(This is a sequel to my earlier story “Four Play”)
It was a pleasant August afternoon, and in the Lane household, everyone was pretty much doing what they normally did. Trent was sound asleep in his room, dreaming of fame and glory, Jane was painting, and Daria was writing. The latter two were in Jane’s room, enjoying each other’s company, and settling into their new relationship. It had been a long, strange trip, but they had finally been able to admit their feelings for each other, and tentatively started a romantic relationship. From Daria’s perspective, it was going rather well so far.
She rolled over on the bed, holding a piece of paper and a pen. Jane was standing over at the other side of the room, painting something.
“I never realized I had so much stuff,” said Daria morosely.
“You don’t need to take absolutely everything you own to college, you know. In fact, I think your parents would like you to leave some of it behind.”
“Why would they want me to do that?”
“Make sure you’ll visit from time to time by keeping some of your stuff hostage.”
“Oh. That’s cunning.”
“See, I know how your Mom thinks.” Jane glanced over. “It’s insidious, I tell you.”
“Mmm.” Daria tried to see past Jane onto the canvas. “So what are you painting?”
Jane made an indistinct mumble. “Nothing good,” she said.
“It’s me, isn’t it? Oh Jane, you’re so romantic.”
“Try saying that with a bit less sarcasm next time.” Jane grinned. “Anyway, it’s not you, Miss self-centered.”
“Oh. What could possibly be more interesting than me?”
“Damn, Daria. Being in a relationship really has blown your ego past the point of no return. Not that it wasn‘t getting there anyway.”
“It’s your fault. You keep boosting me up. Oh Daria, you’re so smart. Oh Daria, you’re so beautiful.”
“I’m your girlfriend,” said Jane, smiling. “I have to fulfill a quota of saying those things.”
“I see.” Daria indicated the other side of the bed. “So why are you over there painting instead of spending time with your significant other?”
“By going through what stuff she has to pack to go to college? Fun.”
“Oh yeah. That was voted the most enjoyable thing to do on a date last month.”
“By what? Anal-Retentive Monthly?”
Daria gave a small smile. “It’s just amazing how much crap I’ve accumulated over the last few years. I started going through it last night, and it took me two damn hours.”
“I did it too. Took me about five minutes.”
“Well, you don’t have to leave until later than me, anyway.”
“Don’t remind me,” said Jane with a sigh. “Three months.”
“At least we’re both going to the same city.” Daria looked up at Jane. “Um, Jane? When you picked BFAC, was it because I was going to Boston too?”
“I wanted to go to BFAC anyway.” Jane smiled. “Though when I heard that you’d been turned down by Bromwell, and that you were probably going to Raft, it did kind of spur me to try a little harder.”
Daria shook her head. “Man, we really weren’t talking around then, were we?”
“Not talking about what we really wanted to talk about, no.”
“About the three months...you could always come with me.”
“And stay where? In your dorm room? I don’t think your room-mate would like that.” Jane made a face. “Hi room-mate! I’m Daria! This is my girlfriend Jane. You don’t mind if she crashes with us, do you? I promise we’ll be quiet during sex!”
“On second thoughts, stay here. Please.” Daria made a wry smile. “Besides, we haven’t exactly gotten to the sex part yet, have we?”
“We’re taking it slowly, remember? Your idea.”
“And it was a good one, I think. This is new for both of us. Best not to rush into sex. It could get awkward.”
“You? Awkward? Well, I never.”
“What were you saying about sarcasm?”
Jane smiled. “You’re probably right. I’m cool with the whole slowly thing. On the other hand...”
Daria sighed. She knew what was coming next.
“I’m not exactly cool with the whole not-telling-anyone-yet part.”
“Jane, you know me. I’m a private person. I have to work up to these things.”
“I know,” Jane sighed. “I’m just a little tired of, you know, hiding everything.”
“We’re not hiding anything, Jane. We’re just not being totally public. And we did tell Trent.”
“We told Trent because he walked in on us making out,” pointed out Jane. “It would have been hard to cover that one up.”
“Plus, Trent was totally cool about it. What makes you think your family won’t be?”
“I...” Daria paused. “I don’t know. I’m probably just worrying too much.”
“That would be my guess.”
“On the other hand, they might even be pleased. This is starting off a lot better than my previous relationship.”
“That’s not hard.” Jane frowned and went back to the painting. “Speaking of which, heard from Tom yet?”
Daria shook his head. “No. Probably for the best. We’ll just forget about each other, he’ll find a girlfriend more socially acceptable, and things will work out for both of us.”
“Yeah.” Jane sighed.
Daria got up from the bed, and walked over to Jane, taking Jane’s hand in hers. Jane squeezed it gently. Daria glanced past her at the canvas. It didn’t seem to be much of anything at the moment. “What’s it supposed to be again?”
“I don’t know,” confessed Jane, moving around to hold Daria gently. “It didn’t really turn out the way I thought it would.”
“Oh.” Daria took her by the arm. “Why don’t you forget about the painting for the time being?”
“Got a better idea?”
“Actually, I do.”
“Really?” Jane glanced around the room. “I can’t think of anything or anyone in this room that would interest me as much as painting.”
Daria smiled slightly. “Ah. Playful insults. That’s what relationships are built on.”
“Who said I was being playful?” said Jane with a grin.
Daria smiled, and moved in to kiss her. They kissed for a few wonderful seconds, Daria feeling Jane pulling her into her body. She loved the feel of Jane’s body against hers. Jane just felt so lithe, so strong. Daria loved holding her, and being held. As they kissed, Daria felt most of her worries about college melting away.
Kevin Thompson lay back on his bed, staring up at the ceiling. The walls around him were surrounded with pictures of himself, usually in his football uniform. The pictures usually followed the same pattern - Kevin accepting a trophy - Kevin scoring the winning touchdown - Kevin on the shoulders of his teammates, etc.
However, even the sight of such an ego-boosting collection didn’t help his mood today. He was in a foul mood, for a few reasons.
One - it was sinking home to him that he had been kept back a year, and was not going off to college with all of his friends.
Two - his girlfriend had dumped him.
Kevin couldn’t figure out why, either. This morning, everything had seemed so normal...
Kevin stood by the mall entrance, waiting for Brittany to arrive. She had called him, and said that they needed to talk. Kevin was confused - talking was not a huge part of their relationship. However, he had turned up.
He was checking out the waitress at the food court, when Brittany walked up. She had stopped wearing her Lawndale High cheerleaders uniform, and Kevin had been upset. He’d liked that outfit, and couldn’t figure out why she had stopped wearing it.
It had taken a few attempts, but Mack had finally made him realize that since she wasn’t in Lawndale High anymore, she couldn’t wear their uniform. Mack was good at figuring that sort of thing out.
“Hi babe!” said Kevin brightly.
“Hi,” said Brittany, a little less brightly.
“So do you want to head back to my jeep?”
“Why would I want to do that?” said Brittany, sounding a little confused.
“To make out!” said Kevin, in a tone that suggested a ‘duh’.
“I said we needed to talk,” said Brittany, “and I meant it.”
“Oh,” said Kevin, a little disappointed. “I thought that was like a code for making out.”
“No,” said Brittany, a little sadly. “Kevvie, I don’t know how to say this...”
“I usually just open my mouth, and the words come right out,” suggested Kevin.
Brittany stared at him. “That’s not really what I meant. Look, for a long time I’ve been feeling that this is going to happen and now the time is here, and it’s not easy, you know?”
Kevin blinked in confusion.
Brittany sighed. “Kevvie, we’ve had a lot of fun together over the past few years, haven’t we?” Kevin nodded enthusiastically. “But now we’re both out of high school, and we have to face facts. We have to realize that some things have to come to an end sometimes.” Brittany paused. “Did I get that all out right? Jodie coached me on a lot of it.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Kevin, I’m breaking up with you.”
Kevin stared at her for a few moments. “What?” he said finally.
“I’m breaking up with you.”
Kevin didn’t say anything for a while, then he laughed. “I get it! This is like a joke, right?”
“That’s pretty funny, babe!”
“I said no.”
“Oh.” Kevin’s face fell. “Why?”
“I’m going off to college, and you’re staying here, and we’ll just be too far apart, and we said that this would end after graduation...” Brittany sighed. “We’ve had a lot of fun, but it won’t last any longer.”
“But I didn’t graduate!”
“And besides, we don’t really love each other anyway. Could you stay faithful to me if I was away at college for months at a time?”
Kevin didn’t say anything.
“See?” said Brittany. “I really enjoyed all my time with you, Kevvie, but I think we both know it’s over.”
“Oh,” said Kevin sadly.
“We can still be friends!” said Brittany, cheering up a bit.
“Okay,” said Kevin half-heartedly.
“Oh, Kevvie,” said Brittany. “I didn’t mean to depress you. But you know this is the best thing for both of us.”
“I guess,” mumbled Kevin.
Brittany smiled a little sadly, said her goodbyes, and walked off, leaving Kevin sitting alone in the mall.
“Aw man,” he said sadly.
Kevin frowned and stared up at the ceiling. Really, he should have known that this was going to happen. Really, Brittany had been dating him because she was head cheerleader and he was QB. Now she wasn’t the head cheerleader, and he was still the QB, so she wasn’t eligible, or something...
No, that didn’t seem to make a lot of sense.
