TWILIGHT'S OWN By Renfield


It started as an average morning in the Morgendorffer household. Daria was in her bedroom performing the dreary and ubiquitous ritual of getting dressed to go to school. From downstairs, she could hear the radio in the kitchen blaring out classical music. It might have been the William Tell Overture, but she was having a hard time placing it as she could hear Jake, also from down in the kitchen, doing a miserable job of trying to sing along with it.

Jake was aided in his out of tune, off key, missing-alternate-notes-altogether version of early morning music by a percussion section of clanging pans and clattering bowls. A singing Dad in the kitchen could only mean that he was making breakfast. Daria didn't even know what it was yet and already breakfast sounded awful.

She was just shrugging into her green jacket when she heard him yell up the stairs. "Helen, Daria, Quinn, Veronica! Your breakfast is ready!

Daria stopped for a moment. "Veronica?" she asked. Who was Veronica? One of Quinn's friends maybe? Quinn could barely keep herself down to a dull roar; she would have noticed if Quinn had a friend over, wouldn't she? Maybe the radio had triggered some old memory of her father's and he got caught up in a daydream. If it was the name of an old girlfriend it might prove entertaining to watch Mom make him squirm.

Daria was the first one downstairs. Jake had laid out several plates with food on them. He was still puttering around the stove, wearing an apron over a polo shirt and slacks. Daria sat down, looking without pleasure at what was laid out in front of her. Resigned to her father's lack of culinary expertise, she picked up a fork and gamely began to try to get it down.

Helen breezed into the kitchen carrying her briefcase. Quinn was right behind her talking into a cell phone.

"No time to eat, got a big case today, can't stop" Helen said as she walked out of the kitchen without a pause.

"Yes, Stacy, I'll be there for the Fashion Club pre-school meeting" Quinn said into the cell phone, leaving the kitchen just as quickly, also without stopping.

"But I madeoh, nuts!" Jake complained, noticing their simultaneous arrival and departure. Dejected, he turned back to the stove, continuing his cooking with the same enthusiasm Daria was eating.

Just then a girl walked into the kitchen. She was about thirteen or so, with long red hair and wearing a smiley-face T-shirt similar to Quinn's. She also wore Coke-bottle glasses with frames similar to Daria's own. Carrying herself very naturally, she stepped over to the table and sat down next to Daria. Picking up a fork, she started to eat with even less enthusiasm than Daria was displaying. After taking one bite, she put her fork back down.

"I don't know whether to eat this or take it to school for show and tell," she muttered. Picking up her fork, she started to resume eating.

Daria's curiosity was piqued at this brazen display of chutzpah. She didn't know where this girl came from, or why Quinn didn't wait around for her, but she could show better manners than to insult her hosts' food before she even introduced herself.

"Who are you?" Daria asked her.

The girl put her fork back down abruptly and gave Daria a dark look. "Dad!" she yelled. "Tell Daria not to start teasing me!"

"Veronica, eat your breakfast," Jake said without turning around. "Daria, stop teasing your sister."

"My sister!" Daria exclaimed.

What shortly followed involved some yelling, an upended plate, and a quick exit by Daria. The walk to school was punctuated by her dark mood, which Jane was having no trouble noticing.

"I don't know what they're up to," Daria grumbled.

"Who?" Jane asked.

"My parents. They're acting even more strangely than usual."

"How can you tell?" Jane asked with a smirk.

"I mean it," Daria continued emphatically, adjusting her bookbag on her shoulder to more easily face Jane as they talked. "You wouldn't believe what they did today. They got this girl to sit at the kitchen table and pretend to be my sister."

"Why would they want to do that?"

"Your guess is as good as any. But I'm sure I'll find out."

"How'd they get Quinn and Veronica to go along with it?"

Daria stopped dead in her tracks. Jane took a few more steps, but turned and faced Daria when she realized Daria wasn't moving.

"What did you say?" Daria growled.

Jane frowned and furled her brow in worried puzzlement at Daria's question. "How did they get Quinn and Veronica to go along with it?" she repeated.

"What do you mean?" Daria said indignantly. "How did they get you to go along with it?"

"What are you talking about?" Jane asked, her puzzled expression unchanging.

Daria stared angrily at Jane for an uncomfortable amount of time. Finally, she asked, "Jane, how many sisters do I have?"

Jane's expression moved from puzzlement to positive unease. "There's Quinn," she replied hesitantly, "and then there's Veronica."

