Heather

in

Snow Place Like Home

 

 

How many times must I live this tragedy?
How many more lies will they tell me?
All I want is the same as everyone . . .
Why am I here, and for how long?

 - Queensryche, Eyes of a Stranger

 

 

            Jane yawned and scratched the back of her head, only partially paying attention to where she was going. She let her feet guide her to the kitchen, let her hands pour the coffee from the pot on the maker, all without any great conscious control. She wandered aimlessly through the house sipping the black nectar of life, seeking something that hovered on the edge of memory.

            “Goddamn producers,” Daria snarled. “What do they want, blood?”

            Jane paused in the hallway and backed up a few steps, peering through the partially open door into her partner’s office. Daria was hunched over her computer, glaring angrily at the screen. Her eyes were deeply shadowed, and her hair stood out at odd angles. Her small office coffee-maker had been moved to sit on the edge of her desk, a minor detail that spoke volumes about how long she’d been working.

            “Oh yeah,” Jane murmured to herself, a small smile blooming on her lips. “That’s what I was looking for.” Jane nudged the door open and walked into the office.

            “What?” Daria snapped, peering up at her with bloodshot eyes.

            “Amiga, you didn’t come to bed last night,” Jane said gently. “And I bet you haven’t had anything to eat but coffee. You need a sanity break, and some food.”

            Daria pushed herself back from the desk and rubbed her face vigorously. “I’m fine, I’m fine. I just need to finish this bit and I can take a break.”

            “I’m sure,” Jane said, reaching across the desk and carefully straightening Daria’s glasses. “Why don’t you tell me about it over breakfast? Damsel left you a plate in the oven.”

            Daria sighed. “You’re not going to leave me alone until I take a break, are you?”

            “Nope.”

            “Fine, fine.” Daria stood and staggered slightly. Jane moved quickly and smoothly to catch her before she could stumble.

            “You’ve been sitting too long,” Jane chided.

            Daria grumbled a little while Jane led her to the kitchen and helped her sit at the table. Jane pulled the plate of toast, bacon, and eggs out of the oven and put it in front of her wife, then poured a glass of orange juice to go next to it.

            “I don’t deserve you,” Daria said, and started eating the food.

            “No, not really.” Jane smirked. “But since I love you we’ll just consider you amazingly lucky and let it go at that.”

            Daria stopped eating and looked up at Jane warily. “You really are worried about me, aren’t you?”

            Jane sighed and nodded.

            “I’ll take a nap after I get done eating, ok?”

            “Thank you, amiga.”

            Daria returned to her plate, and Jane sat and watched her eat. After a few minutes the plate was empty, and Daria drained the last of the juice.

            “So, what are you working on?” Jane asked.

            “Final edit of the screenplay adaptation of Powers four.” Daria leaned back in her chair and smiled ruefully. “Those damn producers will take it, or else they won’t be able to start shooting on time.”

            “Still a twisted little crueler,” Jane said with a smile. She paused and looked thoughtful for a moment. “Four? Is that the one with the communist Satan worshipers?”

            “No, that’s the first one, Red Hell.”

            “Oh.” Jane thought for a moment. “The second one was about the communists using a dating service as a front to infiltrate the government, right?”

            “Yeah, that one was named Love Hurts.”

            “Right, and they released the movie version of Blood Reign last month.”

            “Which was about communist vampires, led by the horrid undead Rasputin.”

            “Who wasn’t a communist.”

            “Beside the point,” Daria smirked.

            “Or undead.”

            “Also beside the point.”

            “So which one is the fourth one?”

            “Against the Fourth Reich.”

            “Ah, moving away from communists to Nazis.” Jane nodded. “That’s good, everybody likes to beat up Nazis.”

            “Oh, no. They’re communist Nazis.”

            “Oh,” Jane said, nodding. Then for a moment she looked deeply confused. “Wait, weren’t the Nazis and communists enemies in World War Two?”

            “Yeah, but now they’re working together.” Daria leaned across the table and began gesturing emphatically to illustrate her explanation. “See, communism is a form of government based on the economic system of socialism. The Nazis were a fascist government that claimed to be based on socialism. Nazi is an abbreviation for ‘National Socialist Party’ after all.”

            “Who’s the main bad guy in this one, Gestapo Lenin?”

            “Don’t be silly,” Daria said. “The bad guy is Hitler’s brain in a jar, of course.”

            “Of course,” Jane said agreeably. “You’re going to bed now.”

