The Brain and the Beauty Redux
Author's Note: This story is a remake of The Brain and the Beauty by Weenie Hut Jr., aka Ronin. It was one of the first stories I ever read, as I searched through Outpost Daria's Romance section looking for shippers that weren't Daria/Trent. I always thought that the story was an interesting concept, even if, at times, that concept was lost in the execution. I decided to attempt to rewrite the story in my own style, keeping the core plot intact while making adjustments to better articulate (in my opinion) the story. I do not intend this to be a "better" version of the original story; merely an alternate take on the original.
As always, Daria and all related characters are property of MTV Networks. I have not been compensated for this story in any legal or monetary sense. (Feedback and comments, both positive and negative, are welcome.)
Daria Morgendorffer and Jane Lane stood by Daria’s locker before classes started, talking over everything they had experienced since the last time they talked, which was last night. “So anyway, I told Trent that if he hadn’t learned “Come As You Are” by now, maybe it was time to give it up,” Said Jane. “It’s not that great of a song anyway.”
Daria nodded. “I think Kurt Cobain would agree that it’s not his most inspiring work.”
Jane agreed. “Especially not at two in the morning. By the way, I assume you watched last night’s episode of Sick Sad World?”
Daria thought back to the episode, and then realized the part Jane was referring to. “Oh, yeah; that study that said 48% of women in the US identify themselves as gay or bisexual.”
Jane smiled as she remembered the tagline. “What do women think about the latest survey figures on lesbians? Girls on girls on girls, next on Sick Sad World!”
Daria shook her head. “I don’t know where they got those numbers from.”
Jane nodded. “Yeah, it seemed a bit high to me, but it does raise some questions about how that translates to the female population here in Lawndale.”
Daria couldn’t resist jabbing Jane a bit. “So, that girl from the art camp is still under your skin?”
Jane didn’t exactly deny it. “Hey, she was pretty persuasive. She had me seriously considering switching teams until she jumped on that instructor. I bet she would have had you rethinking your pursuit of the phallus.”
Daria rolled her eyes. “Come on, Jane; not only is that a terrible phrase, but you know I’m straight. I don’t have a problem with lesbians, but I’m not one of them.”
Jane couldn’t resist twisting the knife a bit further. “Oh, please. You’re telling me you’ve never thought about kissing a girl?”
Daria started to get a bit upset at that. “Hey, I just told you I’m not gay. I’ve never kissed a girl, and I don’t ever plan to. Can you just drop it?”
Jane put up her hands in surrender. “Okay, okay. I give. So, any thoughts for what to do after school?”
Daria was grateful for the change in topic. “Actually, they’re just about finished with that new hotel downtown with the clock tower. It’s supposed to be the 4th largest building in the US. We could head down there and hear its inaugural chime.”
Jane nodded. “Sounds like a plan. Hey, I need to take a pit stop before class.”
Daria nodded. “Me too. Let’s go before the buses let out and it gets crowded.”
Down the hallway, the Fashion Club was meeting at the girl’s room mirror for its daily morning meeting and final makeup check. However, there were more urgent matters on Sandi’s mind. “Have you seen the latest news in Waif?”
Quinn shook her head. “My copy hasn’t arrived yet. Have cigarette pants gone out of style?”
Stacy shivered a bit from pure nervousness. “Have clogs finally made a comeback?”
Tiffany kept looking at her reflection as she put on her makeup. “Is puce the next black?”
Sandi shook her head. “It’s worse than that! According to this article, 48% of women in the country are lesbians, and it specifically says that this state is above the national average!”
Stacy put her hands to her face. “Oh no!”
Quinn was also shocked. “That’s terrible! Now we’re going to be subjected to butch fashion? Ick!”
Stacy agreed. “I know! All those girls getting buzzcuts and wearing flannel shirts!”
Tiffany looked away from her mirror momentarily. “Carhartt; ewwwwww.”
Sandi, a little taken aback by the reaction, offered, “Um, yes, not to mention women kissing each other and doing who knows what else.”
Quinn shrugged. “So? What’s wrong with that?”
Stacy smiled nervously. “Um, yeah Sandi. It’s not like kissing a girl’s all that bad.”
Sandi couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “What? Are you saying this from experience?”
Quinn rolled her eyes. “Sandi, come on. We’re the most attractive women in school. Of course girls are going to want to kiss us.”
Stacy nodded. “Besides, all the guys seem to pay twice as much when you do kiss another girl.”
Tiffany kept looking into the mirror. “It’s no big thing.”
Quinn realized something. “Wait, are you saying you’ve never been kissed by a girl?”
Sandi was really starting to get upset. “Well, I mean it’s not like they haven’t asked me,” she lied, “but I don’t want people to start thinking I’m…that way.”
Quinn held firm. “Look, Sandi. It’s no big deal. It’s not like one kiss makes you a lesbian forever.” Quinn suddenly got an idea. “Of course, if you don’t think you can kiss a girl…”
Sandi took umbrage at that remark. “Hey, it’s not like I’m afraid of kissing a girl.”
Quinn looked away, smiling at how this was getting under Sandi’s skin. “Whatever you say, Sandi.”
That was the last straw. “All right, I’ll prove it. I’ll kiss the next girl that walks in here to prove I’m not scared, and I’m willing to put my best eyeliner on the line to back it up.”
Stacy gasped. “But Sandi, what if the next girl is as scared as you are? Not that I’m saying you were scared, but…” She trailed off, making whimpering noises, as she wasn’t sure where to go with her statement that wouldn’t make Sandi mad at her.
Tiffany, now sufficiently interested to look away from her reflection added, “She might tell Ms. Li.”
Sandi shook her head. “That doesn’t matter. It’ll be worth it to prove I’m a woman of my word.”
Quinn nodded. “Fine, your eyeliner against my lip gloss, first girl to enter, no matter who she is.”
At that moment, Daria and Jane rounded the corner and entered the ladies’ room occupied by the Fashion Club. As the four juniors realized that Daria, being just in front of Jane as she entered, would be Sandi’s target, they gasped in realization. Sandi was especially scared, knowing what she would have to do to keep her word.
Daria, unaware of Sandi’s bet, decided to break the tension. “I’m sorry if my presence has just ruined the fashion vibe you had going, but I didn’t see the “Popular Girls Only” sign on the door.”
Jane, raising her fist into the air, added, “And I have a dream that popular and unpopular will pee together in harmony!”
Jane could have said anything, and Sandi wouldn’t have heard her over her heart trying to beat a hole through her chest. Sandi turned to Quinn, saying in her quietest voice possible, “Your freaking sister? You knew she was coming!”
Quinn was equally freaked out, knowing that if rumors started about an outcast, male or female, dating a Fashion Club member, it could ruin the whole club’s popularity. Still, if she let Sandi slide on this, Sandi might take the opportunity to walk all over her. “Sandi, if I knew it was her, I wouldn’t have brought it up, but a bet’s a bet. It’s her or your eyeliner.”
Daria, not sure what the girls were talking about, said, “Great, they’re making wagers on us. Forget this. Jane, let’s just move on to the next pit stop.”
Inside Sandi’s head, the revulsion at kissing such an unpopular girl fought with her desire to keep Quinn from having something to hold over her head, and finally lost. “Wait, Daria.”
Daria turned around. “What, Sandi?”
Sandi walked up to Daria, sighed, and said, “Forgive me.”
Daria was confused. “Forgive you? For what?”
“This,” said Sandi, who then put her arm around Daria’s head and pressed the brain’s lips to her own.
Daria tried to pull away, but Sandi’s hand kept their lips together. After a moment’s struggle, she gave in to what was happening, both directly in front of her and in her mind.
Sandi had begun the kiss trying not to think about what she was doing. As the seconds passed, however, she too gave in to the moment.
The witnesses were equally stunned. Jane completely caught off-guard, especially given her most recent conversation with Daria. Quinn, as much as she insisted upon it, couldn’t believe her best friend was kissing her sister. Stacy and Tiffany were equally shocked at the spectacle before them.
Finally, after seconds that felt like hours, Sandi released Daria from her lip lock. All six girls stood stunned for a moment before Sandi came to her senses and rushed to the sink. She pulled a small emergency bottle of mouthwash out and rinsed thoroughly. Finally, she said, “There, I win the bet. Hand over the lip gloss, Quinn.”
Quinn absentmindedly shuffled through her purse to find the promised cosmetic. “Here; you earned it.”
Daria snapped out of her haze and looked upset. “Wait, you kissed me over a tube of lip gloss?”
Jane nodded. “I agree. That was worth at least a full set of makeup.”
Daria looked over to her friend. “You’re not helping.”
Jane shrugged. “I’m not trying to help.”
Sandi turned to the pair. “For your information, Quinn’s sister or whatever, I had put up my eyeliner, which cost me twenty dollars, as well as the right to use the brand, which has been mutually agreed makes my eyes look their best. However, outside of this washroom, this never happened. We never talked, there was no bet, and we certainly did not kiss. Am I clear on that?”
Daria nodded. “Even if I told anyone, they’d think I was making it up. Besides, like I need those rumors starting up again.”
Sandi’s eyes went wide. “Again?”
Jane rolled her eyes. “She means her and me. Remember that lovely week last spring?”
Sandi remembered a rumor about Daria and Jane being secret lovers. Quinn had relegated Daria to being her father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate that week. “Oh, right. So, um, come on, girls. I believe our meeting is adjourned.”
With that the Fashion Club left the restroom, leaving Daria and Jane to their original reason for being there in the first place.
That afternoon, Daria, Jane and Tom had gathered outside the Red Barchetta Hotel. It stood before them covered in white stucco and Spanish tile. Its base occupied 4 city blocks and it stood thirty stories tall. A small but elaborate fountain greeted visitors at its main entrance. However, it’s most prominent feature was the clock tower crowning the massive building. The clock face on each side was visible for many blocks and used standard numerals, rather than the Roman numerals common to such clocks. One large bell was positioned in the center, with several smaller carillon bells situated around it.
A number of people had gathered around the building, but most of them had gone to the north side for the speech dedicating the bell at the main entrance. Daria, Jane and Tom, not caring to hear such a speech, stood in front of the Zon, which faced the building’s west entrance. “What do you think of it, Daria?” asked Tom.
Daria shrugged as she looked up at the building. “Frank Lloyd Wright, in his current condition, couldn’t have designed a better building.”
Jane rolled her eyes. “Oh come on, Daria. Now that we have a skyscraper in town, it’s only a matter of time before we get King Kong to climb it.”
Daria shook her head. “Um, I doubt it. Lawndale’s still a small town. We might have to settle for Duke Kong.”
Tom shrugged. “At this point, I’d accept Donkey Kong. I’m kind of surprised something like this was built here. I mean, this kind of building takes serious money.”
Jane smirked. “And when Tom says serious money, you know he means it.”
At that time, Jodie, Mack, Kevin, and Brittany walked up to join them. Jodie spoke first. “Hey Daria, Jane, Tom.”
Jane saw the four approach and said, “And here are the four Marx Brothers: Mack-o, Flo-Jo, Bimbo and Dumbo.”
Kevin, not catching the insult, replied, “Yeah, I’m like that elephant!”
Jane rolled her eyes. “Yeah, that’s what I meant.”
Mack decided to move past the remarks and said, “So are you three here to hear the bells go off?”
Tom shrugged. “It’s kind of the only thing to do right now. The Zon won’t be open for a few hours, and the Dega Street stores are pretty much closed.
“The ones that are left, anyway.” The voice coming from behind the group was that of Trent Lane, who, along with the Jesse Moreno, had just exited the Zon. “They had to tear down some really cool stores to put this up. If Axl hadn’t found that empty shop two blocks down, he might not have had a business any more.”
“Yeah,” said Jesse.
Jane spoke up to that. “Weren’t most of the other stores either empty or fronts for drugs?”
Tom added, “Or both, in the case of that building labeled ‘Abandoned, ask for Jimmy’?”
Trent looked thoughtful. “There was that coffee shop chain.”
Tom raised his index finger. “Ah, but caffeine is a drug after all. Besides, that still leaves 27 Coffee Stop locations in Lawndale, so that was no great loss.”
Jane disagreed. “Any loss of coffee is a great loss.”
Just then, the clock struck 5:00, and the bells began their first official tune. As the bells began to play a fairly intricate version of “Hotel California”, only one of the party didn’t look up towards the tower.
Daria, who’d been fairly silent as her friends had shown up, had been replaying the morning’s events over and over in her head. It hadn’t made sense to her. Sandi had said she’d made a bet, and that was the only reason the kiss had occurred. It wasn’t even supposed to be her getting kissed, but she came in at the right moment. Still, if it was only a bet, then why couldn’t she get the moment out of her head? Why couldn’t she get the feeling off of her lips? Why couldn’t she get the sweet taste out of her mouth? For that matter, why did she think Sandi tasted sweet?
The large bell finally rang for the first of five times, finally bringing Daria out of her contemplation. As the bell subsided after the fifth strike, she saw a familiar face from across the way. “That’s unexpected.”
Jane, still looking at the tower, said, “I know; just one verse and chorus?”
Daria smacked Jane on the shoulder. “Not that.” She turned to the familiar face as it approached her. “Aunt Amy?”
Amy Barksdale walked up to Daria. “Hey; how’s my favorite niece?”
Daria shrugged. “I guess I’m holding together. What are you doing here?”
Amy smiled. “Well, you’re looking at the building supervisor and head desk clerk for the Red Barchetta Hotel! If you ever need something from the hotel – you know, a room for the night or just some time away from home – just let me know and I’ll pull some strings.”
