Daria took another look at the black dress lying on her bed. Her mother wanted her to wear it tonight. It was some sort of silk and rayon blend, or something like that. It was modest, elegant, thoroughly depressing, and completely impractical for her plans for tonight. So, she simply showered and dressed in her usual attire: black skirt, burnt orange T-shirt and green blazer. A heavy pair of combat boots completed the ensemble. Sure, the clothing choice would most likely piss off her mother, but it wouldn’t matter in the end.
Especially since the end was only six hours away.
"Would someone PLEASE get that?!" Helen’s voice drifted from downstairs. "I have my hands full in here!"
"Just let the machine get it, Helen," the voice of Daria’s aunt Rita replied. "It’s not like it could be important at all."
"Just because it’s supposed to happen today doesn’t mean we should be impolite." Helen retorted.
"The only people who could possibly be calling now are either the lonely or the deranged." Rita shot back.
Daria sighed. It had started already. Six hours to go, and they were still at it. You’d think they’d back off for once. She sighed again and went downstairs.
Mack buttoned the top button of the shirt, and cinched up his sleeves with his dad’s gold cufflinks. He quickly knotted the bow tie around his neck and pulled on the vest. He checked his reflection in the mirror and smiled at what he saw.
As he went into his closet for the jacket, he heard a knock at his door.
"Mike? You in there, son?" came his father’s voice.
"Yeah, come on in, Dad." Mack replied, leafing through the shirts and jackets hanging in the closet.
The door opened admiting the large form of Ty Mackenzie. He was a tall, powerfully built man, with graying hair and a salt and pepper beard that complemented his sharply defined jawline. He had his reading glasses perched on his forehead and the sports section of the last issue of the Lawndale Sun-Herald under one arm.
"You almost ready?" he asked as Mack came out with the jacket.
"Just about." Mack picked up a lint brush and ran it over the contours of the tuxedo jacket.
Ty nodded. "All right…are you sure this is how you want to spend--?"
Mack smiled at his dad. "I can’t think of any better way to show Jodie how I feel about her. And you know I’m not going to get another chance."
Ty smiled slightly. "True." He took in the sight of his son in the tuxedo. "You look great, son."
Mack smiled in return, then hugged his father. "Thanks, Dad…for everything."
They held the hug for a moment before breaking. Ty looked at his watch. "Well, you better get going. Don’t want to keep Jodie waiting."
Mack checked his own watch. "You’re right. Are you going to be all right tonight?"
"Fine," Ty said. "I’m just planning to kick back and spend the evening with your mother."
"That’s cool," Mack said, "I better get going." He threw on the jacket and made his way to the front door of the house.
"Do you need the car or anything?" Ty asked.
"Nah, we were planning to walk tonight."
"Well, be careful. There’s probably still a few lunatics out there, even though it’s…" he trailed off, and for a moment Mack thought his dad was going to cry. But Ty Mackenzie was a proud man and he soon got himself under control. "Just be careful, son."
"I will, Dad."
Upchuck spat the mouthful of Listerine into the sink and began brushing his teeth again. He had no desire for any of the lovelies to be repulsed by halitosis tonight.
As he checked his supplies for the evening, he allowed himself a small chuckle. The irony was too delicious. So many of the lovely ladies of Lawndale High had eaten crow. While he wasn’t the last man on earth, he was the closest unattatched male in the vicinity since the chaos after the announcement.
Two months. Two solid months of fufilling the purpose once served by the last call at Studio 54. And only five ladies to go in his appointment book. He didn’t get to do everything he wanted to try…but he did enough. He was perfectly content to finish out with ordinary "vanilla." Besides, vanilla made a nice poetic finish after a smorgasbord of chocolate, strawberry, and double tin roof ripple with mint chunks.
In deference to the occasion, he had eschewed the look of his icon, the great Hef, settling instead for a black shirt and slacks. Appropriately somber for the occasion while still being stylish. He went back out into the living room and put some Barry White on the stereo. He went to the sideboard and got out two glasses and a couple of bottles, before checking his watch. His 6 o’clock should be here—
Ah. Right on time.
Upchuck went to the front door and opened it, revealing the exoticly vapid figure of Tiffany Blum-Deckler.
"Hello, my dear. I’m so glad you made it." he said with his usual smarmy grin.
"Hiiii, Upchuck." Tiffany drawled as she came into the house. She looked around. "It’s not what I thought it would be liiike."
Upchuck shrugged. "Despite my reputation, I don’t find velvet artwork and kitsch to be very romantic."
Tiffany blinked and stared for a few minutes at the tasteful artwork and furniture before speaking again.
"Sooo, should I take my clothes off now?"
"SIX HOURS TO GO! DID YOU REMEMBER TO TURN THE GAS OFF?!"
Jane brought the megaphone down from her mouth and let it swing from the strap she had hanging from her shoulder. She continued her jog, turning back onto Howard Drive and heading for home.
Ever since the announcement came, she had wondered how she’d spend today. She wanted to do something different. Something artistic that people would have no choice but to take notice of. Something that, while it wouldn’t be remembered, would be memorable anyway.
It came to her two days ago. She would be the unofficial timekeeper, letting people know how long there was remaining, along with some helpful last minute advice. Every hour on the hour until midnight.
So, she had dug out her dad’s old protest megaphone from the attic, made a phone call to Willmore University’s planetarium in Lakeside to see what the time was at the atomic clock in Denver, set her watch accordingly, and got up at an ungodly 6 AM to roam the streets of Lawndale. She spent the day yelling out reminders of both the time remaining and various other statements designed to provoke a response. The way Jane had it figured, even if the response was "What the hell?!" she was giving people something to think about.
Which wasn’t to say she didn’t have other plans. She and Daria were planning to wait for midnight together, provided Daria could get away from the Morgendorffer/Barksdale Calvalcade of Bitterness and Whimsy that was going to masquerade as an extended family dinner.
Helen’s sisters and Jake’s mother all in the same house. Jane shuddered at the thought.
Still, she thought as she opened the front door to the house, at least her family’s making the attempt to be together tonight. After the announcement came, the entire travel structure throughout the world collapsed. As such, the wandering Lanes were scattered to the four winds with no real way to meet up. So, once again, it was just Jane and Trent alone in the house.
Jane sighed as that depressing thought went through her mind. Even though they all drove each other nuts when they were together for too long, it would still have been nice to have them all here.
She went upstairs, showered, and changed back into her usual outfit. Normally she wouldn’t have bothered, considering she was going back out into the streets to finish her self-appointed job, but she didn’t feel like running much more today, and she had a few other things to do while she was out playing town crier, before she met up with Daria. Better to not stink while she did so.
She slung the megaphone strap back over her shoulder and got ready to leave. As she reached the door, she stopped and looked back at her room. At the unmade bed, the pile of crumpled clothes in one of the closets, the stacks of canvases up against the wall, the artwork on the walls…it was her. The room expressed more than anything else who Jane Lane was.
She switched off the light and closed the door behind her.
Daria came downstairs to the chaos she expected. Jake was reading the paper on the sofa, Quinn was chatting with their cousin Erin on the loveseat. From the kitchen came the sound of a three-way argument between Helen, Rita, and Jake’s mother, Ruth.
"That turkey needs to be basted more often, Helen," Ruth was saying. "Otherwise it will turn out too dry and Jake can’t handle dry turkey."
"The cookbook says to baste it every 15 minutes." Helen replied, "I’ve been doing that."
"Yes, well, I’m sure you know best. Never mind the fact that I’ve been cooking for over 40 years now—"
"Look, Mrs. Morgendorffer," Rita piped up, "If you’re so sure that we’re doing everything wrong, why don’t YOU bake the damn turkey?"
"Rita!" Helen said sharply. "I don’t need your help."
"Ha!" Ruth barked. "You need all the help you can get running a household, working all the time."
Daria took her glasses off and rubbed the bridge of her nose. She’d been having migraines periodically since before the announcement, and it looked like another doozy was on it’s way.
The answering machine finally picked up the errant phone. Well, there was one less irritant around the household.
The doorbell rang, and Daria went to answer it seeing as she was right there, and neither Quinn nor Jake seemed likely to do it themselves.
"Hi, Aunt Amy." Daria said, as the remaining Barksdale sister walked into the house.
"Hey, Daria. Have I missed the carnage yet?"
"Currently, Quinn and Erin are talking vapidly in the living room, your sisters are about to double team my grandmother in the kitchen, Dad is deliberately re-reading last week’s paper, and I’m getting a migraine."
"So, you’re saying I’ve arrived just in time." Amy said.
"Basically." Daria affirmed.
In the background, the Morgendorffer’s answering machine played on;
"Hello! You have reached the Morgendorffers. We appreciate your calling during this time and want to thank you for taking the time to call us. Unfortunately, we're unable to come to the phone at the moment, so please, leave us a message...*BEEEP!*"
There was the customary pause and then a slurred female voice began to leave it’s message.
"Hello, this is Angela Li. I just wanted to call to say, on behalf of the faculty and student body of Laaawndale High, thank you for attending our school and selecting Laaaawndale High for your education needs. Rest assured we have done everything we can to insure that Laaaawndale High has been a safe and secure learning environment. Once again, thank you. You may now resume your family activities."
Timothy O’Neill hung up the office phone. Another answering machine. He supposed he couldn’t really blame anyone for not picking up, what with it happening tonight and all. And at least it meant he wasn’t getting yelled at. He looked at his watch and sighed. Janet wasn’t happy that he was spending tonight calling every alumni of Lawndale High and thanking them for being students.
But at least he was almost finished. He’d be out of here by 10 at the latest…
Which reminded him of his partner. He got up and went to the office coffee machine, pouring two cups, before going to Ms. Li’s office.
Li was hanging up the phone. Her eyes were a bit glazed, and it took her a couple of moments to put the phone down correctly.
"I brought you some coffee, Angela." O’Neill said, putting one of the cups on the desk.
"Ahhhh, thank you, Timothy," Li said. O’Neill winced as she pulled a half empty bottle of scotch from her desk drawer and poured a healthy dollop into the coffee.
