“Clique, Clique, Boom”
She sits in her corner, singing herself to sleep
Wrapped in all of the promises that no one seems to keep
She no longer cries to herself, no tears left to wash away
Just diaries of empty pages, feelings gone astray
- Ben Moody, Everything Burns
“Well, I guess this is my stop,” Damsel said, looking up at the front of her home. The porch light was on, and light streamed out through the foyer window, but the rest of the house was dark.
“Tonight was a lot of fun,” Dean said, putting his car in park. He looked over at Damsel and smiled warmly, then reached out and took her hand. “That retro movie theater was a great idea.”
“Thanks,” Damsel said, blushing. “I love those old classic horror movies, but you absolutely can’t tell anybody.”
“It’ll be our bloody little secret,” he said, leaning across the car seat. “My lips are sealed.”
“Mmm,” Damsel said, leaning over and pressing her lips to his. They kissed for a minute, and she pulled away with a regretful sigh. “I better get inside or Mom will be out here knocking on the window.”
“We could bail out of here, head up to the ridge and park. The city is really pretty from up there.”
“I don’t think we’d spend any time looking at the city,” Damsel said. “Besides, didn’t you learn anything from the movie?”
“I don’t think Lawndale was ever a campground, but maybe we’re better off safe than sorry.”
“I’ll see you at the game tomorrow, ok?”
“Sure. Hey, do you want to do this again, maybe next weekend?”
“Maybe,” Damsel said with a small smile. She opened the car door and stepped out onto the driveway, and then leaned over to look back into the car. “You’re the first guy that’s picked up on the hints about the movie theater, so you’re a definite maybe.”
“A definite maybe,” he said, smiling back. “I can live with that.”
Damsel closed the car door and walked towards her house, ruthlessly squashing the urge to skip. She unlocked the door and stepped into the house, pushing the door closed and leaning on it with a smile of satisfaction.
“So, the date went well?”
Damsel jumped with surprise and let out a small squeak. She turned towards the staircase, giving her sister a baleful glare and a sniff of disdain. Heather leaned back with a saucy grin and crossed her boots, letting one heel bob rhythmically in mid-air.
“It must have gone well,” Heather continued. “You look awfully pleased with yourself, not to mention sneaking in an hour past curfew.”
“So I guess you’re gonna run and tell Mom?”
“Nah.” Heather stood and dusted herself off, then walked over and put one hand on her sister’s shoulder. “You’re just going to have to owe me one.”
“You were worried about me.”
“Of course not,” Heather said with a frown. “What gave you that stupid idea? Anywho, it’s late and I have stuff to do in the morning, so good night.”
Damsel watched her sister turn away and march up the stairs and out of sight, then heard the thump of Heather’s bedroom door closing. She shook her head and smiled quietly to herself as she walked up to her own bedroom.
She carefully pushed the door closed, and then allowed herself to giddily prance around the room while giggling and tugging on her braids. After a few moments of that she sat at her vanity and peered at her reflection in the mirror.
I hope Heather didn’t notice that my lipstick is smudged. I hope Dean wipes his mouth before anybody sees him, I don’t want him having to explain why he’s wearing my lipstick.
Damsel started unweaving her long braids, and then reached for a hairbrush. She picked up the brush and then paused, frowning at the data chip sitting next to the brush’s resting place. After a moment, she put down the brush and spun the mirror around to reveal the flat screen monitor on the back. She opened a cabinet door on the vanity and reached inside to turn on her computer, and then slotted the data chip.
When she gave it to me, Cherry said she got the chip from Martha, who told her it was a book I’d loaned her. I never loaned Martha any books.
She methodically scanned the chip for any hidden, malicious programs and it came up clean. With a few mouse clicks, she opened the small drive and found that it contained a single text document. Her frown deepened as she opened the file and read what Martha had to say.
Please don’t be mad at me, I’m writing this because you’re still new here. You’re making a lot of important people upset, I hear them talking because they don’t pay any attention to me. We’re freshmen, you have plenty of time to be Queen of the school. I totally support you, and I don’t want to see you get crushed because you underestimated Jessica Feldman.
You Know Who
“They really take that court intrigue thing seriously, don’t they?” Damsel murmured to herself. “I appreciate the warning, but the only thing Feldman is better at than me is being shrill and desperate.”
