Quinn's alarm started blaring the local top twenty station, gradually pulling her from her sleep. Yawning, she reached over to her nightstand, turned off the radio, and grabbed the book she'd left there the night before. It was one of the ones Daria had left in her room when she went to college. It wasn't something Quinn would ever pick out for herself, Daria had weird taste, but reading her sister's books gave them something to discuss when they talked on the phone. Quinn sat up a bit in bed and picked up where she left off the night before.

After a few minutes, or possibly more, Quinn had a tendency to lose track of time when she was reading, there was a rapid knock on the door. Before Quinn could even put down her book, her mother burst into her room. Helen was already dressed for work, clad in her traditional pantsuit with a briefcase in one hand and travel coffee mug in the other. As Quinn was wondering how her mother managed to open the door with both hands full, Helen started lecturing her, "Quinn, stop reading and get ready for school. You only have an hour and a half and you know how long it takes you to make yourself look nice. It's your first day back from winter break, and I won't have you running late for school like you did all last semester."

Quinn sighed and carefully placed an ornate bookmark, a Christmas gift from Daria, in the book she was reading, before turning to her mother. "Mom, you know I don't take an hour to get ready anymore, and Mr. D doesn't care if I'm late for homeroom as long as I keep getting A's on my tests."

Helen gave her daughter a stern look and said, "Well I care, so get yourself out of bed and get yourself to school on time, understood?"

Not wanting to start her morning with another fight, Quinn replied with a simple, "Yes ma'am," and climbed out of bed. Helen stared at her a moment longer, then turned and left without another word. Quinn picked some comfortable jeans and a nice peasant blouse out of her closet and followed her mother out of the room, turning the opposite direction and heading for the bathroom.

As she started her shower, Quinn's thoughts drifted to her relationship with her mother. They'd never really been close, but she used to just leave Quinn alone. Now that Daria was gone, she found every little excuse to dictate Quinn's life. Nothing was ever good enough. She'd lectured her for an hour when she got kicked out of the fashion club, but barely even cared when she started tutoring after school; she'd almost gotten her fired from her job when she found out she was working on Dega Street and not some shop in the mall. Quinn stopped and took a breath when she realized she was scrubbing the skin on her arm raw in frustration.

As she got out of the shower and continued to get ready, Quinn couldn't help but continue to think about her situation. Clearly her mother had decided that Daria was the smart one and Quinn was the pretty one. She wasn't supposed to think, just be fashionable. Helen had thrown a fit when Quinn got her dad to buy her a new, more comfortable wardrobe during the break; they were cute clothes too, just not those overly tight things the fashion magazines pushed. She still cared what she looked like, she just didn't want her life to revolve around it anymore. Why couldn't her mother understand that?

Quinn finished blow-drying her hair, longer now that she'd stopped cutting it last summer, and pulled it back into a high ponytail. Pushing the negative thoughts from her mind, she looked at her reflection and smiled. She wasn't the selfish, naïve girl she was the year before. She made good grades, helped people, and had real friends. Things weren't perfect, but she was happy with herself, something she hadn't been able to say honestly in years.

Back in her room, Quinn pulled on her coat, before carefully putting Daria's book in her backpack and throwing it over her shoulder. She grabbed her cell phone off her vanity and dialed a familiar number as she walked downstairs.

The phone rang twice, then a masculine voice answered, "Hello?"

"Hey Jason, it's Quinn. Can you pick me up a little early?"

"You mean we're actually going to be on time for once?" Quinn could hear the smirk in his voice, and couldn't help smile a bit herself.

"Thank my mother, she decided to invade yet another aspect of my life," Quinn replied, more resigned than bitter.

"Sorry," Jason said sincerely, his tone immediately shifting from joking to sympathetic. "I can be over there in about ten minutes, is that okay?"

"Yeah. I'll be waiting outside," Quinn said, opening the door and stepping out into the chilly winter morning. She wanted to avoid her mother, on the off chance she was still home.

"Quinn, it's in the forties."

"Then you'd better not be late," Quinn said playfully, her breath visible in front of her.

"I promise I'll warm you up if I am," Jason responded in kind.

"Sounds nice, but I'm not supposed to be late, remember? Maybe later, if you're good," Quinn shot back, blushing from more than the cold.

