Daria's room was empty. The walls were bare. The spot where her bed had been was noticeably unvacuumed, and in the hallway she could hear the movers struggling to bring her desk out to the truck.
It was finally starting to sink in that yeah, the Morgendorffer family really was leaving Highland.
"Damn it, Quinn, another box?! How many pairs of shoes do you own?!"
"This is the last one, I promise!"
Daria's shook her head and went to her closet, the one part of the room that wasn't completely bare yet. Beside its open door was a garbage bag and a cardboard box, both half-filled. She bent down and began to sort through the remaining detritus on the floor.
"Moth-eaten sweater from Grandma Barksdale? Trash. Third-grade report card, never signed? Trash. That picture of Quinn after Butthead threw up in her hair? Keep. Ballerina slippers? Trash, but only because I don't have enough time to burn them before we go."
She picked up the next item, which was so dusty that she had to shake it off to examine it. It was a tiny T-shirt, with the word HIGHLAND in big, colorful letters. "Huh," Daria said. "I can't believe I still have this."
Daria's hand drifted toward the garbage bag—then hesitated. She stared at the shirt again, feeling strangely uneasy.
There was a knock on her half-opened door, and her dad entered before she had time to answer. "Hey, there, kiddo!" he said, his cheerful tone belying the fact that he had been screaming at Quinn and the movers all morning. "You almost done packing?"
"That depends. Will there be any room left in the car after Quinn finishes alphabetizing her socks?"
"HA HA...ugh," was his reply. Then, "Hey! I recognize that! Mind if I see?"
Daria handed the shirt to him, and Jake held it up, admiring it proudly. "Your mother and I got this for you when we came up to buy this house! Quinn had one just like it. We had you girls wear 'em when we first moved in."
"I know," Daria said, still feeling vaguely disquieted. "You used to tell me that story every time I wore it."
"Yeah!" Jake had a boyish grin on his face. "You're not throwing this out, are you?"
"Um...maybe. You bought it when I was four. I think I've had a few growth spurts since then."
"But Daria, this is a piece of Morgendorffer history! A momento of all our years here in Highland! Ah, I've got some fond memories I have of this old place." He suddenly looked teary as he pressed a hand against the wall. "Your mother and I raised you girls in this house. You won't believe how hard it was for the two of us to sell it off."
As if on cue, Helen stormed past the bedroom door, the phone glued to her ear. "Yes, of COURSE, Eric, I can't wait to start Monday morning, you can count on—QUINN, NO MORE SHOES!"
"But these are my scrunchies!"
"DAMN IT, QUINN! THE TRUNK IS ALREADY FULL!"
Jake's ran out of the room, dropping the shirt on the floor as he went. "Nice talk," she drawled after he was gone. Then she picked up the shirt, examining it for another moment before gazing back up at her empty room.
"Look at me, getting sentimental as always." Then, "I guess Highland hasn't been so bad. At least in the sense that I don't expect Lawndale to be any better. And I do have a lot of good memories of this house. Like that time Quinn got her head stuck in the bannister."
She looked from her bare walls to the shirt one last time, then put it in the garbage bag with the other old trash.
"The house in Lawndale is going to be better than this place," Daria told herself as she carried her final box to the moving truck. "It's bigger, for one. And...that's about it, I guess. Oh, and it won't have that leaky faucet in the bathroom. Damn that thing is annoying."
She placed her last box into the moving truck next to her father's toolbox, ignoring the movers as they held up one of her mom's bras, snickering. She headed back toward the house and found herself looking up, taking the whole structure in view. I've lived in this place for more than ten years, she thought. That probably made it okay to feel a little nostalgic.
She opened the front door, then froze.
This could be the last time that I ever walk into this house.
And in another hour, I'll walk out of this house for the last time, too.
The thought was really...odd. She wasn't sure if it was sad, but it was odd.
