GeoCitesSites.com

"Boy Fiend"
By Austin Covello
Based on the Characters created by Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis Lynn

It was a typical day in Lawndale. The sun was shining, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. In the hallowed halls of Lawndale High, students chatted merrily with each other as they passed from class to class, serene in the late morning of their lives that was adolescence. In short, everyone was happy, and Daria Morgendorffer was in hell.

Ten feet off to her right, the Fashion Club—Sandi, Stacy, Tiffany, and her own sister, Quinn—were going on and on about some gadget or trinket or whatnot. Daria broke into a cold sweat, torn between the desire to remain stationary and the need to remove herself from earshot of them for the sake of her own sanity. The Id won out, as Daria rationalized that if she wanted exercise, she would have plenty of incentive to catch up on her frowning to keep away that double chin by staying put. She gritted her teeth as the high-pitched nasal voice of her sister penetrated—no raped!—her audio senses.

"Oh Sandi! That lavender is so good on you. Which kind of animal is it?"

"I got a cat, just like my real one."

"That is just the cutest, Sandi!"

"No. Yours is the cutest, Quinn."

In spite of herself, Daria smiled her most sardonic and regal Mona Lisa smile as the sense of 180 days of being fashion editor for the Highland high school newspaper hit her full in the face. "Don’t they know giga-pets went out last year?" she murmured.

Beside her, her best friend Jane Lane held up a black dinosaur giga-pet. "I could go over there and show them mine," she offered.

Daria’s mouth hung open. "You have one?"

"Oh yeah. I just love watching it die."

"Why not just take a hammer to it?" Daria deadpanned. Of all the things Daria did, deadpanning was the most natural, the easiest. And, of course, the thing she most enjoyed.

"Are you nuts? I paid twenty bucks for this."

"They’re on clearance at Dairy Mart for fifty cents," countered Daria.

"You’re on! We’ll rid the world of the giga-scourge once and for all!" replied Jane with mock fervor.

"Easy, Tiger," soothed Daria. Then she glanced down the hall. "Here comes the next president of the United States," she said dryly.

"And her boyfriend, too," one-upped Jane after a look in the same direction.

Jodie Landon walked down the hall with Michael Jordan MacKenzie—a.k.a. Mack—at her side. It was not uncommon to see them walking hand in hand talking about an exam or a subject or Tennis or just gazing into each other’s eyes (as opposed to Kevin and Brittany, who spent every waking moment of their courtship making out.)

But today was different. Today, their hands were unclasped and raised, as were their voices. They weren’t exactly shouting, but they were just a bit louder than everyone else.

"I told you, I had to cancel because the Student Council called an emergency meeting! Miss Li was going to institute electroshock-therapy for the special education kids!"

Daria had to smile at her friend’s passionate pleas. She hadn’t been exactly sarcastic about Jodie becoming president of the country. Jodie and Mack were two of only a small handful of African Americans attending Lawndale High. As a result, Jodie felt pressure—real or imagined—to be the perfect student, a role model for everyone in the high school.

Unfortunately, Mack didn’t see things that way. "You could have at least called! Jeez, Jodie, it seems like I see less and less of you each week! You spend more time with your extracurricular activities than with me!"

"Well, let me make it up to you. I know what! We can go see that Whitney Huston movie tonight!"

"Well..." Mack wasn’t exactly satisfied, but he was willing to deal. "Okay." The tension between them was still thick as they went their separate ways. Meanwhile, their silent audience began their analysis.

"What do you make of that?" asked Jane.

"That it’s none of our business, there’s nothing more to see, and we should move along." Daria replied, uncomfortable with the notion of gossiping about her more popular friends.

"C’mon, you’ve got to have an opinion."

"Okay. The Clinton Administration sucks, but Gore would be worse because his wife is a fascist."

"What?"

"You asked my opinion. I gave it."

"Don’t play dense with me. I know you have a vicious remark about Mack wanting to spend time with Jodie. Don’t be coy, Daria."

Daria gave up. "Mack has a point. Jodie’s way too involved with her activities. She should spend more time with him."

"What about a quip about him wanting to get her alone so they can make out?" whined Jane.

Daria frowned at her friend. "You can be as bad as Upchuck sometimes." She walked off.

Jane stared at the retreating Daria. "What?" she asked.

That night during dinner, Quinn recounted the events of that morning to her parents.

"...and so they got into a big fight in front of everybody! It looks like the captain of the football team is gonna become available!" Quinn paused to reflect on that fact. "I wonder what kind of car he has," she mused.

Daria snorted. "First of all, it wasn’t that bad. Jodie promised Mack they’d go out tonight. Secondly, even if they do break up, you’d be the last one on Mack’s list."

