Lane Miserables
A Daria Episode Adaptation by Martin J. Pollard
Based on the screenplay by Anne D. Bernstein

Cast of Characters

Daria, Quinn, Helen, and Jake Morgendorffer;
Jane, Trent, Amanda, Vincent, Penny, Summer, Wind, Adrian, and Courtney Lane;
Monique




MORGENDORFFER RESIDENCE
Evening

It was yet another evening meal at Casa Morgendorffer. The entrée: lasagna, as usual. Also as usual, almost everyone was absorbed with various reading materials: Daria with a book, Quinn with the latest issue of Waif magazine, and Jake with the evening paper.

As Helen carved the pan of lasagna into nine even squares -- four efficient cuts, two horizontal and two vertical -- she chattered on and on about her latest obsession: family togetherness. "I think it's so important for a family to find the time to eat together and share their day." She lifted the spatula from the pan. "Did I share with you how many meetings I had to rearrange so that I could be here -- not that I'm complaining -- but who knows what impact this will have on negotiations I'm not at liberty to discuss?"

Glancing around the table, she saw that her words were falling on deaf ears. "Jake, Quinn, Daria!" she said, annoyed. "This isn't a library."

"Despite the presence of fluorescent lighting and uncomfortable chairs," Daria quipped.

"Come on, let's have a nice chat." Helen turned to her eldest daughter. "Daria? Penny for your thoughts?"

They'll cost you a lot more than that, Daria said to herself. However, she decided to humor her mother, lest she drone on and on about it all evening. "Well," she began, "I was just pondering the idea that the negative, which is the nothingness of being and the annihilating power both together, is nothingness."

"Oh, Daria!" Quinn exclaimed. "That whole 'less is more' thing is so over! Accessories are back." As if to emphasize her point, she extended her hand as she talked, where a charm bracelet adorned with a dangling heart hung from her wrist.

Jake wrinkled his brow. "I just don't get it," he said. "If B.C. is a caveman, how can he celebrate Ash Wednesday?"

Helen looked from one family member to the other, then sighed. "Why do I bother?" she said wearily, putting her hand to her forehead.




LANE RESIDENCE
Evening

Trent ambled down the stairs after a day of practicing, intent on recharging his batteries with a snack. He's been trying to come up with some new songs, but inspiration was eluding him. He had to come up with something soon; the crowds at McGrundy's and the Zön were starting to get tired of "Ice Box Woman" and "Behind My Eyelids" night after night.

Wonder if Mom picked up any food lately? he mused. He got his answer when he opened the refrigerator door, and saw that it was stocked wall to wall with... "Nothing," he muttered dejectedly. He then noticed a strange substance smeared on one of the shelves. Peering closer, he wondered aloud, "What's that red stuff?"

Hearing a rustling sound beside him, Trent turned to see his sister Jane standing and peering into the empty refrigerator. "Hmm... nothing." Turning to her brother, she asked, "What do you think that is?"

"Cherry soda?" he offered.

Jane shook her head. "No, it looks more like cranberry juice." She then raised her eyebrow mischievously. "Why not taste it and find out?"

Trent frowned. "I'm not that desperate to know, Janey."

They suddenly felt a presence behind them, and turned to see their mother walk up to the refrigerator. Peering into it, Amanda's normally mellow voice took on an air of disappointment as she said, "Nothing."

Jane raised her eyebrows at the unusual sight of their mother actually being at home. "Well, hi, Mom."

"Hey, Mom," Trent said.

Amanda looked at the red stuff inside the refrigerator. "What is that? Strawberry syrup?"

"I'm guessing cranberry juice," Jane replied.

Trent was adamant about his choice. "Cherry soda," he said confidently.

Peering into the refrigerator once again, Amanda commented, "I really should get to the grocery store, shouldn't I?" Before Jane or Trent could comment, however, the sound of the doorbell rang through the house. "Who could that be?" she wondered, and went to the front door, Jane and Trent right on her heels.

Opening the door, she was greeted with the sight of a young man with shoulder-length sandy blonde hair, a dour expression on his face and a knapsack slung over his back. "Wind!" Amanda exclaimed. "What an unexpected treat."

"Mom! Mom!" shouted Wind as he rushed in and embraced his mother. He then turned to his younger siblings. "Trent! Janey! It's so great to see everybody." After giving them both huge hugs, he slipped his backpack off his shoulders. "Sorry I didn't call first, but I had to clear out of the houseboat in a hurry."

Jane's eyebrow went up. "When tidal waves strike?" she quipped, though she had a bad feeling about just why Wind had returned to the nest.

As if to confirm her suspicions, Wind explained, "No, Katie and I are separating for a while."

"Oh, honey," Amanda said, placing a hand on his shoulder. "I hope you two work it out."

"Me too, Mom. I mean, two alimony payments a month are enough!" He laughed as if to shrug it off, then broke down into tears. "Oh, God, I'll never learn how to love!"

Amanda rushed over to comfort her son. "It's okay, sweetheart, we've got plenty of room. You can stay as long as you like."

Trent suddenly remembered. "Um..."

"Uh-oh," Jane said with trepidation. She had a bad feeling about this.

"There were some phone messages I almost forgot about. Let's see..." Trent held up his left hand to reveal several messages scrawled on it. "Penny's coming in from Costa Rica; some kind of problem with a volcano. And Dad's finished taking pictures of Celtic rock formations. He's on his way back to print."

"What's that written on your other hand?"

Trent held up his right hand. "Change name of Mystik Spiral to 'Something Something Explosion.'"

Wind suddenly sniffed the air. "Hey, do I smell cookies baking?"

"Not bloody likely," Jane muttered.

Amanda's face suddenly lit up with alarm. "The kiln!" she cried, and ran off to save her pottery.

The doorbell rang again. "Who could that be?" Wind wondered aloud. Opening the door, he saw a tall, red-haired woman wearing camping shorts and a black tank top... and was that a cage she was holding? "Sis!"

"Claudia threw you out," Penny said without preamble, and shouldered her way into the house. Sitting down on the stairs, she set down the various items she was carrying and began to sort through them.

Wind chuckled. "Yeah, but that was years ago. I think you mean Katie." He began sniffling at the thought of his distant wife. "You ran out of pesos?" he inquired, curiosity over his sister's arrival momentarily overcoming his broken heart.