"Care for some, Timothy?" Li said, looking at O’Neill unsteadily.
"No, thank you, Angela." In the back of his mind, the teacher sighed. Ever since the government collapsed and the school closed down, Li had coped with the fact that her multi million dollar security systems were now completely and totally worthless by spending the last two months consuming the contents of three cases of imported 50 year old scotch.
"Sho—er—So," Li said, "How goes the final calls?"
"I’m nearly done with my list. And you?"
"Oh excellent, excellent," Li said. "Well, I’m about half way through mine."
"Halfway done?" O’Neill said concernedly. "That was a list of 2500 names."
"I know, don’t worry, they’ll all be called before the night’s over."
"Um, Angela…we only have until midnight, and Janet was expecting me tonight…"
"MISTER O’Neill, do I have to remind you that this entire project was YOUR idea?" Li said sharply…or as sharply as she could muster.
"Well, yes, Ms. Li…" he stammered, "But, I just thought it would be a nice gesture to show how much we care about all those students that have passed through these halls…"
"Exactly! So if I were you, I wouldn’t washte—waste time jabbering there. Get back on that phone!"
"Yes, Ms. Li…right away—" O’Neill said, dashing out of the office.
"Spineless twit." Li said, before taking a swig of the hi-octane coffee.
Jane walked down the hall from her room. She took her time, looking into each of the bedrooms, remembering the days when the entire Lane clan had lived together. She sighed as she stood in front of Trent’s room.
Come on, you aren’t going to get another chance.
She turned the knob and entered her older brother’s room. Trent was passed out on the bed, face down, snoring gently. Jane walked over and sat down on the edge of the bed. Trent stirred slightly at the shift in weight, but quickly recovered.
"Well, Trent. I guess this is it." Jane said quietly, looking at the inert form of her brother. "I’m leaving now. I know what you’re probably going to be doing for the rest of the night, and I don’t want to ruin it for you. Hell, I’d probably join you if I didn’t already have plans."
She sighed before continuing. "Thanks for being there for me, Trent. For not running out like everybody else did. For helping me out during that whole mess with Tom and Daria. I guess what I’m saying is…"
She leaned over and lightly kissed Trent’s cheek before whispering into his ear,
"I love you, big brother."
She got up off the bed, left the room, and went downstairs. She paused at the front door and looked back around the house. She blinked as tears unexpectedly appeared in her eyes. It took her a moment, but she kept them from flowing. She had shed her tears for this already, more wouldn’t help.
After she had gotten ahold of herself, she stepped out the door and made her way down the front walk. As she turned to go up the walk, her watch began to beep. She looked at it and switched off the alarm. The time was moving faster now. She brought the megaphone up to her lips.
"FIVE HOURS TO GO! MAKE SURE YOU LET THE CAT OUT!"
Jodie finished the last braid in her hair just as the doorbell rang. She smoothed out the folds of the emerald dress she was wearing and headed downstairs. She walked briskly, wanting to reach the door before—
Jodie stopped and sighed in annoyance. Her mother. Literally the LAST thing she needed today.
Michelle Landon entered from the living room, bourbon in hand. She always had bourbon in hand. Ever since her father blew his brains out back when the announcement came and made everything he had spent his life working for irrelevant.
"Where are you going?" Michelle demanded. Jodie looked at her with barely disguised contempt.
"I’m going out. Mack and I are spending the evening together."
"And spending today with your boyfriend is more important than spending it with your family?"
Jodie held in the laughter. Family? What family? Her father was dead, her sister and baby brother were taken away by her paternal grandparents in Scofield. She had only stayed in Lawndale because Mack wanted to stay with his dad. Otherwise she would have been out of the damn town the day after the suicide.
"Truthfully, Mother? Yes, I think it is."
Michelle’s eyes narrowed. "I think you had better rethink your priorities."
That did it.
"Rethink my priorities?" Jodie repeated quietly. "Rethink my priorities. You know something, Mom? I’ve been hearing the phrase ‘rethink your priorities’ for as long as I can remember. ‘Can I go play at Shayla’s?’ ‘You need to rethink your priorities. You have flash cards to finish.’ ‘Can I take half an hour to watch TV?’ ‘Rethink your priorities. You need to finish practicing the piano.’ ‘Can I take a break to go to the beach?’ ‘And not work at the congressman’s office? You need to rethink your priorities,"
Jodie’s voice raised in volume. "I’ve been hearing that I need to rethink my priorities ever since I was four years old. I’m tired of rethinking my priorities. Mostly because they haven’t been MY priorities. They’ve been your priorities. Yours and Dad’s."
"Don’t you dare talk about your father like that!"
"What? And not tell the truth?" Jodie asked. "You brought me up to always tell the truth. And the truth is that you both make me sick. You didn’t want a daughter, you wanted a trophy. Someone you could show off at the country club, then send away to study, or play golf, or all the rest of the crap that you and dad thought you had to do to be accepted around here!"
"We wanted the best for you—"
"No, you wanted the best for YOU. And you were willing to do anything to make sure that your kids didn’t ruin it for you. Including turning me into a spineless hypocrite, Rachel into a brat, and I’m just glad it’s happening tonight because then you won’t have a chance to work Evan over."
Michelle’s face was ashen. "How can you say this? We gave you everything you needed to succeed."
"Yes, you did. And I’ll admit that some of it was a big help. But what you don’t seem to get is the fact that this is it. I’m through playing that game. For once in my life I’m going to do what I want to do, and I don’t give a damn if it meets with your approval or not. I’m spending the evening with Mack and that’s the way it is. I owe him that much after shoving him aside for so long in favor of what YOU wanted me to do."
She turned away from her mother and opened the door. As she went through, she looked back over her shoulder.
"And by the way, Mom…" Jodie waited until Michelle looked up at her.
"I haven’t been a virgin for nearly two years."
The door slammed.
Mack looked up as the door slammed. Jodie came down the stoop and into his arms.
"Are you all right?" he asked concernedly.
Jodie looked up, tears forming in her eyes. "Get me the hell out of here…"
Sandi Griffin stared at the phone. Where the hell was he? She was going to be late to the party. Skyler should have been here by now. The biggest party Lawndale was ever going to see, and she had no intentions of missing it for some idiot guy who didn’t appreciate the fact that she was going with him.
But she wasn’t going to call. Let him call her, begging for forgiveness. If he called in the next five minutes, she might still consider sleeping with him. Maybe.
She went to the bathroom and started brushing out her hair again. It wasn’t really necessary, she already looked drop-dead gorgeous as it was, but it gave her something to do while she waited for the damn phone to ring.
She dropped the brush on the sink and dashed back down the hallway to her room. She dove onto her bed , picking up the phone from her nightstand as she did so.
"Hello, Griffin residence, Sandi speaking."
"Oh, hello, Sandi. This is Mr. O’Neill. I’m just calling to say thank—"
Sandi hung up the phone. God, that man just would not give up. It figured he was calling everybody to say thank you. It was so like that…geek.
She waited a couple of minutes, then picked up the phone to make sure the line was clear. It was. She replaced the receiver, and sat back to wait for Skyler’s call.
Tiffany swung her purse on her shoulder, as Upchuck finished buttoning his shirt. She walked over to him and planted a light kiss on his cheek.
"Not at all, dear lady." Upchuck said as he opened the door for her. Tiffany waved goodbye and began heading down the walk.
Upchuck shook his head bemusedly and closed the door. He grabbed the two glasses from the coffee table, returned the bourbon to it’s place on the sideboard, and dropped the glasses off in the kitchen before returning to the bedroom.
He stripped the sheets off the bed and tossed them down the laundry chute in the hallway. He grabbed a fresh set of sheets from the hall closet and remade the bed. He gave the room a quick once-over for any errant clothes. At least condoms weren’t necessary anymore, considering that no one would have time to gestate a kid or develop any nasty symptoms. One of the small benefits of it happening tonight.
Upchuck sighed. All things considered, though, he’d rather be required to use the condom.
The doorbell rang. Upchuck sighed and returned his grin to his face. He walked to the front door and opened it.
Stacy grinned back. "Hi, Upchuck—er—Charles."
Upchuck blinked. "Charles?"
"What? That’s your name, isn’t it?" Stacy walked past him into the house. "Nice place. You got a beer?"
Upchuck stared after her, dumbfounded. "A…beer?"
Stacy turned around. "What? You don’t have any?"
"Um..Yeah! Yeah, sorry." Upchuck went into the kitchen and grabbed a beer from the door. "You want a glass?"
"The bottle’ll be fine." Stacy called from the living room. Upchuck retured, handed her the beer and poured a glass of bourbon for himself.
"So, you ready?" Stacy said.
"Is there something wrong?" Stacy asked.
"Well, it’s just…you seem so…different."
Stacy gave him a slow smile and sidled up to him. "Let’s just say the announcement made me rethink what should be important. Besides…I’ve always wanted to see what else you could do with those hands of yours ever since the magic show."
With that, she put down the beer, placed her hands on either side of Upchuck’s head and pulled him close.
"Dinner!" Helen called, as she placed the turkey on the dining room table.
Daria sighed and got up from the couch. As the rest of the family filed into the dining room, she went to the downstairs guest bathroom. Her head was killing her.
She ran some water into the sink, took off her glasses and splashed her face. She dried her face with the towel, and opened the medicine cabinet. She grabbed a bottle of ibuprofen, shook out four pills and dry-swallowed them. It wouldn’t stop the pain, but it would dull it long enough.
Daria sighed. The queen of irony, brought down by the ultimate irony.
She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Jane strolled down Degas Street, keeping an eye out for anyone who was looking for some last minute "action." The street was more or less deserted. There were a few stragglers, but they kept to themselves.
She turned left and headed down the block to the Zon. The door to the night club was open. In fact, it was hanging off it’s hinges. Jane looked at the black rectangle leading into the club, then out at the street. The street was empty, except for a municipal bus that sat motionless in the middle of it. She looked down at her watch, frowned, then looked up at the roof of the club.
