by Kristen Bealer
o O o
Daria stared gloomily out the window of the Tank as Trent drove them to the last place she ever wanted to return to. Okay, that wasn't quite true. Camp Grizzly beat Highland in terms of horrible places to spend one's childhood, but not by all that much.
"Stop here, I have to get out," Quinn said as they turned off the main road toward the camp.
Already feeling tense and annoyed about being pushed into the reunion, Daria snapped, "Couldn't you have told us this two hours ago?"
"Ha," Quinn replied coolly. "And don't worry about taking me home, I'll find my own ride."
"She didn't say that just to get our hopes up, did she?" Jane asked as Quinn got out of the van.
Daria was about to make another snarky comment in return, but as Trent started to move the Tank forward she had a sudden thought. I've already gotten out of helping Mom and Dad clean out the garage and Quinn just told us she's going to find her own way home. Why do I actually need to go to this reunion? "Hold on," she told Trent. "We're going back."
"What?" both Trent and Jane asked together, turning to look at Daria in surprise.
"I wasted several childhood summers making lanyards and singing lame songs. I refuse to spend even one day on that crap when I have more important things to do with my time. Like counting the number of molecules on my left hand."
Jane shrugged. "Well, at least we got a mind-numbingly boring road trip out of it. Looks like we're heading back to Lawndale, Trent!"
"Hmmm..." Trent was staring in the direction of the camp with an odd look on his face.
"I don't like the look of this," Jane remarked. "Either he's coming up with a new song lyric or a very stupid idea is brewing."
"I was just thinking maybe I should try this camp thing out."
Daria sighed. "The latter, apparently."
Trent ignored her. "Never went to camp, unless you count the tent in the backyard. Maybe that'll be the new experience that inspires me and saves Mystik Spiral."
"Prepare to be disappointed," Daria said.
"Aw, let him go," Jane told her. "I'm sure you and I can find something to do out here."
"Like getting lost in the woods and starving to death?"
"Well, if you'd rather go to the camp reunion-"
"Starvation in the wilderness it is. See you later, Trent."
The girls got out of the Tank and waved as Trent continued down the road toward Camp Grizzly.
"So where to now?" Jane asked as they began walking in the other direction.
Daria led Jane into the woods that surrounded the camp. "There's a park about a quarter mile away. We can hang out there for half an hour, which is probably about as long as Trent'll be able to stand the camp reunion."
Jane nodded as she fell into step beside her friend. "Sounds good. Dibs on the monkey bars."
o O o
Almost as soon as Trent stepped out of the tank, a stocky boy with sandy-colored hair approached him with a stack of blue T-shirts. "Hey, fellow Grizzly!" the boy greeted him. Trent was trying to decide if he should explain that he had never actually attended the camp when Skip shoved a T-shirt into his hands. "Skip Stevens, Alumni Coordinator," he introduced himself. "We're gonna have a great time today, aren't we?"
"Uh, I guess so," Trent said, holding up the T-shirt. It looked too big for him, but he could give it to Jesse when he got home. He still owed him one, after all.
"I can't hear you!" Skip said, holding a hand to his ear at Trent's unenthusiastic reply.
"Bummer." Trent nodded in understanding. Several of his musician friends had hearing problems, too, thanks to the general consensus that sound quality was directly connected to volume.
Skip glared at him, but moved on to give shirts to other people at the camp while Trent began to look around him with interest. He'd heard about camping before, but the closest he'd ever come (aside from the tent, which he tried not to think about) was the summers at his parents' friends' commune. This looked a lot different, though. For one thing, everyone was wearing clothes.
"Excuse me," a brown-haired girl with freckles and square-rimmed glasses was asking a nearby group. "Have any of you seen Daria Morgendorffer?"
"Who?" one of them asked.
"You know, the weird kid? I was hoping she'd be here."
