Tigresses of Lawndale – Part 1 – Unfortunately, it's Fall
By Dr T
The first day of school brings surprises and changes, many of them (unusually) actually welcomed.
Jane and Daria walked through the corridors of Lawndale High, a bit surprised they were finally starting their senior year, and with very mixed feelings about being there. "How did the pre-school conference with Ms Li go?" Jane asked.
"Very well, actually," Daria admitted. "By Mom paying Ashton University as well as the colony, I got university credit for two creative writing courses. Why take a high school AP writing course? Mom and Ms Li of course wanted me to take something else, so I can finally take Spanish as well as French, since I've fulfilled all my regular language arts requirements to graduate."
"But, if you take senior Spanish. . . ."
"I'll have Spanish, but not English, with you. I almost switched from Barch's science, until I remembered that I'll have that with you as well this year."
"Oh, well done! Any word from Tom?"
"No, not yet, anyway. I really don't expect him to call."
"He dumped you at least in part because you changed. His mother would have told him about you, and probably mentioned me. However she described me, I bet it was different from the way he saw me," Daria pointed out. "As you told me a few weeks ago, if he does call and we do go out, he'll find a slightly different Daria that the sarcastic mouse he probably saw me as last year."
"True," Jane had to agree. "Although I don't think 'mouse' was ever a good description of you."
"Minx, maybe. . . ."
The pair walked past Sandi and Tiffany, who were waiting for Quinn and Stacy to come out of the bathroom. Tiffany said nothing; in fact she barely moved. Sandi, however, thought, 'Those two still dress like geeks, but that tan looks good on them. The art girl grew about an inch, but Quinn's sister didn't grow much at all. Huh, she's even wearing lipstick . . . no, she's wearing lip gloss.' It bothered Sandi that Quinn now openly admitted Daria was her sister; as it was one less thing she could hold over Quinn.
'But even though they still dress funny, look at them walk,' Sandi realized as she continued to watch them. 'They walk differently; they're confident. In fact, they're turning more of the boys' heads than we did this morning!'
Sandi saw the pair go up to Jodie and Mack. Sandi knew she would never want to be friendly with those two girls, but she was glad they at least were unlikely to ever be enemies.
In high school, as in business, that was often good enough.
"Wow, you two look good!" Jodie exclaimed. "Good summer at the art colony?"
"Outstanding, actually," Daria admitted, surprising the pair not only by her positive statement, but because Daria just seemed a bit more full of life than usual. "If I had planned the summer there, it would have gone differently, but it could not have gotten much better."
"I have to agree," Jane said. "And you two?"
"The ice cream truck sucked," Mack said. "I'm glad I could turn it over to Kevin and Brittany a few weeks ago, even if they did mess up badly."
"My summer sucked, too," Jodie admitted. "I'm glad it went well for someone! Say, is there any chance of you two joining. . . ."
"No!" Daria and Jane stated. After all, they had changed, especially Daria, but they hadn't changed that much.
Ms Li's voice suddenly came over the P.A. system: "Welcome back, students! And remember, the school nurse is in and ready to take your voluntary urine sample. Show your Lawndale High spirit with the gift of urine!"
"Eew" and similar noises were heard all along the hall way, the loudest from the now-four members of the Fashion Club, just walking past Daria, Jane, Jodie, and Mack.
Daria sighed. "I hate high school."
"Let's talk about college!" Jodie suggested.
Daria looked at her friends. "That's not a bad idea. Conference at Pizza Prince right after school?"
"No practice today!" Mack pointed out. "I'm in!"
"I'm supposed to practice networking," Jodie mused. "Shall we network over pizza?"
"Sounds good to me!" Jane agreed.
The first bell rang, and everyone in the hall made for their home rooms. Kevin rushed past the quartet, knocking Jodie into Jane. "Hey!" Mack exclaimed angrily, but Kevin didn't notice.
Jane rolled her eyes and asked wistfully, "Isn't it time for college yet?"
