Tori Jericho was yet again engaged in her favorite pastime as she stood against the lockers at Lawndale High with her two friends Brook and Teresa. She eagerly pointed out a boy walking down the hall. "Now that guy is popular, but not as popular as that guy," she explained, as if no one really knew. "That guy and that girl are equally popular. I bet that they end up going out." She saw four girls talking across the hall. "Now that girl with the pigtails, she’s popular because she just does whatever anyone tells her to, and the one in the dress is popular because she does some volunteer work of some sort. You know, help the community popular. That tall one is really popular, even though she’s a real bitch. And that one in the pink…" Tori paused uncertainly. "…um…used to be more popular than she is now. Or…" She paused again as she spied two losers. Normally, these two wouldn’t even register on Tori’s scope except the one with the bad makeup, black hair, and jean shorts… "maybe that one is getting more popular. Because, you know, I’ve been seeing those two around together a lot lately, so there’s some major vertical movement going on one way or the other there…"
Across the hall from Tori, the subject of her gossip, Jane Lane, was in the middle of a conversation with her best friend Daria Morgendorffer. "…so then, splat! And there goes the only edible food in the house," said Jane.
"What are you and Trent going to do about it?" asked Daria.
"Well, Trent is going out with Monique tonight."
"It must be their ‘make up week’," deadpanned Daria.
"Don’t worry. ‘Break up week’ is only two days away." Jane sighed. "It wouldn’t do me any harm to miss a meal, I guess. I’m starting to get a bit plump."
"Are you kidding? You’re skin and bones! You haven’t been hanging out with Tiffany, have you?"
Jane shuddered. "I’m not that desperate for company. It’s just that those grapes hanging out on that tree are a bit sour and…"
"Okay, fine. You can come over for dinner. But I’m trying to protect you for the sake of your own sanity. The Fashion Club is coming over for one of their stupid meetings."
"No sweat. A forkful of lasagna helps the superficial phoniness go down."
Ten feet away from them, Daria’s sister—Quinn Morgendorffer—concluded her eavesdropping with a smile. She turned back to listen to the rest of the Fashion Club meeting in progress.
"…and the…treasury fund is…at a surplus this…week. We can therefore…buy the expensive…gowns that we wanted for…the informal ball," read Tiffany.
"That’s great! Isn’t that just wonderful, Quinn?" cried Stacy enthusiastically.
"Um…that’s nice, Stacy," said Quinn tolerantly.
"Like don’t forget," informed Sandi. "It’s Quinn’s turn to host the weekly after-school meeting tonight."
"I’m sorry, Sandi," said Quinn. "But I can’t host the meeting tonight. We’re having a friend of the family over for dinner."
Sandi paused and contemplated this. "All right. I guess I could have it at my house. And Quinn will be able to get out of dealing with this loser ‘friend of the family’ thing."
"Um sorry, Sandi. My mom expects me to be there. She’s like, really important, or something." And if she’s a friend of the family, doesn’t that mean she’s my friend, too? Bitch.
Sandi smirked as she realized that she could run The Fashion Club tonight without Quinn’s interference. "Oh, that’s too bad," she said with mock sympathy.
That’s what you think, thought Quinn. "Oh, I’ll manage," she replied.
That night at the Morgendorffer household, Jane helped herself to another lasagna square from the vast mountain stacked on a serving platter. "Thanks for letting me come over for dinner," she said to Helen.
"It’s no problem, Jane. I’m always happy to have my daughters’ friends over. Speaking of which…" she turned to Quinn, "…wasn’t The Fashion Club going to come over for one of their after school get-togethers?"
"There was a last minute change of plans," replied Quinn. "They decided to hold it over at Sandi’s place."
"They can only be fashionable in a geek free environment," remarked Daria dryly.
"Right, Daria," said Quinn, the sarcasm seemingly going over her head. Just like you can only be sociable in a people free environment, she thought. "Anyway, I was expecting an important phone call, so I decided not to attend."
"Bolt the doors! Sandi’s Fashion Mafia will exterminate us all!" cried Jane.
"What?" asked Daria.
"I don’t know."
The phone rang. "That’s for me!" said Quinn as she snatched the phone from the table. "Hello?" Her face lit up. "Matthew?" She got up from the table and too the phone into the living room, chatting happily.
"Why is it every time that ‘Matthew’ calls, she always goes into the other room?" growled Jake. "Well I’m not gonna stand for it! I’m gonna get to the bottom of this, by God!" He slammed his fist down on the table and then clutched it in pain. "Gah! Barbara Striesand!"
"Jake, watch your mouth!" admonished Helen. "There are children present!"
"But I got a boo-boo on my hand," whined Jake.
"Then put some ice on it," growled Helen from between clenched teeth.
The meal continued as usual.
"Are Neo-nazis invading our amphibian population? Trenchcoat Froggies up next on Sick Sad World!"
From outside of Daria’s room, Quinn heard the television blare the promo. Ick! Why do they always watch that stuff? Granted it was a bit much to expect Jane—if not Daria—to watch Fashion Vision, but couldn’t they find something a bit more tasteful to watch? But even with that going on, she was still determined. She sucked her stomach to her spine and walked in.
"Sorry," greeted Daria from where she and Jane were sitting on the bed. "There is no shallow end in this pool. Get out now, or you will be drowned."
"Ha," deadpanned Quinn. She turned to Jane. "You’re an artist, right?"
"And you’ve asked me this a hundred times before, right?" remarked Jane.
She ignored the rebuke. "I need your help picking out which color lipstick to wear to school tomorrow. Please? It’ll only take a minute."
Jane shrugged. "Oh, what the hell?" She got off the bed and followed Quinn down to her room.
Once again, Jane gazed at the beanie baby zoo that Quinn called a bedroom. God! How can she stand being in a room this…cheerful! This place would blind a smurf! For lack of anything better to do, she decided to attempt some conversation while Quinn got out her lipsticks. "Fashion Club meeting or a phone call from a guy. Must have been a tough choice, huh?" she began.
Quinn regarded Jane. "Oh yeah," she said sarcastically. "Who’d ever want to stay home for a phone call when you can hang out with The Fashion Club! The coolest clique in Lawndale High, The Fashion Club, a.k.a. The Sandi Griffin ass-kissers league!"
Jane shrugged. "I can’t disagree with you there," she said in as casual a tone as she could muster. This was a side of Quinn she had never seen before.
Quinn put her right hand on her hip and thrust her nose up into the air. "Hi, I’m Sandi Griffin, and all of you have to come worship me and kiss my ass now," she said in as deep a voice as she could. "I’m God’s gift to the world and all of you suck."
"That’s Sandi, all right!" Jane laughed in spite of herself.
Quinn began to strut around. "I hereby call this meeting of The Fashion Club to order. Stacy, you will now tell me how great I am, or I will punch your lights out."
Quinn’s demeanor abruptly changed as she pulled her hair to the sides of her face to pantomime pigtails. She shuddered. "You’re so great Sandi. I just wish that I could be as cool as you someday. I’m too chicken to say anything nasty about you or even think for myself."
Quinn went back to her Sandi persona as Jane began to crack up. "Thank you. We all knew that, Stacy. Tiffany, would you give us a demonstration of how illiterate you are by reading Green Eggs and Ham?"
Quinn pantomimed reading a book. "‘Not…in…a…barn. Not…in…a…boat. I…do…not…like…like…’ What’s that word?"
Tears began to stream down Jane’s face as she roared with laughter. Quinn then dropped all acting. "‘Green,’ Tiffany," she said in her normal voice. "Can we stop worshipping Sandi enough to go to Cashman’s now?"
She put her hand on her hip again. "God, Quinn, why don’t you shut up and just let me treat everyone like dirt?"
She pantomimed pigtails. "But I wanna go to Cashman’s, too!" she whined.
"Yeah. Doooooooes Cashman’s make me look fat? I’m only a size three, you know!"
Quinn put her nose up. "Since if everyone is on Quinn’s side, then maybe she should be President of The Fashion Club!"
Jane caught her breath as Quinn’s shoulders sagged. "Which is Sand-ese for ‘Quinn’s threatening my authority again, so she should go away,’" she said in a normal tone.
"Sounds like you don’t really like your friends," noted Jane.
"Yeah, I guess," sighed Quinn.
"Have you thought of getting some new ones?"
What for? We’d just end up talking about the same old boring stuff," she muttered. "So where’s Trent?"
"He’s out with Monique tonight."
"Uck. And there are so many other eligible girls."
Jane smiled. "I know what you mean."
"Okay, so which do you think looks best, the pink or the…pink." She regarded the two identical lipsticks in each hand. "Um…you know what? It looks like I won’t be needing your help after all." She tittered nervously. "Thanks anyway, though."
"Don’t mention it," Jane shrugged again. Quinn watched forlornly as she walked out of the bedroom to join her friend.
