"So,... are you seeing any boys?" Helen asked her daughter.
Daria sighed inwardly. This car trip was lasting far too long for her taste. "Not in a situation where I could make them disappear without a trace," she finally replied, hoping that her mother would take some time to decipher her answer.
Daria had been in the living room watching television when Helen had come home that afternoon and announced that she had won a big case. To celebrate, she wanted to take the family out to dinner. Daria wished that she had accompanied Jane when she had left the Morgendorffer house to go running earlier. Physical activity was definitely the lesser of two evils when it came to spending time with her family.
Without Jane's availability, Daria couldn't find any excuse to get out of the restaurant excursion. Daria was surprised that Quinn wasn't trying to weasel out of the dinner as well, but she had been uncharacteristically quiet and sullen all afternoon.
To make matters worse, Helen suggested they take separate cars, since she had a stop to make before they got to the restaurant, and insisted that Daria ride with her so they could "talk". As expected, the talking consisted of prying questions into Daria's social life. Mercifully, her mother was putting up with her sarcastic answers, and took a few minutes between questions.
Helen pulled the SUV into the parking lot of Cedars of Lawndale Psychological Treatment Center. "I just have to run in and have one of the doctors sign an affidavit," she explained.
"Okay, see you when you get back," Daria said, reaching for the radio.
"No, Daria, I want you to come with me. I'm not leaving you alone in a strange parking lot.".
Daria decided not to argue the point and accompanied her mother inside. She wasn't wild about hospitals of any sort, but at least this time she wasn't going in to deal with a strange rash.
Helen walked up to the admissions desk and spoke to the nurse. "I'm Helen Morgendorffer. I'm here to see Doctor White. This is my daughter, Daria."
"Yes, ma'am," the nurse said, looking Daria up and down, "Doctor White is expecting you. Your daughter will have to go through there." The nurse pointed to a nondescript door to their right.
"Why can't I wait out here?" Daria asked, pointing a thumb at the well-furnished waiting area behind them.
"I'm sorry, it's just a security measure." The nurse acted like that should explain everything, but when Daria just stared at her, unmoving, she added, "We're going to have a therapy group come through here in a few minutes, and we wouldn't want to get you mixed up with the other patients."
Daria shrugged, and turned to walk to the door.
"I'll see you in a few minutes, sweetie," Helen said, accepting a proffered clipboard from the nurse.
Daria opened the door and stepped into a darkened room. She fumbled against the wall for the light switch, but something the nurse said was nagging at her. "What did she mean, mixed up with the other patients?" she thought to herself.
Before she could find the switch, all the lights in the room suddenly came on, temporarily blinding her. She squinted against the bright light, but before she could recover, strong hands shoved her against the wall face first. She yelled out as she felt a sharp pinch against the back of her neck. The hands spun her around and held her from the back as another pair of hands joined in and tried to force her arms into some type of garment.
Daria didn't know how many people were attacking her, or why. But while they had gotten the drop on her, she wasn't entirely defenseless. She brought the heel of her boot sharply up behind her, having a good estimate of the strong-handed person's position. She felt the heel jarringly meet a kneecap, and then brought it straight down the shin and drove it as hard is she could into the top of the person's foot. She heard a loud scream of pain come from behind her, and the hands released her.
Unfortunately, instead of simply letting go, the hands shoved her roughly forward. This had the effect of driving her arms straight down the sleeves of what she guessed could only be one thing, while pressing her up against the other person. She was instantly spun around, and her guess was confirmed as she felt her arms wrap themselves around her body and heard buckles being expertly fastened. She also knew he was standing in such a way that her boot trick would not work twice.
Her sight was coming back by now, but it was still hard to make things out, since everything was white. The walls and cabinets were white, the man on the floor holding his foot was dressed in white, the man standing against the far wall holding a syringe had a white lab coat on, and from what she could glimpse of the straight jacket she had been forced into, it was white.
"What's going ah," she said, directing it to the room at large. Somehow it had come out wrong, though. Even though she was still wearing her glasses, her vision started to blur in and out. All of a sudden, even though her body must be full of adrenaline, she felt very tired. Her legs couldn't hold her up, and she leaned heavily against the man behind her.
She felt herself sinking, but she didn't know if she was falling, or being lowered into a chair, or rolled onto a table. Before oblivion overtook her, she heard the man from the far wall say, "Take her to room nine. I'll go tell Mrs. Morgendorffer that everything went smoothly."
Daria woke up in her bedroom feeling very groggy. Her face was pressed up against one of the padded walls. She found the familiar touch of the soft material comforting. Her nightmare had been very vivid.
She opened her eyes and reached over to the night stand for her glasses. She tried to, anyway, but found to her dismay that she was unable to lift her arm. A wave of panic enveloped her as she struggled in vain to move her arms, but they refused to be extricated from the tight confines of the blanket.
She sat straight up, struggling to free herself, and suddenly realized she was not trapped by the blankets at all. She was not wrapped in blankets, she was not in her bed, and she was not in her room.
She did not have her glasses, but from what she could tell, there was not much to see. The room was small but spacious, due in large part to a complete lack of furniture. The walls were padded, in much the same style as her bedroom, as was the floor. She could make out the outline of a door against the far wall. There was a large piece of artwork on the wall next to the door. Squinting, she realized it was actually a mirror. "One-way," she thought to herself.
Daria calmed herself down and tried to assess her situation. She was wearing a straight jacket, which was why she couldn't move her arms. Instead of her skirt and boots, she was wearing only a pair of hospital-issue pajama pants. She could only assume that she was wearing a matching top under the straight jacket. The fact that she had been undressed while she was unconscious irked her more than a little. In fact, the more she thought about things, the more annoyed she got.
She was in a room in a mental institution. She remembered the last thing she heard, "Tell Mrs. Morgendorffer everything went smoothly." Her parents had had her committed!