Damsel wiped the chip and tossed it into a drawer with a few other blank chips. With a yawn she shut down the computer, and then flipped the mirror back around so she could brush out her hair and get ready for bed.
“Man, I didn’t just score; I got the touchdown and the two point conversion,” Dean said with a grin. The rest of the guys in the locker room chuckled appreciatively at their team mate’s joke.
“Yeah,” one of the defensemen said with a nod. “That time I went out with her she was all about it, if you know what I mean.”
“Dude, quit lying,” another football player said. “You already cried on us about her putting you into some kind of arm lock because you wouldn’t keep your hands to yourself.”
“I just didn’t want to brag, but if she’s gonna work her way through the team I don’t see why I shouldn’t.”
“What about you, Mikey?”
“What about me?” Mike asked, a slightly defensive tone to his voice.
“We heard you took her up on the roof,” Dean said. “You show her all the sights?”
“Man, you guys know I’ve got a girlfriend. I’m not gonna fool around behind Jess’ back.”
“Not if you think you’ll get caught,” Steven said as he walked into the locker room. “Sorry I’m running behind guys, I had to stop and fix a flat on the car.”
“You didn’t miss anything but the Deaniac here puffing up his ego.”
“Which cheerleader did you score with this time?” Steven asked, rolling his eyes.
“The new one,” Dean said with a smirk.
“Damsel?” Steven tossed his shirt into his locker and turned towards Dean with a frown.
“Yeah, the redhead. You know what they say about redheads, and it’s all true.”
“She’s not like that,” Steven said quietly. Abruptly, the entire locker room fell silent, as the chuckling faded in the sudden tension.
“Hey, you’re the man that made dating freshgirls popular,” Dean said. “I just wish that I’d blazed that trail myself, I didn’t know how wild the younger girls are.”
“I’m not sure if I like what you’re implying.”
“You don’t have to brag, man. You’ve got girls lined up, not like us poor mortals who aren’t the Great MacKenzie. Your girl must be pretty wild to keep you interested, I mean she’s got piercings and stuff.”
“First, I don’t want to ever hear you talk about Damsel Morgendorffer like that again. She’s a friend of mine, and she’s not a piece of meat. Understand?”
“Yeah, sorry man.”
“Second, my girl has a name and if you can’t bother to remember it then don’t mention her to me.”
“Third, do not ever speculate about Cherry in my hearing again. You will not appreciate the results.”
“Steve,” Dean said, rising from the bench and turning to look down at his team mate. “You don’t like me talking about the girls, I get it. Now back down, I’m not going to stand here and swallow a bunch of threats.”
“Then maybe you’ll swallow this,” Steven said, bringing a right hook straight into Dean’s face.
“That was such a nightmare,” Damsel said as she jogged into the girls’ locker room. “Steven’s car got a flat on the way here, and Triple-A didn’t even show up until after he’d already gotten the spare on.
“Bummer,” Hillary said. Several of the other cheerleaders murmured agreement.
Damsel quickly worked the combination on her locker and opened the door to retrieve her pom-poms.
“Mike’s motorcycle has those puncture proof tires,” Jessica said. “He had to pay extra, but it means not ever having to worry about a flat or blowout.”
“Yeah, no blowouts except your hair,” Damsel said with a smirk.
“Nothing a little extra mousse can’t handle, and it’s worth it in my opinion. Of course, driving a convertible ruined me for boxed in vehicles.”
“I guess it’s nice for you that Mike has at least one thing that’s worth riding.”
Jessica flushed when the other cheerleaders tittered at Damsel’s insult.
“I hope you’re not trying to imply you know something I don’t,” Jessica said, giving Damsel a thin smile. “Because Mike and I haven’t gotten that far in our relationship.”
“Absolutely not,” Damsel said. “I don’t have any interest in any guy that needs stilts to be at eye level, nothing against you short people and your short love but it’s not my style.”
“Sorry, I shouldn’t get so defensive about him,” Jessica said, raising her hands in surrender. “You’ll understand someday when you quit teasing the whole school and settle down with just one guy.”
“What? Hey, I’m not a tease.”
“You’re not?” Jessica asked, quirking an eyebrow.
