In the Doldrums

A "Daria" fanfic by Erin Mills

"Daria" and related characters

©2010 MTV Networks

"Things which are equally bad are also equally good. Try to look on the bright side of things."

-Norton Juster, "The Phantom Tollbooth"

The light blue sedan pulled up in front of Lawndale Elementary School, near the designated entrance for first graders. On the other side of the chain link fence adjacent to the building, a variety of elementary school students played, chatted, and otherwise ran rampant over the playground and sports field, enjoying the last few precious minutes before the bell rang and they would be forced to line up and go into the building to start another day of classes.

Inside the car, Jake and Helen Morgendorffer turned to face the backseat, smiling brightly.

"Okay, kiddo, here it is! Your new school!" Jake said, grinning.

"Isn't it exciting?" Helen added. "I bet you can't wait to get in there and make all sorts of new friends."

in the back seat, a young girl with long brown hair, about six years old, looked at her parents from behind overly large glasses that she had yet to grow into and said in a quiet voice "I don't wanna go."

jake and Helen exchanged glances. Helen took point.

"Why not, Daria?" she asked. "It's a brand new school in a brand new town. It's completely different from Highland."

"The kids won't like me." Daria answered, looking at the backpack on her lap. Next to her, strapped into a car seat, her four-year-old sister Quinn bounced happily up and down.

"Other kids like me!" she chirped. Daria gave her a nasty sideways glance.

"Quinn, honey, we're talking to Daria right now. " Jake said. He looked back at Daria. "C'mon, kiddo, they haven't even met you yet. They're sure to like you!"

"That's what you said when I went to school in Highland." Daria replied.

Jake and Helen exchanged another glance. "Daria," Helen said, "every new place is a new opportunity to make friends. There's bound to be plenty of other kids who want to be your friend."

"You said that in Highland too. Nobody did."

"Daria," Helen said, exasperation creeping into her voice. "I don't have time to argue with you about this. We have to get Quinn to day care so your father and I can get to work. Now, are you going to get out of this car voluntarily or do I have to drag you out?"

Daria sighed, unbuckled her seatbelt, and opened the car door. She was dressed in a green t-shirt, black shorts, and a pair of black Chuck Taylor-style sneakers. She put her backpack on and stood at the curb, her lunchbox in her other hand. Helen got out of the car and knelt down next to her.

"I know it's scary and that it seems like it will be hard to fit in," Helen began, "but you just wait and see. I bet that you'll have a bunch of new friends by the end of the day."

Daria shrugged. It was easier than fighting.

Helen kissed her on the cheek. "Okay, now you remember which bus you need to take to get home, right?"

"Number 15." Daria answered.

"That's right. Now, once you're off the bus, you go straight home. Don't talk to any strangers, lock the door when you get home, and your father will be home at four o'clock to look after you and Quinn. Okay?"

"Okay."

Helen hugged Daria close to her. Daria did not return the hug.

"Have a good day, sweetie. We love you."

"Bye." Daria said flatly. Helen smiled at her then climbed back into the car. Jake honked the horn jovially and the sedan pulled away. Daria turned and stared at the entrance to the school.

"They won't like me. Nobody ever likes me."

"Okay, class, we have something exciting happening." said Miss DeFoe, the first grade teacher. "We have a new student joining us today. Her name is Daria Morgendorffer. Let's all say hello to Daria."

"Hello, Daria." The class chimed, some less enthusiastically than others. Daria stood at the front of the class, clutching her book protectively. Miss DeFoe smiled at her.

"Daria, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you move from?"

Daria looked apprehensive for a moment then muttered "We moved from Highland. That's in Texas."

"Well, that must have been exciting, moving all the way across the country like that." Miss DeFoe said. "I bet you did a lot of fun things in Texas."

Daria looked up at her. "I like to read."

"That's wonderful," Miss DeFoe replied, "What sorts of things do you like to read?"

"Um...books?"

There was a giggle from several of the kids in the class. Daria looked at them, eyes wide and flushed in embarassment, then stared at her shoes. Miss DeFoe got a concerned look on her face, and decided to change tactics.

"Who has a question for Daria?"

Several hands went up and Miss DeFoe picked a boy in the second row, who had a winning smile, black hair, and was dressed in jeans and a football jersey with the number 1 on it.

"All right, Kevin, go ahead."

"Um, yeah! Why's your name so weird?"

Daria blinked. "My name's not weird."

