Daria, do you think long-distance relationships are a good idea?
Yeah. Why don't we try one?
Chapter 11: The Shallowness of Depth
Ω Ω Ω
Three Weeks Later
"Your college is so not cute, Daria."
Those were the first words out of her mouth when she visited me at Raft. Not hi, not I missed you, not it's good to see you again. But that was Quinn.
"That's the point. It's cute by not being cute. Don't tell me you don't keep up with the trends." I rolled my eyes.
"For your information, anti-cuteness is out. Waif said so in their latest issue, 'A Return to Sanity In Fashion'."
"Waif? Is that what you call the voice in your head that tells you to kill people in Crocs?"
"Oh, Daria! That's my conscience," She looked disdainfully around the soberly furnished dorm lounge. She was acting too much like herself. When I didn't say anything, her eyes finally wandered back to me. "Is your room as bad as the rest of it?"
"Now that I have to see for myself," she said firmly. "Which floor?"
I sighed and led the way upstairs. I still couldn't figure her out. She got so emotional the day I left that Mom and Dad were worried about her. And now the first time she saw me again, it was no big deal. Had she matured that much?
I should have known better.
She threw her arms around me as soon as I had the door shut. Good thing Lisa's out of town, I thought. My roommate had already been weirded out by my hydrocephalic skull replica. What would she think of this? What do I think of this?
"Sorry. I missed you," she sniffed into my ear.
"That's okay. I'll be here all week," I deadpanned. More wet noises followed. I gave in and hugged her back a little. "Quinn…I'm not good at this, okay?"
"Duh. Just give me a second." We stood there for many seconds before Quinn looked up from the stain she'd left on my jacket. She looked like she hadn't been sleeping very well. "I used to wonder if this was just a weird crush or something."
She smiled a little and shook her head. Even that motion looked amazing. She was like an angel, if there was a kind of angel that wouldn't play the harp because they might break a nail. How did I last this long without her? Maybe by thinking about it as little as possible. But now that I could…wow.
"It's been hard for me too," I admitted. "Not having you around, I mean."
"I'm always around, Daria," she said with the airy pretension that always accompanied a nugget of clueless wisdom. "Wherever you see a student whose cheekbones perfectly match their lip liner, I am there. If you have a professor who is aging gracefully but not carelessly, I am with you. If—"
"What if I see an annoying fashion nut who won't shut up?"
"Then I'm right in front of you," she said playfully, and kissed me. Not on the cheek, and not like a sister. I took her in my arms, differently this time. The way it felt was worth the wait, the senseless risk and the threat of hell. Assuming hell somehow was worse than Lawndale High.
It lasted a long time and not long enough. By the time we separated, her hands were stroking my hair and mine were slipping under her shirt. God, how I needed to feel her. To see her like I did that one morning. But I stopped and let her collect herself.
"Are you okay with this?" I don't think I'd ever spoken that softly to anyone.
She gazed at me wide-eyed and breathless, a doe in headlights. "Yeah. It's just…I'm so scared, Daria."
I put my hand over her heart and felt it pounding. "I know. So am I. We do what you're ready to do and then we stop."
"Heh. You make it sound so easy."
"I know," I said again.
Her pillow watched us from the headboard, smiling.
Ω Ω Ω
"I've always been so jealous of your hair," she whispered later in the dark. "How do you get it like that?"
"Um, I wash it sometimes," I said.
"I don't obsess over my appearance. I'm sorry if that shatters your image of me." She snorted. "Now go to sleep. You need it."
I reached over and pulled her closer. For a while I just listened to her breathe. Nothing would ever hurt her again. Not even me.
I said one more thing before we fell asleep. "Quinn…you know this is going to get really weird, right?"
"Oh, Daria. I grew up with you. You think I don't know weird?"
The fashion drones picked her up from campus in the morning. All three of them seemed to be wearing some version of my jacket. I didn't ask. The brown and black-haired ones pretended not to see me. The one with braids smiled and waved.
Quinn just watched me as the car started moving, her eyes full of tears, promises and goodbyes. I stood there long after they drove off and took a piece of me with them.
As I walked back to my room in a daze, I tortured myself further by wondering if Quinn could really keep this to herself without me there to remind her. It was so easy to picture her coming home and Mom muttering "how was Daria, dear" and then the classic outburst…"Muh-ommm, do you have to know everythinnng about what happened last night? Me and Daria are responsible women who trust each other and what we do 'conventually' is our own business and…"
But no. That was just it; we could trust each other now, at least with the things that really mattered. Maybe I couldn't trust Quinn not to annoy me or try to make me over again…but I could trust her to keep our secret.