“Oh, come on. I didn’t mean . . . .” Damsel’s protest was cut short when Coach Strickland walked in, wearing a stern expression.
“Morgendorffer, come with me,” she said, gesturing at the door. “Bring your pom-poms, you’ll be heading straight to the field from my office.”
“Sure, what’s up?”
“Seems like our star running back decided to put a linebacker on the short term injured list before they left the locker room,” the coach said with a glare. “Funny thing is that the fight seems to have been about you.”
“Me?” Damsel asked, her jaw dropping with surprise.
“Come along, Miss Morgendorffer.” The coach took Damsel’s elbow and steered her out of the locker room.
“Man, it must be awesome to have guys fighting over you,” Hillary said with a sigh.
“Must be,” Jessica said, giving the locker room door a wicked grin. “I wonder who MacKenzie pasted?”
“I saw Dam and Dean out at Governor’s Park last night,” Hillary said. “He’s a linebacker, maybe it was him.”
“Gee,” Jessica said. “I guess he must have said or done something to make Steven angry. You know that he’s really good friends with Damsel, he always drives her to the games.”
“Yeah, he does,” one of the other cheerleaders said, frowning thoughtfully.
“Well, I’m sure Coach Thompson is taking care of it,” Jessica said. “Come on girls, let’s get down to the field and do some warm-ups.”
Trent drove, calmly ignoring the thick currents of tension flowing between his passengers. Cherry sat in the passenger seat, staring out the window with her arms crossed. The twins sat in the back seat, Heather pretending to sleep and Damsel staring at her hands as they twisted together in her lap.
The drive seemed longer than usual, but eventually the car swung into the school parking lot and Trent pulled into his parking space. Damsel bolted from the car while he was still putting it in park. Cherry and Heather got out of the car before he could shut off the engine, Cherry’s door slamming hard enough to rattle the window.
“You girls have a nice day at school,” Trent said absently, and then glanced around. “Try not to kill each other,” he added with a sigh.
“You remember that movie where the guy gets strangled with piano wire?” Cherry asked.
“There were several,” Heather said. “You referring to one in particular?”
“Not really. Just thinking that maybe I should have learned to play piano instead of guitar. I don’t think strangling somebody with a guitar string carries the same dramatic flair.”
“As annoying as she is, I really can’t condone the murder of my sister. Do you know how creepy the funeral would be?”
“Oh, I’m not talking about Little Miss Perfect,” Cherry said. “I’m more thinking of making myself a high school widow.”
Heather sighed as they arrived at their usual pre-school hang out spot and took her place leaning against the rail. “Look, right now all we know is Steve pulled a three day vacation for belting Dam’s last boy-toy. He told you the jackhole was running off at the mouth about her and you, right?”
“Good for Steve, then. Maybe I’ve been a good influence on him.”
Cherry rolled her eyes and then chuckled, finally relaxing for the first time since she’d gotten the call from her boyfriend the night before. Heather grinned at her friend, and then nodded in greeting to the Flying Monkeys as they wandered up.
“See ya after school,” Luke said, squeezing his girlfriend’s hand before she continued on her way.
“You too,” Katie said with a smile. She took a couple of steps and paused to put a hand on Cherry’s shoulder. “I am so, so sorry things worked out the way they did. At least you aimed high, right?”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Cherry growled as Katie hurried over to the Ren clique standing across the clearing. “No, really. Spill it,” Cherry said, turning to glare at Luke.
“Isn’t she hot?” Luke said, staring at his girlfriend. Chaz and Sam glanced at each other, then over at Cherry, and then began to slowly inch away from their doomed friend.
“We can get another drummer, right?” Chaz muttered under his breath. Sam nodded quickly and ducked behind a nearby trashcan.
“Luke,” Cherry said, snapping her fingers in front of his face. When she had his attention she continued, “Explain what she meant by that. What does she think she knows?”
Luke shrugged. “We don’t exactly talk that much, you know?”
“And there’s the bell, thank God,” Heather said, turning and walking into the school building. A scowling Cherry followed along behind, her band mates trailing along in her wake.
Later that day, Damsel put her lunch tray down at her usual table and glanced around. Courtney was pointedly ignoring her, Martha was miserably picking at her lunch, and Katie looked vaguely embarrassed.
