CHRISTMAS MORNING

by

Robert Nowall

 

 

 

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY: Early Christmas morning, Jane gets a visit...

 

 

 

It was a restless night. Jane would nod off, and dream a little, then wake up and look over at the clock. It would be an hour or two later than the last time she looked. Then she would toss and turn and try to get comfortable, and nod off, and then wake up and do it all over again.

Damn! Usually when she slept in on a day off from school she slept well, and straight through, well into the morning. No alarms, no disturbances, nothing got through to her. Why should this morning be any different, just because it was Christmas Day and she was alone?

Her family were still scattered to the four corners of the earth. Jane went over the details in her mind while waiting for sleep to strike again. Vincent had stayed in some god-awful hole in northern France where he was intent on snapping pictures of some rock formations in the dead of winter. He missed Thanksgiving, too. Amanda had blown into Lawndale right before Thanksgiving and left the day after, something about a spiritual journey with a proto-pagan Canadian shaman. She didnít even try to cook a meal. Amanda had shoved some money into Janeís hands for Christmas presents just before leaving. She had promptly split it with Trent and blown her share on several blank canvasses and a pizza from Pizza King.

Wind was spending Christmas with his latest girlfriendís family in Seattle; Jane figured they would bust up while there and heíd show up on the Lane doorstep sometime in early January. As for Penny and Summer, well, Jane didnít know where they were, but they sent their regrets inside tacky Christmas cards. Summerís kids were with their fathers, if they werenít on the open road.

And Trent... Jane rolled over onto her side and pulled the pillow a little closer. That was the worst. Trent and Mystik Spiral had a gig over in Fremont, Christmas Eve through New Yearís to next weekend at some dive. He had wanted to be home on Christmas, but this last minute booking was too good for the band to pass up. Trent had been sorry, and tried to get her to come along as road manager. She groaned and made the sign of the cross with her fingers and averted her eyes when he said it. He got the message. No way was she going through that again...even if it meant she spent Christmas alone.

Alone on Christmas. She had always bitched about hanging out with her family on holidays, even bragged about being left alone and eating a TV turkey dinner on Thanksgiving...but the reality of it had come and was hard to take. It hadnít happened then, but it was happening now. And, somehow, being the only Lane in El Casa Lane...it hurt.

It was useless to sleep now. Jane sat up and looked across the room at the red numbers of her alarm clock. It was four in the morning. She half-smiled to herself. Daria had suggested putting the alarm clock across the room, so she wouldnít keep hitting the snooze button and going back to sleep...so sheíd have to get up out of bed and turn it off. And then she would be out of bed then and would remember not to fall back asleep. Good, practical Daria.

Jane looked away from the clock. Daria would be spending Christmas with her family. The Morgendorffers looked dysfunctional, Jane thought, but compared to her own family, they were the model of family perfection. Parents who were there for her, a sister who would actually talk to her once in a while...

Daria had dropped hints, that she wouldnít mind if Jane stopped over on Christmas. Even Helen noticed Janeís solitude, and on a pass through the Morgendorffer freehold on to Dariaís room, dropped a hint of her own. Jane gave it some thought. The two of them could hang out and make fun of the tacky elements of the celebration together, and make the time pass a little more bearably.

Jane didnít take the hint. Mostly, she didnít want to see Dariaís semi-happy family on Christmas Day at all. Jane sighed.

And Jane knew that during the festivities Daria would leave her to see Tom. Tom was in town and Jane knew Daria had promised to go over to his house on Christmas Day. Jane lay back on the bed, stared up at the barely-visible cracks in her ceiling, and groaned. She hadnít seen anyone steady since she and Tom broke it off, and, despite telling Daria she didnít mind that Daria and Tom had taken up together, she still didnít like to think of the two of them...together...

Jane lay back and closed her eyes. Thinking about it was getting to her. She didnít feel like sleeping, but she didnít like the idea of doing anything else, not painting, not watching TV, not surfing the Internet, not anything. Sleep was the lesser of evils right now, and she would do the best she could, till it was morning and useless to go on.

She sighed and rolled over onto her stomach. Morning was nearly here now and she was really tired.