Helen sat nervously at the discrete table at The Settlement, the preferred restaurant for the legal community in the area. When she had arrived that morning, Helen had expected the pile of worthless work Eric had managed to generate over the weekend to be a huge one, with at least two crises needing to be dealt with, especially since, after nine messages from Eric Friday night and Saturday morning demanding that Helen pick up the phone, there had one from James Vitale, the senior (and managing) partner, sent just before Helen had arrived back from picking Daria and Jane up from Ashfield, telling her to ignore the previous messages. Instead, there had been nothing, and no sign of Eric or the other partners that morning.
The silence had worried her, to say the least.
Then, at 11:05, Vitale's secretary had called her, and told her to be at The Settlement by 11:45.
Helen had been there since 11:30.
She looked up as Vitale slipped into her seat next to her with a nod. The original firm of Vitale, Horowitz, Riordan, and Schrecter had been formed by three then-young men who had become friends in law school (Vitale, Horowitz, and Riordan). They had then taken in an older lawyer with excellent connections in the area, who had wanted to join a smaller law firm with great ambitions. His oldest son (Eric Schrecter) had just been admitted to the Maryland Bar Association, while his younger son, Matt, had just started law school.
When Helen had joined the firm, she had been one of eighteen associates, along with three 'senior associates' (theoretically under consideration of becoming partners) and thirty junior associates. All three senior associates had left the firm, as had seven of the other regular associates. Some had taken various Federal appointments, while the rest had left to take positions with various corporate legal teams. Helen was currently the only senior associate, promoted to that position shortly after she and her family had visited 'the Retreat.' The other senior associate still remaining at that time, appointed after Helen had joined the firm, had left two months later.
"Ah, Helen," Vitale said with a humorless smile, "did you order yet?"
"No, I thought I should wait for you," she answered.
Vitale looked at her. He knew she must be nervous at the least. In fact, she had been clearly nervous until she had caught sight of him. Now, however, her voice was as cool and unshaken as her manner. Most people who knew him thought that he had no nerves; he did, he just had perfected the art of not showing them. "Let's order something and then talk." A gesture brought a waiter in a hurry. Vitale was one of a dozen or so steady customers who had to be treated with extra respect, not so much for his current high position in the legal community but because he knew food and wine, and tipped very well when given top service.
"The small filet mignon, rare; small house salad with just olive oil; and. . . ." He looked at Helen. "What are you ordering, Helen?"
"I'll have the same, but cooked medium well-done," Helen answered.
"Yes, madam." The waiter looked at Vitale.
"Do you still have any of the Eighty-two Haut Brion in half bottles?" he asked.
"I will have to check, sir," the waiter admitted.
"If you do, please bring it decanted and then wait forty-five minutes before bringing lunch. If not, tell me what older Bordeaux or Cabernet you do have in half bottles."
"Yes, sir!" Meanwhile, a junior waiter stepped in to fill their water glasses.
Vitale looked at Helen as they were left alone. "You accidentally have caused us some major problems, Helen."
"Oh," Helen replied, startled. "How so?" She was confused. When Vitale was upset, he was known to order whatever wine was on the menu for that day as 'by the glass;' or worse, he ordered decaf coffee. How good a mood he was in was shown by what he ordered, and an '82 Haut Brion should have meant he was in a very good mood.
"In a moment. Let's see what news the waiter has."
The waiter came over with two different half bottles and presented them. "Sorry," Vitale said, "I just won't risk an Eighty-four at any price. We'll take the Eighty-five, but we'll have to wait an hour for that to open. Please bring us the salads in forty-five minutes anyway."
Vitale shifted his eyes back to Helen. "As you know, Eric is brilliant in the courtroom; he's one of the best civil trial lawyers in the state. He is also usually impressive as hell with most clients." Helen merely nodded and sipped her water.
"Unfortunately, he is highly strung when he's not containing himself in front of others. In the twenty-three years he's been with us, he's had to go into de-tox eleven times, three in the last two years alone, and had to take six other enforced vacations. I think he and his father have driven off all the other senior associates. Most of the decent-to-excellent associates and junior associates we've lost have been driven out just by baby-sitting Eric." Vitale made a face. "You've lasted almost two full years, nearly a year longer than anyone else. He's fought tooth-and-nail to prevent you from rotating to any of the other partners. Abe has especially been trying to get you under his wing for over a year."