"Colones," she corrected, standing up and holding the cage. "No, my native crafts stand was wiped out. Damn lava."

"I'm so glad you're okay..." Wind began, but his rush to embrace his sister was cut short by a loud screech from inside the cage. "Aaah!"

Penny's mouth quirked into a wry grin. "That's Chiquito, my parrot. He's very possessive." She shoved the cage into Wind's hands as the doorbell rang for the third time. "Who could that be?"

She opened the door to find their father, Vincent, standing on the stoop. "Thanks. I think I left my house keys in Connemara."

As the reunited members of her wayward family greeted each other, Jane looked at Trent as if to say: No good can come from this. She knew one thing for certain: she was not looking forward to the next couple of days.




MORGENDORFFER RESIDENCE
Evening

"Yahoo!" shouted Jake, thoroughly engrossed in a basketball game on television. He was so involved that he barely registered Helen entering the living room and, with a sigh, sitting down beside him.

"Go, you beautiful bastard!" he bellowed as one player made an impressive shot. "Three points, yeah!" When Helen sighed again, loudly this time, Jake finally took notice. "Something wrong, honey?" he said loudly, still in the thrall of the game.

"Jake, do you ever worry that our children are becoming strangers to us?" Helen inquired.

"Stranger than us?" Jake replied. "What's so strange about us? Hey!" he shouted as Helen grabbed the remote and turned off the TV.

"I try and try to keep the channels of communication open," she said. "What more can I do?"

"Look under the mattress for a diary?" Jake offered, then quickly amended, "I mean, by accident, of course?"

Helen became exasperated. "Honestly, Jake, sometimes I wonder if you know even the most rudimentary facts about our girls." She arched an eyebrow. "How old is Quinn?"

Caught off-guard, Jake had to think about that one for a moment. "Uh, eleven... ish?" The deepening frown on Helen's face told him how dead wrong he was. "That was a guesstimate," he said lamely, trying to cover his gaffe.

"Jake, what's my middle name?"

Oh, hell, Jake thought. He had to think about that one even harder, with Helen getting more and more angry as the seconds passed. Finally, he thought, Well, her maiden name is Barksdale, so... "It's got a 'K,' right?"

Strike three. Helen huffed angrily as she got up and stormed out the front door. "Honey, wait!" Jake shouted, but she was already gone.

Maybe I should go after her, he said to himself. After a few moments, however, he picked up the remote and turned on the TV, wrapping himself up in the game once again. "Shoot, big man, shoot!"




LANE RESIDENCE
Late Afternoon

Jane sat alone in her bedroom and reflected on the current situation. It wasn't as bad as she thought it was going to be; it was shaping up to be far, far worse. Wind's emotional distress, and Penny's virtual takeover of the telephone, was slowly whittling away at her nerves. So far, her father was the only one who wasn't driving her crazy, but that's only because she'd seen so little of him. Most of his time was taken up in his makeshift darkroom.

Worst of all, however, was the fact that her mother seemed oblivious to the situation. Jane had to scowl at that; Amanda was hardly around most of the time, and one of the few times she was actually at home, she was apparently refusing to do anything about what was happening.

Sighing, Jane flipped on the television to her favorite program. "Is your toll collector wearing pants, a skirt, or nothing but a smile?" intoned the announcer. "Cold breeze on the interstate, next on Sick, Sad World."

"Hey, Jane!" Wind said, causing Jane to nearly leap out of her skin. "How long has the living room TV been broken?"

"About two years, I guess," Jane replied. "And have you ever heard of a little thing called knocking before entering a room?"

"Sorry," Wind said. "Do you mind if I watch a show in here? It's kind of a marital emergency."

Jane raised her eyebrows. "Actually..."

"Thanks." Wind grabbed the remote before Jane could say anything further. He flipped through a few channels before finally finding the show he was looking for.

"Welcome once again," the host said, "to The Living Marriage: A Holistic Blueprint for Loving." On the screen was a guy who looked like he'd fit in perfectly in one of those New Age seminars. All he needed were a few crystals and a white robe and he'd be in business.

Wind suddenly broke down. "Oh, Katie, Katie, Katie...!" he sobbed, burying his face in his hands as his grief overwhelmed him once again.

Jane sighed and got up from the bed. "I, uh, think I'll give Daria a call... downstairs." Leaving Wind to his emotions, she loped down the stairs and into the kitchen, only to find Penny sitting at the table, Chiquito perched on her shoulder as always, and talking on the phone... again. "Penny, you gonna be long?"

Penny covered the mouthpiece. "Business," she replied, and turned her attention back to the phone. "No, no, Senõr Finance Minister. Necessito dinero to reopen my business." She picked up a brown jug off the table and began pouring a glass full of its contents. "Your volcano wiped out hundreds of hand-fashioned tin picture frames and I'd like to know how your government intends to compensate me."

Hooo, boy, Jane thought. "All right, then," she said as she picked up the newspaper. "To my private office."

As she walked away, Penny continued to argue with the Costa Rican official. "No, Senõr, I have not been inhaling volcano dust. Hello? Hello?!!"

Jane rolled her eyes at Penny's histrionics as she reached the bathroom door, only to find it locked. "Sorry," her father said from inside. "Gonna be awhile. I'm developing."

Great, Jane said to herself. "Whatever," she muttered as she turned to walk away.

"Oh, honey?" Vincent called out. "Don't drink from that big bottle in the kitchen; it's silver nitrate."

"It's poisonous?" Jane said as she thought back to her encounter with Penny... and the jug she was pouring from.

"Yeah," he replied, "and I need it for my prints."

Sighing mightily, Jane walked into the kitchen to stop the distracted Penny from taking a drink from the glass she had poured, only to find that Penny was gone. Fortunately, both the bottle and the glass were untouched. She carefully poured the glass of silver nitrate back into the bottle and replaced the cork, then took the glass and washed it out... and then, thinking better of it, tossed the glass into the trash.

Okay, she thought to herself. This has gone on long enough. Time to take action. Determination firing her every movement, Jane opened the door to the basement to seek out her mother.

Sure enough, Amanda was there, sitting at her pottery wheel. Off to her side were several new pieces, waiting to be fired in the kiln. "Um, Mom, can we discuss this family togetherness nightmare?" Jane said. "Wind's crying all over my stuff, Penny's starting a trade war in the kitchen, and Dad's rinsing prints in all the toilets."