"At least I’d be on the list!" countered Quinn.

"All right, you two," interrupted Helen. "I’m sure you both have the same chance of catching this boy on the rebound."

"What makes you think I’d want a guy on the rebound?" asked Daria defensively.

"Well...um...ah... Jake, you explain things to her."

"Huh?" Jake looked up from his newspaper. "Oh. Well, it’s really simple, Daria. If you want a guy, go after him. Be as aggressive as you can, no matter who the competition is," he lectured cluelessly.

Daria shot a vicious grin at her sister. "Thanks, Dad," she purred.

"DADDY!" cried Quinn.

"Well, um... that is... unless it’s your sister?"

"That’s enough, Jake," Helen cut him off. "Daria, it wouldn’t hurt you to at least find out where you and he stand."

"On the ground?" Daria quipped.

"I mean, what’s your relationship to him?"

"He’s my friend’s boyfriend, that’s all. Why not just leave it at that?"

"Alright Daria. Just don’t come crying to me when some other eligible lady grabs him."

"Yeah. I always do that, don’t I?"

The next day, Daria recapped the conversation to Jane. "So let me get this straight," said Jane, "Brenda Walsh is talking about going after Mack after overhearing one little spat with his girlfriend?"

They were standing in the hallway of the English Wing. All around them conversation melded into a huge, machine-like hum. "Don’t buzzards usually wait until the cow’s dead until they start to feed?" Daria agreed.

"I don’t know. But I bet it’d make a hell of a TV program."

"Then the worst part is that my mom’s trying to encourage me to get with him. Like dating Mack would be the fast track to boosting my popularity, as if I actually cared."

"I don’t know, Daria," Jane teased, "A football player with a brain is actually something of a novelty. Sort of like a talking pet."

"Speaking of which, did you bring your loose change?"

"Yup. After school we begin the holocaust."

Just then, Daria and Jane heard an angry shout.

"…so tell me, then, where were you last night?" It was Mack.

"I was getting the preparations underway for the mermaids ball! It was really important…" Jodie started.

"Oh save it! You know I’m so sick of you. You put everything else in front of me! Tennis, Chorus, Student Council, and now some stupid dance! When are you ever gonna have time for me?"

Jodie’s eyes narrowed. "Oh, grow up," she said flatly.

"Grow up? Grow up? Fine, I’ll grow up. And I’ll out-grow you."

"What are you talking about?"

"I’M SAYING, WE’RE THROUGH! WE’RE FINISHED! I’VE HAD IT!"

Silence. All eyes were on them. Jodie’s mouth hung open, her eyes were wide in astonishment as if she had just been slapped.

Mack wordlessly walked off. Jodie yelled after him, "Fine! Be that way! I’ll just find another boyfriend, one who can understand that the world doesn’t revolve around him!" She stalked down the hall in the opposite direction and around the corner.

The silence pervaded for another couple of heartbeats until Jane broke it. "The cow’s dead now, wouldn’t you say?"

"Flatlined," Daria deadpanned.

"Hey, Daria."

Daria looked up from her novel, Pawn of Prophecy. It was a good novel, although a little "bright and sunny" for Daria’s tastes. Mack stood over her.

"Oh. Hey, Mack."

"What are you reading?" Mack asked.

"It’s called a book," Daria replied sarcastically.

"Really? I’ve heard of those, but my coach says that they don’t exist," Mack bantered.

Daria put down the book, resigned to talking to Mack for the rest of the study hall. Boring book anyway, she rationalized. "Your coach seems pretty closed minded."

"Oh yeah. He doesn’t even like people with an I.Q. over fifty."

"Oh. And here I thought brains were universally adored."

"Only on the Sci-Fi Channel."

Daria chuckled. She knew what kind of brains Mack was talking about.

"So Daria," Mack started, "What are you doing tonight?"

Uh-oh. "I was planning on inventorying my ceiling tiles, or maybe watching an animal mauling video. Either way I’m contemplating the meaning of life, or an algebra problem. Why?"

"I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind doing something with me."

Daria sighed. "Look, Mack. You just broke up with my friend this morning. I can’t go out with you after that. It’s not that I have anything against you for it, it’s just that you two might not be completely over each other, and if I went out with you without discussing it with Jodie first, I’d feel like I was stabbing her in the back. Sorry."

"I understand." He took out a piece of paper. "Here’s my phone number, in case you change your mind."

"Well…" She was tempted to give it back, but what harm could it do to accept it? "Okay."

"Thanks." He began to talk rapidly, as if to cover his embarrassment. "You know, your sister asked me out. No offense, but I almost laughed in her face. Have you ever thought of getting her some… help?"