The memories had been repressed. These days they only showed up as dreams:
She was back in Highland, just starting Kindergarten. She had picked out her first Library book, The Cat in the Hat. Mommy was on the phone, for the one-millionth time today. Quinn looked over and saw Daddy, asleep on the couch. Can’t wake him up.
Then she saw Daria, her sister, sitting high up in a chair. She saw her reading a big book, made all out of paper. Wow, she thought, maybe I’ll be able to read one of those, one day! She went over to her sister.
"Daria, could you read to me?"
Daria disdainfully regarded her little sister. "No," she decided.
"Pwetty Pwease," she whined.
"No," Daria repeated.
"Because you’re a brat."
Quinn’s blood began to boil. "Well you…you’re a brain!"
"You’re a little brat, and I hate you!"
Quinn’s jaw dropped. No one had ever said that to her before. Tears began to well up as she realized that there was no one to turn to; no one who cared. "Well, you’re a rotten brain, and I hate you!" She bolted from the living room, sobbing.
She ran straight to her room, went in, and slammed the door behind her. Tears flowed from her eyes as she sat in a corner, hugging her knees to her chest. "Nobody loves me," she whispered to herself.
Laying on her side in her bed with her knees scrunched to her body, a stray tear drop ran down Quinn’s cheek. "Nobody loves me," she mumbled in her sleep.
The next day, Quinn found herself approached by another type of nuisance as Bret Strand coolly approached her. Ugh! What does he want? "Hi Quinn," he said in his best pseudo nice-guy voice. If there was one guy that was every woman’s simultaneous dream and nightmare, it was Mr. Love ’em and Leave ’em himself, Bret Strand.
Quinn smiled winsomely at the womanizer. "Hi Bret! Have you come to ask me to ask Stacy out for you?"
Bret shuddered. "Stacy? No way! She’s yesterday’s news!" he said with conviction. What happened, Bret? Did she bore you to death with her Barbie collection? thought Quinn. "I was wondering if you had a date to the informal next week."
"Well, let’s see…Joey got grounded for a month, which makes him out. Jeffy and Jamie are currently on my off list this week. Skyler still won’t talk to me. God, talk about holding a grudge. Everyone else that’s worthy is pretty much taken…" I wonder if the wino down by Cranberry Commons is free? "So no, I guess not. Do you have anyone in mind?" To take to the dance, not the back seat.
"Well, I was wondering if you’d like to go with me."
Quinn shrugged. It was likely the best offer that she was going to get, and the idea of going out with someone who could match her conquest for conquest had a certain challenge to it. "Sure, why not?"
Bret smiled. "Great! I’ll pick you up around six, okay?"
"Oh, that’s nice," replied Quinn. She walked off, leaving Bret standing there, confused. Let the games begin, she thought.
After school, Quinn wandered aimlessly around Lawndale. She had taken to doing that often on what she called her "days off." Her days off were just days when she didn’t have to go to a Fashion Club meeting or let some idiot football player take her out. And besides, anything was better than going home. Anything.
Quinn looked up at the signpost and read the street she was on. Howard Drive. Without even understanding why, she knew that this was where she had been heading all along. She had some questions that needed answers, and she now knew where to find them.
Five minutes later, Quinn rang the doorbell to the cream-colored house that was the Lane residence. The door opened, and a lanky young man with a goatee stood before her. "Oh. Hey. Daria’s sister," he said.
Quinn scowled. "That’s what I like most about you, Trent. You always remember my name."
"Yeah. ‘Daria’s sister,’" he retorted. "Daria isn’t here right now." He began to close the door.
"Actually that’s okay. I was just wondering if Jane was around."
"Uh..." began Trent, trying to think of a plausible excuse to get her to go away.
"She is? Because I really need to talk to her. I mean it’s really urgent." When in doubt, fake an emergency.
"All right. Come on in."
Quinn went into the living room and sat on the couch next to Trent. "You know, Trent, I was leafing through my Mom’s legal texts, and I found out that one of the really interesting things about statutory rape is that you actually have to have sex before it’s really statutory rape. I mean, come on, they can’t throw people in jail just for hanging around with somebody, can they?"
"No, I guess not," Trent conceded.
"And I was just thinking about, you know, how you and Monique have this really rocky relationship. And just suppose, hypothetically speaking, that you could find a nice girl open to dating you, who was maybe around seventeen, and didn’t have a problem with abstinence. Wouldn’t that be a good thing?"
"I think I know what you’re talking about," said Trent.
Quinn smiled hopefully. "You do?"
"Yeah, and the answer is no. Look, I’m sorry, but you’re just not my type."
Excuse me? Quinn didn’t know whether to laugh, or to slap him, or what. She decided on getting off the couch in a huff. "Forget it," she muttered sourly. "Jane’s room is upstairs, right?"
"Yeah. And you may want to work on your tact. You’re about as subtle as a slap in the face."
And yet, that’s still too subtle, Quinn noted to herself as she trudged up the stairs. For Trent to ask Daria out, it would probably take all the subtlety of a kick in the groin.
Jane smiled as she put the finishing touches on the painting. It was one of her finest, with Quinn as the feature. This time, she was laying on her deathbed with her ghost—a luminous, perky looking thing—hovered over her. Another masterpiece, she thought. Then she looked over at her subject. Quinn was laying upside-down on the bed, her head tipping over the foot and her hair draping down to the floor. Some traits breed true, Jane thought to herself. "So, Quinn, I know you did cancel about a thousand of your dates to be here, and I’m fairly sure it wasn’t so that you could lie on my bed and look miserable, as much of an inspiration as it was to me just now. What’s on your mind?"
Quinn got up into a sitting position on the bed and looked Jane directly in the eye. "What’s Daria like?" she asked.
Maximum of three questions. No betrayals. Immunity from prosecution, is what Jane wanted to say. Instead, she found herself saying, "What do you want to know?"
"Well, for starters, how did you and she meet?"
Jane’s eyes widened. "You mean you don’t even know that?" she asked incredulously.
"Look, all I know is that one day she was alone, and the next, you were around. How did it happen?"
Jane sighed. Boy, she really doesn’t know Daria, does she? She went over and sat on the bed next to Quinn. "We met at a self-esteem workshop," Jane told her. "It was my sixth or so time at it, so I had the course memorized. Daria just seemed semi-intelligent, and I liked how she had scared Mr. O’Neill in English, so I began talking to her. She talked back. The usual thing."
"You were in that low self-esteem course?" Quinn repeated incredulously.
"Yeah. So what if I was?" asked Jane defensively.
"Well...it’s just that...you don’t seem like you have a low self-esteem problem."
"I don’t. It was Ms. Li’s idea, not mine. Besides, it was a way to spend my afternoons."
"What do you two do together?"
"We hand around. We’ll watch some TV, maybe go for a pizza, or we’ll go see Trent perform at the Zen. Whatever."
"Does she ever talk about me?"
"I think that’s classified information."
Quinn snorted. "I don’t mean that. I mean, I know she hates me, but..."
"Why do you think she hates you?" Jane asked.
"Well...it’s kind of personal."
" ‘Hate’ is a very strong word. I don’t think Daria gives you that much thought. You shouldn’t flatter yourself."
Quinn shrugged. "I guess," she conceded. "It’s just that she doesn’t seem to want me around."
Jane lifted an eyebrow. "Now that’s a surprise. I always thought that it was the other way around. Personally, I’m willing to believe that Daria wouldn’t mind it too much if you did spend time with her. That is, if your friends don’t get in the way."
"Oh, don’t worry about them. I’ve been getting around Sandi for over a year and a half, now." She got up. "I’ve got to go. Thanks for...um...talking to me."
Jane smirked. "Whatever. It wasn’t like there was any decent TV on, anyway."
Quinn laughed as she went out the door.
The next morning, Helen sat at the breakfast table, contemplating Quinn’s dating situation. Jake’s outburst about Quinn’s latest (and longest) suitor had been a bit extreme, but it hadn’t been completely out of line. She had evaluated the situation, and had decided that it was high time for "the talk". She steeled herself as her youngest daughter came into the kitchen.
To her right, Daria sat with her nose in her school reading, cramming the chapters before the discussion in English. This was as good a time as any, since Daria would be too busy to make snide comments. "Quinn, honey, sit down. We need to talk."
"All right!" cried Quinn. "I wasn’t at the pizza for pets food drive last afternoon! But mom, I needed to..."
"Quinn, this isn’t about that," Helen cut her off. If she didn’t, who knew where it would have led to. "It’s about...well...Matthew."
Quinn shrugged. "Oh, him. Well, I’m not using him for his car, if that’s what you’re thinking."
"Quinn, I realize that you and he are close, and I hope he isn’t...pressuring you to do anything that you’d regret later."
"Muh-om! He isn’t..."