"Ooh!" Daria yelled in frustration. Flashing Jane a withering look, she stormed past her friend and walked quickly down the sidewalk towards school.

"Daria! Hold on!" Jane called after her. She ran and easily caught up to Daria, who stared straight ahead and did not acknowledge her presence in the least.

"Daria, are you feeling all right?" Jane asked. After a few moments, it was apparent that Daria was going to continue to ignore her. "I'm sorry I made you mad, but I don't understand what you mean."

"Daria?" Jane asked one last time as they reached Lawndale High. Jane stopped at the entrance, but Daria continued in alone.

Daria's mood did not remarkably improve throughout the day. Daria, while not exactly seething, was holding on to her rage at the joke everyone was playing on her. She hoped that Jane would drop the stupid pretense and let her know what was going on, but on the few occasions she let Jane speak to her she adamantly refused to do anything but portray confusion at Daria's righteous resentment.

Things built to a head when the final bell rang. Daria was getting her books out of her locker to take home. Jane was doing the same, and while she kept glancing towards Daria, she had long since given up attempts at communication.

Quinn walked up to Daria, oblivious to the tension between the two friends. "Daria, can I speak to you for a second?" she asked.

Daria did not respond, and only continued exchanging books between her locker and bookbag. Quinn, unfortunately, seemed quite used to this level of communication from Daria.

"Look," she continued, "there's an emergency Fashion Club meeting at the mall and before you say anything it has nothing to do with a sale or buying clothes and we're probably not going to do much shopping anyway. Coincidentally, there is a male model expo at Cashman's later on today, but that's just a curious event that we'll have to deal with and work around the best we can."

Daria continued to ignore her sister. She shut her locker door with a small bang, and zipped up her bookbag with a strong tug, and turned in the opposite direction to walk away.

"Fine," Quinn said, sounding exasperated, "I'll give you five bucks."

Daria stopped short and turned to face Quinn. "Five bucks?" she asked. "For what?"

Quinn rolled her eyes. "For going home and staying with Veronica this afternoon instead of me," she explained with a huff.

"What!" Daria snapped.

"Fine, I'll make it ten," Quinn said testily, "but I'm not switching Friday night with you. I have two dates."

Daria stared daggers at her sister, and then turned quickly away to rush off. She was stopped by Jane's hand on her shoulder. Jane looked at her in evident concern.

"Daria?" Jane asked. "What's the problem? Are you mad at Veronica or something?"

If Daria had been staring daggers at Quinn, she was now staring scimitars at Jane.

"Jane," Daria said tightly, "There is no Veronica. There's just me, Mom, Dad, and unfortunately Quinn. I don't know why everyone thinks this is funny but I wish you'd all find someone else to laugh at."

With that, Daria wrenched her shoulder away from Jane and sped away from the two girls. She walked quickly all the way home and greeted anyone she happened to see along the way with a deep scowl. When she burst through the front door, she was surprised to see Jake standing in the living room wearing a flannel shirt.

Forgetting her anger for the moment, she asked, "Dad? What are you doing home?"

"Oh, hey kiddo," Jake said with a smile. "I was just getting some chores done in between calls. Speaking of which-"

Jake was interrupted by a chirping sound. Daria noticed that he had a cell phone clipped to his waist, and he was wearing an earpiece connected to it with a headset attachment. Touching a button on the cell phone, he started speaking. "Jake Morgendorffer Consulting. Oh, hi Frank. Cigars for pets? What do I think? I have two opinions. Personally, I think it's a lousy idea, and as a consumer I'm offended that anyone would try to foist such a waste of resources on the American public. Professionally, I think it's a great idea that will undoubtedly make millions and I'm glad to be on board at the ground floor. Hold on, Frank."

Jake turned back to his daughter. "Daria, if you go anywhere this afternoon, could you take Veronica with you? I may have to write up a proposal later."

Without waiting for her reply, Jake turned his attention back to the phone call. Daria didn't reply regardless, instead she wordlessly backed away. Her anger had completely subsided, and was quickly getting replaced with worry and concern.

Her father seemed to be working from home, instead of from his office, and was treating it like the most natural thing in the world. He was using a complex piece of modern technology without getting confused or using profanity, which was also unlike him. He was also keeping up the "Veronica" charade without a problem, and he was a man who could barely tell a joke without screwing up the punchline. What was going on? She shook her head in puzzlement as she walked through the house.