Daria, who had immediately pictured herself in a hotel room, and had almost as quickly pictured someone other than Tom joining her, shook her head to clear it and replied, “Um, sure, thanks Aunt Amy.”
Amy shrugged. “Anything to help make living with my sister more bearable.”
Daria was the first one home that night, and the rest of the night proceeded as normal. Her father Jake ranted about his childhood, her mother Helen was stuck on the phone with her boss Eric from work for most of dinner, and Quinn turned the dinner conversation into a monologue about her fashion decisions and conversations. Daria was thankful that Quinn had steered clear of the events of that morning, though she oddly wished that Quinn would have offered more information about Sandi’s reaction. Daria chalked it up to the stigma of Sandi kissing one of the unpopular people and ignored the nagging doubt that thought otherwise. The only thing Daria knew was that unless she could get her mind off this morning, tonight would be a long night.
Sandi walked down the main hallway at Lawndale High. Everywhere she looked, students were looking directly at her. Usually this was a good thing, but this was not the glances of girls who wanted to be her and guys who wanted to be with her. These were the stares of people who knew her secrets. Kevin and Brittany bumped into her, and Brittany smiled. “Watch it, Sandi. I wouldn’t want your girlfriend to get the wrong idea.”
Sandi’s eyes went wide. “I don’t have a girlfriend! Like, that kiss was just a bet!”
Kevin smiled. “So you did kiss her! I’d pay money to see it again!” Brittany elbowed him. “I mean, I’d rather see you kiss a girl, Brittany, but you’re not one of those lesbi-things like Sandi.”
Sandi got even more enraged. “I’m not a lesbi-thing – er, lesbian! I’m straight! Why doesn’t anyone believe me?”
At that moment, Daria walked up and put her arm around Sandi. “Don’t worry about these short-sighted Neanderthals. They’re just jealous of what we have.”
Sandi felt and heard herself saying, “Oh, Daria; you always know what to say,” before pressing her lips against Daria’s.
It was at that moment that Sandi sat bolt upright in bed. She breathed heavily, owing not only to the realization that it had all been a dream, but also the small rush she had felt from the final moments of that dream. She fumbled for the clock and saw it was 2:47 in the morning. Great, now I get to worry myself back to sleep for another hour or so, all over Quinn’s cous…sister. Like that was supposed to fool me. I mean, obviously it didn’t fool Stacy or Tiffany, so how could it fool me? Then again, this freaking brain shows up at the wrong time, and suddenly I think I’m falling for her, so maybe I’m not so difficult to manipulate after all.
Sandi rolled back onto her back. Damn it, one kiss and I’m back to fifth grade. I was all set to get through my last year and a half of high school, and then I could head to college and figure things out then, without my damn parents or the rest of the Fashion Club finding out. Why did I make that stupid bet?
Even as she asked the question, she knew the answer. Quinn had toyed with her ego, like she always seemed to these days. Quinn always seemed to know exactly what to say to bend Sandi to her will. I’d sure like to bend Quinn to my…stop it, Griffin. Forget Quinn. For all the guys she goes out with, she’s not going to give up the life just to make her friend happy. Face it: she’s straight, and there’s nothing you can do about it; well, nothing but agonize over it every night until high school’s over. She sighed. One more year and three more months; it might as well be a lifetime.
Daria sat at the breakfast table, absent-mindedly nibbling on a Toaster-Tart. It was still dark outside, since it was only five in the morning, but Daria knew she couldn’t get any more sleep. She almost didn’t notice her mother enter the room.
“Daria?” asked Helen. “What are you doing up so early?”
Daria shrugged. “Couldn’t sleep, not really worth going back to bed anyway.”
Helen poured a cup of coffee. “Something on your mind?”
Daria started to deny it, but then decided to say it anyway. “School yesterday; one of the girls kissed me. She said it was some sort of bet.”
Helen took that in stride as she sat down next to her daughter. “Well, that doesn’t sound too horrible.”
Daria sighed. “Well, the problem is that I, well, I kind of liked it. Now I’m not sure what to think.”
Helen leaned over to Daria and hugged her. “Oh, honey, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Daria noticed her mother’s voice had started to deepen. “Really?”
The mother pulled away to face her daughter, but instead of Helen’s face, Daria saw Sandi’s face in its place. “Don't worry. Mama’s going to make it all better.” Sandi then drew her face next to Daria’s, and recreated their kiss in the Lawndale High girls' room.
Daria woke up in a cold sweat. After detangling herself from her covers, she looked over at her alarm clock, which displayed 3:16 am. Well, at least it’s still worth trying to get back to sleep. If more dreams like that one are going to come, though, I may have to rethink that position.
Daria punched her pillow a couple times as she lay on her stomach. I don’t like Sandi! I know I don’t like her! So why can’t I get that kiss out of my head? Ok; calm down, Morgendorffer. Let’s think about this rationally. Is Sandi the kind of person I’m looking for in a mate? No, she’s far too shallow and controlling. Is she attractive to me? Not even if she ever stopped scowling. Is it because she’s a girl? Daria sighed. I don’t think so, but I just don’t know.
Daria softly head butted her pillow. Hell, this isn’t helping. Maybe it’s just because it wasn’t supposed to happen. 99% of my life is the same old same old, so when something happens that never happens, my mind decides “Let’s figure it out!” It’s just not supposed to happen, so I can’t put it in a nice box, tie it up with a ribbon and set it aside. All right then; it’s just unexpected. Nothing to worry about. Daria smiled, confident she had figured out the issue.
The smile faded away quickly, however. So why do I want to kiss her back? Damn, I almost had it.
Sandi was hoping for something interesting to take her mind off her most recent troubles. However, she was not surprised when History with Mr. DeMartino did not provide diversion. Like, who doesn’t know about the freaking Civil War? I may not have memorized every stupid general’s name, but I know enough to pass here without a problem. As long as I keep from spouting off the answers, nobody will think I’m a brain.
Sandi sighed as she went over her pencil set to ensure it was in good working condition, not that she intended to use it. God, let me just get out of here. I’m trapped here with these stupid thoughts. It’s not like I can talk to anyone about this stupid thing. Stacy will just blab it everywhere accidentally. I obviously can’t admit it to Quinn. And Tiffany? I might as well be talking to a…
“Stone wall!” Sandi exclaimed, awoken from her daze.
Mr. DeMartino smiled. “Very GOOD, Sandi. Stonewall JACKSON was the Confederate General I was looking for. Now, General Jackson…”
Mr. DeMartino continued talking, while Sandi took stock of the encounter. Damn it! I didn’t mean to get that one right. I didn’t even know what the question was. I’m going to go insane at this rate. One minute I think I have everything under control, and the next, I’m reduced to a lovesick puppy. It was just a stupid kiss! Get over it! Just because it was my first one since elementary school…
Sandi shook her head to clear it. This is getting me nowhere. I have to tell someone. It’s got to be Tiffany. Nobody else will do, and I’m not sure if she’ll be much help, but I have to do it. Staying totally silent now is a luxury I cannot…
“Afford!” yelled Sandi, back in the real world again.
Mr. DeMartino got a wry smile on his face. “Right AGAIN, Sandi. LINCOLN was shot at FORD’S Theater. I’m glad to see that SOMEONE is paying attention!”
Sandi sunk lower in her seat. But I’m not!
Tiffany followed Sandi into the ladies’ room. Sandi had asked Tiffany to verify some makeup choices she was considering, and had asked Quinn and Stacy to meet up just before lunch was over. “So…what kind of eyeliner were you considering?”
Sandi shook her head. “I’m not changing my eyeliner. I need to talk to you about something important.”
Tiffany, thinking she understood, said, “Oh…so, your mascara then?”
Sandi rolled her eyes. “No! I mean that…you know…kiss I gave that brain.”
Tiffany nodded. “Oh…so you wanted to bet again?”
Sandi was getting frustrated. “Tiffany, you’re a good friend, but if I’m ever asked to play twenty questions, I’m asking someone else to be my partner.”
Tiffany looked down. “Ok. Was that what you wanted to tell me?”
Sandi exhaled sharply. “Never mind. Look, I might as well just tell you. I’m gay.”
Tiffany’s eyes went wide. “What?”
Sandi repeated herself. “I’m gay. A lesbian. I like girls.”
On the roof of the school, Brittany Taylor and Kevin Thompson stopped making out. They heard Sandi’s confession as if it were happening right next to them. “Whoa!” exclaimed Kevin.
Brittany shushed Kevin. “They’ll hear you and then they’ll stop talking. I want to hear this; don’t you?”
Kevin nodded in the affirmative.
Tiffany understood Sandi, kind of. “Oh, ok. So you kissed Daria and now you’re gay?”
Sandi shook her head. “No. I’ve been gay for as long as I can remember. It got me into trouble back in fifth grade before I came to Lawndale. My parents made me act like I was straight until I graduated high school, and I could figure it out then. I brought up that article to see if anyone in the Fashion club was also gay, but then Quinn had to make that bet, and Daria had to come in here.”
Tiffany knew better than to call Sandi on the fact that Sandi had actually made the bet. “So, what’s the problem?”
Sandi continued. “Well, if you don’t count possibly turning into a total outcast if anyone found out I was gay, the problem is that kiss. It was like all these feelings I’ve tried to keep inside me came out all at once, and now I can’t put them back. I can’t stop thinking about that kiss, or her for that matter. I…I think I’m falling for Daria.”
Tiffany was floored, which one wouldn’t notice from her face unless you knew her. “Whoa, you’re falling for Quinn’s sister?”
Sandi nodded. “I can’t believe it either, but it’s all there. Look, I had to tell someone, and I knew I could trust you to keep this a secret, even from Stacy and Quinn. Especially Quinn.”
Tiffany nodded. Quinn would get weirded out since it was her sister. “Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone.”
Sandi smiled for what might have been the first time all day. “Thanks. I owe you one.” The two gave one final primp at the mirror before exiting.
On the roof above them, Kevin and Brittany were floored by what they had heard. “Kevvy, did you hear all that?”
Kevin nodded. “Yeah babe! Daria and Sandi were kissing! I wish guys could go into the ladies’ room!”
Brittany looked at her boyfriend crossly. “Kevvy, that doesn’t usually happen in there or anywhere for that matter. I can’t believe Daria would let Sandi kiss her.”
Kevin grinned. “I can’t wait to tell the team!”
Brittany looked stern. “No, Kevvy. We have to keep this discreet. If that guy Daria’s been seeing finds out, he’ll be mad. We can’t tell everyone!”
Kevin looked down. “Oh, okay. Can I tell Mack Daddy?”
Brittany thought about that. “Um, that should be fine. He can keep a secret. And I’ll only tell Nikki. She won’t gossip. Or was it Angie that didn’t gossip?”
Quinn walked over to the bleachers at the football field/track & field stadium behind Lawndale High. She found Daria standing at the fence just before the track, and Jane finishing up what happened to be her last lap for the day. “God, Daria. What are you doing still at school? School was over almost an hour ago!”
Daria shrugged. “Jane arranged to use the track to run after school. I’m here to watch her and make sure the football team doesn’t mistake her for a tackling dummy.”
Jane finished her cooldown lap and walked over to Daria just as she finished talking. “I run and she gets tired just watching me, so it all works out.”
Daria gestured to her sister. “What that doesn’t explain, however, is why you’re still at school. I thought you had a Thanks-For-Giving sale at Cashman’s to go to.”
Quinn replied, “Look, I told the rest of the club I’d meet them there. Besides, the only real sale is for people who donate canned goods, and we didn’t want to take a trip to the grocery store just to go shopping.”
Jane looked thoughtful. “Hmm, that’s the one place I’d actually go to for shopping.”
Quinn rolled her eyes at the comment. “Look, I wanted to talk to you about that whole kiss thing with Sandi.”
Daria swallowed sharply. That had been the foremost thought on her mind while Jane had been running, and, for that matter, for most of the day. “Hey, she kissed me. I didn’t ask her to.”
Quinn nodded vigorously. “I know! Look, it was partly my fault that she kissed you.”
Daria nodded. “I know; you bet her she couldn't kiss me.”
Quinn responded, “I bet her she couldn’t kiss a girl; specifically, the next girl that came into the ladies’ room. If Jane had walked in front of you, Sandi would have kissed her.”
“I missed getting Sandi to kiss me by that much?” lamented Jane with a patently false indignation.
Daria turned to her friend. “That’s it; from now on you walk in front of me.”
Jane shrugged. “Might as well. If my concentration’s off in class like yours was today, nobody will notice a difference.”
Quinn was somewhat surprised by that. “You were messing up in class? Wow, it's like that kiss was a mind geld or something.. Sandi answered two questions correctly in a row in history for the first time all year.”
Daria leaned against the fence and put her head in her hands. “Great. All the knowledge I’ve stored up over the years and all it takes is one moment to take it away. I wish that stupid kiss never happened.”
Quinn continued. “I didn’t think it would happen. I was just hoping to get something I could hang on Sandi. I never wanted to get you involved, and…I’m sorry.”
Daria considered this. “I haven’t heard you say those words regarding something you did to me in years. I accept your apology, so let’s just drop this. The less time we spend dwelling on this, the better we’ll all feel.”
Quinn smiled. “I know I’ll feel better. I mean, if Sandi was willing to kiss you, then I’d imagine she’d probably want to…euch! Gotta go.” She walked off, leaving Daria and Jane standing alone at the fence.
“I really didn’t want to hear that,” lamented Daria.
“Could be worse,” reasoned Jane. “She could have finished that sentence.”
Daria looked over at Jane. “I don’t want to know how you think she was going to finish that sentence.”
Jane twisted the knife. “I’m fairly sure feathers and pancake syrup wouldn’t have been involved.”
