I've Waited Here for You

by Kristen Bealer

Trent walked over to the microphone and looked out at the thousands of fans surrounding the stage. "We're Mystic Spiral," he announced. "And we're the band that just went triple platinum!" The fans erupted into screams and applause. "This is a song I wrote for my girlfriend, Daria, who supported me until I got my big break. This is for you, Daria."

He smiled and winked at Daria, who waved back from her place directly in front of the stage and cheered with the rest of the fans.

Just as the song was about to start, a doorbell sounded. Onstage, Trent squealed, "That's for me!" in Quinn's voice.

Daria opened her eyes as she snapped out of the fantasy. The good times never last, she thought, giving Jane a wry smile. I don't know why I even let Quinn talk me into fantasizing like this.

Sighing, she gazed out the window at the place where she had last seen Trent and Monique drive away for their date. Now what do I do?

"Uh, sorry your date didn't work out," Daria said uncomfortably as she followed Jane and Trent out of the house the next day. As he responded with some comment about it not being meant to be, the fantasy flashed through her mind once again.

She looked at Trent. He was about to say something and she sensed that, whatever it was, she would probably lose her nerve if he said it. She made her decision.

"Trent?" she interrupted. "I was wondering if, um, you wanted to do something sometime." She said the last few words in such a quiet rush, she was surprised he understood them. He looked mildly shocked, then thoughtful.

He shrugged. "Uh, sure. I guess."

Daria had to force herself to keep breathing. It helped to look at the ground instead of at Trent. What should I say next? 'Thanks?' 'That's fantastic?' Who cares--I can't even speak right now. Don't blow it, Morgendorffer!

She almost didn't hear him when he asked, "So, pizza? Friday?" Still afraid to look up, she nodded. "Cool. I'll see you then."

After a few moments, she remembered how to talk and looked up. "Sounds--" But Trent was already walking down the sidewalk. "--great." He passed Jane, who winked and grinned wickedly at Daria before turning to follow him.

Sitting across from Trent at Pizza King, Daria found her normally substantial appetite was gone. She could only force down a few bites, and, even worse, couldn't think of anything to say. She sipped constantly at her soda, trying to hide her nervousness.

"So," Trent began, mercifully breaking the silence. "Read any good books lately?"

Daria was relieved. Here was a question she could answer. "Actually, I just started a novel by..." She trailed off at the uncomfortable look on Trent's face. It was a joke. Come on, he doesn't even like bookstores! Even worse, he had been making fun of the awkwardness between them. "Uh, never mind. Anyway..." She searched for a topic, anything to change the subject. "How's the band?"

Trent smiled. "Not bad. We've got another gig tomorrow at McGrundy's."

"That's great." She wasn't sure what else to say.

He shrugged. "I guess. I kind of prefer the Zon." His expression darkened. "At least I never got a bad review there." Then he was staring off into space, and Daria doubted that he was still talking to her. "Some idiot has a bad night and takes it out on us. Half the review had nothing to do with us, anyway. I bet he doesn't know anything about music, anyway. 'Moody pretty boy' my--"

Trent was getting angrier, and Daria was getting nervous. This is starting to sound like one of Dad's rants. Any minute now he's going to blame it all on his father. "Um, Trent?"

He blinked a few times, and then noticed Daria again. "Oh. Sorry. The music's really getting good, though. Jesse's brother is teaching him to play diminished chords. Maybe I'll ask him to help me with open D tuning."

He continued to tell Daria about the band's progress, but many of his words and phrases were music jargon that she wasn't familiar with. She ended up nodding and saying "Hmm" at all the right places, but not really paying much attention. Instead, she studied his face and gestures while he spoke.

She couldn't help admiring the way his face seemed to light up as he told her about his music. And then there are those eyes... She started staring into his eyes long before she realized it and then glanced away to hide her tiny smile. Her appetite finally returned and she managed to eat five slices of pizza as she tried to listen to him talk. Well, at least the awkward part is over.

Or maybe not, she realized during the silent ride home in Trent's car. Daria noticed that Trent was tapping his fingers on the wheel and suspected that he was composing a song in his mind. He had most likely forgotten that she was there. She, on the other hand, felt ready to jump out of the car as the reality of what was going on began to register. At any minute, they would arrive at her house.

Once they got there, she had no idea what was going to happen. Will he walk me to the door? Am I supposed to kiss him? Do I wait and see what he does? Maybe I should have asked Quinn for advice. She shook her head firmly to force the thought from her mind. Okay, the stress is definitely getting to me.

She didn't notice that the car had stopped until Trent placed a hand on her shoulder. "Daria?"

Daria stared at his hand, then at him, and then at the door handle. "Um, thanks for the pizza," she mumbled.

"No problem," he replied mildly. He still hadn't moved his hand. Daria continued to stare at the door handle. When he slid closer to her, she grabbed the handle, opened the door, and nearly fell out of the car.

"Good night," she whispered. She wasn't even sure if he'd heard her. Before he could say anything, she turned and sprinted to the front door.

Ignoring all of her mother's questions, Daria went straight to her room and shut the door. She paced back and forth until she'd burned off enough nervous energy to drop to the floor, dejected, then got out her journal and began writing.

When she woke up the next morning, Daria knew something was wrong, but didn't immediately remember what it was. Then she noticed that she was still wearing her clothes from the night before. And saw the furiously scribbled journal entry still sitting in front of her. And realized that she had slept on the floor.

The memory finally returned. "It really happened. Damn. I could have sworn that level of embarrassment was restricted to nightmares."