"Well, I better not keep you waiting then. I'll see you in a minute."

"Bye," Quinn said, and hung up. She leaned against the house and stared down at her phone. Jason was so sweet. They'd been dating since September, but it felt like longer. He was a year younger than her, but so much more mature than the boys in her grade, smarter than most of them too. He tutored after school like her and he was actually interesting to talk to, unlike the long line of preppies and jocks she used to date.

It wasn't anything serious, or so she kept telling herself. They had both agreed that they were going to break up at the end of the summer when she left for school; everyone knew long distance relationships never worked. The problem was she wasn't sure if she could anymore. It wasn't like the dating she used to do, she really cared about him. Sometimes she missed the days when her biggest relationship worry was what kind of car a guy drove.

Jason's old pickup pulled up in front of the house several minutes early, pulling Quinn from her worries. After the truck came to a stop, he hopped out and started walking around to the passenger side. Jason wasn't tall; actually, he was a little short. He was good looking though, more handsome than cute, with dark brown hair and chocolate eyes Quinn could get lost in for hours. Today he was dressed in a flannel shirt and jeans under the new jacket Quinn had forced him to buy to replace the beat up one he used to wear.

Jason pulled open the passenger door for Quinn as she walked up, closing it once she was inside. "You know you don't have to do that, right?" Quinn asked, feeling the blood return to her fingers as she held them in front of the heater.

"I know you like it, even if you won't admit it," Jason said with a smirk, as he walked around and climbed in beside her.

Quinn gave a small smile, and said, "Maybe just a little," leaning over to give him a peck on the cheek.

Jason put the truck in gear and started the short drive to school. After a brief pause, he cautiously asked, "So, what did your mom do this morning?"

Quinn let out an angry sigh, almost a growl, and said, "She started pounding on my door, then broke in before I could even get up. She told me to stop reading, because God forbid I do something intellectual, and to get ready for school so I'm not late, like I need that much time."

"We are going to get there pretty early," Jason said, glancing at the clock on the dash.

"I know! She thinks it takes me an hour to 'make myself pretty'. Not that I could ever make myself look good enough for her. Nothing's good enough for her," Quinn ranted. Realizing she was starting to sound like her father, Quinn blushed and looked out the window. "Sorry."

Jason grabbed her hand and gave it a squeeze. "Hey, it's okay. Better to vent than let it build up, right?"

"I guess," Quinn said, still looking out the window, "I just hate being like this; it's not me. I'll be glad when summer's over and I can get out of here." When Jason didn't respond, Quinn realized what she'd said. Turning to face him, she said, "Jason, that's not what I meant."

Jason sighed. Keeping his eyes on the road, he said, "I know, I just don't like to think about it."

"Let's talk about something else then," Quinn said, trying desperately to think of something to improve his mood. After a moment, she asked, "What do you want to do this weekend?"

Jason brought his truck into the student lot, quickly finding a spot. He turned off the engine and looked down, hands resting on the steering wheel. "I don't know," he replied absently.

Quinn looked over at Jason, guilt and worry swirling in her stomach. Thinking quickly, she said, "Well, we shouldn't have much homework since it's the first week back. How about Saturday we go out to that barbeque place you like and then go see a movie, my treat for making you listen to my problems all the time." She blushed, and in a quieter voice added, "Maybe we can take a drive out to the quarry after."

Jason looked up at his blushing girlfriend and smiled. "You don't have to force yourself, Quinn."

"There's nothing wrong with a girl treating her boyfriend every once in a while," Quinn said firmly. Lowering her voice again, she added, "And it's not like I don't like… you know. I just don't like talking about it."

"Okay, you win. You can take me out on the town," Jason said with a chuckle, as he got out of the car and opened Quinn's door. "Thanks," he said sincerely.

About eye level with Jason while sitting in the truck, Quinn leaned over and drew him into a kiss. Pulling away, she said, "Your welcome. Now come on, I want to see if Mr. D's eye pops when he sees me come in early," and hopped out of the truck.

Quinn and Jason went their separate ways after reaching the school, heading for their respective homerooms. As Quinn approached hers she stopped and grimaced. Sandi Griffin and her new Fashion Club stood lingering around near Mr. DeMartino's room, dressed in the latest overpriced clothes and judging everyone who walked past.

