It's My Party and I'll Cry, But Not in Front of You!
by Diane Long
Disclaimer: This work of fiction was done purely for fun, no profits were made. Daria and related characters do not belong to me, I was just borrowing them for a little while.
It was 6:58 am. The Morgendorffer household was dark and quiet. Daria was in bed, asleep, laying on her back with her left arm curled behind her head. Her hair was mussed and her expression was mildly disturbed. She tossed around, causing the blanket to slither mostly off the bed. She was reliving an old memory in her dreams.
She saw herself as a five-year-old. She was wearing an unbelievably cute sailor dress, with her hair in pigtails, and, of course, her ever present glasses. Standing solemnly before Jake, she offered him a children's book. It was a spoof, entitled "What really happened to Goldie Locks and Little Red Riding Hood: Fairy Tale Animal Maulings". Jake took it and looked at uneasily.
"Another one of these, Daria? I don't understand where the Highland Library gets these things."
"Read to me?" Daria asked calmly.
"Sure, honey, just let me..."
illustration by Liliane Grenier
At that moment, Quinn dressed in a ballerina tutu pranced into the living room.
"Daaaaaddddeeee!" She squealed as she danced around. "Daaaaadddddeeeeeee!"
Jake absently handed the book back to Daria. "How cute! I've got to get my camera!" He ran off.
Daria climbed up onto the couch, opened the book by herself, and learned a new word. "Mawllings, hmm, maulings," she tried experimentally. Looking at the pictures, and the other words she knew, Daria got a good idea about what mauling meant. She glanced at Quinn posing for really cute pictures and smiled. What worked for the three bears would certainly work for her. Daria waited for Quinn's random prancing to bring her closer to the couch and leapt. A full tackle brought a screaming Quinn down on the floor.
Daria awoke with Quinn's screams, her parents' calls of distress, and the insistent buzz of the alarm in her ears. Taking a deep breath, Daria remembered where she was and turned off the alarm. The dream still fresh in her mind, Daria put on her glasses and scrabbled through the drawer of her nightstand. She found an old picture whose image captured a scene from her dream. Jake had accidentally photographed Daria's attack. It was still one of Daria's favorite pictures: It showed her with Quinn in a headlock and even the title of the book was legible. Even though that little scene had lead to some very serious consequences, that photograph really captured the essence of Daria's early childhood. Smiling sadly, Daria laid the photo on the top of her night stand and got up to get ready for school.
After a tedious day at school, Daria went over to Jane's house for some peace and relaxation. The girls ended up in their usual spots. Jane was painting a large canvas with monochromatic shapes. Daria was propped up on Jane's bed with a book. The two were engrossed in their individual pursuits, but enjoyed the quiet companionship. Daria closed her book and twisted to lie on her back. Her head hung over the edge of the mattress, her hair falling almost to the floor. Sighing, she contemplated the wall.
Jane glanced over. "Finish your book already?"
"Ok, umm, bored with your book?", Jane tried.
Paying attention at all?"
There was no response at all this time.
"DARIA!" Jane said loudly.
Daria jumped a little "Yes?" she asked with a little edge to her voice.
Jane crossed her arms. "Sorry to disturb your deep thoughts, but the last time I saw you hanging off of my bed like that, something was eating at your soul. What's up?"
"Nothing," Daria replied evenly. "I just want to get a new perspective of you room. There is something growing under your dresser."
Jane narrowed her eyes. Something was bothering Daria today. She had known Daria long enough to read the few clues Daria had dropped about her emotional state. For example, today Daria had uttered only one sarcastic comment to Mr.O'Neill in English class, she had hardly touched her lunch, and during gym she had actually participated without a fuss. But, before Jane could try a new tack of investigation, Trent appeared in her doorway.
"Hey Janey, hey Daria." Trent smiled, amused to see Daria draped upside down over the side of Jane's bed.
"Yo," greeted Jane.
Daria had already drifted back into her own world.
Trent arched an eyebrow at Jane. "What's wrong with Daria?"
Jane smirked. "Nothing a little TLC wouldn't cure."
Daria definitely heard that. Jane could tell by the subtle frown that creased Daria's brow.