Her glasses had slipped down to the end of her nose during the night, and she pushed them back up. Then she stared at the phone, considering her options. I should call him. I have to explain why I flipped out last night. She reached out to pick up the phone, but stopped. No. No way. I can't. I'll wait for him to call me. Yeah, that's it. Let him ask me what happened. She sighed. And maybe by then I'll have come up with an explanation.

Trent hadn't called by lunchtime. It's Saturday; he must be sleeping in. Be patient.

He didn't call that afternoon, either. Maybe he's just busy.

By the time dinner was over, he still hadn't called. He's not going to call. It's over. I blew the only chance I had to--

The phone rang, and Daria actually beat Quinn to it. "Hello?"

"Yo." It was Jane, completely oblivious to her friend's shaking voice.

"Oh, hi." Daria tried to sound casual.

"So why haven't you called me to tell me all the sordid details about last night? Well, the medium sordid parts, anyway. I just ate."

"Trent didn't tell you anything?"

Jane laughed. "Oh, come on, Daria! I thought you knew him better than that!"

"What, he doesn't kiss and tell?" The comeback left her mouth before she could think better of it, and she winced.

"Oooh...kissing, huh?"

"Actually, um, no. Definitely no."

"Why not? Afraid of losing your reputation?"

"More like losing my sanity. I left. Quickly. Very quickly."

"Ran screaming into the night?" Daria could almost hear the smirk through the phone. "Again? What, did the rash--"

"No! Not that. I just...got nervous, that's all." She couldn't hold back the question anymore. "Uh, do you know if Trent tried to call today? Between Quinn and Mom, I suppose the line was busy most of the time, but..." She didn't finish the sentence, but Jane took the hint.

"But you've been sitting by the phone all day waiting for him to call."

"No...well, maybe. Yes. Yes, I have. Happy?"

"Relax, Daria. He's asleep. He's been asleep pretty much all day." Of course, Daria realized. I should have seen that one coming. "Speaking of which, I should probably wake him up soon."

"You dare to attempt the impossible? Why?"

"The band's got a gig tonight at McGrundy's Pub." Daria vaguely remembered Trent mentioning it at Pizza King. "Are you coming?"

"Sure. I'll meet you there." Maybe I'll get another chance, after all.

Daria found Jane just as Trent began his usual introduction. "We're Mystic Spiral, but we're thinking of changing our name." She had purposely shown up just minutes before the band was to perform, in order to avoid any awkward moments with Trent.

Trent noticed Daria from onstage and smiled at her. "This song is called 'Daria'."

Any clever remarks Jane may have come up with in response to this revelation went unheard as Daria stared up at the stage, shocked. Just like my fantasy. He wrote a song for me.

The song differed little from Mystic Spiral's style, except that Trent was singing and playing solo.

"You're under my skin,
your ink has sunk in,
and like my tattoos you are with me to stay.
My arm sometimes burns,
my heart always yearns,
'cause I'm jabbed with needles when you are away."

He closed his eyes and nodded his head to the chorus. "Branded by your love...branded by your love..."

Jane abruptly elbowed her in the side. "Blink! It's better for your eyes," she teased. Daria tried to glare at her, but the smile on her face ruined it. They listened to the rest of the song, and then turned back to each other as the band continued their set.

"So, what's it like to be compared to a tattoo?" Jane asked.

"Could be worse," Daria commented. "At least my song didn't turn into a rant about corruption and greed."

"Touché." It was getting harder for them to hear each other over the music, so they stopped talking. As Mystic Spiral finished the first set, Jane resumed her teasing. "So, are you going to stick around this time or just run away again?"

"Gee, Jane, what with all the moral support you keep offering me, I see no reason at all to leave."

"That's what friends are for. Here comes Trent now; shall I give you some privacy or do I need to stay here and hold you down?"

"You'd better leave. Not for our privacy but for your safety." Jane only grinned and waved as she walked away. Soon after, Trent approached.

"Hey, Daria," he said. "Where'd Janey go?"

"She had to see a man about a horse."


"Never mind." Daria sighed. "Listen, I wanted to talk to you about last night."

"Oh. Uh, sure." He looked a little nervous. He's cute when he's nervous. Focus, Daria!

"I'm sorry I left so, um, suddenly." She wanted to say more, but she wasn't sure what. Then she looked at him and saw the concern in his eyes. He really does care. "I got a little...sometimes I...that is..." She stopped. This is the talented writer? The one with a way with words?

Trent put his hand on her shoulder again, and this time she stayed calm. "It's okay, Daria. Just relax."

After a deep breath, she started over. "I don't feel very comfortable with...with the physical contact thing. Last night, when we were in your car, I just sort of...panicked. I'm not used to that kind of thing. I'm sorry." She felt like she ought to say even more, but decided against it. So far, so good. Don't ruin it.

Trent chuckled. "It's cool." He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. "Is that okay?"

Daria couldn't speak for a moment. At last she was able to stutter out a tiny, "That's fine."

"Great. Let's go find Janey."

The rest of the evening was a bit hazy. Daria was half-aware of Jane's comments, and pretty sure she'd been able to keep up with them, but by the end of the evening all she could remember with any detail was Trent's song and the kiss. After the second set, Jane agreed to get a ride home with the rest of the band so Trent could drive Daria home.

When they reached her house, Trent considerately stayed on his side of the car. "You've been pretty quiet," he remarked.

"Yeah," she replied. She couldn't think of anything else to say.


"Hey, Trent? I really liked that song. I meant to tell you earlier."

"Oh. Thanks. I got the idea from my tattoo."

"I guessed. At least you didn't get the song out of a magazine, too."

He laughed, then coughed. "Yeah."

"Anyway, thanks for the ride." Then, before she knew what she was doing, she leaned over and kissed him gently on the lips. "Good night," she added.

