Hearts On Fire
"Hi, you must be Quinn's new boyfriend!" Jake opened the door.
"I'm pleased to meet you finally, Mr. Morgendorffer!" Kenneth Malone smiled. "I'm Kenneth."
The young man entered into the room with a blue suit and black tie. He was dressed impeccable all over and his hair was combed back with gel. Tonight was prom night, an important event that Quinn did not want to miss.
"Quinn's told me a lot about you, son," Jake ushered the young man in. "She's had a few guy friends over the year but she's never talked about any of them the same way she has you."
"She just hasn't met the right one until now," Kenneth said confidently. "There's a first time for everything."
"Quinn should be down in a minute," Jake said as Kenneth sat down on a couch. "Would you like something to drink?"
"No thanks Mr. Morgendorffer," Kenneth replied. "I already had a bottle of water on the way here."
"Hi, you must be Kenneth," Helen Morgendorffer entered the living room. "Quinn speaks most highly of you."
"Hello ma'am," Kenneth waved at her.
"Kenneth, is that you?" Quinn's voice was heard from up the stairs.
"Present," Kenneth called out.
Quinn came down the stairs with a gorgeous purple dress. Her hair was also held up by gel and the makeup on her face made her stand out in a striking manner. On her hands was a pair of white gloves which accentuated her dress.
"Oh Kenneth, it's so good to see you here!" Quinn beamed.
"You look lovely, Quinn," Kenneth smiled. "You ready?"
"Am I ever!" Quinn said excitedly.
As the two got up, Helen and Jake exchanged glances.
"Remember Quinn, be back by twelve tonight!" Helen reminded her.
"If you have to drink, make sure it's five percent alcohol content or lower!" Jake exclaimed.
"Jake!" Helen shot her husband a dirty look.
"What?" Jake was confused. "People can still drive after one beer bottle!"
"Look, just keep tonight non-alcoholic," Helen reminded the two young adults.
"You have my word, Miss Morgendorffer," Kenneth promised. "Quinn, if I may have the honor…"
Kenneth reached out with his arm. Quinn, in turn, took it.
As the two of them headed out, Helen and Jake finally seemed to relax.
"Ah, I remember when I was their age," Jake smiled. "I'm actually happy Quinn got a date for the dance. I wasn't so lucky back in high school."
"Kenneth seems like an intelligent and thoughtful young man," Helen nodded. "Quinn should do alright with him."
"Hey Jane?" Daria knocked at Jane's door.
She noticed, however, that the door was still open.
"Oh boy," Daria grimaced.
Carefully, she opened up the door. So far, everything inside was intact and there appeared to be nothing resembling a crime scene, which gave her some degree of relief.
She walked past the living room towards Jane's room. She could make out some degree of noise inside.
Daria opened the door to reveal Jane and Eric Ravencroft kissing.
"Whoa!" Daria was taken aback.
"Daria!" Jane was surprised to see her friend as well.
"Uh, didn't expect to see you guys here… together," Daria said awkwardly.
"Sorry, Jane and I had just gotten done with our date," Eric said sheepishly. "I know you were coming here to meet her after we were finished."
"This feels like Déjà vu all over again," Daria admitted, looking at both Jane and Eric and recalling the time she had spent at Jane's house while she and Tom were still a couple.
"I would ask what you mean by that," Eric raised an eyebrow. "But I think some things are better kept a mystery."
"I'll say," agreed Daria.
"Well, have fun you two," Eric walked towards the door. "See you around, Jane."
After Eric was gone, both Daria and Jane exchanged glances.
"So how serious?" asked Daria.
"It was just one date," Jane confessed. "How am I supposed to make up my mind that quickly?"
"You tell me."
"Well, he is pretty good looking," admitted Jane. "And he does have that whole gothic horror move schtick going for him."
"I'll give him that much," Daria nodded.
"So how about you and Ted?" asked Jane. "Hit it off yet?"
