Chapter 4: Feathering the Nest

"Am I getting too old for this?" Daria asked.

Tom responded, "Too old for what?"

"Sugar Tarts for breakfast," Daria replied in total deadpan while looking at the frosted toaster pastries sitting in front of her.

Tom smiled, "I don't know. You do have coffee there as well. That makes you more grown up."

"It's this whole responsible adult thing," Daria said. "Now I have to make real decisions that affect me. On top of that I have to work the eternal summer job."

"Only until you retire, Daria. That shouldn't be more than 40 or so years," Tom quipped.

Daria gave Tom her signature blank stare and remarked, "Thank you Mr. Encouragement. I can always count on you to enhance my feelings of melancholy and angst."

Tom smiled, "I could always say that your sugar tarts are part of a great diabetes starter kit. They have everything you need! They have sugar, processed flour, sugar, and a miniscule amount of fruit somewhere inside the sugar! Eat like that for 40 years and you will certainly be supporting the economy with your insulin purchases."

Daria tore off the corner of one of her sugar tarts and threw it at him.

Without missing a beat Tom caught the bit of sugary treat and promptly ate it. "Thanks for sharing Daria. I do like them. I love you and if I didn't have to go to work today I can think of something we could do that would help you work off all the calories from those sugar tarts!"

"Dork," was all Daria could say.

Smiling Tom said, "Yeah. I know. I admit it. That is also why you love me. The fact is that we are both dorks."

Daria sighed. "You're right. Still, maybe I need to rethink some things."

"As far as breakfast is concerned, consider having some protein. Have an egg and maybe some ham or bacon. Even turkey is good. I'd be happy to whip up an omelet for you in the morning. I could add mushrooms or veggies. Maybe eat a high fiber bowl of cereal and some milk. That can give you good nutrition."

Daria sighed again. "High fiber cereal. Next thing you know I will be ready to collect Social Security!"

"Well, I'll be collecting welfare if I don't get going to work." Tom got up, kissed Daria and put on his tie and suit jacket. As he departed he said, "I love you Daria. I will be home around six o'clock. Go check out the thrift stores and consignment shops we put on your list. You should be able to pick up your keys today! Bye." Tom shut the door behind him.

Daria sat at the table and stared at the wall. Absentmindedly she broke apart her sugar tarts and ate them piece by piece. She sipped her coffee as she ate. Rising after her meal Daria thought to herself, 'Well, now to check out those thrift and consignment stores. I am going to need something to sit on and sleep on in the apartment.'

…..

Daria flipped open her phone and speed dialed Jane's number.

"Daria!" Jane said as she answered. "What's up? Did you find a place?"

"Yes I did," Daria said matter-of-factory. "Tom was a big help by setting things up through the realtor. He also loaned me the money to get the apartment."

"And you sound so excited about it," Jane commented with a certain skepticism in her voice.

"Well," Daria replied. "I just don't feel I have the satisfaction of accomplishment. Don't get me wrong. I appreciate the help. But it is the fact that I needed it and couldn't just do things myself."

Jane was silent for a moment and then slowly stated, "If Tom had not stepped in and helped you would have had to ask your parents to do exactly what he did - at least with the money. On top of that you would probably not have found a way to get something as nice as you did. Am I right?"

With a tone of dejection in her voice Daria answered, "Yes. I would have had to rely on my parents. There is no way I would have had the funds to do this on my own. I would have had to live on the streets or couch surf for at least three months in order to save that kind of money."

Jane chided Daria, "Do you realize how lucky you are to have a boyfriend like Tom? That guy will do anything for you. Not very many girls these days can say that about their boyfriends. There are simply too many selfish and narcissistic guys out there who want entertainment and not a relationship. Too many relationships wind up being two people living two lives and they just bump into each other in bed at night. There is little meaningful conversation and the only topic they might talk about is their kids. Goodness knows I am old fashioned enough to think you might just want to get married before having kids! Of course then you have the divorces because it turns out the people who never talked can't stand each other when the going gets a little rough. At least with my parents they had their arts and benignly neglected Trent and I. You are complaining about someone you sit up with half the night talking. You talk about meaningful subjects and you even dream together." Jane added with a strong note of sarcasm, "Don't be stupid Daria. Appreciate what you have. It is special and that is not because your stole him from me in high school."