"I understand that this is a very private thing, but I want you to be safe. I’m not saying that it’s all right to fool around, but I can’t really watch over you twenty-four hours a day, can I? So when you do have sex..."
"EEEEWWWW! I need a shower," cried Quinn, and sprinted from the kitchen.
"Good one, Morgendorffer," muttered Helen under her breath as she put her head in her hands.
Daria put down her book to reveal a Mona Lisa smile. "Oh yeah. She’s sexually active, all right," she deadpanned.
"You knew that she was still a virgin all along, didn’t you?" Helen accused.
"Mom," Daria retorted, "if you don’t know enough to come to me with these problems, then I’m afraid there’s no hope for you."
Helen laughed as the relief that nothing was going on with Quinn and Matthew overcame her embarrassment. "I’ll remember that."
Later, in between periods at school, Quinn overheard Jane and Daria talking with Jodie Landon. As usual, Jodie was trying to get them both—Daria, in particular—to join yet another school activity. Fat chance of that happening, thought Quinn.
"Come on, guys," said Jodie. "We still need some volunteers for the informal committee."
"Jodie, there’s no way in hell I’m going help plan some stupid dance. Putting up with people in general and popular high schoolers in particular six hours a day is bad enough," said Daria.
"What about school spirit?" asked Jodie.
"What about your college transcripts?"
"What about money?"
"Not even for money. Forget it, Jodie. It’s a matter of principle."
"What about you, Jane?" asked Jodie. "Everyone knows what a great job you did on the last dance. Even if Quinn did take all the credit."
"Forget it, Jodie," replied Jane. "I already did my community service for the year."
Jodie rolled her eyes heavenward. "Why do I even bother?" she asked herself, walking off.
Quinn walked up to the twosome. Now’s as good of a time as any. "Hey, guys," she greeted them.
"What the hell do you want?" asked Daria bluntly.
"Um, well, I was just wondering what you guys were up to. You know, just making the rounds." Quinn tittered nervously.
"Okay, Quinn, what did you do?" asked Daria.
"Nothing," replied Quinn. "I was just coming over to talk."
"Oh, well that nail polish goes great with that mascara, but only three guys asked me out today," deadpanned Daria.
Quinn sighed. "Forget it." She trudged off in the same direction as Jodie.
"Boy, Daria," muttered Jane sourly. "Two innocent victims in the span of less than thirty seconds. Trying to set a new kill record?"
"Oh, come on. Quinn’s hardly what I’d call ‘innocent’."
"You wanna bet?" bristled Jane.
"Did I just miss something, here?" asked Daria, frowning in confusion over her friend’s sudden change of heart.
"Yeah," replied Jane. "A peace offering." With that, she walked off.
Jane lied! She lied to me! Quinn thought to herself as she checked her face in the bathroom mirror. With a deep breath, she reigned in her thoughts. No…Jane couldn’t have known. She hasn’t known Daria as long as I have. Do I know Daria? No. I’ve lived with her long enough to know her, but I don’t. God! I don’t even know my own sister! Why aren’t I crying? When was the last time I cried? I’ve faked it plenty of times before, but when was the last time I really cried about anything?
"Nobody loves me."
Stop it! I don’t want to think about that!
Come on, Quinn. Cry. You’ll feel better if you cry. You won’t worry about your sister hating you. You won’t need to feel all yucky inside. Like…
"Nobody loves me."
Plenty of people love me. Plenty of… "Hi, Quinn. Touching up the makeup before class?" That voice. Popular. Smart. Confident. Why isn’t it mine?
Jodie emerged from the stall and went over to the sophomore. Quinn was a marble statue, standing motionless, hands clutching either side of the sink as she gazed into the mirror. "Quinn?"
No response. "Quinn?" she repeated. She waved her hand in front of her eyes. No response. Has she just gone catatonic? "Quinn!" she cried sharply.
Quinn blinked. "Huh?" she turned to look at Jodie. "Oh. Hi Jodie," she murmured.
Jodie’s face was a mirror of concern. "Quinn, are you okay?"
Quinn’s brow furrowed. "Yeah. I was just…spacing out."
"Are you sure?" asked Jodie. "Because if you’re not, we can…talk, if you want."
"Yeah. I’m fine, really."
"Okay," said Jodie dubiously, as she turned to walk out of the bathroom.
Talk. Someone to talk to… "Jodie, wait!" Quinn cried out.
Jodie whirled, eyes wide and mouth hanging open. The way Quinn had just called out her name, you’d have thought she was sinking in quicksand.
Quinn fumbled at a place to begin. But what do I tell her? "I don’t know my sister and I think she hates me." "My best friend thinks I’m after her position and I think she hates me." "My parents want me to get my grades up and never talk to me. I think they hate me." God, I sound like a psycho! "Um…I heard you need volunteers for the informal. Count me in." No! That isn’t what I wanted to say! Damn mouth!
Jodie smiled as her mind flushed Quinn’s problems from her head. "Great! The meeting’s after school in the gym." With that, she went out of the bathroom, and Quinn’s chances of confession went with her.
Quinn once again looked into the mirror. She needed someone to talk to. And damn Matthew for being absent today! There was only one other option, and Quinn let out a groan as she knew it was her last. Guidance Councilor. Aw, hell.
Quinn sat in the guidance office, flipping through her Waif magazine. How had she ended up here? Only the weirdoes (and Stacy) made regular trips to the guidance office. It was like an alternative to Ms. Li, or something, so that they could make sure that they weren’t all suicidal. Or homicidal. No, she had no business here.
"Excuse me," a sing-song voice said liltingly in a thick German accent. "Is that the new Waif?"
Quinn looked to her right and saw a girl about her age dressed in jean shorts and a yellow tanktop. Her auburn hair flowed down her back, and she had bright blue eyes. Quinn smiled. She seemed friendly enough. "Yeah," she answered. "They had this great article. ‘How Deep is Too Deep?’ Really good."
"Oh, I saw Bridget wearing that slip-dress. Confidentially, I think it’s some sort of running gag," remarked the German. "Say, you seem normal…or what passes for normal in America. What are you doing seeing a Guidance Councilor?"
"I’m just meeting with Dr. Manson to discuss some career opportunities," Quinn lied. "What about you?"
"I’m here to pick up my psychiatric profile before I go back to Wilshelm’s Haven. Today’s my last day."
"Oh," said Quinn. "You’re that German Exchange Student. I read about you in the Lowdown."
The redhead’s eyes lit up. "Really? Wow, I’m famous!" she laughed. "But it sucks that I have to go back. I had Skyler Feldman and Jamie White wrapped around my little finger!"
Quinn’s eyes widened. "Only two?"
The exchange student shrugged. "Well, I sort of had to divide my time. Between shopping and pretending that I was going to steal Kevin Thomson from Brittany Taylor, I barely had time for anyone else."
Quinn laughed. "So that’s why they weren’t talking to each other that week."
"What’s your name? You seem pretty cool."
"Ja, like L. Quinn Michaelis from Glaria: The Movie, right?"
"God, no. Quinn Michaelis was a raging slut. I’m nothing like her! My last name’s Morgendorffer. And if I was in a movie, I’d have Tim Burton direct. Not Joel Schumacher."
"Ditto. It’s an insult to my country that he’s got a German last name. I mean, I know we gave the world Hitler, but that’s cruel and unusual punishment!"
Quinn laughed as Tiffany came out of the office and down the hall toward them with some papers. "Dr. Manson can see you, now," she intoned. "Whoa, Quinn, what are you doing here?"
"It’s way too complicated, Tiff."
The German got up from her seat, and went to down the hall. "Hey!" called Quinn. "I didn’t catch your name."
The girl turned around. "It’s Asuka. Asuka Langley Soryu." With that, she went into Dr. Manson’s office.
Quinn sighed. The first real friend that she’d ever made in high-school, and she was going to be in Germany twenty-four hours from now.
Fifteen minutes later, Quinn stood in Dr. Manson’s office. "Dr. Manson, I need to talk," she said.
"You’re not still concerned about your vision, are you?" asked Manson.
"Um…never mind. I must have gotten you mixed up with someone else. What is it, Quinn?"
Quinn took a deep breath. "Well…I beginning to think that everyone hates me. I mean…I barely know my sister. My best friend thinks I’m out to steal her position in The Fashion Club. My parents never seem to care. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they push me to get good grades and stuff like that, but they’re never around. Mom’s always on the phone, and Dad’s always asleep or with a client. I don’t have anyone that I’m really close to."
Meanwhile, Dr. Manson went through and found Quinn’s file. "Hmm…well, you’ve regressed quite a bit."
"What’s that mean?" asked Quinn uncertainly. She wasn’t exactly fond of big vocabulary words.
"It mean’s when you first started here, you weren’t bothered by not being attractive and popular. You were above all of that."