She walked into the darkened club. The light from the sun, still high in the sky despite the lateness of the day, provided minimal illumination. Jane could see destroyed frutniture scattered around, broken glass littered the floor. Trash was strewn about the place. The in house amplifiers and other technical equipment the band of the night used were blown out and tipped over. The Zon had been one of the first casualties of the craziness after the announcement, and looked like it had been repeatedly visited for the last two months.
Jane navigated her way through the mess, to the doorway to the left of the stage. She pushed it open and went out into the alley behind the Zon. Her nose wrinkled up at the stench of decay that assaulted her nose. There were two dead bodies lying in the alley. It looked like they had killed each other some time ago. Jane pinched her nose closed and edged her way around the bodies, heading for the fire escape on the north side of the building.
As soon as she was away from the stench, she took a few deep breaths to clear her lungs, before starting up the fire escape to the roof. She moved quickly and was at the top of the two story building in moments. There was a roof access up here, but Jane had no idea where it was in relation to the club downstairs.
She walked to the front of the building, and looked out over Lawndale. It was calm…serene, with the tenseness in the air of something beginning to happen.
"I always knew that I would die in Nowheresville/But I didn’t think I’d die there quite so soon…" She hummed quietly. It was a cheesy little musical blurb she and Daria had come up with back when Hurricane Glenn had passed through town. It was appropriate then, and it was doubly appropriate now.
At least this time I’m not trapped in a water tank shed with Kevin and Brittany.
There was a loud metallic creaking sound echoing up from the street below her. She looked down and had to smile at what she saw.
A crowd of about fiteen people, all dressed in disheveled formal wear, half of them with liquor bottles, were up against the side of the bus, rocking it on it’s wheels, trying to overturn it. They were getting into it, shoving and pushing, trying to use the momentum of each push to overturn the bus.
Jane loved it. It was exactly the kind of thing that summed up the futility of this whole situation. She sat down on the edge of the roof and watched.
O’Neill crossed the last name off his list. Well, those last calls had been easy enough. Half of the numbers were disconnected and the other half just rang without any kind of answer. But he still knew Angela was behind on her calls, and courtesy demanded that he help her out. It couldn’t possibly take that long.
He went into Li’s office, to find the principal putting on her coat. "Ah, Timothy, just the man I was looking for."
"I have an appointment that I completely forgot about. I need to get going so I’m not late. Could you finish up the calls for me?"
"But, Angela, Janet was expecting me—"
"Thank you so much, Timothy. You have been a credit to Laaaaawndale High."
With that, the principal left the office without so much as a goodbye. O’Neill stared behind in disbelief. He looked back at the stack of printouts on Li’s desk, sighed and sat down behind the desk.
He picked up the top sheet of the printout and set it aside as all the numbers had been crossed off. He looked down at the next sheet and his eyes widened.
None of the numbers had been called.
He picked up the stack and thumbed through them. All the sheets he stopped at were unmarked. Li had done only one page of numbers.
He put his face in his hands and began to cry.
"FOUR HOURS TO GO! LIFT WITH YOUR LEGS, NOT WITH YOUR BACK!"
"Daria, where’s the dress I asked you to wear?" Helen asked as everyone sat down to dinner.
"Currently lying on my bed." Daria replied.
"And why is it currently lying on your bed?"
"Because I didn’t want to wear it."
Helen sighed, "Daria, I only asked you to indulge me just this once. We go through all the trouble of getting our extended family together—"
"Oh, cut the kid a break, Helen." Amy said, "She’s 18 years old. She can make her own decisions."
"Don’t tell me how to raise my daughter." Helen responded with a glare.
"That’s an interesting choice of words, considering it’s happening tonight."
"Um, Erin!" Quinn piped up, "Were you planning on going to the party at Seven Corners later?"
"Gee, Quinn," Erin began, startled by the sudden question. "I don’t know—"
"No one’s going anywhere." Helen stated firmly. "Today is a day for family."
"Family?" Ruth piped up. "Funny you should say that. I don’t see your mother here, Helen."
"Mom got stuck in Rio when the announcement came." Rita replied. "She tried everything to get up here but there was nothing she could do."
"Well, I think it’s a crime when a mother can’t even be with her own children on an important day like this." Ruth said.
Amy snorted and muttered something under her breath.
"What was that?" Ruth asked.
"Nothing." Amy replied. "Jake, could you pass me the gravy?"
"Sure." Jake said, passing the gravy boat before going back to his food.
"No, you said something, I want to know what it was." Ruth said.
"Do we really have to do this now?" Daria asked.
"I said ‘you think it’s a crime if you can’t offer your opinion and have everybody in earshot immediately kowtow to you.’" Amy replied.
"OH!" Ruth gasped. "I cannot believe you just said that!"
"Which is why you never hear anything you don’t like." Amy retorted.
"How DARE you speak to me like that?!"
"Hey, I’m not your kid."
"I can see that! No child of mine—"
"Would grow up with an opinion of their own?" Amy asked. Rita giggled.
"What are you laughing about?" Ruth demanded.
"Oh, not you, Mrs. Morgendorffer." Rita said.
"Then what’s so funny?" Amy said, a frown crossing her features.
"What about me?"
"You’re just like her."
"WHAT?!" Ruth yelped.
"She’s got a point, Amy," Helen said.
"Don’t you start with me!" Amy shouted.
"Oh, you can dish it out but you can’t take it?" Rita said.
"What do you mean? Are you implying something about me?!" Ruth said. "I happen to be PROUD of the way I raised my child!"
"Oh, there’s no doubt there," Amy said, "Considering your only son alternates between perpetual cluelessness and irrational rage."
"HEY!" Helen, Ruth, and Quinn shouted simultaneously. Jake, oddly enough, continued eating.
"Just because you don’t currently have a man in your life, Amy—" Rita began.
"Unlike you, who changes them like a ripped blouse after the first date?" Amy retorted.
The argument continued, with the Barksdale sisters ripping into each other, Ruth adding her own opinions at exactly the right point to cause the argument to flair up again. Quinn and Erin tried to hold things to a dull roar, but more often than not getting pulled into the argument. Through it all, Jake kept eating and Daria stared down at her plate, trying to keep the throbbing in her head down. It consumed all her attention until—
"And what kind of example are you setting for Quinn, Rita?" Amy spat.
"Oh?" Rita said, frowning. "If we’re going to get into that, what kind of example are you setting for Daria?"
"Yes," Ruth said, looking at Daria. "Tell me Daria, when are you going to get a boyfriend?"
"She HAS a boyfriend." Helen said. "She’s been dating him for quite some time now."
"Oh? Then why hasn’t she introduced him to us? At the very least she could invite him over here tonight after dinner."
Helen laughed nervously. "That’s a little difficult, Ruth. His family isn’t in town."
"Oh really?" Ruth quirked an eyebrow. "And who is this boy?"
"Sloane?" Rita said, "As in Gray, Sloane, and Page?"
"Yes!" Helen said proudly. "Tom is Angier Sloane’s son."
"Wow!" Erin said, turning to Daria. "You got a good one, Daria!"
"Yes, but I still think she should have introduced him earlier," Ruth said. "When I was dating Jake’s father, I couldn’t wait to introduce him to my extended family. But I suppose that’s just Daria."
"What’s wrong with Daria?" Helen and Amy said simultaneously.
"Nothing, but it wouldn’t hurt her if she was a little more supportive of her family. You said it yourself, Helen, she wouldn’t even make the effort to wear the dress you asked her to wear."
Daria rubbed her temples.
"Yes, Daria, why can’t you be more like your sister?" Rita chimed in. "She’s wearing such a pretty dress tonight."
Daria felt her teeth clench.
"Honestly, Daria, was it really too much to ask you to act like a family member?" Helen finished.
Daria looked up.
"Excuse me, but am I the ONLY person at this table who realizes that in less than four hours, it will be the end of the world?"
She stood up and looked over the silent faces of her family. "I have sat here all night listening to you argue about everything from my choice of clothing to how to prepare a damn turkey and the truth is that it does…not…matter!"
She looked over at her aunts and her mother. "You three have been arguing for as long as you’ve been old enough to talk and you can’t even put it aside for one damn night!" She turned to Ruth, "You’re so wrapped up in how much you hated your married life, you think every female relative you have needs to be just a miserable as you are."
She shifted her gaze to Quinn and Erin. "You two aren’t so bad, but just sitting there hoping that these four will knock it off is futile. To your credit, Quinn, you tried to change the subject, but with these four…" Daria shook her head. "I’m tired of it. And I am not spending the last hours of my life listening to you fight with each other." Daria turned and made her way to the door.
"Where do you think you’re going?" Ruth demanded. Daria looked back at her, her mask firmly in place.
"I’m leaving. Jane and I decided, back when the announcement came, that we were going to wait out the end of the world together. I’m going to meet her."
"Is that safe?" Amy asked. To her credit, she kept her voice neutral.
Too bad it wasn’t enough.
"Maybe, maybe not. But it’s got to be a hell of a lot safer out there than it is in here." Daria answered.
"Daria Anne Marie Morgendorffer, you sit down this minute!" Helen yelped
Daria paused for a moment at the sound of her full name, then opened the door and closed it behind her, leaving her family sitting dumbfounded in the dining room.
"Well," Ruth said after a moment, "That’s what happens when there isn’t someone at home to look after the children."
"Now wait just a damn minute.." Helen began, but she was interrupted by the sound of Jake quietly clearing his throat.
"Mom? Helen?" he said. Both looked up at him. Jake’s expression was calm as he concentrated on buttering a roll.
"What is it, Jakey?"
Jake finished buttering, examined the roll for a moment, then raised his half closed eyes to meet the gaze of his wife and his mother.
"Would it be possible for both of you to shut the hell up for five minutes?"
Sandi was fuming.
This was ridiculous! She’d been waiting for an HOUR for Skyler to show up, or at least call. She was beginning to suspect that she had been st—stoo—stood—
She grabbed the phone and dialed Skyler’s cell phone.