"Do you have to bring that up again?"

Jane sighed, "Daria. Tom and I were not compatible. You and Tom are a match made in heaven. Was that a painful time? Yes it was. Did we both learn something? Yes we did. Are we still best friends? Absolutely. I miss seeing you every day."

"Thanks Jane," Daria said. "What are you doing the next couple of days?"

"I just finished a commission and I need some inspiration to start my next project. I'm not taking any summer classes, so I am free."

"Do you want to come down to New York for a few days? I'm sure Tom won't mind you staying here. I could sure use someone to help me decide what to do about furnishing my apartment. I think there is a train leaving in about 90 minutes. Oh, and I will cover your fare."

"Gee, Daria. With an invitation like that how can I say no? I'll throw some things in a bag and head for the station."

"Go to the window when you get there. The ticket will be waiting."

"Thanks Daria. I really look forward to seeing you. I'll call you when I am on the train."

"Great! See you in a few hours." With that comment Daria ended the call.

….

Daria was waiting as Jane emerged from the platform. She ran over and gave Jane a hug.

Somewhat surprised Jane remarked, "Wow! It isn't very often that you come up and hug me!"

Daria looked down and said, "Sometimes even I need to hug someone."

"Things OK with Tom?" Jane asked.

"It is just like I said on the phone. That reminds me, I need to call and tell him you are coming!"

Jane smiles and remarked, "Well, considering I am already here that would probably be a good idea."

The two women walked over to the side of the great room and Daria placed a call to Tom. She explained the situation and then closed her phone. "He says it is fine."

Jane snickered, "Good. I didn't want to have to fight somebody on the street for their cardboard box!"

The two chatted on the way to the subway. Clearly there was much to catch up on, even though Daria had just moved. They arrived at Tom's apartment and dropped off Jane's case. Then they headed over to Daria's apartment.

….

Daria and Jane walked into the apartment building where Daria's apartment was located. Daria pressed Gert's buzzer.

""Yeah?" Gert answered.

"Gert, this is Daria Morgendorffer. Two things. I was wondering if I could pick up the keys yet and second can I get into the apartment. I want to get some furniture."

"I was gonna call you tonight. I got the stuff back and you can have your keys now. I'll buzz you in."

With that Gert hit her buzzer and Daria and Jane entered into the lobby of the building. Gert was in the hall outside of her apartment wearing fuzzy slippers, a dirty pair of jeans, an industrial uniform shirt and she had a cigarette hanging out of one side of her mouth.

"Here you go kid," she croaked in her gravelly voice. "I hope you enjoy the place. This your girlfriend?"

"No," Daria replied. "This is my friend Jane. We've been friends since high school. Tom is my boyfriend."

"Hi," was all that Jane said.

"Whatever you say," Gert retorted. "I'd be worried about that guy. Loafers and all I still say he looks more like your gay friend."

Daria sighed. "Believe me Gert he isn't gay. I know that first hand – and he does have nice hands!" Daria said looking straight into Gert's eyes. "You have a nice rest of the day Gert. See you around. C'mon Jane. Let me show you my place!"

When they reached Daria's apartment Jane said quietly, "I frankly don't see how you avoided punching that woman in the mouth! What you do and with whom is none of her business."

Daria turned to Jane and said, "You know, I think that woman has literally no happiness in her life. You may find the strange coming from me, but frankly I have so much to be happy and thankful about it almost drives me crazy. I have you as my best friend, Tom as my boyfriend, I start a great new job on Monday and I even have a place to live in New York City that will not leave me eating cat food! Sure I am still cynical and the angst is worse than when we were teenagers. But I have matured and I am coping. At least right at this moment I am happy. I feel that I have substantial control over my own destiny."