"Good night." He was grinning.

Daria smiled as she got out of the car and walked toward the front door. Just before she opened it, however, she resumed her usual stoic expression. Face blank and walking casually, she opened the door and entered the house. Don't want to provoke any questions from Mom.

Melody Powers crept down the hallway, gripping her favorite Glock. He was around somewhere. She could sense him. At last, she noticed his tall, lean figure half-hidden in the shadows. She could also see a small glimmer of light reflecting off his gun.

She slowly raised her weapon and was about to pull the trigger when he stepped forward and smiled at her. The gun suddenly felt much heavier. Without understanding why, she lowered it and moved closer to him.

"You won't kill me," he purred. "No more than I could kill you." He dropped the gun and took another step closer. The Glock fell from her hands and she walked, unhesitating, into his embrace.

"Oh, Trent..." she whispe

Oh, dear God. I may be happy, but my writing is definitely suffering. Scratch this draft; I'll try again later. Although...on second thought, maybe I'll keep it. Maybe.

For the third time that morning, Daria pounded on the Lanes' front door. At last, she heard someone unlock it. The door swung open, revealing a very disheveled Jane. Daria felt a slight twinge of disappointment. Would have been nice to see Trent at least once this week, she thought. Fortunately, Jane was too tired to notice.

"It's eleven o' clock," Daria observed as she walked inside. "I think you're taking this 'sleeping in' thing a little too seriously."

"It's Saturday. I can sleep until Monday if I want to," she mumbled back.

"Yeah, but then what would I do all weekend?"

"Trent." Jane, finally starting wake up, grinned.

Daria blushed. "Very funny. Speaking of which, where has he been? Last week he said he might stop by sometime." They walked into the kitchen, where Jane started looking for food that didn't have mold on it.

"We both know how he is. He'd forget to blink if his eyes weren't closed most of the time anyway." She sighed, and looked at Daria. "Besides, he means well."

"I know. It's not like I mind that much, but he went and got my hopes up." She tried to sound unconcerned, but she really had been looking forward to seeing Trent. He does care about you, she kept reassuring herself. He even wrote a song for you.

"That's what you get for aspiring to optimism. Besides, you know you can usually find him here. Upstairs. Right now." Jane gestured at the ceiling, toward the approximate location of Trent's room.

Daria tried to keep her tone light. "Yeah, and I can watch him sleep. Very romantic."

"Hey, you've gotta take the bad with the good."

"I suppose so."

"Hello, Trent?"

"Yeah. Daria? Janey went running. She'll probably be back soon if you want to talk to her."

"Actually, I called to talk to you."


"You know my Dad had a heart attack?"

"Really? I think Janey mentioned something... Is he all right?"

"He's fine. It was mild. It just kind of upsets me. I mean, thinking that he might have died. Knowing that someday he will die."

"Whoa. Scary."

"Um, yeah. Then there's my grandmother moving in and annoying everyone, and I don't even want to think about those deejays."

"What deejays?"

"Bing and the Spatula Man. They've been harassing me all week, and I just don't need that on top of everything else."

"The 'Mental in the Morning' guys? I sometimes listen to their show. When rehearsal runs late."

"Uh huh. I guess I needed to talk to someone about all this. Avoiding wacky deejays, putting up with pushy grandmothers, and admitting my father's mortality all in one week is, well, a lot to handle."


A pause. "Are you still there?"

"Yeah, I'm just looking for my songbook. That gave me a great idea for a song."

Another pause. "Trent? Is Jane home yet?"

Daria looked up from the computer game in her hands and smirked at Jane. "Cannibal Frag Fest. The second best gift I've gotten today."

Jane tilted her head in mock-disappointment. "Only second best? I'm hurt. What was the first?"

Daria raised an eyebrow. "You convinced my mother to let me come to your house tonight. Without you, I'd be at Chez Pierre with my family, listening to Quinn complain about all the dates she had to cancel."

Trent, sitting next to her on the couch, handed her a small, wrapped box. "Don't declare a winner yet," he said. She unwrapped it, looked inside, and gasped. On a gold chain was a small "D" with a tiny, dark green stone set in the upper left corner. "It's not real gold or an emerald or anything, but Janey said you'd like it."

Daria glanced at Jane, who was hiding a smile. She knows I haven't worn jewelry since I lived in Highland. She gazed at the necklace. I think I could make an exception for him, though. She smiled at Trent. "I love it."

Jane had stopped hiding the smile, and it had turned into a grin. "I'll, uh, be back in a little bit. I need to, um, go get something." She winked at Daria and left the room.

Nice cover, Daria thought. Then she was very aware that she and Trent were alone. In the same room. Sitting right next to each other. She forced herself to take deep breaths and tried to make her heart rate slow down, but realized it was useless when Trent put his arm around her shoulders. "Happy birthday," he murmured.

"Thanks," she replied. 'Thanks?' Surely you can think of something better-- She never finished the thought, because that's when he leaned over and kissed her. After a moment, she relaxed, placed a tentative hand on his shoulder, and returned the kiss.

She was just thinking that she could get used to this when Jane returned to the room with the 'something' she had wanted to get. The kiss ended just moments after the camera flash went off.

Daria's eyes widened as she held the phone to her ear. "You're where?"

"Jail," Trent replied coolly. "It's kind of a long story. Janey got it on tape. Listen, I need to ask a favor..."

Note to self, Daria thought as she headed out the front door. Do not tell Mom about this. Ever. She'd had a difficult enough time convincing her mother that dating Trent wasn't a big deal, but his being arrested would send her through the roof.