"We tried taking her to a priorities specialist, but it didn’t seem to work. She just began using the men more efficiently."

Mack looked stunned.

"Oh, you didn’t know?" Now, for the coup de grace. "After she’s finished, she eats her meat."

"I’ll be sure to stay away from her, then."

Daria smiled. The well was successfully poisoned.

It was after school, and the underclassmen were all hurrying in a mad stampede to catch their buses while the calmer, cooler seniors strutted to the student parking lot. Jodie was on her way to the gym to help with the dance decorations when she spied Sandi Griffin talking with Mack. Sandi passed him a slip of paper.

"The vultures are starting to circle, eh?" Jane’s voice came from right next to her.

Jodie tore her eyes away from the disgusting display that the President of the Fashion Club was exhibiting. "Look at them all. They’ve been practically waiting for him there like… like…"

"A bunch of popularity fiends wanting to date the captain of the football team?" Jane guessed.

Jodie frowned. "Exactly." She went back to looking at her boyfriend—ex-boyfriend, she amended—as Brooke handed her phone number to him. He wasn’t ready to date. Couldn’t they see that?

"Hi, guys." Daria walked over to them.

"Hey, Daria." Jodie smiled. If there was one girl in the whole school that didn’t have an agenda involving boys, it was Daria.

"Hey, Jodie, can I talk to you?"

"Sure Daria."

"Ooookay." Daria struggled, wondering how to broach the subject. This wasn’t the sort of thing that she was good at. "Uh…um…uh…" she stammered.

"You’ve suddenly come down with a case of the stutters! This is so suspenseful," quipped Jane to lessen the tension.

"Mackgavemehisphonenumber," Daria said quickly. Yes, that was good. That was a good place to start.

Jane leaned against the locker, arms akimbo. "Oh, yeah. The vultures are starting to circle."

Jodie’s permission had been somewhat grudging ("At least you had the decency to come to me about it, first"), but she had been okay. Now Daria wondered if it was still a good idea. A wolf without teeth was still a wolf, and a football player with some semblance of a brain was still a football player. There was one final test to decide whether or not to go out with him or not. She waited patiently for her mother to call her to dinner as she meticulously examined the ceiling.

When dinner came, she silently endured how Quinn’s day went. "…and so they finally broke up. At least that’s what I heard from Tiffany who heard it from Melissa who heard it from Joey who heard it from Brooke who heard it from Tori."

"…on her deathbed," continued Daria, "in Maine."

"Anyway," continued Quinn, giving Daria a dirty look, "I gave him my phone number and now I’m just waiting for him to call."

"That’s nice, Quinn," said Helen in a bored tone. For once, Daria couldn’t blame her. She almost went face first into her lasagna herself after hearing Quinn’s lecture on strappys. "What about you, Daria?"

"Well, I had a little visit from Mack myself." She took out Mack’s phone number. "He gave me this."

Quinn, who was in the midst of taking a gulp of soda, spat it out and went into a choking spasm. "What?" she shrilled after Jake had patted her back a few times.

"Let me see that, Daria," Helen said. Daria handed her the slip of paper. "Oh my. This looks like his phone number."

"Muh-om," Quinn whined in her superior way, "puh-lease. That number’s obviously fake."

"Yeah," said Daria. "I made up a phony phone number to call attention to myself by saying that I’m going out with a guy that don’t even like. And the aliens are involved somehow, but I’m not saying."

"Mack can’t be interested in you. He’s a popular football player and you’re… you’re a brain."

"No. I have a brain. Maybe when they have a sale at Cashman’s, you can go pick one up for yourself."

"Alright, you two." Helen tried to intervene, but Quinn would not be deterred.

"Mack’s the only man for me. I’ll just die if he doesn’t ask me out. I won’t settle for anyone else!" she cried melodramatically. Just then, the phone rang. "That’s for me!" said Quinn. "Hello?" Her face lit up. "Matthew?"

There was no question in Daria’s mind what she was going to do with Mack’s phone number now. Reach out and touch someone.

"Hello?"

"Hi, Mack. It’s Daria."

"Hi Daria! I was just thinking about you!"

"Boy, you football types think less than I thought."

"How is it possible for one woman to be so funny?" Mack asked sardonically. "So what is the purpose of this call?"

"I talked to Jodie."

"And did she convince you that I’m really Satan?"

"No, just a demon out to destroy all of mankind. She said I could take you if I really had to."

"Oh. So does that square everything away with your morals?"

"Pretty much."

"Okay. So do you want to go to the movies tomorrow?"

"Sure."

"The Faculty?"

"Nah. Too realistic. Star Trek?"

