Cold Comfort
2/8/12

In her heart of hearts she knew she was wrong.

She stared herself in the eye, the mirror throwing dingy light back on her tired face, and the deep blue of her irises were muddy with lack of sleep. There were dirty smudges under her eyes and her skin was pale, hair mussed from lack of attention.

She was wrong. But it did not matter now.

The funeral had been a week ago. She had not gone.

She turned her head to the left and there was her new piercing, a fourteen-gauge captive ring hanging from the lobe. Triplet silver hoops lined her ear above it. The skin of the ear was still an irritated red, most likely caused by sleeping on the fresh wound. She flicked the ring now and frowned at the tiny needle of pain that shot through the side of her head.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

She ran long fingers through tangled, inky hair and brushed it back into a ponytail. The rest of her running attire was already in place. Now with her hair out of the way, she was ready to go.

She passed a sleeping Tom in her bed on the way to the door, not sparing him the tiniest glance, and slammed the door on her way out.

Wrong.

Trent was sitting on the front step with his guitar over his knees. His face was covered in bruises and butterfly bandages and his left arm was out of its sling. A sheet of paper fluttered by his right hand, anchored to the stone by a chewed pencil. There was only one word written there.

Daria

Her frown deepened at the sight of Trent's bloodshot eyes, then her feet hit the walkway and she was gone.

Every footfall was an accusation, so she pushed herself harder with every block until she ran so fast she thought her guilt could no longer hold her. A sense of relief lifted the lead weights from her shoulders and she flew.

Her mind abruptly returned with a sickening jolt when she looked up to see where her traitor feet had brought her.

The Lawndale Memorial Cemetery gates loomed large before her, and her breath came ragged as she approached them. Her feet fell like cinder blocks on the cobble stones leading inward, and suddenly her guilt was wrapped around her chest, squeezing the breath from her lungs.

Left foot, wrong. Right foot, wrong.

And there she was.

Daria Morgendorffer the stone read, as though it was really her there. As though the marker were no more than a nameplate on a locker. It was pink marble in the shape of an open book, and at the bottom was the date of her death.

August eighteenth.

The night Trent had fallen asleep at the wheel on the way to Ashfield with Daria in the passenger's seat.

Jane fell to her knees on the grave and pressed her hands against the stone of her best friend's final resting place. She closed her eyes and rested her forehead against it, tried to feel her, knew there was nothing there.

Her throat ached and her eyes burned and the cheap belly ring Daria had purchased at Axl's throbbed in her ear, but even this pain could not make Jane feel alive again. Not when there was no Daria to prove she existed.

After what felt like decades, she stood. Grass and dirt stained and stuck to her knees, and a thin trickle of blood ran down into her left sock. She gave the stone one last, hard look, then turned and ran back the way she'd come.

The quote Quinn had chosen for Daria's headstone repeated in her mind until the front door of 111 Howard Drive closed behind her.

Parting is all we know of heaven and all we need of hell.

When she got to her room, Tom was awake and sitting up in her bed. He looked to her with eyes as empty as her own and opened his arms.

She stared at him for a moment, remembering the first time she had seen him since the hair dying fiasco. Remembered the wild look in his bright green eyes, the way he had screamed and bit her shoulder, shaking with rage and guilt and loss as he took her on the threadbare couch in her living room.

He waited for her now, not so much patient as empty, and she walked forward to fall into his arms.

As she lay there, wrapped up in him, she closed her eyes and tried to remember what it had felt like to be alive.

Daria's placid face looked back at her from behind her eyes, and the cold consumed her once again.

"And can it be that in a world so full and busy the loss of one creature makes a void so wide and deep that nothing but the width and depth of eternity can fill it up!"
~Charles Dickens

An inability to work
To concentrate on things of import
Shows that inside we hurt
Pleasures we indulge a last resort
~Jack Ashenden