Never, under any circumstances, do you open your story up with a narration. It's cheap.
She lay in the hospital bed; her eyes firmly shut; respirator over her face forcing air into her protesting lungs. Two of her ribs had been broken in that was making it difficult for her to breathe normally; if it wasn't for the fact that she wanted to stay alive - and that the respirator was forcing her to, anyway - she'd probably just give up the effort.
Not that she was aware of any of this in her unconscious state.
While she slept, she dreamed off the accident: walking home from school with Jane, crossing the road to get to her house, the car appearing from nowhere, flitting in and out of consciousness and seeing a bizarre procession of people like some kind of movie montage.
"Hey, kiddo! How are you feeling?" asked Jake Morgendorffer, Daria's father.
Daria, naturally, couldn't reply. Regardless, her father went on speaking: "Well, you haven't really missed much, Daria. Your mother's been on the phone all week to Eric; Quinn and the fashion club have been using your room as decorating practice; I got a whole bunch of new clients - and lost them when I brought them home to dinner and they met Helen."
You know, next time I get trapped in my subconscious, I want my ears to be plugged. I have to listen to this crap when I'm awake, shouldn't I get some respite when I've nearly died?
"Anyway, the doctors aren't sure how long you're going to be in a coma for ... I'm sure it won't be too long; it's not like the car was going particularly fast, or you hit your head at an awkward angle or anything."
Will you just get out of my room, please? I really don't want to have to listen to you droning on all day. You can drone as much as you like when I get home, just not now. Why couldn't scientists have been wrong about this one thing: about people being in comas still being able to hear things? No! They have to be right about everything, don't they? I better be careful or I'll start talking to myself ... Oh, wait! I wish Jane was here, at least she talks about stuff I like to hear. Except when she talks about ... sigh ... Tom.
"I should really leave you to rest, now, shouldn't I?" Jake said at last. It wasn't that he wanted to go, actually, but the nurse was looking at him in that way that suggested he'd been here for one-point-two minutes after visiting hours had officially ended and she wanted to get back to making fun of the patients while they slept. "I'll ask Jane to come by later, Dar."
Alone at last! Now, I'm free to do whatever I want! Okay, I'm bored. I wish I was psychic, that way I could tell the nurse to put the TV on; Sick, Sad World is starting soon. Oh, no! It's the season finale tonight: "What happens when monkeys are elected president?" Better ask Jane to tape it ... what am I saying? I'll just wait for the DVD. Or maybe download it! Hehe. You know, I wish this was like that movie I watched were the guy goes around as an astral projection while his body heals. Dammit! Now I want to know what the name of that movie was! Who was in it? Richard Pryor? No. Eddie Murphy? No. Chris Rock ...? What the ...? Where did he come from?
"So, anyway," Quinn was saying, "we took out all the padded walls in your room, because, y'know, they're so two years ago. We haven't quite decided what to replace them with: something in chiffon does sound good, although Sandi doesn't agree. Daria, I wouldn't tell this to anyone else, but I think Sandi's jealous of my popularity in the Fashion Club. Every time I have a good idea, she says 'no' and then bullies Stacy into agreeing with her. Tiffany is just a waste of air."
Oh, great! As if listening to dad rambling on about work wasn't bad enough, I now have to listen to Quinn: Fashion Princess talking about, well, fashion. And I can't even throttle her. Where's telekinesis when you need it? God, I wish Trent was here right now. Oh, God! I did not say that out loud, did I? No, you idiot, you can't say anything out loud! I really hope I didn't blush just then.
"Hey, Daria, I didn't know you could blush while near death!"
"I'm sorry I couldn't get by earlier, honey. But I've been so caught up in work. Eric's been having a lot of trouble down at the office." This was Helen, Daria's mother. A cell-phone started ringing one of those pleasant-yet-annoying-on-so-many-levels tones. "Oh, that'll probably be him calling to tell me that he's got his tie stuck in the paper shredder or something."
Sigh ... I wonder which god I offended in a previous life to get a family as weird as this. Not that I don't care about them, of course, but come on ... everyone has a right to be stupid, some people just abuse that privilege, however. It's like being stuck between floors in a lift with a boy-band ... only more irritating. Jane, you'd better get your ass over here soon!
"Well, I'm afraid I'm going to have to go, now. Eric really needs me down at the office. I'm sure Jane or Trent will stop by later, though. Goodbye, darling."
Gee. Thanks for the reassurance, mom!
Footsteps. Daria could barely hear them; after spending so many years with the person, though, she could easily tell who the steps belonged to. "Hey, Daria. For a near-corpse, you don't look half-bad," said Jane in her low, almost sultry, voice. Of course, that could just be Daria's mangled perception playing up on her.
Have I ever thought of Jane as 'sultry' before? God, I hope not. I'm saying 'God' an awful lot in this stream-of-consciousness. Be quiet, Jane's talking.
"I figured that your parents and sister would probably be boring you to death with details of their lives, so I'm not going to do that. I brought a book. I managed to get it out of your room before Quinn and the Worst of the Mohicans took over."
I really hope it isn't Princes of the Desert. My grandmother bought me it for my birthday, I really had no intention of reading ... much of it.
"Anyway, I really hope my voice doesn't drive you to despair while I read." Jane sat down on the small wooden chair next to Daria's bed and started to read: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way ..."
A Tale of Two Cities. My favourite. Listening to Jane read was like curling up on the sofa with a black-and-white romance movie, a fine wine and a huge plate of junk food ... if I knew what a fine wine was, and I liked romance movies, that is. Shut up and listen, Daria! Just enjoy the junk food part of the fantasy. Okay. I'm now thinking about Jane and chocolate, is that wrong?