Daria put her hand to her face. “Thank you for listening to my request.”
Jane put her arm on Daria’s shoulder. “Hey, don’t worry. This is just between you and me and the Fashion Freaks. It’s not like the whole school knows what happened or anything.”
When the two got to Pizza King later that day, the scene was near chaos. Everyone was whispering across tables. Everywhere tables were buzzing with hushed conversations. At one table, Charles “Upchuck” Ruttheimer’s head was in his hands, and his tears couldn’t stop falling. At another, Brittany and Kevin were trying to fend off questions from all directions, with Brittany only mildly upset at how quickly the rumor had spread. (Kevin, for his part, looked eager to tell his side of the story.) As Daria and Jane entered the room, everyone got quiet and looked up at the doorway.
Daria turned to Jane. “You were saying?”
Jane shrugged. “Hey, what do I know about the whole school?”
Mack and Jodie walked over to the pair as soon as they saw them. “Daria, have you heard what they’re saying about you?” asked Jodie.
Daria surveyed the room. “I suppose being infected with ebola would be too generous, wouldn’t it?”
Mack shrugged. “It depends on your point of view. The clearest answer we’ve gotten was that you and Sandi were a couple, and the Wonder Twins over there overheard her talking about it.” He gestured to Brittany and Kevin.
Daria buried her head in her hands. “Oh no; this has already gotten way out of hand.”
Jodie looked at Daria curiously. “Wait, so what they’re saying is true?”
Daria jerked her head up. “No! I mean, look, I’m not interested in her or any other girls.”
Jane wisecracked, “The Middleton Lesbian Chorus will be so sorry to hear that.”
Daria rolled her eyes. “It’s not like my voice would have helped them anyway.”
Jane smiled. “Yeah, they probably already have enough basses.”
Jodie realized Daria might not be telling the whole truth. “Then what was Sandi talking about?”
Daria’s eyebrows arched violently. “I have no idea what she said, but when I find her, that’s the first question I’ll ask her.”
“Like, don’t bother looking for me, brain,” said a voice from behind Daria. In the doorway of the restaurant stood Sandi Griffin, flanked by Stacy and Quinn with Tiffany in the rear. “I’m right here. As soon as I find out who’s been spreading these unfounded rumors, I’ll need to have a private chat with you in the ladies’ room.”
Daria held her hands out, palms out. “No way. Running into you in a ladies’ room was what started all this.” At this comment the crowd was again hushed, and Daria sighed. “That sounded a lot better in my head.”
Jane nodded. “I sure hope so.”
Daria frowned. “Oh, screw this.” With that she took off for the door, blowing past the Fashion Club, and ran out into the street.
“Wait!” yelled Sandi, as she took off after Daria. Jane started to follow, but thought better of it figuring she’d meet Daria later, whether Sandi ever caught her or not.
“Stop, please! Let me talk!” Sandi said anything she could to get Daria to stop, to no avail. Sandi may have been the trimmer of the two, but neither girl was drastically in or out of shape, so they ran at a fairly similar pace. Sandi never got close enough to grab Daria to force her to stop, but she also never lost sight of her.
Daria turned into the Red Barchetta Hotel and entered the lobby. The hotel wasn’t officially open yet, but the doors were open for public display of the grounds. Daria darted through the lobby, noting that while there were several cameras, there wasn’t anyone behind the front desk. Daria stepped into an open elevator and pressed the button to close the doors. Sandi was just a few seconds behind her, but it was enough to keep her from reaching the doors before they closed.
Daria felt relief. She had hit the third floor button, and she was happy when she saw the doors opening. That is, she was happy until she saw Sandi come out of the stairwell and into the elevator.
“Damn it, Daria, stop running!” Sandi said as she pressed the button for the floor marked “CT – Clock Tower.”
Daria fumed. “First you kiss me, then you tell people about it, and now you chase me into an elevator. I’m really starting to wonder about that bet you made.”
Sandi was equally upset. “I didn’t tell anyone outside the Fashion Club. I told you I didn’t want anyone else to know about that kiss!”
Daria stared daggers at the brunette. “And yet they know about it anyway. Did one of your Fashion Cultists decide to spread the rumor? Oh wait, Stacy would be too scared, Tiffany wouldn’t remember, and Quinn wouldn’t be stupid enough to spread rumors about her own sister, would she?”
Sandi didn’t like the implication. “I certainly wouldn’t slander myself and ruin my popularity just to make a brain even less popular.”
Daria sighed. “I don’t care any more. I heed the call of nature and walk into the single most confusing moment of my life. I keep trying to forget it happened, and everything I run into keeps reminding me of it. Now everyone knows about it and is starting to make assumptions that I don’t like.”
Sandi interjected, “Hey, I don’t like them either. I didn’t even want to think about…that, but then I had to make that stupid bet.”
Daria asked, “Why?”
Sandi snapped. “Because it makes everyone question who I am, okay? Because if I’m gay, then how can I be the most popular girl at school? Because if I’m gay, how can I face my freaking parents? Because if I’m gay, and I fall for a brain, than has all this been a freaking lie?” Her replies got gradually quieter, and tears started to form on her eyes.
Daria listened to every word Sandi said. The bell dinged to signify they had reached the roof, and she softly said, “I meant ‘Why did you make that bet?’”
Sandi looked down at her feet. “Oh.” Daria walked out of the elevator, and Sandi followed her to ensure she wasn’t left behind.
Both girls walked over to an observation deck. They looked out at the city they’d both moved to. It had become home to them, but now both girls felt a difference. It was as if the city itself was staring back at both of them, even if none of the surrounding buildings were tall enough to look back at them.
Sandi spoke first. “So, I bet you’d like to toss me over that railing about now.”
Daria shook her head. “Only if they’ve changed the law of gravity since school got out.”
Sandi laughed snidely. “Ha; always with a joke. Go ahead and laugh at the girl who just came out of the closet in front of you.”
Daria realized what Sandi meant. “So, you really are…?” She let the question hang.
Sandi nodded. “I’m pretty sure I've been gay since 5th grade. Back then I didn’t even know what gay meant. Gay was just another word boys said to mean stupid or whatever. At my old school, I had this friend who had this treehouse her dad built. We’d go up there and talk about what happened at school. We’d talk about kissing boys, and then one day she asked me if I wanted to kiss her. I asked her why, and she said she wanted to practice for when boys would want to kiss us. We both really liked it, and that became our activity for the next week.. Then one day her parents found us. I guess we were making out, as much as we really could at that age. Her father spanked her with his belt, and said the only reason he didn’t hit me was because my mother had told him they would. My mother tore into me verbally and physically. I couldn’t sit without pain for three days. The other girl moved to another school and our parents forbade us from seeing or even writing to each other. We couldn’t even say goodbye.”
Daria listened as Sandi told her story. “That’s awful.”
Sandi sighed. “At the end of the year, Mom got her job at KSBC, so we moved here, and she made it perfectly clear that while I was living here under her roof, I could be whatever I wanted, as long as I stayed straight. I found some friends into the same things that I was. We started up the Fashion Club at Lawndale Middle School, and here we are. Don’t get me wrong; I like being the center of attention and boys’ object of desire and all. I’m just tired of living this double life thingee.”
Daria shook her head. “Sandi, I’m sorry. I didn’t know…”
Sandi nodded. “Nobody knew; at least not until whomever it was overheard Tiffany and me talking. I could have sworn I checked everywhere. It’s like someone put a hearing aid in that bathroom or something.”
Daria considered the source, and didn’t figure Kevin and Brittany to be the type to seek out this kind of potential blackmail material. They were, however, the type to overhear something and not think twice about telling people about it. She decided not to tell Sandi who had been the known source until she had simmered down. “So now what happens?”
Sandi shrugged. “I don’t know. Right now, I’m planning to take a sabbatical from the Fashion Club to put this whole rumor thing behind me. One more year and a few months, and then I can go to college and figure the rest out.”
Daria turned to the railing. “And be miserable until then.”
Sandi closed her eyes. “Yeah. It sounded so much better in Middle School.” She sighed. “Look, I’m really sorry you got caught up in all this. It’s not like you’re gay or anything.”
Daria stood silent, as she looked out at the city.
Sandi turned towards the older girl. “Daria?”
Daria finally sighed. “I don’t know any more. I used to be certain I was straight. In fact, the very conversation before you kissed me was me denying I even thought about being gay. I was sure of myself too.”
Sandi thought it over while Daria went back to silence. “Maybe you didn’t.”
Daria turned sharply to Sandi. “What?”
Sandi continued. “Maybe you didn’t think about it. Like, maybe you didn’t want to think about it. I sure didn’t want to think about it. Maybe you were scared to admit you even had those thoughts, and it took something like, well, yesterday to force you to look at yourself.”
Daria realized how true Sandi was. “That makes sense. I mean, Jane would tease me every now and then, and I’d come back with an insult, and we’d move on. Those rumors happened last year, but you know how much I care about the rumor mills. The less I thought about them, the more they disappeared. Every time the thought entered my head, I blocked it out, but your kiss…”
Sandi smiled. “Hard to block that out, isn’t it?”
Daria sighed. “Yes, Miss Humility, your kiss was tough to forget.”
The smile left Sandi’s face. “For me too.” Both girls paused. Sandi finally spoke. “Daria, I…”
Sandi was cut off as Daria’s lips met hers. While their first kiss had been relatively brief and straightforward, this one lasted several minutes. Daria could taste Sandi’s lip gloss, while Sandi was fairly certain Daria had tried the new Teeny Little Super Mints that had just come in to the local stores. Both women allowed their tongues to touch, and then encircle one another. Finally they broke the kiss and looked into each others’ eyes.
Daria smiled. “You were saying?”
Sandi smiled back. “I can’t recall.”
Daria watched as the elevator doors closed and Sandi disappeared from her sight. Daria felt it best to leave separately, especially since Sandi was heading to Daria’s house for a Fashion Club meeting. Both girls agreed to keep whatever they were feeling for each other a secret for the time being. They agreed to meet up at lunch tomorrow to figure things out, and to continue with their lives, as normally as possible, until then.
Daria thought about many things while she waited for the elevator to return. She thought about whether this was just a reaction to the moment or if it meant something about her identity. She thought about whether or not to tell Tom, and what effect this would have on her relationship with him. She thought about how Jane would take it; how her family would take it.
She didn’t think about what she would tell her aunt Amy if she was in the elevator when it returned.
“Hello again, Daria. What brings you to my hotel?”
Daria froze as she saw Amy Barksdale waiting calmly in the elevator. “Um, hi Aunt Amy. It’s…kind of a long story.”
Amy smiled. “Don’t worry, sweetie. You’re not in any kind of trouble for being up here. I’m more surprised you got up to the top floor unsupervised. Or, at least, I was until I found this keycard left in the elevator. I’m just glad it was you that went up and not someone I can’t trust not to throw pennies off the balcony.”
Daria saw the card in Amy’s hand. “Oh, yeah. I didn’t even see that card there. For that matter, I didn’t see you at the front desk either.”
Amy shrugged as she let the doors close after Daria walked into the elevator car. “There’s nothing to steal in the lobby, and we’ve got enough cameras around the building to see who’s doing what.”
Daria nodded, and then froze. “You mean…”
Amy grinned. “Yes, up here too. I couldn't tell what boy you two were arguing about though. And even if I could, there's no way I'd mention anything to Helen.”
Daria smiled in relief. “You’re a life saver, Aunt Amy.”
Amy wagged her finger. “You’re not weaseling a cheaper hotel room out of me, Daria.”
Daria chuckled a bit at that. Then, an idea popped into her head. “Amy, how much is a hotel room here?”
Amy remembered the information she’d learned over the last couple weeks. “Well, rooms start at $95, but for what you get you might as well go to a Hotel 27 ½ and say you stayed here. The real luxury starts at $175. The penthouse suites are $3,000 a night, but I’m sure you’re not interested in that.”
Daria frowned. “How much would those $175 rooms be with your discount?”
Amy rolled her eyes. “That’s with my discount. You don’t want to know how much they are normally.”
Daria did some quick calculations, and was pleased with the results. “I don’t suppose one of those rooms would be available for tomorrow night, would they?”
Amy answered, “Well, the good news is that tomorrow the hotel is closed to the public.”
Daria didn’t understand. “How is that good news?”
Amy smiled. “Because it’s a friends and family night for the staff. They’re letting the staff rent the rooms out before the official opening Thursday, because we’re booked solid for the next few weeks. The staff has their own rooms on-site, and most of the friends and family are passing because of the cost. I’ll have no problem reserving a room for you. Just call by 7 o’clock that night to confirm or cancel.”
Daria realized how well that fit her plans. “Oh. Thanks.”
Amy put her hand on her niece’s shoulder. “Oh, and I’ll make sure your room isn’t too close to any other occupied rooms, just in case you were planning on sharing your room. I know how loud Barksdales can get.”
Daria shook her head as the doors opened. “I really hope you’re talking about when you argue.”
Amy walked out the doors. “Of course. What else would I be talking about?”
“This Greek heiress is surrounded by Lesbians, but which one will be her man? Looking for love on the Isle of Lesbos; next on Sick Sad World!”
Jane rolled her eyes as she affixed a glow-in-the-dark star to Daria’s ceiling. “Ok, that one was a reach.”
Daria didn’t look away from her computer. “And the severed pianist wasn’t?”
Jane turned to face Daria. “Hey, don’t use any of your logic on me, Morgendorffer. Now, I don’t know how well this is going to work with the padding on the walls.”
Daria finally turned around. “I know, but they’re staying. Besides, the effect should be good enough without that section.”