I picked up the phone. Appropriately, I dialed the third and last person who knew about us.
"Hey…Daria." Jane said quietly. It had been a while since we talked. "So, um…did she visit yet?"
"Yes. Last night."
"Did you come to your senses?"
"No. But we made it out alive, Jane. That's the important thing."
She paused. "I don't know if I can handle this, Daria."
"We'll try to help you through this difficult time."
"Don't joke about it. You're going to hurt yourselves. You're going to hurt your family."
I shook my head firmly, as if she was there to see me. "No. They're not going to find out."
"How? I mean, if it was my family maybe, but your folks are actually around! I give you six months and that's being generous. You're fooling yourself, Daria."
"You don't get it. I'm being honest with myself. How do you think this all started, anyway?"
"Um…she watched a bad Lifetime movie while you were trying to read Sappho?" Jane tried to joke, but it was more insulting than funny. I hoped my stony silence was making that clear. "… Sorry. Okay, tell me. How did it start?"
"I just woke up and…saw her differently." An abridged version of the shower scene. "No, I let myself see her. In a way that I was afraid to before. It was there, but I was pretending. We both were. And then we just stopped."
She didn't say anything for a minute. I was gripping the phone so hard it might have to be surgically removed.
"Daria, I've let a lot of stuff go for our friendship. Every time I broke our little routine, you froze me out. I quit the track team for you. You stole my boyfriend and I forgave you. But this…this is a lot to ask."
"Those things were between you and me. This is different. It's not your problem."
"Have you been sniffing her nail polish or something? Of course it's my problem! You're my friend and you're doing something absolutely insane, and…it's not right, Daria!" She heaved a sigh into the receiver, like she was exhausted. "I grew up with no direction at all, and I get that. Why don't you? How can I ever look at you guys again without thinking about it?"
She had a point. "Jane, I know it sounds like something out of Sick Sad World, but it's real. Quinn and I can't go back, even if we wanted that. I could have lied and told you nothing was going on, but I chose to be honest. With her and with you. Despite the fact that it's slowly destroying my life."
"No kidding," she chuckled wearily.
A second and final silence. I extended an olive branch. "Can we talk about this? Face to face somewhere? I'll buy."
"If you think bribing me with dinner at the best pizza place in Boston will get me to meet you even halfway on this…"
"At least humor me."
"…All right, Morgendorffer. You're humored. But make it good."
One way or another, I would.
Ω Ω Ω
A long time ago, Jane and I made a documentary about Quinn for an assignment. I've forgotten the details, probably for a reason. We called it "The Depths of Shallowness."
It was supposed to be about the horrors of…what? Superficiality? High school? Quinn herself? I don't remember that either. We captured her in enough compromising moments for it to be some kind of horror. But in the end, I went easy on her. Annoying as she was, she didn't deserve that. It was a rare moment of clarity on my part.
She admitted time and again that she didn't understand me, but was I ever that honest? I told myself, what's there to understand? She's an airhead. As artificial and unhealthy as the candies that bear the name. I don't have to think about her. What's on TV tonight?
Looking back, I saw how shallow I had been. But to use a cliché that an aspiring writer like myself should be ashamed of, that was then. And this is now.
And if I can fit one more in there: I regret nothing.
Ω Ω Ω
I wonder what it's like seeing through your eyes
You offered me to have a try, but I was always late
The filters that I use give me an excuse
I take away what's real, but I feel it and it blows my fuse.
-from "Hanging Around," by The Cardigans (I don't own the song or the band)
AUTHOR'S NOTE: That's all, folks. To BF110C4, abe1803, J.V. Hart, MissSnarkling, ushouldkeepitsimple and anyone else kind enough to check out my work...thank you a thousand times for reading, reviewing and caring about a story that I thought no one else would be interested in. Writing from both sisters' perspectives seemed like the right way to go, and I think Quinn's parts came off best of all. I identify much more with Daria, but Quinn is like a cartoon muse. I'm crazy about her. This could have gone longer, but we were close to Daria's departure anyway, and I didn't want to force out material that didn't feel natural.
So here we are. As I thought, writing this fic was a challenge and I hope I lived up to it. If you're interested, a sequel isn't out of the question, but we'll see. Bottom line, I'll be writing more for Daria in the near future. Don't forget me, and I won't forget you!