"Oh, Jane," Amanda said as she continued to shape a new vase on the wheel. "Everyone will work things out in their own way, in their own time." She took her hands off the half-formed clay and let the wheel slowly come to a stop. "Remember when you kids were young?"

"How far back?" Jane asked. "Diapers creep me out."

"The time Trent moved into a tent in the backyard."

"Oh, sure," Jane said. "It was my job to deliver the sandwiches."

"We just left him alone for six months until he got bored. Summer once ate only Pez for a year, and look how beautifully she turned out." She turned her attention back to the pottery wheel. "You know, if you try to hold a butterfly tightly in your hand, it will die. You have to let it go, and if it comes back, it is truly yours, but if doesn't, it never really was."

Jane rolled her eyes and muttered, "How about if you tear off its precious little wings?" Shaking her head and conceding defeat, she left her mother to her own devices and went back upstairs. She had come to a decision.

Well, that's it, then, she thought. Mom's obviously going to be no help at all, so there's only one option left...




An hour later, Daria was sitting in her living room reading a book as Jake snored softly on the other couch. The doorbell suddenly rang, startling Jake out of his slumber. "Huh?" Jake said. "Who could that be?"

Daria opened the front door and saw Jane standing on the stoop, her small suitcase in one hand and her easel and painting supplies slung over her other shoulder. "I'm not picky," she said without preamble, in a voice that sounded infinitely tired. "The manger will be fine."




GLEN OAKS LANE
Morning

A headphone-clad Jane jogged down the street in the early morning light, enjoying her run for the first time in days. Getting a relaxing night's sleep was the major reason, even if it was in the Morgendorffer's guest room instead of in her own bed. She had to admit, it was really good of them to let her stay, once she explained the situation; for all its idiosyncrasies, Daria's family was the Cleavers compared to her own.

Up ahead, she spotted Helen power-walking, clad in a red jogging suit. Jane sped past her without even looking, hoping that Helen would not pay attention. Even though she was staying with the Morgendorffers, it didn't mean she wanted to get caught up in any sticky conversations, particularly where their eldest daughter was concerned.

Unfortunately for Jane, such a thing was not to be, as Helen cried out "Jane!" and shifted into a run to catch up with her.

Sighing, Jane pulled her headphones off her ears and slowed her pace to let Helen catch up with her. "Oh, hi, Mrs. Morgendorffer," she said as Helen pulled alongside her. Jane kept her pace slow so that Helen could keep up. "Didn't see you there."

"It's okay. Speed-walkers have thick skins," Helen said between breaths. "Jane, since you're staying with us and all I thought... well, you're Daria's best friend, and she's... she's so hard to talk to these days..."

"Maximum of three questions," Jane interrupted. "No betrayals. Immunity from prosecution."

Helen nodded. "Agreed." It was actually better than she had expected. "Drugs?"

Jane shook her head. "Nope, unless you count TV."

"Depressed?"

Another negative shake. "No, just realistic."

Helen paused before asking her third question. "Sex?"

She glanced at Jane, who simply gave her a "yeah, right" look. "Oh, that's too obvious," Helen said quickly. She really should have known better. "Can I have another one?"




LANE RESIDENCE
Late Afternoon

Trent leaned back on the couch, acoustic guitar in hand. His earlier bout with "musician's block" seemed to be over, as he was finding inspiration in an unlikely -- yet perfectly understandable -- place. After all, the best art comes from one's own life experiences.

"The walls are closing in," he sang while strumming the guitar. "The ice is getting thin... no place to be alone... my house is not a home... psychic refugee... psychic refu... aaah!" he yelped as a shrill squawk pierced the air, causing him to snap a guitar string as he leapt halfway across the couch.

Scowling, he watched as Penny and Chiquito walked across the living room towards the kitchen, no doubt headed straight for the telephone. Sighing, Trent shifted the guitar in his hands and started over. "The walls are closing in... the ice is..."

"But, Dad, I don't know what else to do," Wind said as he and Vincent entered the room. "I tried everything on that show."

"Your mom and I find role-playing a super way to work out conflicts," Vincent said as he pulled his pipe from his lips. "We also enjoy hitting each other with large foam rubber bats."

"I'd do it, but Katie isn't here." Wind began sniffling again, and sat down next to Trent.

"Well, I'll be Katie," Vincent replied as he sat down on Trent's right. "Trent, would you mind being the flirtatious girl at the check-out counter?"

Trent had to raise an eyebrow at that one, and decided that he really did not want to know. Instead, he stood up and said, "Uh, I gotta go sharpen my guitar pick," and left the room.

In the kitchen, Amanda was on the phone while Penny was sitting at the table, tapping her foot impatiently. "Okay, I'll get Trent's tent out of the attic. Bye!" She hung up the phone, then turned to Trent. "Courtney and Adrian are coming for a visit. Isn't that great?"

"Swell," Penny muttered under her breath. Chiquito let out a small squawk, as if to underscore Penny's statement.

Trent raised an eyebrow. "Does Summer know?"

Amanda considered that for a moment. "She should, shouldn't she?"

"Well, she's kind of their mother," Trent said reasonably. He then shifted to the topic that was foremost on his mind. "Have you seen Janey?"

Amanda shook her head. "No, hon. But if you find her, tell her I said hi." She turned and headed towards the basement, stopping only briefly to hand the cordless phone to Penny.

Seeing that he wasn't going to get anywhere with them -- or anywhere near the phone, for that matter -- Trent sighed and went back into the living room, where Wind and Vincent were hitting each other with pillows. Apparently, they had found a suitable alternative to those foam rubber bats. "Doesn't this feel great?" Vincent said between hits.

Wind began to respond, but Trent interrupted him. "Has anyone seen Jane?" he asked peevishly. The living situation had brought Trent, normally patient to a fault, nearly to the end of his rope.

Vincent looked around. "She was just standing there a few minutes... uh, days ago..." He couldn't say anything more, however, as Wind took advantage of the distraction to knock him to the floor. "Good one!" he exclaimed.

As Trent stood there, exasperated, Chiquito was kind enough to put the perfect topper on the situation by landing on Trent's head. While the parrot squawked, Trent had only one thought running through his head: I gotta get out of here.

