Heather

in

Memory Lane

 

 

Some boys take a beautiful girl
And hide her away from the rest of the world
I want to be the one to walk in the sun
Oh girls, they want to have fun

 - Cyndi Lauper, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (Cherry’s Song)

 

 

            Daria lay flat on her back, staring listlessly up at the cracks in the ceiling. The room was quiet; nothing could be heard but the ticking of the clock and the gentle whoosh of the air conditioning. She lay quietly, trying to lose track of time. She almost didn’t hear the rasping sound of the door knob turning. The door pushed open a tiny crack, and then for several seconds nothing.

            “Are you in there, Harry?” someone whispered, speaking with a shockingly bad faux British accent. “We’ve not had any post from you, and thought maybe the muggles were keeping you down. They’ve been horrid, haven’t they?”

            Sighing to herself, Daria sat up and glared at the door. A few more seconds passed in silence, and the glare slowly turned into the Mona Lisa smirk. “Ron? What are you doing here?”

            The door swung all the way open revealing Jane and her older brother Trent. “We’ve come to burst you out. We came in the flying car.” Jane gestured towards Trent, who laughed and stifled a cough in his hand.

            “Just let me grab my trunk, it’s got all my school things.”

            Quietly, Daria tossed some clothes into a backpack. She added a couple of novels and her wallet and zipped it closed. The trio crept down the stairs, skipping the squeaky step, and out the front door into the sweltering August air. They made it halfway to Trent’s car when they heard ‘thump . . . oof!’ from the direction of the trellis under Quinn’s window.

            “Take a runner,” Daria muttered. “Ginny is trying to catch us up.” They sped up slightly, but soon heard running feet behind them.

            “Hey!” Trent said in sudden revelation. “If you guys are Ron and Harry, does that make me the chick with bad hair?”

            “Hush, Trent,” Jane said. “Walk now, question your gender role later.”

            “Wait up!” Quinn whined as she jogged up to them. “No way are you leaving me behind, not with what’s going on in that house!”

            “Hey, Daria’s sister.” Trent nodded to her, smirking.

            “Hi, Jane’s brother,” she replied, rolling her eyes.

            “We’re going to eat pizza; with cheese,” Daria said in her usual deadpan.

            Quinn sighed melodramatically and nodded. The four of them piled into Trent’s car and headed to Pizza King.

            “So how bad is it, really?” Jane asked around a mouthful of extra pepperoni.

            “Our grandmother was both Machiavellian and evil,” Quinn said, scraping the cheese off her pizza. She glanced up at the shocked silence. “What? I can’t know big words? God.” She rolled her eyes again and started putting the pepperoni and mushrooms back on her cheeseless slice.

            Daria put her hand on Quinn’s shoulder and looked across the table to Jane. “I must leave soon,” she said gravely. “I leave my padawan with you, Knight Jane. Teach her well.”

            “It is a grave responsibility, Master Daria. She may be too old to learn. But if it is your wish, I will try.”

            “I’m sitting right here.”

            “So it’s bad,” Trent said. “Bad like the Lane family reunion, or bad like the Wandering Lanes all coming home at once?”

            “Maybe worse than either,” Daria said, and sighed quietly. “The Battling Barksdales are back in full effect, and this time it looks like lawyers other than Mom are going to be involved. Grandma Barksdale ripped her own family apart, and now she’s trying to wreck mine from beyond the grave.”

            Jane and Trent shared a look of commiseration. Despite how bad things got with Daria and Quinn’s family the Lanes were always just a tad jealous that they had a family to fight with.

            “She was pretty rich, wasn’t she?” Jane asked.

            “Yeah. Now Aunt Rita, our cousin Erin, and Quinn get to be pretty rich,” Daria said bitterly. Quinn took a sip of her diet soda and looked uncomfortable. “Mom and Aunt Amy have already filed paperwork to contest the will. Now they just sit around in the kitchen all day scheming. Aunt Rita was ringing the phone off the hook until yesterday when Mom yanked the cords out of the wall. Dad abandoned us for parts unknown day before yesterday.”

            “Mom and Aunt Amy won’t speak to me because they assume I’m going to side with Aunt Rita and Erin,” Quinn said quietly.

            “Jesus,” Jane swore, shaking her head. “If I ever have kids I am not going to put them through anything like this. I’m going to die like I lived: dirt poor and proud of it.”