Daria knew she acted differently than everyone else. She was labeled strange and alienated by everyone she met, including her parents. She had always had good grades in school, though, and thought they were ample proof that she could easily navigate through the insane society that forced itself upon her.
She tried to think why her parents had done this to her. Oh, Helen had threatened her with such things in the past. Helen had always held therapists or activities over Daria's head as a way to get her to conform to accepted social norms of behavior. This was a far cry from music camp, though. Try as she might, she couldn't think of anything she might have done to warrant this type of treatment.
After a while, the door opened and a man in a long white lab coat entered the room. He was blurry, even when he came up close, but she assumed he was the same man from before. He squatted down next to her and looked at a clipboard. "So, how are we feeling?" he asked innocuously.
Daria just glared at him. He waited a few moments for her reply, and then shrugged and made a note on the clipboard. He pulled out a small pen light and shined it directly into her eyes to check her pupils. "You gave your parents quite a scare."
"I scared them?" Daria said incredulously as she tried to blink away the little dots.
"Your parents love you a great deal," the doctor said, scribbling again on the clipboard. "If they didn't, they wouldn't have had you checked in here."
"Checked in? You mean kidnapped." Daria didn't hide her vexation.
"Frankly, young lady, given the violent tendencies you displayed when you were admitted, I think I'll have to agree that your parents' choice to bring you here surreptitiously was a wise one."
"Violent? A strange man attacked me. What was I supposed to do?"
The doctor glanced at the pad on his clipboard. "Dislocated kneecap, fractured shin, broken foot." He looked at her. "Quite an accomplishment. That orderly is going to be limping for quite a while."
"It's a simple self-defense technique. My biology teacher taught it to all the girls in her class." Daria didn't like the spin he was trying to put on things. "My mother's a lawyer, you know."
The doctor pulled something out of one of his coat pockets. "Oh yes. We're all quite aware of your mother's legal credentials." When he tapped it to release the air bubbles, Daria realized he was holding a hypodermic.
In a fit of panic, Daria turned to try to escape the needle, but only succeeded in flopping down face first. She yelped in pain as the doctor found his target and injected her again. The fabric of the pajamas offered no resistance to the sharp metal.
"I think some rest will give you a new perspective on matters." The doctor stood and left the room.
Daria lay where she was. Her only other option involved sitting on a sore spot, so she decided to just stay there for now. After a while, though, she found she didn't want to move at all. She didn't feel numb, exactly, just content to lie still. She realized this must be the effect of whatever the doctor had injected her with. She knew that she should be resentful, but she couldn't bring herself to care that much.
She tried to think of what she should do, but she had a hard time holding onto her thoughts. Her mind felt like it was full of bubbles, and they kept slipping through her grasp. When she really tried, she could focus her attention on a particular thought, but it would quickly slip away, and it took her a long time to remember to reach for it again. At one point, she knew that she hated feeling like that, to have no control over her brain. That too, quickly faded.
Given her current state, she had no way to gauge the passage of time. She could have been lying there for a few hours or a few hundreds years. Eventually, the door opened again and someone came in. A pair of feet walked up to her and stood right in front of her face. One of the feet had a walking cast on it. She thought that should be significant, but she couldn't remember why.
"Rise and shine, bright eyes!" the person said nastily. As he said it, she felt a hand slap her hard, right on the sore spot where she had received the injection. The pain wasn't enough to make her cry out, but it did give her a moment of clarity. She felt a knot of fear in her stomach as she realized exactly who this must be.
She was roughly flipped over onto her back, and stared up at the blurry image of the man whose foot she had broken. He leaned down, grabbed the straight jacket, and pulled her up to a standing position. He pulled her face close and leered at her. "Nice stunt with the boots," he said obnoxiously. "I told 'em you wouldn't give me any more trouble. Oh, and if you think you can, you just remember who's wearing a heavy boot now."
With that, he gave her a heavy push towards the door. Daria stumbled, but caught herself in time. It was more of an automatic reaction than anything else. She couldn't remember how to walk, and the more she thought about it, the harder it was. The orderly gave her another shove, sending her out the door this time. "Come on, you've got visitors." he said.
Daria wanted to concentrate on the visitors, on who they might be and what she wanted to say to them, but she was having too hard a time just walking successfully to spare any attention for anything else. Every few steps, the orderly would give her another hard push, sending her stumbling forward down the long white hallway. Occasionally, he would pull her around a corner, or pull her up short when she was about to crash into something. More often than not, he would let her walk into an object or wall before sending her stumbling in the right direction. These occasions were always marked by a deep chuckle behind her.
Eventually they reached another nondescript door. Even if she wasn't drugged, Daria would have been completely lost. Without her glasses, she wasn't able to discern any distinguishing features from her surroundings, and, fleetingly, she suspected there weren't any distinguishing features there at all.
The orderly opened the door and pushed her inside. It was another small room, but this one had no padding. She was led to a small table in the center of the room, and pushed down into a utilitarian chair. When she sat down, the orderly started unbuckling the straight jacket. "I'm going to be right outside. You better hope the doc doesn't need me for anything," he whispered into her ear.
A door on the other side of the room opened, and the same doctor from before came in and sat down at the table across from Daria. The orderly pulled the straight jacket off and left the room through the door they had entered. Daria's arms hung limply in her lap, unused to the sensation of freedom they had been so long without. Her head drooped, and she barely looked at the doctor with his coat and clipboard.
"Well, I see our attitude has remarkably improved," the doctor said, cheerily. He crossed his hands and leaned in close. "Are you feeling okay, Dara?"
Normally Daria would have shoved his smarmy comments back down his throat with a sarcastic barb. She tried to come up with one, but found herself losing track of what he had actually said. After a few moments, the doctor sat back in his chair and made a note on the clipboard.