A few hours later, Jane had to stifle a yawn as she grew more and more tired. She wasn't going to give up reading until she reached the end of the book, though. As much for her own sake as Daria's. In the end, she couldn't; she rolled forward until her head was on Daria's lap and she started snoring softly.
Well, it could have been worse, I guess. It's really wrong for me not to mind Jane lying like that, isn't it? Even if I could, I probably wouldn't want to move her. Oh, God, I'm blushing again, aren't I? I probably look like an overripe tomato.
"Sorry for falling asleep on you there, Daria." Jane had an apologetic look on her face, even though she knew Daria couldn't see her. Jane idly stroked Daria's red hair, now knotted badly from not being washed in almost a week; without thinking, she leaned down to kiss her on the cheek. "I'll be back as soon as possible; we've only got a few more chapters to get through."
Okay. I know it is most definitely wrong to have enjoyed that kiss. She's my best friend, dammit! I'm not supposed to feel 'this way' about her; then again, I can't see what the problem is ... I mean, she is my best friend. I wouldn't want to inflict myself on a guy ... and I certainly wouldn't want a guy inflicting himself on me, even Trent - so ... I'm going to sleep; hopefully, in a few hours, I'll forget all about this.
It seemed strange to be sitting in the back of the Morgendorffer family car again. Daria had finally been discharged from the hospital and, while a little thinner than normal, was none the worse for wear. As usual, she had her standard outfit of a battered green jacket that had been washed one too many times; an orange shirt; a black skirt that ended just above her knees and a pair of black boots. "How are you feeling, kiddo?" asked Jake, forced chirpiness belying his concern as ever.
"Pretty good, actually. Despite the horrible food, uncomfortable bed, terrible lack of conversation and the pain in my ass, I managed to recover," replied Daria, her voice loaded with sarcasm.
"That's great, dear!"
"Is there anything special you'd like for dinner tonight, darling?" asked Helen.
"Gee. Microwaved salad with a tomato oozing salt sounds good," Daria answered. She started looking out the window, hoping to see Jane as they passed her house. Screw that! Get out the car and *go* to her house! "Umm, Dad? Can you stop the car here, I'm going to go see Jane."
"But we have a ..." Jake was silent as Helen prodded him in the ribs. "Sure, okay." The car screeched to a halt at the sidewalk next to Jane and Trent's house. After waving goodbye to her parents, Daria walked up to the door and rang the doorbell.
"Hey, Daria," said the ever-sleepy voice of Trent as he opened the door. "Sorry I didn't come visit you. We had a few creative differences with the band."
"You were sleeping, Trent," Daria said with a small smile; about the only thing she could manage to do right in his presence. She had never expected to fall for any guy - and Trent was so not the right guy on many levels - but there was something about him: perhaps it was the way he could freely mix being incredibly intelligent with being incredibly lazy and unfocused. He needed focus, that was all.
"Yeah. But we did write a song about you; maybe you can hear it later?" suggested Trent.
What are you going to say to her, Daria? I really enjoyed the fact you fell asleep on me and kissed me before you left and now I may possibly have developed a romantic inclination towards you? God, I sound so pretentious when I talk to myself.
Daria knocked on the door to Jane's room and waited to see if her friend answered. "Just a sec, Trent."
"It's me," Daria said simply.
"Oh. In that case, come on in. I'm just tidying up a bit. Not that I expect it'll stay tidy for too long."
Daria stepped inside Jane's room and closed the door behind her. As expected, the room was a mess of art supplies, videos and books. The bed looked like it hadn't been made in a week. "I'm glad to see that some things don't ever change," Daria said as she examined the mess.
Jane, as usual, was wearing a red jacket with a dark undershirt; her shorts had a distinct greenness to their greyness; like Daria, she also wore almost knee-high boots, except in grey; unlike Daria, though, she also wore leggings underneath her shorts. Like her bed, Jane's hair looked like it hadn't been washed in a while; her blue eyes also had bags under them, indicating she hadn't been sleeping much. "Nice to see you up and about, Dar," Jane said, genuinely relieved at seeing her friend out of hospital. "I'd hug you, but I know you don't like that touchy-feely crap."
I used to not like it, but then you had to go and kiss me and throw my whole system of touchy-feely out the window. Okay. Now, my heartbeat is starting to go up, that can't be good. I'd better say what I want to say before I chicken out. Deep breath ...
"Well, that's what I wanted to talk to you about. You know I'm not one for beating around the bush; when I want to say something, I'll just say it - so I'll just say it: why did you kiss me at the hospital, Jane?" asked Daria, not taking her brown eyes off her friend's blue ones.
"Oh." Jane seemed surprised. "I don't know. It seemed appropriate, I guess."
You're lying, Jane. I know when you're lying, your eyebrow twitches.
"You've got that look that says: 'Jane-you're-talking-a-lot-of-crap-so-just-tell-me-before-I-make-you-watch-a-marathon-of-My-Little-Pony'."
"I just never expected it, that's all," admitted Daria. "You're my best friend - my only friend, as it happens - I always expected we would be friends forever; but now you've thrown up the possibility that we could possibly be something more, and I kind of want to explore that possibility. If you want to, too, that is."
I really hope I didn't sound like some kind of distraught heroine from a romance novel there.
"I suppose I feel the same way, Dar. Even from the first second we met - making fun of Mr. O'Neill in Self-Esteem Class - I knew you were special. I just couldn't admit it to myself - or you - for fear of losing your friendship. I'm glad you feel the same way."
