"It was over." That was the only thought going through my mind as I arrived home. There was a lot said, and a lot unsaid, but that was the only truth in my mind at that second. My relationship with Daria Morgandorffer was over.
It had been over for a week now, and I was finally over the shock enough to think about it. I suppose Daria was right: It really couldn't be helped. We might have still been able to do things over the summer together, but when college came around, it would be over. We both knew how long the car trip between them would be, and, even if we weren't the slow drivers Mom was, it was too far for a day trip between Raft and Bromwell. And then there was the other things Daria had said. I didn't disagree, it was true. We truly were headed for different places, although I didn't agree with her either. It may have just been her self-consciousness acting up again, as it tended to do during our relationship. Uncomfortable with anyone getting close to her, she often tried to force me away with such conversations whenever she felt nervous, which happened quite a bit. It was pretty annoying for her to constantly be shoved aside due to her own nerves. But I was a good sport and let her sort things out. And here was where it led me.
She said that she still liked me. She was happy that we went out. Our relationship had run it's course romantically, but she still liked me as a friend. Was it compensation? A kiss-off? Whatever it was, it was practically the only thing keeping me sane.
The drive home took ages, I hadn't the effort to swerve through traffic. Once I reached home, I went upstairs immediately, and collapsed upon my bed, not even bothering to take off my shoes. The blinds were closed and I lay on my side, staring a hole into the opposite wall. There was so much running through my mind, and all of it about Daria. Was she lying about how Bromwell affected her? Possibly, but probably not. Daria would never care what some stranger thought of her application. Was she angry that I made it in? Although I doubted that too, I couldn't deny this as much as the former. She was definitely bitter about that at the pizza place. But that couldn't be the only reason.
"Tom." Mom's voice sounded from the outside. "It's dinner time." She called.
"I'll be right there." I called. I sighed briefly before exiting my room and headed downstairs for dinner. Already seated at the table was Elsie, a look of boredom on her face as she waited for her food. Every so often, she sniffed and rubbed her nose.
"She was using again." I noted. Like me, Elsie tried to get away from all the upper-crustiness of the world we were born into, but she did it through a lot of other vices, like cocaine and booze. We've had some wine as a family before, but only a glass on Thanksgiving. I was proud of the fact that I wasn't a drinker, and I had never, not even once, touched those other drugs. Elsie hadn't told anyone about her slumming forays, and she thought no one could discover her. Mom was clueless about the world outside her ivory tower, and Dad was barely around, but I knew what went on at the shows I went to, and I could spot a user. I never confronted her about it. How Elsie screwed up her life was her business, and it kept her and her problems far away from me.
"Oh, dear. It seems your father is working late again." Mom seemed genuinely disappointed.
"What a surprise." Elsie sarcastically stated. Not that I expected different.
"Elsie!" Mom voiced back at her. I remained quiet. Those little mother-daughter spats were the background noise of my home life.
"I'm sure he'll be home in time for dessert." Mom took her seat as the food was being brought out. Although I was feeling hungry, and the food, as always, was delicious, I took bird-like bites and barely concentrated on my food, still putting Daria's words together in my head.
"So, Elsie." Mom spoke from across the table. "Anything new happen with you today."
"Trying to feed the beast?" I wondered silently to myself. Elsie casually brushed Mom off with her usual stock questions. Mom continued to prod, trying to recall some of Elsie's friends. All questions elicited the same base monosyllabic responses from Elsie. At last Mom gave up, and turned her attention to me.
"Tom, are you not hungry? You've barely touched your Cordon Bleu." Mom asked me. I wasn't even paying attention to her question when she asked it, and stared vacantly into my plate.
"Tom." Mom asked, even more forceful then before. I snapped out of it, and became nervous. Although I was infinitely better at deflecting Mom's questions then Elsie, a distracted vacant stare like the one I had was near-impossible to deflect without out and out lying.
"Just a stomachache." I replied. "Nothing serious. What did you do today?" The perfect deflection for any parent: Be interested in them. Mom starting talking about the art gallery and a new exhibit they had prepared, but my mind started to wander again.
"Am I really that stuck-up?"
After dinner, I retreated back into my room. The phone rang a few times, but I ignored it. I stared at the empty dark space. I'd been staring at it all week vacantly, looking into the void to find the answers to my void.
"Why should we work at it when we're already bored with each other?" Daria's voice reverberated in my mind. So did her reply to my protests.
