Disclaimer: Daria and associated characters are owned by MTV. This is fan fiction written for entertainment only. No money or other negotiable currency or goods have been exchanged. Original characters and plot copyright Richard J. Lobinske. 2009.
This is the seventy-first story in the Falling into College series.
Dressed in a crisp, expertly cut business suit, Jodie Landon sat patiently while the man behind the desk examined a stack of papers.
The senior loan officer of Lawndale State Bank smiled, rose and offered his hand. "Congratulations, Ms. Landon. You're pre-approved for the loan. It's a pleasure doing business with you."
"Also a pleasure," Jodie said. She cracked a smile and said, "It's a little hard to believe that five years ago, I was here doing the same thing for a high school Economics project."
"I remember," the loan officer said. "Whatever happened to your partner from back then?"
"The last time I talked to Daria, she and her fiancé had been accepted for grad school at Williamstown."
"So you're going solo?"
"That's right. Since there's nobody in my life right now and I'll graduate in a month and a half, it seems like the best time to start my own business."
"Well then, good luck."
The living room was a disaster of papers, framed paintings, sculptures and various bits of jewelry as Jane, CC and Nell heatedly discussed their latest project.
"It's not just who you know, it's what you're willing to do with their cigars," CC said.
Holding up a small butane torch, Nell said, "I can light them up with this."
"Amusing, but not exactly a winning strategy," Jane said. "I think it's time to say, 'Screw them all,' and set up shop for ourselves."
"Gallery or studio?" CC said.
"Both," Jane replied. "We make our stuff, we sell our stuff and we sell stuff from other artists not willing to learn the finer details of being cigar aficionados."
"Great idea," Nell said. "But how do we get started?"
CC said, "Well, we're going to need startup money."
"I'm already up to my crutches in student loan debt," Nell said.
"I'm in deep enough myself," Jane said, "Even with the money from Mom and Dad when they sold the house to Trent."
"Plus, we need a business plan," CC said. "God, I hate to say it, but we need to talk to a business consultant."
Jane said, "Wait a minute. I know one."
"Who?" Nell said.
CC said, "Excellent."
Nell said, "I seem to remember him being a little...out there."
Jane shrugged. "Considering my family, I can't talk. But come on, he can't suck that bad if he's landed accounts like Le Grande Hotel and Nutty, Nutty, Whatever World."
"The mall nut stand with the stupid squirrel costumes?" CC asked.
"Yeah. Daria hated working there."
"Daria worked at a nut stand?" Nell said. "When did that happen?"
"When we were juniors in high school," Jane said. "It didn't last long."
"I can imagine," Nell said. "So, since you know him better, are you going to call Mr. Morgendorffer?"
"I suppose I should."
CC said, "What, his wife wouldn't appreciate him getting a call from a stripper?"
"A little over two months away and Daria's still acting like it's no big deal," Quinn said as she walked along the beach with Q.
"From the sounds of it, I think you and your mom are doing enough stressing for your sister," he said.
"She'd better appreciate it."
"I'm sure she does. After all, she sent your birthday present on time this year."
"That was kind of amazing. Michael probably reminded her."
Q laughed and said, "Boy, does she have him trained."
"He's a history geek. He lives to remember dates."
"So, where does that leave me?"
"As the guy that knows how to get any bug out of my house on command."
"All those years of training have paid off."
Quinn nudged him and said, "You're good to keep around."
"Oh, you think so?"
"Well, would you like to keep me around some more?"
"What do you mean?"
"I'm going to be losing my roommate at the end of the semester. I know my place isn't a short walk to the beach like the Tri-Theta house, but I like to think it includes some desirable amenities."
Quinn stopped and faced him. "Are you asking me to move in with you?"
She hugged him close and rested her face against his chest. "That's..."
"I'm asking a lot, I know."
Quinn closed her eyes. "Q, can I think about it?"
He stroked her hair and said, "Take your time."
"Like, maybe a couple of days?"