Daria took a deep breath, feeling the weight lifting from her shoulders. "Great. So ... what do you want to do?"
"I don't know," replied Jane. "What do couples normally do?"
Daria was sitting in her room when Jane called. "Hey, sweetie," she said sarcastically.
"Careful, Daria, with an attitude like that you might have guys crawling all over you the next time you're outside; I'd hate to see my little pumpkin-pie converted by the forces of evil," replied Jane, every bit as biting as Daria had been. Sighing, she added: "Dar, I'm sorry I haven't come over - or even called sooner - but I'm still getting used to this whole together-thing."
"I'm a little shocked by it myself, Jane, but that's no reason to avoid me. Even Trent's called me more times in the past week, and that's really saying something," explained Daria. "If you'd rather we call the whole thing off, I'd understand."
"No!" Jane practically shouted down the phone, making Daria wince. Calmer: "I mean, no. It's just going to take a while to get used to things. And to get used to things, I think we should go on a date."
"Sure," said Daria. "Where do you want to go? Movie and a pizza?"
"Sounds good to me. You free Saturday?"
"It is Saturday."
In a voice which suggested she was licking her slips, Jane said, "I know."
"All right, what time will you be over at?" asked Daria.
"Uh. I don't mean to be awkward, Dar, but don't you think we should meet somewhere neutral?"
"Jane, we meet at each other's houses all the time; if my parents have managed to go this long without suspecting anything, I really don't think they are going to notice anything different, now. Unless you start wearing six-inch pumps or something. You're not wearing six-inch pumps, are you?"
"Very funny," replied Jane; her voice contained not a note of mirth, though. "I'll be around to 'pick you up' at eight. There's a new French movie on."
"I'm sure we'll probably be too busy making out in the back to notice the movie, anyway," said Daria. "Still, at least we're going to see something that's virtually guaranteed to be empty."
"It's not really anyone's business, anyway, is it?" sighed Jane. "I mean, why are we so different from any other couple in the world?"
"Because we're two seventeen-year-old girls," explained Daria. "That means we should either be in Holland or hard core porn movies."
"The thought is appealing."
Note to self: never bring up anything even slightly amusing in front of Jane again.
"All right, Jane, I'd better start getting ready. I'll need to pick out something nice to wear," said Daria. Not that I do have anything nice to wear. It's either the skirt and jacket or the jeans and t-shirt. What's more romantic, I wonder? "And then haul myself into a shower. I still smell like a hospital."
"You didn't smell that bad," replied Jane. "It had a certain niceness to it."
"I'll just pretend I never heard that," groaned Daria. "I'll see you at eight."
After hanging up, Daria walked over to her wardrobe and looked at the sad array of items contained within: two more black skirt, green jacket and orange shirt sets; a pair of faded blue jeans that should probably be thrown out; a black shirt that was probably now a size too small for her; a pink scarf that she'd gotten from an overeager aunt at a birthday (and had since gone unworn); and a pair of shorts that were normally reserved for bed-wear only.
Note to self, part ii: buy new clothes as soon as I have a lot of money, and they start making clothes that I like in my size. It seems weird that, in a relationship, we suddenly become so much more obsessed with how we look. I mean, me and Jane have been best friends for years, it's not like we're suddenly going to go off each other because we refuse to dress-up for a ... shudder ... date. I still can't get used to that word: 'date'. I still can't get used to the fact that I'm attracted to another girl. What feels weird is that this does not feel weird. Is that weird? Note to self, part iii: stop saying 'weird' so much.
"So, what are you doing tonight, Jane?" asked Trent.
"Going to see a movie with Daria, why?" replied Jane; now was not really the time for talking to her brother, she decided. Jane hoped that Trent would make whatever he wanted to say brief and to the point, and hopefully not involve music somehow.
"Mind if I come along?" he asked in his slow, measured voice. "Jesse's quit Mystik Spiral again, so I've got nothing to do for the rest of the night until he decides to come back when no-one else will bother taking him on."
"Do you guys always plan your break-ups in advance?" wondered Jane aloud.
"You can't make great music without the occasional spat," explained Trent, as if it were obvious.
"Well, you can't come along, Trent. Sorry." Jane couldn't help but look mournful when Trent's face fell, looking like a puppy that had just being kicked in a river and was now fighting for its life while a group of kids stood on the bank and laughed. Who were those kids, anyway? "We're going to see a French movie," she explained, hoping to alter Trent's mood. "That means subtitles; no car chases; no nudity and no... thing of interest what-so-ever."
"Then, why are you and Dar going to see it?"
"It's the kind of movie we like," replied Jane.
"Are you sure you don't want to just be, like, alone with Daria for a couple of hours; whatever you're planning is something that is best not shared with an audience?" asked Trent.
"No. We just don't want to hear you snoring through one-hundred-and-eighty minutes of our one-hundred-and-eighty-one minute film."
"Okay," said Trent as he walked back up the stairs to his room. "I guess I could catch up on some of the sleep I missed last night while napping. Tell Daria I said 'hi'."
And to think there are some people that are cheeky enough to refer to Trent as a 'sloth'. The poor sloths must feel insulted to be compared to someone so lazy. So, okay, what am I gonna wear? I've never been on a date before. Well, I have, but I'm choosing not to count those. Even the ones that ended very well.
