All I ever wanted was a place out by the sun
To watch the world go by, and take each day as it comes
All I ever wanted was a chance to catch my breath
To see the world go by, and lay my ghosts to rest
- Dirty Vegas, Ghosts
Heather pushed the door closed and leaned against it with a small smile of satisfaction. She glanced around the quiet foyer and decided she was probably alone in the house. She pulled off her coat and hung it on the rack next to the door and walked upstairs to her bedroom. She opened her door and walked in, stopping just inside the room with narrowed eyes.
“Howdy, Red,” Cherry said, not looking up at her cousin. She was stretched out on Heather’s bed, reading a book on her PDA.
“So, I noticed you keep disappearing after school sometimes,” Cherry said, still reading her book. “After a couple of weeks, I figured out it was only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. What I want to know,” Cherry paused, peering at Heather over the top of the PDA, “is what’s his name?”
“I knew you’d notice eventually.” Heather sighed and pushed the door closed. “You have to swear to me that this goes nowhere. Not my sister, not my parents, not Uncle Trent, not the Monkeys, nobody. Ok?”
“Pinky swear,” Cherry said, waving her little finger in the air. “What’s his name?”
“Ooo, kinky,” Cherry said with a leer. “Hold on, wait . . . not kinky. Isn’t he the student councilor?”
“You’ve been seeing the school head-shrinker?” Cherry asked, dropping her PDA and sitting up.
“Remember when the last Melody Powers movie came out?”
“Starting the week after that. I talked to Mr. DeMartino and he set it up for me. Since I volunteered, it doesn’t require parental permission and side-steps my mother’s written instructions that I not be forced to see a psychologist.”
“Is this about the dance?”
“Yes,” Heather said, and then she shrugged. “No. Well, sort of I guess. Hitting Damsel was a new low for me, I’d never lashed out at a family member before.”
“You scared the hell outta me once or twice,” Cherry said.
“No big. So why are you having to sneak around about this? Aunt Daria get bitten by a couch when she was a kid?”
“I don’t know why, I just know she can’t stand psychiatrists. She says that they’re all quacks, and that they do the psychological equivalent of open heart surgery in a sewage treatment plant.”
“Yeah. So did you come up here and hide out for an hour and a half just to learn my dark secret?”
“Pretty much, yeah. I’m going to head down to Dega Street, you wanna come with?”
“By the way,” Cherry said, as the two girls wandered past the shop windows. “I can tell that your temper has improved.”
“It hasn’t, really. I’m just learning new ways to vent quietly.” Heather stopped walking and looked up at the iron grey sky. “I’m not a well person, Cherry. I’m just now finding out how unwell I am.”
“Heather,” Cherry said, and reached out and put one hand on her friend’s shoulder, “did something happen?”
“Yeah, you could say that.” Heather started walking again. “I’m in the care of an expert, any meddling by an amateur could be dangerous.”
“Hint taken,” Cherry said.
“I’m really not looking forward to Thursday,” Heather said with a sigh. “It’s going to be awful, I can already tell. Mom has been reading her cookbooks with a manic gleam in her eyes.”
“I don’t know, it might be nice to have a big family get together,” Cherry said. “I’ve never had a Thanksgiving that wasn’t just me and Uncle Trent, unless one of his old band mates stopped by.”
“Morgendorffer family gatherings are legendary,” Heather said darkly, “and not in a good way.”
“Well, if it’s not warm and fuzzy it should at least be entertaining,” Cherry said. “Maybe I can get some good inspiration for song lyrics out of it.”
Heather snorted and shook her head.
“Ah, here we are,” Cherry said, motioning to one of the shops.
“Axl’s Piercing Parlor?” Heather asked skeptically.
“Yup,” Cherry answered, grabbing Heather by the hand and pulling her through the door.
The shop was a small and tidy affair, with a counter near the door and walls covered in tattoo art. A doorway behind the counter led to the back rooms where the body art was actually applied.
The woman sitting behind the counter glanced up and smiled. Her hair was mostly blonde, with blue and green streaks dyed through it. She had several facial piercings, and when she stood and walked out from behind the counter Heather could see she was liberally tattooed as well. She wore cut-off jeans and a midriff tank top, the better to show off the skin art.