"Really? Or are you just upset that I admitted it first?" Her voice was so clear in my mind. Was I bored with her? Were we just going through the motions because we couldn't muster the effort to break up? I couldn't believe that. I enjoyed my time with Daria, right up until the end. Even when we were fighting, I felt something. She was worth her insecurities.
So what was it? Was she just furious with me? Another classic Daria moment where she broke up with me, only to get back together once she got over herself and her nerves?
"No." I said aloud sadly, the first word I'd spoken in hours. I sniffed. My stomach felt pains from emptiness, and I realized that I really didn't eat anything at dinner. Perhaps I needed a break from my thoughts.
I thought about calling Jane, but decided against it as I reached for the phone. In a battle between me and Daria, Jane would side with Daria, and I didn't need that. I had to go out with people that knew nothing about Daria.
Knock, knock. Before I could do anything, there was a knock on the door.
"It's open." I replied, quickly flipping on the light. If it was Elsie, I'd throw her out. I was in no mood for her crap.
"Sweetie." It was Mom. She opened the door.
"Yeah?" I asked. Another round of stall-the-parent.
"Are you feeling better?" She asked. Mom was truly concerned, she always had been. Kay Sloane was easily the densest person around when it came to the world outside her door. A thousand dollars for a benefit was pocket change for her, but some people didn't have that kind of money to throw around. She tried to be involved, and I suppose I should have respected that. She approached being a parent through the same tinted glasses, and wouldn't understand my problems.
"I'm fine now. It might have just been what I ate for lunch." Nothing could be further from the truth, but she'd have no reason to doubt me.
"Well, don't forget that graduation luncheon is tomorrow. Your father will be home and we'll be having lunch at the club."
"That sounds...great." I faked a smile. "Dad's finally going to show up for a meal." Mom let out a slight chuckle. She never got angry with me when I pointed out Dad's absences. Unlike Elsie, I never used it as leverage against either of my parents.
"You know he cares for you." She reminded, although not sternly. It was true, Dad wouldn't work those long hours at the investment firm if he didn't. But I had gone weeks without seeing or even hearing from him. Not that I didn't know where he was. But he had no clue where I went. He cared, but he wasn't interested.
"Why don't you invite Daria?" Mom noted cheerfully. "And her family. Wouldn't that be splendid?" Mom certainly seemed enthusiastic about it. I tried desperately to avert my gaze, so she wouldn't see all the color drain from my skin.
"I'll call, but I doubt it." I replied quickly, eager to change the topic. "Daria's probably got plans with her family, not to mention Jane. I don't think her family will be home."
"They won't?" Mom seemed mildly disgusted at the thought. But she had barely known Jane, let alone her parents. I never even met them. There was no mention of inviting Jane at all.
"Well, I suppose it's unavoidable. Don't forget to eat something a little later. You'll get sick." Mom turned out and left. I leaned back on the bed, and realized I needed to get out of here. I had enough of my prodding family for one day. Who knows if Elsie was going to try something. She would know something was up.
I grabbed my phone and dialed Brandon, one of my friends from school. Most people who went to Fielding were stuck-up jerks and debutantes. In my class of a few hundred, the ones I could stand to be around could be counted on my fingers.
"Hello." The voice sounded from the phone.
"It's Tom." I replied.
"Hey, what's up." The voice dropped it's pretense and started speaking in a normal tone. This was almost the norm with Brandon, whose father was the Governor. Perfect little boy until he knew he could drop his guard.
"I need to get out of this house." I replied. A simple sentence, but it said so much more to the people I knew.
"Wish I could help, Tom, but Rebecca and I are going to be busy tonight. We'll catch you at the luncheon though. And hey, congratulations on Bromwell."
"There's no need for false surprise." I retorted. After Daria's comments to me, the last thing I wanted to here were people congratulating me about Bromwell. There would be enough of that all summer.
"Sorry." Brandon replied. "See ya." The phone clicked. I sighed. Rebecca was Brandon's girlfriend, the daughter of a lawyer couple, and perhaps the only girl at Fielding who was remotely tolerable to be around, although my family and hers never really got together, for some reason. But the keyword in that sentence was girlfriend, and that was something I did not want to be around.
I sighed again, and got up to leave my room. Outside of my door, I saw Elsie.
"What do you want?" I asked. I had even less of a desire to deal with her then usual.
"Oh, just catching the show." Elsie teased. "So tell me, Thomas." Elsie's tone turned to mocking, her usual tone whenever we were alone.