Jane clambered up the stairs to her room and rifled through her wardrobe. Like Daria's, there wasn't much to look at: several pairs of grey-green shorts; a few different coloured shirts, all v-necks; a few jackets; a pair of trainers sitting next to her spare pair of boots; a straw-hat that she used to wear as a kid. There were a few other things - mostly huge t-shirts - but they were strictly for bed only.
Oh, well. We always wear the same stuff, anyway, it's not like anything bad is going to happen just because we carry on doing that. But then, there is that feeling that you 'have to' dress up to impress your partner, isn't there? It's not like Daria is shallow either; I mean, sure, she can be a major pain in the ass at times, but she's not going to care what I wear.
Feeling a bit better, Jane grabbed a pair of shorts; one of the v-neck shirts; one of the jackets and threw them on top of her bed and then proceeded to walk down the hall to the bathroom, intent on taking a long, hot shower.
All right: jeans or skirt?
Daria had been standing in front of the wardrobe for the past half hour, trying to decide which would Jane prefer. The last time she had worn the jeans - when she'd gone on a road trip with Jane, Trent and Jesse - hadn't exactly been a roaring success: she'd ended up with peanut butter all over her ass.
Okay, I'm going to wear the skirt. I mean, it's what she sees me wearing most often. God, I can't believe I'm sitting here agonizing over what to wear, I never do that. Sure, things might be a little different now, but that doesn't mean anything else has changed. We're still the same people. Now, I am going to go and take a shower and get rid of this hideous smell of 'hospital'. I feel like I've been dunked in a barrel of anti-septic and then been forced to take a bath in medicated shampoo. Wait a minute ... that actually happened once, didn't it?
Jane examined herself in the - slightly cracked - full-length mirror. "Well, I guess I could look a lot worse." To be honest, she didn't look any different from how she normally would. She was a shade over five-and-a-half-feet tall and her hair was raven black, it fell down the sides of her face in a kind of spike; her left ear had three rings in it; she had even applied some of the lip-gloss that her uncle had bought her, mistakenly assuming her to be the kind of person who wore 'stuff like that'.
Maybe I should get those prop glasses? I'm sure Daria would probably appreciate my attempts to draw more attention to my eyes. Then again, where am I gonna find an open store at this time? Especially one that sells prop glasses.
Like Jane, Daria was standing in front of a mirror. She just couldn't convince herself that she looked 'desirable'. Not that it was exactly an impression that she was trying to cultivate, but she did want to look at least sort-of nice for Jane. She had briefly considering putting her mane of unruly red hair in pig-tails or something girlish, but had decided against it on the grounds of taste. She still couldn't believe the difference between wearing glasses and not wearing glasses; it seemed like a totally different face when she took them off.
Of course, I do sometimes wish I had a completely different face. Instead of this ... thing that I do have. Then again, it could be worse, I could look like Quinn. No! Don't go there, Daria. You've never been one of those typical 'I-hate-everything-about-myself'-type teenagers; you hate everyone else! Well, I don't hate them: I just wish there weren't so shallow, self-absorbed and ignorant. All right, it's 7:30, I should start making my way to the cinema.
"Hey, Daria," called Jake, her father, when she walked to the front door. "Where you off to, kiddo?"
"I'm meeting Jane at the cinema, we're going to see a movie," explained Daria quickly. "Don't wait up, it's on for three hours."
"Here, kiddo," said Jake, offering Daria an extra ten dollars. "Don't accept any lifts from strangers."
"I won't." Daria rolled her eyes and headed out the door.
Well, that was easy.
Thankfully, Daria arrived five minutes early at the cinema. Jane was, of course, already waiting there for her. "Hey, Dar, you look nice."
"You, too. Is that a new jacket?" Daria smiled.
"Don't rub it in; you've not exactly gone all Paris Hilton," replied Jane.
"If I did, I'd have to be heir to an incredible fortune, yet still get my jollies by appearing in smut videos."
"Does anyone even say 'jollies' anymore?" chuckled Jane.
"When does the movie start?" asked Daria. As they had expected, no-one had bothered turning out for the Lawndale premier of Le Mauvais Loup. The movie had received ecstatic reviews from critics world-wide, had swept the awards ceremonies, had even reduced the stoniest of hearts to tears; naturally, of course, no-one from the general public wanted to see it. Not enough explosions, not enough violence, not enough foreign chicks doing things with cucumbers.
"In about five minutes. Don't worry, I already got tickets. Even by the standards of French cinema this is a pretty poor turnout, don't you think?" remarked Jane.
"Yeah. I was expecting at least one college student with a pseudo-intelligent point of view to show up, complaining that the movie didn't really get to the thrust of the issue. What's the movie about, anyway?"
"Umm. It's about how some guy discovers that there's a dark and shadowy underworld beneath his seemingly innocent and pretty town," explained Jane hurriedly, clearly not really knowing what it was about. "I don't know. I just saw that it was French and assumed that no-one, except us, would go see it."
"Sounds like something out of Twin Peaks. Well, I suppose we'd better get in there. Our first date," said Daria.
God, could I sound anymore ... not ready for this? You've seen hundreds of movies with Jane, why is this one any different? Oh, right, because you're now a 'couple'. Does that really change anything?
"Are you really sure about this, Dar? I mean ... being together; it sounds so weird, doesn't it? Like it isn't really happening. You know, we're still friends, just with a few extra words added on."
"That's exactly how I'm feeling. I've never had a crush on anyone before - well, I have, but we won't go there right now - now, all of a sudden, I'm having romantic feelings about my best friend, who also happens to be a girl." Daria sighed. "And the girl issue isn't even the weird part, it doesn't feel weird at all. I think it's right. In a way, it seems a natural extension of how close we were to begin with." Daria sat down on the bench parked a few yards from the front of the cinema, Jane sat next to her. "I've never been able to talk to anyone before - not about deep personal issues, anyway - except you. You've been understanding and always there when I've needed someone. I imagine I can be rather ... cynical ... at times."
