- PART III
- The doorbell rang.
- Helen managed to lift
her head from the kitchen table.
- "If that's Eric, I
swear that I'll castrate him on the spot," Helen gurgled
through a glass of Alka-Seltzer. "Oh, God, my everything
- She hoisted herself up,
trundled down the hall to the door - and froze as she opened the
front door and saw a shaggy mass of shoulder-length, honey-blonde
hair and hazel-green eyes on the other side; clothing that seemed to
have fallen out of time from 1967, and a large, frumpy, comfortable
- Amanda Lane.
- "Hello, Helen."
- Helen turned away,
shaking her head as she started to close the door. "I can't do
this right now."
- "Helen, we need to
- "Go away."
- "I know that you've
always harbored perhaps a slight resentment towards me -"
- "I'm not doing
- With surprising speed,
Amanda darted through the door and caught Helen as her knees
suddenly unlocked, and she all but doubled over. "Maybe you
should sit down, somewhere," Amanda spoke, leading her towards
the living room and effortlessly shifting direction as she caught a
slight whiff of the air within.
- "Get that herbal
tea away from me."
- "We both know that
it'll soothe your stomach, Helen," Amanda said, pushing the
steaming mug back towards Helen. "Please, drink it."
- Tossing a venomous glare
that would have drawn respect from the old Daria, Helen lifted the
mug from the kitchen table and sipped at the tea.
- "There, now, isn't
- "Why are you here?"
- "I heard about what
happened," Amanda sighed, sliding into a chair opposite Helen.
"I was in a small village in Manchuria, and the local monks
have a taste for FOX News and the Food Network. They also do some of
the most amazing sculpting and glassmaking I've come across…"
She focused herself and breathed in deeply as Helen splayed a second
searing glare over her. "The story made the cable news channels
after the President called Quinn to console her, and she is quite
photogenic - the monks were all a-flutter over your little girl, and
they wanted me to give her something."
- Amanda drew a bundle
from her shoulder bag and unwrapped it; roughly-hewn cloth and twine
fell away, and Helen looked down at a beautiful figurine. It was
about ten inches tall; a startling likeness of Quinn, resplendent in
shining jade, immortalized in a delicate pose as she placed a flower
in her hair, twin dragons circling about her as if to protect her
from all harm...
- As Helen stared at the
statuette, she couldn't help but thinking what the old Daria might
have said upon seeing it: 'She's got MONKS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE
WORLD falling all over themselves because of her. Her head will
never be normal-sized again.'
- "It's very
- Amanda placed the
statuette over on the counter, and then returned to her seat at the
table. "I only know what's been reported in the news about Jake
- and that hasn't been much. I'd just like to know how he is."
- “Didn’t the
harmonious vibrations of the world tell you all that you needed to
- The venom in Helen's
voice, the raw, unsheathed bitterness that seemed to bubble up from
unknown depths and all but spewed out across the room made Amanda
- "I thought that you
would have put everything behind you long ago," she said,
wiping a tear away as she stood up and slid the strap of her bag
over her shoulder. "I thought that you were better than this."
- "Why are you even
- "I needed to ask
you a favor-"
- Helen's bark of a laugh
stung Amanda, but she continued on. "I… I'd like to go
out to Adelaide Gardens; I was told that only family members have
access, and other visitors have to have the family's permission.
Helen, I know - I know now that you don't - that you've tolerated me
all these years, but I really would like to see Jake-"
- "DON'T YOU SAY HIS
NAME!" Helen screamed. "You don't - it's not - don't you
have a husband of your own? Don't you have your own family? I'm
sorry that you don't have any children by him, but I do, and I have
enough to worry about without having to give a damn about the past
his parents screwed him up in or the future that he didn't have with
- Even through the waves
of finely aged resentment, Helen felt a twinge of guilt flutter in
her stomach as tears ran silently down Amanda's face. "I just
want to see him one last time," she said quietly, and her voice
came out as one's last words might.
knew Amanda's story - actually, she knew it better than Amanda did,
having heard it several times from a Jake drunk to the point of in
vino veritas and not remembering a thing the next morning…
She knew all about how they met at some stupid dance at Amanda's old
Catholic boarding school, the stolen moments at some soda shop with
Jake's hick roommate and his cow of a girlfriend… she even
knew about the rainy night in a barn when they gave their virginity
to each other, and how their love had created a child -
- Should have, she
corrected herself. The child was stillborn, brought without breath
into the world under a cloudy night sky where Amanda, her 'instant
husband' Vincent Lane, and her own friends Willow and Coyote had
waited to see the Pleiades meteor shower. Years later, after hearing
the story from different sides, she and she alone had deduced that
at the time Amanda was giving birth, Jake had discovered that Amanda
had been taken from him through the machinations of both his and
Amanda's parents - and that she was carrying his child. People have
a talent for remembering exact times that the unfathomable occurred,
and what they were doing…
remember their pain, a little voice inside her said. There's
no reason for you to make someone else suffer more than they already
do, especially with everything we've all been through…
especially since there's not much time left… Especially since
he left you with something to hold onto and all she has are memories
- the memories of the son he always wanted and she tried to give
him. She probably still hurts over that – even after all these
years, and even though it wasn’t her fault.