"As many as you like."
Jake looked away from the spreadsheet displayed on his office computer and rubbed his tired eyes. "Damn screen with damn tiny print."
He was glad to hear the telephone ring and take his mind off balancing his books. "Morgendorffer Consulting."
Jodie said, "Hi, Mr. Morgendorffer. This is Jodie Landon."
"Heya, Jodie. Do you want to intern again this summer?"
"Um, no. I'm graduating soon."
"Oh yeah, so is Daria."
"She told me."
"So, Jodie. If you're not interested in working for me this summer, what's up?"
"I have a business proposal for you. Do you have some time free tomorrow afternoon?"
"Sure, Jodie. How does four o'clock sound?"
"Four. I'll be there. Thanks, Mr. Morgendorffer."
"Morgendorffer Consulting," Jake said, answering the phone a few minutes before quitting time.
"Hi, Mr. Morgendorffer. This is Jane. Jane Lane."
"Hey, Jane! It's been a while. How are you doing?"
"I'm doing okay."
"That's great. This is certainly a day for hearing from Daria's friends."
"Huh?" Jane said.
"I talked with Jodie about an hour ago and we have an appointment to meet tomorrow."
"Oh, that's interesting. Maybe she wants you to be a reference or something."
"I bet you're right. Hey, do you need me as a reference?"
"Well, I was hoping to use your professional services as a business consultant."
"I think I can talk the boss into giving you a big discount."
Jane said, "Thanks, Mr. Morgendorffer. My roommates Cecelia and Nell want to go in with me to set up an art studio and gallery. We've got the art end covered, but we really need help with the business plan end."
"That's right up my alley!"
"That's why I called you. Well, besides the fact that you're Daria's dad and I was hoping to get a discount. After all, we're three starving artists with student loans to pay off. We'll use any leverage we can get."
Jake opened his spreadsheet program. "Okay, now what kind of sales are you hoping to get in your first year?"
"Um, I have no idea," Jane sheepishly admitted. "At least enough to keep us fed and off the streets."
Jake stopped himself from sighing and said, "Why don't we start from the beginning?"
In the kitchen, mixing a large smoothie for herself, Fran said, "Wow, Quinn! What did you say?"
On the other side of the counter, Quinn said, "That I needed to think about it."
"Pragmatic, as always," Fran said.
Quinn giggled and said, "Years ago, my sister would've fallen over to hear someone say that."
"I would've been jumping up and down and going crazy."
"It's a big step."
"Not as big as your sister's."
"Oh, God. Now that would've really freaked me out."
"It would've been fun to watch, though."
Quinn glared at her friend. "You're evil."
Fran grinned, said, "I've been called that before," and started the blender.
When the noise stopped, Quinn said, "I mean, how do you live with a guy?"
"Like I have a clue?"
"What if he doesn't put the toilet seat down?"
Fran poured the thick concoction into a large tumbler. "He'll either learn to put it down or you'll learn to look first."
"Why don't you talk to Daria about this? She might even have some training tips for you. Slip it into your next wedding planning call."
"Actually, that's almost done, not that Daria did that much except to say, 'okay' or 'absolutely not,'" Quinn said. "All that's really left is for Mom to confirm the lady doing the ceremony."
"That hardly seems fair."
"Yeah, but someone had to step in or she would've had two paper streamers and a sheet cake from the PayDay bakery."
"I thought you said she got a great dress made up."
"Okay, she did that on her own."
Fran finished off the smoothie in a long gulp and said, "You could call your mother."
"Okay," Quinn said in surrender. "I'll call Daria."
Daria paced back and forth in her apartment and grumbled, "Why didn't I just go ahead and do it instead of having Mom ask her to officiate at the wedding?"
"Meow?" Bump said, curled on the sofa and watching her human with bemusement.
"Maybe we should've gotten married in Vegas when we had the chance and avoided all of this hassle."
"After all, what could be more romantic than a ceremony performed by an Elvis impersonator?"