Jane reached out and hugged Daria and Daria hugged her back. Jane remarked, "I am so happy for you. You don't know how happy it makes me to hear this. Now let's have a look at this apartment!"

Daria unlocked the door and the two went in. Looking around the bare apartment Jane was both surprised and apprehensive. She wasn't an interior decorator, but clearly a 20 by 20 foot space (36 sq. meters) would be a challenge. There was not much space to set up housekeeping. But, this was where Jane's artistic eye and advice would come in handy. She started asking Daria questions about what she liked and items that they both knew about at home. All in all it was a thorough interrogation. Jane took notes and then it was time to start shopping.

Anything and everything can be found in New York. The thrift stores and consignment shops that were on Daria's list had more choices than Daria could believe. The question was: What would she buy?

The two women would spend the rest of the afternoon and part of the evening checking out shops. It was clear they would need the next day as well to find and purchase everything. It was almost 8:00 pm when the two women arrived back at Tom's apartment. Daria let them in and they found Tom sitting on the couch slumped over fast asleep. He was wearing a pair of running shorts and a Bromwell t-shirt. Other clothes were scattered around. Daria walked up, leaned over, and kissed his cheek.

Tom opened his eyes. Since his top half was lying over on the couch the world looked sideways. He saw Daria's bottom half and then there was… He sat up quickly. "Oh hi Jane!" Tom exclaimed. He felt wide awake now. "Daria didn't tell me you were coming!"

"I got an SOS from your girlfriend. She needs my help to decorate her place. I think she wants a look other than 'oversized prison cell.' Something less cold. Anyway, I came down on the train and we have been out shopping."

"Wow," Tom exclaimed. "I would have straightened up if I knew you were coming."

"Don't sweat it, Tom," Jane replied. "Remember, I grew up with Trent. Stuff scattered around was nothing. It was when it started crawling to the washer by itself that I started to worry."

Tom stood up, kissed Daria, and began picking up the things lying around the couch. For a moment he stood there with his work clothes in his arms just staring at Jane. That is the moment she chose to walk up grab him by the shirt and plant a really big kiss on him. She released him momentarily and then repeated it. Tom stood there stunned.

Looking at Daria, Jane said imitating Daria's deadpan delivery, "There. I kissed your boyfriend. Twice. We're even."

Daria could not stop laughing. The scene of Jane kissing Tom while he stood there in his jogging clothes, which were little more than underwear, holding his clothes in his arm was just hilarious. If life had a laugh track, then this was the time for it. It was all she could do to collect herself and then respond in total deadpan, "Yeah. I guess we're even. Just remember that I get to sleep with him. You don't." Jane almost fell on the floor she was laughing so hard.

Tom was wondering what was going on with these two. He decided it would be best to just slip into the bedroom, take a quick shower, and return in decent clothes. Of course after all of this he was going to lock the bathroom door so that the two women didn't figure out some other humiliation for him. Maybe taking them out to dinner would help. Off he went.

While still wiping her eyes, Jane said, "OK. While Tom is off showering, let's see if we can find some movers for you. Is there a phone book around?" As Daria looked for the phone book, Jane said," You know, we both probably ought to apologize to Tom."

"What did I do?" Daria replied.

"Laughed," Jane responded. "I instigated things, but he might have been hurt by you laughing and going along with it. I say we apologize, hug it out, and then get him to buy us dinner. I'm getting pretty hungry."

Stopping for a moment and looking at Jane Daria stated with great confidence. "You are evil Lane."

Smiling Jane replied, "I know. I can manipulate, too. It is part of my charm."

Daria finally came up with the yellow pages. The two opened it up to "Movers" and started looking. "This one sounds interesting," Jane commented. "Four Men to Ferry – if the job is too big we can get four more from Jersey."

Daria just went, "Hmm."

"I'm going to call them." Jane grabbed the book and walked over to the telephone hanging on the wall in the kitchen. She dialed the number and waited. An answering machine responded. She left a message with her cell phone number and the one in Tom's apartment. Both phones could record a message. Then stated that the job would entail picking items up from multiple locations and bringing them to Daria's apartment. She asked for a quote and hung up.