Trent brushed Chiquito off of his head, then went upstairs to gather a few things from his bedroom. He would contact Max, the drummer for Mystik Spiral, and ask if he could crash in the Tank for a few days. Max wouldn't mind, so long as Trent made up for any gas he used. He then figured that he ought to let Jane know where he was, but with Penny's monopoly of the phone, how could he reach her? And, more importantly, where was she?

He thought for a moment, then smiled to himself. When faced with a crisis, there was only one place in Lawndale that Jane was likely to go...




MORGENDORFFER RESIDENCE
Late Afternoon

In the kitchen, Jake was busy behind the stove, whipping up an alternative to the usual lasagna feast, while Jane showed her gratitude for their hospitality by setting the table. It was the least she could do... and, of course, the least she could do was the most she wanted to do.

Jake added a few more seasonings to the sauce. "Hey, thanks for setting the table, Jane-o!" he said to Jane as he stirred. They may not be having lasagna, but it was obvious from the aroma that some kind of Italian feast was being prepared.

"No problem," Jane replied, not looking up from her task. She was folding the napkins, but true to her artistic gift, she was folding them into intricate origami shapes. "Thanks for letting me stay here."

"Well, I know how it can be, being driven from your childhood home," Jake said as she set the spoon down. "Even if it was a dark, depressing place, the air thick with oppression, and the constant threat of ..."

"Look! A ducky!" Jane said as she held up one of the napkins. Daria had warned Jane about her father's occasional lapses into childhood trauma, and Jane didn't feel like experiencing it for herself. Despite that, however, Jane genuinely liked Jake; he might be a goof, but he was a well-meaning goof.

The distraction worked. "Hey, neat!" he exclaimed. He stirred the pasta in the other pot for a moment, then walked over to the table and sat next to Jane. "Say, uh, Jane..."

Uh, oh, Jane thought.

"I know you're Daria's best friend and... well, she's so hard to talk to these days." Jake hemmed and hawed, not wanting to press the point but feeling obligated to do so. "I was wondering..."

Jane held up her hand. "Maximum of three questions. No betrayals. Immunity from prosecution. And," she added as she resumed her napkin folding, "talk your wife into finding a new speed-walking route."

"Done!" He paused. "Age?"

"Seventeen."

"Uh... height?"

"Five foot two."

"Mm-hmm." Jake paused again, thinking about what his last question would be. Finally, he said, "Favorite color?"

Jane looked up from her napkin and stared at Jake. "Black," they both said at the same time.

Jake sounded disappointed. "Oh, that's too obvious. Can I have another one?" He was rewarded with a long, penetrating look from Jane that needed no translation: No way, baby. He recognized that look from long experience; it was the same one he occasionally got from Daria. Sighing, he stood up and returned to the stove, leaving Jane to her napkin folding.




Later that evening, the Morgendorffers, plus Jane, sat at the table and ate dinner. Jake's little concoction was actually pretty good, which relieved Jane immensely. Daria had told her about that fiasco with Jake's "kitchen sink stew," and she really didn't feel like spending the evening hunched over the toilet.

She glanced around the table at its occupants. Daria was reading a book, Jake was engrossed in the evening newspaper, and Quinn was absorbed with the writing on the milk carton. Helen was the only other person who did not have any reading material, which meant there was a very good chance that she'd try to rope Jane into yet another Deep Personal Conversation.

Determined to avoid that at any cost, Jane leaned over and whispered to Daria, "I don't suppose you could tear out a chapter for me?"

Daria gave her what was, for Daria, a look of sympathy. "Sorry. Library book."

"This milk trivia quiz is really interesting," Quinn said. "I'd like to try chewing some of this cud sometime." Jane almost volunteered to go out and get some right then and there.

"Why don't they just put Marmaduke to sleep?" Jake said out loud, to no one in particular.

It was then that Jane heard the words that she was dreading. "Well, Jane," Helen said, "since everyone else is occupied, why don't we have a little..."

Jane reached across the table and grabbed the milk carton. Ignoring Quinn's annoyed shout, Jane brought the carton up almost to her face and began reading the nutritional information written on the side. "Vitamin D, 200%... vitamin A, 100%..."

Helen was, to put it mildly, rather put out. She was just about to reproach Jane for her behavior when the doorbell rang. "Who could that be?" Helen wondered. They weren't expecting any visitors until later, when Quinn's date would arrive to pick her up for the evening.

"I'll get it," Daria said quickly as she got up from the table and headed for the front door, grateful for the interruption. When she opened door, she was greeted with the sight that always seemed to turn her knees to jelly.

"Hey, Daria," Trent said. "Janey here?"

Daria took a moment to regain her composure. "Um, yeah. Hi. C'mon in." She closed the door behind them, then escorted Trent into the kitchen.

Trent, for his part, was sniffing the air, savoring the aroma from Jake's cooking. "Smells good," he commented as they reached the kitchen.

Jane looked up from the milk carton, which she was now sharing with Quinn. "Trent?"

"Hey, Janey," Trent said in greeting. "I just stopped by to tell you I'll be living in the Tank for a while."

Helen raised her eyebrows in confusion. "The Tank?"

"It's a van," Jane explained, "or it was once." Turning to Trent once again, she asked, "Why didn't you phone?" She probably didn't need to ask, as she had a pretty good idea as to why -- Penny the Chatterbox strikes again.

Trent confirmed her suspicions. "Couldn't get near it." He then looked over at Jake's nearly full plate. "Hey. Is that spaghetti? It's my favorite."

"Actually," Jake explained enthusiastically, "it's fettuccini bolognese."

Trent raised an eyebrow. "Oh, yeah, that's my favorite." He leaned in for a closer look. "It's not sticking together at all." Standing beside him, Daria was smirking, a look that was matched by Jane. Both girls knew exactly what Trent was up to: butter up the chef in hopes of getting a free meal.

It worked like a charm. "Trent, my man, you want to stay for dinner?" Jake asked.

"Well, it is nice and warm in here," Trent said. "Not like the Tank. I bet your doors lock, too."

Daria's smirk faded at that. Now what's he up to now? she wondered suspiciously. He was playing the sympathy card; what could he be after? Unless...

Helen took the bait, and confirmed Daria's suspicions. "Trent, would you like to stay here tonight?" she asked.