Just then, Daria heard raised voices coming from behind the door the doctor had entered. The door suddenly burst open, and Helen Morgendorffer charged into the room, followed closely by her husband, Jake. "-let patients slip through the cracks all the time! Why-" Helen was in mid-tirade either towards her husband or the world at large, but she brought herself up short when she caught sight of her daughter sitting at the table.
The doctor got up to meet Daria's parents and made calming gestures with his hands. "Now, Mrs. Morgendorffer, as I said, I think this is a little early for her to see you-"
Helen cut the doctor off without sparing him a glance. "Nonsense! She's my daughter." Helen approached the table. "Daria, sweetie, how are you... doing, here?"
Daria stared at the table top. She hadn't raised her head since she came in the room, and she wasn't sure she'd be able to if she tried. "Good thing I don't have any inclination to do so," she thought to herself.
When Helen did not get a response, she turned to the doctor. "Dr. White...," she said pleadingly.
"I'm afraid being withdrawn and surly is perfectly normal at this stage, Mrs. Morgendorffer," Dr. White said. He approached Helen and placed a hand on her arm. "She slept off the mild sedative we gave her last night, and she's been resting quietly all day."
"Only because you drugged me again," Daria thought.
Helen sat down at the table and cocked her head so she could see Daria's face. "Where are her glasses?"
"For right now, we don't want her to have anything she could hurt herself with. She can have them back once she earns our trust." He leaned down to Helen and stage-whispered, "Having something to earn will give her a positive goal to strive for."
"Right now I'd like to strive for his throat," Daria thought, wishing she could get her mouth to say these things.
Dr. White guided Helen out of the chair. "Now, with the materials you provided, I'm sure we can help her work through this. When she's ready to talk, she'll let us know."
"Oh, yeah, I'll talk all right. When this stuff wears off, I'll talk to the police, the media,..."
Helen walked around the table and tilted Daria's face up by the chin. Daria's hair was unkempt and matted, her eyes were unfocused, and her face was slack, drained of all energy. Daria hadn't looked more beautiful and horrible since the day she had been given life.
"Oh, sweetie," Helen said, pulling Daria against her body in an unresisting hug, "I know all this seems harsh, but we were so afraid. We don't want to lose you."
"Yeah, and if it helps, we didn't read your entire diary, kiddo." her father interjected.
"Jake, I'm on it," Helen reprimanded. She sighed and brushed Daria's hair with her hand. "We'll come back to visit, Daria. Please do what Dr. White says." She turned and walked out the door, escorted by the doctor.
Jake was momentarily left alone in the room with his daughter. He started to look uncomfortable. Finally, he smiled and said cheerfully, "Hang in there, kiddo." He immediately looked even more uncomfortable. "Oh, gosh, I hope I didn't give you any ideas! Helen!" With that, he charged out of the room after his wife.
"Well if the drugs didn't do it, I'd certainly be confused now. What the hell are they talking about? Lose me? Do they think I'm going to run away? After this, I can practically guarantee it."
Daria was not alone with her thoughts for long, as the door behind her opened and the orderly hobbled up to her. She offered no resistance as he wrapped her back up in the straight jacket and pulled her back to her feet.
"What's with this straight jacket, anyway? They're afraid I'm going to hurt myself? Then why take it off while my parents were here?" Daria remembered some of the things the doctor had said : "mild sedative" and "resting quietly". She didn't like the picture she was getting. "My parents don't know about the straight jacket. Or the drugs. I'm just going to be kept in my cell until my parents visit, then I'm going to be pulled out and dusted off so the doctors can show them how good a job they're doing making me better."
Daria was lost in her thoughts, not paying attention to where the orderly had been directing her. Suddenly she was pulled up short in front of another room. The door was open and she looked inside. Even blurry, it was unmistakably a lavatory. "Bathroom break," the orderly said, chuckling again.
It was a perfectly humiliating experience, and the straight jacket was not removed. A female nurse was sent in to assist her, though. After that, she was led to a cafeteria of sorts, where she was hand-fed some particularly bland stew, and allowed to sip some water from a paper cup. She thought the orderly would be more cruel during the feeding process, but realized it would have been his job to clean her up.
After eating, Daria was walked back through the maze of hallways. They stopped at a locked door with a window set in the wall next to it. Looking through the window, Daria realized they were back at her cell. "Home, sweet home," she mumbled.
Daria was pushed into her cell and she walked over and sat against one of the walls. She was starting to feel more lucid, and was going over the day's events in her head. Since the previous evening (was it only yesterday?), her world had become completely surreal and hellish.
Her parents had thrown her into an insane asylum because of something they found in her diary, apparently. Unfortunately, that made more than a little bit of sense. She bared her soul in that diary, and not all of it was pretty. What truly puzzled her was how they could have found her diary in the first place. Where she had hidden it, you'd need a welding torch to retrieve it, unless you knew the specific tricks to removing it safely.
She wished the doctor would come back. She was beginning to feel like she could talk again, if she wanted to. She wanted to ask what was in her diary that had scared her parents so much that they couldn't just ask their daughter what it meant. She figured if she could find out exactly what had caused her incarceration, she'd be able to tell him what he wanted to hear, get released, and then start plotting an exacting revenge for all of this.
After a while, a nurse came in carrying a small tray. The orderly limped right behind her. "So this is the unhappy young lady. My, it just breaks my heart," the nurse said, shaking her head. She looked at Daria with a sad expression.
"I'm not crazy," Daria said, shrinking back against the wall. It was pretty lame, but it was all she could think to say. Besides, she suspected what was on the tray.
"Of course you're not, dear," the nurse said, kindly, "Charlie." At the sound of his name, the orderly stepped around the nurse and grabbed Daria again. He pushed her face-first against the floor and held her there.
