Part 2: Malled
Disclaimer: Daria and associated characters are owned by MTV and Viacom. This is fan fiction written for entertainment only. No money or other negotiable currency or goods have been exchanged. Special thanks to the Outpost Daria for the Transcripts available there, they were invaluable tools for the development of this chapter, and in the future I hope I can be less reliant on them.
This is the second half of 'chapter 05: A week in the life…' and if the other part was big, then this is a monster. I hope you like it.
This chapter is dedicated to peetz5050 for his invaluable efforts proof reading, making it legible.
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Jane awoke early in the morning, in fact when reading her clock she realized she had woken too early to go to school, and she knew damn well the reason why. Since getting asleep would be quite pointless she decided to get her pants and running shoes on and do a couple of laps around the neighborhood.
Passing by her brother's room without caring about the noise she was making, since her brother wouldn't wake up inside a helicopter, she went outside and started running at a sharp pace to bleed out her remaining discomfort at being forced to go to the mall.
She had always done her shopping on Dega Street. It had been so since the time her mother had taken her there to find clothes with 'spirit'. In later years when the family had finally fragmented she had found things matching her style at affordable prices, something very important considering just how much she spent on art supplies per month and the lack of stable income until recently.
But when she entered her junior year she had decided to maybe change her image a little, she saved her money for a couple of new outfits at Cashman's, but the trip went south fast enough. When she arrived at the store one of the saleswomen had followed her all the time, at the beginning she thought it was to assist her with her shopping and maybe earn a commission, but soon every time she picked an outfit said woman would pay a compliment that was really a veiled insult. She had ignored that, but then when she had finally chosen something and decided to see if it fitted her she was redirected from the normal dressing rooms and sent to 'Fitting Room 8' a converted broom closet at the other side of the store. She didn't truly understand the magnitude of the insult until hearing the mocking voices of other clients about being exiled to the Loser's Corner. It was no surprise that she lost her temper and yelled back at both the mocking clients and the rude staff, but the same staff that had ridden her to the edge had called mall security as soon as she entered the place, just to keep an eye on the poor girl, and escorted her out of the mall.
The shock and anger over the insult had been enough to do some serious harm to her self-image, she had bought her now beloved red jacket and became far more judgmental of the rest of the girls in her classroom, that alongside an honest chat with Miss Manson had been the reasons she had been thrown into the Self Esteem workshop. The only useful thing she learned there was to ignore and mock the horde of popular obsessed jerks instead of telling them the truth to their face.
After a while all her thoughts fled her mind as she lost herself in the rhythm of her run, reaching better speeds than she would ever do intentionally in class. Once she did her entire route and returned home, she took a long cleansing shower, dressed in her usual attire and then decided to take her old camera instead of the newer Polaroid in order to use up her remaining film, she also took what she believed to be a sizeable amount of money from her stash hidden in an old hollowed out math book, a place that no member of her family would ever open even by accident. Once she ate a breakfast composed of cold milk and one colorful brand of cereal she checked her brother, who was still asleep, and went directly to the school.
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The Morgendorffer home was host to a more chaotic affair, this day both of the parents were busy with work, and unknown to the rest of the family both siblings were just as busy with their own field trips.
"Helen, have you seen my tie, the one with the yellow chickens?"
"No I haven't and you should not wear that to a business meeting anyway, it was a gag gift."
"But it is for Clucky Farm Products, I think they'll appreciate the joke."
Daria was slowly eating a piece of toast, the last few days full of medicine and abdominal pain had left her with a badly abused stomach that decided to loudly complain about it. The irony of having nausea, a symptom commonly connected with the absence of the menstrual cycle, was neither lost nor appreciated.
Then Quinn descended the stairs, already bathed and fully dressed, a rarity by itself. "Need to leave, early meeting with the Fashion Club."
"Wait, since when does the Fashion Club do early meetings?" Daria usually didn't care about her sister's little Fashion Fascists but this was seriously weird.
"And what would you now about fashion? Mom, Daddy, I'll also have a working meal with them today, so see you at dinner." She was about to leave when her father had one last question.
"Wait, you haven't eaten anything for breakfast yet, and it's the most important meal of the day."
"Umm… sure daddy." Quinn then proceeded to steal a couple of slices of toast from Daria's plate and run towards the door.
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'Uff… it was close.' Quinn thought while crossing the door. While she wasn't about to meet the rest of the Fashion Club at the 100% Slim for at least one more hour, she couldn't afford for her sister to walk in the same general direction as herself and then ask why she was taking a detour. Once she was out of sight from her house she threw the pieces of toast into a garbage can and proceeded to the restaurant. 'Maybe I should have a Chai Tea while waiting?'
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Daria went to the toaster to replace the stolen bread, grumbling all the way about thieves and hangmen.
"Hey kiddo, what are you going to do with yourself the rest of the day?"
"Well dad I need to go to the excursion that Mrs. Bennett…" She didn't even finish her sentence, before her eyes grew as big as plates and she all but ran to her room. She returned to the table less than two minutes later with a paper and a pen.
"Mom, dad, I kind of forgot to mention it, but my economics class got a ridiculous excursion to the Mall of the Millennium today, I need to have this permission signed and I didn't even remember to give it to you until now." Daria was sincerely embarrassed with herself, not about springing this to her parents at the last minute, which she did frequently, but to forget the act itself wasn't her natural behavior. This week was harder on her than she'd thought.
"Let me see that Daria." Her mom then took custody of the forms and did a quick read over. "Well everything seems to be in order. While I would appreciate a little more time for me to sign this stuff, I don't see a problem." Without further preamble she took the pen and signed the single sheet.
"The Mall of the Millennium, isn't that the place that Quinn wanted to go all week?"
At Jake's words, his wife realized just how big of a bullet they had narrowly avoided. "Daria, I know it might be hard, but could you not brag about going to the Mall of the Millennium to Quinn? She finally stopped whining yesterday about wanting to go there."
Even if Daria wasn't at her best yet, this was way too easy anyway. "Dunno about that Mom, it would be remiss of a good older sister to torture the younger one, I wouldn't even need to remind her frequently, just a single comment, or even a strategically placed bag in my room when the door is open and voila…"
"Ok, we'll sponsor your shopping trip to the mall; you can take my credit card but if you exceed 150 dollars, then you'll have to pay the difference. And if you betray my trust then there will be consequences."
"Fair enough. I was also wondering if I can spend Saturday night in Jane's?"
"And what are you going to do on a Saturday night with Jane?"
"We were planning on going into a college party, maybe a wild one, but if you want we could change it into a marathon of Sick, Sad, World and Bad movies with a capital B."
"I'm fine with a girl's night in Daria, you can go."
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The rest of the members of the Fashion Club gathered in 100% Slim and had a breakfast composed of weird green beverages, omelets without yolk, and brown bread. After doing a fast critique of their current attire they discussed in depth their plan of action and the number of shops they were about to visit.
Their ride arrived just in time to pay the bill, and as a reward he was given the right to hang with the girls, at a prudent distance of course. He was so happy about it that he ignored once more the fact that Quinn had yet to learn his name, or that Tiffany was the one chosen to sit in the front seat with him, at least until the conversation with her became unbearable after twenty minutes.
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Daria and Jane were sitting in the middle of the bus talking with each other just like many of the other passengers, tuning out Bennett's speech about the virtues of malls as economic establishments with their more or less mindless chat, steering away from subjects like the coffeehouse, or their side business as ghostwriters that could lead to problems later. Luckily the toast that Daria ate that morning had helped to settle her stomach a little, and sniping at some of the habits of the rest of their fellow students was able to take her mind away from the lingering symptoms.
One comment from Jodie caught Daria's interest. "Do you think it would dishonor Dr. King's memory if I went to sit in the back of the bus?" It was weird coming from the overachieving student since she didn't usually devolve into civil rights movement idioms, no matter the color of her skin.
