance at each other, baffled) In fact, I'd kinda like for her to be there when you do the cheer. It's a--personal request, you see.
BRITTANY: (Grins:) Thanks, Daria! Sure, we can wait for Quinn!
KEVIN: (Nods, grins:) And Darren will have more of the invisible formula when he comes, right? I’m real sure Darren hasn’t given up trying, no matter what he told me! I, like, can feel it, and stuff! C’mon, Daria, you gotta tell me—he’s got some more invisible stuff stashed away, right?
DARIA: (Now another annoyed expression. Yes, she and Jane have heard this for the fifth time today, as well:) Kevin, once again times five, there's no-- (notices Kevin with his blank look that screams, "I know he has one, so tell me." Once he gets into this mode, Daria knows it's impossible to get him out of it without driving it through his brain once and for all. She sighs:) okay, fine, you finally got me. There is one. (Jane drops her eyebrow at Daria in surprise. Daria gives a very quick wink at her to play along)
BRITTANY: (Squeaks, jumps up and down in anticipation:) Oooh! You were right, Kevie!
KEVIN: (Swings his fist in triumph:) Ha! Of course I was, babe! I knew that if we kept at it, we'd get the invisible stuff from her! (Looks around:) Where is it, Daria?
DARIA: (Reaches in her book bag over her shoulder, "grabs" something:) Here it is. It's in a vial. (Opens left hand out to Kevin:) Darren wanted to give it to you himself, but he's told me that if you couldn't wait until he got here, then to just let you have it.
KEVIN: (Looks at Daria's open hand, scratches head:) Uhhh, I can't see anything, Daria!
BRITTANY: (Timidly reaches her forefinger into Daria's open hand, "picks":) I can't feel anything, either!
DARIA: Hello--? It's invisible, remember? You won't be able to do either.
JANE: (Casual tone:) The invisibility completely covers the liquid and the vial, you see. (Pauses, quickly adds:) Or, uh, don't see.
KEVIN & BRITTANY: (Finally getting it, smiles:) Oh, yeah! That makes sense! (Kevin starts to reach for "vial", but Daria "snatches" it away)
DARIA: However, I must warn you: Darren's said that if this doesn't work, he's not gonna try and make anymore, going on your experience. He’s said he’s too tired from trying to make it again because the formula was destroyed, as he told you before. This was his 100th and final attempt, (adds with mock-emphasis, narrows eyes:) forever. There will be no more tries.
JANE: (Jumps in:) Also, Darren's told me that he wants you to sign an agreement which will keep you from suing him if it fails at any time, Kevin. (Reaches into her backpack, pulls out a piece of paper and a pen:) Here, sign this form.
BRITTANY: (Slight frown, steps in front of Kevin:) Ohhh, no you don't, Jane! I've heard about signing stuff without first reading the fine print! (Pauses, narrows eyes as she twirls the end of her blonde ponytail around her finger:) My dad screams about that sometimes, for some reason… (shrugs, snatches paper from Jane:) lemme read it, just to be sure... (reads)
DARIA: (Very low voice to Jane:) Undoubtedly, she means the mistake her dad made concerning his large divorce settlement with the first Mrs. Taylor... (Jane smirks)
BRITTANY: (Scowls, looks up at them:) Hey! There's nothing on this paper!
JANE: (Casual shrug and tone:) Of course not. (Pauses, calmly adds:) It's written in invisible ink for security purposes, you know, in case this agreement falls into the wrong hands of his competitors. (Kevin and Brittany look at each other, confused)
DARIA: (Joins in, speaks to the two as if they're children, slowly:) My brother created an invisible formula, and therefore, he can create invisible ink--?
KEVIN & BRITTANY: (Getting it finally again, smiles:) Oh, yeah! Wow, he's smart!
Kevin quickly signed "Kevien" on the paper, giving it back to Jane, and gingerly "took" the “vial” from Daria. He eagerly and lustily looked down at his open left hand "holding" the "vial" while holding his football in his right one, grinning like an idiot. Brittany merely stared at Kevin's open hand in awe. In the background, some students gave them odd looks as they walked by. Daria and Jane took that as their cue to leave, wordlessly rounding a nearby corner in the hallway.
JANE: (While both are walking:) I'm glad you finally put the invisibility thing to rest, amiga. As much as it pains me to admit it, they actually were beginning to grate on my nerves.
DARIA: Mine, too, though I find myself in no pain whatsoever--(adds:) and that takes a lot, especially from those two. Once (takes, glances at Jane's paper:) "Kevien" finds out that it doesn't "work" we won't have to worry about him harassing Darren over it while my brother's visiting. (Balls up, throws paper in a nearby trash can)
JANE: (Smirks:) When d'you think Kevien will test his invisibility?
DARIA: As soon as we leave, of course. (Smirks:) Want to wager on where Kevien will meet his doom?
JANE: (Grins:) Oh yeah. (Pauses:) Pizza as the wager?
DARIA: But of course. A large one with all the works, save those damn anchovies, tomorrow. (Jane nods in agreement. Daria pauses, slight smile:) Let’s see--I say one of the teachers will lay him out because Kevien will try to harass them while he's "invisible".
JANE: (Shakes head:) Naw. (Pauses:) I say a girl or two or three or more will kick Kevien's ass because he'll try to get into their locker room while he's "invisible", then Brittany will finish him off, and make him wish he was invisible. (Daria shows her Mona Lisa smile) Guess we'll find out tomorrow in the Lowdown, huh?
DARIA: Yeah. (Pauses:) Speaking of the Lowdown, (takes out the school's newspaper from her book bag, unfolds it, looks at the headline:) what did you think about the article on Stacy's good luck with winning an interview for that Bliss Cosmetics stuff? Quinn ran into me earlier today in the hallway between classes, by the way. She sounded pretty skeptical about it for some reason, saying something didn't jibe, because Stacy didn't sound happy that Ms. Li found out about it, yet Stacy was over-the-top excited about telling the Fashion Club. And get this; Stacy let Sandi verbally have it when Sandi sounded skeptical about her winning.
JANE: (Wide-eyed:) What?! Stacy got all bitchy on Sandi?! (Looks around:) Gadzooks, Rod Sterling's ghost must be around here somewhere!
DARIA: (Mock-scans, deadpan:) Well, I don't see him around here, my fellow ghost buster. Anyway, she said she and Sandi are gonna check it out at Sandi's place, with Tiffany, after school. Stacy's going to go straight home, so she can work on her “responses” to any of the possible interview questions, and then pack.
JANE: (Shrugs:) I haven't really read the article yet, though I heard some talk here and there. The world of cosmetics doesn't exactly interest me, you understand, save for my trusty lipstick. I'd rather smear some of that crap together on a canvas for an art project, or something. I'd call it, "Beauty is Only Canvas Deep".
DARIA: (Slight smirk:) Yet, you didn't seem to mind when some of that "crap" was smeared on your face when you dated my brother, and you kept that skimpy red dress--?
JANE: (Slaps forehead gently:) Dammit! Keep rubbing it in, why don't you?
DARIA: (Keeps the smirk:) On your face? You bet, or better yet, the Fashion Club will do it for me.
JANE: (Holding down her annoyance:) Getting back to Stacy, it seems kinda weird for her to not want to spread the good news, huh?
DARIA: (Slight frown after a moment:) Yeah, it does. Makes you wonder if she's hiding something.
JANE: (Pauses:) What? Our dear little Stacy? (Snorts:) What could she possibly be hiding, save for her modesty?
DARIA: Look at the evidence: Stacy breaks character by snapping at Sandi, plus her happiness at telling the Fashion Club about her good news, yet she was down when Ms. Li found out. Why?
JANE: (Shrugs:) Dunno. (Adds:) Go on.
DARIA: (Pauses, frowns:) I find myself wondering if Rory McKinna is in on this, for some reason...
JANE: (Cocked eyebrow:) Huh? Thatjerk? He's stinking up Maness! (Pauses, realizes:) Hold it. You think this has something to do with his trying to get with Stacy again?
DARIA: Maybe, maybe not. I think I'll ask Quinn some more about Stacy's good luck when she comes home later. We might have to contact Darren before he arrives, so he could ask Krystal what her brother's up to. (Both exit through the front doors. Daria smirks:) Pizza before you owe me another one tomorrow?
JANE: (Returns smirk:) Sure, but don't count your pepperonis before they're spread, amiga...
(Scene Twelve: Back to the hallway, with Kevien--er, Kevin and Brittany, a minute earlier...)
Kevin, grinning with glee, had tossed his football aside, and then "uncorked" the "vial". He immediately "poured" some of the "formula" on his head.