Well, she had been right on one thing. He probably wouldn’t have been faithful to her when she was in college. Actually, he hadn’t been faithful to her even when she wasn’t in college, and now that he thought about it, he felt kind of bad about that. She’d been faithful, but he hadn’t, right?
Kevin sighed. All this thinking was making his head hurt.
There was a knock on the door, and he mumbled something that sounded vaguely like ’come in’. The door opened, and his mother Charlene walked in. “Hi.”
“Hey,” said Kevin lethargically.
She sat on the edge of the bed, and smiled sympathetically. “Your dad was wondering why you didn’t want to watch his new ’Greatest Sports Maimings’ video.”
“Sports are stupid,” said Kevin.
“You must be feeling bad,” she said with a frown. “What happened?”
“Britt broke up with me.”
“Oh.” Charlene scratched her head. “Um. Sorry.” The ‘sorry’ came out as kind of half-hearted.
“She’s going off to college, and she says it’d be best if we split up because we wouldn’t be able to stay faithful and stuff and that it’s better to split up now.”
“Oh. She’s probably right about that.”
Charlene sighed. “Look, I know I made it perfectly clear that I didn’t like her.”
“You did?” Kevin frowned. “When?”
“Never mind. I was just worried that you’d get her pregnant and then you’d have to get a job right out of school.”
“Like you and Dad?” said Kevin brightly.
Charlene gritted her teeth. “Yes. Like me and your dad.” She paused. “But I know that you really liked her. So I’m sorry, sweetie.”
“That’s okay,” said Kevin. He frowned. “It’s just...I...nothing’s working out like I wanted it to.”
“You’ll get to college, Kevin. I know you will. You’ll find another girlfriend. Just have a little faith in yourself.”
Kevin looked over at his mom. “Maybe I should go talk to Dad about this. You know, get his advice.”
“I don’t think that’s really such a good idea, dear.”
“Oh.” Kevin scratched his head. “Maybe I should go talk to Mack. He always seems to know what to do.”
“That sounds like a much better idea.”
Kevin swung his feet off the bed, and looked at his mom. “You know, if Brittany and me had stayed together, and gotten married, I think we would have been just like you and Dad. Wouldn’t that have been cool, though?”
“No,” said Charlene, with more than a hint of bitterness. “That’s what I was always afraid of.”
Kevin frowned. “I don’t get it.”
“Hopefully, now you never will, sweetie.” Charlene patted Kevin on the shoulder. “Go talk to Mack.”
Kevin frowned again, shrugged, and headed off to Mack’s.
Daria walked down the street, back towards her house. It was a nice night outside, and she was taking the walk slowly, savoring it. That was something she had never done before, but everything seemed different these days. It was remarkable how different life seemed when you were in a relationship with someone you genuinely cared for on a deep level.
Daria smiled wryly to herself. She’d better be careful or she was going to lose all of her cynicism, turning into one of those irritating lovestruck people that keep crowing on about how happy and wonderful their life is, even when no-one wants to hear it.
Of course, life was pretty wonderful right now. Despite a seemingly insurmountable amount of odds, she and Jane had finally managed to admit how they felt to each other, and were now a couple.
Well, actually, Jane had admitted how she felt, and Daria had simply agreed. She wasn’t one for expressing how she felt openly. Daria wondered how Jane felt about that. She hadn’t said anything, so it must be okay.
However, she knew that the openness issue was going to come to a head before too long. Jane was rather adamant about that.
Daria wasn’t sure why she was so reticent to tell her family about her and Jane. She knew on an instinctive level that they would be okay with it. Quinn might say ’ewww’ but that would be it. Her mom would be fine with it, probably. And her dad? Well, he was never really there to offer an opinion on her life.
Daria felt a slight twinge of pain as she thought that, but shrugged it off. She had more important things to think about.
She stopped and looked up at the sky. It was clear, and she could see the stars very brightly. It was a little cool for an August night, but not too cold. Just perfect for walking and thinking, really.
They had a time limit. She knew that she would have to tell her family about her and Jane before she left for Raft. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be fair to keep them waiting for a few months for the truth. That gave her a few weeks to drum up the courage.
Daria paused again to look around her at Lawndale. She wondered if she would ever come back to it after she left for college. For visits and breaks, sure. But to live? She didn’t know. It held no real ties to her, save for her family. She wondered if Jane felt the same way. Her situation was a little different. Her family hadn’t been back to Lawndale in months, ever since the gazebo incident. Daria suspected that Trent would follow her up to Boston, as he had barely anything to stay here for either.
She gave another quick look around, and continued on her way.
Kevin barged into Mack’s bedroom. “Hey, Mack!”
Mack looked up from the book he was reading. “Kevin, haven’t you ever heard of knocking?”
“We’re bros, man. Soo casha is moo casha, right?”
“I think I get what you’re trying to say there. Possibly. Except I’ve never actually said that, have I?”
Kevin thought about that. “Um, no.”
Mack sighed. “So what can I do for you tonight, Kevin?”
Kevin sat down glumly. “Britt dumped me, man.”
“Oh. Yeah, I know,” said Mack sympathetically. “Sorry.”
“How did you know?”
“Jodie told me. Brittany called her earlier.”
“Oh. I’m kind of bummed about it, man.”
“I don’t blame you. You guys have been dating since tenth grade.” Mack sat up on the bed. “But you had to know it was coming, didn’t you?”
“Sort of,” said Kevin morosely.
“Look. It’s the end of high school.” Mack thought about that. “Oh. Sorry. Didn’t mean to...” He paused. “Well, anyway. You know, things are changing. Everyone’s going away to new places, relationships are changing, people are starting new lives. This is normal.”
“I guess,” said Kevin.
“Look, me and Jodie broke up. You see? Perfectly normal.”
“Yeah, but you and Jodie are weird. I mean, you’re still best buds and everything, and you didn’t ever have any fights. How weird is that?”
“Okay. Me and Jodie, not a great example. Daria broke up with her boyfriend. Remember?”
“So don’t think about this as a bad thing. Think about this as a chance to change, and grow and stuff. See what I mean?”
“No, not really,” said Kevin despairingly.
Mack sighed heavily. “Okay. Kevin, you got held back.”
“Okay. Well, don’t look on that as a bad thing.”
“How can’t I?”
“Let me finish.”
“Now you know that to graduate next year, you have to work a lot harder, right?”
“You mean not just rely on getting a buy on every test?”
“Now you’re getting the picture.” Mack paused. “Now think about the Brittany thing on the same level.”
“I don’t get it,” said Kevin, scratching his head.
“Not finished yet.”
“That’s okay.” Mack frowned. “Where was I?”
“Right there, on the bed.”
“No. I...never mind.” Mack thought for a second. “Okay. So think about the Brittany thing on the same level. Maybe this is a chance for you to do something different. Not just date someone because they’re on the cheerleading squad, but because you actually want to.”
“So, someone totally different?”
“Like someone really smart?”
“Let‘s not get ahead of ourselves here. But, essentially, yes. That sort of idea.”
“I really liked Britt.”
“I know, Kevin. I do too. She’s one of the sweetest people I know. But you two were not compatible. Now, she can go off to college and find someone she’ll really click with, and you can do the same here. See?”
Kevin scratched his head. “I think so.”
“There you are. This isn’t such a bad thing, Kevin. This could be a great opportunity for you. A chance to get what you really want out of life.”
“Okay then!” Kevin grinned. “Man, I didn’t realize that this was such a good thing!”
“It all depends on how you look at things, Kevin.” Mack smiled. “See? Things aren’t as bad as you thought they’d be, are they?”
“I guess not. Man, I guess I do need to start doing a few things differently.”
“Of course. Hey, you can learn. You finally stopped calling me Mack Daddy after all those years.”
Kevin frowned. “I still don’t know why you didn’t tell me not to before then.”
“I...” Mack sighed. “I’d better not push it. You do seem to be in quite a sensible mood tonight, for a change.”
“Hey, we’re still going to be best buds, aren’t we?”
“Kevin, I don’t think I’m ever going to be rid of you. So, yes.”
“Cool!” Kevin was practically bouncing on his chair. “You know, at first, I thought today really blew, but now that I think about it, it rocks!”
Mack looked at him. “Kevin, have you ever wondered why your mood changes so rapidly all the time.”
Kevin got up suddenly. “Okay! I gotta go!”
“I’ve got to start my new life, man! This is the last day of the first of my life, you know?”
“You know, Kevin. Maybe you’re being a little too enthusiastic.”
“How can I ever thank you, bro?”
“Flush the toilet the next time you’re in the house?”
“I’m so on it!” Kevin said goodbye to Mack, and walked out of the house, feeling a new sense of self-importance. Now he was going to excel in everything, and go after what he really wanted in life. No-one was going to keep him down!
Actually, he couldn’t remember anyone keeping him down, but it sounded good.
He was going to go out into the world, graduate high school, go back after summer, do exams, and graduate college. That order sounded a little messed-up, but he could fine tune his plan later.
Of course, he had to get the most important things out of the way first. And for Kevin, that varied between football and girls. Since his football career was not in jeopardy, that mean it was girls. Kevin needed a girlfriend, and fast!
Sadly, he didn’t know how to go about getting one. In the past, women had always tended to come to him. But, at eight o’clock on a warm August night, that probably wasn’t going to happen.
Kevin resolved to simply wander around at random for a few hours until a solution magically appeared. That usually worked. Humming cheerfully to himself, he set off.