"He and I did watch a movie together," Daria admitted.
"Oh?" Jane grew more curious.
"Rocky Horror Picture Show," confessed Daria.
"The perfect film to take away a young boy's innocence," Jane smiled.
"Young boy?" Daria looked at Jane almost sideways. "Ted is almost a year older than me."
"Hey, what is age but a number?" Jane chuckled.
"Touché," Daria crossed her arms.
"Take a look at that!" Jamie pointed out.
"Yeah, what does she see in that guy?" Joey frowned.
On the dance floor of senior prom were Quinn and her new boyfriend Kenneth.
"She should've gone with me!" Jeffy pouted.
"You?" Joey shot back. "Quinn and I were meant to be!"
"Guys, I don't think it'll do any good to fight," Jamie's shoulders sank. "She's really into that dude."
The three J's looked on in jealousy and regret as Quinn entered into a slow dance with Kenneth Malone.
"Oh Kenneth, I'm really enjoying this night with you!" Quinn leaned against her boyfriend's shoulder.
"It gets even better," Kenneth told her. "Look up a second."
Quinn did so and saw above the glass ceiling the pale moonlight shining down on both of them.
"Wow, it's beautiful!" Quinn smiled.
"Is it ever," Kenneth nodded. "Say Quinn, it's getting close to eleven. What do you say we head out after this dance?"
"I think you read my mind," Quinn agreed. "I don't want to hear my mom nagging at me all day tomorrow."
Soon, the song ended and Kenneth took Quinn's arm. Happily, the couple left the dance floor and headed towards the exit much to the chagrin of Jamie, Joey, and Jeffy.
"Life just isn't fair," Jamie grimaced.
"I'll say," Jeffy agreed.
As the three walked away, there was only one person sitting at the tables while the rest of the school continued their dance.
Kevin Thompson looked down at his cell phone sadly.
"She couldn't make it tonight," Kevin said sadly. "Going to prom on your own is a real downer…"
He had called Brittany at least three times during the day to see if she was still available for his fifth year of prom. So far, she hadn't responded back.
"So, what news do you have?" asked Eric as he sat in his quarters with a wine glass.
The young man sat in front of his computer screen in a red shirt and some exercise pants. He was conversing with an associate of his from another college.
"Sadly, Len Greenberg was just not up to snuff when it came to leading the Highland chapter of the Death Apostles," Eric's associate replied. "He made too many mistakes and led the feds right to him."
"A pity," Eric frowned. "Who can replace him after that debacle?"
"I have someone in mind," Eric's associate promised. "He has a real gift for the art of prophecy. He'll be able to carry out the master's will in that backwater town."
"Very well," Eric agreed. "I shall trust your judgment."
"I'll get on it right away, sir," the associate promised.
"See that you do."
With that, Eric turned off the video chat.
"Good help is so hard to find these days," Eric sighed.
Before long, both Quinn and her boyfriend Kenneth was making out in the car just a few miles away from the Morgendorffer household near some woods.
"Oh Kenneth, what time is it anyways?" Quinn continued locking lips with her boyfriend.
"Mmmph," Kenneth managed to glance down at his watch. "Forty five minutes before twelve…"
"I don't wanna head back," Quinn whined. "Mom and dad make too many unreasonable demands…"
"We still got time, babe," Kenneth smiled, putting his hands around her waist.
"I guess, but do we have enough time?" asked Quinn.
"With us, Quinn, we have all the time in the world," guaranteed Kenneth.
"Then let's make some room, shall we?" Quinn gestured towards the back of the car.
"You just read my mind," Kenneth gave Quinn a peck on the cheek as he and his girlfriend opened up their car doors to make their way to the backseats.
For Kevin, the entire night had been a disappointment. Brittany had not contacted him back at all and he had gone an entire prom without a date.
Sorrowfully, he walked back to his house still in his prom suit.
"What went wrong tonight?" Kevin muttered to himself.