Hi, you’ve reached my voice mail. You can leave a message if you want, but I’m not going to be able to get back to you. My family is heading for the lake to wait out the end and I’m not bringing the phone. If you’re one of my friends, I just wanna say thanks for being part of my life. And if you’re Sandi Griffin—
Sandi perked up.
--you have to be the shallowest, most self centered bitch I’ve ever met. If I didn’t feel so damn sorry for you I wouldn’t have told you I’d take you to the party. Hopefully, you’ve given up on me and done something else…but I doubt it. *BEEEEEEEP*
Sandi stared at the reciever. He had felt sorry for her? SORRY for her?! She wasn’t one of those pathetic wall flowers who didn’t do anything to attract guys’ attention, she was Sandi Griffin!
Well, fine. If he wanted to be a jerk about it, there were plenty more where he came from. She’d show him that she wasn’t going to get all broken up about being stoo—stood—about not going to Seven Corners with him.
She got up off the bed and went to her dresser. She rummaged around in the top drawer until she unearthed what she was looking for. Her little red book.
She opened it up. Ah, Chad. He was always up for a party. She grabbed the phone and started dialing.
Jodie lay back in Mack’s arms, basking in the afterglow.
They were wrapped up in the blanket they had laid out earlier. The remnants of a picnic dinner, consisting of cold roast duck, foie gras, caviar, and a bottle of ’68 Dom Perignon were sitting in the cooler they had brought. They had set up in a secluded copse of trees in Robinson Park. The food was good, the wine was better. One thing led to another, and now Jodie was idly wondering how badly her dress would be wrinkled when she decided to put it back on. But for now, she felt safe and happy.
"Wow," Mack said.
"What?" Jodie asked.
Mack had one hand on her shoulder and was lightly massaging it. "I don’t think you’ve EVER been this relaxed, even afterwards."
Jodie smiled and cuddled up to him. "I haven’t. Do you know what it’s like to have that huge rock finally off my back? For the first time in my life, I feel like I could do anything…or nothing at all. I like doing nothing. It’s fun."
"I don’t think an hour and a half counts as ‘nothing.’" Mack replied with a grin. "At least not in my book."
"YOUR book, huh?" Jodie gave a mock laugh, then quickly rolled over, pinning Mack to the ground. She sat up, letting the blanket fall off her. "Well, Mr. Mackenzie, we’re taking the next few pages from MY book."
"And what book would that be?"
"The Pop-Up Kama Sutra, Zero Gravity Edition." Jodie answered with an evil grin.
"I never should have introduced you to Red Dwarf." Mack said.
"Silence!" Jodie ordered, before leaning down and giving her lover a world class hickey.
Stacy gave Upchuck a last lingering kiss.
"I can’t believe I didn’t do that sooner. You really know what you’re doing." She said.
"800 issues of Hustler will give you some excellent book learning." Upchuck replied. Both chuckled for a moment.
"Well," Stacy said, opening the door. "I need to get going. Got a couple more places to stop by before going to Seven Corners. You going to be there?"
"Perhaps. I’m not sure. It depends on how exhausted I am."
"Well then," Stacy kissed him again. "I guess I’d better say thank you."
"The pleasure was all mine."
Stacy looked back over her shoulder and gave him a lecherous grin that rivaled his own. "No, it wasn’t." She gave him a quick peck on the cheek and headed down the walk, waving goodbye.
Upchuck waved back and closed the door. He went through the cleaning rigamarole again, finishing up just as the knock came at the door. He went to answer it.
"Hello, Mr. Ruttheimer. Shall we get started?"
"Right this way, Ms. Li…"
Jane had left Degas Street behind and was now getting close to the residential area around the Winged Trees country club. She had walked for nearly 20 minutes before she realized where her feet were unconsciously going.
The Sloane house.
Jane sighed audibly. Why did she keep torturing herself like this? It had been nearly two years since—it—happened. And she knew that it just wasn’t meant to be between her and Tom. If they had stayed together, they’d just end up hurting each other more.
But while her head knew all this and accepted it, her heart hadn’t really let it go. She still felt a little stab of jealousy whenever she saw Daria with Tom after the summer. She was glad that she and Daria had managed to stay friends after that summer, and she was genuinely happy that Daria had found someone she was compatible with. She seemed less morose and bitter, and this made her a lot eaiser to cope with during her "bitch periods, " as Jane had privately referred to them as.
But it sill just reinforced the fact that she hadn’t ever found a guy that was right for her. Evan, Tom, and Nathan. She had struck out on all three.
She looked up at the brightly lit sky. The sun remained obstinately overhead when it would have long ago set in the days when people died one at a time.
Three strikes, and in about three hours, she would be out. Permanently.
Jane brought her gaze down from the sky and found she was on the Sloane’s front walk. Or what was formerly the Sloane’s front walk.
The house was deserted. Windows were shattered, the front door was missing. The once well manicured lawn was now overgrown and weeds choked the flower beds. The playground equipment in the yard was rusty and disused. Vines were beginning a slow climb up the support poles. The Sloane residence was dead.
Jane idly wondered if the Sloanes themselves were the same. She hadn’t seen any of them in over seven weeks. Neither had Daria. When the announcement came, the revolution had begun, the lower classes deciding to kick the living shit out of the upper classes. Jane had stayed off the streets during those crazy days.
Things calmed down after a week and both Jane and Daria had decided to see whether Tom was all right. When they had arrived at the house, it looked pretty much as it did now, except the lawn hadn’t become overgrown yet.
The Sloanes had vanished without a trace.
When they had gotten back to Daria’s house, they found a letter in the mailbox. This in itself was odd as the postal service had shut down. The letter was simply addressed to Daria.
It had turned out to be from Tom. Angier Sloane was no dummy. As soon as the announcement had been broadcast, he had packed up his family and gotten them the hell out of Lawndale. Tom had barely managed to scribble out the letter and leave it in the Morgendorffer’s mailbox before he too blew town in that rustbucket Studebaker of his.
Daria hadn’t taken it well.
And who could blame her? Her boyfriend vanished, the world was ending and Daria herself…
Jane stopped that train of thought right there. There was no use thinking about THAT on top of everything else. It was a moot point now anyway. She had to wonder if Daria had even bothered to tell her family. Jake had been remarkably mellow once he didn’t feel the need to succeed anymore.
Daria said she would tell him at least. Jane thought. That is assuming she gets a word in edgewise around her aunts and grandmother.
She looked back up at the house.
Well, Tom, wherever you are, I hope you’re thinking of her. I know she’s thinking about you.
Her watch went off.
"THREE HOURS TO GO! DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR LOVED ONES ARE?"
Jodie and Mack walked arm in arm down the streets of Lawndale. They had left the remnants of their picnic behind, except for one item. A small breifcase that Mack was carrying in his free hand.
"Good grief," Jodie said, looking up at the sky. "Nine o’clock and the sun’s still up there. It’s weird."
"Today is weird." Mack replied. He looked down at the case. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
Jodie looked back at him. "Yes. It means we did SOMETHING before the end came. We did not go gentle into that good night."
"We went kicking and screaming?" Mack asked, half-jokingly.
Jodie gave a small smile. "It’s been a long time since I did any kicking and screaming."
"I’d ask that family of squirrels you frightened back at the park before you make any kind of statement like that."
Jodie playfully elbowed him in the ribs. "Keep that up and you won’t get any more before midnight."
"Hello, Darryl? It’s Sandi Griffin."
"This may sound a little unusual, but I don’t have an escort to the party at Seven Corners tonight. I was wondering if you were free this evening?"
"Um…sorry, Sandi, I’m already going with someone else."
"LISA?! But she’s on the Honor Roll!"
"Well, you’re popular. You don’t need to settle for someone on the Honor Roll."
"Excuse me? What do you mean ‘settle for?’"
"I just meant that—"
"I happen to LIKE being with Lisa, thank you very much."
"Yeah, sure, Sandi. Let me give you a little update; the world ends at midnight, I’m spending time with Lisa, and you’re wasting what little time still left playing the popularity game. You’re pathetic."
"PATHETIC?! Listen you little--"
Sandi threw the phone across the room.
Things were sullen at the Morgendorffer house. Jake was back in the living room watching the news. Ruth had gone in there to try to talk to him. Quinn and Erin had retreated upstairs. The sisters Barksdale remained in the kitchen.
"Well, THAT could have gone better." Amy said.
"Helen," said Rita, "Don’t you think we should go after Daria?"
Helen didn’t reply. Amy and Rita looked at each other.
"Helen, it isn’t your fault." Amy said, "The kid was just angry. Hell, look at it from her perspective. She’s young, she was going places. Then the announcement comes and the next thing she knows, she has two months to live and from what she told me, her boyfriend disappeared without a trace."
"He did?" Rita asked, wide eyed. "She didn’t mention that."
"Well, you haven’t exactly done a lot to engender trust in her, have you?" Amy replied.
"What do you mean by that?" Rita snapped.
"Would you both PLEASE stop it?" Helen said. She turned to face her sisters. "My God, Daria was right. All we ever do is argue. It’s the last day any of us will be around and we’re still arguing."
She shook her head. "No wonder she left. I’d do the same thing. She’s always been sensitive to people arguing around her."
"Well, that may be, but it’s dangerous out there." Rita said, "I still think we should go find her."
"No," Helen said. "She wouldn’t come back. Besides, she’s not stupid. Ever since the riots, she’s never gone out without a canister of pepper spray and a switchblade."
"I thought switchblades were illegal in this state." Rita said.
"They are." Helen answered as she left the kitchen.
Of all the damn days to leave the damn pepper spray in my damn room. Daria thought. She’d reached the shopping district of Lawndale when they showed up. Three deranged looking morlocks in leather. Two had started following her about three blocks back and she couldn’t shake them.
She had also made the mistake of trying to lose them by going down an alley. This was where the third was waiting and they had managed to pin her up against one of the walls. The leader leaned in close and his breath reeked of cheap booze and day old fish. It was all she could do to keep from grimacing.