            Daria smirked. “I applaud your aspirations, Lane.”

            “Sounds like a real bad situation,” Trent said. “You know you’re free to stay with us until this blows over. Or, you know, you go to Boston.”

            “Thanks, I may take you up on that.”

            “Um,” Quinn asked hesitantly, “can I also call on the Lane Embassy for asylum?” Everyone at the table stared at her again, until she sighed in exasperation and said, “I read now, people. Hello? You should be used to this by now.”

            “She’s already worked her way through a fifth of my collection,” Daria said proudly. “And once I loaned her my dictionary and Britannicas she stopped asking me to explain things. All this time we wondered, and it turns out she really is my sister.”

            Quinn looked both pleased and embarrassed. “What was that other word for a fifth of something?”

            “A quintile,” Daria said in her usual deadpan.

            Quinn giggled. “I love knowing stuff, it’s so much fun. Anyway, can I hide out at Casa Lane for a little while? Just until Mom and Amy get a grip?”

            “Sure,” Jane said, grinning. “You’re not so bad to hang out with these days, Quinn. You can keep me company for a couple of months until it’s my turn to head to Boston. After that, I guess you can drop by occasionally and make sure Trent doesn’t get bed sores.”

            “Eeeeeeewwwww!”

            “Not funny, Janey.”

            “If I can’t get one Morgendorffer sister-in-law . . . .” Jane muttered.

            “Jane!” Daria said, looking slightly shocked.

            “What!?” Quinn asked, looking very shocked.

            “Nothing, just kidding,” Jane said and went back to her pizza.

            “Listen,” Trent said, militantly oblivious to his sister’s match-making schemes. “I’m really gonna miss you guys when you’re gone.”

            “Yeah,” Jane said sadly.

            “It’s not like they’re going away forever,” Quinn said. “And I’ll be heading off myself next year, too.”

            The mood at the table got a bit gloomier as the foursome considered the future.

            “I was thinking,” Trent said.

            “Oh, uh-oh. This is never good.”

            “Shut up, Janey.” Trent shot his sister a withering look, then continued. “Your family is a bad scene. Our family is never around. But, you know, they say that if your family is the friends you get stuck with, then your friends are the family you choose.”

            “That’s surprisingly deep,” Jane said, impressed.

            “It came from a song I’m working on. Music is the road to truth, you know.”

            “And here I thought it was mathematics,” Daria said dryly.

            Trent chuckled and coughed. “Good one, Daria.”

            “Thanks.”

            “Anyway, I was thinking we could make a promise to each other. Not lose touch, send emails, all of us get together on holidays. Stuff like that.”

            “Me too?” Quinn asked.

            “Yeah, you too. Daria’s sister.” Trent gave her a small smile.

            “Thanks, Jane’s brother.”

            “So the Freakin’ Friends go from a duo to a quartet?” Daria asked.

            “Why not?” Jane asked and held her hand out, palm down. Quinn rested her hand on top, then Trent put his hand over Quinn’s. They all looked at Daria expectantly.

            She gave them her little smirk, and put her hand over Trent’s. “Freakin’ Friends forever.”

 

***

 

            “This is chill and all, Uncle Trent,” Cherry interrupted. “But it doesn’t really answer my question.”

            Trent stroked his goatee and contemplated his niece. “Not at the start,” he said, “but it will eventually. And it’s a really cool story.” He glanced over at the twin redheads sitting on the other side of the dinner table. “What do you think?”

            “It’s nift,” Heather said, sipping an Ultracola. “I’m hoping for blackmail material on Mom and Dad.”

            “I think it’s great!” Damsel said, beaming. “I love hearing old family stories. The tapestry of family history and all that.”

            “Too bad you don’t seem to like the actual family sometimes,” Heather muttered.

            “What are you talking about?”

            “I heard what you said at lunch today.”

            “Well, yeah. I was talking to you.”

            Heather glared at Damsel as she recalled the lunch time conversation.

 

***

 

            Heather plunked her lunch tray down onto the table and sat across from Cherry. “Where’s Sam?” she asked.

            “Had to stay after class and talk to Mr. Miller. He’ll be along.”

            The two girls ate quietly, a slight tension in the air.

            “So,” Cherry said, “are we going to tip-toe around the elephant or what?”

            Heather gave her a look of complete non-comprehension.