At the Lane house, Daria found herself crouched next to Trent's bed, searching for his songbook. "Please, God, no amusing surprises," she muttered. She found the book under an old book report and a pair of t-shirts, and couldn't resist the temptation to peek inside.

"You're under my skin, your ink has sunk in, and like my tattoos you are with me to stay..." She smiled at the memory, but then her eyes drifted to the top of the page. The song was titled "Monique" and dated about a week before she had asked Trent out.

No amusing surprises. How about a horrifying one instead? She tossed the book aside as if it had burned her. For a minute she considered going back home and letting Trent deal with his mess. No. I can't just abandon Jane like that. Besides, I might need her to keep me calm once I find him.

Back outside her house, she slid into the driver's seat and slammed the door shut. As she was putting the key into the ignition, Quinn bounded into the car, too.

"Okay, let's do it!" she exclaimed.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Daria was in no mood to deal with her sister.

Her sharp tone threw Quinn off for a moment. "Coming with you. That's all right, isn't it?"

"No. Get out." Daria wasn't sure if she'd be able to control her anger and disappointment during the trip, and she didn't want Quinn to see her that upset.

"Come on, Daria. Ple--" Daria crossed her arms and glared at her. She sighed and got back out. As soon as she shut the door, Daria started the car and squealed out of the driveway.

An hour later, she pulled over to the shoulder and got out. She had been driving like her father and she was afraid she'd get into an accident if she didn't take a break.

Leaning against the car, she took several deep breaths. He lied, and I trusted him. So why the hell can't I just get mad at him?

She groaned and sank to the ground. She didn't feel the gravel digging into her backside, or hear the whooshing of the cars as they drove past on the other side of the car. All she could think as she dropped her head into her folded arms was that she had no backbone. It's not fair. I'm mad. I know I'm mad. But I can't get mad at him. Damn it.

After about fifteen minutes, Daria stood up, brushed off her clothes, and got back into the car. As she pulled back onto the road, she promised herself that she would at least ask him about it. She would demand an explanation. And then she would forgive him. Maybe.

Once she reached the sheriff's office, she marched inside, ready to shove the songbook in Trent's face.

Until she saw him. She took in his innocent expression, the content look in his eyes, and the adoring faces of the children around him as he performed for them. In an instant, her determination was gone and all she could do was smile at him.

Maybe later, she decided. It never happened.

"Hey, Daria," Jane said as she let her into the house.

"Hi. Don't feel miserable and abandoned, but I was hoping to spend some time with Trent today." And, as usual, I got tired of waiting at least a week to hear from him.

"I feel miserable and abandoned." Jane laughed and called up the stairs. "Trent! Daria's here!"

A minute later, Trent came halfway down the stairs. "I'm going to be kind of busy all day. Is it okay if I call you tomorrow?" he asked. He didn't look at either of them, but instead fidgeted and stared at the ceiling, clearly thinking about other things.

"Um, sure," Daria replied. After he left, she turned to Jane. "Now I feel miserable and abandoned." It was a joke, but she was more worried than she let Jane see. Something's wrong. It's hardly unusual that he doesn't seem interested in spending time with me, but now he's acting nervous and outright avoiding me.

"Well, look who came crawling back." Jane grinned and slung an arm over Daria's shoulder as they walked up to her room. "Come on, we'll go get an apartment and a few dozen cats. My treat."

A few days later, Daria was back in Jane's room, listening to theories about alien neck implants. She hadn't told Jane that Trent had never called, and by now she wasn't surprised about it. She thought about asking Jane for advice on what was rapidly becoming her invisible boyfriend, but the sound of almost-cheerful music distracted her.

"Jane? Is that Trent?"

"I'm afraid it is. The aliens appear to have gotten to him, too. I've been too afraid to ask him about it."


"Afraid, lazy, same difference. Why don't you go spend some quality time with him and find out what's going on?"

"Very well. Your evil plan to get rid of me has succeeded." Daria stood up and headed for Trent's room. He was sitting on his bed with his songbook in front of him and his guitar in his hands, concentrating much harder than usual.

As she entered, he looked up and his hands fell away from the guitar. "Oh, I didn't know you were here. Hey."

"Hi. What were you playing?"

"Nothing special." The abrupt way he spoke surprised Daria. "Just practicing."

"Oh." She sat down. "Can I listen to you practice?"

He slammed the songbook shut. "I'd rather you didn't. It's kind of, um, personal."

"Are you sure? I promise I won't make fun of you. Even if the music sucks." She gave him a rare smile, but he didn't seem to notice. Her joke had made him even more uneasy, and he set the guitar down.

"I'd really rather practice alone. Please." Daria ran out of ideas. Feeling very unwelcome, she stood up and left without a word. No explanations, no apologies. Just "get the hell out" as politely as he could ask.

She returned to Jane's room and answered all of her questions with a shrug.

It had been a bizarre week, but Daria was too distracted to notice much of it. She couldn't stop thinking about Trent's behavior. Why doesn't he want me around? she thought as she stretched out on Jane's bed. Why does he always look so nervous? What's going on?

"--Trent's hell music!" Jane interrupted Daria's thoughts.

"What?" Jane pointed at the television. And there it was. Trent's voice singing a jingle, along with the music he had been practicing earlier.

Daria started to speak, but found she had nothing to say. The reasons behind all of the anxiety she'd been feeling, the secret Trent had been keeping from her, and the strange way he'd been acting all clicked into place, and she didn't know if she should be relieved or irritated.

"So now you know," Trent said, unnecessarily, from the doorway. Daria read the shame and fear in his eyes and understood.

"You could have told us. A gig's a gig, right?"

"Hmm. I suppose. It just seemed like, well, selling out."

She smirked. "It's okay. I still respect you." You. Maybe not that music, though.