Daria felt the pajamas pulled out of the way and a cold swab against her skin. "No, wait," she cried, "can't I see the doctor? Please -ah!" She cried out again as she felt a needle enter her skin, followed by its contents.
"I'm sure the doctor will be by to see you tomorrow. You just concentrate on resting." The nurse and orderly left the room.
Daria lay on the floor, and actually tried to take the nurse's advice. She had a worrying premonition that things were going to get a whole lot worse before they got any better.
Jane came to visit her that night. Daria didn't know when she had arrived. One moment, Jane was just standing there in the middle of the cell, the moonlight from the barred window shining down behind her. Daria was grateful that she was dressed normally again, including her glasses. She would have hated for Jane to see her lying sprawled in those pajamas. Unfortunately, she was still bound in the straight jacket.
"So, your parents decide you were too old for a baby-sitter?" Jane asked sardonically.
"Very funny. I don't know why I'm in here, at least not specifically. They won't tell me anything." Daria squirmed up to lean against the wall.
"Are you sure you just didn't snap one day and decide to take out all your bottled-up frustrations on the world by walking into a post office with a vest made of dynamite?"
"If I wanted to deal with all my bottled-up frustrations, I wouldn't have to go all the way down to the post office. I could just walk out of my bedroom and into Quinn's."
"Good point. So, did you finally take a pickax to the little princess?"
"Why do you assume I'm in here because I did something violent?"
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have leapt to conclusions like that. For all I know, you could be a schizophrenic cross-dresser."
"Any idea how long you'll be here?"
"Beats me. My parents said they'd visit, so they must be expecting me to be here for a while."
"Oh. Want me to stay and keep you company?"
"Actually, that would be kind of nice."
"Okay." Jane leaned down and stood back up wearing a straight jacket.
"What's that for?"
"Hey, when in Rome." She sat down next to Daria.
"Well, I appreciate the gesture, but I wish you would have helped me out of mine before putting yours on."
"Sorry, I didn't think about that." Jane struggled a little inside the jacket.
"Aw... hell." Daria muttered.
"Yeah... hell." Jane agreed.
Daria stumbled into a chair in the hallway and would have tripped if the orderly hadn't caught her from behind. He pulled her back into the center of the hall and gave her another push forward. She realized that she didn't remember waking up or leaving her cell at all. She felt incredibly disoriented. "Did they give me another shot?" she wondered.
She was brought to another small room with a table in the center. It could have been the same one she saw her parents in, but she couldn't tell. This time the doctor was waiting for her at the table. She was sat down across from him, this time the straight jacket was not removed.
"So, Dara, had some time to reflect on things?" the doctor asked.
Daria just stared at him impassively. At that moment, she wasn't sure she'd be able to reflect in a mirror.
The doctor made a note on his ever-present clipboard. "Now, Dara, we'll never get anywhere if you don't cooperate with us. Why don't you start by telling me how you feel? About yourself? About your family? All of this?"
Daria did her best, but she couldn't ignore such an opening. She opened her mouth to give him as much verbal acid as she could muster. "Nnngghhh...," she said.
The doctor smiled. "Well, that was a response, at least. Let me assure you Dara, I am your doctor. You can trust me. So go ahead, tell me anything you like."
Daria concentrated as hard as she could. She could feel herself sweating with the effort. "Why...am...I...here?" she finally managed to croak out.
The doctor leaned back and raised his eyebrows. "Well, I suspected you might ask that at some point, but I didn't expect it would be this soon."
"Oh, good. I'm finally going to get an answer."
"Dara, the existential mysteries of creation and existence have baffled philosophers for millennia. You really shouldn't dwell on them and allow yourself to be driven to such a state. I do hope that's not the root of all this."
"All...what?" Daria asked. "Moron," was what she was thinking, "is there anything safe to ask this guy?"
"Dara, it's true that everyone is unique. You are very special. I do wish, though, that you would take some time and look at your life." The doctor glanced at his clipboard and started reading things off of the papers he had there. "You're very intelligent, alienated from your upper-middle class family, few friends, poor social skills, self-esteem issues, iconoclastic tendencies, and then there's the note. Typical teenage angst. Frankly, Dara, I could use you for a case study if this weren't so textbook."
"Nothing I haven't heard before. Wait... note? What note?"
"Now, all your mother wants is an assurance that this was just a threat, a cry for help, that you didn't actually intend on going through with it. I think I could give her that assurance right now, but she insisted on a full course of analysis and treatment. And I 'm sure you're familiar with how insistent your mother can be."
"I...didn't...do...anything...," Daria said, wondering what the hell he was talking about. The part about her mother made sense, but she couldn't figure out the rest of it.
"No, you didn't do anything. And I don't think you would have done anything. But your parents weren't about to risk the fact that you might, and they love you too much to allow you to commit suicide."
If the doctor said anything after that, Daria didn't hear it. A numb feeling washed over her, and she wasn't sure if it was caused by the drugs.
The combination of the cold water and the coarse washcloth freed Daria's mind from the fog that was fast becoming its normal state. "Suicide?" she thought as she was roughly scrubbed, "why do they think I want to kill myself?"
She barely paid attention as she was dried, dressed, and led out of the shower. On the walk through the halls, she tried to recall what the doctor had said, but she couldn't remember anything past the part about suicide. When she was pushed into her cell, she just stood in the middle of the room, thinking.
She didn't recall lying down, or even falling down, but with her next clear thought she found herself on the floor again. She thought she remembered someone coming in and giving her another shot, but she didn't know if that was something that just happened, or if it was a memory from before.
"I'm being turned into a walking zombie," she thought. "If I had a mirror and a credit card, they'd probably let me in the Fashion Club." The thought actually scared her, but the joke made her want to giggle.
"So, how's life in the land of the laughing?" Jane asked, leaning back and nudging Daria.