"At least he's not singing." Mack's response to that didn't make any sense. 'What does singing have to do with Mather Luther King? And what the hell is that smell' Daria wondered, just as she started getting a wild burst of nausea.
Jane meanwhile was distracted from her friend's predicament first by the hormonal show of Brittany and Kevin loudly making out, and later by the hunting attempts of Upchuck.
"Hey, sweet baby, how'd you like to spend some do-re-me, huh? I need some models for this... um..." By that point the girls he was trying to entice were giving him the cold shoulder.
'He's like a puppy chasing a car, he is not going to get anywhere near it, if he gets too close he will be run over, and if he catches it he is not going to know what to do with it.' Jane thought with mirth. Then said puppy approached their seat.
"Ladies! Are you aware of the advantages of a gold card?" He was treating his credit card as if was a bone and the girls were a pair of dogs. "Very advantageous when it belongs to your father. Dad wants me to pick up some bikinis for his secretary. But I need a couple of models. The two of you are about her size. What do you say, gals?"
It was fun until it happened to you. "Upchuck. Are you aware that many therapists now accept credit cards?" Then she finally noticed the lack of snarky comments in the air. "Daria?"
"I feel sick. Can someone open a window?"
Jane did try to open one of the windows, but it was stuck.
"Allow me, fair maiden." For all his hormonal driven idiotic behavior Upchuck did try from time to time to be a gentleman, even if most of the time he failed in a miserable way. It was a shame that all of his hormones had gone straight to his head, instead of other places, like his muscles. He was far weaker than Jane to begin with as his struggles with the window demonstrated then and there; in fact he was so weak that arm wresting Daria would be an even bet at best.
"I didn't know you got car sick. Or it is your monthly friend again?" Jane questioned her friend, they had gone to the UFO Convention in a bus and Daria seemed unaffected on that occasion.
"I don't, usually, not even on this particular date. It's the fumes. It smells like... it smells like..."
"Brittany must be working up a sweat."
At this point after being utterly defeated by the window Upchuck muttered an apology and retreated to an empty seat, while Bennett stopped her pseudo-explanation of a mall to allow Brittany to further demonstrate her lack mental maturity with an awful cheer to the mall, however she did get points for trying a split in a moving vehicle and not breaking anything.
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Soon after this they arrived at the Mall of the Millennium, which according to their own badly researched publicity was the second or third largest mall in the world. Soon the students were taken from the bus by a tram that ran its route every ten minutes to shuttle people to and from the parking lot.
"I think I'm going to be sick." The irregular movement of the tram coupled with physical contact with so many strangers ended the bespectacled girl's remaining fortitude.
"Um, could it possibly wait?" They were almost in the mall where they would be able to find a bathroom, or at least the showcase of a clothing store.
Then the tram finally stopped at front of Mall, accompanied by the voices of shock and awe of the passengers as they disembarked. Jane and Daria however remained inside a moment too long.
"I know I'm going to be sick." Those words were followed by her heaves of vomit, mostly juice and the morning's bread, while Jane, unable to do anything to help her friend anyway decided to at least add her own grain of salt to the moment.
"Bienvenidos a la Mall of the Millennium."
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Professor Diane Bennett was inside the mall, trying to gather her class, who after a long trip in the bus alongside some of the weirdest students of Lawndale High were busting with pen up energy and almost beyond control, while reading the map they had given each student at the information desk in the entrance. Jane took a moment to take a photograph of the indoor Roller Coaster, it was amazing, even if it was inside a mall.
"Everyone, we'll walk down R Moss, and turn right at Q Canary. Please keep the flow, people, please keep the flow."
"Who would ever guess there'd be so many colors? The person who thought them all up must be a genius."
Jane, who in her humble opinion did have a great knowledge and appreciation of color wasn't as impressed as Brittany. "Yeah, and we haven't even gotten to puke green yet." Then she remembered her friend who was still too worn out by her re-acquaintance with breakfast to do more than launch a searing glare. "Oh, yeah."
"Left at N Cranberry. Wait, is that cranberry or magenta? Jane, you're an artist.'At least people at school recognized my talent, the wrong people but something is something' Jane thought as she examined the elusive color.
"Mrs. B? Can we please stop for a minute at Bikini Island? I'd like to buy a few trifles for the ladies, and perhaps you'd care to pick out something for yourself?" Upchuck might not be able to attract a girl, no matter what, but he did get points for hitting on anyone and everyone. Negative points.
"Not now, Charles. We'll be late for our meeting with the mall executives. I had to work very hard to arrange this. These are very important, very busy... oh, oh, oooooh!"
"What is it, Mrs. B?" The teacher was hypnotized by some ridiculous toys in one of the storefronts.
"The Fuzzy Wuzzy Wee-Bit Shop! Herbert and I collect Fuzzy Wuzzy Wee Bits! Aren't they adorable? Look, a Fuzzy Wuzzy Wee Bits cactus! And look at that little bunny rabbit with its own Fuzzy Wuzzy carrot!"
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For all her failings as a teacher, Mrs. Bennett had been able to organize the trip in a little less than two days, including the tour of the installations and a talk with the executives of the mall. Their PR department had been surprised when they received the call from Lawndale High School; they usually catered only to groups of shoppers wanting a discount at their niche shops, or from time to time Third Word tourists who wanted to have a really big shopping spree. Once they knew that they would be serving an unusual yet quite significant demographic, they'd had one of the executives prepare a conference room for the sophomores, one with a mirror wall.
Instead of doing a proper introduction and propaganda drive about the qualities of the Mall of the Millennium the executive in the conference room started asking some pointed questions about their preferences. Since no one older than 25 is ever going to prefer hearing about what someone from high school really wants, it put a few students on alert.
Jodie was the first one to really question the motivation of the executive in charge. "I have a question. Do you think our demographic can really be addressed by middle-aged middle managers telling us what's fun to buy?" They pointedly ignored her and redirected their attention toward Daria.
"How about you? How many times a year do you go to the mall?" That was a big mistake; they were hoping to redirect the attention from a smart student by asking a girl who had once interrogated the President of the United States harder than most reporters would have dared.
"Don't people usually get paid for participating in market research?" Feeling a bit like Henry Fonda talking to the rest of the jurists in 'Twelve Angry Men' she stood up and started around the table toward the executive, opening her notebook in a fluid movement.
"Now, Daria, these busy executives have been nice enough to give their time to help educate us on mall economics. Tell us about flow, would you?"
"Okay." Relieved for the out the teacher gave him he was about to scrap the survey and start with the usual spiel, momentarily unaware that he was still being pursued.
"I bet that's a two-way mirror." She had circled the entire table and now she was ready for the grand finale.
"You mean, if you turn out the lights you can see through it?" Her friend's words were enough warning for her to prepare the camera.
"I certainly hope so." Daria reached for the switch in the wall and with a slight flourish turned the lights off, revealing three observers through the two-way mirrored wall, while their executive tried to give a warning a second too late. "Oh, you don't want to do that.
Jane already forewarned started doing snapshots with both the flash on and off, the best to illustrate the effect of the mirror in the room. Daria was satisfied enough now her nausea had all but disappeared. 'It's not a knife embedding itself in the table, but this will do.'
While Brittany, who had been in front of the mirror adjusting her bra and checking that her clothes were in order after her games with Kevin on the bus jumped in fear of the men on the other room, there was a last attempt at damage control. "The focus group is, um, a very important tool in mall management. We thought that with this live demonstration..." He ended the remark with a nervous laugh.
"I feel used. I feel abused. I feel that this is not a fun mall after all and the media should be made aware of it.
"All right, little lady." The man in the blue suit reached into his vest pocket for some paper slips. "Here's a coupon for a free frozen yogurt."
"Don't insult me."
"Make it a ten dollar merchandise coupon?"
"You're still insulting her." Jane decided to help.
"Okay, a twenty dollar merchandise coupon for everyone in the class." This was enough money for the students who cheered as they went for their part.