"What are you talking about? Being attractive and popular has been my life since the seventh grade!"
"Not according to this. See for yourself." She handed Quinn the evaluation.
Name: Quinn Morgendorffer
Date Of Birth: May 7, 1984
Entry Level: Freshman
Transfer From: Highland Middle School; Highland, Texas
Date Evaluated: November 22, 1998
Parents: Still Married
Siblings: One sister, age 16
Extremely intelligent and cynical, this girl actually managed to get to me! Her I.Q. scores are way above average, and she doesn’t take psychiatric evaluations very seriously. Her nature seems to put her "above" the popularity rat-race, and so even if she doesn’t blend in right away, she won’t be traumatized by the experience. Expect her to do well in most classes, especially Basic English and Creative Writing.
Honors English courses, and encourage her to join the Writing Club.
Quinn’s eyes were wide with shock. "But…this isn’t right!"
"What isn’t, dear?" asked Dr. Manson
" ‘Cynical!’ I’m not cynical, my sister is."
"Quinn, do you need to lie down?" said Dr. Manson as she gestured to the couch.
"But I’m telling you the truth! There has to have been a mix-up!" Or you’re the biggest quack in Connecticut, lady. "Print out Daria’s file, and see if it matches mine. Then you’ll see."
Dr. Manson sighed. "If it’ll make you happy." With that, she punched up Daria’s evaluation.
Name: Daria Morgendorffer
Date Of Birth: November 4, 1982
Entry Level: Sophomore
Transfer From: Highland High School; Highland, Texas
Date Evaluated: November 22, 1998
Parents: Still Married
Siblings: One sister, age 14.5
Daria is an exceptionally intelligent young lady. Like her sister, her I.Q. is also above average, with a high pre-disposition toward mathematics. If encouraged, she could go far as an engineer, or possibly an accountant. However, she doesn’t seem comfortable with her intelligence and tries to hide it under the façade that she’s shallow and stupid. I believe that this is done also because she believes that others will not accept her for who she is. She also tends to overcompensate for her "excess of intelligence" by taking an unhealthy amount of interest in her appearance and members of the opposite sex, which may prove detrimental to her studies.
LOW SELF-ESTEEM workshop held during after school by Mr. O’Neill.*
* Has since passed on November 27, 1998.
Quinn’s jaw dropped.
Quinn trudged out of the guidance counselors office toward the gymnasium where the dance was being planned. God! All this time I’ve been using Daria going into that self-esteem course as an excuse to call her a freak, and it was me who needed it! Just because we both had the same last name! How could anyone be so stupid as to mix us up?
Quinn’s hands balled into fists. If it weren’t for that Doctor, I’d have taken that self-esteem course! I’d have met Jane! Not Daria! And I probably wouldn’t have had to put up with Sandi, either! I’d have a real friend!
Quinn pushed open the door to the gymnasium with a loud bang, and then jumped. Did I just do that? Don’t know my own strength.
Jodie and Mack both came up to her. "Wow, Quinn. You sure do know how to make an entrance," quipped Mack.
Quinn tittered nervously. "Well, when you’re Vice President of The Fashion Club…" she trailed off. Today, she wasn’t Vice President of The Fashion Club. Today, she was just another helper with the informal. "Sorry I was so late. I had an appointment with the Guidance Counselor."
"That’s okay, Quinn," smiled Jodie. "The important thing is that you came. You can help Melissa with the decorations."
"Aye, aye, ma’am," Quinn mock-saluted, and went over to the decorations table.
"Well, she sure seems happy to be here," noted Mack.
"Can you blame her?" asked Jodie. "If I had to put up with Sandi Griffin on a regular basis, I’d have torn my hair out by now."
"Don’t do that. I like your hair," purred Mack, extracting a giggle from Jodie. "Maybe that’s why she was…you know…like she was in the bathroom."
"I don’t know," said Jodie dubiously. "She wanted to say something to me earlier, but I think she’s holding something back."
"That’s not surprising. She is Daria’s sister, after all."
Jodie frowned. "Yeah, but…I don’t know. Daria seems more stable. Quinn’s always so…erratic."
"My grandfather once said, ‘There’s nothing like talking to someone if you want to get to know them,’" stated Mack. "Why don’t we go over and supervise?"
As Jodie drew closer to Quinn she could hear her and Melissa talking. "The secret is perpendicular lines," advised Quinn.
"You think so?" asked Melissa. She was a slightly chubby, stub-nosed girl who tended toward dyed-blond hair and wearing loose clothing. She had always had problems getting a date, and had decided to prevail upon Quinn for some information.
"Definitely. Find some shirts with perpendicular lines, and you’ll be all set. See, there’s nothing wrong with being a bit plump as long as you know how to coordinate with wardrobe. Between a personality like yours and a shirt with perpendicular lines, the guys will be all over you! Trust me."
"Oh, I don’t know if I want a whole group of guys. Just one will be okay with me. I don’t think I could ever be universally adored like you Quinn. Of course," she giggled, "sometimes I dream about it."
Quinn sighed. "You know, Melissa, your dreams are probably a lot better than my realities, believe me."
"Oh laaaaadieeeeesss," a nasal voice crooned. Quinn flinched and groaned. Not Upchuck!
Charles Ruttheimer III—known to all women upon this planet as Upchuck—came bounding over to the two girls. "Did I hear someone talking about dreams? I know that the both of you have been in mine for quite a while, now," he purred.
Quinn’s eyes widened as she saw Melissa giggling. Omigod! She actually likes him! "Funny, Upchuck," snarled Quinn. "You’ve been in my nightmares for a while, too."
"Nobody loves me." Nightmares. Nightmares from dreams…nightmares from memories… STOP!
"Rowr…fiesty!" growled Upchuck humorously, once again getting a laugh from Melissa as Quinn massaged her temples. "Fear not, O delicate flower, for I have the aphrodisiac to cure your chill. But…be careful you don’t get a fever! Rowr!"
"You’re starting to give me the flu," retorted Quinn. Then her face brightened with an idea. "On the other hand, Sandi Griffin has been aching for your company ever since she laid eyes on you."
Upchuck’s eyes widened as he licked his lips. "Sandi? The most beautiful willow tree, Sandi?"
There’s nothing willowy about that bitch. "Of course. Why do you think she never calls you ‘Upchuck’, Upchuck? She asked me to give you her phone number, in fact." She quickly scribbled it down on a slip of paper and handed Upchuck. "I know she’s been dying for you to ask her to the informal."
Upchuck bowed elaborately at her. "Thank you Quinn. I grovel at your feet." With that, he scampered off.
Quinn turned to Melissa. "Upchuck? You like Upchuck?" Melissa nodded. "God, Melissa, you can do better than that."
"Well," Melissa shrugged, "he’s…funny. Besides, no guy has ever…complimented me like that." She blushed.
Quinn sighed as Jodie came up from behind her. "That was so cruel, what you did just now! Quinn, you’re terrible."
Quinn paused to reflect. "Yeah, you’re right," she said, remembering the last time Sandi and Upchuck had gotten together. "Poor Upchuck may want to have kids one of these days."
Despite herself, Jodie slowly began to crack up. Mack gradually followed suit. Then Melissa. "Good one," complimented Mack. "But it was still a mean thing to do. To Sandi, I mean."
Quinn sat in the booth at Pizza King, picking cheese off of her pizza slice. After everything was finished, Mack and Jodie had invited her along for pizza. Since Quinn didn’t have anything better to do, there really wasn’t any reason to refuse. Not that she had wanted to. It gave her the opportunity to observe an actual couple up close.
Quinn sighed. Maybe it was time that she settled down and became serious with some nice guy. Everyone else was doing it. Stacy had been going out with Ted Dewitt-Clinton for about a month, and they had set Tiffany up with Ted’s friend Robert. And even Sandi had dragooned poor John Adams, the Lions’ defensive tackle, into being her exclusive boyfriend. Not that she didn’t cheat on him whenever she got the chance. But who could she get as her boyfriend? Not the three Js, that was for sure. Skyler might have been a nice guy, but she’d burned him so badly that he didn’t even talk to her anymore. In fact, there was only one guy that she could think of. And he’s too intimidated to ask me. Or just not interested.
Mack’s words cut into Quinn’s thoughts. "You’re being totally paranoid!" he said to Jodie.
Quinn looked up and saw Jodie and Mack coming over with their sodas. "Hey, believe what you want, but I say that once Al Gore—and more importantly Tipper Gore—get into office, you can kiss your first amendment rights and the internet goodbye."
"Hey, Tipper will only be First Lady. How much power could she possibly have?"
"Ask Hillary Clinton," retorted Jodie.
"She’s just trying to bring us to a higher moral state! What’s wrong with that?"
"You can’t legislate morality, Mack!"
Quinn shifted in the booth. "Um…no offense, but I think I’ve got to go."