#

Her sleep was broken by the sound of a doorbell. Jane groaned and rolled out of bed and onto her feet. She glanced at the alarm clock. It was four fifteen. Who would risk her wrath by getting her out of bed at four fifteen in the morning?

Jane staggered down to the living room as the doorbell rang a couple more times, hitting the light switches as she passed by them. She opened the door and squinted with sleep-bleary eyes at the person standing there. It was a foggy Christmas morning, still dark, but not foggy enough to hide the figure standing at her front door. It was a familiar smileless figure with green jacket and thick glasses. "Mmm...Daria?"

"Jane," Daria said. She sounded normal, normal for her.

"Itís four in the morning, Daria," Jane said, tiredness and irritation in her voice.

"You never were much of a morning person, Jane."

"Mmm." Jane squinted at her again. It was hard to think straight. No, there wasnít anything wrong with Daria. But what else would get Daria out of her own bed on a no-school day at four in the morning? After a long pause, Jane said, "Mmm. Four in the morning."

"Can I come in, Jane?"

"ísalrigh, címon in." Jane stepped aside and let Daria into the living room, closing the door behind her.

Daria stood at the door and looked over the room as Jane looked at her. The room was much the same, with family art projects scattered over the room here and there. The only concession to the holiday was a foot-high Christmas tree without ornaments that Jane had picked up at a dollar store and set up in the corner. Another art project that hadnít panned out. There was a thin and narrow box under it, Trentís gift to Jane, that he made her swear not to open before Christmas.

Jane had kept her word, though Jane personally suspected it was a box of chocolates. She remembered it was Christmas Day right now and picked it up and peeled off a corner of the wrapping paper. Yep, chocolates. "Want one, Daria?"

"No thanks. You know Trent tried to find you something better for Christmas. He asked me to help, but I couldnít come up with anything for him this time around."

"Mmm." Jane put the box down and shook herself a little more awake. "Why are you here?"

Daria looked down at her boots. "I just wanted to wish a Merry Christmas to the person whose made my life a little less intolerable these past years."

"At four?"

"Call me a traditionalist." She held up something. Jane hadnít noticed it before. It was a videotape, blank, homemade label. Jane took it as Daria held it out.

"Iíve had it since October." She looked embarrassed. "Copied them out myself. I know youíd rather spend Christmas alone, so Iíll leave you alone. Give me a call later, will you?" And then Daria was at the door and out it.

"Daria! Wait!" Jane stepped to the door just in time to see the back of Dariaís green jacket vanish into the fog. Jane stood there a moment, eyes fully open now, peering into the dark. Then she turned away and closed the door.

Jane shook her head. It was no good going back to bed now. She looked down at the video. Written on it in Dariaís neatest handwriting was one word: FLOWERS.

Half on autopilot, Jane stepped over to the TV, turned it on, turned the VCR on, shoved the tape in the slot, and sat down. The tab had been broken off the tape so it started automatically. There was no sound. A picture of a red rose, opening from a bud, appeared on the tube. More flowers, different flowers, appeared.

Jane watched it, puzzled. It looked like Daria had clipped it from lots of different shows, one flower at a time. Not professionally edited, but nicely done. She must have worked very hard on it. It ran about ten minutes and ended in a swirl of static. No credits, no nothing. Jane grabbed the remote and fast-forwarded a while, to see if anything else appeared, but the rest of the tape was blank.

Jane switched it off and smiled. How like Daria to give her flowers for Christmas...

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DISCLAIMER: "Daria" and the characters and settings from it are the property of MTV Networks / Viacom International.

This parody of "Daria" is copyright © 2000 by Robert Nowall. It is not intended to profit the author in any way, and may not be distributed without permission of the author. (That means please donít post or circulate this without getting in touch with me first.) For the time being, Robert Nowall can be reached at: RobtNowall@aol.com

This story derives from a segment in a famous comic strip. I leave the identity of this strip as an exercise for the reader...

My thanks to Ruthless Bunny, Renfield, MeScribble, and everybody who expressed an interest in beta reading the rough draft. Your comments were appreciated, though not always followed...

Written 10/31/00 to 11/2/00. Yes, I know itís odd to write a Christmas story on Halloween...

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