Epilogue: 5 Years Later
The small child raced down the hall, a riot of soft brown hair trailing behind her. Her little legs attempted to move faster than a speed they were truly capable in their great excitement, causing the child to barrel into slender jean-clad legs.
"Whoa there, young one," said Daria, helping the child to her feet. "Save your energy, it comes with a lifetime limit, you know."
The child's large head rocked up too look at Daria, brown eyes gone wide and wondering. "Really?" she asked, sincere in the way only small children can be.
"Daria, you'll scare her," scolded Quinn, scooping up her squirming toddler, walking towards the kitchen. Making an impish face, Olivia shook her head vigorously over Quinns shoulder, paying her favorite aunt a wide grin.
With a secret smile, thinking that her plans for corrupting this child were going swimmingly already, Daria picked up the shopping bags she and Quinn had dragged in the door.
"Quinn! Daria! You're back. How was Pike's Place?" Helen asked, coddling an infant on her shoulder, another of Quinn's brood. At a mere five months old, Isabelle was content to rest on Helen's shoulder, gumming her fist, watching the sudden commotion in the kitchen with wide blue eyes.
"It was like, totally weird. They really throw the fish at you there!" exclaimed Quinn with a smile, setting down Olivia and taking the bags from Daria. She pulled out their "catch of the day", a fresh cut of halibut, along with other ingredients for the feast to come.
"They throw the fish!?" exclaimed Jake from the other room. "EWW!"
"Oh, let me help you, dear," said Helen, ignoring Jake's outburst and handing Daria the baby. She went to assist her youngest daughter in preparing the evening meal. Thanksgiving wasn't until tomorrow, and already Daria found herself pushed out of her own kitchen...she couldn't say she really minded. After retirement, Helen still found she couldn't quite relax, directing her energies and new-found free time to cooking and gardening. Needless to say, her repertoire had finally expanded past lasagna, much to Jake's delight.
Daria accepted the baby with some trepidation, but Helen appeared to give her little choice in the matter. She looked down at this little being, which at least at this point, was a pint sized package of gurgles and dirty diapers. In a way Daria found those bright blue eyes staring up at her with such undivided interest unnerving; it was not the child herself, but the knowledge that she held something so very fragile, so very pure in her arms. A tiny person, as of yet untouched by the world around her, the people in it, the environment and her parents' own personal baggage.
Standing there in the kitchen, Daria contemplated the terrifying gravity of child rearing. It could be so easy to completely botch, yet every parent simply must do the best they can, to give a child the best chance possible at a good life. Children need so much attention, so much love...you have to give them more love than what they know what to do with. It will drive them crazy, and they'll walk away smug, knowing you need them but that they are entitled to the right to leave, to do what ever it is they want to do...are destined to do. And you have to let them go, knowing that that was the very reason why you went through everything you did for them. All the pain, love, discipline, crises, money, parent/teacher conferences, doctor's appointments...everything would lead up to that moment. That heartbreakingly beautiful moment when you knew you had to let them go.
As always, when Daria mused on the true weight of the responsibility Quinn had taken on (not once, but twice!) with such seemingly natural ease, she thought to herself the highly eloquent and intelligent expression of: holy shit!
As though she could sense Daria's thoughts, and decided such existentialism did not interest her, Isabel gave a wide yawn and settled against Daria's breast, intent on a nap. With that attitude and a shock of red hair that just brushed her forehead, Daria knew which sister this one took after...well, maybe it was too early to tell.
"You want me to take her?" Daria looked up to find Trent standing nearby, a warm smile curling the corners of his lips. He could see the expression akin to mystified panic written across Daria's features, as it usually was with young Isabella in her charge. It was amusing, and surprisingly touching in a way. The way she seemed so certain she would drop this child on its head, when by the extreme care she took with the precious bundle, everyone knew that Daria's arms were probably the safest of all in the apartment.
"Sure," agreed Daria, handing Quinn's baby over to uncle Trent. Accustomed to the game of pass the baby, Isabella quickly settled into the narrow chest of her new acquisition, three saliva-slathered fingers nearly lost to oblivion in a gaping toothless maw. Seemingly her utter opposite, perfectly at ease with the baby, Trent slowly turned on his heel, making his way to the living room. Daria watched his retreating form with loving wonder; in so many ways, he was so much braver than her.