The Fashion Club had ended up not disbanding over the previous summer as originally planned; in the end Sandi just couldn't give up her power over everyone else. Quinn and Stacy were kicked out pretty quickly, both too busy with their own things to worry about what tops were in this season and unwilling to keep playing Sandi's games. Tiffany stayed, and Sandi recruited some freshman and sophomores to fill the ranks. The problem was, Sandi held some kind of grudge and harassed Quinn and Stacy every chance she got. It was one of the reasons Quinn preferred to come in late.

One of the freshmen pointed to Quinn and Sandi turned to face her, a smirk on her lips. "Hey, brain, what are you doing at school so early? Did you finally decide to beg me to let you back into the Fashion Club? I think I might be able to find you a position as a magazine organizer or something."

"Sorry, Sandi, I prefer real books," Quinn quipped back, continuing towards the classroom.

"You would. Is that what you and your loser kiddy boyfriend do on dates? Read to each other?" Sandi called after Quinn tauntingly.

Quinn froze in her tracks and turned to face Sandi, glaring at the haughty girl. "At least my boyfriend is going to pass. From what I hear, yours is going to repeat senior year, again." Quinn paused and tilted her head, pretending to think. "Although, with your grades, I guess you could join him. You and Kevin could be the most popular senior couple in school for two years in a row," Quinn said with a fake smile.

"Wooow. Thaaat's a good ideaaa," Tiffany interjected, "Maybe III should faaail, tooo."

"Shut up, Tiffany," Sandi said angrily, not taking her eyes away from Quinn, "This loser doesn't know what she's talking about."

"Whatever," Quinn said, sounding drained as she pushed her way passed Sandi's clique and into the mostly empty classroom.

Mr. DeMartino looked up from his desk and greeted Quinn as she entered. "Ah, Ms. Morgendorffer. What a PLEASANT surprise to have one of my brightest students actually show up ON TIME." He checked his watch. "EARLY even. May I be so bold ask what brought on this welcome, if UNCHARACTERISTIC, bout of punctuality?"

"My mother decided my high school experience wouldn't be complete without listening to Ms. Li's morning announcements," Quinn said flatly, still drained from dealing with Sandi. She made her way to the center of the second row and dropped into her usual seat.

"I see," he said, somewhat uncomfortably. "Well, I look forward to your attendance. It will be REFRESHING to have someone INTELLIGENT in homeroom for a change," he said glaring at the handful of other students that had gotten there before Quinn.

"Um, thanks," Quinn said, before folding her arms on the desk and resting her head on them. She felt terrible for blowing up at Sandi like that, not that she didn't deserve it. It was wrong to bring Kevin into it though; he'd never done anything wrong, well, not on purpose anyway. Sandi just brought out the worst in her. Quinn really wasn't looking forward to dealing with her every morning.

A gentle touch on her arm shook Quinn from her thoughts. Looking up, she saw Stacy sitting next to her, looking somewhat apologetic. It was still weird seeing her with short hair, not to mention wearing a varsity jacket. She'd started playing volleyball over the summer and apparently she was good, because at some point Coach Morris saw her and told her to try out when school started. Quinn had been to every one of her games.

"Sorry, I didn't wake you up, did I?" Stacy asked, looking guilty.

Quinn couldn't help but smile a little. Stacy had grown a lot in the last year, but she was still Stacy. "No, I was just feeling bad about letting Sandi get to me and telling her off," Quinn explained.

Stacy giggled. "That must be why she was sulking. I don't think she even noticed me come in." Cautiously, she asked, "Um, why are you here? Don't you usually skip home room?"

"My mother," Quinn said, exasperated. Seeing the look of concern on her friend's face, she added, "I don't really want to talk about it."

"Oh, okay," Stacy replied. She looked down and said, "I know you don't like it, but I'm glad I'll have you here to talk to."

"Come on Stacy, you have lots of friends." Quinn tilted her head toward the back corner where several girls were grouped together. "They're on the team, right?"

Stacy looked up and said, "They're great, but I never get to see you anymore. You're my best friend."

Quinn chuckled. "Who would have ever thought? You doing jock stuff and me doing brain stuff, both too busy to just hang out. Well, I guess at least one good thing's coming out of my mother forcing me to come to homeroom. It will be nice to get a chance to talk in the morning."