“Cherry!” she said with a big smile, “where you been, girl?”
“Ah, here and there. Busy with school mostly. How’s business, Trish?”
“Good, good. Who’s your friend?”
“Heather Morgendorffer,” she answered, stepping forward.
“Hmm,” Trish said, examining her through narrowed eyes. “Are you Quinn’s kid?”
“Quinn is my aunt.”
Trish’s eyebrows shot up with a musical tinkle. “Daria had kids?”
“You know my family?”
“Yeah, from when I was little,” Trish answered with a grin, “please tell me that you’re here for piercings and tattoos. I’ll cut you a deal, kid.”
“Uh, no,” Heather said, “Cherry just drug me along, I don’t know why.”
“Too bad,” the woman said with a shrug. “If you change your mind, you come back. I’ll fix you right up.”
“Don’t I have to be eighteen to get tattoos or piercings?”
“Unless you have written consent from a parent or guardian, or a really good fake ID.”
“She knows a guy who makes really good fake IDs,” Cherry said.
“I take it this is where you got your jewelry?”
“Yeah,” Cherry said, “but I don’t need an ID, they’ve got a permission note from Uncle Trent on file.”
“So,” Trish said, “what are you here for today, Cherry?”
“My head feels lopsided,” Cherry said, pointing at her brow. “I’ve got a couple of rings in one eyebrow and none in the other, I think I’d like to balance it out. You know, in time for the holidays.”
Cherry’s yellow Vespa pulled to a stop in the Morgendorffer driveway and Cherry flipped out the kick stand. She and Heather climbed off and removed their helmets.
“Isn’t that Steve’s car?” Heather asked, pointing.
“Yeth,” Cherry answered with a frown. “Wonder what he’th doing here.”
“Ask him,” Heather said, nodding towards the front of the house. Cherry’s boyfriend came out of the house and turned to talk to Heather’s sister, Damsel, while she locked up. Steve was in his usual jeans, t-shirt, and letterman jacket and Damsel was wearing her cheerleader uniform with a light jacket, and sweatpants under the skirt.
“Cherry,” Steve said with a smile when he saw the girls standing next to the scooter. He walked over and nodded to Heather before hugging and lightly kissing his girlfriend.
“Game tonight?” Heather asked.
“Yeah,” Damsel said, walking up. “We’re playing Oakwood, the old hometown rivals. You gonna come watch?”
“Nah,” Heather said.
“You thure, Heather?” Cherry asked. “Might akthedentally have fun.”
“Why are you talking like that?” Steve asked.
Instead of answering, Cherry stuck her tongue out at him. It was adorned with a little chrome spike that twinkled in the winter sun.
“That’s new,” he said.
“I’m not sure which surprises me more,” Damsel said, “the fact that you got it done, or that you haven’t already had it done.”
“Never needed a tongue pierthing before,” Cherry said, wiggling her eyebrows at Steve.
“Um,” Steve said, blushing darkly. “That’s sweet of you, and I . . . uh . . . hey, we need to get to the school, warm-up starts soon. I’ll see you after?”
“Thure,” Cherry said with a wink.
Steve quickly climbed into his car, and with an exaggerated eye roll Damsel followed him.
“Hey, wait!” Cherry said. “Damthel, I got a thing for you.”
“I hope this isn’t going to involve more piercing related innuendo,” Damsel said dryly.
“In your dreamth,” Cherry shot back while hunting around in her pockets. After a moment she found a data chip, which she handed over to Damsel. “Martha thaid to thank you for the book.”
Damsel blinked at the chip a couple of times and then put it in her jacket pocket. “Ok, thanks for bringing it to me. We really do need to head out.”
“Ok, thee ya,” Cherry said. She and Heather waved as Steve’s car pulled out of the drive and away.
“She lookth pretty good for a rethent car wreck victim,” Cherry observed as she and Heather walked towards the house.
“The only real injury she got was the arm, and that’s in a plexicast,” Heather replied with a shrug. “She flat refuses to put it in a sling, says that she doesn’t want to have to coordinate her clothes around it.”