            “Ok,” Daria said with a slightly dopey smile.

            Jane rolled her eyes and helped Daria stagger upstairs and collapse into bed. She sat on the edge of the bed for a long while, watching her best friend sleep peacefully.

            “Communist Nazis,” she murmured, shaking her head.

 

            “Alright,” Mr. Norman said, “let’s start with the Morgendorffers. We’ll be back in thirty minutes, and then it’ll be Lane and Feldman’s turn.”

            “Lovely,” Cherry muttered, glaring at the shorter girl. Jessica tossed her curls and sniffed with disdain.

            Heather and Damsel followed the teacher outside to the parking lot, all of them climbing into a four door sedan. The car was light grey, with bright yellow stickers all over it reading ‘Student Driver.’

            “All right, Heather,” the teacher said in a calm voice. “This is going to be our first time out, are you ready for this?”

            Heather cranked the car and carefully checked all her mirrors. Putting the car into reverse, she smoothly pulled out of the parking space and then put the car in drive. Smiling to herself, she drove out of the school parking lot and onto the main road.

            “Very good,” the teacher said, “you’ve driven before.”

            “Every now and then,” she answered, smirking.

            “Mr. Norman?” Damsel said from the back seat. She was reading something off her PDA with a worried expression.

            “Yes, Damsel?”

            “There’s a weather warning, severe snowstorm.”

            The teacher glanced out the window at the sky. The clouds were starting to thicken up, but the temperature wasn’t near cold enough for snow.

            “Well,” he said, “a little inclement weather might not be bad to practice in. If it gets too bad I’ll drive us back to the school, ok?”

            “Yes, sir.” Damsel did not look at all reassured.

 

            Cherry was scribbling in a small notebook, trying to compose a new song for the band’s next gig at the Zon. The rest of the class was occupied with sifting through notes, catching up on studying, or getting a head start on homework. The assistant Driver’s Ed instructor was sitting at the shared teacher’s desk reading a magazine.

            The intercom crackled, and Mr. DeMartino’s voice came out of the old speakers. “Good day, everyone. I have an announcement to make. Apparently, there is a little bit of snow on the horizon, and the aged grandmothers that set county policy have decided to cancel school for the rest of the day. Students who drive may leave now, the school buses will be here for everyone else in a few minutes. Faculty will leave after the buses.”

            The assistant instructor sighed and looked around the room. “Since you’re all in Driver’s Ed, I assume none of you drove to school?”

            “I ride a scooter,” Cherry said, standing and pocketing her notebook, “but I’ll need to go see Mr. Lane before I go home.”

            “On your way.”

            Cherry headed to the door, but paused when she saw a short blonde girl motion to her tentatively.

            “Yeah?”

            “Here,” the girl said, handing her a datachip, “can you return this to Damsel when you see her? Tell her Martha said thanks for the loan, it was a good book.”

            “Sure,” Cherry said, dropping the chip into the same pocket as the notebook. She headed out the door and jogged down the hall towards the music room.

 

            “Damsel, you’re doing very well,” Mr. Norman said in an even, reassuring tone. The car twitched a little but stayed inside the lane, and they were going about ten miles an hour below the speed limit.

            “Thanks,” she answered absently, nervously watching the light traffic moving in the opposite direction. She slowed to a stop at a red light and glanced into the rear view mirror at her sister. Heather looked like she was asleep.

            “At least she’s not worried about my driving,” Damsel grumbled.

            “Eyes ahead,” the teacher admonished, pointing at the green light.

            “Sorry.” Taking a second to glance left and right, Damsel began to slowly pull out into the intersection. Motion in her peripheral vision drew her attention left and she saw the white wall just before it engulfed the car. Panicking, she slammed on the brakes and brought the car to a sudden halt.

            “Ack!” Heather said from the back seat, as she jerked against her seat belt.

            “It’s just snow,” Mr. Norman said, “finish pulling though the intersection and park and we’ll switch places, Damsel.”

            “Ok,” she said nervously. She took her foot off the brake and moved it to the gas pedal. Before the car started moving, the passenger windows were brightly illuminated by a pair of high set headlights.

            “Shit,” Heather said calmly. Then everything was sound and fury.

 

            Cherry walked into the music room and glanced around. The room was devoid of students, and her uncle sat alone at his desk reflectively strumming an old guitar.

            “Uncle Trent?” she asked.