"You don't get it. There's a principle involved." Daria was offended not only by the indignity of some jerks at the mall trying to use her without her approval, but by them suggesting she would sell herself for coupons.
"No, there isn't." Jodie's feelings of abuse ended as soon as they reached her price, then she joined the rest of the class for her coupons.
"So much for idealistic youth." Jane resigned herself to surrendering to the All Powerful Mall; at least she was saving 20 dollars in merchandise for later. But when she went to receive her share Daria's hand stopped her.
"It's not worth it Jane, later we can use your photos to file a formal complaint to the county's board of trade, and it will hold more weight if we do not accept bribes." Daria voice was just strong enough to be heard by the mall's executive.
"Just a minute young lady, what do you mean with the county's board of trade?" most of the teens had already left the room and both social pariahs were about to do the same when the question came.
"Look, you tried to make use of us as a way of saving money, you must think that it is a shame that the guinea pigs realized the purpose of the maze, but I don't doubt for even a second that once a new group comes this way you are going to try the same trick once more. So the only thing we can do is to file a complaint with the local Chamber of Commerce so that your mall is put for under the radar for at least a few days. Maybe then the related problems will make it unpalatable to try again."
"Girls, why don't we discuss this like adults?" The executive was joined by the three men from the other room, it seemed that the intercom was still on and they heard the problem. "I think I speak for my colleagues concerning how sorry we are about the events of today and I would like to know what we can do to compensate for your discomfort."
'At least they aren't trying to patronize us again.' Jane was feeling better, she hadn't even thought that Daria would say and do something like this, she usually was a little more passive, even when taking revenge.
"Well, you tell me what you can do to make me think that you won't go back on your word once we leave the room?" Jane was once more getting into synch with her friend, adopting her serious monotone to increase the effect of their words.
The executives were left speechless, there were few things they could do about it without calling their lawyer, and that would have left them drowning in hot water. Sensing their distress Daria added. "Hurry up, we have to get back to our group, and I can tell you that while they're not going to miss us, they will annoy us, and then we'll take it out on the mall."
By this point additional executives had joined the negotiations, all as pale as the original one as they digested the implications. "Okay, I've got 50 bucks here, how much have you got Jack?" just like that the rest of the men were emptying their pockets and a small mound of tens and fifties gathered on the table.
"235 dollars, coupons for another hundred and sixty, and thirty frozen yogurts, it's all we can get before asking my boss for a loan and since by that point I'll be in deep shit anyway so I won't care about your little scam anymore."
Jane was ready to argue a little more, lately she wasn't hurting for money and the sight of grown up men in fancy suits cowering from her was quite pleasant, however a squeeze in the leg told her to stay quiet. With a reluctant nod Daria accepted the offer, and Jane had to bite her tongue to stop her protests. After getting their booty inside the pockets of their respective jackets they left the room in silence. She could even hear the last of the conversation between the executives.
"God, what a disaster, and now I'll have to fill god knows how many forms to get more coupons, and that's not counting the fact that I'm fifty short."
"They said it, once they took the bribe they lost whatever moral high ground they had. We dodged this bullet…"
Both girls hurried up to join with the rest of the class, who hadn't noticed their absence, just as predicted. Before Jane could ask why Daria had folded so fast, she answered. "They were panicking, if they had stopped to think for at least a moment they would have realized that without the support of the teacher and the rest of the students we had no chance of getting a formal investigation, not even my mother would be able to go with a lawsuit against a semi-competent lawyer in these circumstances."
"So you decided to at least get a little extra for us? Well, we got extra money to spend and we soured the day of some corporative drones so it wasn't a total loss." Jane decided to consider it a minor victory.
"There is also the fact that we still have your photos, and we can write to the 'Consumer Reports' magazine to alert them about this new form of corporative abuse, while I don't expect a full feature, I bet that's going to be original enough to warrant at least a mention in their complaints column.
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At the same time that the mall executives were cursing the girls, a car arrived with four new buyers and a pack mule. They were already behind in their schedule, being almost an hour later than the school bus despite the fact that they left half an hour before in a faster car, however Quinn hadn't counted on the fact that the slowpoke that she had acquired for transport drove worse than a granny.
Even worse, they couldn't let him wait inside the car, not because of the fact that he was a human being, not even for Quinn's promise to let him hang out with them, but because Quinn didn't know him well enough to be sure that he wouldn't succumb to boredom and decide to leave them stranded without a way back. So she had to compromise and let him walk at least 10 feet behind the group while carrying all of their stuff.
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After being chastised by Mrs. Bennett for being a little late, they rejoined the rest of the students who were by now comparing their different coupons, trying to see who received what and if someone had a particular store.
"Books by the Ton, the country's biggest bookstore? Aw, man!"
'Pearls to swine.' Daria thought before approaching Kevin. "Kevin I just heard of your problem, do you want to exchange those boring books for something more fulfilling?
"Which books? I only have a coupon for a bookstore. Fulfilling?"
"What I mean is that I can give you a coupon to the…" stopping for a second she browsed the bunch of coupons she had received and took the first one that wasn't part of a clothing store.'The Doo Dad Shop' in exchange for your coupon for the bookstore."
"I don't know, what is a Duu Dall?"
"Kevin, you're killing me, I'll throw five coupons for frozen yogurt in addition to the one from the Doo Dad Shop."
"Oh man, five more? Deal."
"You actually ended up losing money in a transaction with Kevin, is something wrong with you? You could have done it for the five yogurts if you put your mind to it." Jane commented.
"I know, but I have ten more yogurts, and you got another fifteen, it's going to be hard enough getting rid of all this toy money before we have to leave, so I decided to save myself time and neurons."
Jane then started browsing through her bunch of coupons. "Good point, I mean here's one for a toy store, four more for shops I got no Idea what they sell and this one, umm, this one's got potential. Scissor Wizard. I can actually use a new pair of scissors."
At this point they were joined by Upchuck who noticed the many coupons in their hands as well as the fact that Kevin had gotten from somewhere even more coupons.
"Hello once more ladies, I see that our esteemed quarterback got far more coupons than he started with, and to my surprise it seems that such fortune came from your beautiful hands."
"Upchuck there is a fountain there, why don't you take a dip in the cold water." Jane said as she hastily covered her coupons with one hand while the other pointed to a nearby fountain.
"I could help with concrete boots, or maybe a concrete muzzle?" Daria remarked; she was feeling sick again, and this time there wasn't any perfume in the air.
"I would be pleased to do so if you join me there, to see you in wet t-shirts would be just excellent. Oh, but if we did so I wouldn't be able to tell the rest of our peers about your sudden windfall, it would be a shame not to see their reactions towards such a situation."
"Well Upchuck, you don't scare us, what's the worst thing that could happen?" Jane said with bravado, false bravado.
"Jane, can you picture a school of piranhas on a feeding frenzy? Because that is how our fellow students will react once they know we got a bigger part of the cake that they did, no matter the reasons for it."
Further conversation was interrupted by Mrs. Bennett's assignment for the field trip. "Daria and Jane, you'll observe traffic patterns at the food concessions, and Kevin and Brittany, you will study and report back on shrinkage."
"Shrinkage is the retailing term for shoplifting. I'd like you to analyze its economic impact. Does everyone else understand their assignments?"
"Miss Bennett I would like to volunteer to assist those wild roses Jane and Daria with their assignment, the food pavilion is big and has many entrances, and I know that they will appreciate my assistance. Or am I wrong?"
Daria knew that his question was also the price for his silence, and therefore with no better choices she accepted. "What the hell, at least this way we can keep him from humping random shoppers."
The guy who was paired with him added his two cents too. "For me there's no problem, I can go to the games' shop, I mean to the information booth by myself."
With a sigh Mrs. Bennett acquiesced. "Okay Charles, you can go with Jane and Daria. Now, we'll meet back here at a quarter to four."