“That’th thtupid,” Cherry said.
Heather unlocked the door and both girls went inside. They could hear some kind of rhythmic banging and whirring from deeper in the house. The looked at one another warily, and began to quietly walk through the house. As they got closer the noises got louder, and were joined by an unpleasant grinding sound. Faintly, they could hear someone cursing.
“Stay behind me,” Heather whispered. Cherry nodded, and Heather dove through the kitchen door. She rolled across the tile floor and sprang up beside the island, whipping a knife out of the butcher’s block.
“Gah!” Daria screamed, pitching a bowl of batter at her daughter as she jumped backwards.
“Freethe!” Cherry shouted, pointing a gun she’d found sitting on the counter.
Jane chose that moment to wander into the kitchen to see how Daria was coming along on the cake recipe she was trying, and found herself staring in shock at the scene inside the room. Her eldest daughter was standing near the kitchen island, covered in cake batter and holding a potato peeler. Her niece was standing near the opposite door brandishing an icing gun as if it were a weapon. Her wife was leaning against the wall in the corner desperately trying not to laugh out loud.
The other three women heard a meaty thud as Jane hit the floor and began cackling madly.
Heather tugged the overstuffed armchair into the foyer and positioned it against the wall next to the front door. She walked back to the den, and came back a moment later with the matching footstool. After dropping the stool in front of the chair, she sat and propped her boots up on it.
She pulled out the pad she’d stuck between the chair’s seat and arm and began drawing. After a few minutes she had a fairly decent sketch of her parents in matching chef’s hats and aprons. Daria’s apron read ‘Domestic Goddess’ while Jane’s had ‘Kiss the Cook’ written on it. With a smirk, she added her sister to the drawing as a Dickens-esque orphan holding an empty plate. She tapped her pencil against the page thoughtfully for a moment, but was interrupted by the doorbell.
She reached up, grabbed the doorknob, and opened the door. She glanced up when Trent and Cherry entered, and then flipped the pad over to a clean page.
“Hey,” Trent said.
“Hi Uncle Trent, hey Cherry,” Heather said, already starting another drawing. “I’m on door duty, but Dad and Damsel are in the den. Mom’s in the kitchen, I suggest you don’t bother her.”
“That bad?” Cherry asked.
“Every time Dad tries to help, Mom glares at her and says something about still having an old bridesmaid dress,” Heather answered. “I have no idea what she’s referring to, but I don’t want to be in the blast radius.”
“I’m gonna head on in,” Trent said, walking towards the den.
“Want company?” Cherry asked.
“Sure,” Heather said, “I was going to amuse myself with crude sketches but if you want to hang here that’s chill, too.”
Cherry glanced at the pad and snickered at the rendition of herself and Trent as pirates. “I’ll go get a chair,” she said and wandered off.
Heather started adding some details to the drawing before the doorbell rang again. Once again, she reached up and opened the door without looking.
“Um, hello?” Quinn asked, glancing around. “Oh, there you are.”
“Hi, Aunt Quinn!” Heather dropped her pad into the chair as she stood and hugged her aunt. She saw a woman with long brown hair standing behind Quinn, smiling warmly at the two of them.
“Ms. Rowe,” Heather said, disengaging from Quinn and giving the other woman a small bow.
“It’s Thanksgiving, Heather.” Stacy stepped forward and gave the girl a quick hug. “You can call me Stacy.”
“Quinn, it’s good to see you,” Daria said as she walked into the foyer. The sisters embraced a moment. “I see you’ve brought your watchdog.”
“She sneaks up here without me too often already,” Stacy said. “I wasn’t going to let it happen again if I could help it.”
“Where are Ted and Brian?” Daria asked.
“In Los Angeles,” Quinn said, giving Stacy a stern look. “Despite the fact that I tried to give Stacy the day off to spend with her own family.”
“We had Thanksgiving dinner yesterday,” Stacy said with a shrug, “besides you’re just as much my family as they are.”
“Stacy,” Quinn started.
“No,” Stacy interrupted, lifting one hand in the air. “Quinn, if something happens to you all the other bodyguards will make fun of me.”