Helen blinked at that. Vitale was the driving force behind the firm's success, but Horowitz had long replaced the elder Schrecter as the main source for new clients.
Vitale merely noted Helen's reaction. "Now, had you been available for baby-sitting duty this past weekend, as usual, Eric probably would have settled down as he usually does, at least for a week or so. Instead, he again worked himself up over nothing."
"Oh, dear," was all Helen said.
Vitale nodded. "Do not in any way blame yourself. No one, not even his father or brother, does in any way."
That got a slight reaction from Helen. This sounded worse than usual. "What happened?"
"His wife was also gone for the weekend, visiting the kids. Eric got himself upset, apparently tried to settle himself down with a large amount of scotch, and then tried driving to the country club Saturday morning, no doubt for a liquid lunch."
"He wreaked his car on the way?"
"Was anyone hurt?"
"Only Eric; which is why it was not reported in the press." Vitale raised his hand to stop questions. "Eric was seriously injured; at this time it is not clear how badly but it is not good for him no matter what. He will certainly never walk again; it is possible he will never even wake up." Helen's hand flew to her face. "His father is taking it hard. This, after two heart attacks . . . well, he decided he needed to take it easy. We are now again merely Vitale, Horowitz, Riordan and Schrecter albeit with a different Schrecter. Would you feel capable of taking over Eric's total case load, along with his associates and juniors? We feel you would be. The other partners would be taking over the rest of the work."
Helen considered. "If I know of all his cases, then, yes I could. I would hope someone could tell me if there are cases I don't know about."
When Vitale said nothing, only nodding agreement, Helen asked, "In what capacity would I be assuming those cases?"
Helen frowned. "And what would that mean?"
Vitale actually smiled. "Full speaking rights in all meetings on all issues, pay on the same terms as the four senior partners, but no voting rights on personnel issues. We want to consider adding at least two other partners. We certainly have the work! We will be talking to Joan Carroll, Jim Vance, Toni Hiller, Karl Jordan, and Frank Jilton." Helen nodded. Two were former senior associates, the other three were active young attorneys in the area. "We will consult with you and listen to you, but we will decide who to bring on board. At that point, you and they will be full senior partners. We'll be Vitale, Horowitz, Riordan, Schrecter, Morgendorffer, blank, and blank."
"I would like that very much," Helen replied. She looked Vitale in the eye. "If Joan or Jim make it a condition of joining, their name can go ahead of mine."
"Only if necessary," Vitale replied, satisfied. Helen had confirmed she was a team player without being asked.
"Although, my older daughter did have an interesting idea. . . ." Helen continued with a smirk that impressed the older man.
Jim held out his hand. "We welcome your ideas, partner."
Helen simply smiled and shook his hand.
"Everyone want a slice and cola?" Mack asked later that afternoon.
Daria gestured for Mack to sit. "My treat," she said. "In fact, if you both have the time and want to talk, I'll get us each a small, however you want it."
Jane's eyes narrowed and demanded, "And just where did this sudden affluence, not to mention generosity, come from?"
Daria shrugged and replied, "I'll tell you after I order, if you want to know."
"I don't know," Jodie mused. "Mom won't mind me missing dinner since this is my free time, but a small is a bit much for me."
"Jane can handle one, and yours and mine will be quartered, and if we can't finish the last quarter, I bet Mack would be happy to," Daria retorted, a small smile on her face.
That made both Jodie and Mack blink. Daria had seemed more relaxed all day than they were used to seeing her. Daria merely looked at Jane, saying, "Pepper mix, onions, extra cheese, and those disgusting fish, right?"
"Anchovies are a perfectly acceptable pizza topping," Jane retorted.
"You only think so because they were the only thing that the band wouldn't eat," Daria retorted.
"Well, there is some truth to that," Jane admitted.
"I'm getting the carnivore with extra cheese. Mack?"
Mack shrugged and said, "If you're buying, I'll take the same. Can I at least get the drinks?"