"Oh! We should get here early, then we can talk more," Stacy said eagerly, her face lighting up.

Quinn gave a resigned smile, knowing that arguing with Stacy when she got like this was useless. "Alright, I'll let Jason know to pick me up early."

The last bell rang and Quinn quickly got out of her seat, grabbed her bag, and made for the door, hoping to grab some hot chocolate before going to work. Just as she was about to reach the door, she was stopped by the familiar voice of her English teacher. "Oh, Quinn, do you have a minute?"

Quinn sighed and turned around, walking over to Mr. O'Neill's desk. Putting on her best fake smile, she said, "Um, I guess. What do you need?"

"Well, I just wanted to make sure you were going to be tutoring for us again this semester. I really feel like you made a big difference in your fellow students' lives last year."

Quinn felt herself relax. "Of course, Mr. O'Neill, I love tutoring. Look, if that's all, I've got to go. I've got work in—"

"Wonderful!" the teacher said, his face lighting up. "We've got a very 'special' student this semester, who I feel could use your particular guidance to reach his full potential. He's coming over right now."

"Can I see him tomorrow? Like I said, I've got work at four," Quinn said, trying to be tactful.

"Don't worry, this will only take a minute," Mr. O'Neill said dismissively. "I really appreciate you doing this, Quinn. Ms. Li was very insistent I get our best tutor."

Alarm bells went off in Quinn's head. Her eyebrows shot up and her careful smile faltered. "Wait, Ms. Li? What's she have to do with this?"

Before Mr. O'Neill could respond, Kevin stepped into the room. He was dressed in fashionable men's clothes, Sandi having somehow convinced him that a football uniform was not acceptable casualwear. He looked at Quinn with a goofy grin and said, "Alright! I get the hot brain for my tutor?"

"No, you don't," Quinn said flatly, making for the door.

Mr. O'Neill gasped and cried out, "Kevin!" Nervously wringing his hands, he pleaded, "Oh dear. Quinn, please stop, he really does need your help."

Quinn stopped halfway to the door and turned to face Mr. O'Neill. "I am not tutoring him."

"I know that was a little, uncouth, but I'm sure he meant it as a compli—"

Quinn glared at her teacher and spoke over him, "Even if I was okay with it, he needs a real, professional tutor. He's already failed once, and I doubt he put in much effort last semester during football season."

"Hey, I tried really hard," Kevin said defensively, walking over to where Quinn was standing. "We would have made it to the championships if Mack Daddy was still here."

"I think Quinn meant putting effort into your schoolwork, Kevin," Mr. O'Neill said gently.

Kevin deflated. Looking down he said, "Oh, I tried that too. It's just, really hard."

Quinn remembered what she'd said to Sandi in the morning and felt a pang of guilt. She sighed and said, "Look, maybe I can help, but he needs a real tutor."

"Dad won't pay for one," Kevin explained, still looking at the floor. "He says it's a waste of money to pay some egghead to tell me what I already learned in class."

"Yes, he did say that," Mr. O'Neill said with a sigh.

Quinn's common sense fought a brief war with her conscience, and lost. She turned to Kevin with a sigh and asked, "Kevin, are you serious about this? You're not quit halfway through?"

Kevin lifted his head and looked Quinn in the eye. "Hey, I'm no quitter."

"You mean you'll do it?" Mr. O'Neill asked hopefully.

Ignoring Mr. O'Neill, Quinn told Kevin, "If you ever call me anything other than my name again, you're on your own."

"Um, okay," Kevin said, clearly not understanding.

"Which means not 'hot brain'," Quinn clarified.

"Oooh. Okay," Kevin said, nodding in comprehension. "So, do we start now?"

Quinn looked at the clock and sighed, she definitely wasn't getting that hot chocolate. "I guess we have enough time to figure out what you need to work on."

Quinn stumbled into work fifteen minutes late, grabbing the doorframe as she tried to catch her breath. Thankfully, the vintage clothing shop was empty, just her coworker Jennifer at the sales counter. "Is Marie here?" Quinn asked, making her way into the small backroom to stow her bag and clock in.