Daria stopped on the way to her room, noticing something odd as she passed the guest room. Poking her head in, she realized that what she had noticed was that it wasn't the guest room. It wasn't the overblown feminine explosion that was Quinn's room, but it was obviously the bedroom of a young girl. There were posters of a sunflower and a rock band hanging on the light pink walls. There was a framed certificate with a blue ribbon indicating first place at a spelling bee. The small bed was covered by a slightly disarrayed comforter. There was a dresser with some schoolbooks and stuffed animals on it, as well as some scattered pocket change and some make-up. Against one wall there was a well-stocked bookshelf. Scattered on the floor and the bed there were various articles of clothing, mostly jeans, t-shirts, and underwear. It was a bedroom, it belonged to a young girl, and it was lived in.

She took a few hesitant steps into the room, gazing around in disbelief. This was too much for a joke. This had to be real, but how could it? She didn't understand, and somehow everyone else did.

A book on the nightstand caught her attention. Picking it up, she realized it was her dog-eared copy of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

"You can't have it back," Veronica said from behind her.

"What?" Daria said, turning around in surprise. "Why not?"

Veronica's bland visage was instantly marred by a deep scowl. Frowning, she shouted, "Fine, take it, I don't care! Just get out of my room!"

Still awash in confusion, Daria quickly complied. She scooted past the young girl as fast as she could and made for the haven of her own room. She tossed the book under her bed and lay down, trying to figure out how the universe could have changed without her knowing about it. The most confusing part, actually, was that the universe changed and she was the only one who did know about it. Was the universe trying to tell her something? Was she unnecessary, since the universe could create another Morgendorffer anytime it wanted? Did she wake up in the wrong universe to begin with? Daria had always felt like an outsider, and the more she thought about it, the more she felt that she didn't really belong in this universe at all.

As she lay there on her back with her head hanging over the side of the bed, she heard someone stop at her doorway. Glancing over, she could see it was Veronica, who was standing in the doorframe with crossed arms and a look of aggrieved depression. Daria stared at her, unable to think of anything to say to the stranger.

Apparently taking Daria's silence as an invitation, or at least the lack of a discouragement from entry, Veronica walked over to the bed and sat down on the edge.

She kept her gaze locked on the floor the entire time, and sat there for a few moments before speaking. Taking a deep breath, she finally said, "You hate me, don't you?"

"Hate you?" Daria responded, genuinely perplexed. "I don't even know you."

"Well that's not my fault!" Veronica yelled, running from the room.

Daria was utterly confused, and found herself completely unable to fathom an explanation for her situation. She found herself automatically reaching for the phone, and then stopped herself. Realizing that she had nothing to rely on but trust, she bit her lip and dialed Jane's number.

"Don't hang up Daria I'd love to talk you don't have a sister named Veronica you're absolutely right about everything," Jane said in one fluid sentence when she picked up the phone.

"Jane?" Daria said, her friend's curious phone manner doing nothing to assuage her confusion. "How did you know it was me?"

"It's called caller i.d.," Jane said nonchalantly. "I wanted to call you all afternoon, but I knew you might not want to talk unless you called me. Do you want to come over?"

"Sure," Daria said hesitantly. "So you believe me?"

"Absolutely. You don't have a sister and something weird is definitely going on."

"We're best friends, right?" Daria asked.

"Yeah," Jane said slowly.

"You know you're the person I trust most in the world, right?"

"That's nice of you to say," Jane asked more than said.

"So right now you're just telling me what I want to hear, aren't you?"

There was silence for a moment on the other end of the line.

"Okay," Jane said finally, "you got me. I don't know what's going on, Daria. The only strange thing I've noticed is the stuff you've been saying. But I am your best friend. I'm not trying to dupe you into anything, or lure you into a trap or anything like that. Trent's not even home. I was hoping you'd come over and you can help me understand what's going on."

"I don't know..."

"Please Daria? I want to help."

Jane really didn't have to ask. She was the only one Daria could turn to, and Daria knew it.

Jane greeted Daria at the door of the Lane household and led the way up to her room. "So," Jane said casually, "aside from the sudden addition of a sibling, how is everything going in your life?"

"Oh, just peachy," Daria said dryly. "My flaky Dad is still making sacrifices of my taste buds at the altar of his lousy cooking, my workaholic mother is well on her way to fulfilling her dream of becoming a fully-functional cyborg by having her cell phone permanently mounted to her ear, and my fashion-obsessed sister is still so self-absorbed that she's in danger of putting the entire sponge industry out of business."