"No, too upbeat. What about The Pie II?"

"That sounds good."

"Okay. Pick you up at seven, okay?"

"It’s a date. Bye."

"Bye."

The next day at school Mack found himself accosted by an annoyance of a different sort than yesterday’s bevy of high school socialites.

"Hey Mack Daddy, wait up!" Kevin Thompson called after him. Mack gnashed his teeth, resisting an urge to slug him.

"Don’t call me that, okay!" said Mack as Kevin and Brittany Taylor caught up to him. Mack had a lot of fantasies about Kevin’s girlfriend. Most of them involved tricking her into jumping out of a window from a building with double digit stories.

"So bro, what’s it like to be a stud?" asked Kevin slyly.

"What are you talking about?" asked Mack with a combination of annoyance and morbid curiosity.

"You’re the man of the hour, Mack," squeaked Brittany. "Every girl in the school wants to go out with you." Then she glanced at Kevin. "Well… almost everyone."

Kevin blushed. "Aw, shucks."

"Yeah," deadpanned Mack, "I’m just so lucky that I don’t even realize it."

"Now you can have a girlfriend for every day of the month! Which one are you gonna start with? Sandi? Stacy? Hey, what about that cute blonde girl…" a dirty look from Brittany cut Kevin off. "Uh… nevermind."

"Actually," said Mack, "I’m going out with Daria tonight."

"Daria?" Kevin scratched his head. "You’re kidding, right? You can’t go out with Daria. She’s, like, a total brain."

"So?"

"So, football players don’t go out with brains. It just doesn’t happen."

"Oh well. I guess I’ll just have to quit the football team, then."

"What? You can’t quit! You’re the team captain! We need you! Not as much as we need me, but we need you!"

"Well that’s too bad. If I want to date Daria, then I’m gonna date Daria, and who cares what anyone thinks!" Mack stalked off.

Kevin stood as still as a statue and contemplated this. Then he drew his own conclusions. "Whoa. I guess he’s gonna date Daria. Far out. Come on, Babe, let’s go to the mall."

"…yes, that’s cute…I guess that’d be cute…really cute…cute in theory, but not really cute on paper…" Quinn sat at the kitchen table talking to Tiffany about the latest line of skorts detailed in Waif. Sitting next to her, Helen fumed. She was waiting for an important conference call and could easily miss it thanks to all of this nonsense. Helen wondered how much Daria would charge her to let Helen use the phone in her room. Jake sat in the living room snoring. Maybe if she woke him up, the two could overpower their youngest daughter and recapture the phone.

Daria came into the kitchen and stopped. Quinn gasped and dropped the phone. Helen snatched it just a split second before it hit the linoleum. She smirked smugly and said into the receiver, "I’m sorry, but Quinn will have to call you back." Then she saw Daria and gasped.

Daria was wearing black jeans and a T-shirt! A body-hugging T-shirt, Helen noticed with some disapproval. Beside her, Quinn was making strangling noises. "You look… normal!" she cried.

"Thanks. I wish I could say the same about you," said Daria.

Helen was slightly bemused. "Daria, honey, is that makeup your wearing?" she asked, looking at Daria’s painted face.

"Yup. I want to look my best for my date tonight."

"What date?" cried Quinn.

"My date with the captain of the football team."

Quinn bolted from the room, sobbing.

"I haven’t gone out yet, and already it’s a great night," remarked Daria.

Just then, the doorbell rang. Helen answered it and found Mack dressed in his best polo shirt and dockers with a bouquet in hand. "Is Daria ready?" he asked.

"So how was your date with Mack?" asked Jane on Monday. She, Daria and Jodie were in their usual spot on the locker wall. Ten feet to her right, Stacy and Tiffany stood consoling Quinn. Sandi on the other hand smirked.

"It was surprisingly good. Mack has good taste in movies."

"Yeah. When I was dating him, we always went for the art films," said Jodie.

"And just how far did you go?" asked Jane.

"Jeez, are you ever subtle," said Jodie.

"He gave me a kiss goodnight and that was all," replied Daria, slightly uncomfortable with all of this "kiss and tell."

"Was it small, medium, large, or sloppy?"

"Jane!" said Jodie as her eyes widened.

"What? Just because you’re scared to ask doesn’t mean I have to be."

Just then Mack came over. "Hey, Daria. Hey, guys." He put his arm around Daria and kissed her cheek.

"Small," Jane decided.

"So are you doing anything tomorrow?" Mack asked Daria.

"Well, I did have that bake-off planned," Daria quipped.

Mack laughed.

"What are you doing tonight?" asked Daria.