Then the teacher established a point of reunion while doing damage control on Kevin's attempts at creating a mnemonic device, which considering that he didn't even know the meaning of the word, was a latent hazard of confusion for whoever was stupid enough to listen to him, starting with his girlfriend.
"While once more the three most unpopular members of the sophomore class of Lawndale High School prepared to pass some time together since one particular party a month ago, Daria reflected to Jane on their current situation.
"No good deed goes unpunished."
"Amen sister, amen."
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The girls were inside Newport News, a shop specializing in sportswear; currently they were analyzing their Fall Season's clothes while their pack mule was waiting outside on a bench. While Sandy was testing blouses on in the fitting room with Stacy waiting outside with the discarded clothes in her hands and Tiffany was checking the different accessories that the shop offered Quinn was planning her next move to consolidate her position in the club once and for all.
Even starting as they were with the wrong foot that was their driver the trip until now was a resounding success, and all of the members of the club were in an extremely good mood, including Sandi who had already bought some really cute outfits and had been checked out by some even cuter guys, Quinn had gone against all her instincts and decided for once to hide rather than gathering the attention to herself ensuring that today of all days Sandi would be in too high enough spirits to not bitch about anything.
Now it was the time to introduce some of her more progressive ideas, to make sure that the members of the Fashion Club would remember this day for many, many sessions to come. The only thing she needed was a viable target to start the proposal. 'There, that girl over there will be perfect.'
She kept an eye on the victim, a demure girl, who maybe with the correct amount of make up might be considered cute, and was wearing jeans and a horrible sweater that didn't match at all, waiting for her turn to pay for some loafers. Once Sandy left the fitting room she launched the first volley.
"Look at her, what is she wearing?" Quinn whispered to Tiffany, the use of whispers was calculated to keep the volume at a minimum and therefore to avoid alerting the girl in question.
"…It's a sweater…it makes her look… fat."
It was sweet Stacy who made the next comment. "But she's not fat, look at her face, she probably is quite slender. But why is she wearing such an unappealing green sweater, it makes no sense."
"Take note of this poor girl, what you see there is one of the dangers of ignorance of fashion. We are lucky to have the Fashion Club to avoid such pitfalls." Sandi's haughty voice had a tone of pity combined with something akin to the tone that the storytellers used to caution listeners during an Aesop fable narration.
Quinn waited until the girl had paid for her loafers and passed through the automatic door of the shop to make her proposal. "Maybe we, the fortunate ones should, do something for poor souls like that one, something like a charity."
"You're right Vice-President Quinn; the Fashion Club should do more for the fashion challenged of the community, something to make the world cuter for all."
They started discussing methods of doing so while walking towards their next stop. Quinn was satisfied with the execution of her plan, it went perfectly.
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The first stop of the trio was at one of the frozen yogurt stands that littered the entire mall, Daria needed to settle her stomach and the yogurt did a good enough job out of it, Jane also used two of her coupons, one for her and one for Upchuck, with the hope that maybe putting something else in his mouth for a while would be enough to shut him up.
The first shop they entered, at Daria's insistence, was Hi-Fi Hi-Fi Hi-Fi, an electronics, computer and videogames store with a wider selection than most of the little business of Lawndale. Once there Daria, with Jane on her six, went straight to the printers and scanners noticing with some relief that Upchuck decided to browse the the digital video section. Once there she began questioning one of the employees on the characteristics of a small multifunctional printer with a scanner and photocopier, Jane just stood there hearing her friend's questions until she realized something.
"Daria, why are you giving him the stats of my computer instead of yours?"
"Your old dot matrix printer is already on its lasts legs, and all the extra work I've forced on it does not help at all, so I thought about getting you a new one to replace it." Almost at once Daria became aware of her mistake.
Jane's face was showing her anger for everyone to see and her words held some real venom in them. "Look I don't need your god damn charity, just leave that thing there and leave me alone while you're at it. Okay?
Jane then turned to leave, but was stopped by her friend's hand. When she turned once more to tell her a few additional truths she saw Daria's expression of pain and shame, showing far more emotion that she thought possible for her.
"Jane, I…" She hesitated for a second and then continued. "Jane I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that, it's just that this last month I have been abusing your hospitality so much, using your home to hide stuff from my Mom, hogging the computer, and dragging you into my problems with alarming frequency, and even that self esteem fiasco. I wanted to do something to compensate for all of that but I screwed up."
At the explanation Jane felt her anger dissipating. "Hey, do you think I would allow you to abuse me? If anything you have been helping me, giving me a reason to leave Li's little ghetto, getting me inside Brittany's party even if I'm still not sure who dragged who to that party, and you also make sure I get a piece of the cake when you have one of your crazy ideas, both with the term papers and the café. Plus you haven't been billing me for the math classes or the proofreading either."
Now certain that the issue was dealt with, Daria relaxed once more by returning to her more normal and much more limited range of expressions. "Well you haven't billed me for using your house as a front for our little business, so I guess we're even there. As for the printer then I propose to see it as an inversion, for starters if I ask for the receipt to be done in my father's name I can ask him to take the tax deductions, he is always in favor of getting a little back from the IRS, of the rest I will pay right now with my mother's credit card and then give her the difference in cash, so they can send it as soon as possible to your house, I'll pay 75% and you pay the remaining 25%."
"Hell no, the computer is going to stay in my home so its fair for me to pay for at least two thirds of it." Daria's counteroffer didn't take long. ". Since I'm using both the computer and the printer most of the time then it would be better if I paid the 66%."
"You may use the printer more nowadays, but I'm the one that is going to benefit more from the scanner, so this is my last offer: We'll split it half and half and I'm paying for the consumables, I'm even going to bill them in Mister J's name, it's not as if Mystik Spiral pay taxes to begin with.
Seeing Jane's determination and finality on the matter Daria acquiesced and called the employee who had been helping her and who'd wisely decided to flee once the discussion became personal. Then they just filled the appropriate forms and were told that the shipping would arrive at Casa Lane by Tuesday. When they left the shop, much to their chagrin Upchuck was outside waiting for them with a store's bag filled with something. They had hoped for him to get lost.
I II III IV*
Their next stop was Scissor Wizard which wasn't a shop for scissors as Jane hoped, nor one of those Art and Crafts stores for bored grandmas as Daria expected, and thankfully not some sort of wet t-shirt bar as Upchuck imagined, and neither girl even wanted to ask what sort of train of thought led to that particular destination; it was a Hair salon in which the stylist, a woman who had decided that it was fashionable to shave off the left half of her faux blonde hair and to paint a tattoo in the cheek on the same side while using a triple piercing on the opposite ear, actually believed her own publicity.
The hairdresser took a look at Jane and said. "You got here just in time." Then she pointed dismissively at Daria. "You're almost in time." And finally she saw Upchuck entering the place. "And what are you?"
"Me, I'm just the chaperone of these two wild flowers who are here to grace your workshop with their presence." Upchuck was turning his charisma up to eleven which actually made him far creepier than usual.
Deciding to ignore Upchuck for the moment Jane held her coupon out to the attendant "I've got this coupon." The hairdresser led her to a chair in response. "But I just wanted a pair of scissors."
"We don't sell scissors, we cut hair. Which show?"
"Which TV show do you want your style from? Most of our clients go for a sitcom. Although, you're more the "movie of the week" type. I have a TV Guide if you want to browse."
Jane decided to treat the professionalism and experience of the stylist with the deserved respect. "Have you ever seen Sick, Sad World?"
"No my dear, I think that the show that you should emulate should be Baywatch."
Before the other females could respond to Upchuck, Daria added her two cents.
"How about Animal Maulings on home video?"
"Yeah, I'd love to have hair like that woman who was molested by the kangaroo."
"Really? She looks so every day."
"I mean, after she was molested."
"I would molest you any day of the week; just say the word my gorgeous desert rose."
"Make sure you get, like, the big clods of dirt and stuff in it."
The casual dismissal of her person was unnerving the hairdresser "Listen, um, maybe you girls should come back another time. My next appointment's here."