"Cynical? You? Don't be so hard on yourself, Dar," grinned Jane, she put an arm around her friend. "I know what you're feeling, though. My parents are almost never around; I never really get the chance to speak to them about anything, not that I would. Meeting you way back when was the happiest moment of my life. I'd been living in Lawndale for years and was rapidly losing hope about meeting anyone ... vaguely intelligent ... then you came into my life. You got me out of that stupid self-esteem class, you encouraged me in my art when I thought it sucked, you've been there for me when I've wanted to jump off a bridge."
"You've never wanted to jump off a bridge," Daria reminded her. "But I understand the sentiment." Daria looked at Jane. "I'm not really in the mood for three hours of French boredom, why don't we just go home and see how we feel in the morning?"
"Sure. That sounds good," replied Jane; she didn't seem terribly enthused about the prospect of going home, though.
Should I hold her hand? I mean, there Jane is, looking vulnerable and sad. I should really hold her hand, shouldn't I? But what if someone sees ... God, what if it was Upchuck? Who knows what kind of rumours he'd start around school? Daria, why does it matter? You've already proclaimed the fact that you don't care that you're in a 'relationship' with Jane. Does it matter if everyone else does? It probably doesn't, but I just don't want anyone getting, well, weirder than normal around me.
"Well, here we are," Jane announced when they reached the path leading up to her house. "Want to come in for coffee?"
Daria, I really want you to say 'yes'. You probably know that, of course. But I'd completely understand if you didn't want to. I can't say that I love you yet, but I know we're destined for something far more than just being friends.
"Umm ... I should probably get home," sighed Daria. "I mean, I would love to stay, of course."
"I don't know. I'm just afraid of what might happen. It's too soon for anything to happen, really, I think." Daria kissed Jane softly, tenderly, on the cheek. "I'll call you tomorrow. Maybe there'll be something worth watching, then?"
"Bye, Dar." Jane had to resist chasing after Daria when the girl started walking along the dark sidewalk back to her own home.
That would be stupid, Jane! Don't even think about it! Just let her go ... just let her keep walking. If she really wants something to happen, she'll come back.
I wonder if anyone else gets this way? Still thinking even though they are asleep. Then again, I suppose some people just call it 'dreaming'. Or Hypnagogia. The worst thing about it is not being able to wake up, I suppose: you just lie here, conscious of your surroundings, but not able to move. Hang on ... that's sleep paralysis, isn't it? Okay, Daria, stop thinking about stuff, now! Oh. I can't. I have to keep thinking. Thinking about what a stupid mistake I made in ever thinking I could be with someone. Maybe it wasn't 'destined to be'? Jane is my best friend, and I guess it's true that friends don't make the best lovers. Not that I can even call her a lover. I don't even think I could make love to her. Okay. Blushing again. Remind me to call and ask her later if she wants to sleep together ... I hope she doesn't, I'd be way too scared and would probably break something ... likely my own leg. So, what day is it today?
The alarm clock caterwauled into life at 7:00 sharp. Daria's eyes shot open and she rose to a sitting position. "It's Monday!" She remembered not calling Jane after their 'date' on Saturday, hoping the girl would call her. No such luck. Maybe Jane wanted to call it off? Daria crawled out of bed - clad in only a thin t-shirt and shorts - and grabbed her glasses from the chest of drawers next to the bed. After straightening out her unruly hair with a brush that already several thick clumps attached to the bristles, Daria made her way over to the wardrobe and selected her usual outfit. She quickly stripped off her night wear and got into her skirt, shirt and jacket.
As she got dressed, Daria wondered what Jane had been doing on Sunday night. There was a twinge of something in her stomach as she thought of Jane doing something - anything - with someone else. Daria smiled ruefully. I guess that proves I really do care, if I'm getting jealous over her not being with me all the time.
"Hey, kiddo!" Jake uttered his usual greeting as Daria entered the kitchen, reached for the loaf of bread and put two slices in the toaster.
"Morning, dad," replied Daria coolly.
"How was the movie?"
"Strangely enough, it wasn't very good." Is it only me who can't abide by people being cheerful in the morning? I mean, how unnatural is that? To be *happy* that you've been dragged out of your warm, cosy bed at 7 in the morning to go to a place you don't particularly like to learn stuff you don't particularly need.
"Daria, just to let you know, you'll have the house to yourself for the most of the night. Your dad and I both have to work late, and Quinn is staying over with Sandi," said Helen, who was still attaching some over-large earrings.
"We're going to be discussing why Autograph's striped taffeta skirts are such a fashion faux-pas!" added Quinn, chipper as ever.
Great. That means I can invite Jane over. Oh, God! That means I can invite Jane over *to stay*.
"Are you sure it's really necessary for all you guys to be out at the same time?" asked Daria.
"I thought you'd be pleased," replied Helen. "You're always complaining about everyone getting in your way."
I *always* complain about that? I never knew.
"Hey, can you smell something burning?" asked Jake.
Crap. I forgot about the toast!
Daria rushed over to the toaster, just in time to remove two charred pieces of bread. "Can someone hand me the butter?"
Funny, isn't it? Why does the toaster come with a setting to crisp the bloody bread?
Sitting in class - listening to Mr. DeMartino talking, rather shouting, about the Vietnam War - Daria noticed that Jane was absent.