"I’ve got a game. It’s the big one against Oakwood, our rival. I don’t suppose you want to come? Kevin’s the one who usually gets all of the cheers."

Daria put her fist up in the air. "Go. Go. Kick butt," she intoned monotonously.

"Now that’s exactly the kind of school spirit we need to get us fired up," said Mack with a chuckle. Then he turned to Jodie. "I guess you’ve already made plans." His voice was deliberately neutral.

"Actually, I’m free today," replied Jodie.

"It’s a blue moon," Jane told Mack dryly.

Mack smiled. "Well, in that case, would you both please come? We could really use the support."

"Sure," said Jodie, "if my father catches me home before five, he panics. So I may as well do something. What about you, Jane?"

Jane sighed. "I know I’m gonna regret this. Sure, what the hell? If Daria can do it, I can."

"Thanks," said Mack. "Come on, Daria, I’ll walk you to class." With that, the couple departed. As they walked off, Quinn’s jaw dropped and her eyes went wide as she stared after them. Then she collapsed into a fresh bout of sobbing. Jane thought she saw Daria smile. Jane imitated her flawlessly.

Beside her, Jodie was lost in thought. "What went on during that date?"

"So, what are we going to do tonight?" Daria asked Mack as she got into his car. Mack had referred to his plans as "a surprise." Daria was still adjusting to the idea having a boyfriend. She had never really cared for the notion before. For her, a boyfriend had been a concept to be put off until college at the very least, probably never. She was also willing to admit to herself that while her feelings for Mack were real, they were at least half prompted by the fact that their relationship drove Quinn nuts. She suddenly wondered if this wasn’t all a ruse for Mack to get back at Jodie. Oh well, if that’s the case, then there’s something for everybody.

Wordlessly, Mack handed Daria a ticket. Daria studied them. "An opera? You’re taking me to an opera?"

"Yeah. It’s Italian. I figured that you might like it. It’s actually pretty gory, too."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. See, what happens is this guy kills his brother, and then he marries his wife. But then there’s this secret admirer who’s stalking both of them, and he causes trouble for both of them."

"And?"

"And what?"

"And how does it end?"

"I don’t want to spoil it for you."

"Mack," she said in a tone she usually reserved for Brittany when she was being extra stupid, "you said it was Italian. I won’t be able to make out what they’re saying. I take French." A sudden thought occurred to her. Was he taking her there to make out? He was in for a nasty surprise if he was.

"Don’t worry. I’m sure there’s a translation in the playbill. And afterward, we can maybe see the sights. It’s in Middletown, you know." Middletown was a thriving Metropolis just outside of Lawndale. It wasn’t as big as New York or Los Angeles, but to most Lawndale suburbanites, it was huge.

"Oh yeah," Daria said acidly, "we’ll meet lots of interesting muggers."

"No, I used to live in Middletown. They just have drug dealers. No muggers."

The opera was like any other: boring, loud, and unintelligible. If there was ever a public make-out spot for teenagers, then this would be it. However, Mack was a total gentleman, and the only thing that happened was Mack holding her hand from midway through the second act onward. Daria found this not unpleasant, and attributed it to the fact that she managed to stay awake through the whole thing.

"I think you were right," said Mack after the opera.

"Yeah. From now on let’s stick to pizza and movies, okay?"

"That’s all?" exclaimed Mack with pretended astonishment. "And here I was going to take you out to vandalize private property."

"Oh, well in that case, I’ll make an exception."

Mack laughed. Then, without warning, he kissed her soundly on the lips. "I love you, Daria."

Daria blushed. She hadn’t been ready for that statement. It was only their second date! "Me, too," she mumbled halfheartedly.

It was a typical day in Lawndale. The sun was shining, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. In the hallowed halls of Lawndale High, students chatted merrily with each other as they passed from class to class, serene in the late morning of their lives that was adolescence. In short, everyone was happy, and Jodie Landon was in hell.

Ten feet off to her right, she saw her boyfriend, Michael Jordan MacKenzie, and Daria Morgendorffer walking down the hall in each others arms, gazing into each others eyes the way that they used to. Beside her, her best friend, Jane Lane, was ready to make some snide comment. Time seemed to freeze. Jodie heard her heartbeats, slow, low, muffled by her blouse.

Jodie looked down and suddenly realized that she was wearing Daria’s clothes. Then she looked back at Daria. Daria was wearing Jodie’s best mini-skirt and blouse.

"No!" screamed Jodie. "This isn’t right!"

her boyfriend…Daria’s boyfriend…her boyfriend…Daria’s boyfriend…Daria’s boyfriend…my identity…all Daria’s…

Jodie woke up, screaming.