            “Hey, Cherry.” Trent leaned the guitar against the wall and smiled at his niece. “If you want to wait around you can ride home with me. I don’t want you riding your scooter home in that.” He gestured towards a window.

            “Wow,” Cherry said, walking over to peer through the glass. She could only see a few feet before everything vanished into a white haze. “A little early for a blizzard, isn’t it?”

            “It’s snowed this early in Lawndale before,” Trent said with a shrug, “weather here can be weird, but at least nobody is singing.”

            “Singing?”

            “Don’t want to talk about it, too creepy.”

            “Uh, yeah. Anyway, Heather and Damsel were out with Mr. Norman when this hit. I hope they’re ok.”

            “John is a retired stunt driver, I’m sure they’re fine.”

            “If he was driving when the snow hit,” Cherry said, staring out at the swirling curtain.

 

            Heather looked around blearily, trying to blink away the pain throbbing through her skull. She reached up to touch the side of her head and hissed at the pain, jerking her hand away. She glanced down and saw blood smeared on her hand. She heard a sob and leaned forward, peering into the front seat.

            Damsel leaned back in her seat, her lap covered by the deflated airbag. She slowly looked over at her sister and sobbed again.

            “Dam?”

            “My arm is broken,” Damsel whispered, “I don’t know how badly, I’m afraid to look.”

            “How do you know it’s broken?”

            “Hurts, and I’m nauseous. It got caught between the airbag and the door.” Damsel sobbed again, then rapidly said, “Don’t look at Mr. Norman.”

            Heather stopped, her head turned halfway towards the passenger’s seat. “Is he dead?” she asked.

            “I think so, I haven’t been able to look at him much.”

            Heather sighed and finished turning her head. Their driving instructor was definitely dead, as was the entire passenger side of the car. Heather could see the man’s arm sticking out from underneath the bumper of the truck that had hit them.

            “There’s a truck parked in our car,” she observed distantly, then shook her head in an attempt to clear it. The activity just produced more jolts of pain and some vague nausea.

            “Dam, how bad is my head hurt?” she asked, turning back to her sister.

            “Bad gash on your right temple, but it’s mostly stopped bleeding. That’s all I can see.”

            “Ok, I’m gonna get out of the car and see what’s up.” Heather opened her door and stepped out into the swirling snow. Everything was quiet, as if the whole world had been swallowed up by the winter weather. She turned and looked up at the vehicle that had struck them.

            It was a moderate sized U-Move truck, and all of it from the front wheels forward was firmly merged with the right side of the Driver’s Ed car. The door of the truck was standing open, and Heather’s eyes narrowed. Leaning on the car for balance, she walked around the back end and up to the truck. The truck’s cab was empty, and the keys were gone from the ignition.

            “Bastard ran,” she muttered. Slowly shaking her head she reversed course and walked around to Damsel’s door. “How you doing in there?” she asked.

            “Cold.”

            “It’s gonna get colder,” Heather warned. “We gotta get out of here, get to some shelter.”

            “Shouldn’t we call an ambulance or the police?”

            Heather nodded and pulled out her PDA, clicking over to the cell phone function. She grimaced at the bright red ‘no signal’ display and tucked the device back into its belt pouch.

            “No can do, Sis.” she said with a sigh, “No signal. We’re on our own.”

 

            Cherry clicked off her cell phone and glared at it with irritation. “Neither of them is answering, I keep getting a recording that says they’re out of their signal area.” She sighed and dropped the phone back in her pocket. “That’s crap, they’ve got satellite service on their phones.”

            “Might be blocked by the cloud cover,” Trent said, and walked out from behind the desk. “Come on.”

            Cherry followed her uncle out of the room and down the hall to the administrative office. It was mostly deserted, the only person in residence being Coach Thompson, the boy’s gym teacher and football coach. He sat behind the secretary’s desk with his feet up and his ball cap pulled down over his eyes. Cherry could hear his faint snores.

            Trent shook the man’s shoulder and said, “Wake up, man. We got a problem.”

            “Huh?” the coach said, sitting up and straightening his cap. “Oh, hey. What’s wrong?”

            “A couple of students were out in the Driver’s Ed car when the storm started, and they’re not back yet. I’m gonna call Mr. Norman’s cell phone and make sure they’re ok.”

            “That’s cool,” the coach said, leaning back in the chair, “but why’d you have to wake me up?”