"Yeah, it is." Kevin said, matter-of-factly. "Doreea Morgenfluffer. That's weird."

Kevin's assessment was echoed by several other members of the class. Daria flushed even further and frowned.

"My name is Daria, not Doreea," Daria said, raising her voice slightly.

"And why are your glasses so big?" said the perky girl with the big eyes and blonde pigtails sitting next to Kevin. "Are you blind?"

"I'm not blind!"

"Then why do you need such big glasses?" the blonde girl asked.

"I'm growing into them!" Daria protested.

Miss DeFoe held up her hands. "Brittany, we want to make Daria feel welcome. It doesn't matter how big her glasses are or how different sounding her name is."

Kevin piped up again. "My dad says people with glasses can't do anything. He says that they're...um...'nerdy little piss ants!'"

"Kevin Thompson!" Miss DeFoe snapped. "You know better than that!"

"Sorry, Miss DeFoe," Kevin said, slumping down in his seat. Miss Defoe pointed at a stool in the far corner of the room.

"I believe you know where the Time Out Area is?"

"Aw man." Kevin moaned. He got out of his chair and trudged to the stool in the corner. As he passed by Daria he frowned and whispered "You got me in trouble."

Daria blinked at the hostility and sighed. Why did the teachers always do this to her? It always ended up with someone in trouble and it was always her fault.

Miss DeFoe smiled down at Daria. "Okay, Daria, I think that's enough questions. Go ahead and take your seat."

Daria walked to her desk in the third row. As she sat down, Brittany turned to look at her and stuck her tongue out. Daria sighed again, and waited for Miss DeFoe to start the first lesson.

Things didn't improve at lunch time. When the bell rang, Daria recovered her lunchbox and went down to the cafeteria with the rest of her class. But nobody wanted her to sit next to them. Most of her classmates had been sitting together since school began and didn't want to give up their places.

Daria looked around and found an empty space next to a redheaded boy with prominent freckles, dressed in a yellow polo shirt. He had an assortment of plastic trinkets and toys positioned around his lunch tray. Daria's lips curled up in a slight smile. The boy had some really cool stuff.

She walked over to the table and started sitting down opposite the boy. No sooner had she done so, than he looked up sharply.

"What are you doing?" he asked, suspiciously.

"Um...sitting down so I can have lunch?" Daria answered. The boy snorted.

"Not here. This table's for BOYS only. Go sit over there with the GIRLS."

"There aren't boys and girls tables. We can sit anywhere we want." Daria argued.

"Well, I don't want you sitting here!" the boy snapped.

"I just..."

"Just what?"

"I just wanted to see your stuff..." Daria mumbled, looking down at the table. The boy frowned again and waved his hand in the air.

"Miss DeFoe!"

The teacher, who had pulled lunchroom duty this week, approached. "Yes, Charles? What is it?"

"This GIRL is trying to take my collection!"

"I was not!" Daria snapped. "I just wanted to see them!"

Miss DeFoe put a hand on Daria's shoulder. "Calm down, Daria, it's okay. Charles, what have we discussed about boys and girls?"

"Girls are just as good as boys in lots of things." Charles muttered, in the tone of someone who had been forced to repeat the phrase many, many times before.

"That's right. Now, do you have something to say to Daria?"

Charles looked at the teacher then at Daria. Daria looked back at him, waiting.

"You stay away from my stuff...GIRL!"

Miss DeFoe sighed. "Daria, why don't you go sit over at that table. I need to have a little talk with Charles."

Daria got up and trudged over to an empty table. Behind her, Miss DeFoe began her latest round of lessons in remedial gender relations with Charles.

Daria tossed her lunchbox on the table and opened it. She pulled out a sandwich, some potato chips and her thermos of milk. She took the sandwich out of the plastic bag and bit into it.

She stopped after the first bite and peered into the sandwich, and sighed. Her mother had put strawberry jam on her peanut butter sandwich, despite Daria telling her multiple times that she only liked grape. It was Quinn who liked strawberry.

She ate the potato chips for lunch.

After lunch, the first graders were allowed to go outside and play on the playground. Daria decided to avoid any more problems with the class and went and sat under a tree with her copy of "The Phantom Tollbooth." She found her place and began reading, imagining herself traveling to the city of Dictionopolis in place of Milo, the book's hero.