"Why?" asked Jodie.
"Well…um…" There’s no way of lying your way out of this one. "Your fighting is really starting to get to me."
"Fighting?" asked Mack.
"We weren’t fighting," informed Jodie. "We were having a heated discussion about the pros and cons of a Gore Administration."
"We only save fighting for important stuff," quipped Mack.
"What kind of stuff?" asked Quinn.
"You know, the usual. ‘I really wish you’d cut back on the extracurricular activities.’ ‘I don’t want you inviting Kevin to our party because he’ll make a fool of himself,’" replied Mack.
"You know, stuff that couples do that piss each other off and create those difficult times," added Jodie.
"No, I don’t know. I’ve never really had a steady boyfriend."
"You really ought to try it," said Jodie. "It’s great."
Mack frowned. "Jeez, you make it sound like an ice-cream."
"Ooohh, I think I feel a fight coming on," quipped Jodie.
Mack put his arm around her shoulders and kissed her cheek. "No way."
"You see?" cried Quinn. "That’s what I mean. How can you just stay with just one guy? I could never do that."
"Well, let me put it to you this way, Quinn. Would you want to lose your best friend?" asked Jodie.
"Only if my best friend’s Sandi Griffin," muttered Quinn sourly. Then she decided to change the subject. "Do you guys mind if I ask you something?"
"You just did," remarked Mack.
"Is my sister popular or something? Because I always see you hanging around her."
Jodie paused thoughtfully. "I never gave the matter much thought. I just think she’s funny, and intelligent. She’s someone nice to be with, so I find some excuse to be with her."
"Yeah. Good thing for Jodie she got me first or…Ow! I was just kidding!" cried Mack as Jodie punched him in the shoulder.
"Hell hath no fury like a woman’s brass knuckles. Barch," quipped Jodie.
From a booth in back of them and to the right, Daria looked past Jane toward the threesome. "Well, will you look at that," she remarked.
Jane looked at the threesome. "Wow! Quinn sitting with popular kids who are smart! There may be hope for her, after all."
"I doubt it," replied Daria with a frown.
"Pessimist," Jane accused.
"Oh, and you’re the sunshine of Lawndale." Daria’s brow furrowed in thought. "Why does everyone seem to be pro-Quinn all of a sudden? She’s still the same annoyance at home, to me."
"Still, you have to admit that she isn’t as bad as she used to be," defended Jane.
"Granted. But the day she renounces The Fashion Club is the day I’ll be impressed. I’m going to the bathroom."
"Good idea. I think your mascara’s running," remarked Jane.
Once Daria was gone, Jane quickly scrawled out a note. Then, smirking wildly, she got up, sauntered over to the table where Jodie, Mack, and Quinn were sitting, and put it down in front of Quinn. Then, not waiting for a reply, she ambled back.
Quinn read the note:
If you’re free tonight, come on over to my place. We’ll find something to do.
Quinn turned in her seat to see Jane smirking there like a cat that ate the canary. Quinn returned her smirk.
"What did she want?" asked Jodie.
"Oh, she just invited me over to her place," replied Quinn. "It’s not like I’m doing anything. Why? I thought you and Jane were friends."
"No. I don’t really care for Jane that much," said Jodie. "To tell the truth, sometimes I think she’s out to steal Mack."
Quinn’s eyebrows raised. "I thought she was going out with that senior. Tom whasisname."
"That’s weird. I thought she was seeing the rhythm guitarist for some local band," commented Mack. "That’s the problem with outcasts. You can never keep tabs on them."
Jane looked up to see Daria coming back from the bathroom. "That’s better. Now you look more natural," she quipped.
"But how’s my lipstick?" Daria deadpanned.
"Nonexistent," retorted Jane. "So, do you have anything planned, or can you hang out at my place?"
"Wish I could. I’ve got to study for that exam on the Pythagorean Theorem. Phelps is really cracking the whip," grumbled Daria. She got up. "See you tomorrow."
"Hey, Daria. At least think about giving Quinn a second chance."
Daria’s nostrils flared. "Quinn can go to hell," she stated flatly, and then she left.
Jane’s eyes widened. "Ooookayyy," she muttered. Still, it was hard to blame her. After all, who knew how long Quinn and Daria’s problems had lasted? Daria would come around eventually. And if she doesn’t then I’ll just have to beat it over her head a bit, Jane smirked to herself.
In Jane’s room half an hour later, Jane clarified her love life. "Jesse?" she laughed. "God, I haven’t dated him for over six months, now!"
"So then, you’re seeing that Tom guy, right?"
Jane shrugged. "Yeah. Sometimes dating a guy like Tom makes me wonder what I saw in Jesse in the first place."
Quinn’s eyes widened. "You’re really serious about him, aren’t you?"
Jane nodded. "Tom’s probably the best guy I’ve ever met. He makes all that playing the field I did worth it. So, what do you want to do? Watch Sick Sad World?"
"I’ll take that as a ‘no’. No Fashion Vision, please."
"Hey, what about Dr. Joy Brown? It’s this radio call-in show where people call this therapist and talk about their problems. It’s pretty good."
"Lots of angst-ridden whining?" asked Jane eagerly.
"Yup," replied Quinn.
Jane smirked. "Quinn, there may be hope for you after all. What’s the station?"
Jane adjusted the tuning. "We’re back on the air. I’m Doctor Joy Brown. With me on the phone is Stacy from Lawndale. Stacy, are you there?"
From the radio there came a loud wail. "AAAAAAOOOOOOHHHH! It’s Ted!" whined Stacy. "He’s mad because I can't take him to the informal next week! AAAAOOOOHHHH!"
Quinn and Jane both stifled their laughter as Stacy’s bawling receded into the background. "Just one moment. Folks, for those of you who don’t know, Stacy is a regular caller to The Joy Brown Show. I try to help her as best as I can, but I’m not sure that my advice helps all of the time. Stacy, I take it that Ted is a boyfriend?"
Stacy sniffled loudly over the speakers. "Yes."
"And why aren’t you taking him to this informal of yours?"
"Because I have to take someone else! AAAAOOOOHHHH! I’M BEING BLACKMAILED! AAAAOOOOHHHH!"
"Gosh," said Quinn. "I sure do feel sorry for her."
"Yeah," replied Jane. "I wonder who’s blackmailing her into dumping Ted."
Quinn frowned. "I meant Dr. Brown."
"Oh," Jane cocked an eyebrow as Dr. Brown managed to square Stacy away.
"Our next caller is also from Lawndale. Daria, you’re on the air."
"Dr. Brown?" Daria’s deadpan came over the speaker. "I’m having a bit of a problem."
Quinn smiled. "Well, it’s about time. Five bucks says this is about Trent."
"No takers," quipped Jane.
"It’s my sister," Daria went on.
Quinn’s mouth hung open.
"I think she’s out to steal my friends."
"I see, Daria. Is there some form of…"
Quinn switched off the radio. "I just remembered. I’ve got this big pop-quiz in Math and…"
"They don’t announce pop-quizzes," Jane cut her off.
"Well…um…I gotta go."
"Hey, don’t worry about what Daria said. She’s just…"
"…scared that I’m out to destroy every aspect of her life by sticking my nose in it!" finished Quinn vehemently. "Why can’t she at least invite me along once in a while? In all our years, she’s never once invited me to come along. I had to practically sneak up on her the time we went to bail you and the band out of jail!" She took a deep breath. "Sorry…I just…sorry…I’ve gotta…good-bye." With that, she left the room.
The next day at school, Jane caught up with Daria in the hallway. "So, what did Doctor Brown have to say?" she asked.
"You were listening?" asked Daria.
"Well, only until the part about Quinn stealing your friends. Whatever that means," Jane glowered.
"She told me that I should stop being so damn paranoid in so many words." Daria sighed. "I’ve been being a real bitch to her, haven’t I?"
"Only lately," noted Jane. "What started this whole thing, anyway?"
"Actually, it wasn’t until she started going to school here that she became a major annoyance. Until then, she was only a semi-annoyance. And there’s the reason." Daria frowned at Sandi, Stacy, and Tiffany from across the hall as they talked to Quinn.
"You think that if she leaves The Fashion Club, she’ll go back from being a major annoyance to a semi-annoyance?" asked Jane.
"No, that she’ll cease being an annoyance altogether. You’re right. She has been less of a pain. And if she’s starting to talk to you and Jodie more often, then I guess that I could be a little nicer to her."
Across the hall, Sandi’s hands were balled into fists as she told what happened to her last night. "I'd love to get my hands on whoever it was that gave Charles my number. I don’t even care if my nails get broken."
"Gosh, Sandi, it sounds so horrible," remarked Quinn, inwardly smirking.
"Yeah. Upchuck. Really, really bad," added Tiffany. Meanwhile, Stacy hung her head.