"Can't sleep?" asked Trent, joining Daria at the window. She stood with her arms crossed, watching a November shower stream down the glass in sheets and rivulets.
"No," she answered honestly, leaning back into him.
Life had been good to them, throwing no more major curveballs since the somewhat climatic episode in their relationship, at what was to be Tom and Daria's wedding, but never realized. With a new devotion, the couple had decided to relocate to Seattle, a city that suited their bohemian tastes. He was able to continue with his music, and she with her writing. Though they never married, both had come to consider themselves husband and wife, respectively, in the ways that mattered. Five years of living together had left neither of them with any major grievances to speak of yet, but Daria kept waiting for that damned shoe to drop.
And she'd been afraid, so afraid, that a shoe large enough to smash them both would fall from the sky, when she'd broken the news to him, not but two weeks ago. In eight months, Daria was going to have a baby.
The thought absolutely petrified her.
"Are you worried about the baby?" asked Trent intuitively, soothing hands smoothing over her arms and shoulders before completely encircling her in a loving embrace.
"Worried doesn't quite capture the intensity of my apprehension."
She watched his silvered reflection in the dark window, and saw him nod with understanding. "Fair enough."
"Aren't you scared?"
"Sure," he answered, leaning his head atop hers. She felt engulfed by the man behind her, and found comfort in his warmth, his solidarity. "But I've got to admit, I'm also excited."
Mmm. Daria thought she might be more excited, if she weren't due to push a bowling ball through her birth canal in eight months...unless it was a cesarean, of course. Either way, there would be drugs involved. Oh yes, there would be drugs.
But it wasn't the pain that frightened her the most. It was all the things she saw when she looked into baby Isabella's crystalline blue eyes. All the responsibility, and all the opportunity for failure. Not just failure that affected herself or Trent, but the very life of another human being, that would begin so innocently, before their influence.
"I'm just afraid...I won't be a good mother. I don't anticipate a Medea complex or anything, but..." Daria felt the tremor of a laugh run through Trent's torso. "What?"
"Daria...you're the most capable woman I know. You'll make an excellent mother. Aren't you excited at all? Aren't you curious?"
Curious? Well...yes, there was a little tickle of warmth, deep inside. A small flame, waiting for fan and fuel. What would it be like, to have a little being growing inside her, one could say the physical manifestation of she and Trent's epic love? A little child that would love them, trust them implicitly...at least for a time. For a long time, if they did things right. Yes, of course she was curious. And even, yes, dare she admit? A little excited as well. But as always her thoughts tended to dwell on what could go wrong, as opposed to hope for the things that could go right.
"Yes, I'm curious," she admitted. "But this isn't a science experiment...it's very serious, and very real."
Once again, that telltale shudder of his body gave away Trent's laughter, along with the muscle tension of a cough. "Of course it's not an experiment. It's a new adventure. Yet another beginning."
Another beginning, mused Daria, studying Trent's reflection in the glass. Yes, it was. The creation of new life, the dawning of a fresh chapter in their respective life novel. As a writer, Daria was constantly dealing with beginnings and endings. They had to be catchy, profound, always. But in real life, an end could slip right into a beginning, without anyone ever noticing. They were everywhere, these cycles of renewal and decline. It's not over until we're dead, had said Trent, years ago. Even that was not exactly true. There would always be someone else to take up the story, add another chapter, take another step. It was a never-ending epic, this thing called life. It is when we become so absorbed in ourselves as individuals that we miss the fact that nothing really ever ends, in the way it never really begins.
But sometimes, we're lucky enough to catch a glance of this ongoing beauty, in the glimmer of a raindrop, the random kindness of a stranger, the perfection of a cool breeze rustling spring leaves, or the gentle sigh of a lover in moonlight. It's in everything, from the words we say to the people we love, and yet it would go on and on without us ever having been here.
Daria sank further back against Trent. A sigh escaped her lips as she gave him a slight but genuine smile, which he returned warmly in the reflection upon the window. At that moment, Daria felt it in two people brave enough to trust each other, standing barefooted in each other's arms, watching a Pacific Northwest rain paint the window of their living room, looking ahead to an unknown future they dared hope would be worth living. If experience could be trusted, through all the laughter and all the pain, in the end it would be.
Always, it would be.
A/N: My dear readers, thank you, THANK YOU, for the overwhelmingly positive response to this fic! It's been a pleasure entertaining you. :) If you enjoy my writing, check out my profile page for news about my first original book!