“I’m not sure my sister needs a bodyguard in my house,” Daria said with a frown, “but you’re a friend, too. Come in, Stacy.”
The three women left to join the others, and Heather sat back down. She toyed with her pencil for a moment, but didn’t feel inspired anymore. A couple of minutes later, Cherry came back with a dining room chair and sat next to Heather.
“You look glum, chum.”
“You know how little cracks form in ice, and then the next thing you know there’s an avalanche?” Heather asked.
“The ice just started cracking.”
“Uh oh, what happened?”
“Mom and Aunt Quinn are annoyed at Ms. Rowe because they don’t think she should have left her family to be here with Quinn.”
“Ms. Rowe?” Cherry asked. “Your old martial arts teacher is here?”
“Well, she’s also Aunt Quinn’s best friend,” Heather explained, “and she did a whole lot of babysitting for me and Damsel when we were little.”
The doorbell rang again, and this time Cherry pulled the door open. A middle aged woman with auburn hair stood on the door step. She had her hair pulled back in a bun and was wearing an expensive looking dress.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “I think I have the wrong house.”
“I dunno,” Cherry replied, “you looking for the Morgendorffers?”
“Oh, yes.” The woman looked at Cherry again. “You must be a Lane.”
“Cherry Lane,” she said, motioning for the woman to come in, “Jane is my aunt.”
“Erin Chambers, Daria is my cousin.” Erin walked in and saw Heather, once again working in her sketch pad. “Hi, Heather.”
Heather grunted noncommittally and continued drawing.
“Well,” Erin said, “I guess I’ll just go see who else is here.”
Cherry sat down as the woman left the foyer. “Not your favorite relative?”
“I think this is the third time I’ve met her in my life. There’s some kind of weird tension between her and Mom.”
“Are there any two people in our extended family that don’t have weird tension?”
Heather stopped drawing for a moment and looked thoughtful. “Me and you, and everybody likes Aunt Quinn.”
“Why wouldn’t they?” Quinn asked with a smile, walking back into the foyer. “I thought I’d join you girls on door duty for a little while.”
“Mom and Erin sniping at each other already?”
“Not yet, but Jane was threatening to sing.”
“She’s not good?” Cherry asked.
“No,” Heather and Quinn said simultaneously, and then they both laughed.
Quinn sat on the end of the stairs and looked at the two girls sitting by the door. “Cherry?”
“Last time we met, I didn’t know you were Trent’s niece.”
“Yeah, but you still told me to call you Aunt Quinn and that was pretty chill.”
“Thanks,” Quinn took a breath, and then continued, “I just want you to know that you’re part of my family and you can call me if you ever need anything, ok?”
“Oh, and I set up a college fund for you. You can probably afford to go anywhere in the country, but if you decide to go overseas let me know.”
Cherry’s jaw dropped.
“My nieces already have college funds,” Quinn said with a smile. “I talked to Trent about this before setting it up, you aren’t allowed to argue.”
“Thanks,” Cherry said weakly.
“You’re welcome,” Quinn said. She walked over and gave the girl a hug, and then left the foyer to rejoin the rest of the family.
“That was,” Cherry started, and then found herself with nothing to add.
“That was Aunt Quinn,” Heather said, grinning smugly. “She does stuff like that. Remember me telling you that she loves to spoil other people’s kids?”
The doorbell rang again, and Heather stood to open the door. A serious faced woman with iron grey hair stood on the doorstep, wearing a dusky rose woman’s business suit. Behind her, a man with thinning silver hair and a cane winked at Heather.
“Hi Gramma, hi Grandpa,” Heather said, stepping out of the door. “Happy Thanksgiving.”
“To you as well,” Helen said, entering the house. Jake followed along behind her, looking surprised at the size of the house.
“Hey there, little kiddo,” he said, “how’s your sister?”
“She’s fine, Grandpa.” Heather pushed the door shut. “Well, that’s everybody. Let’s head into the war zone.”
The family sat around a large table in the dining room, eating with very little conversation. The tension in the air was almost thick enough to see, and Cherry kept glancing at her Uncle Trent nervously.
“Daria,” Helen said, “this is a lovely meal.”