Jane nodded as she stepped off of her ladder. “I certainly think so, but then again it’s not my room. This could look like a kid put them up, and I wouldn’t mind.”
Daria went over to the light switch. “For your sake, you’d better not have let that be your standard. Let’s see what happens.”
Daria flipped the switch and the room’s illumination changed from the steady incandescent lighting to the scattered glowing stars and moons along the walls and ceiling. For a moment, both Jane and Daria took in the sight from the doorway. Behind them, Sandi, who had been heading to Quinn’s room for her meeting, stopped to see the commotion. Looking at the stars, and Daria’s bedroom as a whole, gave her thoughts; thoughts she now wasn’t sure she didn’t want to have.
Daria finally spoke. “It’ll do.”
Jane, knowing her friend’s penchant for brevity, smiled. “I knew you’d love it.”
Daria smiled slightly. “No, you didn’t.”
Jane confessed, “No, I didn’t, which makes your reaction that much cooler. Thanks!” With that she hugged Daria tightly, though briefly. She didn’t see Sandi standing there because, by that point, she no longer was.
Daria squirmed loose of Jane’s grip. “Stop! First Sandi kisses me, and now you’re trying to smother me?”
Jane shrugged, feigning embarrassment. “Oops, sorry. I guess this has been your week to deal with girl problems.”
Daria rolled her eyes. “I’m just glad this isn’t my week to deal with girl problems. I’d hate to have to deal with all this and have my hormones sending mixed signals.”
Jane crashed on the bed as Daria retook her seat at the computer. “There you go; always the optimist, aren’t you Daria? So, do you think Sandi will get over all this?”
Daria shrugged. “She should be fine, at least as fine as she was. I feel kind of sorry for her having to deal with parents like hers.”
Jane lay back on the bed. “Wow, optimism and compassion. Are you sure your hormones aren’t mixing you up?”
Daria chucked a small pillow she kept nearby at her friend. “Seriously, I’d hate it if Mom and Dad tried to change who I am like that. I mean, so she kissed a girl back in 5th grade. It’s not like she was out robbing convenience stores.”
Jane tossed the pillow into the air, catching it as it fell. “I know what you mean. I almost wonder how much of her belief she’s gay has to do with her parents forbidding it. The most certain way to get a teenager to do something is to tell her she can’t. I mean, look at me and Trent. My parents told me I could do anything…”
Daria finished her sentence. “And now you don’t do any thing.”
Jane caught the pillow. “Was it that obvious?”
Daria nodded. “Look, she’ll take a few days to figure things out, and then go back to how she was on the outside. After she gets out of here, she’ll be able to figure out where to go from there.”
Jane put the pillow behind her head. “Or she’ll snap and eat Stacy.”
Daria was about to talk, stopped herself, and began again. “I hope you meant the literal definition.”
Jane realized what she had said. “Oh, yeah. Well, I guess either one would help solve the problem.”
In Quinn’s room, the meeting was winding down as Sandi presided. “Ok, that’s all for new business. Now, as much as I believe in the importance of the written agenda, I believe I have an unannounced item of greater importance that needs to be added.” All ears and eyes were trained on Sandi. “In light of recent slanderous gossip regarding myself and its effects on my mental state, I hereby declare myself to be on fashion sabbatical until such time as I am able to adequately uphold my position as president.”
Several gasps came up at the word “sabbatical”. Quinn was the first to speak. “Sabbatical?”
Stacy was next. “Mental state?”
Tiffany finished up with, “Adequately?”
Sandi continued. “It’s only for a short time. I might be ready to return by next week, but I need to deal with what’s happening, and even I cannot keep up with my duties as president while doing that. Quinn, I leave the club in your hands as acting president in my short absence. I trust you will keep the club from committing any major faux pas in my absence.”
Quinn spoke with reverence, as though she were a princess being crowned queen. “I shall do all that is possible to maintain the necessarily high standards that the Fashion Club has come to stand for under your direction.”
Sandi smiled beatifically. “That’s all I can ask.”
Stacy lamented, “Um, Sandi, if you’re not part of the Fashion Club, does that mean you won’t be attending my sleepover tomorrow night?”
Sandi sighed. “I’m afraid not. I shall be staying at home after school ends while under sabbatical. I wouldn’t want an unexpected lapse in fashion to reflect poorly on the Fashion Club.”
Quinn realized that Sandi’s reason made no sense, but since neither of the other girls said anything about it, she merely said, “I suppose that would be the safe thing to do. You wouldn’t want this minor issue to turn into your Waterglue. If it’s all right, I’d like you to stay after the meeting to make sure I’m not forgetting any of my duties.”
Sandi nodded. “Of course, Quinn. If there are no objections, this meeting is adjourned.”
The girls engaged in small talk as they gathered their belongings. Stacy and Tiffany left, leaving Sandi and Quinn alone in the room. “Okay,” started Sandi, “I know that you know everything you need to know to be president.”
Quinn nodded. “Just as I know that your reason for not being at Stacy’s makes no sense. I mean, how could you commit a fashion faux pas at Stacy’s house?”
Sandi sighed, knowing she was caught. “I know; I've seen their drapes. Look, there are some…feelings I need to sort out right now.”
Quinn’s face took on a quizzical look. “Feelings? Anything I could help with?”
“No!” said Sandi, a little quicker than she’d intended. “I mean, not really. There are…complications. I have to make sure that I feel the way I think I do.”
Quinn nodded. “I understand.”
It was Sandi’s turn to look confused. “You do?”
Quinn shrugged. “Sure, Sandi. I mean, up until yesterday, there hasn’t really been any reason to even think about the whole gay thing. The Lesbians might as well have been, I don’t know, some weird grunge rock band or something. When you kissed Daria, even if it was just for a bet, it was the first time I’ve really seen anything like it. I mean, a girl kissing a girl? On the mouth? Forget it, especially down in Highland. Now that it’s been brought up, it’s hard to not at least think about it. I suppose it’s a bit harder to forget being the one doing the kissing.”
Sandi remembered Quinn’s words from the previous morning. “Wait, didn’t you say you had kissed a girl?”
Quinn looked nervous. “I have…well, kind of. I mean, I kissed one of my friends on the cheek down in Highland, but I haven’t, well…”
“Kissed a girl on the mouth?” finished Sandi.
Quinn shrugged. “Kissed anyone on the mouth.”
Sandi was shocked. “Really?”
Quinn sighed. “I’ve always been scared of it. I see a guy’s face coming after me, I think of that tongue, and I just panic. That’s why I set up my dating procedures to make sure they never got the chance to kiss me. At least, not until I find someone I can really trust.”
Sandi smiled, thinking of the last kiss she had gotten from Daria. “That may be, but I’d say you’re missing out. I’ve had a couple guys kiss with tongue, and I heartily recommend the procedure.”
Quinn laughed. “After yesterday, maybe I should have you show me how to do it right.”
Sandi froze, as did Quinn after she saw Sandi’s reaction. Sandi’s mind was racing to calculate the meaning of Quinn’s words. Quinn realized how it came out, and started analyzing Sandi’s reaction. Finally, Quinn spoke again. “I…that wasn’t how I meant that to come out Sandi.”
Sandi blinked her eyes a few times to clear her mind and exhaled. “Well, of course, Quinn. I knew that.”
Quinn smiled nervously. “I know you did, Sandi.”
Sandi gathered her composure. “Well, um, I guess I better get home before my parents call after me.”
Quinn nodded. “Yeah, thanks for coming over, and don’t worry about the Club.”
Sandi flashed a smile as she turned to leave. “I know you’ll take care of everything for me.” Sandi walked out the door, leaving both girls to their thoughts.
Wednesday began like just about any other Wednesday did in the Morgendorffer household. All four family members got their breakfast in the way that best suited their needs. Jake sat at the table with a mug of coffee and the paper. Daria munched on her Toaster-Tarts while reading another section of the paper. Quinn carefully prepared her meal, making sure she didn’t use more than a cup of skim milk on her unsweetened health-food store-brand cereal. Helen grabbed her meal replacement shake and poured a hot cup of coffee on her way out the door.
Helen spoke as she stood at the coffeemaker. “Now kids, the numbers are on the phone for the hotel we’ll be staying at. We should be back on Friday before you kids get home from school. Daria, I expect you to keep the house in line while we’re gone and Quinn’s at Stacy’s house.”
Daria said, without looking up, “I’ll be sure to keep the dust bunnies from acting up.”
Helen turned to her eldest daughter. “I mean it. Just because there’s a teacher inservice tomorrow doesn’t mean you can have a wild party here.” Daria stared at her mother. “Well, I’m your mother. I have to say it, no matter how ridiculous it sounds.”
Daria grinned. “I know; it’s in your contract. Don’t worry; the house will be fine when you come home.”
Helen turned to Quinn. “Quinn, you’ve made sure that it’s all right to stay with Stacy tonight?”
Quinn swallowed the spoonful of cereal in her mouth. “Of course, Mom. We’ve been planning this for weeks. I’ll probably be back here tomorrow by seven, depending on how long it takes to shop Cashman’s Power Packed Pricing Promotion. Stacy’s mom will drop me off here when we’re done, and I won’t go anywhere alone.”
Helen nodded. “Good, Quinn. I hope you two enjoy yourselves while we’re away.”
Daria thought about the dreams she’d had last night regarding what she might do tonight. “Just not too much.”
“So then Trent asks why he can’t call the band Head Cleaner.”
Daria nodded her response. “Mmm-hmm.”
Jane continued. “So I told him that if he wanted to put up with droves of people returning his CD’s because they thought they would improve the sound of their players, that’s his lookout.”
Daria continued walking. “Mmm-hmm.”
Jane, noticing Daria wasn’t really listening, said, “But then he told me he had already made the album and it earned him several trillion dollars, so you don’t have to worry about college.”
Daria kept walking “Mmm-hmm.”
Jane put her hand on Daria’s neck. “Daria!”
That snapped Daria out of her stupor. “Huh? What?”
Jane explained, “We’re at our lockers.”
Daria blushed. “Oops, sorry. I guess I’m still a bit out of it from yesterday’s deal with Sandi.”
Jane smiled as she opened her locker. “Don’t worry about it, Daria. Knowing Sandi like I do, she’s already moved past you and found someone else to bother.”
Daria opened her locker, and an envelope dropped out onto the school floor. It read “For Daria.” Daria opened it, and inside was an intricate card in the shape of a heart, with a poem and several smaller illustrations inside, along with the signature of one Alexandra Griffin.
Jane shrugged. “But then, what do I know about Sandi?”
Daria looked up at Jane after reading the poem. “Jane, do me a favor. Stop making predictions about my life.”
Sandi Griffin waited on the roof of the school at lunchtime. She knew Daria wouldn’t cut class, but she wanted an excuse to get out of study hall anyway. Even though each minute she waited seemed like an eternity, she forced herself not to keep looking back at the doorway. Finally, moments after hearing some of the students going to their cars to get lunch, the door behind her opened. She turned and saw the person she was waiting for. “Hello, Quinn’s sister, or whatever.”
Daria smiled. “Hello, Quinn’s friend, or whatever.” After her mimicry of Sandi’s tone of speech, she let Sandi put her arms around her as their lips met. Their embrace only ended when Daria backed off a minute later. “I guess there’s an advantage to giving your tongue such a workout every day.”
Sandi grinned. “Well, I can tell you that everyone who says you have a sharp tongue hasn’t come close enough to know better.”
Daria smiled and turned away. “Yeah, well, most of them haven’t had a good reason for me to let them that close.”
Sandi looked out at the football stadium in the distance. “You didn’t let that stop me.”
Daria turned to the brunette to her right. “You mean you didn’t let it stop you.”
Sandi shrugged and smiled. “That too I guess.” She paused as a car horn sounded from the parking lot. “Look, um, Daria, I want to get to know you better; like, a lot better.”
Daria shrugged. “What do you want to know?”
Sandi shook her head. “No, I mean…I want to take this to the next level.”
Daria’s eyes went wide as she understood. “Oh.”
Sandi looked down at her feet. “I can understand if you don’t want to.”
Daria sighed. “No, it’s not that. It’s just a bit fast for me. I mean, I’ve only had the one relationship before. Well, I guess it’s not really before if I’m still in it but…you know what I mean.”
Sandi nodded. “I do. Look, I’m not trying to push you into anything. I just like how this is going, and there’s something inside me that just wants to keep it moving forward. I guess what I’m saying is that my parents won’t be home tonight, and I was wondering what your plans for tonight are.”
Daria took in the information and processed it. A part of her was scared that Sandi was trying to get her into bed that quickly. Of course, another part of her was excited and thrilled by that prospect. However, the practical part of her head realized a better plan of action may be in order. “Well, my parents won’t be home tonight either, nor will they be home tomorrow. However, I’m thinking it might be better to arrange for a neutral meeting ground. I’m sure neither of us want to hear our parents saying, ‘Hi honey, we came home early,’ even if we’re just talking.”
Sandi nodded. “That’s probably for the best; especially if we’re not just talking.”
Daria smiled. “Yeah, especially if we’re doing this.” With that she pulled Sandi close to her and kissed her deeply.
Daria found the pay phone with five minutes left before lunch was officially over. She deposited her coins and dialed the number she’d memorized. After a couple rings, she heard, “Good afternoon, Red Barchetta Hotel, Amy speaking, how may I assist you?”
Daria swallowed and spoke. “Amy, it’s Daria.”
The voice on the other line brightened. “Daria! Good to hear from you. What’s the verdict on the room?”
Daria sighed while holding her hand over the phone. “Book the room. I’ll be there.”