"She's out," Jennifer said, her soft voice more distracted than usual as she stared at a magazine in her lap, hidden from view by the counter. "I clocked you in."

"Thanks," Quinn said, coming out to stand next to Jennifer at the counter.

Funky Doodle was a fun place to work, as far as working went, and Quinn needed the money after her mother cut her off after getting kicked out of the fashion club. Marie, the owner, was really relaxed and there weren't as many customers as there were in a fast food place or the mall. The clothes were actually pretty cool too. It was interesting to see what used to be popular, it really put today's trends in perspective.

Jennifer was about as good a coworker as Quinn could ask for. She was a year older, attending Lawndale Community College, and had been working at the store part time for a few years. She was quiet and soft spoken, but not at all tame, her sarcasm sometimes coming close to Daria's. Over the past few months she and Quinn had developed a good relationship, covering for each other and finding ways to kill time during work.

Jennifer turned the page of her magazine and pushed her hair out of her face, only to have the blonde mop fall back over her eye like it always did. "So, why are you late? You're usually the one covering for me."

Quinn let out a groan as she leaned against the counter. "Two words: Kevin Thompson."

Without looking up, Jennifer said, "I still can't believe they actually failed him. I thought for sure they would just pass him up to some university to play college ball. Guess Li wanted him playing for Lawndale for another year."

"Well she doesn't want him anymore," Quinn said, dropping her head, "and now I'm stuck making sure he passes."

"Should I just call you Sisyphus from now on?" Jennifer asked with a smirk.

"Hah," Quinn responded sarcastically, raising her head to watch the door.

"How'd you get stuck teaching Kevin anyway?" Jennifer asked, turning the page again.

"I think Ms. Li has figured out I have a conscience. I can only imagine what else— Customer," Quinn said as a woman in her late thirties walked through the door. Jennifer looked up from her magazine and Quinn walked up to the woman with her work smile on her face. "Hi, I'm Quinn. Welcome to Funky Doodle. Is there anything I can help you with?"

"I'm going to look around a bit first, if you don't mind," the woman said dismissively, a hint of derision in her voice.

"Of course ma'am, let me know if you need anything," Quinn said, still smiling, and walked back to the sales counter.

The woman proceeded to make her way around the store. She looked through almost half the clothes in the store, putting the hanging ones back on the wrong racks and leaving the folded ones in messy piles. Quinn groaned inwardly and shared a long-suffering look with Jennifer as they watched. Eventually, the woman found something she seemed interested in and impatiently called out, "Excuse me," waving Quinn over.

Quinn hurried over. Her smile a little strained, she politely asked, "Yes, ma'am?"

The woman held up a short bell-sleeved dress with a cute print that Quinn guessed was from sometime in the early seventies, and asked, "Do you have this in a size eight?"

"Um, ma'am, this is a vintage clothing shop. We only have what's on the rack," Quinn explained, trying her best not to sound condescending.

"Well, when will you get more in?" the woman asked impatiently.

Quinn tried to keep her composure, her fake smile starting to falter. "I'm sorry, we probably won't. Like I said this is a vintage clothing shop. We only carry what we can find."

The woman leaned forward and jabbed a finger at Quinn, raising her voice to a near yell, "Listen little girl, I'm not stupid; I know how this works. Just call in and order another dress."

Quinn's polite smile finally broke. "Like I've been trying to tell you, this is a vintage clothing shop, as in used. That dress hasn't been made in thirty years. The company that made it probably doesn't even exist anymore, and even if they do I can't call them up and ask them to make one in your size," Quinn explained; exasperated, but managing to maintain a shred of professionalism.

The woman's face flushed. Eye's flaring, she said, "That's it, I want to see your manager."

"She's—" Quinn started, but was interrupted.

"What seems to be the problem?" Jennifer asked, winking to Quinn as she walked out from behind the register.

"You're the manager?" The woman asked, looking at Jennifer skeptically.

"Yes ma'am," Jennifer said smiling. "Is there a problem?"

"There certainly is! This girl won't order me a dress!" the woman shouted, pointing at Quinn.

"I see." Jennifer turned to Quinn and asked, "Is this true, Quinn?"

"Um, yes," Quinn said, curious to see where Jennifer was going with this.