"So, how did you get rid of him?" asked Quinn. This, I’ve got to hear. "Unless you plan on letting him take you to the informal?"
"Don’t be ridiculous, Quinn," laughed Sandi. "I simply got Stacy to fill in."
Quinn’s eyes bulged. "What?" she shrieked. She went over to Stacy. "Stacy, she’s joking, right?"
Stacy didn’t bother to look up. "Well, the two of th-them called m-me, and they just…they were just…I-I don’t know."
Quinn turned to Sandi. "Look, there’s still time to break this off. I know this girl who really seems to like Upchuck and…"
Sandi laughed. "A girl desperate enough to go out with Charles Ruttheimer III? God, Quinn, what are you doing hanging out with someone like that?"
"I’m not ‘hanging out’ with anybody. We met on the dance committee," she said defensively. Then she went back to Stacy. "Stacy, what about Ted? Why don’t you let him take you to the dance?"
Stacy looked up at her with tear-filled eyes. "Ted? Ted is…Ted is…" Sobs began to wrack her body. "Ted is…" Suddenly, she ran down the hall, in tears.
As Quinn watched Stacy flee, her hands balled into fists as a red haze began to tint her vision. She whirled on Sandi. "How could you do that to her? You know how serious she and Ted are! Can’t you think about someone else, for once?"
"Are you saying…" Sandi began.
"Yes, I am!" Quinn screamed at the top of her lungs. The hum of Miss Li’s machine stopped. The camera-like eyes of her faceless drones turned to stare at her, as if in preparation to take a snapshot of a historic moment. Quinn didn’t care. The words she said poured from her stomach, to her chest, to her throat, and out of her mouth; with no connection to her head. "You could have found someone else! You could have asked someone else to take your place! Or you could have blown him off or anything except foist Upchuck off on Stacy. But you didn’t care. You didn’t care that Stacy and Ted are in love or at least serious! Because you were so afraid that someone else might say no, you asked—you told her to go out with Upchuck, with no regard for what she might want! That’s all you’re about, Sandi. Manipulate and control! You’re God’s gift and all of us are your playthings! Bitch!" She stormed down the hall.
As she was walking by, she saw Daria with a smile playing at her face. She turned to face her. "And you! You’re always so smug, like you’re above all of this! What gives you the right to think you’re any better than the rest of us? You know, you’re just like Sandi. In fact, the two of you have so much in common, I think you two should go out!" She continued to stalk down the hall. The words were spoken in haste and in heat, but she knew she meant them none the less.
Jane turned to Daria. "So the war rages on, huh?"
"You said it. She couldn’t have come up with a nastier insult if she’d tried," frowned Daria.
The informal ball came sooner for Quinn than she’d expected, and when she’d heard her father yell, "Quinn, you’re date is here!" she shuddered. It had taken a lot of fast talking and a hefty bribe on her part to convince Upchuck to get him to ditch Stacy for Melissa. Then it was even worse patching up Stacy and Ted. She almost wondered why she had bothered. Because it was my practical joke on Sandi that almost broke Stacy and Ted up. God! I should have known she would just do something like that! I’m such an idiot.
Things were even worse with Daria. She hadn’t said two words to her ever since Quinn had blown up. Not even a few sarcastic remarks at her usual bouts of shallowness. During mealtimes, she’d just sit there, staring at her with that look. That expressionless look that didn’t say anything except when you looked into her eyes. It was the eyes that gave it all away. It was the eyes that said it: You hurt me. It was about then that Quinn would decide that her food was better looking.
She came downstairs dressed casually. After all, this was an informal event, wasn’t it? From the stairs she surveyed the living room. Bret was talking to Jake, rose bouquet in hand. He was certainly laying it on thick. Next to Jake, on the sofa was Daria, aggressively reading The Fellowship of the Ring. "Hi, everybody," she greeted as she reached the landing. Come on Daria. Come through for me. Say something to embarrass the hell out of me. Or anything. Just say anything. But Daria didn’t bother to look up, letting her silence do all of the scorning for her.
Bret got up and went over to Quinn. "Here. These are for you," he said, handing her the flowers.
"Oh. Thanks," she accepted them. "I’m just going to find a vase." With that, she went into the kitchen and threw them in the trash. He did the same thing for Stacy, she reminded herself, walking back into the living room. "Hey, Bret, did you meet my sister, Daria?" If this doesn’t get her back, nothing will.
Daria just stared at her book.
"I don’t think she’s the articulate type," said Bret tactfully. "Well, why don’t we get going? We don’t want to be late for the dance."
"Yeah, let’s go. Bye Dad. Bye Daria."
Daria looked up, frowned deeply at her, and then went back to her book.
Quinn sighed and trudged out the door.
What a drag, thought Quinn as she sipped her punch and observed everyone dancing. She was hoping that he’d show up. It would have been worth going with Bret and being bored out of her skull if he had. Even though Bret had been a total gentleman, she knew that it was only a matter of time before the propositions. Boy, was he going to be mad when she gave him her answer.
As the DJ began to play a slow song, Bret gestured to her. "So Quinn, want to dance?"
"Well…" paused Quinn.
"Come on, what’s one dance?" wheedled Bret.
There wasn’t one good reason she could think of not to. He had taken her, and everyone knew that she could dance. She went to these things way too often. But never with someone I really like… "Fine," she muttered. King’s Rook takes Queen’s Bishop…check. God, that sounds like something Daria would say.
Quinn and Bret took the dance floor. As they began to dance, Quinn glanced over and saw Stacy showing something off on her finger to Sandi and Tiffany, her mascara running with tears despite her smiling face. Sandi quickly hugged Stacy and then looked to where Quinn and Bret were dancing. She curtly nodded in their direction.
Quinn’s eyes widened as she felt Bret’s hand drop lower and lower until it was finally off of her back. She put her palms on his shoulder’s and shoved him away. "Get your hand off my ass, you jerk!" she cried. But she couldn’t budge him.
"Oh look, everybody! Quinn’s embarrassing herself again!" called Sandi. Everyone turned to see the display. Then, one by one, they broke into laughter.
Sandi…Bret…everybody…laughing at me! Quinn had had all she could stand. She cocked her fist back, and connected squarely on Bret’s lower lip. Bret staggered, palms to his face as Quinn stormed out of the gym.
Mack and Kevin, playing bouncer, came up on either side of Bret, each grabbing an arm. "That was not cool, bro!" scolded Kevin.
"Feeling up students during school activities is a violation of school policy," informed Mack stiffly. "You’ll have to come with us."
"But…" Bret’s eyes trailed over to Sandi.
"Let’s not make a scene," growled Mack fiercely.
Bret shut his mouth and let Mack and Kevin escort him out of the gymnasium.
Jodie allowed herself one scowl at Sandi and then went over to join Brittany. Maybe they’d never prove it, but Jodie was certain Sandi had put Bret up to what he’d just done. Bret never made moves in public. It would wreck his "nice guy" image. Poor Quinn! I hope she’s okay.
Quinn sat on the curb outside the school, her chin resting forlornly in her palms. God! How could I have been so stupid? Letting my guard down like that! I knew Sandi wouldn’t be satisfied until she got back at me. I was too busy hoping he’d show up. She snorted. What was I thinking? He hates stuff like this. Well, I guess it’s official. I don’t have any friends. It’s all real. Nobody loves me.
"Quinn?" a voice from her right called. Quinn looked over to see a young man about her age step into the center of the light of the street-lamp from the dark black of night. He was dressed entirely in black: Black shirt, black jeans, and black boots. Doc Martins. His long black hair cascaded down his shoulders, and his cobalt eyes were slightly magnified by his oval-shaped glasses, which were planted firmly on a hawkish nose.
"Hi Matthew," sighed Quinn.
Matthew came over and sat next to her. "Rough day at the office?" he asked.
Quinn chuckled. "‘Office’. Yeah, I guess you could call it that. What are you doing here? I thought you hated dances."
"I do…but I thought I’d show up in case that Neanderthal Strand tried something." Quinn sighed again. "I take it I got here too late."
Quinn looked at him and nodded.
"Punctuality was never one of my virtues," remarked Matthew urbanely.
"You got that right," retorted Quinn, giving Matthew a short laugh. "I really could have used you, you know."
"Oh, I don’t think so. You can take care of yourself. You’ve got the entire male population of Lawndale wrapped around your finger, after all. What’d you do to him?"
Quinn smirked. "Gave him a fat lip."
"Ouch. Remind me never to touch you without permission. Do you want to get out of here?"
Quinn laughed. "I thought you’d never ask." With that, the two friends got up and went toward Matthew’s car.
At Pizza King, Quinn bit into a slice of pizza, cheese and all. "This has been the most embarrassing night of my life. I mean, I should have known he’d try something like that! Everyone knows what a sex fiend he is!"