            “Your feet were on the phone cord,” Trent answered. He picked up the phone and dialed. He listened to the other end a moment, frowning, and then hung up and dialed again. After a moment he put the phone back down and looked over at Coach Thompson, who was already asleep again.

            “That’s really annoying,” Trent said. “I wish he’d stay awake a damn minute.”

            “Did Mr. Norman answer?” Cherry asked.

            “No,” Trent said with a sigh, “I got bounced straight to voicemail, which means his phone is turned off. He never turns it off when he’s out with students.”

            “Is it ok to worry now?”

            “Yeah,” Trent answered, and picked up the phone to dial again. “This is gonna suck.”

 

            Heather opened the driver’s side door and crouched down to examine her sister’s arm. Gently, she pulled back her jacket sleeve and winced when she saw the break. It was a compound fracture, one of the forearm bones jutting about half an inch through the skin. Very carefully, she put one hand on Damsel’s wrist and one hand on her elbow.

            “Look me in the eyes,” she said to her sister. “Listen to me. Your arm is broken, but it doesn’t look too bad. It’s a . . .” she tensed her arms and pulled, resetting the bone with a wet popping noise, “. . . simple fracture, now.”

            “Oh, God.” Damsel whimpered, leaning sideways out of her seat. Heather quickly moved to the side and grabbed her sister’s shoulders, supporting her while she vomited.

            “You’re such a bitch,” Damsel muttered a few moments later.

            “You’re welcome,” Heather said. She reached under the driver’s seat and came out with a first aid kit. “Now sit still while I fix you up.” She sprayed antibiotic on Damsel’s arm, then put a bandage on it and wrapped it with gauze. She rooted around in the box a little and came out with a collapsible splint. She extended the aluminum braces and then locked the cuffs around Damsel’s forearm to stabilize the break.

            “You done?” Damsel asked weakly.

            “Just about.” Heather grabbed the antibiotic spray again and spritzed it on her head wound, wincing at the sting. “Now I’m done. Let’s go.”

            “Glad you got your first aid merit badge before you quit.”

            “Yeah, me too. Can you walk?”

            “I think so.” Damsel stood, staggered slightly, and caught her balance on the roof of the car. “We’re at the edge of downtown, where are we going to go?”

            Heather frowned, and then gestured in a direction. “That way, I think.”

            Leaning on each other for support, the sisters staggered off into the snow. Within seconds they had vanished from view.

 

            Daria was barely aware of the dim light filtering into the room, and the soft whooshing sound coming from outside. It was too loud to be wind, too quiet to be rain, and for some reason she had unpleasant associations with the sound. Something about being cold, hungry, and annoyed at her sister.

            She moved slightly and felt the arm around her waist tighten, pulling her back into Jane’s long and lanky body. Daria smiled slightly and shamelessly snuggled against the taller woman. Her smile changed into a confused frown when the quiet was interrupted by a loud ringing.

            “Shh,” Jane whispered in her ear, “I’ll get it, and make them leave you alone.”

            Daria grumbled her acceptance, and sighed quietly when Jane rolled away from her to answer the phone.

            “This better be good,” Jane said waspishly. “It’s what? Yeah, that’s cool Trent but was it important enough to wake us up over?”

            Jane listened to what her brother had to say, and her breathing shifted from calm to upset. Daria rolled over and looked at Jane, but couldn’t see anything more than a blur. Still half asleep, she started groping around for her glasses.

            “How long have they been gone?” Jane asked tensely. Daria found her glasses and looked at Jane again. Her knuckles were white on the phone handle, and she had her eyes closed.

            “What kind of idiot has Driver’s Ed classes in the middle of a freaking blizzard!?” Jane shouted into the phone. “Get DeMartino on the phone, and then go look for them you slacker!”

            Daria sat up and touched Jane’s arm. Jane’s eyes opened and Daria quietly asked, “What happened?”

            “The girls are missing. There’s a snow storm outside, and they were out driving in the student car when it hit.”

            Daria suddenly felt very small, very cold, and very afraid. Her formidable mind was filled with static, and the unwelcome thought that now she knew how Helen had felt when she and Quinn had pulled some of their teenage stunts.

            “Mr. DeMartino, Jane Morgendorffer here.” Jane paused a second, then shouted, “Where the hell are my damn kids!?”

            Daria heard the principal talking, but his voice was too muffled to make out what he was saying. Her eyes slowly drifted to the nightstand, and she leaned forward and opened its single drawer.