            “Last night. Dinner with your aunt. Your house, after dinner. My complete lack of practice in dealing with bizarre family crap.”

            “Oh.” A pause and then, “what does that have to do with an elephant?”

            “Turn of phrase from some old movie or other. Means ignoring something we both don’t want to talk about.”

            “Works for me.”

            “Your call.”

            Another student sat at the table next to Cherry and rapped the table, making a sound like a door being knocked on.

            “About time you got here, Sam,” Heather said, then looked up. “Except that you’re Damsel. Why are you Damsel?”

            “Please don’t mistake me for some freak in a leather coat. I’m much smaller and I’d like to think we’re prettier.”

            “What’s with the freak comments?” Cherry said, looking daggers at Damsel.

            “Basic observation skills?” Damsel glared back, then turned to her sister. “Check your email?”

            “No. That’s why I keep you around.”

            “One of these days I’m not going to tell you.”

            “I’ll be in trouble then.”

            Damsel sighed and shook her head. “Dad got called out of town.”

            “How long?”

            “Didn’t say.”

            “Mom know?”

            “Wasn’t copied to her, probably not.”

            “What are we supposed to do?”

            “Dad said to ask if we can stay at the Lane house.”

            “Sure!” Cherry said with an evil grin. “I’d be happy to have you over, Heather.”

            “Um,” Damsel said pointedly.

            “Oh, you don’t want to stay in a freak house do you?”

            Damsel sighed.

            “Cherry . . .” Heather said, giving her friend a ‘let it go, please’ look.

            “I suppose. I’ll clear it with Uncle Trent, but I know he won’t have a problem with it. Probably take it as a golden opportunity to tell you guys all his boring old stories I’ve already heard a dozen times.”

            “Thanks,” Heather said, turning back to her lunch.

            “Seconded. Gotta scoot, see you after.” Damsel walked back to her table.

            “I . . .” Heather started, before Cherry made shushing noises and turned her head to listen to the next table over.

            “I don’t see why you had to go talk to that freak,” a girl was saying to Damsel.

            “I have to talk to her sometimes, Courtney.” Damsel replied, “She’s my cousin or something. It’s complicated.” The other people at Damsel’s table made various noises of sympathy and concern, barely drowning out Heather’s growl.

 

***

 

            “What?” Damsel asked, looking slightly worried. “I hate it when you glare at me like that. Stop it.”

            Heather looked away and took another sip of Ultracola.

            Damsel gave her sister one more worried look before turning back to Trent, who had simply sat through the sisterly bickering and waited for them to finish. It was a little weird, and not at all the way Mom or Dad reacted when they sniped at each other.

            Take this morning for instance, Damsel thought. I thought Mom’s head was going to pop off and fly around the room snarling and biting.

 

***

 

            Humming quietly to herself, Damsel carried the two plates from the kitchen to the little dining room they’d been using. She put Heather’s plate down at her usual place at the table and then sat down herself. She was dousing her pancakes liberally with syrup when her sister staggered in.

            “The coffee pot is already on the table.”

            “Nrgh.” Heather poured a cup and drank deeply. “Mmm. Thanks, Dam.”

            “Welcome.”

            “Mm. Pancakes. Bacon.”

            Damsel watched her sister eat for a little while, then turned back to her own breakfast.

            “Hey, is Mom up?” Heather asked, looking around the room.

            “No,” Damsel said reprovingly. “You know she always sleeps in when Dad is home.”

            Heather lowered her fork, and looked down at her plate pensively.

            “What? You don’t want to eat since I cooked it? There’s nothing wrong with my cooking, you know.”

            “Huh?” Heather looked up at her sister. “What are you babbling about?”

            “Babbling!?” Damsel threw her fork down onto her plate. “I don’t babble. I converse, something you apparently aren’t up to this early in the morning. Not that you’re much better after you’ve been up a while.”

            “Sorry I’m not up to your conversational standards,” Heather sneered. “I don’t know that much about clothes and make-up.” Heather shoved her plate away and stood up from the table.

            “So you’re not going to finish breakfast? What’s the matter, didn’t I get the bacon crisp enough? Or do you only want Mommy’s pancakes?” Damsel stood and leaned across the table towards her sister.

            “What the hell are you talking about?”

            “You’re a Momma’s girl, you always have been. You’re her favorite.”