He had been to prom with Brittany for practically every prom since they began dating. Now, however, she was not available. Sure he had been held back but she still promised that she would be by his side no matter what… right?
Once more he dialed Brittany's number, waiting as patiently as he could for her to respond.
Still no answer.
"Aw man," Kevin shook his head.
As he raised his head, he saw out of the corner of his eye a car with two people in it. One the driver's side was a guy he had never seen before. But on the passengers side… was Brittany.
"Babe?!" Kevin was aghast.
The car quickly turned to the right of the street without stopping, leaving Kevin confused and in shock. Had Brittany finally found someone else and kicked him to the curb? Was it finally over for them and everything they shared together?
The next day, Daria was apparently in much better spirits. Nothing throughout the day had gone wrong and so far, she didn't encounter anything too out-of-the-ordinary.
Her self-defense classes were also proceeding smoothly and today, more than any other, she was really on fire.
Finally, she managed to throw Karen down and place her in an armbar. Before long, Karen tapped out.
"Good job Daria," Aunt Amy told her.
Ted smiled and gave her a thumbs up as well.
"Thanks," Daria got up, helping Karen get up as well.
"You've improved a lot," Amy complimented her niece. "Keep this up and any deranged cultist will think twice before coming after you."
"It's nice to know I have fans," Daria commented sarcastically.
"Hey, we're all here because we know what it's like to get unwanted attention from less savory men," Karen said to Daria.
"Except I apparently have a whole blood cult after me," Daria replied. "I don't know whether to feel honored or horrified by the revelation."
"You can get through this Daria," Karen encouraged. "When I started out here, I met a guy in a fraternity who seemed to be real cool. He and I dated. Then it got serious. By the time I got in real deep, he started to become abusive. I managed to get away from him before it was too late. But some of the other girls weren't so lucky."
"Really?" Daria raised an eyebrow. "Other girls?"
"Yeah, he could be real charming at first," Karen continued. "But once he sucked you in, that's when he would show his fangs. He managed to get away with abusing several other girls too but he was so well-connected with the city authorities and police and he managed to get away with it every time. Every time I tried to expose his actions in the college papers, the school officials would make sure there was a media blackout on all stories involving him."
"The plot thickens," Daria remarked. "Does he still go to this school?"
"Unfortunately yes," Karen replied. "In fact, he still—"
Suddenly, Karen heard a ring on her cell phone inside her bag which lay on top of the bleachers.
"Sorry Daria, gotta take this," Karen waved. "We'll talk about this some other time, okay?"
"Anytime," Daria nodded.
"Hey Daria, we good for tonight?" asked Ted.
"Absolutely," Daria smiled.
"Ahem," Aunt Amy stepped next to the two.
Ted and Daria looked at Amy Barksdale in embarrassment.
"She comes back by twelve," Amy smiled cheerfully. "Or your ass is grass, Ted."
Ted gulped. "Yes ma'am."
"Good, have fun you two," Amy nodded. "And be sure to stay off campus."
Aunt Amy walked off, leaving Ted and Daria alone together.
"The master has spoken," Daria looked at her aunt.
"Good thing she doesn't have a whip," Ted wiped away some of the sweat from his brow.
"Let's… not give her any ideas," Daria took Ted by the arm and led him away.
"Uhhh… I don't know if I can last the final few months of this year," McVicker downed some pills and gulped some water. "Those two will kill me off for good before then."
As McVicker's shaking finally steadied from taking his medicine, he heard a knock at his office door.
"Hello, Mr. McVicker?" Van Driessen called out.
"Uh, what do you want?" demanded McVicker.
"Well, there are two men who are here to see you," Mr. Van Driessen told the principal.
"Two male parents?" McVicker was surprised "You don't see that everyday…"
"No, they're not together like that… at least I don't think so," Van Driessen replied.
"Then what do they want?" asked McVicker.
"Well, they say they're here with regard to some problem students," Van Driessen told his boss.