- She deserves to see
Jake. Amanda deserves closure, and a chance for some peace in her
life – she has a right to see the first man she ever loved,
and who loved her – she deserves to touch his face one more
time, and to remember her Jake.
- It's time to let it
all go, remember? It's the only way that you can move on…
that we can all move on.
- "I'll call right
now," the words came out, as if they had escaped on their own.
"I'll tell them to let you see him… that you can see him
anytime you want."
- With those words, it was
as if a weight was suddenly pulled from her, as if she could breathe
slightly better; the queasiness that had been with her since Jake's
collapse seemed to withdraw just a bit, and she lowered herself to
her chair. "Could- would you please hand me the phone?"
- Amanda stood silently
for a moment, as if studying Helen, then placed the phone on the
table before her. "I've talked with Trent before I came back,
about what happened-"
- A pang of anxiety
pierced through Helen for a moment; she would have never been able
to look Amanda in the eye again if Jake had killed her youngest son,
and she actually shuddered at the thought of what that would have
done to her… Every ounce of resentment in Helen fizzled away,
and she concentrated on dialing so as to not look up.
- "…But for
some reason, he thinks that they're not on speaking terms anymore,"
Amanda's lilting voice wafted into her awareness. "Jane's been
so happy since she and your Daria became friends - it actually makes
me sad to think what her high school years would have been like if
she'd never met her. They fit so well together…"
- "I think that she
was here - I mean, last night, Jane, and she was talking to Daria
while she was eating a sandwich - oh, God -"
- Helen barely made it to
the garbage can before she began to vomit, and Amanda held her as
she heaved over and again, the foul taste making her quiver. "All
right, Helen, easy, there we go, now you're sitting back down,"
Amanda cooed, leading her back and going to the sink for a glass of
water and a large bowl. "Here, take this and rinse your mouth
out - there, now put it in the bowl… the tea's not sitting
well with you."
- "No, I just thought
of what Jane was eating, and I-"
- A thin string of
chalk-colored vileness hung from Helen's lips after she retched into
the large bowl again, and Amanda wiped her mouth with a folded paper
towel, emptied the contents of the bowl into the garbage, then
washed out the bowl, got another and refilled her glass. "Rinse
out your mouth again, and don't think of food," she told Helen,
brushing her hair back and wiping at her face with another paper
towel. "Just sit quietly for a moment, and you do need the tea
– it will help calm you down.”
- Helen sat for a moment.
- “Yes, Helen?”
- “I’m sorry.”
- “Don’t be.
You had to let it out somehow. I can tell that you have a great pain
within you, Helen – and with what’s happened to you, I
sat down at the table, and took Helen’s hands in her own.
“Most people will tell you that you’re so strong to keep
going, as if what’s happened is a reason to stop being the
person you’ve always been. You’ve always been a person
who can handle adversity, no matter where you’ve found
yourself. You’ve always known the right thing to do, and to
how to keep going no matter how dark your night may seem, so I don’t
think anyone should have to think about forgiving you if you slip
and lash out.” Her thick mop of blonde ringlets fell over her
face, and she brushed them back as she smiled at Helen. “You
know, lawyers are people, too…”
- “If it didn’t
hurt my stomach to laugh, I would.”
- “I’ll laugh
- Daria sat alone in the
cafeteria at a small corner table, nibbling automatically at a ham
salad sandwich and sipping from a carton of milk.
– but be quiet, because you know how they are-“
- “I thought she’d
has – her ‘friend’ just can’t handle
it,” one of the girls said, as Daria observed with her
peripheral vision. The speaker was a girl with thin, straight brown
hair, and a somewhat unusual nose, talking to two other young women.
Brooke, she remembered…
- “…She was
at the Pan-Hellenic Formal, up at Middleton College a couple of
weeks ago, and she was with Skylar Feldman. I saw them about two
hours later, and Skylar looked like he’d been riding broncos -
not to mention that he couldn’t get that smile off his face
have more important things to think about than you ‘Gnat Pack’
social climbers, Daria thought, shushing away the
more-than-blatant conversation less than twenty feet from her. I
have to talk to Jane – soon – tonight – as soon as
I can get up the nerve – I am not letting her ruin herself
here by letting her make everyone think we’ve got something
going on! She might want to actually go to graduation, or to a
reunion here someday – she doesn’t need people pointing
at her! ‘Jane, which is your favorite movie: ‘Henry and
June’, or ‘Personal Best’? Lesbians and art, or
track and art? Come on, Jane, you can tell us – after all,
‘gay’ is the new ‘black’!