After an hour or so of walking, with no appearance of any prospective girlfriends, Kevin was ready to give up hope. That’s when he saw Daria Morgendorffer walking down the street.
Kevin figured he should go over to her and ask for advice. After all, she was a brain. She had smarts. She knew how chicks felt, right? She was one, so that probably meant that she did. Plus, she had had a boyfriend up until recently, so obviously she knew stuff like that.
He hollered out to her loudly and rushed across the street to her, narrowly avoiding being hit by an aggrieved motorist.
When she saw him approach, she waved. (At least, that’s what Kevin thought it was. It was definitely some sort of movement of the hands).
“Kevin. What a surprise. Not a pleasant one, but a surprise nonetheless.”
“Um, Daria, are you busy?”
“That depends. What happens if I say no?”
“I want to ask you a question!” Kevin beamed. “I’m un-inventing myself!”
“The world will thank you for it one day, I’m sure.”
“I think you mean re-inventing yourself?”
“No, no. That’s not what I said.”
“My apologies.” Daria sighed a little. “I’m in an uncharacteristically good mood tonight, so I’ll answer your question.”
“Cool!” Kevin started bouncing with anticipation. “I was just with Mack, and he said I should look at this whole not graduating thing as a growth experience and I should change my life for the better.”
“Well, keep listening to Mack. Plus, he’s right.”
“Except Brittany dumped me! And I can’t un-invent my life without the most important thing!”
“I should know better, but what is that?”
“Girls! I need a girlfriend, Daria!” Kevin looked desperately at her. “I’m feeling withdrawals, man! I’m going to go all funny!”
“Kevin, I’m guessing that Brittany only broke up with you a few hours ago?”
“And that you’ve only been searching for maybe half of that?”
Daria sighed. “Kevin, don’t you think that you might not have given this enough time?”
“I’m a passionate man, Daria! I have needs.”
“So do I. The need to get away from this conversation, for instance.”
“Hey, maybe you can set me up with your cousin.”
“What, Erin? I don’t dislike her that much.”
“No,” said Kevin sarcastically. (As much as he could muster, anyway). “Quinn!”
“Quinn’s my sister, Kevin. Remember?”
“No way! She just tells everyone than because she’s scared of everyone knowing you’re cousins.” Kevin grinned. “You can’t pull one over on me!”
“Oh God.” Daria rubbed her eyes under her glasses. “Kevin, look. I know you miss Brittany. But you haven’t given this enough time. I’m sure you’ll find another girlfriend.”
“You can help me!”
Daria looked at him. “I don’t think so.”
“No.” Daria sighed again. “Kevin, much as it pains me to say this, you won’t have any trouble. You’re a fairly decent guy, some unfortunate people think you’re attractive, and you’re popular. Give it a few days, and you’ll have girlfriends up the wazoo.”
“Look, there’s probably one right under your nose.”
She jerked her hand down the street. “I really have to be going.”
“Okay!” Kevin smiled. “Thanks for the advice!”
“I’d say any time, but we both know that isn’t true.” She started off down the street, and paused just a few feet away. She turned around slightly. “Good luck, though.”
And then she was gone, leaving Kevin standing alone in the street.
Daria reached home a few minutes later. She walked into the living room, past Jake, who was engrossed in the TV, and into the kitchen. Helen was there, poring over some legal documents. She looked up when Daria came in, and smiled.
“Hi,” said Daria.
“Hello, dear,” said Helen. “How’s Jane?”
“She’s fine.” Daria shrugged. “We’re both just a little bummed about the fact that I’ll be in Boston for a few months by myself.”
“Oh,” said Helen sympathetically. “Well, at least she’ll be there eventually. What would you have done if you’d ended up going to Bromwell?”
Helen smiled. “You know, I’m glad you two made up. You’ve seemed a lot happier in the past few weeks.”
“Well, happier by your standards, dear. You two always get so moody when you have a falling out.”
“Don’t I know it.” Daria stifled a yawn unsuccessfully. “I think I’m going to head up to my room. I’m still going through all the stuff I have to pack.”
“Well, you do have to leave some of it here.”
“So you can hold it hostage to get me to visit?”
Helen smiled. “Can’t put one past you, can I?”
“Night, Mom.” Daria walked out of the kitchen and up to her room. When she got there, she sat down on the bed, and looked around. The room was in quite a state of disarray, her stuff either lying on the floor, having been pulled from the closet, or sitting on the bed, waiting to be organized.
Daria sighed. Every time she talked to her Mom, she always felt the urge to come clean about her and Jane. But something always held her back. It wasn’t like it had been with Tom. Then, she had just not wanted them to make a scene over Tom and his incredibly rich parents. Now, though...
Well, it was like she didn’t want to mess anything up with her and Jane. She wanted this to be perfect. She didn’t want anything to go wrong. Jane was much too important for that. She never, and had never, wanted anyone else to share her life.
Daria analyzed what she was thinking, and smiled a little. Comparing her and Jane to her and Tom? Better not tell Jane about that one.
That got her thinking, however. Tom had been the only other major relationship she had ever been in. How had that felt compared to this?
There was no comparison, she realized. There was no factor of their relationship that wasn’t bettered by her and Jane. Tom wasn’t a bad guy, he really wasn’t. But their personalities had not been compatible. Tom had always wanted to mold her, make her into his image of the perfect girlfriend. That alone should have been a large clue that they were not compatible.
Their relationship, at least on her side, was largely an intellectual exercise, a trial to see what it was like.
She and Jane, on the other hand...
They had been best of friends, soul mates, if you were. Now, that had not changed. Now, they had simply taken their relationship to the next logical step. On the surface, it was still the same old comfortable friendship, with friendly barbs and witty banter. On the inside, however, it had now become much deeper. They shared more, communicated more, were more open with each other.
And of course, there was the physical side...
Daria was still not ready to be completely physical with Jane - the idea of that much vulnerability and intimacy scared her. But they were getting there. Kisses with Tom had been fun, something to enjoy on a surface level, nothing more. As their relationship had disintegrated, they had ceased, no longer enjoyed by either of them.
Kisses with Jane, however...well, they were on a whole new level. It wasn’t simply a kiss with them. It was a wondrous palette of feelings and emotions that Daria had never felt before. When she kissed Jane, the feelings inside her blossomed, and her senses stood on end. The feel of Jane’s lips, the taste of her mouth, the sensation of touching her body, the scent of her skin and hair...when they kissed, she felt all that at once. All she wanted was to hold her and not let the moment end. It was exhilarating. She could only imagine what the next level might be like, even though the thought of it terrified her.
It was because of all those things that Daria did not want to screw this up in any way. She could not...would not...lose Jane. She was the entire world to Daria.
“Now that’s something you don’t see every day.”
Daria was shaken out of her thoughts by a voice cutting through. She glanced up to see Quinn standing in the doorway.
“What do you mean?”
“You were sitting there, with this huge grin on your face. If that’s not weird, then punk’s going to come into style.”
“Thought it already did.”
“Shows what you know.” Quinn smiled. “So why were you sitting there like that?”
“Happy to be leaving Lawndale behind?”
“Nice try, Daria. I’m better at reading people than that.”
Daria considered telling her, then thought better of it. This didn’t seem like the right time, though, so she decided against it.
“Nothing much,” she said with a shrug.
“Suit yourself,” said Quinn. “You’ve been in a weird mood - and by weird, I mean happy - for the past few weeks.”
“I guess all of Mr. O’Neill’s lessons just hit me all at once.”
“Hah.” Quinn looked around the room. “Must be weird to know that you won’t really see him ever again.”
“Weird isn’t the word I’d use. Happy is much more appropriate.”
“Of course I’ll be doing the same thing in a year,” said Quinn thoughtfully. “Hmm.”
“Thought about where you’re going yet?”
Quinn shrugged. “I don’t really even know what I want to do yet. I’m sure it’ll come to me.”
“Probably. Things have a way of coming to you.”
Quinn cocked her head to the side. “I guess. Oh well, I’ll see you in the morning.”
Quinn flounced out of the room, leaving Daria shaking her head. Of all the surprises in the past year, the new closeness between the two of them was one of the more welcome ones.
Daria yawned again, and decided to head to bed. She changed, slipped into bed, and dreamt of Jane.
Kevin sat on his bed, staring up at the ceiling again. He was trying really, really hard to think, but it wasn’t coming easily. He had gotten advice from two different people and he was trying to figure out their exact meanings. He thought back to what Daria had said.
“I’m sure you’ll find another girlfriend.”
That meant Daria was sure he would find one. And Daria was never wrong!
“Some unfortunate people think you’re attractive.”
Now what could she have meant by that? What unfortunate people? Unless Daria was talking about herself! Yeah, she meant unfortunate because she knew that he was taken and she could only watch from afar! Yeah, that was it.
“Look, there’s probably one right under your nose.”
That mean that Daria was totally hot for him! She was right under his nose when he said it. She was talking about herself, obviously. It all made perfect sense to Kevin.
Wow. Daria Morgendorffer. Who would have guessed that she was totally into him.
Actually, mused Kevin, it made perfect sense. She never really told him to go away whenever he asked her for advice, and then there was that time she had asked him to go to the dance with her when he had broken up with Brittany.
He had said no, of course. She was a brain. But now...this was the new, improved Kevin Thompson! Mack had said he should date a brain.