            “Sue!?” Jane said, still shouting, “You’re dealing with the wrong Morgendorffer if you’re just worried about being sued. At the moment I’m of a mind to go to my brother’s house, find my old combat boots, and shove them straight up your ass. Correction, one for you and one for your driving instructor.”

            Daria pulled a small, brown bottle out of the drawer and started to uncap it. Suddenly, Jane’s pale hand lashed across the bed and knocked the bottle out of her grasp. She watched it bounce across the carpet and land next to the bathroom door.

            “That’s not going to help,” Jane snarled at Daria, then refocused on the phone. “We’re going to go out and look. Lawndale isn’t that big, we should be able to find them.”

            Jane slammed the phone down and stood, raking her fingers though her black hair. She walked across the room and stopped at the bedroom door, turning to see that Daria was staring at her with an expression of wounded shock.

            “We have to find our girls,” Jane said. “They’re out there, Daria. Somewhere in that storm.” Jane pointed at the bedroom window, and Daria turned and saw the heavy snow dancing just beyond the glass.

            “I’m sorry,” Daria said quietly.

            “I know, amiga. Please, I’m going to need you.”

            Daria stood, took one look at the sad, lonely bottle, and joined Jane at the door to the bedroom. “Coats and boots are in the hall closet downstairs, we’ll take my truck.”

            “I’m driving,” Jane said.

            “Good.”

            The women left the room, and a few minutes later the sound of the front door opening and closing could be heard.

 

            Cherry sat in the passenger seat of her uncle’s battered blue Lexus and shivered. Even with the heater going full blast it was taking a while to warm up the inside of the car.

            “I’m gonna drop you off at home before I start looking,” Trent said.

            “No, you drive and pay attention to the road and I’ll search for them,” Cherry said stubbornly. “You know that’ll be safer.”

            “Maybe safer for me, but I don’t want you in the car if there’s an accident.”
            “If I’m in the car you can just drive, and there won’t be an accident.”

            Trent muttered something under his breath and slowed the car to a halt at a stop sign.

            “Did you say that I’m just like my mother?” Cherry asked, giving Trent her full, angry attention.

            “No, I said you girls are all like one another.” Trent gave her a nervous half smile. “You’re acting exactly like Janey and Daria did when they were your age: bossy and too smart for your own good.”

            “I guess there are worse people to be like,” Cherry answered, raising an eyebrow.

            “Yeah.”

            “Because,” Cherry continued, “I appreciate my family just as much as you, Aunt Jane, and Aunt Daria do. Unlike my mother who dumped me on your doorstep and ran, or my father whom I haven’t seen in so long that I don’t remember what he looks like.”

            “There’s more to that story than you know,” Trent said sadly.

            “I know enough,” Cherry said darkly, “and right now I’m too concerned about finding my accidentally lost cousins to worry about any purposefully missing relatives, ok?”

            “Ok,” Trent said, and resumed the search.

 

            “Whose idea was it to get everybody satellite phones, anyway?” Daria asked angrily, glaring at the screen of her non-functional phone.

            “Yours,” Jane answered absently, while carefully maneuvering the truck through the mounting snow drifts.

            “Dammit,” Daria muttered and shoved the phone back into the pocket of her coat. “Are we to the school yet?”

            “Just getting there now,” Jane said. Peering out her window, Daria could dimly see the high school slide by as they passed it.

            “Ok, you spiral out and I’ll keep my eyes peeled for errant teenagers.”

            “Good plan.”

            The silence stretched out in the vehicle as the women concentrated on their appointed tasks. The minutes passed, one by nerve-wracking one.

            “I’m sorry I yelled at you,” Jane said quietly.

            “I’m sorry you had to,” Daria replied, also a near whisper.

            “It scares me, Daria. How fast you reach for that bottle. It really scares me, I feel like I’m losing you.”

            “It scares me, too.”

            “Then stop,” Jane said, “We can get help.”

            “No,” Daria said, looking at Jane sharply. “I’m not going to blow a bunch of money on some quack, and I’m not going to some public confessional and cry in front of a bunch of total strangers.”

            “I’m not your mother, Daria.”

            “Damn good thing,” Daria said. “It’d be pretty sick of me if you were and I still thought the things about you I do.”

            Jane chuckled, and the tension receded. “I just worry.”

            “Me too,” Daria said, turning back to her window, “Right now I’m worried about our kids. Other stuff can wait, ok?”

            “Ok,” Jane said, and resumed the search.