BRITTANY: (Alarmed:) Kevie! Be careful! You don't want to use too much!
KEVIN: (Still grinning:) Don't worry, babe! It’s just a little dab, I'm sure of it! I have plenty left! (Rubs hair wildly as if he's put grease on it. His hair looks even more of a mess than it was before. “Corks” and “puts” the “vial” in his uniform’s pants pocket)
BRITTANY: Um, okay. (Pauses, suspicious expression:) Heeey, what are you going to use it for? (Frowns:) You'd better not go into the girl's locker room while the volleyball team's in there after they finish practicing this afternoon!
KEVIN: (Waves her off:) Nahhh, nothin' like that. (Thought v.o.: Hey! I'm gonna put that in my mental file later, whatever it was.:) I'm gonna test it first, like harassing the teachers, for starters. (Looks off to the side, sees a scowling Ms. Barch exiting out of her classroom far down the hallway, grins wickedly:) Startin' with Ms. Barch! I'm gonna get my revenge for her hating and embarrassing me 'cause I'm a guy! Watch me trip her, and make her fall down! (Begins to walk down the hallway with a comically confident stride, his chest sticking out)
BRITTANY: (Alarmed expression:) Be careful, Kevie! Ms. Barch might, like, swing wildly, get lucky, and hit you, even if she can’t see you! She knows martial arts, remember?
KEVIN: ("Off-screen":) No sweat, babe! I'll just step back if she starts that kung-fu stuff! I'll laugh my ass off down the hall while she's on the floor in front of everybody, like, screaming because she’ll be the one who’ll be embarrassed for a change!
BRITTANY: (Thought v.o. as she frowns: Honestly! That jerk! I'd use it to--[dreamy look now, mentally sighs:] ogle Darren--[stops, quickly shakes her head:] no! That's not right! Darren's Jane's boyfriend, not mine! [Pauses:] Well, it wouldn't hurt to just look at him. Maybe I'll borrow some of Kevie's stuff just to--waitasecond! I still saw Kevin! He would've been invisible to me, too! That means--OH NO!) (Wide-eyed expression:) KEVIE, WAIT! (Runs off after him. After a moment, there’s a feminine howl of rage, Barch’s, then horrific screams, Kevin’s, coming from “off-screen”)
(Scene Thirteen, about 30 minutes later at the Appleton Tower, in the currently semi-darkened and crowded executive conference room, the 30th floor)
Constance stood at the head of the conference room’s long and wide black marble table, speaking at a small podium beside a large projection screen, which in turn showed a large chart. A projection light protruded from the center of the table. On the chart were the names of Appleton's various business divisions, and their current performance levels for the past quarter, which incidentally, were all up.
At the table were all of the division heads, along with various members of the company's board of directors on both sides, including Darren, who was dressed in a sharp black suit and tie, seated far down at the rear left side from Constance. Opposite him were Circa Fashion's head Candi Gunwald, her second-in-command Cherice Banks, and Cherice's secretary, Jenna Springs, who was taking shorthand notes in the low light. Mimi, Constance's personal secretary, sat nearest her boss, also taking notes.
Constance had decided to pursue a new way to ensure the attention of the division heads by insisting notes were taken by their secretaries. In the past, Arthur Sr. and William Appleton had provided prepared reports. All the division heads had to do was to read what they had reported themselves, if Arthur Sr. or William did not. To Constance, as former head of Appleton's Energy Division, this seemed boring.
Constance wanted to try a new approach by "challenging" the division heads to listen to her directly, making them to pay closer attention by having their secretaries take shorthand notes, then to later have each division provide its own package report within two weeks from the notes taken. Under Constance, there would be no more prepared reports. Everyone would be on their toes.
Beside Darren was an attractive, dark-skinned Hispanic-American woman in her late thirties, with long, straight, dark brown hair, dressed in a sharp, feminine blue business suit. She, like Jenna, Mimi, and all of the other various secretaries to the divisional heads, was taking notes as well. This was Darren's recently-hired secretary, Carmelita Benitez, who was Constance's personal secretary a few years before, when Constance headed the Energy Division.
Carmelita had tired of New York City's high-pressure world, and had transferred to Appleton's small western operation in Oregon, where she was a secretary to the top regional manager. Carmelita had settled in, liking the open air, and relative quiet of the northwest. Only by (what was thought of at the time) the persuasion of her old boss, a doubling of her yearly salary, and a guarantee of finding an affordable apartment, drew Carmelita back to the high-pressure world of the Big Apple.
Darren had only vaguely recalled meeting Carmelita once, at a poolside business party several years ago his parents had hosted at the mansion. He specifically remembered her only because his uncle William had tried to come onto her while he was tipsy--only to find himself in the pool after she had “accidentally” pushed him in!
Grinning at that thought, it didn't take Darren long to eagerly accept Carmelita, who had not arrived as of yet, not just because of Constance's recommendation, but also because he didn't have to worry about going through résumés from what he suspected would be hundreds, perhaps even thousands of applicants (mostly "love struck" women), who'd put in for the job to be his personal secretary.
Darren had shuddered at the thought of wondering what Jane would think about a beautiful secretary (by the picture Constance had shown him) working a room over from him. He had told Helen and Jake about this over the phone when they had told him about their own secretaries the two had hired as well--in the same week, no less!
Jake was at a loss about what to say, only adding that Helen had chosen his, whereas Helen recommended that Darren should simply introduce Jane to Carmelita the next time Jane visited, to minimize any "misgivings" Jane might have. Daria and Quinn had also agreed with their mother for Darren to do this, though Daria did some wisecracking about "The mice will play while the cat's away". Weary about engaging his middle sister in a battle of verbal teasing, which he was sure he'd lose in the long run, Darren sucked it in, and said not a word.
Curtis thought it only made perfect sense to anticipate anything from Jane by clearing the air with the meeting, and a smirking Krystal uttered a smart, playful remark about Jane's "Jealousy showing through here, just you wait". Grinning because he figured she was kidding, Darren blew her off, though it seemed to him that Krystal was enjoying the situation immensely, almost with a near glee. Darren figured it was a residual effect of Jane's not approving of Krystal being with Trent, which, though he wasn't sure, he suspected that Krystal had already known.
Darren told Jane over the phone about his hiring of Carmelita, quickly adding the mini history of her with Constance to try and soothe Jane's possible fears. To his surprise, Jane said that she definitely wanted to meet Carmelita, and to just "Shoot the breeze" when she next visited (around the same time Carmelita would arrive, a Saturday, coincidentally). And that there was nothing for him to worry about--if that's what he thought--all while she was laughing. Darren figured Daria had "prepared" Jane for when he'd call about Carmelita, and was inwardly grateful for it.
Darren had spoken to Carmelita over the phone as well the night before about meeting him and his girlfriend at Cherie's for a quick lunch. Carmelita immediately agreed after settling in her apartment, a new tenement called "Menlo Park".
Carmelita had a surprise of her own when Darren and Jane had arrived. She was with a very tall and handsome man at a table, whom she introduced as Victor, a man who upon further introduction had turned out to be her husband. He was someone she had met while in Oregon, fell in love with, and married. Victor had worked at the same Appleton operation, too, as a middle management clerical worker.
Another surprise over the lunch also revealed that Victor was the one who had contacted Constance concerning the secretarial opening, much to Carmelita’s shock. Victor had asked Constance to keep it to herself, and to allow him to inform his wife. He explained that though Carmelita had loved where she was, she had become wistful about seeing her friends again, particularly Constance, and he had decided to fulfill her wishes.
After receiving a crushing hug and a kiss of gratitude from his delighted wife, Victor further explained that Constance thought it was a stroke of luck that she could get and see Carmelita again, and had jumped at the opportunity--after promising the raise and of finding the apartment if he could pull it off. Constance also personally promised that she'd handle Victor’s company transference to New York to be with his wife. From there, it was all a matter of Victor persuading Carmelita, which he obviously did.
Inwardly, a relieved Darren felt a huge weight had been taken off his back--until a grinning Jane decided to tease Darren by nudging Victor to question Darren's motives as to the hiring of his wife. The expression on Darren's face, according to Jane, "Was priceless". Turnabout was fair play. Fortunately, Victor and Carmelita laughed voraciously at Jane's teasing, leaving Darren in a mild, sullen stupor for the remainder of the lunch. Jane, though, had later pulled him out of his funk with a kiss...
Darren quickly shook his head, and glanced at his wristwatch. Throughout the meeting, now almost two hours long, he occasionally and anxiously had done so. Carmelita cut her eyes to him, stopped taking notes, and leaned over, speaking in a very low whisper.