“Thanks,” Daria answered with a shrug. “I’m sure that President Lincoln would approve.”
“Yeah, the only reason we celebrate Thanksgiving the way we do today was because of him; he declared a holiday to boost national morale during the Civil War. You do know that the whole story about helpful natives and starving pilgrims is a lie, right?”
“Daria, why must you always pick everything apart?”
“Because I don’t like lies, Mom. I never did, remember?”
“And so it begins,” Heather muttered.
“Heather,” Helen said in a stern voice, “while I’m sure your mother approves of that sort of commentary . . . .”
“Approval that’s a lot more important than her grandmother’s opinion,” Jane said, cutting into the conversation.
“You missed your chance at being a mother,” Daria added. “I didn’t have kids so you could try again.”
“Too bad the girls can’t have two good parents,” Quinn muttered.
“What exactly is that supposed to mean?” Jane snapped.
“That I understand how rough it can be to mostly raise yourself as a teenager,” Quinn said, then patted Jake’s hand. “No offense, Daddy.”
“Um,” Erin said nervously, “maybe we should change the subject?”
“I’m sorry that I was too busy keeping you in clothes and food to be around when you needed a pat on the head, or a kick in the ass,” Helen said, looking back and forth between her daughters.
“You sure managed to make up for that ‘kick in the ass’ part later on,” Jane said.
“Don’t talk to my mother like that!” Quinn exclaimed, at the same time Helen shouted, “I did what I thought was best, and I won’t apologize for that.”
“You stabbed me in the back,” Daria said flatly, leaning across the table at Helen.
“This is my house, and I’ll speak to anybody in it however I damn well please,” Jane snapped at Quinn.
Damsel stood, knocking her chair over and fleeing the room. Cherry glanced around and realized that Jake and Trent had both already gone.
“I did what I thought was best for my little girl,” Helen insisted again.
“Great parenting form,” Quinn said, sneering at Jane and motioning to Damsel’s chair. “Are you going to have time to talk to her before you leave for your next art show?”
“Leave Jane alone,” Daria snapped, pointing at Quinn. “And you,” she continued, turning on Helen, “I was an adult, not a little girl. You threatened to sue Raft if they didn’t have me counseled after we walked into that bank robbery. They put me on academic probation, goddamn it.”
“You were emotionally unstable, you needed help.”
“She’s a lousy partner, Daria. How long is it going to take you to realize that?” Quinn said.
“I’ve been her friend a lot longer than you have, or did you forget all the cousin jokes?” Jane said, glaring at Quinn.
“I was emotional, end of sentence,” Daria said to Helen, ignoring her sister. “and the ‘therapy’ had nothing to do with me getting shot or Jane almost getting killed. The shrink they sent me to specialized in orientation realignment. He spent six months telling me that I was a pervert and trying to make me leave Jane.”
“Oh God,” Erin muttered, staring down at her plate.
“You almost cost me my partnership,” Helen shouted.
“I was in love!” Daria shot back, slamming one fist on the table. “You didn’t even care.”
“When I hurt her I was a stupid kid,” Quinn said to Jane, “you’re still hurting her, or should I not bring up that after party in LA? What was his name?”
“I’m going to check on Damsel,” Jane said, standing abruptly. “I may be a lousy partner, but at least I didn’t throw away my chance to be a parent.”
Quinn’s wine glass broke in her hand, showering her plate with glass, wine, and blood.
“Dammit,” Stacy muttered, grabbing Quinn’s arm and elevating the hand. She began to clean the cuts with a napkin. Helen and Daria glared at each other across the table, both seemingly oblivious to the rest of the room. Erin had the wine bottle in one hand and her glass in the other, alternately filling and draining the glass. Cherry opened her mouth to say something, and Heather kicked her under the table.
“Well,” a woman said from the dining room door. “Our family reunions are as happy as ever. I hope I didn’t miss the punch and pie.”
“Amy,” Helen said, examining her younger sister through narrowed eyes, “still ready with the snide commentary, I see.” Amy stood just inside the room, leaning casually on an elegant black cane. She wore her silver hair long and loose, and had a pair of half-moon glasses perched on the end of her nose.