"I wouldn't know. They're keeping me so drugged up I'm not sure if I qualify as having a life anymore," Daria said, nudging Jane back.
"What's with all the drugs, anyway?"
"Beats me. They keep telling me they're so I can rest and think about things. I think they're doing it to get back at my mom. She's probably been bullying them, and yelling and threatening malpractice if I didn't rest and stay safe."
"So they're making sure you rest and stay safe by doping you to the gills?"
"Nice work if you can get it."
"What really bugs me is that the main reason I'm in here is that they think I'm planning on killing myself."
"What makes them think that?"
"Supposedly they read a suicide note in my diary."
"What, did they miss the phrase, 'After I finish off everyone else...'?"
"I don't know. I can't think of anything in my diary that could be interpreted as a suicide note. The last entry I made was about Tom-" Daria cut herself off and thought quickly, "-orrow Never Dies, that last stupid James Bond film."
"Right. So, are we on for tom-orrow night?"
"I'll be here."
Daria's eyes shot open. The cell was dark, illuminated solely by a small security light in the ceiling. It was probably the middle of the night, or very early in the morning.
She had just been talking to Jane. Was it a dream? It must have been, her cell didn't normally have a barred window to let the moonlight in. Unless this was the dream.
Daria shook her head and tried to concentrate. She thought she had said something significant to Jane, and tried to remember what they had talked about.
She had told Jane about the drugs they were giving her. The last dose of which must have worn off for her to be awake and thinking clearly. Maybe the nurse had skimped on the dosage, but that was immaterial. Daria wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
The diary. That's right, she had told Jane about the diary and the suicide note. Except she hadn't written a suicide note. The doctor seemed pretty sure she had, though. They must have been interpreting one of her more morbid entries as a threat to end her own life. That must be it. But why didn't they just ask her about it? As much as it annoyed her, everyone assumed she was always depressed anyway, you'd think they'd be used to it. After all, if they were interested in someone who was abnormally depressed, they should have talked to-
Daria pulled her thoughts up short. She tried to think this out logically. There was a suicide note. It was in a diary. Her diary was impossible to find. Therefore, the suicide note was not hers.
Quinn! They had found Quinn's diary! It all made sense now. Quinn was acting very depressed the last time Daria had seen her. It should have been obvious.
She imagined how the scenario must have gone. Quinn, very depressed over something (maybe the lead singer of the latest cute boy band didn't write back,) wrote a suicide note in her diary. She then left it someplace obvious for her parents to find (probably the kitchen table.) Unfortunately, their father found it, read the entry, and panicked. Instead of looking for a name (or noticing the pink bunnies on the cover,) he leapt to the conclusion that since it involved depression and the use of a writing implement, it must be Daria's. He called Helen at her office and babbled the details of Daria's suicide threat over the phone. Helen called the mental hospital and told them that her daughter needed to be locked up for her own good. Helen came home and made up some bull about winning a case (that should have been a tip-off) (okay, that was evil, but she deserved it,) which Daria fell for.
So Quinn was depressed and suicidal. Knowing Quinn, it probably was over a pretty trivial matter. However, Daria knew she couldn't discount the possibility that there might be something real behind her sister's problem. After all, however the suicide note was worded, the language was strong enough that their parents decided committing the author was safer than confronting her.
It was Quinn who should be in the hospital, staying "safe", not Daria. A chill thought ran through Daria's mind. Quinn had threatened suicide and her parents responded by throwing Daria in the hospital. They had focused entirely on Daria when Quinn needed their attention the most. What was worse, Quinn couldn't correct her parents and admit the suicide note was hers, because her parents had amply demonstrated what would happen to her if she did.
Daria didn't want Quinn to commit suicide. Oh, she had envisioned her sibling experiencing any number of horrible deaths over the years, but not like that. Maybe this was all some type of karmic payback for all those times she wished Quinn was dead. She had always felt her life would be vastly improved by Quinn's absence. However, Quinn wasn't here, and this wasn't an improvement.
A blanket of peace settled over Daria. She had figured things out, and would be able to end her ordeal come morning. The next time they came in to check on her, she'd be able to explain that the diary was not hers, she'd get released, Quinn would get the help she needed, and Daria would be eating pizza with Jane before nightfall. Daria closed her eyes and quickly fell asleep, a content smile on her face.
Daria awoke feeling mentally refreshed, but still physically groggy. She recalled the conclusions she had drawn during the night, and was anxious to tell someone that they had the wrong girl.
Except the nurse was already in the cell with her. And she was leaving, carrying the small tray. She had just given Daria another shot. "Wait," Daria called out, "It wasn't me." Daria was speaking to the closed door.
She struggled to her feet and rushed awkwardly over to the mirror. "No! Come back! It wasn't me!" she yelled. There was no response, just a blurry, disheveled girl in a straight jacket staring wildly back at her.
Daria slowly sank to the floor. She felt the benumbing sensation of the drug start to envelop her. The nurse had given her no chance to talk, or communicate at all. She was stuck here until she could get someone to listen. But they hadn't listened to her before they had drugged her, so why should they start now? Worse, Quinn could be dead already, and she had missed her chance to save her.
She slowly started rocking back and forth, tapping her head against the soft wall. She felt that she should feel like crying.
"That Tom boy came by the house looking for you yesterday," Helen said.
Daria was startled back to reality. She was sitting in a chair in the small room with the table, her hands resting in her lap. Her mother was standing behind her, running a brush through Daria's hair. The doctor and her father were standing on the opposite side of the table, having a whispered discussion.
"Don't worry, though," her mother continued, "we told him you were attending a seminar in Canada."
Daria was confused, but had gotten used to the disjointedness. She tried to remember what day it was and when her parents had arrived. Was this the first time she had seen them since she'd been here? She didn't think so, but... Why was her mother brushing her hair? She hadn't let Helen do that since she could hold a brush for herself.