CARMELITA: You know Constance would've understood if you couldn't come, Darren. She probably would’ve understood if you had just slipped out during the meeting. She’s aware that you want to get to your friends and family as soon as possible.
DARREN: (Returning the whisper, leans over as well:) And that's the point, Carmelita. She would've probably understood, but the other people here wouldn't. If I'm serious about running the company someday, I'd better be here, as much as I can. Besides, I'm the major shareholder, not to mention that I was the one who recommended Constance to run the company. I have to be here also to show that I support her and the company to everyone.
CARMELITA: (After a moment:) That makes sense. (Glances at Constance, who's speaking in the background:) From the presentation, she seems to have them eating out of the palm of her hand. (Pauses:) I’m sounding biased, but I think you chose the right person to lead the company. (Pauses:) You should be proud of her.
DARREN: (Shows Carmelita an inquisitive expression, then smiles quietly:) Thanks, and I am, though I'd prefer to pass your praise on to my sister, Daria. (Pauses, adds:) Besides, the meeting will be over soon, I can wait to join my friends at Sean's, and I've already packed. In fact, I plan to leave tonight right after our little party, and arrive in Lawndale early. (Thought v.o.: Provided that Krystal is okay with that, [smirks:] and that I can get out of town before Curtis sees his "surprise"...)
Carmelita nodded, and resumed her note-taking as Darren turned his attention back to Constance. Almost immediately, the lights suddenly came on, and those around the table erupted in warm applause and smiles as they began to stand and went over to encircle her, offering their congratulations on her presentation. After a moment, Darren rose and went over with Carmelita, offering their praise as well.
Several minutes later, the conference room was mostly empty, save for a few stragglers. Darren, holding several hand bags full of the newest sample fashions he had gotten from Candi (per request of Quinn and the rest of the Fashion Clubbers), went over to Constance. She was casually conversing with Carmelita and Victor, who had come in a few minutes after the meeting’s end.
DARREN: Well, I'm taking off. I'm going to change upstairs in my office, go straight home, then to Sean's, and head off to the airport. See you all in a few days. (Turns to Victor, shakes his hand:) Nice to see you again, Victor.
VICTOR: (Smiles:) You too, Darren. Perhaps Carmelita and I can get together with you and Jane again.
DARREN: Sure, I'd like that, and you can meet the rest of my family, too.
CONSTANCE: Have a good time, Darren, and say hello to your family and Jane for us. (Pauses, adds, small smile:) Thanks for the support again.
DARREN: (Returns the smile:) No problem, Constance. I have complete confidence in you, and you more than proved it in the meeting. (Grins:) I'm still going to nag you to take some time off so you won't burn out, though. Now seems to be the best time with all of the good feelings that oozed from everybody over the company's six-month earnings.
CONSTANCE: (Pauses:) You know, I'm going to do just that, Darren. (Darren cocks an eyebrow, surprised) I think I'll take a few days off somewhere to reward myself. (Mock-glares at a smiling Carmelita:) You weren't the only one who's nagged me...
CARMELITA: (Mock-shock, points to herself:) Who? Moi? (Victor laughs)
DARREN: (Delighted expression:) Excellent! Go off someplace where no one will bother you, and be sure to turn off that cell phone!
CONSTANCE: Don't worry, I will--(from the side, Leonard Potter comes over. Constance drops an eyebrow, droll tone:) why, hello, Leonard. How nice of you to rejoin us after the meeting's finished. (Pauses:) What happened?
LEONARD: (Businesslike smile, tone:) Sorry, Constance, it couldn't be helped. It was a pretty important call I received. I'll read the meeting's minutes from Mimi. (Turns to Darren:) I'm glad I caught you before you left, Darren.
DARREN: (Pauses:) Is--something wrong, Leonard?
LEONARD: (Slight smile:) It's good and bad news, depending on who you are, you might say. It's a private legal matter concerning you, since I am your personal lawyer, outside of the company’s business. (Glances uneasily at Constance, Carmelita and Victor:) Uh, perhaps we can speak in your office in private--?
DARREN: (After a moment, glances at the others:) Ah, sure, Leonard. I was planning to change there, anyway. See you all. (Leaves with Leonard. The others look at each other)
(Scene Fourteen: Darren’s office, several minutes later)
Darren, having changed into more casual wear, exited from his personal bathroom while Leonard sat on the couch, sprawled out.
DARREN: (Sits down on the couch across from him:) I still can’t believe what I’m hearing, Leonard, even though it was a possibility, from when the police came to the mansion a few weeks back. (Pauses:) James Bowman was definitely murdered?
LEONARD: That’s what my legal contact from the feds told me, Darren. The FBI, was contacted by the Chilean authorities when they had suspected something was amiss, plus the fact that Bowman was an important American citizen. They had exonerated you after doing their own background investigation, not finding any connection. (Pauses, sighs with relief:) Of course, if Bowman had been murdered a few weeks later…
DARREN: –-Yeah, I get the picture. They probably would've kicked my door down to arrest me--
LEONARD: (Admonishing eyebrow:) Particularly after what you said to Edward White in his cell in front of that deputy, whom the FBI questioned. You were incredibly lucky that nothing came from that incident, Darren…
DARREN: (Groans, rubs forehead, nods, leans back on the couch:) Okay, fine, you reminded me already, Leonard. I shouldn't have gone off like that, all right? (Mild scowl:) Even though I'm convinced "Mr. White" deserved it.
LEONARD: (After a moment:) Maybe he did, Darren, but consider this: If you hadn't said anything to him about Millie, it's entirely possible that he might not have jumped bail, and gone after her.
DARREN: (Raised eyebrows:) Don't tell me that you believed that bastard actually was able to comprehend loving my aunt, Leonard--? I don't care what he said, I don't believe it for a second! Besides, he would've just heard about her having left later, then--(stops, realizes what he's saying, goes silent, cuts eyes to Leonard)
LEONARD: (Takes it up, cocks an eyebrow:) --He would've still gone after her--?
DARREN: (Frowns after a long pause, sighs:) I mean that he couldn’t have, not from a jail cell. (Pauses:) May we get back to Bowman, please?
LEONARD: All right, Darren.
DARREN: You also said something about the FBI thoroughly going over Bowman's SUV--?
LEONARD: With a fine tooth comb, Darren. They found a tiny knife cut on the brake cables that leaked out the fluid, which led to Bowman not being able to stop or slow down on the already-iced mountain road. The steering fluid reservoir had been drained as well, which lead to Bowman not being able to properly control his SUV.
DARREN: (After a moment:) Isn't it possible that maybe the accident caused it to look as if both were deliberately damaged? From what I recall, the SUV was crushed beyond recognition…
LEONARD: No, both were definitely sabotaged. Bowman had his vehicle in for a thorough tune-up a week before at some type of Chilean car service center, where he usually went over the years. (Sad smile:) I was told the poor attendant who worked on it was terrified, thinking they were going to arrest him, but he was cleared after a day or two.
DARREN: What else?
LEONARD: The FBI and the Chilean authorities went back up that house, you know, the one on that flat plain on the mountain where they suspected Bowman might've been driving from--? (Darren nods) Well, this time, they did a really thorough search, and found some hair samples, you know, for DNA and such.
LEONARD: Apparently, Bowman had lived there based on the samples, as well as one or two local accounts of seeing him, but that wasn't all. They also found plenty of other DNA samples, which are all still being crosschecked, save for one. (Pauses:) William Appleton's.
DARREN: (Stands up, stunned:) Uncle William?! But how--? He's dead--!
LEONARD: (Stands up as well:) Calm down, Darren, let me explain. It seems that William was a frequent guest of Bowman's there over the years, and more than likely, it's just leftover samples of hair from his past visits.
DARREN: (Relieved expression after a moment:) Yeah. Yeah, you're right, Leonard. (Slight smirk:) That would be crazy for me to think that he's still alive. I watched the rest of his body being cremated.
LEONARD: (Chuckles:) Well, you're the one seeing a psychologist, so I'd say yes, it's crazy, maybe even nuts. (Darren returns his own chuckle)
DARREN: All right, enough with the crazy banter. (Narrows eyes:) You said there was some bad news as well, depending on “who was who”--?
LEONARD: Frankly, yes. (Pauses:) You recall Helen getting that settlement from the Weekly Blabber, of course.
DARREN: Sure, she and the psychologists got $100,000 each, plus a somewhat “strained” apology from the tabloid, about two-and-a-half weeks ago, right? Helen said that the tabloid didn't waste any time in changing their position. And rather than go through a long, lengthy court process, based on her own experience as a lawyer, she and the psychologists decided to take the money and the “strained” apology. I remember my sister Daria being a little surprised by Helen giving in so fast.