"Well, I'm going to have to dock your pay. You can't treat a customer like that." Turning back to the woman, Jennifer indicated the dress and asked, "This is the dress correct?"

The woman gave Quinn a smug look and told Jennifer, "Yes, I want one in a size eight."

"Alright ma'am, I'll make a call to our supplier. We get our deliveries from that manufacturer on Tuesdays. Will you be able to pick it up a week from tomorrow?" Jennifer asked, maintaining a very convincing managerial air.

"Yes, that shouldn't be a problem," the woman replied.

"Wonderful, please ask for Devin. He's our manager on that shift."

"Thank you," the woman said. Throwing a nasty glance at Quinn, she added, "You should really think about a change of staff," before making her way out of the shop.

As soon as the woman was out the door, Quinn turned to Jennifer and asked, "Um, thanks for the save, but what was that about? There's no way we can get that dress and Shaggy barely manages to do his job, much less be a manager."

A small smile formed on Jennifer's face. She shrugged and said, "Neither of us is scheduled for that Tuesday and Shaggy is. He's owed me twenty bucks for three months, maybe this will help teach him to pay me back on time."

Quinn giggled as she imagined their laid back coworker trying to deal with the woman who just left. "Remind me not to get on your bad side."

The lights were off when Quinn got home, which meant one of two things. Either no one was home, or her dad was drinking again. Having seen her dad's car parked in the driveway, Quinn had a pretty good idea which it was.

Jake had always drank, but since Daria had left for college it had gotten worse. They had been close, in a weird silent companionship kind of way, and he clearly missed her. Hellen spending more and more time at work probably didn't help either. Quinn knew she was lucky; he was never violent, and he never yelled at anything but the ceiling, but watching her father destroy himself hurt.

As Quinn closed the door behind her, her father stirred on one of the living room couches. "Daria, is that you?" he asked, speech slightly slurred.

Quinn quietly sighed, and called back, "No, Dad, it's just me. I'm gonna turn on the lights, so close your eyes, okay?"

"Huh? Oh, alright." Even with his eyes closed, Jake still winced as the lights came on. He was slumped into the corner of the couch, an empty martini glass held loosely in his right hand and a red tinge on his face. His shirt was wrinkled and his tie was loosened to the point that it was about to come undone, but at least he had remembered to take his jacket off.

Quinn walked over to the coffee table and started cleaning up. The pitcher was a little more than half full, better than a lot of days. While she took the glassware to the sink to empty and wash later, Quinn tried to start a conversation with her father. "So, how was work, Daddy?"

"Work? Ha! Lost another damn client. Your mother will love to hear about that. Worthless Jakey has to depend on his wife to pay the bills." Jake looked up at the ceiling and yelled, "You happy, old man? I bet you're laughing watching me fail!"

When Quinn got back to the living room, she saw that he'd started crying. Ignoring the stench of alcohol and sweat, she managed to get an arm under him and help him to his feet. "Don't worry Dad, you're just in a rough spot right now. Those clients were probably idiots anyway. Come on, let's get you upstairs and in the shower before Mom gets home."

The alarm for the chicken breasts in the oven went off as Quinn put the finishing touches on the salad. She slipped on her oven mitts and took the chicken out of the oven and moved it and the salad to the table where Jake was reading the paper. He had sobered up, or at least become less drunk, over the past hour, and was dressed in comfortable clothes.

Tired of frozen lasagna and her father's experiments, Quinn had taught herself a few simple recipes over the summer. It wasn't something she particularly enjoyed, but it wasn't too hard and it was nice to have a healthy meal for her and her father. Helen got home so late that Quinn had stopped bothering to make any for her.

"It looks great sweetie!" Jake said, spearing a skinless chicken breast and dropping it on his plate.

"Make sure you get some salad too, Dad," Quinn said as she finished filling up her own plate.

Jake moved a small amount of salad to his plate and looked up at Quinn awkwardly. "Listen, Quinn, I'm really sorry about—"

"Don't," Quinn cut him off, "Don't say you're sorry. Just stop doing it."

"Right," Jake said, looking down at his plate. After a few minutes of eating in silence, he cautiously asked, "So, how was your day?"

Quinn finished a bite of chicken before answering, "About normal. Mom's making me go to school earlier, which means I have to deal with Sandi, but it looks like I'll get to hang out with Stacy so I guess that's okay."