"Thanks. Hey, did you want to go out someplace and celebrate?"

Memories of the past week vanished from Daria's mind. "Sounds good." She turned to Jane. "Is that okay with you?" But Jane was staring at the television again.

"Look at those costumes!" she exclaimed.

Daria looked at the screen and saw alien look-alikes of Jane and herself. Artie the pizza delivery boy strikes again. At that moment, she realized the absurdity of everything that had happened. A stupid song... Yet another stupid song that I took too damn seriously... Thought he was going to dump me and he was just... I'm so paranoid... All over a jingle... That's when the tension, which had been building up for weeks, set itself free. As Jane and Trent stared at her in disbelief, Daria leaned her head back and started laughing. Not a restrained snicker, but loud peals of laughter.

"Daria?" Jane looked surprised, but amused. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah. I am now, anyway." Raising an eyebrow at the two confused faces staring at her, she added, "Tension release. It's even better than primal scream therapy."

"I think screaming would have been less of a shock," Jane observed. "Next time, at least try to sound maniacal or something."

Trent remembered how to speak. "Whoa."

"Just ask him. Why not?"

"Because it's going to be stupid and the Sick Sad World marathon is on that night. I have my priorities." Does she realize who she's talking to? "Casino Night on the Princess Fairy"? I don't care what Jane says; I will not subject myself, let alone Trent, to that kind of idiocy. Not even Jane can talk me into doing that.

Ms. Li's voice rang out over the intercom. "Due to cash flow problems, Casino Night attendance is now mandatory. Show your school spirit and dip into your college fund. Thank you."

Damn it.

That night, she and Trent worked out the details over the phone. He would pick Daria up at her house and they would meet Jane on the boat. As she hung up the phone, she tried to ignore the rising excitement she was feeling in spite of her earlier protests.

The next day, in Daria's room, Jane turned to her with an evil gleam in her eyes. "Now, what are you going to wear Saturday night?"

"Wear?" Oh, God. "Nothing different. Why?"

Jane opened the closet and started sifting through the clothes. "You have to get dressed up! Please? It'll be fun!"

"When did you turn into Quinn?"

"Don't make me bring up the road trip to Alternapalooza. Jeans? Lipstick? Sound familiar?"

"Fine. I'll wear jeans." Daria crossed her arms. I may be stuck going to this thing, but I won't make this into a big deal. No way.

"That's not what I meant and you know it." Jane started throwing clothes on the floor as she continued her search. "Don't you have anything besides green jackets, yellow t-shirts, and black skirts?"

"It's convenient. Hey, what are you going to wear?"

"Haven't decided. But I'm not the one bringing a date. Don't you want to look nice for Trent?"

"And how do I look now? Repulsive?"

Jane sighed. "Okay, how about this?" She held out a simple, dark green dress with black trim, a gift her mother had given her several months ago in hopes of encouraging her daughter's non-existent social life. Daria had forgotten it was in there. "You can even wear your boots if you want."

Daria hesitated. It did look nice, and it was similar enough to her usual outfit to keep her from feeling like she was betraying her principles. "Well...if you promise not to bring up hair or makeup, I guess it couldn't hurt..." Didn't I used to have a spine?

Gradually, Daria resented Jane's prodding less and less and even found that she was looking forward to the event. Which, she supposed, was probably what she had in mind all along.

That evening, she toyed nervously with the necklace Trent had given her for her birthday as she waited for him to pick her up. Nervousness gave way to confusion as she noticed that he was late.

She was well on her way to irritation when she heard Quinn wail, "I can't believe Marco isn't here yet!" How ironic. We have something in common. She picked up the phone and dialed Jane's number. No answer.

"Daria! Get off the phone! Marco may be trying to call!" She hung up and looked at her sister.

"It appears the unthinkable has happened," she commented. "We've been stood up."

Tuning out the hysterical dramatic monologue that followed, Daria tried to think. He's not answering the phone. Someone would have called if he was sick. Jane would have woken him up before she left if he was asleep. She must have left already, so Trent simply must not be home. Then where is he?

Helen looked at the two sad faces in front of her. "Maybe they thought they were supposed to meet you at the ship." Daria sighed. It's worth a shot.

Jake, Helen, and Quinn boarded right away, but Daria waited on the shore. I have the tickets, she thought. So he can't be on board. She stood there, waiting, until the ship pulled away. Then she stared down at the tickets in her hand and tossed them into the water. So much for the magical evening.

She walked home, searching her mind for the part of her that wanted to forgive him. She never found it.

Jane called the next morning. "Where were you two last night?" she demanded. "You missed the disaster!"

"It was a disaster, all right. Trent never showed up."

"He never--but, Daria, I saw him leave to pick you up half an hour before I left." In the background, Daria heard a door open and close. "Hold on, I'll ask him." She heard muffled voices, then Jane, distant but loud. "WHAT?!" More muffled voices. "I don't believe this!" She came back on the line. "Daria?" She sounded angry and sorry at the same time. "Trent had practice at Jesse's house last night. He forgot about the date. Here, I'll put him on the--"

Daria didn't hear the rest of the sentence. She hung up the phone without a word and went up to her room. She stayed there for the rest of the day.

On Monday morning, Jane was waiting for Daria at her locker. She said nothing, but the pleading look in her eyes said everything she was thinking. "It's okay," Daria said as she started turning the dial. "I'm not mad at you."

"And Trent? When are you going to talk to him?" Daria stopped in the middle of her combination and looked at the floor.

"Not right away. I need to avoid him, at least for a few days." I'm not even sure how I feel yet, let alone what I plan to say to him about it. She glanced over at her friend.