"Aw what the hell," McVicker shrugged. "Can't hurt anymore than it does now… send 'em in!"
Mr. Van Driessen opened up the door to reveal the two guests.
In front of him were two men. One was a tall, jacked up ex-soldier with a blonde crew cut and piercing eyes. He wore a green army shirt not dissimilar to what Coach Buzzcut sometimes wore. The second man looked to be of Middle Eastern ethnicity. He was dressed from head to toe in a black suit. His face was also fully bearded, as opposed to being clean shaven like his partner.
"Greetings to you, Principal McVicker," the Middle Eastern man said to McVicker. "My name is Ibn El-Khatib and next to me is my associate Lieutenant Dale Powers."
"Uhh, what do you want with me?" asked McVicker.
"I realize you've been having problems with certain students," El-Khatib smiled. "The two of us may be able to provide a solution."
"Uhh, unless your plan involves killing Beavis and Butt-head, I don't care to hear it," McVicker shook his head.
"Oh no?" Lieutenant Powers put his hand down on McVicker's desk. "What makes you think killing those two isn't on the table?"
McVicker stopped shaking after hearing that.
"Wait, did you just offer to kill Beavis and Butt-head for me?"
"Why not?" Powers smiled.
"You know, I think I like what I'm hearing," McVicker smiled. "Why don't you boys take a seat…"
"I am pleased to meet you, Mr. McVicker," El-Khatib shook McVicker's head. "My partner and I are part of an organization better known in underground circles as the Death Apostles. And I believe we can be of real service to one another."
"Normally I wouldn't be touching something so slimy," Daria rolled up her sleeves. "But there's a first time for everything."
"I know, right?" Ted nodded. "After a while you just can't help but be curious enough to touch it."
The two of them stood in front of a pool full of skates and other rays in the New England Aquarium in Boston.
The two of them reached into the pool and began gently stroking some of the rays.
"Well, at least there's no smell like with all the other petting zoos out there," Daria noted.
"Yeah, I remember being licked right in the face by a goat the last time I went to one as a child," Ted recalled.
"Your parents let you go to one?" asked Daria.
"Eh, it wasn't like it was a Rated R movie," Ted shrugged. "It passed the litmus test for my folks."
"How does the prospect of being licked in the face by a seal feel for you?" asked Daria, looking at a seal exhibit further down the hall.
"I guess I'll just close my eyes and pretend it's a Labrador," Ted smiled. "Let's go check it out."
As the two of them went down the hall, they passed by a glass display. Behind that display were several penguins.
"Hey there you two," one of the aquarium workers waved. "We're having a couples special right now. Just ten bucks this week for a picture in a frame! Wanna give it a go?"
Daria and Ted look at one another. This moment reminded her of the time both she and Tom were together but Ted stopped by to take a photo. And now the roles were reversed.
Before the two even knew it, they were holding hands with one another. Somehow, subconsciously, it just felt right.
"Alright, let's give it a go," Ted smiled. "Daria?"
"Couldn't hurt," Daria glanced behind the glass to see the penguins sliding into the water.
"Hold still for a second," said the employee, taking out his camera.
Without fully realizing it, Daria and Ted moved closer together until their arms were wrapped around one another. Daria blushed again, realizing her predicament.
"Say cheese," the employee snapped a photo.
"Penguins," Daria smirked. "That'll be one for the history books."
"Wow, you two look really good together," the employee said as the picture finally came out of his camera.
"If I can look good with large flightless birds, I can look good in anything," Daria quipped.
The worker put the picture in a frame and took the ten dollar bill from Ted's hands. Both Daria and Ted looked down afterwards.
"Hey, this is good," Ted smiled.
"You're not on any college yearbook club, are you?" asked Daria.
"Nope," Ted shook his head.
"Good, let's keep this one for ourselves," Daria took Ted's arm. "You may not be the first Clinton I've met, but you are the first Clinton I'd gladly share a photo op with."