"Eep!"

Everyone at the table, including Trent, turned to look at Daria. Jane had to lean slightly to see around Trent, and the look she saw on Daria's face almost caused her to laugh out loud.

Daria looked from one staring person to the other. "What?" she finally asked.




"Are you sure you've got the concentration for this game?"

Jane and Daria were sitting on the floor in Daria's bedroom, playing a game of Scrabble. With Trent staying the night, Jane volunteered to bunk with Daria (courtesy of Daria's sleeping bag) while Trent was given the guest room. At the moment, Jane was in the midst of trouncing Miss Straight "A" English Student in a game that Daria should be winning handily.

Daria looked up from the board. "Huh? Of course. Why?"

Jane quirked her eyebrow. "Well, just 'cause you've only picked two letters."

Daria looked at her letter tray, which contained two "T's" and nothing else. "Oh," she said somewhat sheepishly. "Oh, yeah." She reached into the pile of unused letters and picked a square. Placing it onto the tray between her existing tiles, she noticed with dismay that she'd picked an "N," placing her two letters away from a certain person's name.

Quinn chose that moment to enter the room. "You're an artist, right?" she said to Jane.

"I've been known to push the paint around," Jane replied. "Why?"

"Art fascinates me."

Jane frowned at that. "Uh-huh," she said, suspicion laced throughout her voice. What do you want, Quinn? she thought, flashbacks to the school dance from a few months ago dancing through her mind.

Quinn paused momentarily, as if sensing Jane's suspicions, then plunged ahead. "So, if you were contouring the eyelids of, oh, someone with, let's see, coloring, skin tone, and hair color just like mine, would you go with a deep plum or a rich mauve?" she asked.

Miss Pert 'N Perky wants fashion advice from me? Jane thought. I may regret this, but this is something I've got to see. "I'd have to see the actual..." she began.

"Okay!" she exclaimed, grabbing Jane by the arm and bodily dragging her from the room.

"Whoa!" Jane cried out as Quinn pulled her out the door. "Don't touch my 'Q'!" she called back to Daria as she disappeared from sight.

"What?" Daria replied, then after a moment, turned back to the board. She was only half paying attention anyway, as her thoughts were indeed elsewhere... specifically, about 20 or 30 feet down the hallway.

So absorbed in thought was she that she never even noticed Trent standing in the doorway, until his knocking got her attention. "Hey, Daria?" he asked. "Seen Janey? I need to borrow her toothbrush."

Daria's voice faltered for a moment as she took in the sight of Trent standing there in his sleeveless T-shirt. Finally, her vocal cords kicked into gear and she replied, "Uh, she'll be back in a minute."

Trent raised his eyebrows. "Guess I'll wait," he said as he non-chalantly walked into the room. "Hey, cool room," he said as he looked around at the unusual furnishings.

"Um, thanks," Daria replied as she stood up, self-consciously tugging her nightshirt down as she did so. Fortunately, Trent didn't notice, as he was too absorbed with studying the décor.

Trent then did something that caused Daria's heart to skip at least two beats: he stretched out on her bed. "Comfortable bed," he said as he crossed his arms behind his head and rested them on the pillow. He glanced at Daria's nightshirt. "Mark Twain," he said as he identified the portrait on the shirt. "Huckleberry Finn, right?"

"Yeah," Daria said weakly.

Trent frowned in concentration. "I read that in high school, I think."

"Um, it's an American classic."

"Used to watch Huckleberry Hound when I was a kid," he continued, oblivious to Daria's discomfort. "They didn't really have a lot in common, now that I think about it."

Daria almost chuckled at his lumping a cartoon together with a revered author. "Um, no," she replied as she sat down on the edge of the bed, careful to keep a discreet distance between herself and Trent. "Huckleberry Hound was much more of a joiner."

Trent nodded. "Yeah. Loser." They both had a good chuckle over that one. "Why did Quick Draw McGraw hang out with that freaky little mule?" he then said, as his thoughts started going off on a tangent.

It was that moment where Jane came back into the room. "Whoops!" she said as she took in the sight before her. "Didn't mean to interrupt."

"That's okay," Trent said as he got up from the bed. "Hey, Janey, I need to borrow your toothbrush."

Jane rolled her eyes as she rummaged through her suitcase, finally emerging with toothbrush in hand. Handing it to Trent, she said, "Take it, it's a gift." She loved her brother, but there were limits, after all.

"Cool," he said as he headed out the door towards the bathroom.

Jane turned to face her friend, her smirk a mile wide. "Wow, kismet! What were you guys talking about?"

"Comparative literature," Daria replied, with a small smile that said clearly: Mind your own business.

The doorbell rang before Jane could press Daria further. "Who could that be?" she mused. Feeling mischevious, she dragged Daria into Quinn's bedroom, and staked out a prime spying spot at her front window.




Downstairs, Jake called out, "Quinn, your date is here!" as he answered the door. The sight of the person standing on the stoop gave him the shock of his life: it was a young woman, dressed head to toe in Goth attire, with black hair and dark makeup. "Wow," he said in alarm. "I really don't know my kids!"

"Hey," Monique said in greeting. "Trent around?"

Jake suddenly got it. "Oh, you're for... well, then," he said, chuckling. Turning towards the stairs, he called out, "Trent, your date is here!"

Trent descended the stairs, still brushing his teeth. "Thanks," he said as he handed the toothbrush to Jake. "See you."

"Trent?" Helen called out as she arrived on the scene. "Where are you going?"

"Out," Trent replied.

Helen arched her eyebrow at Trent's non-committal answer. "And when are you coming back?"

"Later." He turned and put his arm around Monique. "Bye," he said as they departed.

Helen stood there and watched them walk towards the Tank. "Someone should talk to that young man about the lifestyle choices he's making," she said, disapproval etched into every syllable.

Jake looked down at the toothbrush he was holding. "Eww!" he exclaimed, and dropped it on the floor.

Outside, Trent escorted Monique into the Tank, then got in the driver's side. He started the van, pulled out of the driveway, and drove down the street. He never noticed the girl that was watching the scene from the window above the garage... the girl whose heart was breaking into a thousand sharp-edged pieces.