            “Jeez, Damsel. I dunno how you can tell what’s going on out here with your head so far up Dad’s ass. If I’m a Momma’s girl you’re definitely a Daddy’s girl . . . which is a lot more pathetic in this case.”

            “A daughter should love and respect her father,” Damsel hissed.

            “Yeah. The father should love and respect the daughter’s mother too, but the world just don’t seem fair sometimes, does it?”

            “Now who’s babbling? What are you trying to say?”

            The dining room door closed with a hefty thunk, causing both girls to look around with a guilty start. Their mother was leaning against the door, wearing her bathrobe and a judicial expression on her face.

            “I am reminded,” she said flatly, “of Samuel Clemens’ advice on child rearing.”

            The sisters looked at each other, then back at their mother.

            “Don’t ask,” she continued “as I am likely to explain via demonstration. I pay for the internet for a reason, so look it up later. For now, I’d like to know exactly why the two of you are screaming at each other at six o’clock in the goddamned morning. You know your father is jet lagged, and we were trying to sleep.”

            “Because we’re horrible daughters?” Heather said with a weak smile. Damsel just looked at her sister in disgust and dropped back into her seat.

            “I’m sorry, Mom,” she said. “Want me to make you breakfast? I mixed up more pancake batter than I used.”

            “No, I’m going to try to get some more sleep. I have to fly to New York today for some business, but I should be back by tonight or tomorrow morning.” Daria turned and opened the door, then paused. “If I’m not home by tonight, don’t let your father cook. It never ends well.”

            Heather sat and looked over at her sister as their mother left the room. “Way to go, loudmouth.”

            “I heard that.”

            “Sorry, Mom,” both girls said in chorus.

 

***

 

            “So did Trent say when they were getting here?” Daria asked.

            “Nope,” Jane answered. She checked her mirrors and then smoothly pulled onto the exit ramp leading to downtown Boston. “He’s bringing Max and Jesse. He said they’d be here a couple of days before Christmas, unless the Tank breaks down. I told him to remember to bring my glue gun, just in case.”

            Daria sighed and rubbed her temples. “Ok, so we’re looking at what? Four girls and three guys living in a two bedroom apartment for close to two weeks. How did you talk me into this again?”

            “I talked you into nothing. You said you didn’t want Quinn and Trent staying in some seedy hotel somewhere. I agreed. You told Quinn it was ok to bring her friend along, that we could fit one more person into the apartment. I agreed.”

            “I see where this is going. I just didn’t realize I had a greek chorus for a room mate. You’re supposed to tell me when I’m doing something stupid.”

            “You never listened before, why should I expect different now?” Jane muttered.

            “What was that?”

            “Um. I said we’re almost at the airport?”

            “I don’t think so.”

            “No, look . . . there it is.”

            Jane got very busy maneuvering the car in and out of traffic to get to the airport. Daria shook her head and let the comment go. No point in starting a big argument now, she thought, not when there’ll be plenty of opportunities for fighting in the next few days.

            Jane looped the car around the airport, and parked in front of the terminal from which Quinn would be disembarking. As soon as the car stopped a pair of girls bundled in heavy winter clothes walked out of the terminal. Trailing along behind them were three guys wearing airport security uniforms and carting several suitcases. Snickering at the spectacle, Jane and Daria climbed out of the car to help stow the luggage.

            “Thank you so much!” Quinn gushed at the guards as the last suitcase went into Jane’s trunk. “I’m just a poor college student so I can’t afford to tip you, but here’s my cell phone number.” Quinn handed each of the guards a scrap of paper. “My friend and I will only be in town for a couple of weeks, so don’t wait too long to call.”

            After everyone had piled into the car, Daria turned around in her seat to look at her sister. “I don’t believe you gave them your phone number.”

            “Oh, Daria! I have more class than that!” Quinn smiled brightly at her sister. “I gave them your phone number.”

            “What!?”

            Jane and the other girl started laughing as Daria made a half hearted attempt to throttle her sister.

            “Kidding! Kidding!” Quinn squealed as she dodged away from Daria. “It’s a number to one of those dating advice radio shows, I swear!”

            Daria turned back around in her seat and sulked. “You are so not funny. I’m going to make you sleep in the Tank with Max and Jesse.”

            Quinn giggled, then prodded her friend. “You guys remember Stacy, right?”