Sounds of typing on a keyboard were heard on the hotel side of the line. “Great! You’ll love it here. I got you a really nice room. Normally $350, it’s just $175 tonight. By the way, how do you have the money for this? Wait, don’t tell me. Helen’s still basing her parenting on the value of a dollar?”
Daria deadpanned, “Between Mom keeping me off her back and me guilting Dad into giving me an equal share of whatever Quinn pulls out of him, my Montana Cabin Fund can take the hit.”
Amy smiled on her end. “Well, there you go. You'll be in room 2112. You’ll just need to sign in and pay at the front desk, and they’ll take care of the rest. By the way, I recommend not opening the mini-fridge. The chocolates are to die for, but the prices are to kill for.”
Daria smiled. “Thanks for the tip.”
Amy signed off with, “Anything for my favorite niece, especially if she leaves an equally generous tip.”
After classes were over for the day, Sandi walked over to a pre-arranged meeting spot. She looked around, made sure nobody was there, and opened the door, closing it behind her. “Is anyone in here?”
Daria’s monotone voice came from the direction of the desk. “Nobody here but us chickens. Cluck, cluck.”
Sandi walked over to the desk, Daria’s form only partly illuminated from the window. “So why did you pick Mr. DeMartino’s room?”
Daria shrugged. “I figured he’d be out the door at 3:30 on the dot; earlier if Ms. Li would let him. Plus I’d rather accidentally bump into him than Mr. O’Neill or Ms. Barch.”
Sandi smirked. “Somehow I doubt Ms. Barch would have a problem with us not being interested in men.”
Daria shook her head. “Maybe not, but it’s not worth finding her and Mr. O’Neill in the same room together.”
Sandi was puzzled at first, but then gasped in horror as she realized what Daria meant. “You mean they…and he’s…and she’s…ewwwwwwww!”
Daria nodded. “My sentiments exactly. It’s the story nobody’s talking about because nobody wants to think about it.”
Sandi sighed. “Let’s change the subject before I start gagging. What are your plans for the night?”
Daria smiled. “I’ve used my vast network of connections to procure a room at the Red Barchetta Hotel.”
Sandi wasn’t sure she heard right. “Your vast network of connections?”
Daria shrugged. “My Aunt Amy.”
Sandi accepted that. “Oh. Well, that sounds like an excellent place to…get to know each other better.”
Daria blushed at that. “Um, look, I know what this may look like on the outside…”
Sandi nodded. “Well, you are renting a hotel room for the two of us.”
Daria sighed. “I know, but I don’t want to lead you on. I was planning on getting a room anyway as a way to pamper myself while my family’s away. I was going to pay for it anyway, so I don’t want either of us to feel obligated to do anything we don’t want to.”
Sandi nodded, and just a bit of disappointment entered her voice. “I understand.”
Daria continued. “I figure we’ll talk, we’ll have some food, and we’ll figure things out, one way or another.”
Sandi brightened thinking of the various ways they might end up figuring things out. “That suits me fine. What’s the room number?”
Daria handed Sandi a notecard with the information. “Room 2112, and as you can imagine, it’s on the 21st floor. Come by any time after seven.”
Sandi read the card, and the information was the same. “2112, after seven. You’ll be there?”
Daria stood up to meet Sandi for a quick kiss. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Daria got home at about four, right when Quinn was about to head out. “Finally, you’re home. Sandi’s mom is on her way to drive me over.”
Daria stopped at Quinn’s choice of words. “Sandi’s mom?”
Quinn froze, and then giggled at what she’d said. “Oops, I meant Stacy’s mom. I guess I’ve had Sandi on my mind a bit lately.”
Daria folded her arms before her and inquired, “You have?”
Quinn nodded. “Well, she’s been trying to figure things out lately. I mean, this whole lesbian rumor thing has gotten everyone thinking about it. I mean, not that I’m about to give up my dates or anything, but it’s really something that’s never crossed my mind until this week.”
Daria agreed. “Same here, for the most part.”
Quinn wondered aloud, “Though with how Sandi kissed you, it makes me wonder about her. I mean, that kiss didn’t look like a first kiss, from what I’ve been told about first kisses anyway.”
Daria wrestled internally with how to address that. She decided to go with the truth, half the truth, and nothing but the truth. “She told me after she caught up with me yesterday that there was a girl she spent time with in fifth grade. It was before she moved here.”
Quinn smiled at that. “Wow, fifth grade. I guess Sandi’s always been popular.”
Daria looked at her sister. “It wasn’t like a girlfriend or anything, just a friend she ended up kissing. Their parents blew it out of proportion and they both moved to new towns. They didn't even let them say goodbye to each other.”
Quinn’s smile had faded by that time. “How horrible! I hope our parents would be a bit more understanding than that.”
Daria nodded. “I know what you mean.” Then she looked up at Quinn. “Wait, do I?”
Quinn’s eyes went wide. “I wasn’t saying…I mean, if we made any sort of choice they may not approve of totally, they wouldn't ruin our lives for it.”
Daria’s gears were turning behind her glasses. “That’s what I thought you meant.” Quinn relaxed, so Daria continued. “Quinn, what do you think of Sandi?”
Quinn was caught off-guard by that question. “What do you mean?”
Daria explained, “Well, you probably know her better than anyone other than her family; maybe even better than they do. What kind of a person is she?”
Quinn tried to figure out what her sister wanted to hear. “Well, she likes to be in control of a situation, or at least think she’s in control. She likes to trap people into doing what she wants rather than just asking for it, especially when she knows you don’t want to do whatever she wants you to do. She’s got a kind of a rough edge to her that puts people off, but if she thinks you’re important to her, she’ll show you her softer side.”
Daria nodded. “Yeah, I’ve learned that from, um, our conversations.”
Quinn was a bit worried by the inflection of that statement, but she tried not to let it show. “To be honest, you two are sort of alike. I mean, you’re strong, you’re smart, even if Sandi hides it, and you seem to live your life the way you want to live even if it means covering up a part of you that doesn’t seem to fit. The one major difference is that when you speak your mind, you deal with how life really is.”
Daria was intrigued by the connections Quinn had made. “And Sandi?”
Quinn continued. “Sandi has her own idea of how everything should be, and to her it will be that way unless it already is. In her mind, she’s the President of the Fashion Club and nobody is above her. That whole bet thing; she expected the rest of us to be like outraged or something that someone would even consider being gay, and having that part of her world get proven wrong probably unbalanced her. Granted, I kind of helped push that along, but I knew what buttons to push. If there’s one thing she’s gotten used to, it’s being right.”
Daria understood. “And when she talked with me, I was someone that could prove her wrong. Still, maybe that’s what’s best for her. After our discussion, she seemed a lot surer of herself and who she really was.”
Quinn noted that Daria was choosing her words carefully. This both excited and scared her. “Maybe she just needs someone in her life that can be a reality check.”
Daria shrugged towards her sister. “She already has you for that.”
Quinn smiled. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Oh, Stacy’s mom is here. See you tomorrow by seven!” She grabbed her overnight bag and headed out to the waiting car.”
“See you later,” replied Daria. After Quinn had left, she asked, to nobody in particular, “So which one of us got more out of that conversation?”
Daria gathered her belongings and made her way to the Red Barchetta Hotel by six o’clock. At the desk, she was greeted by the front desk clerk (not Amy, which would have made Daria even more uncomfortable). Daria presented her identification and payment, which she had the foresight to consolidate into larger bills at her bank on the way home from school, and was presented with her room key and directed to the elevators. As she only had a small backpack, the contents of which she had no intention to let a bellhop anywhere near, she declined the concierge service.
Daria reached the 21st floor and found her room, one of the corner suites. As she opened the door, she could scarcely believe what lay before her. The white and gold wallpaper gave a timeless look to the room. The carpets were a deep burgundy, and proved to be quite soft to the touch. The main room was spacious, with two luxuriously upholstered chairs sitting before a large projection television set. A desk sat against a wall, with a simpler chair for work use. Another table sat against the other wall, with two more chairs. To the left was a kitchenette with a small refrigerator, microwave oven, coffeemaker, and even a toaster oven. To the right was the bathroom, and though it was dark, she was already certain it was larger than the one at her house. In between the two smaller rooms was a hallway with a door at the end, which Daria knew led to the bedroom.
Daria took off her jacket and hung it on a hanger in the entryway. She went over to the bathroom and turned on a light switch, confirming her suspicions. The bath was big enough for two or three people (which may be the idea, thought Daria), and the fixtures appeared to be brass. The mirrors were big and placed well enough to ensure a sumo wrestler could see just about any angle. The sink and toilet were well-made, ensuring both form and function were much more than adequately addressed.
She wandered back to the bedroom and upon opening the door and turning on the light, smiled in contentment. The bed to her right was king-sized, with tall bedposts and an ornately carved headboard. On either side of the bed stood a night stand made of the same wood as the headboard. On the left side of the room sat a dresser and a dressing table with lighted mirror. A small closet concealed itself along the wall it shared with the bathroom.
She walked back out to the kitchen to pour herself a glass of water, but stopped when she saw a basket on the counter. It turned out to be a standard welcoming package given to guests at the hotel, with crackers, coffee, tea, and about a dozen brochures for local businesses. One piece of paper drew Daria’s attention. There was a note in what Daria assumed to be Amy’s handwriting. It read, “Daria, we hope you enjoy your stay at the Red Barchetta Hotel. If you were interested in dinner tonight, mention you’re my favorite niece and the chef will make sure you’re properly taken care of. I think you’ll appreciate my little gift in the refrigerator. Just make sure you don’t drive! I’ll be working in the morning, so when you check out, stop by the front desk before you leave. Have a good time, and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” Both Amy and Eiji Tachibana, who was identified as the owner and general manager, signed the note.
Daria went to the mini-fridge, and inside was a small bottle of champagne, about large enough for 3-4 glasses, along with two champagne flutes. “Thanks, Aunt Amy,” she said aloud, “but somehow I doubt there’s much you wouldn’t do.”
After Daria put her belongings away, she went over to the phone. She had only forty minutes before Sandi would be there, and she had two important calls to make. The first number she’d had committed to memory for years.
“Jane Lane’s Wood Finishing: you plane, we stain at Lane’s.”
Daria smirked at Jane’s opening remarks. “Hi Jane.”
Jane answered, “Hey Daria. I see it’s almost six-thirty, and your usual spot on my bed is vacant, so I’m assuming I’ll be forced to watch Zombie, Zombie and Crawl, Attorneys of the Undead on my own.”
Daria snapped her fingers. “Damn, I knew that would come up on the night I couldn’t make it. Let me know if it’s worth watching.”
Jane smiled. “Oh, I get the feeling it’ll be worth watching, for one reason or another. So what important business is keeping you from watching zombie litigation? Romantic tryst?”
Daria stumbled over her words at that, even though she realized Jane was pulling her leg. “Um, yes. The Lawndale Lions are lining up as we speak.”
Jane didn’t miss a beat. “I thought they got out early for an away game. Oh, you mean the girl’s basketball team!”
Daria rolled her eyes. “Well, I wanted it to last longer than a half hour.”
Jane smiled. “Ooh, she shoots and she scores! So seriously, where are you?”
Daria sighed. “I’m at the Red Barchetta Hotel.”
Jane whistled. “That’s a snazzy place. How can you afford it?”
Daria explained, “Well, Aunt Amy got me a good deal, and you know how my Cabin Fund has been lately.”
Jane nodded to herself. “That’s right; the fashion queen has been especially needy as of late. At least she’s good for something.”
Daria thought about her last conversation with Quinn. “I’m wondering if she might be good for more than we think.”
Jane didn’t understand that remark. “What?”
Daria snapped out of her haze. “Oh, never mind.”
Jane smiled. “Right. So, why did you get the hotel room and why am I not relaxing in the lap of luxury as we speak?”
Daria knew this question was coming. “I just need some time alone to relax and make up my mind about a few things, and having anyone around, even you, might complicate the matter.”
I imagine it would, thought Jane. “No worries. Do you still want to hang out tomorrow?”
Daria was happy Jane had accepted her reasons. “I think after tonight, I’m going to need to split a pizza with you.”
Jane kept herself from laughing; a difficult task given her perspective. “Works for me. Have fun, and try not to keep her up too late.”
Daria didn’t really hear Jane’s comment at first. “Don’t worry, I…wait, what?!?”
Jane quickly said, “Okaygottarunbye” and hung up.
Daria stared at the phone in her hands. Either she had just misheard her friend, or Jane knew more than she was telling. Jane’s speed in hanging up made Daria believe the latter. Still, she knew calling Jane would be fruitless. Jane would either say it was a joke or that she didn’t want to talk about it, and frankly, this was one conversation she didn’t want to have just yet. Jane would wait until morning. Daria wasn’t worried about her; not nearly as much as the person she would dial next, after a few minutes to calm her nerves.
“Sloane residence, Tom speaking,” said the voice on the other line.
Daria found it hard to speak. “Um, hi Tom.”
Tom seemed surprised to hear Daria’s voice. “Daria? I haven’t heard from you in days.”
Daria closed her eyes and breathed. “I know; I’ve been going through some strange things lately.”
Tom sensed something was wrong. “Are you all right? You sound really nervous.”
Daria sighed. “Tom, I need to ask you for a favor; something I have no right to ask for.” She paused slightly. “I need to pretend that we’re not going out for a while.”
Tom wasn’t sure he heard right. “What?”
Daria continued. “Tom, I’m going through some issues and trying to answer questions about myself, and I can’t be sure of the answer unless I break up with you, and I don’t want to do that. I just need to act like I’m totally single for the next few days. I know it sounds strange, but I have to do this.”