After a few minutes a shadow fell across her. Daria looked up and saw a girl standing in front of her. The girl was dressed in red overalls, spattered with random splotches of paint here and there, a black t-shirt, and sneakers. She had short black hair that had been pulled back into a short ponytail. A blue butterfly barrette was clipped into her hair. The girl had the bluest eyes Daria had ever seen.

The girl held up a grubby hand. The palm was coated in dried green finger paint.

"Hi!" she said.

"Um...hi." Daria replied. She recognized the girl as one of the kids sitting in the back row of her class. She and the other girl looked at each other for a few moments, then Daria went back to her book. The girl in the red overalls walked around her, clasped her hands behind her back and leaned over Daria's shoulder.

"Whatcha readin'?" she asked. Daria looked up, frowning. But the frown disappeared when she saw that the girl seemed genuinely interested in the answer to the question.

"Um..it's called 'The Phantom Tollbooth.'"

"Oh." The girl replied. There was silence for a moment then: "Any pictures?"

"A few." Daria answered, not looking up. The girl nodded, watched Daria read for a few seconds, then jerked the book out of her hands.

"Lemme see!" she said, paging through the book. Daria's eyes widened and she reached up frantically.

"Give me my book back!"

"I just wanna see the pictures!" the girl protested. Daria got to her feet and made to grab the book, but the girl ran off with it. Daria began chasing her.

"GIVE ME BACK MY BOOK!"

The two girls dashed across the playground. Daria found herself breathing hard as the girl led her on a chase past the swings, under the monkey bars, around the seesaw, and onto the stupid balance bar that every playground had but nobody ever actually used.

Daria grit her teeth and willed herself to run faster, but no matter how hard she pushed herself, the girl in the red overalls seemed to be able to run faster than that. The girl looked over her shoulder, saw Daria behind her, and smiled brightly. Daria frowned and forced herself to run faster.

The girl made a hard right away from the playground equipment, onto the asphalt where the hopscotch, kickball, four square, and tetherball courts were painted. The two girls ducked and dodged their way past the older kids from the second and third grades who were using the courts, raising shouts of protest and annoyance.

The girl in the red overalls leaped over the concrete curb dividing the asphalt from the athletic field and started charging up the low hill that acted as a natural barrier between the sports fields and the playground. Daria took a deep breath, grit her teeth and poured on the speed, closing the distance between her and the girl, who was now fighting against the incline of the hill.

Daria jumped the curb and charged up the hill, the girl reaching the crest just ahead of her. With a cry of exertion, Daria leaped into the air and up the hill, colliding with the girl's ankles. The two became entangled, Daria's book went flying and all three began rolling down the other side of the hill.

Daria's vision was a blur of color as she and the other girl rolled and bounced their way down the hill. Swirls of red, green, brown, blue, white and other colors flashed past her vision. Suddenly, what few details she could make out were lost and Daria's eyes widened as she realized she had lost her glasses.

She pushed off the other girl, and the two separated, canceling some of their momentum. They stopped rolling and slid to a halt at the bottom of the hill. The girl was laughing hysterically. Daria stood up and peered around, trying to find her glasses. As she looked, the girl sat up, still giggling.

"Shut up!" Daria snarled. "You made me lose my glasses!"

The girl didn't answer, but her breath hitched as she tried to get her laughter under control. Daria clenched her fists but forced herself to turn away. As she did, she felt her foot come into contact with something. She looked down and saw the toe of her shoe had bumped into something black. She reached down and found the familiar shape of her glasses. She let out a sigh of relief and put them on.

She frowned again as she realized there was a large scratch across one of the lenses. She shot a dirty look at the girl, who was still lying on the grass. Daria stalked over, located her book, picked it up and began walking back up the hill.

"Wait!" came the girl's voice. Daria paused for a second and glared at the girl, who had gotten to her feet and was following her.

"What?"

"I still wanna see the pictures!"

Daria's lip curled up in a snarl and she started making her way up the hill, the girl following behind her. As she reached the crest of the hill, Miss DeFoe appeared, looking stern.

"What on earth is going on here?" she demanded. Daria looked at her with trepidation then pointed at the girl, who was ascending the hill.

"She took my book and wouldn't give it back."

Miss DeFoe frowned and sighed when she saw who Daria was pointing to. "Jane Lane, do we need to have ANOTHER little talk?"

Jane looked up, blue eyes wide. She bit her bottom lip and looked at the ground. "No, Miss DeFoe."

Miss DeFoe folded her arms. "Now, why did you take Daria's book?"