            “Hi!” Stacy said, pulling off her scarf and tugging her long braids out of her coat. “It was so nice of you let me visit. I really appreciate it.”

            “Passable artist, good taste in movies and books, formerly subjugated by the Fashion Queen of Lawndale,” Jane said. “Yeah, I vaguely remember. Welcome to Boston.”

            “Weren’t we trapped with you for three hours on the Ferris Wheel at that medieval fair?” Daria asked, looking at Stacy suspiciously.

            “Anyway,” Quinn interrupted. “Stacy here is pretty much the only good thing that I salvaged out of the whole Fashion Club fiasco. It turns out that after a little spinal therapy she makes a good friend.”

            “It’s nice to see the two of you again,” Stacy said. “I hope you guys won’t hold any grudges against me because of the way I was in high school. I mostly blame Sandi for who I was then.”

            “Nah, it’s cool.” Jane shrugged. “So where are we headed? Please say to get food.”

            “Three . . . hours,” Daria muttered, then looked over at Jane. “Bank first, then food. I won’t have any money until I cash my magazine check.”

            “You got published again?” Quinn asked, excited.

            “Yeah.”

            “It’s in the next issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction,” Stacy said, then blushed when Daria turned to look at her. “I have a subscription. You’re the featured author for next month.”

            “Ah,” Daria said, still staring.

            “I was wondering,” Stacy said, blushing even more furiously. “Could you autograph some of your other stories for me? I brought the issues with me, in case you said yes.”

            “Which ones?”

            “Um . . . all of them?”

            Daria smiled and nodded. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed Quinn make a small fist pumping motion and mouth the word ‘yes!’

            “So, Quinn,” Daria asked, quirking an eyebrow at her sister. “What was with the phone number prank? You’re not malicious by nature so I’m assuming you have a grudge against airport security?”

            “No, random prank. Nothing to hold a grudge about,” Quinn stammered, blushing slightly.

            “They searched her carry on bag at LAX,” Stacy said with a small grin. “The x-ray machine detected a device that they couldn’t immediately identify.”

            “A device?” Daria asked, glancing back at her sister. Quinn’s face was now bright red, and she had slumped back in her seat and covered her eyes with one hand. “Why, Quinn! You didn’t tell me you were bringing a boyfriend with you.”

            “Can I die now?” Quinn asked plaintively as everyone laughed again.

            “We’re at the bank,” Jane said, slowing to park in front of the building. “Go cashie checkie so we can eat. My blood sugar is dropping as I speak.”

            “Did you even eat breakfast?” Daria asked. Jane’s response was a weak smile. Daria sighed and looked up at the ceiling for a second. “I’ll be right back,” she said, opening her door.

            “I’ll come along,” Quinn said. “I don’t wanna sit out here in the cold any longer than I have to.”

            “It’s not really that cold,” Jane said.

            “We were out on the beach yesterday,” Stacy said mournfully. “So, yeah. This is really cold for us.”

            “Well then, let’s all go in,” Daria said. “I’m sure the tellers won’t freak when a big group of people all pile out of a car and walk into the bank at once.”

            The girls walked across the sidewalk and into the bank. Something was off, but it took a second before any of them picked up on what. There weren’t any tellers behind the counter, and a group of people were standing quietly off to one side of the lobby. Daria threw her arm out to stop the others.

            “Amiga,” Jane whispered as a man with a pistol in his hand turned towards them. “I don’t think we’re going to freak the tellers at all.”

            The two robbers walked towards them, one stopping about halfway between the small crowd of hostages and the door to the bank and the other walking right up to the girls.

            “Good morning ladies, and welcome to the First National Bank of Massachusetts.” He motioned at them with his pistol. “Would any of you care to make a deposit?”

            “We’re college students,”  Daria said. “We were going to apply for loans.”

            “Well, let’s just go through your pockets and then you can join the rest of the sheep over there.” The man smirked and took a step towards Quinn. “I think I’ll start with your pockets. I bet I can find something interesting in them, Red.”

            Daria stepped between them. “Keep your hands off my sister.”

            The man gestured with his gun. “You’ll get your turn, Four-Eyes. Now move.”

            Quinn turned and ran for the door. Shouting, the robber tried to lunge around Daria, who threw herself at his legs to trip him. Jane erupted into a blur of black and red, sprinting for the other gunman. The first robber fired a couple of times at Daria, who screamed in pain and dropped off his leg.