"Why's your mother making you go to school early? Is it your grades?"

Quinn sighed and put down her fork. "Dad, I make A's and B's in all my classes. I have all year."

"You're on the honor roll? That's great!" Jake exclaimed, only annoying Quinn more.

Scoffing, Quinn bitterly said, "Tell that to Mom. She probably cares more about me being elected prom queen."

"Aw, sweetie, your mom's just trying to support you," Jake said comfortingly.

"Support me in what she wants me to do! If Daria had half of my extracurriculars Mom would have bought her a freaking car! Instead, all I get is her telling me to spend more time doing my makeup!" Quinn pushed away from the table and stood up. "I'm going to my room. Make sure you do the dishes so Mom doesn't chew me out for actually cooking us a healthy meal."

Quinn lay in bed, trying to get a little reading done before going to sleep. After starting the same paragraph for the fifth time, she finally admitted to herself that she couldn't concentrate on the book she was trying to read. She carefully placed her bookmark in it and set it on her nightstand, then rolled onto her back. Staring up at her bed's canopy, she absently rubbed her temple and realized she was starting to get a headache.

She got out of bed and walked over to her vanity, taking her bottle of Advil out of one of the drawers. She dry swallowed a couple of pills and saw that she was almost out again, making a mental note to buy more soon. As she put the bottle back, she saw her cellphone sitting on top of the vanity and thought of Daria.

Daria had said to call if things ever got bad. They weren't that bad, maybe a little worse than normal, but something about today left Quinn really wanting to talk to her big sister. They'd gotten a lot closer over the past year, and while Daria had a lot of hard edges, she was a great listener and gave good advice. Quinn hesitated for a moment, then picked up the phone and dialed Daria's number.

After a few rings, Daria picked up. "Hello?" she shouted over what sounded like a large crowd.

"Hey, Daria, it's Quinn," Quinn shouted back. "Where are you?"

Quinn heard a door close and the sounds of people faded to a muffled background noise. At a more reasonable volume, Daria said, "Sorry about that. Jane dragged me to a party. It seems someone told her I need to get out more."

"I may have made some suggestions," Quinn admitted with a smile, "but it's Monday night. Don't you have class tomorrow?"

Daria chuckled. "That's what I said. Honestly, who celebrates the end of the first day of classes?"

"I sure don't," Quinn said bitterly, without thinking.

"Not a great day I take it?"

Quinn blushed at her slip. "Nothing really terrible, just, you know, a lot."

"Since you called, I'm guessing you want to talk about it."

Quinn heard a group of people cheer in the background of her sister's call and suddenly felt guilty. "Um, no, it's okay. You should go enjoy the party. If you're going to be tired in class tomorrow, it might as well be worth it, right?"

"Are you sure? I could use a break from watching drunken art students try to find new things to paint."

"I'm sure. Tell Jane I said hi," Quinn said, not wanting to keep her sister any longer.

"If I can find her," Daria said sarcastically. "I'll talk to you later, Quinn."

"Bye, Daria. Have fun," Quinn said cheerily, then snapped her phone shut to end the call. She let out a long sigh and set her phone back down. It would have been nice to talk to Daria, but she didn't want to keep her from enjoying herself. Daria really did need to get out more.

Quinn's head throbbed, the headache getting worse. She made her way back to her bed and crawled under the covers. Reaching over to her bedside table, she turned off her lamp and closed her eyes.

Lying in the darkness and drifting to sleep, Quinn thought about her life. Things weren't really that bad. Her parents were crazy, but she wouldn't have to deal with them for much longer; her future with Jason was scary, but they'd figure that out when they got to it; and things like dealing with Sandi, tutoring Kevin, and helping annoying customers were just part of life. Home, school, work, dating; she just had to keep moving forward and everything would be alright. It had to be.

Hello good folk of the internet,

This grew out of something I wrote for a challenge Robyn put forth on the PPMP about what Quinn's kindness and intelligence in later seasons would look like going forward.

It's funny. I didn't plan it this way, but I finished this right this right around the time students should be going back to school for their Spring semester. So, if you're reading this when it gets posted, it should currently be within a week or so of the story is set.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed the story. Thanks for reading.