LEONARD: (Nods:) Right. Well, my legal source told me that the FBI had officially cleared you from their list three weeks ago. (Darren drops an eyebrow) They were looking around for someone else, now, and you didn't register on their radar, anymore. They informed Bowman's company that you had an ironclad alibi, which didn't exactly sit well with several people there who wanted to try and dig up something on you anyway. But the more influential and intelligent people in the company won out, and they scrubbed that idea.
DARREN: Wait a minute--are you telling me that the Weekly Blabber decided to quickly settle with Helen and the others because the Blabber knew it would be a major hit to them in the reputation department if they went ahead with fighting the class-action lawsuit after they found out I had nothing to do with their boss being murdered?
LEONARD: Off hand, I'd say you hit the target, Darren, even though they are a tabloid, and people already think of them as mostly a trashy gossip rag. More than likely, people would've still been turned off by them fighting Helen and the others, and "picking" on you after what happened this summer to you and your family.
DARREN: Not to mention that their bottom line would've taken a major hit. My business side says it actually makes perfect sense to settle. When Helen and the psychologists hear of this, though, they'll probably hit the roof, since they didn’t know the same time as the tabloid. (Pauses:) Why didn’t the FBI let me or Helen and the others know about my being found to have nothing to do with this, yet--?
LEONARD: Don't worry, they will. Sometime tomorrow, the news is going to break. I've been told that they'll be a press conference at the Hoover Building in Washington, D.C.
DARREN: And I'll be in Lawndale when it does, drawing attention I don't want. (Hangs head:) Just great. Wonderful.
LEONARD: (Small smile:) Cheer up, Darren. At least the FBI will be announcing that you had nothing to do with Bowman's murder.
DARREN: (As he’s gathering the hand bags for the Fashion Club beside the couch, along with his suit:) I guess. (Pauses:) Still, it makes you wonder who killed Bowman, and that they're still running free out there, somewhere. (Walks toward the door)
LEONARD: (Walking with Darren to the door:) As you yourself said, Bowman had the reputation of either being liked or disliked. Apparently someone must've disliked him so intensely, they killed him. (Grabs the doorknob:) Here, let me--
DARREN: (Walks through the doorway:) Thanks, Leonard, I'll see you--(startled look:) Victor--?
VICTOR: (Getting up from sitting behind Carmelita's desk. He appears to look a little frazzled:) Oh, uh, Darren, Mr. Potter, hello again. My wife had to come back up here to get a few things, and then we were leaving. She's in the restroom. (Quickly gathers some papers from the desk:) I'd--better get her notes for her, here...
DARREN: Oh, uh, sure.
LEONARD: (After a moment, narrows eyes:) "Victor", is it?
VICTOR: (Stops, tense expression:) Er, yes--?
LEONARD: (Smirks:) We use first names around here, all right? Call me Leonard, not "Mr. Potter". (Goes over, shakes Victor's free hand)
VICTOR: (Pauses, nods head, smiles, looks relieved:) Oh, uh, sure, Leonard. Sorry.
LEONARD: No harm done. (Turns:) Have a nice time, Darren.
DARREN: Thanks, Leonard. (Pauses, adds:) You can tell Constance what you told me before she leaves, okay? No need for her to think something’s wrong. (Victor narrows an eye, keeps silent)
LEONARD: Of course, Darren. Victor. (Leaves)
VICTOR: Oh, yeah, I'd better call the taxi service so they can be waiting here for us when we get down to the street--(reaches into his pocket, pulls out his cell phone)
DARREN: (Cocks an eyebrow:) You and Carmelita haven't bought the car, yet?
VICTOR: (While dialing:) Well, we're going to get it tomorrow, as a matter of fact. The paperwork is supposed to go through today concerning the trade-in over our old one. No more paying those damn high cab fares.
DARREN: Tell you what--I can take you two on my way back. Menlo Park's on my route.
VICTOR: (Pauses before hitting the "send" button:) Oh, we wouldn't want to trouble you--
DARREN: Nonsense, I insist, it's no trouble, really. I drove my Navigator today, so there's plenty of room. Tomorrow, you can finally get your car without worrying about riding in anymore taxis today. (Pauses:) How about it?
VICTOR: (After a moment, smiles:) Sure, Darren. Thanks. (Clicks off phone, puts it back into his pocket)
DARREN: No problem.
At the next moment, Carmelita entered the office via the hallway.
CARMELITA: (Smiles:) Still here, I see.
DARREN: (Returns the smile:) I was just about to leave, Carmelita--("wicked" grin:) with the both of you.
CARMELITA: (Cocked eyebrow, shows an odd expression:) Come again?
VICTOR: (Chuckles:) Honey, Darren's offered to drop us off to our place on his way home. We won't have to worry about riding in a taxi before getting our new car tomorrow.
CARMELITA: (Surprised look:) Oh! Are you sure--
DARREN: (Holds hand up, grins, interrupts gently:) --Yes, I am, and before you ask, it's no trouble at all. The only thing I ask is that Victor help me with all of this stuff before I collapse. (A smiling Victor complies, takes the bags. The three go the elevator, then walk in when the doors open. The doors then close behind them)
(Scene Fifthteen: Sandi's house, in her room, about ten minutes later)
Quinn and Tiffany were standing on both sides of Sandi, who was sitting at her computer desk. All stared intently at Sandi's computer screen. There were five faces of pretty girls on it, including Stacy's. Beneath their faces were the words, "Our Grand Prize Winners! Who Will Be Chosen?" In the meantime, Fluffy slept on Sandi's pillow.
QUINN: Well, it looks as if Stacy was telling the truth. There's her face.
TIFFANY: Uhh...huh...that's her...
SANDI: Indeed. However, we haven't checked on the phone number, yet. (Reaches over beside her PC, takes the paper Stacy gave them this morning) Quinn, would you do the honors?
QUINN: (Smirks as she takes the paper:) Sure, Sandi, no problem. Good thing this is a toll-free number. We won't run up any bills. (Grabs Sandi's cell phone on her bed)
(Scene Sixteen: Rory's room, the same time. There are several packed boxes neatly stacked all around. His room is quite bare, now.)
Rory and Krystal walked in just as Rory's answering machine, which was still connected to the wall on his end table, came on. A high-pitched beeping sound accompanied it.
VOICE: Um, hello--? (Rory grins, rushes over to answer, while Krystal rolls her eyes, thinking it's another "conquest")
RORY: (Disguises his voice to sound "formal":) Hello. This is Bliss Cosmetics. (Krystal appears to speak, but a glaring Rory mouths "Sty Lark". Krystal remains silent) May I help you?
VOICE: Uh, yeah. Have you ever heard of a "Stacy Rowe"? (Krystal looks off for a moment to think, then recognizes the voice. She narrows her eyes at Rory)
RORY: Why, yes, we have. She's one of our grand prize winners in our contest. Why do you ask?
VOICE: Er, no reason. I, uh, thought she looked really cute, and wanted ask about her, that's all.
RORY: I see. If you wish, I could send you her address, so you could write her--
VOICE: (Rushed:) Oh, no, that's okay! Bye--ee! (Hangs up)
Rory chuckled as he hung up. Krystal glared at him.
KRYSTAL: You son of a bitch! You knew who that was, didn't you?!
RORY: (Turns to her:) Of course. (Pauses:) Darren's babe of a sister, Quinn Morgendorffer. Her voice is unmistakable!
KRYSTAL: (Narrows eyes:) How'd she get your number?
RORY: (Turns to his door, shuts it:) No need for prying ears from the servants. (Turns back to Krystal:) As much as I'd like for Darry's sister to have my actual number, it's not mine. It's a number I bought from the phone company, a toll-free one. It's only for a week. I rigged the answering machine to beep in case someone, which I figured would be Stacy's friends if they were suspicious for some reason, called it. If it was my regular number, the machine wouldn't have beeped. If I wasn't in and they called the toll-free number, the machine would've said, "Welcome to Bliss Cosmetics. Please leave your name and number, and we'll return your call."
KRYSTAL: Clever. (Cocked eyebrow:) A toll-free number for "Bliss Cosmetics"? (Sneers:) What, you're working for them, too? Won't "Preston Smith" be pissed?
RORY: (Grins:) Real funny, little sister. No, it's part of what me and Stacy came up with to fool her friends into thinking she had won a contest for an interview for Bliss' products. It's based on Bliss’ real contest. I got the idea when my little niblett said something about her friends thinking about entering it once.