            He started to chase the red haired girl again, but was brutally stopped by Stacy’s size five hiking boot to his solar plexus. As he dropped to his knees, he met the unfriendly boot again, this time to the face. He saw sparks and slid the rest of the way to the floor.

            The second robber shoved aside the crazy dark haired girl that was still lying on top of him and started to sit up. After two shots to center torso he was pretty sure she was dead, and the other stupid bitches were next. They came traipsing into the damn bank and ruined a perfectly good robbery. He looked up and found himself staring down the barrel of his partner’s gun.

            The little brunette was holding it in her left hand, her right arm dangling and dripping blood on the floor. Her expression was flat, and the empty look in her eyes was the most frightening thing he’d ever seen.

            “Drop your gun,” she said in a complete monotone. “Or I swear to God, the last thing to go through your mind will be a bullet.”

            The bank was completely silent as the man’s gun hit the floor.

 

***

 

            “I have to go to the bathroom,” Damsel said in a strangled voice, and quickly fled the room. In her distress, she didn’t notice the person sitting in the darkened living room eavesdropping on Trent’s story.

            “They got shot!?” Heather asked, giving Trent her full attention.

            “I told you it was a cool story,” he answered with a small smile.

            “But . . . Aunt Jane?” Cherry stammered.

            “You already know she’s gonna be fine,” Trent said, patting Cherry on the shoulder. “Grab us some more sodas. I’ll finish when she gets back from the bathroom.”

            Cherry nodded and headed over to the ‘fridge. A few seconds later she came back with three Ultracolas and a Diet Ultracola. After a minute or so of tense quiet, Trent stood.

            “I’m gonna go check on her,” he said, and headed out after Damsel.

            “So,” Cherry said, as soon as her uncle was out of the room. “I’m going to ask. Why have you been so snippy with Damsel today?”

            “She’s annoying and pretentious?”

            “No more so than seems normal for her. I guess what I’m asking is this: Heather, why do you have to be such a megabitch?”

            Heather rolled her eyes. “Because I can be, Veronica. Because I can be.”

            “If you don’t want to talk about it, say so.”

            “No more elephant herding, Lane.”

            “Ok.”

            They sat in silence for several seconds, then Heather spoke again.

            “Remember when Aunt Quinn dropped us off last night, and you guys went on in ahead of me?”

            “Yeah?”

 

***

 

            Heather climbed out of her aunt’s car into the chilly night. As she walked up the path, she saw Damsel unlocking the front door. Cherry left it open just a crack for her, and she closed it and shot the bolt after entering. She walked across the darkened foyer towards the sitting room.

            Just as she passed the stairs, her mother stepped out of the hallway and almost bumped into her.

            “Hey, Mom.”

            Daria looked at her daughter silently, then stepped around her and went up stairs. Heather stood and watched her mother until she was out of sight. She wasn’t crying. Heather thought furiously. Mom never cries, not even at funerals. Not even when Grandpa had a heart attack and we all thought he was gonna die.

            “Daddy!” Damsel squealed from the sitting room. “I missed you!”

            She never cries. But I know that look on her face.

            Heather stalked into the sitting room. Cherry was standing just inside the door with a look of complete shock and confusion. Across the room Damsel was hugging a tall, athletically built woman wearing a charcoal business suit and a choppy black hairdo.

            “Hi, Dad,” Heather said, leaking suppressed temper.

            “Um,” Cherry said, waving weakly at the woman as she looked over. “Hi, Aunt Jane.”

            “Heather! Cherish!” Jane walked across the room, pulling Damsel along with her.

            “Cherry,” she muttered. “It’s Cherry now.”

            Jane ruffled Cherry’s hair and grinned at her, eliciting a look of wounded irritation. Still smiling, she turned and pulled Heather into a hug. Heather tucked her hands into her pants pockets and tolerated the gesture.

            “How do you girls like Lawndale? Already making friends with the Lanes, I see.” Jane turned to Cherry. “How’s your uncle?”

            “He’s good. Should I tell him you’re going to drop by?”

            “Heck, I live here now. I’ll do more than drop by.”

            “I’ll tell him.”

            “We had a long day at school,” Heather said. “I’m going to walk Cherry home and then go to bed.”

            “Heck of a walk from here to Casa Lane, you kids want a ride?”

            “No. C’mon Cherry.” Heather turned her back and started walking towards the door.