Something was nagging at Daria. There was something she wanted to say, but she couldn't remember what it was. Her mother mentioned Tom, was it about Tom? She remembered speaking to Jane about Tom. What else did she say to Jane? There was something-
"Quinn," Daria said quietly.
"What's that, sweetie?" Helen stopped her brushing and stepped around to lean in close to Daria.
With effort, Daria slowly brought her hand up to rest on Helen's arm. She tried to look her mother in the eye. "No...Quinn," she said again.
Helen looked down at Daria's hand on her arm, the one holding the brush. Slowly, she stood up and set the brush on the table. "I'm sorry, Daria," she said guiltily, "I just thought you could use a little grooming. I wasn't trying to... compare you again."
Daria stared at the brush. Her mother thought she was complaining about the hair-brushing. Frankly, if she was feeling better, she probably would. But she didn't have time. She had to make them understand!
Daria mustered her strength, and calculated her actions. She had to tell her parents and the doctor that Quinn was the one in danger of suicide, not her. She moved to stand up, look her mother straight in the eye, and in a very controlled voice, explain their error.
Daria started to panic. If her body wouldn't cooperate, she wouldn't be able to tell them anything. She would be stuck here, and Quinn would be dead. She poured everything she had into one more try.
Daria's hand shot out and curled around the handle of the brush. "Quinn!... Not!... Me!" she shouted, rapping the brush on the table with each word. She concentrated on the words, using the pounding brush to drag them from her lips. If she showed them her conviction, they would have to listen to her.
Helen's eyes started tearing up immediately, perceiving this as further chastisement for treating one daughter like the other. Not wanting Daria to hurt herself, she tried to grab the brush out of Daria's hand and received a clock in the jaw for her trouble. Fortunately, Daria did not have the strength to swing the brush all that hard, but Helen did cry out in shock and pain.
"Gah! She's going psycho!" Jake exclaimed, running over and trying to get between the two hysterical women. Daria was flailing the brush around wildly, screaming Quinn's name. Helen was desperately trying to grab a hold of Daria's wrists.
Daria heard the doctor yell for the orderly, and redoubled her efforts. Helen had managed to grab her wrists, but this gave her enough balance to stand up. "Quinn will die!" she yelled into her mother's face.
"Hold her still," the doctor said. Several pairs of hands forced Daria back down onto the chair and pressed her there.
Daria was struggling in the chair, but instantly froze when she saw the doctor approach with a hypodermic. "No, not again... please," she said, weakly.
Daria could only watch as the needle was jabbed quickly and efficiently into her leg. She looked at the faces gazing down at her. Jake's face was lined with worry, Helen's' was streaked with tears, Charlie the orderly looked stern, and the doctor had a look of... triumph?
The doctor led Helen away as the orderly fitted Daria back into the straight jacket with Jake's help. "Now, Mrs. Morgendorffer, " he explained, "This is exactly the type of disassociation she's been exhibiting for the past few days. I think keeping her restrained and sedated for the time being may be the direction we need to go..."
"But... she'll die...," Daria said, as the numbness swallowed her and took her away.
Daria stood at the barred window, gazing up at the craters on the bright, full moon.
"So it's Quinn's fault you're in here?" Jane asked from behind her.
"That's the size of it," Daria said matter-of-factly.
"What are you gonna do?"
"I don't know. I've tried to explain, but I can't make myself understood."
"Not that they'd believe me, anyway. I mean, they know Quinn and I don't get along. Who would believe me if I said she was depressed and suicidal?"
"I don't know. A lot of people who seem perfectly happy are really hurting on the inside. One of the big problems with depression is that you think it should be obvious to everyone how depressed you are, even though you're always doing your best to hide it from them."
"Hm, and it's not like Quinn has much of a support group. All of her shallow, self-absorbed friends would probably ostracize her if she had the temerity to stop smiling in their presence."
"Exactly. And depression's a real private thing, anyhow. It's tough to explain to someone else how the things you care about can make you so depressed."
"Yeah, for all I know, she could really be torn up about plaids coming back."
"Think she'll come clean with your folks and get you out of here?"
"I doubt it. The best-case scenario as far as I can see is that Quinn forgets all her troubles by going on a shopping spree, and Dad demanding my release once he gets the bill from this place."
"Tonight on Sick Sad World : the girl committed to an asylum because she was the only sane one in her family."
"She's not suicidal, her family just needed the rest." Daria turned around to share the laugh with Jane.
Jane wasn't there.
Daria stood, alone in her cell. She looked down at her bare feet. Slowly, she turned back around.
"Is the straight jacket really necessary?" Helen asked.
"I believe the... episode during your last visit should be ample evidence of that," Dr. White said. "We don't want her hurting herself, or anyone else, now do we?"
Daria didn't need to look at Helen. She knew that her mother was standing across the room, wearing that concerned, worried frown she pulled out of storage whenever one of her daughters had a problem. In the past, Daria would have sought out that frown, but since she couldn't tell her mother what the problem really was, observing the feature would just frustrate her more than she was already.
Helen walked to the table and sat down across from Daria. "Sweetie? Your father and I just wanted to say, we're sorry. We were so caught up in our careers, we didn't realize how inattentive we were being."
"That's right, kiddo," Jake said, walking up to stand behind Helen.
"Great, mom. Bond with me while I'm in a straight jacket. Way to spend quality time."
"I know we should have responded better all those times you reached out to us. We should have given you the love and guidance you needed. Instead, we ignored you and thought we were treating you like you wanted. We should have known better. I'm sorry."
"For crying out loud, stop apologizing. You may have pressured me sometimes, but you did let me be myself. In that respect, you've been great parents."
"Now, Dr. White feels that our visits are interrupting your treatment, so we may not be able to come see you as often as we'd like anymore."