Jane looked thoughtful for a moment, and then nodded. "Good idea. Let him squirm for a while, and then let him have it." It wasn't quite what Daria had meant, but she didn't feel like explaining. "Anyway, Mystik Spiral has another gig on Friday at the Zon. You can exact your revenge then, in public. Think you'll be ready to see him then?"

"I think so." I wish I were half as convinced as I sound.

"Jane?" Standing in the middle of the Zon, Daria nudged her friend to get her attention. Jane had become distracted at some point during the evening, but Daria desperately needed her support. She had decided to confront Trent, determined to make him understand what he was doing to her. She was even more nervous at that moment than she'd been the day she asked him out.

Jane turned to her. "Hey, the first set's over. Now's your chance to give Trent hell."

Daria suppressed a shudder. "Yeah. Um, would you mind giving us a few minutes?"

"Oh, sure. No problem." That's when Daria saw the brown-haired boy standing some distance away, smiling at Jane. Ohhh. Now I see. After Jane wandered off to talk to the stranger, Daria approached Trent.

"Can I talk to you for a minute?" She tried to keep her voice calm.

"Sure." Trent, as usual, seemed completely impassive.

They found a seat by the bar. She closed her eyes and concentrated on what she wanted to say. She'd been rehearsing it to herself for several days. "It's about why I've been avoiding you all week."

"You've been avoiding me?"

Daria opened her eyes and stared at him. He didn't even notice. This gets better and better. "Um, yes. I was upset that you forgot about our date."

"Oh, I meant to say I'm sorry."

"Yeah, well, it's not just that. You..." Deep breath. "You almost never call me, you usually don't seem interested in doing anything with me, and I hardly even see you except when I come to your house." He watched her speak, confused. "What I'm saying is..." She braced herself. "Is this supposed to be normal, or are you going to break up with me?"

He leaned back and looked uncomfortable. "Whoa. Uh, I kind of figured we were keeping it casual. You know, nothing serious."

She looked away. This was getting even more difficult than she had expected. "I didn't see it that way."

"Hmm. Maybe we just have different ideas about what a commitment is."

Daria didn't like where this was going. "Maybe." She searched frantically for something else to say, something to prevent what seemed inevitable, but nothing came to her.

"I guess it wasn't such a great idea for us to get together."

No! She thought she had been prepared for this possibility, but now she realized with horror that she wasn't. Though her mind raged at her to fight what was happening, she heard herself say, "I guess not."

"Sorry about, you know...everything."

She closed her eyes again, praying fervently that he would change his mind and take it back. "That's okay."

"All right then, Daria. See you around."

She said nothing. She wasn't sure if she could keep her voice from shaking if she did. She didn't open her eyes, either, afraid that the tears stinging them would escape if she did. I won't let him see me cry. No one has seen me cry since I was four years old, and that's not going to change. Not now. Not him.

After a few minutes, she had calmed down enough to open her eyes and look around. Trent was gone.

She looked around for Jane, but couldn't find her. Daria made her way to the door and hailed a taxi.

By the time she went to bed, she was calm. She slept well, though the break-up replayed itself constantly in her dreams. The next morning, she stayed in her room and tried to think. I gave up awfully quickly last night. Doesn't Mom always say that a good relationship is worth making the effort to fix? Maybe there's still hope. I should talk to him. There has to be some way to make this work.

Sometime after noon, she made her decision. She would go over to his house and ask him to give it another shot. And this time, she wouldn't give up.

After banging on the front door for at least five minutes, Daria finally succeeded in waking Jane. "Daria?" she muttered. "Wha--?"

"Go back to bed," she replied. "I just need to talk to Trent."

Jane nodded toward the stairs and yawned. "He must have come home after I went to bed. Probably still asleep. Hey, where did you go last night?"

"Not now. I need to straighten something out."

Jane only shrugged and sleepily followed Daria up the stairs to Trent's room. Daria went through her speech one last time in her mind a moment before she opened his door.

He wasn't there. Jane peeked into the room from behind Daria. "Oh. Guess he crashed at Jesse's house again. I'll call him." Picking up Trent's duck phone, she dialed and waited for an answer. "Hi, Danny. Is Jesse there? Thanks." After a pause, she said, "Jesse? It's Jane. ... Jane Lane. ... Trent's sister. ... Yes, that Jane. Look, I need to talk to Trent. Is he there? ... I know he lives here, but he isn't home right now. That's why I'm calling you."

Jane covered the mouthpiece with her hand and told Daria, "And this is him alert. You should see what he's like when he's just woken up."

Daria gave her a tiny smirk in spite of her nervousness, but it disappeared with Jane's next words to Jesse. "With who? Are you sure? ... That can't be--Look, never mind. I'll talk to Trent when he gets home." Jane sighed and hung up. "Jesse said Trent left the Zon with Monique last night. I'm sure it isn't what it sounds like."

"It doesn't matter," Daria replied, keeping her voice even. "We broke up." She turned and walked out of Trent's room. "I guess that's straightened out," she whispered.

At that, the entire situation crashed down. I've been dumped. And replaced. Quickly. The whole house suddenly seemed very dark and very small. Somehow she made her way down the stairs to the front door and reached for the doorknob.

"Daria?" She heard Jane, but didn't respond. She could barely hear anything except the phrases and pieces of thoughts that were pounding through her head. I need to go home. Now.

She grabbed the doorknob and turned. As the door opened, she found herself face to face with a surprised-looking boy with his finger at the doorbell. After a few seconds, she recognized him as the boy who had been smiling at Jane at the concert last night. She took in his relaxed grin as he gazed at Jane, as well as the flash of delight on Jane's face. It was too much. Before anyone could say anything, she pushed past the boy and ran.