"This is only partially a matter of principle, so sure," Daria agreed. "Jodie?"
"You won't laugh?" Jodie asked.
"Well, I might smirk a little if it's cheeseless, but no, I won't laugh," Daria assured her.
"Mushroom and pineapple."
"Different, but not laughable," Daria agreed.
When Daria returned, she sat, turned to Jane, and said, "It turns out Aunt Amy started a college fund for her nieces."
"You're not in college yet," Jane pointed out needlessly.
"True. Anyway," she continued, turning to Mack and Jodie, "Both sides of my mother's family are old money FFVs."
"FFVs?" Mack asked while Jodie scowled
"First Families of Virginia," Daria responded. "And yes, I am disgusted by some of those implications."
Jodie and Mack merely nodded their understanding.
"Anyway, Mom and her two sisters inherited a fair bit when their grandparents and father died; most is still in a trust partially controlled by my grandmother."
"Partially?" Jane asked.
"She can spend or invest all the interest, dividends, and so on as she wants, but can't touch the original principal or investments," Daria explained. "Anyway, my cousin, Quinn, and I are her only grandchildren. Erin got a two year business degree at the finishing school masquerading as a junior college that her mother, our grandmother, and at least three earlier generations all attended, back to its founding just after the Civil War. Aunt Amy decided she did not wish to aid in that endeavor and just sent Erin a small allowance. She decided after this summer to put the rest into my college fund, along with some other money she had saved. I get two hundred a week for the next ten years. Quinn will get half that over four years of college. And don't feel bad for Erin: Grandmother's college fund for her was twice what she put away for Quinn and me together. And don't feel too sorry for Quinn; Grandmother took what was left over from Erin's college fund and gave seventy percent to Erin as a graduation present, and divided the rest into Quinn and my college funds – twenty percent for Quinn, ten percent for me." Jane mere nodded, knowing the family dynamics to a degree, and also knowing that Daria's college fund from her Grandmother was still pretty fat. Mack and Jodie were surprised that Daria wasn't more valued by her family.
Daria shrugged. "I want to save most of this, of course, but Aunt Amy said I should spend a little for fun. This is my fun for the week."
"Thank you," Jodie said simply.
"Thanks," Mack agreed. "Why don't you tell us what you two did this summer?"
It took all the time until the pizzas were ready and half eaten to cover first the highlights of Jane and then Daria's summer at Ashfield. It was Jodie who asked Daria, "I can see how happy Jane is, and how proud you are, but why aren't you more, I don't know, satisfied with the three books?"
"Well, it sounds funny since I'm just seventeen, but I've already grown past most of the feelings that produced that writing, and that writing is of course underdeveloped since I was younger," Daria admitted. "I was at my worst the summer before I moved here – I was not thrilled by Highland, in fact just about any respect Lawndale is better. . . ." The other three shuddered at that truth. ". . . but I had carved out a niche was that I felt I might be able to live with by the end of ninth grade. Then, I got the news we were moving, but it could have been any one of four different places, and it just dragged out for the whole summer. Quinn started high school, and seemed to be determined to undermine what little peace, or at least equilibrium, I had there. Then we move here, and she was instantly a hit while I was tossed into self-esteem class. No offense," Daria said to Jane. "I couldn't know it would turn out well."
"This overly dark and angst-ridden writing, especially the violent revenge fantasies and poetry, helped me deal with some issues, and gave me lots of practice writing, and of course it helped get me into Ashfield. But the instructors were right: I don't want to have to keep writing like that. I need to develop my writing." Daria shrugged. "So, publishing it is good, but in the long run, it doesn't mean much."
"So, what's your plan for college?" Mack asked.
"Right now, doing nothing more, I have the choice between Bromwell and Raft. . . ."
"Not bad choices," Jodie put in, "but how can you be so sure of being accepted?"
"Well, it turns out that there are basically three types of degree programs," Daria answered. "At most colleges, you can declare most majors going in, although a few make you wait before declaring nearly all majors until you're a sophomore." Jodie and Mack nodded. "In any case, most schools have at least a few majors which can't be declared going in, usually some program where you need a certain GPA or need to pass certain prerequisites with minimum grades before being admitted." The two looked interested; they had not run into that before.