Jane stared at her for a moment. Finally, she said, "And that sister is Quinn, right?"

"Yes, Quinn is my sister," Daria said crossly. "I don't know who this Veronica girl is or how she moved into my house or how they got everyone to go along with this stupid joke."

Jane shifted her eyes away from Daria.

"How did they get you to go along with it, Jane?" Daria was ready to leave, but that would mean going back home.

"They didn't, Daria," Jane said after a pause. "Look, give me a break. I know you have a little sister named Veronica. You bring her over all the time. She was here yesterday. I don't know why you don't remember her, but everyone else does."

Daria crossed her arms and glared at Jane. Going back home and waiting for the joke to fall apart on its own was beginning to look a little more appealing.

Jane exhaled, and with an uneasy look walked over to her easel. She turned it so Daria could view the painting that was resting on it. Jane had obviously spent some time on it, and it was a good likeness. It clearly showed Daria sitting on Jane's bed reading a book. It just as clearly showed Veronica sitting on the floor leaning against the bed, also reading a book.

Daria's eyes went wide as she stared horrified at the picture. The sight of the painting struck her as an almost physical blow. Suddenly short of breath, she sank into a sitting position on the floor. She felt very weak and her heart was starting to beat rapidly as she tried to process everything since she woke up that morning. "Am I going crazy?" Daria asked sadly.

Jane left the painting and kneeled down next to her friend. "I'm sorry, Daria," Jane said calmly. "Veronica exists. She's always existed. Are you saying you really don't remember her?"

Daria brought her cool hands up to massage her temples as she shook her head slowly. "I don't know anything about having a sister named Veronica, Jane. It's always been just me and Quinn. That's it."

"A rather odd choice, to remember Quinn over Veronica."

"Tell me about it," Daria replied automatically, before furrowing her brow in confusion once more. "What am I saying? It's not like I have any basis for comparison. What's going on?"

"I don't know, Daria," Jane said soothingly. "I've actually been hoping you were just joking with everyone."

"I thought everyone was joking with me. Now I don't know what to think. Maybe I am going crazy."

"Well, maybe not crazy," Jane said slowly, "but if it is a psychosis, I can't figure out why you'd develop it in this manner."

Daria eyed Jane suspiciously. "That sounded awfully clinical."

"What can I say," Jane said shrugging her shoulders and rolling her eyes, "between my family and my own dreams of becoming a famous artist, I've done a little research into dementia. Sometimes, as a means to improving their lot in life, some people will develop a psychotic fixation. No matter how much evidence they see to convince them otherwise, they'll always hold onto the idea in order that their universe will make sense the way they want it to."

"So you're saying I can't remember Veronica because I don't want to?"

Jane hesitated, and then nodded slowly. "It's possible. What I find interesting though, is that not only do you not remember the sister who's at least a little more tolerable, you don't view your situation as much of an improvement at all."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Did you listen to the way you described your family before? I know firsthand how annoying parents and siblings can be, but I've never heard you go off like that about them."

"I'm sorry, but I was mad at them," Daria said, her mind reeling. "I thought they were making fun of me."

"I know, but I mean, Jake 'flaky?' Sure, his cooking may not be real great, but at least he makes sure you thr-" Jane interrupted herself, but continued, "three, always have wholesome meals. Where does 'flaky' come from?"

"Oh, maybe from how he always acts childish in order to stay the center of attention," Daria said, wiping away a threatening tear, "or how the slightest imperfection will send him into a screaming tirade directed at my dead grandfather."

"Funny," Jane said slowly, "I've never known your Dad to be anything but charming and polite when I've slept over. Maybe a little clueless, but he hides it well."

Daria just looked at Jane curiously.

"What about your 'workaholic' cyborg Mom?" Jane continued.

"What about her?"

Jane looked at her watch. "Are you telling me she won't be home by 5:30, like she is every night?"

"Great," Daria said morosely, "so how is Quinn different from how I described her?"

"Actually, it sounds like you described her to a tee." At Daria's skeptical look, she added, "Hey, don't ask me what went wrong there."

"So only Mom and Dad are better in this alternate universe I created for myself?"

"Mmmaybe," Jane said, standing up and pulling Daria to her feet as well. "But I've got another theory about how this all happened if you'd like to hear it."