Well, he had said something like that. Kevin couldn’t remember exactly what, but it was definitely something like that.
Kevin thought about Daria. Sure, she was smart and stuff, but now that he thought about it, she was actually kind of hot. Not Brittany hot, but kind of smart-hot.
Plus she was single now. She’d broken it off with that Tom guy, for some reason, so she was free and available.
Kevin resolved himself. Tomorrow he would go to her house, and tell her that he knew how she felt about him, and that he would be more than happy to become her boyfriend. Then, of course, she would fall into his arms, and things would be totally cool again.
He idly wondered what it must like to make out with her. Maybe he should call that Tom guy and ask him.
Kevin decided against it. Mack had said once that not all guys were as eager to share making out stories as Kevin was. Kevin couldn’t understand that. He thought that everyone loved to hear all about his adventures with Brittany.
Oh well. Kevin turned out his light, and started to go to sleep. Tomorrow he was going to go to Daria’s house, and then things would start being cool again. The new, improved Kevin Thompson was coming!
Daria took the pen and chewed on it absent-mindedly. “Damn,” she muttered.
“What is it?” said Jane, looking up from the TV.
Daria took her glasses off and rubbed her eyes. “I’ve got a bunch of stuff to do and not enough time to do it in.”
“Oh yeah. I’ve heard of that problem. It’s called life.”
“Aren’t we in a philosophical mood today?”
“It was supposed to be sarcastic.”
“That’s my department.”
“Can’t I butt in?”
“I’m trying to save you from yourself, Jane.”
Jane smiled, swung her legs off the bed, and walked over to Daria. She rested her hand on Daria’s shoulder, and Daria reached up to hold it. “So what are you doing?”
“Getting everything in order to go off to university.”
“There isn’t that much to do, surely.”
Daria started to protest, and then just sighed. “Ah Hell, you’re right.” She sighed, and put her pen down. I’m just making a mountain out of a molehill.”
“Because that’s so unlike you,” Jane said, stroking Daria’s hand gently.
“Ha ha?” Jane walked up behind her. “That’s the limit of your razor-sharp wit today? You must be in a weird mood.”
“Sharp? It’s more like a ten-year old butter knife kind of sharpness.”
Jane reached down to hug Daria gently, and frowned. “Damn.”
“What is it?” Daria glanced up at Jane.
“Your shoulder....” Jane felt around her back. “Hell, the rest of your back too...it’s hard as Hell. You’re tense.”
“Mmm. I’ve got a lot on my mind. College...telling my parents...” Daria glanced up at Jane again. “Being away from you for a few months.”
Jane smiled. “We’ll survive.”
“I know,” said Daria with a sigh. “But still...”
“Hey.” Jane patted her on the back. “Get up. I know what’ll get you feeling better.”
“I’ll show you.” Jane got Daria up, and maneuvered her over to the bed. “Take your jacket off.”
Daria raised an eyebrow.
“Come on,” said Jane. “Trust me.”
Daria shrugged and took her jacket off.
“Now lie down on the bed.”
“Please?” Daria began to do so. “No, on your front.”
Daria lay down on her front. “This isn’t helping. I only hope that this is going to get better.”
“You have no patience, you know that?” Jane sat down on the bed beside her, and lightly pulled her t-shirt up to her shoulders.
“Jane...” said Daria.
“Shh.” Jane began fiddling with Daria’s bra strap, trying to get it unclasped.
“Jane, this isn’t really what I had in mind...”
“Get your mind out of the gutter, Morgendorffer,” said Jane. “I’m not thinking of that.” She paused. “Well, I am. But no more than usual, I mean.” She managed to get the bra unhooked and moved the straps out of the way.
“Jane...I’m still at a...ohhh...” Daria felt Jane’s fingertips begin to lightly move over her back, only barely touching her, sending little shivers up her spine. “Mmmm,” she said happily.
“I like,” said Daria contentedly.
“Trent swears by this. Says it’s the most relaxing thing he’s ever had done to him.”
“Does Trent really need to get any more relaxed? If he gets any more laid back, he’ll go through the floor.”
Jane smiled, and continued tickling her back lightly. Daria could feel the tension slipping away.
“Damn,” she said quietly. “Do you do this to all your girlfriends?”
“All of them so far.” Jane paused. “Which is you.”
“Your skin is so pale,” said Jane absentmindedly. She stopped suddenly.
“What is it?”
“What’s this?” said Jane. Daria could feel her finger lightly trace an area of her back.
“What is what?”
“There’s a scar here.”
“Oh, that.” Daria looked around as best she could. “Just a burn. When I was...I don’t remember...maybe ten, I backed into a hot stove. Burned me pretty badly.” She paused. “I’d forgotten it was even there, to be honest. I don’t think anyone else has ever seen it. I mean, apart from Mom and Dad and the doctor...oh.”
She felt Jane’s lips press softly against the scar, sending goose bumps across her back. “Mm. Don’t stop.”
“You like that?”
Jane kept kissing gently across Daria’s back, her fingers lightly scratching the areas she had tickled. Daria shifted her position slightly, murmuring softly in contentment.
“Still feeling tense?” said Jane quietly from somewhere near her shoulder blades.
“Oh no,” said Daria. I’m....I’m trying to think of something witty and sarcastic to say but it’s not working...”
“Uh-huh,” said Jane, lifting Daria’s t-shirt slightly from her shoulders and kissing them.
“You’re not getting lipstick all over my back, are you?” murmured Daria.
“Does it matter?”
“Not really,” mumbled Daria.
Jane finished, and sat back on the bed. Daria mumbled something about not being ready to stop yet, and rolled over onto her back, pulling her t-shirt down as she did so.
“That felt good,” she said, smiling.
“Why thank you.” Jane leaned in, and took Daria’s glasses off. “I know something else that would feel rather good.”
Jane smiled, and stroked Daria’s face gently, moving in for a kiss. Daria did the same, and they both lay back down on the bed. After a few minutes of warm, wonderful kisses, Jane broke off, and smiled. “I love you, you know.”
Jane traced a finger down her body, and kissed her again. It deepened, and Daria wrapped her arms around Jane, pulling her close, smelling her hair, her body, everything. She felt Jane’s hand slip under her t-shirt, onto her stomach, and begin to lift her shirt up. Daria suddenly felt like things might go a little farther than she had planned, and the sudden conflicting emotions in her head caused her to tense up involuntarily.
Jane sensed it, and stopped, drawing her hand out. “Daria? What’s wrong?”
Daria pulled her t-shirt down again. “I...” She stopped and looked into Jane’s deep blue eyes. “Jane, I...” A pause. “Not yet, okay? I’m...not ready...”
“Oh.” Jane looked at her with a worried expression. “I’m sorry.”
“No,” said Daria sadly. “I’m sorry. I...want to, but...not yet, okay?”
Jane nodded, and the two women looked at each other. After a short pause, Daria leant up and pressed her lips to Jane’s...
The door crashed open suddenly.
Daria and Jane both sat bolt upright on the bed, Daria grabbing her glasses.
When she put them on, Kevin Thompson’s image swam into view, much to her surprise. She glanced over at Jane, who seemed to be suffering a similar reaction. Daria quickly reached up, straightened her hair, and wiped her face quickly. (Being with Jane caused her to sweat rather frequently, for some odd reason.)
“Hey!” said Kevin cheerfully, not seeming flustered by this situation.
“Kevin,” Daria managed to say. “What are you doing here?”
“I was just about to ask that,” muttered Jane.
“Daria! I’ve really got to talk to you! It’s important and stuff.”
“Wait,” said Jane suddenly. “How the hell did you get into my house?”
“Your brother let me in.”
“I’m going to kill him,” said Jane quietly and viciously.
“Kevin,” said Daria levelly. “Why are you here?”
“Daria, we need to talk.”
“We’re here. So...talk.”
“I think I’ve realized what you were trying to tell me yesterday night,” said Kevin excitedly.
“Oh good. Well, that was nice. You can go now.” Daria indicated the door.
“Ha! You’re funny, Daria.” Kevin paused. “No, I think that I’m totally up for it, and I know you are!”
“Up for what?” said Jane, frowning a little.
“Us dating!” said Kevin.
Daria’s mouth opened, but nothing came out. She opened it again, with the same effect. For the first time she could remember, she was totally speechless. She glanced over at Jane, who had a similar expression on her face.
Daria turned back to Kevin, and managed to say: “What?”
“What she said,” said Jane in a daze.
“I’ve been thinking about what you said last night,” began Kevin.
“That must have been some conversation,” said Jane, shooting Daria a look.
“I think you were trying to tell me that you were totally into me. I’m right, aren’t I?”
“Um, no,” said Daria with utter conviction. “In fact, I can’t even start to tell you how wrong you are.”
“What the hell did you talk about last night?” said Jane, frowning at Daria.
“She was giving me advice on how to get my life back on track! And then I realized that you must have a thing for me, like when you asked me to that dance and stuff. The evidence is all there!”
“Hold on there, Poirot...” began Daria.
“And then I realized that I must always have had a thing for you too!” Kevin beamed. “I was just hiding it cause you were a brain and everything. But now that this is the new Kevin, I can date brains.” He paused, and smiled as if this was all perfectly self-explanatory.
“I hope you’ll be very happy together,” muttered Jane.
Daria ignored her. “Kevin. Okay. One. I am not into you. Two. You are not into me.”
“Three. I am going to university in a few weeks. We will never see each other ever again.”