KRYSTAL: (Crosses her arms:) You do realize Bliss is a real company. What if they call the actual number, or check on the Internet for it?
RORY: (Shakes head, smirks:) Oh, dear sister, you idiot. They just called the "actual" number--to them. I also made a phony Internet home page of Bliss, too. Since I anticipate only Stacy's friends to see the site, it should have only a hit, their's, and it won't last long, a month at most, then I'm giving it up. The web address doesn't read "Bliss" exactly, of course, since that would be a violation of the real company's site. The web address is just off, a little--
KRYSTAL: --Like you, only that it’s by a whole damn lot. (Rory frowns)
RORY: Anyway, if they happen to check the Internet, they'll see Stacy's face, along with the faces of several babes I went out with. I like taking pictures of my dates, you know. It's kind of like--(glances up for a moment, smirks:) a "collection".
KRYSTAL: You're playing with fire, you ass. Sooner or later, you’re bound to get burned.
RORY: (Shrugs:) Eh. What's life without risks? I figure if they checked once to see if this was legitimate, they won’t do so again.
KRYSTAL: (Warning tone, glares:) Rory, once again, if you do something bad to Stacy…
RORY: (Frowns, interrupts:) –Drop the “worried” act, Krystal. Stacy’s gonna be shown a good time in Baltimore, and that’s all—
KRYSTAL: --Which is what I’m worried about, you jerk, your version of a “good time”! I’ve seen the “good times” you’ve had with other girls, more often than not! (Realizes, adds:) And it’s not an act, you bastard! I really do care about what you’d do with her!
RORY: (Snorts:) Please. Of course it’s an “act”, sis! It’s all part of your acting skills when it comes to your faux boyfriend Trent, the brother of the girl who’s with the object of your desire, and it’s driving you nuts! (Krystal shows a death glare, which Rory returns, in a snarling tone:) And don’t try to scare me, sis, it’s not going to work anymore, so back off! You’ve got some nerve to give me a lecture! You think I’m playing with Stacy’s feelings, but that you’re not doing the same with the bum-slash-slacker just to keep tabs on Darry and Jane?
KRYSTAL: (Keeping her glare, though inside she knows he’s hit the mark:) My situation is different, you moron! I’m trying to go out with one guy, not juggle them around like you are with Stacy and those other girls!
RORY: (Stares at his sister for a moment, in a calm tone:) Krystal, you’re using Trent Lane, not only to provoke his sister, but to get Darry. (Pauses:) Sure, yeah, maybe I am juggling Stacy around with the other babes, but I do like her like the other babes. I give her what she wants—me. (Krystal rolls her eyes) She likes it, I like it. Everybody gets what they want.
KRYSTAL: Then, when you get tired of her, you’ll cast her away in the end, just like your other conquests.
RORY: (Chuckles:) You say they’re “conquests”. I say they’re “learning experiences”. Who knows? Stacy could learn about loving from being with me, and become a woman for her future relationships! I’ll bet no guy’s ever been with her long enough because she’s been so insecure she talks about herself all of the time, driving them away! Those chat sessions we had have lasted for hours! I don’t think I’ve ever talked so long with a girl like Stacy! (Pauses, actually forms a reflective look:) She’s actually pretty interesting when I slow her down…
KRYSTAL: (Pauses:) Rory, I—(hard sigh:) never mind, the hell with it. (Picks up a box:) Let’s just hurry up and get the rest of these to the moving truck so I can get your ass out of here! I’ve got to get my stuff so I can have it ready when Darren comes to pick me up.
RORY: So, that’s what he called about while we were packing! (Smirks:) For a second there, I thought you were holding out on me…
KRYSTAL: (Ignores him:) That’s right, from his car while he was taking his secretary and her husband to their home. We’re going straight to the airport from Sean’s. (Lifts a box:) Now hurry up!
RORY: (Faux sadness, teases:) Aww! Isn’t my poor widdle sister gonna miss me?
KRYSTAL: (Frowns:) Hell no! Why do you think I volunteered to help you? The sooner you’re gone, the better! Now get your ass in gear, and help me clear the rest of your crap out!
RORY: (Glares, low, bitter tone which Krystal hears, but ignores:) Yeah, I’ll miss your ass like crazy, too… (lifts a box. Clumsily opens door with his free right hand, goes out, followed by Krystal)
(Scene Seventeen: The House of Morgendorffer, about an hour later)
Daria entered inside just as her mother, now dressed in her red sweatsuit, was coming down the stairs with bed linen in her arms.
DARIA: Hi, Mom. I see you got off early again from work, huh?
HELEN: (Distracted:) Oh, hello, Daria. Yes--yes, I have.
DARIA: (Pauses, glances at what her mother's holding as Helen comes to the bottom of the stairs:) Um, isn't that the bed linen from Darren's room?
HELEN: (Distracted yet again:) Hm--? Oh, yes it is, sweetie. I'm going to wash it so your brother can sleep on fresh linen in his room.
DARIA: (After a moment, notices something doesn't seem quite right:) Didn't you wash that a few days ago already?
HELEN: (Raised eyebrows, looks down at her linen:) I did? (Chuckles, embarrassed:) Oh, dear, you're right, Daria! I guess I forgot! (Turns back to the stairs:) I'd better take this back upstairs--
DARIA: Um, Mom--? (Helen stops, turns back to her:) Is--something wrong? I get the feeling that you've got a lot of things on your mind. (Pauses, smirks:) Don't tell me Eric's got you grinding the millstone again as an equal partner, working on some huge case, and he's gonna resume calling again? (Helen looks wide-eyed in surprise) I had actually enjoyed the mausoleum-like tranquility around here without the calls, (pauses:) save for Quinn's, that is. Maybe we can work on getting her to having no friends so there would be no calls. We can get dad and Darren to run interference by them barricading Quinn in her room, while we systematically eliminate the Fashion Club.
HELEN: (Sighs:) Very funny, Daria. I'm--just thinking about some personal things. No need for you to worry.
DARIA: (Slight frown:) This doesn't have anything to do with Darren's visit, does it?
HELEN: (Covers, uncomfortable look:) Uh, no, of course not, sweetie! Why in the world would you ask something like that?
DARIA: (Shrugs:) I dunno. You look as if you're kinda excited and anxious that he's coming back.
HELEN: (Pauses, considers this:) Well, um, I suppose I am, sweetie. It's just so wonderful to see Darren again--(quickly adds, gasps with delight:) oh, and his friend Krystal, too! (Daria's mouth turns down ever-so-slightly) It certainly caught me by surprise that she would be dating Jane's brother! No offense, but I never thought of them as compatible!
DARIA: (Deadpan, glum tone as she walks past her mother up the stairs:) You don't know how much we agree on that, Mom. (Helen gives her a mild, odd expression, then begins to follow Daria up the stairs)
The next moment, Quinn walked in. Helen turned, and smiled at her youngest daughter.
QUINN: (Usual smile and pep:) Hi, mom! I see you're home early again from work, huh?
HELEN: Hello, sweetie. Yes, I am, I--
QUINN: (Plows on, narrows eyes at what Helen's holding:) --Say, aren't those the sheets that were on Darren's bed?
HELEN: (Looks down at, sighs:) Yes, they are, honey, but--
QUINN: --Wait, don't tell me you're gonna wash them again? I thought you did that a few days ago!
HELEN: (Exasperated:) Yes I did, Quinn, but I had forgotten, alright? Daria told me the sa--
QUINN: (Interrupts:) --Daria's here? Good. I need to talk to her. Excuse me, Mom--(quickly brushes by her, goes up the stairs)
Helen shook her head slowly, sighed, and then followed Quinn.
Quinn went to the end of the hallway to Daria's room, then knocked.
QUINN: Daria! It's Quinn!
DARIA: (From behind the door, deadpan:) Oh, goodie. We've established something meaningful with the sibling introductions. (Pauses:) Where do we go from here, I wonder?
Quinn rolled her eyes, and then walked in, closing the door behind her. Daria was lying on her bed. After eyeing Quinn, she rose and stood up from her bed.
QUINN: Okay, Daria, I checked Bliss' website and phone number. It looks like everything's legit with Stacy.
DARIA: What was on Bliss' home webpage?
QUINN: A picture of Stacy and some other girls, announcing them as the grand prize winners, and stuff.
DARIA: (Cocks an eyebrow:) And the phone call--?
QUINN: A guy came on. He said, "Bliss Cosmetics", and then I asked him about Stacy. He told me she was one of the winners. Then I like, hung up. (Covers her forehead with her right hand:) God, we felt embarrassed about what we did. In fact, I thought we owed Stacy an apology for not trusting her...