"That or some Prozac," Jane amended.
Trent walked in and set on the bed besides Daria. "That right Daria? Something got you down?"
Daria looked up at Trent. "Can't I be miserable in peace?" she asked irritably.
As usual, Trent was unruffled. "Cool. But if I can help, just let me know." With that, he borrowed some money from Jane and left the room.
Jane started to clean her brushes. "Earth to Daria. I was going to offer to take you out for pizza to cheer you up, but I just gave Trent the last of my cash. So why don't you be a cheap date, and cut to telling me what's bothering you.
Daria's eyes followed Jane around the room as she put away her art supplies. "I suppose you'll get it out of me eventually. Friday is Quinn's birthday.
Jane stopped organizing. "I thought Friday was your birthday."
Daria sighed. "It is."
"What do you mean?"
"I was born on March 17th at 11:59 pm. Two years later, Quinn was born on March 18th at 12:01am," Daria explained. "My mom likes to celebrate them on the same day. Less wasted punch."
"What hasn't that girl stolen from you?"
"Exactly." Daria tried to look dead pan, but to Jane, Daria looked very sad.
Friday came all too quickly for Daria's tastes. While she hid in her room, Helen and Quinn had been busy transforming the first floor of the house into party central. Helium balloons were tied to various pieces of furniture, and crepe paper streamers were draped across the window treatments. A faded banner above the fireplace proclaimed "Happy Birthday Quinn and Daria!". Bowls of plain and ridgy chips were set about in convenient snacking locations. Quinn entered the room dressed in a very short-skirted yellow party dress. Her hair is styled into a complex mass of curls that cascaded down her back from a topknot at the crown of her head.
illustration by Diana Morgan
"Mo-om," she whined, "why is Daria's name on my birthday banner?"
Helen entered the living room from the kitchen carrying another bowl of snacks. "Quinn, do we have to have this conversation every year? You and Daria were born practically on the same day, two years apart. It makes sense to celebrate your birthdays on the same day. Its good time management sweetie."
Quinn put her hands on her hips and pouted. "I guess that was OK when we were little, Mom. But now, I have an image to up hold. I have friends coming over to celebrate. I don't want them to know I share my birthday with a loser!"
"Quinn! That will quite enough. Daria will be too busy with her own friends to get in your way." Helen always had hope. She was about to go ask Daria who she had invited when a business call came through and distracted her.
Quinn just shook her head and stalked off.
Meanwhile, upstairs in her padded room, Daria was reclining on her bed, trying to read. She could hear Quinn's complaints quite clearly. She couldn't agree more, really. Sharing her birthday with Quinn was one of the worst times of the year for Daria. Not only was Quinn's birthday the annual celebration of all that had gone wrong with Daria's life, the celebration itself nullified the importance of Daria's own birthday. Every year these parties became more and more about Quinn and how much more she was valued. The cake was Quinn's favorite flavor. Quinn chose the decorations. Quinn selected the music. Quinn's friends made up the guest list. Each year it became just Quinn's party with Daria's name tacked on the banner. Daria sighed and put down the book. If she was going to be really honest with herself, she should admit that part of the disenfranchisement was her own fault. She had stopped participating years ago, not that participation had gotten her much further. At least then the imbalance had been held mostly in check. Once she had given up, the balance of power had quickly shifted to Quinn. Last year, Daria hadn't even made an appearance, and no one had noticed.
She sighed sadly. Even though that had really hurt, it was almost worth it to escape participation in a family party. Bailing out would be a good plan for this year too, expect that this year she had a friend. Jane had been asking her what she wanted to do for her birthday, and Daria thought that she had been able to successfully put her off. Even so, it would have been nice to celebrate a little with Jane. But having Jane over tonight to see the extent of her familial neglect was too much. Daria knew that Jane suspected things were not happy in the Morgendorffer household. However, Jane had no idea how bad things were, and Daria liked it that way. She really preferred to keep this private. It was less embarrassing that way. Then again, she could have just gone out with Jane to celebrate at the pizza parlor. Daria was so out of birthday practice that this possibility had only just now occurred to her.
Downstairs, the noise level was rapidly rising, indicating that the party had not only begun but was getting into full swing. Daria heard Quinn squealing in delight over the presents that were piling up on the coffee table. The ever increasing noise level was making it hard for Daria to concentrate on her book. She was contemplating the pros and cons sneaking over to Jane's house when the phone rang.
Daria knew who it was before she answered it. Everyone else was downstairs at the party.
"Hey Daria. What are you doing for your birthday?'
"Nothing. I, umm, don't feel well."
"No. Quinn went out with her friends."
At that moment, somebody downstairs accidentally turned on the cordless phone, and the party sounds of loud music, laughter, and the sharp bleating of party favor horns rushed into the conversation. It stopped as abruptly as it began.
"Ummm," Daria muttered weakly.
Sensing Daria's unhappiness, Jane thought up a quick save. "Daria, you really should have your phone lines checked. You have been getting a lot of bleed through lately."
"Ummm, yeah. We should."
"Well, happy birthday."
"Thanks, Jane. See you later."
Daria hung up the phone. Damn! That was her chance to get out of here and celebrate. What was wrong with her any way? Maybe she was just too used to letting her birthday pass by largely unremarked. Daria wished she had seized the opportunity to get Jane to go out with her. She looked at the phone. She could call her back. A small tear edged out of the corner of her eye. Daria dabbed it away with her thumb. There was no way she would call Jane in this state. The last thing she wanted for her birthday was to have Jane see her cry. Daria took several deep breaths. Settled now, she picked up her book and tried to read. She was just getting her focus back when there was a knock at her bedroom door.
Without waiting for Daria to answer Quinn barged in. "Hi, Daria," Quinn began in a suspiciously sweet tone. "Since your not busy, or anything, will you walk down to the market and get us some more ice?"
"Oh, come one Daria, its not like it's really your birthday or anything."
Daria frowned, and to her dismay felt another tear forming. She needed to get Quinn out there ASAP.
"Quinn, I think, Joey, Jeffie, and Jamie would fight for the honor of getting ice for you."
"Good thinking, Daria!"
Quinn scurried from the room, anxious to get things stirred up.
Daria wiped her eyes and gave up on reading. She was miserable. Just as she had locked her door and was contemplating giving up and going to bed, there was a second knock on the door.
Daria frowned and stayed silent. It was most likely that some of Quinn's friends looking for a safe make out room. It was a good thing that the door was locked.
After a moment the knock, sounded again, louder and more insistent this time.
"The party is downstairs," Daria snarled, "go find it."
"The question is, why aren't you downstairs?" Said a familiar voice.
It was Jane! Could this night get any worse? Daria rushed over to her mirror and checked her face for signs of crying. Her splotchy skin and red eyes were dead give always. What to do?
"Daria?" Jane tried the door, but found it to be locked.
Daria looked toward her window. If she was very careful, she could probably escape to street level without killing herself.
"Don't try climbing out the window. Trent is watching from the Tank," Jane advised through the door.
"Damn it, Lane!"
"Come on Daria, open the door."
Sighing, Daria slowly opened the door. She took in Jane's look of shock.
"You must be reacting to my face. Hives. I think I am allergic to shellfish."
Jane arched an eyebrow. "Sure." She closed the door and locked it.
Daria looked down at her boots."Right." She really liked Jane. Finding a friend had been wonderful. But, sharing her pain with another person still seemed too much to ask. It was scary.
"Look," she began, "I am upset. Maybe miserable. But, I just can't go into it. Its not because I don't trust you. It's more about, ummm..." She faltered here.
"Lack of practice?" Jane suggested helpfully.
"Maybe that. Maybe I just can't right now."
Jane wanted to give Daria a hug, but was careful to keep her distance. "That's cool Daria. We are friends, I would even say best friends..."
She was rewarded by a small smile from Daria.
Emboldened, she continued. "And as your best friend, I not only have a duty to be there for you when you need it, I want to. Now don't panic. That doesn't mean that I am going to ask you to share your demons with me. If you want to, it's your move, because I can tell you don't want me asking."
Jane put a hand on Daria's shoulder. "But damnnit, you don't have to open up to let me know that your family treats you like dirt. That would hurt anybody."
Daria squeezed her eyes shut to keep from breaking into tears.
Noticing, Jane spoke her next words gently. "Because I know you are not valued by your family, I want to make sure I tell you how much I value you."
Eyes still tightly shut, Daria sniffed loudly.
"Daria, before you came to Lawndale, I didn't have a single person outside of my family to hang out with. No friends. Ziltch. It was pretty lonely, and I tried to tell myself it was all part of a cool, lofty artist's life style. But that was a lie. When we became friends, I truly realized what I had been missing. Daria, I am so lucky you moved here. I value your intelligence, sarcasm, and outlook on the world."
A single tear was slowly weaving a path down Daria's cheek.
"I guess what I'm trying to say is, you're an important part of my life, and I'm glad I know you. Happy birthday, Daria. I'm glad you were born."
illustration by Diana Morgan
Daria made a choking sound and threw her arms around Jane.
A very, surprised Jane slowly encircled Daria with her arms and held her while she cried.
Daria cried quietly and steadily with no histrionics. Her face was buried in Jane's shoulder, soaking her red jacket with tears. This went on for some time.
Ultimately, the tears stopped. Feeling somewhat awkward, Daria let go of Jane.
"Umm," she said wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.
Jane tilted her head and examined Daria's face. "How do you feel?"
Daria walked over to her bed and sat down on the bed. "Better, but embarrassed."
Jane wisely stayed silent.
"I haven't done that, even in private, for years. So, even while I feel less pain, it seems unnatural, and... and risky. You don't think any less of me do you?"
Jane joined Daria on the bed. "Of course not. I just can't imagine..." She trailed off.
Jane looked sheepish. "Never mind. I almost asked you about your personal demons, and I promised I wouldn't".
Daria sighed. "You want to know why I keep all of my emotions deeply hidden?"
"I'd be lying if I didn't say yes."
Daria reached over to her nightstand and grabbed the photo of her "mauling" Quinn. She handed it to Jane. "What do you see in this picture?"
Jane's eyes widened. "You in pig tails and a sailor dress! You look so cute!"
Daria frowned. "Yes, but what am I doing?"
"Wrestling with Quinn?"
"No, I was attacking Quinn," Daria corrected.
"So what? Trent beat the shit out of me all the time when I was small. I learned to fight back."
Daria's voice turned bitter. "I bet your parent's didn't take you to a psychiatrist for it."
"They were convinced that I wanted to kill Quinn."
"Of course not." Daria got up and stood by the window."
illustration by Milo Minderbinder
"Let me give you some history. I think my conception was a surprise. Mom was still finishing up law school, and Dad was just starting up his consulting business. They really didn't have a lot of extra time for a baby. Don't get me wrong. They loved me and took care of me. They were just really busy. I have vague memories of spending long hours with Mom in the university's law library. I've heard stories about me teething on the texts."
"Ah, the start of your love affair with books."
"Exactly. In the library I learned to be quiet. I learned that knowledge was important. The things I did to occupy myself were quiet and intellectual. I drew, and looked at picture books, I listened to phonic tapes on a Walkman. The other law students taught me to say big words during their study break. It was great." Daria smiled a little. "Mom always made sure I was occupied with something stimulating."
"Let me guess that all of this changed when Quinn was born?" Jane ventured.
"Not exactly. Mom finished her degree when I was about two. Because she was pregnant again, she decided not to find a job right away. The type of mother she was changed, because she had more time. Instead of quiet, intellectual tasks, she and Quinn went to tumbling class together, she sent Quinn to dance class, she spent time playing outside with Quinn. She also wanted to include me in these things. But, by that point, my personality had already set. I didn't want to be outside, or dance around, or be loud. I wanted to be quiet and still. She took me to these classes, but I wouldn't participate. After a while, she stopped making me go."
"That was a good thing, right?" Jane asked.
"Well, it had the effect of isolating me while mom and Quinn bonded. Even at five I realized this, and tried to even the playing field."
"So you were trying to kill Quinn!"