“Ok, did I contract leprosy and nobody told me?”
“Huh?” Martha asked, looking up with a shocked expression.
“Nobody has talked to me all day,” Damsel said. “I’ve even been carrying my own books from class to class.”
“Oh, poor thing,” Courtney said, rolling her eyes. She stood and picked up her tray. “Well, my lunch time is over. Ta, ladies . . . and Damsel.”
Damsel sat down and glanced back and forth between her friends and then said, “Alright, gossip queen: gossip.”
“You’re the rumor of the day, Damsel.”
“Ah, and what does Curly Sue have to say about me this time?”
“It’s not just Jessica,” Katie said. “There’s a lot of speculation going on about why Steven MacKenzie would be willing to throw a punch defending your honor.”
“I still don’t know what that was all about,” Heather said, shrugging her shoulders. “I mean, Steven is the kind of guy that would stand up for anybody, right?”
“Usually, yeah; but not violently,” Martha said.
“Ok, but he hit Dean. Dean is a sweetheart, why would Steve have gotten mad at him?”
Katie blinked a couple times and then gave a small, bitter chuckle. “Dean? If you think he’s a sweetheart then I don’t want to know what kind of guys you’ve been dating.”
“I’ve dated a lot of guys,” Damsel said, frowning. “Most of them didn’t make the cut to second date, and none of them made it to three. I have high standards and I really liked Dean.”
“That’s the problem. You’ve dated a lot of guys, and guys tend to get upset when they don’t measure up or whatever, you know they all have such fragile egos. Dean has a reputation of getting exactly what he wants out of a girl, if you know what I mean.”
“But, we didn’t do anything,” Damsel said.
“That’s not what he was saying, and when he started bragging all those other guys with bruised egos decided to make up stories of their own. Then Steve walked into the locker room, and one thing led to another which led to a punch in the nose.”
“But, I . . . I mean, I’m a,” Damsel stammered, feeling her eyes sting with unshed tears. “I never, with anybody. Not more than kissing, I swear.”
Katie gave her a sympathetic smile and shrugged. “Prove it.”
“Hello,” Jessica said, putting her tray on the table with a solid thump. “So, Damsel . . . I hear you finally proved you could be more popular than me at something.”
Without a word, Damsel stood and walked away. She didn’t run until she was out of the lunch room, and she didn’t cry until she was locked in a bathroom stall.
“I want her fucking head on a fucking spike decorating my fucking lawn,” Heather snarled as she paced back and forth. In the wake of Damsel’s dignified exit from the lunchroom no one had noticed Sam and Cherry nearly dragging Heather out one of the emergency exits.
“Don’t blow your anger management therapy,” Cherry said. “Shouldn’t you breathe slowly or count to ten backwards or something?”
Sam stepped forward and started doing the rhythmic breathing pattern associated with Lamaze, gesturing for Heather to join him.
“I’m not pregnant, dumbass.”
“Sam,” Cherry said, “if you’re going to bust out with a wise Silent Bob soliloquy, now would be the time to do it.”
He stared at the toes of his sneakers for a moment, and then reached up and adjusted his ball cap with a sigh. “My dad told me a story once, about these two girls he went to high school with.”
“This is gonna be pertinent, right?” Cherry asked.
“I’m soliloquifying, so shut the hell up and let me talk for a change.”
“You don’t have to get your panties in a bunch, geez.”
“Anyway, the two girls acted like friends on the outside but they were actually rivals. One of the girls was always doing all this really bad, underhanded stuff to the other girl; starting rumors about her, sabotaging her friendships with other girls, trying to steal the guys she was dating and all that other crap the Beautiful People do to each other.”
“And?” Heather asked.
“And the nice girl just acted like she didn’t notice. Maybe she was trying to show that she was a better person, maybe she really was a better person, or maybe she was a ditz and she wasn’t pretending not to notice. The thing is, the mean girl’s smears would stick for a little while and then everybody would forget about it because the nice girl was just so nice.”
“So, you’re saying that Damsel can rise above this just by pretending it didn’t happen?” Cherry asked.
“You’re saying we should just let it go?” Heather said, crossing her arms and glaring at him.