Tom was floored, but still wanted to figure out what was going on. “I’m not sure what to say, Daria. I mean, if this was just a hypothetical thing, I wouldn’t think you’d bother calling me with it. It almost sounds to me like you’re planning on sleeping with another guy.”
Daria tensed up, knowing how close Tom had been to the truth. “Tom, I give you my word that I will not go out with another guy as long as I'm with you, hiatus or not.”
Tom accepted that, warily. “How long?”
Daria answered, “Not long. I might have it figured out by the weekend. I might even figure it out tonight.”
Tom paused to gather it all together. “Okay, until you say otherwise, we’re not a couple. I don’t suppose I’ll get an explanation when this is all over, will I?”
Daria smiled in relief. “Actually, I’ll probably be able to say things then that I can’t say now. Thanks for understanding.”
Tom wagged his finger at the phone. “Ah, ah, ah; I didn’t say I understood, but I’ll go along with it, for now. So now that I’m single, which of your friends should I kiss behind your back?”
Daria smiled, knowing he was joking. “Well, if you’re into the athletic type, I may just have the perfect match.”
Tom shook his head. “Oh no, you’re not setting me up with Jane again.”
Daria corrected Tom, “Actually, I was thinking of Lawndale's favorite QB, Kevin Thompson.”
Tom laughed. “I see; instead of Jane killing me, you’d rather I kill myself.”
Daria shrugged. “Well, you always were a do-it-yourself kind of person. Tom?”
“Thank you; for everything.”
“I do what I can.”
Tom hung up the phone after exchanging goodbyes. Kevin? Please. If he’s half the moron Daria describes him to be, forget it. Even if I were gay, he wouldn’t be worth the headache.
Tom picked up his controller and continued playing his game of The Whipmaster. After whipping about a dozen zombie space marines to death, he paused the game again, as two phrases suddenly met in his mind.
Even if I were gay…
“I will not go out with another guy…”
He picked up the phone and dialed Daria’s number. It rang four times and went to the answering machine. He hung up, realizing he should have hit *69 instead. “Damn it,” he said to the empty room.
At just after seven, a figure wearing a full-length trench coat, sunglasses and a tan fedora stepped off the elevator at the Red Barchetta Hotel at the 21st floor. The figure looked around and spied the room number they were after. This person walked up to the door, took a deep breath, and knocked.
Daria was hit by a wave of nervousness as she heard the knock on her door. She calmed herself down, walked over to the door, and looked out the peephole. What she saw helped to calm her nerves and brought a smile to her face.
“Good evening, Carmen Sandiego,” greeted Daria, as she opened the door for her guest.
“Like, very funny,” replied Sandi as she walked into the room. “I didn’t want anyone to see me here, so I tried to dress inconspicuously.”
“So you dressed like Inspector Clouseau,” remarked Daria as she closed the door.
Sandi shrugged. “Well, that and I wanted to keep this for your eyes only.” With that she took off her hat and shades, and finally opened up her trenchcoat.
Daria, whose last thought had been please be wearing clothes underneath, was shocked by what she saw. Instead of one of Sandi’s usual outfits, she wore a baggy blue t-shirt emblazoned with the logo of KSBC, the station her mother worked at, and matching sweatpants, albeit without any logo. Even though this ensemble didn’t accentuate her figure, it made Daria feel a bit better about her decision. “Wow, even when you let yourself go, you look good.”
Sandi smiled, “Thanks. My mom got the shirt free, and I couldn’t let even my comfy clothes clash.” At that moment, she looked around at the hotel room, just now noticing its elegance. “Whoa, this is even nicer than that suite that stalker, I mean, bellboy got Quinn at Le Grande.”
Daria smiled. “Actually, you were right about the stalker part. It turns out he was billing the stuff to our parent’s card and hacking into the hotel computer to erase the charges.”
Sandi’s eyes went wide. “You mean Quinn almost went out with a computer geek?”
Daria grinned slightly. “That’s pretty much what Quinn asked when she found out, and what’s wrong with computer geeks anyway? I mean, his looks couldn’t be a problem if Quinn thought about dating him in the first place.”
Sandi waved a dismissive hand at Daria. “Oh please. Even when you find the one computer geek who isn’t a scrawny weirdo or a lump of cellulite, he’ll spend most of his time with his geek friends, which means you have to spend your free time with them talking about techno music and space pirates and how many gigs of ROM their motherboard has.”
Daria shrugged. “It doesn’t seem any worse than car nuts talking about racing movies and how many horsepower they can get from their engines.”
Sandi thought about that. “True, but at least car guys develop muscles working on their babies.”
Daria conceded the point. “Okay, I’ll give you that one, although given your reasons for being here, it seems an odd point to bring up.”
Sandi laughed at that. “Um, yeah. I guess you’re right.”
Daria decided to change the subject. “Oh, and I called ahead for room service. Amy apparently sent word that I would be calling, so the chef took the call and promised to make his specialty.”
Sandi had been setting her purse on the desk. “What’s his specialty?”
Daria shrugged. “He wouldn’t tell me. He just promised that my aunt said that it would be something I would appreciate.”
Sandi nodded. “Okay, but if it’s covered in liquid cheese, I reserve the right to pass on whatever he may think is his ‘specialty.’”
Daria shook her head. “And to think I believed you had good taste.”
Sandi walked over to Daria. “Well, I am quite particular about what I put in my mouth.” With that she planted her lips on Daria’s, and commenced kissing.
A few minutes later, another knock came to the door, which signaled the end of their kiss. “I’m going to wash up,” said Sandi, coming down from the euphoria of the embrace. Daria walked to the door as Sandi made herself hidden.
Daria opened the door and let the man enter with a large cart. She offered the man a twenty as a tip and closed the door behind him. Sandi came out of the bathroom and looked at the domed tray on the cart. “So what’s for dinner?”
Daria lifted the lid of the tray slightly, smiled, and then showed Stacy. On the platter was a thin wheat crust, topped with lobster and crab meat, scallops, and a white sauce, and covered with a generous, though not overpowering, amount of Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. “Oh,” answered Daria, “just a pizza.”
As both Daria and Sandi reached for the last two slices their hands touched, and both smiled and blushed slightly. Daria took a bite of her pizza, savoring the lobster meat she bit into, while Sandi took her champagne flute and spoke up for the first time in a few minutes. “You know, I don’t understand the whole brain thing.”
Daria decided to play dumb. “Do you mean being smart or the bundle of nerves in your head?”
Sandi rolled her eyes. “You know what I mean. I mean, here you are getting possibly the best grades in school next to Jodie, everyone knows who you are, and you’ve got a body that could easily compete with your sister’s, but you hide it behind that totally unflattering clothing. You could be right there with Jodie in the popularity game without the effort she puts in, but you don’t even try.”
Daria shrugged. “I don’t know why you even try. I mean, you seem fairly intelligent, even if you don’t seem to pay attention in class. You obviously don’t care for the boys you go out with beyond what they mean for your status. You’ve built your group of friends into one of the most powerful groups in the school, and for what? So you’re popular. What do you get out of it?”
Sandi got defensive. “The Fashion Club is the most powerful group in school. The entire social order is built around our group.”
Daria rebutted, “So you get the best dates and a little special treatment from others. Why not use your power to make a real change?”
Sandi narrowed her eyes. “Have you ever had people fawn over you just for who you are? It doesn’t matter that I don’t want any of those guys’ hands on me. It’s the rush of being wanted.”
Daria raised her glass of champagne. “Like when I kissed you on the roof of this hotel?”
Sandi looked down at her plate. “That’s different. No, that’s not right. It’s almost the same, but much more intense. It’s like…when a guy says they want to go out with me, it’s like the spray off of a waterfall. When I’m in your arms, it’s like that waterfall is falling all over me, surrounding me with this amazing feeling.” Sandi paused as the feeling ran through her body. “So why don’t you try to be popular?”
Daria sighed. “Being popular has always been Quinn’s thing. I’ve worn glasses all my life, and through grade school they always made kids make fun of me. I buried myself in my books, and I found a peace I never found with other people. Back in Highland, there were these two guys, Beavis and Butthead…”
Sandi was thankful she had just swallowed that sip of bubbly. “Butthead?”
Daria nodded. “I think Beavis said Butthead was born backwards, so instead of the head, the doctor saw his butt first. Anyway, they ended up being as close to friends as I found down there. All the girls were either dumb as posts or too caught up in their own dramas to care about me. The Blunder Twins were dumb too, and they made fun of me from time to time, but they didn’t really seem to have anyone else to talk to other than themselves. After spending some time with them, I realized that even though they didn’t seem to have a clue what they were talking about, they were the only ones at that school who were honest about what they saw. Everyone was propping themselves with bullshit, and one comment from them made all of it seem silly. I guess knowing them was worth being called Diarrhea a few times.”
Sandi grimaced. “Ewww; thanks for not telling me that while I was eating.”
Daria grinned. “Any time. To be honest, I really don’t care for the popularity game, and I don’t want how I look to decide who wants to go out with me.”
Sandi shook her head. “Well, whether you want it or not, that’s what happens. I mean, you look the way you do, so you attract the people you do, and you repel the people who don’t want what you have to offer.”
Daria was skeptical. “Well, you didn’t go out with me because of my looks, and neither did Tom.”
Sandi weighed that out. “I went out with you by sheer luck at first, and I'd venture to say Tom went out with you because he got to know you after meeting Jane. I’d guess he went after Jane at first because of her look. And then there’s Upchuck, who has designs on you.”
Daria closed her eyes. “Upchuck has designs on every woman in Lawndale.”
Sandi put up her index finger. “Ah, but he doesn’t ask out every woman in Lawndale. He’s asked you out, like, a dozen times a month since you got here. He hasn’t bothered to talk to me, Quinn, or Tiffany in over a year, other than the occasional offhand comment. He’s attracted to your type.”
Daria put a few things together. “You realize that you’ve just put yourself in the same category as Upchuck. More champagne?”
Sandi nodded. “Yes, and I’m not attracted to your type. I’m just attracted to you.”
Daria filled both glasses evenly, to about halfway. “Good, because I’m not really attracted to your type, either. I mean, my sister’s your type.”
Sandi stared at her glass. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
Daria noticed Sandi’s reaction to her mention of Quinn, but decided to file it away for later. “Sandi, a toast.”
Sandi raised her glass. “To what?”
Daria grabbed her glass, walked around to Sandi, and raised it next to hers. “To a brain and a beauty, two people who were supposed to live in completely separate worlds, yet came together for a blissful moment, and to that moment not ending too soon.”
Sandi clinked her glass against Daria’s. “I’ll drink to that.” She drained the glass as Daria finished hers.
Daria set her glass down, saying, “Well, I guess that’s the last of the champagne.”
Sandi smirked. “Actually, I think there’s a little left.”
Daria was sure she emptied the bottle. “Where?”
Sandi brought her face close to Daria’s. “Right here.” With that she put her arms around Daria’s body and kissed her deeply. Their tongues danced; the remnants of the champagne mixing with the taste of each other’s mouths to form an intoxicating flavor both girls savored.
Daria awoke and looked over at the alarm clock. Squinting, she barely made out the time of 8:22 AM. Daria turned over to where Sandi had been when both had fallen asleep, but that half of the bed was empty. She fumbled for her glasses and opened her eyes as far as she could in the light. She saw a note on the other pillow, and she grabbed it to read.
“Dear Daria,” it read, “Thank you for an amazing evening. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there when you woke up, but I have business elsewhere this morning. I’ll be at your house at four o’clock to make sure we have some more time together before your sister gets home. With all my love, Alexandra Griffin.”
Daria looked the letter over a number of times. She noticed how the impression on the paper gave away the fact that Sandi had written and erased “Qui” where “your sister” was written. She finally crumpled the paper and tossed it into the wastebasket before stretching and rolling out of bed to start the day. At least I don’t have to worry about taking off my pajamas before I hit the shower.
Daria stepped out of the elevator carrying her backpack on her back. At the desk, she saw a familiar face. “Hi, Aunt Amy.”
Amy smiled when she heard and saw her niece. “Good morning, Daria. How was the room?”
Daria answered, “The room was good. I can understand why they charge so much for it. And that was maybe the most decadent pizza I’ve ever eaten, including the Super Deluxe with triple cheese Jane talked me into.”
Amy nodded. “Chef Antonio prides himself on his pizza, and his Mediterranean Crustacean Sensation is his pride and joy. It’s perfect for our clients who want the ‘upper crust’ experience.”
Daria rolled her eyes. “Amy, please tell me you weren’t responsible for that.”
Amy shook her head. “If you ever decide to enter marketing, let me know so that I may disown you as soon as possible. So I take it you had a good night then?”
Daria blushed. “Well, um, I guess you could say that.”
Amy smirked at Daria. “You know, if you’re thinking of sneaking this by Helen, you’re going to need to work on your reactions.”
Daria was now acutely aware of her blush. “Oh, um, yeah. I guess you’re right.”
Amy continued, “So who is he? I bet it was that short guy trying to look like Bogie.”
Daria looked up sharply at Amy. “What?”
Amy explained, “The guy with the fedora and the trench coat. He got out of here fast. I figure a Barksdale likes a bit of mystery in her life.”
Daria realized she was talking about Sandi. “Oh, right. I forgot that’s what, um, he wore.”
Amy thought it over. “Not really my type though. He was a bit scrawny and seemed too quiet for my tastes.”
Daria smirked, certain Sandi had never been described as quiet. “Oh, she can be loud when she wants to be.”
Amy cocked an eye at that. “Oh really?”
Daria realized what she said. “That really didn’t come out the way I meant it.”
Amy folded her arms in front of her. “But I assume she wasn’t quiet last night.”