"Really?" Daria exclaimed, looking at Jane with real hope. "What is it?"

"You made it happen."

"What? Isn't that what you just said?"

"Not like that, Daria," Jane said. "I mean really made it. You said your life with just you and Quinn is no great shakes, so it would make sense for you to want to improve it, right?"

Daria looked at Jane like she was crazy. "Wait, are you saying I just wished another sister into existence or something?"

Jane just held her hands apart and looked at Daria expectantly.

"There are at least two things wrong with that theory, Jane, and one of them's Quinn."

"Well, yeah," Jane said, holding her arms out and shrugging. "Maybe it has to do with the wording of the wish or something, but it could explain why Veronica's a little more like you than Quinn is. Well, that or genetics."

"That brings me to the other point. If I did wish for another sister - whatever that means - why don't I remember doing it?"

"That's the beauty of my theory," Jane said, smiling triumphantly and pointing her finger at Daria. "You haven't done it yet."

"You know," Daria said, shaking her head slowly, "this is all making less sense the longer it goes."

"Here, let me show you," Jane said, walking over to her bed and unfurling a rolled-up piece of paper that was lying on it. "I was thinking this afternoon about how what you say could be true if you weren't craz- suffering from a minor mental episode, and if everyone else remembered it this way."

Daria walked over to the bed to see a diagram Jane had drawn on the paper. It had several pictures of people on it, most of them her, with arrows drawn back and forth between many of the figures.

"See, here's you with your family as you know it," Jane said, pointing at the first set of figures showing Daria, Quinn, Helen and Jake. Moving her hand to another set, she continued, "Clearly unhappy, you wish for another sister, in order to make your life a little more bearable."

Daria opened her mouth to protest, but Jane held up a hand and pointed to another set of figures that had an arrow going back between the first two sets.

"However," she went on, "if you didn't remember you wanted a sister, you wouldn't have made the wish, so you have to remember the way things always were in order to avoid the paradox."

"But if I have the sister now, then I don't need to make the wish, so the paradox still exists," Daria said, trying to sound as much like a smartass as possible.

"I'm talking about rewriting reality Daria," Jane said, rolling up the paper. "I'm not saying it's an exact science."

"So I wanted to be happy by wishing for another sister, but since I don't remember her, how am I supposed to be happy?"

"Well," Jane said, cocking her head in thought, "since you apparently wished to always have the sister, making it retroactive back through time, maybe you can't remember her until you make the wish and after that your memory will be rewritten too."

Daria raised her eyebrows. "That could almost be called logical."

"Thanks," Jane said, setting the paper aside. "Of course, it could just be a ground zero thing. You know, since you were standing right there when the wish was made, you'll remember how things were for so long until reality catches back up."

"And so much for making any sense."

Jane shrugged. "What can I say, Daria? It's just a theory."

"Look," Daria said, "even if I did somehow wish another person into existence, how did I wish it? None of my other wishes have ever come true. Quinn's still here."

"I don't know," Jane said searchingly. "Maybe you can't wish things away. If you have a power like that, it would be a lot more sensible if you could only create and not destroy. Now that I think about it, that's probably a really good thing. I doubt there'd be anyone left on the planet by now except us chickens."

"Don't count your chickens before they're hatched, Lane," Daria said with a glare. "It's completely impossible anyway."

"Why?" Jane asked. "You're describing an impossible situation, so why can't another impossible situation be the cause?"

"Because people don't just go around making wishes that come true," Daria said, trying to spit the words out, but surprising herself at how morose she sounded instead.

"How do you know? If history and reality get changed, we'd get changed too. For all we know, this goes on all the time."

"No," Daria said shaking her head. "There would have been some evidence by now."

"Fine," Jane said, rolling her eyes, "we go back to my original theory and say you're the only one who could do this."

"Actually, you're original theory said that I was crazy, and I'm beginning to lean in that direction myself since I seem to have company. Why would I be the only one who would be able to do this anyway?"

"Why not? If I know anyone who could do something like that, I'd certainly say it was you."

"And how could I do it in the first place?" Daria replied, trying to sound annoyed instead of truly upset. This whole line of thinking was beginning to get to be too much on top of everything else. "What makes you think I could make something like that happen just by wishing it?"