"Well, of course. The longer you spend around him, the sooner you'll realize he's a quack."
"So we brought someone who wants to see you."
Daria almost visibly perked up at that. Someone to visit her? It could only be Jane. She was the only one who would care. If she could manage to speak to Jane at all, Jane would understand that something was wrong, and get her parents to believe her. Finally, her nightmare looked like it might end.
Daria raised her head when the doctor opened the door. She was utterly shocked when she saw Quinn walk through it.
Quinn was alive! All the tension melted out of Daria, giving her a sense of peace and relaxation stronger than any drug could provide. Maybe Quinn was here to fess up to the ownership of the suicide note. Maybe she was here to gloat at Daria's predicament. Hell, maybe the note was a fake that she had written in order to get Daria thrown in here. Daria didn't care. Her sister was alive, and it was an assurance that she had desperately needed.
Helen stood up and guided Quinn into the chair. Quinn looked very uncomfortable and nervous. "Hi, Daria," she said, shifting her eyes from side to side, "you look, um, good... for here... I guess."
Daria thought she would never hear her sister's voice again. She was surprised at how much she missed it.
"And... I just wanted to say...," Quinn continued uneasily before trailing off.
"Go on, Quinn, it's okay," Helen said.
"I just wanted to say," Quinn resumed, "I'm sorry I snooped through your room that day. I wasn't trying to invade your privacy, I just wanted to, y'know, see your stuff."
Daria almost missed what Quinn was saying. It wasn't making any sense, which admittedly was normal for Quinn, but there was something wrong that Daria couldn't figure out.
Quinn went on. "I know I shouldn't have read your diary when I found it under your pillow, but it was open and I figured just glancing at it couldn't hurt and I thought it would just be mushy poetry about that Trent guy or something and-"
"Quinn," Helen said reproachfully.
"Anyway, when I read what you were planning, I got so scared, you know I had to tell Mom and Dad. I know you're geeky and all, Daria, but I don't want you to kill yourself. I'd, um... miss you." As she finished, Quinn gave Daria a furtive glance and a small smile.
Daria tried to hang on to that smile as an anchor to reality. Quinn's words were making her mind reel. Nothing Quinn said since she entered the room made sense. Not only was Quinn denying ownership of the suicide note, Quinn herself thought Daria had written it. Daria began to feel very cold.
"Maybe I am crazy. Maybe I did write a suicide note and can't remember it. That would make sense. Who would want to remember something like that?"
"Mrs. Morgendorffer," Dr. White interjected, "I appreciate what your family is going through right now, but I think we should draw this visit to a close. If you'll just sign this form, it will authorize us to begin a course of treatments to determine if your daughter is suffering from a chemical imbalance, and allow us to take the necessary steps to restore that balance."
Helen accepted the proffered clipboard and pen and began looking over the form.
Inside her straight jacket, Daria was hugging herself tighter. For the first time since she had arrived at this institution, she felt like she belonged there. She could picture herself sitting on her bed, leaning against the wall, writing in her diary. A suicide note? Why not? Her life had precious few bright spots, ending it all could be a decision she could easily reach. So she couldn't remember it. Right now, she couldn't remember her locker combination.
But she didn't feel crazy. She desperately needed answers, and there was only one place to find them. She had an idea how to do it, too. Fortunately, she had neither the time nor the drive to hate herself for it.
Helen finished looking over the form and was about to sign it when she glanced up at Daria. Tears were streaming from her eldest daughter's eyes. The sound of Helen's heart breaking was almost audible to everyone in the room.
"Oh, Daria," Helen said, starting to cry herself. She ran around the table and pulled Daria close to her, setting the clipboard and pen down on the table and hugging her tightly. "I know, baby, I know. It'll all be okay," she choked out around heavy sobs, occasionally running a hand through Daria's long hair.
Helen continued like that for a few minutes, leaving the others in the room to look on in strained silence. Eventually, Helen wiped away some of her tears and pulled back to look down at Daria's face. Daria looked up at her mother, her own tears long since absorbed by Helen's business suit, then slowly lowered her eyes.
Helen lifted a hand to wipe away the moisture that was still on Daria's cheeks. Daria immediately swooped down, grabbed the pen up with her teeth, and started scrawling on the clipboard.
Everyone started shouting. "What's she doing?" "Get that away from her!" "She's writing something!" "Daria, that's not how you spell your name!" "Hey, she just wants some milk!"
Hands pulled Daria back up, and she allowed the pen to fall from her lips. She was spent. Her desperate attempt at a message took everything she had. She hoped it would be enough.
Scratched across the form on the clipboard in hasty, chopped letters, was the word "DAIRY".
"Okay," Dr. White said. "I think Daria really could use some rest now."
"Wait," Helen said, her hands resting on Daria's shoulders, "Diary. Do you want to look at your diary, Daria?" Helen leaned down to look into Daria's eyes.
Daria couldn't focus on Helen, she was breathing too hard. She tried to manage the flicker of a smile. Did her mother see it?
"I don't think that would be a good idea right now," said Dr. White. He was advancing towards the table. He held a hypodermic up in front of him.
When she caught sight of the needle, Daria instantly shrank back in the chair as far as she could go. Helen noted this reaction, and the look of fear on her daughter's face. A moment ago, Daria's eyes were unfocused, now they were riveted on the hypodermic in the doctor's hand.
"Dr. White, how often have you injected Daria since she's been here?" Helen asked, a serious edge in her voice.
Dr. White looked down at the hypo in his hand as if noticing it for the first time. "Uh, well, we felt it necessary to sedate her at times... always keeping her safety in mind, of course."
"Doctor," Helen said, kicking into full lawyer mode, "I don't recall authorizing a series of narcotic injections."