“We can do a long-distance thing! It’ll be fun!”
“No, it won’t.”
Kevin looked at her. “Daria, come on. I mean, you’re not dating anyone at the moment, are you? I knew you broke up with that Tom guy.”
“I...” Daria paused. “No, I guess I’m not dating anyone...”
Jane made a derisive noise from behind her.
“Then it’s settled,” said Kevin cheerfully. “I’ll see you tonight at eight at that stupid French place! Bye!” He waved enthusiastically, and left, leaving Daria and Jane standing in the room.
There was a brief silence as Daria and Jane both looked at each other, not quite knowing what to say. Eventually, Daria cleared her throat and turned to Jane. “That was interesting, wasn’t it?”
“What the hell did you two talk about last night?”
“I ran into him in the street. He was acting so lost and pathetic that I felt sorry for him. I just told him that he needed to redefine his life. He must have taken my comments the wrong way.”
“I’ll say,” muttered Jane. She raised her voice. “Trent!”
After a few moments, Trent walked into the room, a dazed expression on his face. “What?”
“Pray tell, dear brother, why did you let Kevin Thompson into my house? In fact, why did you let him into my room?”
“Huh?” Trent scratched his head. “Oh, the nut guy.” He shrugged. “I figured if I let him in, he might give me some free nuts...”
Jane put her head in her hands. “This is insane.”
“Can I go back to sleep now?” asked Trent.
Jane waved her hand dismissively and nodded. Trent obligingly wandered off.
“I’m sorry,” said Daria, touching Jane on the shoulder. “I didn’t mean for this to happen.”
Jane placed her hand on Daria’s. “I know. I’m sorry. This kind of threw me for a loop.”
“Hey, how do you think it made me feel?” Daria shuddered. “I don’t really want to go out with Kevin.”
“I don’t blame you.” Jane sighed, and turned round to hug Daria. “So what are you going to do?”
Daria broke free. “I guess I’ll go to that place, and try to let him down gently.”
“You letting someone down gently?” said Jane with a smile. “That’s a new thing.”
“Well...” Daria shrugged. “He just seems so sad and useless. It’d be like kicking a dog when they’re down.” She smiled slightly. “Plus I know what it’s like when someone you...care about a lot moves on without you.”
Jane smiled back, and kissed her lightly. “I love you.”
“I know.” Daria sighed, and broke off. She walked over and got her jacket. “I guess I’d better go and get this out of the way.”
Daria smiled a little, and walked out of the room.
In his room, Kevin was getting ready for his big date. He’d decided that perhaps his football pads might not be the best item of clothing to go in. After all, this was the new, improved Kevin Thompson! He didn’t have to do all the things that the old Kevin Thompson did.
As he was checking his appearance in the mirror, there was a knock on his door. A second later, the door opened, and Mack walked in.
“Hey,” he said. “Your Mom let me in...said you seemed to be in a better mood.”
“Hey, bro!” said Kevin cheerfully. “What’s up?”
“Hmm,” said Mack thoughtfully. “You seem in a much better mood than you were yesterday. I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that you’ve found a new girlfriend?”
“Sure have, man!” Kevin beamed. “You were right. All I had to do was just look in the opposite direction and find a direction and stuff. Now I feel much better!”
“Okay,” said Mack. “So who is she?”
Mack’s jaw almost dropped onto the floor. He stumbled over his next few words before finally managing to get out a “What?”
“Daria, man! Daria Morgendorffer. We’ve got a date tonight and everything.”
“Kevin,” said Mack, his tone absolutely level. “This is some kind of weird joke, isn’t it?”
“No way, man. I wouldn’t joke about something like this. I’m taking her to Chez Pierre tonight.”
“Okay.” Mack held his hands up in disbelief. “Tell me everything that happened between you two before you agreed to go out.”
“Well, I was wondering around, trying to think about things, and then I met Daria and she said that I should try to find a different type of girlfriend, and she dropped all these subtle clues that she was totally into me.”
“Uh-huh,” said Mack in utter disbelief. “Go on.”
“So I figured it out, and went over to her house. But she wasn’t there, and then her Mom told me that she was over at Jane’s - you know, her friend?”
“I know who Jane is.”
“And I said that I didn’t know where Jane’s house was, and she said that wasn’t really her problem, and then I asked her really nicely, and she told me that she’d tell me if I left the house right away, and I said sure!”
“So I went over to Jane’s and her brother let me in, and I went up and told Daria, and she was like, cool, and I arranged a date for us tonight.”
“Right,” said Mack slowly. “Was Jane there?”
“And did she seem a little annoyed that you had come barging in?”
“Maybe?” Kevin scratched his head. “What are you getting at, man?”
“I’m saying that perhaps...Daria does not want to go out with you, and that you were getting in the way of...something between the two of them.”
“I don’t get you.”
“I mean...” Mack paused. “Look...let’s just say that you would be intruding.”
“I don’t follow you.”
“Three’s a crowd?”
Mack sighed. “What about if I told that there was something else going on, and that you would be interfering?”
“I...” Mack sighed. “I can’t say. Look, Kevin. I think this is a bad idea, okay?”
“I don’t get it.”
“Look, I’m sure Daria will tell you herself. Just try not to be too depressed, okay?” Mack glanced at his watch. “I’ve got to go. Call me tomorrow, okay?”
Kevin nodded in a very confused way, and watched Mack leave. What had that been all about? Maybe Mack was jealous.
No, Mack was a good guy. He wouldn’t do anything like that. So what had he been talking about? Kevin couldn’t figure it out. He shrugged. Mack had said that Daria would tell him, so he’d wait until tonight. Couldn’t be that important if Mack didn’t tell him.
Kevin shrugged, and went back to getting ready.
Daria stood outside Chez Pierre, wondering how the hell she had managed to get herself into this situation. She had tried calling Kevin’s house to cancel, but there had been no answer. So, she had decided to show up, figuring that if she didn’t, Kevin would just track her down, and badger her some more.
In the past, she probably would have just let Kevin wait here, and then shoot him down whenever he had suggested doing this, but she was rather reticent to do it now. Kevin just seemed so depressed that she kind of felt sorry for him. Plus, ever since she had been with Jane, she had definitely softened a bit.
She pulled her jacket closed a little tighter, and shivered. It was a fairly cold night for August. She hoped he’d show up soon. She was going to catch a cold if she kept standing here.
Sure enough, in a few minutes she heard Kevin’s unmistakable sound coming towards her. She turned around, and frowned in surprise.
It was Kevin, all right, but it looked like he was actually making an effort this time. He was out of his football uniform, and fairly well dressed. He was wearing black pants, a blue shirt, and a black jacket. He was also carrying a bunch of flowers.
Daria sighed. This was going to be harder than she thought.
“Hey!” said Kevin brightly. He thrust the flowers out. “These are for you! Chicks dig these, right?”
“Um, yes, most do,” said Daria uncertainly. “But, er, Kevin, I can’t accept these.”
“Oh. I get it.” Kevin frowned. “Hay fever, right? My Mom has that, too.”
“No, Kevin...I...” She paused. “I mean, this isn’t going to work, Kevin.”
“We can go somewhere else, if you like.”
“No, I mean...” Daria indicated him and the restaurant. “All this. I mean, you and me. We are not a couple.”
“Why?” said Kevin, in a distressed tone. “I mean...is there someone else?”
“I...” Daria paused. She couldn’t very well tell him about Jane. She hadn’t even told her parents yet, so she was definitely not ready to tell Kevin Thompson. “No, not really. But it’s just...”
“Is it me?” Kevin’s face fell. “Aw man! I knew this would happen. My Dad’s always telling me stuff like this...”
“I...” Daria sighed heavily. “Kevin, It’s not you...”
“I mean, I know I’m not the smartest person in the school.”
“That’s a bit of an understatement,” said Daria before catching herself. “Oh. Kevin, I’m sorry.”
“That’s okay,” said Kevin sadly. “But I thought I would just try to make things better, you know. Try to make a change in my life. But...” He tailed off and looked around aimlessly.
Daria stared at him. He seemed so utterly pathetic at this moment, and she didn’t know what to do. Eventually, she just sighed. “Kevin.”
He turned to her. “Yeah?”
“We can go inside. It sounds like you have a lot to get off your chest, and for some reason, I’m feeling very generous tonight.”
“Cool!” He grinned wildly.
“But we are not, and we will never be, going out. Got me?”
Daria shook her head in disbelief and went inside, followed by Kevin.
Kevin sat at the table, cheerfully recounting his troubles to Daria. It had been so very long since he had really had a chance to talk to anyone, and he was taking full advantage of this. Daria still seemed a little uncomfortable, but Kevin figured that would go away in time. Dinner had arrived, and Kevin was tucking in with gusto to his steak. Daria was picking at her beef medallions rather gingerly.
“So,” he continued, “when I found out I was being kept back, I was like, man, this bites! How could this have happened? I mean, Ms. Li told me that I’d pass all the tests, and stuff...”
“Hold on,” said Daria, holding up her hand. “Did Li tell you that you’d graduate?”
Kevin thought about that. He couldn’t quite remember. “I’m not sure. She just said that I’d never have to worry about passing any tests.”
“Didn’t your parents have anything to say about that?” Daria took a sip of her soda.
“My Dad was happy. He’s always wanted me to play professionally. He’d wanted to, but then I think he got Mom pregnant, and had to drop out of school.”
