CHAPTER XI

"Um, I hope my parents didn't give you the third degree while you were waiting for me," said Daria, as she and Trent drove out of her neighborhood. "I would have been down sooner, but once Quinn saw that the only shoes of mine that she could match to your eyes were my combat boots, there was no stopping her."

Trent let out a light chuckle. "Yeah. Little sisters can be a pain sometimes. I'm glad I lucked out with Janey though."

"Yeah, you definitely did," Daria agreed. "You and Jane are really lucky to have each other. She missed you a lot when we were in Boston."

"Really?" asked Trent, glancing over to look at Daria before focusing back on the road. He found it hard not to sneak glances at her after that.

"Yeah. But don't tell her I said that. She'd deny everything, kill me, then bury me in my old bridesmaids dress. And that would be a fate worse than death."

"When were you a bridesmaid?" asked Trent, smirking.

"Back in high school, when my cousin Erin got married over a double-standard."

Trent nodded. "I could see that. Do they seem happy, at least?"

"Well, if by 'happy' you mean they share a growing resentment for loss of fleeting youth while her husband Brian bounces from one government job to the next, causing Erin to take a part-time job against her will just to make ends meet and pay off their second mortgage, all the while basically raising the kids on her own, then yes. They're very happy."

Trent coughed violently. "You're funny, Daria." When he continued to cough, Daria asked if he was alright. "You're beginning to remind me of my dad when he pops a blood vessel talking about military school." When he caught his breath again, Trent assured he was fine. "Speaking of my dad," continued Daria, "I hope you didn't mind having had to sit through one of his harrowing retellings of his repressed childhood traumas and lifelong resentments. I understand him, but I know it can be a bit much to non-relatives."

"Don't worry about it, Daria, your dad's cool," said Trent.

Daria raised an eyebrow in confusion. "'Cool'? Are you and I talking about the same person? The one who wrote jingoistic music to a tune that sounds suspiciously like the theme song to Barney the Dinosaur?"

Trent grinned widely. "Well, I don't know about that, but you gotta respect him. I mean, here's a guy who day in and day out had to deal the The Man for years at a school that tried to break him and crush his individuality so that he could become a war-mongering puppet and kill the enemy, whoever it may happen to be. But instead, he became a peace-loving counterculturalist against the wishes of the village that raised him." Daria stared, fixated on Trent. "He may be resentful or bitter for becoming another brick in the Wall, but at least he's straightforward and doesn't pretend that the society that raised him knew what was best. He probably thinks he's lost himself or what he once took action against, but he rebels everyday by succeeding at owning his own business, keeping up with his songwriting, raising daughters to think for themselves..." Trent turned to glance at Daria, surprised to see the intensity of her gaze. His breath caught. He could feel his ears turning red. Trent turned his attention back to the road, finding it harder to focus on anything but Daria's dark doe eyes. "Well, that's what I think anyway. So I don't mind his stories. I think it's cool he keeps his outlet, even if it involves some Yankee doodle dandy."

"I never thought about it like that before," said Daria. "I guess he is kind of cool. Only…"

"Only what?"

"Only never tell my dad I said that, because I would hate to have to bury you in my bridesmaid dress, too."

Trent coughed as he laughed. "That would be a shame. I happen to like being alive. Besides, that dress could never look as good on me as it does on you."

"It's blue taffeta. It couldn't look good on anyone. Especially not me. Everyone and their mother told me so at the time."

Trent shrugged. "Maybe not. But blue definitely looks good on you."

He stole another glance at Daria. The two locked eyes and shared small, shy smiles. Trent broke away first with reluctance to focus on the road, but Daria's stare lingered. After a few seconds she looked down at her lap, and tucked her long, thick hair behind her ear. She reminded herself to thank Quinn later.