Heather stood and motioned for Cherry to follow her. “C’mon,” she muttered, “it’s about to get worse.” The two girls slipped around the newcomer as she and Helen began trading barbs. Grabbing their coats, they slipped outside and began walking though the neighborhood.
After several minutes of walking in gloomy silence Cherry said, “I always wondered what it would be like to have a normal family.”
“If you find out, let me know.”
“Well,” Cherry said, glancing around. “We’re near Steve’s place if you want to drop by there. He said I was invited and I’m sure nobody will mind if I bring you with me.”
Heather shrugged, and followed Cherry to her boyfriend’s house. Cherry rang the doorbell and they waited in the cold for a few moments. The door was opened by an extremely tall and well-muscled black man.
“Hi, Mr. MacKenzie.”
“Hey, Cherry. We were hoping you’d stop by,” the man said with a smile, “this must be one of the Morgendorffers.”
“Call me Mike, Heather. I keep telling Cherry to, and she never seems to listen. You girls come on in out of the cold.”
Mike led them into large den that was full of people sitting, chatting, and eating from paper plates. Steve spotted them and walked over to give Cherry a quick kiss.
“Glad you came,” he said quietly, then smiled at Heather. “Nice to see you, too. How’s your holiday been?”
“We probably have several family members on their way to the hospital as we speak,” Cherry said wryly.
“Ouch,” Mike said, raising his eyebrows. “Daria never talked about her family much, but I did get the idea there was a lot of friction.”
Heather had partially tuned out the conversation to scan the room, and started with surprise when she saw a familiar face. “Um,” she asked in a low voice, “is that Senator Landon?”
“Yeah,” Mike said, “she’s an old friend of the family, drops by for a couple of hours every holiday that she can manage.”
“She and Dad used to have a thing,” Steve said with a smirk. He noticed the look his father was giving him and rapidly added, “I think I’m going to go see if Mom needs any help bringing out dessert.”
Steve vanished into the kitchen, leaving his father with Heather and Cherry. Mike and Cherry went into the den, chatting with other people they knew. Heather turned and climbed about halfway up the stairs so she could sit and watch the gathering through the railings. Everything seemed quiet and peaceful, a family sharing a holiday meal and catching up with each other’s lives.
“It’s not as perfect as it looks,” a girl said from behind Heather. She glanced around and saw a girl in her early teens with large dark eyes and her hair done in corn rows, the beads clicking together quietly when she moved. The girl was also sitting on the stairs, just a few steps up from Heather.
“Hi,” Heather said, “I’m Cherry’s cousin.”
“You must be Heather, you seem gloomy.”
“Gloomy and zoomie – that’s how Cherry describes you and your sister. Frankly, I’m glad it’s you up here with me and not her. I wear pink professionally, I have no desire to fraternize with anybody who wears it by choice.”
“You’re Steve’s sister the ballerina?”
“I also do origami, have a three-point-one GPA, and go paintballing with my Mom one weekend a month. Yet, all Dad can talk about is his little ballerina,” the girl sighed. “My name is Vivian, pleased to meet you.”
Heather nodded and looked back out at the family below. “They look pretty close to perfect compared to mine.”
“They’re alright,” Vivian said with a shrug. “They’re on their best behavior right now, though. Last year Uncle Brian had a few too many drinks and got a little out of hand.”
“Out of hand?” Heather asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah,” Vivian answered, her eyes darkening. “Mom went upstairs and got her paintball rife. She shot him seventeen times before he got out of the house. Now nobody puts a toe out of line.”
“Your Mom sounds chill.”
“She has her moments.”
“Here you are,” Cherry said, looking up the staircase. “Lurking with Viv, I see. Hey-ya, kidlet.”
“Hi,” Vivian said, rolling her eyes at the nickname.
“Gloomy and zoomie?” Heather asked.
“I’m going to go see what’s taking Steve and Mrs. MacKenzie so long with those desserts,” Cherry said as she vanished towards the kitchen.
“Can you teach me that facial expression?” Vivian asked.
“Sure,” Heather said with a grin. “First, clear your mind.”
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