"But a few majors work differently – for example, most of the best art, music, and creative writing programs require you to apply to them as well as to the university – getting into the university doesn't mean you can get into the program, it's more the other way around. You have to send in portfolios for art or creative writing, or audition for music. If you are accepted by the program and meet the university's minimum requirements, you're in."
"And you meet. . . ." Jodie frowned. "How many times did you take the SATs?"
"Once, why? You were there, after all," Daria asked, puzzled. "Well, I did take some of the achievement tests last fall." Jane and Mack looked a little puzzled by that, but Jodie knew many of the elite schools required two or three of the subject tests, usually including writing.
"We both took it twice last year, and again last week," Jodie said drily. "Dad is determined that I go to Crestmore."
"And I've only been scouted by one college," Mack admitted. "If I don't want to go to Lawndale State as a regular student, I need to get my SAT score up to thirteen hundred and keep a solid B average for Vance."
"Do we want to know what you got?" Jodie asked.
"Well, I did surprisingly well on my Verbal," Jane said. "Six hundred. The less said about the Math the better." Since it had been a 300, Daria was not going to say anything.
"Fifteen-sixty," Daria said.
Jodie decided she did not want to know how Daria had done of the subject exams; it would likely depress her, although she had scored well enough herself. "I hope I got the fourteen-twenty Crestmore requires this time," she went on. "I don't want to take that exam again!" Seeing the unasked question, she replied, "Thirteen-sixty the first time, and then fourteen-hundred even."
"Twelve-hundred and then twelve-eighty," Mack added.
"Why Crestmore?" Daria asked. "It's a great school, but it's not Bromwell or the Big H."
"I think because Dad was rejected by their MBA program," Jodie said sadly. "I'd rather go to someplace like Turner, like he and his mother both did."
"I understand," Daria said. "Apply where else you want as well as Crestmore, and try selling your Dad on going to Crestmore for your MBA instead. Much better revenge, and a lot of schools prefer to take most of their grad students from other places, to give the students more view points or something."
"That might work," Jodie agreed. "I do want the MBA. So, your instructors were from Bromwell and Raft, I take it?"
"Senior members of their Creative Writing programs," Daria confirmed. She suddenly got a crafty look on her face. "Say, Mack, how would you like a good scholarship package at Raft, or even Bromwell?"
"Daria, don't tease," Mack warned. "I know I couldn't get into those places. I don't have the grades, I certainly don't play basketball well enough for either, and I doubt I could play football well enough for Bromwell." Raft didn't have a football team.
"Both men mentioned that their schools recruited ends and backfielders for lacrosse, since not enough schools have good lacrosse programs. Those students accepted under their sports programs need an SAT score of at least thirteen-fifty at both places. I certainly can't promise anything, other than a scout looking you over, but both men earned their undergrad degrees where they teach now and seemed oddly attached to their respective lacrosse teams, even though neither played. I do know they both have pull at their schools, especially the guy at Bromwell."
Mack looked thoughtful.
"We should get the results back in a few weeks," Jodie pointed out. "If you made the score, what can it hurt?"
"I guess it can't," Mack agreed. "I just play football for the other opportunities. I'd be at least as happy to play lacrosse again."
"Again?" Daria asked.
Mack nodded. "Lacrosse used to be a real varsity sport with separate boys and girls teams instead of the intramural mixed-gender sport it is now, with that tournament with three other schools. They had a junior development league version for seventh and eighth graders."
"Andrea and I were on Mack's team in seventh grade," Jane added. "It was actually kind of fun."
"It was," Mack agreed. He turned to Jane. "Do you have the same deal going somewhere that Daria does?"
"Not quite," Jane said. "I was told based on my art alone I would probably be accepted to BFAC. If I could raise the poor excuse for a Math score at least a hundred points, then I would certainly be accepted."
"I've tutored her a bit, as much in test-taking as in the actual math," Daria said. "In fact, we'll be going out to Oakwood in two weeks to take some exams, along with Quinn."
