Tigresses – Part 2 – On to Ashfield
By Dr T
The Summer of 2000, Daria is accepted to Ashfield along with Jane. Here, the preparations and arrival.
Daria Morgendorffer looked at the piles of clothing on her bed and considered. It was the first Sunday in June, and the next Saturday she and Jane would be off to the Ashfield Art Colony for a summer of what she hoped would be, at the least, intellectual stimulation.
Daria turned as she heard the light knock at her door, which could only mean one thing. "Enter at your own risk," she said simply.
Quinn came in and glanced on the piles on the bed. "I had to see this, because I didn't believe you would actually go clothes shopping." Her expert glance made her nose wrinkle.
"Quinn, there are no fancy, or probably even really nice, restaurants, in Ash County Pennsylvania. The Art Colony is almost five miles from town, and the colony only runs a shuttle service on Saturdays and on Sunday mornings. It would be dorky to dress up to go to the rec center or cafeteria, and I am not planning on going to church."
Quinn sighed and said, "I suppose you're right."
Daria got to the point, although in a non-hostile tone of voice. "What did you come in to talk about, besides my clothes?"
"I do want to see them," Quinn said honestly. She had realized that Daria going away ten weeks in the summer was nothing compared to her going away to college. Deep in both sisters' minds was the fear that they would end up like their mother and their Aunt Rita. Daria's bringing Jane's hair problem to her and the fashion club had broken some of the ice between them, and both sisters had been, very tentatively, building bridges since then. "But, tell me honestly, what did you think of my PSTAT scores?"
Daria sighed slightly. "Okay, I had two reactions. One was that I was not surprised. I think your score accurately represents your actual academic standing." Quinn winced slightly. "On the other hand, I was disappointed, because I know you are a lot smarter than that score."
Quinn looked intrigued, so Daria went on. "You were a solid B/B- student before we came here and you got involved in the fashion club and serial dating. If you wanted to be, you could be a solid B+ student, but I can understand why you won't be. That just isn't what interests you. But now you are, at best, a solid C student. Brittany is a C- student; do you think you're only slightly smarter than she is?"
"So, all the time and effort you put into your social efforts, not to mention the fact that Sandi is, as best I can tell, a natural C student, plus your fear of being compared to me, is one set of problems."
"You think I'm afraid of being compared to you?" Quinn asked skeptically.
Daria grimaced, but her honesty pushed her onwards. "I don't like admitting this any more than you do, but it's true. You were hyper and cute when we were kids, while I was solitary and intellectual. That is just who we are, but let's face it; I have always emphasized those aspects of myself, in part to counter you, while you have gone for being ever more bouncy, cute, and friendly, in part because those are important aspects of yourself, and in part to be different than me."
"You weren't solitary in ninth grade," Quinn pointed out. "I don't just mean those two freaks you started hanging out with. I was shocked when I went to high school for those few weeks just how well-known, popular, and well, feared and respected you were."
"I wasn't outgoing, I didn't have any real friends, but compared to junior high, ninth grade was tolerable socially," Daria admitted.
"You never would have been a real joiner, but if we had stayed there, you might have been the Jodie of Highland High," Quinn said.
Daria made a face at that thought. Still, she had to admit, "Maybe, to some small degree, but I think I would have more likely ended up shooting someone." Daria went back to her point. "The other problem you have is there just isn't any subject that interests you, like art does Jane. If there was, then that interest might spill over to other subjects."
Quinn considered that, and said, "Do you think getting a tutor this summer would help?"
"Would you really put in the work?"
Quinn considered that, and said, "I'd like to think so."
"Mom would certainly support that. Suggest she get someone to come for two hours in the morning. That would then give you some time in the early afternoon to do the assigned work before you and the fashion fiends take off. And remember, if you don't go the tutor route, Mom will either find you a part-time job, or worse, you might end up at that day camp Mr. O'Neill has been mumbling about."
"Blech! I think I'd better go with the tutor," Quinn agreed. She then wrinkled her nose again and pointed to the top garment in one pile. "Bib overalls?"
"Those might be too geeky, even for this kind of camp," Daria admitted. "Still, I am likely to be spending a fair amount of time sitting on my ass in the grass. If I'm out in nature writing, I don't want to haul around a backpack. Those have enough pockets to carry everything I would need."