"You're looking for Daria?" Trent asked, and the girl turned excitedly to look at him. "She was going to come but changed her mind at the last minute." The girl looked so heartbroken Trent instantly felt sorry for her. "But, uh, Daria's sister is over there." He pointed to where Quinn was jabbering away with three other girls.
At the words "Daria's sister," several people looked his way in surprise. Murmurs began to buzz all around him, but all Trent could catch was the occasional mention of "Quinn's cousin" and "weird kid" and "sister" and "liar."
Someone leaned in to whisper into the ear of one of Quinn's friends, who turned to look at Quinn in shock. She spoke out loud, and the other two girls in the group gasped. Quinn turned pale and began speaking quickly, but her friends didn't seem interested. They walked away, and as they passed Trent he heard one of them say something about weirdness, genetics, and trust.
"Huh," he muttered to himself, as the girl in the glasses had already wandered away. "Did I say something surprising?"
o O o
"All right, Morgendorffer," Jane said after over twenty minutes of trudging through the woods. "You keep saying we must be almost there, and yet there's still no park to be seen. At what point are you going to admit you lured me out here to murder me and bury me in a shallow grave?"
Daria stopped and frowned. "We should have reached it long before this," she said, looking around. "Maybe they tore it down sometime in the past five years, or maybe the landmarks have changed since then, or..."
"Or maybe you've just got no sense of direction," Jane suggested.
"No," Daria shot back, "I know exactly what I'm doing."
"Famous last words," Jane sang under her breath.
Shooting a brief glare at her friend, Daria shrugged and turned around. "We'll just head back. If Trent isn't ready to leave by now, we'll just hide in the Tank until he is."
"You sure that's wise?" Jane asked as she turned to follow. "One time Max was in there too long with the windows up and the smell knocked him out cold. We just about had to call 911."
"Then we'll leave the windows down."
"They don't roll down, remember? No handles."
Daria stopped walking and frowned again. This time her face had traces of worry, too. "Did we pass by this tree stump on our way out here?"
Jane looked at the stump, and then at her friend. "I have no idea. And neither do you, apparently." She shook her head and chuckled. "And here I thought you were kidding about us getting lost in the woods and starving to death."
"We're not lost," Daria argued, continuing on but with less confidence now. "I just need to...get my bearings."
"I'm pretty sure you left them behind when you led me out on this death hike."
"If you're so much better at finding your way around, you tell me where to go."
Jane grinned. "You sure you want me to answer that?" Looking around, she shrugged. "Anyway, I wasn't paying attention. I was following you because I assumed you knew where we were going, which I now realize was my first mistake."
Daria rolled her eyes. "One more word out of you and I start singing 'John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.'"
Jane opened her mouth, then closed it again after thinking about her options.
o O o
Back at the camp, Trent was starting to wonder when they were going to have sack races or toast marshmallows. So far everyone was just standing around and talking, and no one was doing the summer camp stuff he'd been expecting. Just when he was starting to think he should go back to the Tank, a middle-aged man with gray hair stepped up to a microphone.
"Before we begin our hike," he began, then looked at Skip. "Is this thing on? Hello?"
"It's on, Mr. Potts!" Skip cheerfully replied.
"Excuse me," Trent interrupted, coming to the front of the crowd to stand in front of Mr. Potts.
Skip turned bright red and glared at him. "You can't interrupt Mr. Potts!" he whined. "How dare you!"
Glancing briefly at Skip, Mr. Potts turned to look at Trent. "Yes? What can I help you with?"
Even though Skip was fuming next to him, Trent was undeterred from his quest. "When do we do the camp stuff?"
"Sorry?" Mr. Potts asked, putting his hand over the microphone to speak to Trent.
"You know. Arts and crafts. Campfires. Camp stuff."
Mr. Potts smiled at him. "Oh, I see. You're very eager to get started! Well, like I said, we're just about to start our hike!" He took his hand away from the microphone to address the whole crowd. "We're real glad to see all these former Grizzlies at the reunion, and when the time comes that you have cubs of your own, we hope they'll be proud to say, 'I'm a Grizzly, grr!'" He chuckled weakly, then continued, "Everyone ready for a hike?"