“Oh, hell no,” Sam said. “I say we make all those little bitches suffer, and we roll around in their misery like a dog rolls in garbage. What the hell does it matter how some nice girl dealt with this crap twenty years ago? Are we her?”
“I didn’t know you cared about Damsel,” Heather said as her eyebrows shot up.
“Eh, she’s alright,” Sam said with a shrug. “I’m pissed because some of this crap spattered on her Wickedness. She’s going to be insufferable for weeks now.”
“Thanks for your support,” Cherry said dryly. “So what are we going to do?”
“Christmas vacation starts next week,” Heather said. “That’ll give us plenty of time to plot, and time for them to think they’ve gotten away with this.”
“I’m no good at social warfare,” Cherry said, shaking her head.
“You ever read Sun Tzu?” Heather asked, her lips curling into a thin smile.
“I’ll loan you a copy, there’s a whole section on attacking your enemy’s weaknesses.”
The trio walked around the building and slipped back in through one of the side doors. They were headed through the mostly empty halls back towards the lunchroom when several cheerleaders came out of a nearby bathroom together. The two groups stopped in the hall, looking at one another.
“You know,” Hillary said, “I hope the rumors are true. I think it would be just great if you freaks learned not to date above your station.”
“My boyfriend didn’t cheat on me,” Cherry said firmly. “I trust him, and I trust Damsel.”
“You’ve got him and those other two guys that follow you around all the time,” one of the cheerleaders said, pointing at Sam. “Maybe Steve got tired of the competition and decided to trade up.”
“It wouldn’t be hard,” Hillary said. “You look like you went face diving in the spare parts bin at the hardware store and then put on your make-up with a magic marker.”
“Jealousy is an ugly emotion, Hill.”
“So is denial,” Hillary said with a smirk. “You got bumped by the two-for-one special. No man can resist twins.”
“Are you done talking?” Heather asked. “The answer had better be yes.”
“Or what?” the cheerleader asked, tossing her hair and smirking again. “You’re gonna go all ghetto thug on me?”
“Don’t worry about her, she’s in anger management therapy,” Cherry said. Then she stepped forward and planted her fist in Hillary’s stomach.
The rest of the day passed like a blur for Damsel, as she moved from class to class with a slightly threadbare version of her usual smile. She took some comfort in the fact that the number of people who stared at her and whispered behind her back seemed to be slightly outnumbered by the people who acted normal or outright told her they didn’t believe the rumors.
Finally, the last bell of the day rang and students began streaming out of the school building. Most were headed towards the school buses parked out front or the student parking lot at the side of the building, but Damsel headed towards the back of the school and the faculty lot.
She stopped and turned, her face cold and expressionless. “Yes, Dean?”
“I should have kept my mouth shut, I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry, too.” She turned away and started walking again.
She paused without answering.
“Am I still a definite maybe?”
“Definitely not,” she said flatly, and then continued on her way.
Damsel shivered a little in the cold air outside, and quickly made her way to her Uncle Trent’s car. Heather and Cherry were already there, leaning against the trunk and talking. Damsel’s eyes narrowed as she examined them; her sister had a nasty looking bruise on one cheek, while her cousin had a busted lip, a black eye, and her right hand was bandaged.
“Have you been fighting?”
“Maybe,” Cherry said.
“The cheerleading team does have alternates, right?” Heather asked.
“You know what, I don’t even want to know.”
“It’s a great story,” Heather said, grinning widely.
The car chirped as the doors unlocked. “Everybody in,” Trent said as he walked up. “I want to get home and take a nap.”
“Three days of suspension,” Daria said, looking up from the letter on her desk. Heather fidgeted slightly but didn’t respond. “For brawling in a hallway.”
Jane leaned against the wall in the corner with her arms crossed, and said nothing.
“It’s in school suspension, so I won’t be missing any days or anything.”
“Well, that makes it all better.”
“I didn’t start the fight,” Heather said.
“No, but you certainly finished it. You sent four girls to the infirmary, Heather.” Daria leaned back in her chair and rubbed her eyes under her glasses.
“What, you expect me to let them all gang up on Cherry? She could barely handle the one she tagged to start the party.”
“That’s part of your problem; this was an undignified fist fight, not a party. This is not something to be proud of, Heather.”
“I thought it was a good thing that I looked after other people.”