"I just wanted to look at the pictures. She wouldn't let me."

Miss DeFoe looked at Daria for a moment. Daria hugged the book to her chest, protectively. Miss Defoe quirked an eyebrow and went back to Jane.

"Jane, the book belongs to Daria. Whether she lets you look at the pictures or not is up to her. If she didn't want you to look at her book, you should have respected her decision."

Jane looked contrite and Daria smiled in satisfaction. The smile quickly faded when Miss DeFoe turned her attention to her.

"And, Daria, you didn't need to go chasing after Jane. You should have gotten a teacher and we would have been able to get your book back without all this chaos. Now, you two apologize to each other."

Daria and Jane stared at each other, both mortified. Jane continued looking at the ground, but glanced at Daria out of the corners of her eyes.

"'m sorry I took your book." she mumbled. Daria frowned and opened her mouth to let Jane have it.

"Daria..." Miss DeFoe said, voice stern.

"I'm sorry I chased you and made you fall down the hill." Daria said, practically choking on the words. Miss DeFoe smiled.

"Good! See, things work out much better by talking. Now, lunch is almost over. You two get ready to go back inside."

"Yes, Miss DeFoe." both girls chorused, following the teacher back to the school building.

The afternoon classes passed quickly enough. Daria answered so many questions in class that she was starting to get mean looks from the other kids, especially Kevin and Brittany, who seemed to be having difficulty keeping up. Daria took a secret delight in that knowledge.

During free reading time, Daria glanced back behind her at Jane's desk. Jane didn't appear to be reading. Instead, she had her crayons out and was drawing on a piece of paper. Daria thought about telling Miss DeFoe, but decided not to. She had acquired a reputation as a tattletale back in Highland, when she told the teacher about the two stupid boys who had brought a cigarette lighter to class, and while the teachers told her she did the right thing, the other kids didn't agree and didn't want Daria playing with them anymore. Better to not attract any more attention to herself.

Finally, the bell rang, ending the school day. Daria picked up her backpack and lunchbox with relief, ready to go back to the safety of her room. As she made her way to the school exit, a foot lashed out and tripped her, sending her sprawling on the floor.

Daria's cheeks burned red as the kids around her laughed. She looked up and saw Charles waving at her from the door.

"That'll teach you. Stay at your own table...GIRL!" He crowed before running out the doors. Daria got to her feet and stalked out the door, trying to ignore the burning sensation in her face.

She stopped outside the school and scanned the buses, looking for number 15. She found it and began walking towards it when she heard the singsong chanting coming from nearby.

"Crazy Jane, Crazy Jane, youngest of the Crazy Lanes!"

Daria turned, frowning, and followed the sound of the voices. She rounded the corner of the school and saw nine or ten kids, some from her class, some older standing in a circle. One older girl, a third or fourth grader, was inside the circle holding a blue backpack up by one strap.

Daria came closer, but not close enough for anyone to notice her. Through the gaps in the crowd, she could see Jane standing there, fists clenched, looking at the ground. The black haired older girl sneered at her, brandishing the backpack."

"C'mon Crazy Jane, don't you want it?"

"'es." Jane sniffled. It was then that Daria realized Jane was crying. Her frown deepened. She knew this type of setup all too well.

"I'm sorry, what was that?" The older girl said, cupping a hand to her ear. "You'll have to speak up, I don't speak Crazy."

"I'M NOT CRAZY!" Jane howled, her head flashing up. Her cheeks were wet, and her blue eyes puffy. "Gimmie my backpack, Monique!"

Monique gave a cruel grin. "Well, come take it then...Crazy Jane."

Jane sniffled, wiped her eyes and charged forward, leaping into the air, trying to grab her backpack. Monique held it just far enough for it to be out of Jane's reach. Jane kept leaping and grabbing, trying to get her backpack. The crowd started up with the "Crazy Jane" taunt again.

"Awww, you don't want it then? Okay, well, I guess that means it and everything in it is mine, then." Monique opened the backpack and began pulling out Jane's books, tossing them on the ground. Jane looked on in horror as her crayons came next, Monique "accidentally" stepping on them with a sickening "snap."

Daria felt her cheeks flush with anger. This wasn't just ordinary bullying, this was outright cruelty.

"Oooh, what's this?" Monique pulled out a sheet of paper. On it was a fanciful and highly detailed picture of a three eyed cat with yellow fur and blue polka dots. Daria found herself transfixed by the vibrant colors and the way it actually looked like a real cat...well, sort of. She knew she'd never be able to draw anything like that, anyway.