"Oh, right. A Liberace impersonator."
Daria scrambled to answer the phone when it rang. "Hello?"
"Hi, Daria," Quinn said. "Do you have a few minutes to spare with the poor sister who spent hours and hours working on your wedding?"
"Hi, Quinn. I'm waiting to hear from Mom right now, but I can spare a few minutes. What's up?"
"I've got a guy question for you."
"Um, what kind of guy question?" Daria warily said.
Quinn rapidly said, "How do you train a guy to put the toilet seat down?"
"You live in a sorority house. I would think that mob rule and public lynchings would be adequate to keep any stray males in line."
"Not for here, silly."
Daria pondered a second and then said, "Are you planning to move in with Q?"
"He asked me. I haven't decided, yet."
"The seat up or down thing is as bad as which way to hang the paper roll and is something that you two will have to work out for yourselves."
"That's not a lot of help."
"I know, but it's the most honest thing you can tell someone."
"Things are working out for you and Michael and I was hoping that you would have some tips."
"Nothing more than to be honest with each other. Changing life situations change relationships. If someone ever develops a way to predict how relationships change, they would make a fortune selling it."
"You're still not helping."
"Do you like him?"
"Then if you think it's worth it, take a chance."
"Take a chance? What happened to thinking things through?"
"That's where the whole, 'if you think it's worth it,' part comes in."
"And be honest with yourself."
"I'll try. Um, thanks, Daria."
"Good luck, Quinn. Whichever way you decide."
Wearing the same suit she wore to meet with the bank manager, Jodie accepted a seat from Jake, placed a new briefcase on her lap and opened it. "Thanks for seeing me, Mr. Morgendorffer."
"Hey, no problem, Jodie," he said. "Let me finish up this stuff I'm doing for your friend Jane and I'll be right with you."
"Yeah. She's trying to start up an art gallery/studio thing with her roommates."
"It's good to hear about her planning ahead. Speaking of planning, how is Daria's wedding coming along?"
"Helen and Quinn are taking care of most of it, but Ron and I have a great barbeque planned for the rehearsal dinner."
"I bet it's going to taste great. Anyway, I came here for a good reason."
Jake said, "Do you need a letter of reference? I've got a bang-up one already written for you!"
"Thanks, Mr. Morgendorffer, but a letter of reference is not why I'm here," Jodie said while removing papers from her briefcase. "I've very much enjoyed the business consulting work I've done for you the last three years."
"You've done a great job, Jodie. I can't count all the new clients you've brought in. I've only lost a couple of them, too."
"Thanks. I also remember that you stress a lot about your clients."
"Stress? I've been on a first name basis with stress for years. We're old buds," Jake said, his voice slightly rising. "There have been times I've wanted to take this whole business and chuck it out the window!"
"I think that my proposal will help on both counts."
"I've long dreamed of being my own boss and running a consulting company aimed at minority startups."
"You can do it, Jodie."
Jodie laid the business plan and loan approvals on the desk in front of Jake. "Working for you has given me an excellent start. Another part of a good start is to have a client base. As you can see, I have, based on your business trends over the last three summers, sufficient bank financing to make a generous offer to purchase Morgendorffer Consulting."
"Purchase Morgendorffer Consulting?"
"It would give you the chance to retire and relax, or use the proceeds to move on to some new avenue of business that might interest you. I think it's a winning proposal for both of us."
"Purchase Morgendorffer Consulting?"
"I know this is a big step, especially coming out of the blue. That's why I'm going to leave you copies of the proposal, my business plan and the bank approval so that you can look everything over before making a decision."
"Purchase Morgendorffer Consulting?"
Jodie closed her briefcase and stood. "Thanks for seeing me, Mr. Morgendorffer. Take a look at everything and get back to me when you decide. My cell phone number is in there."
"Purchase Morgendorffer Consulting?"
Jodie sighed and went to the door. "I know you have a lot to think about, so take care, Mr. Morgendorffer."