"Why Quinn?" Jodie asked.
"And what are you taking?" Mack asked.
"I've arranged to take some CLEP exams – standard exams to pass out of some general ed classes," Daria responded. "Quinn was tutored all summer, and in part we want her to take the exam while that's fresh in her mind, and in part, I think she'll do better when none of the fashion drones are nearby to distract her."
It was clear that Mack had either suddenly gotten an idea or had at least decided something, and he leaned over to whisper in Jodie's ear.
None of the teens noticed the solitary figure in the booth behind them, pretending to nurse a mega-large cola. He knew Daria was bright, but a 1560 SAT on the first try? Early Bromwell and Raft admissions? Publications? And Daria with more emotion, or at least positive emotion, in her voice than he had heard before? 'So much for my plans to coax shy Daria out of her shell,' Tom had to admit.
Tom was about to be blown out of the water.
Jodie's eyes went wide in surprise, and she turned to Mack. "Are you serious?"
"This is going to be a lulu," Jane muttered, while Daria rolled her eyes.
Mack turned to the two and asked, "What are you two doing Friday night?"
"Why?" Daria asked.
"How would you two like to come with Jodie, me, and two friends of mine to see the Shakespeare play at the Oakwood Community Theatre?"
Daria was too stunned to say anything, but Jane wasn't. "Shakespeare? Maybe. First, are you serious? Like a triple date?"
"Motivation?" Daria managed to squeeze out.
"Yours or mine?" Mack asked. "Mine is two help out four friends, and because Mister Landon prefers I not take Jodie out alone too often."
"Who?" Jane asked.
"John and Thor."
"Thor?" Daria demanded. "We have a classmate named Thor?"
"Theodore, or something like it," Jodie answered. "You can't have missed him. He's been literally about the biggest guy in the school since you've been here."
"That big blond football player? I take it this 'John' is the lanky guy with black hair he pals around with?"
"That's them," Mack confirmed. "I don't think you're in class with any of them." Since Daria, Jodie, and Mack were in all their classes together, it was a fair bet Mack would know.
"They've been in my math and science classes," Jane pointed out.
Daria scowled. "About the only time I've seen them, other than around the hallways, is here or the cafeteria, where they're egging Kevin on to do something stupid."
"It amuses them, and Kevin doesn't realize they're mocking him," Mack explained. Daria considered that, and decided to accept it was at least possible, although she wouldn't mind having that confirmed somehow.
Realizing that Daria would pay little attention to the members of the football team she rarely interacted with (which probably meant himself and Kevin, and possibly her sister's three puppies), Mack explained, "Even though he's the biggest guy on the team, Thor plays defensive lineman, while John is a safety." He did not want to explain too much; he knew Daria disliked being told things she already knew or could figure out.
"Are you guys moving to a three-four defense, with this guy as the nose guard?" Daria asked.
Mack was not really surprised she knew that. "That's right."
"And, since they only play defense, they don't mind mocking the QB?"
Mack almost smiled painfully. "None of us mind it, at least those of us on the varsity squad don't. A few of the ninth graders are temporarily suffering from a bit of hero worship I hope they grow out of as they talk with him. Still, those of us on offense have to protect the quarterback, no matter how much we want to punch him out," Mack corrected.
"And these two guys would want to see Shakespeare? With us?" Daria demanded.
"Mack's not the only smart guy on the football team," Jodie argued. "None of us are as smart as you. Both John and Thor have older siblings that Ms Li had some problems with, and so had problems with their parents. Plus both came to high school fluent in other languages, and Ms Li somehow used the lack of those credits to keep them out of the National Honor Students until last spring. If you came to any of the meetings other than on picture day, you'd have already known them, and known that they aren't as dumb as most of the team."
Mack winced but couldn't argue the point. Daria, who showed up on even on picture day only to appease her mother, merely shrugged.
"They're both musicians," Mack went on. "They're both in the choir and the orchestra. John plays cello, Thor plays bass. I don't know about John's plans, but Thor hopes to get into a music program."