"I know," agreed Matthew. "Of all the suitors in your male harem, why Bret Strand? There are three hundred other guys in the school, at least ten of whom you haven’t taken out yet."
Quinn rolled her eyes heavenward. "Don’t start with that again. It’s not like any of those guys are complaining or anything."
"Yeah, but you don’t even like half the guys you date, or so you tell me. I just don’t see the point in it."
Quinn shrugged. "It’s part of being popular. It’s in the job description."
"Well if it comes to that, why be popular? Why not be an outcast like me?"
"You’re not an outcast."
"Sure I am. I don’t like popular people and I do whatever I want, traversing the halls of Lawndale High in large groups of one. If that isn’t an outcast, then I don’t know what is."
"You like me, don’t you?"
"See, that’s my point. You’d be better off as an outcast. You’re too normal to be popular," Matthew laughed.
"That’s weird, I think you’re too normal to be an outcast," Quinn giggled.
"Seriously, why are you popular?" asked Matthew. "It’s not like you enjoy it." Quinn slowly lowered her eyes. "Is it because of your sister?"
Quinn nodded. "My whole family. When I was about five…no one really paid attention to me. Then I started school, and everyone just accepted me. It was fun. People paid attention to me. I had friends—real friends—all the way up to middle school. Then I moved here and met Sandi Griffin," she spat out the name like a curse. "She seemed really nice at first, and I thought, ‘This’ll be great! Just like Highland!’" She snorted a bitter chuckle.
"But it wasn’t like Highland, was it?" asked Matthew.
"No. Once I started to get more popular than Sandi, she got all jealous and paranoid, like I was really out to become President of The Fashion Club." She shook her head. "It isn’t fun anymore. It’s just some kind of weird competition where you keep score by seeing how many friends you have at the end of the day. And you do it because the only other alternative is loneliness."
"Or turning out like your sister," added Matthew.
"My sister’s better off than I am," retorted Quinn. "She has plenty of friends, and they like her. Sometimes I wonder which one of us really has the problem."
"It could be worse. The eating disorder syndrome hasn’t set in, at least."
"Yeah it has," sighed Quinn. "I’m eating pizza with cheese on it." Matthew snorted. "I mean, next thing you know I’ll be eating at McDonald’s or something." With that, the twosome laughed.
The car pulled up to the Morgendorffer house, and Matthew and Quinn got out. "Well, here we are," said Matthew.
"Yeah, here we are," said Quinn.
"Oh, don’t start that again!" bantered Matthew.
Quinn giggled. "Walk me to the door?" she asked.
Matthew smiled at her. "Afraid of those evil Lawndale prowlers?"
"No, more like those rabid Lawndale squirrels," Quinn joked. Together, they strolled over to the porch. "Hey Matthew, you’re going to be one of those people who studies stars and stuff, right?"
"Astronomer," Matthew corrected. "Why?"
"Well, why is that one blue?" She pointed to an azure twinkle in the sky.
"Oh, that? That isn’t a star. That’s a planet. Venus, actually."
"Really? It looks so small from here."
Matthew unconsciously put his arm around Quinn’s shoulder. "Yeah. You know what the weird thing about it is, though? The Romans named Venus after their God of Love, because they thought it was so beautiful. But what they didn’t get was that beneath the surface was all this poison gas atmosphere, acid rain, all sorts of nasty stuff."
Quinn turned her head to look at Matthew arm, and then again to Matthew. Matthew’s quickly glanced at Quinn. "Um…don’t hit me?" he joked weakly.
Quinn smiled. "Oh Matthew, don’t be silly. Why would I want to…" Quinn trailed off as their eyes locked. Their faces moved closer and closer together. Quinn’s eyes slowly sagged shut.
The kiss lingered a long time. Absently, she was aware that she had put her arms around him, and that he was running his fingers through her long, bouncy, strawberry-blond hair. It was a kiss that she would always remember, her first.
Then they both pulled away, and the loving expression on Quinn’s face faded. Her stomach gave a violent jump. Did I just kiss Matthew? Yes. Yes, I did. I kissed Matthew! Oh God, what have I done? "Well…um…I have to…um…" she stuttered.
"Yeah," he replied. "I’ve got to…well, that is…I’d better get going. See you Monday?"
"Yeah, see you Monday. Call me if you can, okay?"
"I will. Bye!" With that, he half sprinted to his car. Meanwhile, Quinn almost broke the door trying to get inside her house.
The next day seemed to drag as Quinn contemplated what happened the last night. Why had she reacted that way? Moreover, why did Matthew react that way? Most guys would have been happy at the idea of kissing her. But then again, Matthew wasn’t "most guys". He never got jealous when she told him that she was seeing someone else. Most of the time whenever he saw her with someone else, he’d just smirk at her, as if it were some joke the two of them were playing on her boyfriend of the week. And he had never asked her out, either. In fact, she had once thought he was gay—until she saw him eyeing a made-over Brooke.
But why had she reacted the way she did? It was a great kiss, and it wasn’t like Matthew was ugly or anything. He certainly didn’t gross her out, and if he wasn’t at least somewhat attractive, then she wouldn’t have ever hung around him to begin with. But afterward…it had been so awkward. Like she had romantically kissed her brother or something.
Then it hit her. She. Liked. Matthew. Liked Matthew, as in, "Matthew, I want you to be my boyfriend," liked Mathew. And they’d make a great couple, too! They were already best friends. Real best friends. There was no reason not to.
It wasn’t until dinner that reality hit.
Daria was just getting herself another piece of lasagna when the phone rang. "That’s for me," chimed Quinn. With that, she swiped the phone from the center of the table. "Hello?" She broke into a huge smile. "Matthew!" she cried exuberantly, taking the cordless into the living room.
"I’m telling you, Helen, that boy is bad news! Who knows what he’s making her do?" cried Jake.
"Jake, will you get a grip?" retorted Helen. "I spoke to Quinn about it, and there’s nothing going on!"
"Oh, sure," said Jake sarcastically. "For all we know, she could be pregnant with his child!"
"Didn’t you hear what I just said?" argued Helen. "Quinn and Matthew are just friends!"
"That’s not what they called it in my time!" snarled Jake.
As the fight got underway, Daria slowly got up and left the table. She was mildly curious to find out just why Quinn hadn’t blown this one off the way she had countless other suitors, herself. Besides, she added silently, there could be some blackmail opportunities here, and I could use the extra revenue.
She came into the living room to find Quinn in hysterics. "What do you mean we shouldn’t see each other anymore?" cried Quinn. "Matthew, listen to me! I know last night was awkward, but we’ll work through it! I know we’d make a great couple if you’d just give it a try!…Yes, that’s what I’m saying…But this time it’s different! I wouldn’t…Okay, even if you aren’t interested, we can still be friends! Please? God, Matthew, I don’t want to lose you. Let’s just work this out, okay…No, don’t hang up! Don’t…"
Quinn slowly pulled the phone away from her ear, slack-jawed. Her lower lip began to tremble, and her eyes were bright as the tears began to fill them. Then her tears began to overflow, and small droplets began to slide down her cheeks. Her face slowly turned red as the blood rushed toward it, and her eyes scrunched up as her mouth became a frown. As the convulsions began to wrack her body, she suddenly let out a loud wail; a howl filled with longing and anguish for what might have been. And then as Quinn threw the phone down on the carpet, Daria witnessed something she hadn’t seen in ten years.
Quinn ran up the stairs to her room, crying.
Quinn lay on her bed, the sobs coming straight from her abdomen and into her pillow. Why had she thought that this would make her feel better? All she felt was nothingness, sadness. Loneliness. Matthew was gone. Her best friend was gone. Now, she was alone.
She looked at her reflection in her hand mirror. Ugly. Whenever Stacy cried, she managed to look even cuter. But Quinn didn’t have the right complexion for it. Her face looked haggard, as if she hadn’t slept for days. Weeks. Months. Years. A decade. Still, she couldn’t stop herself.
There was a soft knock at the door. "Go…" she began. Without warning, the door opened, and Daria stepped in. "…away," she finished softly.
Daria went over to the bed and sat down. "Need to talk?" she asked, putting the whole peace proposal into three words.
Quinn nodded. "Yeah. I just…I just…"
"Don’t know where to start?" guessed Daria. "Well, for starters, tell me about Matthew."
"Matthew is…was my best friend. We met on the first day of school, and we just clicked. It wasn’t really a big deal at first. I mean, I was going to make all these new friends just like at Highland, right? Then the whole thing with Sandi and The Fashion Club happened, and every other guy treated me like I was some object or something. But Matthew was different."
"How so?" asked Daria. This was something new.
"Well, he knew what I was doing with all those other guys. He didn’t really get offended by it. In fact, he usually laughed about it. I told him everything that was going on in my life. But the weird thing was that he never expressed any…interest in being my boyfriend. At least, not until last night."
"What happened last night?"