After Jodie left, Jake stared at the door. "Purchase Morgendorffer Consulting?"
Approaching eighty, Ms. Carol Murphey grudgingly admitted to herself that she was slowing down, as evidenced by the cane she now needed to get around. Despite that, she kept herself active at the State Bar Association by serving on the Board of Directors. After a courteous knock, she entered Helen Morgendorffer's office and said, "Good afternoon, Helen. I got your message."
"Oh, Carol, you didn't have to come down here," she replied.
Carol took a seat and said, "Oh, I'm old-fashioned enough to answer such questions in person. Telephones are so impersonal and e-mails...I'm not going to go there. Anyway, the answer is that I will be thrilled. It's been years since I've officiated at a wedding."
"Daria will be pleased to hear that."
"I guess I made an impression on her."
"You've made an impression on many of us."
Carol held her cane up and said, "Feminist lawyers with canes. We're great for that."
Helen caught the joke and held hers up. "That, we are."
Helen glanced at the Caller ID on her phone when it rang. Seeing Jake's number, she said, "I better get this." She picked it up and said, "Hello, Jake."
"Helen!" Jake said. "It's a hostile takeover! What am I going to do?"
Confused, she said, "A what?"
"A hostile takeover!"
"Takeover of what?"
"Hold on." Helen pushed the mute button on her phone and said, "Carol, do you mind?"
Rising from the chair, Carol said, "Not at all, Helen. We can talk later and you can tell me about your daughter's plans."
After Carol left, Helen removed the mute and said, "Okay, Jake. Slow down and tell me what's going on."
"Jodie's trying to buy me out!"
"Jodie? Jodie Landon?"
"That sounds like something Michelle would try to do, but not Jodie."
"It's all right in front of me!"
"Jake, I'll leave work early and meet you at home. We can look things over and see what's going on."
"I'll be right there!" Jake said. It took two tries to properly hang up the phone before he grabbed the papers and rushed out of the office. After he got to his car, he had to run back to the office to lock the front door.
Helen called her receptionist and said, "I'm going to be gone for the rest of the afternoon."
"Okay, Helen," the woman said. "I'll send your calls directly to voicemail."
On her way home from work, Daria exited the subway station and heard the missed call tone on her cell phone as it again received a signal. Walking along the sidewalk, she checked it and saw Jodie's number. Curious, she dialed and waited.
After two rings, Jodie answered, "Hello."
"Hi, Jodie, it's Daria. I missed your call."
"Yeah. I wanted to touch base with you, just in case something goes a little off."
"What kind of something?"
"You've always been direct. I made an offer to buy your dad's business."
Daria whistled. "How did he take it?"
"We both know how he can jump to unusual conclusions."
Knowing her father, Daria said, "Like hostile takeover?"
"It's a friendly offer and I'll drop it if he says, 'no.'"
Probing, Daria said, "If Dad does turn you down, what will you do?"
"My fallback plan is to use the financial backing to start up my own company. You'll be amused that I got the backing from the same guy we talked to on that economics project."
"That is amusing. But back to the point, where will you start your company?"
"The Baltimore area. That's why I'm hoping Jake accepts the offer. I don't want to be his competition."
"So in a way, it is a hostile takeover."
"If you look at it in a certain way," Jodie admitted. "I hope you're not going to be mad at me, but if you don't mind me saying, it would do him some good. There were times when I wondered if he would go all DeMartino on me."
"I'm not mad at you. I know he's doing better, but I still worry about how much Dad stresses about work. Especially after Mom's stroke." Daria stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, forcing others to abruptly go around her. "I think I have an idea to help both of you."
"I'll need to work out a few details and then I'll call you back."
Setting down an art appraisal guide, CC rubbed her eyes and said, "I won't rag on business majors again. Damn, this is a lot of work."
Seated at the table with CC and Jane, Nell tapped numbers on the keyboard of her laptop and said, "No kidding."