“It is,” Daria said. “But you’ve got to start looking for solutions other than violence. You can’t go around looking for excuses to fight.”
“I didn’t look for an excuse,” Heather said, her voice rising. “We were walking down the hall, and those girls started saying things, and Cherry took a swing, and then there was a fight. It came looking for me.”
“At least you had enough restraint to avoid seriously injuring any of those girls.”
“My temper is better, I swear,” Heather said. “I’ve been working really hard since I started going to . . . .” Heather’s voice trailed off when she saw the flash of anger in her mother’s eyes.
“DeMartino sent you to some kind of therapist behind my back, didn’t he? Don’t worry, kiddo . . . I’ll get you away from those parasites as fast as I can.” Daria reached for her phone.
“It wasn’t Mr. DeMartino’s idea,” Heather said quietly. “It was mine.”
“Mom, please. I need help, there are things wrong with me that I can’t even pronounce.”
“Those people will make you think that there’s something wrong with you so that they can milk you for all the money they can get,” Daria said.
“I already knew there was something wrong,” Heather said. “Besides, Mr. Jackson is the school councilor; he doesn’t get paid any extra to see me. He’s nice, Mom.”
“He’s nice?” Daria asked skeptically.
“We talk about my issues, and he showed me ways to apply what Ms. Rowe taught me to controlling my temper. He even got me some medicine.” Heather pulled a small pill bottle out of her jeans pocket and showed it to her mother.
“Medicine? He gave you drugs?”
“They’re very mild, he said I didn’t need much help controlling myself. He said that I should only need them a year or so.”
“Go to your room.”
“Go. To. Your. Room.”
Heather turned and left the office. A moment later her boots could be heard moving up the stairs and out of hearing range.
“How long have you known about this?”
“What?” Jane asked.
“Jane, that was a prescription bottle. School faculty can’t hand out an aspirin without parental approval, and I damn well know that nobody asked my permission to give my daughter mood altering pharmaceuticals.”
“She’s been in therapy for a couple of months. They called me about the pills a couple of weeks ago, and I told them to go ahead.”
“You know how I feel about this.”
Jane walked over and sat on the edge of Daria’s desk, and looked down at her partner. “Daria, you have always been my best friend. I love you with all my heart. You are a strong, brilliant woman. You also happen to be judgmental, reactionary, and pig headed.”
“Sometimes you’re just plain wrong, and you never want to admit it.”
“You remember what that asshole did to me,” Daria snapped.
“Yes, very clearly and I still hate him and your mother for it. But that was him, Daria. He was one guy, not all psychiatrists everywhere for all time. I had a nice, long talk with this Jackson guy when he called me. He cares . . . it was like talking to Mr. O’Neill if he wasn’t an idiot.”
“I don’t believe what I’m hearing.”
“Daria, we talked about this when she got . . . hurt. I wanted her to see somebody then and you wouldn’t allow it. She hasn’t gotten any better.”
“I need some time alone.”
“Alright,” Jane said. She stood and walked to the door. “I’m going to head down to my studio for a while. When you want company again, come downstairs and we’ll order some Chinese. We can pretend we’re college kids living in a tiny apartment and trying not to starve.”
“Back when we were happy?”
Jane walked away without answering. Daria sat and brooded for a few moments and then reached for her telephone again. She dialed a number from memory and listened to the ringing on the other end.
“Hey, it’s me,” she said when the other person picked up. “About as well as usual, you?”
She nodded quietly at the answer.
“That’s good. Do you have any Christmas plans? Good, I’m going to send you the twins over the Christmas break.”
Daria sighed and took her glasses off, putting them on her desk.
“I don’t want to talk about it, ok? Yeah, sure . . . No, I’m fine. I promise . . . yeah, ok. I love you, too. Bye.”
She hung up the phone, and then opened a desk drawer. She pulled out a tumbler and sat it on her desk, and then pulled out an empty glass bottle. She stared at the bottle in annoyance for a moment, until she noticed that the label had been painted over. The former whiskey logo had been covered by a small, stick figure representation of Jane which seemed to be waggling its finger at her.
Daria tossed the bottle in the trash with a groan, and stood up. She quickly gathered her coat and truck keys and headed out of the office.
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