            “Heather, I . . .” Jane started.

            Heather stopped and looked over her shoulder. “We’ll be fine,” she interrupted. “Cherry only has to walk there, so that’s half the walking I’ll have to do.” She looked back towards the door. “It’s not like I’m worried about my feet getting tired, right?”

            Jane’s face paled at the bitterness in Heather’s voice. Damsel looked as if she wanted to cry, and turned away from the argument. Cherry just quietly sidestepped out into the hallway and then quickly walked to the front door. Heather joined her outside a few seconds later.

            “What the hell?” Cherry asked as they started walking down the street.

            “I don’t want to talk about it.”

            “But your dad is my aunt.”

            “I don’t want to talk about it.”

            “But how is that even possible?”

            Heather whirled in place and grabbed the lapels of Cherry’s jacket. Jerking the taller girl down and into her face, Heather snarled “What part of not talking about it do you not get?”

            “You were right,” Cherry said, and swallowed. “It’s not fun when you lose your temper.”

            Heather let go of Cherry’s jacket like it was on fire and staggered back. “Oh God,” she whispered, rubbing her face. “God, I’m sorry Cherry. Please, just don’t ask me to talk about my father, ok?”

            “It’s chill,” Cherry said, in a tone that indicated the opposite. Then in a lighter tone, “I don’t wanna stay pissed at you anyway, cuz!”

            Heather stared at her for a second, then both girls started giggling uncontrollably. After they calmed themselves Heather said, “Look, let’s walk up to the guard house and you call your . . . our . . . uncle. No point in you walking all the way home because I had a fight with Dad.”

            “What are you gonna do?”

            “Go home. Walk around back and sit on the lawn. Calm down.”

 

***

 

            Trent was striding down the hospital hallway, his long legs covering ground at a speed that would be running for a shorter man. The hallway opened into the small sitting area that passed as a waiting room for ICU, and across the room he saw Quinn sitting next to a miserable looking girl with long brunette braids.

            He strode over to the pair. “Janey, Daria?”

            Quinn stood. “They’re both ok. Jane had a collapsed lung, and a lot of internal bleeding. She just regained consciousness about an hour ago. They’re keeping her in ICU over night and then moving her to a regular bed tomorrow. They’ll only let one of us visit at a time, but Daria should be out soon.”

            Trent nodded.

            “Daria got out of surgery last night. Her shoulder was messed up really bad, but the doctor says that she’ll recover full use with therapy.”

            Trent nodded again.

            “Oh, God.” Quinn teared up. “They almost died, Trent.” She collapsed into his arms and wailed, “They almost died and it was all my fault.”

            Trent stood stoically and held her as she sobbed. He noticed the other girl was giving him a commiserating sort of look, as if this wasn’t Quinn’s first breakdown since the girls walked in on the robbery.

            “It wasn’t your fault,” he said simply. Quinn looked up at him, her face streaked with tears. “It wasn’t,” he repeated, then looked over at the other girl. “You Stacy?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Thanks for calling. And, you know, helping save their lives.”

            “Welcome.”

            “She told me the whole story,” he said gently, looking down at Quinn. “She didn’t say anything about you shooting Daria or Jane. That was the bank robbers.”

            “But I ran away.”

            “You were scared. Besides, the way I hear it you running wasn’t what started the fight anyway. It was Daria getting up in the guy’s face.”

            “She stood up, I broke.” Quinn’s eyes teared up again. “She got shot protecting me, and Jane almost died.”

            “You ran outside and called 911. That saved Jane, and probably Daria too.”

            Quinn nodded, still not looking completely convinced. The double doors leading deeper into ICU swung open and Daria walked out. Her arm was done up in a sling, and her face was ghastly pale.

            “Trent,” she said, nodding.

            “Good to see you, Daria.”

            “We’re getting married,” she replied. Stacy’s jaw dropped in shock at the announcement. Quinn turned and pulled away from Trent, examining her sister’s face closely.

            “Whoa,” Trent said, his eyebrows shooting up. “You know I like you, but . . .”

            Daria gave him a ghost of her usual smirk. “No, Trent. You’ll be the best man probably, but not the groom.” Daria focused on Quinn and the smirk grew a little. “It does look like Jane gets her Morgendorffer sister-in-law though.”

            “You and Jane?” Stacy asked. Daria nodded.