"What about my coupon?
The hairdresser, already at wits' end tried offering a can of something to get them out of her workplace. "Mousse?"
"Hey, how about that guy who was trampled by the moose?" Daria was having too much fun poking the woman to just quit, even if her last comeback wasn't all that witty to begin with.
"Maybe you should think of a less materialistic from of payment my dear Jane; there is always space in this threesome to make into a foursome. Grrr…" Upchuck had one of his hands mimicking a claw in a parody of a big cat.
The attendant's shiver at Upchuck's last proposal was visible. But the straw that broke the camels back was the sound of Jane's camera as she immortalized her expression, even as she hurried to get a metal box. "Look I got real clients kids, take the money and leave! I just… just leave!
Once the trio was outside Scissor Wizard, they started walking towards they next objective.
"Ah, it's so refreshing to see how the vain fall over"
"Isn't it the mighty?"
"Did she appear in any moment to be anything approaching mighty to you?"
"Indeed, it has always been a guilty pleasure of mine to bring low those who belittle the female figure with their false pretenses and their misplaced vanity."
"Are you telling us that your pervert womanizer routine is an act?" To say that Daria was a little skeptical would be and understatement.
"Of course my appreciation of women is true, but I do understand that different ladies need a different touch, like you two my untarnished wild flowers. By the way dear Jane, can I see your camera? I myself use a Nikon F4AS with telephoto lens, the best to catch the prey unaware." They walked the rest of the way to the next shop bonding over photography and humiliation.
I II III IV*
After a while they covered most of the stores on the left side of the mall, since they found in the stores no one worth the effort of bothering into submission for a few bucks they mostly bought small stuff and kept the change, so far they had gotten some shoe laces from Shoes N' Style, two cheap water guns from Toyland (they had to stop Upchuck from buying a third one for an impromptu wet T-shirt contest in the bus), and a rock cd that Jane paid the price difference since she was tired of listening her brother's band's brand of music all the time. Now they had arrived to the food court in front of the Super Mega Multiplex cinema, and were about to eat something else after doing Bennett's assignment.
"Traffic patterns at the food concessions." Jane said.
"Hmm. I've noticed a pattern. People walk in looking hungry…" Daria started to say…
"…And leave, stuffing their face." …And Jane completed her sentence without missing a beat.
"I believe we can do better." After saying this Upchuck went to the part of the food pavilion reserved for Fries-N-Things and took a receipt from the ground, and then searched for a different one near one of the trashcans. "Look this one is from quarter to two and the second one is from half an hour earlier so if we compare the till number on both…"
"Then we can extrapolate how many people passed through here in the span of an hour." Daria took her notebook and wrote down some quick calculations. "Well now we really are done with the educational part of this visit, even if we didn't learn anything related to the school."
"Now, for extra credit, let's experience the traffic pattern for ourselves."
"Yes, and it's on my pocket my dear ladies."
I II III IV*
Nearby the members of the Fashion Club were seated at a table in the same food court as Daria and company, who were resting after their tiring yet satisfying Fact Finding Trip, before they'd visit the remaining stores. Now that they weren't distracted by the goods of the many shops they were discussing Quinn's ideas in more depth.
They sat near the salad bar by one of the fast food stands, drinking a surprisingly wide selection of diet refreshments and teas. "I know! A makeover project! We'll find some hideously out of style nobody and make her look as good as us." Quinn paused at a glare from Sandi. "Almost."
"That's so great, Quinn. I wish I'd had such a brilliant idea. You guys should impeach me and make Quinn president!" Of course this statement, unlike the ones she had given on Monday, was calculated to be rejected by the rest of the girls and therefore indirectly bask in the light of Quinn's proposal.
"Oh, Sandi, I never would have had that idea if it weren't for you. You said, 'the Fashion Club should do more for the community.' You're a great leader." Quinn knew the reasons for Sandi's words, but right now it was better to keep her fat and happy, at least metaphorically speaking for now.
"That's 'cause you guys are such great leadettes."
"So we'll find, like, a loser poster girl, to show that we really, like, do stuff for people." Stacy, who was mostly unaware of the political double talk in front of her, tried once more to direct the conversation to its original topic, one of the reasons she was a good secretary for the club.
"But… if we do posters, shouldn't we… be on them?" Tiffany on the other hand was able to resist most attempts to stay on topic, yet this time was not so off target.
"We can have a fundraiser to buy her makeup."
"Cool, a party!" This particular statement from Stacy would probably unleash a party sooner or later in her own house.
Then a voice everyone else at the table had forgottenmake itself heard. "Can I come?" The poor guy had been carrying the girls bags for hours now, waiting outside the shops without being allowed to even browse anyplace, yet he still wanted to be part of this group.
"Listen, um, guy, why don't you just wait in the car for us?" Quinn was already tired of his constant whining, and by now she was sure that he was dependent enough of her reputation to avoid wandering away from them. Adding to the problem was the fact that he was dirt poor and unable to buy pretty things for her. Quinn had been spending a lot of money in recent weeks for miscellaneous clothes and accessories and during the last few days in particular to pay for the different meals she had invited the Fashion Club to and for the necessary gas for their return trip. She hadn't even bought more than a scarf during the entire trip.
"But you said if I drove you I could hang out with you."
"Oh, all right! But don't try to participate, okay? We're in the middle of a meeting." While saying this she thought about her plans for the future. 'Next time I'll make sure the Three J's are free, to break in a new guy is such a chore.'
"Look! They'd be perfect!" Stacy was pointing to a trio of teens in a different part of the court, the two girls, one in green and one in red, were being followed by a red haired boy. All of them were too far away to see their faces, but close enough to see their deficiencies.
"Wow, you're right. They need help." Tiffany said it so before eating a piece of her salad.
However Quinn wasn't listening at this point. 'It can't be; they look exactly like my loser sister and her weird friend. What are you saying Quinn? Those two are barely leaving school by now, plus Daria would rather eat one of her books than to come to a place this fashionable. There are plenty of poor fashion blind girls, stop psyching yourself out. Getting her wits back in record time she then started to criticize their targets. "Especially the one on the left, she really needs a different hairstyle, and maybe some subtle streaks."
"At least she's got nice legs, even if she needs to wax them, a little skort set might work. Have you seen the new skorts? Really cute." Sandi reminded them of their visit to The Sports Shorts, a store that everyone had been more than a little skeptical of at first but had shown that Quinn's research was spot on.
"Is it a skirt or is it shorts? I love that.
"I wonder if they make skorts for sports!" Tiffany had to be really focused inside the shop to miss the rows and rows of sport equipment inside that particular shop, but her dedication to fashion worked far too well.
Quinn having convinced herself of the identity of the mystery trio decided to work a little more on her PR within the club. "Well, then I'm going over to them to make a proper survey of the amount of work we will need in each makeover, you can stay here and finish your salad."
She then walked towards her objective and put a hand on the girl with the green jacket. "Hello, I'm from Lawndale's High Fashion Club and I would like to…" Then the girl turned and they saw each other's face, they stood still for over a heartbeat and both sisters reacted identically. "Aaaaahhh!"
Quinn by virtue of having at least a subconscious warning of her sister's presence was the first to speak. "Ghaud, what are you doing here! You're supposed to be in school!" the way she was pointing at them with a disbelieving face got Daria out of her stupor.
"Well Quinn you took the words right out of my mouth, I came here as part as a thinly veiled attempt from my economics teacher to have a shopping trip disguised as a field trip, but I wonder what's your excuse. Why don't we take a seat and talk about it?" Quinn realized immediately that her sister wasn't asking.
On the Salad Bar the rest of the fashionistas were looking at the scene with a little bit of confusion.
"Why did Quinn yell like that, is she okay?"
"Maybe the girl was… really ugly?"
"It could be, we may need to revaluate the viability of the Makeover project if there is a chance that we may encounter similar ugly people."