Moments earlier, Daria was standing at the window, trying to catch a glimpse of who was at the door, when she heard her father's announcement of the arrival of Trent's date. At the sound of those words, her muscles tensed and a gasp involuntarily escaped her lips. Jane, standing slightly behind her and kicking herself for having such a stupid idea, couldn't fail to notice it.

Forgive me, Daria, Jane said to herself. Believe me, this isn't how I wanted you to find out. She turned as she heard Quinn come back into the room. Jane motioned for Quinn to be quiet before she could say anything in protest, then beckoned her forward.

Quinn approached the window just as Trent and Monique reached the Tank. She looked over at Daria, and to say she was surprised at the look on her sister's face would be an understatement. Omigod... Daria's got a thing for him! she thought to herself. In a rare show of sympathy, Quinn stepped back and gave Daria a little space, to avoid embarrassing her sister; she knew how she'd feel if the situations were reversed.

As the Tank pulled away, Daria struggled to regain her composure. Trent and Monique, she thought to herself. I knew they were acquaintances when I first met her, but I had no idea they were dating. She then scolded herself. Why should I have known? I'm not his keeper. Her final thought summed up the situation quite well: Damn.

Turning, her face once again an impassive mask, she saw Jane and Quinn standing at a discreet distance, looks of sympathy on both their faces. She was waiting for Quinn to make some kind of snide comment, but when none was forthcoming, she silently thanked her sister for the rare display of tact.

Letting her voice betray no hint of emotion, Daria asked Jane, "How long?"

"About a year, give or take," she replied softly. "They hadn't seen each other in a long time, then Trent said they ran into each other again at Axl's on Dega Street."

Daria nodded, the pieces suddenly falling into place. The piercing parlor, she thought. Trent did say they'd known each other for a long time, but I never realized just how well... or, perhaps, I didn't want to know.

A stray thought then swept across her consciousness. It's my fault they're back together. If I hadn't come up with such lame ideas for Jane's birthday gift, we never would have gone to Dega Street, Trent wouldn't have run into Monique, and I wouldn't currently be thinking of running out into the middle of traffic.

Jane saw how distressed Daria was getting, even though she was doing a valiant job of hiding it, so she walked over and put her hand on Daria's shoulder. "Don't worry," she said, trying to reassure her friend. "You're twice the woman she is."

"No, that would be a size 12," Quinn said with a trace of bitterness. She and Daria might not see eye to eye on things, but she hated seeing anyone get their heart stepped on in such a fashion... particularly when it was by someone who looked like Monique.

"Listen, Daria," Quinn began, eager to impart her accumulated dating knowledge to her heartbroken sibling. "I always say that just because a guy has a girlfriend, it doesn't mean he's off-limits. Unless you're the girlfriend. By 'you' I mean me, of course." She leaned closer to Daria, and with deadly seriousness, intoned, "Remember that."

"Mmm," Daria replied. "Got any more pearl drops of wisdom?" Grateful to her sister she might be, but that didn't mean she was suddenly ready to follow her advice to the letter. She did have some standards.

"Daria, all you need is a little confidence," Quinn said, exasperated. "Just close your eyes and imagine what you want. Watch me." And with that, Quinn closed her eyes, and was off in her own little world...


Everything about her surroundings was opulent... the castle, the furnishings, the throne, even her gown. Quinn sat upon the throne, holding court. Before her knelt the latest in a line of suitors, attempting to prove his worth.

"Quinn," the man said, his voice mellowed by a soft English accent. "Looking into your mauve-lidded eyes makes me want to give you everything you've ever desired." He clasped his hands together. "May I worship your heavenly perfection until the end of time? Or until you meet someone better, whichever comes first?"

Quinn waved her hand daintily. "Okay," she finally said. "Oh, and could you get me a soda? In a crystal goblet?" She was rewarded with the sight of her suitor rushing off to fulfill her wishes as she sighed, content...


Quinn slowly returned to reality. "It's only a matter of time..." she said dreamily. She opened her eyes. "Give it a try, Daria. Just use your imagination and picture your dream exactly the way it will be."

Daria sighed. "All right," she said, giving in. "But I don't trust you enough to close my eyes." Her eyes narrowed as she looked into the future... her future, with Trent...


The key turned in the lock of the small apartment. Daria Morgendorffer-Lane arrived home from another long day at work, and was greeted with a sight that was not uncommon: Trent asleep on the small, worn-out couch that took up nearly half of the small apartment's living room. "Trent, honey, I'm home!" she called out, trying to force a little enthusiasm into her voice.

Trent stirred from his slumber. "Hey."

"Good day?"

Trent shook his head. "Not much happened," he said as he hauled himself into a sitting position, a feat that was becoming more and more of a challenge thanks to his rather sizable beer gut.

Daria put on her best face. "Don't worry, Trent," she said reassuringly as she put her keys and purse on the table next to the wall mirror. "I'm sure Mystik Spiral is on the brink of success--"

Trent scowled. "We really should change the name," he said.

"--and I don't mind working double shifts at the gene splicing lab until you make it."

Trent sighed. "Face it, Daria, we're never going to get our big break. I gotta get a real job." He ran his hand through his hair, which was starting to recede at a rapid pace. "Um, I'll need some money to get my tattoo removed."

"Honey, we have to save right now," she admonished him. "Trent Junior needs glasses." She held up her hand, with her thumb and index finger spaced apart at a not-too-close distance. "Thick ones."

"Don't you understand?" Trent said emphatically. "Every time I look at this stupid tattoo it reminds me how I've wasted my life." His voice suddenly became determined. "But I'm not giving up. I'm determined to lie here on the couch until things turn around." He slapped the couch cushion to emphasize his point, stirring up a small cloud of dust in the process.

Daria sighed wearily. "Oh, Trent," she said sadly. She was stuck in a 16-hour-a-day job, he was unemployed and non-ambitious, and their child was becoming more and more of a financial drain every day. How did she end up in this situation? How did all her hopes and dreams come crashing down like this? "Whatever happened to the man I married?"

"We never got married, remember?" he reminded her. "I overslept."

The doorbell rang, interrupting their conversation before it could degenerate into yet another argument. "Who could that be?" she wondered.

Trent got up from the couch and said, "That's for me!" But why was he suddenly speaking in her sister Quinn's voice...?


"Bye!"