            “About time!” Quinn said, straightening and wiping her face. “You’ve only been pining for her since you dumped that Tom jerk!”

 

***

 

            “And that’s how it happened,” Trent said. “Daria’s parents weren’t happy about it at first, but they came around before the wedding. That was about a year later, in Vermont. Mystic Spiral played the wedding march. They finished school right after that, and happily ever after.”

            “No wonder they won’t let us see the wedding video,” Heather snickered.

            “Nah, there’s a whole other story about that,” Trent said with a grin.

            “A story they aren’t old enough to hear,” Jane said sharply, walking into the room.

            “Hey, Janey. You been here long?”

            “Long enough,” she sat in the empty chair between her daughters. “Long enough to figure out how bad I’ve screwed things up.”

            “Dad!” Damsel protested.

            “I’ve turned into a Wandering Lane, haven’t I?”

            Everyone sat quietly and watched Jane, except Trent who looked away with a guilty expression. Taking that as confirmation, Jane slowly leaned over and rested her face on the table. Nobody noticed the look on Trent’s face when he saw Daria quietly walk in behind Jane and the twins.

            “My brother won’t tell me the truth,” she muttered into the table. “My sister-in-law won’t be in the same house with me. My wife talks with me and at me but never to me. I swore I’d always be there for you guys and I haven’t been.”

            Jane sat up and looked around the table. “I’m not even there for my own daughters, one of whom hates me.” She looked over at Cherry and said, “I’m pretty sure I’ve done something horrible to you, too.”

            “You still call me Cherish. I stopped going by Cherish when I turned nine.”

            “Not helping,” Damsel said, giving Cherry a death-ray look. Cherry just shrugged, and saw Daria leaning in the doorway. Her eyes got huge.

            “I don’t hate you,” Heather said quietly. “I just wish you’d stop hurting Mom.”

            “I wouldn’t,” Jane said. “I’d never, I just . . . I just don’t know what she thinks any more.”

            Heather bit her lip and fought an ugly little war inside her own mind. Honesty won. “She thinks you want to leave her. Us.”

            The blood drained out of Jane’s face as she stared at Heather.

            “No, she doesn’t,” Daria said, and her family jumped in their seats and looked around.

            “I gotta change the lock on the front door,” Trent muttered.

            “We have a lock?” Cherry asked.

            “She thinks we all need to go home and have a talk. All four of us,” Daria said quietly. “It’s been too long since we have.”

            “How did you know to find us here?” Jane stammered.

            “She sent me a text message when she got back into Lawndale.” Damsel said, looking uncomfortable. “I got it while I was in the bathroom, and I sent one back so she’d know to come pick us up.”

            “Saddle up,” Daria said, motioning towards the door. After her family had filed out she turned to Trent and Cherry. “Thanks for taking care of them for me.”

            After a few minutes of companionable silence, Cherry looked up at her uncle.

            “You still didn’t answer my question.”

            “Sure I did. You wanted to know how Janey and Daria got together.”

            “No, I wanted to know how they had kids. I meant the question biologically.”

            “Oh.” Trent considered this for a moment. “I guess you’ll have to ask them that. I never thought it mattered.”

 

 

            Disclaimers: Stereo Hifi font is ©1997 by Cathy Davies. This story based on characters and situations created by Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis. The Daria TV show is a trademark of MTV Networks, a division of Viacom International Inc. and is referenced here without permission, and without profit. Original characters and situations created by the author are under (K) – all rights reversed. Hail Eris.

 

            Author’s Notes: This chapter was surprisingly difficult for me to write. I pretty much knew going in what the high points of the plot were going to be, I just had to navigate between them. A couple of the scenes required a certain amount of reflection time away from the keyboard after writing them . . . I don’t like hurting the characters (physically or mentally), but sometimes you do what you have to do. Anyway, I’d like to thank the Happy People from the PPMB for their advice, comments, and support. Special thanks to starmeshelion for the Iron Chef: Anachrony challenge which I think this answers nicely. Oh, and the Samuel Clemens bit that Daria refers to goes sort of like this, but I can’t track down the exact quote. “When a child is born, you should place it into a barrel and feed it through a knothole. When the child reaches eighteen, plug up the knothole.” Seemed to suit her mood at the moment. Thanks to DigiSim for pointing out my freakin’ mistake.

 

            Author: the NightGoblyn