I really hope this is not my fault. Scratch that, I *know* it's my fault. I really hope she didn't do anything stupid ... what am I saying? Of course she wouldn't do anything stupid; she's probably still sleeping.
For some reason, these thoughts refused to comfort Daria; she was now itching to get out of the class-room and get over to Jane's house.
How childish is that? Skipping school just to avoid someone. It's like being back at primary when you'd have to hide from the bullies.
Jane was standing at her canvas, painting whatever random images came into her head; however, the only thing on her mind right now was Daria. "Not bad, but I still don't think I got the hair quite right." You'd think with the amount of time I spend with her I could get it looking at least half right! Jane tore the canvas from the easel and through it to the ground. She did, however, manage to resist the temptation to jump on it several times.
Okay, Jane, calm down. Your rapidly burgeoning insanity over this issue isn't going to help anyone. You could have at least called, though. God, I can't believe how ... obsessive I'm being about this; she doesn't call once and I'm going out of my mind. She's probably going out of her mind, too, though; wondering why the Hell I'm not at school. Oh ... what was that noise?
Faintly, Jane could hear the sound of knocks at the door. "That's odd," she said to no-one in particular. "Jesse and Trent are asleep in the basement ... nobody would bother coming to call for them at this time." Tentatively, she answered the door and was greeted with a face she didn't expect to see so soon. "Hey, Dar."
"Hey, Jane. Umm ... I was wondering why you weren't at school today?" said Daria.
Jane stood aside to allow Daria to enter. "Doesn't this, like, ruin your permanent record? You know, skipping school."
Daria shrugged before answering. "Well, something's are more important than school ... like everything else in the world." Daria followed Jane into the kitchen and sat down at the table.
"Tea? Coffee? Hot water?"
"Uh. No thanks," replied Daria. "It wouldn't have anything to do with me, would it?"
"What would?" asked Jane.
Daria frowned. "You know what, Jane. Why weren't you at school?"
Jane sighed and joined Daria at the table. "I'm sorry, all right? When you didn't call yesterday, I assumed that something was wrong ... that you were having second thoughts about being together ... and I just couldn't face seeing you at school."
"Jane, I don't feel any differently about you now than I did on Saturday. I still want to be with you, but I'm just afraid of things moving too fast. You're the only close friend I've ever had, and if something were to happen to us while being a couple, I'm just not sure we could go back to being friends," explained Daria. She took a deep breath before continuing: "Anyway, if you want to stop being a couple ... I guess it doesn't matter, really, I just hope we can go back to being friends without any problems."
"Dar, I really don't want to go back to being friends," said Jane. "I like things the way they are."
"Me, too. Umm ... my parents are going to be working late tonight - and Quinn's staying over with Sandi - would you like to come over?" Daria was blushing, now. Jane knew exactly what her friend was thinking.
"Are you sure you're ready for that?"
"Have to start somewhere," replied Daria. "At least we'll have a few hours before my parents come home."
God, I'm not ready for this, am I? Still, if I back out, at least Jane won't hold it against me. Okay, I'm thinking of the *wrong* things in regards to having stuff held against me.
When Daria got home - after having stayed at Jane's until four - the place was already empty. A hastily scrawled note sat on the table reading: 'Dear Daria, there is some chili con carne in the fridge for dinner. See you in a bit! Love, QJH'. "Well, at least they actually said something!"
Okay! Now, I need to call Jane and tell her that it's safe to come over. Oh, God! I'm really nervous about this. Mental note: don't look in the mirror.
Daria's heart was racing. I can't believe this is actually going to happen; keep taking deep breaths; just keep moving and procrastinating and avoiding actually picking up the damn phone, calling Jane and telling her to get her ass over here! She finally picked the phone up and called Jane. "Hey, Jane. Everyone's gone, it's safe to come over."
While she waited for Jane, Daria put down two glasses of soda on the table, fiddled with the pillows on the sofa several times and generally wasted time until she heard the door-bell chime. "Hey, come on in," she said when opening the door and seeing Jane.
"Are you sure everyone's gone?" asked Jane; she was looking around the living room suspiciously.
"Don't worry about it, I even made sure that the bacteria in the fridge was cleared out," replied Daria while leading Jane to the sofa. Picking up the remote, she switched on the TV. "I heard it's a good one tonight. Have you had dinner yet? My mom left some frozen chili behind if you're hungry."
"No thanks. Trent and Jesse left some cold leftovers from their breakfast - or dinner, depending how you look at it - I had those before coming out." Jane looked over to Daria and noticed that her friend was shivering. "What's the matter, cold?"
"No. I'm just nervous," replied Daria, her voice as shaky as her body. In all honesty - even though she was wearing what she'd normally wear to feel comfortable - Daria felt like she needed more clothes, just to hide herself away in.
I've never been self-conscious about my body before. I've never really cared about what I wore; as long as it's comfortable it's fine, but now I feel like I *have to* make the extra effort. It's the little things, really, that get to you: the way a person looks, the way they smell, the way they dress, the colour of their eyes ... I never noticed before, but those shorts she wears are really hot ... cute! Have I ever thought of anything as hot before? I certainly don't think so! Is Jane hot? Sure she's cute and attractive - I can see why Tom digs her, anyway - ugh, don't bring Tom up!
"Hey, Dar, why the blush?" Okay, Jane, you could have tried saying that in a little less of a sarcastic voice; I mean, it does look pretty darn cute. She looks like some kind of ripe fruit ready to be bitten into. Biology metaphor, icky.