"We'd better get used to it, if we're going to pull this off," Jane said, crossing out something on a page and writing a correction. "I never saw my parents do anything like this and they've been self-employed my whole life."
"And you never saw them do what led to five kids, either," CC said.
Jane grumbled, "I will not visualize...I will not visualize...I will not visualize..."
"Be glad you never walked in on them by accident," Nell said. "Talk about embarrassment all the way around."
CC said, "Eww. Okay, you win. I'll shut up, now."
"On less disgusting subjects," Jane said, "What have you got, Nell?"
"We're probably going to need twelve to thirteen hundred dollars a week in sales to basically make minimum wage for all three of us. That's if our overhead doesn't kill us."
"Ouch," CC said.
"If my slacker parents can make it work, we can," Jane said.
"Maybe you should talk to them?" Nell suggested.
Jane scratched her cheek. "Probably won't be able to track them down, but I could try." She then went to the phone and dialed.
After eight rings, her brother answered, "Hello?"
"Hey, Trent. It's Jane."
"Janey, how're you doing?"
"Not bad, not bad. Look, I've got some questions for Mom or Dad. Are they home?"
"Nah. Mom's down in the Yucatan with Penny and Dad's, um, somewhere. I think he said it was going to be cold."
"Mom and Penny hanging out? What's up with that?"
"Penny's trying to set up a pottery stand."
"Since they're not here. Can I help?"
"Whoa, are you really my brother?"
"Hey, Lindy's been a bad influence on me. I even wear clean shirts, now."
"Tell me about it. Anyway, what's up?"
"I'm trying to get a gallery and studio up and running with my roommates and thought Mom and Dad might have a clue about, oh, I don't know, actually making enough money to survive."
"Hey, Lindy can help. She does all the money stuff. You know, it's amazing how bad I handled money with my old band."
"We all knew that, Trent, but I'm glad you figured it out."
Trent walked over to the next room where Lindy was at her computer workstation with their son on her lap. "Jane wants to talk to you."
"Hi, Jane. What can I do for your?" Lindy said, taking the phone from Trent.
"Business," he said, scooping Andy from Lindy's lap. "Come here, kiddo, and let Mommy help Aunt Janey."
"What can I do?" Lindy said.
"Got any pointers on how to sell art without starving to death?" Jane said.
"Without selling your soul or other useful body parts?"
"I'm rather attached to them, so yeah."
"Okay, so you want to do it the hard way."
Jane sighed. "I was afraid you were going to say something like that."
Michael lifted the lid from a pot on the stove and squinted at the contents. Curious, he closed the lid and checked the cookbook he was using. "Is it supposed to be that color?"
On the sofa back, Bump yawned and stretched without bothering to answer.
Michael went back to the pot with a spoon and carefully tasted the contents. "Hmm, that's pretty good. And no immediate ill effects."
Talking on her cell phone, Daria entered the apartment, saying, "I think it will work, Mom. Yes, I know it will be a little odd at first, but I think it'll grow on you."
Bump meowed and, gaze fixed on the phone, watched Daria.
Michael said to the cat, "Don't worry. Daria put her foot down on dressing you up as a flower girl. You're safe."
Bump quickly glanced at him and then back to the phone.
"Good luck, Mom. I'll talk to you later. Bye." Daria closed the phone and said, "Something smells good. What's for dinner?"
"It's supposed to be potato and leek soup."
"Supposed to be?"
"It tastes good, but it looks..."
"We can eat by candlelight," she said. "I'm starving."
He grabbed two white candles from a drawer and placed them in a holder that was on the counter. After taking the candles to the already-set table and lighting them, he said, "In that case, dinner's ready."
"What's up with your mother?" Michael asked, going back to the kitchen to fetch the soup.
"She's about to make the case of her life with my dad."
Bringing the pot over and setting it on a folded cloth, he said, "It sounds like a long story. Tell me over dinner?"
Michael said to Bump, "See, you're safe."