"Hey there," he wheezed. "You know you shouldn’t be out on the streets all by yourself. It’s not safe."
Daria didn’t reply but moved her hand, very slowly so as not to arouse suspicion in these neanderthals, towards her jacket pocket, where her switchblade was resting.
"You know, me and the boys here would be happy to escort you to whereever you’re going…for a price."
"How much?" Daria asked. It was a stupid question. She knew EXACTLY what these three wanted.
"Well, since money ain’t no damn good," the leader said, holding his chin in one hand. "We’ll just have to take it in trade." He lowered his hand and tugged down on Daria’s jacket zipper. He slowly unzipped her jacket. While he was preoccupied with that, Daria moved her hand closer to her pocket. Just a few more inches.
When her jacket was unzipped, the morlock slipped a hand under the garment and ran his hand along her hip and up her side, over her shirt. Daria fought to keep from retching. The goon even FELT oily.
"I always did have a thing for tiny women." He leered.
"You must like Louisa Alcott then." Daria replied. Her fingertips were in the pocket now. She could feel the knife—
"HEY! What’s she doin’?!" One of the other morlocks cried out. The leader looked down, saw where her hand was and backhanded her across the face.
Daria yelped in pain and sank to her knees. The lead morlock grabbed her arm and twisted it painfully behind her back, forcing her to her feet. The switchblade slipped form her pocket and clattered on the ground, the blade springing open.
"That wasn’t very smart." The leader said, motioning for one of his cronies to hand it to him. The short one grabbed the knife and gave it to him. The leader held the blade close to Daria’s throat.
"Now, why would you want to do something stupid like that? You look like a smart girl. If you hadn’t gone and done this, it wouldn’t have been so bad…now we gotta do things the hard way."
Daria frowned, and positioned one of her feet behind one of the morlock’s. She then reached up and grabbed the hand that held the knife. In one quck movement, she forced the knife blade away from her throat, and hooked her foot behind her captor’s.
The sudden shift in weight caused the morlock to fall backwards. Daria ducked under his flailing arm, and got ready to bolt.
Suddenly, there was two loud reports, similar to a car backfiring. Daria involuntarily covered her ears and felt something thick splash the back of her calves. She turned around to see the lead morlock lying on the ground with a large hole in his head. The taller of the two cronies was slumped up against the wall of alley, blood and brains splattered on the wall behind him. The short crony was now running for his life up the alley. Daria looked towards the mouth of the alley and saw Mack and Jodie standing there, each with a smoking pistol in their hands. An empty breifcase was at Mack’s feet.
"Thanks. I owe you." Daria said, reaching down and retrieving her knife. She took a couple of steps, then stopped. "Um, do either of you have a towel or something?"
"Oh, sorry." Mack said, coming down the alley and handing Daria a handkerchief. Daria quickly wiped off the residue of the former morlock from the back of her legs without looking, then threw it aside. "I assume you don’t want that back."
"You’d be right." Mack said.
"Let’s get out of this alley." Jodie said.
The three walked out of the alley and down to a nearby bus bench. Daria sat down, put the knife back in her pocket and zipped her jacket back up.
"What were you doing out here with only a knife?" Jodie asked. "I mean, I know there aren’t a lot of people out like that, but still…"
"It was stupid." Daria finished. "I know. Normally I have a can of pepper spray as well, but I left the damn thing sitting on my desk at home."
"Well, at least we found you." Mack said. "Are you all right?"
"I’m fine." Daria said. She looked at both of them. "Care to tell me why you’re both in formal wear and carrying matching guns, rather than being at home with your families?"
"Why aren’t you?" Jodie asked.
Daria shrugged. "The official reason, I’m meeting Jane later to wait for midnight. Unofficially, my family decided that the last few hours of existence would be best spent fighting about everything rather than listening to anything anyone else has to say. You?"
"Last date." Jodie said. "And we’re planning on killing each other at midnight."
Daria’s eyes widened for a moment. "You aren’t kidding, are you?"
Jodie shook her head. "It’s symbolic. We’re not going to just sit by and let it happen. One second to midnight, we’re going to pull the triggers and blow each others brains out."
"And why exactly would you want to do that?"
"It means we didn’t go out whimpering. We died on our terms. Not because of something so…pointless."
Daria looked at the determined look on Jodie’s face, and at the quiet resignation in Mack’s and sighed. "You have no idea what pointless is."
Jodie frowned. "The world ending and all of humanity just going to let it happen to them isn’t pointless?"
"There’s worse things." Daria answered.
"What do you mean?"
Daria turned her head to look out at the empty street, and Jodie was surprised to see the mask fall away, revealing a look of utter hopelessness on the other girl’s face.
And then Daria told them.
Quinn walked into Daria’s room. The gray padding reflected her mood.
Dammit, Daria, why did you have to run off like that? She thought.
Quinn looked around the room, finally sitting down on the bed. She had noticed that Daria had been acting weirder than usual, even before the announcement came. She became even more quiet. More…what was the word? Oh, yeah. Morose.
She didn’t seem interested in anything. Most of the people at school hadn’t noticed, but those who knew Daria would have been able to tell. She didn’t seem to have much enthusiasm for anything. Even her insults and smart-ass remarks seemed to be contrived.
Something was bothering her sister, and it looked like she was actually going to say something at dinner before the fight broke out.
Quinn didn’t really appreciate the comment that Daria should be like her. She knew that wasn’t what Daria wanted, and it certainly wasn’t what she wanted. During Quinn’s "intellectual period" she had gotten a taste of what would have happened if Daria were more like her. When she bothered to put the effort into it, Quinn had to admit, her sister was a knockout.
But that wasn’t Daria’s thing, was it? She wanted people to accept who she was without her having to dress up to impress them. Although, Quinn thought, I bet she thought no one noticed when she started wearing that lipstick. It was a small change, but had definitely started after she began dating Tom.
Tom was a nice guy. And in spite of the way they had become a couple, Quinn had to admit her sister could have done worse. Tom was nice, smart, cute, and funny. He was also rich, but Daria didn’t seem to care about that.
On the day Daria found out Tom left, she had stayed in her room, refusing to talk to anyone except Jane. And when Jane went home, she refused to come out. Helen had tried to get her to talk to her but Daria refused to budge. Which was odd, because ever since that whole thing with the refrigerator box, Daria had been more open with everybody, even Quinn. Not so sarcastic, a little more supportive.
But that night, as Quinn was getting ready for bed, she passed by Daria’s room and swore she heard something she couldn’t ever remember hearing.
Daria was crying.
Quinn had wanted to go in, but knew that Daria would never forgive her for catching her crying. So Quinn had gone on to bed, worried.
And now, Daria was out there. And Quinn realized, she would probably never see her sister again. She sighed morosely. I wish I’d gotten the chance to talk to you once more, sis.
Quinn stood up to leave the room. No good staying around here. Daria wasn’t going to be coming back. As she was getting ready to leave, her eyes landed on Daria’s desk.
Her journal was out…
…and it was open.
Quinn frowned and walked over to the desk. Daria NEVER left her journal out, and even if she did, she wouldn’t leave it open. She looked down at the pages.
I’ll just close it for her. She thought. But as she reached down, she caught sight of her name alongside their parents. Her eyes scanned the page, and she sat down in Daria’s desk chair.
When she finished, she looked over at Daria’s bed. She could feel the tears developing in her eyes.
Oh, Daria. Why didn’t you tell us?
Why didn’t you tell me?
Jodie and Mack looked at Daria in shock as she finished.
"So that’s the big secret. Now you see why I say that you have no idea what real pointlessness is?"
"Damn, Daria, that’s…" Mack began.
Daria held up a hand. "Don’t, Mack. I appreciate your sympathy, but I’m sick of people feeling sorry for me."
"So, who else knows?" Jodie asked.
"Aside from you two? Just Jane and Tom. Oh, and the doctor." Daria answered.
"You didn’t tell your parents?"
"What about Quinn?" Jodie asked.
Daria looked pained for a minute then shifted her gaze to her feet. "I didn’t want her to worry about me. For all of her faults, she does have her priorities in order and I didn’t want her to get all agitated over me."
"Were you planning on telling them?"
"At dinner tonight." Daria looked back up and sighed, "But they were so bent on fighting about stupid things that I knew they’d find some way to incorporate it into the fight. I didn’t want that."
"You have to tell your parents, Daria." Jodie said, "They have a right to know. It’s too late to be keeping secrets from them."
"She knows what she’s talking about." Mack said. "She finally told off Michelle."
Daria looked at Jodie. "You did?"
Jodie gave a rueful smile even Daria would have been proud of. "Ding dong, the doormat is dead." Her face became serious. "You need to tell them, even one of them."
"I know, but I don’t want to go back there. They’ll force me to stay, and I have to meet Jane."
"Well, why not have them meet you somewhere?"
"Mom will just haul me back."
"What about your dad?" Mack asked. "I ran into Jane the other day and she said he‘s gotten really mellow in the last couple of months."
Daria considered this. Mack had a point. And her dad had been much more relaxed and less prone to panicking recently. He probably would listen.
"Do either of you know where I can find a working phone?"
Upchuck tossed the book aside when he realized that he’d been reading the same paragraph for the last twenty minutes. He looked at the clock on the wall. Where the hell was she? He had told her that he had a 10 o’clock appointment. As it was, he doubted they’d have enough time for anything more than a couple of minutes of foreplay followed by rushed coital bliss.
Upchuck hated to rush. His crash course in sexual physics had taught him that thngs were much more intense and pleasurable for both parties when they were able to take their time.
He got up and fixed himself another drink. Cola this time. All the booze was starting to go to his head and he didn’t want to pass out before he had finished his appointments. It was after he took his first swallow that he realized that the pressure on his bladder was getting unbearable. He put down the glass and rushed to the bathroom.
He sighed in relief as he evacuated himself. He chuckled. Too busy to remember to take a piss. Never thought that would happen.
As he finished up, the doorbell rang. Upchuck shook, zipped, and flushed. He went back down the hall to the front door and opened it.