"The reason you see them here so often is because John's parents operate this place and Pizza King out by the Mall," Jane said. "His family, the Yanuzzis, own a lot of pizza places in the area, at least one Italian restaurant, and even that little chain of gyro places." She turned fully to face Mack. "Actually, John and I went out a few times in ninth grade, before he got so involved in football and I started to do a lot of painting. Since Daria hasn't put in a claim, I'll try him again!"
"That's who I had in mind," Mack agreed.
"You want me, maybe five foot two and half and barely a hundred pounds, and those are with my boots, to go on a date with a guy who's what? Six foot four or five?"
"No, he must six foot seven and about two hundred and seventy now," Mack answered, amused. "Daria, in the nearly two years you've known me, have I ever steered you wrong?"
"You've never tried to steer me before," Daria pointed out.
"Have you ever known me to steer anyone, other than Kevin, wrong?" Mack asked.
Daria sighed. "Oh, hell. You win. Is the theatre dressy?"
"It's a community theater," Jodie answered. "They even sell popcorn and soda."
"I'll call the guys tonight," Mack added.
Unwilling to hear more, and knowing they might be leaving soon, a crushed Tom slinked away.
"What is the thunder god's last name, anyway?" Daria asked, sarcasm on full.
"Everybody! Stop where you are!" Helen commanded. It was 6:35 and Daria was just coming in the door. Quinn was coming down the stairs, obviously to wait for her date. Jake was already eyeing the gin and vermouth bottles. "Everyone sit! Since we didn't manage to have dinner, I have some things I need to tell you."
At that point, the phone rang. "Helloooo! Yes, she's here but she's busy at the moment. May I take a message? Yes, I understand and I'm sure Quinn will as well." Helen hung up the phone and told Quinn, "That was Gary; he said he was running a few minutes late, but would be here by Seven. And I asked everyone to sit!"
The other Morgendorffers quickly sat on the sofa. "Now, this is all good news. . . ."
"I hope we're not moving again," Daria nearly snapped. Seeing the look her mother was giving her, she returned it and demanded, "What? This is exactly how you told us you had gotten the job here and we were finally moving. None of us, not even Quinn, minded moving from Highland. We would mind moving from here."
"Well, it is about my job, but no, we're not moving," Helen said. "I know you're soon be rushing off, Quinn, so I'll just say Eric was in a very serious accident Saturday morning, and he is not expected to recover well enough to come back. His father took that very hard, and in fact, he had another heart attack, this time a serious one, early this afternoon. They have both been retired as partners. I've been named a junior partner. . . ."
"That's a new idea; what does it mean?" Daria asked.
"The partners feel they need to add one or two other new partners besides myself," Helen explained. "I am a full partner, except I don't get to vote on the other new partners, although I am expected to give my opinion. Once any other new partner is on board, we are all full partners."
Helen turned to Daria. "Jim liked your idea, and the tech company said they could get us lawndalelaw-dot-com. That will also be our new e-mail address and the partners have finally agreed to set up a web page. Our letterhead will have 'Lawndale Law: Partners and Associates' on top, and then list the partners' last names on the next line."
The three congratulated their mother, although Daria dragged Quinn away before she could ask about an increase in allowance.
"What was that for?" Quinn almost hissed.
"I could see you were about to hit Mom up for a raise in your allowance," Daria whispered back. "Trust me, all that would do is make her think you only care about getting more money, that that you're genuinely happy for her. I know," Daria added, halting any protest, "you are happy for her. Let her bask in that from all us. If she hasn't come up with the raise idea by Friday on her own, we can hit her up when they give us our allowance then."
Quinn nodded, "I suppose that would be better." She eyed Daria. "There's something else."
"There is," Daria agreed. "Mack set me and Jane up for a triple date on Friday with him and Jodie."
"Don't tell me who," Quinn said, thinking about who it could be. "Are you going someplace you and Jane might actually like?"
"Me at least," Daria answered. "We're going to see Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing at the Community Theatre over in Oakwood."
"Let me guess. John and Thor?"
Daria grimaced. "I refuse to call him 'Thor,' unless of course it upsets Mom and Dad."
"Oh, good, that would work better."