- Trent’s right –
I owe her so much more than this. I owe her more than this blonde
fashion heifer even saying her name aloud, or mine, even…
- The main speaker, a
stunning young beauty with butter-blonde hair falling down across
her shoulders in thin, stylish ringlets, cast a deliberate look in
Daria’s direction before continuing.
- “I don’t
care what happened in her family that makes everyone think she’s
changed. Nice clothes, new hair, no ‘man-stopper’
glasses anymore; I still remember how she showed up and just hooked
up with her little art friend – and you know that those arty
types will try everything. Why else would Lane hang around with her
even though she and Evan could have been a couple?”
– they’d have knocked Kevin and Brittany right off the
top of the ‘jock scene’ ladder!” one of the other
girls spoke. “They looked good together in their
running stuff – no overstuffed blonde bimbo and idiot-boy over
there – plus you know he’s smart, and she’s really
good in that art stuff… If they’d have stayed together,
they could have ruled the school!”
- “Even bigger than
Quinn – or Quinn and Mack Mackenzie, if they had ever gotten
together,” the blonde agreed. “THAT would have been a
couple. But, that’s what happens…”
you believe it?” Brooke snickered. ”Dykes in love’
– I bet O’Neill wet his diapers over that sad, tragic
little love poem, and you just know we’ll be all up to our
necks soon in ‘gay pride’ this and ‘fags
are people, too’ that-“
- “EXCUSE ME?”
the blanking reverie Daria was in shattered as Janet Barch appeared
over a trio of gossiping young women like one of the Furies, her
incandescent, shrieking rage now given an outlet. “I see that
someone’s got a problem with people who aren’t JUST LIKE
THEM IN EVERY STUPID FREAKING MANNER POSSIBLE! Maybe you three
nasty, gossiping little girls NEED a GOOD, LONG, EXTENDED SERIES OF
INDIVIDUALIZED CULTURAL AWARENESS AND SENSITIVITY
TRAINNG CLASSES PERSONALLY TAUGHT BY MR. O’NEILL! GET
UP! GET UP!”
- Every head in hearing
range turned away just enough so that Janet, her face twisted with
near-insane anger, couldn’t notice them watching the public
flaying. Brooke and the other girl had broken into tears at the way
Janet screamed at them, and Tori’s face had gone so white that
her blonde hair now resembled a halo…
- “SINCE YOU’VE
GOT ENOUGH TIME TO RUN YOUR FILTHY LITTLE MOUTHS AND SPREAD HATEFUL
RUMORS ABOUT PEOPLE WHO ARE SO FAR ABOVE YOU THAT YOU MIGHT AS WELL
BE WORMS, THEN YOU’VE GOT ENOUGH TIME TO GET INSIDE AND SEE
PRINCIPAL LI ABOUT THE VILE HATE-SPEECH THAT YOU’VE BEEN
SPEWING ALL OVER THE CAMPUS! MOVE!”
- “Wow – I
wouldn’t be Tori Jericho now if you paid me,” Jodie
spoke softly, sitting down unbidden next to Daria. “The way
Barch’s been swinging the axe lately, they’ll be very
lucky to get off with just two weeks suspension and some sort of
torture to keep this off their records... nah. Somebody’s
gonna get sent up for expulsion.” She shuddered, and drew a
thick, meaty barbecued rib tip from the Styrofoam container in her
hands. “Engaging in a little guilty pleasure. My mom’s
so wound up about ‘not being Black stereotypes’ that she
won’t let us buy even barbecue TV dinners at the store –
and that ‘Rib Throwdown’ place is too good to let my
mom’s hang-ups keep me out!”
- Daria glanced over at
her, and she reflexively kicked her lips at the sight of the heavy
chunk of beef, dripping in a thick, fragrant sauce. “See, the
secret to good barbecue IS the sauce – it has to be thick, and
it needs to be dark,” Jodie said, dropping the rip tip on a
piece of bread and passing it to Daria, who accepted it without
reservation. “If you can see light through the sauce, give it
a pass. If it runs off the meat instead of dripping off, pass. Oh,
yeah – you have to eat ribs with white bread – well, you
can eat it with wheat or any type of bread, but it’s just not
tradition. Us Black folks know this stuff!”
- "Isn't it supposed
to have brown sugar in it - that's what makes it dark?"
- "Wait a minute. A
white girl from the suburbs like you is gonna tell me, a Black
woman, how to make barbeque sauce?"