“So he said that I should just take the buys and stuff, and not worry about studying.”
“He said that?” said Daria in disbelief.
“Oh yeah. He figured I’d get a football scholarship easy.”
“He...” Daria tailed off. “But you didn’t. You got kept back.”
“Yeah.” Kevin frowned at the memory. “He wasn’t too happy about that.”
“He should have known, though...” Daria tailed off. “Forget it. Not my place. Didn’t your Mom have anything to say about that?”
“Well...” Kevin thought about that. A lot of memories of his mother being shouted down by his dad flashed into his head. “Dad never really listens to her. I...I don’t know why. Um...she tries to tell me stuff, but he doesn’t really...” Kevin shook his head. “I don’t know. Sometimes she tells me things behind his back, but they’re different to what he says and I don’t know who to believe.”
“What’s your Mom like?” asked Daria, cocking her head to the side slightly.
“Mom? Oh, she’s great! I mean, she does everything for me. And she always helps me feel better when I’m all down and stuff.” Kevin smiled.
Kevin frowned. “But she didn’t like Brittany, though. I mean, she really kind of disliked her. She was always saying how I was going to end up just like Dad and how Brittany would be just like her.” He shook his head. “I don’t really understand, but after she says that, she always gets real sad. I don’t...” He tailed off.
Daria looked at him. “Your Dad really wants you play football, huh?”
Kevin nodded enthusiastically. “Oh yeah! More than anything! He says that’s all that I’m good for and that I should concentrate on that.”
“And your Mom?”
“Oh, she doesn’t play football. She was a cheerleader!”
Daria sighed, and covered her face in her hands. “I meant, what does she want you to do?”
“Ah! Oh, well, she’s the only person who doesn’t really want me to play football.”
“She does, but she doesn’t.” Kevin frowned. “I think. I mean, she says I should do whatever I want to in life. But everyone else says I should play football! I mean, I’m good at it, and everything. But Mom says that I should follow my heart. But I...I don’t know...”
“Don’t know what?”
“Well, I like football and everything, and everyone else is saying one thing, and then she’s saying another thing, and I get real confused sometimes.”
“I don’t blame you,” muttered Daria.
“But now that I’ve been kept back, maybe I was thinking...maybe I should do something different. I mean, Mack said I should look on this an opportunity, you know?”
“Listen to Mack,” said Daria. “Trust me on that one.”
“What do you think? I mean, you’re a brain and everything.”
“Thank you,” said Daria dryly.
Daria sighed. “Kevin. Isn’t it possible that your father is projecting his own failure to live out his dreams on you, and making you live up to an ideal that maybe you don’t want to live up to? Maybe your Mom resents your Dad and is trying to let you live your own life and not make the mistakes that they did, but she’s always shot down by him. Isn’t that possible?”
Kevin stared at her for a few moments. Finally, he spoke up. “I didn’t understand a word of that.”
Daria sighed, and went back to her dinner. Kevin looked at her for a few moments, and then did the same. Chicks sure were weird sometimes.
After dinner, they stood outside. Daria zipped up her jacket, and turned to Kevin. “Thank you for dinner,” she said, with a slight smile. “It wasn’t quite what I was expecting for tonight, but I’m adaptable.”
Daria jerked a thumb towards her house. “Well, I’d better be getting home.”
“Okay!” Kevin paused, looked at her, then leaned in to kiss her.
Daria backed away quickly. “What are you doing?”
“I...” Kevin ran a hand through his hair nervously. “I just thought...”
“Kevin, I said that we were never going to be a couple, okay?”
“But we talked, and you listened to me, and I...”
“...really like you,” he finished lamely.
Daria sighed. “Kevin, I’m sorry. I really am. But I can’t, okay? I really can’t.”
“It’s me, isn’t it?”
“It’s not just you.” Daria closed her eyes. “I’m sorry. That didn’t come out the way I wanted it to.” She looked up at him. “Look, tonight, you were kind of sweet and needy, and I felt sorry for you. I thought this might help you. But I’m not getting into a relationship with you.”
She gave him a last look, and then walked off, leaving him standing outside Chez Pierre.
The next morning, Daria walked into Jane’s room. Jane was in the corner, daubing some paint on a canvas. “You’re late,” she said, not looking up.
“About twelve hours late, actually.” Jane kept painting. “I thought you were coming back here after you gave Kevin the gentle-but-firm brush-off.”
“Oh.” Daria looked a little sheepish. “Things came up.”
“I called your house, but they didn’t know where you were.”
“I was at Chez Pierre with Kevin.”
“I know that. For how long?”
Daria sighed. “I tried to tell him, I really did. It’s just that he got so sad looking, I couldn’t just leave him there. He needed to talk, and I just let him.”
“Of course,” said Daria. “You weren’t jealous, were you?”
“Of Kevin? Not hardly.” Jane sighed. “It’s just...”
“You’re wondering why we have to keep us a secret, aren’t you?”
Jane nodded. “I want to be open about this, Daria.”
“I know,” said Daria. “It’s just...that...” She stopped and looked at Jane. She made a snap decision. “Come over for lunch tomorrow.”
“What?” said Jane. “Why?”
“Just come over. I’m going to tell my parents. About us. I want you to be there, okay?”
Jane stared at her. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“Deadly. I’m not going to put this off any longer. Not if it’s making you uncomfortable.”
Jane looked at her, a little shocked. “I don’t know what to say.”
“You’re...” Daria took a deep breath. “You’re too important to me to keep putting it off.”
Jane smiled. “I love you, you know that?”
Daria nodded. “I...I know.” She glanced at her watch. “I have to go. I’ll see you at the house tomorrow?”
Daria nodded. She kissed Jane lightly on the lips and walked out of the Lane house, her pulse racing. She hadn’t even thought about that before she had offered. It had been a totally spur of the moment thing. She had just realized that she was making doubt her commitment, and Daria had wanted to prove to her that she was serious about her.
Daria smiled a little. Love made you do strange things sometimes.
Of course, now she actually had to go through with it. Oh well. She had a full night to get ready.
Kevin sat on his bed, watching TV. His mind wasn’t on it, though. He kept thinking about Daria, and why this whole new direction wasn’t quite working out for him. She kept saying that it wasn’t him, but there wasn’t anyone else, so it had to be him, right?
He sighed. Who was he kidding? This whole new direction wasn’t going to work out, and he knew it. He got up off his bed, and wandered downstairs.
His Dad was sitting on the couch, watching the game on TV, hooting and hollering like he normally did. Kevin wandered over to him.
“Dad?” Kevin sighed. “What do you do if you get it in your mind to do something, and it doesn’t work out like you wanted it to?”
Doug stared at him, and frowned. “I tell you what I do. I get out of the way of the damn TV!”
Kevin stared behind him, and noticed that he was indeed standing in front of the TV. He mumbled a quick apology and shuffled out of the way.
“That’s better. Now quite whining, son! Shouldn’t you be at practice or something? Got to keep your skills up!”
Kevin wandered out of the room. He didn’t think he had practice today. This was starting to confuse him. He walked into the laundry room, where his Mom was folding some clothes. She glanced up at him, and frowned.
“Why the sad expression, honey?”
“I don’t know,” said Kevin sulkily. “Things suck.”
Charlene set down the pile of clothes, and looked at him. “What’s wrong? Not still hung up over that Brittany girl, are you? It’s for the best, dear. It really is.”
“No, not that...” Kevin sighed, and tried to find a way to say this. “Mom? Did you ever wish that maybe you had followed a sort of...different thing to do in life?”
Charlene’s face clouded over, and she gave a heavy sigh. “Why do you ask that?”
“Man, what if you try something different...and it doesn’t work out, and you were really hoping it did? Do you just go back to what things were and forget about the new stuff?”
Charlene looked at him. “Kevin, if you have your heart set on something, I mean really set, and it doesn’t work out, that’s okay. Just find out what went wrong, and then you can move on. Just...don’t give up, okay? Don’t feel you have to settle for something you don’t want to do, because...” She sighed again. “You’ll just spend the rest of your life looking back and wishing you’d taken that path.”
Kevin looked at her. “Man, Mom, you really know a lot of stuff about this, don’t you?”
She smiled a little sadly. “Quite a bit.”
Kevin gave his mother a quick hug, and walked out of the room. He knew what he was going to do now. He was going to go find Daria, and find out exactly what was wrong with this, and then he could fix it.
Daria sat in her room, flicking through a novel. The cheerful prose of Camus was not intriguing her today, however. She had come home to get ready for something she knew she had to do, but really didn‘t want to. She had to, though. She couldn’t lose her nerve, not now. There was a multitude of second thoughts running through her mind, but she knew most of it was simple cowardice.
There was a brief knock at the door, and her mother walked in.
“Yes?” said Daria.
“You’re in one of those moods again,” said Helen sympathetically.
“Maybe,” said Daria, frowning and glancing at her book. “I have a lot on my mind.”
“Daria, I think I know...”
“Daria!” The voice of her father came from downstairs, shattering the mood. “There’s someone here to see you?”
Daria sighed. It was probably Jane. Now she’d have to face this. Oh well. Probably for the best. She swung her legs off the bed, and walked downstairs, followed by Helen. She walked into the living room, expecting to see Jane.
Much to her utter shock, Brittany was sitting there. Her father was on the other couch, engrossed in his paper.