 

            Heather staggered into the wind, her hair streaming out behind her in a red cloud. She had her long coat buttoned and the collar turned up, one hand tucked into a pocket and the other arm wrapped around her sister’s waist. Her face and fingers were numb, and there was snow stuck in her eyelashes.

            She glanced sideways and saw that Damsel wasn’t doing well. She stumbled every third or fourth step and her pale complexion had gone white, with an ugly blue pallor. Her sister’s eyes were half closed.

            “Dam?”

            “Wha?”

            “I can’t feel my toes. How are you?”

            Damsel blinked a couple of times, then gave Heather a look of weak annoyance. “You’re not funny.”

            “I can live with that,” Heather said, “you’ve got to stay alert, ok?”

            “Yeah, ok.”

            “Don’t pass out, you’re too heavy to carry.”

            “Are you saying that I’m fat?” Damsel asked, her annoyance growing slightly.

            “Yeah,” Heather said, rolling her eyes, “that’s exactly it.”

            “I think I’m feeling better,” Damsel said, “I’m not so cold anymore.”

            “That’s good,” Heather said and immediately started walking faster, partially lifting her sister so she could keep up. A few minutes later, she turned off the sidewalk and staggered into the driveway of a solid looking brick house.

 

            “Uncle Trent!” Cherry said, pointing at the wreck in the intersection in front of them. “That’s the student driver car!”

            Trent stopped his car and frowned as he surveyed the mess in front of him. He put the car in park and got out, leaning against the wind to walk over to the wreck. He heard the passenger door open and close, and the crunch of Cherry’s boots on the snow.

            They stopped about halfway up the length of the car, and peered through the windows. The car had small drifts of snow inside where the damage to the passenger side had left it open to the storm. Glittering dark red, frozen blood was splashed across part of the back seat and smeared on the airbag in the driver’s seat.

            “Goddess,” Cherry said, looking at the front passenger’s seat. She turned and made a couple of quick steps and leaned against the back fender. Trent could hear her breathing rapidly, trying to stave off her stomach’s rebellion at the sight of the former driving instructor.

            Trent averted his own eyes, his stomach lurching a bit in sympathy with Cherry’s. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the driver’s side door. He saw the frozen mess nearby, showing that someone else’s stomach had won its battle. His eyes widened when he saw the open first aid kit sitting on the roof of the vehicle.

            He was blinded briefly as an SUV pulled to a stop nearby, its headlights and fog lights all on bright. The sound of doors opening and closing could be heard over its rumbling engine, and Daria and Jane appeared out of the swirling snow.

            “Trent?” Jane called out.

            “Yeah,” he answered, “this looks pretty bad, but the twins aren’t here.”

            “What happened?” Daria asked.

            Trent took a few steps forward and tried to block their view of the car. “The teacher is in the car, looks like he died really fast. The girls aren’t here, but there’s an open first aid kit on the roof of the car.”

            “They’re hurt,” Daria said.

            “Probably, it looks like it was a really bad wreck.”

            “I bet they went looking for shelter,” Cherry said, joining the group.

            “Any idea where they’d go?” Trent asked.

            “Yeah,” Daria said, “Trent, you and Cherry go home. They might have gone there, it’s in walking distance. Jane and I can check out the other place they might have gone.”

            “Ok,” Trent started herding Cherry back to his car. “C’mon, let’s get inside before we freeze.”

            “Let’s go,” Daria said grimly. Jane sighed and followed her back to the truck.

 

            The red SUV swung through the snow and came to a halt in the driveway of an imposing brick house. Daria’s knuckles were white on the steering wheel, and Jane watched her spouse with an expression of deep concern.

            “You don’t have to go in,” Daria said quietly.

            “Daria,” Jane said, chuckling wryly, “if there’s any chance our girls are in there nothing will keep me out. You know that.”

            Daria nodded.

            “Besides, you may need somebody to talk you down from doing something you’ll regret later.”

            Daria quirked an eyebrow.

            “Too bad there’s nobody here that would do that, since I’m likely to hold her down while you kick her.”

            Daria shook her head and smiled for the first time since before she’d been awakened by the phone. “Remember what we were talking about at breakfast this morning?”

            “Yeah.”

            “I love you, too.”

            Without another word, Daria opened her door and dropped to the ground. She stomped off through the storm, leaving her bemused partner to play catch-up. Reaching the door she pushed the button for the bell, then pounded on the door a few times for good measure.