"And?" asked Daria.
"And that’s it. We kissed. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. ‘It’s just a kiss. It doesn’t mean anything.’ But it means a lot to me. It was my first kiss, and I wanted it to be special…and it was. Maybe it wasn’t the way I’d planned it, and maybe I freaked afterward, but it was still special." She drew a quavering breath. "Too bad Matthew doesn’t agree."
"You’re saying that he blew you off."
"He did worse than blow me off, Daria. He pretty much told me that he didn’t want to see me again, on the phone just now. I guess…he was even more uncomfortable with it than I was."
Daria got up. She’d already come to a decision. "Well, at least he isn’t with your friend with the deep voice. Or enemy. Whichever."
Quinn smiled. "Thanks, Daria. And about saying that you were like Sandi…I’m sorry, I was just mad and I…I didn’t mean it."
"Damn. The closest thing I’ve ever come to being popular, and you revoke it. Thanks a lot," she said with mock sarcasm, leaving the room as Quinn chuckled.
Daria had definitely come to a decision. But she needed some assistance. Luckily, she had just the right person for the job to help: Jane Lane, yenta queen extraordinare.
The house was on the remote outskirts of Lawndale. It was a two-story, powder blue and white building that looked about ready to collapse in on itself. The Tank pulled up in front of the house to provide an almost perfect complement.
Trent’s grin was tight, wolfish, as he gazed at Daria and Jane through the rearview mirror. Beside him, Jesse hung his elbow out the passenger window and gazed vapidly into space. "Okay, here’s the plan. Jesse will grab the kid by the shirt, shove him up against the wall, and say a few intimidating things to grab his attention. I’ll stand near him and look menacing. Then we’ll let you two do the talking."
Jane handed Trent a cellular phone and some money. "Trent, you and Jesse take the Tank and go to the Bess Eaton down the street for a cup of coffee. We’ll call you when it’s time to come pick us up."
"Alternate plan," growled Trent in a pathetic tough-guy imitation. "Cool."
Daria and Jane got out of the van. As The Tank sped off, Jane turned to Daria. "You actually want to go out with that putz?"
Daria frowned. "Not anymore. Not after hearing him talk like that."
"He and Monique broke up this morning."
"Damn. It’s back again. Why do you always do that?"
"Just getting in some practice," Jane shrugged.
The twosome went up to the door and rang the bell. The door opened to reveal Matthew. "Um…who are you?" he asked bluntly.
Daria introduced herself and Jane. "We’re here to talk to you about Quinn."
"Quinn’s sister, huh? Quinn’s told me a lot about you."
"All good, I hope," deadpanned Daria, more or less knowing the answer to that question.
"No," answered Matthew.
"Now I know this guy’s perfect for Quinn," said Daria. "I hate him already."
Jane elbowed Daria. "Daria!" she whispered through clenched teeth. "Are you nuts? That guy looks like Jason Carter from Babylon 5. Hot."
"Traitor," muttered Daria.
"I take it there’s a little dissention?" asked Matthew, gesturing for them to come in.
Daria and Jane went in and sat down. "Look," began Jane, "we wish you’d reconsider about Quinn. She really does care about you."
Matthew shrugged. "Enough so that she sent you to convince me. What happened, is she off on another date?"
"Quinn doesn’t even know we’re here," answered Daria.
"This is an independent act of annoyance," quipped Jane.
"I can see that," retorted Matthew with a small chuckle. "Look, I can’t go out with Quinn. In fact, I think it would be best if we didn’t see each other anymore. I mean, it’s not like she cares about any of her boyfriends."
"Look," said Daria. "I don’t really care who Quinn sees. To me, you’re all fairly interchangeable. But last night, whatever you said to her made her cry, and I haven’t seen her do that in over a decade. So she obviously feels something for you."
"Yeah, but…" Matthew trailed off. "I considered asking Quinn out when I first met her, but then I saw how she treated the other guys. I mean, you’ve probably seen how those three football players wait on her hand and foot, right? I wasn’t going to get into that trap. So I decided to just be her friend. Except last night…that kiss was an ultimatum, even if it did happen by accident. We had to move on, or we had to end. Either I had to stop seeing her, or I had to take a number and drool all over her just like the rest of her boyfriends. And I don’t want to do that. Maybe it is heartless, but I could never make a fool of myself just for a date, even if she is the best girl in Lawndale."
Daria sighed. "Point taken." She got up. "Can we use your phone?" she asked.
"Be my guest," replied Matthew.
The next day was Monday, and it was back to the old bump and grind for all of the students at Lawndale High. Matthew opened his locker for his astrology book. It was early in the semester, so the focus was still on the solar system. Exam on Venus. Damn.
His eyes trailed over to the locker poster of the solar system, and next to it was the photos of Quinn she’d let him have. She almost went with "Starlight over Yosemite." I really should take these down. Maybe later.
He shut his locker door, and then she was standing there. She looked up at him and smiled wanly. "Hi."
"Quinn, we already discussed this," said Matthew, walking off to class.
Quinn ran after him and then threw herself in his way. "Well, we’re not finished, okay? Look, Matthew, I can’t pretend that that kiss didn’t mean anything, because it does! In fact, it means everything to me! You mean everything to me, can’t you see that?"
Matthew’s shoulders sagged. "I’d really like to believe that. But I’ve seen you with other guys and…"
"So what? Those were just other guys! Matthew, you’re my best friend. You’ve been the best friend I’ve had since I moved here, and what happened the other night just meant that we ought to take the next step. I mean, when you find someone you want to be your boyfriend, the other guys don’t matter."
"But…you don’t get it. That was my first kiss. I know this sounds corny, but I wanted it to be special. I wanted it to be with the right girl. The one, not with…" he trailed off.
"It was my first kiss, too!" exclaimed Quinn. "And it was special. Even if you had been the worst kisser in Connecticut—which you aren’t—it would still have been special, just because it was with you! Don’t you get it? Matthew, you made me feel…loved."
Matthew’s eyes were wide. "Your…first…kiss?"
Matthew slowly put his arms around Quinn. The twosome looked at each other, and Quinn saw Matthew’s defenses melt. "Just promise me you won’t leave me when one of those really cute guys comes along, okay?" asked Matthew half-jokingly.
Quinn laughed. "Jerk."
With that, Lawndale’s newest couple kissed.
It was the end of the school day. Matthew and Quinn walked hand in hand toward the classroom door. "Are you sure you want to do this?" asked Matthew.
"Absolutely. I mean, it’s for my own good, after all," replied Quinn.
"You just don’t seem like the type that needs it," remarked Matthew.
"Oh, trust me. This is something I’ve needed for a long time."
"Okay. Call me when you get home?"
"Definitely." With that, Quinn gave him a quick kiss. Getting easier, she noticed.
The classroom seemed empty with the lack of students. There were only about five kids in the class, none of whom were sitting next to each other. Quinn took a seat at the front and in the center of the classroom. So these were the schools outcasts. They didn’t seem like such bad people. They just needed some…guidance. Just like me.
A familiar figure entered the doorway. Quinn’s eyes widened. "Jane? What are you doing here? You passed this course."
Jane came in and sat next to her. "Yeah, but I figured that I needed a refresher. You can never have too much self-esteem."
"How is this course? Tough?" asked Quinn.
"Don’t worry," replied Jane. "I’ve taken this course seven times. I can help you out."
Quinn smiled. "Thanks."
"Of course, I’m not going to be giving you the answers. You’ll have to figure those out for yourself. I tried to talk Daria into coming, but she’s had a few too many problems with the instructor."
"Why? There’s nothing wrong with O’Neill."
"Um…O’Neill doesn’t teach this course anymore."
Suddenly the door opened. Quinn’s eyes widened in shock and horror. "Tiffany?"
Tiffany Blum-Deckler went to the desk and sat down, unfolding a sheet of paper. "Esteem…a teen. The words…don’t quite…rhyme. The sounds don’t…quite…mesh."
Quinn put her head in her hands. "Why me?"
Then something Quinn wouldn’t have expected in a million years happened. Jane put her arm around Quinn in the form of a brief hug. "Don’t worry, kid," she said in an imitation of a Bronx accent. "If I can do this, you can too."
Quinn smiled. Jane was right. She could do this. She was intelligent. She was attractive. And, most of all, she had friends. She’d have the help she needed, and she wouldn’t be alone.
Never again.Ending Theme: Let’s see, I’m on an 80’s rock kick this week, so I’ll pick… "Women" by Def Leppard. Nah…on second thought, I’ll do "Second Floor East" by Screeching Weasel. Yeah, that’s better. What was I thinking? (Lyrics Follow Afterword)
(Warning! Long, Kara Wild-esque Afterword ahead.)Okay, first things first. I violated my own policy with this fic by referring to other people’s work. 3.5 works of fanfic were mentioned, and here they are: