A-one two three go –

Grove Hills had, in the frightened tones of people who are expecting lawsuits or (worse) bad press, informed the Morgendorffer's that Daria had "run away" with a strange crew. So when Daria turned up at their house the next morning in the company of different strangers and with a dirt-covered skirt, Helen had screamed her head off.

After she found out Daria had just gone to a concert, Helen just screamed. A lot.

"I can't BELIEVE you, young lady, this is COMPLETELY unacceptable you've put ME down, you've let your FATHER down and worst of all you've let YOURSELF down, you're going straight back to Grove Hills-"

"Hur hur hur, she said we've gone down on someone. Heh heh heh heh!"

"Do you think it's FUNNY, Daria?"

"Heh heh, you think, like, they go down all the time in Australia and that's why they say it's Down Under? Dude, maybe that's why everyone called that guy Humungous-"


Jane had been invited in, treated with a mix of gratitude ("you brought our daughter home!") and suspicion ("what had you been doing with our daughter?"); Trent and Jesse were still in the Tank, treated mainly with suspicion. She'd stayed out of the slanging match but, at the sight of Daria shaking and gibbering, ran forward to separate the two and hurriedly explained to Helen what was going on.

Helen looked like she'd been gutted.

The music sheets were the usual mix of third-hand guitar teaching guides and 'grey' market popular songs. The guitar equivalent of 'do ray me' went into the opening chords of Come As You Are without warning. Daria went through it slowly and carefully; there was no speed or pace, but she was hitting each note perfectly.

This wasn't about the speed and pace though. This was about getting the technique right. Trent didn't get it, but he gave her the sheets and checked she was doing it right.

Without warning, he stole one sheet and dropped another in its place while she was halfway through it.

She righted herself in a second. He smiled.

"You should have just said you hated it."

"I didn't..." Daria fumbled for the words. "I didn't want you to be disappointed with me. You'd spent all that money sending me to a school where you thought I'd fit in, and you were so desperate for me to fit in, and if I'd said anything you'd have wondered what was wrong with me."

"Sweetie, if we'd known, the first thing on our minds would be how we could help you. Do you really think we'd have been more concerned with finding faults with you?"

She didn't respond.

"Oh god."

The conversation limped on after that. The implications were something Helen couldn't bring herself to discuss, so she focused on the basics: Daria was out of Grove Hills and could go to Lawndale High like her sister, and they'd find her the best therapist they could. They'd even let her off the hook for her vanishing act, and they'd discuss everything else later, and how would she like this big wad of cash so she and Jane could go out and get themselves some lunch?

Jake didn't say a word. He just stared into space, the paper forgotten.

"Trent, that last sheet was the chorus from She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain."

"Yeah." He grimaced. "Don't tell anyone. It'll hurt my image."

"You're doing paid work. Now that's hurting your image."

"Me and the guys came to an agreement about that. It was decided that teaching people to play the guitar was in the spirit of being a band."

"The extra beer money had nothing to do with it."

"No, it had a lot to do w- Oh." He smiled. "That's a good one."

Daria blushed. "Um, thanks."

All that time getting used to Trent, being able to use sarcasm without fear around him, and yet every time something would make her all giddy and red again. Nothing could save her. Thinking about how every pair of jeans he owned had a hole in it – the same hole – did nothing except focus her mind on his legs and... other bits.

"You've done the..." He thought the term through. "...practice exercises, so time for the real playing. I got a new one in specially."

He'd got her the sheet music for Where Is My Mind.

She blushed again and hoped to god he thought it was a rash.

Quinn came in several hours after Daria had, an entourage of other popular kids trailing behind her.

She took one look at Daria and went back out, yelling that her parents had guests and they'd have to go to Sandi's instead.
When she came back, begging her sister to tell her this was a weekend visit and she wasn't also going to Lawndale High now, Daria hugged her. The screams made her a happy Daria indeed.

In her absence, as Jane had warned her, Quinn had become a model for the Amazon Fashion Agency. The Agency had actually come to the school to talent scout, invited by the principal; that set alarms off in Daria's head, but the fact Quinn has now out at all the time and rarely at home was much appreciated.

Her mother was out even when she was in, constantly on the phone with her boss Eric. Lots of free time to read and watch TV! Heaven!