Quinn just glared.
Daria flushed a little, and said, "I admit I wouldn't wear them if they were really out of place."
"Well, that's something," Quinn said. She went over to the bed, and when Daria said nothing, she took that for approval to sort through things. "Two pairs of jeans, one old. . . ."
"Comfortable," Daria pointed out.
Quinn merely nodded, "And one . . . Daria, these black jeans are nice!"
"Thank you," Daria replied. "Remember, the main reasons I hated being the fashion editor at Highland were because Mom forced me to be on the paper, because if I had to be on the paper I wanted to do real reporting, and because there was no fashion in Highland."
"I was fashionable," Quinn protested, adding, "But overall, I can't argue with you." Quinn then saw what was under the jeans and overalls. "Two pairs of cut off shorts? And one of them are cut really short! Daria!" Quinn looked at her sister with a smile. "Trolling for art geeks? Well, we both have the legs for these!"
Daria now really blushed, but pointed out, "Quinn, other than that stupid play for Kevin, you don't really date stupid boys." *
"True, although I sometimes wonder about Joey and Jamie, at least when they're around me," Quinn agreed. "I hadn't realized just how dim Kevin was before that, and, well. . . ."
"You got competitive. I kind of understand that. But remember, me dating most boys would be like you dating Kevin."
Quinn considered that, and said, "You may be right. Even if there aren't many in your class you feel are smart enough to date, why didn't you make any plays for the older boys over the last two years?"
"I guess I was just too shy. If this mess with Tom has shown me anything, it is that I am not ready for serious dating, and your kind of casual serial dating just doesn't interest me. If some of the smarter older boys had paid me any attention, who knows, maybe I would have tried going out at least a few times."
"Really?" Quinn was doubtful. "So, tell me, how many boys in your class meet your intellectual standards?" she probed, figuring that would give her an insight to her sister.
"Three," Daria replied.
"So why didn't you date them? They must have at least noticed you."
"True," Daria agreed. "Okay, the first was Upchuck."
"Ewww! Alright," Quinn conceded, "I'll agree, he's smart but slimy. I can't blame you there."
Quinn nodded. "I can see that. And to say he's cute is an understatement. He's probably one of the best looking guys in Lawndale. Did you know Sandi flirted with him just before we came to town?"
"No," Daria replied, amused. "Did he notice?"
"I don't know if he noticed, but Jodie sure did! Jodie might not spend enough time with Mack, but she has serious claws! Sandi is still terrified of Jodie." Quinn cocked her head. "And the third?"
Quinn blinked, and said, "Who you did try and date." She nodded. "I absolve you of most of the bad things I've thought about you when it comes to dating. I don't agree with your standards, but I know you don't agree with mine, either." Quinn paused in thought for a moment. "Actually, I can think of at least four other boys in your grade who are as smart as Upchuck and Mack. Still, if none of them appealed to you, why not any of the students at Lawndale State?"
Daria considered that, and couldn't think of any other moderately intelligent males in her grade, and so was not inclined to pursue that line of thought. The other one, however, deserved an answer. "Mom and Dad would have a fit if either of us tried to date a college student. While that could be seen as a plus, I don't think it would be worth the hassle."
Quinn considered that, and said, "They might not be as bothered by your doing it next year, since you'd be a senior."
"Maybe, although I have to say they stay pretty isolated out on that campus, except when they are getting drunk on Degas Street," Daria pointed out.
"A fair number seem to hang out at the mall, but those probably aren't your type." Quinn smirked and added, "If you don't have a boy friend by the time you get back, and if you don't date that Tom guy in the fall, maybe I can find you a smart boy from Oakdale."
"Running out of boys here?" Daria asked, merely curious.
"Not yet, but I'll be getting close next year," Quinn agreed. "I don't know what I want in a steady boyfriend. I'm happy with arm candy taking me out right now."
"Your junior year is the most important one for college applications," Daria pointed out. "Maybe you should just date three or four times a week. That would give you time to study, extend the boy supply, and still let you do pretty much what you have been doing."
"Maybe." Quinn turned back to the pile. "Ten t's, two nicer tops; nice selection. I'm glad you are getting rid of those awful granny pants and gone to decent panties." Quinn knew better than to suggest thongs. Then she wrinkled her nose and pointed: "All sports bras?"