Pleased, she relaxed and crouched down into a sphinx-like pose to watch her humans.
Seated on the sofa next to Helen and with scattered papers of Jodie's proposal around the remains of a small pizza on the table, Jake said, "I'm too young to retire."
Helen patted his hand and said, "You'll only be retiring from your business...not from life." She remembered one of Daria's suggestions and added, "Think of how much you can brag to all of your local business buddies about being able to retire early."
"Remember how you wanted to get in on the IPO at that dot-com company?"
"Yeah," he grumbled. "I was a month too late for the stock options."
"Look at what those stocks are worth, now."
"Buzzdome went belly-up two years ago."
"Exactly, the stocks are worthless. What Jodie is offering is payment up front, not empty promises. Something solid. Something real."
"Yeah. If I invested it..." Jake broke off, grabbed a calculator and started punching numbers on it.
Helen said, "With Daria and Michael paying for graduate school with their assistantships and Quinn with only a year left at Pepperhill, we can live comfortably on my salary and the interest on the safe investment of the buyout."
"Yeah. I can play the stock market."
"You will not!" she barked.
"Oh?" Jake said, taken by surprise.
"Remember what happened to Mother."
"Oh, yeah. Okay, safe investments."
"That's the spirit, Jakey."
"So what will I do all day?"
"You can try different things. Things you've always wanted time to try and with the investments, we can afford it if you don't like something and move on."
"Hey, that's just like we wanted to do in college."
Taking a chance, she said, "It'll give you more time to practice cooking."
Softening her voice, she then said, "Plus, it might be a little fun to know you're waiting for me to get home every night."
Jake grinned and said, "Oh, yeah!"
Daria enjoyed the nostalgia of being in her old apartment. She would always have fond memories of the place and its old-fashioned elegance. "So, are you going to be comfortable working with Jodie instead of Dad?"
Jane said, "I'm cool with it."
CC said, "If you two vouch for her, I'm in."
"Since we're her first clients, we need to come up with a personalized 'first dollar' for Jodie," Nell said. "Something that really says, 'Three Art Chicks.'"
CC and Jane looked at each other, then turned to Nell and grinned.
Daria said, "I wonder if Jodie knows what she just got herself into."
Jodie felt like an alien in her old room. But then, with all of her possessions in her apartment off campus from Crestmore, the room itself was bare and alien. As a statement of independence, she had considered getting a hotel room for the night before driving back to college, but she'd decided that she owed her parents one more stay.
Planning on a pre-dawn start back to Crestmore, Jodie crawled into bed early and turned off the lamp next to her bed. She closed her eyes and relaxed more than she had within memory. Running her own business was going to be a lot of work, but it was going to be worth it. Soon...soon, she would no longer be "Andrew's daughter" or "Michelle's daughter." She would be Jodie Landon and the master of her own life.
Quinn ended the call and closed her cell phone before wandering from her room to the living room. "Dad's retiring. That's just, wow. He's going to have all the time he needs to do what he wants."
Quinn's eyes wandered around the room, lingering on things here and there that made her think of her friends and roommates. She grabbed her purse and car keys after saying, "Hmm, I think I know what I'm going to do."
The drive across Los Angeles was as aggravating as usual, but she didn't let that get under her skin. She met Q at a little café just off of the UC-Lakeside campus and they were soon seated at a table for two with fresh lattes.
Quinn said, "I made a decision."
Q nodded and patiently waited for her to continue.
"I'm going to always cherish the time I've spent at the chapter house with my friends. Especially Fran. Once I graduate, I'll never have a chance like this again. I want to spend as much time with my friends like this as I can, so, I'm going to have to say, 'No,' to your invitation."
He nodded slowly and said, "I see."
"And I want you to ask me again...one year from today."
A smile returned to his face as he lifted a PDA from a holder on his belt. Using the stylus to set a note, he said, "It's a date."
Thanks to Louise Lobinske, Kristen Bealer, Ipswichfan and Mr. Orange for beta reading.