Trent was frowning in thought, and suddenly spoke up again. "Wait, a hike is the thing where you walk a lot, right?" Mr. Potts nodded. "Uh, pass." Trent wandered over to the nearest tree and stretched out under it, preparing for a nap.
Mr. Potts addressed the rest of the group. "All right then, those of you who do want to join us on the hike should gather over by the side of the stage here and we'll get started."
A few campers went over, but most of the kids shrugged and wandered off in other directions, looking relieved that the hike wasn't mandatory.
"Nooo!" Skip wailed. "Everybody has to go! Mr. Potts, make everybody go on the hike!" He jabbed an accusing finger toward Trent. "This is all your fault! You're ruining everything!"
Trent shrugged, confused, but decided to just walk away. He'd had a pretty busy day and needed a rest. The rest of Skip's tirade was quickly drowned out by the sound of Daria's sister following her friends around and pleading with them.
"Okay, yes, technically we're related but we were separated at birth and she was, um, raised by gypsy circus people and I only just found out recently that she's my sister!"
A camper glanced her way and raised his eyebrows in interest. "Gypsy circus people?" he asked. "Wow."
Huh. I didn't know Daria was raised by gypsy circus people. I should ask her about it when she and Jane get back. I bet it would make a really awesome song-oh, wait. I forgot. The Spiral is breaking up.
Trent closed his eyes and settled in. Before he could drift off to sleep, though, a voice jarred him fully awake. "That was pretty cool."
Trent opened his eyes again to see the brown-haired girl with the glasses standing in front of him. "Uh, thanks," he said. "I'm pretty good at naps."
She smiled shyly and shook her head. "I mean deciding not to go on the hike. I think most of us-most of them, I mean-would have just gone along with it even though we-they-didn't want to. So...you know, thanks."
"Sure," Trent replied, even though he wasn't sure what she was thanking him for. He was hoping she'd leave so he could get back to the important work of sleeping, but instead she sat down and continued to look at him with an oddly intense expression on her face. It was a little bit creepy, like she was trying to see into his head or something.
"You know," she finally said, "I don't remember seeing you at camp before. What's your name?"
"Trent." He looked around to make sure no one was listening to them. The few campers who wanted to go on the hike, including a still-grumbling Skip, had left and the rest were just milling around talking. "And actually, I didn't really go here. I just thought it'd be fun, you know?"
"Yeah, I thought it would be fun, too, but now I'm not so sure. I was hoping a friend of mine would be here, but I guess she's not coming." She stared harder at him. "You kind of remind me of her, though. Do you mind if I hang out with you for awhile?"
Trent shrugged. "I guess it's cool." He looked at her hopefully. "Do you know when we're going to go horseback riding?"
o O o
"Look, Daria, it's been almost half an hour. If you haven't found your bearings by now, then I'm pretty sure they took the last train out and you're never seeing them again. Now will you admit we're lost?"
Daria stubbornly marched on for a few more steps, then stopped and groaned. "Okay, we're lost. Feel better?"
Seeing the anxiety and frustration on her friend's face, Jane replied, "Not as much as I thought I would. But cheer up! At least it's not snowing this time."
Daria had to crack a smile. "And no Ms. Li forcing us to climb a mountain."
"On the other hand, no opportunity to watch Mr. DeMartino walk off the edge of a cliff."
"Oh, well. You can't have everything." Daria's stomach rumbled noisily. "Although I wouldn't mind something to eat."
Jane looked around the woods. "You want I should order a pizza?"
"At this point I'd settle for frozen lasagna."
Finding what she was looking for, Jane headed over to a nearby bush and rummaged around in it. She returned to Daria and held out her hand to reveal several small red berries. "Bon appétit!"