Daria shook her head, bringing herself out of her reverie just in time to see Quinn wave and bounce out of her room to meet her date. As she watched her sister go, she reflected on the daydream she just had. How much of it was reality, and how much was fueled by her confused feelings?

Jane raised her eyebrows. "You okay there, sister-in-law?" she said, attempting to lighten the situation.

Daria contemplated for a moment. "Hmm," she said, still thinking about her fantasy. After a moment, she finally came to a conclusion. "I think I just got over something."




LANE RESIDENCE
Evening

Even someone as blissfully in denial as Amanda could not fail to see how quickly the situation at the Lane household was deteriorating. The state of the living room was proof enough of that: Penny had pitched her tent off to the side and was sitting in the middle of the floor, pounding away at a tin picture frame; Vincent had strung a clothesline from one wall to the other to dry his prints; and Wind was laying on the couch, sobbing over his failing marriage.

And as if that weren't enough, the doorbell was ringing off the wall. It took a few moments for the sound to register, thanks to Penny's hammering, but it finally broke through the din. "Who could that be?" Vincent asked, just before cursing out Chiquito for grabbing one of his photos.

Sighing, Amanda headed to the basement, hoping to lose herself for a while in some pottery. Unfortunately, even that solace was denied her, as Adrian was spinning Courtney around on the pottery wheel. "Uh, children?" she said wearily. "That's not really a ride."

"You kids get off that pottery wheel this instant!" Turning towards the sound, Amanda saw her eldest daughter Summer, who had apparently just arrived.

"Summer!" Amanda said, trying to force some cheerfulness into her voice. "You've come to take the kids home?"

"Well," Summer replied, "I figured since I made the trip I'd stay a few nights." She hooked her thumb over her shoulder, where Amanda could barely make out a backpack peeking through her daughter's blonde hair.

As Summer tended to her children, Amanda did her best to suppress a groan. She didn't know how much longer she could take it, but she knew that something had to give... and she hoped it wouldn't be her sanity.




MORGENDORFFER RESIDENCE
Morning

Daria sat at the breakfast table, lost in thought, the events of the past few days -- and the previous night in particular -- running through her mind. The only other person at the table was her father; both Helen and Jane were off on their morning exercise rituals, and Quinn and Trent were still asleep, both apparently suffering the effects of arriving home late from their respective dates.

Hearing the front door open and close, Daria looked up from her bowl of cereal and saw Helen and Jane enter the kitchen, the latter with a decidedly sour look on her face. "Gee, how was today's pre-breakfast run?" she asked, though Jane's expression pretty well told her all she needed to know.

"Pre-breakfast speed-walk," Helen corrected, her chipper voice a stark contrast to Jane's mood. "Right, Jane?"

Jane leaned over to Jake and whispered, "I thought we had a deal." The only response Jake had was to hem and haw nervously, embarrassed at not being able to hold up his end of the bargain.

Before the conversation could progress any further, however, Quinn shuffled into the kitchen, looking like something the cat dragged in. "Well, good morning, Quinn," Helen said in an accusatory tone as she took in Quinn's haggard appearance.

"If you're wondering why I overslept it's not because I was out late or anything," Quinn managed to say as she plopped down heavily into her usual chair at the table. "My alarm clock simply malfunctioned."

"I certainly accept your convincing explanation," Daria said, her tone indicating otherwise. She did so love to see Quinn get put on the hot seat for her behavior, but as luck would have it, Trent chose that moment to stagger into the kitchen. If anything, he looked in worse shape than Quinn.

Helen wasted no time shifting into "parent mode" with him. "Trent?"

Trent raised his head; he'd almost nodded off again. "Hmm?"

"What time did you get in last night?"

"Uh... midnight?"

Helen frowned. "I don't think so, young man." She turned to her husband. "Jake, was there something you wanted to talk to Trent about?"

"Yeah, Trent, what would you think if tonight I tried a little chutney shrimp?" Jake replied, as usual missing the point completely. "I'm itching to break out the ol' wok."

"Trent," Helen said as she silenced Jake with a glare, "I'm afraid these crazy hours you keep will make it impossible for you to adjust if and when you get a job and join the rest of us in conventional society." Daria couldn't believe it: her mother was scolding Trent as if he were her own son. And Trent didn't seem to mind a bit!

Quinn looked from her parents to Trent and back again. "Doesn't anyone want to know what ungodly hour I got in?" she complained, and Jane couldn't help but smirk. Quinn was obviously not used to not being the center of attention.

"I meant to be home sooner," Trent explained, "but Monique and I spent four hours breaking up."

"You guys break up every other week," Jane interjected. "You don't belong together. Figure it out." She looked pointedly at her friend, her yenta instincts taking over once again. "Right, Daria?"

"Um..."

"Trent, one day you'll have your own home and you can live any way you choose," Helen interrupted. "But while you're under our roof, young man, you will respect the rules of this household."

Trent lowered his eyes. "Yes'm," he said contritely, and Daria had to suppress the urge to laugh (or at least chuckle) at the absurdity of the situation.

"Now, let's discuss an appropriate punishment for breaking curfew..."

Quinn couldn't stand it anymore. "But don't I deserve appropriate punish... I mean, um..." Her momentum ground to a halt as Helen shifted her attention to Quinn with a "later for you" expression, and Quinn suddenly realized what was meant by "be careful what you wish for." She leaned towards Trent and said, "Just tell them if they'll let it go this once you'll never do it again."

"I'm sorry I broke the rules," Trent said apologetically. "We don't really have any rules at our house. Right, Janey?"

Jane smirked. "Well, there's that one about not building a fire in the rooms that don't have fireplaces."

"You know," Trent continued, "I once lived in a tent in the yard for six months, waiting for someone to invite me back into the house." He looked at his sister. "Janey was the only person who went out of their way to visit me."

Daria's interest was piqued at that one; it went a long way towards explaining why Jane and Trent were so close, and why Trent was so willing to accept Helen and Jake's "parenting." Combine that with Jane's previous explanations of her parents' long absences, and it told her that Trent was actually craving the parental attention and discipline that he hadn't received while he was growing up. It was sweet, in a sad kind of way.