Daria blushed again. “Well, when you put it that way…” At that point she realized the pronoun Amy had used for Sandi, and that she had used that pronoun herself. “Oh. Oh no.”
Amy put her hand on her niece’s shoulder. “It’s all right. I’m not going to tell anyone. I was once in the same situation, and no, you probably don’t want to hear the details.”
Daria, realizing what Amy meant, swallowed hard. “Thanks for sparing me. Damn it, why did I have to get caught up in all this?”
Amy tried to console her niece. “You’ll be okay. So you’re gay.” Daria stared at Amy. “Or you’re bi.” Daria continued to stare. “Or you don’t have a clue what you are after last night.”
Daria closed her eyes. “Bingo.”
Amy sighed. “What is your heart telling you about her?”
Daria thought for a moment. “I don’t know. On the one hand, I like the way she makes me feel. On the other, I don’t see us spending much time together outside of this sort of thing.” She waved her hands in the air to demonstrate.
Amy considered this. “It sounds like the two of you don’t have much in common, other than the physical end of it.”
Daria nodded. “If only I could know I was right.”
“You seem to know what you’re talking about,” said a voice behind Daria with a slight Asian accent. Daria turned around and saw a Japanese man in his forties. He wore a tailored business suit and a gold ring on his right pinky finger. His facial features reminded Daria of Ricky Steamboat. While his accent betrayed his upbringing in Kyoto, his diction and tone attested to his Ivy League education. “You are Amy’s niece Daria, I presume?” He held out his hand for Daria to shake.
Daria, startled by the man’s entrance, took his hand and tentatively shook it. “Y-yes, I am.”
The man smiled. “I am Eiji Tachibana, the owner of this hotel and several others, though I have to admit that this is certainly the crown jewel of my empire.”
Daria bowed slightly. “It’s an honor to meet you, sir.”
Eiji held out his hands. “Please, call me Eiji. When everyone calls you sir, you tend to lose your perspective on the world. Now, I hope you don’t mind my intrusion on your conversation, but I overheard that you were having uncertainty regarding an individual you may or may not feel affection for, is that correct?”
Daria shrugged. “I guess I don’t mind, and yes, that pretty much sums it up.”
Eiji put his hand around Daria’s shoulders. “Daria, I’ve had my share of relationships, and I’ve certainly had my share of bad relationships. I’ve had long-lasting friendships that were never meant to be anything else, no matter how I tried. I’ve had purely physical relationships that didn’t last beyond the first real conversation. I’ve had lovers who seemed like they were meant for me until I found out they were just trying to get my bank account numbers.”
Daria’s eyes went wide. “Eep!”
Eiji smiled. “My sentiments exactly. I don’t think you have to worry about that; at least, not yet. My point is that almost every time, I thought they were the one for me. And every time,” he looked at Amy, “with one possible exception,” he turned back to Daria, “I’ve been wrong. The only advice I can give is that when you think you love someone, it’s easy to think you want to be with them. If you’re having doubts that it will work out, listen to those doubts. You don’t need to follow them; just listen. You’ll know what to do.”
Daria smiled. “Thank you. I think that helped a lot.” She started to walk away. “Oh, and I did notice that little gesture you made, Eiji.”
Eiji shrugged, but was unable to keep the grin off of his face. “What gesture?”
Daria turned around. “The one that gave away who that possible exception is.”
Amy smiled and held Eiji’s hand. “There’s nothing that can get past you Daria. Obviously he’s nothing to be ashamed of, but I’d rather not have to explain myself to my sisters and give them argument ammunition if I don’t have to.”
Daria mimicked her mother. “Oh, so while I’m working myself into a coma and trying to keep my family together, Rita gets to spend all of Mom’s money while Amy runs off with some overseas zillionaire.” She resumed her normal voice. “Yeah, I’d rather avoid that myself. Your secret’s as safe with me as mine is with you.”
Amy narrowed her eyes, still smiling. “So you’re planning to use it in a novel written under a pseudonym as well?”
Daria shrugged. “Hey, whichever one of us gets published first buys the other a Mediterranean Crustacean Sensation pizza.”
Amy nodded. “You’re on.”
Eiji stroked his chin. “I’ve been in this country for almost thirty years, and I still don’t understand Americans.”
Daria walked into Jane’s room carrying a COBB (Chicken, Onion, Bacon and Beef) pizza and a 2-liter bottle of Ultra Cola after being let into the house by Trent. Jane set down her paints as Daria entered. “Pizza and Caffeine; if the situation were different, I’d say I love you.”
Daria rolled her eyes. “I’m having a tough enough time dealing with girls telling me they love me as it is.”
Jane smiled as she grabbed a piece of pizza. “It’s what researchers have termed RUS: Reverse Upchuck Syndrome.”
Daria poured the cola into two plastic cups, and handed one to Jane. “Maybe if I start acting sleazy, people would go back to leaving me alone.”
Jane shook her head and swallowed her pizza. “Mmm-mmm; that will only cause more people to fawn over you. A geeky guy acting sleazy gets ignored. A girl acting sleazy gets trampled, especially someone like you who could have the sexy librarian market cornered.”
Daria sipped her soda. “Librarian, I’ll give you. Sexy, I’ll leave to public opinion.”
Jane drained her soda and started pouring another soda. “So, how was last night? Have fun relaxing in that hotel room?”
Daria shrugged. “The room was nice, but it might have given me too much time to think.”
Jane smirked. “I’m surprised Sandi gave you any time to think.”
Daria froze mid-bite and swallowed slowly. “What do you mean by that?”
Jane’s smirk left her face. “Look, I know Sandi was up in that hotel room with you. I’m okay with it, don’t worry, but…”
Daria couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “You know? How? How could anyone know?”
Jane looked into Daria’s eyes. “Well, your reaction now pretty much confirms it, for one.” Daria was silent at that. Jane continued, “Plus, I’ve seen your reaction whenever I bring Sandi up. You never really mentioned letting Sandi down when she came out to you. Going to that hotel, the cost involved, not letting me share in the luxury, it all would have made me suspicious.”
Daria cocked an eyebrow. “Would have?”
Jane put a hand on the back of her neck. “Well, I kind of overheard you and Sandi talking on the roof yesterday, among other things.”
Daria was beet red at that. “You were up on the roof?”
Jane indicated the negative. “Actually, I was in the girls’ room: the same girls’ room where Sandi kissed you the first time.” She arched her eyebrow to emphasize her point.
Gears in Daria’s head started moving. “So Tuesday, if Kevin and Brittany were on the roof making out during lunch…”
“Which they generally are,” interjected Jane.
“Then they would have overheard Sandi telling Tiffany she was gay,” finished Daria.
Jane folded her hands together. “So now we need to figure out an appropriate punishment for Tweedledum and Tweedledumber. Maybe have you two make out while they’re forced to watch.”
Daria grimaced. “I fail to see how that would qualify as punishment.”
Jane shrugged. “Well, I would imagine Brittany would beat up Kevin the entire time just for looking. Plus, I wouldn’t give them a cut on the video sales royalties.”
Daria sighed. “I wouldn’t count your royalties just yet. I’m not sure there’ll be a repeat of last night.”
Jane was concerned over Daria’s comment. “Daria, are you all right?”
Daria shook her head. “I don’t know. I feel like…I might love her eventually, but I know I don’t like her.”
Jane was stunned. “Oh.”
Daria continued. “I mean, she makes me feel really good. Not just last night, but just being with her. I feel wanted. I feel like I could stop thinking and be happy the rest of my life, but when I start thinking, I don’t know what I’m doing with her.”
Jane considered this. “I’m guessing you’re not ready to turn off your brain right now.”
Daria sighed again. “No, every thought points to breaking it off, even when all my emotions say to stay.”
Jane stood up. “Okay, let me check a few things out to see if I can help you. Do you still love Tom?”
Daria looked down at her feet. “I don’t know. I think so.”
Jane continued. “If both Sandi and Tom were out of your life, would you look for a man or a woman?”
Daria shrugged. “I don’t know. I’d look for a person. I guess the gender wouldn’t really be important.”
Jane made a mental note of that answer. “If you and Sandi were suddenly unable to be physical, would you keep spending time with her?”
Daria paused for a moment, and then shook her head. “No. Unless she was willing to keep her being in the Fashion Club separate from my life, and she wanted to start becoming more like, well, us I guess, we wouldn’t get along for very long.”
Jane smiled at Daria’s response. “Do you regret last night?”
Daria immediately said, “No.”
Jane finished with, “And did it matter that it was Sandi with you that night?”
Daria looked up, understanding what Jane meant. “No. Sandi could have been any girl.”
Jane shrugged, “So why settle for just any girl? You deserve the best.”
Daria smiled. “Except for the fact that you’re straight.”
Jane smiled. “Flattery will get you everywhere. Besides, I’ve almost had a girl talk me into bed despite my previous certainty in my heterosexuality.”
Daria cocked an eye at
Jane. “Previous certainty? You said she was wrong about
Jane tried to explain. “She was, I think. Look; I still think I’m straight. I’m just not as sure of it as I was before I met her. Now with this going on…”
Daria sighed. “Jane, please; I have enough to figure out as it stands. Please don’t declare your undying love for me right now.”
Jane tried to reassure Daria. “I’m not saying that. All I’m saying is, well,” she paused, “you’re a good friend. I don’t want that to change. Just know that if you break up with Sandi, you don’t have to face it alone.”
Daria looked into Jane’s eyes, which looked back into hers. “Thank you. I think that’s exactly what I needed to hear. Now, back to the subject of punishing Kevin and Brittany.”
Jane smiled. “Now we’re talking!”
At almost exactly four o’clock, Daria heard the doorbell ring at her house. She walked over to the door from the living room sofa and opened the door. Seeing the girl in front of her, she let her in wordlessly, closed the door, and let Sandi take her into her arms. As Daria let Sandi kiss her, she couldn’t help but notice an almost forceful nature to the kiss.
Sandi broke the kiss. “I could spend forever like this.”
Daria disagreed. “Well, maybe if we were horizontal rather than vertical.”
Sandi winked. “That can be arranged.” She walked past Daria, sitting down on the sofa. “So, I was thinking; maybe we could spend tonight under the stars.”
Daria eyed Sandi warily. “Sandi, you know Quinn will be home at seven. Besides, I don’t think either of us wants to have neighbors overhearing us getting friendly in the back yard.”
Sandi shook her head. “I mean, why don’t we spend the next couple hours under the stars on the ceiling in your bedroom?”
Daria understood. “Oh. Wait, how did you know about that?”
Sandi shrugged. “Well, I was over for that Fashion Club meeting when you were putting them up. I passed by when you turned off the lights and let them shine. I really liked that look.”
Daria smiled. “I see. That was a pretty nice job Jane did on my ceiling.”
Sandi looked at her feet. “It must be nice to have someone willing to do something like that for you.”
Daria decided to push the question. “What about Quinn?”
Sandi shuddered slightly. “It’s not the same. For every time one of us helps the other, there’s another time we knock each other down. Well, I mean, she doesn’t really try to hurt me. She just does what I’m trying to do and makes it look easy. I try to bring her down to my level, and it always ends up backfiring.”
“I wouldn’t exactly call you the Snidely Whiplash to her Dudley Do-Right,” replied Daria. “To be honest, if you two ever got on the same side, you could be a pretty scary team.”
Sandi shook her head. “If only.”
Daria didn’t let Sandi out of it. “I’m serious. There’s power in a Morgendorffer-Griffin team-up. Just think about our mothers getting on the same side of anything.”
Sandi had to agree. “Well, there is that. There’s also the most recent Morgendorffer-Griffin union. There was a fair amount of power there too.”
Daria smiled. “Almost too much power. You were pretty competitive near the end.”
Sandi shrugged. “Well, I got it in my mind that you were going to be first. I guess you got it in yours that I was going to be first.”
Daria thought back to that night, an easy task as it had been on her mind ever since. “I guess you got your way that night.”
Sandi walked over to Daria. “Well, if you’d like to have it your way tonight, that can be arranged, too.”
Daria sighed. “Sandi…”
Sandi noticed the change in Daria’s mood. “What’s wrong?”
Daria fought back the tears that were on the verge of forming. “Sandi, I don’t think I can go on like this.”
Sandi was shocked. “What?”
Daria continued. “I don’t think there’s much of a future between us.”
Sandi was upset. “Look, I’m sorry about last night…”
Daria stopped Sandi. “Don’t be. I’m certainly not. Last night was one of the greatest nights I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t change a second. But how long would this go on? I mean, how long do you think we could keep this a secret from everyone at school? From our parents? From Quinn? Are you ready to be seen around school on my arm?”
A stunned Sandi could only say, “Sure, why not? Lesbian chic is the next wave. I mean, that’s not why I went for you, but…” She trailed off, not sure what else to say.
Daria continued. “Okay, never mind that I’m another girl. I’m one of the bigger outcasts in school already. I don’t plan on becoming a fashion plate for you. I don’t want to join the Fashion Club or go shopping with you or discuss which eyeliner works best for my eyes. Are you ready to learn about foreign films? Do you want to get into discussions about the latest book I read? Are you ready to hang out with Jane and comment on the world around us, other than comments about clothes?”
Sandi considered all of this. “It sounds so boring.”
Daria shrugged. “It’s my life. Look, you’re a much better person than the girl I thought I knew a week ago. You’re smarter than you act, so look at it this way: forget about our moments of passion. Forget about kissing and hugging and making out and what we did last night. Are there any other reasons for you to want to go out with me?”
Sandi thought about that. “Well, I do think you’re beautiful. Not to mention you…I mean…when you…”
Daria nodded. “Do you really think I’m beautiful?”
Sandi nodded. “Yes! You almost look as good as Qui…” She stopped suddenly.