"Ah, hello there." He said. "I was worried you weren’t coming."
"Gee, there’s something no woman ever expects to hear from a guy." Jane said as she walked into the house. She put her megaphone down on the coffee table and sat on the couch. "Nice place, Upchuck."
"Thanks. Well, shall we adjourn to the boudoir?"
"What’s the rush? Can’t I even get a slug of cheap whiskey off you?"
"Oh, of course!" Upchuck said. All right, keep the foreplay to a minimum…what a shame. She’s always been so damn exciting. Amazonian, in a way. Hmmm, I wonder if I can keep my ten o’clock waiting for a few extra minutes on the front step?
"You gonna get me that drink or gawk?" Jane asked. Upchuck blinked, smiled and got Jane her drink. Jane took the shot and downed it in one gulp.
"Damn…that’s good stuff." she remarked, swallowing to get the flavor again. "That must have set your folks back a couple of hundred bucks."
"Not really. My grandfather left it to my dad. Closest thing to an heirloom the Ruttheimers had."
"Yeah," Jane stood up. "Well, you said you had another concubine coming at 10 so we better get to it. I hope you don’t mind if we make it a quickie. I have my own appointments to keep."
"No, not at all. If we have to, I can always push my ten o’clock back. I was going to spend the last hour unwinding anyway."
"Oh good." As Jane got up and started following Upchuck back to the bedroom, her watch alarm went off. "Damn. Can you hold on for a second Upchuck? I need to take care of one thing before we get started."
"Okay…sure." Upchuck said, a little perplexed. Jane went back to the living room, picked up the megaphone and went out to the front stoop.
"TWO HOURS TO GO! IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD…"
Jane looked back at him and gave an evil little grin.
"…AND I’M STILL NOT GONNA SLEEP WITH UPCHUCK!"
O’Neill hung up the phone. 150 down, only another…he checked the list…2350 to go.
He sighed. So much for being out of here by ten. If only Angela hadn’t run off like that. It was so like her. If it didn’t provide her with any immediate benefit, she always found a way not to do it.
It was annoying. And he hated himself for thinking like that.
But it was the truth, wasn’t it? Li always took advantage of people. Her faculty, her staff, and most of all her students.
How much money had she misappropriated for school security when it could have been used for up to date text books and supplies? How many times had she stepped on the rights of the students as individuals? And how many times had she cowed the rest of the faculty into going along with her?
Just like she had done with him.
O’Neill looked at the phone, then at the stack of papers. He frowned.
"Fuck this." he said, getting up and going for his coat. Janet was waiting.
They finally found a working payphone at a looted gas station. Miraculously, the looters hadn’t decided to vandalize the phone when they cleaned the store out.
"Well, thanks for coming with me." Daria said.
"Do you want us to stick around?" Jodie asked. Daria shook her head.
"I appreciate it, Jodie, but I’m just going to wait here until Dad shows up. I don’t think anyone else is going to try anything this late."
Jodie nodded. "All right, we’ll be going then." Unexpectedly, Jodie suddenly reached out and hugged Daria. Daria stiffened at the contact.
"Sorry," Jodie said, "It just seemed like the thing to do."
"Yeah, it’s okay." Daria muttered. "You guys better get going. You probably have somewhere you want to…do it."
"We were thinking of the roof of City Hall." Mack said. "It’s got a great view."
"I suppose." Daria answered.
"Are you sure you’re going to be okay, Daria?" Jodie asked again.
"In two hours, I’ll be fine. So will everybody else." Daria answered. "Will you two just go? You guys have been great, but I’m a big girl. I’ll be fine."
"All right," Mack said. He took Jodie’s arm and began to lead her away.
"It’s been really great knowing you, Daria." Jodie said. "We’ll see you later."
Daria waved goodbye and watched as the couple crossed the street and turned the corner.
"No, you won’t." she said quietly.
Upchuck sat down on the couch. A joke. Jane had suckered him. She had been late deliberately. And why? Just to tell the entire town that she still wouldn’t sleep with him.
Normally, he’d be shocked, or annoyed. Not this time. This time, he had to laugh. He saw the humor in it. It was just so like Jane. He didn’t mind it as much as he thought he would. Jane was an island of normalcy in the chaos of the last hours.
They had both laughed after her pronouncement. Then he’d poured them both a shot of the antique whiskey and drunk a toast to the end.
"Well, I have to get going. Still one or two more things to do before midnight." she said.
Upchuck nodded. "It was nice seeing you once more, Jane."
"You know something, Upchuck?" Jane said as she opened the door. "Underneath all the sleaze, you’re not a half bad guy."
"Well, thank you."
"But I’m still not sleeping with you." Jane finished. They had laughed again, made their goodbyes, and then she was gone.
He stretched. Hopefully, his ten o’clock didn’t have the same idea in mind. He wouldn’t put it past her, to be honest.
There was a knock at the door and Upchuck went to answer it. Andrea swept past him into the room. When he closed the door and turned around, she grabbed him and pulled him into a painful liplock, biting down on his lower lip.
"All right, creep, get into the bedroom and get naked," she said. "We got a LOT of ground to cover."
The phone rang. Helen picked it up.
"Daria!" Relief flooded Helen’s voice. "Are you all right? Where are you?"
"I’m at a payphone. Is Dad there?"
"He’s in the other room along with everyone else. We’ve been worried about you, sweetie."
"Uh-huh. Could you put Dad on?"
"Your grandmother is demanding an apology from you."
"Well, she better not hold her breath. On second thought, maybe that would do everybody some good."
"Look, Mom, you, Grandma Ruth, and your sisters aren’t exactly high on my list of favorite people right now. Put Dad on the phone. Now."
Helen put the phone down and looked at it forlornly. "Jake! Could you come in here, please?"
Jake came in from the living room. "What is it, Helen?"
"Daria’s on the phone. She wants to talk to you."
Jake picked up the phone, concerned. "Daria? Where are you? Are you all right?"
"I’m fine, Dad. But I want to talk to you." Daria replied.
"Sure. I’m listening, kiddo."
"Not over the phone. I want to talk to you in person…WITHOUT Grandma Ruth or the Ranting Barksdale Sisters listening in."
"Well, okay…but you know your mother and the rest of the family are worried about you too."
"I know. And I plan on apologizing. But I need to talk to you first. Trust me, Dad. You’ll understand when you get here.
"All right, Daria," Jake said concernedly. "Where are you?"
He wrote down the directions Daria gave him, said good-bye and hung up. He ripped the directions from the notepad and stuck them in his pocket.
"Well, where is she?" Helen asked.
"She wants to talk to me." Jake answered. "I’m going to meet her."
"Great! We’ll take my car." Helen turned to get her keys. Jake grabbed her arm.
"You’re not going, Helen."
"What do you mean I’m not going? She my daughter too, in case you’ve forgotten. And I intend to be here with her at the end."
Jake held Helen by the shoulders. "Helen, I love you very much, but this time I’m putting my foot down. Daria doesn’t want to see you right now. She said she’s going to apologize, but she wants to talk to me first. I’ll try to convince her to come back with me, but from what it sounds like, she already plans to be somewhere with Jane at midnight, and I’m not going to stop her."
"No buts, Helen. She knew where she wanted to be when the end came, and if she wants to spend it with her best friend instead of with us, then I’m willing to indulge her. You know what the Lanes are like. Jane probably doesn’t have anyone to be with at midnight. Who better than Daria?"
Helen looked down and nodded. "You’re right. Just…be careful, Jake."
Jake titled her head up. "I will, and I’ll be back as soon as I can."
The two kissed for a few moments, then Jake picked up his car keys and left.
Sandi hung up the phone and dropped her little red book on the floor.
They had all turned her down.
Every guy she had ever dated all turned her down. They either made plans, or were going out with someone else, or were gone. Of those that she had been able to get ahold of, they had all said basically the same thing.
Forget it, Sandi, I’d rather spend my time with someone who isn’t mind numbingly self-centered and shallow.
How had it happened? The boys used to fall all over themselves trying to go out with her before. What had changed?
Okay, so the world was going to end, but that wouldn’t make everybody suddenly change their priorities, would it?
She sighed and got up off the bed. She looked at herself in the mirror.
She was beautiful. Her makeup was perfect, her hair was perfect, her clothes were perfectly chosen for the party at Seven Corners…
And she was perfectly miserable.
But she refused to let herself stay that way. All right, so her usual dates thought they were too good for her. It was her last day on earth, she could slum for one night. It wasn’t be like there would be any gossip the next day. There were pleanty of less popular people who’d be happy to take her to the par—
Oh screw it. She didn’t want to go to the damn party. She just wanted to get laid before she died.
Well, if THAT’S the case, a voice in her head piped up, You know there’s soemone who’d be happy to oblige.
Sandi thought for a moment. Oh no, NOT him. She’d rather bang a cactus than let that…sleazeball touch her.
You remember both Stacy and Tiffany said they were going to take care of that tonight. You think they had any better luck finding a date tonight? Stacy’s been acting weirder than usual since the announcement and Tiffany…well, Tiffany’s never been the sharpest eyeliner in the box, has she?
"Shut up." Sandi said. She rumaged through her dresser until she found what she was looking for. The Lawndale High Student Directory. There had to be SOMEBODY who’d be willing to take her out in return for a roll in the sack. Somebody other than…him.
She opened the directory to the A’s and began dialing.
Jake made a left at the intersection and spotted Daria sitting on the curb next to the derelict convenience store. He drove up the street a ways, made a U-turn and pulled the car up to the curb.
"Hey, kiddo," he said as Daria slid into the passenger seat.
"Hi," Daria replied. "Thanks for driving out here to meet me."
"Um…how is everybody back at the house?"
"Well, Quinn and Erin went upstairs. You mother and aunts are trying to get along and your grandmother…well, you know how she is."
"She’s cursing me out as politely as she can, isn’t she?" Daria said.
Jake sighed. "Pretty much, yeah."
"Why do you put up with her, Dad? It’s obvious she still thinks you’re 8 years old and she’s so wrapped up in how miserable she is that she’s never happy unless everything is exactly the way she wants it."