“Brittany?” said Daria, in a confused tone.
“Hi!” said Brittany brightly.
“Not to be mean or anything, but what are you doing here?”
“I heard about you and Kevin,” said Brittany. “And I...”
“Kevin Thompson?” said Helen incredulously. “What about him?”
“Well, they’re dating,” said Brittany. “Jodie told me. And Mack told her.”
“I don’t think they told you the full story,” said Daria. “Or you didn’t listen. One of the two.”
“You’re dating him?” asked Helen.
“She’s dating who?” said Jake suddenly, looking up from the paper.
“Kevin,” said Brittany. “I thought I’d said that.”
“You?” said Jake, looking at Daria in disbelief.
“Trust me,” said Daria. “No-one is more shocked than I am by this news.”
“What news?” said Quinn, wandering in from the kitchen.
“Daria’s dating Kevin Thompson,” said Jake.
“What?” Quinn stared at her.
“Do I have to say it again?” said Brittany crossly.
“Daria, I understand that you might think this is time for a change,” said Quinn. “But this is kind of drastic, don’t you think?”
“You’re not really very compatible,” said Helen.
“I’m not dating Kevin,” said Daria firmly.
“That’s not what I’ve heard,” said Jake. “Hey! Does that mean he’ll be over? We can watch the Pigskin channel!”
“Can I finish?” said Brittany. “I heard you were dating him, and I really like you, so I was trying to think of a really nice way to say something.”
“What were you trying to say?”
“Stay away from my man, bitch!”
“Right,” said Daria.
“But then I realized we weren’t going out anymore, so I thought I’d come over and tell you how happy I am that he’s found someone like you!”
“Which he hasn’t,” said Daria firmly.
Brittany got up. “Well, I’d better be off.”
“In the head, I think. Good idea. I think you’ve done more than enough,” muttered Daria.
Brittany said goodbye cheerfully, and left.
There was a brief silence, and everyone looked at Daria.
“I think I should point out,” said Daria, “that I’m not going out with Kevin.”
“I know you must be upset about Tom,” said Quinn. “But it’s important to retain your standards.”
“Is he coming over?” said Jake eagerly.
“No, he’s not coming over,” said Daria exasperatedly. “We are not going out, and he will not be coming over. Ever.”
“How did this all get started?” said Helen.
“I don’t know. We were just talking, and...”
“That’s how it always starts,” said Quinn sagely.
“And we didn’t do anything else. I mean it!” Daria frowned. “What is wrong with everyone?”
“Tom never wanted to watch TV with me,” said Jake. “I bet Kevin would.”
“I’m sure he would,” said Daria. “If he were coming over. Which he isn’t. Because we aren’t going out. Does everyone understand that?”
“Is this like an identity crisis?” said Quinn. “You know, I have those quite a bit. I think it’s important not to lose sight of who you are, though.”
“I’m not having an identity crisis,” said Daria.
“Is this just a misunderstanding?” said Helen. “Kevin seems like the sort of person who would get that sort of this mixed up.”
“Yes!” said Daria. “It’s a misunderstanding. I’m glad someone is listening to me.”
“How does Jane feel about this?”
Daria opened her mouth, and nothing came out. She looked at Helen. “Why...why would Jane feeling anything be important?”
Suddenly there was a knock at the door. Jake got up and answered it, leaving Daria and Helen staring at each other. Helen had a ghost of a smile on her face, and Daria could not read what she was thinking.
“Hey! My man!” Jake walked back into the living room, followed by Kevin. Daria put her hands over her face.
“Why does this always have to happen to me?” she muttered to no-one in particular.
“Hey everyone!” said Kevin cheerfully.
Everyone else made vague greetings.
“Kevin, why are you here?” said Daria.
“He’s dating you, isn’t he?” said Jake. “Why shouldn’t he be here?”
“He’s not...” Daria sighed. “Never mind.”
“Actually, we’re not dating,” said Kevin. Everyone looked at him in surprise. “But I really like her, and I was just wondering why she wouldn’t date me. I mean, there’s no other guy, is there? So it must be me, and that’s okay, but I just wanted to know...”
“So you’re not dating?” said Jake.
“I want to,” said Kevin hopefully.
“Well, that’s just swell!” said Jake. “Hey, I was just going to get lunch ready. Why don’t you come in and help me, and then we can watch the Pigskin channel together?”
“Cool!” said Kevin, and he followed Jake into the kitchen, forgetting for the moment his reason for being there.
Quinn took another look at Daria. “There’s something else going on here, I know it.” Then she followed them into the kitchen. Daria and Helen were left standing in the living room, looking at each other.
“What did you mean before,” said Daria nervously, “about Jane?”
“I just thought she might have something to say about this whole situation.”
“And...” Daria swallowed nervously. “Why would that be?”
“You tell me,” said Helen, a smile dancing around her face.
Daria looked at her, and then opened her mouth to say something...
And then the doorbell rang again.
The two women looked at each other. “This is my life, really, isn’t it?” said Daria, with a wry smile. Helen did the same.
“I’ll be in the kitchen, sweetie.”
Daria watched her go, and walked over to the door. She opened it, revealing a scared-looking Jane.
“Hey,” said Jane quietly.
They looked at each other for a few moments. Finally Jane spoke up. “So...ready for this?”
“Not really,” said Daria.
“Still want to do this?”
“No,” said Daria.
“Oh,” said Jane, sounding both disappointed and relieved.
Daria took a deep breath. “But we’re going to.”
Jane tried to smile. “Okay, then.” She cleared her throat. “So, um, why did you decide to do this? You know, after all of my prodding?”
“You...matter to me, Jane. A lot.” Daria paused. “If...if there was something I was doing to make you uncomfortable, and mean that I might lose you, I couldn’t...I just couldn’t not do it.”
Jane smiled. “I love you.”
Daria looked up into Jane’s clear blue eyes, and took a deep breath. “I...know.”
Jane looked at her. “Aren’t you ever going to say it back?”
“I’ve been thinking it. For years. But...” Daria sighed. “One thing at a time, okay?”
Jane and Daria looked at each other for a few seconds, then Daria wrapped her arms around Jane’s neck, and kissed her on the lips. Jane responded, and Daria leant into Jane’s body, relaxing, and thinking about how wonderful it felt to be in her arms.
“Daria!” It was her mother. “Who’s at the door?”
Daria and Jane broke off a little awkwardly. “It’s Jane,” replied Daria.
“Why don’t you invite her in?”
Daria shrugged. “Okay.”
“Oh. Fun,” said Jane.
“Oh God, I almost forgot. Kevin’s here,” said Daria. “He came to find out why I wouldn’t go out with him.”
“What did you tell him?”
“You want to put this off? For now, I mean.”
Daria was sorely tempted, but she had to stick to her guns. If she backed off now...“No. We have to do this now.”
“You’re serious? Now?”
“You were so gung-ho a moment ago.”
“Well, I talk the talk, but walking the walk? That’s a whole different thing.”
“Come on,” said Daria, with a nervous smile.
They walked into the kitchen together. Everyone looked up as they walked in.
“Oh, hey Jane,” said Kevin.
“Kevin,” said Jane. “Hi everyone.”
“Are you staying for lunch?” said Helen brightly.
Jane and Daria shared a glance. “Er,” said Jane uncertainly. “Not sure.”
“Not sure?” said Jake, with a frown. “Do you need to find out what it is first?”
“No, I mean...” Jane glanced at Daria. “Do you want to do this, or shall I?”
“What she means is...” Daria took a deep breath. “We have something to tell you.”
Everyone perked up in interest.
“I wasn’t planning on doing this until later,” continued Daria. “But I think we need to be honest now, so as not to hurt anyone.”
“Hurt anyone?” said Quinn with a frown.
“Kevin?” Kevin glanced up. “You asked me why I couldn’t go out with you, and asked if it was you. Well, it’s not just you. I mean, I don’t think we’re very compatible first of all, but I wasn’t completely honest with you.”
“I don’t get it,” said Kevin, sounding utterly lost.
“There is someone else,” said Daria.
Everyone at the table looked at each other.
“You’re dating someone else?” said Quinn. “You didn’t get back together with Tom, did you?”
“Good. You were not a cute couple.”
“Thank you for your honesty.”
“Who is he?” said Jake. “I mean, we have to meet him, don’t we? Unless you’re scared. Is he an ex-con? Oh, wait. He’s still in prison, isn’t he?”
Helen didn’t say anything, but just looked at Daria and Jane, with a slight smile.
“It’s not a he,” said Jane. She glanced at Daria, who nodded slightly. “It’s...um...me.”
“What?” said Kevin, looking completely confused.
“I don’t get it,” said Jake, a look of extreme cluelessness on his face.
“That explains a lot,” said Quinn, almost to herself.
“We’re a couple,” said Daria, taking Jane’s hand. “I...care about her. A lot.” Jane smiled at that. “Um, I’m sorry we didn’t tell you earlier, but I wasn’t really ready. So...sorry.”
“I don’t get it,” said Jake, scratching his head. “She’s, um, your girlfriend?”
Daria nodded. “Yes. For a few weeks now.” She glanced around the room nervously. “Er. Is everyone okay with this?”
“Of course, dear,” said Helen blithely. “Does Jane still want to stay for lunch?”
“Actually,” said Jane, indicating the doorway. “I actually only came over to do this with Daria. Trent’s kind of waiting outside for me.”