"I was just thinking about things," explained Daria, hoping Jane wouldn't press her too much. Then again, maybe I want her to press me ... certainly onto the table, anyway. Slow down, girl! Can you go from a nun to a sex-fiend in one night? I don't even want sex, I just want to hold her, to feel what she tastes like. "Feel what she tastes like ..." is that a mixed metaphor? "Non-important things."
"Oh, really?" asked Jane in that tone of voice which Daria knew indicated that she was about to forced into answering. "What kind of things?"
"Well, I really don't want to ruin the ..." Daria paused, taking a look around the living room which looked the same as it always did - the TV blared Sick, Sad World's blatantly made-up news reports - and smiled thinly. "I didn't want to ruin the romantic mood we seem to be cultivating here."
"If it's about Tom: don't worry. He's a nice guy, but not my type. A bit too upper-class for me." Jane returned Daria's smile. "How about you? Has anyone been trying to get into your rather fetching skirt?"
Daria blushed again; she had never thought of her skirt as 'fetching' before; then again, it did manage to show off an appreciable amount of her - thin, but still attractive - legs. God, I really hope Jane isn't turned off by my legs ... they're way too pale and thin! "If they tried, I'd have to use the can of mace I keep on my person at all times. I really have no interest in guys - or even girls, for that matter - I just wanted to be alone; if I ever wanted to have a family, I'm sure I could ."
"Then why do you want to be with me, if you're so 'asexual'?" asked Jane, she sounded a little hurt by Daria's comment of not wanting to be with anyone.
"You're different, Jane," explained Daria. "You're funny, intelligent, sarcastic ... dare I also say cute?"
It was now Jane's turn to blush. "You ... think I'm cute?"
"As much as I respect your intelligence, I don't think I could really have a fulfilling relationship with you if you weren't pretty," replied Daria. She, too, had turned red. "I mean, I know it's shallow, but I at least think that the person I be with be ... you know ... nice." Do I sound shallow? Is it wrong for me to just want the person I, possibly, spend my life with be attractive?
"It's not shallow," said Jane, she had to swallow several times to clear the lump developing in her throat. "It's only natural to expect a certain measure of 'appeal' - in the physical sense - to make a person attractive to you. At least you don't just want me for my body." Please say you want me for my body, Daria! Oh, God, did I really just think that? Daria, if you don't make some kind of move soon, I think I may have to pounce on you. I don't particularly want to - well, I do - but you're rapidly leaving me with no other choice!
"So, uh ..." Daria trailed off, the words she wanted to say had become stuck in her throat. "Do you, uh, do you want to go ... upstairs?" Nice work, genius! Maybe you should clarify just a little further; you know, in case you were a little too subtle? "To my room?" Very smooth, Daria; maybe you could offer her a vodka-martini, too?
Jane reached out to take Daria's hand, her friend accepted it without hesitation. "Are you sure about this, Dar? We've only been going out for ... about forty-eight hours, I could understand if you weren't ready."
"Jane we've been best friends for years ... what am I gonna learn about you in the next few months that I didn't already know?" asked Daria. She stood up and led Jane up the stairs to her room. As ever, it was a cluttered mess with books and magazines strewn around at random; in fact, the only part of the room that seemed to be cleaned on a regular basis was the area around the computer - not surprising as that was the part of the room that Daria used most often; that and the bed, of course.
"Who knows, Dar? You've never seen my whole body before; I could have some kind of secret tattoo fetish that you didn't know about." Jane grinned at Daria's slightly repulsed look. This from the chick who went and got a navel ring just to impress Trent!
"How do you want to start?" asked Daria, motioning Jane down onto the bed while still holding her hand.
In response, Jane cupped Daria's chin and leaned in close to her. Inhaling her intoxicating sent, Jane delivered a small, but passionate, kiss onto Daria's lips; she took the time to savour her friend's sweet-tasting mouth. When she broke away to take in a lungful of air, all Daria could say was: "Good start."
Am I still dreaming or is there something warm lying next to me? I distinctly remember having a dream about me asking Jane to come to bed with me ... Did she accept or did I just fall asleep and imagine everything happening?
Daria woke up and found that her left arm was pinned underneath something heavy. Flicking an eye open, she saw the fuzzy outline of Jane Lane lying on top of her arm. Rather than disturbing her and waking her up, Daria decided to snuggle in closer to her friend and put her right arm around Jane's waist. She enjoyed the warmness of her friend's skin and couldn't resist sliding her hand up and down Jane's waist slowly. If human beings could purr, Jane would most definitely be doing that right now. "I'm awake, now, Dar."
"Sorry," said Daria. "I didn't want to wake you. I just wanted to watch you. And touch you ... a little."
"It's cool. After last night, I don't even know how I managed to wake up right now ... what time is it, anyway?" asked Jane.
Looking over to her alarm clock, Daria saw that it was 9AM. "I think we're probably going to miss school."
"I hope you're not disappointed?"
Daria smiled and kissed her friend's cheek. "Strangely enough, I'm not."
Jane shivered as she felt Daria's warm lips against her cheek. She reached out to touch her friend's side and slowly slid her hand up Daria's smooth, pale skin to rest on the back of her head, knotting her fingers inside her reddish hair. Jane pulled Daria's face closer to her and kissed her softly on the lips. "So - and believe me, I feel slightly awkward asking this - was last night good for you, too?"
Daria blushed. "Yes."
"Good." Jane smiled and took Daria's hand and held it close to her lips. She kissed it softly and pressed it to the side of her face. "I'm really glad that we decided to, you know, 'do it'."