"Sounds like someone not sitting too far from me." Jake murmured.
"What?" Daria said.
"It’s a family tradition. Your grandmother always wanted things her way, your grandfather had to have things his way. Look at your mother and her sisters. Look at Quinn and you. Look at me and your mother. We all want things to run the way we think they should be run. That’s why we all get on each other’s nerves. We all want to be in control."
"And in spite of it all, we still stick together. That’s what family is, Daria. Sticking together with your relatives no matter how crazy they make you..or how crazy you make them. And to be honest…sometimes I enjoy letting your grandmother baby me."
"You certainly milked all that was worth back when you had your heart attack."
Jake laughed. "Don’t tell anyone, but that was probably the most relaxed week of my life. Except for the damn bed…but that’s not important right now. What did you want to talk to me about?"
" Well, I…" Daria swallowed. "You know I’ve been having migraines lately."
"Yes." Jake answered. "You really should have seen a doctor if they’ve been that persistent."
"I did, actually. About six months ago."
"What? Why didn’t you tell us?"
"This was just after the thing with the refrigerator box, and I didn’t want you or Mom to worry about me. I also didn’t want Mom terrorizing the hospital staff again."
Jake nodded. "Yeah, Mom does tend to overreact when someone has a medical problem. What did you do?"
"I had Tom drive me to a doctor on the other side of town. He gave me some pain killers and told me to come back if the migraines didn’t leave in two weeks. They didn’t, and the doctor tried a few other things. To make a long story short, nothing he recommended got rid of the pain and he said he wanted to do a CAT scan."
"I don’t remember that being on the insurance statements?"
"I paid them directly."
"How did you do that?" Jake asked, "Prescriptions and medical tests are ridiculously expensive."
"I’ve been saving about 60% of my allowance since I was ten years old. I had soime money saved up, and Tom and Jane covered the rest."
Daria gave a small smile. "I guess I can tell you. It turns out that you were kissing up to the wrong people this whole time, Dad. It turns out that the Lanes are the richest family in Lawndale. There’s been Lanes here ever since the town was founded. I did some research after I found out. The town was originally named Lanedale, it was changed in 1903 after the family insisted. Seems to be a trait of the Lanes, make your money on your own until the bulk of it gets left to you, be artistically eccentric, and never, EVER flaunt your wealth."
"Dammit!" Jake blurted out. "Oh, sorry, Daria. Go on."
Daria smiled at her father’s outburst, then continued. "The results of the CAT scan came back a couple of months ago." Daria’s voice choked up slightly. She looked out the window and closed her eyes.
"Daria? What did the CAT scan show?" Jake asked, already having a suspicion. Daria turned back to him, tears evident in her eyes. The sight of Daria letting down her walls was enough to confirm his suspicions.
"It…I…I have a tumor. In my brain." Daria blurted out.
Then, in the next moment, Jake found himself holding his little girl in his arms, comforting her as her internal resolve collapsed and all the pain came out in a flood of tears.
The Sisters Barksdale, Erin, and Ruth were sitting in the living room. The TV was on, tuned to the local news.
"And this is the scene at Seven Corners," Meg Rosata was saying as the screen showed a large crowd assembling at Lawndale’s most confusing intersection. "As the inhabitants of Lawndale gather together to celebrate..and to mourn." The screen returned to the newscaster. "All over the world, similar celebrations are occuring in New York, Washington D.C., Toronto, Tokyo, Moscow, Sydney, and other major cities.
"Since we’re running more or less informally tonight," the reporter continued, "I’d like to take a minute to say thanks to Dave, our cameraman and to Jerry who’s running the board, basically keeping me on the air tonight. I want to assure you that we will be sticking with you right up until the end…"
"Now that’s dedication." Rita said, sipping her coffee.
"Although I’m sure that poor woman would rather be with her family or boyfriend right now." Ruth said.
"And how do you know she doesn’t have a GIRLfriend?" Amy said. "It is the 21st Century, you know."
"Amy!" Rita and Helen said. Ruth glared at the offending Barksdale.
"In my day, we didn’t discuss such things at family gatherings." She said coldly.
"In your day, women were seen and not heard." Amy retorted.
"Enough!" Helen said. "Isn’t it bad enough that we’re all alone here until Jake comes back? Can’t we be civil to each other for an hour or so?"
"Is he bringing Daria back?" Erin asked.
"I don’t know. I don’t think so." Helen answered.
"Well, why did he leave then?" Ruth demanded. "If it isn’t to bring that ungrateful daughter of yours home?"
"Ungrateful?" Helen snapped. "Daria happens to be a very intelligent young lady who appreciates her family a lot more than we give her credit for!"
"Oh? Then why did she storm out of here, then?"
"Oh, it couldn’t have been your winning personality, could it?" Amy said.
"Amy…" Helen said in a warning tone of voice. "I can handle this."
"Like you handle your children?" Ruth said.
Helen flushed red for a moment, then took a deep breath. "You know, Ruth," she began calmly,"I’ve wanted to tell you something for some time now. Daria was right about you. You think that the natural progression of women should have stopped with you. You expect every woman you meet to be just like you. Well, let me tell you something, sister, your lifestyle wasn’t the greatest, and if we had stopped where you were, we’d still be living in an era of repression and unappreciation. And as for the way I raise my children—"
"Quinn?" Erin said suddenly. "What’s wrong?"
The argument stopped abruptly. Quinn had come down the stairs. Her eyes were red and puffy. She was holding a battered composition book, with a page bookmarked.
"I found this." she said, holding the book out to Helen. Helen quirked an eyebrow and took it from her.
"Daria’s diary," she said. She noticed the bookmark and looked at her youngest daughter. Quinn nodded. Helen opened the book to the marked page.
"What’s in here, Quinn?"
Jane strode up to the front of Lawndale High. The sun was still high overhead, and it seemed brighter than it had been when the day started. The parking lot was barren, and a warm breeze blew by, ruffling her hair.
This was it. The final stop.
She had said goodbye to her brother. She had watched the citzenry of Lawndale at their worst. She had come to grips with her love life. She had pulled her bait-and-switch on Upchuck. Now, there were only two things left; deliver her last timekeeper’s announcement…
…and say goodbye to the most important person in her life.
The watch beeped for the final time. Jane raised the megaphone to her lips.
"ONE—" Her voice caught. She swallowed and wiped the unexpected tears from her eyes. She put the megaphone back up against her mouth.
"ONE HOUR TO GO! PARTY LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW…"
She swallowed again.
"…BECAUSE THERE ISN’T! THAT IS ALL!"
She tossed the megaphone aside and walked resolutely into the school.
Daria sat back in the passenger’s seat. Jake handed her a tissue from the glove compartment. She wiped her nose and eyes and pocketed the tissue.
"Thanks." she said quietly.
"That’s all right." Jake said.
"No. I meant, thanks for being my dad. Even though I thought you were a little flaky at times, you were always there for the rest of us. And you ran your own business on top of it all. I was a lot luckier than I thought I was."
Jake blinked. "Well, gee…thanks kiddo—er—Daria."
Daria looked at him. "Don’t tell anyone, but I really don’t mind it when you call me ‘kiddo.’" She gave him a small smile that was gone almost as soon as it was there. "There’s still more to this story. You want to hear it?"
Jake nodded. "Go ahead."
Daria sighed. "The doctor told me that the tumor had progressed to the point of being inoperable, at least not without substantial risk of me losing a good amount of motor control. He gave me about 4-6 months to live. A year if I was careful. Needless to say, I wasn’t in the best of moods on the way home. Jane and Tom tried to get me to talk about it, but I didn’t want to. And then the real kicker came.
"When I got home, you, Mom, and Quinn were clustered around the TV. The news was on. And that was when the announcement came." Daria paused for a moment, then continued. "In that moment, everything hit me. I was dying, the world was going to end…and I just didn’t care."
"So that’s why you’ve been so down the last couple of months."
Daria nodded. "I figured nobody would notice, or if they did, they’d just assume it was because everything was ending tonight." She sat back in the seat, deflated. "So that’s it. I wasn’t going to tell anyone after the big mess at dinner, but I ran into Jodie and she said I should tell somebody in the family. I thought of you, because you seemed to be the most likely to listen."
The two sat in silence for a minute.
"So, now what?" Daria asked.
"I don’t know. Do you want to go back home? You really should tell the rest of the family."
Daria shook her head. "If I know Quinn, they already know by now."
"I had a backup plan in case the usual result of putting Mom and her sisters under the same roof occurred. I wrote a letter to you, Mom and Quinn explaining all this in my journal, and I left it open on my desk. Quinn should have been in my room by now wondering why I left. She should have found it."
"All right," Jake said, "So what do you want to do?"
"I should start heading for the school if I want to get there before midnight. That’s where Jane and I are meeting."
"Do you want a ride?" Jake asked.
Daria shook her head again. "It’s not that far, and besides, you probably ought to get back home with enough time to explain all this before the end."
Jake nodded. "You have a point there."
They sat in silence for a few more minutes, neither of them moving. Then, Daria got out of the car. Jake followed suit.
"What’s up?" Daria asked. "You didn’t need to get out."
"I did to do this." Jake replied, wrapping his arms around Daria in a tight embrace. "I don’t say this often enough, but I’m proud of you, kiddo."
Daria stiffened for a moment, then relaxed and returned her father’s embrace. "I love you, Dad."
Jake didn’t say anything. The two stood there for a while, holding the embrace. When they finally separated, both had tears in their eyes.
"Damn wool blend suit." Daria said, wiping her eyes with the tissue. Jake smiled as he wiped his own tears away.
"Yeah," he said.
"Um…tell everybody I’m sorry for barging out like that." Daria said. "And tell Mom and Quinn that…I love them too."
"I will." Jake said. He opened to door to the Lexus. "I love you too, Daria."