Unfortunately, Jake chose that moment to begin expounding on his less-than-stellar childhood. "Oh, do I know what that's like," he growled. "Waiting for your so-called loved ones to acknowledge your existence! Sitting alone in the dark, craving the love of a heartless man who keeps you in a constant state of fear and--"

Fortunately for everyone, the sound of the doorbell cut through Jake's ranting. "Who could that be?" he wondered. Helen, for her part, didn't care who it was, as long as it kept Jake from slipping further into childhood trauma, and she wasted no time in answering the door.

Amanda stood on the stoop. "Hello, Helen," she said in greeting.

"Why, Amanda!" Helen exclaimed. They hadn't gotten together much since they first met, back when the Morgendorffers first moved to Lawndale from Highland, yet Helen suspected that this wasn't purely a social call. "I guess you've come to claim your children?" she guessed.

"Are they here?" she asked as Helen ushered her into the house.

"Indeed they are," Helen replied, somewhat amazed that Amanda wasn't even aware of her children's whereabouts. It explained a lot, at least to her. "Jane is free to go," she said, "but Trent is grounded."

Amanda smiled. "Oh, I don't believe in that. You know, Helen, if you try to hold a butterfly tightly in your hand, it will die. You have to let it go and... and..."

She suddenly couldn't stand it anymore. "You gotta help me!" she pleaded frantically. "I need my house back!"

Helen nodded. When Jane had explained the situation at her house on that first night she stayed over, Helen had wondered how long it would be before the situation became intolerable. Didn't take very long, did it? she said to herself.

"Amanda," she began, the seeds of a plan forming in her mind, "I may have an idea..."




LANE RESIDENCE
Evening

"Well," Amanda said, "now that we'll all be living under the same roof for a while, I thought it would be nice if we sat down each night, ate dinner together, and shared our day." The whole family, sans Jane and Trent, was gathered around the dining room table, each person with a plate of lasagna (courtesy of Helen) and the table stocked with fresh vegetable dishes. Amanda sat at the head of the table, with Penny, Wind, and Vincent on one side, and Courtney, Summer, and Adrian on the other.

Chiquito, of course, was meandering around as usual and threatening to make short work of the food. "Penny, keep that bird pointed away from the vegetables!" Amanda said to Penny, her tone more forceful than anyone had heard it in a long time. Relax, Amanda, she said to herself; donít lose your cool, or you'll blow it. "So," she said in a more normal tone, "what's new?"

The tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Apparently, Amanda was not the only one to develop a case of frayed nerves; the Lane siblings apparently had forgotten what it was like to all live under the same roof at the same time, and it was getting to them. Which was precisely what Amanda was hoping for.

Penny was the first to break the silence. "Well," she said as she set her water glass down, "I'm thinking of switching from hand-crafted tin picture frames to hand-crafted gecko-skin coin purses."

"You still think your little knickknacks are gonna save the economies of the Third World?" Summer said snidely.

"Now, Summer," Vincent admonished. "Some things are worth saving."

Wind added, "And some things can't be saved... like my marriage!" Not unexpectedly, he broke down and started sobbing.

Penny put her hand on his shoulder. "It's okay, Wind," she assured him. "It's for the best."

Wind looked up. "Really?" he said hopefully.

"Believe me," Penny said wryly, "you're much better off."

"What's that supposed to mean?" he said indignantly.

"Yeah, what do you know about marriage?" Summer accused.

Penny arched an eyebrow. "Well, I can't say I've had as much experience as either of you in failing at it!"

"Whoa!"

"Wait a minute!"

"Hey, guys," Vincent interjected in an attempt to keep things under control. "Live and let live!"

Courtney and Adrian chose that moment to express their displeasure. "We want to go home!" they whined.

Summer scowled at her runaway offspring. "Then why the hell did you run away and drag me back to the last place on Earth I want to be?" she shot back.

All throughout the discussion, Amanda didn't say a word; instead, she just sat back and let things run their course. And run they did, straight into the kind of bickering that only families can achieve. Unable to contain her enthusiasm at the prospect of getting her house back, Amanda exclaimed, "I have such interesting and articulate children... and grandchildren," she amended as Courtney and Adrian continued to whine and cry.

Two hours later, everyone was gone, and Amanda phoned the Morgendorffers to give Jane and Trent the good news: Come home, kids.




MORGENDORFFER RESIDENCE
Evening

Jane and Trent stood at the front door as Daria prepared to see them on their way. "So, once again the wandering Lanes scatter to parts unknown," Jane said, "as Trent and I return to the benign neglect that has served us so well in the past."

Has it really? Daria mused, but she didn't think this was the time to go into it. "I guess no matter what style parents you have, they will inevitably drive you crazy," Daria said instead.

Jane smiled. "Well said, amiga," she said as she picked up her small suitcase. "And so, adios."

Trent followed Jane part of the way out the door, then turned around to face Daria. "Well, it was fun," he said.

"Yeah, it was," Daria admitted. Then, feeling like she ought to say something about the other night, she told Trent, "Uh, sorry your date didn't work out."

Trent shrugged. "Janey's right. Monique and I just aren't meant to be." He put his hand on her shoulder. "Too bad you're not a few years older, huh? I could take you out." He chuckled, which turned into a cough, and then turned to leave. "See you."

Daria leaned in the doorway, watching the Lanes of Lawndale shuffle down the street to their home. As she did, she let her imagination wander...


She was standing in opulent surroundings, next to a fireplace framed with pure marble, wearing a sleeveless emerald gown. Across from her stood the man of her dreams... tall, handsome, successful, and immaculately groomed and dressed.

He took her hands in his own. "Daria," Trent said, "you're the best thing that ever happened to me..."


Abruptly, Daria returned to reality, her heart heavy once again. The demon she thought she'd licked for good was back in full force... all thanks to one little sentence. She sighed, and knew that there was only one word that could describe the situation:

"Damn."

The End



"Daria" and all related titles, logos, and characters are trademarks of MTV Networks, a division of Viacom International, Inc. All rights reserved by trademark-holders under United States National and International Law and Convention.

"Lane Miserables" is copyright © 1999 by MTV Networks, a division of Viacom International, Inc.

This adaptation of "Lane Miserables" is copyright © 1999 by Martin J. Pollard. While he does not claim copyright or moral rights to the characters, titles, or stories from "Daria," he does claim copyright on this particular adaptation of the indicated story from the "Daria" milieu. Martin J. Pollard will not profit from these adaptations, and will not tolerate their being distributed in any manner which requires money to change hands for distribution.