            After a moment the door opened a crack and an elderly man peered out. He leaned heavily on a cane and his silver hair was rapidly thinning to extinction, but a certain boyish humor still sparkled in Jake Morgendorffer’s eyes when he saw his eldest child.

            “Hey, kiddo.” He swung the door open and motioned for them to enter. “Hurry on in, you know how heating bills are these days.” He smiled and nodded pleasantly as the women entered, then pushed the door closed behind them and shot the bolt.

            “They’re upstairs in the bathroom,” he said, cutting off what he knew Daria’s question was going to be. “They’re ok, but you’ll want to take them to the emergency room when this storm blows over.”

            Daria and Jane simultaneously looked at the stairs, then back at Jake. “How bad?” Daria asked.

            “Heather’s got one arm with pretty bad frostbite and a nasty cut on her noggin,” Jake said. “Damsel had hypothermia when they got here, and her arm is all braced up like it’s broken. Heather helped me get her in the tub and I gave them some privacy.”

            “Thanks,” Daria said, and briefly hugged her father before jogging upstairs.

            “Thanks, Mr. M,” Jane said, looking around the room and feeling uncomfortable.

            “Boy fell in the lake one winter when I was at military school,” Jake said with a shrug. “Good thing I remembered what the instructors did to treat him.”

            “Yeah,” Jane said, still looking around.

            “She’s not here, Jane-O,” Jake said sadly, “Called earlier, said she was getting snowed in at the office. Nothing more important to her than Schrecter, Schrecter, Morgendorffer, and Sloane.”

            “I’m sorry,” Jane said.

            “Don’t be,” Jake said, and smiled. “It makes Helen happy, and I’m happy that it does. Gives me time to putter around the house.”

            Jane nodded.

            “But,” Jake said, “that’s not what you were apologizing for, was it?”

            Jane looked at Jake with surprise, then slowly shook her head.

            “Ol’ Jakey has a little more going on than people give him credit for,” he said with a wink. “But what I said about Helen applies here too, in a way. You make my kiddo happy, and that makes me happy. I should be apologizing, not you.”

            “Thanks, Mr. M.”

            “To my daughter-in-law, I’m Jake.”

            “Ok, Jake.”

            “Now then,” Jake said, rubbing his hands together, “I was doing some cooking, care to join me in the kitchen?”

            “Always,” Jane said with a smirk, “Hey, speaking of which - me and Daria were gonna tag team the kitchen for Thanksgiving, you should come by.”

            “Sure, Jane-O!” Jake said with a smile, “Thanksgiving. What a perfect time for some family togetherness. Heck, maybe Daria and her mother will finally get over that silly old argument.”

            Jake walked into the kitchen, leaving Jane standing in the living room rubbing her forehead.

            “My brains must still be frozen,” she muttered to herself before following him into the other room.

 

            Daria knocked lightly on the bathroom door and asked, “Girls?”

            “Mom!” Heather replied. “It’s not locked, come in.”

            Daria opened the door and walked into the steam filled bathroom. Damsel was submerged in the tub to her chin, and gave her a small smile. Heather sat on the commode, her left arm resting in a basin of water.

            “Thank God you’re here,” Heather said, and immediately downed a couple of pills that had been resting on the counter top. “This hurts like unholy hell, but I didn’t want to take anything in case Damsel needed me.”

            “What, exactly, did you just take?” Daria asked.

            “Hydrocodone!” Damsel answered from the bathtub. “It’s little pink happiness.”

            “She got hers earlier,” Heather said wryly. “Grandpa Jake said that thawing out from frostbite is really painful. He was right.”

            Daria sat on the edge of the tub and peered through the water at her younger daughter’s arm. “Broken?” she asked.

            “Yeah,” Heather said. “It was a compound fracture, I reset it and applied a bandage and splint.”

            Daria leaned over and kissed Damsel on the forehead, then turned and took her eldest daughter’s right hand. “You probably saved your sister’s life today.”

            “I’ll regret it tomorrow,” Heather said, looking uncomfortable.

            “I’m very proud of you,” Daria said, then looked down at Damsel again, “of both of you. You survived something a lot of people wouldn’t have.”

            “Mr. Norman didn’t,” Damsel said, looking upset.

            “I know, and I’m sorry.” Daria sighed. “But honestly I’m just happy the two of you are here. The snow will probably stop soon, and then your father and I are taking the two of you to the hospital.”

            The twins nodded.

 

 

            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: the NightGoblyn