Daria shrugged. "I prefer them."
Quinn shrugged in turn, but then said, "Daria! Three halter tops? You are going trolling." She smirked. "Or at least plan on showing some bait."
Quinn was startled by that non-hostile response, but went on, "No swim suit?"
"No pool or lake," Daria pointed out. "If I want to lie in the sun, one of these halter tops and those cut offs should be sufficient."
Quinn nodded. "I think you're right. Taking your little makeup kit and the contacts, too, I see."
"I'm going prepared." Daria rarely wore her second pair of contacts, soft contacts this time, outside the house, but Helen had convinced her to keep wearing them at least for short periods.
"I never thought I'd admit this, but you know what you're doing."
"Thank you," Daria replied, but her honesty made her admit, "I've always known what to do, but this will be the first time I've actually tried to carry through." Daria knew that she was being optimistic – she knew that she didn't understand all her defensiveness. Still, she hoped, with no mother or Quinn to critique her, with no one other than Jane who knew her around, and with Jane's support, she might overcome at least some of those defenses at the colony.
"You rarely fail at anything important," Quinn had to admit. "You might catch some bad fish, but this way you'll at least learn which ones to net."
Now it was Daria's turn to wrinkle her nose.
Including two rest stops and lunch, they knew it would be over a five hour trip to Ashfield. Daria had made Jane sleep over that Friday night to insure a (relatively) early start. With a little effort, which she swore to get revenge for, Daria managed to get herself up and then get Jane dressed and loaded into her father's Lexis so they could be on the road by 7:30.
The first two hours of the trip, Jane slept while Daria struggled to keep her father focused on the trip. The two still managed to talk some, building on what they had started at the franchising conference. Strangely, Daria found herself interested in the conversation. By managing to keep her father off his rants, she actually found herself admiring how well he had overcome the worst of his abusive childhood, and Jake found his daughter surprisingly not only nonjudgmental, but even a tad sympathetic. (Jake was not so clueless as to not realize that his eldest was of course closely guarding her feelings; obvious if small hints of sympathy from her were a major breakthrough as far as he was concerned.)
At the first rest stop, Jane woke up and took over shotgun, nursing a large coffee and bantering with Jake. This gave Daria some time to organize her thoughts as the trip continued well into the ridges of Pennsylvania.
Ashfield organized its summer programs into a three week mini-session (which they had missed), followed by two five week sessions, with four two hour blocks of classes each weekday. Students had to be accepted, and had to take, two classes each session they attended, and could take three. Jane had immediately rejected all the classes available from 8:00-9:45, just as she had initially rejected the idea of taking three classes. Daria did not even try to coax her into any of the early morning classes, but in the end, Jane would be taking a section of oil painting each session as well as one of life drawing. She had been considering just taking those subjects, but in the end she thought the class on 'conceptual art' sounded fun and so added that to the first session subjects as well.
Daria was only a little less resistant to the idea of 8:00 classes than Jane, but her writing portfolio had not only gotten her accepted into the smaller creative writing program (which was co-sponsored by the local state university) but a note from the lecturer in charge of the short story classes, first asking for more examples of some of her darker, angst-ridden writing, and then asking that she sign up for both sessions of short story writing, which were at 8:00. In the end, Daria acquiesced – it was uncommon for her writing, especially those stories, to generate genuine interest, so she could hardly resist. Strangely, she had also gotten a note from the person leading the mystery/thriller genre writing as well, requesting that she sign up for at least one of the sessions. Daria was happy to comply, even if that meant going to the workshop at 8:00.
Daria had planned on taking the poetry workshops in both sessions, and had signed up for the mystery/thriller genre writing in the first session and tried to sign up for the science fiction/fantasy session in the second. Helen had talked (actually, bribed) Daria into changing her second session classes. She would still take the short story in both sessions and the poetry and mystery/thriller classes in the first session; in the second, she easily agreed to drop the poetry for script writing. In arguing against the sci-fi/fantasy course, Helen had pointed out that writers who wanted a chance to live off their writing couldn't be picky and that the romance market was larger. Most of the massive bribe Daria had received was to take the course in romance writing. Jane would have made fun of that choice, but part of the bribe was that the pair would be sharing one of the small two bedroom cabins, rather than the larger cabins which housed between five and eight students.