"What the heck is this?" Monique said.

"It's a jaguar!" Jane yelled. "And it's mine!"

Monique let out a cruel laugh. "A jaguar? Really. Doesn't look like one to me. You know what I think it is? It's crap."

Jane could only stare, wide eyed, as Monique ripped the drawing to shreds.

"Crazy crap from your crazy family," Monique said as she systematically shredded the drawing. "My mom says your parents ought to be locked up, and you should be put into an orphanage."

Jane had started crying again, tears running down her cheeks as she looked at the remains of her drawing blowing around on the grass.

Monique kept talking. "Yeah, you know what happens to crazy kids like you in an orphanage? They stay there until they grow up and then they get sent to jail. Nobody wants crazy people like you around, Crazy Jane. They should take your whole family away. Nobody in this town wants them here. Why don't you just go somewhere and die, Crazy Jane? Nobody would care. In fact, everybody would be just plain thrill-"

"LEAVE HER ALONE!"

Daria shoved her way through the older kids and stood in front of Jane. She took advantage of Monique's surprise and ripped the backpack out of her hands. Daria handed it to Jane, who wiped her eyes and sniffled a quiet "thank you." Jane dropped to her knees and began refilling her backpack.

"Who the hell do you think you are?" Monique snarled, gloweirng down at Daria.

"You leave her alone. She didn't do anything to you." Daria said quietly.

"Oh yeah? And what are you going to do about it? Huh? You wanna fight?"

Monique flashed a quick smile at the onlookers and balled up her fists. "C'mon then, Shorty, you think you're so tough."

Daria looked the older girl over, her expression blank. "You're stupid."

Monique blinked. "You what?"

"You're stupid." Daria repeated. "You have the brains of a dead squirrel on the freeway."

Monique just continued staring, unable to comprehend what was happening. Daria gave a close mouthed smile.

"I've met bricks smarter than you. At least the bricks never picked on somebody smaller than them."

"Why you little-" Monique's face contorted with rage and she reached out for Daria.

Who, using knowldege gleaned from the medical dictionary her parents kept for emergencies, lashed out with her foot and dug the toe of her shoe hard into the soft cartilage under Monique's kneecap. Monique howled in pain and collapsed onto the ground. Daria turned to Jane, gripped her hand and yelled "RUN!"

The two girls took off as fast as they could, bashing their way through the older kids and down the sidewalk. Daria took a quick glance behind them and saw Monique lurching along, a couple of her friends slightly ahead of her. Daria turned her attention back in front of her and willed her legs to keep running,

She had thought to head back to the first through third grade playground and find Ms. DeFoe, but as they reached the playground Jane tugged on her hand.

"Keep going! Around the back!" Jane yelped. Daria, out of breath, nodded and kept running.

"I'M GONNA GET YOU, YOU LITTLE SNOTS!" Monique's voice held the promise of torment and agony if she ever caught them. That was all the motivation Daria needed to keep up with Jane. She didn't dare look behind them again.

Jane pulled into the lead and disappeared aroudn the corner. Daria grit her teeth and pushed herself onward, rounding the corner at high speed.

She slammed into something that went "oof!" and brought her to a halt. Hands clamped down on her shoulders and Daria looked up in fear, sure that Monique had gotten ahead of them.

Instead she looked into the face of a tall, slender 11-year-old boy with spiky hair and sleepy eyes. He looked down at her in surprise, then up again as Monique and her friends rounded the corner and skidded to a halt. His brow furrowed and he looked back down at Daria.

"Did she hurt you?" he asked in a soft voice. Daria blinked and shook her head no, too out of breath to speak.

The boy looked back at Monique and titlted his head slightly. "Janey?"

Jane stuck her head out from behind the boy. "She took my backpack, broke my crayons and tore up my jaguar. Daria saved me."

The boy nodded and his thick angular eyebrows came together in a frown. He moved Daria behind him. "Stay here with Janey. I'll deal with this."

Daria watched as the boy walked over to the mean girls. She expected him to start yelling like her dad sometimes did when he got angry at something on TV or in the newspaper. But that didn't happen.

What did happen is Trent pointed at her and Jane a couple of times, then at Monique, then at himself. They were too far away for Daria to make out what was being said, but she caught the word "penny," and blinked as Monique's face went pale. She and her friends looked at each other then turned and went back the way they had come.