Daria felt her throat tighten. She couldn’t speak, so she raised her hand and waved. Jake returned the wave, and got back into the car. The engine started up and he drove off. As the car receded in the distance, the lump went away and Daria whispered,
Mack reared back and kicked the door with all his might. The lock finally gave way and the roof access door sprang open. He took the briefcase and used it to wedge the door open.
The two of them walked out onto the graveled roof of City Hall. They looked out over the town. In the distance, they could hear the sound of the crowd gathering at Seven Corners.
"Should we get a radio or something?" Mack asked.
"I think we’ll be able to hear the countdown fine from here." Jodie answered.
They stood for a moment in silence. Then, without a word being spoken, they grabbed each other and fell to the roof, intending to have one more moment of coital bliss before the end.
Sandi steeled herself and walked up to the door. She ignored the voice in her head that was now laughing at her. Her options were shot. This was her last chance.
She took a deep breath and raised her fist to knock on the door. As she did so, it opened and that weird Goth chick…what was her name? Agnes? Allison? ANDREA, that was it…came out.
"Thanks for the ride, slave." She called back over her shoulder. She truend and stood face to face with Sandi. "What the hell are you looking at?"
"Um…nothing." Sandi answered. Andrea gave her a dirty look and brushed past her. Sandi looked into the doorway of the house.
"Um…hello? Charles? Are you in here?"
"Uhhnnnn…Sandi? Is that you –ow—dearest?"
"Um, yeah. Is this a bad time?"
"No, no! Ow. Not at all. In fact, you got here just in time. Could you come in here?"
"Okaaay…" Sandi hesitantly went into the house. "Oh my GOD! What were you doing?!"
"Don’t ask. Could you loosen that, and then see if you can find the key to these damn manacles?"
Janet Barch answered the door.
"Well, it’s about time, Skinny! Where the hell have you—"
"Shut up, Janet, and kiss me."
"DAMMIT!" Jake cursed. He skidded the Lexus to a halt and got out of the car. The back driver’s side tire had blown out.
"Great! Now I’ll never get back home in time." He sighed and reached into his jacket pocket for his cell phone.
We’re sorry, all service is currently down. We are working as quickly as possible to restore service to our members. Please try your call again later. Thank you for using LawnStream Cellular.
"Damn cell phones." Jake muttered. He stood up, turned around, and came face to face with a 15-year-old in a oversized tuxedo holding a shotgun to his face.
The kid giggled. "Something wrong, old man?"
Jake didn’t answer.
"Huh? Something wrong? Huh?"
A girl across the street called to the kid. "Come on, Davy, forget it. We’re going to be late."
"Shut up. So what about it, old man? You got a problem?"
Jake was calm. It hit him that this must have been the same way Daria felt when the announcement came. "Look, son, you can threaten me all you want with that, but I’m not afraid of you."
"Oh yeah?" The kid pumped the shotgun.
"Yes." Jake answered. "In about half an hour, it’ll be all over anyway. So what’s the point in being afraid? You don’t scare me. And neither does that gun."
The kid raised the shotgun. Jake didn’t flinch. He looked directly into the kid’s eyes. They were wild…paranoid…frightened.
"You’re the one who’s afraid."
Daria walked down the halls of Lawndale High. She took her time. If Jane was here, she wasn’t going anywhere, and if she wasn’t, it wouldn’t matter. There were memories here. Some good, mostly bad. But even the bad ones were good.
Lawndale High had been the setting for some of her best accompishments; stopping Ms. Li’s rampant sell outs, for example. Like the fashion agency, those annoying DJs, oh yes and the Ultra Cola fiasco. Couldn’t forget that. Even though the sight of the cheerleader squad all dressed as cans of soda was one of the few things about that whole mess that actually found amusing.
She idly wondered what Kevin and Brittany were doing…then decided that was a stupid question. Those two nimrods probably hadn’t even figured out it was the end of the world yet.
Upon reflection, she supposed her days at Lawndale High weren’t any worse than any other American teenager’s. A little more surreal in some instances (she was still trying to figure out if that whole "Holiday" thing had actually happened or not) but probably no worse.
She turned the corner, passed by the lockers she and Jane had used. She smiled. The entire bank of lockers had the message "D & J Were Here, So Find Your Own Damn Lockers" spray painted across it in neon green. Jane was here.
She quickened her pace and eventually came to O’Neill’s classroom. This was it. They had decided to end where they began, in the same stupid classroom where they first met.
She opened the door. Jane was sitting on top of a desk, idliy doodling on the surface of another desk. She looked up and smiled.
Daria walked in and sat on the desk behind the one Jane was sitting on. The two friends faced each other.
"So, you tell the family about the tumor?" Jane asked.
Daria shook her head. "Didn’t get a chance. I got fed up and split. I called Dad though. I told him. He’s on his way back to tell everybody else, but I’m pretty sure Quinn’s found my journal by now."
Jane nodded. "I know I’ve said it before, but that whole thing really sucks."
Daria shrugged. "I don’t mind so much anymore. At least I told somebody."
They sat in silence for a few moments.
"So," Daria said, "You go see Upchuck?"
Jane smirked. "Relax, we didn’t do it. I went there just to embarrass him."
Daria relaxed. "Thank God. I was worried you’d lost your mind when you told me you were going to go over there."
Jane chuckled. "Nah, I have more taste than that. Besides, I already took care of that little problem a while ago."
"Yeah…Trent was incredible. You have no idea what you missed."
"WHAT?!" Daria yelped. "You…and Trent?!"
Jane gave a LARGE grin. "Gotcha."
Upchuck flipped over onto his back, exhausted. Sandi propped herself up on her elbows.
"What’s the matter?"
"Sorry. It’s been a long day. Just give me ten minutes."
Helen, Rita, Amy, Erin, Ruth and Quinn looked at each other.
"No wonder she got so mad." Erin said. "She wanted to tell us."
"And we were so wrapped up in our own petty arguments…" Amy left the sentence unfinished.
Silence reigned for a few minutes.
"Helen," Ruth began. "This isn’t easy for me to say, but…I’m glad Jake married you. I know I haven’t always shown it, but compared to some of the other girls Jake brought home, you were the only one I really approved of. And if he hadn’t married you, you wouldn’t have had two wonderful girls."
"I’m sorry, too, Helen." Rita said. "You were right. I was always Mom’s favorite and I milked it for all it was worth."
Helen nodded. "I’m sorry, too. I know you both mean well, and I…I ‘ve never been that good at admitting when I need help. Or when I’m wrong."
"That’s for sure." Amy said. Helen and Rita looked up sharply, but relaxed when they saw that Amy was grinning. "Gotcha. If you three can bury the hatchet, I’m sure I can too."
"Oh, Amy…" Helen and Rita said.
The three sisters all embraced each other. Behind them, Ruth smiled. And Erin and Quinn hugged.
Well, Daria, Quinn thought, looks like your letter had the effect you wanted. I just wish you were here with us.
I love you, sis.
The blood pooled in the gutter. The flow slid down from the street, from underneath the tire. It dripped down from the side of the blue Lexus, and from the cuff of the charcoal gray wool blend suit.
Jake Morgendorffer stared lifelessly across the street. He knew he was dying. The end was going to come a few minutes sooner for him than for everybody else. Despite it all, he had a serene smile on his face. He’d died like a man. Without fear, and with the respect of his daughter.
I love you, Daria. I love you, Quinn.
There was a brief spasm of pain as he used the last of his strength to rebalance himself into a sitting position. The sun overhead had grown incredibly bright and the details were becoming lost in the whiteness. Jake felt an immense sense of relief flooding over him.
I love you, Helen…
Upchuck and Sandi moaned together. Sandi couldn’t believe it. It was so damn GOOD! She had never felt so good. If she had known sex was this good, she would have done it a long time ago.
And if she had known Upchuck knew what the hell he was doing, she might have considered lowering her standards.
The two continued to move against each other, searching for release.
Jodie and Mack, now dressed and facing each other, sitting on chairs they had brought up from one of the offices, held their pistols to each other’s heads.
"Wait until the last possible second." Jodie said. Mack nodded.
Angela Li poured out the last of the scotch, and raised it in a toast.
"Here’s to Laaaaaawwwwndale High…and to me, for making it what it is!"
"AAAAAAHHHHH, Oh, JANET!"
In the crowd at Seven Corners, Stacy and Tiffany clincked their wine bottles together.
"To the Fashion Club!" they cheered.
The crowd continued the countdown.
Jodie and Mack heard the coundown clearly. They stared into each other’s eyes, waiting for the signal from the other that it was time. Their fingers tensed on the triggers, waiting for the signal…
And then, both saw it at the same time. The signal. They slowly lowered the pistols. They looked deeply into each others eyes. And then they kissed. Deeply, passionately. The simple act expressing the feelings they—
Upchuck kept thrusting, Sandi kept bucking.
"Oh YES! YESS, CHARLES! DO IT!"
"AHHHHHHHHHH! OH GOOOOODDDDD!!"
The Morgendorffers and the Barksdales were standing in the center of the living room. The sun blared through the window growing brighter and brighter.
They said nothing, just held onto each other, letting the contact bond them in ways they hadn’t anticipated.
I love you JakeDariaHelenAmyRitaQuinnErinRuthMomDad—
Jane and Daria sat in the classroom facing each other, saying nothing. What was there left to say?
They heard the countdown coming from the small radio Jane had found in O’Neill’s desk.
They looked at each other, trying to prolong the last few seconds they had. Jane gave one of her smiles. Daria did likewise, and Jane was surprised to see a single tear running down Daria’s face.
They leaned forward and embraced each other. Each holding the other tightly.
I love you, Jane.
I love you, Daria.
As they held each other, Daria leaned forward even more, so her lips were close to Jane’s ear.
"Daria" and related characters are copyright © 2001 MTV Networks and Viacom International.
This fic was inspired in part by the film "Last Night" released by Lion’s Gate Films. Written and Directed by Don McKellar.
Special thanks to Brian Taylor for being a sounding board, Jill "Leopard Lady" Friedman for her scene suggestions (especially the last one.), and, as always, Leigh Adamkeiwicz for encouraging me even when I didn't want to work on this sucker.