Daria and its characters are the property of Glenn Eichler and MTV/Viacom. Harry Potter and its characters are the property and creation of JK Rowling. I own neither and neither expect nor deserve financial compensation for this story.
It was a small one-story wooden house with novelty siding and a cheap asphalt-shingled roof built during a building boom that coincided with a build-up of manned bombers during the early Cold War. The boom ended when the Air Force had closed the nearby air base and its original owners moved away. The house passed into the hands of a landlord, then to another, and then to a small speculator who hoped that there'd be another drilling boom in the Permian Basin and that he could profit from it. Meanwhile, the hot Texas sun continued to beat down on the house no matter who owned or rented it. The house was sold to the Morgendorffers a few years later when Jake and Helen Morgendorffer arrived in Highland with their two daughters in a battered car and battered ideals to take advantage of a drilling boom out in the oil fields. The grass struggled to survive the heat and the lack of water, even with the husband's recourse to the water hose.
The boom receded, but the Morgendorffers stayed on. Helen Morgendorffer commuted the thirty five miles to the law firm where she worked in Midland while Jake worked at a wholesale supplier's and dreamed of setting up his own consulting business. Both parents looked after their daughters even if they didn't always understand them and even if some of the things they did were a trial.
The two Morgendorffer daughters did not get along with each other. The older one, Daria, tended to be solitary and played with her own toys. The younger daughter, Quinn, was far more outgoing and gregarious. As toddlers, Five year-old Daria and three year-old Quinn assumed that Daria would be the older sister and that Quinn would be the younger one. That was the way it was, at least since Quinn came along, and that was the way it was going to be until they went away to college, which seemed sometime way off in the distant future.
As the Morgendorffer daughters grew older, Jake and Helen began to suspect that their eldest daughter wasn't quite normal. Daria had been an unusually quiet baby except, of course, when she wanted to be fed or have her diaper changed. Her eyes constantly roamed around the room and she often seemed to be listening to strange, silent things that only she could hear. There was a time between when Daria started to crawl and when Daria went off to day care that Jake and Helen started to worry that their eldest daughter might be autistic. But no, Daria did learn how to talk, she could pay attention (at least when she wanted to), and she could and did converse with her parents and her younger sister Quinn, although these conversations tended to be short.
But not always. Sometimes Daria asked questions that seemed so unusual and so profound that Jake not only found that he couldn't answer them, but he suspected that even full-blown college professors would have difficulty answering them, too.
Daria was strange in other ways. Weird, inexplicable things started to happen almost as soon as little Daria learned to walk. A cartoon frog with a charging plug for a tail appeared in the living room at the same time Helen's cordless portable phone went missing. Another time Helen's car wouldn't start and when the mechanic popped open the hood, he discovered that her car's engine block was fused solid. Helen's car was still under warranty, but it took her a couple of weeks before the block was replaced. A couple of years later, two of her father's golf clubs had taken the shape of elongated flamingos.
Despite the magical outbursts, Daria's childhood continued to have a patina of normalcy. Daria wasn't particularly friendly or outgoing child, despite the fact that she started to talk before she was three. She did make one friend; a young girl named Cindy Wise, the daughter of one of the few friends Helen and Jake made in Highland. Happily, Cindy lived down the block and across the street. Cindy was also an avid fan of picture books, they enjoyed playing with dolls together, occasionally drew pictures, and listened to some of the old vinyl records Helen and Jake had brought with them from Austin when they moved their family to Highland. Cindy introduced Daria to her friends Linda and Jessie. Sometimes, under Helen's prodding, they'd include an increasingly active and talkative Quinn in their play, although Quinn found that Jessie's younger sister Dale was more interesting.
Daria's strange episodes usually happened at home with only family present, but not always. Once Daria ran out into the street without looking to retrieve a ball that Cindy threw at her that got away; Daria remembered seeing a car's front end bearing down on her, hearing the car's horn and the screech of brakes, then suddenly finding herself safely on the other side of the sidewalk on the other side of the street. Helen and Jake never actually Daria's near-brush with the car, but they heard about it later from Cindy's mother and from Quinn.
If a grown-up had asked Daria if she liked Highland (None ever did), Daria would have said that she didn't like it. It was hot in the summer, boring, and outside her small circle of friends, most of the people she met were stupid or uninteresting. Her parents didn't like Highland that much, either.
Daria's world began to change when she turned five. She was now old enough to go to kindergarten. That fall she enrolled at James Ferguson Elementary School with a lot of other Highland-area children. Like most kindergartners, Daria learned her ABC's and numbers, even if she couldn't manage reading and writing quite yet. Jake helped there; he'd already shown Daria the letters of the alphabet and how to count even before Mrs. Hollings began to teach numbers. But if Daria couldn't read and write quite yet, she suspected that she could enjoy reading stories when she learned how.
As Daria wrote much later, "My first writing lessons used pencils. We spent our first lessons drawing the alphabet, then actually printing words. Most of my little classmates weren't very good at writing or printing and we not only needed pencils, but we also needed erasers. A couple of the kids were so bad that they wore their erasers down to the metal strip by the end of the second week of school. After that, they were constantly trying to borrow other people's pencils or they'd talked their parents into buying rubber erasers of their own."
Jessie's Mom was a calligrapher, and let her daughter and Daria try their hands at writing with feather quills. The experiment did not go well with Daria; her paper was covered with lots of messy ink blots. She told herself that it would be a long time before anyone ever made her write with a feather quill again.
Daria's and Quinn's world shifted another way one afternoon when they came home from day care. "Girls," said Jake Morgendorffer, "Your mother and I have an announcement." Their father was smiling. Daria relaxed. Dad usually frowned and occasionally shouted when something bad was going to happen and Mom was usually tense.
"What's the announcement, Dad?" asked Daria.
"It's a surprise, girls," said Jake. "We'll all wait until your mother gets home."
Daria and Quinn waited expectantly in the living room for Mom to come home from the office. Quinn fidgeted and paced. Daria started going through a picture book she'd borrowed from the Wises.
"I wonder what the announcement is," she wondered. "Maybe we're going to move. " She liked Cindy and Cindy's friends, but she hated Highland.
Their Mom came in what seemed forever, but was only an hour later.
"Hello, Girls," said Helen. "Your father and I have an announcement, as I'm sure he's told you."
"You haven't told them what the announcement is yet, have you, Jakey?"
"No, Helen," Jake said, his good cheer diminishing slightly at Helen's tone of voice. "I was waiting for you to come home before I said anything."
Helen flashed a smile at Jake.
"Well, girls," said Helen. "I've got good news. I'm pregnant. I'm going to have a baby."
"But you already had babies," said Daria. "You have us."
"Well, Daria, sweetie," said Helen. "I'm going to have another one."
"Is it going to be a boy baby or a girl baby?" said Quinn.
"I don't know yet," said Helen.
"It's going to be a girl," said Daria. She didn't know how, but she knew.
Jake's eyes widened. He recognized that tone of voice. Sometimes his oldest daughter had these flashes of certainty and, much to his wonder, whatever Daria said when she had them somehow came true. Jake had no idea as to why a five year-old girl's predictions would come true, but somehow, some way, Daria's almost always did.