DARIA: (After a moment:) I see. (Pauses:) Are you convinced that Stacy's telling the truth?
QUINN: (Crosses arms:) Well, duh, Daria! We checked, and both turned out okay, I told you that!
DARIA: These were numbers and web addresses that Stacy gave you, and told you to check out if you didn't believe her.
QUINN: (Cocked eyebrow:) Yeah--so?
DARIA: So, how do you know if what she gave you wasn't something she wanted you to check, knowing that you probably would, and it turned out that everything looked legit? For all you know, Stacy might've given you some phony addresses and numbers that Rory might've given her. It's easy to make your own webpage if you know what to do, and anybody can get a phone number of their own if they paid for it.
QUINN: (Pauses, now appears worried:) Do--you think all that's possible, Daria?
DARIA: (Shrugs:) Sure, I guess. (Pauses:) I could check the search engine on my computer if you want. I could find the web address of Bliss, and if it matches what Stacy's given you, then everything's cool. If not, well-- (starts to go over to her computer)
QUINN: (Ponders:) Um, d'you think Krystal would know if Rory's up to something?
DARIA: (Stops, turns:) I thought you didn't trust Krystal to tell the truth in anything, including and especially about Rory.
QUINN: (Frowns:) Yeah, but--well, you thought she was telling the truth about caring for Stacy, and the way Rory is with other girls!
DARIA: (Amused expression, tone:) Are you telling me that you'd follow my lead on this? That you’d trust my judgment? (Smirks, places her right hand over her heart:) Be still, my beating heart...
QUINN: (Glares:) Ha. Fine, yeah, I'll follow your lead, okay?! You don't hafta rub it in! I don't wanna make things worse between the Fashion Club and Stacy by bein' more wrong if Krystal says nothing's going on! Sandi, Tiffany, and I feel guilty enough as it is! (Pauses:) Of course, if Krystal says he's up to something suspicious, an' everything, then it's different! I just wanna be sure!
DARIA: Well, as a matter of fact, I was considering calling Darren, and having him to ask Krystal if anything was going on with her brother...
QUINN: (Holds her arms out:) Well? What are you waiting for? (Pauses:) Do it! (Daria sighs, reaches for her room phone, begins to dial)
(Scene Eighteen: Sean's restaurant in Maness, the same time)
The atmosphere was festive in the restaurant as some of Eastward College's finest were both partying and/or talking about what they were going to do during their days off.
Curtis sat at a long table that was set up for the
students. He was sulking by putting his head on his folded arms. A half-filled mug of root
beer sat in front of him, as well as a huge spread of foods, such as Buffalo
wings, pizza, shrimp cocktails, and other mouth-watering delicacies. A smiling
Darren showed up and sat beside him, with Krystal on the other side. He winked
playfully at Krystal, who smirked. In the background, loud pop music played.
DARREN: (Shouting over the music:) Curtis, you've got to get out of this funk! Sitting here not having a good time while everyone else is makes you look out of place--
KRYSTAL: (Ditto with shouting:) --Not to mention that it'll mess up the mood of the party! Some of our friends are asking what's going on with you!
CURTIS: (Looks up, sullen:) Why?! Why did I let you guys drag me to this stupid party?! I'd been better off staying at home--
DARREN: (Grins:) --Where your sisters would've tormented you, making you even more miserable!
KRYSTAL: (Ditto with the grin:) Darren's right! You can't let yourself get down like this! We're off for a few days, so let's party down!
CURTIS: (Shakes head:) Lena's not here! What do I care?! You guys get to go to where your girl and boy friends are for the layoff, but not me!
DARREN: (Sneaks a smirk at Krystal:) C'mon! At least try to have a good time while you're here! Who knows?! Your luck could change at any time!
KRYSTAL: Yeah! (Suddenly surprises him by grabbing his wrists, pulls him up:) Up, up, and away! Let's dance!
CURTIS: Aw, Krystal--I don't feel like dancing! (Offhandedly:) Why don't you and Darren do some?!
DARREN: (Plows on:)--We already did with some others! Now, it's your turn! (Krystal appears to want to say something, but doesn't)
Darren's cell phone in his shirt pocket began to ring, which made him pull it out to answer. In the meantime, Krystal gently pulled Curtis onto the makeshift dance floor (the restaurant had only students from Eastward for tonight), where another girl immediately winked at her, which Krystal returned, and "snatched" Curtis. After another moment, Curtis began to dance, though not enthusiastically. Krystal then glanced around after a moment and looked for Darren, who had vanished. Another student told her he had seen Darren go to the rear, into an adjacent hallway that housed the restrooms. Krystal casually strolled in that direction.
Krystal came upon Darren as he was speaking.
(The "screen" splits between Daria in her room with Quinn, and Darren with Krystal)
DARREN: --Is quite a story, Daria. (Frowns:) And you think Rory might've had something to do with Stacy "winning" this cosmetics contest? (Krystal turns pale in realization)
DARIA: Quinn said that the contest seemed on the up-and-up, (Quinn nods frantically in the background) but I'd feel more comfortable if Krystal confirmed it for me, (Quinn mouths "us". Daria sighs:) I mean us, just to make sure. She might've heard something about Rory being out of town over the next few days, and if so, we can put two and two together by also checking out Bliss' site over on my computer's search engine. It may not be real.
DARREN: (Notices Krystal:) Well, I know Rory's just moved out to his own place, according to Krystal, but if you want to ask her for more info, here she is. (Gives phone to Krystal)
KRYSTAL: (Swallows hard:) Er, hello, Daria.
DARIA: (Neutral tone:) Hi, Krystal. Look, I'll cut to the chase: Do you know if your brother's gonna be out of town over the next few days? (Quinn draws closer, listens in intently)
KRYSTAL: (Pauses, bites her lower lip:) Um, not that I know of. He's--been pretty occupied with his moving out from our little nest to someplace, oh, called "Menlo Park", I think. (Darren cocks an eyebrow, frowns slightly) I don't think he's even thought about Stacy. (Quinn slumps out of disappointment. Krystal pauses:) Er, what's this all about?
DARIA: I guess that settles that, then. Look, Darren can fill you in on what we were talking about. Thanks for the info. (Pauses, continues her neutral tone:) Um, I guess I'll see you sometime tomorrow. Tell Darren goodbye until then. (Quickly clicks off her phone. The "split screen" returns to Darren and Krystal's side)
KRYSTAL: (Annoyed by Daria’s abruptness, but pretends that it doesn’t faze her:) Uh, sure, I'll tell him. (Clicks off phone, gives it back to Darren) Huh. So, er, what was that about, Darren? It sounds pretty intriguing.
DARREN: Oh, it's pretty intriguing, alright. I'll tell you about it on the jet. It's too loud in here to talk about over the music. (Pauses:) Did you say Rory moved to a place called "Menlo Park"?
KRYSTAL: Yeah. Why?
DARREN: (Shakes head slowly:) Talk about a small world, you left out where Rory had moved. Remember my new secretary, Carmelita?
KRYSTAL: (Smirks:) The woman that Jane was worried about taking you away from her? Sure.
DARREN: (Sighs, minor eyeroll:) Krystal, Jane was not worried about Carmelita. (Pauses:) I was. (Krystal snorts) Besides, Carmelita's married to that "Victor" guy, remember?
KRYSTAL: Fine, I was just pulling your leg. (Crosses arms:) Now, why'd you use the "small world" term?
DARREN: Because Carmelita and her husband live in Menlo Park, where Rory's moved to.
KRYSTAL: (Raised eyebrows, genuinely surprised:) You're kidding me. (Darren shakes head) Damn. Well, I hope he doesn't make a play toward her--
DARREN: (Slight grin:) I doubt that. Victor looks as if he could handle any of Rory's possible advances.
KRYSTAL: (Returns grin:) I wasn't talking about Victor, silly. I was talking about Carmelita. (Darren chuckles)
DARREN: (Teasing tone:) Oh. Well, that's different. (Pauses, becomes serious:) Uh, just out of curiosity, are you going to miss Rory, even just a little--?
Krystal merely stared at Darren with a stoic expression, one which caused Darren to feel a chill down his spine for some reason.
KRYSTAL: (Very frosty one:) No. (Turns, abruptly leaves. Darren stares after her, mildly stunned. He then quietly follows her)
(Scene Nineteen: The House of Morgendorffer, once again, a few hours later. It's now dark outside)
Daria, dressed in her Mark Twain nightclothes, and holding a glass of water she had gotten from the kitchen downstairs, walked down the dark upstairs hallway to her room. Quinn's door was slightly ajar, a very thin stream of light protruding from it across the hallway.