The trio had lunch in the small college town of Ashton. They had a larger dining selection than would be normal in such a small, rural town because of the college – Cluster Burger and Burger World franchises, a diner, a 'country kitchen', a pizza place, and an 'arty' restaurant. Jane had also noticed a bar/club on the fringes of the town, and vowed to see if Trent could fit it into the Spiral's annual attempt to have a summer 'world tour.'
By a little after 1:00, Daria and Jane had checked in, been given their schedules and other needed information, and Jake had managed to get them to their cabin without getting lost. Jane had found her enthusiasm, and had picked out her room and moved their paraphernalia at least to the other side of the cabin door while Jake and Daria awkwardly tried to say good bye for the summer.
"I hadn't really planned on your leaving the nest so soon, Kiddo," Jake finally admitted.
"I'll be returning in ten weeks; it's not college yet," Daria pointed out. "Anyway, you used to send us away to that grisly Camp Grizzly."
"I know, but to be honest, that was just to have a break. This, this is the first taste of the future . . . my little girl is almost grown and gone," Jake admitted sadly.
"Dad, come on, Quinn's your little girl."
Jake shook his head. "No, she's our princess; all girl, bouncy and cute and all that. But you, you're my little girl." Jake put his hand on Daria's shoulder. "You're everything I hoped for in a child, Daria. You're strong, independent, and smart."
Daria was touched, and so tried to talk around it. "You really wanted a boy like that, didn't you?"
"Before you were born, I sometimes thought about it that way," Jake admitted, "but I was also afraid I might treat a son like Dad treated me. Then I met you, and I never thought about it again." Jake smiled. "I'm very proud of you, even if you don't like being called 'Kiddo'."
Daria had several choices, ranging from breaking down to a very cutting remark. She chose a middle path, giving her father a very brief hug and saying, "Thank you; and I'll never admit this again, but sometimes I like it when you call me that." Daria then ran off into the cabin.
Jake smiled for a bit, got into the car, wiped away a tear, and began the long drive back to Maryland.
Inside the cabin, Daria paused and looked around. "Well, it's cozy."
"It's great!" Jane proclaimed. "For what it is, it's perfect!"
Daria walked around the cabin. To the left side of the entrance were three doors. The doors on the ends led to small bedrooms – ten feet wide and, because of a closet, only nine foot deep, with a small window on each of the two outside walls. There was just enough room for a single bed and a dresser. The only other things in the room were the linens, a thin pillow, and a small window fan. Daria hoped the weather didn't get too hot and sticky.
In between the bedrooms was a small bath – shower, toilet, and sink. "At least everything is clean," Daria muttered. The other half of the cabin was one plain room – therefore twelve feet across and twenty-seven feet deep. There was a small kitchen table and two upright chairs, two small desks with desk chairs, and, at the far end next to the further bedroom, there was a small counter with a sink with three cabinets underneath and a small microwave on the counter next what looked like a small closet, but which turned out to house the water heater. There was also a four-foot tall refrigerator. There was no back door. Each room had a few electric heat strips in strategic places.
To Jane, the best feature was the three small north-facing side windows and small skylight. The cabin also came with two professional-grade easels.
They had been expecting the microwave, and Helen had bought them an assortment of ready-made soups and meals, plus tea and coffee, packed in three heavy cartons and which Daria quickly stored away. She then dealt with the large duffel of clothes she had brought before setting up her desk (Jane had claimed the back bedroom, but left the choice of desks to Daria). She smiled as she looked at her new lap top, another part of the deal she had made with her mother.
Seeing Jane come back into the main room, Daria asked, "Did the director tell you anything we need to know?"
"Ms Proctor? Not much. She said she got a postcard from Mom, saying she was heading out to Death Valley soon."
"Death Valley? In the summer?"
"Well, she did mention one thing." Jane made a face. "Guess who the only students here are who are still in high school?"
"Are there more than two?"
Jane shook her head. "A few new high school grads, but we're the youngest."
"Let's just say we're from Lawndale if asked, and nothing more," Daria suggested. "At least until they can judge us by our work, not our age."
"That's probably a good idea," Jane agreed.