Daria shuddered and took a step back. "No, thanks. I've seen what happens to people who eat unknown berries in the wild, and I want no part."
Jane chuckled. "They're not unknown. They're barberries and they're harmless."
"How can you possibly be sure?" Daria asked, unconvinced. "Since when are you a wilderness survival expert?"
"Look, I did actually learn more than crappy songs when I was in Girl Scouts," Jane replied, tossing a berry into her mouth. "Not to mention the things I picked up at the commune. I'm not going to try to poison you." Eating another berry, she smirked. "At least, not until I can get you to sign that life insurance policy."
Hesitating just long enough for her stomach to rumble even more insistently, Daria warily took a few of the berries and tried them. She almost spat them back out as her mouth puckered. "What the hell?"
Jane winced. "I should have warned you; they're a bit sour."
"No kidding." Daria continued chewing, but more slowly. "I guess if I can handle pizza that's eighty percent grease, I can handle this." She glanced sideways at Jane. "But if I start hallucinating about pirates or spirit animals, I will swear bloody vengeance upon you."
o O o
"...and then there was that time she boycotted the End-of-Summer campfire by the lake. That was so cool."
Trent drifted awake to find that the clingy girl was chattering away about someone, but he had no idea who or what she was talking about. "Uh...yeah. Sounds really great." He stretched and looked around, seeing that everyone was still just standing around doing nothing. "Hey, I'm going to see if anyone wants to do camp stuff."
"Can I come, too?" she asked, scrambling to her feet as he stood up.
"Whatever." Trent wandered over to a nearby group as she trotted along behind him. "Do you guys wanna make keychains or something?" he asked them.
The kids in the group reacted to the idea with mild disgust. "Uh, no thanks," said one of them, and the others shook their heads.
"Oh." Trent tried not to let his disappointment show. "Maybe later. What other stuff did you-uh, I mean we-used to do at camp?"
One girl snorted. "You mean like that stupid watermelon game?"
Trent perked up. "Cool. I like watermelon."
A boy shook his head. "You wouldn't like it if you had to pull it out of the water after it had been greased up with Vaseline."
Another boy nodded angrily. "What a way to ruin a good swim."
Trent coughed. "I like swimming, too." He looked around. "Can we?"
The kids looked at each other and finally shrugged. "Why not?" someone said. "It's really freaking hot out here and the lake's not far away."
Trent smiled and followed the group. "All right."
As they walked, other kids caught on to the plan and joined them. The clingy girl fell into step next to Trent. "That was a really great idea," she told him as they reached the lake. "I think it's so neat that you just-" She stopped there, staring as Trent pulled off his shirt and tossed it aside. He and the others splashed into the water, while she tentatively waded in. Her eyes stayed on Trent, and her face was turning a bright shade of pink.
Trent was just starting to enjoy himself, floating lazily in the water while campers shouted and swam around him, when a loud voice yelled, "Hey!"
Every head, including Trent's, turned to see Skip standing at the edge of the water and glaring at them all. "This isn't swimming time!" He stamped his foot. "After the hike we're supposed to go back to the picnic area!"
"We didn't go on the hike," Trent pointed out, trying to be helpful.
Skip narrowed his eyes at him. "I haven't forgotten. You know, you're wrecking the entire camp experience for everyone!"
Trent looked around at all the campers having fun in the water. "Uh...huh."
"It's true! Now stop it or...or...I'll tell Mr. Potts!"
"Oh, hey, when you talk to him, ask if we can roast marshmallows later."
Skip stomped one foot. "Everybody get out of the lake! It's almost time for the cook-out!"
The other campers ignored him. Skip almost howled in frustration.
"Cook-out?" Trent asked. "Like, with food and stuff?" Skip nodded, and Trent immediately came back to the shore. "Cool. I'm in."
Seeing their de facto leader leaving, the others soon followed. Quinn and her friends were still standing on the beach. As he passed, Trent heard one of the other girls ask, "So if she was raised by gypsy circus people, how come you both went to camp here together?" Quinn's eyes grew wide as she started stammering.