The next thing Daria knew, she was sitting with her back against her bedroom door, waiting for the inevitable. Just as she expected, someone knocked. "Daria?" Quinn sounded concerned and annoyed at the same time, a paradox Daria would have appreciated at any other time but then. "That friend you have is downstairs."

"I'm not feeling well right now. Tell her I'll call her later."

"You're not going to be, like, sick or anything, are you?" Concern and irritation were immediately replaced by disgust.

Daria heard the footsteps walk away, then collapsed face down on her bed, ignoring the awkward position her glasses were in. Fragments of thoughts flitted through her mind, but she couldn't bring them together into a complete idea. Trent and Monique. Jane and some guy. Me and no one. Unwanted. Stupid. She was vaguely aware that she was muttering incoherent phrases into her pillow.

Another knock. Daria was about to yell for Quinn to go away or she would throw up on her, but she knew, without thinking about it, that it wasn't Quinn. A moment after she realized it, Jane walked in and shut the door behind her.

"What was that about?" Without a word, Daria lifted her head from the pillow and looked at her. For a few seconds, both girls just stared at each other, considering. At last Jane spoke again. "What's going on?"

Daria kept her voice even and tried to speak matter-of-factly. "Trent dumped me last night. Sort of. I came over to see if he would give me another chance. You know what happened after that."

Jane didn't say anything right away, clearing absorbing everything before she responded. Finally, she asked, "Are you okay?"

Daria focused on the wall in front of her so she wouldn't have to look at Jane. She heard movement, and then felt the bed shift as Jane sat next to her.

"Daria, look at me." She closed her eyes and quickly shook her head. "Please."

Something in her voice forced Daria's eyes to open. Slowly, she sat up and looked at Jane. As soon as she did, something broke. The moment she felt the tears begin to reach her eyes, she covered her face with her hands. Get a hold of yourself! Don't. Let. Her. See. You. Cry.

Jane said nothing, but after a moment Daria felt an arm around her shoulders. She stiffened, unsure how to react. A minute or two later, she felt calm enough to gently push Jane away. "I'm fine."

"No, you're not. You should see yourself. You look--"

"I don't want to know how I look. I don't want to talk about this anymore."

Jane stood up, but didn't leave. "You can't stop there. Talk to me, Daria."

"Not now."

"Yes, now. I'm not leaving until we talk about this."

"You just don't know when to quit, do you?" Daria couldn't keep the anger out of her voice.

"What do you mean?"

"First you badger the hell out of me until I finally work up the courage to ask your brother out. Then you cheer me on as he slowly drives me insane by ignoring me and forgetting I exist. Now you won't be satisfied until I relive the whole painful experience right here in front of you. What will it take to make you happy?"

Jane stared at her in shock. "I...I didn't know..."

"Yeah, obliviousness must run in the family."

"What are you saying? That this is all my fault?"

"I just don't think you're the best person for me to talk to right now."

"And who would be better?" Jane was clearly getting angry now, too. "Your mother? Quinn? It's not like you have anyone else to talk to." Her eyes widened as she spoke the last few words, realizing what she had said.

"Get out." Daria turned away.

"Daria, I didn't mean--"

"Leave. Now." She didn't look up, but she finally heard the door open and close, and the sound of footsteps going down the stairs.

What the hell just happened? Daria groaned and tried to block the stream of angry thoughts that threatened to overwhelm her. You just lost your only friend. Congratulations; now you really are alone. She stopped fighting the tears.

"...experience some real-life economics: renting an apartment, applying for a credit card, opening a retirement account." Mrs. Bennett, the Lawndale High School economics teacher, was explaining a new class project. Daria was only half listening as she stared at the top of her desk.

She'd been on her own for the past week, spending almost all of her time outside of school in her room. Jane had tried calling several times, but Daria still wasn't ready to face her.

Mrs. Bennett finished, "Of course, I don't expect you to actually rent an apartment or what have you. You'll just go through as much of the process as you can and report back on your experiences. Your assignment tonight is to pick a project and a partner."

Without looking in Jane's direction, Daria raised her hand. "What if we want to work alone?"

Mrs. Bennett replied, "I'd really rather you work with someone, Daria. In the real world, we rarely make financial decisions without having to consider someone else's needs and wishes."

Daria lowered her eyes back to her desk and shrugged. Not necessarily.

The bell rang. Out of the corner of her eye Daria saw Jane take a few steps toward her, then turn and leave the classroom. After a few minutes, she slowly gathered her things and followed.

Outside, she saw Jodie speaking with Jane. As Daria walked by, Jane turned and their eyes met. Daria looked away quickly. As she did so, she made eye contact with Brittany, who had been arguing with Kevin.

"Daria!" she squeaked. "Mr. Thompson and I are not speaking, so do you want to do the economics project with me?"

She sighed and shrugged. "Why not?" I could use some mindlessness right now.

As they sat on the couch in the Taylors' living room, Brittany read from the list of projects. "Oooh, we could plan a wedding! That sounds dreamy."

Forcing unhappy memories from her mind, Daria shook her head. "I think I'd rather do a funeral."

Brittany looked up. "Daria? Are you okay? You seem sad. I mean, you know, sadder than usual."

"I'm fine. Why don't we--"

Holding up a hand to silence her, Brittany studied her face for a moment. "Oh no!" she exclaimed. "You got dumped!"

Surprised, Daria blinked at her. "What? How did you..."

"Oh, Daria. I can tell. I've been dating and breaking up and getting back together for, like, years. Not to mention how many times I've helped the girls on the squad through their breakups." Brittany's voice was sympathetic. "Hold on a sec."