Although Daria was a bit on the tired side, she agreed with Jane to walk the grounds. There was of course a lot of activity in their part of the campus, especially as they had been two of the earliest arrivals. The colony was home to several dozen artists of all sorts – from painters and potters to sculptors, print makers, photographers, metal workers, and even a jeweler. Their cabins were set on east side of the campus, while the cabins of different sizes used for summer students (and visiting artists and students throughout the rest of the year) and guest lecturers were on the west side. In the center, there were the large studio spaces, dining hall, rec center, and other assorted buildings. Jane was happy that there was a paved loop road (the lanes leading to the visitors' cabins were all gravel) around the center buildings, measuring about a mile. That would give her a good place to run every morning.
A few hundred yards south of the colony was the end of one of the many high ridges which formed the local mountains. The woods which covered it and ran down to surround the colony were probably spectacular in the autumn. Students were warned about the possibility of black bears, which would serve to at least keep the amount of garbage to a minimum. Daria was well-armed with bear-repellent, ready for any type of emergency.
Dinner started each evening at 6:00, although during the summer there was a small convenience store/snack bar in the rec center which was open every day from 10:00 through 7:00. The rec center also housed the laundry, a small art supply shop, a room filled with vending machines and video games, a large room used to show movies and house other community events, and what passed for the post office. The servers for the campus network were hidden in one of the small offices on the second floor. All of the summer students who were present (some would be coming in late by bus or even arriving on Sunday) were asked to come to dinner at least the first two nights of each session.
Daria and Jane dressed in their usual outfits and joined the small throng of milling students, most in their early twenties, a little before 6:00. As they entered they were a bit surprised to see they were being divided between the art (about three quarters of the crowd) and the writing students, each directed to different sides.
"Are we going to be the Hatfields and the McCoys all summer?" Daria asked the director as she passed.
"Certainly not," Ms Proctor replied. "We sit separately at dinner for the first two nights, so the lecturers can more easily identify their students."
Daria merely nodded and found an empty table near the front of the hall, wondering who would sit there besides her. She took a seat so she could easily see most of the other tables, especially the head table. She would have been more understanding of the set-up if she had known that the head table would be split up after the third night, making all the staff and colony members to sit with the students if they attended meals.
Daria smiled slightly as she watched the tables fill up, as she realized she was a bit like the blonde in Quinn's grade who was always judging the relative popularity of the school population. Still, it was clear that the art students ran a wide gamut, from those dressed in a style that Quinn was not yet old enough to pull off (even if she sometimes tried) to others who were 'alternative,' to some who were dressed outright as geeks and flakes. The smaller writing contingent, however, had a larger percentage of 'average' looking young people, but all the rest were in the alternative, geek, and especially outright flake groups. Both groups seemed to have roughly a 60-40 female to male ratio, while the head table was about opposite.
Finally, a rumpled, slightly pudgy man of around 22, with hair and eyes that matched Jane's, gestured at a chair. Daria nodded and the man sat. Two slightly younger women, both well-rounded dirty blondes in peasant dresses and Birkenstocks who were talking quietly to each other, took two of the four remaining chairs. No one took the other two chairs, but Daria noticed that most of the tables had at least one or two empty chairs. Daria estimated the number of students to be around a hundred, but she didn't try for an exact count. Except for the man's brief gestures, none of the three seemed to notice her, let alone talk to her.
'So much for being communicators,' Daria thought.
Meals at the dining hall were self-serve buffet style. Daria judged it a step above high school cafeteria food in quality, and three steps above it in variety. With the two blondes still deep in conversation with their tofu-ladenned salads, Daria decided to chance conversation with the male at the table. "What are you here to work on?" she asked.
The man looked up from his spaghetti, a bit surprised at being addressed. "Genre-writing: mysteries and the sci-fi/fantasy sections, both sessions. You?"
"I'm doing the mystery/thriller session as well in the first session, plus poetry and short-stories," Daria replied. "When I got my parents to pay for this, they made me take script-writing and romance writing in the second session."
"Script-writing is something all writers should take once, but only once. Genre writing of any kind takes a knack," the man said. "If you happen to have the knack for romance writing, and can get a foot in the publishing door, it's probably the easiest genre to make a living at, if it doesn't drive you crazy." He smiled as Daria made a face. "From what I've been told, the best romance writers need a touch of the romantic on the inside, but whole lot of cynicism through and through."
"I don't know about the first, but I can handle the second. You've been here before, I take it?"