"Look, Quinn is sitting with the ugly girl and her friends." Stacy sounded amazed for a moment.
They went to a table more or less away from the eyes of the rest of the club members, and then Quinn let herself fall on one of the seats, not even looking at the other two persons already seated. Once seated with her friends around her Daria recovered her control and started the needed inquisition with a smirk. "Good to see you, Quinn. Well, what an unexpected opportunity for sibling bonding. Don't you think so?"
"I'm going to be sick."
"Is that, like, a family thing?" The irony of the statement couldn't be overlooked by Jane.
"I'm sure Mom and Dad will be really pleased to hear I ran into you. Here at the mall. On this lovely school day. Now Quinn you've got to convince me not to tell, and that is not going to be easy. So start convincing.
"This Monday Sandi gave me an ultimatum to either contribute more to the fashion club or to be put on a sabbatical, so I proposed we come here, but no one was free to take me here, and the only guy who could only had his car available today. Oh and we decided to start doing makeovers for community service, you like community service don't you?" All this was said with a look that was desperation itself.
"For some reason I don't think that makeovers are on the same level as feeding the poor. For that reason amongst others I don't think that you will go far appealing to my compassion, but maybe if you appeal to my greed?"
"Okay, state your terms." The look of desperation morphed in a heartbeat into an annoyed and irritated one.
"It's weird. I can't think of anything I'd want... from you."
Half-heartedly trying to negotiate a lesser price she offered. "How about a free makeover?"
"No, thanks... but, I wouldn't mind taking it easy around the house for a month."
Jane finally added herself to the conversation. "I'd hold out for cold cash." Followed by Upchuck. "Personally I would ask for a candlelight date with all members of their delicious club, one at a time or all together." Quinn was startled by the other ones, she hadn't realized until now who they were, and while Jane was no weirder than Daria, Upchuck was a total creep.
"Or you can just never set foot inside a mall for the rest of your sorry adolescent life." The message was clear as well as the only answer Quinn could give in return. "Ugh! Fine!" It had been an effort to inject that amount of disdain while she was so worried but she managed.
"And a ride home from your little friend would be great. Jane and I really aren't in the mood to take the bus back."
"No, absolutely not, if you do that everything else I have been doing this for will be for nothing Daria, you just can't"
"Then maybe you could go with Upchuck here, I think we'll appreciate it even more."
"Yes, yes, thank you so much my beautiful spectacled damsel, I promise you I'll make it worth the time with those delectable kitties, all three hours."
"NO, Daria please, I'll do whatever you want later but this is important to me, can we discuss it later, just like when we were little, just a chance please…" This time the desperation in her voice wasn't as funny any more.
"Ok, Quinn I guess we will discuss this later at the house, but I warn you, this time will be the last, one way or another." Hearing this coming from Daria, both Jane and Quinn almost fell over the chairs, it was quite unlike her to just let go of a prey when she had it cornered and helpless, much less when her little sister was acting ashamed of her elder sister again.
"Thank you, by the way can you spot me a few bucks?" Quinn had rebounded from the second surprise of the day much faster than the first one and decided to make use of her sister's unnatural generosity for as long as she could.
Daria opened her mouth to answer her sister, but then thinking it over she closed it and turned to Jane. "Jane, can you lend me the coupons that we were saving for the end of the trip?" Jane was so astonished that she searched automatically for them without complaint. "The ones that are from places that would suck our soul and use it to clean their huge noses? Here you go."
"Quinn, these are twenty dollar coupons for different shops in the mall, this is a loan not a gift, if you don't pay those in full later I will cash those myself, and you won't like the way I do so, do you understand?" As she said she gave her sister three slips of paper, one after the other in quick succession.
'It's not as if you would use these anyway' Quinn thought, but she wasn't foolish enough to say it aloud. "Ok, paid in full, got it." Without saying goodbye she rose from the desk and walked back towards her clique.
"Quinn what took you so long? We are almost done with our light salads."
"Sorry Sandi, it was such a serious case of a fashion disaster that first I tried to make the girls come over, but they were so ashamed that they couldn't even raise from their seats…"
"Oh poor girls, you're right Sandy, we are soo lucky to have each other for fashion." In that particular moment Stacy felt the luckiest girl in the world for meeting the fashion club and being saved from the same destiny.
"Well yes, since they couldn't come here then I gave them a few tips to correct their most glaring faults, she was so happy that she gave me these." Then she showed the fashion club the coupons, and rejoiced at the astonishment of the girls. "We'd better go the other way, they're already spooked enough by our superior cuteness."
"Yes, you're right Vice-President, it would be improper to tarnish the Fashion Club's first, but not last act of charity, so let's go already, we have many other stores to investigate."
As they were leaving their packmule chose to speak once more. "Who was that girl?" Quinn who wasn't in the mood to be delicate about it shut him up one more time. "Look, you were hired to drive, not speak, okay?"
I II III IV*
Meanwhile Jane was trying to extract an explanation from Daria. "What the hell was that? I have never seen you go so easy on anyone, much less your sister, and this of all days? I mean, you puked on the bus, why would you quit?"
"I'll tell you in a moment, but could you take a picture of them right when they are in front of the cinema? Also another of the cinema's billboard please." Jane, used already to strange requests not only from her friend but from all her family, took four snapshots.
"The reason I backed off, is because of an Accord with a capital 'A' that Quinn and I came to when I was ten and Quinn eight years old, on that occasion our fights started growing out of control so after she crashed my birthday and I crashed a slumber party we decided to put a stop to it before our parents realized, amongst the things we agreed was that we could reject a punishment or bribe if it was too much and renegotiate later. Lately Quinn and I have been fighting a little too much, so I'm going to offer an Olive Branch, and I sincerely hope that Quinn understands its meaning, because if not then this will get ugly."
Upchuck, who had been mostly quiet about the matter until now, said. "Well it seems that the relation between siblings is far more complex that I would ever have imagined, I guess that in a sense I'm lucky that I'm on good terms with my cousins."
"Dunno about that, I have four older brothers and sisters, and none of them required to have peace conferences and treaties, the worst thing we did to each other was to play pranks or just hit each other until the other gave up, I always won against Wind and Trent, but Penny would kick my ass from here to Mexico."
After that they ate their remaining lunch in a comfortable silence, before they left the pavilion Daria went for a schedule for the Multiplex. It was then that Upchuck decided to split up from the girls. "Well ladies, I've got some personal purchases to do in the remaining time. It was a pleasure and a privilege to spend this day alongside you my wild flowers, I bid you farewell. Don't worry about your secret my lips are sealed, unless you want to unseal them with a kiss of course.
"See you later or better yet, not."
I II III IV*
Without any other coupons to exchange, Daria and Jane went to Books by the Ton, the only store in the whole mall that Daria actually cared about. There she bought amongst others Walden; Life in the Woods, an anthology by Truman Capote, and a few legal thrillers just for the kick of it. Jane got some art books, including one of Fractal Art in Nature, and "To kill a mockingbird" a book that intrigued Jane by the high regard Daria had for it as well as being not as daunting as the rest of the literature that her friend read.
They stayed there until it was time to get to the meeting point with the rest of the class, at which point Jane had to almost drag Daria out of the store, not so much for a refusal to leave, but because her new books were weighing her down. Once they arrived the first thing they did was to unpack a couple of their brand new books and read them while they waited for another half an hour for the rest of the students.
Then it was time to board the tram once more and leave for the bus, luckily Daria's stomach was in a slightly better condition for the return trip so she was able to avoid getting too sick from the movement.
Once they arrived to the bus all the students went to their respective places, with the exception of Jodie and Mack, who this time wisely decided that Rosa Parks would understand their plight, and would approve of the two black leaders of their generation sitting in the back, as far away as possible from the head cheerleader and the QB. For many fortunate reasons they didn't have to worry about them for once.