I'm really glad about it, too, Jane. I never expected this to be so good. And the fact that it was with you makes it even more ... special.
"I think we'd better get cleaned up and get out of her before ..." Before Daria could finish speaking, though, there was a knock at her door.
"Daria?" asked Helen. "Are you not feeling well, you're not usually still at home on a school day." She sounded concerned.
"I'm all right, mom, I just slept in. I'll be ready to go soon," replied Daria
"All right, dear."
"That was close," grinned Jane.
"Too close." Daria sighed. "You know, it really isn't going to be fun if we have to keep hiding from people, is it?"
No, I suppose not. But what difference does it make, really? We hang around together all the time. Do you think anyone would notice if I was suddenly to start holding your hand, kissing you ... yeah, I guess they would notice. Still, it isn't anyone else's business; it's ours, so everyone else can just go take a running jump.
"I know," replied Jane. "It isn't our problem, though. I really can't see a problem with what we're doing. I hate to get all philosophical here, but how we feel is how we feel; if other people can't handle that, then that is their problem, they should just learn to accept it and not stick their ugly noses in our affairs."
"You had to say 'affairs', didn't you?" grinned Daria. Not that I mind, of course.
"It'll just be like every other day, Dar. We'll walk around the school - or around the town - we'll talk about how stupid people are, we'll look at clothes that no-one in their right mind would wear, we'll eat lots of pizza and then head home."
"It sounds nice in theory, Jane. But if one person finds out, it ends up around the school. When our parents hear about it - although that might take slightly longer in your case - they'll sit us down and give us the whole 'body lecture' and how the feelings we're experience are natural ... before trying to talk us into finding a nice, young boy."
Gee, Daria, why don't you just say you think it would be a good idea for us to go back to being 'just friends'?
"I think it would probably be for the best if we go back to being just friends, Jane," said Daria with a heavy sigh. "I'm already enough of an outcast without having people pointing at me and calling me a ... well, whatever they call our type."
"Daria, you've never cared before what people thought about you; why is it all of a sudden you're really worried about this? Is it me?" asked Jane.
"No! There's nothing wrong with you, Jane. I love you. I just don't want to go through the effort of having to ignore a whole new group of people who shout at me in the corridor with bizarre epithets."
Jane's heart felt heavy, and she found it impossible to say anything. Well, to be fair, what am I supposed to say? One minute, I'm on top of the world with everything going great; the next, I'm being dumped by my best friend and lover. Jane crawled out of bed and quickly got dressed. "I'll see you at school later, Dar."
"Jane ..." Without looking back, Jane left Daria's room. She re-appeared a few minutes later, though.
"Umm ... do you mind if I sneak out the window? It would probably be for the best if your parents didn't see me sneaking out of your room." They'd probably assume that we've been up to something, after all, and you don't want that.
"Could you please not act like I'm the bad guy here; I'm thinking of you, too, you know," said Daria, slightly more angry than she intended to be. Okay, I'm not being entirely truthful, am I? I'm mainly thinking of myself and how I don't want to be hurt.
Perceptive as ever, Jane said: "Are you sure it's really me you're worried about?"
"Yes." Daria sighed. "No. You're the only person I can admit this to, but I'm much more sensitive than I look; comments don't just wash off me, you know. And there's also the feeling that, one day, you're going to possibly want to leave me for someone better. I really don't think my heart could stand that."
"Dar ... who could possibly be better than you?" asked Jane. "When I first introduced you to Trent, I thought you two would make a cute couple; but the more time I spent with you - the more I got to know you - the more I got jealous of the time you guys spent together. I was always too afraid to admit my feelings for you, though, it just didn't seem right to burden you with that kind of knowledge."
"I think you know as well as I do, though, that it probably wouldn't work out in the end, Jane." Daria climbed out of bed and got her own clothes. "I'm not the right type of person to be in a relationship with, anyway. I really hope we can go back to being just friends, though, that means more to me than anything else."
"I don't know, Daria, I think I'm going to need some time to think about this." Jane finally walked over to the window and climbed out of it. "I'll see you later!" she called from the street below.
Did I just make a really huge mistake? No. Jane is my best friend and I can finally admit to loving her; but in the end, it just can't work out. There'd be the whole trying to hide it from people thing, which would just suck since I'd rather *celebrate* the fact that I *can be* in a relationship with someone - despite what people think. Why am I so concerned with what people think, though? I never did before ... is it one of those ingrained-from-birth characteristics that makes us feel it's morally wrong to be attracted to someone of the same gender?
"Hey, Jane." Daria sat down next to her friend at the lunch table.
"Hey, Dar." Jane didn't look up from her sandwich. She hadn't taken a bite of it, though.
"Are you okay?"
"Can I get some eye-contact, please?" asked Daria sarcastically.
"Can't. Contemplating," explained Jane.
"Contemplating what? Whether white or brown is the best? It's always going to be white, no matter what the adverts say about white with the goodness of brown."
Jane smiled ruefully. "You were right, Dar. In the end, it probably wouldn't have worked out. Secrets can never stay secret for very long; especially not in a town this small."
"I'm sorry if I hurt you, Jane," said Daria, tears beginning to prickle at her eyes. "I never wanted that."
"Do you still want to be friends?" asked Daria; she dabbed at her eyes with the sleeve of her jacket.
"Of course I do!" replied Jane, shock in her voice. "Don't you ever get any ideas about me wanting to abandon you, Dar!"
I'm so glad to have met you, Jane Lane. You're the best friend a girl could have.