Tom came out of the bedroom dressed in jeans and a polo shirt. The two women got up and walked over to him.

"I'm not going to get mauled again am I?" Tom asked.

Daria answered, "No. We just wanted to say we were sorry for embarrassing you. You know we wouldn't hurt you."

"I know," Tom replied.

"The let's just have a group hug before you tell us where you are taking us to dinner," Jane stated. The two women hugged Tom and each kissed him on opposite cheeks.

"Aw," Tom said. "Loved and fleeced at the same time. Who could want more than what you two have to take?"

"I know! Isn't it wonderful?" Jane quipped as she walked over and opened the door. Daria and Tom went out holding hands. Jane closed the door behind them. As they started down the hall, "By the way, that Gert thinks you are Daria's gay friend."

"Oh brother."

…..

Daria had to admit that she really preferred shopping in the thrift stores over the consignment shops. Since most of the thrift stores were "sheltered workshops" for people learning to cope with disabilities, they mostly left you alone. Most of the consignment shops had sales people seemingly wanting to sell you everything as an "antique in waiting," which pretty much meant something that was old but not old enough to be a valuable antique – though it was priced like an antique.

Still between the two types of stores they managed to fill Daria's needs list. She had dishes, flatware, a café style table with a couple of reasonably comfortable chairs. They found a good TV and a small cabinet to set it on. She even picked up some sheets. There was also a nice small secretary style desk and desk chair at one of the consignment shops that would not only fit in the apartment and be useful, but it looked good as well! Naturally, Daria found a pair of bookcases she liked. The one item that Daria bought new that really made the apartment was a combination sofa and murphy bed. The fact that the bed would rise up into a cabinet and leave a sofa was a real space saver for her apartment! In the process of searching all of the stores Jane even persuaded Daria to pick up a few décor items and pictures for the place – at least until she could get some Jane Lane originals.

Just after lunch Jane got a call back from the movers. They had no problem with picking up at multiple locations. The fact was that they charged by the hour and that included travel time between locations. All in all it would cost Daria about half of a week's pay or so to get all of the moving done, but then it would be finished and everything would be in her apartment. She agreed and it just so happened that they were free the next day. After everything was purchased Daria called the movers and told them where and what to pick up.

It was just before the afternoon rush that Daria and Jane arrived back at Tom's apartment. The two sat down and had a glass of wine.

"Well," Jane remarked. "You are now all set. You have enough, but not too much furniture. All of your colors coordinate. I think it will be a pleasant urban apartment to call home in New York City."

"Pleasant? I didn't know that word was in your vocabulary," Daria responded.

"Well, I can't think of a better word. It is not spacious, luxurious, or opulent! It is sort of the opposite. It is compact, functional, and comfortable. I think 'pleasant' is a decent word to describe it. If you want spacious, then you need to move in with Tom. I won't use luxurious or opulent for his place, because even he doesn't have that here. Still, this place is really nice and very comfortable."

"You know why I'm not moving in with Tom. He and I have been over this topic more than I can count."

"I know. You want to prove your independence. I get it. Just don't screw up your relationship with Tom. I have too much invested in it and so do you and he. You two are perfect for each other."

"We'll see," Daria said.

"OK," Jane replied. "Now let's see what is around here for dinner. You said yesterday that you were going to cook tonight. Do you keep things around or do we have to go to the grocery store?"

Before she could answer Jane, Daria's phone vibrated. She pulled it out of her pocket and looked at the display on the cover. There was a text message from Tom. She flipped open the phone and read the message. Tom was on his way home.

"OK," Daria stated. "I have cordon bleu in the freezer, asparagus in the fridge and rice pilaf in the cabinet. There is ice cream we can have for dessert. Maybe put some Irish Cream on it to make a sundae. And of course we have wine. If we get started now dinner will be on the table shortly after Tom walks in the door."