The clingy girl's eyes never left Trent as he pulled his shirt back on, and she wasted no time taking her place at his heels as they walked. "I'm so glad you stood up to Skip," she said to Trent, picking up her one-sided conversation as though she hadn't just spent the last twenty minutes gawking at him in silence.
Trent shrugged. "Free food is free food," he said. He stopped walking, and she almost ran into him. "It is free, right?"
o O o
"Slow...down...a...second..." Daria gasped as she struggled to keep up with Jane.
Jane turned to see Daria doubled over, wheezing to catch her breath. "See, this is what you get for never going with me on my runs," she teased. "No stamina whatsoever."
"I'm just saying it's lucky for you I'm here. I'm not sure you'd even have survived this long without a strong hiking partner with lots of forest know-how to lead the way!"
Daria was too busy panting to speak, so she let her middle finger do the talking for her.
Laughing lightly, Jane relented. "All right, you rest for a few minutes. I need to visit the little girl's tree, anyway." She jogged off into another part of the woods. By the time she returned, Daria was breathing much more easily and looked ready to move on. "You weren't kidding about pervert squirrels," Jane said. "I'm not completely convinced one of them didn't have a camera."
At that, Daria finally gave a small snort of laughter. "Tree branch tabloids, next on Sick, Sad World."
Jane started to laugh as well, but the sound froze in her throat. She stopped dead where she stood and stared at the ground, her already pale skin turning even whiter.
"What?" Daria asked. "Did you see a chipmunk with a film crew?"
Slowly shaking her head, Jane took a very slow step backward without looking away from the spot on the ground. Daria followed her gaze to see a small snake gliding through the grass in front of them. She watched it go, then turned back to look at Jane, who had started breathing again and had closed her eyes in relief.
"Really?" Daria asked in amused surprise. "Are you seriously afraid of snakes?"
Now recovered, Jane tried to shrug it off but it was obvious she was still shaking a little. "I have a healthy dread of slimy reptiles with teeth and venom. Is that so weird?"
Daria smirked. "It is when you practically jump out of your boots at the sight of a garter snake."
"You can't be sure of that," Jane argued. "It could have been deadly poisonous. I might have saved both of our lives!"
Shaking her head, Daria replied, "So much for all of your forest know-how. It was a garter snake. Trust me; you don't live in the backwoods of Texas without learning an awful lot about snakes."
Jane's shoulders slumped as she accepted defeat. "All right, fine. I'm afraid of snakes. You would be, too, if your sister had stuck a rubber snake in your bed when you were four years old." She started forward, grumbling, "I hope Penny gets eaten by an anaconda in whatever part of South America she's in right now."
Daria continued walking with her friend, choosing not to tease her any further about her newly-revealed fear. She did notice with relief and gratitude, though, that Jane had slowed down her pace to one easier for Daria to maintain.
o O o
"Hey! What are you doing?" Skip angrily waved his spatula at Trent, who had already stuffed half of his burger into his mouth.
"Eating," was Trent's muffled reply.
"No one's supposed to take a burger until they're ready," Skip started to explain.
"Don't worry, I think they're okay to eat," Trent reassured him around his mouthful. "Tastes great." He looked back at the grill and helped himself to two more patties. As other campers noticed this, they began to approach and take burgers as well. Skip tried at first to swat them away with his spatula but soon gave it up as hopeless. Speechless with indignation, he glared at Trent as he walked away with his plate.
The clingy girl, following in his wake as usual, actually applauded. Trent sat down, still chewing. At the next table, Quinn was talking rapidly to some of her fellow campers. "Okay, so Daria and I both went to camp here because the gypsy circus people who raised her actually lived in the woods near here so she just kind of showed up during camp. It was totally one of those things! A co-insurance!"