"What would?" Daria asked, confused.
"John and Jane, you and Thor, err, Theo," Quinn answered.
"The only thing I knew about them until this afternoon is that they are two of the footballers who egg Kevin on to heights of stupidity at Pizza Prince," Daria groused.
"And now you probably know John's parents run Pizza Prince and the family owns at least three other pizza places and Mario's over in Oakwood, and probably that they are in the school orchestra," Quinn pointed out, figuring those would be the main quick selling points Mack would come up with.
"Did it ever occur to you that they, especially Theo, eggs Kevin on for much the same reason you sometimes egged those mutants on back in Highland?"
"I have to say 'no' to that, although Mack did mention it," Daria admitted. "It's a point at least worth considering. Why is it good Jane is paired with John and not the would-be Asgardian?"
"More that it's good that you're not paired with John," Quinn replied. "Granted, all boys seem to have their Upchuck moments; John is a bit more likely than Theo to come out with one among the boys, although not directly to girls. Plus, he tends to be a little grabby after the third date, but takes 'no' for an answer and is still willing to go out again. Jane can be firm with him; you might pepper-spray him first."
"You've dated him, I take it?"
"Two times at the end of freshman year, and twice last year," Quinn agreed.
"And Theo? Theo and not Ted, right?"
Quinn nodded. "Correct. And no, I never dated Thor. He was already dating a cheerleader in my year, Cindy, when we moved her. She's the one who was the lead in the local student ballet company as well the lead soloist in the choir and select choir. Her family moved to LA last July." Quinn looked at Daria. "They must not be in any of your classes."
"They aren't," Daria admitted.
"I had wondered when you claimed last spring that there were only three guys in your year smart enough for you to consider dating," Quinn said. "I could think of at least four more, although one is somewhat pudgy and, well, gauche, although not like Upchuck, and the other one is gay. Considering Thor's size, you two might look a little odd together, but I think you might like him, at least a little, even if you don't find him attractive." The doorbell rang. "That's for me!"
Daria was thoughtful on the way to her room. She did note that Helen was chilling a bottle of sparkling wine, so she reminded herself to make certain her door was shut to block any celebratory noises they might make.
Once upstairs, Daria kept going up into the attic, where she pulled out a box of largely discarded books, pulling out the two Lawndale yearbooks she had been forced to buy. She had never even taken off the plastic shrink wrap. She took them down to her room and unwrapped them. Jane was no more for offering up a yearbook to be signed than Daria, so Daria had seen no point. She had signed half a dozen her first year in Lawndale , and last June she had signed Brittany's, Jodie's, and Mack's ('best wishes, Daria' for Brittany and 'best of luck this summer; you'll need it, Daria' in both Jodie's and Mack's). Daria looked up her classmate.
"Theodosius?" she muttered in surprise. "I can see why he doesn't object to 'Thor'." She looked at the orchestra page, easily seeing that he dominated his bass viol as well as the other students. John was also apparent in the cello section. She didn't hunt through all the filler-photos, but a glance through the 'Activities & Clubs' section revealed few further photos – they seemed to be in orchestra, the concert choir, and football together, while Thor was also in the select choir. As there had also been two other football players and a wrestler (and three cheerleaders) in the select choir, it was unlikely he would be harassed for it.
Looking again at the towering blond looming over the other fifteen students in the select choir (selected from the sophomores, juniors, and seniors), Daria realized it was unlikely this student would be harassed by anyone.
Cursing herself, Daria looked up Thor's now-ex girlfriend, and decided that she and the girl had nothing in common in the looks department, other than long thick hair.
Daria shut the previous year's book and glanced at her slightly fuller closet. "Dammit. Do I go back, or forward?" A voice in her heard, mimicking Aunt Amy, said, "You already started down this path, Daria. Can you really go back?"
A check of the weather for the next day showed it was going to be warm and windy. Daria laid out one of her two decent print blouses and her windbreaker. After a bit of hesitation, she put in some eye drops, so she could read tonight and still wear her contacts in the morning if she wanted.
Unlike the first time, she would remember to bring her glasses along, just in case.