Daria heard Quinn talking. Surprise! Why, she's yacking it up on the phone again. More than likely, she's probably apologizing to Stacy, or going over the latest fashion trends with the other Fashion Club members. Well, I sure as hell don't want to disturb her, and get dragged into something fashionably tragic to my health--or hers, if she tries to reel me in...
Daria slowed down and tiptoed by the stream of light, making a conscious effort not to disturb her sister. For some reason known only to Daria, she suddenly stopped, and glanced through the door's crack. Quinn, dressed in her familiar nightclothes, appeared sad as she spoke.
QUINN: (While sitting on her canopy bed:) He's still at a study session with some students, and it won't be over until the early morning? (Pauses:) This'll be all week? But how about--(pauses, sighs:) no, never mind. Thanks. (Quietly hangs up her phone, slumps, sighs. Quinn puts her phone on her nightstand, then gets off her bed, heading toward the door to turn off the light. Daria immediately makes her way to her own room, and slips in. Quinn's light goes off, and her door quietly shuts. After a moment, a sad-looking Daria opens her own door, glances at Quinn's room)
DARIA: (Thought v.o.: She's still not over David. Tempting as it is to talk to her, I said I'd stay out it unless she wanted to talk, and I meant it. [Pauses:] Dammit.) (Shuts door to her room)
(Scene Twenty: Rory's new apartment in Menlo Park, the same time)
Rory sat in a cloth-covered chair in his pajamas, typing in his notebook. A fax machine sat nearby connected to the notebook. It busily spat out paper in a neat stack on a tray. All around, the apartment clearly showed the appearance of a recent move-in. There were the boxes from his old bedroom everywhere, plus a few new store-bought items, such as a DVD recorder, stereo system, and flat-screened TV. A sleeping bag lay on the floor, for his bed had not been rebuilt as of yet. After he'd further clean up the place it would be quite a nice apartment that "Preston Smith" had found for him. Rory continued to type. On the notebook’s screen, a chat was taking place:
SPARROW: I'M GETTING THE INFO NOW, PIGEON. THE FAX IS WORKING PERFECTLY.
PIGEON: EXCELLENT, SPARROW. MR. SMITH WILL BE EXPECTING APPLETON'S SHAREHOLDER MEETING MINUTES TOMORROW MORNING, BY 9 A.M. YOU HAVE HIS FAX NUMBER, RIGHT?
SPARROW: RIGHT. ER, I PLAN TO MAKE A LITTLE SIDE-TRIP TO BALTIMORE THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW. WILL THAT BE A PROBLEM FOR MR. SMITH?
PIGEON: WHAT SORT OF "SIDE-TRIP"?
PIGEON: "PERSONAL" DOESN'T REGISTER WITH MR. SMITH. HE HAS TO KNOW EVERYTHING THAT WE DO.
SPARROW: IT'S SOMETHING THAT I HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF. IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH IT, THEN YOU CAN LET MR. SMITH KNOW YOURSELF. I'M GOING.
PIGEON: FINE. IT'S YOUR HEAD. AT LEAST LET ME KNOW WHERE THIS SIDE TRIP IS, IN CASE MR. SMITH CALLS ME.
SPARROW: IN BALTIMORE. IF MR. SMITH WANTS TO GET AHOLD OF ME, HE CAN CALL BY MY CELL PHONE NUMBER.
PIGEON: BALTIMORE, RIGHT.
SPARROW: YOU GOT ANYTHING ELSE TO GIVE ME?
PIGEON: NO, I DON'T. BUT YOU'D DO WELL NOT TO BE A LOOSE CANNON, SPARROW. MR. SMITH'S GIVEN ME SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS TO KEEP AN EYE ON YOU. IF HE SO MUCH AS EVEN HEARS THAT YOU'VE GOTTEN IN TROUBLE WITH THE LAW--
SPARROW: --I GET IT, ALRIGHT? DON'T WORRY, I'LL BE CAREFUL. SIGNING OFF.
Rory snorted with indifference, and then clicked off his notebook, making sure to continue the connection to the fax machine as it continued to spew out papers. He then typed in a new web address, entering a website that provided tickets and hotel reservations.
(Scene Twenty-One: In a dark, late-night Maness, a few hours later)
Curtis' red Volkswagen pulled up in the driveway of his home, a modest, yet impressive two-story home done in the Prairie-style design of Frank Lloyd Wright. His car was followed by Darren's Navigator, and another car, all which stayed on the front road. Curtis got out and went to the Navigator, which contained Darren and Krystal, along with their packed belongings.
CURTIS: (Slight smile:) Hey, thanks again for the good time. I actually began to enjoy myself. Even though Lena's not here during our layoff, I guess it won't be so bad.
DARREN: (At the wheel, returns the smile with Krystal:) Believe me, it won't, Curtis--
KRYSTAL: --And who knows? Things might get better before you know it!
CURTIS: (Snorts:) I'm not holding out much hope, you understand, but still, I do feel better. (Glances at the car behind them:) Are those the mansion's security guys?
DARREN: (Turns around briefly:) Yeah. I called them when we left Sean's. They'll drive my SUV back to the mansion after we leave on the jet. (Glances at the house, sees a familiar silhouette in the front window of Curtis' home. Suddenly speaks in a rushed tone:) Uh, well, we'd better get on! See you, Curtis! I'll call in a day or two! (Suddenly drives off in a cloud of dust, leaving Curtis in a stunned daze. After a moment, the car behind follows)
Krystal gave Darren an odd expression as he slowed a bit.
KRYSTAL: Um, Darren--? (Pauses:) What in the hell was that all about, if I may ask?
DARREN: Sorry for the sudden spurt of speed, Krystal, but I saw her in the window, and I knew she was going to come out on the porch any second.
KRYSTAL: Huh? Who? (Darren gives her a pointed look, smirks:) Oh! Her? Are you sure?
DARREN: (Nods:) I'm sure. (Grins:) Curtis is going to be floored. (Becomes wide-eyed in realization, cuts eyes over:) Moving on, I just thought about something: how are you going to get into the Lane's?! If I hadn't been so eager to leave, I would've asked you before! Jane said that they changed the locks to their house! If you want, you can stay at my family's home for the night--
KRYSTAL: (Chuckles:) --It's okay, Darren, really. I'll be fine. (Reaches into her shirt, pulls out a key, smirks:) Trent sent me this. I can slip in anytime. (Darren looks relieved as they and the security car following them go down the road)
(Scene Twenty-Two: Back to Curtis' house)
Curtis stared after the two cars, and sighed as he turned to go into his home. They didn't waste any time leaving, did they? Can't say that I blame them. I know I'd want to get to Lena if had the chance, but I didn't want to accept Darren's offer of flying me down to Florida to see her. Even though I'd never say the word "charity" in front of him, he knows it anyway. We both do. I hope they have a good time. I think I'll spend most of my time sleeping. It'll pass the time by faster...
Just as Curtis was about to unlock the front door as he came unto the porch, the door suddenly opened itself. Who he saw made his mouth drop in disbelief.
A smiling, beautiful African-American young woman Curtis' age, dressed in a flowered-colored dashiki and sandals, stepped out onto the porch, and promptly sauntered up to him. Her hair was in tight, long braids, which were longer than say, Jodie Landon's, not to mention that she was lighter in skin color than Jodie as well. (If one could envision Beyoncé Knowles as a cartoon character, they wouldn't be far off)
YOUNG WOMAN: (Whispers, small smile:) Hi, Curtis.
CURTIS: L-Lena? B-But how--?
LENA: (Puts her arms around his neck:) I think you know how, if you think about it. (Before Curtis can speak, she pulls him down, and kisses him. After a moment, he responds)
About 30 seconds passed before they broke for air.
CURTIS: (Chuckles in realization:) Darren. That sneaky bastard.
LENA: (Slaps his shoulder lightly, teases:) Now, don't you dare talk about your friend like that, Curtis. I think it was sweet for him to fly me up here.
CURTIS: (Puts hands up, grins:) Hey, don't get me wrong, Lena. He said he wouldn't fly me down there, and he didn't. Darren just turned the tables.
LENA: (Snuggles against him:) Exactly. I had some personal time built up from my hospital job, so when he called me a few weeks ago, I jumped at the opportunity. (Smiles:) Darren got your parents and sisters in on the scam, as well. (Curtis rolls his eyes, realizes) So, if you're going to call Darren a "sneaky bastard", you might as well call your family that, too.