Dad kept trying to talk to her though, in between bouts of total silence. She was starting to miss his rages. They were embarrassing, true, but the silence just seemed like he wanted to rage but was bottling it up.

He used to rage about his father sending him off to military school, a place where he was isolated and alone and hated it.

After sending her to Grove Hills, she knew he wanted to rage at himself.

She started off slow and methodical. She always did at first.

But the music didn't want to be slow.

Her heart synchronised with the beat. Her head and feet moved to the music of their own accord. Her eyes kept trying to close, to blot out everything that wasn't music.

By the time she'd reached the first lyrics, her playing was fast and loud and she was getting notes wrong and she was completely unpolished and the passion had Trent by the throat.

"Medication is a possibility, Mrs Morgendorffer," said Dr Jean-Michel, his voice forever pleasant and understanding. "However, there are some alternatives we can try first."

Helen looked put out about this, while Jack looked like he wanted to be relieved but didn't dare show it in front of his wife. Daria just sat by quietly. She knew her mother wanted her to be on medication. She hadn't said it to her but she'd overheard. Medication, after all, was the simple fix, the quick fix. Do that and the daughter will be magically fixed.

When Daria had been sent to Quiet Ivy for her first session with Jean-Michel, the first thing she'd done is ask him if he was going to recommend drugs. She remembered him smiling and making a bad joke about pot, before he assured her that counselling and therapy did not go for drugs first. ("Well, competent counselling and therapy, but you can trust me, I have a soothing accent.")

"These outbursts of hers are the result of severe stress and anxiety, and have become ingrained in her. They're an attempt at a coping mechanism. The first thing we should try is to give her a better coping mechanism, a better way of dealing with her stress. Daria mentioned feeling relaxed and at peace at Alternapalooza when loud music was playing. Has she ever had any music lessons, or singing lessons?"

"She played the flute at age 6-"

Unnoticed, Daria grimaced at the memory.

"-and the violin for two months when she was nine – she learnt to read music quite fast. Her violin instructor said she had potential."

"Unfortunately," said Daria, "classical music lessons counts as culture, and trying to sell culture in Highland is as profitable as trying to sell Soylent Green to vegans. The debt collection agencies are still looking for him."

"I see," said Jean-Michel. "I recommend that Daria takes up music lessons again, preferably guitar lessons. It should provide a better way of letting go of her stress, and in difficult situations her mind can focus on music rather than be overwhelmed."

As luck would have it, Daria knew a suitable instructor.

Well, a potential instructor.

Well, a guy.

"And you ask yourself – where is my mind? / Where is my mind?"

Her voice wasn't suited for proper singing, it was either too flat or too harsh, but it suited her playing. She was started to scream the lyrics out, spitting them out like bullets, everything that had pissed her off and annoyed her about the week was being kicked out of her head and into her larynx.


The first day at school left Daria confused. Everyone looked excited and there were banners everywhere and she was sure she'd spotted a local journalist setting up.

"It's going to be a real letdown for them when they meet me."

"You've had the misfortune to arrive on the same day that Tommy Sherman is coming to visit," said Jane.

"Who's that?"

"A guy who played football so well, he went into a coma for a week. We're dedicating a goal post to him."

"Only a post? Budget cutbacks must be fierce."

"I'll tell you the whole sordid story after you've done your mandatory psychiatric test. You'll be put in the self-esteem class after you take it."

"How do you know?"

Jane looked at Daria. "Don't make me answer that, amiga. Don't worry, I know the answers to get out."
"You got out?"

"Nah, but I didn't have anything to do after school until now. I'll miss the afternoon nap though."

Daria's locker turned out to be the one Tommy Sherman had spent half an hour leaning on. There was a dent.

Later that day, the goal post had its coronation and Li announced to the students & alumni that Tommy Sherman would be taking over as coach to lead the Lawndale Lions to the state championship. From the strangled cry from the stage, it seemed she hadn't mentioned this to the existing coach until now.

Daria finished the song with her hair and skin soaked with sweat, her breath ragged, her throat sore.

"Trent, I think I've been tricked into doing work. I am a traitor to my generation."

Trent was standing there, slackjawed.

"Daria. That was amazing."


And there was the blush again.