"Oh, yeah?" asked a skeptical camper. "Then how come we never saw any of those gypsy circus people around here, like on our hikes and stuff?"
Quinn's face fell.
Trent realized that the clingy girl had been talking to him. "-so that's why even though she didn't come, I'm actually glad I came after all, because that meant I got to meet you!"
"Uh, cool." Trent picked up his second burger and began demolishing it.
"Sooo..." She trailed off and looked away. "Are you glad you came, too?"
"Sure," Trent said after swallowing his bite. "The food's really good."
"I mean, um, are you glad you got to meet me?" She looked away from Trent and for a second he thought she might have been talking to someone else.
"I guess so?" Trent took another huge bite from his burger and chewed while he tried to remember the girl's name.
She let out a huge, relieved sigh. "Great!"
Back at the next table, Quinn was talking again. "The gypsy circus people are really, uh, shy and don't come out of hiding very often. It's only on very rare occasions that they show up, like when there's a full moon or a mediator shower!"
"Attention, Grizzlies!" Skip's voice boomed at everyone through the microphone. "You know what time it is?" Trent was about to tell Skip about his anti-watch philosophy, but the boy immediately went on, "Anthem time! Everybody!" Skip started to sing, "We'll never forget you, dear old Camp Grizzly."
Some of the campers half-heartedly joined in, "You're with us in sunshine and weather more drizzly." Skip grinned triumphantly at Trent as he continued to sing.
Trent was just about to bite into his last burger, but he lowered it and listened to the song. The rhymes are okay, but the song needs something. Something like...hmm... He put down the burger and began tapping his fingers on the table to a beat he could hear in his head. Humming quietly to himself, he started working out lyrics while the clingy girl stared at him in utter fascination.
o O o
Daria and Jane were reminiscing about old Sick, Sad World episodes when Daria abruptly stopped talking or even moving. Jane took a few steps before she noticed, then turned to look curiously at her friend. "Did you suddenly remember the way back to camp or are you trying to remember if you left the iron on?" she teased.
Daria just kept staring at something past Jane. "Over...there..." she murmured, barely moving her mouth as she spoke. "Slowly..."
Now slightly worried, Jane gradually turned her head to see what Daria was staring at. Her mild worry instantly changed to panic at the sight of a large grizzly bear nosing around twenty feet away. She said quietly to Daria, "Back up. Slowly." Daria immediately did so, and Jane followed as they both walked backward away from the bear.
Luckily, the bear was too distracted to notice or chase them, and after they reached what they decided was a safe distance they both began to breathe more easily. "See what a little Girl Scout training can do?" Jane said with a proud grin.
"I'd like to see how well your training does against Grizzlies of the camp variety," Daria said weakly, still shaking slightly from their near miss.
"Relax," Jane reassured her. "I don't think you have to worry about any more wild animals today. Not with wilderness expert Jane Lane by your side." She moved off in a new direction, away from the bear and into a more densely wooded area.
"Jane," Daria said warningly.
"Hey, don't even think about bringing up the snake thing," Jane said over her shoulder.
"I just saved both our lives back there! A little snake phobia can't compare to that!"
At that moment, Jane finally turned back around, but it was too late. Her feet collided with the frightened skunk she'd been obliviously marching toward and she tripped over it. The skunk, without hesitating, lifted its tail and sprayed, hitting Jane full-on.
Daria, standing safely out of the skunk's range, fought to keep her face expressionless as Jane helplessly watched the skunk scamper away. She ultimately failed as a smirk finally made its appearance.
Jane turned in time to see it and growled, "Don't say it. Don't even think it."
Daria wrinkled her nose and took a step back as the smell reached her. "So much for the wilderness expert. Guess you must've quit the scouts before they taught you about those black-and-white mammals known as skunks."
Rolling her eyes as she got to her feet, Jane said, "Keep it up, Morgendorffer. Just one more smart remark and I'll..."
"Yes?" Daria asked with amusement.