When something like this happened, she usually did one thing. She grabbed her phone receiver. She dialed Mack’s number. She was doing it now, the instinct had been ingrained into her until it was second nature.

One ring. Two rings. Three rings. C’mon, Mack, answer the phone! Click. "Hello?" Mack’s groggy voice came over the receiver. Jodie glanced at her alarm clock. Three in the morning. On a school night. There had been worse times.

"Thank God! Mack, I just had the worst dream! I dreamt that you had dumped me and you were going out with Daria instead!"

"Jodie? What are you talking about? That wasn’t a dream."

Reality hit Jodie in the fullness of her brain as she woke up completely.

"Oh, yeah," she mumbled. Her eyes blurred with tears. "Sorry to have disturbed you."

"That’s okay. Since you’re already up, and I’m already up, and the sun is almost up, you may as well tell me about your nightmare."

"No that’s okay. I think I’m safely over it by now."

"Oh. So, how is the Mermaids Ball coming along?"

Jodie’s face lit up. "Great!" she said enthusiastically. On the other end of the phone, Mack smiled. If there was one thing Jodie enjoyed, it was talking about her extracurricular activities.

"We decided on ‘Kiss the Girl’ as our theme, and we just hired Stan Cartman as our DJ!"

"Doesn’t he do that ‘mega-dance’ show on one-oh-one?"

"Yeah! We were really lucky to get him. He usually doesn’t do school functions, but he said he’d make an exception in this case."

"I guess he still has some community service time left on his sentence from that drug bust," Mack said dryly.

Jodie laughed. That was exactly what she had been thinking at the time.

"So, who are you taking?" asked Mack.

"I don’t think I’ll be going."

"Why not? You practically did this thing from scratch."

"Well, I don’t have anyone to go with. The only person who’s asked me out so far is Upchuck."

"Tell me that that isn’t true."

"Afraid so. It’s like, Joey, Jeffy, and Jamie are so infatuated with Quinn that they don’t even notice me, and every other guy is going out with someone else or making overtures to the Fashion Club."

"Maybe if they sacrificed a couple of lambs."

"Or some lowfat cottage cheese," Jodie said sourly. "So, I guess you’re taking Daria, right?"

"Yeah."

"What’s it like to date her? Sometimes she seems so course to me."

"Well, I don’t know. I mean, sometimes she seems like she isn’t really into it."

"Into what?"

"The whole dating thing. It’s like she’s doing it just for fun, or to pass the time. I mean, I love her, and I know she likes me, but I wish she’d show it more."

"Daria’s just a little reserved, that’s all. Couple that with her inexperience, and she may seem cold and distant at first."

"Maybe that’s it. Or maybe it’s just me."

The two talked until the sun came up.

It came as no surprise to anyone when Mack asked Daria to the Mermaids Ball. Daria and Mack had become inseparable in the passed two weeks that they had been dating. Daria’s reply had been as quizzical as usual ("Dammit. Now I have to go to that annoying tailor again.") but she had accepted. Jodie, meanwhile, had had no offerings other than Upchuck, and was seriously considering selling out the last shreds of her dignity by asking to join the Fashion Club, when she received an offer of a different sort from Jane.

"Why don’t you come over to my place? There’s a Sick, Sad, World-athon on the night of the dance, and since Daria’s busy I’ve got no one to watch it with. What do you say?"

Well, it was better than nothing. "Sure," said Jodie. Then she glanced at her watch. "We’d better hurry up," she commented. The two were on their way to Cranberry Commons to help Daria pick out a dress for the Mermaids Ball. Jane had brought along plenty of barf bags remembering their trip to the Mall of the Millennium.

They met Daria just outside of the mall. "This place makes me nauseous just looking at it," complained Daria.

Jane wordlessly handed Daria a bag. Daria frowned and said, "Not that nauseous."

"Oh," said Jane. "Puking’s only reserved for special occasions, like field trips, right?"

Jodie surpressed a chuckle as they entered Cashman’s.

Daria eyed their best dresses. "Boy, they all look so good," she said with vast insincerity. "But how to decide? ‘One-potato-two?’"

"Nah," said Jane. "How about ‘einy-meeny-miny-moe?’"

"Works for me."

Daria’s random selection got her a dark green rhinestone dress with short sleeves and a medium-length skirt.

"Not bad," said Jodie.

"Thanks. I’ve never gone wrong with nursery rhymes." She walked toward the fitting room. "I’m just going to try it on to see if it fits."

Jane and Jodie waited patiently as Daria tried on the dress. Two minutes later, she came out in her usual outfit. "It fits."

"And how does it look?" asked Jodie.

Daria looked at the dress. "The same as two minutes ago. Let’s get out of here. This place gives me the creeps."