- "Born and raised in
Texas. Down there, barbeque is the official state food. If you don't
know how to burn meat the right way and how to make something to
slather over it that tastes good, they've got guys with Colt
six-shooters on their hips ready to escort you to the state line and
tell you 'Best not come back."
- "If you're Black
and can't barbecue, they revoke your 'hood privileges and tear up
your ghetto pass."
- "Please. The only
'hood' you've ever been in is the one on your terrycloth bathrobe."
- Jodie had to laugh.
"Finally - a flash of the old Daria. There's still hope for
- A rare smile found its
way onto Daria’s face, and she turned to Jodie. “Thanks.”
- “After what you’ve
been through recently, a tiny moment of happy isn’t out of the
question for you,” came Jodie’s half-understandable
reply through serious chewing. “Anybody who’d say that
you don’t deserve happy now – well, they’re just
not someone worth listening to.”
- Daria chewed for several
moments. “You think so?”
- A bottle of Perrier
showed up from nowhere in Jodie’s hand. “Yeah. Want some
- “Steak fries?”
- “No, the long
- “Nah – the
long, regular ones. I guess the small restaurants have a special
supplier or something; you never see them in the stores.”
- “They taste better
from the greasy spoons, anyway. What’s with the Quinn-water?”
– that’s funny. My contribution to my mom’s
never-ending quest to someday wake up as a white man.”
- “I don’t get
because you have your own problems. Steak fries?”
- “Place in
Highland. Total greasy spoon. Everything came with steak fries.”
- “No regular fries,
crinkles, or shoestrings?”
- ‘Nope. Only steak
fries. Good, though.”
- “You’re a
fry freak? Never saw it before.”
- “Came here and got
hooked on pizza.”
- They ate in silence.
- “We all got it
- “Got what wrong?”
- “Lots of stuff.”
- There was a long
- “Jane’s a
- “A tiny moment of
happy isn’t out of the question for her, either.”
- Daria reached over and
took several fries from the tray. “I could learn to like these
- “You should try
them swirled in pizza sauce.”
- Jodie finally finished
her rib tip, and started on another as Daria chewed slowly. “Maybe
I should,” she finally said. “Can I get another rib
- “Hit ‘em,”
Jodie replied, her mouth full as she motioned towards the bottled
- “I’ll stick
with the milk.”
- “Yes, please let
everyone know that I won’t be coming in today, or on Monday,
either,” Helen said, her voice seemingly back to normal as she
finished her phone conversation. “Why, yes, thank you for your
concern I didn’t realize that I was that under the weather,
either. Yes, I will take it easy this weekend… goodbye…”
- Helen’s head
drooped as she hung up the phone… on her fourth try –
or was that just the way she kept drifting off? Stupid telephone,
stay on the hook, just beep-beep-beep-beep-SHUT UP, already!
- Ugh. Cold tea. But
Amanda just left five minutes ago. I thought it was five minutes
- Her stomach churning
just enough to be noticeable, Helen carried a handful of garbage
bags with her through the hall and up the stairs to the master
bedroom, where she slowly eased herself into the bed.
- All other things
considered equal, I’d rather be litigating or off having
highly proficient sex, Helen thought, curling herself under the
covers as the need to be warmer flowed slowly through her. God, and
my knees are just so cold – now, that’s something that
brings back memories…
- Afternoon sunlight
warmed the room, but not enough: Helen was suddenly aware that the
clock radio was on and the volume was down, auto-tuned to one of the
Top 40 stations that she despised and Jake listened to with a
- It’s not that I
like this stuff, honey – it’s that by paying attention
to what people listen to, or really, what THEY want people to listen
to or are trying to get them to listen to – you get a good
feel for what that demographic wants or doesn’t want! I
listen to Quinn and her little friends, you know, and there’s
the things they like, but there’s a couple of things that
they’d never touch, even though the TV and the radio both say
they’re big, and there’s the stuff Daria and her little
friend like! You’ve gotta watch the real people – Daria
hardly ever listens to Top 40, but…
- Jake was not without
skills; he just couldn’t follow-through on anything. The
opportunities he let go - he's still kicking himself in the back of
his head somewhere for letting the 'pet cigars' shtick get past him
- and then dropping golden eggs right into Andrew Landon's lap…
- Oh, but he'd have loved
that penguin beer - it was a rare day that anyone came along that
could out-drink my Jakey… I have no idea why that popped into
- Yes, I do - oh, my
- The world started to
return to normal for Helen as her cell phone appeared in her hand –
where she’d had it, she wasn’t sure. “Hello? Yes,
this is Helen Morgendorffer. I’m not feeling well, and I’d
like to know if someone could see me today… four-fifteen?
Well, I think that I can make that, I’ve got a few hours, and
– what time is it now? Excuse me? Well, I guess that I’d
better be on my way, shouldn’t I?”