"I'll hug you." To make her point, Jane began moving toward Daria with her arms outstretched.
Daria almost gagged as the smell grew stronger with each step. "Okay, you win. I won't-" She stopped short, staring around her with sudden awareness.
"All right, you can still speak," Jane said. "I just meant-"
"Shhh." Daria waved a hand impatiently as she studied every rock, tree, and shrub around them. Jerking slightly in surprise, she suddenly darted in one direction and motioned for Jane to follow.
Jane, in spite of her running experience, struggled to keep up with her friend. "What's going on? Where are we going?" she asked. "Did Timmy fall in the well again?"
"I think...yes! The camp is this way!" Daria said, moving even faster as she became even more certain of the way back. "We're almost to Camp Grizzly!"
Jane chuckled. "Bet you never thought you'd be happy to say that."
o O o
"So I guess now I'm a Grizzly
but I ain't no bear,
I got no claws or tail or fur
So how is that fair?"
Trent didn't have his guitar with him, but he could hear the music in his head as he started singing his latest composition. The campers nearest to him glanced over, faltering in their singing of the official Camp Grizzly song.
"Try to win a rat race as we
Hop in burlap sacks,
Trudging like worn out dogs as we
Hike with heavy packs."
Now more kids were paying attention, and it wasn't long before Skip was the only one still singing about drizzly weather. He clenched his fists and sang louder, but by then everyone was listening to Trent instead.
"Gotta catch that watermelon
Covered up with grease.
Don't want to fight a color war;
Can't we just make peace?"
By this point the other Grizzlies had formed a crowd around Trent to listen to the impromptu concert. A few even tried to mosh. Skip, now singing the camp song for the third time, was almost screaming the lyrics. Still Trent continued to perform.
"Am I a happy camper? No!
You don't ease my pain.
I guess I'll weave a lanyard with
My soul's waves of grain."
Wild applause broke out as Trent reached the end of his song, and he grinned sheepishly at the unexpected praise. Skip kicked over the microphone stand and stomped offstage.
Just as Trent was considering doing "Icebox Woman" as an encore, some nearby bushes began to rustle and two girls stepped out. They looked beyond disheveled; their hair was full of leaves, their skin was covered in dirt and scratches, and at least one of them smelled absolutely awful.
"So in spite of all of your bragging," one of them was saying, "I'm the one who finally found her way back."
"After getting us lost in the first place," the other girl pointed out.
"Hey, it's that girl!" one of the campers shouted. More of them began pointing and whispering excitedly to each other.
"Yeah, the weird kid!" "It's Quinn's sister!" "Quinn was telling the truth!"
The girls, whom Trent finally recognized as Daria and Jane, found themselves surrounded by a crowd of curious admirers. "What's it like to be a gypsy?" asked one. "Do you like being in the circus?" asked another. "How did you find out you and Quinn were long-lost sisters?" asked someone else.
"Whoa," Trent said, ambling over to them. "Daria, how come you never told us about all this?"
Jane, recovering quickly from her surprise, smirked at her. "Yeah, Daria. Is this why you blew off the reunion? So we wouldn't learn about your intriguing past?"
Daria just opened and closed her mouth a few times, completely at a loss for words.
"Oh, wow! Daria!" The brown-haired girl with glasses ran over and pushed her way through the crowd. "You made it after all!"
"Uh, hi Amelia," Daria said half-heartedly. "How are you?"
"I'm great!" Amelia gushed, suddenly grabbing Trent's hand. "I want you to meet my boyfriend, Trent!"
Now it was Trent's turn to lose the power of speech. Eyes wide, he stared at Amelia with his mouth hanging open.
Jane could only burst into delighted laughter as she looked between the bewildered faces of both her brother and her best friend. "Now this was worth the hiking trip from hell."
Daria glared. "Glad one of us is having fun. Can we go now?"
Jane nodded gleefully. "As long as Trent's had enough fun at camp."