“Tell us?” said Helen with a frown. “I suppose you had to convince her pretty hard.”
Jane shrugged, and smiled at Daria. “Pretty much. I mean, you know how she is.”
“Hey,” said Daria, with mock indignation. “We‘ve done it now, though.”
“Good,” said Helen. “Well, Jane, I think we need to talk about this, so I’d be delighted if you came to dinner tonight.”
Jane nodded. “Sure.”
Daria indicated the door. “I’ll walk you out.” They walked out of the kitchen, as a general hubbub of conversation started up after them. Daria got to the door, and turned to face Jane. “So how do you think it went?”
“Pretty well,” said Jane, with a smile. “I guess we’ll see tonight, when everyone’s had a chance to reflect on this.”
“It’ll be fine,” said Daria.
Jane frowned for a second. “Is it just me, or did your mom...”
“It wasn’t just you.”
Jane smiled. “Thought so.” She leaned in and kissed Daria quickly. “I’ll see you tonight.”
“Bye.” Daria watched Jane go and get into her car, waking Trent up as she did so. She smiled slightly, and walked back into the kitchen. Jake walked past her as she did so, muttering something about ‘being totally left out in all of this’.
When she got into the kitchen, she noticed that Kevin was gone. She glanced up at Helen. “Where’s Kevin?”
“He said he had to go.”
Quinn got up, and walked towards her. “I just want you to know that I’m totally okay with this. In fact, it’s good in a way. Your two would never find anyone quite as attuned to each other’s lack of fashion sense anyway.”
Daria shot her a look. “You’re not serious.”
Quinn shrugged. “Hey, it’s not often I get to score points off you. I’ll take every chance I get.” She smiled, and walked out.
Daria glanced over at Helen again. “Did everyone forget about lunch, or something?”
“Well, you did just drop a bombshell, Daria.” Helen glanced in the pot on the stove. “Plus, given what we were going to have, it’s probably a good thing we forgot about lunch.”
Daria folded her arms, and stared at Helen. “You knew, didn’t you?”
Helen smiled. “Of course I knew, Daria. I’m a lawyer. I can read body language as well as anyone I know. I even know when you started. Right after graduation, right?”
Daria shook her head. “I don’t believe this.”
“Your whole body language around each other changed overnight. It was hard not to notice.”
“You knew all this time, and you didn’t say anything?”
“I was waiting until you were ready. I know this is a new thing for you, sweetie. I didn’t want to mess it up for you.”
“Oh.” Daria blinked in surprise. “Well, thank you.” She paused. “And...you’re okay with this?”
“Do you love her?”
Daria smiled to herself. “Yes. Yes, I do. She’s everything.”
“Then I’m okay with it.” Helen sighed. “I mean, of course, I’d probably be a little more comfortable if it was a boy, but I’m okay with it. I’ve thought about it a lot since I figured it out, and we only get one shot at life. Might as well go for it.”
“Thanks,” said Daria. “I mean it.” She looked up suddenly. “Kevin. Did he seem okay?”
“Yes. I mean, a little confused, but generally okay.”
“I did the right thing, right?”
Helen nodded. “You were honest with him. He’ll appreciate that.”
“I should go talk to him, shouldn’t I?”
“Probably.” Helen smiled. “And I’ll see you and Jane for dinner?”
“Sure.” Daria paused on her way out. “Dad - is he okay with this?”
“He’s more confused than anything, dear. He’ll be okay, I promise.”
Daria nodded, gave her mother a small smile, and left.
Kevin sat on his bed, staring intently at the furious violence unfolding on his TV. He had come home, and stuck in one of his favorite movies, to try and cheer himself up. Things were not exactly working out the way he had wanted them to.
There was a knock at his door. “Come in,” he said, figuring it was probably his Mom.
Much to his surprise, it was Daria.
“Um, hi.” Daria glanced around his room, taking in all the pictures of Kevin, and the various trophies. “Wow. I’d no idea you’d won this much stuff.”
Kevin shrugged. “You lose track after a while.” He indicated the bed. “Um, do you want to sit down or anything?”
Daria nodded and did so. She took a deep breath, and looked at him. “I just wanted to come over, and see how you were doing.”
“I’m fine,” said Kevin.
“I mean, cause you left rather quickly, and...”
“I just felt kind of awkward,” said Kevin. “I mean, it wasn’t you or anything.”
“Look,” said Daria awkwardly. “I’m sorry. I should have told you right up front about me and Jane.”
“I guess,” said Kevin. “But you hadn’t told your folks yet, had you?”
“Oh. Well, I guess you couldn’t have told me, then.” Kevin shrugged. “It’s cool. I mean, there’s someone else, and I understand that.”
“I think I would have used to try to get it on with you anyway, but I don’t think that’s how I should act now, is it?”
“Kevin, you’re surprising me now.”
Kevin sighed. “I just want things to be different, I guess. You know...things didn’t work out like I wanted them too, and I need to change some things, don’t I?”
Daria nodded. “You know, everyone does, Kevin. Even me.”
Kevin smiled slightly, and looked at Daria. “It still would have been kind of cool to date you, though.”
“It would never have worked, Kevin. Trust me. But I’m flattered in a weird kind of way.”
“Britt and I would have never lasted either, would we?”
Kevin sighed. “Thanks.”
“You know...not brushing me off, or anything like that.”
“You mean like I used to do?”
“Yeah!” Kevin frowned. “I mean...”
Daria smiled slightly. “It’s okay, Kevin. I know what you mean. I guess I’ve mellowed a bit over the last few weeks.”
“So you and Jane...?”
“Yes, Kevin. We’re a couple.”
“Cool. So you...”
“I think you’d better not go any further.”
“And thank you.”
Kevin frowned. “For what?”
Daria shrugged. “If it hadn’t been for you, I might not have told my family for a while. And that was causing a few problems.”
“You’re welcome,” said Kevin, in a sort of bewildered tone. “Though I’m not sure what I did.”
“That’s okay.” Daria paused. “So, what are you going to do now?”
Kevin shrugged. “Well, I had all these hopes of changing, and doing different things with my life, but none of what I’ve tried to do has worked out so far. It sucks.”
“Don’t give up,” said Daria. “I mean, your first few efforts didn’t work, but that’s going to happen. You have to try.”
“That’s what my Mom said. I think she really wants to me to do this.”
“Listen to her. Trust me. I know this sounds funny, coming from me, but I’ve learned in the past few weeks...if you want something - really want it - you have to try. If you don’t, you never know how good it could have been, and once you do get it, you won’t regret it.”
“Are we still talking about me?” said Kevin, clearly confused.
“Yes. In a way.” Daria shrugged. “It’s true for everyone, Kevin. Trust me on this. People...everyone has to change at some point. It‘s just...growing up.”
Kevin nodded. “I think I understand.”
Daria got up to leave. “Well, I’d better go. Jane’s waiting for me.”
“Hey, thanks, Daria. You know, I always thought you were one of the smartest people I knew.” He smiled. “And, hey. Good luck with college and everything.”
“Thank you, Kevin.” Daria smiled, just a little. “Good luck. I mean it.”
And with that, she was gone. Kevin looked after her a little sadly for a few moments, then looked down at the floor and smiled. He had a dream now, and he was going to do whatever he could to follow it.
Daria walked out of the Thompson residence, and walked towards Jane, who was standing at the front gate. She walked up and gave her a quick kiss.
“Hey,” said Jane. “How’d it go?”
“I think he’ll be fine,” said Daria, glancing back at the house. “Just needed a bit of encouragement, I think.”
“Doing your bit for the good of humanity, Morgendorffer? You have mellowed.” Jane grinned, and began to walk down the street.
Daria scowled, and followed her. “This whole being in love thing is killing my cynicism.”
“I like it.”
“You would. You get to make out with me.”
Jane smiled. “Speaking of which, any plans for tonight?”
“Don’t get any perverted ideas, Lane. We have dinner with my parents, remember?”
“Oh yes.” Jane swallowed nervously. “I forgot.”
“Relax, it’ll be fine.”
“When did you become an optimist?”
“When you actually turned out to feel the same way about me as I felt about you.”
Jane smiled. “Oh yes.” She stopped and wrapped her arms around Daria. “So...how do you feel about me again?”
Daria cocked her head to the side. “You’re okay, I guess.”
Jane raised an eyebrow.
Daria sighed. “You know how I feel.”
Jane smiled. “I love you too.”
Daria kissed her lightly on the lips. “Come on,” she said, jerking her head in the direction of her house. “Got to meet the parents.”
“Your Mom’s not going to get too personal, is she?”
“I don’t know. Hey, I thought you’d love that. Plenty of opportunities to totally embarrass me.”
“I like the way you think, Daria.” Jane smiled.
“Besides,” said Daria with a slight sigh. “I’m willing to go through pretty much anything to be with you right now. We haven’t got a lot of time before I have to leave.”
“It’s only a few months,” said Jane softly. “We’ll be okay.”
“I know. I mean, I’m feeling better about it now.” Daria kissed her again suddenly. “I mean, I think we’re doing just fine.”
“Me too.” Jane smiled. “Come on. We’re wasting valuable time.”
Daria looked at the woman she loved, and smiled.
Thanks to MTV.
Thanks to my wife.
Thanks to my Beta-Readers: GreyStar, Roger E Moore, Robert Nowall, RngrThorne, and Thea-Zara.