She stood there for a long moment. She was deep in thought as her gaze fell to her hand, still resting on the doorknob, unmoving.
Whatever her feelings about Highland, she was about to close the door on a huge part of her life.
She turned around and headed back to the truck.
She got to work on the door, listening to Quinn and her parents arguing inside.
"Quinn, this is ridiculous. Some of those boxes need to go in the truck!"
"But I need those clothes! For the trip!"
"We're not going to be on the road for that long, Quinn! Your father and I are splitting one suitcase between us."
"But how can I figure out what outfits to wear in advance? I don't know the color schemes at any of the stops or anything!"
"Quinn, you cannot fill the entire car with your clothes. End of discussion."
Quinn let out an indignant cry as Helen's heels clicked off across the linoleum. Daria was just about done when the front door suddenly flung open in front of her.
"Daria, I need you to travel in the moving truck instead of the car! Please, it's a fashion emergency!"
Daria, crouched down in front of the now-opened door, stared at her sister in newfound amazement. "You're kidding, right?"
"Alright, fine! I'll pay you forty dollars. That's all I have, I swear."
"Quinn, I am not going to spend eighteen hours in the back of a moving van just because you can't pick out a top that matches the rest stop's wallpaper."
"So what, you want me to just travel across the country looking like some sort of—hobo riding the train tracks or something?! What if we arrive at the new house and my outfit clashes? What will the neighbors think?!" She suddenly noticed Daria's position, along with the screwdriver in her hand. "What are you doing with Dad's tools, anyway?"
"...I'm not riding in the moving truck. Now, if you'll excuse me—"
She stood and started back toward the moving truck, but Quinn said "Wait! You help me, or else I'll tell Mom and Dad that you were—um..."
Daria half-turned. "Yes?"
"Well, fine! I don't know what you're doing, but I bet Mom and Dad wouldn't like it! Right?"
Daria had her there. Now she was left with a quandary: give up her operation, thus removing Quinn's blackmail material, or forge ahead despite this new obstacle.
Given how stupid a plan this was, the choice should have been easy. And yet...
"What?! But that's, like, two thousand bucks!"
"We're only passing through four states, Quinn."
"Whatever! One hundred or I go to Mom and Dad right now!"
They glared at each other for a long moment. Finally Quinn stomped her foot. "Fine!" she said, and stormed back into the house, fuming.
Daria waited until she was gone, and then closed the door most of the way, checking her handiwork as she did so.
"I can't believe I just agreed to that. ...On the other hand, now I won't be stuck in a car with Quinn. I'll never see this house again, but I'm stuck with her for three more years."
Helen hung up the phone; they were supposed to leave half an hour ago and she was getting testy. "Alright, are we finally ready?"
"Just took a last look around the house," Jake said. "You girls have everything?"
Quinn held up one last, half-filled box. "Do we have room these books? I can leave them behind if you want."
"Do you have room for my enthusiasm? I promise it won't take up much space."
Helen only looked more annoyed as she waved them through the opened front door. "Alright, if we have everything, let's get going. We're running late and we have a very long drive ahead of us."
Quinn and Jake followed after Helen. "Daria, make sure you get the door on the way out," Jake said.
"Got it. After all, we wouldn't want some burglar to make off with our dust bunnies."
Daria carefully closed the door. The knob came off in her hand.
Daria began to unpack in her new room in Lawndale. Outside the door, she could once again hear her mother talking on the phone.
"No, I'm telling you, that doorknob was on the door when we left! ...I don't know, who would steal—alright, fine! We'll wire you the money to buy a new one, if it really matters that much to you..."
Daria smirked, put down a box on her new closet floor, and took the old doorknob out of her coat pocket. Dropping it in the box, she went to go get more of her things from the truck.
Author's Notes: Last week, I moved from the house where I've lived for about sixteen years. I'm a total packrat, and my desire to save souvenirs from my childhood home reminded me of this anecdote from The Daria Diaries.