It seemed that Kevin had been the 10,000th customer of the Doo Dad Shop and was given a bunch of the ridiculous toys. Once Mrs. Bennett had known she had forcibly removed Brittany from her seat and the plump woman was in the process of negotiating for the toys in exchange for different doo dads she and her husband had at home. Kevin was about to become crazy, or sane in his particular case. At least on the ride home Daria didn't have to smell the putrid perfume, she also didn't need to hear anything about Fuzzy Wuzzy Wee Bits or Doo Dads.
The trip itself was far more relaxed, the students who at the beginning were chatting animatedly about their purchases were soon falling asleep on the bus and even Brittany's energy and frustration with their teacher was drained eventually. Daria just leaned against Jane for a moment as they rounded a curve and then in a second was snoring softy.
I II III IV*
The ride home was a noisy affair for the Fashion Clubbers. Tiffany had found a Radio station that broadcast Britney Spears and the Spice Girls, after the first hour the poor driver was almost driven into madness and by the time they arrived at Lawndale he could barely remember his own name. The members of the Fashion Club passed the time talking about the days events, even Sandi had relaxed the usually stiff protocol she insisted for the meetings.
One of the favorite topics on the way back was Quinn's talk with the unfashionable girls at the food court. She explained why she screamed in horror at the sight of a huge pimple, and how she apologized for her rudeness, which she did only because she didn't want to tarnish the honor of the club. And then having been invited to their table she did an impromptu session of skin care as well as a few tips for dressing. The way she described how they decided to give her the coupons to help her help other girls did draw a few tears from Stacy, as well as Sandi's nod of approval.
By virtue of being the closest, Quinn was the first of the girls arrive home. Once there she carefully went to the front door and concealed the bags containing her purchases. Peeking through the window she was only able to see her father reading the newspaper on the living room sofa, satisfied that there was no one prowling around ready to ground her for the next three and a half years she opened the door and not quite ran towards her room, saying hello to her father without stopping for a second.
The moment she was alone in her room she stored the few clothes and accessories she bought, hiding the tags and bags until she had the opportunity to get rid of them in a way that neither her mother nor her father would notice their origin. Once those tasks were done she relaxed and lay on her bed to rest for a while, or at least she tried; she knew that when Daria arrived she would have a conversation, a nasty one, where the stakes were high and the odds weren't favoring her.
'How do I get out of this one?'
I II III IV*
When the bus finally opened its doors in front of LHS a torrent of stiff and sore teenagers came out, many carrying bags full of merchandize, amongst them staggered Daria, with her stomach giving her problems, even if this time she avoided the worst parts of the voyage by falling asleep. She had only walked a few steps behind Jane and she was already feeling the weight of the many books in her bags, she hadn't left school grounds yet and she already regretted cleaning out the discount pile of Books by the Ton, to walk home with both her latent nausea and a Ton of Books would not be fun at all. She was driven out of her musing by the honk of a car.
It was Upchuck, he had gone for his car and now he was waving his hand from the driver's seat. "Miss Lane, Miss Morgendorffer, it seems that once more you are in need of a knight in shining armor, so do you want to mount my steed?"
Daria thought of half a dozen ways to dismiss Upchuck in that moment, from the comical to the truly hurtful, but she realized that none of them was worth walking home in her poor condition. "Since I already know that I can't just ditch the knight then I think I accept." Jane's acceptance was just as swift. "All right Sir Pervelot, lets ride towards the sunset."
"Don't worry I'll take you wherever you want, my beautiful wild roses, I still remember your addresses from our previous night's rendezvous." Once both girls were inside the vehicle, they left the parking lot with the epic sound of Funky Town blasting from the car's stereo."
In almost no time they arrived at Casa Lane, "Well home sweet home. Thank you for the ride Upchuck. Daria see you tomorrow." Before she could fully get out of the car the driver gave her something. "Jane, wait. I got you a little token of appreciation for the day we spent together; it's the red box in the backseat." Now Jane was truly surprised. "Ummm…. Thank you" With those languid words she went to her home.
The place wasn't far from the Morgendorffer home so less than five minutes later they arrived at the house. Once there the red haired boy reached into the back seat for a green box. "You shouldn't have bothered…" His answer was as unexpected as the gift. "But I did bother to blackmail you into allowing me to join your company, yet it was a surprisingly cordial voyage, even more so considering how practised you are in the art of revenge.
Daria did smile a little at hearing the last part. "Well, goodnight Charles, and thank you." Leaving behind the mesmerized teen, it had been years since anyone at school had used his real name, she walked with her bags the remaining distance to the door.
I II III IV*
Once Daria crossed the threshold of the house she was greeted by a smiling Helen, who had managed to arrive home just a little after her youngest daughter and was right now relaxing in the living room before dinner. "Hello dear, how was your trip? Did you buy something interesting?" Jake who had finished with his newspaper and was watching the TV with his wife added. "Daria went to that big mall that Quinn has been talking about right? I forgot; how it was kiddo?" Her daughter's answer was as simple and bland as usual. "It was as bad as I'd imagined, only worse."
Once Helen heard Jake she remembered exactly how bothersome the last week of Quinn's constant nagging had been and how troublesome it would become if she learned that the older sister had spent an entire school day there. "Daria, why don't you take your things to your room, discretely, before Quinn gets down here for dinner? We're eating lasagna." Daria grimaced a little at the menu and decided to add a small objection to it. "Mom, could I eat one of Quinn's yogurts instead? My stomach had an even rougher day than me." Helen sounded apologetic when she answered her request. "Sorry dear, but this time you should try to eat a heavier dinner, the doctor asked us to fast for some blood tests tomorrow so I fear that we are not going to have breakfast until noon. Why don't you try some fruits and see how they settle in your stomach; but that will be later, now get your stuff into your room."
Suddenly relieved that neither parent had noticed the green gift box Daria went to her room without further comment and with the exception of Walden she temporarily stored the books in a corner until she could properly classify them, then she put the water gun on her desk and Chuck's present under her bed, she didn't want to open it just yet. Then she changed out of her clothes and into her comfortable pajamas.
For a moment she thought about visiting her sister's room but her mother would have the dinner ready any minute now and she expected the conversation with Quinn to be a long and hard one, so she decided to wait a little longer. Instead she opened one of the cheaper books, a cold war novel which was more or less pure violence and sex with virtually no plot worth mentioning, in other words perfect to kill time until her mother would call her for dinner without being in too much danger of getting lost in the story.
Not long after that the voice of her mother came from downstairs, not even bothering to mark the page, she closed the book and headed to the kitchen, on the way she encountered Quinn for the first time since their unexpected meeting in the food pavilion. "Later" she muttered to her sister, to which she responded with a single nod.
The dinner itself was a curious affair, since Daria was still feeling ill she ate some of Quinn's salad. More curious to her parents was the fact that Quinn didn't complain so they didn't mention it, for the rest of the family there was the usual lasagna.
"Girls, how was your day?" Jake decided to break the ice with a single question that usually would be considered safe for all involved, but today no one wanted to answer. "Yes Quinn, how was your meeting with the Fashion Club, have you resolved the problems you had with them?" Helen had redirected the question to avoid Daria talking about the visit to the mall, unknowingly asking a similar question of her younger daughter.
"Yes, we like solved all our problems, now I'm officially out of probation." Quinn was trying to look as innocent as possible while shooting furtive glances towards her sister and hoping beyond hope that she would not tattle on her.
"That's great princess, you show them what you're worth, unlike those stuck ups at Buxton Ridge, who wouldn't…" His wife decided to intervene before he got too deep on his memories. "Jake!" Startled out of his pent up anger he continued as if nothing was wrong.
"And what about you kiddo? Tell me about your day." Daria was in trouble, she didn't want to tell her parents about Quinn's visit to the Mall of the Millennium, but she didn't want to lie to them either, not even by omission, after all if negotiations fall apart it's better to be a 100% honest about it when telling the family. Luckily for both sisters their mother wanting to prevent an even worse rant from Quinn prevented the change of topic altogether. "Jake, why don't you talk about how your meeting with Clucky Farm Products went?"