Still looking warily at a lovestruck Amelia, Trent coughed nervously. "Uh, yeah. Yeah, I'm good."
She nudged him. "Then we'll go wait in the Tank while you say your fond farewells."
As the two girls walked toward the parking lot, Daria finally burst out, "What the hell just happened back there?"
Jane shrugged. "I don't know, but all of a sudden I'm riding home with Camp Grizzly's biggest heartthrob and the queen of the gypsy circus people."
As she was about to climb into the Tank, Daria stopped her. "What makes you think you're riding home with us?" Daria leaned back, away from Jane's skunk odor. "I think we'd choke to death on skunk fumes long before we reached Lawndale."
Jane rolled her eyes. "So, what, you want me to walk home?"
Daria smirked. "I'm sure you'll be fine," she joked. "After all, you have your superior survival skills to help you."
"Daria!" Quinn ran breathlessly up to them. "Change of plans. I'm going home with you guys after all." Pausing to catch her breath, she took in a lungful of Jane and winced. "Or maybe not."
"What happened?" Daria asked. "Didn't your friends want to 'just be girls together' after all?"
Quinn shook her head. "No, it's not that." She looked around at the various campers all gazing at Daria in fascination. "It's...well..." She stomped her foot in frustration. "You're more popular than I am at camp! You have to let me be seen leaving with you, all right?"
Jane chuckled. "You know what? I changed my mind, too. If she's riding in the Tank, I'll find another way home." She sauntered off, ignoring the disgusted teens who kept backing away and holding their noses in her wake. Seeing that Trent was still struggling to shake Amelia off, she stopped to tell him about the change in travel plans. "I'll find my own way back," she told him. "See you at home, okay?"
"Yeah, cool," Trent replied, only half-paying attention but relieved to have an excuse to break off from Amelia. "See ya."
He trotted away toward the parking lot, leaving Amelia to look longingly after him. After a few moments, she turned to Jane. "Trent's your brother?" she asked. "You live in the same house with him?" Jane nodded, and Amelia asked, "You want a ride home? I'll drive you!"
An alarm bell sounded in Jane's mind at the eager way Amelia offered, but a Quinn-free ride home was a Quinn-free ride home. "Sure. As long as you don't mind the skunk smell."
Amelia shook her head. "No, it's fine," she said, stifling a cough. "On the way you can tell me all about..." she sighed, "...Trent!"
Feeling a slight twinge of pity for her friend, Daria watched as Jane left the camp with Amelia. Turning back to Quinn, she said, "It was really a tough choice. Spending the whole ride home trying not to be sick to my stomach from a revolting atmosphere...or kicking you out and letting Jane come instead."
"Whatever," Quinn said, tossing her hair and stepping into the Tank, followed by Daria. Trent climbed in a moment later and they set off.
Less than a minute passed.
"So who knew that gypsy circus people were some kind of 'in' thing? I mean, Waif never once did an issue about it, but if it's some weird popularity magnet then maybe the Fashion Club should call a special meeting to discuss our options. You don't think I'd have to do anything gross like grow a beard or bite chicken heads of or wear off-the-rack clothes, do you?"
As the monologue began picking up steam, Daria closed her eyes and groaned quietly. "I changed my mind. Jane got the better end of this deal."
o O o
"...and after he talked most of the campers into boycotting the hike, he took everyone to the lake for a swim party. Then you should have seen him tell Skip off about the burgers! It's too bad you didn't get to hear the awesome new camp song he wrote, because..."
As Amelia chattered away behind the wheel, Jane pressed a hand to the side of her head to try to ward off her growing headache. She'd already listened to Amelia talk for almost an hour about Daria Morgendorffer, the glorious camp rebel, and now she was being treated to the saga of Trent Lane, who had valiantly liberated the Grizzlies from Skip's reign of terror.
I should have taken my chances with the bears, she realized with a sinking feeling.
o O o
Thanks to RLobinske for beta reading.