"Even if it doesn't happen all the time," Jane said slowly, trying to sound soothing, "and it probably doesn't, it would probably take someone very special to pull it off. They'd probably be very intelligent and observant, and have qualities that would set them apart from other people. Maybe someone like that isn't born every day, but how many people are there on the planet now? Six billion? More?"

Daria hugged herself, trying not to shake. "Do you have any other theories?" she asked quietly.

"A couple," Jane replied. "But they involve aliens and genies."

"Do you think the genie might need a roommate in his lamp?"

"One other thing," Jane said, stepping forward and giving Daria's arm a squeeze. "Bigger families aren't necessarily worse, Daria. The more people you have around, the more they can annoy you, but there's no telling how people are going to affect each other, especially when they're family. My sister Summer may be an airhead, but she let me help take care of a great niece and nephew. Penny may have some funny ideas about crafts and economics, but when I was a kid she seemed so strong and assured that I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. You know how I get along with Trent, and Wind may be a complete flake, but whenever he comes over the first thing he does when he sees me is give me a hug, and that means a lot."

"I have to go," Daria said, rushing past Jane, out the bedroom door, down the stairs and out of the house. She just couldn't take any more. It was all too much. It was completely crazy, and it was the closest thing to a reasonable answer that she could see, but she couldn't bring herself to believe any of it. The only other option was to admit that she was crazy, but that wasn't acceptable either. She didn't even slow down when she realized that she was instinctively heading home.

Walking in the door, she felt a momentary relief as she heard the sounds of an argument, which meant she could probably slip up to her room unnoticed. She was halfway up the stairs when she realized the two voices belonged to Quinn and Veronica.

"-so stay out of my room from now on, you little brat!" Quinn yelled from down the hall.

"You weren't wearing it!" Veronica screamed back. "You haven't worn it in two weeks!"

"That's because I couldn't find it!"

"I only borrowed it this morning! And it was in your Out Of Fashion section!"

"Well, it's retro now, so give it back!"

Daria stepped into her room muttering. "Oh, yeah. I really wished for this."

"Daria?"

"Eep!" Daria jumped as Helen walked into the room behind her.

"Sorry to startle you, dear," Helen said.

"It's okay," Daria said, turning to notice Helen dressed in a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers, "Mom?"

"Were you bothering your sister earlier?"

Daria hated herself for having to ask the question. "Which one?"

"Veronica, of course. Quinn only got home a few minutes before you did," Helen said, glancing out the door towards the sounds of the fight. "She was moping around, complaining about something being taken from her room. Unfortunately, that seemed to give Quinn the idea to take an inventory herself."

"I didn't do anything to bother her," Daria said.

"Well, I promised your father I'd help with dinner tonight, so if that goes on for too much longer would you intervene, sweetie?"

"Sure, Mom," Daria replied, a little surprised at the request.

"Thanks, dear," Helen said. She leaned in and gave Daria a peck on the cheek before she turned and left.

Puzzled at the actions of an apparently calm and reasonable Helen, Daria walked over to the bed and sat down. When she did, her foot bumped a book sticking out partway from under the bed. Suddenly remembering the book she had retrieved from the guest roo- Veronica's room earlier, she reached down to pick it up. When she did so, she noticed that there was another book right next to it. What really caught her eye was that they were identical.

She picked both books up and held them in front of her. They were both the same paperback edition of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. They both had been read many times, had broken spines, ruffled pages, dog-eared corners and a variety of scratches and stains. "This day just gets weirder and weirder," Daria said mystified.

Opening the cover of one, she reassured herself by reading the "Property of Daria Morgendorffer" bookplate she had placed in there several years ago. Setting it aside, she quickly opened the cover of the other one, half expecting to see an identical bookplate. What was there took her breath away.

"To Veronica. Maybe now my copy will stay in my room where it belongs. Happy Birthday, Love, Daria."

Daria read the inscription in her own handwriting several times. She was holding, in her hands, a book she had never given to a sister she never had. But she obviously did give this book to that girl right down the hall. She couldn't remember the book, the birthday, or the girl, but she had done it. And she loved her.

Daria grabbed both books and ran out of the room. She headed towards the screaming match that was coming from the gues- Veronica's room. She noticed her parents heading up the stairs, but they slowed as they noted she was heading to the source of the noise ahead of them.

Daria stopped as she looked in the doorway. Quinn and Veronica were tugging an article of clothing between them, but it was stretched so tight as to make it impossible to identify what it might have been. Quinn was red-faced from exertion, but Veronica was red and puffy and had tears freely flowing down her cheeks.