Daria closed her eyes. “Quinn.”
Sandi bowed her head. “Yeah, Quinn. Everywhere I turn, it always comes back to freaking Quinn.”
Daria saw that Sandi was starting to cry and walked over to her. Sandi stood and buried her head against Daria’s chest. “Oh Daria,” she said between sobs, “I knew this was going to happen. That’s why I left this morning. I thought that if I ran away, then maybe I could stop it.”
Daria couldn’t stop a few tears of her own from falling. “I know, but you know as well as I do this couldn’t last.”
Sandi’s muffled voice pressed on. “I just wanted it to last a little bit longer.”
Daria gently pushed Sandi away from her so that she could look into her face. “I’d rather stop now and always remember our night together, instead of dragging it out and forgetting why we ever got together in the first place.”
Sandi conceded that. “I guess that makes sense. So, now what do we do?”
“You get over me, I help you find what you really want, and we both get ready for tomorrow. But first,” Daria wrapped her arms around Sandi, “you kiss me for the last time.”
Quinn came home around seven, and found Daria in her bedroom at her computer. “God, Daria; you have the house to yourself for a whole day, and you’re in here playing video games.”
Daria deadpanned, “Well the Swiss Bobsled team had to leave early, so I figured I’d take out my frustrations on some pixels.”
Quinn rolled her eyes. “Anyway, I bumped into Jane downtown…”
Daria turned to look at her sister skeptically. “You bumped into Jane?”
Quinn continued. “Well, she bumped into me. Actually, she almost fell on me after that musician guy she hangs out with knocked her over with his guitar holder thingie.”
Daria, struck by the oddity of the situation, asked, “Quinn, what were you doing at the Zon?”
Quinn looked annoyed. “Well I wouldn’t have been there if Stevie had any idea ‘where cool people hang out.’ I mean, a grungy 18+ bar playing alt rock? Please! So anyway, Jane told me you wanted the Fashion Club to meet you in the girls’ room at noon tomorrow. What’s happening?”
Daria cracked her knuckles nervously. “Well, we think we’ve figured out why those rumors about Sandi and me spread so quickly. I want you guys to be witnesses so that we can straighten things out, pun not intended.”
Quinn was confused. “What pun?”
Daria shook her head. “Never mind. Just have your friends there during lunch, and we’ll take care of the rest. I’d kind of like to get this behind me now.”
Quinn nodded. “I can imagine. I mean, Sandi’s probably ready for people to stop calling her gay too, but at least she doesn’t mind that people are talking about her. I’m sure you wouldn’t mind if the rumor mills never mentioned you again.”
Daria agreed. “I don’t care who talks about me, as long as I don’t have to hear about it or actively deny what they’re saying. Since rumor mills never leave well enough alone, I’ll prefer to remain invisible.”
Quinn shrugged. “It’s almost too bad. Every time they mention you, they’re trying to hurt you. It’s not so bad when they’re talking about things you don’t mind hearing.”
Daria rolled her eyes. “The day the rumormongers start peddling stories about getting good grades is the day the world comes to an end.”
Quinn laughed at that. “Yeah, that would be pretty weird.” She turned around to leave. When she reached the door, she stopped herself. A mental debate waged inside her head. Finally, she decided to ask. “Daria, would you mind answering a question, honestly?”
Daria froze, afraid of what Quinn might ask. “Okay.”
Quinn gathered her willpower to break through the part of her that didn’t want to know, so that she could satisfy the part of her that needed to know. “Are you gay?”
Daria was somewhat relieved, since Quinn didn’t ask about Sandi directly, but didn’t feel any better. “I don’t really know right now. I mean, I think I love Tom. I’m not even sure about that right now. Jane’s a good friend, but I’m not sure I want to risk losing that to see if there’s anything more. All I know right now is that if I know in the future that I’ve found the right person to spend my life with, I won’t let their gender matter, one way or the other.”
Quinn listened to Daria’s words. “That’s…a pretty good way to think about it.”
Daria shrugged. “After the past week, it’s the only way I can think about it.”
Quinn’s mind was locking pieces into place. “So, when you find the person you want to be with…”
Daria finished, “Don’t let anything get in the way.”
Quinn asked, “Even the rumor mills?”
Daria nodded. “Especially the rumor mills.”
Quinn smiled. “Thanks Daria.”
Daria half-smiled. “You’re welcome. Five cents please.”
Friday progressed like practically any other day, which was unusual for the week. As lunch began, however, Daria, Jane, Sandi, Quinn, Stacy, and Tiffany gathered in the same girls’ room where everything had begun on Monday. One item was present in the room that was not on that day, and Sandi questioned its presence. “What exactly do we need a vacuum cleaner here for? It’s not like they carpet the bathroom.”
Daria motioned for Sandi to be quiet. “I’ll tell you in a moment. Right now, everyone needs to be quiet.”
Everyone stayed silent, and it became obvious that someone else wasn’t being quiet. The sound of two students kissing became obvious, and from the sound of the female voice, one of them was Brittany.
Stacy was the first to speak, quietly. “Brittany? What’s she doing in here?”
Jane gestured around. “You saw for yourself; we’re the only people in here. Besides, I doubt we’d overlook her bringing Kevin into the girls’ room.”
Tiffany spoke next. “So, they’re in a secret compartment in the mirror?” She emphasized her question by trying to look under the mirror she was just looking into.
Daria decided to stop the wild guessing. “Actually, they’re up on the roof. There’s a ventilation shaft that goes right up to where they’ve chosen to spend ‘quality time.’” She made quotes in the air with her fingers to make her point. “Jane, move the vacuum up to the ventilation shaft. Sandi, just follow my lead.” She resumed a somewhat louder tone. “I’m sorry Sandi, but we just can’t be going out anymore.” The sounds coming from the roof stifled as Brittany tried to stop her man.
Sandi continued, “Um, I can’t believe you won’t give it another chance, and after all of the good times we’ve had together.”
From above, they heard Brittany say, “Oh no! Daria and Sandi are breaking up!”
Kevin’s voice followed hers. “Aw man! That would have been really hot!”
Brittany’s sternest voice followed. “Kevin, this is serious!”
Daria, wanting to make sure she had their attention. “Sandi, before I let you go, I need to tell you one thing.” She heard Brittany shushing Kevin again, and finished in a softer tone. “Now, Jane!”
Jane switched on the vacuum, which had been set on reverse. As a result, the gathered dust, dirt, and everything else that had been sucked up over the week flew out of the vacuum hose, into the ventilation shaft, and to the roof. The distraught cries of the QB and head cheerleader could be heard loud and clear.
Satisfied by the results, Jane switched off the vacuum. “Mission accomplished.”
Daria corrected Jane. “Not just yet.” She turned to the Fashion Club. “Girls, Sandi and I have a confession to make.” She saw Quinn get nervous. “For the past couple days, the two of us were going out with each other.”
Sandi continued what Daria was saying. “We wanted to see if there was anything to the rumors, and aside from what might be considered a strong initial attraction, we both agreed that it couldn’t work out.”
Stacy spoke up. “Wait, you’re saying that…both you and Daria are…you know, like that?”
Daria answered Stacy’s question. “The word is gay, and as for me, I’m not really sure what I am right now. I need more time to figure it out.”
Sandi interrupted Daria. “I, however, now believe – and this is not to leave this room at this time – that I am, in fact, a lesbian.
This admission shocked everyone, including Daria, who wasn’t sure whether Sandi would go through with admitting it.
Tiffany spoke first. “So, does that mean Jason’s free?”
Sandi shrugged. “If you would be interested in him, I could arrange to have him transferred to you.”
Daria couldn’t resist commenting. “Just fill out the proper paperwork and allow 8-12 weeks for board approval.”
Sandi asked, “So you guys are okay with me being into women?”
Stacy nodded. “Of course, Sandi. I mean, more guys for the rest of us, right?”
Quinn spoke up. “Well, this has been a really interesting lunch break, but I think we should really get out to the lunch room before they run out of salads, so I really think…”
Sandi cut Quinn off. “Actually, Quinn, there is one more thing I believe we need to discuss. I have it on good authority that a statement you made was, while not untrue, somewhat misleading.”
Quinn was quite nervous at that. “Um, what do you mean, Sandi?”
Sandi smiled. “You stated on Monday that you had kissed a girl before. It has come to my attention that your definition of kissing a girl did not involve kissing on the mouth.”
Quinn knew she was caught. “But Sandi, how was I supposed to know that you meant on the mouth?”
Tiffany responded, “What else would count as a kiss?”
Stacy didn’t understand. “What do you mean…?” She trailed off as she saw Sandi’s eyes glaring at her. “Um, I mean, exactly! Kissing a girl would have to mean on the lips, right?”
Sandi’s satisfied smirk returned. “So Quinn, I think it’s only fair that to keep from disqualifying the bet, you should kiss me on the lips.”
Quinn was practically shaking where she stood. “What? That’s not fair!”
Sandi eyes were ice. “Is it fair to goad me into something you aren’t willing to do? Are you afraid of what one kiss might mean?”
Quinn sputtered, “No! It’s just, I never, I didn’t…”
Sandi twisted the knife one final time. “Hmm, maybe that’s why you never let guys kiss you. I mean, if you’re a bad kisser, maybe they’d stop dating you.”
That did it. “What? I’ll show you who's a bad kisser!” With that, she walked over to Sandi, wrapped her arms around the president of the Fashion Club, and proceeded to kiss Sandi deeply. At first her aggression showed, but as it continued, Quinn’s face softened, and the kiss became more tender. They allowed their tongues to touch briefly, and the sensation was as if an electric spark had jumped from one tongue to the other. When they finally stopped, they opened their eyes and looked at each other. Quinn’s first words were, “So, am I still a bad kisser?”
Sandi smirked. “I don’t know, I may need further convincing.”
Quinn smiled widely, happy over what she heard. “That can be arranged.”
Jane spoke up. “Ahem. As much as I’m enjoying the free show, I should note that there will likely be additional girls coming into here any minute now, since lunch is winding down. Unless you two are interested in coming out to the whole school today, I suggest you wait until later.”
Quinn and Sandi blushed brightly. “Oops,” said Quinn, “I forgot there was anyone else here besides the two of us.”
Daria smiled at her sister. I know that feeling.
“These Italian Islanders practice arias during the day and practice on areolas at night! The Singing Sicilian Scissor Sisters next on Sick Sad World!”
Jane looked up from her sketchpad over at Daria, who was sitting at her computer desk. “So Quinn helped Sandi put her shattered heart back together, and they lived fashionably ever after.”
Daria looked up from her screen. “I’m not sure exactly how shattered Sandi’s heart was at that point. I think she realized it wouldn’t have worked out.”
Jane shrugged. “Maybe so, but it’s never easy realizing a relationship is about to crash. Of course, it’s not like you went off and kissed Quinn.”
Daria winced. “Thank you; I needed that thought in my head.”
Jane smiled. “Any time. By the way, you seemed pretty nonchalant when Quinn kissed Sandi. I would have thought you’d be jealous.”
Daria rested her chin on her hand. “Honestly, that’s what I thought, but when I saw it, I could only feel happy for them. It’s like both of them found what they were looking for, and now I don’t have to worry about Sandi trying to convince me to change my mind about her.”
Jane asked, “So, have you gotten back with Tom yet?”
Daria sighed. “I’ve been trying to put that off as long as I can. I don’t know if I can tell him I spent the night with another woman.”
Jane moved her legs off the bed and sat up. “Well, at least you didn’t go out with me. I’d bet Tom would take that as me trying to get back at him for dumping me for you.”
“Probably,” came a voice from outside the door, “but at least he’d understand it.” To the shock of the two girls in the room, Tom Sloane walked into the room. His face was blank, as if he wasn’t sure what emotion to put on first. “Jane, nice to see you.”
Jane stumbled for words. “Um, yes. You’re looking well. I’d imagine you have a few things to talk about, so I’ll just…”
Tom put a hand up to stop her. “Don’t bother. I won’t be here long.”
Daria tried to explain. “Tom, I’m sorry, but…”
Tom interrupted. “You said to trust you. You said you wouldn’t go with any other man. Was I supposed to use telepathy to figure out what you meant?”
Daria stammered. “I…um…”
Tom continued. “I don’t care who it was. I really don’t care that it was a woman. I don’t even care if all you did was play Parcheesi all night. The fact is you betrayed my trust for one night of whatever you did. If I can’t trust you to be honest about seeing someone else, how can I trust you to stay faithful to me?”
Daria sighed. “I guess you can’t.”
Tom walked up to Daria. “Finally, the truth, but it’s too little too late. All you had to do was tell me you wanted to experiment. Just tell me you had to get one little itch out of your system. I wouldn’t have been happy, but I’d have understood. Hell, I’d have probably joked about joining you. But you couldn’t tell me. You couldn’t tell me, but you did it anyway. I’m sorry, but I can’t keep going like this. Jane, I’m sorry you had to hear this, but I know she’s going to need you here after I leave.”
Jane waved it off, shocked from what she had heard. “It’s all right, really.”
Daria looked into Tom’s eyes. “Tom, is there anything I can do to save this?”
Tom shook his head. “There was before, but it’s gone now. I’m sorry, but it’s all over. I hope she was worth it.” With that, Tom stormed out of the room, down the stairs, and out the front door.
Jane walked over to Daria, who was nearly motionless in her chair. “Daria, are you all right?” Daria mumbled something Jane didn’t understand. “What was that?”
Daria’s eyes finally teared up. “She was worth it. The passion, the knowledge, the betrayal; she was worth every damn minute of it.” She collapsed against Jane’s chest as emotion overtook her.