"Well, actually, you did. The forms you signed when you checked her in clearly authorize us to take extreme measures as necessary-"
"As necessary? How violent has she been that you feel it's necessary to keep her like this? You led us to believe that she was choosing not to communicate."
"Now, now. The antistimulants are just to keep her calm. She can speak if she chooses to. Well, so long as the dosage isn't too high. But I've had two conversations with her-"
"Two conversations? In all the time she's been here?"
The doctor obviously realized his situation was going from bad to even worse. "Um.. er... well. erp," was all he could get out.
Helen narrowed her gaze, holding the doctor firmly in the crosshairs of a deadly laser beam. "Go get her diary and bring it here," she said slowly. "Jake, go with him."
"Well, I suppose it could be cathartic," the doctor said weakly, trying to make the most of things.
While the men were gone, Helen paced the room muttering angrily over the incompetence of the medical profession and the possible lawsuit that could be filed.
While they were waiting, Quinn leaned forward and whispered to Daria, "That Trent guy called the other day. I think he likes you. We gave him that Canada story, though. We've been telling that to everyone who's asked about you."
Daria didn't respond to Quinn's prompting. She was flattered when she heard Trent's name, but felt it was too dangerous to risk a daydream at this point. Instead, she tried to concentrate on her mother's antics. She didn't want to zone out, now that she was so close to an answer.
The doctor finally returned and handed Helen a manila envelope.
"It's still in the envelope? Didn't you even look at it?" Helen said incredulously, tearing open the seal herself.
"Well, at this stage there wasn't a real necessity for that-"
"Oh, shut up!" Helen interjected. She pulled a steno notebook out of the envelope and looked at it. She placed it on the table in front of Daria. "Sweetie, here's your diary. It's open to the... last entry. Is that what you wanted to read?"
Daria's eyes slowly moved and came to rest on the familiar pad on the table. With great effort, she was able to slowly lean forward, and bring her face close enough to the open page so she could read it. In neat, bold script was written:
I'M SORRY I HID THIS, BUT FOR OBVIOUS REASONS I DIDN'T WANT IT FOUND RIGHT AWAY. BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS, I WILL BE DEAD. I KNOW IT SEEMS LIKE I HAVE MY LIFE REALLY TOGETHER, BUT I DON'T. I KNOW I CAN COAST THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL, BUT AFTER THAT? IT'S TOO SCARY. THERE ARE TOO MANY WAYS TO FAIL, TO SPECTACULARLY CRASH AND BURN, TO NEVER REALIZE YOUR DREAMS. THINGS ARE PRETTY GOOD FOR ME NOW. I'VE HAD EXPERIENCES MET ON MY TERMS,
AND I'VE GOT A LOT OF GOOD MEMORIES. I'VE DECIDED TO QUIT WHILE I'M AHEAD AND GO OUT ON A HIGH NOTE. I HAVEN'T FIGURED OUT HOW I'M GOING TO DO IT YET, ISN'T THAT A LAUGH? I HAVE PLENTY OF CHOICES AT MY FINGERTIPS, THOUGH. GOD BLESS THE AMERICAN HOUSEHOLD. ALL I HAVE TO DO IS MAKE SURE THAT MY PARENTS OR A CERTAIN SIBLING AREN'T AROUND. I DON'T EXPECT I'LL HAVE TO WAIT LONG. GOODBYE.
Daria finished reading the note and just sat looking at it, dumbfounded. She didn't want to believe it, but the proof was right in front of her face. It all made sense now. A perfect, horrible, logical sense. Drops of water started to spatter onto the paper. It took her several moments to realize they were coming from her eyes.
"Daria? Sweetie?" her mother asked worriedly.
Daria lunged at the table for the second time in thirty minutes. She started frantically flipping the pages of the notebook
using her lips and nose.
For the second time in thirty minutes, everyone started shouting. "What's she doing now?" "See? See? She is violent!" "Daria, quit it!" "Get it away from her!"
Helen grabbed the notebook and tried to pull it away, but Daria managed to get a grip on it with her teeth.
"Please, honey," Helen grunted, trying to pull the diary away without hurting her daughter, "Let it go. You can have it back later if you want."
With a shredding sound, the notebook came apart, leaving the tug-of-war contestants with several pieces each. Daria let the paper pages fall out of her mouth. Helen was left with several pages of her own, which fell to the floor, leaving only two pieces of cardstock in her hand.
The doctor pulled himself up and tried his best to sound haughty. "You see? Whatever you may think of the way we treat and care for our patients, her behavior clearly-"
"Oh, no!" Helen wailed. "Oh, no, no, no." Helen was holding the card stock away from her at arm's length, staring at it as if it was a giant tarantula.
Daria sighed. Her world was blurry, but she could tell what Helen was really looking at, and knew it signaled the end of her tribulation. Helen had obviously examined the diary's inside front cover, and was now staring at the artistically stylized lettering which read : PROPERTY OF JANE LANE, ARTISTE EXTRAORDINAIRE.
Daria leaned forward and lay her head on the cool surface of the tabletop.
She couldn't wait to tell Jane about this.
Well, there it is. My first Daria fanfic, completed at last. I would love to hear what you thought of it. Please send feedback to me at Renfield@meerkatmeade.com.
I would like to thank Crazy Nutso and SBBED .D for allowing me to incorporate a scene from a piece of preexisting Daria artwork into the story. As I understand, this is usually done the other way around. Many thanks also to Crazy Nutso for his invaluable HTML advice.
Disclaimer: Daria and all related characters were created by Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis and are trademarks of MTV Networks, Inc., a division of VIACOM international, Inc. All rights reserved by trademark holders U. S. National and International Law and Convention.
"Diary Dearest" is a work of fiction produced solely for fun, and is not meant to be distributed for profit. It may be distributed to Daria fans everywhere, provided the author's name and e-mail address are left intact.