"Too late," said Jane. The Fashion Club had just made their entrance. Sandi, Stacy, and Tiffany made their way toward them. Behind them, Quinn trudged with her head hung in despair.

"Like, hello. Mack’s girlfriend or whatever?" said Sandi.

"Wow," said Jane. "And to think just two weeks ago you were ‘Quinn’s cousin or whatever.’ You’re really moving up in the world, Daria."

Daria shot Jane and Jodie a look which said, "Somebody, please help me!" written all over it.

Tiffany gazed at Daria’s dress. "Wow! That dress looks so good. You have really great taste."

"Boy, I’ll say," said Stacy. She took a halter top from the rack. "What do you think of this?" she asked Daria.

"God. You’re complexion is so fair," Sandi said to Daria. "What kind of zit creme do you use?"

"Yeah," aped Tiffany. "You should be on a poster or something."

That was too much. Daria abruptly ran straight for the women’s room with her hand over her mouth.

"What’s with her?" asked Tiffany.

"You’ll have to excuse her," said Jane coldly. "She’s just not used to having her ass kissed by a bunch of phony friends."

From the ladies room, there came the sound of someone being violently sick.

"What happens when you’re little Internet chat mate is a dog… literally! Animals that surf the web, on the next Sick, Sad World!"

It was the night of the dance, and Jodie was drowning her sorrows in popcorn and misfits over at Jane’s. It could be worse. She could be tied to a rack, or possibly being burned at the stake for witchcraft.

"Jane, it occurred to me that neither of us have a boyfriend. It looks like we won’t be getting one in the near future. Wanna start a lonely hearts club?"

Beside her, Jane snorted. "Right. We sit around and discuss boys that we drool over? No thanks. I’ve got better things to do with my time. Like watching TV. Besides, what makes you think I don’t have a boyfriend?"

"Well, I never see you with anybody, and I never hear you talking about anybody, so I figured that… uh…" Jane’s arms were akimbo, and her eyebrows we’re raised. "This foot tastes awful. Can I have some ketchup?"

"Sorry. We’re all out. Try some relish instead. Relish and Nikes make a good combination."

Jodie smiled. "So who is he. Is he in college?"

"No. He’s in a band."

"Why don’t you ever mention him to anyone? It sounds cool."

"Because it’s not that big of a deal. We’re not that serious. I’m not mature enough for a real relationship yet. I’m only in high school. Besides, he has this bad habit of spacing out, and his monosyllabic vocab is a real turn-off."

"A regular Kevin, huh?"

"I wouldn’t go that far." She decided to change the subject. "So what was it like with you and Mack?"

"It was great. I really took him for granted. He was more than just a boyfriend. He was my best friend. I could tell him everything. I guess that was why I was so shocked when he dumped me."

"You want him back, don’t you?"

"How did you know?"

"Simple. You can get over a boyfriend, but losing your best friend is hard. Daria and I have had our bad moments. Like when I joined the track team, I could have sworn she and I were never going to speak to each other again."

"Yeah. But it’s too late for that. Mack is so infatuated with Daria that he barely notices me anymore."

"Then they’ve got to be stopped," said Jane in her best Mission Impossible voice.

"But how?"

"Oh, I know how," replied Jane. "I just didn’t want to do it. Until now." Wordlessly she got up and left the room. Jodie waited for a few heartbeats until she heard Jane’s muffled shout from the other side of the wall. "Yo Trent, wake up!"

"Hello Lawndale! Welcome to the Mermaid’s Ball!" the voice of DJ Stan Cartman filled the gymnasium. If anyone looked over there, they would have seen an old, balding guy with a beer stained T-shirt. He put on "Kiss the Girl" and waited for it to end.

Over in a corner of the gym, Tori Jericho stood in a corner chatting with Stacy and Tiffany. "Now that couple over there is really cute, and that couple has been going out ever since Middle School. That couple is just about ready to break up, but that guy is going to propose to his girlfriend right after he graduates. It’s one of those ‘forever’ things," she explained. Then she spied Daria. "That girl used to be completely single. But now she’s dating the captain of the football team. What does he see in her? And what’s with those glasses?"

Mack handed Daria some punch. Daria smiled a thanks and drank some. "So Daria," said Mack, "would you like to dance?"

Daria inwardly groaned as the moment she had dreaded was finally upon her. She wasn’t exactly graceful on the dance floor. At her cousin’s wedding, she nearly put her escort in a wheelchair when they had made a feeble attempt at waltzing. Not that Lurman had seemed to care…

"Actually, Mack, why don’t we wait for an easier tune to follow. I’ve never been very good with Disney music." Or any other kind, as well, she admitted to herself.