The boy watched them leave then turned around and walked back towards Jane and Daria. Jane dashed up and leaped into his arms. She threw her own arms around his neck and kissed him on the cheek.

"Thank you, Trent! I love you!" she squealed.

Trent smiled. "Anything for you, Janey." He put Jane down and the two walked over to Daria. "So, you're Daria, right?"

Daria blushed and nodded, looking at her shoes again. "Yeah." she said quietly.

"Well, thanks for looking out for Janey. Monique and her friends shouldn't bother you guys anymore. But if they do, come find me. I'll deal with it."

"Okay." Daria mumbled. "I need to go catch my bus. I have to go straight home."

"Can we give Daria a ride?" Jane asked Trent.

"Depends on Penny. She's supposed to pick us up. Let's go see if she remembered."

"Kay! C'mon, Daria!" Jane grabbed one of Trent's hands and began pulling him back towards the front of the school. Trent smiled at Daria again and held out his other hand. Daria looked at it then up at Trent's face.

"Don't worry, Daria," he said, "It's pretty clean."

Daria reached out and took Trent's hand. She was surprised by how warm it was. Trent smiled and led the girls back to the front of the school.

Jane's older sister Penny grumbled a little about having to go out of her way, especially when it took Daria a few minutes to find the piece of paper with her new address on it, but when she heard how Daria had kicked Monique in the knee, she laughed and said that a ride was the least she could do for her.

Daria enjoyed the ride to her house. Penny had a really fast car and took corners at high speed. Daria's parents never drove that fast, and they didn't get everyone in the car to let out cowboy yells when they almost went on two wheels rounding a corner either.

All too soon, the ride was over and the dark blue Plymouth pulled up in front of the red brick house on Glen Oaks Lane. Trent got out of the car and let Daria out of the backseat. Daria slung her backpack onto her shoulders and picked up her lunchbox.

"Thank you for the ride." she said politely.

"Anytime, kid." Penny said from the driver's seat. "Come on Trent, I got places to be."

Trent nodded and got in the car. "See you around, Daria."

Daria nodded. The car door slammed and the engine revved. Suddenly, there was commotion from inside and the passenger side window rolled down. Jane leaned out form the back seat.

"Hey," she said, "if your mom says it's okay, you wanna come over to my house and play tomorrow? We got a gazebo!"

Daria had never seen a gazebo before. And it sounded like a lot more fun than just sitting at home and telling Quinn to stop bugging her.

"Mom says I can only go over to places if someone responsible's there." she told Jane. her expression begged Jane for there to be someone responsible at the Lane house.

Jane looked back at Penny. Penny looked at Jane, then sighed.

"Oh, all right. If Mom's not back before you get out of school, I'll babysit. But only for the afternoon, got it?"

"Got it!" Jane grinned. Trent smirked and handed Daria a scrap of paper.

"That's our phone number. Sometimes it gets turned off though, but if your mom wants to call and make sure we're okay, she can."

"Thank you." Daria said.

"All right, are we done here?" Penny said irritably, "Some of us have a soul sucking job to go to. I swear, one of these days I'm just gonna chuck it and go to Guatemala or something,"

"You say that all the time." Jane said.

"Yeah, but one day I'll mean it." Penny replied. She put the car in gear. "Siddown, squirt."

"Okay," Jane waved out the window one last time. "Bye, Daria! See you tomorrow."

Daria waved as the car drove off. As it did a small smile crept across her lips. She pulled her house key out of her pocket and let herself inside.

The rest of the day passed normally. Her dad came home with Quinn and the two sisters passed the time with TV, books, and Barbies. (Daria's books, Quinn's Barbies.) Her dad made dinner and had it ready by the time her mom got home. They all sat down to eat.

They had lasagna.

"So, Daria," Helen said, "How was your first day of school?"

Daria looked at her mom and dad and thought about telling them about the stupid kids who made fun of her name and glasses, or how Charles had wanted nothing to do with her because she was a girl, or the strawberry jam on her sandwich, or how Monique and her rotten friends had chased her all over the school grounds. But, she realized that wasn't important. That was just life. Her parents were used to her complaints.

She decided to tell them what was really important.

"I made a friend."

The next day, after school at the Lane house, Daria let Jane see the pictures in her book.

"Henceforth, and forthwith, let it be known by all that Rhyme and Reason have returned to the Kingdom of Wisdom..."

-Norton Juster, "The Phantom Tollbooth"