The man nodded. "Students can't attend more than two years in a row, and have to be between 17 and 25. I did a year after my freshman year at Raft, and last year."
"Any traditions I should know about?"
"The only tradition I know of is that when the Fourth of July falls on a week day, we do half-time classes. No matter when it falls, the colony lets the staff off after breakfast and they do the grilling for lunch and dinner. There's a big bonfire that night."
At that point the director stood and the speeches and introductions began.
After dinner, to Daria's surprise, as the staff started milling about the student tables, two of them made a bee-line through the crowd towards her. "Daria Morgendorffer?" the first man asked. "I'm Bill Woods, short story facilitator, from Bromwell. This is my colleague, John Woods, no relation, who does the mystery/thriller sessions."
"I'm at Raft," John Woods added.
"We were both impressed with your writing, myself with some of your older work, John with some of your newer, which is why we asked you to sign up." Bill looked at John. "Could you go first?"
"Sure," John answered. "I enjoyed your Melody Powers stories. They show you have the knack for the thriller genre. The stories themselves, though, straddle the line between parody and straight story telling."
Daria nodded. "In a sense, I was aiming for a feminist take on the Flint films of the 1960s."
John smiled and nodded. "Okay, I think we can work with that. You said in your comments on those stories that you have the outlines for two novels that come from them?"
When Daria nodded, he went on, "The voice you're using is difficult to pull off over a full novel. If you can, I think you have a winner. Bring the outlines and whatever else you have that you didn't submit Monday."
"Thank you, I will," Daria replied, pleased. John smiled and left to work the crowd.
"I think I have what, in the short term, is even better news," Bill said to Daria with a smile. "I realize most of your angst writing is older, but believe it or not, I am the editor of a journal called 'Angst and Fiction.' Not only that, the Bromwell University Press has a series of collected fiction – stories, essays, and especially poetry – devoted to the study of teen angst."
"Well, that certainly describes most of the writing I did from the age of twelve to a few months ago," Daria had to agree.
"The other series editors – I'm just one of five – all agree with me that you have some of the best, genuine teen angst we've seen, and that we want to publish it not just because it's well-written, gut-wrenching angst, but because most of it has an underlying spark of hope, which both highlights the angst and prevents it from being depressing. Brilliant stuff!"
Daria blinked. "Thank you," she managed. "You want to publish it?"
Bill nodded. "Three volumes. One just of the poetry, one the collected stories and essays from your Highland years, and the final one the stories and essays you did over the last two and half years. We wouldn't pay much – two hundred and fifty dollars a volume upfront plus ten copies. However, we try hard to place individual pieces into anthologies. You'd get sixty percent of the fees if we make the full placement, up to ninety if you make the initial contacts."
"If you can e-mail me the contracts, I can send them on to my mother to look over," Daria said. "She's lawyer."
"Excellent! Now, if we do this, to be honest, you'll be mostly getting your writing ready for the publisher this summer instead of doing a lot of actual new writing," Bill warned. "We don't want you correcting or improving what you have, other than correcting any typos. Instead, we want short introductions to pieces or groups of pieces."
"I need the practice writing with coaching," Daria said, "but I'd be a fool to turn this down."
"There are a lot of good writers," Bill said. "The difference between the successful ones and the ones who rarely if ever sell isn't the quality of their writing, but their luck and the type of writing they do. I can see that you're pulling away from the teen angst writing already – some never do, and what's interesting in a sixteen year old can be just depressing in a forty year old. Get these published and unless it really is your style, never go back to it. Get your name in print and use it as a stepping stone if you can." He jerked his thumb towards John Woods, who was talking to some of the other students, "If you can write well in a genre, that's good, but it's tough making a living just on writing." He smiled. "I have a number of novels and lots of short stories in print, but I wouldn't want to live on just those proceeds!"
"If you really do, you're ahead of half the students who leave Bromwell with their M.F.A.s in Creative Writing!"
'The Beaches of Barksdale' expands on those ideas. The Daria in this story recognizes many of the defenses she has may in the long run be counter-productive, but while she still may have trouble dealing with many of them, she is determined to deal with them, out of sight of her Mother and Quinn. For Daria on the school paper in Highland, see the Beavis and Butt-head episode 'Sporting Goods.' Also, over the rest of the chapters, some situations are based up 'Is it Fall Yet?'