"Yeah. Why don’t we finish our punch?" Mack was obviously uncomfortable with the way things were going. Daria guessed he had expected her to have a better time.

"All right, everyone. It’s time to slow things down for the ladies in the house!" said the DJ. "Could I have gotten a cornier gig?" he muttered under his breath as he put on one of Celine Dion’s many slow songs.

"Could he come out with cornier one-liners?" asked Daria. Then she glanced at the entrance to the gym and gasped. Jane and Jodie had decided to come to the dance. Jodie was wearing a very revealing, low-cut, shimmering black dress. Jane was wearing her usual clothes. Leave it to Jane to cut all of the pretenses of a semi-formal event with her comfy oversized wares. Suddenly Daria felt ashamed of the dress she was wearing.

And then he was there. Trent was dressed to kill in a black tuxedo, with his hair combed and gelled, his usually scraggly moustache trimmed for the occasion. What was he doing here?

Trent began walking toward Daria. Daria’s heartbeat grew faster with every step. Her ears rang with the sound of blood rushing to her brain as he stopped in front of her. "Want to dance?" he asked softly.

Daria felt a warmth spreading across her cheeks as her inhibitions of dancing dropped away. "Okay," she murmured.

As she and Trent walked out onto the dance floor and began to dance, Daria realized that time had seemed to stop. Nothing mattered as she looked deep into Trent’s eyes. This was a perfect moment, perhaps the perfect moment. The one that she had been born for, the greatest moment of her life.

Then Trent stepped on her foot.

Daria yelped in pain. "Sorry," said Trent. "I’m not really very good at this sort of thing.

"That’s okay," Daria purred. "So, why are you at a high school event. Aren’t you a little mature for this sort of thing?" She accidentally stepped on Trent’s foot.

Trent grunted in pain. "Janey asked me to come and dance with her so she wouldn’t feel out of place. But when she saw you standing by the punch bowl, she asked me to go dance with you." He grunted again as Daria almost tripped over his feet. "Want to go get a burger?" he asked.

"Yeah. Quick, before we have to walk out on crutches." Then she remembered Mack. "I just need to let my um… uh…" Somehow she couldn’t admit it in front of Trent. It seemed like a betrayal of some sort to him.

"Boyfriend?" guessed Trent.

"Yeah. I need to let my boyfriend go… I mean know where I am."

Daria turned and saw Jodie and Mack dancing together. They were talking to each other softly, but the look in their eyes spoke volumes.

For some reason, however, Daria didn’t seem to mind. She turned to Trent. "I think it’s already been taken care of. Come on, let’s go get some junk food."

On their way to Trent’s car, Daria and Trent spied Jesse getting out of the Tank.

"Yo, Trent!" he called.

"Hey Jesse. What are you doing here?"

"Your sister called. She said to come crash this High School thing. At least, that’s what I think she said. And something about a dance partner?"

Daria smiled. Jane had been up to her old yenta tricks again. But for some reason, she didn’t think that she and Trent had been the intended recipients. This was just a bonus. Oh well. Who cares?

"Sounds pretty heavy," said Trent with an absolutely straight face.

"Yeah. I’ll probably figure it out by the time I get in there, though. Later."

"Later."

The next day at school, Daria felt oddly wistful. Not even the Fashion Club could get on her nerves. Even when Quinn triumphantly began spreading rumors that Mack had used her to make Jodie jealous didn’t bother her. She had been talked about before and she knew that it would only last a week, maybe two at most. Then everything would be completely back to normal. Or whatever passed for normal in Lawndale.

Beside her, Jane Lane walked with her to class. "So where were you at the dance? I didn’t see you."

"I slipped out. All in all the whole dance was a drag."

"And you ditched Mack?"

"I don’t think he minded very much."

"Well I did. You stole my dance partner, Daria."

"Oh, don’t give me that! What was Jesse doing there last night?"

"Umm… cheating on me?" Jane said vapidly.

"Whatever you say."

"So what went on with you and Trent last night."

"Very little. We got a burger and then he drove me home."

"What no kiss goodnight? No romantic sweet-talk?"

"Nope."

"And you and your boyfriend broke up for that?"

"Yup," said Daria with a smile.

Jane sighed. "I was right. I simply do not understand love. Heads up."

Jodie and Mack walked passed them wordlessly, hand in hand, gazing into each others eyes.

"Oh well, at least we still have each other," Jane said to Daria.

"Don’t push it, Jane."

"And out-of-date fashion accessories?" Jane added dubiously as she held up her giga-pet.

Daria held up one of her own. "Now you’re talking," she said. The partners in crime walked down the hall and into their classroom.