Patting Daria gently on the shoulder, Brittany left the room for a few minutes and returned with two bowls of ice cream. "Here, this will help," she said, handing her one. "Don't worry; it's low fat!"

Daria looked at the ice cream, then at Brittany. "Shouldn't we be working on the project?"

Waving her hand dismissively, Brittany settled onto the couch next to Daria. "Later. Let's talk."

Several sarcastic responses drifted through Daria's mind, but at last she sighed and took a bite of ice cream. Wow, she was right. This does help.

"So what happened?" Brittany asked. "Did he think he was smarter than you? You know, Kevvy--I mean, that jerk--said that..." She trailed off, realizing she was ignoring Daria. "Sorry."

Daria shook her head. "No, intelligence wasn't the issue." She took another bite of ice cream. In fact, I can't remember ever having an intellectual conversation with Trent beyond "what words rhyme with angry?"

"He wasn't cheating on you, was he?"

"No." Daria twirled the spoon between her fingers. "I guess we were too different."

"Ohhh," Brittany said, nodding knowingly. "That happened to me once, with Sam Stack. You know, the Oakwood quarterback? We decided that with him playing on a rival team, it just wouldn't work out."

"I...see." Daria was quiet for a few moments, debating whether or not to say anything further. Come on. Jane did have a point: it's not like I have anyone else to talk to. "I just really miss him."

Brittany gave her an understanding smile. "What do you miss about him?"

"I miss...well, I guess I miss his voice. He has a cool voice, although he's not really that good of a singer. Still, he's kind of...um..." She hesitated.

"Cute?" Brittany offered.

"UhyeahIguess," Daria mumbled, slightly embarrassed. She had a feeling she was starting to blush.

"What else?"

"He's...nice." Daria frowned. Is that the best you can do? He has a sexy voice, he's good-looking, and he's nice? She finished her ice cream and set aside the bowl. I'm sure there's more to it than that. Or at least I think so.

She frowned. I mean, he was the first guy I've ever loved. Well, the first guy I've really, really liked.

She settled back against the couch cushions. Is that all it was? A crush? It can't be, or I wouldn't be this upset. Unless...

After another minute or two, she roused herself from her thoughts and saw that Brittany was looking at her with concern. "Um, is everything all right?"

Daria nodded. "Just working some things out. We should probably get back to the class project, though."

Brittany nodded. "Sure. Just let me know if you need more ice cream!"

The following week, Mrs. Bennett smiled as Daria and Brittany returned to their seats after their presentation. "What...interesting ideas for a funeral," she declared. "The cheer was a little unconventional, but I think what you were trying to say is that even in sadness, we can celebrate and look to the future with hope."

"Uh, right," Daria said quietly as she sat down.

"Jane and Jodie?" Mrs. Bennett asked. "Would you like to go next?"

The two girls took their places at the front of the room. Jodie began, "Applying for a start-up loan can be a challenging process, but with persistence, a solid mission statement, and a detailed business plan, we were able to..."

As they left the classroom, Daria nodded to Brittany. "Thanks for your help," she said. "On the project and, well, you know."

Brittany smiled. "No problem! We girls have to stick together when guys don't treat us right."

In the hallway, Jane fell into step beside Daria. "Brittany?" was all she said.

Daria took a deep breath. "I guess I just needed to talk to someone impartial."

With a slight laugh, Jane replied, "So you talked to Brittany? Did you say impartial or--" She stopped as the grin faded. "I'm glad you had someone to talk to," she finished.

They walked in silence for a minute before Daria finally spoke. "Look, let's say you had this friend who was trying to help you through a really hard time. And suppose she accidentally slipped and said something that came out wrong but still kind of hurt."

Jane nodded, staring at the floor in front of them as they walked.

"And maybe you weren't really mad at her in the first place, but just needed some time to deal with everything before you were ready to talk about it."

Looking over at her suddenly, Jane replied, "Oh."

"Now suppose that since you've had time to think, you've started to realize a few things that maybe you're ready to talk about. What would you do then?"

Jane thought for a moment. "How about pizza?"

"Yeah, I think that would work." Daria gave her friend a brief, small smile.

"Daria? I'm sorry I--"

"I know. It's okay."

Daria found herself laughing for the first time she could remember while she and Jane sat in a booth at Pizza King. They had started out serious, as she explained her suspicion that her feelings for Trent had been no more than an infatuation. She told her how she'd convinced herself that she had fallen in love with him, and ultimately built him up in her mind as something more than he really was. She finished by admitting that she was still hurting from the breakup, but now knew everything would be all right--eventually.

As they continued to talk, Jane started to tell her about her new boyfriend, Tom. "...So finally, Tom takes out a ten dollar bill and says to him, 'Hey, buddy, I'll pay for your popcorn if you promise to sit somewhere else after you get it.'"

Daria chuckled. "Sounds like something I would have said. Except I would have thrown in a soda to sweeten the deal."

Jane nodded. "I think you two would really get along." She paused. "It doesn't bother you, does it? Me talking about Tom?"

Daria shook her head. "I don't mind. It's actually kind of nice to know that some relationships do work out."

"Ohhhh, no!" a piercing voice rang out. Brittany entered Pizza King with Kevin following behind. "I said we were through and I meant it! I won't go out with someone who thinks I'm stupid!"

Tuning out Kevin's protests, Jane raised an eyebrow at Daria. "Wow. Usually those two are back together by this time after a fight."

Daria looked over at Brittany, who looked back and gave her a thumbs-up sign. "Yup...Looks like not everything is back to normal." She shared a smile with Jane as they turned their attention back to their pizza.

Thanks to BlackHole and RLobinske for beta reading.