"Are you headed out to that dive in Lawndale with that misery chick and her so-called artist friend?"
"Does it make a difference to you?" The question was insincere, but effective at stopping her; Elsie had to try and get a one-up on every thing she ever said, and it would be difficult to do so with a question.
"Well, if you're going out then drop me off in town."
"I don't think so. I'm going someplace that requires actual thought, so you wouldn't be interested." I resisted the urge to mention something about sex or drugs. I knew that she knew, but she didn't. Arrogant Elsie always thought she was crafty, but she possessed all the subtlety of a brick to the face, and it only worked on people who were denser then she was. But I could let her think whatever she wanted. At least then she wouldn't delve deeper to try and one-up me on another level.
I pushed past Elsie, ignoring her protests. It was easy enough to head outside and make it to my Rustmobile. I wanted to avoid Lawndale, but there was really nowhere else to go.
"I figure if I just avoid the pizza place, Daria won't be around." I smiled. The trip to Lawndale was a short trip, and soon I found myself at Zon, that club where Trent always played. I resolved to take a quick peek inside, and, if Mystik Spiral was playing, I'd duck out. Even if Daria wouldn't be there, Jane probably would. And she'd spot me from a mile away.
It definitely wasn't Trent's band playing. It was some band called The Harpies, all all-girl group. They weren't bad, but definitely not as good as Trent's band. I bought a soda and tried to get into the groove, but I found I couldn't get into like it was with Spiral. I looked around to survey the crowd, and found most of the crowd was people I'd avoid. They definitely looked like a rougher bunch, probably did all sorts of terrible stuff out back. But I started to sift through the crowd to see if there were any decent people here. Just when I started thinking that the night would be a total bust, I started to see someone who was halfway decent. Short, blonde, her eyes twinkled, clearly she was enjoying the lyrics of the song. She caught my gaze and smiled. Seeing my entrance, I strode up towards her.
"Hey." I said. The girl didn't reply. Now that I was closer to her, I could see that she was clearly older then me. Probably 22 or 23. I started to think this was a mistake. Five years was a pretty big difference considering I usually only dated girls my age.
"Good band, huh?" She asked me.
"They're not bad." I replied. "I saw Spiral here last week though, and they rocked."
"You know Spiral?" The girl seemed enchanted. "I've always wanted to come see them. I'm Karen."
"Tom." I replied.
"So, Tom, how about another drink for us."
"What's in that cup?"
"Jack and coke." She replied. Wow, I was right, definitely older.
"Sorry, won't be able to help you there."
"Too young, sweetheart?" She teased. "Well, maybe I can tuck you in later tonight."
"Or I'll put you to bed. And make sure you've had your Valium."
"Ouch." Karen was surprisingly amused by my comment. I wasn't trying to joke around with her; I had thought she was dismissing me, but now she seemed eerily amused. Some girls liked that, although I didn't think she would.
"Then why don't I order for you, sweetcakes." She teased again. "A drink for that mouth. What's your poison?"
"I'm not much of a drinker."
"Good boy, eh? I can do that. Yo, get me two Jack and Cokes, make one a double." The barkeep quickly made the drinks. She handed one to me.
"Cheers, boy." She downed her cup. I wasn't much of a drinker. I've had a drink or two, and was never too keen on doing it again. But I drank up, drank the entire glass.
"Not supposed to do the whole thing if you're not used to it, boy. I gave you the double." I started to feel the whiskey fairly quickly. My head started to swim, and I almost thought I'd lose my balance.
"Wow, boy, you're not much of a drinker."
"That's what I said." I replied. "Sorry about that."
"Need to build it up sometime. Come on, let's get you some air." Karen led me outside, and the rush of air made me shiver.
"You come here often, boy?" She asked me. I didn't answer, I was still shaking off the dizzy feeling.
"Boy, you're too nervous. Here, let me show you what to do." Before I knew what was happening, Karen had stepped forward, right into my personal space. She grabbed the back of my head, and forced my lips to hers. Her tongue probed and parted my lips.
I barely knew what was happening. Karen was a good kisser, better then Daria was. Even Jane. Probably had more experience. Although part of me was ready to reciprocate, I heard a voice calling my name. A snarky, high pitched woman's voice, calling out my name as a question.
"Tom?" It was Daria's voice I heard. I broke it off. Was my conscience still acting strangely.
But then I discovered that it wasn't a voice in my head. It was real. Standing behind Karen was Daria, her eyes in wide shock.