"You don't want me to have anything!" Veronica screamed.

"Cut it out!" Quinn yelled back. "You're stretching it!"

Daria was completely unsure of how to stop a fight like this. "Hey, knock it off you two," she said, stepping into the room.

Veronica turned her head, having not noticed Daria's presence until now, and Quinn took advantage of the momentary distraction to whip the prized garment out of the smaller girl's clutches. Grunting in frustration at her loss, Veronica crossed her arms and turned to face the bed. She was breathing heavily and obviously still crying.

"Thanks for the assist, Daria," Quinn said, throwing the article over her shoulder. "Let me know if you need a hand getting any of your books back."

"She can keep her stupid books," Veronica said, without turning around.

"Veronica," Daria said, leaning down to Veronica's level, "I'm sorry. I thought it was my book. I didn't realize it was your copy."

"All of them are starting to blend together?" Quinn said. "I'm not surprised."

Daria ignored Quinn. At least she had a lot of practice at that. Veronica hadn't turned around or answered. She was just standing there shaking as she cried and sniffled. "I'm sorry I upset you, Veronica. Later on, Quinn will apologize too-"

"No I won't-"

"Or I will answer the phone for the next six months and tell anyone on the other end that I'm her."

"I'm sorry, Veronica," Quinn said quickly.

"Veronica?" Daria said, lightly touching Veronica's back.

Without warning, Veronica spun around and threw her arms around Daria, burying her head in her shoulder. "Why do you always have to be so mean?" Veronica sobbed.

"Mean?" Daria thought. "Am I mean?" Veronica's presence had seemed to make Helen and Jake more laid back, but Quinn seemed just as self-centered as ever. How would a second sister affect her? Veronica seemed used to getting teased; did she do it all the time? Did Veronica know that she loved her? Did she love her? Daria awkwardly put her arms around the smaller girl and started stroking her hair with her free hand. She was surprised at how good it felt.

"Look," Daria began, searching for something to say, "I know it seems like we're always mean to you, but we're you're sisters. It's just part of being a family."

"You don't have to do it so much," Veronica muttered through her tears.

"I know," Daria said. She exchanged a glance with Quinn, who was looking on dispassionately. "Maybe sometimes we go too far, but it's only because we don't realize we're hurting you."

"I'm sorry I'm a brat sometimes," Veronica muttered.

"It's okay," Daria said, distracted by Quinn's slight smirk, which she answered with a dark glare. "If I could remember you I'm sure I-"

Veronica instantly stiffened in Daria's arms and pushed away from her. "You're still doing it," she yelled.

Daria could hear Helen and Jake hurrying down the hall, apparently having waited long enough for her to control the situation. A situation her verbal blunder had just made incredibly worse.

"Veronica," she sputtered, "I'm sorry-"

"I hate you!" Veronica screamed. "I wish I'd never been born!"

"Dammit!" Jake yelled, charging into the room. "What are you two yelling about in here?"

"Calm down, Jake," Helen admonished, brushing a piece of lint off of her red business suit. "Now girls, why are you carrying on so loudly in the guest room? Daria?"

Daria was kneeling on the floor, clutching a book in her hands, copious tears flowing around her glasses and down her face.

"Quinn?" Helen asked. "What did you say to upset your sister?"

"I don't know, Mom," Quinn responded exasperated, before a puzzled look crossed her face. "Actually, I can't remember what it was at all."

She tried as hard as she could, but Daria couldn't remember either.

THE END


Well, there it is. My ninth Daria fanfic, completed at last. I would love to hear what you thought of it.

Major thanks go out to Robert Nowall for dumping this idea at the Paperpusher's Message Board. He wound up picking it back up again, but not before I had become intrigued with the notion. In order to keep in line with his original idea as much as possible, I included several scenes and pieces of dialogue exactly as he wrote them. Normally I wouldn't bother pursuing someone else's ideas, but I knew we would come up with radically different explanations and endings.

Disclaimer: Daria and all related characters were created by Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis and are trademarks of MTV Networks, Inc., a division of VIACOM international, Inc. All rights reserved by trademark holders U. S. National and International Law and Convention.

"Twilight's Own" is a work of fiction produced solely for fun, and is not meant to be distributed for profit. It may be distributed to Daria fans everywhere, provided the author's name and e-mail address are left intact.