CURTIS: (Laughs, puts hands up:) Okay, okay! No name calling! (Pauses:) Wait a sec--why didn't you come to the party at Sean's, and where are you staying? (Grins, draws his face close to her's:) Could it be here by any chance? I wouldn't mind.
LENA: (Smiles, gently pushes him back:) Down, boy. I'm staying at Darren's mansion while he's out. I've been designated as a "Special Guest", there, hence, he said that I--we can have the run of the place while he's gone. As for your little going-away-for-awhile party, I just arrived only an hour ago, and I decided to wait for you. I can call the mansion to pick me up in a limo when I leave.
CURTIS: (Shakes head in disbelief:) Man, do I owe my buddy for doing this! It's like a dream come true!
LENA: For the both of us. (Puts her arms around his neck:) Now, enough talk. Shut up and kiss me. (They kiss, this time more deeply)
Their kiss was interrupted by the giggling of a pajama-clad Juanita and Laflita, who watched them through the glass front door.
JUANITA: (Teasing:) Awwww, that's so sweeeeet!
LAFLITA: (Puckering her lips:) Oooooooh! Kissy-kissy!
Lena laughed as she watched a red-faced Curtis release her, and suddenly run into the house after his twin sisters.
(Scene Twenty-Two: The House of Morgendorffer yet again, three hours later. It's about 3:00 a.m.)
Daria made her way down the dark hallway to the bathroom. Serves me right for drinking that glass of water before I went to bed. I feel like a bloated water balloon.
Daria went in, and closed the door. After a minute or two, she exited, feeling relieved. She dropped an eyebrow at the light coming from the living room downstairs. Someone must've gotten up while I was taking a leak. I hope dad's not sneaking another morning snack again, unless it's of the low-fat variety. Mom'll skin him alive.
Yawning, Daria decided to go downstairs, and see who had gotten up. She smirked, preparing to deliver her sarcastic commentary upon the poor family member.
As Daria went down the stairs, she stopped a few steps down when she immediately noticed that the front door was open. Oh, boy. Burglars? I thought the home alarm system worked! Well, there's American quality for you...
Daria then froze.
Should I scream? What if they have a gun? If they don't, would they run out, or come up after me? Damned if I'm gonna be a martyr for no more than a thousand bucks of our stuff! Of course, they could take Quinn if I can somehow get her down here. Seriously, maybe I should just go back up the stairs, and stay around the corner to see if I can get a description...
Daria suddenly saw Darren entering, holding a few bags of groceries. Immediately, she responded, coming down the stairs.
DARREN: (Grins:) Daria! Good morning!
DARIA: (Slight smile:) You mean good very early morning. I thought you'd come later in the morning. You obviously didn't have trouble with the alarm code mom gave you. (Pauses:) I sorta thought the same thing about burglars not having any either when I saw the door open.
DARREN: (Grins:) Sorry for the scare, sis. (Puts groceries down on the middle sofa, where there's also his belongings, as well as other items for the family he's brought in:) I wanted to get out of Maness as soon as possible, and surprise you all. I also wanted to get to your school as early as possible to speak with Ms. Li concerning my donation to the school. I didn't want the media to be there waiting for me if I came later.
DARIA: Smart. What's the deal with the groceries?
DARREN: Henri's been after me to resume my occasional cooking skills, and I promised him I'd do it while I'm visiting here. I stopped at an all-night store I remembered when I was last here.
DARIA: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Using a rented car? What, does the airport have an all-night rental service?
DARREN: (Smiles:) Sure. The vehicle I wanted a week ago was waiting for me, filled up and running. See for yourself. (Daria walks to the open door, looks out. A pearl-colored Cadillac Escalade is in the driveway)
DARIA: (After a moment:) Quinn'll probably go nuts when she sees that gussied-up SUV.
DARREN: (Chuckles:) She should. (Pauses:) Quinn's the one who asked me to get it while I'm visiting, the model, color, and everything.
DARIA: (Slight smirk:) I see. I assume it's loaded--?
DARREN: (Shrugs as he comes over to her:) Sure. It has a moonroof, TV, DVD player, a CD player, even an icebox, and an Internet connection for my laptop.
DARIA: Did you want all of that stuff in it? It might draw attention to you.
DARREN: (Dismissive shrug, sighs:) Daria, unlike my last time here, people know who I am, now. It doesn't really matter, either way. I might as well not put up any false pretenses.
DARIA: (Deadpan:) You mean, not hide the fact anymore that you're rich enough to buy the whole damn town, and then some?
DARREN: (Smirks:) It's not like I'm going to throw piles of money out while I'm driving around town, sis. Even I'm not that dumb. I plan to keep my money in my pocket, and be plain Darren Appleton.
DARIA: If that's the case, I'd hate to have seen the fancy Darren Appleton. He might've driven a five-room RV in front of our house. (Darren laughs. Daria then pauses:) Um, where's Krystal?
DARREN: I dropped her off at Jane's after we went to the all-night store. Trent had sent her a key. I helped her with her stuff, and then she slipped in.
DARIA: Did she tell Trent that she was coming this early?
DARREN: No. She said she wanted to surprise him and Jane, and that she'd find her way around. Trent had told her about his home, and which room was which. (Adds, smirks:) Don't worry: she won't end up in Jane's room.
DARIA: (Thought v.o.: That would be quite a sight. You wouldn't be able to tell the red paint from the blood:) I'll help you put away the groceries--(begins to move)
DARREN: (Pauses:) Well, okay, sure, but uh--(pauses)
DARIA: (Stops:) What?
DARREN: (Stares at Daria for an instant:) Ah, never mind--
DARIA: (Sighs:) Darren, it's alright. If this is about worrying over whether or not I'll be able to get back to sleep before school, don't. I'm used to--
DARREN: (Gently interrupts:) --No, sis, it's not that.
DARIA: (Pauses:) Then what?
DARREN: I was hoping--well--I was hoping that you'd give me a welcome home hug.
DARIA: (Suddenly blushes a bit, hesitates:) Um, well--
DARREN: (Faux-hurt:) Am I that terrible to hug? I thought we were long past that, and it's not like we haven't done it before, right--?
DARIA: (Smirks:) Don't remind me. (Long pause, slight smile:) Yeah, why the hell not? Just don't spread it around, okay? I do have a rep to protect... (quietly walks up to him, then just as quietly hugs him. Darren hugs her back gently)
Quinn walked down the hallway after she had thought she heard noises. Quinn had not been able to sleep very well because of her thinking about David, and it showed in her weary expression. She narrowed her eyes when she, like Daria, saw the glow of the lights from the living room downstairs. Ohmygosh! Do we have burglars? Should I scream? What if I'm kidnaped, and held for ransom? I can see me, but not Daria. Maybe I can get them to get Daria, unless they're really cute burglars, in which case they can take me. I wonder if they'd look like Dav--no, stop thinking about him...
Quinn came to the edge of the hallway, and looked down the stairs in a skittish manner. She grew wide-eyed when she saw Daria hugging--
QUINN: (Squeals loudly, grins:) Darren?!
Before Daria or Darren could speak, a delighted Quinn bolted down the stairs in a tizzy, practically leaped off the bottom stair. She hugged Darren fiercely--while he was still holding Daria, who suddenly had her face pushed into Darren's chest, skewing her glasses a bit.
QUINN: It is you! Oh, it's so good to see you again, Darren!
DARREN: (Struggling with Daria:) You--too--sis!
DARIA: Quinn--you have--a future--as a--junkyard car crusher--that's for--sure. (Pauses:) Now can you--let go--please?
QUINN: (Embarrassed, giggles:) Oh, um, sorry!
The next moment, Jake Morgendorffer suddenly appeared at the top of the stairs, along with Helen. Both were in their nightclothes. Jake had one of his golf clubs, a three wood.
HELEN: (Alarmed:) Jake! Be careful! The burglars could have guns!
JAKE: Dammit, Helen! I don't care! I heard Quinn scream! I'm gonna break their--(suddenly becomes wide-eyed as he stares down at the bottom of the stairs:) DARREN?! (Drops golf club, rushes down the stairs:) My son's back!
HELEN: (Just as wide-eyed as she follows Jake's stare:) DARREN?! (Rushes right behind Jake)
Both immediately grabbed Darren in a fierce embrace--with Quinn and Daria right in the middle, and Daria getting the worst of the deal. Once again, her face was buried in her brother's chest, and her glasses were more askew than ever, almost falling off her face.
DARIA: (While struggling with Quinn and Darren, thought v.o.: I'll--never--criticize--sardines--again...)