Daria whirled around from the window and faced Jane. "No! Don't even joke about it Jane", she said seriously.
It was an awkward moment. Jane could tell that she had inadvertently jabbed at one of Daria's soft spots.
"Daria, what happened?"
illustration by Diana Morgan
"At some point, maybe when I was four and Quinn was two, I started attacking Quinn. It's the same sort of fighting that most sibs do. I guess I was trying to establish dominance. You know, trying to swing the balance of power back to me a little. Really, it wasn't abnormal fighting." Daria sighed, and sat down next to Jane on the bed. "The difference was that Quinn was manipulative from the start. She started hinting that I was really, truly hurting her. In that picture, Quinn was three years old. She had a decent grasp at language at that time. When I attacked her, she yelled that I was choking her. And from the picture, you could see why my parents might believe that." Daria fell silent and looked troubled.
"What happened next?' Jane whispered.
"I was evaluated by a shrink and spent five years of Friday afternoons in therapy sessions."
"Yes," Daria smiled grimly, "For five years, I spent an hour of the week with my therapist, learning that the expression of violent emotion made me," her voice faltered here, "'bad.' I was instructed how to keep my cool, or else I would have to go away."
"Did you ever go?"
"Once, when I was seven. For a week."
Jane was on the edge of her seat. "Why? What happened to you there?"
Daria just shook her head. "Lets just say I learned my lesson too well, and here I am, the placid girl you see today."
Jane snorted. "Emotionally dead, you mean."
"What ever. The point is, there is always the chance they could send me back if I slip up."
Jane slipped an arm around Daria's shoulders. "That's a lot to carry around. Promise me something?"
Daria looked suspicious. "What?"
"That you will talk to me tomorrow, and every day after that?'
"What do you mean?"
Jane smiled. "I want to make sure that you won't avoid me like the plague now that you've shared some of your darkness with me."
Daria smiled too. "You know me too well."
"Umm, thanks Jane, but I think I would rather stay here. I'm feeling too weird to go out and face people."
"No Problemo." Jane got up, walked over to the window, pushed up the sash and shouted, "Trent! You can bring up the pizza now!"
"Jane! I'm really feeling too weird to see Trent!" Daria rubbed her eyes self-consciously.
"You look fine. Really. Your face isn't splotchy anymore, and your eyes are just a little red. Like you are tired. Remember, Trent's oblivious."
Jane looked at Daria closely. "If you want me to, I can send him home after he brings us the Pizza. But, he asked if he could join us when I asked him for a ride over here. He wants to see you. It was his idea."
"Yeah. I knew you weren't having a good night, but I didn't realize it was this bad. I wouldn't have told him OK, if I had known."
Daria smiled thinly. "Well, its too late now. But why did he want to come?"
"He thinks of you as a friend Daria. I suspect he even has stronger feelings, but I know for sure that he is your friend. He wants to celebrate your birthday."
"Remember, Trent and I come from a family with artistic and discriminating tastes. We appreciate things and people who are wasted on the common hordes. People like you."
Daria was getting embarrassed now. Jane had caught her at a fragile time, and her emotional defenses had cracked. Even though she had shared some very painful information with Jane, those defenses were sealing back up. She was done with sharing. And she particularly didn't want to share her feelings about Trent.
Daria turned away from Jane and muttered, "Thanks-for-being-there-for-me", almost under too quietly to be heard.
Taking the hint, Jane grabbed the remote, flicked on the TV and sat back down on the bed. Sick, Sad, World wasn't on tonight, oddly enough. Instead, Jane channel surfed and finally alighted on MTV. She and Daria watched a couple videos before they realized Trent still hadn't joined them.
Jane got up off the bed and walked back to the window. She yelled his name a couple of times. No response. She leaned out the window and tried to peer into the tank. Turning around, she leered at Daria.
"I think he fell asleep. Why don't you go wake him up?"
"I hate you."
This is my first Daria fanfic. Ten years later, 2010, I am putting it back up on Fan . It used to be up, but years ago in a snit I took all my fics down. **Shakes Head** so immature. Many thanks to Out Post Daria for safe keeping it for me all these years!