"It was great, the publicity executive of the firm…" The rest of the dinner passed by without complications, at least until her mother decided to tell them of her plans for Saturday morning.
"Girls tomorrow we are going first thing in the morning to Lawndale Medical Tower, we have to be there at eight o'clock sharp for the required blood tests that Dr. Northman requested; that means that we need to be going without eating anything for eight hours prior. Once she does all of our check-ups I'm inviting you for a breakfast at The Settlement, Eric tells me they do some great bacon."
Hey, that sound delicious, I hate going to the doctor, but a big greasy breakfast more than makes up for it." Jake was the only person at the table that was even a little excited for the visit, and it didn't take long for Helen to bring him down.
"Dear, the visit to the doctor is girls only, you don't have to go, in fact you can't go, so why don't you stay here in the house and prepare your famous kitchen sink stew, now that our delicate tongues are going to be far away." Jake was oblivious to the insult to his food and concentrated on the fact that he would have the house for himself. "I'll have the house for myself, hurray!"
"That's the spirit Jake, now Daria could you pick-up the dishes please?" Quinn remembering the upcoming chat with her older sister started with her part of the deal already. "Let me mom, Daria kinda looks a like she needs a hand."
"Thank you, sweetheart. You're so considerate."
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Once the table was clear everyone went towards their respective rooms, Daria waited for ten minutes and once she decided that the coast was clear she took a few papers that were inside her old copy of Black Beauty and knocked on her sister's door. Without really waiting for an answer she went in and stood in front of the pink bed.
"Okay Quinn I think this talk has been long overdue, so we'd better get to it."
"Look, I'm sorry about not giving you a ride but if Sandi discovered that you were in the mall then she would have had more than enough evidence of your 'undue influence on me and therefore on the Fashion Club' I would never be able to survive the vote for a forced sabbatical." Quinn sounded almost apologetic when she said those words, but Daria knew that the only thing she was sorry about was being caught.
"Could you explain to me how a random encounter with me would be so bad, after all if I went with you I could use the blackmail card on them, they skipped classes too. And don't tell me you didn't think of that, you want to act stupid, but you are not stupid."
Feeling annoyed by that last comment Quinn lost most of her previous fear and became bolder with her accusations. "Well, this is not the first time you screwed up my social life Daria, the rest of the girls are scared that you would start messing up with them too."
"Do tell, how did I screw your life up? This last month we've barely interacted."
"Have you forgotten that mushy act you did on the assembly during the first week? Or what about when you dragged me out of the party after drenching my dates with ice cold water? Even that stupid fundraiser came back to bite me in the ass!"
"The mushy act was my answer about YOU…" The 'you' in that sentence was clearly emphasized. "…calling yourself an only child Quinn, I just informed the people about the truth. And now that you touch that particular point what the hell gives you the right to say that!"
Quinn was startled by the anger in her sister's voice, she never got visibly angry. She carefully chose her next words. "In Highland when I was in Junior High, everyone heard of you and your pet mutants, and I mean everyone: students, teachers, even the kitchen lady; and all of them were scared that by talking to me they would have to deal with them sooner or later so at the beginning they kept their distance, I won them over of course, but to do so was a long and messy process so I just stopped saying who my sister was and for those few who linked my last name with you I just denied it until the gave up. I saw here as a place for a new start so I kept denying you. Sorry."
"While I'm still angry about that I can see your point, sort of. God knows that on more than one occasion I was ashamed of being within a hundred feet of those morons. But even then if I hear that you're an only child once more, then I'll make you regret it." Daria was getting her cool back but she was still visibly annoyed.
"But what about the party at Brittany Taylor's house, there I did or said nothing to you, yet you just went all crazy and drenched the guys and then just kidnapped me out of the party, as if I was your property or something, I felt as if my life was over." Quinn was heating up the argument once more, her memory of that day fueling her anger.
"Quinn I don't think that you understand the implications of a fight at a party, any party…" for a moment Daria had a faraway look, reminiscing her wild and still secret days. The next words came almost like a whisper. "Yes, it can be fun to watch some guys beating the crap out of each other, and yes I know that those particular idiots aren't smart enough to hit you and be done with it. But they only need to brush the wrong guy, and instead of three friends in a private scuffle you'll have an all out riot, and when the law arrives to a riot they don't ask questions, they just get there and hit anyone that moves, until they don't."
"You don't know them like I do Daria, they wouldn't have done that, they would have played just a little and then got back to me, like always; and Stacy told me that when the cops arrived they just told everyone to go home. But no you just have to play the crazed Texas Ranger!"
"And how the hell I was supposed to know, I just heard the Cherry Topper and went for you before something happened, and those idiots were between you and me, and I remember you with your stupid sociopathic smile at seeing them fight, knowing you I bet that you put them one against each other and then just stayed back and laughed didn't you? God damn it Quinn, they are people, not your personal slaves!" All her previous emotions returned with a vengeance, she was now truly pissed at her sister.
"Like you're the one to talk, first you had those big headed psycho morons, and I recall that you didn't have any problem to sic them on anyone that bothered you just for the kick of it, and now you've got a pet teacher and that red haired pervert to do the same!"
"Shows what you know, half of the time I was preventing them from doing more damage, and for that I was ridiculed and ostracized, and what do you mean with a pet teacher!"
"Get real, everyone knows that O'Neill is under your thumb, he got you out of the esteem class, did that weird assembly for you and your freaky friend to play with, he let you run the coffeehouse however you want, that's why I was almost impeached, because if I was getting money for O'Neill I might as well be getting it for YOU!"
Both sisters were breathing hard by now, their hands closed fists, shaking but ready to strike and the barely contained tears were already escaping from their eyes. It was almost certain that the next word anyone would say would be followed by a punch. It was Daria that made the next move. She lunged towards her sister fast and unexpectedly enough to surprise the adrenalin filled teen and connect with her body before she could react, but instead of a hit or even a tackle she embraced Quinn in a tight hug.
Quinn struggled against her older sister, ineffectively trying to kick and punch her, at least until she felt the hot tears falling to her body and the sobs that were coming from Daria's body, soon she realized that at least half the tears were coming from her own eyes, and that she was sobbing just as hard as her sister.
It took a while, maybe hours, maybe minutes, before they expended their pent up energy and by mutual accord sat on the bed.
"Ghaud, I don't thing that we had a fight like this since we were little."
"Yeah, it was after you crashed my tenth birthday party with your friends…" Daria had half a smile on her face.
"…And you let the idiot duo inside the house in the middle of my slumber party later that week." Quinn let a small chuckle came out of her mouth.
"Quinn, do you remember this?" She was holding the paper she had extracted from her old book. It was filled with stickers and colored on both sides, with stars comets and other girly stuff.
"Dunno, no, wait a second… it's that mushy paper we signed after that fight isn't it?"
"The Accords of Highland, a proper and grandiloquent name don't you think? But it did stop those ugly fights we had. And I think it's a good idea that we sign them once more."
"Don't you think it's like a little childish to sign a paper with unicorns and stuff?" There wasn't any heat in her answer, just amusement.
"Maybe, but we haven't been acting too adult like lately have we? And while some of the provisions there are no longer appropriate…"
"Like that rule that we would give each other a dime if we opened the other's toy chest?"
"Yeah, I think some of those rules should be updated, but for now this will do..." Daria then turned serious. "Our fights are getting nastier Quinn, and I know that properly motivated you can dish as well as you take, and so do I, and frankly I'm tired of it. We can argue about the specific rules later but I have read it and I think that the basics in there are good enough for now."
"Ok, let me get a pen." With that they signed again the six year old piece of paper, this time with a clearer and more elaborate signature under the original ones.
"Well, I'm tired and tomorrow is going to be long, so I'm leaving for my room, good night."
With that Daria just left her sister's room, almost as abruptly as she entered and went to her own bed, so exhausted that she felt asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.
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